Friday, February 22, 2013

The Circus Comes to Town

The Circus Comes to Town

Several circus troupes were touring in the early days of the colony. The first company to visit what would become the Colony of Queensland, was La Rosiere's Travelling Circus which arrived by ship in the winter of 1855. Like most circuses of the day, the major act was a performance by female equestriennes.

Monsieur La Rosiere was actually Edward Hughes. As was the custom of the day, he adopted a French stage name or nom d'arena to sound foreign, exotic, and sophisticated.

The equestrienne, Mademoiselle La Rosiere, was 14 year old Jane Kendall, the sister-in-law of Edward Hughes.

Young Somersaulting Equestrienne
A circus usually set up next to a hotel, which provided accommodation for the performers and stabling for the horses. The hotel would also provide refreshments to circus goers before and after the performance, as well as selling tickets.

The local press gave the circus performance a favourable review.

THE CIRCUS. - M. La Rosiere's troupe of equestrians have been performing in Brisbane during several nights of this week, with general success. A new entertainment has been introduced, in a little flirtation scene between the clowns and the black horse, in which the latter has displayed great sagacity and caused much amusement.

Master Loger's vaulting feats on horseback have been much and deservedly applauded, and M. La Rosière's dislocating feats have caused strong doubts whether she has any bones at all.

Mr. Ricardo is a very useful performer. He appears in as many characters as Proteus. Some of the after pieces have caused much laughter, and, in one, Mr. Barclay gave an amusing personification of a lubberly "hobbledehoy."

There is talk of varying the performances with a dramatic entertainment, which would be judicious.[1]

The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser  Tuesday 1 January 1856
At the end of the year, another company, the National Circus and Hippodrome, arrived in Moreton Bay from Sydney on board the Boomerang which also brought news from England of the victory at Sevastapol in the Crimean War. 

The circus featured a German band and some of the musicians took part in celebrations in Brisbane Town with unfortunate consequences for one young player.

ACCIDENT WITH FIRE ARMS. - On Monday evening last, as a young man named Johann Leinhardt, one of the German band of musicians brought up by the Circus company, was firing a pistol near the ferry wharf, during the general rejoicing on account of the victory at Sevastopol when the pistol exploded, lacerating his hand in a terrible manner.

He was conveyed to the hospital where it was found that one of the fingers was blown off, and the other had to be amputated.

This poor young man, quite a stranger in the colony, has been maimed, and prevented from future pursuit of his musical career, by the thoughtless but well-intentioned manifestation in his sympathy with the general feeling, and his case seems well worthy of commiseration, and something more substantial, from the inhabitants.[2]

Victorian Era  Circus Equestrienne

La Rosiere would bring his circus to Brisbane, Ipswich, and Warwick several times over the following years. In 1857, the final performance of his circus was put on at Ipswich, adjacent to the North Star Hotel.

At the age of just 33 years, Edward Hughes aka Monsieur La Rosiere, died in a room at the hotel. The reason for his sudden death was not reported but a family notice in the local newspaper recorded his passing.

DEATHS.   Died at Ipswich, on the 6th July, 1857, at the North Star Hotel, Mr. Edward La Rosiere Hughes proprietor of circus, aged 88 [actually 33] years, lamented by his beloved wife and relatives, and all who had known him.[3]

The circus was subsequently disbanded and some of the horses sold off by auction.

SCOTT & Co. WILL sell by Public Auction, at the North Star Hotel, THIS DAY, the 26th AUGUST, at 11 o'Clock,

A Splendid Grey Mare, particularly well-adapted to the Saddle, having been one of the late Mr. La Rosiere's stud. No reserve. Terms, Cash.[4]

Mademoiselle La Rosiere, aka Jane Kendall, would go on to have a long career as an equestrienne, and circus owner.  She would marry three times and had twelve children, two of whom followed her into the circus.

Mademoiselle La Rosiere's daughter, the equestrienne Ida Vernon

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2013.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 11 August 1855
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 22 December 1855
[3] The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser Tuesday 7 July 1857
[4] The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser Tuesday 25 August 1857

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Colonial Spirits

The Moreton Bay Courier  Saturday 4 July 1846
In 1848, The Moreton Bay Courier ominously announced the coming of the liquor industry to Brisbane Town.  This reflected the views of the temperance movement which was influential in colonial society.

Until now Moreton Bay relied on imports of liquor, chiefly of rum, gin, brandy, and British style ales such as porter.

Symptoms of Going Ahead. - We understand that a brewery is about to be established in the township forthwith, and also a soap manufactory.[1]

The success of the brewery was not reported but it seems a year later it had still not been established and the equipment was auctioned off.


HAS received positive instructions to Sell, without the least reserve, at his Residence, South Brisbane,
On MONDAY the 30th day of May instant,
At 12 o'clock precisely,

Two Pots, each containing nearly 200 gallons
Two Brewing Tuns, admirably adapted for a Tannery
1 Pocket of Hops
About 10,000 Bricks
10 Bags of excellent Barley;

Also, the interest of Mr. King in the Building at South Brisbane lately intended to be a Brewery.[2]

New Farm in the 1880s
(State Library of Queensland)
In 1849, one enterprising Italian resident of New Farm embarked on his own distilling operation. Unfortunately his activities came to the attention of the Inspector of Distilleries. Whether or not the senor was aware of the local laws concerning liquor production is not clear as he was given very short shift by the court and the argument of the defence was not reported.

ILLICIT DISTILLATION. - At the police-office, on Tuesday last, Joseph Sedolla, an Italian, was convicted, on an information exhibited by Mr. Wm. Thornton, as inspector of distilleries, of haying a private still and a quantity of "wash"[3] on his premises at New Farm.

William Thornton in later life as Collector of Customs
(State Library of Queensland)

Mr. Ocock and Mr. Adams appeared for the defence, and raised several objections, but the offence was clearly proved, and the prisoner was sentenced to pay a fine of £100 or in default to be imprisoned in Sydney gaol for three months. All the articles seized to be forfeited.[4]

A year later the hapless Senor Sedolla was working as a gardener when he fell victim to a riding accident.

I regret to have to report three fatal accidents,' viz..-

One at Mr. Ivory's station, where a man named Woods dropped dead while counting out some sheep; 

one at Mr. Morts station, where a man was found dead on the run; 

and one at Wogaroo[5], a foreigner (an Italian, named Josef Sidola) in the employ of Mr. Young, as gardener, and who, having been at Ipswich on Sunday last, accompanied by a friend, was thrown from his horse and killed, within about a mile of Wogaroo.

 A magisterial inquiry was held on the body by Dr. Simpson, as was also the case on the body of the man at Mr. Mort's, which was held by Dr. Dorsey.[6]

Major distilling operations would finally come to the colony as a lucrative product of sugarcane plantations. In 1849, a correspondent to the Moreton Bay Courier identifying himself as a “West Indian Planter” recognised the potential of rum production in the colony, given his experience in the Caribbean. The West Indies was by far the world’s largest producer of rum and remains so.

Contemporary Demerara Rum 
An efficient distillery should be studied as much as anything in the establishment of a sugar estate, as nothing tends to make an estate pay better than a good distillery. I have known estates in Demerara[7] where the whole of the cane juice was distilled, and paid better than making sugar.

 In the event of a sugar estate being established in this colony (and I sincerely hope for the colony's prosperity that not only one but several will be established), those parties interested in its welfare should endeavour to get a clause introduced into the Distillery Act, to free it from some of its most stringent and highly vexatious laws.

Hoping that any unintentional errors will be forgiven, as I am not in the habit of addressing the public, only being induced to do so from my anxiety to promote the welfare and prosperity of the colony, which has now become my adopted country, believing it to be the duty of everyone to do so as far as lies in his power.[8]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2013.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier 20.5.1848
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 19 May 1849
[3] Fermentable substance or mixture of substances steeped in water to undergo fermentation preparatory to distillation. OED
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 9 June 1849
[5] Now the Ipswich suburb of Goodna.
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 14 September 1850
[7] Demerara is a region in South America in what is now Guyana. (Wiki)
[8] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 7 July 1849July 1849

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tincture of Opium

In the early days of the colonies list of imports arriving in Brisbane Town frequently included boxes or crates of opium. Opium was not illegal and had been in medicinal use for centuries in Europe in the form of laudanum, also known as tincture of opium, a liquid mixture of opium, alcohol, and herbs.

The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser 30.9.1856
Opium tincture or laudanum was a drug mainly used as a pain killer and as a sedative. It was also highly addictive and widely used and not always for medicinal purposes.

Many of the Chinese labourers who arrived in the colony from the 1840s were users of opium, bringing the habit with them from China.

A correspondent to the Moreton Bay Courier wrote of a court case involving Chinese shepherds on the Darling Downs. He reported that the Chinese interpreter, an educated man, had bemoaned the habits of his compatriots.

This Chinese scholar, by name Whang Kong Mong Ping, upon inquiry, I learn, is a mandarin, in his own country, of three tails and two peacock's feathers, sent by the Emperor of the Celestial Empire[1], who is also Brother to the Sun and Moon, to teach the barbarians of the western bush the imperial dialect, and the use of the bamboo, keangue[2], and things of those kinds, that are occasionally used in his dominion ; and has been tremblingly informed that those barbarians eat bullocks and sheep, and smoke opium, all of which are forbidden by the laws of his land.[3]

Laudanum Label
(The State Library of Victoria)
Often there would be fatal consequences. Investigating the death of a Chinese man, the Government doctor Challinor, reached the curious conclusion that a combination of opium and hot tea had resulted in the man's death.

DEATH FROM OPIUM.-An enquiry took place on Friday, at the Police Office, touching the death of   a Chinaman, named Aykee. It was elicited, from the evidence of the witnesses, that the deceased had been in the habit of taking large quantities of opium; and that, on the day of his death, he had swallowed more than the usual portion of this pernicious drug, and had partaken subsequently of some hot tea, which, in the opinion of Dr. Challinor, who had held a post mortem examination on the body, was sufficient to destroy life.[4]

In 1857, the Queensland Government decided to impose a tax on opium imports which is an indicator that substantial amounts of the drug were being consumed in the colony.

The Government intended to propose a tax of 10s. a pound on opium, thus following the example of the Victorian legislature, who urged us not to receive any from South Australia which had not paid the duty.[5]

It was later agreed that liquid forms of opium be exempt from the tax because these were considered a medicine.

The third reading of the Opium Duties' Bill having been moved, the 2nd clause imposing duties on solutions of opium was withdrawn on the ground that these solutions were imported mainly, if not wholly, for medical purposes.[6]

A Vial of Laudanum
At the time laudanum was freely available from druggists, not only to doctor,s but to anyone who wished to purchase it. The  widespread use of laudanum was revealed in a court case involving an alleged attempted suicide.

On Christmas day 1857, William Darling, described as looking like a man from the bush, entered the premises of the druggist William Kent at South Brisbane. There he asked the price of laudanum.  The following day, Joseph Wonderly, the druggist’s assistant gave evidence in the Police Court.

Joseph Wonderly: I am assistant to Mr. Kent, druggist, South Brisbane. I have not seen the defendant to my recollection during the last week. Some man got laudanum from me yesterday morning, between seven and eight o'clock. He got two ounces.

I asked him "are you aware of the effect of laudanum?" He said "I am, I have been in the habit of taking it." I gave him a bottle labelled "laudanum-poison." He seemed to me, to be a man from the bush. He was quite sober and collected. It is customary to sell as much as four ounces to parties going into the bush.[7]

Later that morning Doctor Hugh Bell was summoned to treat a man who had consumed a quantity of laudanum and lay unconscious. He told the court what had transpired.

The gabled house (right) of Dr. Bell in Adelaide Street, Brisbane
Dr. Hugh Bell, a duly qualified medical practitioner, deposed: I know defendant, I was called on yesterday morning between 9 and 10 o'clock in a great hurry to attend the prisoner. I was told he had taken some laudanum. I hurried out; defendant lives about a mile from Brisbane; he was lying on the floor face downwards; I could not see his face.

We had a little difficulty in rousing him. He appeared as if he had been drinking, he could not have had a large dose of laudanum unless he vomited immediately; he seemed to be suffering the effects of opium; I could not get to his breath.

He would not let me come near him; the pupils of his eyes were contracted;  I would not suppose a person intended to destroy himself if I had been informed he had taken two drachms; I gave him an emetic but he would not take it, but threw it away; I am inclined to think from what he said he intended to destroy himself.[8]

The doctor gave evidence that the dose that Darling claimed to have taken was enough to have fatal effects.

He said he had taken two ounces and if that was not enough he would take more. In other respects he spoke sensibly and got better. One ounce of laudanum is taken by some men, but two ounces of good laudanum is enough to kill any man. An ounce will kill a man unless he has been in the habit of taking it for a number of years.[9]

The druggist, William Bell
The doctor asked the police to take the patient into custody lest he should try to further harm himself. Charged with attempted suicide, a crime at the time, the prisoner was brought before the police court the following morning. 

After hearing the testimonies of the witnesses and the prisoner’s denials of attempting suicide, the Magistrate released him on a good behaviour bond. The Magistrate was not hesitant to criticise the lack of legislation that allowed such a dangerous drug to be available without regulation.

 The Police Magistrate ordered Darling to find sureties for his good behaviour for three months. His Worship censured the practice of selling persons drugs in such large quantities and expressed his opinion that the Legislature should interfere to put a stop to it.[10]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2013.

[1] Emperor of China.
[2] A cangue is a device that was used for public humiliation and corporal punishment in until the early years of the twentieth century. It was similar to the stocks, except that the board of the cangue was not fixed to a base, and had to be carried around by the prisoner. (Wiki)
[3] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 23 February 1850
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 24 November 1855
[5] The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser Tuesday 8 September 1857
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 7 November 1857
[7] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 26 December 1857
[8] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 26 December 1857
[9] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 26 December 1857
[10] The Moreton Bay Courier Saturday 26 December 1857

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Murder of a German

In September 1858, news reached Brisbane Town of a murder committed on a sheep station on the frontier west of Kingaroy. The victim was one of the German workers on the property who had been felled by a single gunshot fired by a countryman.

The Moreton Bay Courier Wednesday 22 September 1858


On Saturday afternoon the 4th instant just before sundown, hearing a row amongst some of the Germans on the station, Mr. Thelwall went down to see what was the matter, and found some of them had been quarrelling.

He succeeded in making all quiet as he thought but about half-past 9 o’clock at night heard a shot fired, and a short time afterwards the overseer came to inform him that a German named Frederick Schlomer, a man employed on the station, had been shot by another German, Johannes Staumers, a bullock-driver in the employ of Messrs. Lawson, of Boondooma, who was camped with a dray at this station.

 Mr. Thelwall immediately went down to the huts and found Schlomer quite dead, Staumer having made his escape. Mr. William Haly had arrived and Mr. Lawson hourly expected to hold a magisterial enquiry.

 In the meantime every effort was being made to apprehend Staumer who, it is reported intends delivering himself up to Mr. Lawson.[2]

Sketch of Burrandowan Homestead in the 1860s.

During the 1850s, workers began to be recruited in Germany. They were considered preferable to “coolie” labour imported from China.

Station managers preferred single men as life on the frontier was considered too harsh for women and children.  Where there were women on the stations, tensions could develop between the men. This was the situation at Burrandowan which escalated into a fatal shooting.

Johannes Staumer was a young married man described being “a young looking man, little more than a boy”.[3] He worked as a bullock driver transporting wool and general cargo. His brother, who worked on the property, lived in a small slab hut with his wife.

It seems the dispute started in the hut of one Christian Young, over some comments a man named Reece had made about Staumer’s sister-in-law.  The nature of the insult was never specified during the trial, but probably questioned her moral reputation.

Station Hands and Shearers

Christian Young: I have known the prisoner since he bought a gun from me on the 4th September, on a Saturday afternoon. Schlomer was with him. About 3 o'clock prisoner and his brother came to my hut. Prisoner loaded the gun at my house and discharged both barrels. I left prisoner in my house. The gun was put in the corner.

Reece, a German, came up and said something about prisoner's brother's wife. The row then began a little. Reece ran away. Prisoner wanted to fight. I told them to go away as I would not have quarrelling there. (This witness corroborated the fighting with a stick, and the blow over the eye with a stick to the last witness.)

When the row began I stopt in my hut, and my Mrs. shut me in. At nearly sundown prisoner came on horseback to fetch the gun. I told prisoner to go to his dray, as people were running after him, and he did not want a row afterwards.[4]

The altercation soon escalated and soon an angry mob of station workers, emboldened after drinking “five or six bottles of brandy”[5] and shouting threats in German set off to besiege the hut of Staumer’s brother. Johannes Staumer was waiting in the darkness inside the hut with a gun. At the trial Frederick Hausmann told how they approached the hut in the darkness.

Roughly built slab hut
When we reached prisoner's brother's hut I opened the door and saw a woman and someone sitting in the house, but who it was I am not certain. I did not hear him speak.

I heard the cocking of a gun, and then saw the man had a gun. I was one step then into the house. I then began to call the man names, and said it was a great shame for him to cock the gun as no one intended to do him any harm. I could not recognise the man at first because I could not see, as one of my eyes was covered up.

The prisoner called out to his sister-in-law to get out of the way as he intended to shoot. This was because the sister-in-law had stepped between the prisoner and the door while the gun was at his side as he was sitting. We then went about six paces from the house.

I then saw prisoner's brother come from the direction of Young's house, and Schlomer, the deceased, was close behind the prisoner's brother. I pulled back the deceased and told him prisoner was going to shoot. The prisoner could have heard what I said.

The deceased said, "Oh, he won't shoot, I shall go in and light my pipe." Nicolei had an old pistol, but Schlomer had only the pipe. When deceased had stopped two steps into the house, I heard the report of a gun. I listened, a little longer, and then saw prisoner came out. I ran up to the house and Schlomer took hold of me by the breast, tried to say something, but before he could do so he fell down. [6]

German Queenslanders in a  German Wagon

The trial was long and involved, many witnesses called and conflicting statements given, but the jury after a brief consideration, brought in a verdict of not guilty.

An editorial in the Moreton Bay Courier summed up the general feeling.

By that decision a young man is saved from ignominy, public justice vindicated, and a lesson taught which will be   more valuable than dooming STÜRMER, the accused, to become the moving diagram of JACK KETCH'S last teaching.[7]

We commend the careful perusal of the case, with all its deformities, to the people of the Northern Districts. 'The disgusting effrontery of one of the witnesses on the part of the prosecution - The charge indecently made against the relative of the accused - the workings of the spirit of alcohol, which primed the human fiends up to bloodthirsty excess - the threats which were used, the death signal, by the discharge of the gun, and last, not least, the disagreement of the counsellors, while death was waiting in prospective to take the victim, and all together, the lighted chamber, the robed Judge, and the technicalities of law seeking outlet over common sense, may make a drama of reality to satisfy the most morbid.

That the prisoner has been acquitted we are heartily glad; not because we have sympathy with the Act which deprived the man of life, but that the gallows has been robbed of a victim, and the maniac indulgers in brandied excitement taught, that sober men will regard their conduct as madness; and the finale in this painful case as a reward for the demoniacal excess of passion.
Our hasty remarks at such a late hour must of necessity be brief, and with a perfect concurrence in the decision, and a desire that the bar may be dignified in its conduct, we usher our present issue.[8]

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2013.

[1] West of Kingaroy.
[2] The Moreton Bay Courier Wednesday 22 September 1858
[3] The Moreton Bay Courier Wednesday 12 January 1859
[4] The Moreton Bay Courier Wednesday 12 January 1859
[5] The Moreton Bay Courier Wednesday 12 January 1859
[6] The Moreton Bay Courier Wednesday 12 January 1859
[7] Jack Ketch was an infamous English executioner employed by King Charles II.
[8] The Moreton Bay Courier Wednesday 12 January 1859