Name Variations HARPER1
Step-father John HILLIARD or HILLARD b. m. (1) 1842 d. aft. 1842
Father Richard HARPUR b. 1832 m. (2) none d. aft. 1870
Mother Anne RICHARDSON aka RICHARDS b.c. 1823 m. (1) 1842 (2) none d. aft. 1870
Inmate Annie HARPUR b. 18572 m. none - d. 18743
Brother Thomas HARPER b. 18604 m. none - d. 18605
Brother Richard HARPER b. 18626 m. d.
Sister Bertha Selina aka Selina Bertha HARPER b. 18657 m. (1) 18808 (2) 18919 (3) 190010 (1) James EARL (2) John Henry TREHEARNE (3) Alfred Ernest CHAMPION d. 192611
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Mother Anne12 38 5' 0" brown blue fresh stout 1 Child confine [?]

Annie HARPUR was in company with Alexander JACKSON when they appeared before the court on 27 March 1870,13 on warrant under the Industrial Schools Act. She had been arrested at her father's residence in Little Hunter-street by sergeant DWYER for being the associate of prostitutes. This house was described as a 'regular resort for women of ill fame.'14 From the court, JACKSON was sent to the Vernon and Annie was sent to Newcastle where she was admitted on 1 April 1870,15 although this date was also recorded as 2 April.16 No reports for Annie can be located in either gaol records or in the newspapers before this arrest or after her release in 1873. The admission records for the industrial school for this date have not survived so no confirmation, of age, family, educational, religious or discharge details are available in the Entrance Book.17

Annie was a Protestant. While newspaper articles reported that she was ten, the transfer lists compiled in May 1871, indicated that she had been thirteen at the time of her admission. She was further identified as a 14-year-old on an additional list of older girls compiled by LUCAS at the time of the transfer to Biloela.18 Once she reached Biloela, LUCAS identified that Annie was eligible for service in his letter to the Colonial Secretary on 23 June 1871. Her age on this record was also recorded as fourteen.19 As these records would have been compiled from the original admission record, they are considered most accurate and they therefore refute the age of ten recorded in the newspapers.

Annie transferred to Biloela in 1871 and was recorded by LUCAS as 'In the Institution' on his 1872 list compiled in April of that year.20 She was still on Cockatoo Island in July 1873, when in five consecutive reports sent to the Colonial Secretary, LUCAS reported that she was confined in the school hospital. A letter concerning her condition, written by the visiting surgeon on 8 July, was attached to LUCAS's first and last reports.21 The poor handwriting on both records makes these letters very difficult to read.

I have the honor to inform you that the girl named in the margin – has been ???ing some time (as per [?] [?] ?ook). She is now in hospital suffering from debility and an affliction to the heart[?] the sequence of Rheumatic Fever which she says she had six years ago before [?] [?] into this institution. I consider her [?] to [?] very [?] although there is no immediate [?] of her death.

The doctor erroneously recorded that the name of this sick inmate in the margin was 'Mary HARPER aged about 16'22 but this was confirmed as an administrative error when LUCAS specifically referred to this letter in his report where he correctly identified that the inmate's name was Annie. The doctor's final letter, written on 4 August 1873, stated:

I have the honor to report that "Annie Harpur" committed as per ??? last report into hospital is now convalescent and discharged.23

In his report on 25 August 1873, LUCAS stated that Annie had again been admitted to the hospital24 and she was still there at the time of his next report on 1 September.25 Annie was finally released from the hospital on 2 September 1873,26 and no further correspondence for her has been found after this date.

No discharge details from Biloela have been located for Annie and without being certain of her discharge location, no further events are able to be confidently attributed to her. While no further records in the CSIL have been identified for Annie, she must have been discharged between September 1873 and 27 November 1873, the date that George and Mary Ann LUCAS were suspended.27 John Ledger DALE was appointed as the temporary Officer in Charge of Biloela from November 1873 and he was quite thorough in his communications with the Colonial Secretary. It seems very likely that LUCAS would have returned discharged Annie soon after her discharge from the school hospital and almost certainly to a location in Sydney for these reasons:

1. The general trend was to discharge girls to an area where they had been arrested or where they had family members or friends.
2. Annie was not in robust health and LUCAS, who was criticised at the time and for whom few reports have since been located, was possibly very inconvenienced by the degree of paperwork Annie necessitated.
3. LUCAS was less conscientious than his predecessor, CLARKE and successor, DALE, so his investigation of an appropriate apprenticeship location was likely to have been non-existent or cursory at best.

The last confirmation of Annie occurred after her last release from the Biloela school hospital in September 1873. Because Annie's health had not been good prior to her admission to Newcastle and because she had been quite ill at the school, the 1874 Sydney death of the 17-year-old girl of this name is almost certainly that of the Newcastle admission. The NSW BDM Index indicated that an Annie HARPER had died on 15 May 1874, nine months after her last known hospital admission at the Biloela institution. Annie's age by May 1874 would have been 17 as she was recorded as 14 in May 1871.28 Annie had been in the Sydney Infirmary at the time of her death. She was buried at Rookwood Cemetery on 16 May 1874, in the Old Church of England section, Zone B Section J Plot 17 (Grave number 1087).29 The undertaker was G. SHYING.30 The original death registration has not been viewed but is not thought to contain any further details about Annie or her ancestry.


While Annie's ancestry cannot be absolutely confirmed and is based on only the circumstantial evidence outlined here, it is believed that her birth and death details are correct. All other girls found with this name have been investigated and found not to be the Newcastle admission. All reliable age records for Annie indicate that she had been born in about 1857 or 1858. If her birth had been registered, the most appropriate registration had been made in Sydney in 1858 and it is believed that this registration is correct. The registration for Annie HARPUR recorded that she had been born in Gloucester Street, Sydney, on 29 November 1857, and was the daughter of Richard and Ann H. HARPER. The couple stated that they had married in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1856. A Mrs HILLARD, who was almost certainly connected to Anne's first husband, was present at the birth.31 After Annie's birth, Richard and Ann Hillard HARPER went on to have three more children, Selina aka Bertha, Thomas and Richard. Mo marriage for this couple has been located in either NSW or Melbourne. It is considered unlikely that any marriage occurred because the arrival of Annie's mother has been found in NSW records.

Other than Annie's age and the frequent mention of the location of Gloucester Street, Sydney, no verification of this family has been made. No HARPER or HARPUR families can be found in Sands Directory living in Little Hunter-street, the location identified in the newspapers for Annie's father in 1870,32 however the City of Sydney Archives indicated that in 1855, Little Hunter Street was the residence of a Mrs HARPER. The house she rented was owned by Henry COHEN.33 No later records have been located. A search for the surname HILLIARD or HILLARD in Sand's Directory or the City of Sydney Archives may disclose more.

It is believed that the Richard HARPUR recorded at 93 Gloucester Street, Sydney, in 1864 and 1865 was Annie's father. Richard HARPUR had been born in Dublin, Ireland, in about 1832 and when Annie was born he was recorded as a fireman.34 By 1863 he was also reported to be a labourer when he was a witness to a stabbing incident in Sydney.35 No confirmation of the Richard HARPER or HARPUR has been identified in any newspaper after 1863. The only death in NSW that may refer to him was registered in Parramatta in 1890. This man's parents were unknown36 He was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Rookwood, (Zone B, Section MM, Grave 933) on 29 July 1890. He was 6537 so had been born in about 1825. All other men with this name who died in NSW before 1930 have been identified.

A search of Sands Directory indicated that Richard HARPER or HARPUR was one of two men having families in the Sydney area during the 1850s. The butcher of this name was living at 675 George Street, Sydney, in 1865.38 This man was not the butcher who murdered his wife in 186339 as this event, reprinted from The New Zealander and the Southern Cross newspapers, had occurred in New Zealand.40 One other man of this name was also a butcher. He lived in Parramatta and had married Mary Ann HUGHES. Neither the Sydney man nor the Parramatta man, at this point, are thought to be connected to Annie's family.

No gaol admissions have been located that might suit Richard. While it has not been confirmed, the Darlinghurst Gaol admissions in 1851 probably referred to a seaman who had jumped ship from the Emperor. This man had been born in 1830 in Plymouth41 and it is considered unlikely that a man born in Ireland could have lied about his place of birth.

Annie's birth registration recorded that her mother, described as Ann HILLARD late RICHARDS, had been born in London in about 1828.42 Identifying her requires the compilation of many records. Court appearances for an Ann/e HARPER prior to Annie's admission to Newcastle commence in the 1850s, and therefore refer to an older woman. An Ann HARPER had appeared in court in 1858 where her address was recorded as Gloucester Street,43 the same address shown on Annie's birth registration. This appearance resulted in an admission to Darlinghurst that confirmed that she had been born in London, England, in about 1820, the same location described on the birth registration. Her admission record was marked as 'CS' so it may be that she had already had a prior colonial sentence. The notation in the description column stated, '1 child confine', which almost certainly indicated that a child had been confined with her in the gaol. It is believed that this child was Annie. These gaol records identified that Ann HARPER had arrived in 1840 aboard the Earl Grey.44 The address, birth location and approximate age provided at the time of the court appearance matched the details recorded on the birth registration in 1858 so it is almost certain that these reports refer to Ann, the wife of Richard HARPER. Ann was also very likely to have been the woman who, in company with Ellen FLOOD, stole from a draper in Pitt Street in 186445 and who was further ordered to keep the peace against Jane BUSH on 1 December 1871.46 The Earl Grey indent for 1841 identified the Protestant, Anne RICHARDSON, who had been born in Ratcliff, London, in about 1823. Her parents were John and Mary Ann RICHARDSON. The indent contained the statement that Ann was 'an honest sober girl'.47

Within a year of arriving in Sydney and as Anne RICHARDSON, she had married John HILLIARD.48 This marriage was very likely the reason that no marriage for Richard HARPUR and Anne has been identified. It is very unlikely that the 1854 Melbourne marriage that the couple identified in registrations available on the NSW BDM as this would have meant that Anne had married bigamously. No children were recorded for John and Anne HILLIARD. It may be that John died in Windsor in 1863 at the age of 52.49 It cannot be confirmed whether the Ann HILLIARD (and variations) also from London, who stated that she had arrived aboard the George Marshall in 1856, was the same woman who was often admitted to Darlinghurst Gaol between 1866 and 1873. This ship did arrive in NSW in 1856 and 1857 but was unlikely to be an immigrant ship. Could this have been Anne RICHARDSON lying about her ship of arrival? She was unlikely to be the Anne HILLIARD who was in gaol stating that she had arrived on the Digby as this woman was Catholic. The death of Ann HILLIARD in 1876 may refer to one of these two women. It is unlikely to refer to the Newcastle admission's mother even though her parents recorded on the NSW BDM Index were John and Mary,50 the same parents identified on the Earl Grey indent. The Sydney, Australia, Cemetery Headstone Transcriptions, 1837-2003 on Ancestry indicated that this woman had five children and was a married Catholic.

An online tree for Bertha Selina HARPER is for the woman very strongly suspected of being Annie's sister. This tree identified that Richard HARPER and Ann Hannah RICHARDSON had married in Melbourne in 1854 although, as indicated above, it is thought that this was not true and the couple had never married. The tree identified that Ann Hannah RICHARDSON had been born in London in about 1832 and that Richard had been born in Dublin in about 1833.51 The tree unfortunately also indicated that Bertha Selina had been born in California and without viewing her NSW birth registration, this cannot be confirmed, although it is believed that this was an administrative error by the tree owner. An American birth location is quite unlikely especially considering that Bertha Selina had two older brothers who were registered in NSW. Aalthough it would not be impossible, any trip to America would have had to have been very quick. No record of a HARPER/RICHARDSON/HILLIER marriage has yet been identified. This missing evidence was typical of girls admitted to Newcastle and therefore is strong circumstantial evidence that this may be Annie's family. Selina's death notice in the SMH identified no siblings.52

Where has She Gone?

All girls named Ann/i/e or Hannah HARPUR or HARPER who were born in NSW or who arrived in time to be the Newcastle admission are unlikely to be or unable to be the the girl sent to the industrial school. Although the death in 1874 is considered almost certain to be that of the Newcastle admission, the following information has been left to avoid completing it again.

It is not possible for Annie to be the Hannah HARPUR who was involved with her mother and sister, Lucy, in the attack on Mrs. BOHN and who was described at the time as a prostitute. This woman was the daughter of John Erskine HARPER and Elizabeth FERGUSON and she had married George AYERS, the son of John AYERS and Sarah HANCOCK, on 4 July 1871, in the Wesleyan Church, York Street, Sydney. The witnesses were John GODFREY and Plaiseum DAVIS. George had been born in England and Hannah in Sydney. This marriage occurred while Annie HARPUR was still on Biloela and this woman was was born in 1854 making her three years older than the Newcastle admission.

While there was a Stephen HARPUR in Sydney in 1866 charged with a rape on Jemima BUTCHER,53 Annie was very unlikely to be the daughter of Stephen HARPER. This woman had been baptised in 1855 so was two years older than the Newcastle admission and probably married in Cooma in 1884. There is a private tree online for her.

Annie was not a child of the 33-year-old Johanna Ann HARPER who died in Baldock's Lane in 1876. This woman was very unlikely to have had a child in 1858 as at the time of her death she was identified as the mother of four children and these children were all born around 1870. Her family was therefore too young.

An Annie HARPUR gave evidence in a trial at Singleton. She was a servant in the employ of Cornelius HAYES, the publican at Singleton. It is believed that the Newcastle admission was very unlikely to have been apprenticed from Biloela to an area outside Sydney for the reasons outlined above. Even in the unlikely event that the Newcastle admission was sent from Sydney to Singleton, it must be further considered that there was already a HARPER family living in the Singleton area to whom this witness may be connected.

It should also be considered that this Singleton woman was the same Annie McCRAE alias Annie HARPER who in 1887 did not register the birth of a child in Quirindi. This woman's ancestry is known to her descendants who have eliminated her as the Newcastle admission.54

The Ann/i/e aka Hannah HARPER in Broken Hill Gaol had been born in England in about 1852 and had arrived on the Calcutta in 1857.55 She was too old to be the Newcastle girl by five years.

The Annie HARPER who was admitted to Biloela Gaol had been born in England in about 1866 and had arrived on the Star Queen in 1876.

The Hannah HARPER in Darlinghurst tried at the CPC on 16 August 1876, was also unlikely to be this woman although she may be Anne senior.56 There is no way of verifying the age of this woman as drunks were usually not named in the newspapers and only one record in Darlinghurst Gaol has been found for that year.

The Frances HARPER who was born in about 1847 who was living in a lane off Liverpool street between Sussex and Kent Streets may be a possible sister.57

In 1882 an Annie HARPUR of 198 Palmer Street, Sydney, pawned a watch which was then stolen.58 It is thought that this incident was undertaken by one of the eliminated women outlined above.

The woman appearing in Hay Police Court who spent periods of time in Hay gaol in March 187959 is also considered unlikely. This woman was further charged as a vagrant in May60 and June 1880.61 No ages were recorded in her court appearances.

Updated November 2018

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