Jane HOOSEY nee DAVIS (1905)
Image Courtesy of State Records NSW: Photo No. 9775 [3/6070 p.235], Reel 5111
WARNING: Details of Jane's family history and life make unpleasant reading and may be distressing to descendants.
Jane was fifteen when she was arrested by sergeant DWYER under the provisions of the Industrial Schools Act on the grounds that she was living with common prostitutes.30 A month earlier, on 31 July 1867, she was one of the girls named by the constables of Sydney 'who might be dealt with under the provisions of the Industrial Schools Act of 1866.'31 This list indicates that she was a fifteen year old Protestant who was a prostitute in robust health. Constable McHALE identified two of the prostitutes with whom Jane associated as PINKERTON and PARKER.32 It was further recorded that although two of her sisters lived with her parents, Jane had no fixed place of abode. One of these girls33 was 'a cripple.'34 Jane was apprehended on warrant on 3 September 1867,35 in the house of a Chinaman, in Cambridge Street. In court Jane responded that she was seventeen and that she was 'kept by a man belonging to one of the mail steamers,' that her father was a woodcutter and that her parents lived at the Bark Huts on the Parramatta Road. Laurence DWYER's statement36 indicated that the man from the mail steamer was coloured.37 Sergeant STEEL's statement stated that Jane had admitted to him that she was only fifteen. He went on to state that
she was kept by a coloured man. She seems to live first in one house and then in another but always with low, disorderly characters.38
Jane was sent to Newcastle. On her admission her age was pencilled into the Entrance Book as seventeen and she was described as a Protestant who was able to read the ‘first book’ and write on slate.39 A medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that not only was she was not a virgin but that she was suffering from gonorrhea.40
While Jane entered the school on 5 September 1867, she didn’t remain in Newcastle for very long as she was discharged on 20 November, less than two months later.41 The government requirement was that girls remained at the school for a minimum of twelve months but petitions from Jane's parents indicated that they fought hard achieve her release. Joseph and Mary began corresponding with the Colonial Secretary immediately after Jane's arrest and the correspondence contains valuable details about their lives. They provided a statutory declaration indicating that Jane's date of birth was 26 January 1849. They further stated that she had been baptised by the Rev. Mr. WILKINSON of Enfield. They were successful in achieving her release as the government accepted their statement that she was over sixteen so had been illegally arrested. KING reported that Joseph and Mary had arranged for Jane to be brought back to Sydney on the daily steamer and she was handed into the care of Captain SUMMERWELL.42
On 8 February 1869, Jane, aged twenty, married Hassan HOSEA in the Presbyterian Church, Elizabeth Street, Sydney. Joseph DAVIS gave his permission for the marriage to occur as Jane was under the age of twenty-one. Joseph was a witness. Hassan is recorded on the registration as a twenty-six year old Singaporean mariner.43 Hassan's place of birth remains unclear as other records indicate that he was 'from India' – although this is believed to be a generic term used at the time to describe people from the Indian sub-continent. Tension within the family was evident when Hassan was charged by his father-in-law, Joseph, with an assault.44 It is considered likely that Hassan was the man from the mail steamer referred to in Jane's 1867 court appearance. Hassan hasn't been located after the birth of his third son, George, in 1874 and had probably abandoned his family by this date.
Births and deaths for Jane and Hassan's three sons are recorded using the Anglicised surname HOOSEY and were made in the Concord area of Sydney – the registration area for Liberty Plains and the Bark Huts. Only two of these boys, David and Joseph, survived childhood. Mary, Jane's mother, and Eliza, her sister, were present at the birth of her first child, David.45 After Hassan's abandonment, Jane was eventually forced to earn her living as a prostitute and was probably the woman fined or gaoled for obscene language in January 1886.46 But by June 1881, Jane's two surviving sons, David (as John) and Joseph, were arrested under the Industrial Schools Act and sent to the Vernon.47 The brothers were taken from
a brothel in Waterloo, at which their mother is an inmate. She acquiesced in their apprehension, and said that she was willing to contribute towards their support.48
Earlier court reports for thefts committed by her eldest son haven’t yet been found. Joseph HOOSEY was very probably apprenticed from the Vernon to northern Queensland as he was initially working in the Rockhampton area49 when he was called as a witness into the death of a fellow worker. Eventually Joseph and David settled on the north coast of NSW in the Macksville and Kempsey areas. It is likely that Jane never saw her sons again after 1881 even though she also moved to the north coast of NSW and was probably there by the late 1880s and certainly there by April 1902 when she was a witness at an inquest.50
The Maclean Poisoning Case was reported in various newspapers across Australia from late 1904 and early 1905.51 From the late 1880s Jane was living with a kanaka52 named Frank TANNA as his wife and housekeeper. On 25 November 1904, Jane was accused of attempting to poison another islander named Joe WILLIAMS who also shared TANNA’s hut. Court appearances describe Jane as a white woman who was living apart from her husband and it was commented that her previous life had been bad. There was conflict proven between WILLIAMS and DAVIS. Jane was initially tried at Grafton Quarter Sessions53 but when the jury couldn't agree on her guilt, on 28 May 1905, she was re-tried at the Sydney Criminal Court.54 On the charge sheet55 dated 16 December 1904, Jane was said to have
… lived with Frank Tanna for 15 or 16 years in his house in Maclean. Previous to this she lived with other coloured men; and is said to have been a prostitute in Sydney 20 years ago. She is a woman who drinks at times. She states now that her husband died 30 years ago and that his name was John [sic] Hoosey. She was known to Joe Williams, the accuser, as Jinny. Another witness called Jule Peno said he had known Jane Davis working as a prostitute in Paddington. Glovie Bell, a Kanaka brought her to the Clarence River about 18 years ago.56 She afterwards lived with Jack Tooklo then Frank Tanna take [sic] her 16 years ago. She then ran away with Dick Tanna57 and stopped with him 12 months and went to Sydney. She wrote to Frank Tanna to take her back and she has been living with him ever since. She had no other convictions in Maclean.
Jane was found guilty of the poisoning and was sentenced to death.58 There was a Royal Commission held resulting in her death sentence being commuted to life in prison with hard labour when, in mid-1905, WILLIAMS and another islander were found to be suffering from leprosy. It was successfully argued that the disease may have been the cause of WILLIAM's symptoms rather than poison.59 WILLIAMS was placed in the leper colony at Little Bay and died of leprosy in 1906.60 When this news broke some newspaper reports named TANNA as the other leper but the SMH of 20 July 1905, verified the second islander as Tommy ABRAHAMS and TANNA was reported to be back in Maclean in the local newspapers and still living in his house in Union Street.61 Over the next eight years, at least three others living in TANNA's house contracted leprosy.62 There was much local discussion about the residence and in 1913 it was demolished by fire63 and TANNA was compensated for his loss. TANNA’s death at the age of seventy-five is registered in 1916 at Maclean. It was during Jane's court appearances that Joseph HOOSEY married and his marriage certificate records the name of his mother as Alice BRAIDY64 so he must have been or became aware of who Jane was at this time, as when he died both his mother and father were correctly named on his death registration65.
Confirmation that Jane was the girl who was sent to the Newcastle Industrial School appear in the Darlinghurst gaol records66 that attribute to her the alias of HOOSEY and locate her birth as Ryde, Lane Cove, Parramatta River. Jane was firstly imprisoned in Darlinghurst but was soon transferred to Bathurst gaol where she stayed for four years. By 1909 she had been transferred back to the Sydney Reformatory.67 Jane DAVIS was released on licence from Long Bay Gaol at nine o'clock on the morning of 12 July 1915,68 and has disappeared from the records on the NSW BDM Index.
Jane was the daughter of Joseph DAVIS, a labourer, and Mary HINCHLEY. The couple had never married.69 Joseph and Mary were named in the Entrance Book which recorded that they lived at Liberty Plains on the Liverpool Road. Letters from Joseph and Mary to the Colonial Secretary indicate that Jane was born on 26 January 1849. This makes her considerably older than her age recorded in her admission to the school. Joseph and Mary achieved her release from Newcastle because they successfully proved that she was older than sixteen. There is however, no guarantee that this birth date attributed to Jane was accurate. It may have been a deliberate deception by her parents to have her freed. No confirmation will ever be able to be found as the registers of the Rev. Mr WILKINSON of Enfield left the country with him.70
Only one other baptism for the family has been located and its existence very strongly supports that baptisms for the other children occurred. It is the key to the identification of Jane's family. The baptism of the child, Joseph DAVIS, by V. BOURGEOIS at the St James Catholic church, Sydney, on 11 November 1845,71 represents the only place where Mary’s maiden name of HINCHLEY had been recorded in connection with her second family. While the family was not Catholic, descendants believe that Joseph, who was born on 4 August 1845, was sickly and when his parents believed that he would die, they had him baptised in the most convenient church. Joseph died five days after this baptism on 16 November 1845, and was subsequently buried by C. C. KEMP of the Church of England on the 18th,72 where he was recorded as the son of a sawyer who lived in Kent Street.
Permission to Marry73 had been granted to Mary INCHLEY from Peterboro [sic] and Joseph HUNT from Shell Harbour. Mary had arrived on the Fanny in 1833, and Joseph HUNT had arrived on the Hoogley in 1828. They married in the schoolhouse on 1 April 1834. Neither signed the register. The witnesses were George WHITEMAN and William DAVIS who is considered by Mary's descendants to be Joseph DAVIS's brother. The couple had three children. Mary and Joseph HUNT separated and Mary took up with Jane's father, Joseph DAVIS, who was the son of the convicts, William DAVIS and Ann COTTERILL.74 Joseph and Mary moved from Peterborough to Sydney and later to Liberty Plains, possibly to escape detection from HUNT and there they remained.
Joseph had been born at Brickfield Hill in NSW in November 1818, while his father was away exploring with John OXLEY's expedition. Mary's ethnicity is unknown but the Fanny indent records that she came from Birmingham, Warwickshire. She was one of very few women described on the Fanny indent as having brown skin. Once Mary had moved to Liberty Plains she contributed to the family income by telling fortunes.75 Mary was imprisoned in Darlinghurst in 1858 and is recorded there as 'blind'.76 Mary's death was recorded in Concord in 187577 and she was buried at Enfield. The informant was her daughter, Mary,78 and information from this record states that her father was Edward HINCHLY [sic]. Mary's children are not named on this registration but the record documents that one male and five females were alive and one male and two females were dead. Joseph died five years later on 19 September 1880, in the Sydney Infirmary and his death was recorded as Joseph DAVIES.79 His brothers placed a death notice in the Sydney papers, confirming his correct family.80 By the time of Joseph's death only two of his daughters were recorded as still living and his son and four other daughters were dead.
Identifying Jane's siblings is difficult due to the paucity of records. No DAVIS baptisms occur in the NSW BDM pre-1856 records other than Joseph's in 1845. Other baptisms were stated by Joseph and Mary to have been in the register of the officiating minister, the Rev. Mr. WILKINSON, which was retained by him when he left NSW.81 Jane’s father and sister, Eliza, are named as witnesses at the inquest into the death of one of Eliza's children.82 This article records Joseph's declaration that:
I am a woodcutter, and reside on Liberty Plains. I am married, and have six children alive, all daughters, the eldest of whom is 23 years of age … born in Sydney … never been to school … used to go to church. I have another daughter who took up with Chinamen, but she is now living with an Englishman.
Jane's confirmed sisters are Eliza, whose story and circumstances are outlined below, Mary,83 who was the informant at the death of her mother, and Betsy84 The remaining two DAVIS sisters are unconfirmed. The Bark Huts and Liberty Plains localities are within the registration area of Concord. Many confirmed DAVIS registrations were recorded here including Mary DAVIS nee HINCHLEY's death, Eliza's death and the births of Jane's children. BDM searches in this area indicate another possible sister, Ann/Annie DAVIS, who was the mother of the illegitimate son, Robert (1878-1880). Because the birth of Anne HUNT85 occurred between the birth years stated by Joseph of his two oldest daughters, it is possible but conjecture only, that this record refers to the same girl. The three marriages recorded in Concord could also indicate other sisters viz. Elizabeth DAVIS to John MANSER (NSW Marriage: 1048/1859), Emily Elizabeth DAVIS to Samuel BEAUMONT (NSW Marriage: 1196/1863) or Emma DAVIS to James JENKINS (NSW Marriage: 1485/1869) – the earliest marriage may possibly refer to Jane's sister, Betsy.
A detailed account of Eliza's life shows the appalling conditions under which some members of the family lived.86 Another of Eliza’s children was also to die and she was committed for trial for manslaughter in 1864.87 The Maitland Mercury includes the following statement in connection with Eliza that '… she used to go by the name "Black Sal."' The origins of this enigmatic statement are unknown. The name 'Black Sal' was a character in a popular music hall skit of the time and also that of a famous race horse88 but because Mary was described as having brown skin, it is possible that her daughters also had dark complexions. Their darker skin colour coupled with the stigmas of illegitimacy and transportation, may have made it difficult to establish relationships within the European community and may have contributed to the girls drifting towards men of other races.
It is likely that all Joseph's daughters mixed with the Chinese community who were considered outcasts, had language restrictions and who continued to practise their own customs rather than following the conventions of the English society. On 21 March 1873, Eliza's half-Chinese daughter, Sarah Ann YUN SIM,89 was admitted to Biloela. Eliza attempted unsuccessfully to have her released from Biloela but she was unsuccessful as Sarah Ann was still considered by authorities to be under the age of sixteen.90 Sarah Ann was eventually released on 15 August 1874, to Eliza and Jane's father, and Sarah Ann's grandfather, Joseph.91
Where has She Gone?
It is believed by the author and also by Eliza's descendants that after Jane's release from Long Bay Gaol in 1915 she adopted an alias to enable her to live in peace and without the stigma of the murder with which she had been charged. It has been assumed that she would retain her given name and change only her surname but no appropriate death as DAVIS, DAVIES, HOOSEY, HOSEY, HOSY, HINCHLEY, INCHLEY, HUNT, BRADY, BRAIDY, TANNA or TANNER can be found on NSW BDM. Because she would have been over sixty when she was released, she would have needed some form of financial support as gaining employment when she was partially paralysed and aged would have been difficult or impossible. Because she was tattooed with initials it may be that her final surname began with a 'D' so it is suspected that she may have named herself 'Jane D.' It is also considered unlikely that she would have lived for longer that ten years after her release so her death is probably registered before 1925. The only possible way to trace her may be through applications for the old age pension from 1915. This line of inquiry has not been investigated.
Updated: May 2014