Esther’s Story, Part Three: The Cascades Female Factory and Brickfields Invalid Depot, 1870-1877

In 1870, a horrific assault took place at the Cascades Female Factory. At eight o’clock in the morning on the 13th of July, a woman named Eliza Osborne beat an elderly woman named Ellen Conway with the iron dinner bell. She hit her in the head so hard that the bell cracked. Ellen Conway was a 73 year old ex-convict who had been sent to the depot for begging. One of the people who rushed to her side to help her was the nurse, Mrs Cecilia Eliza Paul. A few kilometers away (about 25 minutes’ walk), the nurse’s daughter ten year old Esther Mary Paul was also a witness – to her uncle George’s marriage at the family home at Cross Street, Sandy Bay.

This week in Esther’s story, we break away from the whaling logbook where we first found her as a five year old girl. Now we’ll trace her and her parents through two institutions which housed the most vulnerable people in Hobart in the 1870s – the Brickfields Invalid Depot and the Cascades Establishment. To piece that story together, we have to jump forward and backward in time a little bit, but I promise it is worth the journey!

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Esther’s Story, Part Two: Getting By in Hobart, 1860-1870

“Cross Street, Sandy Bay Road,” “Be a good girl, Esther,” “Esther shall not go out again,” “Bombay is in Asia, ABC,” “Evil communication corrupts,” “Love your grandmother Esther” – each of these were written over and over again in a whaler’s logbook, and signed “Esther Mary Paul” in November or December, 1865. What was little Esther doing writing these lines, in -between and alongside the records of her uncle and aunt’s adventures at sea long before she was born? Was she being educated or punished, or both? Where was she living and why was she there? In this continuing story of little Esther Mary Paul and the whaling logbook in the Crowther Collection, we’ll try to piece together Esther’s young life. It’s a tale of sorrow, struggle, and abandonment, but also of strength, resilience, and love.

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Esther’s Story, Part One: The Whaler’s Log

In November of 1865, a five year old girl named Esther sat in a house in Sandy Bay, writing lines in a small, leather-bound book. Some days, she had geography lessons. Some days, she was in trouble. Some days, she just needed to memorize her new address. Two months came and went, and the little girl wrote line after line. Her notebook had once belonged to her Uncle William, and recorded his whaling voyages to the Pacific Ocean and the Timor Sea. In the spaces in-between the stories of whales and gales, little Esther did her school work. So did her Aunt Charlotte, who copied out poems and ballads for the little girl to memorize. Aunt Charlotte knew that logbook well, for it was the record of her own honeymoon at sea, nine years earlier. Now it became a part of a different family story – of tragedy, loss, love, abandonment, and survival.

Esther’s Story is actually the story of three nineteenth-century women: Esther Mary Paul (Lithgow), her mother Cecilia Eliza (Rowland) Paul, and her aunt Charlotte Ann (Rowland) Jacobs. Over Family History Month, we’ll follow these women through three blogs and fifty years of their lives, using digital collections together with library and archival resources. It’s a tale of adventure, improvisation, and resilience, but it’s also something else. It’s a reminder – of how our own historical present can change how we think about the past. Read on to discover more.

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Tales of the Unexpected

We’ve just finished celebrating Family History Month, which offered us an opportunity to reflect on some of the unexpected connections to be found in Libraries Tasmania’s archival and heritage collections. In this post, we explore four ‘rare books’ that were not written here, not published here, not about Tasmania in any way, but which unfold extraordinary Tasmanian stories through the history of their ownership and use. From a 17th century Bible once held in royal hands, to a 19th century tanner’s technical manual, here are some tales of the unexpected uncovered in the State Library of Tasmania.

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The Orphan Schools

This year marks the 150th anniversary of public education in Tasmania.

To help us understand where we’ve come from (and perhaps where we’re going!) the librarians and archivists of the State Library and Archive Service are producing a series of blogs on the history of public education in Tasmania. These aren’t comprehensive – rather, they’re snapshots of places, people, and institutions, as well as a guide to the resources we hold at the State Library. Some of the common themes that feature throughout the blogs are concerns about the curriculum; about health, physical fitness, and nutrition; about sanitation; about industrial training and academic outcomes. But these blogs are also something more – they’re about the history of childhood in Tasmania, and how our view of children – and what education means – has changed since the nineteenth century. We hope you enjoy the journey!

The Orphan Schools established in Hobart in 1828 were an early form of public education, but a harsh one. Their aim was to transform poor children into ‘respectable’ industrious adults. The system was cruel even by the standards of the day – based on discipline, religion, punishment and control. Most of the children were not true orphans, but the children of convict parents, whose imprisonment and work for the convict system prevented the parents from caring for them. Others were the children of the unemployed, destitute, or those that the authorities perceived to be leading immoral lives. Some Aboriginal children were institutionalised as well. All were separated from their parents, housed in cold rooms with no fires and poor sanitation; disease was rampant and mortality was high.

What follows is not easy reading, and it is not suitable material for young children. The story is characterized by cruelty, abuse, and neglect, but also by tremendous resilience, resistance, and compassion. The historical records in the Tasmanian Archives tell this story – and throughout this blog, we will link to them. You, the reader and researcher, can choose to follow the story further in as much in depth as you choose to.

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Two forgotten bushranger plays

For more than 200 years, bushrangers have captured the imagination of storytellers and audiences alike.  Their exploits have inspired songs, books, and, of course, plays. Read on to find out more about two forgotten bushranger plays that span the centuries and the globe, from the floorboards of the Royal Coburg Theatre in London to the airwaves of Tasmanian radio.

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A Peek Inside the Cascades Female Factory, 1833-1834, and a New Digital Volunteer Expedition

 

At the foot of Mount Wellington stands the remains of a forbidding institution.  Nearly two centuries ago, the walls of the Cascades Female Factory housed hundreds of women, children and babies. Some of these convict women were waiting to go to new masters, others were being punished. Now you can help to tell their stories through our newest digital volunteering project, transcribing the Register of Female Convicts at the Cascades Female Factory, 1833-1834.

 

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The Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery

Have you ever driven past the Alexandra Battery in Sandy Bay and wondered what it was for? Have you ever heard rumours of a planned Russian invasion of Tasmania in the 19th century? As Anzac Day approaches, we’d like to share the story of the Southern Volunteer Artillery Regiment with you. Thanks to our new corps of online volunteers, we can now tell this amazing story in a new way, preserve it for future generations, and maybe even link it to your own family history. Intrigued? Want to get involved? Read on!

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Colonial Cunning Folk, part two: Moses Jewitt and Benjamin Nokes

Our previous post described the notebook of William Allison, a cunning man or traditional healer active in Van Diemen’s Land during the 1830s and 1840s. Survivals of such documents are extremely rare, and unheard of in colonial Australia. Besides recording Allison’s activities, his notebook sheds light on his network, naming two other practitioners from whom he obtained recipes: Moses Jewell or Jewitt, and Benj Knokes also noted as ‘BN’. Continue reading “Colonial Cunning Folk, part two: Moses Jewitt and Benjamin Nokes”

Colonial Cunning Folk, part one: William Allison

A nondescript little notebook, hidden in plain sight in the state archives, has opened a window onto two extraordinary lives and yielded some startling insights into the popular beliefs and practice of traditional medicine in colonial Tasmania. William Allison (ca.1789-1856) and Benjamin Nokes (ca.1780?-1843) were ‘cunning men’, skilled in the use of herbal remedies, lacking formal qualifications but widely respected, operating somewhere on the spectrum between magic and science.

This post is about William Allison’s notebook, and what it reveals about his life and career. Our next post will explore the life of his co-practitioner Benjamin Nokes. Continue reading “Colonial Cunning Folk, part one: William Allison”