Sarah Lawson

2-Sarah Lawson was born about 1826 in Scotland and died on 12 Sep 1862 in Hobart aged about 36. Sarah had two children to unknown fathers:

Sarah next had a relationship with convict Jacob Standring, son of James and Ann Standring.  Jacob was born on 9 Mar 1827 and was christened on 1 Jun 1827 in St Mary, Bury, Lancashire, England. They had three children:

The three children were variously known as Lawson, Standring and Standren.

Sarah arrived in Hobart Town on the Borneo with her convict mother Euphemia and older brother William on 8 October 1828.  Aged three, on 7 Feb 1829 she was admitted to the Orphan School at New Town where she remained for nearly twelve and a half years.  Sarah Lawson was incarcerated there at the same time as Sarah Elizabeth Briggs.  Some thirty-five years later their children were to marry and become my great grandparents.

Like her mother, Sarah was strong willed and she was the only child to speak out and tell the truth when the Orphan School's headmaster and chaplain of St Johns Church, the Reverend Thomas James Ewing was guilty of sexual misconduct with one of the senior girls.

Within the Orphans Schools it was widely said that Ewing had favoured a small group of girls in his private garden over some months where he had fed his special girl, Ellen Wilson, a sleeping cake and had touched her ‘place’ and lay upon her. These stories eventually reached the ears of the schools’ surgeon, which forced Ewing to ask the Colonial Secretary for an independent investigation. This simply found Ewing guilty of imprudence but, extraordinarily, not of criminal conduct and it was over two years before he was finally removed as headmaster.

However, prior to the formal enquiry the matron, Mrs Gazard, had approached Ewing about the stories and he attempted to hush the matter by turning on and confronting the girl in question, and her friends. They named Sarah Lawson as the one spreading the stories and Ewing attempted to bully her into withdrawing her allegations but, un­like all the others, she steadfastly stuck to the truth. Sarah was rewarded for her courage and integrity by being punished and within a matter of just a few weeks, on 22 Aug 1841, she had been apprenticed and discharged from the Orphan Schools.

We can only speculate on the impact of a harsh upbringing in the cold and austere Orphan School and the final indignity of her treatment at the hands of Ewing but sadly Sarah trod a path not dissimilar from her mother's.  Within four years she was before the courts for disturbing the peace.

The Colonial Times Hobart Saturday 29 March 1845 page 3
Hobart Town Police Report

Two pretty demure-looking, and very bashful nymphs, the one rejoicing in the beautiful cognomen of the " Bull-pup," the other in the gentle and more fascinating appellation of "Fair Ellen," were charged (again by that terrible Tartar, Bob Smith,) with disturbing the peace in the classical neighbourhood of Bathurst-street. The "Bull-pup," looking modestly on the ground, murmured a whispering " Yes, Sir, '"which her fair companion reciprocated : they were each fined 5s.

A legthy and entertaining court report may be read here.

Sarah gave birth to a child, father unknown, on 3 Feb 1847. The birth record names neither child nor father but the informant was named as Elizabeth Carey an inmate, Park Street.  The baptism by William Bedford, on 7 Mar 1847 names the child Sarah Elizabeth Lawson. It names the parents as William and Sarah Lawson but in reality William was probably her brother and not the father.  No further trace of Sarah Elizabeth has been found and it seems likely that she died young.

Two years later Sarah had a second daughter, again father unknown. The Female Factory baptism records show that, on 26 Apr 1849 Sarah Lawson (arrived free/Borneo) had a daughter, Euphemia Lawson who was baptised 17 Oct 1849 at the Female House of Correction, Cascades. Sarah does not appear to have been a resident so perhaps the baptism occurred there so that grandmother Euphemia could attend.  No other birth record has been located.

Convict Jacob Standring was granted a ticket of leave just two days before the birth of Euphemia on 26 Apr 1849 and some five years later on 15 Mar 1854 the first of their three children were born.   The third was born on 20 Nov 1859 and about that time Standring abandoned his family; allegedly going to Sydney.   

Sarah clearly continued to struggle because was before the court again in 1861:

POLICE OFFICE. Monday August 12th, 1861
Before H. Cook, Esq., Mayor and D. Lewis Esq.

Sarah Standring, charged with using obscene language, pleaded guilty.

"The constable stated that the woman was a terror to the neighborhood, and Mr. Staples and other respectable persons were frequently complaining of her disgusting language. On Saturday she was abusing someone at the "Woodpecker Inn", and would not desist until apprehended. She had three or four children and she was in the habit of leaving them all day while she went out drinking, it was a wonder the place was not destroyed by fire on Saturday through her neglect.

The Mayor said it was a dreadful thing, those unnatural mothers, neglecting their poor little children and making them miserable. His Worship hoped the intended new Act would be passed to compel such unnatural creatures to give up their children, and then to be made to pay ; the difficulty was to know what punishment to inflict on such characters as her ; if the Bench sent her to the House of Correction, the public would have to support her and her children ; whether in or out of the Factory she would not earn her living. The sentence, however, was that she be fined 40s. or in default to be kept to hard labour for two months.

and again in 1862:

Hobart Mercury Thursday 20 Feb 1862 Page 2
OBSCENE LANGUAGE.-An information by Sub Inspector Hadley against Sarah Lawson for having on 3rd February made use of obscene language in a public place.Defendant, who was accompanied by four little children, pleaded guilty.
Police-Sergeant Duggan stated that the language made use of by defendant was of the most disgusting description. The fact was that when the woman became drunk she was perfectly mad.
The Police Magistrate said that he wondered defendant had not more pity on her children. If she went on in that way she would come to the same end as the unfortunate woman who was executed yesterday. In consideration of defendant's family he would only inflict the lowest penalty of 10s., or in default of payment, 14 days imprisonment.

Just four months later Sarah was cooking soup for her children in a house in Melville Street, Hobart over an open fire when her clothes caught alight and she was severely burned. She died a lingering and painful death in hospital.

Hobart Mercury Tuesday 16 Sep 1862 page 3
Another Death From Burning.-

An inquest was held on Saturday last, at the Gordon Castle, Liverpool street, before A. B. Jones, Esq., Coroner, and a jury of seven, touching the death of a woman named Sarah Standering, alias Jacobs, alias Lawson, about thirty-live years of age, who was admitted into the General Hospital on the 19th June last, from a house in Melville- street, where she had been severely burnt ; deceased lingered in the  Hospital since her admission, till the 12th instant, when she died. The jury after hearing the evidence of Doctor Tunney, under whose treatment deceased had been, returned a verdict of accidental death from burning ; no blame being attached to any one.

The official inquest was held at the Gordon Castle Inn on the corner of Argyle and Liverpool Streets.

Further insights into the life of Sarah and her children can be gained by the official enquiries into the request for the three young children to be admitted to the Orphan Schools for their protection.

Form of Application for Admission of Children into the Queen’s Orphan School

Applicant:  Thomas Wood
Residence    - Melville Street
Jacob Standren or Lawson 7 years  6 months    Mar 1855
Daniel Standren or Lawson 5 years 6 months    Mar 1857
Richmoth Standren or Lawson 2 years 9 months   Dec 1859
Religion Protestant
Name of Father: Jacob Standren not married to the mother
Residence: Not known supposed to be in Sydney
Trade : Sawyer
Maiden name of Mother; Sarah Lawson alias Standren alias Jacobs
Residence: dead
Religion: Protestant

Additional information

The supposed father of these children has been away from the colony about two years and a half.  The mother was for some years a prostitute so that it is impossible to identify the father of the children. She was taken into the Hospital by the Police being severely burnt, she died there on the 12th instant. An inquest was holden on the 15th instant by    Esquire, coroner.  The children are quite destitute.

16th September 1862.  Francis Neale

Approved, Referred to the sub inspector of Police for enquiry and for the consideration of the court.

I have known these children’s mother as a prostitute in Hobart Town for seven and twenty years. [Note it is not possible for this to be correct] They have no legal Guardian who can be compelled to support them and I have been informed by some of the jurors who sat with the body of their mother that the man, Thomas Wood, who now has them in his keeping and who lives by himself in a house that was a brothel and that he paid the little allowed for their support by the Benevolent Society to his own account and not the children.  Under these circumstances the Court feels compelled to recommend their admission.

Colonial Secretary’s Office September 15th 1862
Sir,

The three children whose names and ages are mentioned in the margin are in a state of absolute destitution, the mother having been burnt to death recently and the man who was regarded as their father is in Sydney and has been there for a long time.

Mr A. B. Jones who held an inquest on the case of the mother wished me to apply for their admission into the Queen’s Orphan Schools.  They are to be found with Thomas Wood, the first turning at the back of the Golden Gate as with Leigh Hadley a farmer whom

Your benevolent aid Sir will greatly oblige

Yours obediently
W Gaggin
To the Honourable
W Henty  Esquire.

The woman who was living with the man Thomas Wood and who took charge of the children when their mother got burnt in her house is now suffering sentence in the House of Correction for Females at the cascade.

Algernon Burdett JONES
17 September 1862

The three younger children were admitted a few days later.  Euphemia, aged 13, was too old to be considered for the Orphan School and had to make her own way in the world.