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Thus began the Ogle line in southern Australia

Author:  Brett Weinberg    Buninyong, Victoria, Australia

The American War of Independence had wide and varied consequences, some anticipated and obvious, and others not so easy to predict, such as the beginning of an Ogle family line in Australia.

Bits and pieces of the vast Australian continent had been “discovered” by Europeans since the 1500’s, and possibly by the Chinese over 100 years earlier.

In 1770, on his way back to England after observing the transit of Venus in Tahiti, British navigator, Capt. James Cook, supposedly had secret instructions to determine the existence of a southern continent, which had been propounded by geographical philosophers. He circumnavigated and charted the coasts of New Zealand and formally claimed it for Britain and then headed westward until he reached the coast of what was then called New Holland. Heading north and charting the coast of the eastern mainland of Australia, Cook also claimed this land for Britain.

Britain had been shipping convicts to America for decades before they started sending them to Australia. From 1718 until 1775, convict transportation to the American colonies flourished. Some estimates claim that almost 10 per cent of migrants to America during this time were British convicts. Experts estimate that over 52,000 British prisoners were shipped off to colonial America. In fact, it was precisely because of America's fight for independence that the British had to start sending their criminals to Australia.

John Ogle 1802-1877, a farm laborer from near Alnwick, in Northumberland, was to become one of those “transported” to Britain’s new destination for many of the inmates of its overcrowded gaols. (jails)

There were other reasons why the British decided to colonize the recently discovered “Great South Land” or “Terra Australis”. One major reason was to prevent French expansion in the South Pacific. There had been wars between the British and French sporadically through the 1700’s, which continued to the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1880’s. Therefore, the British decided to colonize Australia and take up the claim that Cook had made over the land.

In 1787, “The First Fleet” left Portsmouth with more than 1530 convicts, free sellers and soldiers for the voyage to Botany Bay, in what was then referred to as New South Wales. The Fleet was made up of a ragtag collection of ships, ranging from 70 to 114 feet in length, including the ten-gun ship H.M.S. Sirius. It took approximately 250 days to complete the voyage. They called in at Tenerife, in the Canary islands, Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, then Cape Town, South Africa, before making the 4,800 mile non-stop voyage from there to Botany Bay, New South Wales. 69 died, deserted or were discharged during the voyage.

In addition to emptying British gaols [Variant of jail, chiefly British], the colonization of New South Wales seemed to be a reaction to the fear of French expansion in to the South Pacific. There was an uneasy stand off with the French naval officer, Jean-Francois Comte La Perouse, who arrived at Botany Bay just 5 days after British naval officer Capt. Arthur Phillip and his First Fleet. Realizing the French would immediately see there was no established settlement to support Britain’s claims to New South Wales; Phillip promptly removed himself and his 11 ships to Port Jackson (now the site of Sydney), an infinitely better harbor.

Under the orders of Louis XVI, La Perouse had crisscrossed the Pacific from Alaska to Maui, and had mapped the California coast. Had he arrived just 5 days earlier at Botany Bay, Australia may have become a French colony, and the history of South-East Asia, and the South Pacific and Indian Oceans would have been radically changed.

For somewhere between 40-60,000 years, the continent had been inhabited by Aboriginals; nomadic hunter gatherers who had made there way from Africa across Southern Asia and the land bridges that existed in the times. They used stone tools, generally had no permanent settlements, and used spears and boomerangs as weapons. They weren’t a great hindrance to the establishment of the British settlement at Sydney Cove, and at some stages had helped the newcomers avoid dying from starvation in these unfamiliar climes.

John Ogle was 38 years old, and the father of five children, when he was convicted at Northumberland Quarter Sessions for supposedly stealing 3 fletches of bacon [A flitch is a side cut from an animal or fish] and some clothes, for which he was sentenced to 7 years transportation, with his sentence later doubled for attempting to escape.

After being convicted and sentenced at Hexham, Northumberland on April 18, 1840, he was sometime later sent to the Thames hulk prison ship “Warrior” to await transportation to “Van Diemen’s Land”, which happened about 12 months later.   The “Warrior” was previously the “H.M.S. Warrior”, a 74-gun ship of the line that had participated in the Battles of Saintes, Copenhagen, and Cape Finistre before being decommissioned, dismasted, and finishing its life as a Thames hulk prison ship at Woolwich for 17 years, from 1840-57.

Normally the hulks were anchored off the south shore of the Thames. Sometimes the hulks were stationed on the north side of the river because of unrest and escapes by the convicts. Escapes to the more populous Woolwich waterfront were more common than to the north shore. In the 18th century the marshes to the north were a desolate and frightening place.   Few convicts made a bid for freedom using this route.

The handful of convicts who did manage to escape would head for communities that they knew would take them in.   Their friends and families helped most escapees from the shore.   Many of these folk were skilled at breaking and entering, planning getaway routes, distracting guards, bribing boatmen, and countless other criminal skills.

Apparently, John Ogle was on a working gang from the convict hulk "Warrior", on Friday the 9th of October 1840, when he made his escape.   The sentry on duty fired a shot at him, lucky for him, and for us, he missed! A search party was dispatched, but did not find him.   A few days later he was recaptured by the police and returned to the hulk, but not after putting up a significant fight for his freedom, as chronicled in The Times of October 13, 1840.

CAPTURE ON THE RUNAWAY CONVICT – On Sunday evening, about 7 o’clock, policeman Daniel Riordan, 297 R, of the Woolwich Division, when on duty on the lower road betwixt Woolwich and Greenwich, near to the chalk pits, observed a person in his shirt sleeves inside a hedge having the appearance of a beggar.   On inquiring what he wanted there, the person to whom he put the question replied that he was searching for a knife, which he had lost.   There was something so suspicious in the movements of the party, and evident desire to elude observation, that Riordan was induced to examine him more minutely, when the appearance of an iron ring around his leg showed that he was an escaped convict.   The policeman immediately gave chase, and after crossing several fields overtook him while endeavoring to force his way through a hedge.

The seizure of each other by the throat was simultaneous, and a severe struggle took place, which lasted for upwards of 20 minutes.   The Convict, although he had been three days without food, made a most desperate resistance, and at one time nearly overpowered the policeman, having succeeded in breaking the string which secured his staff to his wrist, and having obtained possession of it, gave him some very severe blows. Notwithstanding there were several persons who witnessed this trial of strength, not one would render any assistance, although called upon to do so, and it was only owing to the superior strength of Riordan, a powerful man upwards of six feet high, that he ultimately succeeded in securing the convict, whom he brought, followed by a great crowd, to the Dockyard, and handed him over to the Authorities there.   The convict, whose name is John Ogle, was convicted at Hexham, in July last, and sentenced to 14 years’ transportation.   He is now in close custody on board the Warrior Hulk.

Remember, John Ogle was nearly 40 years old at the time.   He received an extra 7 years on his transportation sentence.

The Transportation Registers indicate that he was “Disposed of” to the convict transport “Layton” on March 24, 1841 and departed for Van Diemen’s Land via Sheerness on April 9, 1841, arriving 145 days later.   John Ogle could read and write, which would have been unusual for a person who had been a farm laborer, and was listed as a servant.

In 1642, Abel Tasman, Dutch seafarer and explorer, who is best known for his voyages in the service of the Dutch East Indies Company, sailing from Batavia (now known as Jakarta, Indonesia) sighted the coast of Tasmania and named his discovery after the Governor of the Dutch East Indies, Antonio van Diemen.

Van Diemen’s Land seemed appropriately named, as this was a major destination for convicts transported from Britain from1812 until 1853, when transportation ceased.

John Ogle arrived in Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land on September 1, 1841 with 245 other convicts, 5 having died during the voyage.

Van Diemen’s Land, now called Tasmania, is the southernmost state of Australia, and is a very large island separated from the mainland by Bass Strait.   It is the second oldest state in the country and was first settled in 1803.   From 1812 until 1853, convict ships were sent direct to VDL rather than stopping in Sydney.   In the fifty years of transportation about 67,000 convicts arrived in VDL.   It was a fear of French colonization that led to the British founding a small settlement there which developed in to a major port for the acceptance of convict transportation.

A penal colony was established in 1822 at Macquarie Harbor on the west coast of the island to house repeat offenders from New South Wales, and its reputation for cruelty and barbarism spread throughout the British Empire.   Macquarie Harbor had the advantage of being almost impossible to escape from, most attempts ending with the convicts either drowning, dying of starvation in the bush, or (on at least two occasions) turning cannibal.

A new settlement was established on the south coast of the island at Port Arthur, which, like its predecessor, had a reputation for brutality that soon spread throughout the world.   It was here that John Ogle arrived.

John was sent with a gang of convicts to remote Salt Water Creek which was an area where the convicts worked in coal mines under a Probation System where they could earn benefits such as having a cell by himself rather than sharing with other convicts.   Strangely, after 5 years under the Probation System, John had not progressed to a less strict class.   However, after another 3 years, John was given his Ticket of Leave, a type of document of parole issued to convicts who had not completed their sentence but who had shown they could now be trusted with some freedoms.  

At this stage, John was moved to northern Van Diemen’s Land to work on some of the large farms that had been established at Longford by what were to become dynastic families, some of whom still farm the area today.

It may have been developments back in England that had helped John Ogle receive his Ticket of Leave and be allowed to live a less strict life.

In November 1827, at the age of 24, John Ogle had married a lady from Scotland, Rosanna Hughes, at St. Mary’s in Belford, Northumberland which parish is now part the Church of England Diocese of Newcastle.   She was 21 when they married and 26 years old when she had her first child, Jane, and 37 years old when she had the last of her five children.   She was probably pregnant when with this child, George, when John Ogle was tried and sentenced prior to being transported a year later.

Rosanna’s husband and breadwinner, having been transported to the other side of the earth, put Rosanna and her children in dire straits.

Rosanna lost her children to the Workhouse System shortly after, and had a year old baby to care for, as well as earn a living.   How she managed separated from her children; working as a General Servant, living in a house with other unrelated people; and with an infant; is unimaginable.

The Ogle children were sent to the Alnwick workhouse.   The Workhouse System was supposed to house, educate and work the poor, possibly “for their own good”, or probably for some other self-serving morality.   Rosanna was working as a servant in a town 10 miles away.   For nearly 8 years, this was the lot of the Ogle family.

Through the Poor Laws the church was obligated in some way to support the poor of its parish, and it would seem that the Ogles fell in to this category, both before and after John’s transportation.

The Ogles’ parish faced the decision of looking after them for a long time, probably until they were old enough to get jobs outside the Workhouse System, or paying their emigration fares, and “getting them off the books”!

It would seem that the Ogle family, Rosanna and children, were part of a practice of the church at the time based on economics, which fitted nicely with the Crown being keen to populate the fledgling colony of New South Wales:
Government Gazette, intimating all expiree prisoners of
the Crown, or such as may have obtained Tickets of Leave
or higher indulgences, that in consequence of the Government
being prepared to furnish their wives and families with free
passages to this colony, all such as may wish to reap the
advantage of such a privilege, are to make an early
application to such an effect to the Superintendent of
Convicts, Sydney.   Convicts at present under sentence will
have an opportunity of acting similarly, as soon as they
shall obtain their tickets of leave”
(A notice from the Sydney, N.S.W. newspaper of Sept. 4, 1847)

The Ogles’ parish decided to limit their liability, rather than continuing to support the family for an unknown period of time, and ship them off to reunite with John in Tasmania.   Apparently this was not an unusual practice.

On August 1, 1849, the Ogle family - Rosanna 43 years old, Jane 20, John 18, Joseph 14, Ellen 13 and George 10- left England on “Success” headed for Vin Diemen’s Land and reconciliation with their husband and father.

When the family arrived in Hobart on November 21, 1849, after a long 112-day sea journey, their welcome wasn’t what would have been hoped for.   John Ogle was working at a farm in the north of the island 150 miles away over unmade dirt tracks through an unpopulated region, with the fears of bushrangers, ex-convicts and local Aborigines along the way.

The family was split up on arrival, and a constable sent the two older boys to the Prisoners Barracks; the youngest to the Orphan’s School; and Jane was sent off with a local person.
On finally reuniting with her husband, John, in Longford, Rosanna wrote a letter complaining of their treatment to the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land.

Longford 24th 1849

Sir I am advised to inform you of the treatment that I received I came out with my family from England in the ship Success.   I paid 70 pounds to government for our passages here to join my husband in van diemens land without any more expense and where we came on shore we were conyed by a constable with 4 other families into the Brickfield factory.   My family was all divided in a moment.   My two boys were sent to the Prisoners Barracks.   The youngest boy was sent to the Orphans School.   Mr. Smith took my eldest daughter.   The boys when they found out they were in a prison they were very disconsolate and would not stop in it.   So I was obliged to take lodgings for them at my own expense which came very? on me.   All the time my husband could not be found out.   At the time for my own fare I paid 15 and 15 for my daughter.   The Rev. Mr. R.R. Davis sent for the rest of my family.   Now Sir if you will have the goodness to interfere and get me my money returned.   And the clothing my young son had on going in was all new than have cept his own clothes and sent him out with an odious dress all covered with marks and stamps on the appears here as if he had been under some disgrace.   I want my son’s clothes returned to me as well as my money.   Now Sir I trust you will interfere for me by so doing you will greatly oblige me and I will be under a debt of gratitude to you.

I am your humblest Servant, Rosanna Ogle.

What response there was I do not know.

John Ogle gained a Conditional Pardon on 5 Feb. 1850, the following year, so the arrival of the Ogle family in VDL would most likely have been predicated on this possibility.   John had only served 10 years of his14 year sentence before being granted the Conditional Pardon.

A Conditional Pardons freed convicts and were granted on the condition that convicts did not return to England or Ireland.   Another British government method of populating the new colonies.

The Ogle family quickly left the island of Van Diemen’s Land and headed across Bass Strait for the newly formed settlement of Port Fairy on the southernmost coast of the Australian mainland.   Crossing Bass Strait can be quite a task.   It is impacted by strong currents meeting from the Antarctic, Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, which provides “a strait of powerful, wild wind storms.   To illustrate its wild strength, Bass Strait is both twice as wide and twice as rough as the English Channel.”

Port Fairy, which was also known as Belfast, had been established as a whaling station in 1835, and its first store opened in 1839.   At the time, Port Fairy was one of only two
European settlements on the whole southern coast of Australia, with the only substantial settlement on the whole continent of Australia, Sydney, being many, many weeks sailing north.   Not an ideal place to raise a family when the Ogles arrived in February, 1850.

The “Sydney Griffiths”, the ship that the Ogle family sailed on from Van Diemen’s Land, was on its maiden voyage to London, carrying a cargo of wool, and it has been suggested that Rosanna may have hoped or thought they were returning home to England.

Their eldest daughter, Jane, gave birth to a son, John Henry Allan, in April, 1851, and 2 days later married ex-convict Scott Alexander Allan.   This would probably have added to the stressful situation that Rosanna had already found herself in.

“SUICIDE.- On Saturday evening, a woman named Ogle committed suicide by throwing herself into the Moyne immediately above Dr. Hume’s.   The body has not yet been found, and it is supposed it has been washed by the current out to sea - Belfast Gazette”
The Argus: Melbourne, Friday, September 26, 1851

The Argus Saturday October 11 1851
“The body of the woman who five weeks since threw herself into the river Moyne was washed up on the beach on last Sunday evening but is so disfigured a state that it was only recognisable from the clothes in which the unfortunate suicide was dressed.”
Belfast Gazette October 7 1851

I can only speculate about poor Rosanna (Hughes) Ogle and what may have led her to take her own life.

She had arrived in Port Fairy from Launceston, VDL about 10 months earlier.   From her letter to the Lt. Gov. of Tasmania, she was a very well educated person.   How did she become involved with John Ogle, not just a farm laborer, but a farm laborer who could read and write?

Maybe when they arrived at Port Fairy, Rosanna wanted to keep on going back to England, as that’s where the ship was apparently bound? Maybe Port Fairy was so terrible that she couldn’t take any more? Was Jane’s baby and marriage the last straw? More speculation about a lady that had a very rough time of it.

John Ogle died of senility on March 17, 1877 in the town of Koroit in the new colony of Victoria.   He had lived nearly 26 years after the death of his wife Rosanna.

In his will John Ogle left “... two and a half acres of land situate at Koroit and the butcher shop upon it to Eliza Ogle, the wife of my son Joseph Ogle forever ...” The remainder of his estate was left to Joseph.

I wonder why he did not leave this major asset to his son, Joseph? The whereabouts of his son, John, is unknown, his other son George was deceased and his daughters, Jane and Ellen were married.

My Ogle line is from Joseph Ogle c.1835-1893.   He tried his hand at mining for gold in Ballarat during the Victorian gold rush; was the proprietor of hotels; owner of racehorses; landowner; twice Mayor of Koroit; and a Justice of the Peace.   He “…was very well known and highly popular …” and seems to have been quite feisty fellow!

Thus began the Ogle line in southern Australia, of which I am proud to be a part of.

Author:  Brett Weinberg    Buninyong, Victoria, Australia

Presented here by permission  11/03/2017
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John Ogle was 38 years old, and the father of five children, when he was convicted at Northumberland Quarter Sessions for supposedly stealing 3 fletches of bacon and some clothing.   [A flitch is the side cut from an animal or fish] for which he was sentence to 7 years and was later doubled to 14 for attempting to escape. If he did steal food and clothes for his family?   To me this yells politics, or rather someone was pushing the the courts to provide the bodies to fill the colonies in Australia before the French got them. 

Notice That Rosanna was a Scot and well educated, she was apparently well off in Scotland, and later so in England.  If she was so well off after he had been in prison for that time that she could afford 70 pounds for passage, 70 pounds was a great amount of money in 1849. 

According to one exchange an 1849 pound sterling was worth 2068 EU at today's rate or 144,760 EU for 70. 

That tells me someone was out to do this John Ogle and his family in.   Curious to know who the witness was and who paid him off.

I can't imagine being on a rolling/rocking ship for 112 days - I can hardly imagine it taking that long to sail from England to Australia, yes it's a long distance but good grief.  In my early army days I crossed the North Atlantic on a troop ship, a 9 day trip in a storm and I was sick for 7 of the 9 days.   I have great sympathy for their plight.

This is quite a history, and one that draws a lot anger, as well as pride in the tenacity of the survivors.

When I first read about the sailing route used by the ships to Australia I was taken aback, until I looked up the sailing winds that are available on the internet.  I checked those heading south, and sailing to the Canaries and then picking up the Western winds to South America then back to Africa.  The Western winds off of Northern Africa are the same winds that bring Hurricanes to the Caribbean and Florida, just missing South America in the process.

Futher Comments from Brett Weinberg:

There are a couple of things [that are troubing].   I am becoming skeptical about Rosanna’s education and ability to write the letter. She signed her marriage certificate with an “x” and I doubt would have had the opportunity for education after that. Possibly she paid someone to write the letter, considering it’s standard of vocabulary and grammar.

I doubt very much whether Rosanna was well off.   If she had been, John wouldn’t have had to steal; she wouldn’t have had to share lodgings with a number of others and work as a servant; the children wouldn’t have had to go to the Workhouse; and the Parish wouldn’t have shipped them off to Australia.

The £70 she mentions may have been the cost of the fare, although the British government was funding some of these convict reunification programmers at the time. That would have been a huge amount of money at the time and I find it difficult to believe she had those sorts of funds at some stage.   However, they were able to pay for passage from Tasmania to Port Fairy and begin a life there, which must have been funded from somewhere, as John had been “working for free”as a convict up to that stage.










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