Monday, October 11, 2010

What happened to Alexander Stewart?

I've written previously about Edward EWER (1796-1859) and the residence in his home/store in 1828 ( I'm interested in the fate of each person living with the Ewer family in 1828, particularly given that statistically few would have married and had children - who else will trace their story?

One of the residents at Edward's was Alexander Stewart, born about 1885 and with a Conditional Pardon, a convict on the 'Fortune'. According to the transportation register he was sentenced on 27 Jun 1811 to transportation for life - his place of conviction was ‘Court Martial Lavalette’. Convict musters also list his place of conviction as ‘Malta Court Martial’. He departed England and arrived in NSW 11 Jun 1816 per ‘Fortune’. 

Alexander received an absolute pardon in 1820, which stated that he was originally from Argyleshire, which is in the west of Scotland ('place of origin'). It also listed his trial location as 'La Valette By A Court Martial' on 27 Jun 1811 indicating that he had been serving in the military. After his pardon it seems Alexander Stewart (free) was appointed an 'Ordinary Constable' (Sydney Gazette, 8 May 1823). In the Sydney Gazette of 15 Jan 1827, Alexander Stuart was listed to be dismissed as a Constable at Parramatta for 'improper conduct'.

In 1828 the Sydney Gazette reported that Alexander Stewart, in the employ of Mr. Dixon at the Sydney Steam Engine, had been woken in the servants quarters by an overseer Mr James Mackie, snatched up a pistol and fired twice at him. The pistol mis-fired (i.e. didn't fire), and Stewart was arrested. It appears he was acquitted, partly based on the argument that there was no evidence that the gun was loaded.

He was an employed servant to Edward Ewer by 1828 when the census was held. It seems that in 1829 Alexander Stewart attempted to shoot his employer (the second such charge).

The Sydney Gazette, Tuesday 17 November 1829
“Supreme Court, Monday November 16. Alexander Smith was indicted for presenting a loaded pistol at Edward Ewer and drawing the trigger, with intent to kill, to main, to disfigure, or to do some grievous bodily harm, at Paramatta, on the 15th of October last. – Guilty. Remanded.”

The Sydney Gazette, Thursday 19 November 1829
"Supreme Court (Before Mr. Justice Stephen). Alexander Smith, for maliciously shooting at Edward Ewer.... convicted on Monday, received a sentence of death this morning.”

NSW Archives Criminal Court Records show two entries for cases against Alexander Stuart:
16 Nov 1829 Alexander Stuart, Shooting with intent on Edward Ewer at Parramatta
16 Nov 1829 Alexander Stuart, Stealing from Edward Ewer at Parramatta. Not proceeded with.

Presumably if he was sentenced to death on the first charge, the second was not pursued.

The Sydney Gazette, Saturday 28 November 1829
“The case of a man named Steward, convicted of maliciously shooting at one Edward Ewer, of Parramatta, has excited considerable interest amongst some of the most influential inhabitants of the neighbourhood in which he resided. A memorial to the GOVERNOR, we understand, has been prepared, and numerously signed praying for a mitigation of sentence, grounded on certain circumstances connected with the former relative situation to each other of the prosecutor and the prisoner.”

I couldn't find whether or not Alexander Stewart received a mitigation of sentence, or was hanged, but this article has just come out on NLA which gives more details.

The Australian, Wednesday 9 December 1829
"to save, if possible, the man named Steward, who was tried lately on a charge of trying to shoot one Edward Ewer, a prisoner of the Crown, at Parramatta, from being hanged for this act, a memorial has been set on foot by a few respectable inhabitants of Parramatta, and signed by a number of Magistrates and one member of the Council. Steward has lived in the Colony for a number of years, and by industry and carefulness scraped together about 80 pounds, which he was saving in hopes of getting a free pardon, and returning to England. It is said that Steward lent the money to Ewer upon interest, some time ago, taking two notes for the amount. The notes were abstracted from his box, and a piece of calico substituted, the box being in Ewer's house, and having neither lock nor key. Upon Steward leaving Ewer's to take fresh lodgings, Ewer examined his box, and charged the man Steward with robbing him of the piece of Calico, upon which which Steward denied the deed most stoutly - a warm altercation ensued, and Steward taking up a pistol, snapped it at the other's breast. 
The inhabitants are petitioning for an investigation to take place ; as it is said, we know not with what truth, Ewer still retains the 80 pounds lent to him by Steward. We hope the Council will not forget to look into this matter."

It appears that Alexander did receive a pardon of some sort. As the debate over the issue went back and forth the Sydney Monitor reported that Ewer was not totally at fault:

The Sydney Monitor, Saturday 2 January 1830
"Ewer and Stewart - the former was lately the prosecutor of that latter for pulling the trigger of a loaded pistol. Stewart was found guilty and is gone to Norfolk Island. An article in a late 'Australian' goes to impugn the character of the former. In defence of Ewer, we have received a letter vindicating his character and the justness of the sentence. It is too long for us to insert. Suffice it to say, Stewart not long ago made an attempt on the life of Mr. Mackie, son of Mr. Mackie, an old and respectable colonist, and whom humanity alone prevented from prosecuting Stewart for the attempt."

So he went to Norfolk Island, a miserable place. Records show him revealing a Certificate of Freedom in September 1837 (No. 37/854). It lists his offence as 'attempted murder', and the place of trial as Sydney ? Court on 25th Nov 1829. Sentence is listed as seven years (which his death sentence must have been commuted to). Height 5 feet 4 inches, Complexion: Dark ruddy, Hair: Dark brown mixed with grey. General remarks: Hair thin on crown, two small scars on forefinger of left hand, was originally tried by a court martial at Lavalette 24th June 1811 and sentenced to transportation for life for which he obtained a Conditional Pardon 1260 dated 31st January 1820.

Following his freedom in 1837 it is difficult to determine his fate. Did he make his way home to Scotland?

The Australian' of 17 Jul 1838 lists an Alexender Stewart appointed watch-house-keeper at Wollongong, and resigned in 1841. In 1844, an advert in the Sydney Morning Herald (15 May 1844) advertises the sale of the Carpenter's Arms Inn, Wollongong, "in the very centre of the town, having frontage to Crown-street and William-street, and occupying an area of half an acre", information on the sale to be had "on application to Mr. Alexander Stewart on the premises".

The NSW BDM indexes reveal an Alexander Stewart buried in 1847, aged 63 (V18471471 140/1847). This fits with the birth date of Alexander abt 1885 from the 1828 census. I'll try and get a transcript of this burial to see where it occurred.

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