Thursday, 7 June 2018

Sarah Fagan - hotel keeper

Sarah Fagan operated a hotel in Lyndhurst in the 1850s. She had arrived in Victoria in 1853 and after her husband Alexander died in 1857 she opened the hotel in Lyndhurst (this part of Lyndhurst is now called Lynbrook). Not only was she, by all accounts, a strong personality she like many other pioneer women, such as Martha King, had to just 'get on with it' after their husband's death and make the most of it in their new home. Sarah had come out on the Earl of Charlemont, which sunk off Point Henry in June 1853. You can read an account of the sinking here. As a matter of interest, the bell from the Earl of Charlemont is on display at All Saints Anglican Church in Barwon Heads, see here.Interestingly, another local publican, Eliza Gooch of the Mornington Hotel in Cranbourne, had also been involved in a ship wreck, you can read about her, here.

Since I did this post, I was thrilled to receive an email from Dr Gunson (from where much of the following information comes from) on March 22, 2019 and he wrote this about Mrs Fagan's career - I was intrigued and amused that you had promoted Sarah to hotel keeper as I always assumed she kept what was called a shanty and had no proper licence.  I expect the Cobb & Co coaches changed horses there and travellers were able to get a snack (she was famous for her savoury delicacies) and the drivers and those in the know were given something strong to drink. It was Margaret Clarke and her brother John who suggested that their parents should emigrate, and Sarah and the young ones came out before Alexander who remained behind to settle their affairs.  

As alluded to above, I first learnt about Mrs Fagan from Niel Gunson's book, The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire. This is what he has to say about the Fagan family in his book -

Another buyer [of land in Cranbourne] in 1859 was Colin Crillie Clarke of Beaulieu who had arrived in the late 1840s....a school teacher, experimented with vitculture and made his own wine. In later life regarded as a somewhat eccentric recluse....Margaret Fagan, his wife, was a North of Ireland woman. Her father and brother, John, had arrived several years earlier and they sent for Mrs Fagan at Clonvaraghan to bring out the remaining members of the family. Mrs Fagan came out by the Earl of Charlemont which was wrecked off Point Henry in June 1853. All the passengers were saved and no personal property was retrieved.  Alexander Fagan died at Lyndhurst in 1857; the sons farmed Algernon Lindsay's property. The widow occupied the block adjoining, known locally as Fagan's Hill (Lyndhurst Radio Station) Here she is said to have dispensed the 'water of life' to the coach drivers who stopped at her house. A colourful character she was known as Granny Fagan..... Both she and her daughters, Mrs George Hall and Mrs Nelson shared a reputation for two things: generosity and kindness to the deserving stranger and a fearlessness in rebuking injustice or cruelty. These women were also marathon walkers, Mrs Hall walking from Narre Warren to Dandenong (at the age of 80) shortly before her death.  Part of Beaulieu was leased to George Hall and James Henderson and later bought by the Facey family. Colin Clarke's daughter Jane was a talented artist and her paintings of Western Port and Gippsland scenes were at one time exhibited in Melbourne. 

Sarah Fagan
Photo from The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire.

So let's look at the Fagan family tree in more detail. Sarah Fagan was born Sarah Jones in Northern Ireland. On her Death Certificate, her father is listed as Evan Jones, a farmer. She married Alexander Fagan, who died in 1857. He was 65 when he died. Traditionally, hotel keepers are seen as being of Irish and Catholic background, but in the 1850s and 1860s in this area it was not unusual to have Protestants, such as Sarah Fagan, operating hotels. By the 1880s there was a movement towards abstinence from alcohol with the rise of groups such as the Band of  Hope, the Independent Order of Rechabites and the Woman's Christian Temperance. Many Protestant Churches promoted abstinence and Dr Gunson writes The Gooches, Tuckers and Duffs and Mrs Bowman of the Gippsland Hotel were perhaps the last of their kind to combine Evangelical piety with the publican's profession.

Sarah died on January 12, 1879 at Eumemmerring and her son, William, also of Eumemmerring was the informant. Her occupation was grazier. She was buried at Dandenong Cemetery and her age was listed as 89, which means she was born around 1790.  Her children are listed on the death certificate as Mary Ann, aged 58; Margaret, 56; John 54; William, 52; Sarah 50 and Nancy 48. According to the shipping records on the Public Records Office of Victoria website Sarah was 58 when she arrived in 1853 on the ill fated Earl of Charlemont. Also on the ship were three of her children -  William, aged 17; Sarah, aged 16 and Ann aged 12.  If this age is correct then Sarah was born around 1795. As you will see below there are a lot of discrepancies in the birth dates of the Fagan family, depending on what source you use - one of the challenges of family history research!

Let's look at Sarah and Alexander's children in more detail and as you will see they inter-married with other local Casey Cardinia families.
  • Mary Ann - b. c. 1821. I have no other details at the moment. I wonder if she came to Australia? 
  • Margaret - born c. 1822, died 1889 aged 67. Margaret was the wife of  Colin Crillie Clarke (1807-1880) who as we saw before, had arrived in Victoria in the 'late 1840s'. We can actually narrow this date down to 1849 as their daughter, Mary Ann, was born 'at sea' in 1849. Mary Ann died in 1866 aged 16. They had one other daughter, Jane, who was born in 1868 at Cranbourne and died at the age of 25 in December 30, 1893. She was the 'talented artist' that Dr Gunson refers to in the excerpt, above.

Death and funeral notice of Margaret The Age December 17, 1889 

  • John - born c. 1826, died 1917 aged 90. Can't find any indication that he married and the obituary, below, from the Lang Lang Guardian suggests that he didn't marry. Dr Gunson confirms that John never married and he is buried in the same grave as James and Agnes Nelson at Lang Lang. 
Lang Lang Guardian June 6, 1917

  • William - born c. 1827 according to his mother's death certificate or 1836 according to the shipping record.  I have no other details at the moment. Dr Gunson said in his email  I was told William Fagan did marry but they went to make their fortunes in Boulder City in WA and lost touch with their family in Victoria.
  • Sarah - died 1915 aged 80, which means she was born c. 1835 or 1829 according to her mother's death certificate or 1837 according to the shipping record. Sarah was the one who used to walk from Narre Warren to Dandenong! Sarah married George Hall in 1855.  They were the first name on the Cranbourne Presbyterian Church Marriage Register, according to a history of the church published in the Dandenong Journal in December, 1935. You can read it, here. George Hall was a 'bullockie' and had  a team of bullocks and lived at Narre Warren  North where many of the children were born.  They had Margaret (1856), George (c. 1858), Mary Ann (1863), Susan Emily (c. 1865), Annie (1869), Jane (c. 1870), William John (1871), Alexander (1873), Herbert Henry (1876). Jane married William Cadd of Clyde in 1887 and they lived on Patterson's Road. Sarah married, firstly, Thomas Williams and when he died she operated the general store at Clyde. She married for the second time to Thomas Ridgway and they lived at Clyde. Thomas had been born at Clyde in 1860 to Anthony and Sophia (nee Cadd) Ridgway.

South Bourke & Mornington Journal June 17, 1915

  • Agnes - died 1914 aged 74, which means she was born c. 1840 or 1831 according to her mother's death certificate (where she was called Nancy) or 1841 according to the shipping record (where she was listed as Ann). Dr Gunson, in his email, says Agnes (pet name Nancy) was born in County Down on 11 July 1839 (Nelson family bible) so that confirms her birth date,. Agnes married James Nelson (1831 - 1916)  in 1855 when she was just 16 years old, according to Niel Gunson, which makes her birth c. 1840, so as with her sister Sarah I have no idea what her exact year of birth is.  James was a blacksmith and had arrived in the area in 1854; his father, also called James, had  a property at Eumemmerring. James was a man of  Evangelical religious conviction, according to Dr Gunson, and had a library which included many theological books. In 1868 James and Agnes and their family moved to Bay View at Lang Lang. They had eleven children - Alexander (1856), Sarah (c.1858), James (1860), William (1862), John (1865), David (c. 1866), Elizabeth (1868), Mary (1871), Margaret (1875), Henry (1877) and Agnes (1879). Sarah married Daniel Gunson (1847 - 1915) in 1882. He was a Methodist Minister whose parish went from Yannathan to the Powlett River (Wonthaggi) - it was fortunate for him that he was an experienced bushman. Sarah and Daniel are the grandparents of Niel Gunson, the author of The Good Country, which I have quoted and used many, many times in this blog.

Dandenong Advertiser July 23, 1914

I have created a list of newspaper articles about the Fagan family on Trove, click here to access the list.

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