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 the night of Saturday, 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 further added that Margaret's parents lived in New Zealand and that 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' so she believed that her age brought her within the meaning of the Act.5 Margaret was subsequently sent to Newcastle. The section of the Entrance Book containing details concerning her family, age, religion, education and discharge details has not survived so no confirmation of any of Margaret's personal information can be made from this source.

On 22 March 1871, 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, recorded that Margaret had spent seven days confined in the cells for being 'disorderly' whilst imprisoned.9 The May punishment return recorded further punishments as Margaret and Catherine HARDING had again been punished for 'striking a fellow prisoner'. The report suggested that the pair had been fighting with each other. They were separated within the gaol for the remainder of their sentence.10 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 imprisoned in Maitland Gaol at the time the lists were compiled but they verified that Margaret was fifteen years of age and a Catholic.11

Margaret had been on Biloela for some months when on the evening of Monday, 15 October 1871, in company with seven other girls12 she escaped from the dormitory. The group was eventually arrested by constable DICK while still on the island but not before 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 laid against the group 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 so all the girls were admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol. The gaol 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 as 18 and the record confirmed that she had been born in London.14 After her release from Darlinghurst on 16 December 1871, Margaret was returned to Biloela.

In his report on 25 March 1872, LUCAS indicated that Margaret had been discharged as an apprentice15 and it was confirmed on his April 1872 list that she had been apprenticed to Mr SLY in Queensland.16 The request for an apprenticeship to Mr and Mrs SLY made on 20 March 1872, specifically requested Margaret. The letter making this request was at least the second in a series of letters.17 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 near Marybororough, Queensland, was made on 19 March 1872. Degilbo Station was approximately 300 kilometres NW of Brisbane. Margaret's apprenticeship was to last 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.18 The first letter/s in this correspondence have either not survived or are filed separated as they are not indexed under either Margaret's or SLY's name. There is no further correspondence concerning SLY indexed in the CSIL. It may possible to track some unindexed correspondence that may identify the first communication regarding the apprenticeship. Margaret's apprenticeship with SLY would have concluded in March 1874 but it is unknown whether the apprenticeship was completed. It is also unknown whether she remained in Queensland after she left his station.

William Senforth SLY had married Emily Cecilia JOHNS in Sydney in 1860.19 His connection to the family of Margaret DIXON is still unknown but it must be considered that there was one as he had personally requested her as an apprentice.

No further confirmation of Margaret has yet been identified after March 1872 but it is possible that she was the woman outlined below who married William Louis Richardson SMITH in Queensland in 1884. The birth of a child in 1901 does cause pause to attribute the marriage to her but a birth at 55 may perhaps record a possible illegitimate birth to one of her daughters which was subsequently protected by the family as had occurred with the birth of Isabella WHITE. Margaret's wildness also must be considered as a unlikely trait of a dedicated mother but, as was the case of Sarah Jane WILDGUST a complete turnaround was possible.


Margaret's family has not been identified and her age recorded in documents connected to the school is often inconsistent. The length of her apprenticeship is to date the best indication of her age so it is thought that she had been born in about 1856 although she may have been older. It is also almost certain that Margaret 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 so an arrival date alone at this time is considered extremely unlikely. The Lord Ashley however could have been her ship of arrival to NSW from New Zealand. This vessel was a colonial steamer frequently recorded during this decade making the crossing between Sydney and Nelson, New Zealand. The voyage that left Nelson and arrived in Sydney on 15 May 1860,20 and again on 20 June 1861, carried a Mr DIXON but there were no accompanying children recorded on the voyage. The man on the 1861 voyage was a soldier from the 12th Regiment.21 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.

Who was Margaret DIXON?

John DIXON, a soldier, was imprisoned in Darlinghurst in January 1870 charged with assault. He stated that he had arrived on the Rifleman in 1868.22 The Rifleman made more than one voyage in 1868.

A William DIXON died in Sydney in 1866 and the NSW BDM Index identified that his mother was named Margaret.23

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 DIXON24 but there is no indication that this is her and her family. St Mary Whitechapel was a Church of England church 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 and are considered unlikely.

Where has She Gone?

It is possible but unconfirmed that Margaret remained in Queensland after her apprenticeship ended but investigations into possible locations for her after 1872 are inconclusive.

To date the best marriage made by a woman named Margaret DIXON, DIXSON 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 in 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 Margaret DIXON although it has not yet been proved that she was the Newcastle admission.

Husband William Louis Richardson SMITH b. 186225 m. 188426 d. 193727
Daughter Jane Hannah SMITH b. 188528 m. none - d. 188529
Daughter Mary Jane SMITH b. 188630 m. (1) 1905 (2) none found (1) Richard KING31 (2) Percival32 HODGEKISS d. 196833
Son William L. SMITH b. 189034 m. none - d. 189135
Daughter Florence A. R. SMITH b. 189236 m. none - d. 189237
Son Charles Thomas Pickering SMITH b. 189438 m. none - d. 191639
Daughter Violet R. SMITH b. 189640 m. none - d. 189641
Daughter Alice Gertrude Maud SMITH b. 190142 m. 191943 William J. LEONARD d. 194444

Margaret's use of the middle name, Lawson, is unusual and it was surprising that she didn't use it when she married. The first indication of its use came with the birth of Margaret's daughter Florence in 1892. This middle name may have been acquired. 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, probably after his father, their second son was named Charles rather than Henry so the accuracy of these given names cannot be confirmed. Margaret was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Greta.45 This variation in her religion compared with that of the Newcastle admission, might be explained because she adopted the religion of the her husband.

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.46

William SMITH had been born in Brumhill, England47 and was a masterman sinker who progressively advanced through the levels of mine responsibility. He was involved in a trial in April 1905 when an explosion occurred in one of the mines where he was a supervisor but was eventually discharged on the charge of manslaughter.48 William died in Greta in 1937 at the age of 7549 and his obituary recorded that he had come to Australia at the age of 20.50

There is evidence of inconsistency in the obituaries of William and Margaret. These errors can be easily explained through the poor family memory or lack of knowledge of their descendants but they could also be a result of fabrications created by Margaret to hide a past and perhaps even illegitimate children. Margaret's obituary implied that she had arrived in Australia in 1879 from England in order to be reunited with her husband William. The suggestion was that the couple had married in England. Evidence of a marriage exists in Australia so it is hard to understand why her children did not know where their parents married. William's obituary placed him in Australia in about 188251 and an 1879 arrival for Margaret would have placed her in Australia three years before William 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 is possible that the arrival date of 1879 was for William but not arrivals for him have been investigated.

If the wife of William SMITH was 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 possibly remained in Queensland after her apprenticeship ended there is no evidence for this belief. There were no appropriate marriages in Queensland for Margaret using the surname DICKSON.

The following are potential NSW marriages before 1900 that have not yet been investigated.
1. Margaret K. DIXON in 1883 (5067/1883) in Lithgow to Joseph Edward MACLEAN. There have been no online trees yet found for this couple to July 2018.
2. Margaret DICKSON in 1887 (2836/1887) in Newtown to William BARTON. There have been no online trees yet found for this couple to July 2018.

The following marriages before 1900 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 before 1900 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 1885.52 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 young.
2. Margaret Jane DIXON married Thomas Joseph CAIN on 18 Jun 1887, in Queensland (1887/002031). This woman had been born in 1866 and had arrived in Queensland in 1886.
3. The marriage in St Leonards, NSW, of Margaret DIXON and William TURNBULL is considered highly unlikely as relatives abound for Margaret.53
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 so she was too young.
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 so she was too young.
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 so she was too young.
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 so she was too young
11. The marriage of Margaret Jane DIXON in 1886 (2431/1886) in Canterbury to Richard Charles BARTLETT cannot be her. Both were described as residents of Parramatta when they married on 25 January 1886.54 Margaret died on 30 January 1923 at the age of 62, putting her year of birth as about 1861.55 Her parents were recorded as Gilbert and Sarah Ann on the NSW BDM Index56 and a registration for this girl showed that she had been born in Camden in 1860.57

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, DIXSON 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 was very unlikely to refer to the Newcastle admission.

Updated July 2018

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