Hawkesbury History: Young convict ladies on the Pitt

Drawing of a convict couple in Sydney Town by cartographer Felipe Bauza during the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia c. 1894. Image: Courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

Drawing of a convict couple in Sydney Town by cartographer Felipe Bauza during the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia c. 1894. Image: Courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

Of the forty-six females who had survived the horrific voyage of the convict transport "Pitt' which arrived at Sydney Cove on February 14, 1792, nine were to live in the Hawkesbury district at various times during their lives.

Most of the women had been convicted in the south of England: Rachael Burton had been tried in Cornwell and Ann Keys in London, Sarah Kirk in Launceston, Mary Parsons in Dorchester and Jane Watkins in Wiltshire whilst Hannah Wheately went to trial in Essex and Elizabeth Wright in Norfolk.

Two had originally come from Scotland: Euphamia Graham from Edinburgh and Jane Wilson from Aberdeen. Six did marry though only Hannah Wheately and Mary Parsons remained so for any significant length of time. Sarah Kirk lived with Thomas Lewer for around 20 years after Thomas became one of the 1794 Hawkesbury settlers. The couple were still around Windsor in 1824 and Sarah died in Pitt Town aged 70 years in 1826. She was buried in what is now St Matthew's Cemetery in Windsor.

Mary Parsons was married to William Liddle for twenty-two years, the ceremony being held in the old chapel in Windsor before St Matthew's Church of England was built. The couple farmed one of William Singleton's grants at Wilberforce in 1816 before moving to Lower Portland Head (Wisemans Ferry) until Mary died in 1832 aged 60 years.

For some, life at the Hawkesbury was short, Euphamia Graham with partner Matthew Locke had twins Thomas and Elizabeth in 1794 and another daughter in 1795. She was only 25 years old when she died in 1797 and was lovingly buried in St John's Cemetery Parramatta since no cemetery existed in the Hawkesbury district at that time.

Ann Keys died at Wilberforce in 1818 aged 53 years, just four years after she and Richard Shrimpton moved to the district. She too was buried in St Matthew's Cemetery. Jane Watkins married James Everitt at Castlereagh in 1817. By 1822 she was living in Windsor with her three children and after several partners died in 1850 aged 74.

Hannah Wheately married another Hawkesbury grantee Henry York in Parramatta and they farmed first on Henry's land and then on fifteen leased acres. Hannah died in 1817. Jane Wilson became the wife of 1794 Hawkesbury settler Edward Robinson but by 1806 was living with James Cane.

Rachael Burton became the partner of 'Neptune' arrival John Ryan and lived in what is now North Richmond having become one of the first women granted land in her own name. Rachael died in Richmond in 1811 aged 65.

One of the saddest family stories was that of Elizabeth Wright. With husband John Howorth she took up land at Wilberforce in 1797 where the Australiana Pioneer Village now operates. She disappeared the following year and a body found mysteriously in a box on the riverbank in 1821 was thought to be her remains.

Poignantly, she still recognisably had her hair tied in a black velvet ribbon. Young John Howorth died shepherding the family's stock on the common in Wilberforce from snake bite and John senior drowned four years later.