Moving to Tasmania

Jane and James must have come to Hobart as part of the evacuation, she with the Croppers and he with Noah Mortimer in 1808. It seems Sarah did not come to Tasmania but Elizabeth did join her siblings much later

John Cropper /Copper and his wife had settled in Sandy Bay on a grant of 20 acres by 1819. This land ran from the water’s edge to Mt St. Canice, including much of what is known locally as Nutgrove.

In 1824 a fire destroyed the Cropper home and all their possessions: at that time John said he was 86 and his wife 90. However Mary Cropper died in Sandy Bay on 6 November 1826 aged 78..

Noah Mortimore, then 50, arrived in Hobart on 1 March 1808 Tasmania with his second wife, Mary on the
Lady Nelson. Mary Mortimer had originally arrived as a convict on the Lady Juliana as Mary Cottle and married Noah on Norfolk Island in 1805. His father, John also came to Hobart on the Lady Nelson and died in 1812 aged 88. He was buried in St David’s graveyard. Noah took up a grant of 183 acres of land in Newtown about 2 miles from the centre of Hobart and south of the Newtown Rivulet, awarded by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Macquarie authorised it in compensation for land Noah had relinquished on Norfolk Island when the settlement was abandoned.

The land is now in the suburb of Newtown, stretched from Pedder Street in the north to about Benjafield Terrace in the south and from Giblin Street to about Montagu St. The land was surrounded by grants made to Preston and James Scott along the eastern boundary and Henry Hayes and William Nicholls along the northern edge. The land of Nichols and Hayes ran down to Newtown Rd. Scott’s farm was called Roseway and the house built for his father-in-law Governor Thomas Davey was on the Rivulet where a large milk processing plant now stands.

Roseway Lodge

Noah’s land had a quit rent of 3 shillings. It is recorded that he still lived there in 1809 with a wife and child, had sown nine acres in wheat and barley and owned 37 sheep. It is likely that other Norfolk Island men also used the land for grazing, these probably included Dennis Geary, who had his stock sold by the Sheriff in August 1816, and the unfortunate shepherd Lynch.

By 1818 ‘Mortimer’s Farm’ was known as Greenway and was amalgamated with another grant owned by Dr James Scott where Calvary Hospital is now situated. His home Roseway Lodge is now known as Newlands. The present Greenway Avenue probably provided access to the original Mortimer’s Farm from Stephen Street, now called Augusta Rd.

Married Life in Tasmania

While James then, 8, stayed with Noah after arriving from Norfolk Island Jane, then 14, apparently decided that a new place meant a new life. Young single free women were in extremely short supply and Jane probably was well able to live by her wits.
In the first 20 years of settlement….women were remarkably unrestricted and their activity in many public fields appears to have been accepted. They could do virtually what they wished if they had the opportunity and ability. …and like their male counterparts several had extramarital affairs…and there was not even a respectable couple among the seven governors households in Hobart. [Alison Alexander Bull of CTHS 3.2.p. 81 1991-2]
By August 1816 Jane had her first child, Sarah, baptised by Robert Knopwood. Two, perhaps three other children of hers were baptised on 8 March 1809(James) and on 2 Jan 1812 (James and Jane). It has been said that ‘she was living on the town from an early age and pregnant at 14 or 15.

Jane (Copper) Williams (and her brother James) were recorded in the Muster of 1818. By then Jane had married a marine, William Davis, on 28 March 1812. An early map shows a William Davis holding a 200-acre land grant between Faulkner’s Rivulet and Abbotsfield River.( see Schaffer A land grant was given in lieu of a pension for years of military service. The area of land granted to each Marine was determined on the basis of his rank, marital status and the number of children the man was supporting. Each Private received 80 acres, a further 20 acres if married and 10 acres more for each child. Davis was a Sergeant in the Marine who had arrived with David Collins in 1804. Perhaps he was able to trade the land in Berriedale for the lot in Black Brush, (between Mangalore and Broadmarsh, 25 km north of Hobart) where several other former Marines had settled. His grant was of 180 acres. Their first daughter (Eliza) was born in August 1816 and a son (William Thomas) in 1819.

While still in Sydney, Elizabeth Williams, the sister of Jane and James, had married Charles Collis in December 1817. Charles Collis petitioned Governor Macquarie to be able to move to Tasmania ‘to join up with his wife’s family as it would be a better life than in Sydney. They and their four children came to Hobart on the
Jupiter in November 1819. (Mary Jane Hooker is one of her descendants and has extensively researched her history.) The Collis family built a hut on the Davis land. Five months after arriving in Hobart one of Elizabeth’s children, John, died. Another daughter, Catherina (Caroline) also died as an infant in January 1824. Their last child, Mary Ann was born at Black Bush in February 1827.

Marriage and Loss for James

By 1816 James was 20 and still living with Noah Mortimer at Newtown. Mary Ann Bradshaw had been convicted at City of Dublin February 1815 when she was 15 and transported for 7 years for stealing cotton. After arriving in Sydney on the Alexander she was promptly moved on. On 28 April 1816 she arrived in Hobart from Sydney on board the colonial brig Kangaroo. Perhaps Mary Ann was assigned to James as a servant soon after her arrival. Convict women who married could be assigned to their husband after serving half their sentence. Four months later the Rev Knopwood married them in Hobart; Richard Burrows and David Bush witnessed the ceremony. David Watson Bush was the verger to Knopwood at this time and this might explain his presence. However his wife, Ann Guy, was born on Norfolk Island about the same time James. She had arrived in Hobart with her family in September 1808. Noah Mortimer had sold land to Thomas Guy on Norfolk Island in 1806. Both Guy and David Bush had been constables at New Norfolk. Burrows operated the ferry at Black Snake (now Granton) and as James would have used that ferry when he travelled from Hobart to visit his sister at Black Brush.

A month after James was married Mary Mortimer, 67, died and was buried at St David’s in Hobart. Noah was now 58 and James 20. A report in the Hobart Town Gazette of 4 Jan 1817 mentions a James Williams as living at Newtown near one Dennis Geary, another settler from Norfolk Island. In 1814 Geary, then 53, had married Ann Carroll, an Irish woman aged 36 who could both read and write.

In 1813 Noah Mortimer had obtained another grant of 170 acres in Monmouth in the midlands of Tasmania. Then called Broad Valley the area is now part of Stonor. (Schaffer). James Williams also had a grant of 39 acres in the same district. (Schaffer) Although he had a contract to supply meat to the Government Noah lost his Newtown land and by 1819 was grazing 500 sheep near Lake Tiberias, then called Big Lagoon, about 25 km north west of Black Brush, in Monmouth. Tim Jetson discusses this life on the frontier in the Bulletin of the Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies vol.3 No.1 1990-1 p 166-185. James was referred to as ‘a settler and District Constable at Jericho’, the nearest settlement to the area of the Mortimer’s land.

Mary Ann and James’ first child Frances was born a year later on 28 August 1817 but six months later Mary Ann and Frances were both dead. They were returning from Hobart on 27 February 1818 when she and twelve other people on board, including Burrows, were drowned when his ferry capsized off what is now Austin’s Ferry. James’ niece, Jane Williams probably also drowned in this accident. The newspaper account includes among the dead ‘a fine girl about 6 years of age, the daughter of Mr. William Williams of Macquarie-street.’ This child was Isabella. However in his diary Knopwood records the girl as Jane Williams. There was no apparent reason for Isabella Williams to be travelling up the Derwent to Brighton but every reason for Jane Williams to be going to see her mother.

The report of the drowning, probably written by Knopwood refers to another of those who also drowned as being Elizabeth Ashbold, a near relation to the last mentioned sufferer (Mary Ann Williams). But it seems more likely that her name was Elizabeth Aspill and she became Ashbold (sic) through a de facto relationship with Walter Archbold an assigned servant of James Williams. Elizabeth Aspill may have been a relative but she was certainly a friend and shipmate of Mary Ann. The two were the same age, were convicted in the same court on the same day for the same offence, they received the same sentence and travelled together on the same ships.

Sisters in Crime

At this time the theft of stock was in the midlands of Tasmania was a serious problem ( see Robson –
A Bandit Society and Curr – An Account of the Colony of Van Diemens Land: chapter of the subject) Noah Mortimer, now 67, and James Williams, 22, were now widowers and had a reputation for stealing sheep (Schaffer). But James was listed as a constable living at Fourteen Tree Plains (HTG 24 Oct 1818), now Oatlands and was probably only guilty by association with his former guardian.

In June 1824 William and Jane Davis were charged with receiving 100 stolen sheep, part of a lot of 150 ewes, 9 rams and 40 lambs, worth £220 stolen by Thomas Butler and Thomas Keane on the night of 23 April 1823 from wealthy and influential farmers. Included were nine merino rams brought in to improve the quality of the Governors flock. The case rested on the evidence of one of the thieves, Keane, and took two days to hear in the Supreme Court. The sheep were taken from Broadmarsh and walked for two days to the Davis property. A month earlier Butler had been convicted of another case of sheep stealing and had been sentenced to death. That case also involved, Keane who was a convict servant assigned to Williams Davis, the Collis family, Constable Luttrell of Black Brush, John Peck and other families. Keane’s evidence for the prosecution provided the opportunity to try to round up the sheep stealing industry in the area.

Keane knocked on the Davis door at 10am on Thursday morning after Butler had told him William had agreed to buy 100 of the sheep in exchange for two of his bullocks worth £25 and £10 worth of clothes. But William now knew the origin of the sheep. They got some food and then went to the Collis house but Elizabeth and Charles were not there. James Collis, then 12, gave them some flour. They then drove the sheep on towards Bagdad and on to Noah Mortimer’s land at Stonor near Lake Tiberias. On Saturday they returned to the Davis house and saw Jane, her daughter Sarah , John Peck and John Andersen and went to see the sheep. Peck had bought sheep from Butler before and agreed to take 60. Jane agreed to take 117.

The sheep were delivered and William gave Charles Collis the bullocks to pass on to a Mr Fitzgerald for Butler. A complex exchange attempted to conceal the transaction. The Davis’ barrister sought to upset Keane’s testimony until the judge decided he had heard enough. Butler was found guilty and hanged the next month. William, Jane and Peck were found guilty of receiving stolen property, but Anderson and Wilkinson were acquitted. Keane received half the sentence given to William and Jane. Anderson who lived near Noah Mortimore at Lake Tiberias was tried several times and acquitted. A report in the Hobart Town Gazette of 6 August 1824 indicates that Charles Collis had also been sentenced to 14 years at Macquarie Harbour.

One of my maternal ancestors, Samuel Wright, was the commandant at the time and Joseph Molloy was also there and serving as a constable. (see
Life at Sarah Island.) Governor Arthur wrote to Lt Wright concerning the Davises

Government House, 17th July 1824.
As I am at present ignorant of your arrangements, I would suggest to you, if it is not a measure which you have already adopted, the classification of all the prisoners, making some distinction in the comfort and accommodation of the first class, into which none should be removed on any other grounds than a strict regard to moral character and general good conduct.

I presume you will find a difference, even amongst the degraded people who are sent down to you. For instance, amongst others now embarked, is William Davis, who has been a receiver of stolen sheep: this man for several years bore a most excellent character, and, although it is no excuse, he seems to have been entirely the victim of the plans of his wife. This man, therefore, I cannot view in the same light with some others who are sent to you; it is possible he may be reclaimed, and the reformation of character, I hope, you will always consider a grand object.

As Arthur saw fit to commend and sympathise with William, so Wright did for Molloy when it came time for him to return to Hobart, praising him for his service and integrity. The Governor blamed Jane for the conviction of William and suspicion must fall on John Peck as the initiator and it is very doubtful that the sheep were held in the Lake Tiberias area without Noah Mortimore being involved.

The Pecks

Like Noah Mortimer the Pecks, another of the Norfolk Island families, were also engaged in sheep stealing and though this activity John Peck became part of the Williams family story. Whilst his family settled on Norfolk Island several of his siblings were born in NSW while his father Joshua farmed at Prospect. Joshua took the family back to Norfolk Island in 1803 and then they were evacuated on the Porpoise in 1807. He was granted land at New Norfolk as was his eldest son William. By 1821 Joshua and his sons William and Thomas and their mother were living near Evandale outside Launceston. Perhaps this was at the same time as Elizabeth Peck and her husband Peter Lette received their grant of 400 acres at White Hills, ten miles south east of Launceston. In June 1821 Joshua, William , Joshua Jnr. and Thomas Peck were charged with stealing sheep from a neighbour. These Pecks were tried in Launceston in 1821, and sent to Port Macquarie for 14 years.

When his father and brothers were sent to gaol in Newcastle John Peck seems to have been in Tasmania near Brighton with his sister Mary Ann, the fourth child of Joshua. She had married William Cockerell in September 1816 who had a grant from Governor Macquarie in Strangford (today's Brighton township). By September the next year he was living there with his wife Mary Ann and two children, Susannah and James, and an assigned servant on 50 acres, 10 of which were growing wheat. Cockerell had also arrived with David Collins with his parents who farmed on a grant at Stainforth Cove in Hobart. Mary Ann’s domestic relationships were complex as she did not appear to live with Cockerell for long and by 1819 owned a house in Macquarie St Hobart next door to one owned by Joseph Molloy, a former convict. In February 1823 Joseph Molloy has been sent to Macquarie Harbour for three years in a dubious case concerning the alleged receipt of goods stolen from Thomas Midwood’s house in Murray St. Molloy quickly became a constable and was serving three years in that capacity when Mary Ann’s brother John Peck and the Davises arrived there.

It seems highly likely that it was John Peck who brought his family’s vocation of stock stealing to Black Brush and got Jane Williams/Davis involved. Sheep stealing had become such a problem that in May 1823 a £100 reward was posted for the convictions of those responsible for stealing sheep on 22 April from the Derwent Valley and driving them to the Black Brush area. In June 1824 John Peck and John Anderson were charged with the crime but the case was dropped. Less than a month later Peck and Anderson were again before the Court with Thomas Butler, Edward Keane and Jane and William Davis. After his release John Peck moved to White Hills in the north of Tasmania where his older sister Elizabeth had settled with her husband Peter Lette. John died there in Nov 1872 aged 80.

James Williams starts a new family at Big Lagoon

When his sister and brother-in-law began serving their sentences for sheep stealing James Williams was at Big Lagoon with Noah Mortimer. It was three years since his first wife’s death and James was living with
Mary Faulkner, who was listed in the Muster in Jericho on a Ticket-of-Leave. She was 23 and serving seven years transportation for larceny imposed by the Lancaster Quarter Sessions on 22 July 1817. In 1821 her son Henry Williams Faulkner was baptised and the father was recorded as James. When mustered in 1823 she was recorded as being a servant of James Williams in Ross (probably an error and should have been Jericho). In 1824 she had another son baptised as James. It seems that although not married James Williams and Mary, now known as Joanne Ellen, were a family. (Living with two women in succession with the same name was certainly enough reason for the second to change her first name).

Between 1821 and 1825 Noah had increased his land to nearly 800 acres. He was now 75 and was living with Ann Geary, the wife of Dennis, near James at Lake Tiberias. Dennis Geary may have also lived there but he died in Launceston in July 1827 aged 63. Noah and James probably existed by trading in stock, most of it not theirs. They must have known about, and may have been involved in, the theft of the sheep for which the Davises were convicted.

Around 1825 Noah got involved in a three cornered dispute over the sale of land at Lake Tiberias originally awarded to a John Weavill. Weavill arrived in V.D.L. in January 1823 and received, the following month, an order for an allocation of 600 acres of land. In May 1823 he selected and took possession of this land at Jericho, then disposed of it immediately to Noah Mortimer for £300. In part payment Weavill received 14 head of cattle Valued at £200. In September or October 1823, Weavill entered into a treaty with Alexander Paterson for the same land. Weavill stated that subsequent to the sale, Mr. Evans, the Surveyor General, declared that Mortimer should never be permitted to hold land, as he was a notorious and reputed sheep-stealer. Therefore Weavill resolved to find another purchaser and allowed Mortimer to have goods on credit to repay the purchase money. He later admitted that he never told Mortimer of the intended second sale. (Burbury) When T G Gregson attempted to resolve the dispute Noah sent James along to give evidence in his place. Noah also sent a note saying he could not attend as Ann Geary was in town with his papers. Gregson referred to Misses Faulkner and Geary as concubines. In an affidavit given in support of Noah, Roderick O’Connor wrote ‘Mortimore is a man of the lowest scale of ignorance and by all accounts a man of exceeding bad character but Weavell (the other party), is also infamous and has no case.’ Noah kept the land.

James accused of being in the family business

The Hobart Town Gazette of 7 Jan 1825 carried a lurid story of the slaughter of 200 sheep near the huts of Noah Mortimer and ‘his son-in-law James Williams’. The huts were near Big Lagoon. Some of the inmates of the huts of Mortimer and Williams are committed to prison and the most rigorous steps are being taken to bring all the guilty to punishment’.

Two years later James, and his servants Henry Wright and John Banks, were charged with stealing the sheep of a Mr Edmund Hodgson at Lovely Banks. Taken to Hobart by constables the whole party were found at ‘carousing and rioting’ in the house in Goulburn St that Charles Tobin shared with Mary Ann Smith: she was delightfully known as ‘Iron Pot’.

William Chandler and William Grant, belonging to the Field Police, and James Amos, a constable of Jericho, were brought before the Court, charged with neglect of duty in not conveying to the Gaol, in Hobart Town, on the night of Monday last, two prisoners named James Williams and Henry Wright, who had been fully commit to take their trial for felony in sheep-stealing. The prisoners had been placed in the care of these men by the magistrate, and on their arrival in Town, instead of delivering up their charge into safe custody they conveyed them to a house of ill fame in Golbourn Street where they were found by the Chief Constable, as related in our last. Grant, it appeared, found himself so fatigued at the Ferry, that he resigned his charge to the care of the others, and did not proceed to Town; he was therefore acquitted. Arnos and Chandler were fined 40s. each, and Amos was dismissed from the office of constable. [HTG]

Their trial on 15 March before the Chief Justice went all day. A lot of sheep strayed from Hodgson’s farm, some were found in the pound at Jericho and some on the banks of the Coal River. A month later more sheep were delivered to the pound. James claimed them as his and Banks collected them from the pound. A further month on Hodgson’s overseer got a search warrant and went with Constable Pike to James’ run. Pike’s request to see James’ flock was ‘immediately and cheerfully complied with’. None could be identified as belonging to Hodgson yet before Magistrate Gregson the overseer swore the 140 of them were Hodgson’s.

James denied the charge and said he got the sheep from a man named Landsell. Landsell’s evidence was dodgy and he admitted ‘paying a visit to Macquarie Harbour respecting some sheep but not for stealing’. James and his servants were quickly acquitted after John Bellinger and his servant gave evidence that James and Banks were in Hobart at the time of the alleged robbery. They stayed a week and bought some cattle for resale. Miller the butcher said he bought the cattle the next day from Noah Mortimer ‘father-in-law’ of Williams.

John Bellinger was a farmer of Glenorchy and his caretaker was George Rosendale. He was a former convict who had been granted land at Glenorchy next door to Thomas O’Brien who had married Susannah Mortimer, Noah’s sister. In 1813 Noah witnessed Bellinger’s will so the Glenorchy butcher was scarcely an unbiased witness. Bellinger had been one of the party of convicts sent to MacQuarie Harbour to establish the new penal station. My ancestor Samuel Wright, as the second commandant there, recommended and early release for Bellinger.

From the evidence at the trial it appears that James Williams was a genuine farmer at Big Lagoon but his relationship with Noah Mortimer meant he was often under suspicion. Consequently he cut his ties with Noah and moved back to Hobart.