Sarah Stubbins


Sarah Ranger
, who was born in Brighton, Sussex, was aged 20 when she married Elijah Stubbins in a Presbyterian service at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, on 26 May 1842. The celebrant was the Reverend William Purves of the Church of Scotland and the witnesses were John Stewart and David Dundas, both of Blackman’s Point.

Having moved north, Sarah and Elijah settled in Ipswich where on 2 July 1848 Elijah obtained the licence of St Patrick’s Tavern, on transfer from Michael Sheehan. By the end of 1849, Elijah’s thoughts had turned to farming; and in August 1852, at the Brisbane Police Office, he obtained leases on several blocks of crown land in the Redbank district. On 31 May 1855 he attended the sale of Cooper’s Plains land at the Brisbane Court House and purchased an 80-acre property for £120. On the same day Thomas Grenier bought an adjacent 640-acre block for £1920.

When Thomas and Mary Grenier’s eldest living daughter Mary Ann married a Cooper’s Plains farmer, Charles Pitt, on 24 January 1855—the first wedding in the old cathedral of St John in Brisbane—Elijah, who had befriended the Grenier family and who had known Charles for some years, was one of the two witnesses.

Sarah Stubbins spent 33 years in Queensland and died childless on 22 September 1870. On the following day she was laid to rest in ‘Grenier’s burial ground, Oxley’. Present at her interment were George Dickinson who conducted the service and William Hoy and James Houlihan (witnesses).

Two incidents in Sarah’s life were recorded in the local press. As already noted in these pages, she witnessed the shooting of Francis Ladner by Joseph Doel on 7 April 1866 and was present when he died. Her husband was a member of the jury at the coronial inquest into Francis’s death. Sarah was also involved in a court action, a report of which appeared in the Moreton Bay Courier in April 1857:

ASSAULT.—Sarah Stubbins appeared yesterday at the Police Court in answer to a charge laid against her by Ellen Gerrish, a young woman who had been in the service of the defendant. The prosecutrix stated that on Monday last she went to the house of Stubbins in order to see her late master about some wages due to her, and Mrs. Stubbins took up a log of wood and beat her on the head with it, as she stated, a “mile from the house.” On being cross-examined by the Bench as to the size of the log of wood, the prosecutrix prevaricated greatly; and it did not seem that she had sustained so much damage to her person as might have been anticipated from a “mile’s” beating with a piece of wood such as she described. The Bench thought the prosecutrix’s story very improbable, and therefore dismissed the case.

Elijah Stubbins remarried at the age of 59 on 24 October 1871, this time to a 34-year-old spinster named Mary Gardner, the daughter of John (a market gardener) and Sarah (née Agar or Agai?) Gardner. Mary (b. 1 December 1836; bap. 22 January 1837), a cook and laundress, was originally from Isleworth (pronounced EYE-zul-worth), an affluent suburb on the Thames in West London. The wedding took place in the residence of the Reverend Matthew McGavin in Leichhardt Street, Brisbane, according to the rites of the Presbyterian Church in the presence of Margaret Bell and Mary Inglis (witnesses).

Electoral records suggest that Elijah and Mary moved from Cooper’s Plains to Yeerongpilly about 1879 (open to question). This researcher has not been able to trace them after that date. However, some interesting details of Elijah’s life before he settled in Queensland can be documented.

Elijah Stubbins, the son of ‘leathern breeches makers’, William and Sidney (née Cotterell) Stubbins, was born on 16 August 1812 and baptised in the church of St Giles, Cripplegate, London, on 6 September 1812. In passing we may note that buried in this historic church, of which Lancelot Andrewes was once rector, are: Sir Martin Frobisher, Ben Jonson and John Milton. Oliver Cromwell was married there.

Elijah had been working as a foot-boy for Caroline Huffam of Bucklersbury for six months when he was indicted for stealing from her on 26 November 1828 four silver teaspoons and one scent-box. Charged with ‘simple grand larceny’ at the Old Bailey on 4 December 1828, he was found guilty on the evidence of Constable William Henman; and, having been ‘recommended to mercy’, was sentenced to three months jail. Sadly, Elijah found himself in the same court on 1 December 1831 when he was charged with pickpocketing a handkerchief valued at 1s. in St Peter’s Alley on 14 November 1831 from John Ruston, a corn trader of Salvador House, Billingsgate. John Ruston’s evidence was supported by that of a twelve-year-old witness, Henry John Lewis Augard(e), and George Baker, a patrol officer. Found guilty, he was sentenced to transportation for life—a high price to pay for one’s youthful indiscretions.

Elijah, one of 200 male prisoners on board, travelled to Australia from London on the 429-ton convict vessel, Lady Harewood (Captain Richard Henry Stonehouse). The ship set sail from Portsmouth on 25 March and reached Shark Island off Sydney on 5 August 1832. He is described in official records as having a fair and ruddy complexion, brown hair, hazel grey eyes and a scar on his left cheek near his nose. Other details note that he was a tailor (as was his brother William), that he was a Protestant and that he could read and write.

Having been assigned to George Mackenzie on the Hunter River, he laboured in the Mussellbrook (now Muswellbrook) district until, on the recommendation of the Sydney bench, he was granted a ticket-of-leave on 9 January 1841. Almost immediately he applied for a ticket-of-leave passport to travel between certain points for a specified period of time; and this was granted on the recommendation of the Mussellbrook bench on 23 February 1841. This enabled him to proceed legally to the New England district where he entered the service of the prosperous landholder Robert Ramsay Mackenzie. He successfully applied for the renewal of this document on three subsequent occasions, the last of them being on 3 February 1845.