FOSTER of Launceston, Australia, Chapter 7.

The "FOSTER Family" section of this site is divided into 13 chapters and 8 sets of appendices. Please read in sequence by following the links at the bottom of each page or use the "Quick Nav" at top right. If you wish to select individual chapters, please click on the top left link to the Sitemap page. Citation of sources is shown as …ix) , referring to the list at the end of each section.

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Continuing story of Jane & her family (from Chapter 5)


Earlier chapters describe that Jane was born at Low Head Tasmania (near Launceston), on 23 Apr 1841, and baptised at Launceston by the Presbyterian Minister John Anderson, on 9 Jun 1841. According to the 1842, 1843 and 1848 Censuses she did not live with her parents and thus may have lived with another family (fostered?) in Low Head? Perhaps there was continuing contact with her family shown by a voyage she might have made to Melbourne with her father in 1860? Now read on.

Image of Low Head LighthouseLow Head Lighthouse
Photo: John & Lorraine Stevens, 2008.

On 6 Dec 1859 when Jane was 18, she married James FRANCIS who was a 24-year-old Assistant Light House Keeper at Low Head.…i) See the engraving of the Low Head Light House and Tamar Heads in the FOSTER photo gallery. Also see the photo on right.

In this chapter the story is now told of James continuing as Keeper at Low Head until at least 1864, and then his later jobs as Assistant Light House Keeper Swan Island abt 1871-73 and Porter in Hobart in 1878 when the family lived at Molle St Hobart.

i) Marriage of James FRANCIS and Jane FOSTER. Marriages in the District of George Town. 6 Dec 1859. Reg# 1859/396. Tas Archives. See here.

Life at Low Head Lighthouse

In the year that James and Jane were married, James was mentioned three times in official correspondence.…i)

On 4 March 1859 the Head Keeper, Andrew WARD, telegraphed the Master Warden to report that James FRANCIS was absent from work. He followed this up by a letter dated 15 March, complaining that James had been absent for 21 hours. This had happened before, and he had been reprimanded. Andrew WARD sought guidance on what to do if this occurred again.…i)

At the end of the year, the Head Keeper wrote a letter about James’ accommodation on 5 Dec 1859. James and Jane would be married the following day! Andrew WARD pointed out that James was living on his own in single men’s quarters while his wife was living half a mile away.…i) Google satellite maps show that this would be about the exact distance for James to walk to the Pilot Station where Jane could have been living in a Pilot’s cottage set aside for her father’s use. At that time Jane’s father George FOSTER was listed as a "River Pilot stationed at Launceston", and thus probably would have stayed in a Pilot’s cottage, when he travelled to Low Head. The Head Keeper went on to say that James’ living quarters were in a very bad state. There were only two rooms, which were dirty from smoke. Also, there was no floor in one room! He said that FRANCIS was very attentive to his duties and asked if the quarters could be made more habitable for his wife to join him. His alternative suggestion was that FRANCIS should be transferred to another station where there were married quarters.…i) A clever move to transfer his problem employee, or at least a means of upgrading the lighthouse facilities?

At the end of the next year, relationships had deteriorated again… another official complaint! Andrew Ward telegraphed the Master Warden on November 5 1860 to complain that James FRANCIS was not obeying orders and had not been returning to work on time.…i) Perhaps this was due to the birth of James & Jane’s first child James on 12 Sep 1860?

No further correspondence about James was found in the correspondence box 1858-66. James & Jane had more children in 1862 and 1864 while they were at Low Head and perhaps settled into married life? In early 1864 Andrew WARD resigned and the new Head Keeper didn’t write any letters of complaint. James subsequently transferred to the Swan Island Light House in July 1867.

Sources— Low Head Lighthouse records from the Archives Office of Tasmania:
i) Correspondence 1858 to 1866. Box file Item # MB 2/5/1/4.
ii) Logbooks 1854 to 1867. Box file Item # AB 760/1/4. (No relevant records found here).
iii) Meteorological Reports 1862 to 1892. Box file Item # MB 2/5/1/20. (No relevant records found here).
Acknowledgement: I am most grateful to Alan Johnson, the Archivist of the Lightkeepers Archives (Lighthouses of Australia), who spent several hours searching these files. A real act of kindness!

Life on Swan Island

Image of Swan Island sketchSketch of Swan Island by Rev Canon MB Brownrigg
Presented by the Canon to CC Baudinet, Head-Keeper of Swan Island.
Frontpage of "Mission to the Islands" …x)

James and Jane FRANCIS transferred to the lighthouse on Swan Island about July 1867. They probably found a far more harsh environment and administration than the Low Head Lighthouse! Charles Chaulk BAUDINET (CCB) was the Superintendent of Swan Island (1867-1891). CCB’s letters to the Master Warden reveal painful problems and mental stress experienced by the people on the island. in June 1867…i) CCB wrote about a dispute on quite a range of issues with all of his assistants (ALLEN, DALY and Samuel WESTBROOK) . Allen was suspended. This must have resulted in a transfers, with James FRANCIS and a Joseph BRIMBLE being newly appointed to Swan Island. Another letter in June 1867…ii) showed that FRANCIS and BRIMBLE were now on the island and that tensions between the wives of the new employees had commenced! The letter said: "I beg to inform you that the man Joseph BRIMBLE has requested me to petition you for his removal to some other Light House, at the expiration of his present agreement 5 August…… I believe the reason for this is that his wife and the wife of James FRANCIS cannot agree."

Staff problems continue. In 26 Dec 1871…iii) CCB complains that (his old adversary) WESTBROOK has been transferred back to his island, and several days later…iv) he says "if … you do not feel justified in exonerating me from the foul and unfounded charge brought against me by WESTBROOK, by removing him from the Station I beg you will give me leave of absence in order that I may seek the assistance of a Lawyer to clear my character".

WESTBROOK and FRANCIS jointly complained in Dec 1871 about CCB providing bad meat. Perhaps arising from this complaint, CCB tried to transfer FRANCIS. This came unstuck when his preferred new appointment declined. He wrote in April 1872…v): "… the man J. HANNEY positively refuses to remain here, he asserts he was engaged to go to Goose Island, I therefore had no alternative but to re-engage FRANCIS for the next four months, when I hope a man will be sent to relieve him."

Four months later in August, the meat issue had expanded beyond questions about its quality, to questions about its supply for services rendered…vi): "… beg leave to ask whether I am forbidden to give extra meat to any man who thinks proper to work for me in his leisure time, WESTBROOK by whom FRANCIS is influenced has refused me all assistance and for 15 months has not put the Bullocks into the yard in the morning". This letter continues to describe the efforts made to obtain the best Mutton. It also refers to a 3rd assistant: "… as to rationing BROWN on good Mutton… he preferred it to salt meat on account of his diseased leg". BROWN is not mentioned elsewhere in correspondence though his child Agnes had been baptised on the Island earlier that year on 1 March. He must have kept a low profile when faced with open warfare and lack of cooperation between BAUDINET, WESTBROOK and FRANCIS!

In March 1873 the report is made…vii): "… Captain DONALD has purchased from James FRANCIS about 24 gallons of Oil that he has procured from a large fish that came on shore here, with, the understanding that it shall be submitted to inspection if you desire it…". Good to read a letter which did not involve a complaint. The large fish would have been a whale.


Image of Swan Island cottage ruinsRuins of Assistant Keepers’ two room cottage.
View of lighthouse through previous fireplace.
Photo: Erika Johnson.

Next month, the final letter…viii) reveals the extent of the dysfunction. WESTBROOK has left the island, but he is still making trouble about the meat supplies with further demands: "…I understand that WESTBROOK is only waiting until FRANCIS reaches Town to make further demands, and having succeeded once I cannot see what is to prevent his doing so again." CCB resents his defeat in the meat issue: "… I protest against being debited with the money as no complaints were made to me and the meat was drawn by all the men and eaten". The rest of the letter is quite amazing and is quoted in its entirety (without comment).

"With regard to FRANCIS making complaints, I beg to inform you that since he has been allowed to remain here, every time I have had occasion to find fault he has been most insolent to me and always threatens to "open out the Board" upon me. I further beg to say I do not understand what you mean by the "Bullock rumpus" as there has been no such thing since WESTBROOK left (on 2 Jan 1873 ix) ), and as for Mrs BAUDINET abusing his wife or anyone else or interfering with the men in any way, it is utterly false, and as long as the men do their duty, I never speak to them: the last occasion upon which there (was) any words with FRANCIS was on 1st Feby (please refer to Copy of Log for that date) when I asked him to be so kind as stop his children from robbing my garden and destroying the fence when he immediately became most violent and threatening in his language, previous to this, on the 18th January his wife came to the house during my absence on on board the 'Robert Burns', and used most strange and violent language to Mrs BAUDINET which, on account of her late insanity, I took little notice of, further than to forbid her or the children coming to the house on any pretext whatever; for about 4 months before this my wife had been paying her every attention that her miserable state required, or that a christian woman could render, making her nourishing food, giving her medicine and clean linen, and getting up in the night to go and pacify her regarding her children,who she thought were all dying; this is the sort of abuse Mrs B gave her."…viii)

At this stage the Master Warden probably gave in and agreed with BAUDINET that James FRANCIS should be removed from the island. There are no further letters which mentioned FRANCIS, and BAUDINET remained on Swan Island for several more decades.

i) to x) Baudinet, Charles Chaulk. Letters to Henry Boate Tonkin, the Master Warden, Hobart Marine Board. 1867 -73. Contained in the Baudinet Letter Book (transcription only); National Archives of Australia (NAA).
i) June 1867 (letter 1). ii) June 1867 (letter 2). iii) 26 Dec 1871. iv) 2 Jan 1872. v) 13 Apr 1872. vi) 30 Aug 1872. vii) 11 Mar 1873. viii) 18 Apr 1873. ix) 1 Jan 1873.
x) Canon Marcus Brownrigg, ed. by Stephen Murray-Smith (1922-1988). Mission to the Islands - The Missionary Voyages in Bass Strait of Canon Marcus Brownrigg 1872-1885; Cat & Fiddle Press, Hobart: 1979.
Note: A transcription (only) of the Baudinet Letter Book is held at the NAA Hobart Office… where is the original? This holding does not have accession reference numbers. Baudinet’s letter book remained on Swan Island until the late 1940’s. It was then found discarded in the rubbish by John Russell Marriott. John was a technician with the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service between 1948-51, and he worked on Swan Island from time to time. John took the letter book home… there it stayed until after he died in 2000, when his wife Pamela found it. She transcribed the letters and (presumably) presented the transcription to the National Archives.
Acknowledgements:  The search for Baudinet's Letter Book has been a progressive task. Erika Johnson and lan Johnson, the Archivist of the Lightkeepers Archives (Lighthouses of Australia) kindly provided initial information from the transcriptions of Baudinet’s letters… (Erika and Alan have a special interest in Swan Island, because they managed the island for the private owner for 2 years between 2002 and 2004). The National Archives of Australia then kindly forwarded further copies, and finally Max Baudinette (d.2018) (relation of Baudinet) sent me the complete transcription of the Baudinet Letter Book… all greatly appreciated!

Why did the human dynamics become so dysfunctional, in what should have been a very small community closely tied in a co-operative relationship? Bishop NIXON gave an earlier insight into how the BAUDINET family would see the position of Superintendent on a lonely island. Nixon visited CCB’s father, Superintendent Lighthouse Keeper William Chaulk BAUDINET, at Deal Island on 1 Oct 1854 and applauded his style of leadership and patriarchal manner: “I was gratified, too, to find that Mr. BAUDINET was so thoroughly impressed with the duty imposed upon him as a master of a family, and as **bearing rule** in this isolated place, as to gather together all around him for regular worship. No day passes without family prayer; and each Sunday finds him at his post, keeping alive a spirit of devotion by reading the Church Services in company with his little knot of worshippers. Our arrangements for the celebration of Divine Service had been made on the previous evening with Mr. BAUDINET. As the entire population of the island consists of his own family, (nine in number,) and two men employed at the lighthouse, our congregation was, of necessity, very small…”

Source: Nixon FR. Cruise of the Beacon: a narrative of a visit to the islands in Bass’s Straits. Bell and Daldy London; 1857. (See Project Canterbury, an online archive of out-of-print Anglican texts.)


Image of Swan Island cottage ruinsRuins of Assistant Keepers’ four room cottage.
Photo: Erika Johnson.

The living quarters for the assistant light house keepers were alarming by modern standards. From 1850 to 1927, two to three assistant light house keepers and their families shared the original 1845 cottage which was also used for stores… see the adjacent photo of the ruins of the cottage… abandoned in 1927.…i)

Just before the FRANCIS family transferred to Swan Island, Baudinet wrote to the Master Warden about the Assistants’ living quarters: "I beg most respectfully to call your attention to the wretched condition of the men's Quarters; there are no less than 16 people living in four small rooms, two of which are barely habitable, neither of them have any ceiling and one no fire place, in one there is a man and his wife and four children living, in another a man and his wife and two children, the other man has two rooms, but himself and family (wife and four children) are obliged to live entirely in one room, owing to the sand and rain, making its way through the roof of the other. I do not call your attention to these particulars with vision of getting single men as much as I prefer married, but it is impossible for people to be healthy or contentedm when they are so utterly devoid of comfort, during the late rains, the first man spoken of above has been obliged to move his own and children's beds, several times during the night as the water was coming in on them. I beg to suggest that sound tongue and groove boards be sent for ceilings."…ix)

In 1867, the FRANCIS family were probably given the least comfortable quarters, since they were the most recent arrivals after the dispute with assistants ALLEN, DALY and Samuel WESTBROOK and the subsequent forced transfer of ALLEN and DALY. However, Baudinet's complaints about the assistants' quarters were successful; and the following year Baudinet wrote: "The new quarters are finished and occupied by James FRANCIS and family. Ceilings to old ones put up and all necessary repairs done."…x)

In 1871-73 the assistants were (our) James FRANCIS with his wife and 5 children (1 born on the island) and also Samuel John WESTBROOK with his wife and 4 children (2 born on the island). In 1872 there was a third assistant (BROWN) who had at least one child.…i), ii), iii), v)

Surely these 3 families with at least 10 children could not live in the same Assistant Keepers' cottage? The 1 March 1872 baptism of 7 of these children is recorded by Rev. Canon Marcus BROWNRIGG, Rector of St John's Launceston (1868-86).…v), vii(, viii) The Canon visited Swan Island and reported: "The quarters provided for the Lighthouse establishment, while substantial, appeared to be inconveniently small. I baptised three of his (Superintendent’s) children and four others belonging to the lightmen (including Percy FRANCIS), making in all seven baptisms… the children baptized, varied in age from six years old and under (see list of children baptized in note relating to…v)below). A short general service followed the baptisms, and indeed it was a very interesting and attentive congregation, that quite filled the parlor of the Superintendent’s house"…v)… which had the best accommodation with 4 rooms!

This accommodation became even less idyllic when you consider the outside harsh environment. A 1905 photo…vi)of the island as well as Brownrigg’s sketch above, shows a lack of vegetation which might give protection from the prevailing winds! Education may not have been an issue for the FRANCIS family under these circumstances. When their child Isabella married in 1894, she was unable to sign her name and merely recorded "her + mark".…iv)

Sources: i) Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA): The Swan Island Lighthouse.
      ii) Andrew Kemp’s Genealogy Page: Genealogy of Samuel John WESTBROOK.
      iii) John Spence: Letter to LoA about Samuel Westbrook and his family on Swan Island. Bulletin Aug 04.
      iv) Marriage of Isabella FRANCIS & John WILSON. 2 Mar 1894, Hobart. Reg# 1894/160.
      v) Murray-Smith, Stephen (ed). The missionary voyages in Bass Strait of Canon Marcus Brownrigg 1872-1885. Foot & Playsted, Launceston; 1987;71-74.
     vi) Baudinette, Max (d.2018). The Baudinet story: the story of the descendants of the Baudinet and Baudinette families, 1777-1930s. M. Baudinette, Warrnambool Victoria; 1990; 112- 115.
     vii) Loane, Marcus L. A centenary history of Moore Theological College. Angus and Robertson, Sydney; 1955; 29,159,180.
     viii) Boyce J. God’s own country? The Anglican Church and Tasmanian aborigines.Anglicare Hobart; 2001; 63-67.
     ix, x) Baudinet, Charles Chaulk. Letters to Henry Boate Tonkin, the Master Warden, Hobart Marine Board. 1867 -73. Contained in the Baudinet Letter Book (transcription only); National Archives of Australia. ix) 21 Apr 1867. x) 31 Jul 1868.
Notes:  relating to v)… this book incorporates a reprint of Brownrigg, MB. The cruise of the ‘Freak’. Launceston; 1872. It includes a list of children baptised by Brownrigg on 1 Mar 1872: William Duncan BAUDINET (b.8 Feb 1866); Duncan Straun BAUDINET (b. 19 Feb 1868); Charles Henry BAUDINET (b. 10 Nov 1870); Agnes BROWN (b. 24 Sept 1870); Lillian Downard WESTBROOK (b. 12 Jan 1870); Ada Jessie WESTBROOK (b. 5 Nov 1871); Percy FRANCIS (b. 24 Mar 1870).
      relating to vii)… BROWNRIGG was the first student ordained deacon (1858) from Moore Theological College, Sydney NSW. My father, Robert STRONG, was also ordained from there in 1923.

Convict origins

Further research must consider James’ possible convict origins. In the earlier history of lighthouses, it was usual for the post of assistant lighthouseman to be filled by convicts. There were five records of convicts named James FRANCIS entering Van Diemens Land (VDL). These arrived in 1828, 36, 37, 40, 52.

…which convict?

The most recent arrival on 31 July 1852 came on the ‘Pestongee Bomangee’. This convict seems a possibility, due to our James FRANCIS’ approximate date of birth of 1835 (derived from his marriage registration). Unfortunately the ‘Pestongee Bomangee’ convict was 10 years older than "our" James, he was also married with one child. If he was also "our" James, he would have had to falsify his age (common even in our day and age!) and also commit bigamy… all possible? Significantly he was near Low Head at the end of his sentence: he served two months hard labour at Launceston from 18/5/55 and was fined £1 on 24/10/1857 for being drunk at George Town. Shortly after he received a conditional pardon on 8 Dec 1857 and thus could marry Jane in 1859 without permission. The "condition" meant that he could never return to England! This James FRANCIS’ record lists his place of birth as Marylebone, trade as labourer and servant, religion Church of England and his crime was stealing money £10 from the person of Mrs Brown, tried at the Gloucester Quarter Sessions on 3 Jul 1848, sentenced to 10 years. His conditional pardon on 8 Dec 1857 didn't give him much sentence reduction!

Source: James FRANCIS. Conduct Record: CON33/1/10. Indent: CON14/1/378. Archives Office of Tasmania.

…was it bigamy?

In the 1850’s divorce was effectively unavailable both to James FRANCIS in Tasmania and also to his first wife back in England …i). James may have re-married to Jane in 1859 under a "general & erroneous belief", and society would not have regarded their marriage bigamous. Henry Finlay refers to this in an article in The Companion to Tasmanian History:

"In the early years, very few convicts’ wives were able to follow their husbands to the colonies. Convicts who arrived without their spouses often entered into bigamous marriages in the absence of adequate records. There was also a general, if erroneous, belief in England and the colonies that if one party were transported, both parties were released from their marriage and free to marry again" …iii).

Henry Finlay (d. 3 June 2005), was Assoc. Professor of Law at the University of Tasmania. His 2005 publication on the history of attitudes to marriage and divorce in Australia…iii) was well reviewed. I wonder if Finlay had considered the 1604 Act which permitted re-marriage of "any Person or Persons whose Husband or Wife shall be continually remaining beyond the Seas by the Space of seven Years together, or whose Husband or Wife shall absent him or herself the one from the other by the Space of seven Years together, in any Parts within his Majesty’s Dominions, the one of them not knowing the other to be living within that Time" iv). Was this Act in force at Jane and James’ 1859 marriage? Perhaps Finlay found that later legislation had made the 1604 Act void? Further information is needed on this point!

A conditionally pardoned convict such as James could not return to England and to his original marriage. Returning from transportation (unless fully pardoned) was a felony punishable by death. Hence, regardless of the legalities, there was a common law acceptance of such re-marriages in Tasmania.

Sources: i) An Act to amend the Law relating to Divorce and Matrimonial Causes in England. [28th August 1857.] (Placed online by Guy Etchells.) Note: The Tasmanian Legislative Council passed similar legislation in 1860.
      ii) Alexander, A. (ed). The companion to Tasmanian history. University of Tasmania, Hobart; 2005; 228.
     iii) Finlay, Henry. To have and not to hold; a history of attitudes to marriage and divorce in Australia 1858-1975. The Federation Press, Annandale; 2005.
     iv) An Act to restrain all Persons from Marriage until their former Wives and former Husbands be dead [1604.] (Placed on-line by Guy Etchells).

…is this convict "our" James FRANCIS?

No conclusion is possible at the moment. We can only hope that we can find "our" James’ death record and that it has his place of birth or at least his county of origin, which might allow us to make a more definite link to this ‘Pestongee Bomangee’ convict.


Family Life in Hobart

The Baudinet correspondence previously cited suggests that James and Jane FRANCIS left Swan Island in 1873. This would not have been a good time for the FRANCIS family. At that time they had 5 children aged 13, 11, 9, 3 and 1. James had lost his job, and Jane may have just recovered from post-natal depression. The next record of their family is in 1878 at Molle St Hobart when their 6th child Mary Ellen was born i), and James was described as a porter. Details of their children are below:

  1. James Henry… b. 12 Sep 1860, George Town.
  2. Joseph… b. 12 Oct 1862, George Town.
  3. Christian George… b. 15 Sep 1864, Low Head.
  4. Percy… b. 24 Mar 1870, Launceston, bap. 1 Mar 1872, Swan Island.
  5. Isabella… b. 21 Aug 1872, Swan Island.
  6. Mary Ellen… b. 29 Mar 1878, Molle St, Hobart.…i)

Please see here for a full descendant report.

The story of the family's life in Hobart was made possible by the inquest into Percy’s death ii), which gave us a picture of family relationships, where the family lived and their occupations. In 1896, Percy died, aged 26, from "irritant poisoning" and George also died, aged 32, two months later!

Image of Francis Bros ShopFrancis Bros shop in Liverpool St Hobart… about 1888.
Kind permission of the W.L. Crowther Library, State Library of Tasmania.

In about 1886 George and James (Jun.) owned "Francis Bros" ii,v) … a hairdresser and tobacconist shop at 58 Liverpool St Hobart, near the intersection with Elizabeth St. In 1886, they employed 16 year-old Percy FRANCIS as a hairdresser’s assistant. By 1896 George owned the business … James FRANCIS (Jun.) had moved on after a joint partnership of 7 years. Percy was now a hairdresser at his brother George’s business, and George was a Master Hairdresser with 2 apprentices…ii).

"Francis Bros" is pictured above. This photo is the centrepiece of an advertisement (1888?) for their shop, found in business house advertisements in Anson Bros AMP Album 2…viii).

James FRANCIS (Sen.) kept (managed?) the Brisbane Hotel in 1896.…ii)In 1897, the ‘Brisbane Hotel’ was at 19 Brisbane St v), and by 1904 it was re-named the ‘Royal Navy Hotel’…vi).

James (Jun.) diversified after 7 years of co-owning "Francis Bros". He was a fishmonger in Elizabeth St (1895), and lived at the Domain Baths in 1896.…ii) In 1887, the Domain baths were described as: "Hobart Bathing Society spacious baths with every private accommodation for ladies and gentlemen have been erected in the Queen's Domain within five minutes' walk of the city… the Queen's Domain, a spacious reserve of 1000 acres serves as a most efficient lung for the city."…v) The 1888 advertisement for "Francis Bros" described the business as "lessees of Hobart Baths where first class pleasure boats can be obtained".…viii) In 1903 James Henry FRANCIS was an enrolled voter at "The Baths", Domain, with an occupation of fisherman.…xi )By 1904-1907 James (Jun.) was listed as the proprietor of the Domain Baths, next to the Derwent Rowing Club. Strangely, the same directories listed "James Arnold Quigley, propr" in 1906-1907, and then James disappeared from the scene in 1908-1910 with the listing: "Domain Baths (Hy Burnell, lessee), Domain rd, Hobart".…vi)

Back to 1896 and "Francis Bros". George became unwell and stayed in Melbourne after 13 May 1896 for over 3 months.ii) He must have found that he was really sick, since he made his will on 27 May 1896, making his wife sole beneficiary, with his father-in-law George E. PEARSE (Melbourne civil servant) as a witness.xii) George told his wife that she was in charge of the business, and also told Grace that he wanted Percy to be in charge of the "Hairdressing Saloon", to sleep on the premises and have his meals there. George's wife (Grace Adelaide FRANCIS) said that she had not been on good terms with any of the FRANCIS family. Relationships fell apart accordingly! Grace told her servant she was using too much tea. The servant said: "Mr Percy liked it black!" Grace then told her to "put a piece of soda about as big as a pea to make it draw" she went on to say that "I did not put any in myself." The servant subsequently said she did not put any soda in Percy's tea. Note that neither Grace nor the servant admitted to placing soda in the tea!…ii)

Percy became sick and told his fiancée Amelia Woodall, that Grace had put more than soda in his tea, and that she was trying to poison him. Percy told Amelia that he thought the reason was that Grace blamed him for something which his father had told Grace's husband. He felt that she hated the sight of him and was trying to get him out of the shop.…ii) At this stage, James (Sen.), James (Jun.), Amelia and both hairdressing apprentices had heard either directly or indirectly from Percy about his allegations of poisoning or about the tampering with his tea. ii) Percy was taken to the Hobart Hospital bleeding from the lungs and stomach. His father told the hospital that "5 weeks ago he was strong and healthy and weighed 13 stone, but was taken suddenly ill with vomiting of blood and diarrhoea, and had from that time got gradually weaker till now if propped up he fainted."…ii), x) On 12 August Percy died, and his postmortem showed ulceration and inflammation in the mouth, pharynx and stomach due to an irritant poison. Viscera were forwarded to the Government Analyst, but no poison was found.…ii)

Percy’s inquest verdict said: "poisoned, but how or by whom administered there is no evidence to show".…ii) At the end of the inquest, James FRANCIS (Sen.) lived at 2 Chatsworth Terrace, Park St, Glebe, with his wife Jane. ii, ix) Perhaps this meant that James (Senr) had lost his job at the Brisbane Hotel due to his association with the suspicious death… note that Percy stayed at the hotel with his father when he was ill from the poison.…ii) The circumstantial and hearsay evidence given at the inquest had meant that no-one could be charged with any offence.…ii)

Two months later, George FRANCIS died in Hobart Hospital, due to tuberculosis of the lungs and brain.…xiii) Both Percy and George were buried in the same grave in the Cornelian Hobart cemetery.…iii) Three years later Grace Adelaide FRANCIS married a 32 year old Louis Alfred PIESSE at Launceston on 1 Jul 1899…iv. She died on 31 May 1919 at "Evilo" 31 Wattle street Haberfield, NSW xi), xiv), xv). Louis PIESSE remained at this family home until at least 1924…xi), and died at Cooper street Double Bay on 7 Oct 1927…xvi).

The 1900 Cyclopedia of Tasmania described Alfred John Nettlefold’s purchase after 1896 "of the old established tobacconist, fancy-goods, and hair-dressing establishment of Messrs Francis Bros (at 58 Liverpool St)." This was purchased with the view of moving Nettlefold’s adjacent tailoring and mercery business into #58. However, Nettlefold found Francis Bros business "to be such a good one, and so capable of expansion, that he decided to retain it and obtain other premises for his tailoring department." Consequently, he bought another adjacent property! "After purchasing the tobacconist’s business, the great possibilities of the wholesale trade were forced upon Mr. Nettlefold"… he then became a wholesale tobacconist! The Cyclopedia includes photos of Nettlefold, his store-front of 58-62 Liverpool St, his cycle shop and his hairdressing saloon.vii) Nettlefold had probably bought the FRANCIS business at a "fire-sale" price… at the time of George’s death, the net value of George’s estate was valued at less than £137!…xii) In 1900, the Nettlefold group of shops now offered these services: tailor, mercer, tobacconist (wholesale and retail), fancy-goods, hair-dressing (now including hot and cold plunge baths, also separate rooms for men’s and ladies’ hairdressing), hat & cap manufacture, umbrella manufacture, bicycles.…vi)

Source: i) Birth of Mary Ellen FRANCIS. Reg# 1878/3516. Registrar of BDM, Tas.
      ii) Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO): Inquest on the death of Percy FRANCIS, held on 14, 24, 25 Aug 1896. AGD Ref AGD20/1/9; POL 709 Ref POL709/1/26 p.139 (1896); SC 195 Ref SC195/1/71 Inquest 10691. TAHO's kind permission to publish extracts from their documents is acknowledged.
      iii) Millington’s Southern Cemeteries (including Cornelian Bay). Search facility here.
      iv) Marriage of Grace Adelaide FRANCIS to Louis Alfred PIESSE, Launceston, 1 Jul 1899, reg# 1899/505. Registrar of BDM, Tas. See here.
      v) Tasmanian Directory and Gazetteer 1887 (Middleton & Maning)
      vi) Tasmania Post Office Directories 1900 & 1904, 1906-1910. (Wise)
      vii) Nettlefold’s Supply Stores. Cyclopedia of Tasmania. 1900; 2:410-11.
      viii) State Library of Tasmania: Photo of Francis Bros shop; hairdressers, tobacconists, Hobart. Location: W.L. Crowther Library; Ref ADRI: AUTAS001125642512; Date 1888?
      ix) Death notice; Percy FRANCIS. Mercury; Hobart; vol. LXVIII No 8256; 14 Aug 1896.
      x) Coronial Inquiry on the death of Percy FRANCIS. Mercury; Hobart; 15 Aug 1896.
      xi) Electoral Roll.
    xii) Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO): FRANCIS, George Christian; Will & letters of administration. Year 1896; Ref# AD961/1/8; page 223; Will No. 228 also ref# AD960/1/22; page 52.
    xiii) Death of George FRANCIS. Reg# 1896/957. Registrar of BDM, Tas.
    xiv) Death of Grace Adelaide PIESSE. Reg# 1919/6634. Registrar of BDM, NSW.
    xv) Death of Grace PIESSE.The Mercury; 6 Jun 1919 ;1.
    xvi) Death of Louis Alfred PIESSE. Sydney Morning Herald; 8 Oct 1927; 16.

Problems remaining… can you help?

What happened to James and Jane FRANCIS after their son Percy’s Inquest? I have searched for their death records in Tas, Vic, NSW, Qld, NZ, WA without success.

If some kind person feels they can help with a search, the following information would assist such a search:

It would be great if descendants of Jane and James FRANCIS, or people with knowledge of this family, could write to me. Out of the 6 FRANCIS children, Percy died without children; Christian George (George) had only one child to his wife Grace Adelaide; though she remarried to have 2 daughters to Louis PIESSE; James Henry had 4 children; there are no details of children for Joseph, Isabella and Mary Ellen… all in all reducing our possibilities of contacts. However, contact has been made with the living descendants of Christian George & Grace Adelaide… though it is feared that Grace Adelaide's bad relations with the FRANCIS family made her disinclined to pass on details of the FRANCIS / FOSTER family history.

However, we live in hope… people with information, please see the e-mail link at the bottom of this page.

The Story Continues