A memorial service for William Oxley was held on Saturday the 29th of September, 2012, beside the gravestone of William. This was organised by the Mudgee Police (NSW, Australia).
Following the memorial service there was a church service at the Anglican church for Police Rememberance day, and then a gathering of many of the descendants of William Oxley at the adjacent Anglican church hall. There were just short of 100 attendees.
Advice has just been received that a street in Mudgee is to be named after William Oxley. More information will follow. I am trying to determine if the council is interested in a group of descendants being present when they have a photo taken with a local descendant for the newspapers. Anyone interested in attending please click on the link above to send a Private Message to me expressing your interest.
William Oxley was born in 1804, the third of ten children and was baptised on 8th February 1804 at Rolvenden Kent. His father, John Oxley, was a butcher in Benenden in Kent. He had an older brother, James, who was a school teacher in Rolvenden, close to Benenden.
He married Eliza Santer, married 4 Jun 1829 in Benenden England, b. 1807 in Benenden, Kent, England, (daughter of Samuel Santer and Mary Judge) d. 4 Jan 1869 in Mudgee.
William Oxley was originally a Miller in Rolvenden, Kent at the Beacon Mill (Wikipedia entry) which still exists. The photo is about 1910. The mill is about one mile east of the centre of Benenden village. It is said to command views of the surrounding countryside like no other in Kent. It was said that early in the twentieth century it was possible to count 55 working windmills in the view from the Beacon Mill. Most of the owners were said to have faced financial difficulties which became more prominent with the advent of steam power.
To gauge the conditions in this area of England look at this Wikipedia article on the Swing riots which happened only a few years before William and his family left England.
He arrived in Australia on 20 May 1839 on "Roxborough Castle" (Came Free).
He spent the first few years in the Richmond area employed by a Mr. Bowman to do the milling and as an overseer.
He arrived in the Mudgee area about 1846. He was familiar with the area during the years between his arrival in Australia and his moving to Mudgee as his first employer , Mr Bowman, had a land grant on the Cudgegong River south-east of the current town of Mudgee. William used to travel to the area with Mr Bowman to attend stock. Some of the details of these trips are recounted in the letters he sent back to his brother James in England.
William was appointed as a Constable at Mudgee in 1851. He died after interceding in a drunken brawl between Maurice Dalton and James Brandon as a result of injuries on 19 May 1853. Maurice was arrested for his murder but escaped and spent some time free before his recapture and trial. Eventually he was convicted of manslaughter. After his release from gaol he later murdered his wife by striking her with an iron. This time he went to the gallows at Darlinghurst, NSW.
William's gravestone is in Mudgee Pioneer Park, having been removed there from its' original cemetery when the Pioneer Park was established which gathered remaining headstones from several smaller cemeteries in the Mudgee area..
What follows is the story of William's journey out from England. I have told this story using extracts from letters he wrote back to his brother James in England. These letters are now in possession of the NSW State library. The letters from William remained in the Oxley family until the death of James' grandson at the age of 101 in 1982. They were passed on to the State Library of NSW after this.
The first letter was written shortly after departure from Gravesend, near the Isle of White, dated 11 January 1839 (as written on the first letter). With William were his wife, Eliza, and his three children, Owen, Mary Anne, and Rachael, the youngest. There are also around 300 passengers crammed on board. Foul weather greeted their first weeks through the English Channel. The letters to James were intended for the whole family to read.
From a letter dated Jan 11
Not helping the situation was the poor health of the youngest, Rachel. She suffered an injury to her arm before departure. From what I can gather it was a bad scald while she was in the care of someone else. The ships doctor took Rachel and her mother to his room early on. Sea sickness was rife aboard.
The rough weather continued until they arrived at Portsmouth on the 11th of Jan. Measles appears to be on board.
William apologetically requests more funds from his brother who has already been a great help.
The ship is held up for a several more days as William learns that a replacement wheel has to be fashioned for the one lost in the storms. William appears to have a gained a job on board so that he now lives with the Steward and Third Mate, to who is is next under. He says in a letter from Plymouth dated the 20th of January that he shall live better on board than he did on land.
He continues in a letter dated the 21st of January:
The rough journey seems to have an effect on passengers will to continue.
In March the 31st they arrived at the Cape of Good Hope. Sadly, the youngest daughter Rachel died on the journey.
Williams jobs on board are to serve the provisions and do the accounts. He appears to be a general handy person on board used by the Doctor, Cook and Captain where required. The benefits are that he can provide some luxuries to his wife and children from time to time.
Four children died on the journey to the Cape, but no others. William was reasonably impressed with the Cape and recommended it to others from England as a place to emigrate to.
A dutchman makes an offer of a job as foreman of wine vaults in Cape Town to William which he seriously considers. It would cost him forty pounds to truncate his journey however (later he mentions 100 pounds), so he decides to continue.
In the letter from the Cape Eliza adds some;
The next stop is Sydney. Fifteen more died on the journey from the Cape. The weather was favourable, not a single storm. On arrival in Sydney several came on board seeking labour.
William and his family remained on board until the ship was ready for departure, availing themselves of the comfortable cabins now empty. He credits the kindness of the Doctor to the recovery from sickness of Mary Ann who was sick for a week on arrival. Soon they leave the ship and rent a house with only shingles for a roof, no ceiling, no furniture, for 6/o a week. William is not impressed with Sydney.
William obtains a position as overseer at a property in the Richmond area. He thinks of it as pleasant country. He writes again a month later;
Eliza takes on a job as the local school teacher. William fills his letters with descriptions of the favourable climate, the unusual animals and plants (even sending skinned animal pelts home to England for stuffing). Williams fortunes continue to grow. He is offered the lease of a farm, but feels he is better off working and saving for a while longer.
The letters from home seem to be a little scarce by 1842. In a letter dated this year William entreats his relatives to send them news as it is their only connection with family and country. He journeys to the interior of the state to his masters property some 130 miles over the Blue Mountains.
When they arrived at Mr B's property William was suitably impressed.
Drought and the opinions of his master about the suitablity of his wife for this land (Mrs Oxley was too delicate to rough it) and the fact that his wife was so well patronised by the people of Richmond as Schoolmistress, that decides against removing his family to the area right away. He already has 34 head of cattle himself, and two horses.
The letters end here. I am left wondering about the rest of Williams life. The records show that he had two more children born in Mudgee in 1846 and 1853. In a court case for Michael Dillon accused of indecently assaulting William's daughter Jane, the family is noted as living on the farm of William Bowman at Big Hill near Mudgee. Perhaps William did buy some property after this. Records also show that he was appointed a Police Constable in Mudgee in 1851. This would be his undoing. He died after intervening in a brawl in 1853 (his gravestone can be found in the Mudgee Pioneers Park (link to Australian Cemeteries index page) not far from the visitors centre), only two weeks after his son was born (also William). This child also died a few months later. I imagine life was difficult after Williams death. There is a newspaper report in 1854 of a collection taken up for the Widow Eliza. Eliza survived until 1869, dying in Mudgee.
Owen married Isabella Syme (from Scotland) in the Tambaroora goldfields in 1855. He spent much time in the Mudgee and Coonabarabran area (he died in Mudgee in 1881). There is also a newspaper reference (28 February 1863) of a Mrs Oxley of Gladstone St, Mudgee being burnt when her dress caught fire (probably his wife Isabella or mother Eliza). Isabella was a niece of Euphemia Bowes (wife of the Rev John Bowes who was one of the first of the Wesleyan ministers in NSW). The Bowes were in Mudgee around 1857 (birth of their daughter Evangeline Bowes in Mudgee in 1857).
Owen appears to have remained out west for much of his life. History records at least 3 years in the Coonabarabran area (his occupation listed as “saddler”). His childrens births are recorded variously at Coonabarabran, Mudgee, Rylstone, Orange and Richmond.
1804 Birth of William in Rolvenden, England
1807 Birth of Eliza Santer in Benenden, England (William's wife).
1829 Marriage to Eliza Santer
1830 Daughter Mary Anne born in Benenden, England.
1832 Son Albert died in Benenden, England.
1833 Son Owen born in Benenden, England.
?-1838 William was a miller at the Beacon Mill, Benenden
1839, Feb 13 Daughter Rachel died
1839-c1846 Lived and worked in Richmond, Sydney, NSW
c1846 Arrived Mudgee area
1846 Daughter Jane born in Mudgee.
1851 Court case for indecent assault by Michael Dillon on Jane Elizabeth Oxley
1853, April 29 Assaulted by Maurice Dalton
1869 Eliza died in Mudgee.
2012 Memorial service held beside William's gravestone
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 1854.
Maurice Dalton was indicted for that he, on the 29th April 18953, at Mudgee, in New South Wales, did feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, kill and murder one William Oxley."
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL stated the facts of the case, and called James Lucas Brandon: I live at Mudgee ; I lived there in April last; I saw the prisoner on 28th April ; he insulted me, and knocked me down ; I was going home, playing the clarionet, When the prisoner came across and asked me what business I had playing that bloody thing, and knocked me down; I went to constable Oxley, and told him, and he told me to go home ; when I got home I heard stones thrown against my hut ; I was frightened to stop, and I went out for constable Oxley, and then I saw the prisoner: Oxley spoke to prisoner, and asked what he was about, kicking up that row at that time of the night for; prisoner asked him who he was, and said, I know you are a b---dy trap, I know you by your buckle ; I then saw Oxley fall, no one was near him when he fell but prisoner; I was 100 yards off; I could not say whether prisoner had a stick or a stone in his hand ; when Oxley fell I went up to him, and found him bleeding profusely from a cut on the head, he was not able to speak, he appeared to be insensible ; I think Oxley lived for a month afterwards."
Cross-examined by Mr. Holroyd : After he was knocked down, and before his death I often saw him on duty in the streets of Mudgee ; I had been playing the clarionet in Tuckerman's public house, in Mudgee. I drunk nothing that day but peppermint and ginger beer - three glasses of port wine in the evening."
William Freeman : I live in Mudgee ; I recollect 28th April, 1853 ; I recollect seeing prisoner that night ; he used to keep a public house at Maitland Bar ; on that night I was called up by the mistress, who said some one was breaking into the house; I went outside and found prisoner there ; I told him to go away, but he would not go away ; I then went back to my house and he followed me round and throw a large stone into my house, which fell on my wife and child; I spoke to him, about throwing the stone, and he then went away ; I saw him then walk towards the witness Brandon, who was coming down the street, and I saw them scuffling, and Brandon called out for Oxley ; I afterwards saw Oxley bleeding about the head, about half an hour after I saw prisoner scuffling with Brandon."
Cross examined by Mr. HOLROYD; He had no stick in his hand after he threw it on my wife's bed."
Donald Mcdonald ; I am a surgeon, I knew the late William Oxley ; I was called to see him in the morning of 29th April, 1853; he was lying on his bed, bleeding-profusely from a cut on his head, it was a contused wound such as might have been caused by a stone; he lived eighteen or nineteen days after I first saw, him; I made a post mortem examination ; I should say that his death was caused by the injury received on his head ; I knew deceased for several years, he was a healthy man ; the scalp was inflammed, and on opening the cranium I found the membranes of the brain were inflammed, caused by the wounds; other causes might have accelerated his death."
Cross-examined by Mr. HOLROYD : I think the wounds were sufficient to cause death ; I believe deceased was a free liver, and had the appearance of a man that drank ; I saw deceased do duty as a constable ; I cautioned him not to drink ; I believe but apoplexy was caused by the blows on the head."
David Picton: I live at Mudgee ; I recollect the night Oxley was wounded ; I saw a man near Brandon's, house ; whilst I was in Brandon's house two stones were thrown in; Brandon then went to Oxley for assistance; Oxley went up to the man and said, "Is that you, Maurice Dalton?" . Prisoner said, "Who are you?" and then said "0, I know you are a bl--dy trap, by your buckle" and struck him a blow with a large stone. - Oxley fell when he got the blow ; I helped Brandon to pick him up."
Cross-examined by, Mr. HOLROYD : I was 20 yards off Oxley when the blow was struck."
Mr. Bailey, Clerk of Petty Sessions, Mudgee: I knew William Oxley, the constable; I know, he is dead; Oxley, was examined , before the Bench on the 30th April, 1853; the magistrates present were M. P. Bayley, and Basil Dickenson. (Depo- sit ¡om putin andKfliid. ) .
Mr. HOLROYD addressed the jury for the defence, and contended that the death was caused by other causes, and called the following witnesses in support of such a view of the case :- "
John Ashton : I am a constable in Mudgee; I knew the deceased, I recollect his meeting with this injury ; I know that he had fits ; he had one on 26th February last year between the time of the accident and his death ; he went on duty 12 miles from Mudgee; he went on horseback ; this was about 15 or 16 days after he received the injury.
Cross-examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The first time I saw him in a fit was on 26th February last year; I don't know what caused the fit ; I never saw him have another fit ; he appeared a very healthy man.''
George Taylor; I am an innkeeper at Mudgee ; I knew Oxley the deceased; I recollect his taking a journey to Cloudy Bay ; after his return from Cloudy Bay, I saw him in a fit; this was in the morning; I saw deceased lying in a fit on the ground; I assisted him by losing his handkerchief, and then went for the doctor ; he was very apoplectic looking; I saw him occasionally on duty from the time of the assault to his death.
Cross examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL : He went, to Cloudy Bay some days after he got the wound ; it was not quite healed.
Alexander-Watt : I knew the prisoner whilst he was in my employment ; he was a very well behaved man.
Cross-examined, by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL ; It is ten or twelve years since he was in my service-; he was a few weeks in my service employed mowing-.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL replied at some length. After an address of some length from the Judge and a careful recapitulation of the evidence by him, the Jury returned their verdict of Guilty of Manslaughter.
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