Sunday, October 24, 2010

Knocking About: Being Some Adventures Of Augustus Baker Peirce In Australia

Knocking About: Being Some Adventures Of Augustus Baker Peirce In Australia

I've just finished reading this book, written and illustrated by Augustus Baker Peirce
published by Yale University Press in 1924. It was edited by Mrs. Albert T. Leatherbee, presumably from a manuscript written by the author. The foreword, written by Edwin Howard Brigham, MD, states that he (Brigham) met Augustus ('Gus') Baker Peirce in 1892 when Peirce had returned to the United States (his nation of origin).

The introduction also tells us he was born in Medford, Massachussets on October 7, 1840, the son of Major Moses Peirce and Mehitable Nye. The family's nautical past spurred Gus Peirce to the seas on the 'Oriental' which sailed from New York for Australia in 1859. Unhappy with his treatment, Peirce fled the ship there and as such

Peirce was an artist, actor and storyteller, and the few book reviews that appeared in Australian papers in the 1920's appear to have registered this. 'The Queenslander' (25 Apr 1925) stated "...but one has a shrewd suspicion that Augustus baker Peirce, who was obviously born a humorist, did a considerable amount of gentle 'leg pulling' when he returned to his adoring relatives in America, and appeared before them as a Robinson Crusoe back from strange lands." This is perhaps exemplified when Peirce writes that shark fins could been seen flashing about the boat in Port Phillip, and that as a result of a bungle when departing the boat with others, he was forced to swim a mile to shore in these waters.

Nevertheless, in Australia Peirce had a wide range of occupations, from gold-digger to labourer to actor/stage producer to photographer, he mapped the Murray Darling system and was a steam boat captain on those same waters. His travels took him up and down the Murray Darling River and to Hill End/Tambaroora in NSW (the reference point that lead me to pick up this book).

Irrespective of his 'leg-pulling', some stories can be confirmed in the newspapers, and it seems Peirce was often in the right (or wrong) place at the right time.

As examples
- Early in his time in Australia he wrote that a Greek man shot at him and just missed.
- One amazing story Peirce refers to relates to SHIRES, a man who sold snake bite lotion, and proved its worth by having himself bitten by a snake. Peirce went out with Shires when they met to catch a snake. Peirce relates that many years later in Melbourne, the Police Chief, a man named Drummond, had insisted the snakes must surely not be poisonous, and had himself bitten - he died the next day. Shires was charged with murder for allowing the bite to occur, but was acquitted. There are some remarkable detailed accounts of the events and case in the Australian papers of the time.
- He dined with a police constable named SMITH./SMYTH who was subsequently shot by the bushranger Dan Morgan (in 1864). That he really knew Smith may be inferred from the fact that a drawing of Smith is included in the book.
- A number of adverts appear in papers showing he was a riverboat captiain.

The memoirs are extremely informative, and a number of facets of Peirce's experiences particularly so. Peirce makes a point of highlighting the number of fellow Americans (especially Bostonians) that he meets and associates with in his travels - a part of the colonial population in Australia that doesn't get as much exposure. The book also reveals the way Australians in far-flung towns were entertained in the 1800's - travelling shows, pantomime in makeshift tents, recited poetry and song, and exhibited rolls of paintings of far-away lands. Great detail on the difficulties in navigating the Murray-Darling river system is given. Finally, Peirce also spent time as a photographer using the colloidon process in Australia, and some detail of how they travelled and sold photographs was given.

Peirce makes very few references to his family, except that they travelled with him as he moved from place to place. We can tell from records that he married Agnes CARNEY at Moama (on the NSW side of the Murray River) in 1869. It appears that they probably met in Sydney the prior year as a son Augustus was born in 1868 in Balmain (Sydney), and a second in Echuca, Victoria (over the river from Moama) in 1870. While Victoria and NSW have good family history records, South Australia does not and so other children may have been born. Augustus left Australia in the early 1890's, an he simply states that he returned home to see his family and because his wife had passed away.

In the 1900 US census Augustus was living in Massachusetts with his brother, and apparently died in 1919. His sons remained in Australia when he departed, as evidenced by a memorial in the 'Argus':

Argus 1 May 1924
"In loving memory of my dear brother Gus, son of Augustus and the late Agnes Pierce (late of Geelong) who died 1st May 1921, at Melbourne (Inserted by his loving brother, Bert Pierce)."

Curiously the death notice does not state that their father was 'late'. How the book came to be published isn't entirely clear. Given the detailed drawings Peirce produced the complement the text, it is assumed he was preparing the manuscript at the time of his death, and that they were finalised by the editor prior to publication.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Seeking relatives of Pentyre Edmund Anderson Morshead (1882 - 1962)

Looking for anyone related to, or interested in, Pentyre Edmund Anderson Morshead.

He was born in 1882, the second son of John Yonge Anderson MORSHEAD (sometimes written Anderson-Morshead) and Helen Beatrice Anderson Morshead (a cousin). The Anderson Morshead home was 'Widey Court' in Eggbuckland, Devon, England, however it appears they also had a London home and his birth was registered there (Fulham).

Pentyre was schooled at Crowthorne, Berks (1892-1896), Winchester College (1896-1901) and Corpus Christi College, Oxford (1901-1905). I have not uncovered his whereabouts in the 1901 England census, and suspect (given his relatively unique name) that he was therefore abroad.

He then entered to teaching profession. He was a teacher at King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon (1905 - 1909), the school which Shakespeare attended. From here he apparently moved to Cottesmore School, Hove, Brighton, then he taught at Malvern College located in Malvern, Worcestershire (presumably his location here led to him meeting his wife). He was housemaster of No. 2 House at Malvern College, and taught French, Geography and cricket.

Pentyre married Evangeline Corrie CUSTANCE on 29 Nov 1914 in the Westhampnett registration district in Sussex. They had no issue as a couple. Evangeline Corrie Custance was born Oct-Dec 1876 in Colwall, Herefordshire, England on the border with Worcestershire.

His marriage appears to have immediately preceded his call-up for the First World War. He served in the Royal Field Artillery.

Following retirement from Malvern, he moved to Sussex. His wife pre-deceased him and he died in Malvern.

If you think you may be related, please contact me by e-mail at or as we're looking to make more connections.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rosetta Stabler and her Eating House

Rosetta Stabler arrived on the Glatton as a free person - her husband was a convict on the same ship.

SG Sunday 26 June 1803
At the House formerly occupied by Michael Knowland, near the New Windmill, on the Rocks.
ROSETTA STABLER respectfully acquaints the Public that she prepares Boiled Mutton and Broths every day at 1 o'clock, and a Joint of Meat Roasted always ready at One, which, from its quality and mode of serving, she flatters herself will attract the Norice of the Public. Visitors from remote Settlements, Mariners, &c. will find a convenient Accommodation at a moderate expence, and every exertion will be made to render satisfaction.

SG 24 July 1803
New Eating and Chop House.
BEGS leave to acquaint the Public that she has Removed in to PITT's ROW, next door to Yorkshire Grey ; where she continues to Sell Dressed Victuals at the same reasonable prices as usual ; and respectfully solicits the Notice of the Public. Tea and Coffee made.

SG Sunday 25 December 1803
Eating House in Pitts-Row, BEGS Leave to acquaint the Public, that he has ??? in a Stock of ??? Strong BEER, which has had news of superior strength and quality, for the supply of his customers. NB And ORDINARY THIS DAY at One o'Clock, 18 d. per head. Plates or Dishes sent out on the most reasonable terms.

SG Sunday  8 April 1804
ROSETTA STABLER respectfully begs leave to acquaint the PUBLIC that she has REMOVED to Mr. MOORE's HOUSE nearly opposite the Hospital Wharf, where she intends to dress Victuals as usual. An Ordinary on Sundays, and every day in the Week during the Winter Season. Mutton and Pork Pies at 18d. and 2s. each. Tea and Breakfast at any hour, and Draft and Bottled Beer sold as usual.

This is the last advertisement I could find for her Eating house - three moves in just under a year.

1806 General Muster
Rosetta Stabler, Ship: Glatton, How employed: wife, CF (Came Free), living with W Stabler.

Her husband William was in trouble in 1806:

SG Sunday 22 June 1806
William Stabler was yesterday brought before a Bench of Magistrates and ordered to Castle Hill, for harbouring two seamen, deserters from the Aurora south whaler, in disobedience of a General Order issued the 22d of September 1804 ; the penalties attached to which offence are described in the Abridgment of General Orders lately published, under the head " Apprentices and "Deserters."    

Rosetta died in 1810, buried at St. Matthew's Church of England at Windsor. Her husband must have re-married as he advertised that he and his wife were sailing for England in 1823.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Suicide interrupted

Sydney Gazette
Sunday April 17 1803

On Thursday night last a Settler at Kissing Point attempted to put a period to his worldly difficulties, by scientifically applying a noose to his neck, and TURNING himself off in due form. The noise occassioned by this DERNIER resource alarmed a young girl in an adjoining room, who, with a remarkable presence of mind, severed the suspending cord, and thus, though not without much difficulty, restored the care-devoted victim to the current of anxiety by which he had been precipitated to so criminal an attempt upon his own existence ; and which had been occasioned, as we are informed, by a superabundance of sensibility, and an insupportable vexation, ocassioned by the elopement of an AMIABLE partner, whose paramour, to add to his mortification, wore a wooden leg.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

First use of the term BUSH RANGER

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser
Sunday 17 February 1805

On Tuesday last a cart was stopped between this settlement and Hawkesbury, by three men whose appearance sanctioned the suspicion of their being bush-rangers. They had been previously observed lurking about the Ponds by a carrier, who passed unmolested, owing perhaps to his having another man in company ; they did not, however, take any thing out of the cart they did stop ; nor at this time as any account been received of their offering violence to either passengers or other persons ; from whence it may be hoped they prefer the prospect of being restored to society to any momentary relief that might be obtained from acts of additional imprudence that could at best but render their condition hopeless. It is nevertheless necessary, that the settler as well as the traveler should be put upon his guard against assault, and that exertion should be general in assisting to apprehend every flagitious character who would thus rush upon a danger from which they can only be extricated by timely contrition and their return to obedience. All that have heretofore devoted themselves to this most horrible state of exile exactly correspond in the narration of vicissitudes to which many have fallen the unhappy victims. How deplorable must be the prospect of terminating an existence under all the accumulated horrors of such an exile ! without a friend at hand to administer the last kind offices, or to alleviate affliction by humane condolance ! parching with thirst, perhaps, but deprived by famine of the power to quench it ! instead of the delightful confidence which Christian resignation can alone inspire, each succeeding pang embittered wit self-accusation and remorse, heightened by the surrounding gloom to all the agonies of deep despair. If conscious impropriety of conduct inspire the fatal resolution of flying to the woods, this second act, becomes a second outrage, and by an obstinate perseverance the very doors of mercy may be closed, and every avenue to hope cut off.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Riddle

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser
Saturday 26 March 1803


We are little airy creatures,
All of different voice and features :
One of us in GLASS is set,
One of us you'll find in JET ;
T'other you may see in TIN,
And the fourth a BOX within ;
If the fifth you should pursue,
It can never fly from YOU.