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Thomas Kessey was born Thomas Casey and was transported to Australia as a convict under his birth name in 1818. He had been convicted at the Old Bailey of stealing two sheep. The court transcript indicates that he was living on his father's farm but does not give his father's name. Oral history records that his mother's maiden name was Langford.
He was transported to Australia on the convict ship General Stewart, arriving at Sydney on the last day of 1818. Thomas was described on the ship's indent as just 5 feet tall, round face, fair to ruddy complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He was 20 years old.
Two years later he was working as a storekeeper at the NSW Commissariat. He was later promoted to Overseer of Town Carts, for which service he was allocated one convict helper.
In 1826 he started a carrying business in partnership with an ex-convict, William Boyle. They carried goods between Sydney and Bathurst, a very difficult journey over the recently-conquered Blue Mountains. He met his future wife, Judith Grady, during this time and they were married at Kelso, near Bathurst, on 22 December 1832.
After serving his time, Thomas settled in the Bathurst district of NSW near Rockley and raised a large family of four sons (Thomas b.1833, John b.1839, James b.1840, William b.1853) and eight daughters (Ann b.1841, Mary-Ann b1842, Margaret b.1845, Julia b.1847, Elizabeth b.1851, Martha b.1857 and Jane b1859).
His three eldest sons fell foul of the law and spent time in gaol, both at Bathurst and Darlinghurst. Thomas and James, aged 31 and 24, were convicted of robbery under arms in relation to two separate hold ups that occurred in 1864. Both hold ups involved three masked men, with Thomas Kessey convicted in relation to the robbery of two stage coaches between Bathurst and Orange in June and James convicted in relation to the subsequent robbery of a well known grazier on the Limekilns Road (near Bathurst). Each brother was sentenced to ten years hard labour, served at Darlinghurst Gaol and Cockatoo Island.
In 1864, Thomas senior was 66 years old and was supporting three young children and three unmarried daughters. His eldest sons were supporting several very young children also. It seems that the struggle to provide for this extended family resulted in the older sons taking to crime.
The middle brother, John, served three sentences in Bathurst Gaol between 1870 and 1899 for stealing livestock, the very same crime that had resulted in his father's transportation to Australia. It seems possible that Thomas involved his older sons in stealing animals for food during the early 1860s. From there, it was a short step to robbery, with the inevitable result that Thomas and James were caught. With them in gaol and an ever-increasing extended family to support, John decided to continue stealing livestock and was also eventually caught . The gaolling of so many of the men would have placed a very great strain on the family women during the late 1860s and early 1870s.
Thomas, the patriarch, died in the depths of a Bathurst winter in 1882 at 83 years old. His entire estate, valued at £320 was left to his wife, Judith.