Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bound Away: Abel Sant in Australia

This story surprised me so much I just had to share it at face value.

A couple of months ago I was reading The Fatal Shore:  The Story of Australia's Founding by Robert Hughes.  It was good but I didn't get all the way through--it was getting a little too in depth and I had something else I wanted to read.  I thought it was interesting and didn't know much about the topic; I particularly liked the section about what it was like was to live in London after the American Revolution--my Haynes ancestors are from London--but as far as I know no one in my family got deported to Australia, what's this got to do with me?  So I put it down.  And soon ate my words.
Coast of Australia, formerly known as New South Wales

While looking at some pioneer histories last night I came across this story about our ancestor Abel Sant on FamilySearch.  I will include excerpts of it here as I found it.  It's pretty amazing and the author has done some great research. (You can even view some of the original documents on FamilySearch.) After that is an account of how one of Abel's great-great grandsons tracked down the lost branch of the family in Australia while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around 1906.  I have a few thoughts on the matter that I will include afterwards.

(Me>Mom>Beverly Ely>LaRue McCann>Thomas Ravenhill McCann>Betsy Sant>John Sant>Abel Sant)

Contributed to FamilyTree by Laura H. Perry.   Source "The Children of Isaac and Martha Sant".

Abel's father Isaac was a sawyer and, as was tradition in those days, Abel and his brothers followed their father's profession. He was soon a gang leader (of Sawyers) and was well respected for his hard work.

Abel seems to have committed his first crime when, at the age of 19, he married Margaret Bayley. The problem was that Abel was a staunch protestant and Margaret came from a devout catholic family. He brothers just couldn't accept their sister marrying a heretic and producing 8 children who also followed the heresy. They moved heaven and earth to break this man and his family.

Abel had been working in a saw mill with his son Tom when the Australian Government asked the crown for more sawyers to be sent over as there was a great shortage of skilled men who could work on building houses and workshops for the growing community. The English government sent a number of sawyers over on the same ship, with the same 7 year sentence. While these men had been at work, wheat and tools had been placed in some of their lunch pails - the authorities were waiting. It happened that young Tom's pail was one of these and as soon as Abel realised it, he claimed it as his own, telling his son that is was him they wanted to get rid of so he would be the one to go.
So - is this fact, or just a story passed on to ease what was once seen as the shame of convict ancestry?...
Abel appeared at the Quarter Sessions at the Chester assizes on 9 January 1821, in front of a bench lead by one of the De Trafford family - the charge being that he had stolen a quantity of wheat. At the trial it was brought up that his brother Moses had been transported a year earlier for a number of thefts - therefore it was clearly a case of a "bad family". Abel was sentenced to 7 years transportation. The Quarter Sessions records state the following:

"Case Number 7 January 1821
Abel Sant aged 39

Charge: Stealing a quantity of wheat
 Sentence: Transported 7 years
 How behaved in jail: Good
 How behaved since trial: Good
 Connextion and former course in life: Bad
 Temper and disposition: Good
 Character as far as known: Very bad
 State of health: Good
 Comments: A very bad character and connextions very bad, his brother MOSES was transported in May last year and put on board the "INSTITUTION"

It was customary for convicts to be sent to the hulks before they were allocated a ship
A Hulk: unseaworthy ship used for a prison.
and sent to Australia, they were usually held there for months, sometimes years and many died there. This did not happen with the sawyers. Transportation papers, signed by Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth, the Home Secretary - which authorised Abel (and others) to be sent to the hulk Justitia to await deportation, were sent to the High Sheriff of Chester on 16th January 1821.

One of 15 men from the Chester assizes, who were tried at the same time, Abel arrived at the hulks at Woolwich 16th January 1821 to be examined and listed as healthy enough to travel. He was placed aboard the Hulk Justitia and the receipt for his reception is still in existence, signed by Robert Smyth, the overseer of the Justitia, I have a copy of all the transportation papers and receipts.

Aboard the Justitia Abel would have worn the standard prison uniform nicknamed "Magpie Suits".
 The only known surviving example is in the National Museum of Australia and is pictured below.
He was certified as "Free from putrid and infectious disorders" and fit to be transported on 22nd January 1821.
Magpie suit for Australian Convicts.

Abel was taken from the Justitia and put on the "Adamant" (built in 1811), the Adamant set sail on 29 March 1821 and arrived in New South Wales on 8th September 1821 - 144 men set out, 142 arrived in Sidney, two men having died on the journey. I have a copy of the ships register listing every man on board, where they were tried, and the length of their sentences.

On arriving in Sydney, New South Wales on 8th September 1821 his links with the judicial system did not end. However it was as a witness that this relationship with the law continued:

The Story of the Adamant
"Occasionally the prisoners might be starved, as happened in the Adamant in 1821. This ship reached Port Jackson from England on September 8th, but the convicts, so far as extant records reveal, had no complaints, although the surgeon-superintendent, James Hamilton, refused to sign the masters accounts until the latter agreed to credit the government with the value of medical comforts that were deficient. On October 24th 1821 when the ship had almost cleared Sidney harbour on her return voyage, police officers boarded her and seized 386 lb. of sugar, 752lbs of beef, 35lbs of soap, and varying quantities of wine, vinegar, pepper, ginger, chocolate, suet, oatmeal, bread, preserved meat and portable soup alleged to have been stolen from provisions and medical comforts supplied for the prisoners on the outward passage.

The seizure followed a quarrel between the Adamant's Master, William Ebsworthy, and the ship's steward, George Farris. The latter had sold some wine to a woman innkeeper and had collected payment, but Ebsworthy had insisted that the money should be paid to him and threatened to seize the wine. When a constable arrived Farris swore that he sold the wine on the masters instructions and it had been embezzled, along with other goods secreted in the ship, from the convicts provisions. "Just before we crossed the line" asserted Farris in sworn statement "The captain had a scuttle cut in the after hold for the purpose of adulterating the king's stores, and by his order I drew off twelve or fourteen gallons from each puncheon and made up the deficiency with water".

The evidence is contradictory as to whether Ebsworthy or Farris was the instigator, but there is no doubt that the prisoners received water and wine and that portions of rations were embezzled. Ebsworthy, when the matter came before the magistrates, refused to submit a written defence, and the evidence was forwarded to the Commissioners of the Navy without comment."

 From: The Convict Ships by Charles Bateson.

Abel was called to give evidence in this case, having been transported on the ship. He was also found in court records in Picton Court House in 1830 as a witness - 1832 as a witness - 1942 suing for non payment of wages - 1855 as surety for an Oliver Whiting - 10th August 1855 for a Slaughtering Licence - 1856 Leake v Sant for non payment of wages.
Release & Freedom:

 Abel was granted a "Ticket of Leave" (number 27/41) on 21st March 1827 at Camden Bench. This meant Abel could actively seek work but he could not leave the area.
 The system was an early form of early release on probation. This was followed by a "Certificate of Freedom" (number 28/329) on 22nd April 1828. The information on the certificate is as follows:
"Date: 22nd April 1828 - Name: Abel Sant - Ship: Adamant - Master: Ebsworthy - Year: 1821 - Native Place: Cheshire - Trade or Calling: Sawyer - Place of Trial: Chester Quarter Sessions - Date of Trial: 9th January 1821 - Sentence: Seven years - Year of Birth: 1780 - Height 5 feet 10 +1/2 inches - Complexion: Fair - Hair: Sandy - Eyes: Grey - General remarks: Had a ticket of leave 27/41 dated 21 March 1827, now turned in & cancelled."

 A New life:
Abel knew he would never return home, and his application to remarry was granted and he married Ellen Smith on 20th January 1841 at St John's Cambeltown, Cumberland, New South Wales. He he was working there for a family called Antill.
 Abel & Ellen had one son, Isaac in 1845.

The skill of Abel is reinforced by an article which appeared in the Camden News of October 1896 under the heading "Early days in Picton":

 "Two noted fencers of their day were Rozette and Abel Sant, father of the present Isaac Sant. His reputation in this respect has been maintained by his son. Part of a fence erected by them is still to be seen at Jarvisfield. It is 70 years old. Abel lived in a cottage opposite the present rifle range."

His relationship with the Antill family seems to have remained throughout Abel's life. When he died on 4th December 1858, from skinning a cow infected with the Cumberland Disease (Anthrax), it was an Antill who notified the death.

Abel was buried in the cemetery of St Marks, Picton, New South Wales.

Isaac, Abel's son went on to become a much respected citizen and managed a silver mine called the Golden Gates, from which he made a very good living. There are still descendants in Australia today.
And now the Rest of the Story, also contributed to FamilyTree by Laura H. Perry.  Source:  Sant History by Alfred C. Sant.

 We are fortunate to have the story of the life of Grandfather Abel Sant sometime after the year of 1817, as related by Alfred C. Sant in connection with some of this missionary experiences.

In the year of 1906 my brother Alma came home from the Southern States Mission and upon his return Bishop Hyman said to my father, “Now it’s Fred’s turn to go.”

My father replied: “I’ll be glad for him to go and I will pay his way, but if he is called to the Islands or among the natives, I will rebel.” I was working on the survey line when I received the letter and my call for a mission to New Zealand. I returned home with the news and in due time father (George) asked, “Where are you going.” I replied, “To New Zealand.” Father did not approve and said, “It is impossible for you to go. I won’t let you go among the natives.” Therefore my desire of going where I wanted to stood in the balance. I wanted to go where I was called and my father didn’t want me to go to the Isles of the sea.
Alfred Sant

As time passed we learned there were two missions in New Zealand– an European and a Moari. At this father consented for me to go and gave me $20.00 and told me if I was sent among the Moaries I was to send a telegram immediately and he would send me a ticket so I could return home. He told me to keep this in mind. I was in quite a ponder. I wanted to go where I was called to serve and I didn’t want to disobey my father. It seemed hard for me to disobey one and obey the other. But anyway I was sent to the New Zealand mission to serve where I was most needed and to do my best.

I left home on the 7th of July, 1908, and went to Salt Lake City where I was set apart on the 8th to go to New Zealand. I was alone and perhaps a bit lonely as my brother, Orson, was born the day I left and mother and father were unable to be with me. They were not able to go with me to the mission home or the temple. However, my father, sister, and sweetheart met me at the Oxford depot and father gave me another $20.00, saying, “Be sure to send me a telegram if you get put among the natives and I’ll have you come home.”

In due time I was assigned to the South Island Mission, in the city of Christchurch, a beautiful city and a lot like Salt Lake. The streets were built straight and I was very happy there.

As time passed, I gave a great deal of thought to some of the Sant people. When I left home I visited Uncle Johnny and Aunt Benta and he gave me $10.00 and said, “There are Sant people in that country, I want you to keep your eyes open and ears open and find them.

My Uncle Tom gave me $5.00 and said, “Fred, I hope you find some Sant people there because I know there are some.” My grandfather also gave me $5.00 with the same wish to try and locate some of the Sants in Australia.

I kept my eyes and ears open and was ever alert for something about the Sants. It was not until the 1910 census was taken on the Island of New Zealand that my desires were fulfilled. All the names of the peoples of the Island were published in a large directory. One day when I went into the Post Office I found lying on the desk a copy of this directory. I immediately turned to the ‘S’ section and, to my surprise, I found Alfred C. Sant, Mormon Missionary, and Walter Sant, Patoni, Wellington, New Zealand.

I anxiously took his name and address and upon arriving home (my mission headquarters) wrote a letter to him. I told him that I was searching for Sant people that I knew were there and he was the first one I had found. He was happy to get the letter and sent it on to Australia to his father. His father in return wrote back to him saying he was glad to know there were some Sants there besides his family and he would be very happy to meet me.

Walter was very glad to hear from me and was a fine correspondent. We wrote to each other many times before I broke down and told him the man I was looking for had been transported and he began to burn my letter when his wife interceded and said, “Walter, don’t burn the letter, send it on to your father and when you get a reply from him perhaps your feelings will be changed.”

Walter did send my letter on to his father, Isaac Sant, in Australia. When the answer came back the reply was: “Yes, Walter, tell the man the ancestor he is looking for was a transport.” This of course was sad news to them because it had been a secret that had been kept all the days of his life.

I was invited to come to Patoni, New Zealand, to visit with Walter and family. I did and was treated very royally, and we discussed a great deal about the family which he had never heard about. His father, Isaac Sant, was very secretive and was only 13 years old when his father Abel Sant died. In his last words he told his son not to join any church because it was church and religion that had influenced his being transported to Australia. He (Able) knew that his brother-in-laws were Catholic and he was a Protestant and he wouldn’t join the Catholic Church, therefore, they had used their influence in getting him transported to remove the stain of a Protestant being mingled with the family.

Then an invitation was extended to me to visit in Australia with Isaac, the father of Walter and son of Abel, who was getting along in years. This I accomplished after I finished my mission in New Zealand in February 1911. I went over to Australia to spend some time getting to their place way up in the mountains. They seemed to be much like my own folks; wonderful pioneers, they like the pioneering of places. They moved up into Combind Australia, cleared the ground and planted their seed and also had some cattle. They helped in building communities and the family lived there and were some of it’s finest citizens....

I had notified them that I would visit them sometime that month, but they didn’t know which day.

Isaac Sant was doing some black-smithing and was standing out by the anvil upon my arrival and I took his picture with my camera. When I arrived at my grandmother in Smithfield, Utah, I showed her the picture of Isaac Sant in Australia; this was on her 53rd wedding anniversary. She looked at it and then looked at my Grandfather George and said, “When did you ever have this garb on?” Isaac Sant looked so much like my Grandfather George that no one could have doubted their mind or their eyes that he was a Sant. Isaac was taller than George and had short pants on and also short sleeves in his shirt because it was 105° in the shade at the time the picture was taken.

I was treated very nice and met all the folks and children that were there. I got the record of where they were born, from Isaac, son of Abel who was transported to Australia from England to his home at Combind, Australia.

I left them photographs of my grandmother, father, mother, and a few more I had with me. They seemed very pleased to have some of the pictures of their relatives. I left all my church books which they seemed to appreciate. I didn’t know whether they ever received any missionaries or whether any ever found them, because it was a long way to their place.

I was impressed with their wonderful statures, their bodies were built tall and straight. They were brilliant and very well thought of by everyone I talked to.

While I was at Isaac’s home I received a first hand account of his father, Abel Sant. Isaac was just a boy of 13 years when his father died. His father, Abel, had told him all about the transporting of himself from England to Australia. He was a top sawyer in a saw pit, and the Australian government wrote to England asking for some good sawyers to be sent over to work in the mills because you couldn’t get people to go there at that time. It was not a nice thing to be called a transport.

This is the Story as Isaac Sant told it to me:

“My father was working in a saw mill when his son Tom and they wanted these sawyers to come over to Australia. The English government sent 67 top sawyers over on the same boat, with the same charge and gave them the same punishment, 7 years in Van Demon’s land. While these men had been at work, files had been placed in each lunch bucket. It so happened that Tom’s bucket had the files in it but his father claimed the bucket and said, “It’s me they want to get rid of, you stay and I’ll go.” So the father took the rap for the boy and was transported to Australia along with 66 other sawyers all on the same ship. It is plain to see it was nothing but a trumped up charge that caused him to be sent to Australia. He left his wife and family of 12 children in England fearing he would probably never see them again.

“After his arrival in Australia he lived under convict rule for 3 months then he was sent to the saw mills at Melbourne and was never under any surveillance after that time. After 3 years he was released entirely. The only thing that was object was he could not go back to England until seven years had passed. He never got any word from any of his folks although he continued to send letters to his family in England.

“The oldest son, Tom (For whom he came to Australia) came to Melbourne in a sailing vessel and tried to find his father, but before the word got to the father at the mill and back again the vessel had set sail to Sydney, then Brisbane. He was never able to catch up with Tom, because the boat always left a couple of days before he got there, so he never got to see any of his kin after he left England. He was years alone, then married Ellen Smith from Australia and they had one son, Isaac.” (End)

I did not try to do missionary work there.

When I was ready to come home I planned to go overland, because I was afraid to ride that boat again for fear it would sink. When I checked my purse, I found I didn’t have money enough to go overland, so I had to take the boat. When I left Combind, everyone I met and told I was a Sant asked if I was a relative of the Sants there and of course I was happy to say I have never met nicer people anywhere than the Sant people in Australia.

I have received many very nice letters from Walter Sant over the years, corresponding with him over a period of 30 years. I sure missed him when he passed away. He never had any children of his own, however, his wife Annie had two daughters. They married but I was not well acquainted with them, but Walter and I were close and corresponded and exchanged photographs. At present I do not have any contact with New Zealand.
Isn't that an amazing story?  Abel is lucky to have even survived.  If he had been among the first few waves of settlers starting in 1788, his odds would have been slim, and life would have been HORRIFIC for quite some time.  England basically didn't even know anything about Australia--they had a single report about this mysterious continent from Captain Cook from years earlier--and they just started dumping people there, and the guards tended to be sadistic and violent.  Hopefully it was somewhat better there after the 1820s (and even then, Abel's ship was starved by the food being withheld for profit).  Of course, when you are basically a white slave, torn from your family, it's not going to be good by any means.

After reading about the convict transport system, I am pretty inclined to believe Abel's innocence.
1. The whole system was pretty corrupt, a lot of the leaders of the colony were stealing money and supplies and taking cuts off the top like crazy.  This sounds exactly like a real plot to fix quotas.
2. The system was mostly used to clean up the "bad element", mostly petty thieves, those who would be fined for misdemeanors today, usually caused by homelessness and poverty.  (The really bad element, the felons, were just hung and therefore, were not a problematic population.)  It sounds like Abel had a good job and would not have been one of these homeless dregs of society, etc.  Too bad his inlaws had it in for him.  Did you notice how the courts made such a big deal of his brother Moses having been already transported?  Criminality was considered a genetic trait at the time, (which is why Abel's Australian descendants would have kept it so secret--it was a very shameful thing) and there was no such thing as "reform". 
The Penal Colony transport system started, of all things, because England lost the war with America and needed a new place to send their riffraff.  It is very ironic that the circumstances that brought so much freedom--especially religious freedom and the blessings of membership in the LDS church to Abel's descendants, were the same ones that tore this family apart and caused so much suffering elsewhere. 

PS.  If you find a stapler and an extra sandwich in your lunchbox, head for the hills!