In family history research, there are mysteries, and then there are mysteries. Sometimes the mystery is where someone was born, or where they died, or a maiden name is known - these are the dead ends we all face in our research due to lost or incorrect records.
And then there are the mysteries - we have the pieces, we know where they start and where they end, and there's a mystery in the middle. Stephen Lewis is such an example. The information below largely comes from Judy Jones, a descendant. I came across this problem as I'm descended from Stephen's sister Harriet (1836 - ?) who separately came to Australia, and may well have been unaware that her brother was also in the colonies.
Stephen LEWIS was born about 1826 in East Hendred, Berkshire, England, and died 14 Dec 1907 in Koorboora North Queensland. His parents were John LEWIS (1799 East Hendred, Berks, England - 1866 Geelong, Victoria) and Dinah nee TABOR (sometimes TABERN, 1794 East Hendred, Berks, England - 1839 same). He married Jane MCCARTNEY on 15 May 1856 in Buninyong Victoria Australia. She was the daughter of David MCCARTNEY and Mary nee MCALPINE, and born abt 1834 in Belfast, County Antrim, Ireland. She died abt 1860 in Victoria.
So what is the mystery?
Stephen Lewis arrived in Victoria (Australia) about 1853 (about the time of the gold rush in Victoria), and was apparently known as 'the Yank with the boy on his back'. Why 'the Yank'? Because his marriage and subsequent birth certificates state that he was born in Niagara USA, New York USA and Alabama. There is a small town in Genesee County, New York called Alabama, which is close to Niagara.
Then why is he tied to the Stephen LEWIS almost certainly born to exceedingly modest means in East Hendred, Berkshire? Because on his marriage certificate to Mary McCartney in Bunninyong, Victoria in 1856 he stated (along with being born in the USA) that his parents were John LEWIS and Dinah TABOR. While his father's name is very common, his mother's is most certainly not. His marriage certificate is particularly important as Stephen himself gave the information:
Transcript: Marriage in Victoria (now Victoria, Australia)
When and where married: Buninyong, May 15 1856
Stephen Lewis, bachelor
Birth place: New York United States
Rank or profession: Gold digger
Age: 29 (so born abt 1827)
Parents: John Lewis (butcher) and Dinah Tabor
Mary McCartney, spinster
Birth place: Belfast, Ireland
Rank or profession: -
Age: 22 (so born abt 1834)
Parents: David Macartney (shopkeeper) and Mary McAlpine
How does it happen that Stephen believes, or states, he is American? It is possible he went to America as a young boy. But his family was very poor and his parents and siblings can be traced in East Hendred. Perhaps it was a fanciful past created to generate interest and Stephen was never in America. Or perhaps Stephen went to America later in life and became a US Citizen which led him to change his birthplace.
On his son, John’s birth certificate, his wife indicated he was born in Alabama. His death certificate also says Alabama. They apparently moved to Maryborough, Victoria, a gold mining town which was founded in the winter of 1853 following the discoveries of gold at Dalesford, Creswick, Smythesdale, Beaufort and Avoca in that order. At Chinaman’s Flat, Maryborough, on 25th March,1857, John Stephen Lewis was born to Stephen and Mary Lewis.
The family must have returned to Buninyong as Victorian birth and death records show that in 1859, Walter Lewis was born on the 18th March in Buninyong.to Stephen and Mary Lewis. He died 24th June, 1859 in Buninyong at 14 weeks of age from a wasting disease (tuberculosis). Cemetery records indicate that he was not buried in Buninyong Cemetery.
Stephen Lewis’ death certificate also indicates that a female daughter was also deceased. According to family stories, Mary supposedly died in childbirth or soon after. To this date, Mary Lewis’ and her daughter’s death records have not been found.
On Maryborough Hospital (Victoria) records, there is a Stephen Lewis who indicates that he was 40 years old and single on 9th March, 1867. He was Church of England. He was also a mariner (probably a mistake- meaning miner) of Mosquito, an alluvial gold lead south east of Maryborough. He had been in the colony for 13 years (arrived about 1854) after arriving on the ship, “Charlotte”. His port of embarkation was Liverpool. According to the “Argus” newspaper, the “Charlotte” arrived in Melbourne from Liverpool on 30th November, 1853. It was a cargo vessel carrying 10,000 bricks, 5 tons of hay,12 bales of cotton etc. No passengers were mentioned.
Also, "Assisted Passengers from Foreign Ports in Victoria 1852 - 1879" states that an S. LEWIS, male, a miner, 24 yrs with USA citizenship arrived on the ship, "JANE" in June 1853. C.F. LEWIS, male, 26yrs of USA citizenship and a miner also arrived on the ship, JANE. The Barque, JANE 328 tons, master Alexander Grange departed San Francisco via Auckland arrived Melbourne 19 th June 1853.
Stephen is then reputed to have rolled a swag, and taking the child, John with him commenced to walk to the mining fields of Queensland. It is probable that he worked on mining fields in N.S.W. on the way. In fact, his death certificate records that he had spent 24 years in New South Wales and Victoria and 30 years in Queensland. This means that Stephen and his son, John arrived in Queensland about 1877 when John was 20 years old.
It appears that Stephen and his son (now known as John Walter Lewis), may have been on the gold field at Ravenswood and were known to have been at Charters Towers. They arrived at Herberton in the early 1880s and then went on to Mungana (then known as Girofla) in the mid 1890s. They arrived in Koorboora in about
1904 where Stephen Lewis died on 14th December, 1907, aged 81 yrs and was interred in the Koorboora cemetery on the same day (http://austcemindex.com/cemetery.php?id=634).
Judy also prepared a time-line showing the records identified for Stephen. Perhaps someone reading this will have another piece of the puzzle!
TIMELINE - Stephen Lewis
1826 BAPTISM East Hendred Berkshire England 2 Apr 1826 son of John Lewis & Dinah (father labourer)
1850 census Mariposa County, California – possible Stephen Lewis
FROM a MARIPOSA site
87 A 41 671 671 Lewis, Stephen 24 M Miner, born Louisiana
1853 IMMIGRATION Stephen Lewis arrived in Australia about 1853.
1856 MARRIAGE 15 May 1856 at the age of 29, bachelor in the Presbyterian log kirk, in Buninyong, Victoria Australia, Stephen Lewis, giving his profession as gold digger, married Mary McCartney, aged 22, born Belfast, Ireland.
Parents stated on marriage certificate: John Lewis, butcher and Dinah Tabor
Birthplace: New York, United States
1857 BIRTH Son, John Stephen Lewis born 25 March 1857 Chinaman’s Flat, Maryborough, Victoria. He was known later as John Walter Lewis. His mother, Mary Lewis was the informant and stated Stephen’s birthplace as Alabama, United States
1859 BIRTH Son, Walter Lewis born 18 Mach 1859 Buninyong, Victoria. His father, Stephen Lewis was the informant and stated his birthplace as Niagara, State of New York, North America. Walter died at 14 weeks of age in Buninyong.
1860 DEATH Probable death of Mary Lewis (nee McCartney) – no proof, family story
1860s Stephen Lewis was known as “The Yank with the boy on his back”. This line is supposed to be from an Australian History book. Family story – not proven.
1867 HOSPITAL RECORD On Maryborough Hospital Admission records (Victoria), there is a Stephen Lewis who indicates that he was 40 years old and single on 9th March, 1867. He was Church of England. He was also a mariner (probably a mistake- meaning miner) of Mosquito, an alluvial gold lead south east of Maryborough. He had been in the colony for 13 years (arrived about 1854) after arriving on the ship “Charlotte”. His port of embarkation was Liverpool. According to the “Argus” newspaper, the “Charlotte” arrived in Melbourne from Liverpool on 30th November, 1853. It was a cargo vessel carrying 10,000 bricks, 5 tons of hay,12 bales of cotton etc. No passengers were mentioned.
1874 Empire Newspaper Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850-1875) Saturday 11 July 1874, page 3 Reference to Stephen Lewis and son at the Palmer River Goldfields, North Queensland
1875 Passenger Lists 9 January 1875 Cooktown (New Zealand) to Sydney – Stephen Lewis and John Lewis
21 January 1875 – Port of Embarkation Sydney – Stephen Lewis 44 years, miner and John Lewis 20 years, miner going to Melbourne
1885 MARRIAGE John Walter Lewis to Agatha Ann Stewart at Cairns (Agatha died 1891)
1892 MARRIAGE John Walter Lewis to Grace Thompson 22 May 1892 at Herberton North Queensland
1907 DEATH Stephen Lewis 14 December 1907 Koorboora, North Queensland, aged 81yrs. His son, John Walter Lewis was the informant and stated that Stephen was born in Alabama, America and had spent 30 years in Queensland and 24 years in New South Wales and Victoria. There are no known photos of Stephen.