Esther HOBBS
Name Variations EAVEN, EVANS, HEAVEN
Father (1) unknown b. m. d. England
Step-father (2) Thomas HOBBS b. 18271 m.c. 1861 d. 18832
Step-father (3) Richard DANE3 b.c. 18194 m. none d. 18745
Step-father (4) unknown CORNELL6 b. m. none d.
Step-father (5) unknown MILLER7 b. m. none d.
Mother Eliza Jane aka Eliza Lucretia aka Elizabeth HEAVEN8 b.c. 18369 m.c. (1) unknown (2) 1861 (3) unknown (4) unknown (5) unknown d. 191510
Inmate Esther HOBBS aka HEAVEN b. 185711 m. (1) 1881 (2) 1884 (see below) d. 191912
Sister Ellen HOBBS b.c. 186213 m. none - d.c. 186414
Half-brother William John HOBBS b.c. 186415 m. Ulalah Lena MATTHEWS d. 193716
Half-brother Stephen HOBBS b. 186617 m. 191918 Mary Emily BOOT d. 192419
Half-sister Ellen Jane HOBBS b. 186820 m. 188721 John W. HOLDER d. 194022
Half-sister Elizabeth Emma HOBBS b. 187023 m. 189224 James Thomas FLETCHER d. 189425
Half-brother Thomas Edwin HOBBS b. 187226 m. Rosetta PARR d. 195427
Half-brother George Edgar HOBBS b. 187428 m. none - d. 188529
Half-brother James Charles HOBBS b. 187730 m. 1900 Florence Maude McKENZIE d. 193531
Husband (1) Joseph WILLIAMS b. 183932 m. 188133 d. 188334
Husband (2) George Arthur BENNETT b. 184635 m. 188436 d. 193237
Son Joseph J. WILLIAMS38 b. 187739 m. d.
Daughter Eliza WILLIAMS b. 187840 m. 190041 John Findlay42 ELLIS43 d. 194744
Daughter Amy WILLIAMS b. 187945 m. none - d. 188146
Son Amos Arthur WILLIAMS b. 188247 m. d. 196248
Daughter Mary Maud BENNETT b. 188549 m. 1911 William Thomas PEARCE d. 1952
Son George Arthur BENNETT b. 188750 m. d. 192551
Daughter Violette Alice BENNETT b. 189052 m. 192353 Leslie W. HARGREAVES d. 197354
Daughter Ruby Elsie BENNETT b. 189255 m. 192356 John HOLDER d. 197557
Son Harold Charles BENNETT b. 1896 m. none - d. 1903
Son Walter James BENNETT b. 189858 m. d. 1959
Daughter Hilda Myrtle BENNETT b. 1901 m. d. 1929
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Step-father Thomas59 48 5' 6½" grey blue sallow slight can read & write
Half-brother James60 16 5'2" black grey sallow slight can write
Half-brother Thomas HOBBS61 17 5' light brown blue fair slight

WARNING: The story of the HOBBS family may cause distress.

The circumstances of Esther's arrest are confronting and were widely reported in newspapers across NSW. At this time in the history of NSW there were few options available to constables to protect at-risk children so it must be considered that the charges under which Esther was arrested were made to ensure her removal from a dangerous situation. On 26 September 1867, Esther appeared before the Braidwood Bench charged under the Act for the Relief of Destitute Children with being a common prostitute after being arrested by sergeant STAFFORD at her parents' residence at Fagan's Creek near Braidwood. A witness, the digger reported variously as Frederick STEELE62 or STEPHENS,63 deposed that he had witnessed a 'criminal intercourse' on Christmas Day 1866, between Esther and a man named Richard DANE64 who lived next door to her parents.65 STEELE stated that he had seen Esther often going into DANE's hut. Esther was described as being about ten or eleven years of age. DANE had been tried at the Braidwood Criminal Sessions the previous March for assaulting Esther but was discharged when she refused to give the same evidence that she had provided at the Police Court.66 At Esther's trial Constable GILDER deposed that he had known Esther’s father and mother for the last three years. He said that they were both habitual drunkards and that her mother was a prostitute. Instead of assisting the prosecution of DANE,67 for assaulting Esther, he stated that her parents had 'thrown every obstacle in the way.' Further information given in the Braidwood Examiner stated that 'the father and mother still allow anyone to take indecent liberties with her' and receive the money paid. GILDER also gave evidence that Esther and her brothers and sisters were left for days without anyone to take care of them. None of her siblings were identified in this report.

Esther was sent to Newcastle where she was admitted on 8 October 1867. She was recorded as a seven-year-old Protestant. Her level of education was described as 'Alphabet writing on slate.'68 Esther was recorded on SELWYN's list of Protestant students69 compiled shortly after her arrival and in direct opposition to statements made by the constables, her medical assessment by Dr HARRIS indicated that she was a virgin.70

Esther was transferred with the rest of the school to Biloela in May 1871. On 16 December 1871, her mother, identified as Mrs Eliza HOBBS of Fagan's Creek,71 applied for Esther's release from Biloela. Eliza wrote that she had lost the use of her left hand due to rheumatism but had been offered the chance to be a teacher at a private school in the area. She would be able to employ a servant for three shillings a week so she hoped it would be possible for her to employ her own daughter. The police report72 on Eliza was extremely unfavourable. It stated that her claim of a teaching position was a lie. Even though LUCAS described Esther as 'always well conducted and should no obstacle exist in the character of the parents, I have no objection to offer to her discharge', the notation on the report stated that the 'application must be refused and the girl apprenticed out.' Senior constable William STAFFORD wrote:

If this girl be released and allowed to come home to her parents, the good morals taught her at the Industrial School will be forever lost, because the example her parents will set her at home, cannot do other wise than cause her by degrees to relapse into her former habits of vice.
It would be far better for this girl if she could be bound to some respectable master or mistress and never to come home to them for it is their misconduct and example that has ruined her, and had been the cause of sending her to the place she now is.73

The application was therefore rejected and Esther was recorded as 'In the Institution' by LUCAS in his April 1872 list.74 Her first apprenticeship from Biloela was to J. B. R. or B. A. R.75 ROBERTSON, Esq., of Morpeth near Maitland on 19 May 1872.76 These indentures were cancelled by the Bench of Magistrates at West Maitland although no date for the cancellation was recorded in the Entrance Book and no report has been located in the newspapers. Esther's next apprenticeship was as a domestic servant to Mr William H. HOSKINGS, Ashfield, on 14 June 1873, for a period of five years.77 Eighteen months later, on 8 February 1875, Esther was brought to court, by constable MOLONEY, for absenting herself from her indentures which were then cancelled by mutual consent78 and she was readmitted to Biloela79 the same day.80 On 7 July 1875, Esther was again apprenticed to Malcolm McCALLUM of Longreach near Marulan.81 Her correspondence to the Colonial Secretary begging to be released, confirmed that McCALLUM owned Gibraltar Farm located '8 miles from the Marulan station and 1½ from Longreach.'82 Esther wrote83 from the farm on 23 October 1875.

I am writing to ask you if you will kindly let me know if you are going to let me go home. I am now 8 years away from my mothers and I am of age. If you remember Mrs WALKER84 sent you the registar. If my births a month goo and I have not heard about my release I do so hope you will write and let me know that you are going to let me go please Sir you have children of your own so I hope you will take pity upon me and let me go to my poor mother I know what it is to be a prisnor now quite long enough If I don't hear from you I will go to my mother myself. I will not stop at my place. Hoping Dear Sir you will let me know if I am to go by return of post. you will oblige your most obedient servant Esther Hobbs
Please sir will you send me my release by return of post. That is if you mean to let me go but I hope and trust with all my hart you will let me go.
My address is
Esther Hobbs
Gibraltar Farm
via[?] Marulan

John WILLIAMS, the Crown Solicitor, when returning the papers, indicated that it was Attorney General DALBY's belief that Esther's apprenticeship had been illegal so her indentures were cancelled85 and she returned to her mother very early in 1876. Until this point in time Esther had been known as HOBBS. The reason for her change of surname is unknown. It may be that, as almost ten years had passed, it was changed to protect herself from the stigma of her past so she adopted a version of her surname at birth – EVANS rather than HEAVEN or EAVEN. It may also be that as she had been baptised with this name she chose to marry under the name provided on her baptism and a transcription error occurred in the church record. It may be that because her step-father had died she divested herself of his name. Using the name Esther EVANS, she became the mother to two, possibly three, illegitimate children whose births were registered in Braidwood, Goulburn and Sydney between 1877 and 1881. On 21 May 1881, in St Andrew's Manse,86 in Goulburn, Esther married, Joseph, the widower of Grace WILLIAMS. Joseph, the son of Antonia and Rose WILLIAMS,87 who was likely to have been the father to most, if not all, of Esther's first three children, was a tanner who had been born in Portugal.88 He died in 1883 in Goulburn. On 8 March 1884,89 Esther, the widow of Joseph WILLIAMS, married George BENNETT of Goulburn. The family moved to Sydney where further children were born.

Esther died as Esther Emily BENNETT on 12 June 1919, in Sydney at the age of 62. It is thought that Emily was an acquired name. Her death was confirmed in Funeral Notices placed by her sister, Ellen HOLDER and her niece, Mrs HOBBS.90 She was buried in the Church of England cemetery, Rookwood.91 When George died on 12 September 1932, her surviving children from both marriages were confirmed in his Funeral Notice.92 George was buried with Esther and their son, Harold, at Rookwood.93


Esther’s parents were identified in the Entrance Book as Thomas and Elizabeth HOBBS. Thomas was described as a gold digger and the family lived at Little River near Braidwood. Esther had arrived in Sydney at the age of six with her mother, Eliza, step-father, Thomas, and her baby brother, William, as assisted immigrants aboard the Sir Robert Sale on 29 October 1864. Subsequent birth registrations for Thomas and Eliza Jane or Elizabeth HOBBS were made in Braidwood. Esther had been born in Manton, Wiltshire. Thomas's parents were William and Jane HOBBS and Eliza's parents were John and Esther EAVEN. The Deposit Journals indicated that the family had been sponsored by Hannah M. SMITH, the wife of Richard SMITH, Thomas's uncle.94 Thomas and Eliza's other daughter, Ellen, who had been baptised in Preshute, Wiltshire,95 appeared on the deposit journal but not on the Sir Robert Sale indent so did not arrive in NSW. She was thought to have died. Payments of the deposits were made at Braidwood96 so it is likely that extended family members also lived in the Braidwood area. A man named Richard HOBBS, also from Little River, gave evidence in the assault case immediately after Esther’s trial although this man may have been a newspaper reporting or compositing error and have been either Richard DEAN or Richard SMITH.

Newspaper reports of Esther's ancestry differed. Some newspapers identified that Thomas was her step-father and others suggested that Esther was the couple's illegitimate child. The police report written in December 1871 as a result of a character assessment of Eliza clarified the situation stating that:

"Easthar Hobbs" is an illegitimate child she had before she married Hobbs.97

Esther was the illegitimate daughter of Eliza Jane HEAVEN and only records from Wiltshire are likely to disclose the identity of her father. It may very well have been the man known to be her step-father, Thomas. Esther was baptised on 4 October 1857, in Preshute, Wiltshire, as Esther HEAVEN.98 No marriage has yet been identified on Family Search or FreeREG for Thomas and Eliza but they were recorded as husband and wife on the 1861 census in Preshute, Wiltshire, where they were living with John HEAVEN, Eliza's father. Eliza's mother wasn't recorded with the family on the 1861C and was identified as deceased on the Sir Robert Sale indent. Esther was not with her mother and grandfather on the 1861 census and she has not yet been located. The birth registration for Thomas and Eliza's son, Thomas Edwin HOBBS, made in NSW on 28 August 1872, recorded that their date of marriage as 17 June 1860, at Preshute. His birth registration confirmed that his mother was Eliza Jane HEAVER.99 Seven children were born to the couple in NSW and were registered in Braidwood. In 1872, details of at least one of these births was provided to the Colonial Secretary by the local police after Eliza applied for Esther's release from Biloela. Many startling and frank statements, that have not been reproduced here, were documented by William STAFFORD, the senior constable at Mongarlowe,100 who further wrote that:101

"Eliza Hobbs" although she is a married woman is a common prostitute, not only for the money she receives herself from persons with whom she agrees with; as it is said that her husband has been often paid by others for the purpose of allowing them to gratify their lustful desires with her.

There is little doubt that Thomas and Eliza were the couple named in the inquest into the death of Richard DANE at Little River, reported in the Braidwood Examiner on 18 September 1874.102 This report indicated that the wife of 'HOBBS' had at some time cohabited with the murdered man. Richard was almost certainly the same Richard DANE or DEANE who was involved in Esther’s abuse and trial. Richard died intestate and these papers would be interesting to read.103 Thomas and James HOBBS spent time in Braidwood gaol and another son, Thomas, spent time in Goulburn gaol. Descendants confirmed that Thomas died at the age of fifty-six in 1883 in the Liverpool Asylum.

Eliza remarried twice after Thomas's death but no re-marriages as either Elizabeth or Eliza HOBBS have yet been confirmed in NSW. In 1887, four years after Thomas died, and at the marriage of her daughter, Ellen, permission for the marriage was provided by 'Elizabeth Cornell, by former marriage Hobbs, mother of the bride.'104 Online sources suggest that Eliza’s second name was Lucretia. No confirmation of this name can be found and it is likely that Lucretia was a name adopted by Eliza.

Updated August 2016

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