The View From Mount Clarence

A look back at settlement along Western Australia's South Coast

Jimmy’s Harbour – Newell or Newhill? Part 1

An un-won argument and the Newell family of early Albany

Above: Stockphoto of “Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour” drawn from the West Australian Government website Beachsafe.Org.Au  The photo is one of very few taken oceanside, looking northward into the mouth of the locally famous cove.

Introduction

As the settlement at King George Sound begins to round on it’s 200th anniversary, there is gathering momentum behind a core of Albany historians determined to strengthen the town’s still lightly-grasped knowledge of itself. The way to do this, of course, is to research and write, to find stories inaccurate, incomplete or as yet untold, and to set them down in a format everyone can relate to.

This post sets out to untangle the Jimmy Newhill/Newell nomenclature dilema, an irritating naming issue that has confused both residents and visitors since anyone can remember. Glancing into it, the names date back to the time of Albany’s earliest European settlement, featuring the town’s NSW convict heritage, its exploitation at the hands of our daringly infamous small-boat mariners, and of a select few working-class men who came to leave a legacy. By way of inclusion, as these pages are want to do, this history also hones in on a much longed-for Indigenous identity, that of Jane Teanan, the search for whom carries on.

With regard to surname heritage, it’s no surprise the Newells and Newhills are confused as the names are variations of each other in two languages. Looking at British origins, which extended to America, Newhall, Newill, Nevill, Noel and Knowles are all related variations. By far the most common being Newell. But these names also evolved from the German Null/Noll/Nolle. Members of these families migrated across Europe and to America as well, where variations now include Newell, Newhall, Nihill, Nuehal,  etc.

But this is not a story of confused spelling.

Far from it.

Research underatakings of this depth and significance cannot be conducted without good reason and support. In the first instance this post is dedicated to Jill Bear who first challenged the assumption James Newell was a N.S.W. convict  well over twenty years ago. Her cries went unheeded but the research here suports her findings. Also, as this post ventures deep into the Aboriginal arm of the Newell family, I must warn readers of Indigenous origin that names of many deceased persons are described here. The intention of the TVFMC is neither to support nor challenge existing assumptions or beliefs within family groups, only to present information relating to those families in a light that may enable others to do so.  The View From Mount Clarence is the work of an Irish/Australian writer largely concerned with racial integration across the Bibblemun Boodja  (Noongar country), particularly the South Coast, and must be considered as such.
With deepest thanks to Paul Delavale, Gavin Jackman, Christine Jackson, Lauren Jackamn Rowe, Alan Rowe, Johnny Rowe, Judy Murphy, Craig McBride, Jill Bear, Susan Penter, Jeanette Peet, Michael Bock, Garry Leon Calgaret, Sue Lefroy at Albany History Collection, Roz Butterworth at Boorloo Boodja, and Vonda Last at Sandropers History (Patrick Bynder’s legacy)

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Pink Floyd, Time (Live, Delicate Sound Of Thunder)  Source: LyricFind  Songwriters: Gilmour /Mason/Waters/Wright.

In this time of Covid-19, of social distancing and self isolation, anxiety and listlessness combine to make uncomfortable bedfellows. The long hours waiting and worrying may be salved to some degree by our internet connectedness, by our ability to chase what’s going on in the world and to place ourselves within it via social media, but the confinement is restraining. While connectedness helps, our personal burdens can still make our lives seem tedious. Hours tick slowly by, stretching into whole days, even weeks, when very little gets done and the feeling life is painful, ordinary and long irks us all the more.

Imagine then what it might have been like in the Swan River Colony one-hundred-and-ninety years ago. In Albany, so the Perth newspapers made clear, every day was like Sunday. Only without sport and TV.  For everyday people, almost every day was slow, the torpor between daily chores staved-off by various means. For the moneyed, such as the family of Patrick Taylor Esq, it was religious adherence, the clinging to biblical notions of righteousness and salvation. Taylor habitually read to his family from the bible multiple times a week, and each Sunday without fail. Outside of that his daughters spent their hours waiting for their mother to bring about social engagements with male suitors across the colony, or else they dallied in a state of isolated whimsy entertaining fantasy fed by the English literature of the day. The ambitions of Taylor’s sons were expressed in dreams of wealth and glory generated by the great need for exploration and discovery, their eyes darting here and there between the few eligible women of the district looking to gain their attention. Those eyes lighting upon some of the socially inelligible too, whose interest they might entertain on the basis of a physical encounter.

On the other side of society the working-class had hope, but being on the outside their ambitions were harder to action. The very few young women about found themselves the target of inumerable advances and therefore tended to guard their affections all the more. A prize catch being the thing.  During the 1830s and 1840s, for the illiterate, largely single cobbers and comrades of King George Sound, high alcohol consumption was common, meaning staying productive and staying well was often a question of staying sober. These tradesmen, soldiers, labourers and mariners constituted a motley but not altogether unholy mix who longed for the company of a woman, but because there were so few much of their spare time was spent carousing with each other. By way of sexual encounter, prostitution came to town in an underground fashion, manifesting by way of disguised occupancies at certain hotels. Crossing the racial divide wasn’t uncommon either, those indigenous daughters of the town were lustfully eyed, but the cultural differences were vast and the sense of European superiority such a barrier to social acceptance unions rarely became public, let alone lasted.

Then came the 1850s, advent of the maritime steam-age at Albany town, and post poison-bush outside it. This was a decade of burgeoning urban and pastoral expansion made possible by the arrival of the mailships and the convict surge. So many more European men, the majority illiterate, came to enlarge the new society’s number; yet by way of gender inequality stretched it to frayed-string proportions. Prostitution remained, probably grew. More importantly, with this decade, the most damaging of all to traditional Noongar culture along the South Coast, came the guerilla war talked about by Bob Howard. Fought on the front line between pastoral interests and localised clans, Indigenous women served as the spoils of battle. Many becoming matriarchs of the New Noongar families we know today.

And still there were more. Between the settlers and convicts came a steady stream of ship’s deserters. Working class men of wide and varied origin who, laying eyes upon the shores of King George Sound, imagined a future beyond their past and beyond their present world of working decks, stinking bilges, racial prejudices, and the barking, stinging commands of their vessell’s heirachy, to the point they stole overboard and swam ashore in the darkness to escape; sometimes alone, sometimes in numbers. This trickle of men may be said to have started with the earliest sealers and continued right through to the end of the 19th Century, mostly via the many whaling ships that came to work off the coast. Some of these men disappeared without trace, some moved on, while some competed for those few available women to succeed and marry into the region, creating families alive and well and abundant today.

We’ve talked about the rise of pastoralism in these pages, the role played by shepherds and farmhands, as we’ve talked of the South Coast’s earliest small-boat men, those sealers-come-whalers whose cold, brutal, precarious existences made murderers and slaveholders of many; vassals and victims of most of the rest. Sarah Drummond wrote of the captive women held by these often mixed-race men of far-flung origin, as they plied the coves and islands first for seal fur, then for whale flesh and salvage, while telling the savage yet beautiful tale of The Sound.  No one yet has tackled the story of the South Coast’s jumpships, nor of the shepherds and farmhands, in the same way, paying homage to the cross-cultural hardships experienced in those arenas.

But they will come, literature has a habit of finding stories that need to be told.

And so to begin. . .

Is it Jimmy Newhills Harbour, or Jimmy Newell’s Harbour?

Is it just a mis-spelling of the same name, or were they two completely different characters? And if two, what did each of them do to give rise to the most persistant unresolved story of Albany’s early days?

The answer is they were two different people, both with remarkable stories in tow, and both related to Albany’s early Aboriginal families. But not only were their patriarchs individual men, they came from eras estranged by a whopping 50 years. In a town as old as Albany is now, 50 years represents a quarter of its existence. But in a town as old as Albany when the argument started, half a century was half its life. Put another way, when the argument started the Newell era was over, no one by that name lived at Albany anymore. Yet the memory persisted. Dressed by story, legend had already asserted itself over fact.

In contrast, the Newhills were only getting started. Their story was large and all-encompassing among themselves, but within the Albany of the day, just another case of opportunism; of taking a leap and grabbing hold.

These days things are different. Both the Newells and Newhills can claim beginnings during the first hundred years, both families are now regarded as ‘old’, and the time has come to tell their stories not as they have been misinterpreted or dressed-up to be, but as they happened.

The Newell name at Albany first appears in the archives during 1831, and relates to the earliest Swan River Colony days where roamed Mokare, Nakinah and Coolbun, Captain Collet Barker, Dr Alexander Collie, the Geake and Morley families along with the likes of Bob Gamble and Black-Jack Anderson. It is an important and telling family history, deeply embedded in local lore and critical to our understanding of what it was like for ordinary people during that time. But as we shall see, it is an incomplete story punctuated by blind spots and dead-ends.

Edward ‘Jimmy’ Newhill’s arrival occurred in the early 1880s. His story is equally fascinating and difficult to determine, but certainly falls in with family lore that he was a jump-ship contractee from an American whaler who married in to the establishing Cullinane family whose patriarch, Timothy, was an ex-convict famine victim from County Cork in Ireland.

But before we dive deep into the detail of those stories it makes sense to first look into the why and wherefore of how the names came into competition; and this, as it turns out, is a decent enough tale on its own.

Robert Stephens and the quest for historical authority

According to the archives, bureaucratic confusion appears to have surfaced during 1934 when the Albany Tourist Association (ATA) asked the Albany Roads Board (ARB) to help with the construction of a new road around Princess Royal Harbour to Frenchman’s Bay. Development focus at the time lay on the class-defined Middleton Beach Golflinks but to the Tourist Association there was no denying the visual allure of the (as yet unnamed) Torndirrup National Park, and that along with its reputation for good fishing Albany’s South Coast constituted a substantial draw in its own right. With quickly raised funding of some £37.00 the ATA’s request was accepted and the ARB’s grader subsequently commissioned. By the close of summer season 1934/35 the effect was clear. The Gap, Natural Bridge, Blow Holes, Salmon Pools, what the ATA called ‘Newhill’s Boat Harbour’, and Frenchman Bay itself, all became key points along Albany’s spectacular new automobile-friendly tourist route.

Above: An abandoned drawn grader, similar to the type used to fashion Frenchman’s Bay Road in December 1934. Image drawn from the open internet, source unknown.

Now, at pretty much exactly the same time Albany’s salivating business fraternity was welcoming a new resident, an ex Perth, Pingelly and Katanning man with a burgeoning historical bent and solid State pedigree. Accountant by day, Robert Stephens had been a member of the W.A. Historical Society for three years and since arriving in Albany had hit upon the wellspring of his out-of-hours passion. Almost immediately, 48 year-old Stephens’ influence was felt and within a couple of years he had become a powerhouse collector, organiser and chronicler of the town’s past, using local papers The Mount Barker and Denmark Record  and The Albany Advertiser as his publishing medium.  Stephens was at his prime around the 100th anniversary of the cross-Nullabor trek Edward John Eyre and Wylie made in 1841 and along with Malcolm Uren, authored a book called Waterless Horizons, centred on Eyre’s life and focussed largely on that expedition. Uren was a career journalist and sub-editor at West Australian Newspapers during this time and, being a noted enthusiast of W.A. history himself, was a strong ally. Stephens advised and contributed to the West Australian and Western Mail newspapers on matters relating to Albany’s history, effectively acting as the town’s correspondent.

And he continued at it, building his reputation for decades.

Above: Malcolm Uren (Author) and Albany’s Robert Stephens (Research Assistant). The two co-produced Waterless Horizons, a biography of Edward John Eyre. Source: drawn from the open internet, origin and producer unknown

Today, Robert Stephens is recognised as the father of Albany’s early history collection, his legacy deeply respected and critically valued. His body of work, which is substantial and contains many original documents, is digitally accessible via the Albany History Collection at Albany Public Library and can be browsed using their Spydus Search Function.

Though far from convinced, because of the interest generated by the new road and because of  assertions on the part of Stephens himself, from 1935 The Albany Advertiser began referencing Jimmy ‘Newell’s’ Harbour in news items and advertising. This conflicted with use of Jimmy ‘Newhill’s’ Harbour, which the paper previously held unchallenged. The following year Stephens stamped his view via a series of Albany Advertiser published pieces called ‘The First Settlement in Western Australia’ in which he reviewed the town’s early days in decade lots. Specifically, on November 16, 1936, he covered the period 1847 to 1856 noting that on June 13, 1855;

“James Newell, after whom Jimmy Newell’s boat harbour was originally called, died in Albany.”

So what did Stephens know about James Newell and his harbour that the descendants of the Cullinane and Newhill families didn’t?  Or, what did he disbelieve about the Newhill claim that everyone heretofore had accepted? At the time Jimmy Newhill himself was only ten years in the grave and his wife, Elizabeth, was still there to be consulted. Whether she was or not Stephens neither addressed the Newhill claim, nor explained the Newell one; at least not via the newspapers.

Timing is a terrible thing and ten years later the matter arose again, almost as if to make use of the recent passing of Newhill’s wife, Elizabeth. Once again, via the newspaper, Stephen’s re-asserted his view, stating in an October 31st Advertiser piece titled “Early Albany”;

The only solution to the derivation of the name Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour is that included in Major Lockyer’s party from N.S.W. 121 years ago was a convict named; James Newhill, who remained here when his time expired and for years sailed the coast around Albany, mutton birding and sealing.

Stephens was more determined than ever, but something went wrong this time. Though the newspaper printed his claim it retained the original spelling, mistakenly or otherwise. Adding to the issue, with the summer holiday season approaching, barely a fortnight later the Advertiser narrated a major pictorial centered on the magificence of Albany’s stellar stretch and splashed it across its centre pages under the banner  “Nature in Many Moods … at Albany’s South Coast”, and in it came mention once again of Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour. This time at length and with an annotated message.

NEWHILL’S HARBOUR.

Back to the main road we take another right turn a little farther along and come to the brink of Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour. (Robert Stephens has it that this is Jimmy Newell’s Harbour, but we bow to long usage.) Here the seas have taken a huge bite at the land, digging out a cleft some four hundred feet deep, perhaps a quarter of a mile long, and some hundred and fifty yards wide. It is an arduous climb down to the lake-like inlet of the sea below, and as we get closer we are surprised to find that the pebbles which fringe the water are really boulders of great size. Such is the dwarfing effect of streams of crystal clear water, all heavily impregnated with lime, and suggesting further evidence that under those lowering hills there may be spectacular caverns. Even further evidence may be had by following the foot of the Western wall of this cleft for fifty yards or so, round a jutting mass of granite. Here there is a tiny grotto, entered on hands and knees through a small hole, and filled with a most wonderful collection of living stalactitic formations. It did not take us long to get down into Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour, but it is not half so simple to get out again. It is in fact a very arduous climb, and we feel, by the time we stand once more beside our car, that it would be a fine thing if one of those clear, cold streams which tinkle so merrily 400 feet below could be induced to flow on the surface.

The Advertiser owned up, it disagreed with Robert Stephens.

Mr N. C. V. (Noel) Whiteford was Managing Editor of the Albany Advertiser right through the central decades of the 1900s, and was in charge during this time. The nomenclature scuffle was not of his making but it can be fairly reckoned he picked that fight and stuck with it, knowing the battle had to be gentlemanly and would not be easy. Whiteford had married one of the company’s employees, Mayfred Williams, in 1937, after she had started there seven years earlier. Mrs Whiteford died suddenly in August 1841, aged just 28 years. There was a large funeral attended by many town names, each of them printed in the paper. One, looking back from this far, from this angle, is notable by its absence.

By 1946 Robert Stephens was not only an established town professional, but life member of the Royal West Australian Historical Society and Albany’s correspondent to their prestige Early Days journal. Even though he wasn’t a native of the town, no one had done anything like the research he had and it would take a mighty argument to prove him wrong. The Newhill folk lore was dubious, Stephens must have thought.  His Christian name ‘Edward’ and middle name ‘August’ hardly aligned with Jimmy. Did Stephens surmise Newhill’s supposed nickname ‘Jimmy’ was one he usurped in order to uphold his bragadoccio and claim the harbour as his?

For Stephens there had to be hard evidence, supporting documentation. And there was. Whatever drove him  away from the Newhills, the Newell corner was supported by a critical document as well as embedded lore. James Newell was an original inhabitant and cited among the records as a boatman, a sealer, and muttonbirder. Surely the harbour was his.

Once his mind was made up, Stephens was locked on.

Three years later again, the much publicised and diligently maintained Frenchman’s Bay Road had continued its growth in both stature and popularity. So much so that on April 25th, 1949, when 55 year old Fred Allen, a well known farmer from Kendendup, was washed off the rocks before his family while fishing there, the landmark cove made news across the State. Not as Newell’s, but as ‘Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour’. And not just in a single repeated article, in multiple articles penned directly out of Albany. That resilient force within the Advertiser was alive and well.

But Stephens’s ally in Perth was not mute either and subsequent articles in both the Westerm Mail and West Australian referred not only to Jimmy ‘Newell’s’ Harbour, but either humorously or pointedly to ‘Mr J. Newell’s Harbour’. When the latter appeared, the Albany Advertiser wisecracked;

One of the sub-editors at the “West” apparently had a rush of politeness to the head the other day when he dealt with an item referring to Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour. He made it “Mr. J. Newell’s Harbour.” In future, when you pass the spot, you will kindly raise your hat, courteously, to Mr. J. Newell.

Noel Whiteford, also alive and well, was not backing down.

Since those years much less appears to have been said and the dispute slumped into the jaded arms of ambivalence. The damage had long been done though. By the 1970s no one knew and hardly anyone cared anymore, it was just one of those irritating confusions people tolerated because, really, how much did it matter? It’s not as if anything important happened there, it’s just a place where someone hid out, or tied up, or sought some kind of shelter. Hardly earth shattering stuff.

Unless you’re a descendant of Jimmy Newhill that is. To the Newhills it did matter, and it still does. To this day the wider Newhill family maintain their claim and work to dispell the confusion. They did it through the Albany Advertiser when their revered ancestor Martha Jackman (nee Newhill – daughter of Jimmy) passed away in 1984, and as recently as November, 2019, when the subject went public again via the Historic Albany Facebook page.

Above: An Albany Advertiser article from 1984 following the passing of Martha Jackman (nee Newhill), in which the family story of Jimmy Newhill’s arrival at Albany is aired. Image: courtesy Jackman family papers. Source: Albany Advertiser, 1984

But are we any closer to the truth?

Robert Stephens is Albany’s hardest working and most respected collector of historical information across all time and he refused to accept the Newhill claim. Was it simply because there was no hard evidence? Or was there something else gnawing at his craw, something related to a weakness in the Newhill tale? Just because the Newhill case had support in the form of an Advertiser insider doesn’t, or shouldn’t, mean Stephens was wrong.

The only way for us to decide is to take another look. With today’s advances in archive search technology much more is known about both the Newells and Newhills than ever before.

James Newell (and family) of Elstead, Surrey.

The true identity of James Newell is far from straight forward and there is a great deal to get through in order to lay out an accurate, verifiable version of his family history.

The first thing to do is weed out the falsities.

The firmest held of these is that posited by the Erickson Bicentennial Dictionay of Western Australians under the name James Thomas Newell b. 1790 (pg 2310)  The Erickson biographies, while a gigantic resource of vital importance to the State, have been taken as unquestioned truth by most researchers and as a result cemented myth among far too many family histories. In this particular case, Erickson asserts James Newell was also known as Thomas Newell and thereby names him as James Thomas Newell, claiming he was a convict from Tasmania who was ‘permitted to stay behind when Lockyer went to NSW’. As Lockyer left King George Sound on HMS Success early in April, 1827, a tad over three months after arriving, it means Newell must have arrived on the Amity, which, as we shall see, he did not.

Above: Rica Erickson’s useful but flawed entry for James Thomas Newell carries the mistaken interpretations of earlier histrorians as well as her own, perpetuating the myth he was a NSW convict. Image: Excerpt from page 2310 of the Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians. Source: On-line version.

This legend of James Thomas Newell was embellished from 1992 by one Joseph Newell who, believeing he had found his great-grandfather buried at King George Sound, wrote to the Albany Library from England, informing them of the story. According to Joseph Newell, his great-grandfather was also born in 1790 in Cambridgeshire, England and that as consequence of playing an active role in the Littleport Riots of 1816, was convicted of stealing at the Isle of Ely General Session and sentenced to death.

Littleport became a flashpoint of social unrest in England as the working-class grew ever more desperate under the plight forced upon them by draconian austerity measures consequent (lately) of the Napoleonic Wars waged by their monarchy. His sentence subsequently commuted to life in prison,  James Thomas Newell was trasported to New South Wales aboard the Sir William Bensley to live out his days a convict in the colonies After a period in Liverpool, what is now part of Sydney’s western suburbs, Newell was then believed to have been transferred via Tasmania to King George Sound, arriving on the Amity in late 1826, or if that couldn’t be proven then some other way, some other time, prior to 1831, whereupon he was given his freedom, reunited with his family and came to labour in relative comfort until passing away at Limeburners Creek in June, 1855.

This cobbled story solved a problem for budding Newell family genealogists (there are over 130 trees on Ancestry.com boasting it) as much as it allowed local history buffs at Albany to think James Thomas Newell simply had to be our man. But the case is implausible because the birth of our James Newell’s children occurred in England during the 1820s. Also, as I have discovered; James Thomas Newell who was transported aboard Sir William Bensley and sent to Liverpool (NSW) as convict number 9717, was recorded as living in Liverpool in 1823, was recommended for and won his ticket of leave in March, 1825, in Liverpool, reported by affidavit his Ticket of Leave had been lost lost in June, 1826, at Liverpool, was recorded in the 1828 census working as a labourer in Liverpool, and who died at Liverpool, February 1834. Therefore, this man could not have been aboard the Amity in 1826, nor in Elstead, Surrey, giving rise to a family of eight children.

By process of elimination we must now also discount the James Thomas Newell Mr Robert Stephens most determinedly imposed upon the town one hundred years after the fact, and from which Erickson’s Dictionary almost certainly based its entry. Stephens was right in that first evidence of the Newell name at Albany comes from a document addressed to Peter Brown, Colonial Secretary, at Perth, dated 16th April, 1831, but that man was Thomas Newell. not James. The signature on the letter is difficult to make-out but such correspondence generally came from the Government Resident, who at the time (by a matter of days) was Dr Alexander Collie. The letter commences;

Sir,

I beg to state for the information of his Excellency the Lieut Governor that an emancipated convict, Thomas Newell, has remained here by permission of Captain Barker and Lieut Carew.

Once again note the name reads Thomas Newell, not James. The rest of the letter is concerned with other matters and doesn’t warrant transcription here.

Above: Letter to Colonial Secretary Peter Brown dated 16 April, 1831, revealing ex-convict Thomas Newell had remained at King George Sound after HMS Isabella had departed for NSW with the outgoing 39th Regiment under Captain Collet Barker. The incoming 63rd Regiment was under the command of Lieutenant Carew. The signature on the letter does not appear to be that of the newly appointed Government Resident Dr Alexander Collie. Source: 

This letter must be the record Robert Stephens hung his hat upon when he stated in 1946 that James Newell was a member of the Amity’s original convict deployment which arrived over the Christmas period of 1826. However, examination of the convict muster for the Amity on that voyage reveals neither a James nor a Thomas Newell. Searches of the archives relating to prisoners at King George Sound during the military era, which extended to late March, 1831, turn up no such name either. The closest name on the list is that of Thomas Noel, a boatman from Galway, Ireland.

Above: The convict muster under Major Lockyer which arrived at King George Sound aboard the Amity on December 25th, 1826, did not include a Thomas Newell. The nearest likely identity was Thomas Noel, a 24 year old boatman from Co. Galway in the West of Ireland. Source: Image taken from the booklet ‘She was the Brig Amity‘ by Les Johnson. Original documentation from State Library of Western Australia. (Note also here the convict Matthew Gill.)

Because of the Erickson entry there are other mix-ups and misinterprepations.

In 2004 Amy Gados, an Archaeology student at the University of Western Australia, produced an M.A. thesis titled The Historical Arhaeology of The Old Farm at Strawberry Hill: a rural estate 1827-1889, Albany, Western Australia, in which she examines the Spencer workforce. Gados discusses a man named only as Neale, who she says was a former convict issued with a ticket of leave, who was cited in Captain Barker’s journal entries relating to the establishment of the Farm, and who (she says) appears in the Farm’s log during the Spencer era under the name Newell, and who along with son Charles is listed both as hired labour and as a leasee of adjoining lots to the Farm homestead right up to the 1880s.

Gados concludes the man named in these records as Neale was none other than our James Newell. However, while the Farm’s log references to hired labour under the name Newell between 1836 and 1838 correspond to our man and his second son Charles, those she cites during 1830/31 and from 1852 onwards, can not and do not.

To put this to rest we can say:

It’s important to make this point loud and clear because Amos’s thesis went on to form basis of the social component of further research into The Old Farm conducted by academics on behlaf of the property’s current owners The National Trust, which means any material subsequently produced by the Trust relating to the Newells and The Old Farm Strawberry Hill is incorrect.

Gados claims that Newell and another convict named Nathan had received tickets of leave and so were not recorded in the final extant muster for the Sound taken by Barker, but Nathan had in fact escaped in January, 1831, around eight weeks prior to the NSW contingent’s final departure and it is not clear if he was recaptured (see Commandant of Solitude.) So you see, it helps to read the text rather than draw assumptions from the index.

Working in the business of history isn’t easy, and nor is approving the many theses students produce in order to win their degrees, but there is almost an argument against the production of such theses when they rely on (misread) secondary sources and are therefore constant in promoting error. I’ve read a lot of disserations and theses from across the West Australian spectrum and found plenty of mistakes, most of them (but far from exclsuively) born and promulgated at degree level, and would be inclined to make a din about it if I didn’t know how complicated the business of unravelling the truth really is, and therefore how easy it is to get things wrong. Also, it is important to recognise that all claims, so long as they are at least reasonably founded, provide platforms upon which further work can either be added or, as in this case, proved wrong.  But still, basing a conclusion on a name in the index, without even reading the text?  Sorry, but for an honors thesis its not good enough and undermines trust in the remainder of the document. Despite the work that’s gone into it.

Anyway, Gados’s thought processes are clearly influenced by Erickson’s Dictionary along with the same April, 1831, letter to the Colonial Secretary which Robert Stephens bought into, in which we learned that Thomas Newell was ‘permitted’ to stay behind.

Because there is no surviving muster for the Isabella as she left King George Sound on 29th March, 1831, with Barker, the soldiers and convicts aboard, we don’t know for certain who left and who stayed. Matthew Gill and Stephen Thacker, also original convict arrivals on the Amity, look to have remained behind too. On initial observation it appears Gill may have gone on to marry James Newell’s eldest daughter Mary (before leaving with her for Sydney), while Thacker looks to have won his freedom ahead of time as he was recorded as being ‘an emancipated convict’ in Albany during December 1830 (subject to primary source verification); three months prior to the Isabella’s departure. (See Thacker entries in The Bicentennial Dictionay of Western Australians; Pg 3032  here).

Above: Entries for Stephen and William Thacker recorded in the Erickson Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australans (Pg. 3032). Stephen Thacker arrived into NSW on a seven year term aboard the Asia in 1825. Like Thomas Noel, Stephen Thacker’s sentence expired during the NSW military occupation at King George Sound. There may be some relationship between Stephen and William but this is not known. Image: from Friends of Battye Library website: Source: The Bicentennial Dictionay of Western Australians (on-line).

In any case, having found no records confirming the arrival of James Newell Snr and family, yet locating more than sufficient grounds to dismiss the notion our James Newell was a convict at King George Sound during the NSW military period, let’s look closely at the freed convict named in April, 1831, as Thomas Newell. Could this be a variation in the spelling of the Galway boatman, Thomas Noel?

Records show that Noel was convicted of vagrancy in Cork on 5th April, 1824, and shipped out to Sydney Cove on a seven year sentence aboard the Hooghley, departing Cork 5th January, 1825. Over one year after arrival Noel was transferred to King George Sound aboard the Amity and recorded at the Sound as part of the 1828 NSW census. He was also listed in Barker’s September, 1830, KGS muster, and then again, multiple times, in Barker’s journals up until 2nd February, 1831, just six weeks prior to the handover.  By March 29th that year Noel was just one calendar week away from completeing his full seven year sentence.

Searches of the Ancestry.com data base indicate Noel was an unusual name in Ireland at this time, especially in the area of Galway. Newell was far and away more common. Given the convict who stayed behind at Albany in 1831 gave his name as Thomas Newell, does this indicate Thomas Noel was convicted in Ireland under the alias Noel, and that his name all along was Thomas Newell?

Yes.

To be thorough, lets look at other possibilities;

  1. There was a Thomas Newell convicted at the Oxford Quarter Session in July, 1829, and shipped out to New South Wales on a seven year sentence aboard the Katherine Stewart Forbes, arriving into Port Jackson February, 1830. There is no sign of a transfer to King George Sound and, in line with his sentence, it wasn’t until 1836, in Victoria, when this man won his Freedom.
  2. There was a Thomas Noel who captained the Adeonaa ship embroiled in an 1854 legal case involving the salvage of Honora Maria, a vessel run aground at Lacepede Bay, Cape Jaffa, east end of  The Coorong, South Australia. Nothing is said of Noel in the newspaper reports other than that he was master of the ship during the years 1853 and 1854. It isn’t clear whether Captain Noel is our Thomas Noel/Newell.

Above: Excerpt showing Thomas Noel’s 5th April, 1824, conviction and transportation to Australia aboard the Hooghley, departing Cork, Ireland, 5th January 1825. By the time Barker’s convict unit departed King George Sound on 29th March, 1831, Noel was exactly one week shy of completing his full seven-year term. Source: Colonial Office and Predecessors: Alphabetical list of convicts with particulars 1788-1825; 1840-1842; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication CO 207/9); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. In Australian archives the collection is referenced as CO207/1-3. Image: courtesy Ancestry.com

POSTSCRIPT – 13 June 2023

Documents recently uncovered at the West Australian State Archives reveal a Thomas Noal was in Albany at least 18 months after the arrival of Dr Alexander Collie in March 1831.  The document, dated 4th October 1832, confirms acceptance of Collie’s application for two land grants on behalf of Thomas Noal. N-O-A-L is the third spelling of this man’s surname we have found, but it is clearly evident they each refer to the same person. This lends weight to the idea Noal/Noel/Newell was one of three boatmen/sealers/muttonbirders who escorted Collie to Coffin Island in June, 1831. (See Black Anderson; A Story of the South Coast Part 2a) Also, it distances any potential link between this man and James Newell of Elstead, Surrey, who appears to have arrived with his family as part of the Spencer retinue during the latter months of 1833. Thomas Noal once again disappears from the records at Albany after October 1832. No town lots appear in his name on surviving records.

 Above: In October 1832, The Surveyor General at Perth, John Septimus Roe, wrote to Alexander Collie at Albany confirming the Governor, James Stirling, had sanctioned application for a town block plus a four-acre suburban allotment in favour of Thomas NOAL. This almost certainly confirms the ex-convict mistakenly named Thomas Newell, was in fact the Amity prisoner Thomas Noel. Noal/Noel stayed at Albany for around 18 months after gaining his freedom but nothing further has so far been discovered relating to his movements after this time. Image: Photographed copies of the actual handwritten letter by J.S. Roe to Alexander Collie at Albany, regarding Noel/Noal’s application for land at Albany, dated 4th October 1832, just as Collie was preparing to go back to Perth to take up the position of Colonial Surgeon. Source: W.A. State Records Office, Ref; S2528/01-04

END POSTSCRIPT

So let’s now look at the clearest, most assertive record we have, the one relating to James Newell Snr, verified as being in Albany with his family when 16 year-old postmaster Edward May Spencer collated the town’s count of 160 persons on 1st January, 1836. At this time, according to the census, the Newell family comprised;

  • James Snr, (40), Labourer
  • Wife Hannah (40)
  • Daughter Dorothy (22)
  • Son James (18)
  • Son Charles (16)
  • Daughter Caroline (14)
  • Son William (8)

The first questions begged by this revelation are not only how an emancipated convict might have fathered his youngest children while on the other side of the world, but how he could afford to bring a family of that size all the way to Western Australia?

The Albany census of 1836 is said to have been compiled by the Postmaster but it is signed by the Government Resident of the time, the Postmaster’s father, Sir Richard Spencer. The record lists James Newell Snr as being from England. However, his wife Hannah and their children are all listed as being from Devonshire. This is curious, as the Spencers are from neighbouring Dorsetshire and Spencer’s wife’s family were spread across the border in both counties. Does this suggest the Newell’s were known to the Spencers? The two families appear to have arrived around the same time, but there is nothing to indicate the Newell’s were aboard Buffalo, the ship the Spencers arrived on.

In that same 1836 census we also learn there was 16 year-old Thomas Gill in town. According to records this could be one of two men. First, a Thomas Gill was associated with the Spencer family and did arrive on the Buffalo, probably with his brother. This Thomas Gill and his brother appear to have been indentured hands to Sir Richard Spencer. According to newspapaer obituaries Thomas was born in March, 1816, making him fully 20 years of age at the time of the census. The obituary reports that in 1839 Gill became a  surveyor’s assistant (chainer) who emigrated from the Swan River colony to South Australia (via Launceston, Tasmania, where he is said to have searched for his brother) during September/October, 1844. In Adelaide Gill met George Grey who had been RM at Albany latter to the death of Spencer (1839/40) indicating he had been strongly associated with the town during this time. Grey employed Gill on the Adelaide roads as surveyor. This Thomas Gill then married (April, 1848) Maria Selby and had three children, including a son, also Thomas Gill, who became a prominent South Australian civil servant. The brother of Thomas Gill was probably Matthew Gill, the man who married Mary Newell in September, 1834, under Spencer’s governmental auspices. Importantly, the Spencer census of Januray 1836 does not show Matthew Gill or Mary Newell living in Albany at that time.

The possible second Thomas Gill at Albany around this time may have been a 15/16 year old boy (b. 1820) who may have arrived in June 1834 aboard the James Pattison. Because of his age it was suggested this Thomas Gill was one of the 29 Children’s Friend Society sponsored juvenile passengers, a number of whom disembarked at Albany. See The Children’s Friend Society by Geoff Blackburn.  In the January 1836 census the name Thomas Gill appears, describing a youth aged 16 years, from Dorsetshire, who was servant to Sir Richard Spencer. Given the age, the Erickson/Statham Drew entry may have been interpreted as a boy aboard the James Pattison, but despite the two-year age discrepancy is more likely to be the surveyor described above.

Above: Government Resident Sir Richard Spencer married settlers Mary Newell and Matthew Gill on 18th September, 1834. According to the entry in Spencer’s files Matthew Gill was born in Jersey but was lately from Shute (Axminster), Devon, while Mary he writes was born in Halstead (perhaps Walstead) when he means Elstead, Surrey. Matthew Gill’s origins described here do not correspond with the convict detail of the man of the same name, which asserts that Mathew Gill was a labourer from Galway, Ireland. Note also the witnesses: these were William Jenkins, another Spencer indentured servant; Morris (Maurice) Brown, a 22 year old blacksmith from Cork, Ireland, also indentured to the Spencer family; and Spencer Trimmer from Bunbury who was brother to Arthur Trimmer who was about to marry Spencer’s daughter Mary Anne and take her up to York for a period. The Trimmers were monied settlers known to the Spencers prior to arrival. Image: Spencer’s hand-fashioned marriage certificate set down 18.9.1834 at Albany.  Source: Microfilm copies of official correspondence sent by Spencer to the Colonial Secretary in Perth between September 1834 and December 1836.

Searches of the local newspaper and archival database reveal little of the Newell family’s origins. However, through the English records searchable via Ancestry.com we find clear information on what, when assembled, makes up the exact same family;

  • James Newell, (thought to be James Newill, father Francis, mother Else) baptised 9th December, 1792, Esher, Surrey. Died 13th June, 1855, Albany, Western Australia.
  • Hannah Hall, baptised 24th January, 1790, Elstead, Surrey. Died, 10th April, 1839, Albany, Western Australia.
  • James Newell and Hannah Hall, both illiterate, married at St James Parish Church, Elstead, Surrey, 13th November, 1809.
  • Daughter Emily, baptised 11th November, 1810, Elstead, Surrey.
  • Daughter Mary, baptised 3rd January 1830 (aged 17 years), married Matthew Gill, 18th Sept, 1834, Albany, Western Australia. Died Sydney, 1840 aged 28 years.
  • Daughter Dorothy, christened 1st December, 1816, Elstead, Surrey. Died Dolly Petit, 1885, Albany, Western Australia.
  • Son James, baptised 15th August, 1819, Elstead, Surrey. Died 3rd November, 1874, Albany.
  • Son Charles, baptised 6th January, 1822, Elstead, Surrey. Died 5th October, 1841, Kendenup, Western Australia.
  • Daughter Caroline, baptised 25th April, 1824, Elstead, Surrey.
  • Daughter Harriet, born 1826, buried 4th September, 1826, Elstead Surrey.
  • Son William, baptised 27th December, 1829, Elstead, Surrey.
  • Daughter Eliza, baptised 29th January 1832, Elstead, Surrey. Buried 11th March, 1832, aged three months.

These records prove the Newell’s could not have left England before the Australian autumn of 1832.

Above: Officials at Albany thought Newell’s wife and children were from Devonshire, where as James Newell himself was registered simply as ‘English’. Birth records contrast with this, but the census may suggest the Newell family was known to the officials before they arrived. The census does not include Mary (Newell) and Matthew Gill, indicating they had the left the town by this time Image: Excerpt from the hand-written census taken at Albany in March, 1836, by the Postmaster’s office but signed by the Government Resident, Sir Richard Spencer. Source: Albany History Collection: Bookmark link here:

Above: The signage at Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour attributes its nomenclature to James Newell, who the text says was an original convict at Albany from 1826 and whose family arrrived from Tasmania to join him from 1832 onwards.  We now know there was no James Newell aboard the Amity and that the James Newell who lived at Albany some time later could not have been a NSW convict at all as he was fathering his children to wife Hannah Hall in Elstead, Surrey, right up until the Australian Autumn of 1832. Image:  The Department of Parks and Wildlife sign at Jimmy Newell’s (Newhill’s) Harbour Lookout, Torndirrup National Park. Source: Gavin Jackman private collection.

First genuine mention of our Newell family at Albany actually comes in 1834 when 15 year-old James (Jem) Newell arrived from England aboard the James Pattison, a former convict ship chartered by the brothers of Sir James Stirling’s wife, Ellen Mangles, to carry out to the Swan River Colony a contingent of much needed settlers. James Newell Jnr looks to have joined other members of his family when the Pattison anchored in Princess Royal Harbour in June, but records showing how and when his parents and siblings arrived cannot be found. We know other members of the Newell family were not far away because Spencer married Mathew Gill to Mary Newell in September that year and in October James Newell Snr, along with William Jenkins (whose entire family emigrated with and were indentured to the Spencers), received a townland grant of four acres suggesting the child labour they brought with theem was sufficient to warrant a grant, or else Spencer had pre-agreed to aid the families development once they got there. The Jenkins four acre grant (A20) is adjacent to the Newell one (A22) while a third block (A21) set aside at the same time appears not to have been granted but sold to Alexander Cheyne (brother of George) who also arrived aboard the James Pattison ship. The suggestion here is that the Newell’s, while apparently not indentured to the Spencers, were part of the wider entourage funded by the Spencers to make the journey out to Albany with the aim of  helping to the build the town. Spencer’s land grant incentives are based something upon Stirling’s original offer to the Swan River Colony subscribers. This further supports the idea the Newells were very much associated with the Spencers prior to their arrival at Albany.

But once again the questions arise. Who proposed Newell’s grant in the first place, and on what grounds? The leading authority in Albany at the time was Sir Richard Spencer and the question burning here, is just what was it which constituted the leverage James Newell appears to have had at Albany. Did Spencer owe him something? (Note: Newell’s grant was actually dated 15th March, 1834, and signed by Sir James Stirling, however Stirling did not arrrive back in Western Australia from England -aboard the James Pattison– until June that year., indicating the grant had been approved by Spencer and prepared in anticipation of Stirling’s return.

Additionally, a cottage which came to be named Old Surrey House was built on Newell’s grant from around 1841, indicating Newell hadn’t the wealth to build a lasting residence for around seven years.  And even then, it isn’t clear if James Newell built the house himself.

Above: James Newell’s mysterious four acre block A22 on the corner of High and Hare Streets, as marked on an 1873 Albany townsite plan. When received in 1834 the grant was situated on an isolated site north-east of the original town body, away from the prime real estate and without a harbour view. William Jenkins block A20 (Albany Priory) lay adjacent, as did a third four acre lot, A21, which was sold to Alexander Cheyne at the same time. Newell’s block  A22 is now on the corners of the redesigned Thomas and Burt Steets, close to Albany Senior High School. Old Surrey House (No.5 Thomas Street) is today a for rent historic holiday homeSource: State Records Office (SRO) Item 0011 – Albany Sheet 1 [Tally No. 503631].  See also, State Heritage (InHerit) Old Surrey House and The Priory Group. (For clear display of  all three lots see Item 009 – Albany 30M. Plan of King George’s Sound and its Harbours. 1835. A. Hillman  [Tally No. 006900B].

The Erickson entry for James Thomas Newell in the Bicentennial Dictionary (Pg 2310) mentions the land grant as well as the family’s means being gained by labouring, limeburning and sealing, also stating the family made several voyages eastwards in small craft. This information appears to have been gleaned from the memory of  William Weston, grandson of George Weston and Caroline Newell. Weston was an expiree and  jump-ship whaler who came ashore at Albany in 1839. He married Caroline Newell in 1840, soon after buying half of James Newell’s four acre grant for £20.00 and quite likely commencing construction of Old Surrey House himself. (See State Heritage docs)

This information was set down in an undated paper by Baden Weston, great grandson of  Caroline Newell, and now rests in the Albany History Collection archive. According to Weston, Caroline said the family came out to Western Australia in a sailing vessel sometime after first settlement in 1827 and that the family earned its living in the industries of lime burning and seal fur hunting. This is significant because it claims the family arrived together (not independent of James Snr), but is vague in that we know the family could not have left England before mid 1832. Also significant, however, because it is the only extant evidence of the Newell’s being engaged in the sealing industry, but equally vague as the document is not an official record. It is the memory of a memory of a memory, set down by a family member over a century and a quarter later.

Above: Baden Weston’s account of his father’s family history, as told to his father by Caroline Newell, daughter of James Snr.  Caroline was about 12 years old when the Newells arrived from England by sailing ship. The document is undated. Image: Cut from digital image of Baden Weston’s hand-written history of the Weston/Newell family of Albany.  Source. Courtesy Albany History Collection: Bookmark link here:

If daugher Caroline married an expiree jump-ship whaler, if Dorothy Newell went defacto with an African-American killer, and if James Newell Jnr had at least one Aboriginal child, then the Newell’s of Albany weren’t exactly the socially conforming kind. And they vary from the working-class norm in one other vital aspect too. Once again the question is begged; how did an illiterate farmhand from rural southern England afford to bring a family of seven out to the Swan River Colony, either directly or via Tasmania?

Did the Spencers have anything to do with it? Sir Richard’s wife was Ann Warden Liddon, grandaughter to a Lieutenant James Warden who provoked a duel and died by it in Devonshire, England, in 1792. Gwen Chessell points out in her book Richard Spencer (UWA Press 2005) that James Warden’s widow was Elizabeth Newell. Likely coincidence, but perhaps not. The Newell’s were not aboard the Buffalo, but following that ship very soon after was the Govenor Stirling, which carried additional chattels belonging to the Spencers and their entourage, and aboard which were 15 immigrants. Following the Governor Stirling came, in November, 1833, the merchant vessel Brilliant supposedly carrying, among much else, pure bred English livestock for the Spencers.

Could the Newell’s have arrived this way?  If so they didn’t take a cabin as it would most certainly have been reported. Alas, there is no easily attainable manifest or muster for either sailing.

Above: Did the Newell family number among the fifteen emmigrants aboard the Governor Stirling which arrived at King George Sound ahead of the Buffalo (presumably) in September, 1833? It looks like they very well could have. Image: Excerpt from The Colonist and Van Diemen’s Land Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, dated 29th October, 1833. Source: Trove.

The following information provided by a member of the Royal Navy Research Archive Forum. looks at the records for the Brilliant.

1834 Lloyds Register records the Brilliant, A G Hopton commander,  196 tons, built in Sweden, 1804, rigged as a ship, sheathed with copper, single deck, built of oak and fir, as sailing to Van Diemens Land in 1833-34. The description is later amended to being rigged as a Brig, which coincides with newspaper reports

10 May 1833 sailed Deal for Cape of Good Hope and Australia

8 November 1833 – arr Swan River.  A very full report of the cargo carried is listed in the Sydney Herald 17 February 1834.  Also noted two passengers – Mr P C Abbott and Mrs Soder and child.

8 Dec 1833 – reported departing Swan River, for King Georges Sound and Hobart

25 Jan 1834 – reported arriving Hobart “from King Georges Sound”, with cargo and passengers, Mr Jordan, Mr O’Neil and Mr Lewis

Nothing there, including the cargo list, tells us anything about the Newells or what the Spencer family brought out in addition to their Buffalo ferried chattels, except the Brilliant was privately owned and very well stocked with other people’s goods, a decent percentage of which was unloaded at Fremantle. The chances are, therefore, that Newell’s arrived aboard the Governor Stirling. This would explain their association with the Spencer family farm, their presence in Albany by 1834 and also, assuming they brought good and labour, their entitlement to the small 4 acre lot granted the same year.

Postscript 24 Oct 2022

I have modified the above text regarding the Newell family arrival per Governor Stirling since discovering the Spencer entourage may have totaled some 30 or more persons (plus themselves) and that the ship Governor Stirling was one of three sailings that year which facilitated the group at large. The inference is that Spencer was in some way indebted to the Newell’s, unlikely as that may seem, or that someone else paid for them to join the Spencer emigration party.

James Newell Snr’s essential occupations were as labourer and limeburner. Spencer listed him as a labourer in 1836 and on 28 December, 1837, a note in the Strawbery Hill Farm log states ‘Newell began leasing‘. Once again the indication here is that James Newell had some bargaining power with the Spencers, however this was obtained.

From this date forward, though there are many gaps, the acreage or block leased by Newell became known at the Farm as ‘Newells’, indicating Newell’s block, whether or not the lease was still in place. There is no entry describing termination of the lease, and James Newell is not mentioned specifically in the log after this date, though son Charles is. This suggests James Newell’s limeburning career was not his initial line of business.

It was, however, his last.

Newell plied his limeburning trade at Location 115 Limeburners Point (aka Limekilns Point), Big Grove, making use of the local limestone crops and abundant timber. Fresh water collected from Limeburners Creek rising back toward the coast was also primary reason behind the location. Limeburners Creek catchment area fronts Jimmy Newhill’s Habour where other fresh water streams run freely from the limestone cliffs into the ocean, but unless Newell used a boat (as opposed to cart) to transport limestone from the harbour around Bald Head to Limeburners Point (which seems excessive) it is difficult to imagine how the harbour itself could have been of use; access to the shore being so difficult.

Above: Collecting limestone from Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour and transporting it by small boat around Bald Head into Princess Royal Harbour appears unrealistic compared to using limestone collected locally and transported by wheelbarrow or cart. Image: Map cut from Water and Rivers Protection Plan 2001  Source: South Coast Water Reserve and Limeburners Creek Catchment Area Water Source Protection Plan: Water and Rivers Commission Report (WRP 44) 2001.

The job of the limeburner was to collect calcerous material, in Albany’s case this would have been limestone and seashells, both abundant on the southside of Princess Royal Harbour. The process involves heating the material until it softens and powders. the result being called quick-lime which is highly caustic. Limestone, once discovered at Albany, quickly emerged as the more practical raw material. The heating process at Limeburners Point will have originally been carried out in either an open pit employing layers of timber (also why the Groves were viable) and limestone, and because of this will have taken longer and been potentially more dangerous. Over time larger enlcosed kilns were constructed. Quick lime was transported across the harbour in boats, a dangerous practise because;

Quicklime reacts violently with water, so it spits, sputters, steams and can even explode as it undergoes the chemical transformation into slaked lime. Slaked lime can be made into plasterstuccomortar, and concrete for buildings, usually by mixing it with sandmud and/or dung.

Top left: Quicklime is powdered limestone ash. Old limeburners at Big Grove bagged it from their kilns and transported it across the harbour in flat bottomed boats, a perilous undertaking given quicklime’s caustic nature and highly volatile reaction to water. Image: Shocky and Jack McBride delivering bagged lime to the shore for transport across the harbour during the 1920s. Source; Craig McBride Private Collection.Top Right Image: From left, Barney Mouchmore and Jack & Tom McBride at work bagging quicklime at an early version of their Big Grove kiln: Source: Craig McBride Private Collection. Botttom Left Image: The kiln today at Limeburners Grove: Source: Susan Penter Private Collection.

James Newell Senior’s life came to an end at Limeburners Creek/Point in June, 1855.  He was 65 years old. He died suddenly, his death certificate citing an aneurysm on the heart. The newspaper, however, concluded he ‘was addicted to habits of intemperance‘, scarcely disguised condemnation tantamount to the accusation James Newell was a rampant alcoholic. Was he, or was he simply not liked? An aneurysm on the heart refers to a swelling or bubble like formation of the heart wall which is generally the result of a heart attack, something which could have been caused by an inherited condition rather than a lifetime of poor diet, lack of exercise and alcoholic excess.

James’s wife, Hannah, had passed away before her fiftieth birthday, 16 years earlier. Cause of death unknown. Daughter Mary died in Sydney the year following her mother, and James’s second son Charles, painfully, tragically, died the year following that. So over the course of a relatively short three years James Newell Snr suffered considerable loss. Six years on again and George Weston took his baby daughter Caroline first to South Australia and then to Bendigo, Victoria. William Newell, about whom next to nothing can be found, looks like he left Albany with Caroline too, as there are no corresponding West Australian records relating to a William Newell. It appears then, that from 1847, those left at Albany with James Newell Snr were only his daughter Dorothy and son Jem. Curious that these two stayed after attempting to leave very early on in their Albany story. Were their binds greater than mere attachment to their widowed father or the miserable, struggling town itself?

Perhaps James Newell Snr was always a drunk, or perhaps alcohol had become a crutch for his later-life loneliness. By the time his aorta burst or he suffered a stroke as consequence of his heart aneurysm during the winter of 1855, James Newell had spent more than twenty years at Albany, the greater part of it soldiering away as a lone-living working-class man.

James Newell’s Children

Now, Albany was still known throughout the colonies as King George Sound and no more than embryonic when the Newell family first arrived sometime between 1832 and 1834. It seems, for the oldest of the children anyway, there was no employment and little prospect of it. The boredom of their early days, or else their sense of alienation, was so acute that by late 1834 (within six months of Jem’s arrival on the James Pattison) plans were laid for Mary, Dorothy and Jem to migrate to the east (perhaps encouraged by Mary’s husband Matthew Gill), and it was the execution of these plans which drove the family name to the forefront of Albany’s working-class history.

As with many families, in the long run the Newells are mostly remembered for the deeds of their children. This is because the stories relating to the younger generation tend to be more complete and crucial to our understanding of how things were during the development period. As we have seen, migration amounted to little more than sacrifice for their parents.

The stories of  James Newell’s eldest three children become interesting from early 1835 when they bought their passage to the eastern colonies from Evanson Janson, drunken master of a small coastal cutter named Mountaineer which had journeyed to Albany via Kangaroo Island during 1834, during which it collected various passengers including the murderous Black Jack Anderson. The Mountaineer set sail on its return journey early in March, 1835, but made it only as far as Thistle Cove, between Cape Le Grande and Cape Arid, where it was driven ashore and wrecked. All passengers and crew survived and were transferred to Middle Island by whaleboat where they were brought into a sealing fraternity operating between Albany and Cape Arid by way of small craft. This sealing gang was stood over by the notorious Black-Jack Anderson who appears to have been well established along W.A.’s south coast by this time. (See Cumpston: Kangaroo Island 1800-1836 for more on Jansen and the Mountaineer).

On its outward voyage the Mountaineer had also brought a young man by the name of James Manning, whose unfortunate fate it was to have met Anderson at Sydney, embarking with him and other men of jubious character aboard another small vessel by the name of Defiance. Manning was about twenty years old and from the outset appears to have been intimidated by Anderson to the point of terror.  Defiance was wrecked along the southern NSW coast but the pair eventually made it to Kangaroo Island where Evanson Jansen and the Mountaineer agreed to bring them west. Manning was deposited on Middle Island with Anderson before the Mountaineer went on to King George Sound. Contrary to belief spread by a repeated inaccurate newsarticle, Jem Newell and James Manning did not meet until the crew and passengers of the wrecked Mountaineer made their way to Middle Island in the ship’s five-oared whaleboat. For full coverage of Manning’s series of unfortunate events at the hands of Anderson read under Black Jack Anderson in Campbell Taylor and the Cape Arid Connection – Part 3b

So, after weeks of coercion  and the subsequent departing from under Andersons’ nose of Jansen and others in the party, James Newell and  James Manning begged for their freedom whereupon Anderson delivered them empty-handed to the mainland and bid them farewell. Jem Newell, a teenager, and James Manning, in his early twenties, subsequently became the first Europeans to successfully attempt walking the 400 mile distance from Cape Arid to Albany, which without help they are unlikely to have survived; the (flawed) story making the newspapers of the day. In the meantime, Dorothy Newell had struck up a relationship with Anderson which ultimately resulted in she, her sister Mary, and her sister’s husband (Matthew Gill) being happily deposited back in Albany via small boat by early Spring, courtesy of Anderson. The period of apparent incarceration on Middle Island at the hands of Anderson ended in legal declarations by Manning and Newell and a September court case in which Anderson was unsuccessfully charged by Manning for the theft of his money. (Again, see Campbell Taylor and the Care Arid Connection Pt 3-C  for full coverage.)

The story of  the Newell siblings entrapment on Middle Island and of their separate means of release are deeply embedded in Albany’s coastal folklore, so much so they have come to define the family. Yet it is here where interest begins in the Noongar branch of the Newell family too, as thought suggests Jem Newell may have been romantically involved with an Indigenous South Coast woman (or else a captive from the East) from this time onwards. The suggestion stems from the idea he befriended one of the younger captive women held by the sealers, or else formed some kind of relationship with one of his and James Manning’s rescuers along the coast in the region of Cheyne’s Beach. However, it is very important to remember that at this time Jem Newell was still a boy. In 1835, he wasn’t yet 16 years old. Mature enough for him to engage in a romantic relationship, sure, but young enough for us to be almost certain it would not have lasted. Besides, as we shall see, Jem Newell’s first known romantic partnership did not occur for at least another ten years. (Read on).

In the context of the Newell children’s lives at Albany the overall Middle Island -mixing with the sealers- experience lasted less than two years. Jem Newell was recovering from his ordeal by 9th August, 1835, five months after it began. Mary Newell and Matthew Gill, the newly weds, appear to have left for the east coast before the end of the year, while Dorothy’s love affair with Anderson ended with Anderson’s murder on or around Christmas Day, 1836.

The identity of Mathew Gill has been difficult to determine. The Irishman named Mathew Gill who was aboard the Amity looks to have been on a life sentence, convicted in 1811 and arriving into Sydney aboard the Archduke Charles in February, 1813. This man was also known as Michael Gill who made various requests for mitigation of sentence and permissions to marry. He was transported to Newcastle  in 1822, then to King George Sound in 1826. Records show he was pardoned in June, 1838, all of which leads him away from the more likely idea that Mary Newell’s husband was the brother of Thomas Gill, who joined the Swan River Surveyors Dept  in 1839. Both Thomas and Mathew look to have been passage-assisted by the Spencer family and arrived into King George Sound with them aboard the Buffalo in 1833.  There is  a Mary Gill registered as having died at Sydney in 24th March, 1840. Cause of death; ‘Visitation of God‘. If this is our Mary Newell/Gill, she will have been just 28 years old.

Matthew Gill looks to have located his brother in Adelaide some time later as various passenger records show a man by that name moved between Victoria and there, and also Albany, on a number of ocassions.

Anyhow, from the time Jem and Dorothy Newell were back in Albany, and their sister Mary and her husband departed for Sydney -presumably by another coastal crusier- there is no mention of any of the Newells being active at sea.

This is what I mean by the folklore surrounding the shipwreck, the Middle Island experience, the long walk home and Dorothy’s live-in relationship with Anderson, coming to define the entire Newell family ever since.

It is important to try and look beyond that.

To continue with Dorothy’s story.  She was recorded (somewhere – see Erickson entry pg.2310) as being ‘servant to McLeod.’  This could have been Lieutenant Donald MacLeod of the 63rd Regiment who was makeshift Government Resident at Albany from November 1832 until Oct 1833 when Richard Spencer assumed the role (McLeod returned to Perth that month), or else (and more likely) it was to a Mr John McLeod who had built a house on Lot 119 Serpentine Road and occupied it briefly between April 1834 and January 1836. (See Chessell, Richard Spencer; pg. 120), when he may have drowned while carting quicklime across the harbour from Big Grove (See Southside Progress Association 1988 at Albany History Collection). As Dorothy Newell left town in Jansen’s boat during March 1835 and upon return later that year took up with Black-Jack Anderson, it places the Newell family’s earliest presence at Albany between November, 1832 and about January, 1834, meaning Dorothy could only have been servant to John McLeod of Serpentine Rd during 1834 and the early months of 1835.

The romantic adventure of Dorothy Newell and Black-Jack Anderson was fictionalised in the novel Skins by Sarah Hay.  Published in 2001, Skins isn’t the first novel of Western Australia’s South Coast, but it is the first inspired purely by the enduring stories of the small boat era and of the true working-class men, and women, who sailed in them. Between its stunning open beaches and pitiless rock, the greater South Coast is an unforgiving littoral. Fronted by frequent heavy weather and a ruthless ocean those small sheltered coves hewn from the limestone over thousands of millenia played good shepherd to boatmen in a way only those who bridle peril for a living on a daily basis can truly appreciate. Sarah Drummond’s recent novel The Sound, brings readers much closer to that way of life than Skins does. Where as Skins is descriptive, The Sound is truly visceral. Whereas Skins is romantic, The Sound, while brutal, remains sensitive, arm’s length sentimental and filled with a solitude only something like facing the ocean alone in a small craft can bring. They are different stories, told different ways, but the setting and the characters are the same. The setting is our coast and the characters are, or were, very real people. They lived in and about our town. Anyone who has stood on the beach and watched a winter squall frenzy in from the outer water, or ventured out to The Gap during a heavy swell and gone home soaked and shivering, knows what that sea is capable of; more so all those who fish it, either from boats or the shore. The loss of Henry Allen before his family at Jimmy Newhill’s Harbour seven decades ago now is repeated almost yearly somewhere close by. 

Dorothy Newell’s life was pieced together, albeit in large chunks, by Sarah Hay. After speaking up for Anderson in the case brought against him by Manning, her common-law husband was murdered on Mondrain Island, thus terminating their relationship. The incident was reported to acting Resident Magistrate of the time, Patrick Taylor esq, by fellow sealer Bob Gamble, who may have been responsible himself, but on account of the vagaries surrounding the story, along with the distances and time frames involved, there was no investigation and no charges were ever laid.

Some years later Dorothy partnered with an industrious ex-indentured servant, James Cooper, who had built an attractive two-story house at Lot S43 on Stirling Terrace, later to become Kookas Restaurant, and who had various other business interests, including, possibly, what became the Albany Hotel. James Cooper appears to have been a family friend and witness to (Dorothy’s sister ) Caroline Newell’s wedding in 1840. At this time Dorothy was about 26 years-old. There is no record of Cooper’s death but he disappears from the records fifteen years later. Dorothy ran a boarding house in Cooper’s building after 1855, also using it as a bakehouse and confectionary store. The building was bought (or ownership transferred) in 1875 to George Pettit, the same year Dorothy re-surfaces in the records again herself, now aged  around 40 and still childless. That year she legally married Pettit. Dorothy’s third husband was a farmer, racehorse owner and proprietor of the local Cambridge Brewery, situated on or close to the  junction of Middleton and Campbell Roads (see Kookas heritage document)

There isn’t that much to go on, but Dolly/Newell/Anderson/Cooper/Pettit was nothing if not resiliant and attractive. One 1850’s document described her as eccentric. Clearly there was something about her, that something enough to inspire Sarah Hay into researching and writing a very worthy romantic novel, in which she describes her heroine as living out her years more or less as the forlorn widow of her true original love. Dolly Newell’s marriage to George Pettit  may have been one of convenience (or abuse) as she is said to have died alone on 22nd January, 1886, aged 70 years, where as George Pettit did not pass away until May, 1892.

(See Hay’s piece on Dorothy Newell here.)

Baring out the reality of gender population imbalance at Albany, and perhaps setting example for her indigenous niece (read on) Dorothy was able to co-habit with three different men, each able to help her find some comfort, even status, in her day to day living. All three of her life partners were prosperous men, but unlike Anderson, her second and third husbands were law-abiding. All three clearly capable, the last a made-good expiree who employed one of her younger brothers in the years leading up to his early death.

That brother was Jem. He had become famous for surviving his walk from Cape Arid to Albany and much has been made over the years of the help he and Manning received from local Aborigines who appear to have met them in very poor condition somewhere in the region of Cape Riche, perhaps even as far as Cheyne’s Beach. As a young working-class man, Jem’s prospects for marriage, a same-race relationship of any kind in fact, were the opposite of his sister’s. Jem was fourteen or fifteen when he arrived, just a year older when he made it back into town with James Manning, twenty-three when he was brought into court to act as a witness in the famous Swift/Prescott theft trial, looks to have travelled to Perth by sea a few times in 1869 when he was in his late forties (perhaps in a last ditch attempt to find a legitimate bride), and lastly reported as being in charge of George Pettit’s sheep run at Takalarup in the 1870s when he was in his fifties.

Jem Newell died unmarried at Albany in November, 1874, aged just 55 years. The circumstances of his death are not known. (There was no local newspaper published until 1883.)  Did Jem Newell have a faulty heart too? Had he falllen prey to the evils of sly-grog as well, or did he meet with some unfortunate accident? Jem Newell did not father any registered children of European ancestry and there are no surviving records relating to the distribution of his (or his father’s) estate, if he had one. Folklore states Jem Newell spent time as a sealer and procurer of mutton birds and that at some point he took shelter in the small Torndirup cove between The Gap and Salmon Holes giving rise to Robert Stephens’s claim it is ‘Jimmy Newell’s Harbour’. But James Newell Jnr wasn’t known as Jimmy, he was known as Jem.

There is nothing discernable to support the conclusion Jem Newell was a boatman, other than the period between January and July 1835 when he was an unwilling member of the Middle Island crew under Anderson. As far as the evidence is concerned, both James Newell Snr and his eldest son, Jem, do not present as whalers, sealers, fishermen or muttonbirders of an obvious nature. They may have been boatmen by way of commuting from Albany town to Limeburners Point on the south side of the harbour, but after this there is nothing but the folklore to indicate they were of the sea-faring kind.

All the same, over the course of both lifetimes, and we are talking about a period of 40 years here, the vast majority of it is completely undocumented. It is possible but hardly likely James Newell Senior became a boatman, while it is possible and a little more likely Jem Newell may have been. That is all we can say.

Further evidence of the Newell’s being a landbased family comes with the story of second youngest son Charles. Early in August, 1836, 16 year-old Charles Newell was recorded as working with ‘Newell’ at the Spencer farm, Strawberry Hill. The entry states ‘Newell and son’ but we take it to be Charles because he is the one associated with the Spencers.

It takes two years before Charles is mentioned specifically in the Spencer log where on 8th August, 1838, he was said to have ‘taken charge of the cows’. By 8th November he is at the Spencer Hay River property, Ongrup (Langton’s Vineyard today). The Spencers acquired the three best watered locations along the Hay; These were Narrikup, Warungatup (St Werburghs) and Ongrup (Langtons), thereby discouraging other settlers. Of course it didn’t happen just like that, those well watered locations were also home to various Aboriginal families comprised of the clans based out of Albany (Mineng) and others centered further north between the head of the Frankland River at Yerriminup and along the Gordon River, most notably (I think) around Cranbrook. Spencer will have negotiated with surviving members of Mokare’s family in order to establish at these sites and in order to win some kind of protection from the northern clans who were not freindly with those from Albany.

Almost immediately the Spencers established at Ongrup, with Charles Newell as one of the livestock tenders, trouble began.

Above: Very soon after the Spencers occupied Ongrup, an upper Hay River location which suited their livetsock, trouble began. Not only did the Aborigines begin to attack but the Spencer’s luck changed horribly for the worse.  Image: Excerpt from historical articles by Mrs F Bird, published in the Albany Advertiser between September and November 1926. Source: This cut from Part 16, dated 30 October 1926, relating to the year 1838.

Certain Aborigines objected to the settler presence and began spearing the stock. Spencer ordered a contingent of the 21st Regiment based at Albany to locate at Narpund (now site of Mt Barker township) in order to aid security, something he was able to tie in with the Kojonup military station which had been opened in October, 1837, and staffed from Albany. Kojonup was recognised as quality grazing country prior to the discovery of poison bush and was favoured by early Albany-based pastoralists, despite the distance of a hundred miles, on account of the fresh water and military presence there. At this time Lieutenant Charles Armstrong was in charge of the reputedly drunken Albany troops. Armstrong was a friend of the Spencers and by accounts a capable man who had been part of the original Albany-Perth Road survey team led by Alfred Hillman, and who may have left an aboriginal daughter behind when he died unexpectedly of exposure while stationed at the Vasse over the winter of 1838. Jenny or Jane Armstrong, later Rawson, also went by the name Spencer.

The Spencer presence near Mt Barker led to the establishment of a regular patrol from Albany to the outlying sheep runs and stations that began appearing along the Hay and upper reaches of the Kalgan toward Moorilup, from 1839. The first of these was managed by Ronald McDonald, a little known early settler who may have been associated with the Sherratt family, who imported sheep and ran them on crown land close to Moorilup. One of his shepherds was speared and wounded in the head in 1839. Little else is known. The Spencer vegetable store was also raided around this time, so all was not well on the cross-cultural front and worse was to come.

Around the same time as Hannah Newell, Charles’s mother, passed away, Richard Spencer suffered a stroke and died. Four months later Spencer’s son Horatio, along with a worker named William McKath, was killed when lightning struck a branch overhanging their Ongrup hut. The branch fell and crushed the hut and two boys inside. Horatio was 16. Four months later again, in March 1840, Harbour Master Hugh Spencer drowned while returning from an inspection of the China, a charter captained by John Hassell Esq, stuffed full of livetsock destined for his newly acquired Moorliup pastoral holdings.

If you were any way superstitious you might think the Mulgarrodoc had been at work.

Disruption to the Spencer family business caused by this sequence of deaths led Charles Newell to change employer and from 1840 he was shepherding at Kendenup (Moorilup) for the newly active John Hassel, and it was here, on 26th September, 1841, he was speared in the back after challenging a group of about 40 Aborigines when he came across them taking (knives?) from the house. His attacker, named Utage, was about the same age, and incited to action by his elders. Suffering from a deep wound and progressive infection, and without any form of pain relief, it took nine days for Charlie Newell to die. He was just 21 years of age.

The below account gives full details.

Above: An account of Charles Newell’s death at the hands of Aborigines at Kendenup, ten miles from Mt Barker, late in September 1841. Image: Photo of page 100 of Conquest and Settlement, Geoff Blackburn’s excellent account of the 21st Regiment’s service in the Swan River Colony between 1833 and 1840. Source: The account comes from The Inquirer, 20th October, 1841. Article Link here.

Murray Arnold, in his book, A Journey Travelled; Aboriginal-European Relations at Albany and the surrounding region from first contact to 1926, makes the point that distributed rations from the Kendenup homestead had led to such a large gathering and that subsequent to Charles Newell’s death had been discontinued, thus bringing about much reduced hostilities in the following years. We can say this distribution of rations was continuation of the unofficial Hay River alliance commenced between the Menang and Major Lockyer in 1826 and extended by Richard Spencer when he began locating upriver. What’s important to note here is that the ‘friendly natives’ who secured Utage from the crown and who suffered attack on the journey with him back to Albany, will have been part of the Albany clan, the Menang, who understood the relationship which existed between the settlers and Albany Aborigines, and who were obliged to play their role. That pastures at Kojonup, 70 miles further on, were preferred to Moorilup also suggests local knowledge determined it a safer place.

It was, and had been for a very long time, a dangerous game trying to win the trust of fueding Noongar clans but Charles Newell’s October 1841 death was the first European fatality along the South Coast to come from Aboriginal attack. It had taken almost 16 years, from arrival of the Amity in December 1826, for that pattern to change. In Perth, York and the Vasse River violence was almost immmediate by comparison and this is one of the reasons why Albany became known among cross-cultural historians as ‘The Friendly Frontier’.

Curiously, Charles Newell’s grave is located at Cape Riche, some 75 miles east of Albany. Though Cape Riche is about the same distance from where the incident occurred at Kendenup, Albany is only 40 miles away. So, how and why was this dying young man taken to George Cheyne’s farm and port, which in 1841 consisted of little more than a few fences, a garden and small dwelling? Albany’s hospital facilities would not have been advanced but at least there was a doctor there, unless the doctor at the time was known to be visiting Cape Riche?  Alternatively, 1841 was peak year during the American led bay whaling boom and Cape Riche had come to be just as well known to the ship’s captains as Albany. Perhaps the thought held was the Americans stood better chance of helping Charlie Newell survive than Albany’s resident medico? Or maybe the Aborigines had something to do with it. Given what had happened, maybe it was thought safer to take Charlie eastwards rather than south? Whatever the reason, Charlie Newell is not buried near to his family, but in a lonely grave 80 odd miles away, with only the plot of John Moir, dug almost a hundred years later, sitting alongside.

The Noongar Newells

Above: Thomas (Tommy) Newell (Aboriginal name Eelup), apparent son of Jem Newell of Albany, partnered four women. According to records Eelup fathered 11 children between around 1882 and 1902.  Image: Newell family photo thought to be taken around 1905. Thomas Newell standing. Daughters Pheobe and Annie to the left of wife Rosemary Mippy. Daughter Leah to the right. Source: Nyungar Tradition; Glimpses of Aborigines of South Western Australia 1829-1914 by Lois Tilbrook. Downloadable pdf from AIATSIS.gov.au website

For me, research into Noongar ancestries starts with two key reference points; Lois Tilbrook’s seminal  Nyungar Tradition, from which the above photograph and below family tree are drawn, and the Daisy Bates Digital Archive. From these beginning points we can cross-reference whatever additional documentation/evidence is available and see how closely things match. The State Records Office (SRO) digital archive of Aboriginal Records often turns up useful information, as do the Jan Goodacre files held at the State Library. However, for a multitude of reasons very often with Noongar genealogies exact or even strong matches are hard to find, as is the case with the Noongar Newells. It doesn’t mean the oral history the family carried with them down the generations is false, oral histories are an essential component and in some cases the only component left to work with, it just means there are gaps in information and time which when filled tell a more complete tale.

Dorothy Newell and the possibility she had a child with John William ‘Black-Jack’ Anderson

POST SCRIPT: 04-July-2020  Information has recently come to light that Jan James/Goodacre (RIP) reasoned that Dorothea Newell had a daughter with John ‘Black Jack’ Anderson and that this daughter, implausibly named Emma Webland (Aboriginal name, Wepel), had a son near Byford (outside Perth) with a white settler named Robert Mead. The child was a boy named Fred Mead who was brought up and schooled in the British fashion by the Mead settler family. Fred Mead’s record shows he was highly literate, served in WW1 and that he worked on the Kalgoorlie pipe line. He was a well known Noongar identity loosely connected to the Bolton and Garlett families of the Avon Valley, (see Tilbrook, Nyungar Tradition pg 102 & 104)

Implausible as it sounds, Goodacre made the connection through citations made by Fred Mead that his mother was black American and that Annie Lambadgee (nee Newell) was a cousin of his. Annie Newell was the daughter of Tommy Eelup Newell and Mary Darbar (see Tommy Eelup Newell details following). Tommy is the reported son of Jem Newell, brother to Dorthea. Noongar Newell family records confirm this is the case.

Unravelling this connection is complicated. If the relationships are taken as literal (rather than in less strictly defined Noongar terms) it might suggest an uncomfortable association. Thus, I continue here in the mode of exploration as means of explanation only.

If Annie Newell was cousin to Fred Mead  (in European terms) in means one of each of their parents were siblings. Now, the knowledge is that Annie’s father was Tommy Eelup Newell (son of Jem Newell). This would then mean that Fred Mead’s mother was Tommy Eelup’s sister. In itself this isnt much to be afraid of, except the family record of Tommy’s older sister, Jane Teanan, is pretty clearly defined and there is no sign of her being identified by the name Emma Webland (Wepel) nor is there any information suggesting she had a relationship outside of Albany. Indeed, the indications are that Jane Teanan never left Albany at all.

So, if Tommy Newell had a sister who was black African, who could that woman have been?  In the European sense, this would mean that Wepel was also Jem Newel”s daughter, which would mean that Jem Newell fatherd a child to his sister’s daughter, his own niece. However, sister, in Noongar terms, means this woman could have been the daughter of Tommy’s European Aunt, Dorothy Newell. Either way though, that child could have been even part Aboriginal.

If  Dorothy Newell did have a daughter with Anderson, and even if she named her Emma, (the Newell siblings had an older sister named Emily who married before the family left for Australia and stayed behind), how then did she attract the Noongar name Wepel and become an Apical Ancestor of the Gnaala Karla Booja?

Fred Mead was born in or around 1865, so he was close enough to the same age as Tommy Eelup Newell. We know that John Anderson was murdered at Mondain Island over the Christmas of 1836 meaning any child he might have fathered with Dorothy was conceived before then. Therefore, if Dorothy did have a daughter she was almost certainly born in 1837. This means that daughter will have been a mature woman aged between 30 and 35 years when Fred Mead was born; so at least the dates here stack up. It also means that woman would have had plenty of time to form other relationships and to deliver other children.

If Emma Webland was Dorothy Newell’s daughter (or even her grand daughter), what or who took her northwards? There are endless tenuous possibilities, but no information to support any of them and to that end I think there is little point in taking the line of thinking any further. There were as many jumpship Americans stren across the West Coast as the South and if Wepel truly was of African/American origin it is far more likely she was the daughter of a Noongar woman whose kalla was somewhere along the Gnaala Karla coast.

Jem Newell and his son Tommy (Eelup)

The standout feature of the Noongar Newell genealogy is the fact their paternal lineage is known while the maternal line isn’t.

In Tommy Newell’s case, his mother’s identity has been lost, even though his father appears to have had little or nothing to do with him. This is as much to do with Henry Princep’s protectorship taking keen interest in Tommy Newell’s mixed-race identity as it is with the reality Tommy’s childhood, adolescence and time as a young man appear to have been spent in the Esperance area as part of the Dempster holdings workforce.

Tilbrook lists the father of the Noongar Newells as James Thomas Newell, Tasmanian convict, sealer and boatman, b. 1796; information which appears to be a confusion of data drawn from the entries of both James Newell Snr and Jnr, as posted on page 2310 of Erickson’s Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians.  The claimed birthdate of 1796 indicates a belief the man in question was James Newell the Elder, but this is hard to reconcile.

According to Nyungar Tradition, the son of James Newell was Thomas (Tommy) Newell who married Rosemary Mippy of Northam. By this account, Tommy Newell was an only child himself, but with his four wives had eleven children. The Newell family today regard themselves as Ballardong, from the Avon River district, and/or Pindjarup, from the upper Murray River. They do not claim to be from the South Coast. This is strong indication of the lack of influence James Newell had on this family.

Now, if Tommy Newell’s father was James Newell the elder of Albany, it means the man in the above photo, thought to be taken around 1905, must be at least fifty years of age. This is hard to agree with, the man in this photo looks to be in his thirties.

So the dates and ages do not neatly correspond. Additionally, the English names given to the Newell children do not correspond to the Albany Newell’s English ancestry. Not one name belonging to Tommy Newell’s eleven children matches with the Albany Newells, bar eldest daughter Emily who never left England. As we now know, even Tommy’s Christian name is not part of the Albany Newell story. The only Christian names James Newell the Elder, or Junior, were ever recorded by were James and Jem.

Above: James Thomas Newell, Tasmanian convict, sealer and boatman, b. 1796; as posted on page 2310 of Erickson’s Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, is shown in this important tree as the European father of the Noongar Newells. His son, Thomas Newell, married Rosemary Mippy of Northam. Thomas Newell’s mother is unknown. Image: Upper branches of Family Tree 11A, cut from page 150 of  Nyungar Tradition; Source: Nyungar Tradition; Glimpses of Aborigines of South Western Australia 1829-1914 by Lois Tilbrook. Downloadable pdf from AIATSIS.gov.au website.

Now, as we discovered previously, the name Thomas Newell appeared in Albany in the wake of the departing NSW convict contingent, the folklore stating he was an original arrivee on the Amity.  But there was no Thomas Newell on the Amity, only a Thomas Noel, an Irish boatman, whose seven year sentence expired at Albany at the same time the 63rd Regiment gave up their position and sailed home to New South Wales. Could the man named as Thomas Noel on the Amity be Thomas Newell, and given his name to an Aboriginal son?

I could find no record of Thomas Noel’s Irish family, so cannot say that the names Tommy Newell gave his children stemmed from that source. I also searched under the names Newell, Newall, Newill and others in the case Thomas Noel when convicted of vagrancy in County Cork during 1824 gave the surname Noel as an alias. The surname Noel is rare enough throughout Ireland, where as in Galway in particular Newell is prolific. In any case, the searches were fruitless which means Thomas Newell could have left Albany and eventually made his way to the Avon Valley where it is unlikely but still possible he fathered a son to an unknown Aboriginal woman.

Roughly thirty years after gaining his freedom at Albany, and aged around 60 years, could Thomas Noel/Newell have been an employee of the well known Dempster family of Buckland? As far as the records I have scoured are concerned, the answer is no.

As earlier stated, the only information I could find on a Thomas Noel was the Master of the Adeona during 1853 and 1854 when it was embroiled in an Adelaide court case over unpaid wages. It is feasible (in my opinion more likely an outcome than him going to Northam), that our Thomas Noel was this man.

Daisy Bates made a record of the family of Tommy Newell (Eelup) and apparent first wife Nyittee when at Northam sometime around 1905. Unfortunately, the original detail as handwritten in her notebook 11a appears to be lost as it is not part of the collection held at the University of Adelaide, so we can only go off what the (often erroneous) transcribed document tells us, which is that Tommy’s parentage is unknown BUT that the informant believed Eelup had eleven children. However, Bates’s informant, Naajeegun, also knew the Eelup/Nyittee partnership produced just three boys.

Above: Daisy Bates recorded details of Tommy Newell and Nyittee (aka Jane Jenkins?) union, showing three boys from a family of eleven that Eelup eventually fathered (with other partners). The original ‘Notebook 11a’ from which this document was copied appears to be lost. Curiously, the entry at the top of the page carries mention of Deereeyan, also known as Darbar andMary Wattling, who also partnered Toomy Eelup Newell. Image: Daisy Bates typed version of Eelup/Nyittee family tree recorded around 1910 in the area of Armadale, outside Perth. Source: Daisy Bates Digital Archive.

Another entry for the Newell’s comes from Bates’s Notebook 18 added when she met Kajaman (Polly Jindil) an elderly woman from Beverley during 1905/6.  Bates is interested in the Waljuk or Eaglehawk totem and writes about three men, Tommy, Norris and Teddy Newell, all born at Northam.  Among Tommy Newell’s children (as shown in Tilbrook) there is a Teddy and a Norace (Norris) Newell, but no Tommy Jnr. This record therefore looks to be a reference to Tommy (Eelup) and two of his sons.

Above: Tommy, Norris and Teddy Newell, all said to be born at Northam were of interest to Daisy Bates because their bird moiety was Waljuk, the eaglehawk, a rare classification that made them independent of the marriage laws binding Cockatoos (Manitch) to Crows (Wordung). Image: Handwritten notes taken from an interview with Kajaman (Polly Jindil) thought to have occurred between 1905 and 1906. Source: Daisy Bates Digital Archive.

Further investigations via the State Records Office which keeps the Aboriginal Archive as recorded by Henry Princep‘s Aborigines Department as it came into being from 1898, are even more revealing. Through the Index to the Chief Protector of Aborigines Files 1898-1908 gathered by Princep’s agents across Western Australia, we find a host of references relating to the Newells of Northam (Toodyay) and Pinjarra. Amongst them are two revelatory gems indicating that Tommy Newell;

  • Was born in 1864, the son of James (Jem) Newell (son of James and Hannah) and unknown Aboriginal woman.
  • Had an older sister named Jane Teanan born at Albany in 1853.
  • Was first married to Nyittee (possibly also known as Jane Jenkins) with whom he had three boys; Edward (Teddy b. 1882), Horace and Norris.
  • Then married Mary Wattling (Darbarr) possibly of the North West d. 1911, with whom he had daughters Annie Maria b.1890 and Emily Beatrice, also son Thomas Quentin b. 1896, d. 1898
  • Then married Louisa Mippy of Bunbury, d. 1903, with whom he had daughters, Esther b. 1899 and Beatrice b. 1902
  • Also partnered Rose(mary) Mippy with whom he had daughters Pheobe b. 1898 and Leah b. 1902.

The document, cited verbatim below, confuses Jem with his younger brother Charles who was speared at Kendenup in 1841, suggesting the information was cobbled together from various accounts of the family history whether collected orally or held on paper. To be clear, if Jem Newell was speared by Aborigines it would have been reported and a well established fact, as his brother’s death is. Certainly, the boatman and sealer reference, whether true or not, looks to have been embedded lore at Albany for over 100 years now. Bare in mind, however, Jem Newell had been dead around 25 years when the information was assembled by agents of Henry Princep fundamentally interested in Tommy Newell and the welfare of his children. Being deceased, the focus was not on Jem Newell.

Though valuable, the information gathered by Princep’s Aborigines Department 1898-1908 is an incomplete record of Tommy Newell’s family, which was dynamic and very much growing during this time. Nor can it be accepted as fully accurate. Nonetheless, it adds substantially to our knowledge, introducing us to Jane Teanan (whom we shall take all the time we need to discuss just as soon as we’re done here) along with the notion Jem Newell did infact co-habit with a woman of Indigenous origin at Albany, likely from around 1850 when he would have been in the region of thirty years of age.

NEWELL James (Jem) b.1819 d.3.11.1874 (Albany) (speared by Aboriginals) son of James Thomas Newell and Hannah (arrived in Colony 12.5.1834 at Albany from England) (was a Boatman at Albany and sealer) defacto marriage to an Albany Aboriginal , chd; Jane (Teanan) b.(c)1853, Thomas b.(c)1864.

NEWELL Thomas b.(c) 1864 (Northam) d. 29.12.1937 (Roelands) son of James Newell and marr 1st (Mandurah) Louisa Mippy b.(c)1876 (Bunbury) d.10.1.1903 (T. (Pinjarra
(bur Pinjarra by Thomas Newell), chd 2; Esther b.(c)1899, Beatrice b.(c)1902 (Mandurah)
d.6.4.1903 (Blythwood Pinjarra of T. (bur Pinjarra), (defacto) marr 2nd Mary
(Derrianne/Darbaranne)Wattling nee Dabar b.(c)1877 (North West) d.13.1.1911 (Public
Hospital Perth), dtr of Dabar and Woolanah (Sarah), chd 3; Annie Maria b.(c)1890, Emily
Beatrice, Thomas Quentin b.(c)1896 d.3.6.1898 (half caste Mission Middle Swan) (bur
Middle Swan) (defacto) marr 3rd (Pinjarra) Rose Mippy b.(c)1880 dtr of James Mippy
and Ediann, chd 2; Phoebe b.(c)1898, Leah b (c)1902 ( He applied for 200 acres of land on
the S.E. boundry of Woodlupine Reserve 1911. He sought a legal opinion as to wether he
or his women who had deserted him, was entitled to the children.) (at his death 3 males
and 3 fem were dec’d)

(post- note: This document is not accurate as it omits 2 additional children born to Rose Mippy. These were Ada  (f) and Francis John (m). It also omits Eelup’s partnership with Nyittee (Jane Jenkins?) and the three boys described in the Bates genealogies as Nyeewell, Woolgil and Ngarbil. These were Teddy b.1882, Norris and Horace Newell. In total Tommy Eelup Newell fathered eleven children.)

From the time Tommy Newell was ‘a boy‘ he was in Esperance, having been led there as part of the Dempster family expansion of interests from Toodyay down to the South Coast. We know Tommy went down there because of the notorious 1888 Fraser Range murder case involving Bardock man Marabool and Mick Griffin. Griffin was one of the Dempster’s most violent employees and clear representation of the attitude the Dempster brothers took toward non-compliant Aborigines, particularly from 1872 in the Fraser Range area. This case is also prime example of the nature of coercion as applied by land-owning settlers toward the indigenous help they could not do without; a subject only now beginning to gain traction amongst Australia’s academics concerned with Indigenous history. In any case, Tommy Newell was a witness to Marabool’s horrific killing and called to testify at Albany Police Court in December 1888, during which he said he had been at Esperance Bay Station ever since he was a boy.

So Tommy Newell was separated from his Northam family at a young age and appears to have spent almost all of his early life in the Esperance area. By the time he gave evidence at Albany courthouse in the Griffin case in 1888, he was 24 years old and looks to have been the father of  three boys. These were Teddy, Norris and Horace Newell, born to Tommy’s partner of the time, Nyittee. According to Jan James/Goodacre, Nyittee was born in Western Australia 1st July, 1864, so was the same age as Tommy. Nyittee may also have been known by the English name Jane Jenkins. Goodacre, who does not cite her sources and has been shown to be wrong across many genealogies, claims Edward (Teddy) Newell was born 1st July, 1882, when Tommy was just 18 years old. The birth dates of the other boys are not given. Now, inaccuracy is entirely forgivable when it comes to researching Noongar births during the colonial era, especially during times and in areas where there was little to no government agency operating. Mrs Goodacre spent many years working on Noongar genealogies, something that involved countless hours of reading through colonial documents as well as talking to many family elders. Through this process she built a degree of expertise enabling her to identify threads linking families and individuals that few others could spot and it was her business to set them down on paper. However, there is a difference between simply laying down unreferenced names and dates as if they were qualified, and making clear statement that the information was obtained by word of mouth or other unofficial or unsubstantiated evidence and as such may not be correct. Thus, in the context of her work, especially the earlier generations, we have to operate within fairly loosely defined parameters. That is, we have to allow room for error.

That said, it is interesting to consider Tommy Newell likely did start his family in the 1880s while he was in the employ of the Dempster family, largely in the Esperance area. Does this mean Nyittee was an Esperance woman and the children born and brought up down there? If so the association was not strong as Eelup’s eldest sons are all associated with the Northam area where their descendnats also hail from and from where Bates’s informants declared the children originated. This then suggests Tommy Newell was moving between Northam and the Esperance areas on a fairly regular basis.

I can’t see where Mrs Goodacre ties the English name Jane Jenkins to Nyittee

His father’s family had by then been decimated and the Newells of Albany town were nowhere to be found. Except, that is, for his older sister Jane, a married woman and mother in her own right.

Did the two meet?  If so, they would have found themselves taking very separate courses in life.

Tommy Newell turned northwards back toward Pinjarra and the Avon Valley where across the 1890s he drew the attention of Henry Princep’s office by dint of his half-caste status and the child baring relationships he commenced first with Mary Wattling (Darbaranne), an Indigenous woman of northern origin, then with Louisa Mippy, (born in Bunbury) whom he married at Mandurah, and finally with Louisa’s sister Rose after Louisa passed away. Tommy’s children with Mary Wattling were taken in by the Middle Swan Half-Caste Mission and those with the Mippy sisters remained of interest to the Aborigines Department. Tommy’s descendants are now plentiful across the Upper South West, between Bunbury, the Murray, Swan and Avon River countries.

According to SWALSC, Rosie Mippy’s mother is Eddie Ann, apical ancestor to all her children.

As an interesting aside, Tommy Newell was older by about 20 years (though still a relative contemporary of) the notorious Johnny Cudgel, a difficult to reconcile yet legendary Noongar figure. Cudgel’s father was an unknown white man (probably a shepherd or farm-labourer, or else a seasonal whaler/sealer), his mother an Esperance Aboriginal woman known among the settler population as Lucy. The Bates genealogies show Cudgel’s Aboriginal paternality as Ballardong, indicating his mother’s attachment to someone from that area at that time. Johnny Cudgel terrorised the settlers of the South Coast as a young outlaw, roaming between Esperance and Albany over the course of the 1890s. This was ten years post Cocanarup, but still very much wrung-out by the aftermath. The aftermath being an effective six year shoot-to-kill era upheld by the judicial authority based at Albany. The entire 1880s and beyond hung in the cold, dark shadow of the settler response to John Dunn’s killing and along the South Coast never was there a more fearful time to be indigenous. With this in mind, it is perhaps less a surprise someone like Cudgel, who grew up under the coercion and injustices dealt heavy-handedly by prominent landowners, including the Dempster and Hassell families, acted the way he did. Cudgel’s story is important and compelling, especially as he was such a talented artist, but all-the-same hard to be sympathetically told because of the nature of some of his crimes. The evidence shows Cudgel was as charismatic yet brutal a man as ever lived in the South West, and there-in lies a Jimmy Blacksmith like story, if anyome has the courage and will to thorughly research and tell it.

The Dempster brothers, whom we are yet to comprehensively address in these pages, brought an entourage of stockmen and farmhands, including Ballardong Aborigines who had been living and working around their Toodyay property, Buckland, down to Esperance Bay with them from 1864, begging the question; did Jem Newell, then aged 45 and still unmarried, leave Albany for a spell and go to the Avon Valley (specifically Toodyay) to work, thereby meeting Tommy’s mother there? Or did he go to Esperance to work for the Dempster brothers, as other Albany men of his generation did, including Stewart Symers, and meet her in that district?

Or, to stay with the boatman./sealer/muttonbirder myth, was he part of a seasonal whaling/sealing/sandalwooding crew that brought him into brief contact with her somewhere between the Pallinup, Phillips and Thomas Rivers? In fact, the Newell name does show up in one of the shore-based whaling records of the era. (Gibbs 1996: A Biographical Index of Western Australian Whalers 1836-1879) In 1870, an M. Newell signed on as a member of John McKenzie’s Cape Riche squad. Others in the team were recorded by their first and second names. Was this someone else, perhaps a jumpship who stayed a while working around George Cheyne’s patch. Cheyne lived outside government jurisdiction so didn’t file a lot of records, but he was known to have sheltered jumpship labourers and tradesman. Or did the recorder hear M. Newell rather than Jem Newell?

Above: Did Jem Newell join a whaling  team at Cape Riche over the winter of 1870? The name Newell appears just once in over 40 years of South Coast whaling records. If the burial records are correct, Jem’s little brother Charlie had been laid to rest at Cape Riche nearly thrirty years earlier. Does this mean the Newell family had a Cape Riche connection? There is little else to suggest it, but if so the idea might support the claim Jem Newell was to some extent a boatman, sealer and muttonbirder. Image: Cut from The Western Australian Government Gazette, 5th July, 1870Source: Gibbs 1996, Drawn from data published across 43 years through multiple sources.

Perhaps Jem was part of this fraternity, at least for a spell. The whaling records extend over more than 40 years and the Newell name crops up just this once, when he was fully fifty years of age, so it’s clear he wasn’t a fixture. As far as I can see, there was no one else known by the name of Newell resident along the South Coast at that time. John Dunn who founded the Cocanarup Station in 1872, and who died by the spear there eight years later, does not appear in the list of whalers, though it is generally accepted he had spent time sealing and came across the sheep run when part of a gang cutting Sandalwood along the Phillips River around 1870.

[POST SCRIPT: 7 Sept 2020. M Newell or Newall was (most probably) Martin Newall, an American  carpenter who cut sandalwood along the Gordon River and served for a time as policeman at Albany. He was of dubious character, at one time suspected of attempted murder and who did spend some time in gaol. See Newell, Martin, entry in Erickson on-line Dictionary of Biography, page 2311 and linked newspaper article above.]

Tommy Newell is reputedly born at Northam in 1864, the same year the Dempster brothers made their original migration from the Avon Valley, via the Gordon River, to Esperance. (Erickson, The Dempsters, pg. 82.)  From this time the Dempsters occupied other lands along the route which they identified as sheep runs, or halting points. Perhaps Jem Newell participated in this drove, having been recruited from Albany? It is possible to dig much deeper by researching the Dempster family archives, but these are in private hands and the work involved extensive.

Perhaps, over some years, Jem Newell was employed as a shepherd or participated in one or more of the Dempster business cross-country droves of that period, a fine example of which was published in the West Australian newspaper in July, 1914.

Unfortunately, there is no easy conclusion to be drawn here. All we are left with is the unsatisfactory notion Jem Newell was in some way involved with the Dempster brothers during the mid 1860s while they were migrating sheep, cattle and horses from the Avon Valley down to the greater Esperance area, and then back again to the markets at Perth and Fremantle.

There is a great deal more to Tommy Newell’s life, of course, but the details are difficult to flesh out. What we know is that he appears to have fathered eleven children and in so doing commenced the New Noongar Newell family. He was associated with the towns of Northam, Pinjarra, Mandurah and Roelands. His relationship with the Mippy family, it would seem, tied him to the wider Bunbury area where he appears to have spent his latter years. Tommy Newell was reported as having died at Roelands 29th December, 1839. This was just as a local property owned by Mr Albany Bell, recognised at the time for his interest in Aboriginal welfare, was transitioning it from Chandler Boy’s Farm into Roelands Mission Farm. The Chandler Farm sought to provide employment and accomodation to Noongar families but at what amounted to exploitative terms, before becoming a children only establishment, part of  the Stolen Generation chain of institutions prominent at the time. Recent research by the Calgaret family has found that Thomas (Tommy) Newell rests in Bunbury cemetery, their records showing his death occurred in 1937, when he was aged 73.

Jem Newell and his daughter Jane (Teanan)

So, the archives also reveal Jem Newell was the known partner of an Albany woman of Aboriginal origin, and that together they had a daughter whom they called Jane. The record also uses the name Teanan to tag their daughter, suggesting her mother’s Aboriginal identity.

None of the records I’ve found provide any detail on who Teanan might have been. If Jem Newell was living with her from around 1850, he would have been in his late twenties, a man in his physical prime and, presumably, continuing to work hard in order to build or maintain some kind of financial status. As a matter of context, at that time Albany town was engaged with the arrival of the ocean-going steam liners, great metal and concrete ships multiple times the size of traditional wooden-hulled sailing vessels, whose job it was to deliver the English mail to the Australian colonies. A thing of immense administrative importance to the Empire at large. Also, convictism had finally come to Western Australia and a hiring-depot was opened at Albany at the same time (1852). Despite worry over the nature of the behaviour of these men, it meant the town was to benefit from an influx of labour which would undertake public works (road building primarily) or else be employed as farmhands and shepherds by private interests. The combination of these economic events on the back of an already (relatively) prosperous decade along the foreshore, brought about a rise in the number of public houses at Albany, as well as the district-wide settler population, increasing it from about 300 in 1848, to about 950 six years later. The overall ratio in 1854 being two women for every five men. The division on an age-basis isn’t known, but is likely to have been significantly higher among the 20 to 40 year-old bracket.

Donald Garden gives a very good synopsis of this period in Albany: A Panorama of the Sound, painting the picture of an excited town scampering to make use of the commercial opportunity the mail ships staged while the opportunity itself lurched embarrassingly from a greedy, undercapitalised grab on the part of The Australian (shipping) Company to eventual capitulation of the entire exercise in 1855 due to the outbreak of the Crimean War leading to diversion of the P&O ships away from the Australian run. The P&O service resumed in 1857, but initially was another of those false starts for Albany’s economy, (along with the unbegun Wyndham township, the poison-bush pastoral debarcle, and railway yards transfer), promising so much but ultimately delivering little.

There was considerable discontent throughout the Australian colonies at the cessation of the mail steamers, but the effect on Albany was devestating.  . . . with the port empty, the population poor and destitute. . .  A gloom came over the town as another period of depression set in. Many men were thrown out of work and forced to leave. . .  Albany’s well being had become tied to the steamer mail service. (Garden: Albany, A Panorama. . .  Pg  121/2)

One story of this time which helps build the local picture a little more was that of the birth of Cordelia Larkins Mary-Ann Dunn aboard the P&O coal hulk Larkins, floating in Princess Royal Harbour during September, 1853. The ship had arrived in July that year, was demasted and modified to accomodate the coal which was to be transferred to the arriving steamers. (See Garden pgs 139-144) For more than twenty years the hulk lay harnessed to the bottom 400 meters off-shore, becoming a daily sight for most townsfolk. Apparently, the man in charge of the teak-hulled Larkins refurb was the ex-carpenter, ex-gaoler, current Porongurups farmer and waterfront hotelier, James Dunn. That Dunn himself was carrying out the work on the Larkins is dubious as his carpentry days had more-or-less ended when one hand was badly damaged in a canon-firing mishap during 1837. Indeed, at the time Dunn looks to have been proprietor of one of six licensed hotels at Albany. At the time there were 50 houses making up the town, plus the church, court house, newly opened ‘Annesfield’ school for Aboriginal children at Serpentine Road, the jail and sundry out buildings. The story goes that Dunn sheltered a pregnant woman aboard the hulk and gave his name as father to the child (for protective purposes) on her birth certificate. The mother’s name was given only as ‘Sarah’. After the birth nothing more was known at Albany of either Cordelia or her mother. This is because the pair left for Sydney almost as soon as both were well enough to travel, a fact determined by the burial registration of baby Cordelia at Camperdown (Sydney) on December 11th that same year. It’s speculation, because the truth can never be known now, but the suggestion here is that ‘Sarah’ was a ‘working girl’, one of a number of prostitutes lured to the town by way of the waterfront’s reputation. Whether Dunn fathered the child or not is also speculation, but the suggestion he did is equally clear. That fact Dunn sheltered Sarah aboard the Larkins, and that he publicly declared the birth, indicates the likelihood of his intention to provide for both. So what happened? Did Sarah, probably a younger woman (Dunn was 40), have other plans herself, or did Dunn secretly pay for her passage to the east coast in order to preserve family stability and reputation?  He was a hard working man, James Dunn, his deeds not insignificant in the town’s development. Records show he was twice implicated with women of ‘working’ character. The question being whether he sought to protect, rather than exploit. Either way, through this tale we catch a glimpse of Albany’s village-like social dynamics long ago. This being the same small town young Jem Newell was living in, defacto style, with a woman of Indigenous origin, herself pregnant with a daughter who was to live her entire life in Albany and go on to become a most revered matriarche.

Teanan’s mother may have been born to traditional Aboriginal parents or have been mixed-race. She may even have been the daughter of one of the non-Noongar sealers wives kept off-shore. Tianan’s mother could have been as young as fifteen when partnering Jem, making her birth year roughly around the time Jem arrived into Albany himself. If she was older, she was born into the very earliest days of free settlement at Albany (early 1830s) and would have reached sexual maturity through the 1840s, those awful years of  disease, starvation and sexual exploitation behind the public houses down at the harbour front. But Teanan may have been protected from this too, perhaps by her elders, perhaps as one of the few domestic servants living in one of the town’s bigger houses. On a small scale, the 1840s was a time of prosperity too.

Teanan’s mother was no ordinary woman. Such was her influence her daughters eschewed the Newell name in favour of hers, yet each worked hard to find a place in the new white dominated society. Three of Jane Teanan’s daughters (Jem Newell’s grandaughters), Jane, Susan and Charlotte, became matriarches in their own right.

Above: Teanan’s mother, like the young woman shown here, was an unknown Aboriginal woman from Albany. She lived as defacto wife to Jem Newell from around 1850. Jane Teanan, b. (c) 1853, went on to have five children of her own, all with European men. Jane Teanan’s daughters also married into white society. Image: An unknown Menang woman photographed by Arthur Onslow at Albany during February, 1858. Source: Original from the McArthur Album held at the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW. This version copied from John Dowson’s, Old Albany, photograph book.

By extention from the Albany Fitzpatrick family we are able to quote the publicly available genealogies recorded by Jan (James) Goodacre which are held at the State Library, copies of which are also held by various Aboriginal family research agencies. These records, which draw on multiple sources for the purposes of providing detail (including the inaccurate Erickson entries), were gathered and organised by Mrs Goodacre via existing database records at the time (1978-2008), along with some personally conducted interviews.

What we learn from examining the Goodacre entry on James Thomas Newell is that the background information is the same. That is, it repeats the trotted-out unsubstantiated inaccurate narrative from earlier records claiming James Thomas Newell was a NSW convict and that with his wife Hannah had (among others) a son named James (Jem) Newell, who arrived into Albany in 1834, going on to make a living as a boatman, a sealer and procurer of muttonbirds. The Goodacre record also confuses Jem with his brother Charles, saying he was speared by Aborigines, and goes one step further in its inaccuracy by claiming Jem Newell died at Limeburners Point, which of course was the site of his father’s death twenty years earlier than his own.

What is revealed by these records is the process of myth; dilution of detail through the process of devolution, into folklore. Then, from lore to legend. Through story-telling, historically mankind has preserved the essence of truth through amalgamation and simplification of the wider reality. Over time, what actually happened becomes a meld or fusion of facts, transforming a longer more complex story into a shorter, simpler one, easier to hold onto and to relay; a beautiful thing and marvellous to observe in action. It’s just that today, through the wonder of the digital age, we have the tools at our disposal to drill ever further down while maintaining focus. Through the clouds and mists of time we can go, so long as we dont get distracted, so far as to find ourselves, almost, who ever it is we want to find, and to know once again, as far as the records will allow, the detail of what actually did happen.

To be clear, there is no known record of Jem Newell’s place or cause of death. From the outset we have to dismiss what we now know to be wrong and work only with what is newly found and/or established fact. To that end, the Goodacre information, endorsed by birth, death and marriage registrations, tells us the following;

  • Jem Newell’s defacto Aboriginal wife of the 1850s may have been known as Teanan.
  • Jem Newell’s Indigenous daughter, Jane, was born at Albany between 1846 (according to Goodacre) and 1853 (according to the Princep files)
  • Jem Newell’s daughter Jane married Jacob Wright, an ex-convict from Norfolk, England, in May 1867 (aged between 14 and 21 years). They had four children:
  1. William, b. 1869, Albany (d. 1935?)
  2. Jane, b. 1871, Albany. Also known by Aboriginal name Jinah. d. 17 July, 1937, at Albany aged 66 yrs.
  3. Susan, b.1873, Albany d. 31 May, 1937, at Albany aged 63 yrs.
  4. Mary, b. 1874, Albany d. 18 July, 1897, at Kalgoorlie, aged 20 yrs.
  • Jane’s marriage certificate to Jacob Wright states her surname as Teanan (Newell is not mentioned).
  • Jacob Wright, died at Albany in March 1874.
  • Jane Wright (aged between 28 and 35) quickly married William Henry Barrett,  an expiree and well know shore-whaler, in November 1874. They had one daughter, Charlotte Eliza Barrett b. 7 June, 1877
  • Jane Barrett (aged between 41 and 48)  married Thomas Fox , a shepherd and farm labourer, in April, 1887. There were no known children. (note: Jane’s second daughter, Susan, had a daughter with Henry Buckland in 1889. This child, Lucy Buckland, was also known as Lucy Fox as Buckland had previously married Louisa Fox, a daughter of Thomas Fox’s first marriage.)
  • Jane Teanan/Wright/Barrett/Fox died at Albany in April, 1901.

What this tells us is that Jem Newell’s daughter worked extremely hard to provide a home and according social status for both herself and her children. Like her aunty Dorothy, she married three times. When she married the English expiree Jacob Wright in 1867 she gave her surname not as Newell but as Teanan. Sadly, this reflects poorly on Jem Newell, suggesting his daughter preferred association with her mother rather than her father’s side of the family. Yet Jane Teanan focussed on the new culture and economy rather than returning to her mother’s traditional origins. This might support the idea she was brought up perhaps as part of the newly installed Camfield home for Aboriginal children, or that, perhaps, she lived with one of her paternal aunties, Caroline or Dorothy. Or, that she and her mother found some other means of support. Or, despite all inclinatiions to the contrary, she and her mother lived with and were supported by Jem himself.

Jane Teanan lived her entire life in Albany town, as did each of her daughters, except Mary, who died childless in Kalgoorlie when she was just twenty years-old. On the anniversary of her passing at Albany in April, 1901, Jane’s daughters placed a memorial notice in the Albany Advertiser, honoring their mother. They gave her name as Jane Fox, the family name of her last husband.

Above: One year after her death, Jane (Newell) Teanan’s daughters placed an In Memoriam advertisement in the local newspaper, clearly demonstrating the fondness and esteem which they held for their mother. Image: Cut from advertisements page of the Albany Advertiser. Source: Albany Advertiser, 22 April, 1902.

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking. Racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older. Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

Pink Floyd, Time (Live, Delicate Sound Of Thunder). Source: LyricFind  Songwriters: David Gilmour / Nicholas Mason / Roger Waters / Richard Wright.

By 1864, when his son Tommy was apparently born at Northam and his daughter Jane somewhere into her second decade at Albany, thirty years had gone by since Jem Newell arrived on the James Pattison. By official accounts (found to date) he was unmarried and without a known address. He had been in a defacto relationship with an indigenous Albany women but there is nothing to show he remained in that relationship or how much he cared for either her or his daughter. Was Jem Newell drifting between European and Indigenous communities around Albany (and possibly Northam/Toodyay), or was he working hard to try and influence his children in the manner of his own culture? There were no newspapers published in Albany until 1883, meaning only items of general importance made it into the Perth based publications, so there are no local sources to draw from. Suffice to say, the Newell name does not feature in the Albany History Collection, or any other, beyond what is discussed here.

The only thing we can say for sure about Jem Newell’s later movements is that he appears to have travelled to Perth by boat on two occasions in 1869 suggesting he had some pressing business there. Jem turned fifty that year.  Was he making his way to Toodyay to see his four year old son and her mother? Or was there another agenda?

In the shipping record which lists the arrival of steerage passenger J. Newell from King George Sound at Fremantle aboard the Emily Smith on July 25th that year, we see immediately below the ship Hastings arrived into port from London the following day. The Hastings was carrying a general cargo which included passengers, the largest party of which was a contingent of 55 single women. A co-incidence, or was this arrival earlier advertised?

Time was running out for Jem Newell if he was ever to find a bride of European origin.

Above: Jem Newell turned fifty in 1869, a year in which he twice appears to have travelled to Perth by sea. With almost twenty years of convict transportees arriving into Western Australia, at last single women were being shipped out too. Was Jem Newell motivated to meet some of these women before, due to age and lack of wealth, his worthiness of choice ran out? Image: Shipping Intelligence featuring J. Newell as steerage passenger arriving into Fremantle as the same time as a passenger ship from London docked with 55 single women aboard. Source: The Perth Gazette and West Australian Times 20 July, 1869.

Jem Newell never did find a European wife. He went back to Albany where his sister Dorothy’s third husband, George Pettit, employed him on his sheep run at Takalarup, east of the Porongurps on the upper Kalgan River, where it appears he lived out the remainder of his days. The summation of which only enhances the notion Jem Newell was far less a man of the sea than the land.

From the Albany Courthouse records – James Newell – died 1872 aged 55 years – Limeburner, Albany.
From the Church records of St John, Apostle and Evangelist – Albany/ James Newell – died 1872 – Albany

By the turn of the new century the Newell name hadn’t been recorded at Albany for the best part of 15 years. The only descendants of James and Hannah Newell of Elstead, Surrey, left living in the town were the maternally indigenous grand-daughters of their eldest son Jem. These three girls married into the Fitzpatrick, Ralph and Taylor families, of whom there are many descendants today.

Above: Dr Alan Fitzpatrick, circled, was a much admired medico at Albany across the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Like others in this image he was a true product of the town, his working-class ancestry dating back through two World Wars, the convict and P&O eras, all the way to the 1830s when Albany’s population measured less than two hundred. Image: Players from the 1946 Air Training Corp football team, forunner to Royals Football Club. Fitzpatrick’s team was photographed at the Parade Street playing fields close to 100 years after the birth of his great-grandmother, Jane Teanan, daughter of Jem Newell and an unknown woman of Indigenous origin. Source: Craig McBride Private Collection (posted to Lost Albany facebook page – 27 December, 2017)

Part 2 – The story of  Jimmy Newhill and his family – follows.

14 responses to “Jimmy’s Harbour – Newell or Newhill? Part 1”

  1. Leanne Watmuff Avatar
    Leanne Watmuff

    Ciaran, I have just read your research on Jimmy Newell/Newhill. Wow you have been busy. I’m a descendant of Caroline Newell. I look forward to re-reading (in more depth) part 1 and part 2 of the story. Regards Leanne

    1. Meegan Hyde-Weir Avatar
      Meegan Hyde-Weir

      I am a descendant of Hannah Hall and the Newells. I am only just learning all of this after a distant cousin found me during his research. This article is just phenomenal. I am very much enjoying learning as much as I can.

      1. ciaran@theviewfrommountclarence.com Avatar

        Great that you are finding out about the Newells and your ancestry Meegan. I’m very happy to have been of some help.

  2.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    Shame on the fitzpatrick’s trying to claim there aboriginal pfft talking about family history that doesn’t belong to them. you too ciarn

    1. ciaran@theviewfrommountclarence.com Avatar

      I don’t think the descendants of Jane Teanan are trying to claim Aboriginality, at least not in regard to the SNC, though I certainly understand your viewpoint. From a Menang perspective this research was carried out over 15 months in the knowledge the Fitzpatrick family were descended from Jane Teanan but also with the idea Jimmy Newhill’s wife, Elizabeth Cullinane. may have been either the daughter of Jane Teanan, or a sister. But this was not proven and in the absence of any other evidence must now be let go. The motivation for telling the Newell/Newhill story came from the need to try and clear up the harbour naming issue, but equally by the connection of both families to the Menang, especially the Newells. There is sensitivity surrounding the knowledge Jane Teanan’s daughters chose to take the European path and it is understandable objection is taken to the story surfacing, especially now, but it is part of the social make-up of the South Coast and an important aspect of its history. The idea is not to cause upset, rather to try and explain how certain families turmed their backs on their Indigenous origins as a result of the racial pressures of the time, which I think were ten times or more what they are now. The isolation those familes lived with was immense as they had to hide from their Aboriginality and pretend to be Europeans knowing their Menang relatives despised them for it and living in fear they would be found-out or shunned otherwise. I think this is a part of the history which needs to be explored a little more, your comment here showing how much pain and disappointment still exists after 180 years. The intention is to acknowledge what happened and how, always with a view to apology, forgiveness and understanding,. Best wishes, Ciaran

  3. Bronwyn Brown Avatar
    Bronwyn Brown

    Great read – my head is spinning hahaha….. Jinah or Jane Tianen’s descendents have shown strongly in trees since doing DNA through Ancestry.
    Many of the family trees I have recently found show Aboriginal Tianan as Jane Tianan’s (b 1846) mother.
    Confused as most trees show young Janes first husband as George Bradley and her first daughter as Lucy Bradley (m. McBride). Noticed some of the McBrides in photos.
    Thank you for all your great work.

    1. ciaran@theviewfrommountclarence.com Avatar

      Thanks Bronwyn, in all my reserach I did not come across the names George Bradley or Lucy Bradley/McBride. Surely they would have come up somewhere if they are credible options. Sometimes Ancestry trees are wrong and too many people copy and paste without checking sources and thoroughly analysisng time lines. Nonetheless, if you think the connection is genuine then please let me know by email at ciaran@theviewfrommountcarence.com and we can take as close a look as possible together. Best wishes to you…

      1. ciaran@theviewfrommountclarence.com Avatar

        Just to say, that I have now seen those names and when I get time will see what sense I can make of them. . .

  4. Ashlee Kaye Avatar
    Ashlee Kaye

    Good Evening, Wow what an interesting read.
    I have been doing my Ancestry Tree for my nan Joan Harrison (Newhill) her father is Ronald Newhill, Jimmy Newhill is my 3rd time great grandfather.
    Can’t wait to show her this.

    1. ciaran@theviewfrommountclarence.com Avatar

      Happy that you are happy, Ashlee. 🙂

  5.  Avatar
    Anonymous

    Thank you Ciaran. It’s not only well-written but shows remarkable perseverance on your part to trace and track this curious story.
    On seeing I was in Albany recently, a cousin – keeper of the family ancestry – reminded me I was a descendant of James Newell and Hannah Hall through their daughter Caroline. I pleaded ignorance but promised to investigate (I have 63 other pairs of four-times great-grandparents, and it isn’t easy to keep track of them all).
    I was referred to your website and writings by the present owners of “Old Surrey”, who also displayed a copy of the deed of grant signed by Governor Stirling. I’ve read Jill Bear’s 2014 essay, “Who was James Newell?” and the transcript of Caroline’s oral history, both of which you mention.
    For confirmation I checked my Ancestry DNA markers, which trace back to the James and Hannah from Surrey, England. I realise there is potential for circularity in mapping trees to DNA and then using DNA to confirm the tree, but there is an overall weight of evidence through other family records. One notable connection is that my grandfather (James’ great-great-grandson) also died of an aortic aneurism. I can assure readers he was not of an intemperate disposition.

    1. ciaran@theviewfrommountclarence.com Avatar

      Yes, we inherit the bodies of our ancestors right? It’s just a question of the mix. Lol. Thanks for reading and for getting in touch, good on you. It’s pleasing to see the work is finding its desired audience. I’m currently working on the Albany of the 1830s again and noting the lives of Caroline’s sisters Dorthea and Mary, and of course tracking Jem Newell’s path as best I can. As far as our little coastal dwelling place down here is concerned, there are family stories of immense depth and complexity yet to be told. Those who followed from Jem Newell being of prime importance. Who was Teanan, the mother of his children? Was she Menang Noongar, or a child of one of the island wives kept by the likes of Bob Gamble, John Bailey Pavey and Black Anderson himself? The lower orders of Albany society in the 1830s comprised a luckless though supremely hardy bunch.

  6. Michael Avatar
    Michael

    Thank you for all of your work, like other commenters I’m a descendant of Caroline and George Weston. It’s fantastic to get such a detailed history.

    1. ciaran Avatar

      Delighted to have been of some help, Michael. There’s more to come if I can get down to it. Stay tuned.

      Best Wishes,

      Ciaran

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