In June 2010, TI Life profiled Dr. John Carter in John Carter’s Prisoners in Van Diemen’s Land, The story had a remarkable number of comments from Tasmania as well as from North America, thus kindling more interest in the military history of the war called: The Patriot War or the Rebellion of 1837-38. We asked Dr. Carter if he would provide additional information and he has written several articles for TI Life.
Patriot Chronicles: Twenty-Six Did Not Come Home
The years 2013/14 mark the 175th anniversary of North American political prisoners being transported to Van Diemen’s Land, for their involvement in the 1838 Upper Canadian Rebellion. This article deals with one of the many stories related to people and events of this time period. During a twelve month period between December 1837 and December 1838, at least thirteen incidents of incursion from the United States into Upper Canada occurred (see Appendix A for a list of these events).
These incidents of armed invasion ignored neutrality laws established by the American government. They also violated the sovereign authority of Canada. These uniformly disastrous actions undertaken by members of the “Patriot Army,” resulted in the eventual capture, incarceration and transportation of 93 English speaking political prisoners. They were sent on a one way trip to the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land in 1839-40. Of this group, 63 men came from Jefferson, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oswego, Chautauqua, St. Lawrence, Lewis, Genesee, Monroe, Niagara, Erie, Madison, and Warren counties in New York State.
Following trials in Canada and England for piratical invasion and treason, the North American political prisoners were sent in three batches to Hobart Town. They sailed to Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Canton, the Marquis of Hastings and H.M.S. Buffalo. On arrival they were immediately assimilated into the colony’s penal system. On direct orders from Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin, the Patriots were separated from the “usual class of thieves.” They were sent to work at government operated probation stations located throughout the island. Over a period of two years, the Patriots were engaged in road building and in the construction of buildings associated with some of these stations. They spent varied periods of time in work gangs at probation stations, located at Sandy Bay, Lovely Banks, Green Ponds (now Kempton), Bridgewater, New Town Bay, Jericho, Jerusalem (now Colebrook), Brown’s River, Saltwater Creek, Rocky Hills, Victoria Valley, Seven Mile Creek, Marlborough, Constitution Hill and Mount Dromedary. Those who attempted to escape were sent as second offenders to the maximum security prison at the Port Arthur Penal Settlement.
Under the probation system, prisoners were awarded tickets of leave for good conduct,, following two years of hard labour on the roads. Many of the Patriots received this indulgence in February of 1842. The possession of a ticket of leave allowed the holder to depart from a probation station and to seek paid, private employment. Those who continued to be on good behaviour would receive a free or conditional pardon, and ultimately their freedom. The first pardon was granted to Upper Canadian Patriot John B. Tyrrell on September 23, 1843. An entry in fellow prisoner Elijah Woodman’s diary, indicted that by November 1844, 40 Patriot exiles had received free pardons. Woodman added that 28 of his comrades were still residing in Van Diemen’s Land. This information was corroborated by former Patriot “General” Thomas Jefferson Sutherland, in the November 18, 1844 edition of the Rochester [New York] Republican. Sutherland noted that 39 “American citizens” had been pardoned, while 42 were still imprisoned. Sutherland provided an update on the status of American citizens remaining confined in the January 7, 1845 edition of the New York Tribune. In a subsequent October 1, 1845 article published in the Onondaga [New York] Standard and again in the October 9, 1845 issue of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, lists of those Patriots pardoned and currently stranded in the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), along with those still in Van Diemen’s Land, were presented to subscribers.
Freed Patriot Linus Miller, a former resident of Stockton, Chautauqua County, New York and a law student, confirmed that 28 Patriots who had been pardoned, still remained in Van Diemen’s Land. In a letter to the editor published in the Northern [Lowville, N.Y.] Journal of February 5, 1846, Miller wrote that most of his fellow prisoners had been pardoned, through “that kind intercession of the American Government.” He concluded that he had every reason to hope “that all are now free.” This echoed previous positive reactions about the fate of the Patriots published in the Brooklyn [New York] Eagle on March 2, 1844. There it was recorded “...that there is reason to believe that particular applications made to the British Government in their behalf, through that of the United States, will meet with respectful consideration.” Proof of some success to this end was noted in the February 10, 1845 edition of the Brooklyn [New York] Eagle. An article reported that “thirty-eight of the Canadians exiled to Van Dieman’s (sic) Land” had arrived in St. Albans, Vermont. An article entitled “Exiles From Van Dieman (sic),” published in the March 26, 1846 issue of Niles’ National Register, stated that 9 additional New York State Patriots had landed in New Bedford, Massachusetts, after receiving their pardons. The article concluded that; “These men have suffered much and their tale is one of deep interest, and calculated to move every heart to sympathy.”
However, not all of the Patriots, formerly from Upper Canada and counties in Upper State New York, chose to or were able to return home. While working at Ballochmyle, James MacLanachan’s midland estate near Tunbridge, blacksmith Thomas Stockton, a native of Rutland, Jefferson County became ill and died. Dr. F.J. Park sent the following letter from the Oatlands Hospital on September 9, 1844: “Received of I. Polly the sum of eight shillings, amount of fees due to Government for medicine & attendance on Thos. Stockton, from 1st to 4th September inclusive, 1844”. Stockton’s mates John Chester Williams (Rochester, Monroe Co.), John Gilman (Brownsville, Jefferson Co.), Ira Polly (Lyme, Jefferson Co.), Leonard Delano (Watertown, Jefferson Co.), George Brown (Evans’ Mills, Jefferson Co.), Riley M. Stewart (Avon, Ohio) and Henry Shew (Philadelphia, Jefferson Co.), paid this bill as well as expenses associated with Stockton’s death and burial. Blacksmith Henry John Simmons from Lockport, Niagara County, also died in the Oatlands Hospital. Both Simmons and Stockton were buried in unmarked graves in the Oatlands Cemetery. Previously Alexander McLeod, a carpenter from East Gwillimbury, Upper Canada, had died in HM Colonial Hospital on July 24, 1839 soon after his arrival in Hobart Town. He was buried in an unmarked grave at the Hobart Town Trinity Cemetery.
Farm labourer Alson Owen from Palermo, Oswego County (originally from Pompey, Onondaga Co.), suffered a series of violent epileptic fits while working at James Sutherland’s Rothbury estate on the Isis River. Colleagues immediately sent for a doctor to administer to him, but Owen died within thirty hours. Fellow Patriots working at William Kermode’s nearby Mona Vale, came for the funeral. Owen was buried in the Sutherland family graveyard at Rothbury. Grocer Daniel Heustis of Watertown, Jefferson County, later chronicled this event in his published narrative by noting; “I never attended a funeral where greater solemnity or more heart-felt sorrow seemed to prevail.” This evidently was a rare example of where the Patriot exiles were treated with genuine respect. Other Patriots who passed away during their incarceration in Van Diemen’s Land included James Williams aka Nelson Recker (Cleveland, Ohio), Garret Van Camp (Burford, U.C.), John Sprague (Amhurst, Ohio), Foster Martin (Antwerp, Jefferson Co.), Andrew Leeper (Lyme, Jefferson Co.), Lysander Curtis (Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence Co.) and William Nottage (Amhurst, Ohio). Elijah Woodman (London, U.C.), departed from Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Young Eagle, but died on June 15, 1847 while en route to United States. He was buried at sea.
On receiving pardons, some of the Patriots made the decision to remain in Van Diemen’s Land or move to mainland Australia. Ploughman Chauncey Bugby (Bugbee) of Lyme, Jefferson County, married transported English convict Elizabeth Hughes at St. Luke’s Parish Church in Campbell Town on August 9, 1846. The couple had met while working for Robert Taylor at his Valleyfield estate. Daughter Jane was born on July 13, 1846 and son Robert was born on June 20, 1848. The family lived in the Campbell Town area. At the age of sixteen, Robert moved to Circular Head in the far north-west of Tasmania. Here he and his family (now Buckby), had a long and prosperous life. No records have been found as to where Chauncey and Elizabeth Bugby lived out their lives, died, or are buried.
Carpenter Ira Polly (Polley), also from Lyme, Jefferson County, left Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Stieglitz on October 12, 1844, and sailed to the Sandwich Islands. He then returned to Sydney, and married Elizabeth Moon in Redfern, Sydney on August 26, 1857. They had a family of six daughters and one son, and farmed in the Illawara region of New South Wales. Elizabeth died on January 11, 1862. On May 19, 1863, Ira married Harriet Ralph, and from this second union six sons and two daughters were born. Ira Polly died on January 1, 1898 at Dapto and was buried in the Congregational Section of the Wollongong Cemetery.
Farm labourer Hiram Sharp(e) from Salina, Onondaga County, left Van Diemen’s Land on the Belle in August 1846 and sailed to Sydney. He met and married recently widowed Mary Black in Sydney in 1850. They settled in Kiama, New South Wales and began to farm. The couple’s first son Milo Richmond was born on November 21, 1852 and was baptized in Nimmitabel N.S.W. In total, Hiram and Mary had five children. Hiram gained employment as a shepherd at a large sheep station named Bibbenluke. Here he advanced to general work hand and then finally to carrier. The couple purchased a property of eighty-three acres near Bombala on July 28, 1857. The Sharp(e)s lived there until Hiram’s unfortunate death by accidental drowning at Crankies Plain on February 19, 1859. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Nimmitabel.
Robert Green Collins, a shoe maker from Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, received his pardon on December 7, 1844, and settled in Hobart Town. On October 17, 1849, Collins married Catherine Gaffrey at the Melville Street Wesleyan Chapel. The couple had five children who were baptized at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. In 1851, Collins became co-owner of the Triumph Coal Mines in New Town, with former Chartist exile Zephaniah Williams. Collins became sole owner of this business by 1852. He died on February 25, 1855 and was interred at the Presbyterian burial ground in Hobart Town. In his obituary published in the February 27 edition of the [Hobart Town] Colonial Times, it was recorded that Collins was “...universally respected by all who knew him.” No mention was made about his past as a rebellious member of the Patriot Army!
While on assigned service, Moses A. Dutcher, a carpenter and joiner from Brownsville, Jefferson County, married Sarah Burchell on February 27, 1844 at All Saints Church in Swansea. Daughter Sarah (Sallie) was born on September 12, 1844. After receiving a free pardon on December 3, 1844, the Dutchers moved to Great Swan Port to take up farming. Between 1845 and 1849, Moses Dutcher had ten convicts assigned to work for him. Another daughter, Jennie (Jane) was born during this period. From 1849-50, the Dutcher family lived at Duxton. The [Hobart Town] Colonial Times of March 17 and 19, 1847 listed the Dutchers as making contributions to the Scotch and Irish Relief Fund. Just before Christmas of 1849, the Dutcher clan boarded the British barque Eudora and embarked on a journey to California. They reached Honolulu and here they chose to stay. In May of 1851 they opened a boarding house. While in Honolulu, two sons, Moses Jr. and Edwin were born. It is thought that Moses Senior died in Hawaii in 1855. Moses Dutcher became yet another Patriot exile who didn’t return to his original home.
Ploughman Samuel Washburn(e) of Oswego, Oswego County, received an absolute pardon on July 16, 1845. Previously, on April 17, 1844 he had sought permission to marry Agnes/Ann Scott. She had arrived in Van Diemen’s Land as a convict aboard the Nautilis in 1838. Approval was granted for this request and the couple were married in Campbell Town. In 1846, the Washburn(e)s left Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Synvanus for Port Albert in Gippsland, Victoria. Nothing more is known about Samuel Washburn(e) until the July 29, 1868 edition of the Brooklyn [New York] Eagle reported that he had returned to Wales, New York. No other family members were mentioned! Washburn(e)’s arrival in New York State was again noted in the March 26, 1870 edition of the New York Tribune, and subsequently in the Syracuse [New York] Standard of March 22, 1872! The Ogdensburg [New York] Daily Journal of July 22, 1873 carried an obituary reporting the death of the mysterious Samuel Washburn(e). His fate however remains unsure. In the July 22, 1873 edition of the [Ogdensburg] Daily Journal, it was suggested that the man calling himself Samuel Washburn(e) was in fact an imposter. The paper proclaimed that he was really Patriot John Berry (Elizabethtown, U.C.). Washburn(e) may have been another Patriot exile not to return home!
One of the few Canadians to remain in Van Diemen’s Land was Horace (Horatio) Cooley of London, U.C. He was captured in June 1838, during the St. Clair Raids, charged and convicted of burglary and transported aboard H.M.S. Buffalo. Cooley was one of four Patriots who escaped from the Sandy Bay Probation Station in June of 1840. He was re-captured and sent as a second offender to Port Arthur for two years of hard labour. He was issued a ticket of leave on May 24, 1844 and granted a conditional pardon on April 12, 1849. He remained in Hobart Town where he owned property and rented out land. He married Mary Skinner on June 25, 1850. He was still in Van Diemen’s Land in 1852. He was recorded as building a house on Macquarie Street in South Hobart at that time. No record has been found of his departure or of his death.
Another Canadian Patriot to remain was Jacob R. (Beemer) Beamer. A resident of Scotland in the Township of Oakland, U.C., Beamer was captured at the Short Hills incursion. He was transported to Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Canton. During his incarceration he spent time at the Hobart Town Prisoners’ Barracks, Port Arthur, and probation stations at Green Ponds, Mount Dromedary, Antill Ponds and Bothwell. He received a ticket of leave on February 2, 1847 and a free pardon on April 15, 1848. Prior to this he had married Bridgewater native Ann Walker in Richmond on January 24, 1848. The Beamers moved to Melbourne in 1853. They lived in Irish Town and Jacob worked as a carpenter. He was charged with larceny in January, 1854 and was sentenced to two years hard labour. At this juncture his marriage with Ann ended. Jacob returned to Tasmania in February, 1856 accompanied by Mary Kilford. Their daughter Martha was born on March 22, 1860. In 1863, Beamer purchased land in the Township of Lennon, County of Buckingham, on Bruny Island. He and his family were at Brown’s River in March of 1866. Another daughter, Louisa Laura, was born on January 29, 1868. It is believed that he and his new wife were living at Sandy Bay at that time. Jacob signed the Hobart death register in 1872, on the demise of his step daughter Francis. After this no records confirm his movements. The rest of his life and his eventual fate are a mystery. No grave or notice of his death has been found. It is presumed that he did not return to Upper Canada.
Other North American political prisoners who stayed on in Van Diemen’s Land or migrated to various colonies on the Australian continent, included James Milne Aitchison (London, U.C.), John Bradley (Sackets Harbor, Jefferson Co.), Hugh Calhoun (Salina, Onondaga Co.), George Cooley (Darlington Twp., U.C.), Norman Mallory (Scarborough, U.C.), and Chauncey Mathers (Salina, Onondaga Co.).
For those Patriots who made a decision to stay in Australia and not return to Upper Canada or New York State, most settled in their adoptive country, had families and lived out their lives in relative obscurity. Today some of their family members have taken an increased interest in the fate of their relatives and in the shared history of Australia, Canada and the United States. This history is inexorably linked together by the individuals and events of the “Patriot Wars,” and more specifically to the North American Patriot exiles who didn’t return home.
Dr. John C. Carter
Dr. John C. Carter is a Director of the Ontario Historical Society and a Research Associate in the History and Classics Programme, University of Tasmania. This is his seventh article written for TI Life (Click here view his other articles). In particular his February 2013 Patriot Chronicles: The Hickory Island Incursion and April 2013 The Burning of the “Sir Robert Peel”… set the scene for this important period of history.
In addition Dr. Carter has provided a bibliography to study this important era of Thousand Islands history which can be found in THE PLACE, History page. You can see all of Dr. Carter’s TI Life articles here.