Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The facts so far on Charlie Ross

The ancestry research to find Charlie Ross has not gotten far at all but the Greek side of things was always going to be difficult.

We have come a long way in tracing his wife, Mary (Polly) Atkins Ross's family, but the absolute facts about Charlie Ross are still few.

1. He was born in Greece in 1849. He went to sea as a young man or boy,  sometime between the ages of 11 and 23. The earliest date would be 1860 as young boys often did join ships, or were commandeered to do so.

2. He became a sailor and spent some years at sea 'roving' and having adventures - minimum of five, maximum of twelve.

3. He settled in Port Pirie after arriving in Australia. The earliest date would be 1871 and the latest, circa: 1877, for enough years to be 'remembered.' 

4. He moved to Gladstone circa. 1886 and worked there as a fishmonger as he had in Port Pirie.

5. He married Mary Atkins in 1888. He gave his father's name as Christie on the marriage certificate. This is most likely Christos or Chrysantheus.

6. He had five children to each of whom he gave at least one Greek name.

7. He anglicised his Greek name or adopted an English name after arriving in Australia or the Port Pirie report would have included another name for 'old Pirieans to recognise.

8. The Greek names he chose for his children, Constantinus, Anastasia, Vangelios, Chrysantheous, Christus and Spiro are likely to have family connections.

9. He died in 1907 and was buried in an Anglican cemetery.

10. His grand-daughter Flora RossSwincer was said to be the spitting image of him.

11. He had a very strong accent given the poor phonetic spelling of some of his children's names on birth records.

12. He was obviously an amiable and personable character, as stated in his obituary, given the fact that the death notice was reprinted in the Port Pirie newspaper more than twenty years after he had left the town, for the benefit of those who had known and remembered him fondly.

13. There is no record of him ever taking up citizenship. (Perhaps evidence that he did jump ship.)

Photo: Charles Vangelios Ross, Charlie's second son, in his First World War uniform. Charles looks to be a mix of both parents with the 'shape' from the Atkins side and other features from his father, if his daughter Flora was truly the 'spitting image' of her Greek grandfather and we have no reason to believe she was not.

Other possible facts drawn from family history are:

1. He was born on Ithaca, one of the Ionian Islands.
2. He 'jumped ship' at Port Germein and so entered Australia illegally.
3. He came out on his 'uncle's ship.'
4. He spoke a number of languages.

Photo: Charles Vangelios Ross in his fifties looking more like the Greek side of the family but with the Atkins shape face from his grandfather, Edward. Elizabeth Mashford also had a 'long' face.

So the questions which still need to be answered are:

1. What was his Greek Christian name and surname?
2. Was he born on Ithaca? If so where?
3. Is his English name an anglicisation of his Greek name or something he adopted?
4. On what date and just how did he arrive in Australia.

The answers are still out there and may remain so but efforts will continue to find what we can.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Bigamists and Paupers - some more thoughts on Elizabeth Mashford Lewis Atkins.

Image: Elizabeth Mashford Lewis Atkins and her son by Edward Atkins, James Haynes Atkins. 

Ancestry research involves bringing together the threads and knots of information and conjecture in an attempt to stitch together a full picture. Sometimes it just leads to more tangles and holes in the story.

What is heartening is how often we have been staring into such a 'hole' and then, later, find the information which fills it in.  The plan now is to see if we can get some additional information from a professional researcher in Gloucestershire.

In the meantime, researcher, Luke Harris has some more thoughts on Elizabeth Mashford, and I post information as it comes to hand so that others might access it, even if we have not confirmed points made in the discussion:

"As for bigamy, I have looked into the laws at the time. There would have been enough evidence for the Police to investigate the matter, and for all we know if they saw the notice they may have questioned both Elizabeth and Edward. 

However, if the Police laid a charged of bigamy the Courts more than likely may have found her not guilty. It all depends on what defence Elizabeth Atkins had. She could honestly claim she believed her husband was dead or believed he was dead because they had been no contact at all.

It happened a lot of time to many women in the 1800's, because even though divorce was available it was only on every narrows grounds and they was no legal aid and the cost of lawyers forced many men just to leave their wives especially during the gold rush era. As a result, the police were exposed to lots of cases of deserted wives.

However, common law expected that women should wait seven years before they decided to remarry and Elizabeth Lewis did not do this. As a result, it becomes a grey area of law and even if the police knew about the matter, they may have decided to do nothing about it.

When Josiah Mashford remarried, it was a clear-cut case because the police knew about his first wife and where she was. Nobody knew where Peter Lewis was or what happened to him, and Elizabeth Lewis was crafty because she said:
“If Peter Lewis who left his Wife and Children Destitute in Melbourne 12 years since, is still living, this is to caution him or any other person…” 
she did not say Peter Lewis who is still alive and she also threw doubt upon the matter by saying “or any other person.” I think she was trying to cover herself by careful use of words.
As for being in Melbourne -  I think the Lewis family was there for two reasons. First it was the era of the gold rush and thousands of South Australians left the state and moved to Victoria and Peter Lewis may have thought he would have a go at mining.

It may have been a case of him saying to Elizabeth, “you stay in Melbourne with the two kids and I will go to the gold fields” and he just never returned. It may have taken Elizabeth some time to work out she was a deserted wife.

Alternatively, in 1853 Jane Mashford married George O'Brien, in Melbourne and the Lewis family may have gone to Melbourne for the wedding and Peter Lewis took an opportunity to take off because The South Australian Police could not enforce any laws in Victoria. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Lewis returned to Adelaide very pregnant with Henry Lewis and without a husband.
You can go to the State Archive to see the Divorce list for the 1800's and there is no Elizabeth Lewis or Elizabeth Atkins. Divorce was not a simple matter in the 1800's and remarkably few people did it. Another reason why people did not like to get a divorce is because the Press would publish all the details and nobody wanted that.

Image: The overgrown gravesite in the Gladstone cemetery, of Elizabeth's daughter, Mary (Polly) Atkins Ross and her husband, Greek sailor, Charlie Ross.

The first piece of evidence that Elizabeth was in Gladstone was 1872 when she purchased the block of land so she did not leave him at the time of the notice, as far as we can tell. 
I think James Atkins, along with George and John Lewis, did get a block of land as well.
In addition, I have been researching Edward Atkins’ family in Gloucestershire and they seem to be in twenty-century terms “dysfunctional.”

 I use that term with a pinch of salt because they were urban working class people and victims of the Industrial Revolution, as  so many were. The social conditions in the cities for working class people were terrible and as soon as a husband died they was no income and people could not pay the rent etc etc. There was a lot of poverty 
 and Ann Atkins was on poor relief in 1861 and living as a lodger with her daughter Mary Ann Atkins.

It seems her other children were not helping her which suggests the family was not very close or the family bonds had broken down. Two sons, George and David ended up in gaol at different times. The oldest son Charles just suddenly dropped dead one day and there was a Coroner’s investigation.

However, the most interesting fact is Mary Ann Haines Atkins was committed to Gloucester County Lunatic Asylum and died there. I know you have to be careful about mental health issues and mental health hospital in the 1800's as many people were committed when they did not have a mental health problem, but two of Edward Atkins grandson ended up in Parkside hospital in Adelaide.
As for the Destitute Asylum, there were two forms of relief, Outdoor relief and Indoor relief. Elizabeth Atkins I think would have received outdoor relief, which means she would have received food etc because she had her brother’s house to live in.

However, if she had a mortgage she would still have to find the money to pay the Bank. A good book about the history of welfare in South Australia in the 1800's is called “Rations Residence Resources: A history of social welfare in South Australia since 1836” by Brian Dicky.

Another good book which has helped me is about women and the Law in South Australia in the 1800's and is called “In her Own Name Women in South Australia History” by Helen Jones. 

In terms of being sure that Henry Edwin Atkins and our Edward Atkins were one and the same, we cannot be absolutely sure, but there is strong evidence it is highly likely.

I have been going through my emails you sent me from a few years ago and at one stage, you hired a researcher in England, I think her name was Lynne Cleaver and she in turn, sub-hired, a person called Geoff Swinfield to look at the court case of Henry Edwin Atkins at the National Archives.

One way of proving the link between the two men would have if Geoff found any letters of support from Joseph and Ann Atkins making an appeal to have the death sentence changed to that of transportation. Geoff stated in your email that the appeal documentation was in a bad state and not good enough to transcribe.

As a result, any letter from Joseph Atkins is now impossible to prove. However, in his profession opinion he stated:

“Re Edward Atkins being one and the same are that they are indeed the same, more evidence point towards this than against.”

The other factor is all records for a Henry Edwin Atkins born 1812 Gloucestershire are lacking in England. Normally, what a person can do is find a baptism record for a person, and if there are no problems, follow that person through the English census records through from 1841, to 1851, 61, 71, 81, Census records etc until they die. There is no burial record for Henry Edwin Atkins and no census record for him. This suggests he emigrated somewhere, or some other factor, like transportation.

Your researcher made some further suggestions including a search of the Worcestershire Archives to see why Joseph Atkins moved from Gloucestershire about 1830, the same time Henry Edwin Atkins was charged. In addition, a search of the Gloucestershire Archives to look at records including the Cheltenham Poor Relief records in regards to Ann and Maryann Atkins hardship. He/She also suggested Regimental Records for Joseph Atkins at the National Archives.

As for the Gloucestershire Archives, I really do not know what a search will show. As mentioned, you can go to the Gloucestershire Archives Website and in their search field; I typed some names including Mary Ann Atkins and George Atkins. (Henry Edwin Atkins’ brother).

That is how I found out that Mary Ann Atkins was in the Asylum (and the 1871 census record) and what dates etc, and that George Atkins died as a Pauper in the Cheltenham Union Workhouse. However, the website did state that there were no other details e.g. family members etc."

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A woman of property and perhaps a bigamist.

Image: Destitute Asylum, Adelaide.

Fellow researcher, Luke, has gathered some more information on Elizabeth Mashford Lewis Atkins, which show that she was a woman of property, following the deaths of her brother, George May Mashford and her mother, Mary Cann Mashford, in 1850, barely eight weeks apart.

She may also have married Edward Atkins without proof that her first husband, Peter Lewis was dead, and in fact, knowing he probably was still alive. Alternatively she was a little dim although there does not seem much evidence for that explanation.

And according to the notice published in 1865, within three years of the death of her much loved brother and mother, Elizabeth and her children were left destitute in Melbourne after being abandoned by Peter Lewis. Although, if Elizabeth had inherited money from her mother, since her brother's Will was not finalised until 1856, she must have had enough money to get back to South Australia with her sons.

George Lewis was born, July 8, 1848 in Kensington and so in 1865, when the notice regarding his father was published, was seventeen, and while underage in law, was not so young. Perhaps Elizabeth feared that if Peter Lewis was alive, she would be revealed as a bigamist.

But that doesn't work, given that she put the notice in the newspaper warning about contact being made with her son. Another possibility is that the notice revealed to Edward Atkins that his wife was probably a bigamist and if he had 'found' or always had religion, that marked the beginning of the end of their relationship. Although Elizabeth did not move to Gladstone until around 1878, some thirteen years away, at a time when her youngest daughter, Mary Atkins, later to be Ross, was pregnant with an illegitimate child. The theory is a little thin to say the least, but conjecture is the way of ancestry research.

John Mashford Lewis, born at Marryatville December 10, 1850, a few months after Elizabeth lost her mother and brother, was Fifteen in 1865. Henry Lewis, born January 22, 1854 died in 1855, in Adelaide.

Elizabeth made an application in Adelaide to the Destitute Board for relief, in 1853, and so it seems that when Peter Lewis deserted her, she was pregnant with her third son, and could not work. Even if she had inherited money from her mother, it may have been very little and not enough to live on while she was pregnant, and supporting a five and three-year-old.

Or indeed, if there was a legitimacy issue, she may have inherited nothing from her mother, or had been prevented by her sisters and surviving brother from claiming it, and was in dire straits until her oldest brother's Will was finalised in 1856.

Whether or not she and her sons lived in the Destitute Asylum, we do not know.  Although little Henry's death may well have been the result of living in the poor conditions, away from his mother, which such places demanded. After such a loss, it would be even less surprising that Elizabeth would do whatever she had to do, perhaps marry the first man who asked, knowing that her husband might still be alive, in order to provide a better life for her children.

The history of this institution has been written by Mary Geyer, Behind The Wall - The Women of the Destitute Asylum
Adelaide, 1852-1918

Image: Children of the Destitute Asylum.
It provides an insight into Adelaide's Destitute Asylum and the women who experienced life behind its walls. Until its closure in 1917 politicians and governments, Commissions and Boards of Inquiry tried to solve the problem and cost of destitution to the colony.

South Australia was a free colony, without convicts,  planned according to the Wakefield principles, where there would be no poor or destitute. According to this theory emigration of the correct proportion of capital and labour would create an ideal society free from social, economic, political or religious problems. It would be a self-sustaining society, prosperous and virtuous without the need to provide for paupers.

As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men. The reality was very different.  Almost from the start the South Australian Immigration Agent had to provide assistance to those in need.  In 1843, barely seven years after the colony was established,  the government passed its first legislation to deal with poverty. It now became law that relatives were responsible for the maintenance and relief of deserted wives and children.

And of course, Elizabeth Mashford Lewis had no relatives in Adelaide who could help her and possibly none interstate or overseas who would or could, and not only was she deserted but pregnant with two small children to feed.  With George May Mashford's Will still not finalised one presumes she could not live in his house and with no other relatives in South Australia, is most likely to have been forced to live in the Asylum. Although researcher, Luke, seems to think that she could have lived in her late brother's house. Wherever she lived, times were tough.
During 1849 the Board provided relief to 25 indoor and 114 outdoor destitute. By 1851 this had increased to 63 and 187 respectively. By 1855 it reached an all time high when it had to provide relief to more than 3,000 men women and children, one of whom was our great-great grandmother. 

This high number came about as a result of excess female immigration which resulted in lower wages being paid, a very poor harvest causing increased unemployment and the large number of wives who had been deserted by their husbands leaving for the Victorian goldfields. Deserting husbands were the chief cause of female poverty and it was suggested that these men should be flogged.

And perhaps it was to the goldfields that Peter Lewis went. Wherever he was, Elizabeth was alone.

If she was in the Asylum it was hardly a pleasant place. It was, like the Poorhouses of England, a place of last resort and nowhere that anyone would live by choice.  Men and women were segregated by a stone wall of nearly three metres. Once admitted, inmates were only allowed to leave for five or six hours once a week, although pregnant and towing a toddler and a small child, if indeed she was allowed to take them out, dressed in the Asylum uniform, one presumes Elizabeth did not take up the offer of 'time-out.'.

Each day the bell would ring five times, the fist in the morning to get out of bed, three times a day for meals and finally for lights out. Asylum women were expected to earn their keep and were involved in washing for outside customers, ironing as well as sewing hessian sacks, garment making or embroidery.

Orphans and children of destitute families were admitted but separated. Parents could visit them once a month but only for two hours. After 1867 this practice was ended when children were sent to industrial schools or boarded out to families. If Elizabeth spent time in the Asylum, she would have been separated from her small sons.

There was little compassion for destitute pregnant women although Elizabeth did have a record of her marriage and as one of the many abandoned wives due to goldfields fever, may have had an easier time. 

Elizabeth had experienced a traumatic few years, but, was resilient enough, it seems to survive and carry on. Her brother, George's Will would be finalised the following year, and within two years of losing her baby son, she would marry Edward Atkins.

For a woman, abandoned by her husband when pregnant, destitute with small children to care for, marrying Edward Atkins, even with his brood of motherless children, may have seemed an offer too good to refuse.

She was tough, but then one had to be in the 19th century, or, as my mother often said: 'It's a great life if you don't weaken, once you weaken you'r gone.' And 'gone' in those days was literally into the gutter.

And perhaps it was because she had been abandoned by her first husband that she chose not to fully trust the second and kept knowledge of her property and wealth a secret from him - just in case. As it happened, for reasons we do not know, that second marriage also ended in separation, although, from the look of it, this time Elizabeth did the leaving when she moved from Wirrabarra Forest to Gladstone in 1872, which is when the records show her purchasing land.

Whatever the reasons for the 'ending' of her second marriage, it seems clear that Elizabeth was resolute in regards to caring for her children, no matter what, and that is a heritage which stood her in good stead and no doubt does for her descendants.

Image: Burnside/Marryatville, Council chambers, 1865.

As Luke writes: 
" I made an enquiry with Denise Schumann from the Culture Heritage Adviser: City of Norwood Payneham and Saint Peters. They hold the rates assessment books which covers Marryatville from the 1850s.

It would seem from the assessment books for the property which George May Mashford had, the owner of the property and the person paying the rates was "Mrs Lewis" This implies she must have paid her two sisters out and the house belonged to her. What is even more interesting is Elizabeth Lewis, not Elizabeth Atkins, is paying the rates up until 1877.

She may not have told Edward Atkins about the property because under the laws at this time, as her husband, he had a legal right to her property. Thus she kept paying the rates under the name of Lewis.

In the period from 1859 to 1863 Samuel Heanes, who was John Cann Mashford's brother-in-law, is recorded in the town of Kensington council rate book as an agent or representative of Elizabeth Lewis.

NB:  John Cann died in 1849, but it seems Elizabeth maintained links with his widow and her family. 

From 1878 to1879 the owner was "Emily Lewis" which is believed to be an error and is a misreading of Elizabeth. In 1880 Samuel Heanes was listed as representing the owner of 14 Burwash Road, where George May Mashford lived, until 1884.

It was not until 1882 when the property was sold by Elizabeth Atkins (not Lewis) to Alexander Kauffmann.

I think this might be able to explain how she managed to buy some land at Gladstone because as a woman in the 1800s, the banks did not have to give her a loan, however if she used her house at Marryatville as security against the loan the bank may well have given her the money she needed.

If Edward Atkins knew about this house at Marryatville or not we will never find out, but if he did and this was the cause of the break up it would give Edward Puddy every reason to cut the family out of the obituary written when Edward Atkins died. 
Furthermore, about the house and where Elizabeth Lewis got the money from. I believe the following. Elizabeth Lewis got a quarter share of her brother’s house and something from Mary Cann Mashford’s share. She was married to Peter Lewis at the time and women in the early 1800s could not get a loan from the Banks unless they had their husband’s permission. Peter Lewis may have thought it was in his best interest to give his permission for her to get a loan. Whether the loan was under both names or just her name we will never know. However, they had a mortgage just like any other couple did and had to work to pay it off like any other couple in the early 1800s. As a result, Peter Lewis would have known all about the house as he was still married to her. Also after Elizabeth Lewis paid out her two sisters they took off to Melbourne for good.
If Peter Lewis was still alive, all he had to do was to go to the Norwood and Kensington Council and make some enquiries as to who the owner was and found out where Elizabeth Atkins was living.
It is interesting that Elizabeth Atkins does not seem to have changed her surname with the Norwood and Kensington Council until after she had left Edward Atkins. As a result, if Peter Lewis was still alive, Elizabeth Lewis made it easy for him to track her down to Charlton.
Of course, there was no Post Office at Charlton. I do not know where the nearest Post Office would have been located, more than likely at Melrose, about 15kms away. 
What Edward Atkins knew about the whole situation remains unknown. However, if there were any problems in the marriage this notice would have added to it and how Elizabeth Atkins explained everything to Edward Atkins remains unknown.
In addition, it may explain how she got the blocks of Land at Gladstone. She would have had a tenant in the house, thus paying off her loan and even though it was against Bank policy to give a loan to women in the 1800's they may have turned a blind eye because she used the house as security against any loan. I also think she gave a block to George and John Lewis because there was an agreement. They would build her a house on her block for free, in return, they each would get a block.  

This is the notice.I found it on TROVE. The notice really does have many ramifications because Peter Lewis could have been very much alive when Elizabeth Mashford married Edward Atkins. For somebody to write to George Lewis they had to have known the address where the Atkins family lived in 1865, how did somebody find out they were living at Charlton?"
“If Peter Lewis, who left his Wife and Children Destitute in Melbourne 12 years since, is still living, this is to caution him or any other person against sending or bringing private letters or messages to my son George Lewis, he being under age. Elizabeth Atkins (formerly Lewis), Charlton Mines, February.”

In addition, Luke has been researching the position of women in regard to taking out loans in the 19th century:


Dear Ms Allen I was wondering if you could help me with a number of questions concerning the status of married women in 19th century South Australia. I have tried to find the answers myself, but to no avail, but then I came across this website during my research.
I am researching my Great Great Grand Parents Edward Atkins and Elizabeth Mashford. Both people separated, but there was no divorce. In November 1872, Elizabeth Atkins purchased five blocks of land at Gladstone SA. On 30 August 1873, Edward Atkins placed a notice in the newspapers stating he would not be responsible for his wife’s debts. I understand that under the SA Married Women’s Property Act 1883/1884 women in SA could for the first time hold, and dispose of any real or personal property. Before this Act, a married women’s property legally belong to the husband. I also understand that married women could not enter into a legal contract without her husband’s approval. However, would I be right in saying that before 1883/1884 the husband could be responsible for his wife’s debt? Would this be the reason as to why Edward Atkins placed the notice in the newspaper? Would such a notice back in the 1800s give Edward Atkins any legal protection if his wife could not pay her debts?
Secondly, I am having real problems in finding out any information regarding the status of women and banking in South Australia in the 1800s. I am under the impression that women could not enter into a legal contract without her husband approval before 1883/1884. Am I right in my thinking? If so, how did Elizabeth Atkins a married, but separated, women buy land under her own name? because she would have to enter into a contract unless she lied. Do not be worried if you have to tell me my GGGmother was a liar because it would not surprise me. She may have married Edward Atkins while her first husband was still alive and I believe that caused the separation.
Furthermore, If she did not have the cash she would have to borrow the money from a Bank. I am under the impression because there were no anti-discrimination laws that Banks could deny married women from opening up their own accounts in the 1800s. Would my thinking be right in this regards? I am also under the impression she would have to lie to the Banks to secure any loan.
Want is interesting about the certificate of title I have in regards to the land is in 1886 she transferred a block of land to her son George Lewis and I have copies of the Gladstone council assessment rates which show her other son, John Mashford Lewis , is paying council rates for another block of land which she owned. As a result, could it be possible that she never took out a Bank loan, but instead, her two sons took out the loan and as repayment, Elizabeth Atkins transferred some of the blocks of the land?
Any suggestion you have would be most helpful. I do have a copy of Helen Jones’ book “In her own name,” and Henry Finlay book about divorce in Australia 1858-1975. However, these books do not seem to cover in any details the information I am seeking. Are you able to recommend a good book on the history of women’s right in South Australia ,or a journal article, which covers the information I am seeking.


Hi Luke,
You've been doing a lot of research there! I'm not sure about legal protection from the newspaper notice, you may need to consult a lawyer on that one, but since before the married women's property act a woman's property went to her husband it is reasonable to assume debt would as well. Your theories about the involvement of Elizabeth's sons also sounds reasonable, but without records of her bank loans and debts it's impossible to say for sure. You can search for further information on the land and title records here: https://www.sailis.sa.gov.au/home/auth/login You may also find information at State Records if you haven't already tried there: https://www.archives.sa.gov.au/content/family-history
Re. further books you might try: Elford, K, ‘Marriage and divorce’ in Eric Richards ed., The Flinders History of South Australia: Social history (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1986). Margaret Allen contributed this piece to the website but can be contacted directly at the University of Adelaide, where you will find a list of her published works. These may be of use for your further reading also - http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/margaret.allen

Monday, 9 May 2016

And finally Charlie Ross gets some mentions.

Photo: Mary Atkins Ross (left) and Elizabeth Atkins Cox (right) with at back, Elizabeth's daughters, circa, 1935.

I had been planning a trip to Gladstone for a few days to pore over old copies of The Areas Express and Farmer's Journal, which was the paper covering Gladstone and the area where Charlie Ross lived and worked, when Trove began putting it online and thus saved me a little bit of travel and a great deal of work.

Trove is a godsend for research where instead of scouring page after page in a library, you type in a name and a time-frame and it brings it all up.

I have picked up a few snippets already and await further published notices, articles and advertising as the process continues and while I doubt there will be much that is substantial, given the low status of Charlie Ross, whatever comes will be appreciated and useful.

One thing which has become clear, and as the obituary suggested, was that Charlie Ross was very popular and much-liked in Gladstone, just as he had been in Port Pirie.  He was also involved in the community, putting his name to a list supporting the Mayor when he sought re-election in 1901.

And beyond formal notices he was called Charlie. But the first mention comes in 1887, a year before he married Mary Atkins, where he is cited in a theft case, in Laura, a small town in the Mid-North.

This is perhaps an indication that Charlie Ross travelled far and wide selling fish.  It seems Charlie had bought a gold pin which had been stolen, yet another indication that he was doing pretty well as a fish-hawker if he had five shillings, a goodly sum in the day and about a quarter of an average weekly wage,  to buy a gold pin, and perhaps it was a gift for Mary. Or perhaps it was for himself, as the pin had been stolen from a man.

However, hearing it had been stolen, Charlie returned the pin to the owner, so a man of conscience or pragmatism, or sense, it seems.



Tuesday, January 4.

(Before I.J. Cook, JP, and W. Wilson. JP.
A nice fellow servant - Laurence Axon, bootman, at the Laura Hotel, was brought up in custody of Water Policeman, Gallanto, charged with having stolen a gold pin, the property of Ernest Collins, barman, at the same hotel. 

Mister Collins identified the pin produced;  had missed it for some time but did not say anything about it. Saw it at Gladstone last Sunday with Charles Ross. By the Court, He had not given it to anyone or authorized anyone to remove it. 

Charles Ross, fisherman, Gladatone, had known prisoner a long time. Bought the pin produced from him at Hussey's Hotel, Gladstone, on January 1st, for five shillings. 

Afterwards heard that it had been stolen and gave it up to the owner, Ernest Collins, last


J. Gallanto, Water Police, stationed at Port Pirie, from information received arrested 

the prisoner at the Central Hotel, Port Pirie. Told him the charge and cautioned him in the

usual manner. He said "I don't care a  fi_-—Tn if I get 21 years," and afterwards said " If you found a pin in your room would you not keep it " 

Photo: Flora Ross Swincer, who was said to be the 'spitting image' of her grandfather, Charlie Ross, for whom we have no photograph.

It is also a reminder of how much we assume from our perspective of today. I had assumed, when I found that Charlie's business was listed with the Gladstone Council that he would have had a shop, but of course not, nothing so grand for someone of his social standing and even for the times.

Charlie would have taken the train to Port Pirie to buy his fish and carried it back, packed in ice, to hawk around Gladstone. One guesses, that even with ice available, as it must have been to make it possible to transport fish from so far and then sell it around the town, that Charlie probably had to make a couple of trips a week to Pirie to ensure the freshness of his fish.

Hawker's plied their various trades around towns, cities and country areas, and as has become clear, until ill health made it necessary for him to have a horse and cart, Charlie Ross, local fishmonger, pulled his own small cart around Gladstone, selling his fish. And no doubt this is how he met Mary Atkins and a relationship was made possible.

In many ways, they were both on the edge of the social strata, she as an unmarried mother of an illegitimate son, and he as a foreigner, and no doubt that played a part in their coming together, since options for marriage would have been limited, no matter how popular the Greek fishmonger might have been around town.

His accent, my aunt told me, was said to have been very heavy and no doubt it was more so then, before he married and set up home with Mary and had children. But, if he was popular around town and well-liked, as we can see he was, he must have had an engaging personality and Mary, feisty as she also appears to be, would not, I believe, have married him without liking him.

Each may have had reduced options in the marriage market, but finding each other was the foundation of my father's family. And none of it would have happened, without fish!

Perhaps more telling, was that four years before his death, a fund was set up to raise money to buy him a horse because his health had failed and he could no longer walk, pulling his cart, to sell his fish. Given that his death notice cited heart disease and asthma, it is pretty clear that he had failing health for quite some time, but, with the help of his fellow-citizens, continued to work as a fish hawker.

From The Areas Express:

The Ross Fund.

Subscriptions- are hereby invited for tihe

purpose of assisting Mr. Charlie Ross of

this town. Owing to. a recent severe ill

ness and general infirmity Mr. Ross finds ;

it impossible to carry on his business as

fish hawker, successfully, on foot. He

has. a cart and: harness and requires a horse

to complete the outfit and give him

another start. The smallest donation, will

be acceptable.


Mr Charlie Ross, of this town requires a horse, and is not in a position to buy one. The charitably disposed are appealed to elsewhere, and subscriptions may be sent to Mr H Cox, or this office. He who gives quickly gives twice.

July 10, 1903.

Owing to the efforts of Mr Cox, of this town he sum of five pounds has been collected for the purpose of buying a horse for Mr Charlie Ross to enable him to enable him to carry on his business as a fish hawker. Mr Cox succeeded in getting a suitable animal for four pounds and the balance has been expended in chaff.

Mr Eley has kindly consented to put on the first set of shoes, free of charge so that the unfortunate Charlie will have a fair start. Mr Ross desires us to tender his sincere thanks to all who subscribed. 

Henry Cox was married to Mary's sister, Elizabeth, and so Charlie's brother-in-law, which means helping him out is not surprising. However, it was the genera goodwill in Gladstone which made the fundraising successful.

In the same year, Charlie, perhaps unwell and feeling grumpy, put in a notice regarding animals straying onto his property.


Notice is hereby given that all dogs, pigs and poultry found trespassing on Allotment No. 39, (East Ward), town of Gladstone,  will be destroyed and all horses, sheep and cattle impounded.


Photo: Marriage certificate for Charlie Ross and Mary Atkins.

I had been hoping there would be a 'people piece' hidden somewhere, given that the paper began publishing more personal articles from 1902, and Charlie's obituary seemed to indicate that people would have greater knowledge and so details were omitted, but I am beginning to think that the reason why people had greater knowledge was because it was a small town and he was well known and people knew him and talked to him and knew about his life and that is why the obituary did not go into detail.

However, who can say what treasures might unfold as the Areas Express goes up online?

The Areas Express newspaper served the small towns and farming communities around Gladstone for over 70 years. It took a strong politically conservative stance, and included articles about a wide range of agricultural topics. The Express was a weekly through most of its existence, but was published twice-weekly from February 1878 to July 1886.
Booyoolie (later incorporated in the town of Gladstone) was specifically selected as the newspaper's base for its central position in the 'Areas' - newly opened agricultural lands in the mid-north of the state. Unlike most country newspapers of the time, the Express did not regularly print 'country correspondents' reports from nearby towns and districts until much later in its history. However, it did intermittently print news from a large number of towns and settlements. Most often covered (particularly in its early years) were Georgetown, Crystal Brook, Caltowie and Balaklava. News from Redhill and Port Germein was also regularly reported.

We know Charlie was in Gladstone by at least 1885 or 1886 because his obituary say he had spent 'more than twenty years' in the town and he married Mary Atkins in 1888. He died in 1907, at the age of 59, and so the focus of interest for him is the twenty or so years prior. Mary died at the age of 76 in 1937, so she had 30 years alone, before joining him in Gladstone Cemetery.

He is mentioned in a court report for 1889, when he and two others were charged with being the owners of unregistered dogs. His fine was substantial, some five shillings, probably a quarter of his weekly earnings,  so one presumes he was making a reasonable living selling fish although in 1889 he had just been married a year and was not supporting children.

Saturday, July 27, 1889.

Before Messrs B.J. Knight and E. Coe, J.P's.

Henry Cralib, Henry Gaunt and Charles Ross were charged with being the owners of six unregistered dogs. The two former cases were dismissed and Ross who pleaded guilty was fined 5s.

He gets another mention in 1891 for 'not having lights on a vehicle' so one presumes it was his cart, which he pulled, when hawking fish.

Gladstone Police Court. Wednesday, May 6, 1891.
(Before Messrs. L. McDougall and A.O. Catt, JP.

Charles Ross for a breach of the Lights on Vehicles Act was fined 1s and costs 11 shillings in all.

His wife, Mary, also makes the papers in a court report for 1898 for smacking a neighbour's child.

The evidence went to show that defendant 'smacked the bottom' of the said boy and a fine was inflicted.

We have seen quite a few indications that Mary Atkins Ross was, despite her petite stature, a  no-nonsense kind of person.

Photo: Ellen Street, Port Pirie's main street, where Charlie Ross would have gone to buy fish.

Like the newspapers in neighbouring districts during the 1870s and 1880s, the Express argued long and hard for the extension of the railway network to the districts it served. In 1877 a two page supplement was printed to cover a lively meeting about the subject held at Laura (14 July 1877). A second strongly held belief reflected views on making land purchase easier for intending farmers: '... in new countries railway construction should be carried out precedent to, or in company with, liberalized land laws ... ' (21 July 1877, p. 2). The newspaper suggested that Parliament needed to consult directly with the country people. 'It is rather amusing that while the House of Assembly, the press and the public are floundering about in the depths of the land question ... the only persons who could speak with authority on the debated points - the farmers themselves - are quietly ignored' (15 July 1882, p. 2).

From the start, the Areas Express had an outspoken editorial policy regarding political matters. The 19th century editors of the newspaper were keen analysts of contemporary politics. 'In the midst of the political stagnation which prevails, the Gumeracha election comes as a relief' (17 April 1880, p. 2). From 1905 there was a strong pre-occupation with the 'evils' of socialism. The Express fully supported the formation and activities of the Liberal Union - a conservative political organisation for women. Elections - local, state and federal - tended to be well covered, with profiles of the candidates and discussion of the platforms.

The Express did not focus as strongly on sport as did many country newspapers. The cricket teams of Gladstone are chronicled from 1878 and the local football club from 1880. In 1879 the newspaper reported on the first Great Northern Racing Club meeting in its 'Turf gossip' column (26 March 1879 p. 2). In 1882 the Express was outraged by a humorous article in Adelaide Punch suggesting there was not enough accommodation for visitors to the races, and that the 'palatial' Gladstone gaol could be used. The Express seemed to think the suggestion was a serious one (19 April 1882, p. 2). For a time from the mid-1880s regular sporting columns appeared. The bicycle craze reached Gladstone in 1898, leading to the formation of the Great Northern Bicycle Club (4 November 1898, p. 2).

While the information is not yet online there are indications that some of the Ross children are mentioned in the sports pages.

From 1902 the newspaper, like most country newspapers, began publishing more social and biographical articles. Detailed obituaries, descriptions of weddings and biographical sketches were printed. From 1924 to early 1925 a series of articles about old residents, titled '80 years or over', gave detailed information about the lives of ten elderly local men.

If only Charlie Ross had lived long enough to be included.

 The pages of the Express strongly reflected the agricultural nature of the community that it served. Beginning with reports of the Belalie Agricultural Society Show and the local harvest (8 October 1881, p. 2), the newspaper reflected the advances brought by mechanisation and the application of scientific principles. There were advertisements for tractors to replace horses and discussions on the use of super-phosphates and subterranean clover and a variety of other issues. The meetings of the Gladstone branch of the South Australian Farmers' Mutual Association were reported regularly throughout the life of the newspaper. In the Express's early years a column titled 'The Farmer' was published.

Photographs first appeared in the Areas Express in 1910. This included photographs of floods at Gladstone in that year which caused the deaths of two men (9 September 1910, p. 2). In September and October 1924, when the Gladstone Football team were the local premiers, front page photographs of the team and an historical photograph of the 1885 premiership team appeared. For a time in the mid-1920s many photographs were printed in the newspaper, mostly of individuals. During the Second World War these gave way to syndicated war photographs.

The newspaper was established by JSJ Pengelley and WJ Trembath. From October 1878 the proprietors were brothers David and Andrew Taylor and their brother-in-law David Bews of the Wallaroo Times. David Bews withdrew from the company at the end of 1880 and in December 1882 the newspaper passed to Gordon Kearney. In July 1887 Charles D Southcombe became publisher and printer and in April 1888 William Hancock took over the newspaper. From 1910 he entered into partnership with Sam Osborne of the Port Pirie advertiser and Woroora producer. In 1928 Hancock sold to Lester Judell. In August 1945 Judell retired to the city and his three newspapers, the Express, the Jamestown Agriculturist and Review, and the Laura Standard, were then run by managers in the three towns. In 1948 Judell amalgamated the three newspapers into the new Northern Review at Jamestown.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Tailors, tidbits and the times for the Mashford's in Devon.

Image: Marriage of John Mashford and Mary Cann, Coldridge.
Elizabeth Mashford's father was a tailor and so her life should have had a modicum of comfort, unless of course she was a 'poor relation' taken in and more of a Cinderella than a daughter of the house.

Although that remains conjecture, but we still have no answer as to why she appeared to be less literate than her siblings when the family was far from being the poorest of the poor.

A UK researcher , Peter Selley, came up with  a bit more information, including the following tidbits referring to John Mashford's apple tree,  and his 'seat' in the Church. He also said, tailors were often highly valued members in a village and taking it further, one can assume,  given their profession, involved across the social spectrum if their skills were good.

He wrote:

Here is another bit of info from a memorandum which I noted in the Coldridge Church Register which I copied out a couple of months back but it may be relevant.


The second seat under the gallery on the north side of this church for women next to the seat that belongs to Frost (?) belongs to John Mashford for the house adjoining the pound in the town. Being at his own expense for making it by the liberty of the minister and church wardens May the 10th 1817.

“Frost” is probably correct being a farm in Coldridge and I think that having a pew in those days was a perk of land owners who paid  tythes to the parish.

Just before I hit the send button i thought I ought to check out the apprentice registers on Ancestry and there is this entry:
Sept 18 1757 John Mashford of Coleridge sergemaker – Fran(ci)s Canne   (Coleridge transcribed as Cotheridge). Francis Canne being his apprentice.
NB: This brings in the connection for Elizabeth's mother, Mary Cann Mashford. 

Image: Elizabeth Mashford, baptism, Coldridge.
I would imagine that this would be JM the tailor’s grandfather. That this chap had an apprentice shows some social standing.

This may interest you – some of the glass is early 16th century



A Remarkable Fact”

“On an apple tree belonging to Mr John Mashford Coldridge might be seen last week ripe fruit and full blow blossom”

The Western Times (Exeter, England), Saturday, October 11, 1834; pg. 3; Issue 354. British Newspapers, Part III: 1780-1950.


I found the following on another website regarding the 'life of a tailor, in Devon, at the same time John Mashford was plying his trade.


By 1881, William Hornsey Gamlen was a substantial figure in Devon. He was a Magistrate who had passed a lifetime as a farmer in Devon.


He was a member of the Devonshire Association and in 1880, gave an address to the members describing life on a mid-Devon farm in the 1820s . His style of writing is simple and direct and his listeners must have known that they were sharing the personal experiences of his youth as he took them back to the time when he was a teenager:


"The farm boys usually wore a fustian* jacket and waistcoat, leather breeches and shoes; boots were never worn; pieces of bag were tied round the ankles as a sort of gaiter and called "kitty bats" to keep the earth out of the shoes. These shoes, made of hide leather, were washed every Saturday night, and well-greased after being dried, and in time became almost as stiff and hard as wood.


The village tailor used to go to the farmhouses, and make and mend the boys' clothes with materials kept for the purpose, and received eight pence and sometimes a shilling a day and his food for doing this. He sat on the kitchen table at his work, and kept the mistress employed in supplying his requirements of more cloth, thread, buttons etc. till her patience was well worn. On one occasion, in hot weather, an apprentice girl whispered "Missus, missus, the tailor is asleep!" and received for answer: "Hush! for patience' sake don't wake him; I've had plague enough with him already."

In some places, the shoemaker too went to the houses and mended what required repair from a stock of leather kept for him."

In earlier time, tailors visited their clients in their own homes so the terrible conditions under which the actual work was carried out were seldom revealed. In this picture, we see an entire family huddled as close to the window as they can get, struggling to complete military uniforms for delivery in less than 24 hours.


Ready-made clothing is so easy to obtain today that we have forgotten how our ancestors coped with the problem of obtaining decent clothing. Old wills frequently show bequests of clothing.  

Until the end of the 19th century, working women would have made their own garments or, for special occasions, enlisted the help of the village dressmaker who also made stays and bonnets. Fabric was used and re-used and skilfully repaired if damaged, before being cut down to make children's clothing. Even so, women did visit men's tailors because they provided an essential service - they had the facility to bleach out colour and to dye garments black - absolutely essential following a death in the family.

Men's shirts were made at home. These were long garments, the back tails being drawn up between the legs as an alternative to modern underpants during the day. At night, the front and back tails were let down and the same garment was used as a night shirt. The village tailor provided suits for weddings (which a man would continue to use on Sundays for years after), working trousers and waistcoats. Stockings for all the family were knitted at home and boots, shoes or clogs came from the village shoemaker.

The 1851 census gives a figure of 599 for the population of the village of Atherington and its environs. No less than 5 tailors served the needs of this comparatively small population - Robert Gibbs, George Loosemore and Richard Slee all had tailoring businesses of their own, providing competition for George Stedeford, who in the absence of a son of his own, took his grandson Thomas Beer into partnership in his declining years. Two dressmakers - Mary Ann Govier and Sally Loosemore were on hand to cut down adult clothing for children or to provide finery or mourning clothes for the women of the village.


Below, birth/baptism records for Elizabeth's siblings.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Drowning, destitution and determination.

Photo: Bundaleer Station, 1870.

I have had little time in recent months to do any work on ancestry as we have returned to Australia to live after more than five years in Malawi and things have been busy to say the least.

But cousin Luke has kept up the good work with a few more bits of information which explain the 'missing' first child of Edward and Hannah, Henry Edward, whom, it seems, drowned in a waterhole after the family had moved to Clare. Born in Adelaide, in March 1843,  two months after Edward and Hannah married,  Henry Edward was seven when he died.

In addition, it now looks like Elizabeth Mashford Lewis went to Melbourne with her husband, Peter and returned alone, seeking support in 1853, one presumes after Lewis deserted her. There is a possible death record for Peter Lewis from Victoria,  but it has not been confirmed.

And with an Atkins still working at Bundaleer Staton until 1860,  it sounds as if Elizabeth spent quite a lot of time on her own with her growing family and her young stepchildren, in the first years of her marriage to Edward Atkins.  It cannot have been easy in the Wirrabarra Forest, pregnant and caring for so many children, and one can only assume she was strong, resilient, courageous and tough!

Photo: Settlers with local Aborigines.

From fellow researcher, Luke Scane-Harris:

As for the family tree I was going to the State Library and State Archives last year and did find out some more family information. I found an “Abstract of an inquisition taken before Edward Burton Gleeson JP at Clare on the 30th Day of November 1850.”  It appears that Edward and Hannah Atkins first son Henry Edward Atkins died of drowning. The young boy walked off without anyone knowing went swimming in a water hole somewhere around Clare, and drowned.
I also found out that upon Elizabeth Lewis (Mashford) returned from Melbourne in 1853, after Peter Lewis deserted her, she made an application at the Destitute Board for relief.
I also found out that the Ledgers for Bundaleer Station still exist. It appears that Edward Atkins, (or at least a person with the last name of Atkins), was still working at Bundaleer Station after the family moved to White Forrest, but he was going home for the birth of Elizabeth and Mary Atkins and then returning to Bundaleer Station. His name seems to disappear after 1860. This means Elizabeth Mashford was alone looking after the children and the stepchildren by herself. I am beginning to get a feeling that Edward Atkins was an illegal squatter living in the Wirrabara Forrest.i

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Ruminations and fancies on the 'noble connections' story surrounding Elizabeth Mashford.

Photo: Chanter's House, Ottery St Mary, home of the Coleridge family.

Having revisited the 'social status' of the Mashfords in recent weeks, it might be time to have another look at the family story, passed down through a number of ancestral lines, that Elizabeth Mashford was the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, and, one presumes Mary Cann although that is not necessarily a given.

It was not uncommon in the times for homes to be found for such illegitimate children and for the wealthy family to pay the foster parents for their care, co-operation and often silence.

I will just clarify, that my musings and meandering are without substance and are merely an exercise in pondering various possibilities which might explain a family story but probably do not.

The story has it that Elizabeth was the illegitimate daughter of a man of noble rank and that his mother, Lady Elizabeth, paid for the family to emigrate to Australia. A survey of the Cann family in Devon reveals that being employed as a servant was common for many. There is more chance than not, that Mary Cann Mashford worked as a servant before she married. No doubt a trawl of census records prior to 1818 would clarify this.

The Mashfords lived in Coldridge, Devon and until 1900 the village was called Coleridge.  Now, the label of 'noble' could have been something which morphed over time from a father who was not necessarily an aristocrat, but a wealthy or upper-class individual. However, let us begin at the 'top' so to speak.

There is a Dukedom for Coleridge, and John Taylor Coleridge, 1790-1876.

John Mashford married Mary Cann in 1818 and given varying dates for Elizabeth on census, marriage and death certificates, she was born sometime between 1818 and 1822, but, with a baptism record for 1820, we can assume either late 1818 or sometime in 1819 or 1820 and without a birth date, it cannot be verified.

In 1818, John Coleridge was 28 and had been married for two years to Mary Buchanan. His parents were James Coleridge and Frances Duke Taylor.

His first son, John Duke was born in 1820, and his second, Henry James in 1822, so they are about the same age as Elizabeth Mashford.

The problem with this local noble is that there is no Lady Elizabeth, although, having said that, the 'Lady' may apply but the Elizabeth was added later, by default, when the original name was forgotten. And the Lady being his mother could just as easily be the Lady as his wife, given the variation on themes which accompanies such oral histories.

It also does not make sense that Elizabeth would be 'sent on her way' in her late twenties. Why wait so long? More likely if she was fostered out, or even Mary's natural illegitimate daughter, that the money paid by her noble father enabled the Mashfords to start a new life in Australia. Not that John, George or Mary Cann got to live much of it, dying within three years of arrival.

The ancestral family home for the Coleridges was The Chanter's House, Ottery St. Mary, some 50 miles from Coleridge (Coldridge) but Sir John Taylor did not inherit the house until 1838 although he and his family may well have been living there before.

In the way of the times, Mary Cann could have been employed as a servant so far from home, or, regular contact was likely between the family and the village which shared their name.

Photo: The library at Chanter's House is my dream. The house was sold privately so it may still exist.

The Coleridges were one of Devon's oldest families after John Coleridge, the gifted son of a Crediton weaver, became headmaster of the Kings School and settled there in 1760 with his four daughters and eight sons. The most famous of them all was the youngest son, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born in 1772.

Another possible link is between John Coleridge, headmaster and John Mashford, schoolteacher.

The links with The Chanter's House, at Ottery St Mary date from 1796 when Samuel's second-eldest brother, James, a successful career soldier who married a local heiress bought one of the  grandest houses in town. Built in the 1340's as a chantry, a private chapel, the house was part of a group of buildings around the great 1th century church of St. Mary.

After the Reformation, the house passed to the Duke family, and it was from there, in 1645, that Sir Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell directed the New Model Army's Civil War operations in the West Country.

 Sir John Taylor Coleridge,a High Court judge, and his son, John Duke Coleridge together planned the first modest extension, adding a new service range, a coach house and stables, and rebuilding the drawing room. The original 30 acres of grounds were also extended and landscaped. 

 John Duke Coleridge decided to create a country seat by rebuilding the family home which he inherited in 1876. He commissioned the architect William Butterfield to create a Victorian country mansion around the kernel of the original chantry building. The 1840s service wing was replaced with extensive new stables and service quarters, the entrance moved to the east, and an extra storey added to the old south-facing main fa├žade. The entire west wing was taken up by a huge library 90ft long, 33ft wide and 40ft high built to accommodate Lord Coleridge's collection of 24,000 books, and said to be the largest such room of any house west of Salisbury.

The other possible noble floating around the region, comes from John Mashford's parents, John Mashford and Mary Labbett who lived in Eggesford, Devon. Eggesford is a small parish, midway between Exmoor and Dartmoor. It was hardly even a village, more a collection of houses, whose inhabitants supported the 'big house,' Eggesford House, the residence of the Earls of Portsmouth.

However, the carryings on at Eggesford House, while making bastards likely, also made farming them out to faithful 'servants' unlikely, and the source of the 'bastards' in this case was not a nobleman, although those things also get mixed up, but the daughter of a lawyer, so middle class, married to a nobleman although none of the children were his, and the father of the bastards was another lawyer.

John Charles Wallop, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth (18 December 1767 – 14 July 1853), styled Viscount Lymington until 1797, was a British nobleman and recognised lunatic.
The Earl was known from an early age to have an unsound mind, and his estate was placed under the control of four trustees.  Portsmouth had periods of sanity but he indulged in bizarre and sadistic behaviour, whipping servants, beating horses and killing cattle with an axe. He was also obsessed with funerals and attended as many as he could, sometimes flogging the ringers with the bellrope afterwards.

In 1799 he married the Hon. Grace Norton, the sister of one of his trustees, William Norton, 2nd Baron Grantley. Portsmouth's younger brother, Hon. Newton Fellowes encouraged the marriage as Grace was 47 at the time and even though Portsmouth was only 31, an heir to displace him was unlikely.  Grace proved useful in managing the madman but by 1808 his manias were beyond even her control.

Grace died five years later and another trustee, John Hanson, saw an opportunity and put his daughter, Mary Anne forward. They married on March 7, 1814 with Lord Byron, another of Hanson's clients, giving the bride away.

Newton failed to have his brother declared insane and the new Countess quickly grew into her role by avoiding her husband and having an affair with William Alder, a lawyer, who fathered three children by her. So there is always the chance the children were fostered out.

A new commission de lunatico inquirendo took place in 1823, at the instigation of Portsmouth's nephew, Henry Wallop Fellowes, and it was revealed that the Earl had been badly mistreated by his new wife and her lover, who had spat on him and beaten him. He was adjudged to have been insane since 1809.

In 1828, his second marriage was annulled, and Mary Anne's children were declared bastards. A judgment for the £40,000 cost of the trial was issued against her, and she fled abroad. She later married Alder but there is no mention of the children. And since the children were declared bastards in 1828, one presumes, although it is not a given, that they were still with their mother.

Photo: Elizabeth Mashford Lewis Atkins.

Photo: William Courtenay, 10th Earl of Devon.

The other possibility, remote as it may be, is the Earl of Devon. The family seat was Tiverton, some 22 miles from Coldridge, although there were no doubt various country estates and homes where the family could have lived which might have been even closer to Coldridge.
But dates do not fit for the 11th Earl, as he was born in 1807 and would have been either 11, 13, or 15 when Elizabeth Mashford was born, depending on which date is correct. His wife was a Lady Elizabeth but they did not marry until 1830 when Elizabeth was either 10, 12 or 7 and unlikely to be playing around with the Duke. And since his first son was born in 1832, not much chance there either and he died in 1853 so not likely any shenanigans given age differences with either Mary Cann Mashford or her daughter.

But, if we go back to the 10th Earl of Devon, William Courtenay, 1777-1859, we have him aged 41 in 1818, the earliest possible birth date for Elizabeth Not only was he an acceptable age, he also had a wife called, Elizabeth - Lady Elizabeth Ruth Scott. But she was his second wife, and they did not marry until 1849.

And, since the story said it was his mother, but it could well have been a wife, the other factor with this contender is that his mother was called Elizabeth, but she died in 1815 and was well out of the picture even before Elizabeth was born.

His first wife, Henrietta died in 1839 and he remarried ten years later, two years after the Mashfords had set sail for South Australia.

William Courtenay and Elizabeth Scott married on January 30, 1849 and given his age, 72,  there were no children. This is hardly surprising, despite the fact that Elizabeth Scott was only 35 years old, although since her birth date is not absolute, she may well have been closer to 40 and unable to have children even if the Earl had been up to it.

Elizabeth was from Ireland, the daughter of a Reverend and with aristocratic connections. Perhaps Courtenay had met her in Ireland where there were family estates. Why she married so late in life for someone of her rank and times is a question to which I have no answer. Elizabeth's birth is given circa. 1814 and she died 100 years later.

Perhaps Elizabeth had been his lover for some years and, on hearing of the bastard daughter, decided that she and her family were best removed. Or, perhaps Elizabeth was something of a puritan and that was why she had not previously married and, when she did, it was to a man with whom there was going to be no sexual relationship. The courtship may have lasted for years and one of her conditions might have been - remove your past and the stain of the bastard daughter.

It does not make a lot of sense given that she would have no heirs and the succession was assured anyway with three sons from Courtenay's first marriage. But, who knows and it is certainly possible, although, in the way of these things, probably highly unlikely.

The Debrett's entry:
DEVON, Earl of," His lordship's predecessor was his father, William, 10th Earl of Devon. He was b. June 19, 1777, and succeeded his cousin, May 26, 1835; was a Governor of the Charterhouse and High Steward of the University of Oxford :
m. 1st, Nov. 29, 1804, Lady Harriet (the Peerage source gives the name Henrietta which is no doubt correct) Leslie, daughter of Sir Lucas Pepys, Bart, and Eliza-beth, (in her own right) Countess of Rothes, (she d. 1839), having had issue four sons and one daughter; 2ndly, Jan. 30, 1849, Elizabeth Ruth, (laughter of the Rev. John Middleton Scott; and d. March 19, 1859, without having had any issue from 2nd marriage.
DEVON, Countess of, " ELIZABETH RUTH, daughter of the Rev. John Middleton Scott and of Lady Arabella BarbaraBrabazon, daughter of the 8th Earl of Meath; m. 1849, as his 2nd wife, the 10th Earl of Devon, who d. 1859.

 Mary Cann is shown on an 1841 census as aged, 48, which has her born in 1793, some 15 years younger than the Duke, and somewhere between 25 and 29 when Elizabeth was born. John and Mary married in 1818, which is the earliest possible birth date for Elizabeth, when Mary was 25.

I am inclined to think, given that we now know the Mashfords were literate, that Elizabeth Mashford Atkins and her family, knew what her age was and 1818 is likely to be the correct date as recorded on her death certificate.

Was it possible that Mary was working for the Courtenay family and fell pregnant by the Earl of Devon? Possibly.  It was certainly extremely common for the times. His wife, Henrietta had given birth to five children in nine years - 1807, 1809, 1811, 1813 and 1816, an average of two years between each pregnancy. And then no more.

Henrietta was 39 and while perhaps at the end of her child-bearing years, perhaps not, and it simply indicated the end of their sexual life. Their third son had died in 1814 at the age of eight months and perhaps a variety of factors were at play.

Bedding a housemaid was common even when sexual relations were maintained, and even more likely if they were not. And Mary was more than old enough to  make up her own mind about what she did and with whom.

Having said that, Mary Cann was connected with pubs through her family and later, as a publican, and may have been working in a local establishment where this nobleman or some other, stayed, while visiting the area. It may have been a one-night stand although that really puts paid to the Mashford's being paid to leave theory, or an occasional dalliance where there was a case for who the father might be. We shall never know, I am sure.

We do not have a birth record for Elizabeth but if she was born in 1818,  then, with a May 29, wedding date, it means Mary was pregnant before she married John Mashford or the birth was premature. Now, of course the most likely scenario was that if Mary was pregnant before marriage then the baby was John's. But that is not a given.

In addition, as the daughter of a Reverend, perhaps Lady Elizabeth wanted an end to the 'bastard story' and any rumours and did make funds available to have the entire family sent to the other side of the globe. If the wealth arrived in such a fashion it could explain why Elizabeth's education had been neglected and why her brothers, who would have handled the money, had the funds to set themselves up in South Australia. It might also explain why George was so solicitous of his older sister and stood in her defence.

In addition, the fact that Mary Cann Mashford, as recorded in the Montefiore court case, said she had also been looking for a job as a servant, suggests that she had previous experience, and one could surmise, with highly respectable former employers.

We have, therefore, a potential noble father, a time-frame which works, a Lady Elizabeth in the picture who could more plausibly have been involved at packing off the Mashfords at so late a date, and a possible scenario, and we have Lady Elizabeth as mother even though she had departed the scene long before Elizabeth was born. But such is the stuff of family stories and oral recounting.

So, while all of this is pure conjecture and no more than a bit of interesting history, here is where we are at with research and questions raised about the Mashfords and the possibility that there is some truth in Elizabeth's story:

1. The Mashfords had the money to get the immediate family and possibly others, some fourteen in all, to South Australia. Even with assisted passage it means they were not poor. Did that money come from tailoring and being a publican?

2. George and John Mashford had connections to upper class individuals both in South Australia and in England, which indicates they had a modicum of social standing. There was more flexibility in the colonies but it is clear the relationships predated this time.

3. George Mashford took a large sum of money to SA and by the time he died three years later had a considerable estate to hand on to his family. The tenant living on his property was Lavington Glyde, who was from Devon and the upper rungs of the social ladder.

4. Elizabeth's sister, Jane, married the son of an Irish nobleman, which was certainly possible for the times, more so in the colonies,  but more likely indicates a moderate level of social standing and certainly education. Mary Ann married a William Mollison Strachan, from Scotland, who sounds as if he was above servant status.

5. Elizabeth's siblings all seem to have been reasonably if not highly literate but there remain questions as to whether Elizabeth was literate to any substantial degree. Why would this be so? As the oldest child and eldest daughter she should have been as literate as her siblings.

6. Elizabeth agreed to work as a servant for a noted South Australian, the Montefiore's while en route to Adelaide. This suggests that she was a fairly respectable person even though still a servant.

7. Elizabeth took work as a servant in SA and married  servant while her brother George set himself up as some sort of professional and brother John, had premises as  tailor. Her two sisters had the funds to travel to Melbourne and to make a number of trips back and forth to Adelaide. Why was Elizabeth working as a menial servant when the rest of her family were doing much better? Although supposedly her mother also planned to take work as a servant which raises new questions.

8. Elizabeth left Adelaide after her brothers and her mother had died and either she had left her husband, Peter Lewis or he had left her. Why did she not move to be with her sisters?

It is the discrepancies in the fortunes of the siblings which makes one wonder if there was something 'different' about Elizabeth, i.e. less respectable.

Fellow researcher, Luke Atkins Harris offers his thoughts on the mystery:




As to Elizabeth Mashford and the story of her illegitimacy. I do not think the story will ever be resolved and I do not think she was an illegitimate daughter to a wealthy nobleman in England. However, I do believe there is something behind the story.
I agree with you that the Mashford did have more money than one expected. Where they got that money from I really do not know. Unless Mary Cann’s husband, John Mashford, because he was the oldest son, inherited land from his father. Upon his death Mary Cann got the land and she sold it to Josiah Mashford. It is just a thought and I do not know if this happened where to find the evidence.
It seems to me that if Elizabeth Mashford was illegitimate and she was an embarrassment to one “Lady Elizabeth” why wait until she was an adult to move her out of Devon. Unless, as you suggested, she started to make waves.
There is no birth certificate for Elizabeth Mashford because compulsory registration of English births, marriages and deaths did not occur in England until I think c1836. As Elizabeth was born in c1820 there would be no civil birth certificate for her. As to her age yes it is confusing because there are different records, but the best one to go by would be her baptism record because the date was written by the local priest who would have known the date when she was baptised.

NB: We need to check if there are birth certificates for the other children and if Elizabeth's is missing that raises questions.
It makes no sense to me that if somebody wanted to get rid of Elizabeth Mashford from Devon why send the whole family out to South Australia. There must have been thousands of illegitimate babies in England at this time.
Furthermore, in the two newspaper story in TROVE about her court battle with Joseph Barrow Montefiore one of the story speaks about an Aunty (I have never found who this Aunty was) but the story also stated there were 14 other people on board the same ship who were connected to the Mashford family.
Thus the Mashford family did have an extended family in South Australia. If some wealthy nobleman wanted to get rid of the Mashford family why send out about 20 odd people to South Australia? The story does not make any sense to me.
However, as stated, I do believe there is something to the story and I am thinking it goes back to c1856 when George Mashford will was settled. It never made any sense to me as why all of a sudden Elizabeth Lewis (Mashford) just took off with her two sons and moved to Rocky River. Why Rocky River? Why not stay in Adelaide where she could find employment, why not move to Victoria where her sister were living for extra family support? But why go all the way to Rocky River?
Was Elizabeth Mashford involved in some sort of social scandal with a notable person in Adelaide around 1856? Peter Lewis had deserted her so in her mind she was a free woman. It is clear that George May Mashford knew both George Aldridge and especially Lavington Glyde. Lavington Glyde would have known many notable people in Adelaide.
When Elizabeth Lewis returned to Adelaide from Melbourne, after Peter Lewis deserted her, did she end up living with her brother in his house acting as a servant and she knew Lavington Glyde on a personal level?
I find it interesting that after Elizabeth Lewis left Adelaide in 1856. Lavington Glyde entered political life in 1857 by representing East Torrens in the House of Assembly.  Was this purely coincidental? If there were rumours about Elizabeth Lewis, due to a real or a false accusation, did she seek the help of Lavington Glyde? Or conversely, did Lavington Glyde agree to help her on the proviso she left Adelaide with a letter of introduction and a reference to Herbert Bristow Hughes of Rocky River?
Both Lavington Glyde and Herbert Bristow Hughes may have known one another. Lavington Glyde knew John Bristow Hughes (Herbert’s brother) as both Lavington Glyde and John Bristow Hughes were Members of the Electoral District of East Torrens.  Both men served as Treasurer. John Bristow Hughes in the Torrens Ministry in 1857 and Lavington Glyde was Treasurer under the Premiership of Francis Dutton.  Both Lavington Glyde and Herbert Bristow Hughes were wealthy and well known men in South Australia.

Lavington Glyde would have known people such as George Fife Angas, Henry Ayers, George Goyder, Robert Barr Smith and Thomas Elder all notable South Australia. Thus did Elizabeth Mashford embark upon an affair with some famous South Australian or was she accused of having an affair with some famous South Australian?
This could be the reason why Elizabeth Lewis moved to Rocky River. There was some sort of scandal with her and a famous South Australian. She had to be moved from Adelaide to stop embarrassment. She was given a letter of introduction and a reference to Herbert Bristow Hughes of Rocky River?  There was a position of employment awaiting her and hence the reason why she did not move to Victoria to be with her sisters, or anywhere else, because there was no job to go to and she could not stay in Adelaide.
Thus it was not Elizabeth Mashford who was an illegitimate child, but it was either:-
·        Her who had an illegitimate child in South Australia and the family oral history has become disordered over time?
·        Or she was accused of having an illegitimate child?
·        Or she was just attacked with rumours that she was an illegitimate child and was convinced to leave Adelaide because it was causing embarrassment for some well-known South Australia?
Thus it just could be the case that Elizabeth Mashford told her children that she was accused of being an illegitimate child in England and she was forced to leave. In turn, her children would say to their children “that mum told us that she was an illegitimate child” and over time what was once an accusation due to some rumour or scandal that really happened in Adelaide has become an historical family history fact that Elizabeth Mashford was an illegitimate child and was forced to leave Devon?
To my mind, all scenarios are plausible although experience so far has taught me that details are usually general right although often about the wrong person.

I don't think there is any doubt that there was an issue of illegitimacy involving Elizabeth, whether for herself or a child although I still think it is the former.

Elizabeth as Mary Cann's illegitimate child to someone notable and wealthy, or Elizabeth as an illegitimate child of someone notable and wealthy who was fostered, could explain how the Mashfords had more money than one would expect and better connections than one would expect for a humble Devon family.

It would also explain the discrepancies between Elizabeth's expectations, fortunes and education.
We are unlikely to ever know but the conjecture remains an interesting exercise.