1. Family background
2. Joseph and Ellen in England
3. The Voyage
4. In Tasmania
5. Joseph’s Police Career
6. Life at Pontville
7. Joseph's Estate
Two days after the funeral, Alexander Finlay wrote to the Curator of Intestate Estates in Hobart. He informed the Curator that no will had been found, the police had Joseph’s personal effects, and a key found on the body opened a box in which were 16 pounds 3 shillings and a Union Bank receipt for 100 pounds deposit for 6 months at 3%. These amounts translate in 2016 figures to close to $2 500 dollars and $15 000 dollars respectively. Moreover, Joseph had “left a small freehold property in ‘the Dromedary.’ ”
Joseph had evidently been managing his affairs with some success.
At the time of Joseph’s death:
- John was in Victoria, working as a farm labourer for W. Windridge on the property, Rosehill, at Kyneton. He evidently arrived in Pontville some days after the funeral, stayed for about three weeks and returned to the mainland on 17 March. He wrote to Charles Wright from Melbourne on 20 March authorising the payment of 2 pounds to Alexander Finlay, who had loaned him the sum. It seems Finlay had sent the money to John to enable him to pay the cost of his voyage home. The amount was to be deducted from John’s share of the estate. John, as the eldest, was entitled to the property at Dromedary. A sale was soon organised, with John Blacklow of Brighton Lodge becoming the new owner.
- Henry was apprenticed to Edward Thwaites, the shoemaker of Pontville. Thwaites and his wife, Elizabeth, were to continue rearing William.
- Alexander Finlay informed the Curator of Intestate Estates that Robert was too young to become an apprentice, otherwise Thwaites would have taken him on as well. Robert needed “more schooling.”
- Elizabeth presented a problem. Finlay intended to consult a visiting clergyman, Reverend G. Clark. The Curator wrote to Finlay on 6 March following a visit from John, who had talked of taking his sister to Victoria, evidently to live with a relative. The Curator presumed Finlay would not approve. The lawyer, however, indicated he was contacting a “Lady friend” in Melbourne. She would “call on John’s cousin” and determine whether the relative had the “means” to keep Elizabeth. “If the answer (was) favourable, perhaps it might be as well to let her go with him.” The Curator was open to the possibilities, as he wrote to Finlay: “The transfer of the girl to the care of this relative will relieve all persons here from the responsibility of her charge and the Government from a possible burden and if the relative is represented to you to be respectable and in position and willing to maintain the girl it seems certainly to be the most desirable course to adopt.” He also wondered why Robert would not also be taken by the relative.
It is not known when Elizabeth went to Victoria, only that she was in Collingwood for her wedding in 1886. She signed a letter in the office of a Hobart solicitor on 24 December 1878. By then, she had been of adult age for 7 months. This day was Robert’s 19th birthday. It is possible Elizabeth and Robert travelled to Melbourne together soon after John’s wedding on 23 January 1879. As shown below (page 15), William indicated in 1887 that John, Robert and Elizabeth had all left Pontville in about 1874. As William was only 10 or 11 at the time, and not living with his siblings, it is possible that his recollection was somewhat astray. Consequently, the movements of the family members remain a mystery at this stage.
A Public Auction of Joseph’s goods was held at Pontville Police Office on 27 March. Henry Crothers and Edward Thwaites were among the people who purchased items, with a total collect of 5 pounds 10 shillings and 6 pence. Mr Haskell, the Council Clerk of Brighton, bought Joseph’s watch, for 3 pounds 10 shillings, on behalf of John. The watch was the only keepsake John wanted. Moreover, he promised the Curator and the Warden of Brighton, Mr Gunn, that he would “leave his sister the remainder of his fifth estate after paying for the watch.”
Elizabeth had requested certain articles of sentimental value. She was allowed to select them for 5 shillings: - “2 wedding rings, a small gold pencil case, 2 men’s brass rings, 1 split ring and 2 studs. The locket, brooch, heart and stone was given to her for a keepsake.” She would also have received a pair of boots which Joseph had made for her a few days before his death. The Curator had a word of warning to Charles Wright: “for her own sake she should not be allowed to be extravagant.”
A further 5 shillings was added to the value of the estate when Charles Wright allowed Edwan Haley of Dromedary to purchase “a lot of sundries” Joseph had left with Haley. Another 3½ pounds more came from debts collected by Wright - a pound Joseph had loaned to Henry Berrisford Junior of Bridgewater and 2 pounds 10 shillings for a cart axle Joseph had sold to Henry Green of Bagdad in 1870.
The Curator wrote to Charles Wright in May: “I have to thank you for the satisfactory manner in which you have acted as my agent.”
An undated page in the intestate papers shows the value of the estate was 118 pounds 4 shillings and 8 pence. Each of the 5 siblings was to receive 23 pounds 12 shillings and 11 pence - close to $3 500 in 2016 terms.
There is no indication in the intestacy papers that Wright or Finlay or any of the siblings knew of the claim by Jane Hughes that Joseph was the father of Annie. It is possible, by reading between the lines, to suspect that the repeated declarations of the names and ages of the 5 children were meant to repel any other claim on the estate. But there is no evidence of any contact with Jane or Annie.
For some reason, probably their respective ages, the siblings received their shares at different times and only after the Curator was thoroughly satisfied with their claims.
John was back in Tasmania on 18 August 1871, when he made a statutory declaration that his parents had had only 6 children, with 5 still alive. He was evidently unaware of the birth and death of James in Ireland.
Four days later, Charles Wright declared before a Justice of the Peace - Alexander Finlay - that, on 18 August, he had found among Joseph’s papers a fly leaf confirming the date of John’s birth and that he believed “all the writing on the fly leaf to be by Joseph Crothers.”
On 24 August, the Curator produced a certificate stating that he had in his hands the sum of 115 pounds 11 shillings and 6 pence. There must have been an expense of 2 pounds 13 shillings and 2 pence that had been deducted from the estate. On the same day, a solicitor, R. P. Adams, presented a petition from John, claiming his right to one-fifth of the 115-11-6. Eight days later, on 1 September, Sir Francis Smith of the Supreme Court ordered that John be paid his share.
Evidently John did not take actual possession of the money. It probably remained in a bank account for another 7 years. On Christmas Eve 1878, Elizabeth, evidently in the Hobart offices of the solicitor R. P. Adams, signed a letter authorising Adams to take steps to obtain her share and to receive it. On the twelfth day of Christmas, 6 January 1879, John authorised his share to be paid to Adams. Presumably, John was carrying out his promise to hand the money over to his sister. Seventeen days later, John married Julia Hally in Pontville.
Also on 6 January, the Curator certified that he now had “in his hands the sum of 119-11-3 or thereabouts”, representing the balance of the estate after all “debts, fees and expenses incidental to its collection, management and administration.” Added in pencil was the remark, “Should have been 126-8-8.” Perhaps the Curator was not satisfied sufficient interest had been paid on a bank deposit.
The final action on the estate came 8 more years later. The following appeared in The Mercury on 14, 15 and 16 March 1887:
John, Robert and Lizzie Crothers, who left Bridgewater, Tasmania, about 13 years ago. Your brother, William Crothers, Duntroon, New Zealand, wants to know your address. C487
The advertisement evidently proved successful as William was back in Tasmania within two months. With Robert, a resident of Melbourne, he petitioned for the release of their shares in their father’s estate. On 13 May, the brothers were in the Hobart office of solicitors Finlay and Watchorn, where they signed a letter authorising payment to their legal representatives. The Supreme Court ordered the payment 5 days later. Each received 54 pounds 16 shillings and 2 pence - about $7 230 in 2016 value. It seems the money deposited in the Hobart Savings Bank returned a high rate of interest. Robert returned to Melbourne and William to New Zealand.
The fact William did not name Henry in his advertisement indicates he was aware his brother had died by then. Either Henry had died before William left Tasmania, possibly in 1884, when he reached adulthood, or Henry was in contact with William in New Zealand. Perhaps the purpose of the advertisement was to enable him to tell his siblings of the demise of Henry. A chit naming Joseph’s children with their ages in 1871 shows the name of Henry, “15 or thereabouts”, with “dead” written in pencil over it. There is no evidence of Henry dying in Tasmania. The word was most likely added in 1887 when William and Robert travelled to Hobart to apply for their inheritance and William was able to inform the authorities that Henry had died.
The names of John and Elizabeth on the chit are preceded by ticks, probably to indicate they had already received their shares.
Next: In Conclusion