SISTERS: MARY and SARAH COPLEY

Hector 1835

By Helen Menard

Introduction

As sisters, Mary and Sarah would have shared experiences in their early years as part of a large family and possibly when they were transported together to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL). However, once they reached foreign shores their lives took very different paths. A clue may be found in the ship records relating to their characters: Mary was recorded as being ‘indifferent’ although ‘believed to be good’[1] while Sarah was ‘very well conducted’.[2] In the colony, Mary committed a series of behavioural offences for which she spent some time in the House of Corrections,[3] whereas Sarah had a completely clean record.[4] Neither, it seems, had previous convictions but each had spent time ‘on the town’ in England, presumably, to earn an income. Given their one and only conviction in England involved the theft of food and clothing, was this a crime of necessity?

Mary

Mary Copley was baptised on 14 January 1810 at Publow near Pensford, Somerset, England[5] and was, presumably, born in the weeks or months previously. She was the third of eight children born to Joseph Cobley (Copley), coalminer and bachelor, who married Harriet Hodges, spinster on 29 July 1805.[6] 

Her siblings were all also baptised at Publow near Pensford, Somerset being Sophia (13 October 1805), Thomas (4 October 1807), Sarah (30 April 1815), Elizabeth (1 March 2018), Anne (10 July 1820), Thomas (1 June 1823) and Caroline (10 July 1825).[7]

Sarah

Mary’s younger sister Sarah was working as a servant in Bristol at the time of their trial in 1835.[8] Sarah was also recorded as being ‘on the town’ for four months.[9]

The convictions

Mary, 22 at the time, was charged with breaking into Joseph Wyatt’s dwelling house (via a rear kitchen window) on 8 January 1835 at Bishport, Bedminster and stealing poultry and various items of clothing, the property of Joseph and Anthony Wyatt.

She was charged along with her sister Sarah (19, a servant), Alfred Stallard (21, a labourer) and William Davis (18, a labourer). They were all tried and convicted at Wellsprings Quarter Sessions, Somerset on 23 March 1835 and each sentenced to 7 years transportation.[10]

Transportation and beyond

Both Mary and her sister Sarah were transported to VDL aboard the Hector arriving on 20 October 1835 as single women.[11]

Alfred Stallard was also transported to VDL aboard the Bardaster arriving on 13 January 1836 and was free by servitude in 1844.[12]

William Davis was sent to NSW aboard the England arriving on 28 September 1835.[13]

Early years in VDL

Sarah was assigned to a Mr Robertson in 1835 and managed to maintain a perfectly clean conduct record.[14] Maybe she had a harmonious and positive relationship with her employer. Sarah was first granted a ticket of leave in November 1839 and was free by servitude in 1842 with her certificate of freedom issued in 1843.[15]

However, it is doubtful she had much time to work as she was married in January 1837 and proceeded to have eleven children over the next twenty years.[16] She had no less than 37 grandchildren all of whom were born before she died in 1901.[17] Sarah died on the family farm in Tasmania,[18] having been widowed in 1876[19] and never having left the colony.

Mary’s life, on the other hand, painted a very different picture. She was charged with eight minor conduct offences between June 1836 and March 1839 including drunk and disorderly, absent without leave, insolence, neglect of duty, disobedience of orders and insubordination. She spent some time in the Cascades Female Factory and her sentences ranged from four days in a cell on bread and water to one month imprisonment.[20]

Despite a series of infractions, Mary’s first assignment to Mr F Watson remained until September 1836, when she was charged with insubordination and her original sentence of transportation was extended for six months.[21] At this point, Mr Watson’s patience must have run out as she was then assigned to a Mr Drury who, in November 1836, also brought a charge of insubordination for which she was sentenced to one month imprisonment and then returned to the government’s service.[22]

On 11 May 1837 Mary was granted permission to marry Thomas Skidmore[23] but, some weeks later on 30 June 1827, approval was withheld for three months as part of her sentence for being drunk and out after hours.[24] On the same day (30 June 1837), Thomas was charged with going into town without a pass and ‘enticing away’ Mrs Morrow’s female servant.[25]  Maybe Thomas was unhappy that Mary’s behaviour had resulted in postponing their marriage for three months! There is no record that this marriage ever took place. Clearly, Thomas wasn’t hanging around! He had obtained a ticket of leave in 1836[26] and was granted a certificate of freedom in October 1837.[27] He then disappeared from the records in Tasmania. It is most likely Thomas relocated to Victoria.

Life then quietened down for Mary and she didn’t commit any more offences until March 1839 which was her last.[28] She was granted a ticket of leave in October 1839 and again in December 1841. In September 1842 she was free by servitude and granted a certificate of freedom in 1843.[29]

What happened to Mary?

Mary, stated to be 26,[30] married James Hallard, 27 and a constable, on 20 July 1840 in the United Church of England and Ireland, Hobart.[31]

James Hallerd, aged 19, labourer and butcher, was transported for life for house breaking and arrived in VDL aboard the Strathfieldsay on 15 November 1831.[32] He only had one prior conviction for vagrancy for which he served one month in gaol. He was only charged with two offences in the colony, both while assigned to a Mr F. Alwright in New Norfolk to whom he was first assigned in 1832.[33] His first offence occurred on 13 June 1837 for neglect of duty and insolence for which he was admonished. The second, on 3 December 1838, involved stealing cherries from Turnbull’s garden for which he was committed to the House of Corrections and kept to hard labour for several months and then assigned to Greenponds and St Peters Pass.[34]

James was appointed a Constable on 29 June 1839 and later resigned from this post on 30 April 1842.[35] He was granted a ticket of leave on 30 July 1840.[36] He was recommended for a conditional pardon on 3 August 1843 which was granted on 10 September 1844 and extended (presumably to the UK and British colonies) on 27 December 1851.[37]

M (Mary) and J (James) Hallard (aged 35 and 33 respectively) travelled from Hobart to Melbourne aboard the Pryde in steerage on 16 October 1852.[38] There is no record of their return to Tasmania.[39]

It seems Mary and James eventually returned to the UK as Mary Hallard (date of birth 1810) appears in the 1861 and 1881 UK censuses as living at Pensford Old Hill, Publow, Clutton, Somerset, England and being born in Publow, Somerset, the wife of James Hallard and aged 51 and 71 respectively.[40]

James also appears in the same censuses living at the same location, being born in Bristol, a butcher and aged 47 and 67 respectively.[41]

There do not seem to be any recorded births for Mary and James in any Australian state or the United Kingdom.

Mary’s death is recorded at Clutton, Somerset, UK in March 1882 aged 72.[42]

There is also a recorded death for James Hallard in Clutton, Somerset, England in 1891, in the same place as Mary and just nine years later.[43]

What happened to Sarah?

Sarah, then aged 22, married Lazarus Howlett, widower, on 30 January 1837 in St George’s Church of England, Sorell.[44]

Sarah and Lazarus produced eleven children – Charles (1838), John (1840), Joseph (1842), Caroline (1844), Henry (1846), Mary Ann (1848), Sarah (1850), James (1853), William (1856) and twins Alfred and Jane (1858) all of whom survived to adulthood, most of whom remained in the local area and went on to marry and have many children of their own.[45]

Lazarus Howlett arrived in Hobart on the Woodford (2) on 25 August 1928 having been transported for 7 years for larceny. Born on 30 August 1801[46] and an agricultural labourer, he left a wife and two children in Tadderston, Suffolk.[47] Although he ‘behaved well’ during transportation, he was described as ‘conniving and with bad connections’.[48] Between March 1831 and March 1833 he was charged with four minor offences, two of which were dismissed and the third resulted in a severe reprimand for disobedience of orders. His final transgression in March 1833 for neglect of duty, while assigned to Henry Jellicoe, resulted in him being returned to the Public Works and serving six months on the Constitution Hill road party with a recommendation that he not be re assigned in the district of Richmond or Campbell Town having formed bad connections in the district.[49]

Lazarus was granted a certificate of freedom on 24 July 1834.[50] In early December 1837 he was in gaol facing unspecified charges but was found not guilty by the Supreme Court on 23 December 1837.[51]

But Lazarus did return to the Richmond district. He obviously underwent some financial pressure at times as he was sued for distress for rent by his landlord Richard Morgan in 1843.[52] However, it seems he eventually became a successful sheep and cattle farmer and, over time, bought, sold and leased multiple parcels of land and livestock in the local district of Yarlington, Monmouth, as did his sons John and Charles.[53]

Lazarus appears to have been an active member of the local community who donated £1.2.6 to the Patriotic War Fund in 1855;[54] sat as a Supreme Court jury member on a cattle stealing case in 1861;[55] supported a petition for the nomination of John Lord to the Legislative Council in 1873;[56] and in 1876 petitioned the Governor in Council to re zone local access roads.[57]

However, it might be said he was not always seen to be on the right side of the law. In 1867 the following notice appeared in the local paper:

CAUTION TO TRESPASSERS. The undersigned hereby cautions all Persons (more particularly Mr Lazarus Howlett and his shepherd) from trespassing upon the Estate rented by him from Mr. W. Broadribb and known as Alderman’s Lodge, either under pretence of looking for sheep, cattle or otherwise, as after the date of this notice any persons whomever so offending will be at once prosecuted as the law directs.

JAMES BROADRIBB

Tea Tree, Richmond

June 4th, 1867[58]

Several years later Lazarus’ daughter Jane would marry into the Broadribb clan![59]

Lazarus was also not averse to the odd bit of litigation. In 1868 he had Benjamin Froud, who owned the adjoining property, charged with sheep stealing. When Froud was committed for trial in January 1868, the presiding J.P. said ‘he grieved to see a young man whom he had known from childhood and who had hitherto borne such an excellent character placed in so painful a position.’[60]

The Mercury reported ‘The Court was crowded during the investigation, and much sympathy was expressed for the accused, who is a young married man, and stands well in the district where he resides.’[61]

Froud pleaded his innocence but was found guilty by the jury.[62] Legal counsel for Froud suggested that the ‘notorious prejudge which existed amongst large sheep farmers against those known commonly as cockatoo settlers’[63] was a prejudice ‘likely to have influenced the evidence against his client.’[64] Several witnesses gave evidence as to Froud’s good character including his brother William Froud who, at the time, was married to Lazarus’ daughter Caroline.[65]

The judge, in sentencing Benjamin Froud to five years imprisonment, stated

He could not say that the jury had not come to a practical conclusion. This was painful case. The prisoner was a native of the colony and had hitherto borne of good character, and yet he now stood a convicted felon. His father had sent in a memorial in which he stated that the appropriation of the sheep was an inadvertence and that between neighbours such a thing was generally referred to arbitration and not treated in a penal way.[66]

His Honour further said

that he could not, however, view it in that light. He would take into consideration the good character of the prisoner, and although he was liable to 14 years, yet he would only sentence him to 5 years’ imprisonment.[67]

All the same, the Frouds had been involved in a controversy some years earlier when Edward, Benjamin, Isaac, William and Hannah Froud were all charged with feloniously assaulting and killing George Robins in February 1857. They were all found not guilty.[68]

All of this must have created some degree of tension within the family circles!

The family farm was at Native Corners, near Campania, Richmond where all Lazarus’ children were born and raised and where he and Sarah spent their days together. The farm, which was sold after Sarah’s death,[69] must have provided a comfortable lifestyle for the family. Upon sale, the property was described as:

THE WELL-KNOWN FARM situated at Native Corners, near Campania, containing 828 acres 2 roods and 3 poles.

There is on the property a comfortable 6 room Cottage with stables, barns etc.; 180 acres is agricultural land, watered by the Darlington Rivulet, and well fenced.

Title perfect.[70]

Neither Sarah nor her husband ever left Tasmania.

Lazarus died on 20 December 1876, aged 72 from chronic stomach disease,[71] leaving a will gifting everything to his wife Sarah.[72]

Sarah died, a widow, on the family farm on 2 May 1901, also leaving a will disposing of her assets equally between her children Charles, William, Alfred, Caroline Froud (widower, of Native Corners), Mary Anne Iles (wife of George Iles, farmer, of Jerusalem), Sarah Iles (wife of Henry Iles) and Jane Brodribb (wife of Andrew Brodribb, farmer, of Native Corners).[73]

The last word

Did Mary and Sarah ever envisage that their escapade on the Wyatt property in 1835 would lead them to being transported half way around the world as convicts? Did they ever imagine that, once they arrived, their lives would take such diverse routes?

Was Mary part of Sarah’s extended family life in Tasmania? Did Mary ever have contact with Sarah’s family once she and James returned to England? Did Mary and James choose not to have a family of their own?

However, the sisters did share lengthy marriages which, in Sarah’s case, produced a large, farming family in Richmond, Tasmania and, in Mary’s case, lead her and James back to her birth place in England.

In the end, both sisters and their husbands appeared to turn their lives around after somewhat auspicious beginnings.

 

 

[1] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 DI 372

[2] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 p 149 DI 393

[3] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 DI 372

[4] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 p 149 DI 393

[5] FCRC database: familysearch.com

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] FCRC database: Sarah Copley: trial & transportation

[9] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 p 149 DI 393

[10] FCRC database: Sarah Copley: trial & transportation

[11] Ibid

[12]  LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/40 p164 DI 166

[13] https://www.nla.gov.au/research-guides/convicts/transportation-arrival

[14] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 p 149 DI 393

[15] Ibid

[16] LIB TAS: Names Index

[17] FCRC database; Sarah Copley, research notes

[18] LIB TAS: Names Index: AD960/1/24 No 5823

[19] LIB TAS: Names Index: AD960/1/10 No 1981

[20] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 DI 372

[21] Ibid

[22] Ibid

[23] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON52/1/1 p182

[24] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 DI 372

[25] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/39 p 144  DI 139

[26] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Hobart Town Courier (Tas.: 1827 -1839) Fri 2 Sep 1836 p1 Classified Advertising

[27] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Hobart Town Courier (Tas.: 1827 -1839) Fri 6 Oct 1837 p4 Classified Advertising

[28] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/1 DI 372

[29] Ibid

[30] Mary’s stated age on marriage is not quite consistent with her date of birth of 1810 but was possibly a strategic manoeuvre at the time.

[31] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/2 No 678

[32] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/20 p130 DI 132; CON18/1/19 DI 26

[33] DHT Convict Database: AJCP, HO10/48/49/50

[34] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/20 p130 DI 132

[35] DHT Convict Database: HTG/2/7/1839; HTG/6/5/1842

[36] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/20 p130 DI 132

[37] DHT Convict Database: HTG4/8/1843; HTG13/9/1844; HTG30/12/1851

[38] LIB TAS: Names Index: CU36/1/432 DI 8

[39] There is a record of a James HALLARD aged 41, (date of birth 1813) departing Victoria for NSW on the Shamrock in April 1854. [https://prov.vic.gov.au/outwards-passenger-lists1852-1923] There is also a record of James HALLARD travelling from Launceston to Melbourne aboard the Lord Lyndoch on 20/8/1852. [Australia, Inward, Outward & Coastal Passenger Lists 1826-1972 Tasmania Departures 1817-1863]

[40] findmypast.com.au

[41] Ibid

[42] findmypast.com.au; FreeBMD. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line];  Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Vol5c page 405

[43] findmypast.com.au

[44] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD36/1/3 No 3164 DI 118

[45] LIB TAS: Names Index; see also FCRC database: Sarah Copley, research notes

[46] convictrecords.com.au

[47] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/19 p290 DI 126

[48] Ibid

[49] Ibid; see also TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas.: 1828 -1857) Tues 18 Mar 1834 p6 Hobart Town Police Report

[50] DHT database: HTG25/7/1834

[51] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/19 p290 DI 126

[52] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Courier (Hobart, Tas.: 1840 -1959) Fri 7 Jul 1843 p3 Classified Advertising

[53] LIB TAS: Names Index; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Tasmanian Morning Herald (Hobart, Tas.: 1865 -1866) Fri 3 Nov 1865 1901 p1 Crow Hand Sale; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Hobarton Guardian (Hobart, Tas.: 1847 -1854) Wed 29 Oct 1851 p2 Advertising; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.: 1883 -1928) Wed 4 Nov 1903 p1 Family Notices

[54] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Courier (Hobart, Tas.: 1840 -1959) Sat 26 May 1855 p5 Classified Advertising

[55] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Wed 10 Apr 1861 p2 Supreme Court

[56] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Tue 26 Aug 1873 p3 Advertising

[57] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Fri 11 Feb 1876 p3 Advertising

[58] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Wed 5 Jun 1867 p1 Advertising

[59] Jane married Andrew Broadribb, farmer on 19/10/1875; LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/34 No 635

[60] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Mon 13 Jan 1868 p2 Law

[61] Ibid

[62] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Wed 12 Feb 1868 p2 Law; Folklore has it that the cockatoo farmer got his name from scratching for a living in the dirt like a cockatoo after seed. Cockatoo farmers had very few possessions – a few cows, a bullock team, a bark hut was typical … It is possible to find reports of cockatoo settlers and cockatoo farmers throughout Victoria and Tasmania through the early part of the 1800s … It seems to have been widely adopted quite quickly and to have lost its association with convicts. Rather it became the term employed to contrast small farmers with the squattocracy.

https://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/blog/article/124/

[63] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Wed 12 Feb 1868 p2 Law;

[64] Ibid

[65] Ibid; LIB TAS Names Index

[66] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Tasmanian Times (Hobart Town, Tas.: 1867 -1870) Fri 14 Feb 1868 p2 Supreme Court

[67] Ibid

[68] LIB TAS Names Index: SC32/1/7 p 165

[69] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Tasmanian News (Hobart, Tas.: 1883 -1911) Sat 17 Aug 1901 p4 Advertising

[70] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Sat 10 Aug 1901 p6 Advertising

[71] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/45 No 640 DI 151

[72] LIB TAS: Names Index: AD960/1/10 No 1981

[73] LIB TAS: Names Index: AD960/1/24 No 5823; the executors of Sarah’s will were John Roderick Malcolm McDONALD (a local land owner) and her son in law Henry ILES; presumably, the remaining children not mentioned in the will had not survived her, were estranged or living elsewhere.

 

 

 


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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

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