Margaret DIXON
Father unknown b. m. d. alive 1871
Mother unknown b. m. d. alive 1871
Brother b. m. d.
Sister b. m. d.
Inmate Margaret DIXON b.c. 18561 m. 1884 (see below) d. aft. 18722
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Inmate Margaret3 16 4’ 2” light brown blue fair medium

Margaret appeared in the Sydney courts on 20 February 1871.4 Constable GROUNDWATER stated that on Saturday night, 18 February, he had seen her in King Street, Sydney, in the company of prostitutes. GROUNDWATER arrested and charged her under the Act although Margaret stated that she was over sixteen. The report in the Empire added that Margaret's parents lived in New Zealand and she had absconded from them. Elizabeth BARDWELL, the landlady of the Sportsman's Arms, Pitt-street, unwillingly gave evidence that Margaret 'always conducted herself properly, but had juvenile ways about her' and she thought that her age brought her within the meaning of the Act.5 Margaret was sent to Newcastle. The section of the Entrance Book containing details of her family, age, religious, educational and discharge details is missing so no confirmation of any personal information can be made from this source.

On 22 March, a month after arriving in Newcastle, Margaret, Ann ELDER and Catherine HARDING were convicted in Newcastle Court on their own confession of wilfully destroying Government property in the school during the riot on the 19 March. They were each fined five pounds or were to be imprisoned in Maitland Gaol for two months.6 The fine wasn’t paid and the trio was sent to Maitland at the same time as another Newcastle rioter, Mary Ann BROWN. The Maitland Gaol Entrance Book recorded that Margaret was a Catholic who had been born in London and who had arrived in 1860 aboard the Lord Ashley.7 Margaret and some of the Newcastle girls also sent to Maitland at this time8 continued to misbehave during their time in the gaol. The Maitland Gaol punishment return for April 1871, indicated that Margaret had spent seven days in the cells for being 'disorderly in cell.'9 The May punishment return further indicated that Margaret and Catherine HARDING were again punished for 'striking a fellow prisoner'. They were separated within the gaol for the remainder of their sentence.10 This report suggested that the pair had been fighting with each other. Margaret was released from Maitland Gaol on 21 May 1871, and was returned to the school at Newcastle. Four days later on 25 May, she transferred with the school to Biloela. The 1871 transfer lists confirmed that she was still in Maitland Gaol at the time that they were compiled but verified that she was fifteen and a Catholic.11

On the evening of Monday, 15 October 1871, in company with seven other girls12 Margaret escaped from the dormitory in Biloela on Cockatoo Island. The group was eventually arrested by constable DICK while still on the island but later that evening after they had 'unlawfully, wilfully, and maliciously' damaged thirty windows valued at £1 10s., the property of the Government.13 The newspapers reported that the:

conduct of the girls prior to their arrest was described by the police as outrageous. Stones and bricks were flying about in all directions, and about 100 panes of glass were destroyed. On being placed in the Water Police boat the prisoners commenced singing, and continued in the exercise of their vocal powers up to the Circular Quay.

In the Water Police Court on 18 October 1871, Margaret pleaded guilty to the charges when she and the others appeared before the bench. Margaret was fined thirty shillings or was to be imprisoned for two months. No fines were paid and all the girls were admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol. The Darlinghurst Description Book for 1871 confirmed her ship of arrival, recorded that she could read and write and confirmed that she was a Catholic. Her age was recorded in the Darlinghurst Entrance Book as 18 and this record confirmed that she had been born in London. After her release from Darlinghurst in December 1871 Margaret was returned to Biloela.

In his report on 25 March 1872, LUCAS indicated that Margaret had been discharged as an apprentice14 and it was confirmed in his April 1872 list that she had been apprenticed to Mr SLY in Queensland.15 The request for an apprenticeship to Mr and Mrs SLY on 20 March 1872, specifically identified Margaret. The letter making this request was at least the second in a series of letters.16 William SLY was described in the correspondence as 'an old N. S. Wales settler and his wife a very desirable person.' Approval for Margaret to go on the steamer to SLY’s property Degilbo, Maryboro', Queensland, was made on 19 March 1872. The apprenticeship was for two years and would have concluded when Margaret turned 18. She was to be paid two shillings a week for the first year and three shillings a week for the second year of the apprenticeship.17 The first letters in this correspondence have either not survived or are filed separated as they are not indexed under Margaret's name. A search of correspondence from SLY will be made in the CSIL. It is unknown whether Margaret completed this apprenticeship which would have concluded in March 1874 nor whether she remained in Queensland.

William Senforth SLY had married Emily Cecilia JOHNS in Sydney in 1860.18 His connection to the family of Margaret DIXON is still unknown.

No further confirmation of Margaret has yet been identified after March 1872 but it is considered possible that she was the woman outlined below who married William Louis Richardson SMITH in Queensland in 1884.


Margaret's family has not been identified and her age recorded in documents connected to the school is often inconsistent. It is also almost certain that she has not been honest in at least one of her statements. If she had arrived in NSW in 1860 aboard the Lord Ashley she was highly unlikely to have absconded from her parents because at this time she would only have been aged between about four and seven and this is considered unlikely. The Lord Ashley however could have been her ship of arrival into NSW from New Zealand. This vessel was a colonial steamer listed as frequently making the crossing between Sydney and Nelson, New Zealand, during this decade. The voyage that left Nelson and arrived in Sydney on 15 May 1860,19 and again on 20 June 1861, carried a Mr DIXON but there were no accompanying children recorded. The man on the 1861 voyage was a soldier from the 12th Regiment.20 Margaret wasn’t recorded on any voyage of the Lord Ashley from New Zealand to Sydney. Records of the 12th Regiment have not yet been investigated.

A John DIXON, a soldier, was imprisoned in Darlinghurst in January 1870 charged with assault. John had arrived on the Rifleman in 1868.21 The Rifleman made more than one voyage in 1868.

Family Search recorded the birth on 24 June 1855, and baptism on 23 September 1855, of a Margaret Ann DIXON in St Mary, Whitechapel, Stepney, London, England. Her parents were recorded as William and Mary DIXON22 but there is no indication that this is her. St Mary Whitechapel was a Church of England and this does not match Margaret's known religion. This family has not been investigated further to see whether they appear on the 1861 or 1871 census.

Where has She Gone?

It is possible but unconfirmed that Margaret remained in Queensland after her apprenticeship ended. Investigations into possible locations for her after 1872 are inconclusive. This woman is detailed below but it has not yet been proved that she was the Newcastle admission.

To date the best marriage made by a woman named Margaret DIXON or DICKSON was to William Louis (aka Lewis) Richardson SMITH in Brisbane, Queensland, on 7 February 1884. William Louis Richardson SMITH was a miner and many mines were located around the area where Margaret was apprenticed. After their marriage William and Margaret moved from Queensland back to NSW to mining areas around Helensburg on the South Coast. The couple eventually settled in the Hunter Valley. Margaret's obituary from 1941 indicated that she had been born in England in about 1857 so these two details and the location of her marriage match what is known of the Newcastle admission.

Husband William Louis Richardson SMITH b. 186223 m. 188424 d. 193725
Daughter Jane Hannah SMITH b. 188526 m. none - d. 188527
Daughter Mary Jane SMITH b. 188628 m. (1) 1905 (2) none found (1) Richard KING29 (2) Percival30 HODGEKISS d. 196831
Son William L. SMITH b. 189032 m. none - d. 189133
Daughter Florence A. R. SMITH b. 189234 m. none - d. 189235
Son Charles Thomas Pickering SMITH b. 189436 m. none - d. 191637
Daughter Violet R. SMITH b. 189638 m. none - d. 189639
Daughter Alice Gertrude Maud SMITH b. 190140 m. 191941 William J. LEONARD d. 194442

The use of the middle name, Lawson, is unusual and it was surprising that Margaret didn't use it when she married. It is thought that the name was possibly acquired some time around 1892 as the first indication of its use came with the birth of her daughter, Florence. Margaret's obituary also identified some inconsistencies but it is unknown whether these inconsistencies were the result of lack of informant knowledge or fabrications by Margaret to hide a past and perhaps even illegitimate children. Margaret's obituary indicated that she had arrived in Australia in 1879 and stated that she had come from England to be reunited with William. This was not correct as William's obituary indicated that he had arrived in about 1882.43 An 1879 arrival puts Margaret in Australia three years before William arrived and five years before the couple married in Queensland. No suitable Queensland or NSW arrivals from around 1879 have been found for a woman of Margaret's age. It must be questioned why a Queensland marriage was not stated by descendants when it had occurred and it may be that family members did not know this fact. It also may be that 1879 was in fact William's arrival date.

William was involved in a trial in April 1905 when an explosion occurred in one the mine where he was supervisor. He was eventually discharged on the charge of manslaughter.44 William died in Greta in 1937 at the age of 75.45 His obituary indicated that he had come to Australia at the age of 20.46 When Margaret died in Greta in September 1941 her parents were identified as Henry and Jane on the NSW BDM Index. While Jane was used as a family name and their first son was named William, perhaps after his father, their second som was named Charles rather than Henry. Margaret was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Greta,47 and the difference in her religion, compared with that of the Newcastle admission, might be explained because she adopted that of the man she married or because she became disillusioned with Catholicism.

Mrs. Margaret Lawson Smith died at her home, Wyndham and Branxton Streets, Greta. She was 84. Born in England, Mrs. Smith came to Australia in 1879 to join her husband, Mr. W. L. R. Smith, who died four years ago. They lived in Queensland for a few years before coming to New South Wales where, after living in Helensburgh, Newcastle, Maitland and Cessnock, they took up residence in Greta 32 years ago. Mrs. Smith is survived by two daughters, Mesdames W. J. Leonard and W. Hodgekiss, two granddaughters, two grandsons and four great-grandchildren.48

If this is not the Newcastle admission further investigation is being undertaken to ascertain whether she could be any of the women listed below.

While it is thought that the Newcastle inmate remained in Queensland after her apprenticeship ended, there is no evidence for this belief. There were no appropriate marriages for the surname DICKSON in Queensland.

The following are potential NSW marriages that have not yet been investigated.
1. Margaret K. DIXON in 1883 (5067/1883) in Lithgow to Joseph Edward MACLEAN.
2. Margaret J. DIXON in 1886 (2431/1886) in Canterbury to Richard C. BARTLETT.
3. Margaret DICKSON in 1887 (2836/1887) in Newtown to William BARTON.

The following marriages have been briefly investigated and are remotely possible.
1. The marriage in 1873 in Wagga Wagga, NSW, of Margaret DIXON and James TUMBLERS is possible as online trees indicated that Margaret had been born in about 1850. Her parents were Thomas NIXON and Mary Ann either PEEK or WHITE.
2. The marriage in 1874 (1249/1874) in Balmain, NSW, of Margaret DICKSON and Frederick J. DODGSON is possible as online trees indicated that Margaret had been born in Australia between about 1850 and 1857. Her parents when she died in 1916 were recorded as James and Annie.
3. The marriage in 1875 in Carcoar, NSW, in 1875 (2232/1875) of Margaret DICKSON and Allen Alfred HYNDS is possible as online trees identify very little about Margaret.

The following marriages have been investigated and are unlikely to be or are definitely not her.
1. Margaret Jess DIXON married William Henry CRAFT on 26 May 1886, in Queensland (1886/000084). Before this marriage Margaret Jess DIXON was the mother of the only illegitimate DIXON birth in the Queensland BDM Index. That was the birth of the boy William Flori DIXON to Margaret Jess DIXON in 1885.49 William CRAFT had been born in about 1865. It may be that the following woman is the same person although a death of William CRAFT has not been sought. Margaret Jessie DIXON married Peter HARVEY on 3 Nov 1890, in Queensland (1890/000960). This woman had been born in 1872 so was too old.
2. Margaret Jane DIXON married Thomas Joseph CAIN on 18 Jun 1887, in Queensland (1887/002031). This woman had been born in 1866 so was too old.
3. The marriage in St Leonards, NSW, of Margaret DIXON and William TURNBULL is considered highly unlikely as relatives abound for Margaret.50
4. The marriage in Mudgee, NSW, of Margaret L. DIXON and James HARRISON cannot be her as it occurred the year she was apprenticed and online trees indicated that Margaret was Irish and born in about 1847.
5. The marriage in Petersham, NSW, in 1882 (2268/1882) of Margaret Ann DIXON and Charles SMIT cannot be her online trees indicate that this woman had been born in about 1861 in Northumberland, England.
6. The marriage in Deniliquin, NSW, in 1891 (3623/1891) of Margaret DICKSON and Charles H. HOOPER cannot be her as online trees indicate that this woman had been born in about 1872.
7. The marriage of Margaret DIXON in 1894 (2424/1894) in Bega, NSW, to William MACNAMARA has her born in Australia in 1874.
8. The marriage in Grafton, NSW, in 1899 (5867/1899) of Margaret V. DICKSON and Henry E. LEESON is unlikely as online trees indicate that this woman had been born in about 1873.
9. The marriage in Bingara, NSW, in 1900 (3368/1900) of Margaret C. DIXON and Frank B. BALDOCK is unlikely as online trees indicate that this woman had been born in about 1874.
10. The marriage in Lismore, NSW, in 1900 (8941/1900) of Margaret DIXON and Joseph SUFFOLK is unlikely as online trees indicate that this woman had been born in about 1880.

There are no potential gaol admissions for a woman arriving on either the Lord Ashley or born in England in about 1856. There are no further appropriate appearances on Trove for Margaret DIXON or DICKSON. There is a Funeral Notice in the SMH on 3 April 1884, reporting that a Margaret DIXON had died in England on 24 January 1884, at the age of 26 but it is thought that this record is very unlikely to refer to the Newcastle admission.

Updated October 2017

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