Ellen LEWIS
Name Variations LOUIS1
Father 'supposed to be European' b. m. d.
Mother aboriginal b. m. d.
Inmate Ellen LEWIS b.c. 1861 m. (see below) d. aft. 1879

The Police Gazette recorded that Ellen was under twelve when she was arrested by constable WARREN from Cassilis. She was charged with being destitute and sleeping in the open air.2 No court cases have yet been located recording Ellen's trial but the Entrance Book indicated that she had been tried in Cassilis and not in Muswellbrook. KING reported Ellen's arrival in her report of 24 November 1868,3 and her admission to the school was recorded on 23 November. She was described in the Entrance Book as a seven-year-old Protestant who was unable to read or write.4

Ellen transferred with the school to Biloela and was recorded by LUCAS as 'In the Institution' in his April 1872 list.5 Ellen's admission details were confirmed by LUCAS on 10 December 1873, the date she was apprenticed to Mr F. OLLIVER of Drummond House,6 Liverpool, for six years. LUCAS stated that Ellen was twelve and had been conducting herself well. She was to be paid a shilling a week for the first two years, two shillings a week for the third and fourth years and three shillings a week for the final two years.7 On 28 April 1876, Ellen appeared before the Liverpool Police Court where the indentures between her and OLLIVER were cancelled.8 These indentures were cancelled at her request as she complained of ill-treatment on the part of the OLLIVERS.9 She was readmitted to Biloela by 1 May.10 Samuel REDSHAW, the Senior Constable of the Police Station, Liverpool, reported to the officer in charge of the eastern district, Sydney, that Ellen had been returned to Biloela. He wrote:

… respecting the illtreatment of Ellen Lewis while in the service of Mr Olliver that Mr Olliver himself is a very quite person but Mrs Olliver is in very delicate health which makes her very peevish she has often sent for the Sen Const and complained to him about the girl Lewis, but on enquiry she would have very little grounds for it. The other servant would tell tales to Mrs Olliver about Lewis that would annoy Mrs Olliver, and she took a very great dislike to the girl Lewis, on the day Lewis left Mrs Olliver threw some fat upon her, with that exception the illtreatment appears to have been with Mrs Olliver's tongue Mr Samuel Forbes, brother of Mrs Olliver, states that the girl had a poor life of it, with his sister,
The people who knew the girl speak well of her.

Selina WALKER reported that Ellen 'always bore a good character in the school and is a very good servant and is available for apprenticing.11 It is believed that the Ellen LEWIS who was discharged from Biloela on 17 May 1877, as an apprentice to Mr J. W. BRAY, of Crookwell for two years, was this Newcastle admission. The length of her indenture very strongly suggested that she would turn eighteen in about October 1879,12 so her date of birth can be calculated to be 1861. WALKER did not confirm any admission details when she reported the apprenticeship to the Colonial Secretary so no further verification will be available.13

It is unlikely that this apprenticeship referred to either of the other inmates of this name at the school for three reasons. Firstly WALKER acknowledged that the Newcastle girl was available for apprenticing and had a good character and secondly it was the practice to quickly re-apprentice those who had been returned from apprenticeships, especially if the return was not the result of their misbehaviour – as was the case here. The length of apprenticeship indicated that the year Ellen would turn 18 and this length of apprenticeship matched what would be expected for the age of the Newcastle admission. The Discharge Book14 indicated that the indentures were completed so Ellen would have been entitled to marry or to leave Crookwell by about October 1879 unless she was then taken into service within the area.

The identification of Ellen becomes difficult after August 1872 as at least three girls named Ellen LEWIS were admitted to the Industrial Schools of Newcastle and Biloela. Two arrived during the period when the records in the Entrance Book are missing and during the time that this first Ellen LEWIS was still at the school. Distinguishing between the three girls is ongoing.

On 6 August 1872, an Ellen LEWIS was admitted from Tamworth with her sister, Kate.15 There was no indication made of any ages in the correspondence yet found and no further information concerning either sister has yet been located. Without knowing the age of this Ellen LEWIS it is impossible to be accurate with how long any apprenticeship arranged for her would last but if they were over the age of twelve it is possible that they were apprenticed by LUCAS before he was dismissed in November 1873 as this superintendent left very little correspondence. It may also be that a parent requested the return of these two girls and it may be that further details are yet to be found in the CSIL.

A year after these admissions, around 15 August 1873, an Ellen LEWIS who was fourteen was admitted to Biloela. She had been born in about 1859 and had been arrested from Sydney. Her mother was recorded as Sarah.16 This girl cannot be a readmission for the Newcastle girl after an earlier unlocated discharge as the ages of the girls do not match. It is considered likely but is unproven that this last arrival was the Ellen LEWIS who, LUCAS reported on 13 October 1873, had been 'confined in No. 3 dormitory on Bread and Water for three days for insubordinate conduct in breaking and getting through the Tine[?] fence to the dock',17 because she was the eldest of the three admissions of this name. This inmate was also likely to be the girl of this name who was involved with the Biloela admission, Emma GREY, in a stone throwing incident where two panes of glass were broken in the Reformatory windows. The girls were confined in number 3 dormitory for seven days on a bread and water diet.18 The relieving superintendent, DALE, in his first report to the Colonial Secretary reported that they and four others, were released from confinement, possibly for this incident but perhaps for a further event, on Friday, 28 November.19 Any apprenticeship arranged for this girl would have concluded in about 1877 as this would have been the year that she would turn 18. This girl would have been eligible for apprenticeship after LUCAS left the superintendency but before the Discharge Book was commenced in 1876. There is no explanation why no record remains about her discharge but none has yet been identified. Tracking this name in the CSIL correspondence may disclose an unindexed letter. An Ellen LEWIS of an appropriate age to match this girl was charged with an assault against Mary Ann BEVAN on 9 November 1877. She was about 18 and described as of medium height with a fair complexion and with her hair cut short. She was wearing a light dress and white straw hat trimmed with blue ribbons. She had been residing with Mrs WALL of Sussex Street.20

Family

No names for Ellen’s parents were recorded in the Entrance Book. The admission register stated that Ellen's father was 'supposed to be a European' and that her mother was 'aboriginal.' No births for any girl with the name Ellen LOUIS or LEWIS were made between 1858 and 1862.

Where has She Gone?

It may be that further information about Ellen's early life may be located once the Dubbo papers are scanned as they may report on appearances at the Cassilis Police Court which have not been located in the Musswellbrook papers.

It is considered unlikely that Ellen was the nineteen-year-old girl who was admitted to the Benevolent Asylum on 4 January 1881, and who was discharged on 2 April 1881, with her two month old daughter, Ruth Augusta. Ruth was born on 3 February 1881, and her birth was registered in Sydney.21

Darlinghurst Gaol records identified the admission of an Ellen LEWIS who was a brothel keeper but, based on Ellen's behaviour and the positive reports made about her while at the school and during her apprenticeship, it is not thought that these records refer to her.

The woman named Ellen LEWIS, who was born in about 1860, appeared in Goulburn gaol records in 1894 and who went by the aliases Ellen MULREEDY and Mary MURPHY. She had been tried in Paddington in late April or early May 1894, and had been sentenced to six months for vagrancy. After being imprisoned in Darlinghurst she was transferred to Goulburn where she was described as a laundress who had had brown hair and grey eyes who had been born in Gunnedah. She was not described in the records as being of aboriginal descent so is highly unlikely to be the Newcastle admission.

There is another Ellen LEWIS in Darlinghurst who was 17 in 1874, Church of England and born in Sydney who can’t be either girl but shows that there is yet another person of approximately this age in the courts at this time.

Updated December 2015

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