Saturday, 4 December 2010

The almost Mashford murder story

The report on Peter Lewis's attempt to shoot George Mashford has come up on Trove. There is no doubt that Peter was a violent drunk and this gives credence to the earlier theory that Elizabeth Mashford Lewis may have left him or perhaps he left her.

It is clear there were problems from the beginning of the marriage although she did go on to have another two sons after this incident and there is no reason to believe Peter Lewis was not the father.

And it is clear that poor Elizabeth got short shrift from the judge who suggested that she find ways to 'temper' her husband's temper! These were the days when women had little in the way of rights and even less hope of making their way in the world without the support of a father, brother or husband.


POLICE COURT. Thursday. 7th December, 1848.

Peter Lewis was charged with threatening to shoot George Mashford, his brother in-law, at Kensington, on the 3d instant. '

George Mashford made a lone statement, from which it appeared that his sister (the prisoner's wife) was afraid to live with him, he having repeatedly threatened her, and even on one occasion attempted to choak her.

On last Sunday evening he came to witness's house demanding to see his wife. He then went to the Chapel looking for her, and created a disturbance there. He made use of the threats complained of on that occasion, and he had circulated the most abominable stories of witness and his sister.

Mrs Lewis stated that she feared her husband would sometimes put his threats into execution, particularly as he was in the habit of getting drunk purposely to increase his violence. She was willing to support herself and child without troubling him. The prisoner admitted having called and asked to see his child, which was denied him. He declared he had no wish to hurt his wife or her brother, but hoped his Worship would order them to let him see his child. His Worship could say nothing to that. He would require him to give bail to keep the peace for six months.

And to the wife he said she should endeavour to soothe the violence of her husband's temper. Her bargain might be a bad one, but she should make the best of it After entering into recognizances, the man again applied for an order to see his child. His Worship declined to give it, and admonished him not to resort to any violent means to effect that object.

In September of 1851, Elizabeth had other problems as well as her husband. There is another legal notice indicating that  she is sueing for unpaid rent. It was probably Josiah who  is the Mashford mentioned, who headed off to Melbourne later that year and seems to have been less reliable as a brother than George May.

But one wonders why she was doing the sueing and not Peter Lewis and if they were still living together? But clearly they were still in a relationship.Little George was three and John Mashford Lewis had been born the previous year. Henry would arrive in 1854 so clearly there was some sort of complicated 'dance' going on between the two of them. Unless of course they were 'sharing' a house but not as husband and wife and Henry was the result of violent, unwanted advances.

Given the two years between George and John and the four between John and Henry this may well have been the case.

As recorded in the South Australian Register:

September 4, 1851.
Lewis v. Mashford. Action for £9 1s. 6d., for board and lodging. Plea — That plaintiff was a married woman, and could not maintain an action; and that more money had been already paid than due.  Several witnesses were examined, and a judgment of 5s. per week for the full amount and costs given.

Elizabeth must have been feeling increasingly alone.  In March of 1848 barely a year after the family arrived in South Australia, her sisters Mary Ann and Jane had sailed for Melbourne on the steamship Juno.  Her brother John Cann Mashford had died a year later in 1849 and, the following year, on September 14, her beloved brother and protector, George May Mashford died, and eight weeks later, to the day, her mother, Mary Cann Mashford died. Barely a month after losing her mother, her remaining brother, Josiah Labbett Mashford sailed for Melbourne on the schooner Amalia.

He is listed in the CLEARED OUT section of the South Australian Register:

Friday, December 12, 1851— The schooner Amalia, 136 tons, Funch, master, for Melbourne. In ballast. Passengers — John Williams, ................... Josiah Mashford.

His departure may have had something to do with another notice in the Register where Josiah had been assaulted by a man named Mara on November 4.

From the Register: Owen Carroli and Daniel Mara— Did assault Thomas Chalk, onthe 5th November; and also, Mara did,' on the 4th November, assault Josiah Mashford.

The Shipping Intelligence as noted in the South Australian Register does show Josiah Mashford returning to Adelaide on Saturday, March 20, 1852 on the Brigantine Rattler. On this journey he was in a cabin as opposed to ballast so one presumes that he had fallen on his feet in Melbourne. He is also noted in the April of that year as secretary to The Adelaide Band of Musicians:

THE ADELAIDE BAND OF MUSICIANS under the' superintendance of Inspector Stuart pro poses to march and meet Mr. Commissioner Tolraer and tne Overland Escort at Glen Osmond. In returning thanks for the subscriptions already raised, the Adelaide Band of Musicians respectfully inform their friends, that they have no connection with Mr. George Bennett, and that sub scriptions will continue to be gratefully received on their behalf, by Mr. Peter Smith, Red Lion Inn, Rundle-street, by Mr. Clisby, Rosina-street, and by Mr. Mashford, Peacock's
Buildings. JOSIAH MASHFORD, Secretary to the Band. April 27, 1852. '

However, by June of 1853 the Adelaide Post Office was recording unclaimed letters for J. Mashford.  One wonders if he did a runner with some of the takings from the Band but I have yet to stumble upon a report in the Register. Josiah does seem to be something of a shifty character.

It would take five years for George May Mashford's estate to be finalised.

Coming Soon:
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839-1900) Monday 20 August 1855 p 1 Advertising

... Demand on the ESTATE of the late GEORGE MAY  MASHFORD, are requested to send in their respective...... 12115 words

George May got three years in the new colony of South Australia and with his death, as far as we know, Elizabeth Mashford Lewis found herself alone, without the support of family and with a violent husband.

Even more tragically, she had lost her youngest son, Henry Lewis just three months earlier at the age of fifteen months. Was this when she moved to Rocky River?   Henry Lewis died at Marryattville so Elizabeth was living in Adelaide at the time of George's death. And clearly she and Peter Lewis were still in some sort of relationship  up until the time Henry was conceived.. Henry was born at Marryattville on January 22, 1854.

Perhaps the loss of her tiny son and the brother who had clearly been a protector was more than she could bear.  With George's death there is every chance that no member of her family remained in Adelaide. Within two years she would marry Edward Atkins in Rocky River and Peter Lewis would have disappeared from her life.

There is another note which has come up on Trove and has yet to be fully uploaded, indicating that Josiah Mashford applied for a timber licence in 1849:

1. TIMBER LICENCES. Colonial Secretary's Office, August 28, 1849. [coming soon]
South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839-1900) Saturday 1 September 1849 p 4 Article

..... Josiah Mashford ' 23 201. ... 1167 words

The Rocky River/Wirrabarra Forest area may well have been where his timber licence operated. If that is the case, there may have been links with people living in the area, including with Edward Atkins, where Elizabeth could take refuge from her husband and find the support she would need as a woman alone with two small sons to raise.

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