Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Walter Butler- Ch. 7: Walter's marriage to Frances Edwards at Williamstown

 In October 1841 Walter Butler married Frances Jane Catherine Edwards, the daughter of the late Rev. William Edwards and wife Mary Ann of Kilmerston Somerset England (near Bath).

Port Phillip Patriot 4 November 1841

(The following Information on the Edwards family courtesy of  Dean Mortimer a descendant of Edmund S. Edwards,  second son of Rev. William Edwards, who researched the Edwards family at the Somerset Heritage Centre and Australian archives.)

The Edwards family

Frances was 47 years of age in 1866 (Death cert) which gives her birth year as 1819/1820. She was baptized on 21 June 1821 (Kilmerston Parish records Co Somerset, 1821, p.67-)- Frances Jane dau of William and Mary Ann Edwards, abode: Kilmersdon, Profession: clerk, By Whom: W. Edwards Curate.
Rev. William Edwards, b.c. 1769, married Mary Ann Anthony in Bristol 28 July 1808. They had at least ten children between 1809 and 1829, four sons and six daughters, Frances being the sixth child. Rev. William died in Bath on 3 July 1836 (aged 67) and his abode was ‘Lark Hall’ near Swainswick  just north of the city of Bath. Shortly after, his second son Edmund Street Edwards (b.1819) decided to emigrate to South Australia, arriving in October 1838 on the Pestonjee Bomanjee. Several of his siblings also decided to emigrate at various times- eldest brother William (b.1809), sister Frances, and youngest brother Frederick (b. 1829, emigrated in 1852 and settled in Creswick Victoria, d. 1887). It is not yet known when or by which ship/s  William and Frances came to Victoria. Edmund Street Edward’s obituary (The Chronicle Sat 16 April 1898 p.16) gives considerable information about his life.

Edmund’s obituary also reveals that the Edwards siblings’ uncle was "Captain Edwards of the ‘Boston’, frigate, who in the war in 1812 distinguished himself by the capture after a severe conflict of two much larger French men-of-war". No records have yet been found on this particular conflict, however, there are entries in 1793 and 1794 involving a Lieut John Edwards of HMS ‘Boston’, which are of particular interest and worth recounting. On 31 July 1793, an engagement between the French frigate L’Embuscade’ and the frigate ‘Boston’ took place in the Port of New York in 1793. The full story can be read at: 
In summary, “The engagement was fiercely contested, but the smaller and lightly armed ‘Boston’ seemed to be taking the more serious damage when a cannonball struck the rail where Capt Courtenay and Royal Marine Lieut. James Butler were standing. Butler was killed instantly and Courtenay was thrown to the deck unresponsive, possibly killed. What happened next has been the subject to debate, with the second-in-command Lieut. John Edwards claiming that Courtenay had been killed and he was thrown overboard as was the custom at the time. However, rumours subsequently circulated that Courtenay had only been knocked unconscious when Edwards gave the order to jettison him, a story that his family credited and was taken up the contemporary historian Edward P. Brenton (“Naval History of Great Britain from the Year 1783 to 1822, 1823, Volume 1, London, 1823/1837”- he subsequently named Alexander Robert Kerr, 2nd Lieut. of the ‘Boston’ as his source), although historian Wm James (The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 1, 1793–1796. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1827/2002) subsequently defended Edward’s actions.
Believing his commander to be dead, Lieut. John Edwards assumed command and had the bodies thrown overboard in an effort to prevent his sailors losing morale from the death of their captain. 'Boston' continued to suffer under the heavier guns of the French ship and then the mizzen mast was close to collapse and the remaining rigging had been shot away. Casualties mounted, with 1st Lieut Edwards and 2nd Lieut. Alexander Robert Kerr both badly wounded, the latter blinded and the former struck on the head and briefly rendered unconscious. With their officers gone and their ship in an increasingly battered state, panic began to spread through the British crew. In response Edwards was assisted to the deck and assumed command. Edwards recognized that continued resistance was futile, turning ‘Boston’ towards the open sea way away from 'Embuscade' and setting all remaining sails to escape.
The damaged French ship tried to pursue but fell back, unable to match the speed of the smaller ship. After a close encounter with two French frigates in the Delaware River, the ‘Boston’ escaped to St John’s Newfoundland while 'Embuscade' refitted in New York. Losses aboard the ‘Boston’ amounted to ten killed and 24 wounded from a crew of 204. Edwards’ subsequent career was shortened by injury, and he died in January 1823 from the effects of the wound he received in the action with 'Embuscade'.” Alexander Robert Kerr lost the sight in one eye.

Embuscade  battles with  Boston
by Baron Jean Antoine Theodore Gudin (French 1802-1880)


A second account involving the ‘Boston’, mentions Lieut. John Edwards, and Lieut. Alexander Robert Kerr in 1794, less than a year later:
entitled “The Murder of Lieutenant Lawry”:
“ON 10 MARCH 1794, HMS Boston was anchored at Portsmouth, the Royal Navy’s main base in southern England, getting ready for its Atlantic voyage to Newfoundland. Sitting astern in his cabin was Captain J.N. Morris, writing an urgent letter to Philip Stephens, Secretary of the Admiralty. Scheduled to sail the following week, Morris requested a quick officer exchange: Lieutenant John Edwards of the Boston in return for Richard Lawry of HMS Comet. The swap was initiated by Edwards and Lawry, not their captains, and for reasons that were not recorded by the Navy. Lawry was a young officer, having only received his Admiralty commission as a lieutenant in October 1793. In terms of seniority, he now became the second lieutenant of the Boston, while Robert Alexander Kerr, previously third in command, received an unexpected promotion to first lieutenant. Kerr attained the rank of captain during the War of 1812 and was later distinguished as a Companion of the Bath.” The story then recounts the story of Lawry’s unfortunate death in Newfoundland when part of a press gang attacked by angry locals.
Alexander Robert Kerr went on to an exceptional naval career, promoted to Commander in 1802, captain of HMS Revenge 1808, HMS Unicorn 1809, HMS Acasta 1811 in which he captured several vessels in 1812/13. He died in 1831.

The reason for Edwards requesting an exchange of ships was probably due to growing enmity with his 2nd Lieut. Alexander Robert Kerr who accused him of killing his captain when he threw him overboard. Working together under those circumstances would have been impossible. The article indicates that Lieut. Edwards was transferred to HMS Comet. The 'Comet' was a designated fire-ship built in 1783. It was destroyed in the raid on Dunkirk  by the British Royal Navy force on  7 July 1800.
refer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raid_on_Dunkirk_(1800) .

John Edwards was promoted to Commander in 1795, but no records of Edwards appointment as captain of any ships has yet been found.  The ‘Boston’, still under the command of Cmdr James Nickoll Morris,  (along with HMS Aigle) was  recorded as capturing the French privateers  Enfant de la Patrie’ on 16 April 1797, the ‘Henriette’  (six guns) on 12 June 1797,  the  ‘Hazard’  (eight guns, 50 men)  off Cape Finisterre near Galicia Spain on 30 July 1797, and the 'Patagon' (a Spanish packet ship)  on 13 October 1797. 
The Enfant de la Patrie was armed with 16 guns and had a crew of 130 men. She surrendered after a chase of six hours, and after her captain, who reportedly was drunk, had fired at 'Boston' and run into her, with the result that five of his men were killed, he himself drowned, and ten men were wounded.
The captain, officers and crew received considerable bounty payments for these captures after the ships were sold off in 1798. (London Gazettes, Nos. 15187 p989, 14010 p.447, 15241 p289, 15054 p817  )
The London Gazette No. 15054 p.817, 28 August 1798 also gives the following information on  the 'Boston’s' captain:
 Notice is hereby given to the Officers and Company of His Majesty’s Ship Boston, James Nickoll Morris Esq, late Commander, that they will be paid their respective shares, etc, etc.
Whether Edwards had returned to the 'Boston' after Lieut. Lawry’s death, or whether he took over command from Morris in 1798 is not stated.
The HMS  ‘Boston’ was a 32 gun fifth rate frigate that was launched in 1762 and was broken up in 1811, which therefore discounts the statement in the obituary that Edwards commanded the 'Boston' in 1812 when the two French men-at-war were supposedly captured.



John Edwards was listed as receiving an "Out-Pension of Greenwich Hospital in September 1822" and died on 15  January 1823.
(refer: Lt. John Marshall, Royal Naval Biography, 12 volumes, London 1823-1835, Vol III (1832), Pt II, p.252- Commanders- John Edwards Esq.)


Whether these accounts refer to the uncle of Frances and her brothers, as mentioned in Edmund's obituary, is uncertain, but it does seem to be a strong possibility given the circumstances. However, further research needs to be done to link John Edwards with this particular family due to the common occurrence of the surname 'Edwards', including the Royal Navy at that time.

Frances's mother Mary Ann Edwards was named in the 1841 Census, age 45, living with her daughter Caroline Maria Edwards in the civil parish of Holcombe, hundred of Kilmersdon Somerset (near Bath). The 1851 Census has Mary Ann Edwards, head, 59, clergyman's wife, born Bristol living with Caroline Maria, born Kilmersdon, residents of Charlton Cottage in the parish of Holcombe, with another family of three, possibly boarders. Mary Ann died 3 April 1858 at Charlton Cottage (The Courier Hobart Mon 9 Aug 1858 p2)

Edmund Edwards' obituary in 1898 also states that "His elder brother now over 80 years of age is also living in Victoria". This has been difficult to confirm as there were numerous people named 'William Edwards' living in Victoria at that time, and in 1898 William would have been aged 89 yrs. No definitive record of the death of a 'William Henry Edwards' has yet been found. There is a record for a William Edwards, no names of parents given, dying in 1879, aged 70 (b.1809 which matches),  born in England. However, whether that refers to Frances and Edmund's brother is purely speculative, and contradicts the statement in  Edmund's obituary, although they could have lost touch due to living in separate states.

Walter Butler and wife Frances Edwards

Walter Butler and his second wife Frances Edwards had six children, five born in Williamstown Victoria between 1842 and 1851 and the sixth in Hobart in 1854: Edmund Walter b.1842; Louisa Catherine b.1846; Frederick Henry b.1847; Arthur William James b.& d.1849; Frank b.1851 and Ormond Tasman b.1854. [1]

Williamstown was quite a new settlement when Walter settled there. The following information on the history of Williamstown is taken from the Hobsons Bay Library website: The Hobsons Bay Online History Kit, revised version of the Williamstown History Kit written by Ada Ackerly 1987.

The founding settlement of Melbourne and Williamstown occurred initially in 1835. John Fawkner, after a series of delays, landed at Hobsons’ Bay in October 1835, and is generally regarded as the founder of Melbourne, despite the fact that John Batman had anchored off Indented Head a few months previously and had made an agreement with the local indigenous inhabitants for the land.

Williamstown in the 1850's


The first landing of livestock from Tasmania in the Williamstown area occurred in November 1835, consisting of 500 sheep and 50 cows, and by 1838, these numbers had greatly expanded. Captain William Lonsdale was appointed Police Magistrate and unloaded his stores at Williamstown in October 1836, but after inspecting the larger settlement of the Yarra, decided that his courts, military barracks and gaols would be placed there, with Point Gellibrand the natural port.  The declaration was made that all land at Port Phillip was owned by the Government of New South Wales.[2]


Lighthouse and jetty at Point Gellibrand, Hobson’s Bay, Williamstown 1853
(La Trobe Picture Collection State Library of Victoria)


Governor Burke visited in 1837 with a surveyor to see the new settlement and determine where the pier, lighthouse, roads and government buildings would be situated.  The two settlements were officially named Williamstown (after King William IV, the Sailor King), and Melbourne (after Lord Melbourne, Prime Minister of England). Land was sold at both places by auction in June 1837. A wooden lighthouse was built by convicts at Gellibrand’s Point, and nearby the first pier was built in 1839. By 1841, a Census, albeit rather unreliable, was taken- it listed 53 principle houses, one stone, 49 wood, two mud huts, one tent; the listed population consisted of 259 inhabitants, 190 of them over 14 years, 46 married couples, 110 men alone or single.
However, Melbourne journalist George Arden described Williamstown as “About 100 buildings including two hotels, eight or ten mercantile stores upon a scale equal to any in Melbourne and one or two retail shops. A small pier to afford accommodation for ships and boats, and a lighthouse… have been constructed…. The offices of the Harbour Master, Boarding and Customs Office and the pilots of the port and river are stationed in this town.”[3]

Most of the inhabitants in 1841 were suppliers of port facilities or the labour of the port. Blacksmiths and carpenters worked on repairs; merchants refurbished ships supplies and spares; watermen ferried passengers and cargo; customs, pilots and water police made sure the state’s revenues were collected and laws obeyed; the Harbour master and men marked out safe shipping channels in the Bay and River. And the three Inn keepers and one boarding house supplied lodging and cheer for the constantly changing population. The watermen charging very high rates to ferry passengers, put their money into property around the town, and pre-fabricated iron houses, shops, a bank and church were brought from England and quickly erected.[4]
Roads and streets were quickly formed- Nelson Place, Thompson Street and Osborne Street.

A severe depression hit Port Phillip in 1842-43. Property changed hands rapidly as squatters established on credit could not meet their debts, and flocks were sold for a few shillings a head. The Port of Williamstwon, solely dependant on the shipping and immigration, the export of sheep and wool, and the victualling and repair of ships was gravely affected by the depression with almost no shipping.
Between 1846 and early 1851, the population of Port Phillip rose from 33,000 to 77,300. [5]This was followed by the discovery of gold, and during the period between 1851 and 1854 several thousand ships made the voyage to Australia.

The children’s education

 

Walter’s quickly expanding young family grew up in this rather wild frontier environment. It must have been a difficult task to instil good values in children exposed to the variety of people they would have had contact with in this social environment, ranging from emancipated convicts, sailors, emigrants, prisoners from the moored hulks on their way to work, wharf workers, prostitutes servicing the sailors, and a variety of characters associated with the shipping trade. Their mother, being the daughter of a minister probably did her best, but they would also have to obtain a decent education.
 The Hobsons Bay Library article informs us about the availability of local education;
‘The oldest continuously operating school in the Western Suburbs is St Marie’s (now St Mary’s) Catholic School, which opened in 1842 under John Wilson. In 1846, a very lively head-teacher, local wit, poet and teller of tall tales, James Wallace aged 30 years, took over this Catholic school, and in 1851 Inspector Childers reported:
“Building all wood, shingled, 28x20 feet with church altar. No privies (toilets). I noticed great indecencies when approaching. Teachers are James and Bridget Wallace. He was a clerk in Glasgow, a fair teacher. I did not think much of HER. Holidays: half day Saturday, others occasionally, two weeks Christmas and Easter. 24 Boys and 25 girls.”
James Wallace left in 1851 and Margaret Holban continued until it became Common School No. 675, when a qualified person, Mr P. F. O’Hagan took over.

Another school, Trinity school was opened in 1846 as a private venture by Susannah Cross, but was government funded as a Church of England school in 1847. By January 1851 James Bromlow and wife had taken over, and James earned extra income as tutor to ‘a few children of the upper class’ (Captain Bunbury)”. The school was of: “stone with a shingled roof, 40x22 feet with two windows and a fireplace, 37 boys and 27 girls. Good master (trained) and wife a good teacher. One of the best schools in the neighbourhood. Holidays: all Saturday, 2 weeks Christmas, one week Easter.” (The building is believed that used by the church for services on Sundays, most likely being built by the Benjamin brothers in the 1840’s. The ‘Advertiser’ building of 1877 was built in front of it in Nelson Place.) James Bromlow abandoned his post in 1852 and Mrs and Miss Duncan ran the newly built school on the Church of England site until it became Common School No. 657, when Charles Percy was appointed and the school attained a very high academic record.[6]

Walter’s eldest child, Edmund Walter was born in 1842, so he would have attended school in about 1846-7.  Louisa b.1846 and Frederick b.1847, would not have attended until c.1851-52.
It would be highly likely that Walter and Frances, unimpressed with the standard of schooling being offered by the Wallaces (if the description given by the Inspector was correct), may have helped initiate the opening of the Trinity School. Although Walter was Catholic, his wife was the daughter of a Church of England minister, and they therefore would have supported this private school, funded by the Church of England, and may in fact have initiated the establishment of the school, as the timing of Edmund’s entry into school appears to coincide with the opening of the Trinity School.
Walter told the Hobart newspapers that his primary motive for moving to Hobart was to access a better education for his children. The departure of James Bromlow from the school may have influenced this decision. Edmund Walter would gain excellent employment as a clerk working for the Waterworks Department in the Council when he reached his adult years, so his initial years in the primary school must have given him a good grounding in the educational basics.

Walter’s brother Lawrence Butler:


Walter’s brother, Lawrence had moved to Melbourne in 1839, ( Marriage to Agnes McPherson Dec 31, 1839, Melbourne) before Walter, after a short period in Liverpool gaol (charge unknown, but probably related to his frequent charges of absconding from his work contracts as a compositor for various newspapers-Letter from L. Butler to G. Nichols, Mitchell Library, ML DOC 815a- ). He applied for a publican’s license for the “Irish Harp” in 1841 ( Port Phillip Patriot, 22 April, 17 June, 1841). However, he was refused “until the present tenant Mr Heany leaves”. Lawrence appealed the decision in May.
His counsel stated that "the “Irish Harp” was at present in the occupation of Mr Heany whose application was refused last licensing day. Laurence Ormond Butler had taken the house, purposely for a pub-house for two years at a very high rent. However, his appeal was refused as it was decided not to grant any fresh licences during the year."

Shortly after, he obtained a temporary position of overseer of the printing department at the “Port Phillip Patriot” newspaper. The Port Phillip Directory for 1841 has Lawrence returning to his original trade and listed as a compositor in Bourke Street and a Mrs Butler (probably referring to Lawrence’s wife Agnes) in a boarding house in Bourke Street. Lawrence was then involved in a dispute between his previous employer at the “Patriot” newspaper (John Fawkner and William Kerr) and his new employer at the “Herald” (George Cavanagh), during the months of June to August 1841. He ended up with a short stint in jail during the month of August, due to an assault on the bailiff of the court. His wife successfully appealed for his release due to ‘her destitute state’. ( Ref. to several entries in the Port Phillip Patriot, June through to September.)

He was employed by the “Portland Gazette”, further along the Victorian Coast, for a short time in 1847, when he absconded from his contract, resulting in a jail sentence of three months. On appeal, he was released. (The Argus, 8 June 1847, p2) Lawrence was still a printer for the newspapers in Collins Street, Melbourne in 1849 (Port Phillip/Victorian Directory 1849). He contracted the disease consumption, returned to Sydney and died there in 1856 (NSW Registry of BDM- 1047/1856). As Lawrence faced court several times, in 1831, 1832, 1835/36, 1838 ,1841 and 1847, two for assault (1831 and 1841), and four possibly five, for absconding from his employment, it would seem that he was possessed of an “Irish temper”, and believed in standing up for his rights. His employment commitments were obviously not high on his agenda- he began absconding when still an Apprentice compositor to Arthur Hill, in 1829 and 1832.


© B.A. Butler

contact  butler1802 @hotmail.com (no spaces)




[1] Victorian Registry of BDM, Births-Edmund 1842-12993; Louisa 1846-14696; Frederick 1847-15445 (d. Hobart 35/1880/2795- age 35); Arthur 1849-16148, d. 1849-4724 (age 2 mth), Frank 1851-17133 (d. Hobart 35/1887/753- age 37); Tasmania Registry BDM- Ormond Tasman Ch. 32/1854/4422 (d. Vic 1884-12244- age 30)
[2]  The Hobsons Bay Online History Kit, revised version of the Williamstown History Kit written by Ada Ackerly 1987, Hobsons Bay Library website.
[3]  Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6] History of Williamstown, Hobsons Bay Online History Kit, version of the Williamstown History Kit written by Ada Ackerby, 1987. Hobsons Bay Council
[7] Hobsons Bay online History Kit, op.cit