A FRENCHMAN IN AUSTRALIA
TASMANIA – 1815 to 1821
As noted earlier, on arrival in Sydney Jean Pierre was immediately assigned to William Mitchell in the District of Argyle, where Hobart had been settled by the British eleven years earlier. Two months later, in far-away Scotton, Lincolnshire, Frances Johnson committed the theft that would see her convicted, transported for seven years, and reaching Hobart early in 1817. In the meantime Jean Pierre lived the life of an assigned convict, doing whatever his master required, which perhaps was agricultural labour on a property on the northern edge of the village.
Hobart Town in 1817, by Lt Charles Jefferys
The Tasmanian Names Index has William Mitchell, a settler, arriving in Hobart on the Porpoise from Norfolk Island with his wife and three children, on 17 January 1808. An 1814 advertisement warns trespassers on the farm of W. Mitchell near Newtown will be prosecuted.(1) New Town is now a suburb of Hobart, about 4km from the CBD. An 1817 advertisement advises: “All persons are hereby directed not to graze stock of any description on the farm of Robert Blinkworth near New Town, known by the name of Mitchel’s farm…”(2) Robert Blinkworth was William Mitchell’s son-in-law, and worked the farm.(3) Finally, a James Blay advertised in 1820: “The undersigned having lately purchased William Mitchell’s farm, containing 103 acres, situate about a mile and a half from Hobart town, on the south side of the new road leading to New Norfolk…” The advertisement also offered a reward for anyone who found the Grant document for the farm, which had been mislaid.(4) So William Mitchell owned property adjacent to Hobart (5) through the period of Jean Pierre’s assignment to him, and sold the property to move to NSW not long before Jean Pierre was reassigned to William Howe, in the District of Minto, NSW, in 1821. Meanwhile, Frances Johnson had arrived in Hobart and, it seems, a relationship had developed between the two convicts.
Frances Johnson reached Sydney on the Lord Melville in February 1817. (6) Like Jean Pierre, she was first sent to a settler in Hobart – specifically, ‘disposed’ of (assigned to) a Mr Marr at ‘Derwent’.(7) In the 1818 annual returns of convicts, she is still with the same master. The same muster lists Henry Marr (Royal Admiral, 1808), as a shop-keeper, Van Diemen’s Land.(8) These musters listed those who were, and who had previously been, convicts. Many emancipists had been given provisional pardons, which meant they had to stay in the colony until their original sentences were finished and, as many of these sentences were for life, the authorities had to keep track of former convicts to ensure they were still in the colony. So Frances was in Hobart – the only place on the Derwent River where there were shop-keepers - when she became pregnant with William in about January 1818. Obviously, his natural father was in the same place at the same time, and conveniently there is a Frenchman there with a family name that coincides with a cluster of men with related Y-chromosomes, including the male descendants of William.
The entire European population of Tasmania at this time was about 5,000 people,(9) of whom less than 1,000 were women.(10) It would have been almost impossible for Jean Pierre and Frances Johnson not to bump into each other. A relationship between them might also have provided a ticket back to Sydney for Frances. Early in her pregnancy, Lieutenant Governor Colonel William Sorell sternly warned that:
The Female Prisoners in Assigned Service having misbehaved in many Instances, and there being at present no Factory or Public Establishment in this settlement for placing such Women under regular Restraint and Labour; His Honour the Lieutenant Governor makes known his Intention of sending up to Port Jackson, to be placed in the Factory there, such Female Prisoners as from their bad Conduct cannot be continued in Assigned Service, or allowed the Indulgence of a Ticket of Leave.(11)
William Johnson was born in Sydney in October 1818 (12) and, so far as is known, never knew who his natural father was. No hint of this French connection has been found in any colonial documents, nor in any stories or hints passed down the family. It could also be the case that Frances herself mis-identified William’s father, believing him to be another convict in Hobart at the same time, John Marsden (Indefatigable, 1812). The clue here lies in the 1823-24-25 Muster.
The NSW Muster for 1823 was an administrative bungle, so badly done that it wasn’t sent off to London. Governor Macquarie ordered that it be done again in 1824, but they failed to get it right for the second year in a row, and once again it was held back.
Third time lucky, and Macquarie seems to have been satisfied with the 1825 Muster. But the problem was that by now there were conflicting records over the three years, with people living in different places at different times, and having changed names because of marriage or other reasons, so it seems (no-one knows for sure) that they put all the records for the three years together, weeded out the ones that were clearly duplicates, and sent off a combined 1823-24-25 Muster. As a result, quite a lot of the people appear twice or three times.
The Australian Society of Genealogists published the combined Muster in 1999,(13) and as with other Musters the ASG has very helpfully cross-referenced the entries, so that if Bill Jones appears both in his own right, and somewhere else e.g. as someone’s gardener, then the index will give both references (though unless the ship is mentioned, you’re never sure if it’s the same Bill Jones.)
Frances Johnson is listed in the Muster at 27015 as freed by servitude, ship Lord Melville, sentence 7 years, housekeeper of Sydney. William Johnson appears at 27589 as aged 8, born in the colony, the child of Francis (sic) Johnson of Sydney. Bracketed with him at 27590 is his sister, Eleanor Johnson, aged 5, born in the colony, child of Francis Johnson of Sydney.
Because of the problems with this three-year muster, Eleanor also appears at 21336, as Eleanor Foster, aged 4½, born in the colony, the daughter of John Foster (which we know refers to a foster relationship – no pun intended – rather than her natural father. Eleanor married James Oatley, son of the famous clock-maker who himself became Lord Mayor of Sydney, and their descendants include the wealthy Oatley family who make very good wine and keep winning the Sydney-Hobart yacht race with Wild Oats – but that’s another story).
The cross references on Frances Johnson also lead us to a most intriguing entry. At 32077 we have William Marsden, aged 7, born in the colony, son of Francis (sic) Johnson of Sydney. Who is this William Marsden? There is no other known connection between Frances and an apparent father of her son William, from which it might be assumed that in January 1818 Frances had a relationship with both John Marsden and Jean Pierre Meunier, leaving her uncertain as to which one was her partner in pregnancy. The recorded ages of these candidates at the time is also interesting: Jean Pierre was 26, Frances was 36, and John Marsden was 56. Whereas the genetic connection with Jean Pierre is inferred, the lack of relationship with John Marsden is certain. A mitochondrial-DNA analysis I undertook showed no connection with two women, who had also checked their m-DNA, who are well-documented as descendants of John Marsden. After her brief interlude of about 18 months in Hobart, Frances Johnson returned to Sydney and, so far as is known, had no further connection with Jean Pierre.
1823 – a ticket of leave
By August 1821, after William Mitchell had sold his farm, Jean Pierre had been reassigned to William Howe at Minto, NSW.(14) Howe was a Scottish settler who was granted 3,000 acres by Governor Macquarie.(15) Following the endorsement of both Mitchell and Howe, Jean Pierre received his ticket-of-leave on 9 April 1823, which allowed him to move around the colony so long as he obtained permission to relocate from one district to another, and had his employer’s name and any other conditions recorded on his ticket. He must have been well-behaved while a convict, because he was granted a ticket 10 years after being sentenced – the minimum time required before anyone with a life sentence could be conditionally paroled. Technically, he should not have received his t-o-l until 13 September 1823, being the tenth anniversary of his conviction, but he had obviously planned ahead and with the backing of his then employer, who was a Justice of the Peace, he was five months ahead of the regulations. The ticket was issued to Jean Piere (sic) Mounier (sic) of Minto,(16) which at the time was name of the district containing Campbelltown.(17)
Now free to choose his own employer, within limits, it is not surprising that Jean Pierre was attracted to a master with French connections. In the 1823-25 muster, ‘Jean Pierre Mounier’ is listed as a ticket-of-leave holder employed by Paul Huon of Campbelltown, which is about 6km south of Minto. Huon was born in the colony and, at the time of the muster, had a family consisting of his wife Sara and sons John (4) and Paul (2y and 5m).(18) Jean Pierre would have been a natural fit on Huon’s Sugarloaf Farm as he was likely to have had a Francophone master. Huon’s full name was Paul Huon de Kerilleau, the son of Gabriel Louis Marie de Huon de Kerilleau, a Frenchman who had fled France during the Revolution and come to Sydney with the New South Wales Corps in 1794. Despite his reduced circumstances, de Kerilleau was apparently of high breeding,(19) esteemed by most of the early governors and a regular visitor to Government House.(20) Paul Huon’s mother Louisa Emanuel Le Sage was also French, and had been transported in 1794 for theft. ‘She had been tried for stealing from the London household where she was employed as a lady’s maid, and needed a French interpreter at her trial’.(21)
Jean Pierre’s assignment to Paul Huon (bottom of page) is evident from the 1825 muster
Paul Huon was granted 60 acres of land at Campbelltown in 1818, which he subsequently increased to 180 acres through adjacent land purchases.(22)
1827 – Constable Jean Pierre
We next hear of Jean Pierre in 1827, when he was employed to help maintain law and order in the colony. His appointment as a rural constable was noted in the Sydney Gazette: ‘Brinngelly. – Jean Pierre Monier [sic], per Indefatigable, holding a Ticket of Leave, to be Constable, and to be stationed in Cooke, in the room of – M’Nally, who has absconded; to bear the Date of the 1st Instant.’ (23)
On 17 June the following year Jean Pierre, known in this case as ‘J. P. Monnier’, is noted as having resigned his position as a Constable at Bringelly, and being succeeded by another ticket of leave holder, James Gold.(24) Bringelly is 20km north of Campbelltown. The system of parish constables was initiated by Governor Hunter in 1795, based on the English system of constables being elected for one year’s service – an unpaid position – by the parish inhabitants. Governor Macquarie changed the system so that constables were appointed by local magistrates, perhaps indicating the continuing goodwill of William Howe at nearby Minto.
1833 – a married man
On 12 January 1833 Jean Pierre Mounier [sic] and Catherine Boyle were granted permission to marry, and were subsequently married by Rev. John McEnroe, a Roman Catholic priest, in Sydney.(25) It is unlikely that they had any children – like Frances, she was 8-10 years older than Jean Pierre, who was 42 at the time, though he stated his age as 40 and she as 50.
Jean Pierre and Catherine’s application, No. 11
Catherine was also a former convict. At the Dublin City Quarter Sessions on 16 August 1814, she was ‘indicted for feloniously stealing a bank note for one pound, and a handkerchief the property of John McDonnell. The prosecutor swore he knew the prisoner. She robbed him of a one pound note and a handkerchief. Took it from him when he was asleep in a public house. The note was produced and identified by the prosecutor. The note had been found on the prisoner, who was convicted. To be transported for seven years. Recorder - "You too have been in custody before.”(26)
She was transported on the Francis and Eliza, which left Cork on 5 December 1814, and arrived in Sydney on 8 August 1815, an unusually long voyage of 246 days.(27) On arrival, she was sent to the Female Factory in Paramatta. Her age on arrival was given as 33,(28) which validates her age of 50 when applying to marry.
Here, Jean Pierre Meunier disappears from the record, and the narrative of his life necessarily ends. We do not know where and when he died (nor has any record of the death of his wife been found), and we do not know the date and place of his birth. His ship had passed back into the night from whence it came.
©Brian Wills-Johnson, 2020
(1) Van Diemen’s Land Gazette, 10 September 1814, p. 2.
(2) Ibid., 15 March 1817, p. 2.
(3) People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au.
(4) Hobart Town Gazette, 27 May 1820, p. 2.
(5) The map at http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/entity/12453?pid=27775 shows the location of Mitchell’s farm, superimposed on a satellite photograph of modern-day Hobart.
(6) Her story is told elsewhere – see ‘Frances Johnson and her Australian family’, Brian Wills-Johnson, unpublished MSS.
(7) AJCP reels HO 10/1 to 10/16, annual returns of convicts.
(8) AJCP reel 63, HO 10/10, p. 214. Tasmania was called Van Diemen’s Land until 1856. A James Andrew Marr was born in Tasmania on 18 February 1816, parents not listed (Latter Day Saints index). Henry Marr left Hobart for Sydney in 1821 – Hobart Town Gazette, 3 March 1821, p. 2.
(9) Annual Statistics of Tasmania, 1901
(10) Rebecca Kippen & Peter Gunn, ‘Convict Bastards, Common-Law Unions, and Shtgun Weddings’, Journal of Family History, 2011, p. 1.
(11) Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, 28 March 1818, p. 1.
(12) According to details on his death certificate.
(13) General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1824, op. cit.
(14) Series: NRS 898; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6020-6040, 6070; Fiche 3260-3312.
(15) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University.
(16) The Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser, 10 April 1823, p.1.
(17) Today, Campbelltown and Minto are both suburbs of Sydney within the district of Campbelltown.
(18) General Muster List of New South Wales 1823, 1824, 1825, Carol J. Baxter (Ed.), Australian Biographical and Genealogical Record, Sydney, 1999.
(19) Seventy-five years after his death in 1829 his real identity as a member of the Bourbon family was revealed through a document which had been found and authenticated – Anny P. L. Stuer, ‘The French in Australia’, PhD thesis, Australian National University, 1979, p. 44. He had earlier disguised his French identity, having come to Australia as ‘Gabriel Lewis’ – A2998, vol. 102A, Mitchell Library, Sydney.
(20) G. P. Walsh, Australian Dictionary of Biography, www.adb.anu.edu.au
(21) Michael Flynn, Settlers and seditionists: the people of the convict ship Surprize 1974, Sydney, Angela Lind, 1994.
(22) Deborah Farina, Spring Farm Parkway Non-Aboriginal Heritage Assessment, Jacobs Group Australia Pty. Ltd., 2019, p. 19.
(23) Sydney Gazette, 19/7/1827.
(24) Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 27 June 1828, p. 1.
(25) Register of Convicts’ Applications to Marry, State Archives NSW; Series: 12212; Item: 4/4508.
(26) Freemans Journal, 21 June 1814.
(27) Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, op. cit., pp. 340-341.
(28) Peter Mayberry, http://members.tip.net.au/~ppmay/cgi-bin/irish/irish.cgi?requestType=Search2&id=1152