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John Atkins (1795-c.1851) and Sarah Jane Harris (1815-1853)

John Atkins and Sarah Jane Harris were married 9 April 1845 at St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Bathurst NSW Australia. Reverend Kirkpatrick Dickson Smythe, the first Minister of the church since it opened in July 1835, presided.

John Atkins

John was illiterate having signed the marriage register with his mark, X, held communion with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and was a Farmer/Grazier at Lachlan River NSW. John's convict record states he was twenty three years old on arrival at Port Jackson, Sydney NSW 5 May 1818 aboard the convict ship 'Neptune'. He was born 1795 Leicestershire, England, a Labourer by trade, a Protestant and illiterate. He was tried at Leicester Assizes 30 July 1817 and sentenced to death for stealing a cow and several bank notes from the Bishop's Fee. However, his sentence was commuted to fourteen years to be served in the Colony of New South Wales. On 1 September 1831 he obtained his Certificate of Freedom and remained in Bathurst.

John occupied a section of Patrick Walsh's vast Kikiamah land run named 'Sandy Creek Station', which he developed into a successful cattle station. He died suddenly about 1851 and Police Magistrate Samuel North was concerned he didn't die of natural causes and there was the only person present at his death, James McLaughlan. A Will couldn't be located so the property passed to Sarah.

Sarah Jane Harris

Sarah, also a convict, was born 1815 Staffordshire, England. On arrival in 1833 aboard the female convict ship 'Fanny', she was eighteen years old, single, a Protestant and illiterate. Her calling was a house maid and charged with housebreaking and larceny by a servant. She was tried at Warwick Assizes 24 March 1832 and sentenced to seven years transportation to the Colony of New South Wales. Her first marriage shortly after arriving was to George Allen, a free convict. She obtained her Certificate of Freedom while married to him 15 April 1839 at Bathurst NSW. She was also in a defacto relationship with William Faulkner in 1842 and he is the suspected father of Sarah's daughter, Eliza. George divorced Sarah by selling her to John Atkins for a bullock and a few bushels of wheat. By the time Sarah married John in 1845 she had learnt to write and signed the parish register, Sararh Hares.

After John's untimely death Sarah continued to successfully manage 'Sandy Creek' and at the time of her death she employed stockmen, owned a few hundred head of cattle and numerous horses. James McLaughlan moved in with Sarah after John's death and attempted to take control of the property. They were living together for about eighteen months before he murdered her 27 September 1853 at 'Sandy Creek'.

After their mother's death, Eliza and John were cared for at the home of pioneer and Magistrate William Redfern Watt at his Bumbaldry Station NSW. His wife, Mary, was the daughter of John Grant, the first white man to set foot in the Lachlan River area. In their later years, Eliza and John lived with Eliza's children at Haberfield NSW about 1km from each other.

Sarah always recorded her maiden name as Harris. However, she is also recorded with maiden names of Cox and Huggett by Eliza and her childen. Eliza was only eleven years old when her mother died, so it's not surprising she didn't know her mother's maiden name.

Excerpt from Probate, executed by Letters of Administration 1872-1874:
Sarah Atkins died on or about 9th October 1853
In the Land Goods and Chattels of Sarah Atkins
Late of Sandy Creek near Young in the Colony of New South Wales
Widow, Deceased, Intestate
Elizabeth Ann Byrnes of Cowra NSW, wife of Peter Byrnes of the same place, Shepherd, makes an oath:
Sarah Atkins late of Sandy Creek aforesaid departed this life on or about 9th October 1853, Intestate
Leaving behind her me the said Elizabeth Ann Byrnes her daughter,
Her surviving and the only person entitled in distribution to her personal Estate and Effects.

The Murder of Sarah Atkins

Sarah was considering marrying John Croaker just before she was murdered. Her defacto relationship with MacLaughlan was unpleasant and they quarrelled regularly. It is evident from the original trial papers that MacLaughlan was overcome with jealousy and rage. Four witnesses swore on oath that on 22nd September, 1853 MacLaughlan threatened to take Sarah's life and anyone who would be joined to her.

Eliza bravely gave evidence in a statement to William Redfern Watt of the gruesome discovery of her mother's dead body and the circumstances leading up to her murder. The night before Sarah was murdered, Eliza and John were playing cards with their mother and MacLaughlan told them that this will be the last night you will ever play cards again. The morning after was the last time the children saw their mother alive. Eliza stated that on the morning of her mother's murder, Jimmy (James McLaughlan) sent her and her brother, Johnny away to two different neighbouring stations during the day and to tell the owners that their mother needed them.

On her return home, Eliza couldn't find her mother in the house. When she was going in at night for the candle into her mother's room MacLaughlan told her not to disturb her mother because she was sick. MacLaughlan was lying on his bed and appeared to be hurt. Eliza noticed blood on his shirt and he couldn't get up. MacLaughlan had stabbed himself with a butcher knife and at his trial falsely accused Sarah of stabbing him and in defence he threw a smoothing iron at her head. It was proven that his stab wounds were self inflicted. The next evening Eliza removed a couple of slabs from their hut and went into her mother's room and found her dead.

The Jury retired for about five minutes and returned a verdict of Guilty. The Judge described MacLaughlan's crime as diabolical revenge and passed sentence of death upon him.

Eliza's suspected father, William Faulkner wrote the Attorney General in Sydney submitting a claim for Sarah's children and her estate. William Redfern Watt warned all concerned that Faulkner is said to be not a very reputable character and was concerned that Faulkner's only interest was in Sarah's estate and not the children.

The Hanging of James McLaughlan

Western News (From Saturday's Bathurst Free Press.) The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 11 April 1854, page 2:
Convicted Murderers - An official letter has reached Bathurst, fixing the day upon which the convicted murderers, James M'Laughlin and Billy Palmer, are to suffer the penalty of their crimes on the 25th instant. When the announcement was made to M'Laughlin, he stated that he was rather weak in bodily health, but firm in spirits, and expressed a hope that he would remain collected on the day of his execution, and be permitted to address the spectators. The unfortunate man is assiduously attended by the Rev. Dr. Grant, Roman Catholic priest, but as yet he has manifested few symptoms of repentance.

The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser NSW - Wednesday 10 May 1854, page 4:
Execution of McLaughlan and Billy Palmer, the Aboriginal. These unfortunate men expiated their crimes in front of the gaol, on Tuesday morning last, before a large concourse of people. McLaughlan was tolerably collected and firm under the operation...Some time prior to his death McLaughlan had confessed his guilt to his spiritual adviser, the Rev. Dr. Grant, and acknowledged the justice of the sentence which condemned him to die.

Eliza Ann Byrne(s) nee Atkins

Eliza is recorded as being born in 1845 at her baptism with her half brother, John Joseph on 8th April 1849 at Lachlan River NSW. Eliza was in fact born about 1842 and it has been discovered that William Faulkner was suspected to be her father. However, John Atkins is recorded as her father at her baptism and her death.

Peter Thomas Byrne and Eliza Ann Atkins were married 1860 at Carcoar NSW. Eliza's mother, of course was deceased by this time but is not recorded as such on the marriage certificate. Eliza's father is not recorded and her mother, Sarah's maiden name is recorded as Cox. Peter and Eliza were both residing at Waugoola near Carcoar NSW. Peter was born in Ireland, aged 27yrs and his occupation was a Shepherd. Eliza is recorded as 18years old. She states that she was born near Orange NSW. Peter's father isn't stated, only his occupation as Labourer.

Eliza died in 1917 at Haberfield NSW. Her birthplace is stated as Bumbaldry NSW. Her father recorded as John Atkins and his occupation as Grazier. Her mother is stated as Sarah Jane Huggett. Eliza's son, Peter Bernard Byrne was the informant.

John Joseph Atkins

John Joseph Atkins was born 1846 at Bumbaldry NSW. He is my great great grandfather. Unfortunately, everyone thought he was dead by 1908. His daughter, my great grandmother, Lauretta Jane Atkins married Henry Smith in 1908 at Cowra NSW. John is recorded as Died on her marriage certificate. John did not die until 1925 at Haberfield NSW.

John Joseph Atkins married Catherine Theresa Adelaide nee Jones, widow Martin in 1879 at Cowra NSW. Catherine's previous husband, John Francis Martin died in 1878 at Cowra NSW. The only information John provided was his occupation as a Blacksmith and he was a bachelor.

Catherine Teresa Adelaide Atkins died on 18th December 1921 at Cowra NSW. Her Obituary states Her second husband was the late John Atkins, by whom she had a family of five. Again, John is incorrectly stated as deceased. An early family legal document reveals that Catherine Atkins (aka Kitty) had one child since her husband left her. I believe he left her when he found she was pregnant. Catherine had a son to Edward Bath at Harden NSW in 1892. Catherine registered him as Arthur Herbert Atkins and incorrectly recorded his father as John Joseph Atkins.

At John's death in 1925, his niece, Elizabeth Ann (Byrne) Beirne, was the informant. She records his father as John Atkins, occupation Grazier, and his mother as Sarah Huggett.

Generation 1: John Atkins
b1795 Leicestershire, UK
died c.1851 Lachlan River, NSW Australia
Wife: Sarah Jane Harris
born 1815 Staffordshire UK
d1853 Sandy Creek Station, Kikiamah, NSW Australia

Generation 2: John Joseph Atkins
b1846 Bumbaldry NSW Australia
d1925 Ashfield Sydney NSW

Wife: Catherine Theresa Adelaide nee Jones Widow Martin
b1848 Bathurst NSW Australia
d1921 Cowra NSW Australia

Generation 3: Lauretta Jane Atkins
b1887 Cowra NSW Australia
d1967 Sydney NSW Australia

Husband: Henry Smith
b1886 Young NSW Australia
d1973 Sydney NSW Australia

Generation 4: Daphne May Smith
b1910 Young NSW Australia
d1998 Randwick Sydney NSW Australia

Relationship: Payne
Generation 5: Smith
b1936 Young NSW Australia
Husband: 1st marriage
William Henry Carpenter
b1935 Kensington Sydney NSW Australia
d1976 Carss Park Sydney NSW Australia
Husband: 2nd marriage
Generation 6: Lisa Anne Carpenter
b1958 Marrickville Sydney NSW Australia

Husband:1st marriage
Sokolowskyj aka Ischenko
Husband: 2nd marriage:
Timothy Paul Koch
b1961 Maitland South Australia

Contact Lisa:

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I Descend - tracing ancestors through descendants - family research assistance