Saturday, 2 July 2011

Finding and facing the absolute facts about Edward Atkins

In that all or nothing way of things emails have been flying thick and fast as a result of our recent doubts.

What we need to ascertain is how likely it is that the Edward Atkins cited in the death notice for 1891 is our Edward Atkins. 

To list the facts we have:

Edward Atkins is recorded as living in the Clare Valley as a farmer, in 1849.  He and Elizabeth were married in the Clare Valley which is about 50 kilometres south of Wirrabarra Forest. It is a long way from Wirrabarra to Clare but if Edward had friends at Penwortham, and perhaps it was the closest Anglican church, then it would be worth the journey.

His marriage record for January 12, 1857 to Elizabeth Mashford Lewis has them residing in Rocky River, which is the Wirrabarra Forest Area. They were married at St. Mark's Church, Penwortham and the witnesses were Abraham Cundall, farmer, Connaught (Clare Valley) and E. Greenslade, no occupation listed, Penwortham.

N.B. In some later information an Ellen Greenslade is listed as applying for a publican's licence in the Penwortham area. She may have been a friend of Elizabeth's and Elizabeth may have worked at a hotel given family experience through her mother Mary Cann Mashford who was listed as a publican in the 1841 Devon census.

Edward's age is given as 44, his trade as a blacksmith and his father as Joseph Atkins. The officiating minister was William Wood.

This links our Edward with the Edward Atkins registered as living in the Clare Valley in 1849.

The following mention of Edward and Elizabeth is made in Flinders Ranges Research:

On 22 November 1857 blacksmith Edward Atkins and his wife Elizabeth, nee Marshford had a daughter, Elizabeth followed by another daughter, Mary on 8 December 1859.

The next record is for the birth of Edward and Elizabeth's son, James Haynes Atkins on January 2, 1862 where Edward is now listed as a shepherd, living at Charlton. Charlton was the settlement which grew up around the Charlton Mine in Wirrabarra Forest and the name of which was later changed to Wirrabarra. 
Photo: Edward Atkins with his daughters Elizabeth Atkins (Cox) on the right and Mary Atkins (Ross) on the left.
The Wirrabarra Forest was also known as White Forest or Whyte's Forest.

It is a fact that our Edward was living and working in the Wirrabarra Forest from the time of their marriage until at least 1862 when James Haynes Atkins was born. 

These are the only absolute FACTS we have about our Edward Atkins. And now comes the possibles and maybes.

On January 3, 1843 an Edward Atkins married Hannah McLeod at Trinity Church, Adelaide. He is listed 'of age' and his occupation is given as blacksmith. The witnesses were Wm. Lilford and Elizabeth Parker. They were married by licence. Edward is listed as a bachelor.

There are a number of children born to Edward Atkins 'father' between 1843 and 1856 mostly in the Clare Valley.

We have some facts showing that by 1875 Elizabeth Atkins was living in Gladstone but nothing to suggest that Edward was with her.We have records showing that Elizabeth Atkins  signed over land to her oldest son, George Lewis,  in Gladstone in 1875. Mary, the youngest daughter of Edward and Elizabeth gave birth to an illegitimate child, Edward Welsh Atkins in 1877 and John Mashford Lewis died at his mother's residence in Gladstone in 1888. There is no mention of Edward Atkins and some suggestion that he and Elizabeth may have separated.

And then we have a death notice:

“Atkins.-On the 15th November, 1891 at the residence of his son-in-law, Whyte Park, Wirrabara, Edward Atkins, aged 84 years. A colonist of over 50 years, leaving 1 son, 5 daughters, 47
grandchildren and 3 greatgrandchildren to mourn their loss. Gloucestershire papers please copy.”

Given the ages of James, Elizabeth and Mary and the children they had between them in 1891 it is clear that this Edward Atkins had more than these three children and was not living with a wife or did not have a living wife.We have at this point no record that Elizabeth Mashford Atkins or any of her children posted a death notice for our Edward Atkins which would clearly establish him as NOT the Whyte's Park Edward. 

The link to our Edward Atkins is the area - Whyte Park, Wirrabarra. As a colonist of over 50 years he is clearly likely to be the Edward Atkins who married Hannah McLeod in 1843.

Other research has brought up an Emily and Margaret Atkins, both of whom were married at the residence of John Pole, a shepherd, at Booleroo Station. Emily married Edward Puddy on 4/5/1872 and Margaret married Jasper Newberry, on 24/12/1872.  Both Emily and Margaret record their fathers as an Edward Atkins with no record of a mother's name. It is a reasonable guess that Emily and Margaret were sisters. 

Booleroo Station is about 18 kilometres north of Wirrabarra Forest and it is conceivable that our Edward worked here as a shepherd. Wirrabarra Station is another possibility but given the scarcity of settlers in the area at the time, it is highly likely that those living in Wirrabarra and places like Booleroo Station, knew each other.

A John Pole married an Ann Atkins on 23/12/1887 at an Adelaide Registry office and her father is listed as Edward Atkins.  The marriage date seems late for this to be the John Pole living at Booleroo Station but it is possible that Ann and John lived together for quite some years before marrying. Ages were something of a moveable feast at this time, particularly on marriage records and writing can be hard to decipher.

 I have not seen this marriage record and I am wondering if there could be a mistake for the year with writing on such records difficult to define at the best of times. A marriage date of 1877 would more likely draw these women together.

In addition, John McKinnon,  married Jane Atkins on the 25/12/1867 at Saint Mark’s Church Penwortham. She was aged 22 years at the time of her marriage. Her father was called Edward Atkins. If Jane Atkins was 22 years of age in 1867 she was born in the year 1845.

The fact that Jane Atkins was married in the same church as Edward Atkins and Elizabeth Mashford Lewis suggests a possible connection. This also suggests that our Edward may well be the Edward who married Hannah McLeod and who had children, possibly six, before he married Elizabeth.

In addition,  a Sarah Atkins, aged 26, married James Stacey on 8/4/1872 in Saint Mark's, Penwortham as well. Her father is also listed as Edward Atkins.  Sarah would have been born in 1846, within the time-line for the children of the Edward who married Hannah.

The Clare Historical Society has come up with records showing a son, Joseph, baptised at St Barnabas Church of England, Clare in 1851 with parents Edward and Hannah Atkins. It seems a stretch to think that the co-incidence of our Edward being in the Clare Valley and marrying in the Clare Valley in 1857 might not be this same Edward having children with a wife called Hannah!

Even more so given that our Edward lists his father's name as Joseph and it was traditional to hand on this name to at least one son, often the first-born but not necessarily. James Haynes Atkins did not give any of his son's his father's name but we have reasons to suspect there had been a family falling out which might explain this omission.

If our Edward had a son called Joseph by a first marriage it would explain why he did not call his son by Elizabeth Mashford, Joseph. 
The same Edward and Hannah Atkins had a daughter baptised in the same church in 1854 which would fit with our Emily Atkins Puddy.

Another child, no name given was baptised in the same church in 1850 to Edward and 'Anne' Atkins although the writing is indistinct and Hannah and Anne are not dissimilar.  So a Hannah Atkins with husband Edward, was alive and living in the Clare Valley in 1854, just three years before our Edward would marry my great-great-grandmother.

More importantly, St. Mark's, Penwortham and St. Barnabas, Clare are in the same parish.

ABOVE: Edward Atkins.

Here is the list we came up with for possible children of Edward and Hannah Atkins: 

·       Henry Edward born 1843, probably Adelaide where Edward and Hannah married.
·       Jane McKinnon nee Atkins 1845, born Clare.
·       Margaret Newberry nee Atkins 1847, born Clare.·    
·       Sarah Stacey nee Atkins 1850, born Clare.
·       Joseph Atkins born 1851, born Clare.
  Emily Puddy nee Atkins 1854, born Clare.

In 1857 Henry, if still living would have been 14; Margaret would have been ten; Sarah, seven; Joseph six and Emily three and given the times, and the tendency for children to appear every two years, with twelve months of breastfeeding acting as a natural contraceptive, there may well have been seven or eight children born to Edward and Hannah Atkins during their thirteen or fourteen years of marriage.

This certainly provides more than enough children to provide the multitude of grand-children recorded for the Edward Atkins who died at Whyte's Park in 1891. The question is: Is this our Edward Atkins?

So there are clues to make it believable that our Edward married Hannah McLeod first and that he is the Edward living with his son-in-law at Whyte Park, Wirrabarra when he died. We know our Edward was in Rocky River, Wirrabarra. We know he was first a blacksmith then a shepherd. We know he worked as a shepherd in the Wirrabarra Forest - Booleroo area in 1862, but we do not know for certain that he is the Edward listed on the death notice. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence but that is not fact. 

The Edward who married Hannah has 'disappeared' and yet is likely to be the Edward who re-appeared as a resident in the Clare Valley in 1849. This was the year Elizabeth Mashford Lewis's brother John Cann Mashford died, of dropsy, in Adelaide  on September 11.  John was a tailor, residing at Kensington and his brother George registered his death, not knowing that two days after the first  anniversary of his brother's death,  he would also be dead.

George May Mashford, Shoemaker, residing at Kensington, died of typhus fever  on September 14, 1850. Typhus is usually carried by lice and ticks spread by rats and was common in crowded unsanitary conditions. One wonders if George had ended up in gaol given press records showing altercations with his brother-in-law Peter Lewis as I have previously recorded on the blog.

A mere two months later, Mary Cann Mashford, Elizabeth's mother died of 'natural decay' on November 14. Although having lost two sons in the space of a year it may well have been a broken heart. Mary's age is listed as 61, widow residing at Kensington,  and her death was notified by her younger son Josiah Labbett Mashford,  occupation Sawyer (an old term for someone who saws wood), residing at Kensington.

By 1850 Elizabeth's two sisters Mary Ann and Jane had moved to Melbourne and Josiah was also dividing his time between Adelaide and Melbourne. Elizabeth was alone with what sounds like a difficult marriage, 18 month old George and four week old John. Her third child Henry was born at Marryattville in 1854 and died at the age of 16 months in 1855. 

Josiah had taken out timber licences in Adelaide around 1850, no doubt in the Wirrabarra Forest area (see pic above)  and one wonders if  after the death of her son, and what sounds like the breakdown of her marriage, she moved out of Adelaide to the either Wirrabarra Forest or the Clare Valley, where, within two years she would marry Edward Atkins.

It is now a matter of finding some facts which fit the framework of clues linking Edward Atkins with Hannah McLeod - Emily Puddy - Margaret Newberry - Jane McKinnon - John Pole - Booleroo Station- Whyte's Park - the name Joseph - the trade of blacksmith - Clare Valley -  and Gloucestershire.

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