Saturday, 11 August 2012

Laurence Butler- Ch. 20: Butler's Final Year of Life

In November and December 1819, two of Laurence and Ann’s children, four year old George and baby Elizabeth, tragically died of illness within a month of each other.

The following illness was reported in the Australian Almanack and Sydney Directory 1834:
“1820- An epidemical catarrh prevailed throughout the Colony about this period. Many families suffered severely from this strange complaint. The symptoms of this disease were unaccountably varied. In many instances it appeared in a hectic cough, accompanied by violent spasms. In others, it produced independent of the violent cough, a severe affection in the ear, with a pus occasioned by internal inflammation. Some cases were visited with external eruptions, accompanied with extreme debility and intense pain. The complaint was general. Many of the inhabitants were consigned to the grave in a few days from the violence and fury of the attack; and some few, to this day have the remains of the visitation still as a painful companion. Great numbers of the poor aborigines fell victim to this novel and severe distemper. (The death of a popular resident, Rowland Hassall,described as “a pious, benevolent and valuable member of society”, was reported August 20, quickly followed by two of the man’s baby grandchildren.The report stated : “ the death of Rowland Hassall by an attack of the above disease and two lovely babes from the same cause quickly followed their honoured and lamented grandsire”. ) [i]

Laurence died from a ‘lingering illness’ on 7th  December 1820 at the age of 70. This was reported in the “Sydney Gazette” on Sat. Dec 9, 1820: “Death- On Thursday, after a lingering illness, Mr Lawrence Butler of Pitt Street.[ii]

On 18 November, he made a Will in which he stated that he was "labouring under bodily infirmity and aware of his approaching dissolution".  [iii]  His signature at the end of the Will was very unsteady.

Laurence Butler's normal signature (1816 Inquest)

Laurence Butler's signature on Will

In the Name of God, Amen. I, Laurence Butler of Sydney, cabinet maker, being perfect in Mind, Will and understanding, but laboring under bodily infirmity and aware of my approaching disolution. While God spares me, and prolongs my temporal existence, I deem it my first duty, to recommend my soul to God who gave it to me, and in order more effectually to provide for my Family and to arrange my temporal affairs, I first and fully bequeath unto my affectionate Wife, Mrs Ann Butler, and my three children, Laurence Butler, Walter Butler and Ann Butler, my Farm in the District of Petersham, My Two Houses and Premises in Pitt Street, my House and Premises in Kent Street, each of them to possess, and have, an equal share of the said farm and Houses, the Rents and profits arising therefrom, to be equally appropriated for the support of my Wife, and the education and maintenance of my three Children, and if it pleased The Almighty God, that my Wife or any of my Children should die, the share so bequeathed is to be divided equally between the surviving family, I also bequeath to my Wife and Children , all Moneys, Debts and other Effects that, I may be possessed of, and due to me at my death, each to have an equal share thereof and to be generally appropriated for their support and benefit.
I do here order that all my Cabinet Tools, Furniture, Shop Goods and Livestock, that I am possessed of, shall be sold (if it is required) to pay all my just debts; otherwise, this property is to be equally applied for the benefit of my family.
For the better care (and my love for my infant children) and to improve them in Morality and Virtue, it is my Will and desire, that the Revd Philip Connolly, or his successor, shall be permitted as a Guardian, to superintend the Education of my three Children, and to inspect and see Justice done them agreeable to my Will. To this request, I enjoyn, the Executrix herein named, to pay due respect and compliance under pain of forfeiting her share, and control over my children.
For the full performance and carrying into effect, all matters and things herein desired, I do herein name and constitute my Affectionate Wife, Mrs Ann Butler of Sydney, to be my sole Executrix, to this my last Will and Testament.
In Witness whereof, I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal. the Eighteenth day of November, in the year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty.
Signed and Sealed in the presence of
John Connell                                                                                            L. Butler
Isaac Wood
Michael Hayes

The Will was witnessed by:
Michael Hayes, his friend and fellow rebel from Wexford, who drowned in 1825 aged 58- newspaper reports suggested this was a suicide as he was in debt, but given his devout faith, this would seem unlikely;
Isaac Wood, the owner of the Sydney Academy, a school for ‘young gentlemen scholars’, in which Latin, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese languages were taught, as well as Dancing, and stated that the school was  “complete in every Branch of Education necessary to form the accomplished Gentlemen and the Scholar” [iv]. Wood was also from Wexford and arrived in 1813 for a seven year sentence, was pardoned in 1816 and he died 1823 aged 43 [v]
John Connell, a 42 year old merchant living in Pitt Street next to Laurence Butler, who arrived free on the “Earl Cornwallis” in 1801. Connell, a Protestant, widowed in England, came to the Colony with two children, Margaret (married Thomas Laycock Esq.) and John. He transferred his London business to Sydney setting up a large ironmongery shop at the corner of George and Bond Street. He married convict Catherine Sullivan, who was assigned to him as a servant, and pardoned after their marriage. He became guardian for his orphaned grandchildren by his daughter Margaret Laycock. Connell died in 1849 and left his entire Estate to his grandsons as tenants in common. In the 1828 Census he had 5225 acres, 1500 cattle and 300 horses. This land included the land at Kurnell (Port Aiken/Hacking), having acquired James Birnie’s 700 acres in 1828 when Birnie was declared insane in 1828. Connell’s son, John Connell Junior lived on Birnie’s Alpha Farm and cleared the land of timber, selling it in Sydney. He transported ironbark, turpentine, blackbutt (all building material), mahogany, and red cedar (for furniture manufacture) from the Hacking Road and Kurnell areas to the Sydney market. (Connell Junior had been granted Lots 2 & 3 adjacent to Birnie’s Lot 1 named Alpha Farm.) In 1825 it was reported that Laurence’s son Walter was bitten by a snake while working at Port Aiken/Hacking, possibly at Connell’s timber cutting enterprise. [vi]
John Connell would be appointed to act as co- executor (with William Davis) of Laurence’s estate following the death of Ann Butler.
 (NB there were two other John Connells during that period:
1.)-listed on the’ Atlas 1’, tried Dublin 1801, Life sentence, age 34, who was not in the 1806 or 1811 Muster;
2.) on the ‘Minerva’, a rebel, tried Aug 1798 Co. Kerry 7 yr, age 20, in 1806 Muster as labourer Parramatta, not in 1811 Muster- neither lived in Sydney town.)

In his Will, Laurence referred to his "affectionate wife Ann" and his "love for his infant children". He named Ann as sole Executrix of his Will, leaving his estate equally to Ann and his three surviving children, Walter, Lawrence and Mary Ann. Interestingly, he named his children in the following order- Lawrence, Walter and Mary Ann. This may have been because Walter was not the child of his wife, Ann, and was therefore considered his ‘natural’ child.

His estate comprised of two houses and premises in Pitt St, a house and premises in Kent St, a 100 acre farm in the District of Petersham (now the suburb of Lilyfield), 50 head of cattle (listed in son Walter’s Memorial), and other assets, such as his cabinet tools, furniture and shop goods. According to his wife Ann in her statement to the Court for probate, his ‘good, chattels, credits and effects’ did not exceed the value of £500, but according to Walter in his Memorial in 1825, the estate was worth “upwards of £2000” [vii]. This disparity can be explained.

In his Will, Laurence had ordered:
I do here order that all my Cabinet Tools, Furniture, Shop Goods and Livestock, that I am possessed of, shall be sold (if it is required) to pay all my just debts; otherwise, this property is to be equally applied for the benefit of my family.

The difference in valuations may lie in the fact that Ann’s statement was not intended to cover Laurence’s interests in land, only in ‘good, chattels, credits and effects’. She was granted probate on 2 January 1821.
The 100 acre farm at Petersham (now Lilyfield) was valued at approximately £500 (going by the sale of a neighbouring property in 1826), and his two Pitt street and his Kent street properties would have had considerable value: the Pitt Street properties were worth at least £400 each, and the Kent street property although not of great value, would have brought in 15 s. per week rent in 1829[viii]. Added to his remaining ‘goods and chattels’, such as his personal furniture and his stock in his three warerooms, plus his cattle (which were valuable), the value of his total estate would have been much closer to Walter’s estimated value.

Laurence also named Reverend Philip Conolly as a guardian to superintend the education of the children and " improve them in morality and virtue". Father Phillip Conolly and Father John Joseph Therry were the first Catholic priests to be appointed to the colony. They arrived in May 1820, Therry taking over when Conolly left for Hobart the following year. [ix]

Father John Joseph Therry

Catholics were not buried in a designated Catholic section of the cemetery until 1825, so Laurence was buried in the Church of England section of Sandhills Cemetery, Devonshire Street, beside the grave of his children, George and Elizabeth.

When Sandhills, Devonshire Street Cemeterty was demolished in 1901, their graves and headstones were relocated to Bunnerong Cemetery. However, these headstones did not survive when their section was demolished in 1976, to make way for further burials, despite their gravestones being described as in “Good Condition” in Johnson and Sainty’s book of  Gravestone Inscriptions NSW”, published in 1973 [x]- Grave numbers 406 and 407. Johnson and Sainty record his burial at Bunnerong as "Section 2S, Plot 15".

The inscription on his headstone said:

Sacred to the Memory of

Lawrence Butler

Who departed this life
7th December 1820 aged 70 years
Leaving a widow and 3 children

After his death, his wife, Ann, continued the business with the help of an ex convict, Miles Leary, a cabinet maker. Leary was a convict from Wexford (‘Hercules’ 1802, 7 year sentence), who had been granted a ticket of leave on 6 August 1810 and Ticket of Emancipation 1 February 1811 [xi], and appeared to have been related to John and James Leary from Gorey who had been transported on the ‘Atlas 2’ with Laurence.

Ann’s relationship with Miles Leary would appear to have been a rocky one. It is unknown for how long Leary had been working for Ann or whether he had previously worked for Laurence, although on 18 May 1821, only five months after the death of Laurence, Leary advertised in the ‘Sydney Gazette’, warning people “not to settle accounts with any person, since he would not honour any settlement with someone else since the death of Lawrence Butler”. This can only have been aimed at the possibility of a debt owed to him personally being treated as a debt to Butler’s estate. It also suggests that he had worked for Butler.

Ann responded to Leary's advertisement, in an advertisement of her own in the “Sydney Gazette” on May 26 1821:
“I do hereby Caution the Public against trusting or crediting, on my account, any Person whatsoever; and I desire those to whom I am indebted to send in their accounts. Also, those who are indebted to me to pay the same without delay; or they will be sued by Legal Process immediately.”

In June, Leary was given permission to procure cedar in the Illawarra district, and in July Ann was also given permission to procure 20,000 feet of cedar from the Illawarra district and to employ two sawyers and two carriers (all freemen). [xii]

In October 1821, Ann had advertised for 'a steady man to superintend the business', and from then on, Miles Leary took charge of the business.

Sydney Gazette 27 October 1821

Ann had found the encumbrances attached to Laurence’s Will difficult and tried to have them broken. Laurence had left his estate equally to Ann and the children, with the provision that Rev. Conolly or his successor, would:
“ inspect and see justice done them agreeable to my Will” Ann’s compliance “under pain of forfeiting her share and control over my children.”

Unable to continue the business without “so able an assistant”, she applied to marry Miles Leary in August 1823 and asked Governor Brisbane to intervene, as Rev. Cowper refused to marry them on advice from the Catholic priest, Rev. Therry (who was, by then, responsible for the welfare of the children). [xiv]

Not long after, Ann advertised that she was not responsible for Leary’s debts. A notice was placed in the ‘Sydney Gazette’ 12 February 1824:

CAUTION- I have to Caution the Public against giving Miles Leary any Trust or Credit on my Account. As he is not authorized by me to receive any Debts, or make any Contracts whatever, I will not hold myself responsible for any of them.
And Notice is hereby given to the said Miles Leary, that he will be prosecuted if he shall hereafter attempt to come into my House, or upon my Premises.” Ann Butler

Within the next year, Ann died, as Walter, in his Memorial at the end of the year 1824, described himself and his siblings as “recently orphaned”. However, Leary continued to carry on his cabinet making business at the Pitt Street property and was assigned a bonded mechanic there in April 1824. In the 1828 Census, Leary, carpenter, was listed as head of the household at Pitt Street, at which address there are also listed four carpenters and one labourer. It is highly probable that Laurence and Ann’s son Walter was apprenticed to Leary, and learnt his carpentering and cabinet making skills from him, as Walter was still living at the Pitt Street address in 1825 (Memorial and Marriage Record). By 1828 it would appear that they had developed an acrimonious relationship and Walter had moved out. (see Court case over Kent Street property, in Ch. 19)

© B.A. Butler

Contact email address:  butler1802  (NB. no spaces)

Link back to Introduction:

Links to all the chapters in this blog:

The 1798 rebellion
Laurence Butler's trial for his role in the Rebellion
Analysis of Butler's trial
Laurence Butler at the Battle of Tubberneering
Laurence Butler's imprisonment
Butler's life and family in Wexford
Laurence Butler's transportation to Sydney in 1802 on the Atlas 2
Conditions on Convict Ships
Life as a convict in Sydney
Laurence Butler's property investments in Pitt Street Sydney
Sydney Town in 1800-1810
Laurence Butler's petitions to the Governor
Laurence Butler's 100 acre land grant in District of Petersham
Butler's membership of the Commercial Society of Sydney
Laurence Butler's court cases
Laurence Butler's business interests in Sydney
Laurence Butler's cabinet making business
Laurence Butler's property investments in Sydney
Laurence Butler's colonial family
Laurence Butler's death in 1820
Laurence Butler's issue- Walter, Lawrence Junior and Mary Ann
The Catholic Community of Sydney up until 1820
Genealogy- Butler's possible ancestry and possible descendants in Ireland, and BDM records
Butler's fellow Irish rebels transported to Sydney
Conclusion about the life of Laurence Butler

[i]  Australian Almanack and Sydney Directory 1834, (Fiche 994.402 aus), pub. National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1987
[ii]  Sydney Gazette, Sat. Dec 9, 1820
[iii] Butler’s Will, Vol 1, No. 97, Supreme Court NSW; and,  SRNSW: NRS 13725; [7/2582, No 97]; Index to early Probate Records; 2 Jan 1821; Reel 2658
[iv]  Sydney Gazette, Sat. Dec 9, 1820
[v] SRNSW: Registry of Births Deaths Marriages (NSW), Death Reg no V18235663, 2B/1823; see Colonial Secreatry Index.
[vi] Kurnell- Birthplace of Modern Australia- Earliest Settlers Birnie, Connell, Laycock” by Daphne F. Salt)
[vii] SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; [4/3514, p478], Memorial of Walter Butler; 6 Dec 1824, 13 June 1825; Fiche 3081; Reply, [9/2652, p85] Reel 6014
[viii] Sydney Gazette, 19 Dec 1829, Supreme Court- Bell v. Leary
[ix] See articles in Australian Dictionary of Biography online, on Fr. Therry and Fr. Connoly
[x] K Johnson and M Sainty, Gravestone Inscriptions NSW, pub 1973- Grave number 407. (note- his chn buried in No. 406)
[xi] SRNSW: COD 18; [4/4427, p.536-37]; Certificate of Freedom; 1/2/1811; Reel 601
[xii] SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; [4/3504, p.120]; Leary’s permission 29 June 1821, Reel 6008; and, [4/3504, p.153]; Ann Butler’s permission 16 July 1821; Reel 6008
[xiii] Sydney Gazette, 27 October 1821
[xiv] SRNSW: Colonial Secretary; [4/1772, p.94], 27 Aug 1823; Reel 6059.