Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Hawkeye, 1878

Turkish Baths were to be established in Thames.  Mr Sykes, proprietor of Auckland, had been looking for a suitable site and settled on the premises lately occupied by Dr O'Flaherty near Karaka Bridge.  The opening of this Oriental luxury to the public was much anticipated.  

A small vineyard at Block 27 also excited cosmopolitan citizens.  Mr Gough had planted half an acre in about 400 vines, which were heavily laden with fruit.  He expected to make 800 gallons of wine and  already had a good stock - some of it three years old.  "After sampling it we can pronounce it very good," beamed the Star.   A powdery mildew had passed over the vineyard but only affected the vines in a sort of narrow streak, the black grapes being  little touched.  Mr Gough gave the vines a dressing of solution of potash "which answered very well."  Mr Gough had been trying for some time to get permission to bring his homemade wines before the public, but it appeared he needed a license.

The English snail, recently introduced to New Zealand, was becoming a great pest in the garden.  "The mynah is very fond of these molluscs and should be encouraged wherever they abound," gardeners were advised.   A variety of snail slaying measures were recommended including salt, quickllime and sawdust. "They may also be trapped by placing pieces of tile and coarse pottery about the garden, so that the snails can get underneath them."  The snail, which appeared in Thames a few years previously, had by now spread over the whole district and had become a nuisance.

A man standing in Pollen Street, near Sealey Street, was reading in impressive tones from a book.  At first his audience consisted of a small boy and large dog.  The dog appeared to belong to the eccentric reader as he was most attentive.  Very soon the peculiar spectacle attracted a larger audience as the man appeared to have some 'derangement.'  He was later arrested - the intellectual being an inebriate. 

Heavy rain at Thames flooded yards and houses on the western side of Owen Street, between Burke and Coromandel Streets, some of the residences having as much as a foot of water on the floor.   Mr Green, hatter, noticed the rising water in time to remove a large number of valuable hats from the floor to a higher and dryer place.  His shop and kitchen were under three inches of water.  Mr Renshaw's shop was flooded and considerable damage done to the floor; the high water mark reached about nine inches.    The footpath was covered in sand and mud, and a flotilla of fences and timber were seen sailing down to the sea.

"An enormous eel, weighing 17lbs, which was caught in the Kauaeranga, was cooked by Mr O D Grant yesterday for some natives.  They bought a large tin milk dish to bake it in, and his eelship completely filled it."

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Friday, 18 July 2014

Fine, promising girls. Leonie and Viva Gillespie, 1891.

The Kauaeranga River - delightful, deceptive. 

In the late summer heat of 1891 the shaded banks and cool waters of the Kauaeranga River were irresistible to young girls trussed up in long skirts, boots, stockings, buttons and hats.

A small picnic party had left Parawai, Thames, about 11.15am on 31 March comprising  the two Perry girls and their aunt, Miss Carpenter, and the Gillespie girls - Leonie, aged 13 and Viva, 15.  They were cheerfully accompanied by Miss Carpenter's retriever dog. 

Leonie and Viva were from a large family overshadowed by their mother's death nine years before.  Sarah Theresa Gillespie had died after a lingering illness following  a severe cold caught after the birth of her tenth child, Ella Rose Mary.  The Gillespie's were well regarded - Henry Cameron Gillespie was the manager of the Kauri Timber Company (Shortland Sawmill).  Following  his wife's death, the vessels in port hoisted their flags to half mast and most of the tradesmen at Grahamstown and Shortland showed respect by putting up their shutters.  Two months after Sarah's demise, her ninth child,  Elizabeth Amy Irene,  died aged  17 months.    The Gillespie's had previously lost a 13 month  old daughter, Emma Lillie Marion,  in 1869.   Henry Gillespie  remarried in 1884;  Maria Cleave bravely taking on his  large brood.  

   Once up the Kauaeranga Valley the girls selected a spot under some trees near the river bank, below Mr Smith's orchard, opposite the Orphanage.

Just after 3pm they decided to bathe in the river, which was very shallow in places.
Viva went well out into the river, while Leonie and the Perry sisters just took off their boots and stockings and waded about.  Miss Carpenter was sitting on the bank reading a book.

After Viva had been in the water for some time, she said she would play at being drowned to see if Miss Carpenter's retriever dog would bring her out of the river.  She walked backwards and gradually got into deeper water, until she appeared somewhat exhausted.   Her sister Leonie, with her boots and stockings off, but otherwise fully dressed, waded in to her assistance.  When she reached her struggling sister she also got into difficulties when Viva caught her in her arms and clung to her.

Miss Carpenter rushed into the water fully dressed and the dog followed his mistress.
Miss Carpenter became exhausted and seeing it was impossible to do anything for the girls, she threw her arms around the dog's neck and he swam with her back to the bank where she was pulled to safety by the Misses Perry. Miss Carpenter was by then in a fainting condition.

The screams of the Perry sisters were heard by Stanley Smith and John Wallace who  were cutting ti-tree close to the river.  At first they thought they came from the Orphanage.  They ran down to the bank of the river where a frantic  Miss Carpenter said there were two girls in the water and pointed to the spot where they had sunk.

Dr Callan, who was returning from the Orphanage, also heard some cries and followed them  across the paddock and down to the river.  

Stanley Smith dived in but could not reach the girls. John Wallace, though, found them lying side by side, face downwards,  and succeeded in bringing them to the surface, but it was too late.   The bodies were laid on the bank.  Dr Callan arrived and tried to restore life, to no avail. 

Thames was greatly affected by the tragedy.   "The terrible mishap has cast a gloom over the town and much sympathy is felt for the parents in the loss of their two daughters whom were fine, promising girls and great favourites among their acquaintances," said the New Zealand Herald. 

Once again public sympathy for the Gillespie's was shown with flags flying at half mast from the vessels in port and from several public buildings. 

The Thames Star melodramatically reported  "both sisters, clasped in each other's arms, had sunk for the last time, and passed into eternity." 

Rather poignantly, the inquest was held in the Parawai schoolroom.  Miss Carpenter was suffering very much from shock and was not called to give evidence. The fatality was established to have occurred between the Orphanage bridge and the willows.  There was 30ft of water in the river in some places. Neither sister could swim.

Mary Perry told the Coroner  "It was a dangerous spot in the river and so deep as to form an eddy.  In one place the water was very shallow, but suddenly became very deep.  There was no notice posted up warning person's against bathing there."

John Wallace said  there was 10 or 12 feet of water where the girls drowned.  At that place it broke off very suddenly from shallow to deep water.  It was very dangerous to anyone walking along.  Dr Callan also told the coroner the spot where the fatality occurred was very treacherous.

The jury reached a verdict of accidentally drowned.  A rider was added that "the Thames County Council be requested to put up notices at the Orphanage bridge, the bluff, and at the willows, that these three places in the river are dangerous to bathers."

The Coroner praised Miss Carpenter.  Her  "conduct in endeavouring to rescue the deceased had been truly heroic, and for her bravery she must merit the admiration of everyone."

The committee of Parawai School sent out a request that the children of the school attend the funeral of their late companions.

The funeral was very largely attended by all classes of the community.  It was described as "perhaps one of the saddest that has ever taken place on the Thames."

Two hearses were employed and the coffins of the two sisters were carried by the employees of the Kauri Timber Company.  The cortege was preceded by the pupils of Parawai School and most of them carried small bouquets of white flowers in their hands. On each side of the hearses walked six young girls, numbering 24 altogether, carrying beautiful floral wreaths on their arms.
A short service and very touching and impressive address was given by Rev. Dr. O'Callaghan at St George's church.   After the service the procession made for the Shortland cemetery where the burial took place.
"Thus were laid to rest the two victims of the most pathetic tragedy that has occurred in this community," the Thames Advertiser lamented. 

Newspapers across the country picked up the story, but the lack of detail irked the Evening Post which growled "the circumstances of the bathing accident at the Thames, by which the two daughters of Mr H C Gillespie met their death, were sensational enough to give us ground for complaint that the local agents of the Press Association neglected to send even the bare facts."

And a few weeks after the tragedy 'Nemo' wrote to the editor of the Thames Advertiser that, although neither a Thames householder or ratepayer,  he took a lively interest in the place.  He had recently felt compelled to  visit Shortland cemetery after the interment of "those two dear girls who were drowned in the Kauaeranga River."  He was "surprised and pained to see the abominable state of the road leading to the cemetery: not an inch of footway in the whole length of the road, and for the most part the carriage way is composed of loose road metal that may do very well for the hearse, but it is purgatory for pedestrians . . . I do not blame the Borough or County Council . . .  surely the general public would be willing to subscribe a few pounds . . .  for a few loads of shell, sand or small gravel . . . the present state of things is disgraceful."

The Gillespie family grave at Shortland cemetery - here lie Henry Gillespie, his first wife Sarah and their daughter's Elizabeth, Leonie and Viva.  Also buried here is an unknown baby  who died two months after Henry.   Perhaps it is a grandchild.  No mention is made of 13 month old  old Emma Lillie Marion being buried here.

Henry Cameron Gillespie 

The sister's names were Isabel Viva Gillespie and  SarahTheresa Leonie Gillespie but they seemed to prefer being known by their more cosmopolitan' middle names.

Henry Cameron Gillespie was known as 'one of the landmarks of town.' The day he died in 1902 there were set of coincidences which are covered in the chapter "It may be my turn next" in the Dead Cert book currently being worked on.

(Thanks to Pauline Stammers)

Source: Papers Past, Cyclopaedia of NZ 1902, Sir George Grey Special Collections AWNS 1909 211-4-02.

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Against her heart. Mary Anne Brown and Kenneth Brown, 1876.

Thames, 1870s - a far cry from Melbourne, Australia. 
(Sir George Grey Special Collections AWNS 19170802-p035-2)

The new licensee of the Courthouse Hotel in Grahamstown, Thames, was a tall, fine looking Western Australian.  

Kenneth Brown had arrived in Thames in 1874 with his wife, Mary-Ann,  and baby daughter, Amy, who had been born in Auckland.  In August, the licence of the Courthouse Hotel was transferred to him from Samuel Young. 

Thames in the 1870s was still a busy gold mining town with around 100 hotels operating which offered a lucrative opportunity to the would-be publican.

 A few weeks after taking over the Courthouse, Kenneth Brown was charged with allowing his house chimney to catch fire.   Property owners were responsible for keeping their chimneys swept.  If not, and the soot caught alight, they were in breach of the law and fined.  His defence was he was only recently in the house.  He was fined 10s and costs.  

But Kenneth Brown was beginning to attract notice for more than neglected household maintenance.  He drank heavily and when drunk, frequently quarrelled with his wife. Mary-Ann was considered an intelligent and inoffensive young lady and while in Thames gave birth to a second daughter, Florence Jessie Rose.  Kenneth Brown was thought at one time to have been an independent man, but gave way to drink and gambling and was reduced to an allowance which he derived from a station in Australia.  

One Friday night, in January 1875, Kenneth Brown was on board the steamship Manaia travelling from Auckland to Thames when a disturbance took place between himself and Mr John Leydon over the possession of a bunk.  Words passed into blows in which Kenneth Brown sustained damage to his face. This did not end the quarrel.  The next morning at Thames, Kenneth Brown went to Mr Leydon's residence  in Pollen Street where he assaulted him. Kenneth Brown was also later charged with assaulting  Leydon's wife, Bridget, on the same date.  The case, lacking evidence, was struck out.

One month later, in February, the  volatile publican of the Courthouse Hotel  applied for the transfer of its license to Sylvester B Percy (or Piercey).  The application was granted, noting "there was no furniture in the house."

Life for Mary-Ann was miserable.  Her husband was drinking heavily and on March 31, after being away all day, Kenneth arrived home very violent.  He came after her with gun  and threatened to kill her.  He was charged with  unlawfully threatening to shoot Mary-Ann Brown. It went against her heart to testify against him, she said, but she was afraid for her life.  Kenneth Brown denied the charge.  He was bound over to keep the peace for three months.

The Brown's hopeless year or so in New Zealand ended in August when a  public auction of the furniture and effects of Kenneth Brown, who was leaving the colony, was held at their residence between Sealey and Richmond Streets, Shortland.   Under the hammer went a  double iron bedstead, Colonial sofas, mattresses, blankets, washstands and ware, tables, carpets, toilet glasses, chairs, a meat safe, crockery, cutlery, and kitchen utensils. Terms were cash.  

By October 1875 they were back in Western Australia, in the town of Geraldton,  Champion Bay.  Kenneth and Mary-Ann were known for constantly and openly quarrelling as well as having  physical altercations. Finances were tight and Kenneth suspected his wife of being unfaithful. By the New Year they were leaving  the house they were in. 

On the morning of Monday January 3, 1876, Mary-Ann and Kenneth began quarrelling over a pair of boots in front of their servant, Bridget Mountain.  Also present was a Mr Simpson who was employed in removing the Brown's furniture to another house. 
Mary-Ann threw the boots out and Kenneth retrieved them.    He picked up a gunpowder container  and threatened to blow the roof off the house.  The gunpowder  was taken off him by Simpson who had observed Kenneth walking up  and down the house passage talking to himself and appearing to be intoxicated. 

At 3pm another quarrel took place between the Brown's in Simpson's presence.  Mary-Ann told Simpson to take no notice as Kenneth was under the influence of drink. Kenneth picked up his double barrelled gun and told his wife to leave the room or he would give her the contents of the gun. Simpson took the gun off Kenneth and locked it away in a servant's room and gave the key to Mary-Ann.   Simpson then left with a load of furniture.

About 4pm another quarrel erupted between the pair in the kitchen, in front of Bridget Mountain.  It was heard by Alicia Kelly who was on her way to take the Brown's children for a walk. 

The quarrel spilled into another part of the house,  leaving Bridget in the kitchen.  
A few minutes later Mary-Ann came running towards the kitchen calling "Bridget, the gun!"
Bridget, looking out, saw Mary-Ann close to her, and Kenneth standing in the doorway with the gun levelled at his wife.
He fired, hitting Mary-Ann's right arm and side. Mary-Ann cried "Oh Bridget I am dying."  She got into the kitchen and Bridget shut the door, wrapping her arms around Mary-Ann's waist - but the terrified Mary-Ann immediately left the kitchen again,  seeking escape from the house .  Bridget again shut the door and heard the gun fire. She then went out and saw Mary-Ann lying by the door, shot in the head.
Constable James Haydon,  who was close by, heard the two gunshots and found Mary Brown lying on the doorstep of the house. Mary-Ann was said to be pregnant - "near her confinement" in one account.

The Fremantle Herald reported "Fearful Tragedy at Champion Bay" - "Mr Kenneth Brown, the head of  one of the most important families in the country, has shot his wife . . ."

At  trial Kenneth Brown refused to provide an explanation.  His family mounted a defence of diminished responsibility.  His devastated  mother was brought into court by the defence for the purpose of proving  the probability of hereditary insanity.  Kenneth's grandmother had threatened a friend with an axe and had been in an asylum for many years. There were two hung juries before Kenneth Brown was found guilty of wilful murder and sentenced to death by hanging. 

He was executed at Perth Gaol on 10 June 1876, aged 39.  His body was delivered to his family for private burial.

Cablegrams were received in Thames advising that the former proprietor of the Courthouse Hotel had been hung for the murder of his wife. 

Six weeks after he was executed,  in Thames, wild weather blew in the front door of the Courthouse Hotel.

The broken man who left Thames was once  a noted  explorer and pastoralist.   Kenneth Brown was born in England in 1837.  The family emigrated to Western Australia, arriving in March 1841, when he was four.  The family took up land in the Champion Bay area (424 ks north of Perth) and established Glengarry, a sheep station, in 1850.  Kenneth Brown managed  Glengarry when the rest of the family moved to Fremantle.  During the 1850s Kenneth Brown spent most of his time at Glengarry station, often being the only family member there.

Between 1852 and 1863, while in his teens and early twenties,  Kenneth Brown went on a number of exploring expeditions.  He explored the country behind Glengarry with Major Logue
and was part of Robert Austin's expedition of 1854 . He explored up the Murchison River with others and helped mount an expedition  to Glenelg River.  

In 1859, aged 22, he married his first wife  Mary Eliza Dircksey Wittenoom.  The couple had five children - Blanche, Edith, Kenneth, Clarence and Ernest.

By 1860, Kenneth Brown was manager of the Glengarry horse breaking establishment.  Horses were sent to India and Glengarry became the main supplier to the India trade.  Glengarry went on to be one of the most successful  racehorse breeding establishments in  the colony. 
Kenneth and his brothers would  employ 100 convicts there  between 1862 - 1876. 

In June 1863 Kenneth's father died while he was away with an exploring party on the Glenelg River.  Kenneth, along with his brothers, Aubrey and Maitland,  then formed a partnership under which they managed Glengarry.

In 1868 tragedy struck when Mary died during childbirth.  By then the Champion Bay area had, over the years, been decimated by drought, wheat rust and sheep scab.  By 1871, heavily mortgaged, Glengarry was running at a loss. 

In 1872 Kenneth withdrew from the partnership, left Glengarry and moved to Melbourne to follow his interest in horse racing. He was the first Western Australian to enter the Melbourne Cup with the horse Victorian in 1873.

But the once flourishing settler began to lose considerable sums of money and started drinking heavily.   His behaviour was erratic, once crunching a wineglass between his teeth, and he was given to outbursts of temper.  He was now  notable  for his fighting, boasting and gambling.   His descent into alcoholism and despair was said to be the result of his  wife's death. 

In 1873, at  Victoria,  he met and married Mary Anne Tindall, an English girl aged 24.

After her murder, the Melbourne Leader suggested that Kenneth Brown's behaviour was so offensive to  those of his standing that he began associating with those beneath him.  "He  seems to have been attracted by a woman in a lower station then that to which he was nominally entitled and to have married her," it tut-tutted. 

The Melbourne Leader also titillated its readers with a melodramatic reconstruction of events -  Kenneth Brown ". . . finding his marriage a burden . . .  followed the instincts of a nature at once cruel, brutal and selfish and sought relief by destroying that which irritated him....all this time as seen to be cool, self possessed and able to transact business. although absent and moody. . . 
he allows the fatal weapon to be taken away from him, smiling at the uselessness of removing it . . . she flies shrieking from his presence and when he sees the shot is not fatal, follows her . . . she crouches before him in terror . . . all this occurs in open daylight in the middle of a town . . . "

When he was not drinking, Kenneth Brown was a shrewd, hard headed, practical man.
At the time of his trial he had considerable pastoral holdings including Tah Mah Lee (Tamala) station.  He had also been involved in the Camden Harbour venture - an ill-fated attempt to establish a new town north of Port Hedland.  Lacking practical experience,  it was a disaster for many who died due to swamp conditions and lack of water.

What brought Kenneth Brown to Thames? 
 Probably it was an attempt to start a new life in New Zealand in the vain hope of escaping his troubles. 

Years later, after the execution of her father,  Rose Burges, the eldest daughter of Kenneth and his second wife  Mary-Ann, claimed that while travelling in America she had met him  in a hotel.  
A story still  persists that Kenneth's brother,  Maitland, a politician,  had arranged Kenneth's escape to the United States and he wasn't executed at all. 

Intriguingly, I was unable to find any mention of the Brown's time in Thames or New Zealand  in Australian newspaper reports or  Australian information sources.  All reports say the Brown's spent that year or so in Melbourne before returning to Champion Bay, ten weeks before Mary-Ann's murder.  

Kenneth Brown's second child by his first marriage was Edith Cowan - a suffragist and activist for disadvantaged children.  When her mother died in childbirth,  her father sent Edith to a Perth Boarding school run by the Cowan sisters.  Edith later married James, their brother.  Among many other achievements in her life, Edith was awarded the order of the British Empire and her portrait appears on the back of  Australia's $50 note.  Edith was 15 at the time of her father's execution and family sources note that the effect of Kenneth Brown's hanging  and the ensuing publicity and gossip was crippling and "extended into later generations."

Kenneth Brown's younger brother, Maitland,  became a politician, mainly remembered as the leader of the Le Grange expedition massacre  which searched for and recovered the bodies of three white settlers murdered by Aboriginals.  A large number of Aboriginals were then killed by expedition members - an incident that remains controversial. Maitland was significant in the Brown family's attempt to mount a defence of undiminished responsibility to save his brother from execution.

 Presumably, after their respective mother's deaths,  the other children were sent to boarding establishments or taken in by family.

Edith Cowan's  image on the Australian $50 note.

Sources Papers Past, Wikipedia, Murderpedia.

© Meghan Hawkes and Dead Cert 2014