Edward Mitchell was born about 1798 in England. There is another record on the Hawkesbury Pioneer Register that says he was born in Norfolk, England. Edward’s convict records state he was 20 when he was tried at the Old Bailey in Middlesex so this would put his birthdate around 1798. On several records he is recorded as being a native of Norfolk, (I’m assuming the county).
Edward was indicted for stealing a coat from a Thomas Peters on the 19th December 1818. He was charged with grand larceny and tried at the Old Bailey in the January of 1819 and his prosecution read as follows.
‘JOHN GEE . I am a butcher, and live at Cowcross; I saw the prisoner go behind the Highgate errand-cart, and try to cut the baskets away; he left it, and went to Thomas Peters ‘s cart, followed it, and tried to cut a hamper away; he then jumped on the shaft, and took a great coat out – Owen and I took him. The prosecutor claimed the coat in the prisoner’s presence, at the watch-house.’
‘WILLIAM OWEN . I saw the prisoner in company with another, about a quarter before six o’clock, in St. John-street; he tried the cart, then turned round, and followed the prosecutor’s cart – the man was leading his horse, as it was a foggy night; I saw the prisoner take the coat out of the cart, and secured him with it – he said it was his own. The prosecutor came to the watch-house, and claimed it in the the prisoner’s presence – he described the coat.’
Not surprisingly Edward was found guilty and sentenced to be transported to the colonies for seven years.
By the 21st April 1819 Edward was firmly ensconced on the convict ship the John Barry and on his way to Australia. The John Barry arrived in Sydney on Sunday the 26th December 1819.
Edwards physical description was given as : Height Five feet and four inches, hair brown, eyes hazel and a fair to ivory complexion. In later records Edward would be recorded as being of a slender build and having a sallow complexion. (Life must have caught up with him by that stage).
During his years as a convict Edward worked around Sydney and up to Penrith etc. It was whilst working at a property called Nepean Park for a Mr. J. Single that Edward took off in 1824. He was soon captured and received 25 lashes for his troubles.
Edward spent some time at Emu Plains convict farm before winding up out at Argyle in the Hawkesbury (on property or area called Evan?) assigned to Joseph Griffith a farmer. In 1826 Edward got his certificate of freedom and was able to obtain a small block of 50 acres of land at the property he would call Fernhill. No doubt having been in the Hawkesbury for some time this stood as a good incentive for him to try his hand at farming.
Certificate of freedom obtained 19th January 1826, Description, eyes brown, hair brown, complexion sallow, height, 5 feet 5/2 inches, aged 27, Occupation Labourer, place of origin, Norfolk, sentence 7 years, place of conviction Middlesex Gaol in 1819. Transported aboard the John Barry. Certificate of freedom numbered 88/4765
Elizabeth (I’m exercising artistic licence and using the surname Coverley) was born in the colony on the 2nd March, 1815 in Parramatta, New South Wales.
Elizabeth is recorded under different names with her birth records. First I will establish that Coverley was her mother (Maria Coverley’s) name. There are several references to Elizabeth having the surname Coverley or spelt Coverly. Coverley is how her mothers name was spelled in England before coming out to Australia as a convict.
At the time that Elizabeth was born, I don’t know what her parents living arrangements were. Elizabeth’s mother Maria had been sent to the Parramatta women’s factory upon arrival in Australia on the Wanstead and in 1819 was recorded in the population books as residing there. Maria was recorded as a female convict.
Interestingly another one of our family, Catherine Latimore would also come on the Wanstead to Australia with Maria. Two generations later and their families would marry into each other with the Riley’s and the Mitchell’s in the Kurrajong region of the Hawkesbury.
Elizabeth was christened on the 2nd April 1815 at St John’s Church in Parramatta. This was officiated and registered in the parish records by the Rev. Samuel Marsden. ( he crops up in our various family records in quantity).
The parish records give Elizabeth’s mothers name as Maria Coverley and her father as William Badgood. (In fact his actual name was Bidgood). William was also a convict who had been given a life sentence and sent to Australia for stealing sheep.
Somewhere along the line Elizabeth’s father has drifted off into the never-never and at the age of five in 1820, Elizabeth’s mother married fellow convict James Lord at Parramatta. On this occasion she was recorded as ‘Cobley’. I don’t know if Elizabeth lost all contact with her natural father at that time but he is not mentioned again.
In 1822 Elizabeth who had now taken the surname Lord, was living with her mother and step-father and baby sister Ann Lord who were both employed by Mr Williamson still in the vicinity of Parramatta.
Elizabeth and her family would move around Sydney somewhat before 1825 when her step-father James Lord moved the family up to Richmond. It would appear at this time that both of her parents had been employed in work as servants.
Elizabeth would have the following nine half-siblings as a result of her mothers marriage to James Lord. Ann (b 1820), Esther (b 1823), James (b 1823 would die as an infant), Sarah (b 1825 – d 1827 died aged 2), Henrietta (b 1826 died as an infant), male brother unnamed (born and died 1827), John (b 1827), Maria (b 1828 died as an infant), Richard (b 1829).
You can’t even begin to imagine for a mother what it must have been to bury five of her ten children. I know things were tough back in those early days of Australia but even so this seems an unendurable hardship to lose so many children under the age of two and I would think the trauma on Elizabeth and her remaining siblings would also be quite substantial.
At the age of eighteen, Elizabeth had met Edward John Mitchell a nearby ex-convict neighbour. Their first child Mary Ann Mitchell was born in 1833 and she was rapidly followed by their son Edward Mitchell in 1844.
It was a year later on the 17th August 1835 in nearby Pitt Town at the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, that Elizabeth aged 20 married a much older Edward Mitchell aged 43.
Daughter Sarah would follow in 1836 then Jane in 1838 another son William in 1840. Daughter Susannah in 1843, Rosetta in 1845, Robert in 1847, Matilda Ann (my g/g grandmother) in 1850, Charlotte in 1852, Martha Ann in 1853 and rounded out by John in 1856. Yes there were twelve children.
On the 18th March 1838 Edward was taken into Windsor Gaol for ‘examination’. I’m not quite sure what this means and have yet to be able to establish why? Being unable to establish a conviction or court hearing as a result of his being ‘taken in’? I checked the NSW Gaol records with just a wide variable search of “Kurrajong” and there were many entries across the region for many folk in the time frame. It is possible that Edward could have been questioned over one of them as much as any incident. When you look at the types of charges that people were prosecuted on I would think most of the population would be guilty of at least one crime. Crime and punishment was certainly punitive. A simple complaint against another of a mild disagreement with the odd threatened curse word could put you in jail it would appear. Certainly if you were from the convict classes you had almost no hope of pleading your innocence or guilt.
In 1859 at a young age of forty-three Edward died leaving Elizabeth with children ranging from toddler’s through to adults with children of their own. This must have seemed an overwhelming time for Elizabeth. On his records it states ‘unspecified causes’ for reason of death.
It would appear that Elizabeth was not meant to be alone as she took up with a young man in James Overton of the nearby Kurrajong, Overton family. They had a daughter together, Elizabeth Ann Overton born on the 19th June 1860.
It is likely that as an older woman her mother Maria Lord (Coverley) either lived with Elizabeth and her family or nearby as she is recorded as dying in the region in 1864.
In 1875 at the age of 60 and with James at the age of 33, Elizabeth and James were married. Their daughter Elizabeth Ann was 15 at the time.
Quite tragically James died on the 13th March, 1878 as a result of the typhoid outbreak which got loose in the Kurrajong in late 1887. The news articles covering this terrible time are covered on this site on the page of William London. However there is one excerpt that concerns Elizabeth and her family specifically which I will repeat here.
From the The Ravages of Typhoid at Kurrajong FURTHER AND FULLER PARTICULARS (From the Evening News’ Special Correspondent) Richmond, Saturday evening.
‘From Richmond I got Mr. Houghton to drive me to Kurrajong. At the town off the Colo Road, I procured a horse from Mr. Charles Stanford, and proceeding along a road on the summit of a range for one mile, turned off beyond the Wesleyan Chapel, at the house of Mr. T. John, down a steep lane. Here I came on to the party preparing to put up seven Government tents for the sick people, and I interviewed three of the sick people.
From one of those, who had just recovered, I received the following account: – Edward Mitchell, a finely- built young fellow, evidently suffering from fever, said: “I live on this farm, and cultivate it, but for the last few months I have not been able to do anything. That is the reason you see it so much neglected; the sickness broke out about three months ago. Mrs. Robert London took it first, then her little boy about three years of age fell ill; this was three weeks before Christmas’.
Mrs London is my wife’s sister and being a relation and going backwards and forward to see each other, it spread. Mrs. Robert London died on Christmas Eve. Then her husband took ill and died, and his old father then took ill and died, a week after Mrs London’s death. I, who never had a day’s sickness in this healthy district, where I have lived all my life, took the same illness, and was given up for dead.
The next to take it – almost the same day as I fell ill – was Mrs London’s own sister, Margaret Overton, 18 or 19 years of age. Thomas Tierney got ill three or four days after me; then my poor old mother, Mrs Overton (she was married twice), was struck down in a few days. My wife, Mrs Mitchell, and my half-sister, Elizabeth Overton, 17 years of age, fell ill in a day or two.
My stepfather, Mr James Overton, got the typhoid fever, and we buried him yesterday. The next one who took it was my full married sister, Mrs Mary Ann McCabe; she is dead too. The great misfortune is, she was a widow and leaves eight children unprovided for, because their father and mother now are dead.
We buried my sister, Mrs McCabe, last Saturday. The next who took the fever was my other sister, Charlotte’s little boy. This little boy, Johnny, may get through, but it is doubtful. The next person who took it was Mrs Tierney, who is not expected to recover, according to the doctor’s belief, who visited her this morning.
The next victim was Mrs Tierney’s little girl, Angelina, about three years of age. The two next persons who took the dreadful fever were George Tierney, about twenty-three years of age, and John Overton, a married man, who is very bad. I got the doctor several times, but he could not save those I have mentioned who died, namely, Robert London, his wife, Mrs London, Mrs McCabe, James Overton, William Mitchell, my little boy, aged 1 year, and Clara Overton, the little girl, aged 3 years.
About fifty yards from where we stand, you see the remains of the house I burnt down, belonging to my mother. The doctor advised it. The house had four rooms and a kitchen. Now they are talking of burning where I live in the hollow. I cannot afford to have it done.”
This is Mitchell’s account. He says the fever comes on with a dreadful headache; then it is felt in the neck, and spreads through the body. Most of those who died were three weeks ill. After hearing his story, I went to the little bark cottage of Mitchell, in the hollow. I was horrified at the sight.
The hut was deserted, but under a row of peach trees were found human beings suffering badly. They were Mrs Overton, an old woman 61 years of age, and her daughter.’
- (These two were Elizabeth and her daughter Elizabeth Ann, they managed to beat the illness and did survive.) ‘
‘Thomas Tierney, a young fellow about 23, was crawling between the trees on his hands and knees. A perfect skeleton, sitting listlessly on the grave, was a very little girl. All the food was removed from the hut and scattered on straw outside.
The people were afraid to go inside the hut after the last two deaths in it. Near the peach trees, and twenty yards from the hut, I visited a skillion, covered by four sheets of bark, and the sides protected by old blankets. In here I found, lying on a cotton mattress, a poor woman in her clothes in great pain, and apparently dying.
On her breast I found her little girl, two years and three months old, also very ill with the fever. The poor woman is Mrs Michael Tierney, a resident of the Orange district. She had come down to nurse her son Thomas, and caught the disease while attending him.’
Aside from being neighbours, the Overton, Mitchell, Tierney and London families were also related having married between them. These families living in the Kurrajong were not wealthy people, they were hard-working people from fairly austere starts trying to build a living in what had prior to their families arrival been unwieldy scrub. These folk were pioneering settlers and farmers of the most stalwart variety.
So whilst it appeared that Elizabeth had survived the typhoid outbreak, her house had been burned down, her husband dead, many of her family and friends dead or grieving and a large family of orphaned grandchildren remained. Far from what Elizabeth had envisaged her older years would look like I’ll warrant.
James Overton is buried at St Phillips Cemetery, North Richmond with a headstone present.
On the 18th April 1879, Elizabeth (Coverley, Badgood, Lord, Mitchell, Overton) passed away aged 64 and her death registered in nearby Richmond. Given that it was only a year from the typhoid outbreak I wonder did she ever fully recover?
At this time, I’m not sure where Elizabeth is buried, nor have I been able to find any reference to her passing in the media archives.
On the 1885 parliamentary return of landowners; Edward and Elizabeth’s son Robert Mitchell was working the 110 acres of land at the property called Fern Hill. From what I understand so far, the property stayed in the Mitchell family well into the modern history.