Saturday, September 24, 2016

A History of Rowland Edwards - Part 1

I was reviewing some documents and came across two separate biographies of Rowland Edwards. 

The FIRST I'm transcribing here is of unknown source, but clearly from a published book and sent to me by Lynne Dickson quite a few years ago as part of a pile of documents on the Edwards family. The book is clearly a list of biographies - possibly of early settlers in the Hawkesbury district.

The biography editorializes somewhere (particularly with regard to Jane Fletcher's character, and her 'respectable' family in Hereford). I would dearly like to read the memorial to Macquarie referred to.

Pages 109-110:

Edwards, Rowland 1763?-1814

For horse-stealing (his degree of guilt perhaps in question in view of the reduced sentence): Welling, Shropshire 1789 (death to 14 years) 7 years: Admiral Barrington 1791.

His time expired. Edwards bough the low-lying 25 acres of Endeavour Farm on Freeman's Reach. In 1802 it was fully cultivated and running 28 pigs; his household of four included convict servants, but no wife, for Jane Fletcher (X) (1786-1832; Hereford 1803 (death) life: Experiment 1804) was yet to arrive.

They were married by the Reverend Fulton three months after Jane's landing, with her shipmate Martha Pearl (soon herself to marry farmer Devlin) making her mark as witness. The other, a more competent penman, was the now flourishing Henry Baldwin who had shared the miseries of the bridegroom's voyage. If Rowland's enterprise was of smaller scale than Baldwin's, Jane had nevertheless made a good match, one she had not cared to jeopardise perhaps by confessing the unhappy story of her past. How as the 15-year-old daughter of a respectable Hereford family she had killed her new-born bastard child, and had been reprieved for its murder.

These sad events seem to have affected Jane, making her a less than ideal wife and mother, and Rowland felt deeply protective towards his children. His farming too was not without its problems. With neighbours Baker and Faithfull he survived a bid by George Crossley in 1804 to oust them; but the floods of 1809 robbed him of practically all he owned. An appeal to Paterson brought some relief in the form of an 80-acre grant on the high lands beyond Clarendon. He was installed there by September, but creditors were clamouring for his horse, his cart, his pigs. In 1812 they demanded his growing wheat. As he told Macquarie, in seeking confirmation of the grant in 1810, he was 'struggling against the Vicissitudes of Fortune all his Life time.'

His four little girls were joined by a baby brother in May 1813; just after his first birthday his father was murdered. Again unlucky, Rowland had chosen the night of the hold-up to pull un with his bullock-cart to sleep at the Parramatta toll-house. Lying bleeding on the floor he begged toll-keeper Main to go for help that he 'may be saved for the sake of his poor children'. He died that same night.

Shortly after Rowland's death Jane had the children baptised, but soon afterwards married local farmer John Allen (1770-1826; Surrey 1808, life: Anne 1810. CP 1816). There were more children and the floods perhaps left the Allens impoverished. By 1825, Jane's second daughter Ann, and probably the other Edwards children, were in the Parramatta orphanage, whence Parramatta grocer Edward Ewer (transported for life 1820; pardoned 1842) married Ann and took the others under his protective wing as legal guardian. There was apparently some difficulty with Jane over the children's inheritance of the Edwards farm, which must finally have been amicably resolved. They thought well enough of her to bestow the name of Jane on some of their own offspring. One family branch nurtured by the kindly grocer is today active in prisoner rehabilitation work in a way that their ill-fated Edwards ancestor would surely have approved.

Children of Rowland Edwards and Jane (Fletcher)
Mary 1805
Ann 1808 m. 1825 Edward Ewer
Elizabeth 1810
Chatherine 1811 d.?
John Rowland

Sources: Research of Christine Webb (including details from County Records Office Abbey Foregate, Hereford Journal 23.3.1803, 4.5.1803 and Hereford church records); 1800 muster; expiree settlers 1802; memorials 1810; SG 3.9.1809; 28.11.1812, 4.6.1814; 29.6.1814; 23.7.1814; 8.9.1825.

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