A Colonial Rarity – John Snow


In an earlier post I speculated on the identity of Elizabeth Anderson’s 3rd partner, John Jones, and invited readers to judge the evidence for themselves.

This post deals with a similar puzzle, the identity of Elizabeth’s 2nd partner, John Snow.

Although John Snow and Elizabeth Anderson had 5 children between 1839 and 1847 the single piece of documentary evidence for the relationship is the baptismal register of St John the Baptist Church in Mudgee. This records that all 5 children were baptised by Reverend James Gunther on 9 March 1847. It describes the parents as John Snow, farmer, and Elizabeth Anderson, mother. It also says that their residence was at Moolarben, Reedy Creek.

Elizabeth married John Jones on 22 December 1848, less than 2 years later, when the Reverend Gunther again officiated. In the marriage register she is described as Elizabeth Anderson, spinster, indicating that she had never married John Snow.

What happened to John Snow, i.e. death or desertion, I don’t know, and may never know, given the conditions of frontier life at this period. Death records weren’t collected where death and burial occurred remote from town unless there were special circumstances such as a coroner’s inquest, police investigation or a clergyman attended the burial. John Jones was buried on the family property and there would be no death record for him if his mother had not placed a notice in the newspaper.

The Name “John Snow” in Colonial New South Wales

John Snow was a rare name in the colony of New South Wales (NSW) to 1840, which makes it possible to consider the probability that any of the known John Snows were likely to have encountered Elizabeth. In 1828, 68% of the population were either convicts or ex-convicts and although this proportion decreased over the next decade, it was more likely than not that her partner was from that segment of the population.

There were only 3 convicts with the name John Snow transported to Australia before 1840. These came on the Mary in 1822, Hindostan in 1821 and Lord Lyndoch in 1838.

A possible fourth, John Snow (Princess Royal, 1823) is listed at Bathurst in the 1825 convict muster. However there is no such convict on the indents for that vessel, he does not appear on the Colonial Secretary’s list showing the convicts from that ship sent to Bathurst or elsewhere, and there appear to be no other records of a John Snow from the Princess Royal. The record is likely to be a clerical or transcription error, as the document in question is a compilation from individual muster returns.

In terms of free settlers, I’ve been unable to locate a single individual named John Snow who was resident in the colony prior to 1840. This is consistent with the rarity of the name in the convict population, and the proportion of free settlers in the total population.

Timing a Pregnancy?

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve known some of the key facts about John Snow for a few years but failed to draw all the conclusions from them until now. One such fact is the date of birth of John and Elizabeth’s first child, Sarah, which was 29 January 1839 according to the baptism register. She was thus conceived around the 3rd week of April, 1838.

It’s possible to eliminate 2 of the 3 convicts on this conception date alone. John Snow of the Lord Lyndoch did not arrive in NSW until 8 August 1838, far too late for him to be Sarah’s father.

John Snow of the Mary was in gaol at the Moreton Bay penal colony between 1835 and 1838. He was returned to Sydney gaol on 6 July 1838 and was released on 12 July 1838, too late to be Sarah’s father.

Unless there was a “wild card” free settler, John Snow of the Hindostan is the last man standing to be Elizabeth’s partner.

All 5 children of John and Elizabeth had precise birth dates recorded when baptised. Could Sarah’s have been in error? Even if this was the case, there are other reasons to discount the the other John Snows as Elizabeth’s partner.

John Snow of the Mary was aged 61 years in 1838. He was a continuing criminal recidivist from the time of his arrival in 1822, and was likely the John Snow admitted to the lunatic asylum in 1833. He was a member of a Bathurst Road ironed gang in 1831, but otherwise all his records relate to Liverpool, Sydney or Parramatta. He was familiar with the Sydney and Parramatta gaols, the Phoenix convict hulk, the male factory at Parramatta, as well as the scourgers’s lashes. After his return from Moreton Bay he was admitted to Parramatta Gaol on 20 September 1838 (record notated “treadmill”) and Sydney Gaol (record notated “confine 14 days”) on 18 December 1838 and released on 2 January 1839. He is likely the John Snow whose death in Sydney General Hospital was recorded on 7 April 1839, however the burial registration does not permit positive identification. He had no credentials to have been a farmer at Reedy Creek in the 1840s and raising a young family.

I’ve not been able to trace John Snow of the Lord Lyndoch after his arrival in 1838 beyond the issue of his certificate of freedom in 1847 and his death in the Liverpool Hospital in 1878. Sarah Snow’s birth date would have to be out by 4 months at least for him to be in contention. With an occupation of stocking maker and an age of 22 in 1838 it’s also unlikely that he had the skills to be a farmer on the banks of Reedy Creek.

Locational Evidence

There is locational evidence that supports my hypothesis that Elizabeth’s partner was John Snow of the Hindostan.

This John is unequivocally identified in the 1828 census, employed as a shepherd by Richard Fitzgerald at his Dabey (Dabee) sheep station. This places him in the Bathurst/Mudgee region where Elizabeth spent most of her long life. His 5 years as an assigned servant of John Bowman at Richmond, and later as a shepherd for Richard Fitzgerald meant that he had been exposed to colonial cultivation and grazing practices and thus fitted to be farming at Reedy Creek. He was aged about 33 years in 1838, a good match for 23 year old Elizabeth.

John Snow of the Hindostan in the 1828 Census

Also, in 1842 a John Snow who was “free by servitude” appeared before the Bathurst Circuit Court charged with horse stealing, although the Solicitor General on the day elected not to prosecute. At that time John Snow of the Lord Lyndoch was not yet a free man so that John Snow of the Hindostan is the only person who meets the description of free by servitude. The date of this court appearance falls between the births of John and Elizabeth’s second and third children and again places John in the Bathurst/Mudgee region. Unfortunately, the court records (depositions) relating to the trial have not survived which is unfortunate as they may have provided additional identifying information.

There I rest my case, but not before noting that John Snow of the Hindostan and Elizabeth Anderson both had a relationship with either Richard Fitzgerald or his son and heir Robert Fitzgerald and/or their properties in the Bathurst/Mudgee district.

John’s employment by Fitzgerald at Dabee has already been mentioned. But when Elizabeth gave birth in 1849 to her son Luke James Jones it was at Crowie, a Fitzgerald property at Reedy Creek. Reedy Creek is mentioned on Luke’s baptism record, whilst “Reedy Creek, Crowie” is mentioned in Luke’s obituary published in 1920 in the Mudgee Guardian.

Elizabeth’s 4th partner, Anthony West, was likely the convict of that name (Mellish, 1829) whose convict master was Richard Fitzgerald and who also worked on Crowie.

Biography of John Snow of the Hindostan

John was born about 1805 in Kent, England. On FamilySearch there is only one matching baptism record in Kent, where a John Snow was baptised at St Mary Cray on 3 August 1806. However this record hasn’t been verified as applicable to this John Snow.

On 7 May 1821 he was convicted of larceny at Surrey Quarter Sessions and was sentenced to transportation for 7 years.

John travelled to Australia on the convict ship Hindostan, leaving Portsmouth on 29 July 1821. During the voyage he was taken ill and admitted to the sick bay. This is from the medical journal of the Hindostan:

“12 October 1821, opened two bottles of gravy and one of vegetable soup for convalescents. William Callowhill, convalescent. J Scalding and J Cooper convalescent. J Taylor rather better than yesterday, continued medicine. John [Powck?], convalescent. John Snow (convict boy) pain in the head and limbs, nausea and vomiting. …

24 October 1821, John Snow quite well discharged from the sick list.”

The Hindostan arrived in Sydney on 24 November 1821. John’s convict indent describes him as 5 foot 4 inches tall, complexion florid, brown hair, grey eyes. His occupation was given as “shepherd’s boy”. He was sent to Windsor to be assigned and ended up with John Bowman of Richmond, a free settler.

John is listed in the convict musters of 1822 and 1825 as a government servant of John Bowman. He is mentioned incidentally in a letter from the Colonial Secretary to Bowman dated 7 April 1825. Bowman died in December that year and it is presumed that John was transferred to Richard Fitzgerald of Windsor to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He obtained his certificate of freedom on 7 May 1828. That year he was recorded on Richard Fitzgerald’s census return as employed as a shepherd at Fitzgerald’s Dabee sheep station near Rylstone. It also recorded that his religion was Protestant.

If you’re a family history researcher and would like to see more details of the evidence discussed above please contact me by comment or email. You can find a link to my email address by checking the “About Borclaud” link at the top of this page.

(Herrmann Family History)

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