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William arrived in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), on board the "Experiment" on 24 June 1804 1. Within a month the Governor, Phillip Gidley King, had granted the 20 year old free settler one hundred acres of land at Richmond Hill 2. The next 100 acre block was granted on the same day to another "Experiment" immigrant, Carlisle's family friend and future father-in-law, Thomas Gordon.
It is still unclear why William chose to emigrate from London to Sydney, a mere 16 years after the colony was established at Sydney Cove. Free settlers were, at that time, extremely rare, with only a handful arriving in any year prior to 1815. It seems likely that his reasons were very similar to those of Thomas Gordon who, it appears, was a friend to William's father. These two, along with J S Freeman, wrote a letter to the Colonial Secretary on 3 September 1803 seeking permission "to go to New South Wales as Free Settlers" 3. William Carlisle senior had written a similar letter twelve months earlier.
The "Experiment" sailed less than three months after this second letter but, despite his fervour, William Carlisle senior was not among the nine settlers who, with their families, completed the journey 4. The ship was "obliged to put back into Cowes owing to damage sustained in a violent gale she experienced in the Bay of Biscay, in which she sprung her bowsprit and carried away her main topgallant mast" 4. Perhaps it was this experience which changed William Carlisle senior's mind about emigration! After effecting repairs, the ship sailed again on 2 January 1804.
The ship arrived in Sydney in 24 June after spending a month in Rio De Janeiro en route. Two of the settlers' wives died on the voyage, as did 4 or 5 of the 130 female convicts on board.
Two years later, William was living alone on his farm, which comprised 5 acres of wheat, 3 acres of maize and 91 acres of pasture on which he ran a dozen hogs. He had 2 bushels of wheat in hand. During those two years he must have done little else but work his land to have achieved such progress with the farm.
The next few years saw William continuing to work hard on his farm and witnessing, along with other Hawkesbury settlers, some of the problems facing the fledgling society. The Rum Corps strengthened its power and influence in the colony through its military role and a monopoly in certain trade items. During the early years of William Bligh's governorship, William supported the Hawkesbury Settler's Addresses to Bligh and Marsden, but his main focus was on farm matters. In July and August 1809 he sold 25 acres of his land each to James Vincent and Archibald Bell (realising a total of 105 pounds sterling) 5. In September he bought 50 acres from his neighbour, Thomas Gordon, "for consideration of a working bullock cart and harness" 6.
These transactions heralded the first of William's clashed with powerful men, in this case Archibald Bell. Mr Bell leased back to Carlisle part of his 25 acre purchase "for the rest of the season" and, according to him, let the remainder to a convict named William Siggans. Carlisle, however, contended that Bell had let Siggans part of the land which Bell had already leased back to Carlisle. Nevertheless, Carlisle entered into an arrangement with Siggans whereby the convict would reap the wheat crop provided he paid Carlisle's creditor, Joseph Sampson, 30 bushels of wheat. This arrangement came unstuck when Siggans died and Bell took possession of the crop, sold it, and used the proceeds to meet Siggan's debts (to Bell) and his funeral expenses. Carlisle received only 1 pound 4s 6d. Thomas Gordon supported Carlisle in a petition to the Governor but the final outcome of this saga is lost to history. Suffice to say that Bell, the local Magistrate, offered to allow Carlisle "to submit the business to the arbitration of any two respectable persons in the neighbourhood and provided they are persons of that description he shall have the liberty of nominating both".
Thomas Gordon had an interest in supporting William Carlisle; his daughter Mary Ann was to be married to him. The marriage took place on 11 September 1811 at St Matthew's Church, Windsor 7. Mary was 18 years old and William about 27. Seven years earlier, they had both emigrated on the "Experiment", he aged 20, she aged 11.
By the time that their daughter Amelia was born 8 on 29 January 1813, William had become a Coach Painter 9. The joy of this event was overshadowed by the problems suffered by her mother. Mary Ann Carlisle (nee Gordon) died two weeks later and was buried at the Parish Church, Windsor 8. She had been married less than 18 months and was only 20 years old. Amelia was christened two weeks after her mother's death 8. Throughout her life, Amelia was often known as Emily and, in fact, this is how her name was recorded in the Church Register. She married George Waples on 28 September 1835 and gave birth to fourteen children. She died on 2 June 1876 at Mount Kembla and is buried at Dapto.
William was left alone with an infant daughter to raise. No doubt his Gordon in-laws provided a great deal of assistance at this time, and he formed a close friendship with his brother-in-law, Charles Gordon.
Three years after Mary Ann's death, William married Elizabeth Blackman at St Peters, Richmond on 7 January 1816 10. He needed a wife to raise his daughter but he had no intention of settling down to a simple family life. He was determined to become a missionary in New Zealand, under the leadership of Rev. Samuel Marsden of the Church Missionary Society of London. Marsden had been planning a mission at the Bay of Islands for some years having formed a very high regard for the Maori people in earlier visits to their country. Soon after his marriage, Carlisle journeyed to the Bay of Islands as assistant to the schoolmaster, Thomas Kendall, leaving his 18 year old wife in NSW to look after her 3 year old step-daughter, Amelia. He worked hard for several months in New Zealand before writing a letter to the Church Missionary Society in November in which he stated that he wished "to be received as a schoolmaster and settler under the Society" 11.
He returned to Sydney in December that same year aboard the ship King George which had called at the Bay of Islands on its way back from Tahiti with a cargo of sandal wood and pork. The Sydney Gazette of December 7, 1816 reported that a vast number of natives had joined the missionary settlement. William Carlisle informed the newspaper that the school was attended daily by nearly 60 children "many of whom begin to read and spell and are all very attentive to some Gospel passages which have been printed in their own language". Carlisle brought back to Sydney a drawing of the Bay of Islands settlement which boasted several houses erected for the accommodation of the missionaries.
The main purpose for his return was to collect his wife and his brother-in-law Charles Gordon, his wife and daughter. By the time the group sailed in the Society's brig Active, in April 1817, Elizabeth was expecting their son, James, who was born at the Bay of Islands on 6 October 1817 and died unmarried at Mudgee NSW aged 46. James would have been one of the first Caucasian children born in New Zealand.
Rev Samuel Marsden preaching at the Bay of Islands circa 1817. The brig Active is in the background.
James' brother John was born less than 8 months later at the Bay of Islands. Despite his prematurity, he survived and thrived. He married Elizabeth Phipps at Windsor on 2 January 1857 and they produced 10 children.
John's survival is even more surprising when we consider the very difficult living conditions experienced by the immigrant families at Bay of Islands. William Carlisle wrote to the Secretary of the Society in December, about 18 months after the families arrived. He suggested that the settlers be permitted to engage in private trade in order that they may improve their lot. He was supported by Thomas Kendall, who wrote: 12
"Mr Gordon and Mr Carlisle are very quiet men and would suffer before they would complain. Neither have had it in his power to purchase a good hog from the natives since their arrival, and I have been told they have been without pork at all, at a time when many casks of pork have been in the settlement".
William's letter also revealed a concern that their suffering was in vain as the school was failing:
"We really have not been able to provide for the children (of the school) for some months past, nor never yet wholly, for want of supplies. It would be a great thing if separate allowance were made for the support of the school. It is very distressing to our feelings - after having persevered for so long upon a scanty supply, we should now have the mortification to see the scholars leaving daily because we cannot feed them. The school, in short, is dwindling to a mere nothing".
This letter did not have the desired effect. The settlers took matters into their own hands on March 30, 1819 when Kendall, Carlisle, Gordon and King signed an Agreement relative to private trade (copy received by the Society on September 28, 1819).
Presumably William had raised his concerns with Samuel Marsden without success. He must have thought long and hard before writing to Marsden's superiors. This action cannot have endeared him to Marsden, who wreaked his revenge a few months later.
Marsden returned to the Bay of Islands from Sydney in August 1819. He reported to the Society that "everyone was more or less seeking his own gain"; the school and agriculture had been neglected by Messrs Kendall, Carlisle and Gordon and John King refused to make or mend shoes. Marsden dismissed Carlisle and Gordon and suspended King 13.
The Carlisle and Gordon families returned to Sydney, with Marsden, on the Active in December 1819. Carlisle wrote to Rev. Josiah Pratt at the Church Missionary Society in London after his return to Sydney:
"When I brought my family to Port Jackson I found myself in very low circumstances. I have not received one farthing of Mr Marsden since my arrival although we have been here now six weeks".14
His request that the Church Missionary Society reimburse income not paid by Marsden seems to have fallen on deaf ears. He wrote again to Rev. Josiah Pratt in July detailing his request for 82 pounds 10s. He had "overcome embarrassment in a great measure respecting my pecuniary matters" a few months later, so it appears this request was met 15.
One would expect that this experience would have given Carlisle a very jaundiced view of missionary work. If it did, his piety overcame this feeling because, in March 1821 he again wrote to Rev. Josiah Pratt pleading for a job a Rangi Hoa (Bay of Islands) 15. His intention was to leave Elizabeth and the children in Sydney while he continued to devote himself to his Christian duty as a missionary. This request was not met.
When William's fourth child, Henrietta, was born in October at Richmond, he began to realise that he could not continue to support his growing family on this farm. In April 1822 he applied for the vacant position of Superintendent at Bathurst (following the resignation of his father-in-law, James Blackman). This application was refused by the Colonial Secretary on the grounds that it was not "the intention of the Governor to advance to public office persons convicted of selling spirits without a license". This was a reference to his conviction a few months earlier, despite his explanation of the circumstances and Governor Macquarie's character reference.
William advertised Malcolm Farm for sale in May 1822 and found an immediate buyer: Edward Smith Hall. The price was the not inconsiderable sum of £200. Hall subdivided the land into 5 acre allotments and advertised them for sale 18 months later. Carlisle received some "good sheep and horned cattle" as part of the price for Malcolm Farm. It is apparent that Carlisle retained some land because, in the ensuing months, these animals were kept at both Richmond and Bathurst. In 1824, William had a convict labourer assigned to him.
He had, by now, been married to Elizabeth Blackman for 6 years but the relationship was not working. He was approaching middle age at 40 while she was no longer the immature 20 year old he married. The deterioration of the marriage can be traced through the following Public Announcements from the Sydney Gazette.
NOTICE - It having come to my knowledge that some ill-disposed Persons intended, in a clandestine way, to get Possession of my Horned Cattle, I hereby forbid all Persons from purchasing the same, either those at Bathurst or Richmond, or my Premises in the Township of Richmond, Horse and Cart, or any other Part of my Property, from any Person except myself, on any Pretence whatever. WILLIAM CARLISLE
Sydney Gazette, 1 April 1824
NOTICE - Elizabeth Carlisle, my Wife, having been in the habit of repeatedly absconding from her Home and Family, at Richmond upon the most frivolous Occasions, and being now absent, I hereby Caution the Inhabitants of the Colony not to credit her on my Account; as I will not be answerable for any Debts she may contract. WILLIAM CARLISLE
Sydney Gazette, 23 September 1824
I, the undersigned, am under the painful Necessity of cautioning the Public not to give Credit to ELIZABETH CARLISLE, my Wife, on my Account, as I will not be answerable for any Debts she may hereafter contract, as she is now away from her Family, and having degraded herself ever since, by living in a state of adultery with a Bullock driver at Richmond, of the name of John Roberts, which said Bullock-driver is at this time fully committed to take his Trial at the next Windsor Quarter Sessions for a Robbery at Richmond, Any Person, except her Relations, harbouring her after this Public Notice, will be prosecuted to the utmost severity of the law. WILLIAM CARLISLE
Sydney Gazette, 17 February 1825
Elizabeth and John Roberts remained together until her death in 1849, aged 51. They had 5 children. The irreconcilable breakdown of their marriage seems to have caused William to become embittered. He had his revenge in November 1827.
"A Mrs CARLISLE, the only female in the vessel, and who occupied the steerage, a passenger in the Elizabeth for England, was visited by her husband on the evening of Wednesday last. He took the liberty of searching her person, and found £50 in Treasury bills. Having secured his treasure, Mr Carlisle returned to shore, leaving his wife so much poorer."16
Four years after his marriage ended, William was living at Bathurst Street, Sydney, with his sons (James and John) and two male employees. He had returned to his trade as a Coach Painter and regularly advertised vehicles for sale in the Sydney Gazette around this time17. In 1831 he leased a house and allotment in Cambridge Street Sydney18.
In his later years, William reverted to his school teaching. In 1844 he was tutor to Mr Nevell's children at Carwell and was one of several people bailed up when bushrangers invaded the Nevell property. William formed a plan to climb through the window when the bushrangers' weren't looking and to proceed to his room adjacent to the classroom. There he would retrieve his two fine guns and turn the tables on the marauders. "But, as he was getting out through the window of the room, he was seen by a bushranger, and was beaten back with the stock of a blunderbuss"19.
William remained at Carwell until his death on 27 July 1852 He was 66 years old. He is buried on the property.
1. Census of NSW, November 1828, Edited by Malcolm R Sainty and Keith A Johnson, Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1980. F00221989
2. Reference 3C 138 in the Register Book at the Registrar General's Land Titles Office, Sydney
3. Colonial Secretary's In-letters:
"September 3 1803
May it please your Lordship
We the undersigned humbly solicit your favour to permitting us to go to New South Wales as Free Settlers. There is three of us our names trade and ages are enclosed. Likewise the addresses of respectable people who will give every satisfaction in respect to our characters.
Thos Gordon by trade a shoemaker aged 39 years wife and 4 children reference to character Mr Commiford Baker No 15 George Street Grov Sq
Wm Carlisle by trade a farmer aged 38 years wife and 4 children Reference to character Mrs Gibbs No 30 Queen Ann St.
J S Freeman by trade a farmer aged 24 years Single Reference to character Mrs Morel No 80 Long Acre
If this should meet your Lordship Approbation we will feel ourselves truly grateful by being informed of the same We remain with all submission your most Obedient Servants
J S Freeman"
4. Sydney Gazette, 24 June 1804
5. Colonial Secretary In-letters, 31 January 1810
6. No 254 Book A, Land Titles Office, Sydney.
7. Number 1278 Vol 3, NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
8. Reel 692 2/8298 p49, Archives Office of NSW (AONSW)
9. From Amelia's Death Certificate. A02061876
10. From the Pioneer's Register
11. Church Missionary Society Committee minutes, FM4 1454, March 9 1818.
12. Ibid, Letter from Thomas Kendall to Secretary, Bay of Islands 14 Dec 1818, received 14 June 1819.
13. Ibid, Letter from Marsden to Secretary, 10 February, 1820, received 24 June, 1820.
14. New Zealand Mission Letters FM4 1503 January 10, 1820
15. Ibid., March 6, 1821
16. Sydney Gazette, 16 November 1827
18. Registrar General, Land Titles Office of NSW, No. 332 Book D, 2 February 1831, Lease and Release.
19. "An Australian Tells England", Mrs Bertha Phelps, Chapter 6: Bushrangers at Carwell and Other Places