Friday, June 14, 2019

Whither Catherine Withers nee Scott

Joseph Withers is my husband's 4th great-uncle or, to put it another way, the brother of his great-grandmother's grandmother. Either way it takes us back two centuries.

Joseph was born in 1805 in Bristol, England. His parents were John Withers, a hat manufacturer, and Susannah Cooke. Joseph had six siblings including Ann who married Thomas Stone and migrated to Hobart, Tasmania. Their story can be found at this webpage. Joseph's brothers, John and George, stayed in Bristol and continued their father's hat manufacturing business and his younger sister, Elizabeth, married David Ryland and migrated to Victoria, Australia in 1852 but that's another story. This post is about Joseph.

Two hundred years ago Joseph Withers, his sister Ann and her husband Thomas Stone sailed from Portsmouth on the 11 June 1819 in the David Shaw heading for Sydney, New South Wales as free settlers.

The journey took four months, a long monotonous journey with only one port of call, St Jago (now known as Sao Tiago), a small island of the Cape Verde group of the west coast of Africa. Their intended destination was Port Jackson but the long journey had taken toll of Ann’s health and she was expecting their first child.

When the David Shaw berthed at Hobart Town the three young people applied to Lieutenant Governor William Sorell for permission to land and settle there. This was granted and the Lieutenant Governor reported his actions to Governor Macquarie in Sydney in a dispatch:

Mr. T. Stone and Wife, and Mr. Withers, his brother-in-law, brought no letter from the Secy. of State, and I was therefore doubtful of the propriety of allowing them to land here; but upon considering the hardship which they might feel and represent of being forced from hence at the end of a long voyage without any charge, I judged it best to accede to their application and to report their situation to Your Excellency.
It does not appear from these persons coming out that any restriction exists, and if the only means of preventing those who venture to this Country without the Secy. of State’s Authority, be that of sending them away on arrival, it would be one which in many cases would be impractible and in most involving questions which would be painful to the Chief Colonial Authority. Should Your Excellency disapprove of the permission to land, which I gave to Mr. Stone, I request to be honored with your instructions.

Less than a month after arriving in Hobart Town the following advertisement appeared which shows that Joseph Withers had found accommodation and was ready to set up in business.

Hobart Town Gazette, and Southern Reporter November 13, 1819
The Public are respectfully informed, that J. Withers, recently from England, has commenced his Business as a Cooper, at a new brick house in Bridge Street, corner of Liverpool Street, where every Article in that Line will be made in the neatest Manner, and on the most moderate Terms,—Tubs, Buckets, Pails, Churns, &c. ready made,—Jobs, and Work by the Day, performed reasonably.
N.B.—Old Casks, Staves, Iron-hoops, &c. bought, or taken in exchange.
In 1827 Joseph was the licensee of the Druid Hotel in Argyle Street, Hobart but may not have been there long because in the early 1830s he appears to have  been a crew member on whaling ships along the east coast of Australia. He was on the Dragon in February 1831 (listed as a cooper) and the William the Fourth in February 1833 (listed as crew) bound for Twofold Bay in New South Wales.

At the age of 39 Joseph married for the first time. On 24 January 1840 in St Davids Church, Hobart Town he married Hannah Mathews (nee Hurst). Hannah, aged 29, was a widow with two young boys, John aged seven and James aged two. She must have been illiterate because she signed the church register with a cross. Her husband, James Mathews, had died in 1839. [There was a man called James Matthews murdered in Argyle St, Hobart in March 1839. He may have been her husband.]

Hannah and Joseph Withers had four children: Joseph (1841), Benjamin (1843), James Frederick (1844) and Hannah (1846 who died at four weeks).

The Courier 8 Feb 1845

The family was living in Argyle St, Hobart and Joseph was working as a cooper when Hannah died 26 May 1847. She was only 36 years old but her death certificate said the cause of her death was angina. Her two boys were under six years of age and her three Mathews sons were still young. Joseph may have had sive boys in his care.

Six months later, in October of 1847, a convict called Catherine Scott asked for permission to marry Joseph Withers. Her application was approved on 23 October 1847 and two weeks later, 8 November 1847, they married at St Johns, Newtown. [The witnesses to the wedding were Benjamin and Eliza Hurst. Hurst was the name of Joseph's first wife so there is a good chance that Benjamin was her relation. Unfortunately in August 1858 Benjamin accidentally drowned and his body was found floating in Constitution Dock. He was a keeper of a public pound in Argyle Street and his wife, Eliza, took over that job after his death.]

Catherine Scott was about 22 years old and Joseph was about 47 when they married. Catherine was born at Burslem in Staffordshire in about 1825 and was working as a housemaid when, in August 1843, she was convicted of larceny, stealing money from a person, and sentenced to 10 years. She was transported to Tasmania from Woolwich on the Angelina and arrived 25 August 1844. After marrying Joseph in 1847 she was granted a Ticket of Leave on 29 August 1849 - a document, based on good conduct, allowing certain freedoms to convicts before the end of their original sentence. On 30 April 1850 Catherine was recommended for a Conditional Pardon and this was applied on 13 August 1851. Catherine was now free but was not allowed to return to England. There is no further record of Catherine at all that I can find. What happened to her?

Meanwhile Joseph must have been finding it difficult to keep his business viable. He appears to have been bankrupted in 1849.

In the 1850s, 1859 possibly, Joseph and his three sons moved to Ararat, Victoria. When he died there in 1881 at Ararat he owned several small blocks of land and his house was on a larger block. He worked as a gardener (not a cooper).

His sons all stayed in Victoria. Joseph (2) never married and died at Ararat in 1879 at the age of 38. Benjamin married Margaret Wilson at Ararat in 1864 and died in 1926 in Preston, Victoria aged 82. James Frederick married Phyllis Wilson at Ararat in 1876 and died there in 1899 aged 54. (Phyllis Wilson and Margaret Wilson were sisters, born in Scotland). Both Benjamin and James had children so there are a number of descendants in Victoria.

There are four newspaper articles that describe the location of Joseph's property in Hobart. The final one is particularly intriguing.

12 perches of land in Hobart Town, Launceston Express 30 May 1839
The Courier (Hobart) 11 Aug 1843
Launceston Examiner 19 June 1852
Launceston Examiner 10 May1882
This is the year after Joseph's death and it appears that
 Benjamin Withers, James Withers and a
William Mathews are claiming title on land in
Campbell Street, Hobart. Richard Hurst may have
been a relative of Joseph's first wife, Joseph Stone
is his sister Ann's husband but why would the
Ann Withers be listed as Ann Withers rather than Ann Stone?

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