Sunday, July 31, 2016

Thomas Grayson Fisher - b 1837

Thomas Fisher -  Sailor, Rouge and Country Station Overseer.

Thomas Grayson Fisher stood at the bar of the Hero of Waterloo at Sydney Cove in 1857 and studied the people there. The life of a sailor might be good enough for his father Captain George Fisher, but this was his moment to leave it behind him.

He ordered a pint and a room and looked around at the unfamiliar rough sandstone walls and wooden furniture.   He knew that captain Harmsworth would report his jumping ship to the Constables soon enough and then the pearl over his right eye would be a dead giveaway.

It wasn’t long before he was talking to a couple of rough spivs who told him about work out at South Creek, where there were some sheep stations being set up, and not much law around.  That sounded like what he needed, out of sight and easy work.

He had better keep out of the way of the night watch in the meantime, and keep sharp around him.  He knew sailors disappeared into the cellar of this pub, and he wasn’t going to be one of them.  Over in the corner a couple of soldiers were celebrating something, but mostly everyone seemed to be drowning their sorrows.  An early night in a bed that did not move, then get a few provisions and head west – that was his plan anyway.

I wonder what made Australia so attractive that Thomas Fisher jumped ship in Sydney and stayed.  Was it the lovely Susan Ann Stanway?   Maybe Thomas just liked the adventure.  He lived at a time when Australia was being explored, Burke and Wills began their crossing of Australia from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1860,  just a few years after Thomas arrived.

Maybe the opportunity for gold attracted him, after all he was on a ship that carried gold from Australia to England.   There are not a lot of records about Thomas, but what I have found show him in various parts of the country, he was not a city boy, that's for certain.

From The Daily News, London, 30th January 1857


Thomas was the son of a seafaring Captain, George Fisher, and his wife Jane Grayson. Thomas was born on 3rd August, 1837 at Workington Cumberland England.  He was Christened at St Micheals Church, Workington, a church that still stands today.

St Micheals, Workington
 The family has been traced back to at least 1700 in Workington, to my GGGGGGG Grandfather, John Fisher.  

In 1851 Jane and two of her children are listed in the census, living in Griffin Street, Workington, including Thomas aged 13, who was employed as a pipe maker.   Presumably her husband is at sea at the time.  By the census, three of George and Jane Fisher's children had died in 1847, possibly from a Typhoid or Cholera which were common around this time.



Thomas Fisher arrived in Australia aboard the Heather Bell on 30th May, 1857.  The ship was transporting gold from Australia to London during this period. 

He jumped ship and headed to the country, as in 1858 he is in the Government Gazette for absconding, and included in his description, he had the "appearance of a sailor".  

Seven years later, in 1865 Thomas married Susan Ann Stanway, who already had a daughter named Isabella Agnes Stanway, born 3 years before the marriage. It is unclear if Isabella is Thomas Fisher's daughter, as no father is listed on the death index, she always used the surname Fisher however.   In the same year, there are two unclaimed letters (ships letters) from overseas presumably, for Thomas being held undelivered at the GPO in Sydney.  it does make me wonder if Thomas' family was trying to get in touch with him, and whether or not they knew he had jumped ship.

Susan was just 12 when her father died, 18 when she had Isabella, and 21 years old when she married Thomas Fisher.  It is unclear if they ever lived together however.

Twenty Years later, in 1885,  Thomas is listed as having passed through Albury on his way to Sydney by express train.

SMH. November 1885

When his daughter Isabella married, in 1887 he is listed on the marriage certificate as her father and a Station Overseer.  This fits with his death, aged 56,  in 1893 at Brewarrina, NSW, AUS.  This is a tiny country town near the border of NSW and Queesland.

Brewarrina Railway station C1901

Thomas Grayson Fisher is burred at Goodooga Cemetary, Brewarrina, NSW, AUS.  Also buried at the cemetery is Ester Mary Fisher, who died in 1953 aged 83.  She would have been born around 1870  so could she be another wife?  (no marriage registration has been found).  It is a very remote location, so Susan would not have known if Thomas married someone else.

Goodooga Cemetary (arial shot)

Susan lived at Auburn, where her daughter med my great grandfather, and died in 1925.  She is burried at the Catholic Cemetery, at Rookwood, NSW.

More Information? If you are researching Thomas Grayson Fisher or Susan Stanway and would like the sources for this story, please contact me or comment below.  I would be happy to collaborate with you.


Heather Bell arrival in Australia - Thomas Grayson Fisher

Susan Stanway marriage to Thomas Grayson Fisher

Police Report - Thomas Grason Fisher

1851 Census - Thomas Grayson Fisher

Workington - Thomas Grayson Fisher

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Thomas Atkins - main

Thomas Atkins - Poacher, farmer and pioneer of Mangrove Creek

This is what I know about Thomas Atkins, a man of uncertain birth, a convicted criminal, (more than once), who became a respected pioneer in the NSW Central Coast area.  It's a very typical Australian story.

Thomas arrived at a time when Australia was changing, the Governor was Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, who encouraged agriculture, land reclamation, exploration, and, most important, immigration.  Stimulating the transformation of New South Wales from a dependent convict outpost into a free, self-supporting colony.   He had poor financial sense, however, and was recalled in 1825. Brisbane was a keen astronomer and  had an observatory built in 1822 at Paramatta, near Sydney, where work was done  resulting in the “Brisbane Catalogue” of 7,385 stars.   Thomas Bates lived through the administration of another 16 Governors.

The age in which Thomas Atkins lived was significant, it was when the first independent courts were set up in Australia, agriculture was taking hold, there was conflict with aboriginals, the discovery of gold, and the exploration of the interior of Australia had begun.  He played his part in building what is now a major area of NSW, and the Atkins family lived in Mangrove Creek for many years.


Thomas Atkins was born on 13th February, 1800 in North Curry.  I do not know who his parents were, but there is a possible baptism in 1798 to an illegitimate child of Sarah Atkins that may be Thomas.

North Curry, Somerset, England in the 1800's was a farming area in the South West of England.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described North Curry like this:
CURRY (North), a village, a tything, a parish, a sub-district, and a hundred, in Somerset. The village stands near the river Tone and the Bridgewater and Taunton canal, 3 miles ESE of Durston r. station, and 6 ENE of Taunton; has a post office‡ under Taunton, and a fair on the first Tuesday of Sept.; and was formerly a market-town. The tything includes also the hamlet of Broadlane  .........etc.

Conviction and Transportation

The first I know of Thomas with any certainty is at age 22, from the Convict Transportation Registers, where he and his brother, William aged 25, are listed.   They were convicted at Somerset Assizes on 30th March, 1822, and sentenced to 7 years.  They had been caught poaching geese. They were transported almost immediately on the convict ship the Surry departing on 2nd October 1822, arriving in Sydney Cove on 4th March 1823, and are in the Ships Muster Roll in 1823.

The National Library of Australia holds the ships journal of the voyage,  written by Captain Thomas Raine.

Just 6 months after arriving, Thomas was convicted in Bringelly on 6th October, 1823 of aiding bushrangers and received a further 3 years sentence. He was then transferred to Port Macquarie the same month, and was probably one of the founding members of the colony there. He was probably involved in the chain gangs that cut timber in the Port Macquarie area supplying timber for building in Sydney.
Thomas did not spend his whole time there however, by the time the census was done in 1828 he was at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney.   Around this time Port Macquarie was being closed as a penal settlement.

Hyde Park Barracks

Interior of Hyde Park Barracks, reproducing the 1800's as it stands today.

Whilst in Hyde Park Barracks, Thomas probably met his future father-in-law William Drennan (transported for life for the  crime  of  horse stealing in 1828). Thomas married Ann Drennan (free settler) on 14th April, 1836  in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Kent Street, Sydney by Rev.John McGarvie.
Thomas and Anne had 7 children in total; William, Frances, John, Matilda, Thomas, Sarah Ann (who died the same year) and Sarah Ann.


By 3rd April, 1832 he had served 10 years as a convict and was granted a Certificate of Freedom This is where we find a description of Thomas:
 Height - 5ft 9 inch
Complexion - Dark muddy
Hair - brown
Eyes - dark hazel
General Remarks - scar under chin, scar back of fore and middle fingers of left hand, 
wart in middle of right hand.
This must have been the time that Thomas went to the Gosford area, as he is listed in land sales in 1835 and 1839  at Mangrove Creek, NSW, AUS., and in 1840 as being granted land there.  In these records we also find out that Thomas was illiterate, as his land grant is signed with an X in 1940. 
Thomas was still farming in 1873 at Mangrove Creek. 

It appears that Thomas and the family farmed at Mangrove Creek until he died.

 Anne (Drennan) Atkins died on 14th March, 1859 and is buried at Greengrove Cemetery, Mangrove Creek, NSW, AUS, she was aged 38years.

Thomas Atkins died on 23rd. February 1873 aged 73 and is buried next to Anne at Greengrove Cemetery.  His death notices states he was aged 73, a native of Somersetshire, England and left 5 children to mourn his loss.

More Information? If you are researching Thomas Atkins or Anne Drennan and would like the sources for this story, please contact me or comment below.  I would be happy to collaborate with you.


Transportation of Thomas Atkins

Aiding bushrangers in 1823 - Thomas Atkins

Marriage of Thomas Atkins and Anne Drennan (b1820)

Thomas Atkins and Anne Drennan were married on 14th April, 1836 at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Kent Street, Sydney, NSW, AUS.

Ann Drennan was the daughter of William Drennan, a convict from Ireland, and Frances McAllister.  William Drennan was convicted of  Horse Stealing in Somerset Assizes Court on 8th September,  1821 and sentenced to death, later commuted to transportation.  He was transported to Australia aboard the Eliza in 1822.  William Drennan received a pardon in 1843, so he served 21 years as a convict.

It is not known when his wife and daughter Ann came to the colony, but Anne was born on 5th July, 1820 in Liverpool, Lancashire, according to the Gosford Pioneer Register (1788 - 1900).  As neither Anne nor her mother appear in the 1828 census, it is possible she arrived in Australia after this time.  She married Thomas Atkins when she was just 15 years of age, and he was 36 years old.

They had  7 children in total, but one died possibly in childbirth.

In  April 1848 this appeared  in the Sydney Morning Herald:

It appears that Thomas and Anne were going through some problems, but sorted them out as they had another 3 children after 1848.

Freedom at last - Thomas Atkins

1828 Census - Thomas Atkins

Mangrove Creek & Thomas Atkins Landholdings