Name Variations DIXON1
Father James DICKSON b.c. 1812 m. 18442 d. 18523
Mother Ann BROWN b.c. 18214 m. 1844 d. 18615
Sister Elizabeth DICKSON b.c. 18466 m. 1868 William John MORRIS d. 1895
Inmate Sarah DICKSON b.c. 18557 m. (see below) d. aft. 1874
Husband b. m. d.
Daughter b. m. d.
Son b. m. d.

Sarah had been arrested by constable IRWIN of Kempsey Police around 20 January 1869, and was sent to Newcastle as she had no means of support.8 She had appeared in West Kempsey Court and was admitted to the school on 26 January 1869, where she was recorded as a thirteen-year-old Catholic. The newspaper report concerning this court appearance has not yet been found. It may not yet been scanned into Trove or it may no longer survive. The Entrance Book recorded the spelling of Sarah's surname as 'DICKSON' and the record stated that nothing was known of her father and that her mother was dead. Sarah's mother was therefore not identified in the Entrance Book. The register contained no statements concerning Sarah's education level.9 After being involved in the riot in the school on 10 March 1871, Sarah was tried in Newcastle Court together with Mary WINSOR and Elizabeth PHILLIPS, charged with destroying Government property. The trio appeared on 11 March where, at the request of the superintendent CLARKE, they were reprimanded and returned to the school.10

In May 1871, Sarah transferred with the school to Biloela on Cockatoo Island.11 At the end of January 1872, a request was made by Patrick O'DOWD, on behalf of a Mrs JORDAN of Sydney, specifically requesting that Sarah be apprenticed to her. O'DOWD represented that Mrs JORDAN was a respectable dressmaker living in Woolloomooloo and his original note, written in January 1872, further indicated that 'the Rev. C. D. Coghlan of Dapto is very desirous of having her out.' This correspondence contained a valuable history of Sarah's early years before her arrest at Maclean enabling her family to be pieced together. Mrs JORDAN elaborated on how she and Sarah had become connected.

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 4th inst. in which you state that the girl for whom I applied from the Biloela School could not be granted to me being a resident of Sydney. I now venture to state a little of the History of the girl and how I have been situated towards her.
When this girl, Sarah Dixon, was but five years old, she was given in to my charge by her mother when on her dying bed. I then had her with me between 8 and 9 years during this time I used my best efforts to give her a useful and moral training – during my residence on the Macleay she exhibited some wildness and during her absence from me on one occasion she was taken up by the Police and sent to the Reformatory12 – I still take a great interest in her and am quite willing and ready to take her again under my charge and if you would graciously concede to my wish I pledge to give her a useful trade with some education & to pay every attention to her moral training – I may mention that she has no relatives or friends whatever in Sydney so that she would be entirely under my eye.13

This letter suggests that other relatives may exist but they were not in Sydney. JORDAN's request was eventually approved and in his report on 8 April 1972, LUCAS confirmed that Sarah had been apprenticed to Mrs JORDAN of Woolloomooloo, Sydney.14 In his list compiled in April 1872, he indicated that Sarah had left Biloela on 5 April.15 On 20 February 1873, after about eight months into her apprenticeship with JORDAN, Sarah was readmitted to Biloela. It is unknown whether her apprenticeship was cancelled or whether Sarah had absconded, but the relieving Superintendent DALE, in his weekly report on 24 February 1873, confirmed her readmission.16 Sarah finally left Biloela about a year later on 26 January 1874. It is believed that Sarah was discharged as she had turned 18 but as this date was before the commencement of the Discharge Register, Sarah was not written in that record. No letters concerning her discharge have been found in the CSIL index and it is likely that no additional information was recorded in the register.17 Only letters in the CSIL are likely to indicate any locations of a further apprenticeship – if one had been arranged – so it is likely that little more will be available to add any detail to this part of her life.

The identity of the mysterious Mrs JORDAN is uncertain but it is known that she was a dressmaker and was connected to the North Coast of NSW in some way. It is considered very likely that Mrs JORDAN was the wife of the Grafton identity, J. P. JORDAN, as two children to John and Catherine JORDAN of Queen Street, Grafton,18 were born in the 1860s. As Phillip JORDAN and Catherine STRAUSS, the couple had married in Grafton in 1856.19 John Phillip JORDAN died in January 1888 outliving his wife Katherina aka Catherine,20 who had died in 1877.21 By the 1880s a Miss JORDAN who was almost certainly Catherine and Phillip's child, was operating a dress maker's business in Queen Street, suggesting that her family was involved in this occupation.

Nothing further has been confirmed for Sarah after January 1874. The research into her life continues and is outlined below.


Sarah was born before compulsory registration in about 1855. No evidence of a birth, baptism or arrival for her has yet been identified but there is little doubt that she was born in NSW. No record of her baptism exists in the NSW BDM Index using any of the surnames associated with her family. Although Sarah had been arrested in and sent from the Macleay area on the North Coast, Mrs JORDAN's letter identified that Sarah had originally lived in Sydney, only moving to the Macleay area in the company of Mrs JORDAN. The research of the descendants of her mother has been invaluable in identifying the family and this important contribution is acknowledged. It is believed that she was illegitimate.

Based on the information contained in JORDAN's letter there is little doubt that the circumstances and age of the daughter of Ann DICKSON refer to Sarah and it is expected that details from the records of the Sydney Benevolent Asylum would confirm this however these records are not accessible to non-descendants. Sarah's mother was aged about 37 when she had Sarah. What were the circumstances of the removal of the five-year-old Sarah from the asylum? Although there were no other admissions to the Benevolent Asylum made for anyone with the surname DICKSON or DIXON in 1860, do the records from the asylum identify any further family? It is possible that the answers to these questions would have been recorded in the registers of the Benevolent Asylum.

Ann and Sarah DIXON entered the Sydney Benevolent Asylum on 21 November 1860. The Benevolent Asylum index identified that Ann was forty-two years of age and that Sarah was five. On 23 November, two days after her admission, the child Sarah left the asylum, almost certainly in the company of Mrs JORDAN. Ann remained in the asylum. As Ann DIXON, she was eventually recorded leaving the asylum on 17 January 1861.22 Her name was recorded as Ann DICKSON at the time of her admission and as Ann DIXON when she was discharged. Although the actual records have not been viewed, records were for the same woman as the index showed that both women were the same age. There were no other appropriate admissions or discharges of people with this name at this time. The registration of the death and the burial of the forty-two-year-old Ann DICKSON in Sydney confirmed that the woman who died at the age of 42 in the Benevolent Asylum on 15 January, had been buried on 17 January by Charles G. KEMP.23 The NSW BDM Index confirmed that Ann's death had occurred on the same date recorded on the burial record.24 Unfortunately the death registration for Ann DICKSON, completed nearly two months after Sarah had left the asylum contains no reference to any child or marriage.

Research25 by her descendants identified that Ann DICKSON was the daughter of the convict Rose MURTAGH and the soldier James BROWN. Her mother Rose died in 1824 and it is likely that eight-year-old Ann and her two sisters, Mary Ann aged seven and Elizabeth26 aged five, were listed on the 1828 census at the Female Orphan School at Parramatta.27 In 1844, now with both her parents dead, Ann married James DICKSON. One child Elizabeth, was baptised. James DICKSON died in Windsor in 1852 leaving Ann and her children in the difficult situation of having to honestly earn a living. This was very difficult for poor women with children to do at this time.

Where has She Gone?

No trace of Sarah has been confirmed after January 1874. There have been no illegitimate births as DIXON or DICKSON identified for her although it is possible that one may be hidden in the NSW BDM Index under a different surname and appearing as a legitimate birth. Although some court admissions exist for Sarah DICKSON or DIXON, no confirmation has been found that any refer to the Newcastle admission.

Sarah may be the 'young girl' attending court in November 1875, when her fiancée, William SAUNDERS, appeared after an assault on a child. SAUNDERS received five years hard labour on the roads28 so it has been assumed that this marriage didn't go ahead and no marriage has been identified.

As Sarah DIXON this girl may have appeared in court in Sydney in September 1877 with Elizabeth SINGLETON charged with larceny and as both were previous offenders they received three months imprisonment.29 No age for this offender has been found in the Police Gazette or the Darlinghurst Gaol30 records.

On 18 November 1886, an advertisement seeking Miss Sarah DIXON formerly of Lismore to contact an old friend was made.31

Potential marriages are still being investigated.

The comments from Patrick O'DOWD in his correspondence concerning the Rev. COUGHLAN from Dapto, very strongly suggest that Sarah had a link to COUGHLAN or to the south coast.

No appropriate women named Ann DIXON or DICKSON have been identified in NSW gaol records before 1860. Any appearances after this date cannot be Sarah's mother as she had died.

The Sarah Ann DICKSON who married Henry Joseph CORK in Ulladulla in 1875 cannot be the Newcastle girl even though she married on the South Coast as she was identified in the will of her father, John, in 1874.32 Might it be possible that the Newcastle Sarah was in some way connected to her?

Note: It cannot be that Sarah was the daughter of James and Sarah DICKSON who were having children between 1850 and 1870, firstly in the Sydney area and later on the North Coast of NSW. Records from the CSIL recorded that Sarah's mother had died by January 1869 and this wasn't the case with the family of James and Sarah

Updated February 2020

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