Elijah Upjohn
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Elijah Upjohn (1823 - 1885)

Elijah Upjohn
Born in Shaftesbury, Dorset, England, United Kingdommap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 6 Jun 1854 in St Paul Church, Geelong, Victoria, Australiamap
Died at age 62 in Bourke, New South Wales, Australiamap
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Profile last modified | Created 20 Jun 2016
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Source: "Upjohn, a study in ancestry" by Richard Upjohn Light - Pages 129 - 132

Elijah was born about 1823. He is the son of Henry Upjohn and Elizabeth Burridge. [1]


  1. ↑ A source for this information is needed.
  • Vic marriage registration #1292/1854
  • NSW death registration #7767/1885

Elijah Upjohn

Born 1.1.1823 in Shaftesbury, Dorset Died 28.9.1885 at Bourke, N.S.W, Australia aged 62.

At age 11 he was sentenced to 3 months prison and twice whipped for stealing a pair of trousers; at age 15, to 6 weeks hard labour for stealing rabbits; at age 16, to 7 yrs. transportation for stealing shoes. Sailed to Australia on convict ship Marquis of Hastings 19.2.1839 - 30.7.1839. Served term in Van Dieman's Land. married. 6.6.1854 at St. Paul's Church, Geelong, Victoria (witness: Sarah Copp), Ann Copp 1822 - 1895 b. in Devonshire, Eng. (An Ann Copp from Devon arrived at Geelong on the Childe Harold, June. 1853) d. MacArthur St., Ballarat, Vic. (dau. of William, an apothecary, and Sarah Copp, presumably then living in Victoria).

Elijah followed in the footsteps of his father, Henry, who was also transported, but surely with more justification. At the age of 11 he was arrested for stealing a pair of trousers, at 15 for stealing rabbits, and at 16 for stealing a pair of shoes, the typical struggle for survival that earned Miss Tuck's apologetic sympathies. Three times and out, he too was transported to Van Dieman's land.

Dorchester Gaol Record

8th April 1834: Elijah UPJOHN. Labourer of Shaftesbury, 11 years, single, 4' 10", light brown hair, hazel eyes, fair complexion and has a cut on the palm of the right hand below the little finger. Committed by R. Buckland, Mayor and J.B. Chitty, Justices of the Borough of Shaftesbury, for stealing a pair of trousers. Sentenced to 3 calendar months imprisonment and to be twice whipped. Conduct disorderly - Discharged 7th july 1834.

8th November 1837: Elijah UPJOHN. Aged 15 years. Committed on 7th November for stealing rabbits. Sentenced to 6 weeks Hard Labour. Conduct disorderly. Released 15th De-cember 1837.

10th May 1838: Elijah UPJOHN. Aged 16 years. Committed for stealing shoes. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Left Dorchester Gaol on 26th July 1838. Described as 'Reads' (This means that he could not write).

Ship's Surgeon's report:

The Marquis of Hastings Convict Ship sailed from Woolwich on the 6th of March 1839, having embarked on the 4th, 100 prisoners at that place and proceeded to Portsmouth to receive 140 more, making a total of 240 male prisoners and at the period of their embarkation, they appeared generally in a tolerable state of health. The ship sailed from Portsmouth on the 17th March and after clearing the Channel, had favourable weather and crossed the Equator on the 18th of April and continued to have fine and dry weather until we reached about 50 or 60 degrees to the Eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, running down in 38/39 South Latitude, at which time we experienced vissitudes of temperatureand wet, cold, damp and often boisterous weather and which appeared greatly to affect the health of the prisoners and several were daily added to the sick list with inflammatory complaints, and symptoms of scurvy began to appear amongst the prisoners and also Scorbatic cases of Erysipilas. Eleven cases of the latter disease occurred during the voyage, 4 of which proved fatal and in those cases the Patients were men of broken down constitution and at the same time, labouring under scorbatic symptoms. 49 cases of Scorbatus (scurvy) on board, 45 recovered, 4 sent to hospital. Treatment used: the heavy metals mercury and antimony; camphor, ammonia, salines and purgatives. Three other cases of death occurred on board, viz 1 enteritus, 1 phthisis and 1 laryngitis, and 8 of the prisoners were sent to the Colonial Hospital on the ship's arrival at Hobart Town. The unusual number of bad cases and large sick list during the later part of the voyage, I attribute entirely to the cold and damp weather we experienced in running down our longitude from the Cape of Good Hope to Van Dieman's Land, for it was at this period the prisoners suffered the most.

All hands were kept on deck during the day as much as possible, by which means the prison was kept dry and well ventilated at the time the prisoners were sent below for the night, which was generally at sun set. At the time the cold and damp weather commenced, the prisoners were allowed on deck in divisions, one division remaining on deck for a short time only and the other coming up and returning in rotation, which gave them more room to move about the deck and also in continual exercise. A school was established in the prison and about 40 of the prisoners who merely knew their letters at the time of their coming on board, could write and read tolerably well on the ship's arrival in the Colony. Divine Service was performed every Sunday and every means used to promote a religious and moral disposition in the convicts. The greatest attention was paid to their cleanliness and to every circumstance that promoted and added to their general comfort. Edward Jeffrey, Surgeon Supt.

In Tasmania, Elijah was sent to the prisoners barracks at the northern city of Launceston. His seven-year sentence would have been completed by 1846, and we pick up his trail again in 1855 when he married Ann Copp in Geelong, one of the shipping ports serving Melbourne. His younger brother Robert was also married the same year, and in the same town, leaving us to wonder if they might have met. Elijah and Ann settled in the town of Ballarat, about 75 miles west of Melbourne and produced five children, all boys, of whom only two survived childhood. The youngest of these, Ernest Arthur Upjohn, married Emily Stevens in 1888 and was the father of three boys and a girl. While we know nothing further of this family, it may be presumed that at least some of the Upjohns living today may be their descendants.

Through whatever misfortune, Elijah's attempt to live in respectability came to naught. In 1864 he spent a night in jail, and subsequent jailings brought longer and longer sentences. Finally; in 1880, a judge put him away for a year as a 'Rogue and Vagabond".

Also in jail at the time was Edward Kelly, the most famous of the bush-rangers. His dramatic exploits captured the imagination of Australians just as the bank-and- train robbers of Jesse James and his gang fascinated Amerians. Following his capture, Kelly had been tried and sentenced to die on the gallows for his crimes (he had murdered three policemen). On the day of the execution, Gately, the regular hangman, was unavailable, so the prison warden asked for volunteers among his charges. Elijah stepped forward and in so doing walked into the blazing publicity surrounding a famous event. The story of Ned Kelly's crimes and his execution brought excitement to the readers of the Australasian Sketcher 20 November, 1880.

A few minutes before ten o'clock, the hour set for the execution, Colonel Rede, the sheriff, and Mr. Castieau, the governor of the gaol, proceeded to the condemned cell followed by the persons who had been admitted, the latter numbered about thirty, and included Superintendent Winch, Sub-Inspector Lamer, several constables and detectives, three or four medical men, a number of justices of the Peace, and the representatives of the press. The gallows is situated in the center of the new wing and consists simply of a timber beam running across the transept over the first gallery with rope attached, and a trap-door over the gallery floor. Warders stood in the side galleries amid the onlookers stood on the basement floor in front of the drop. The sheriff, preceded by the governor of the gaol, then ascended to the cell on the left hand side of the gallows in which the condemned man had been placed, and demanded the body of Edward Kelly. The governor asked for his warrant, and having received it, bowed in acquiescence. The new hangman, an elderly grey-headed, fit-looking man. Elijah Upjohn, who is at present incarcerated for larceny, made his appearance from the cell on the opposite of the gallows, entered the doomed man's cell with the governor, and began to pinion Kelly. At first Kelly objected to this, saying "There is no need for tying me." But he had to submit and his arms were pinioned behind by a strap above the elbows. He was then led out with a white cap on his head, and walked steadily to the drop. By now his face was livid, his jaunty air was gone, and there was a frightened look in his eyes as he glanced down on the spectators. It seemed to have been his intention to make a speech, but he merely said, 'Ah, well, I suppose it has to come to this', as the rope was placed around his neck. He appeared as in court, with his full beard, never having shaved. The priests in their robes followed him out of the cell, repeating prayers; another official of the church stood in front of him with a crucifix. The noose was adjusted, the white cap pulled over his face. The hangman, stepping to one side, quickly pulled the bolt. The body of Edward Kelly fell eight feet, then hung suspended about four feet from the basement floor. His neck was dislocated and death was instantaneous for although muscular twitching continued for some minutes he never made a struggle. It was all over by five minutes past 10 o'clock. One of the most expeditious executions ever performed in the Melbourne gaol.

The execution of Ned Kelly Elijah Upjohn (2nd from right) the hangman at Ned Kelly's execution.

Elijah's story ends, as it began, in tragedy. In the desert outpost of Bourke, near the northern border of New South Wales, a constable came upon a sick, abandoned man who survived but two days. His death certificate, dated September 28th, 1885, reads: "Upjohn. Public Hangman. About 70 years of age:' (He was actually 62 or 63.) Unrecorded was any mention of his wife, his children, or his place of dwelling. The life of Elijah is the stuff of which great novels have been written. The material is here: the fight of the child for survival; the harsh jailings and beatings; the hopelessness of transportation; the release into the sunshine of marriage, home, and children; the grasp for dignity in the naming of the boys - Alfred, Arthur, Charles, Edward, Ernest, good solid British names - the return to his old habits; the gruesome chance to become somebody, and the final crawl of the dying animal into the bushes of oblivion.

Source: "Upjohn, a study in ancestry" by Richard Upjohn Light - Pages 129 - 132

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