Elizabeth Ann THOMPSON
Name Variations TOMPSON alias TRUSS, TRESS, CLARKE, JONES, RILEY, THOMAS, GRUNSELL
Father unknown b. m. d.
Mother Sarah A.1 THOMPSON aka TRUSS or TRESS b.c. 1828 or 18382 m. d. aft. 18733
Inmate Elizabeth Ann THOMPSON b. 18574 m. (see below) d. aft. 1884
Husband (1) unknown CLARKE b. m. none d.
Husband (2) unknown JONES b. m. none d.
Husband (3) Walter RILEY5 b. m. none d.
Husband (4) John David THOMAS b. m. none d.
Son Sydney Joseph RILEY b. 18856 m. none - d. 19027
Description
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Distinguishing features
Mother Sarah THOMPSON8 32 5’ 1” brown brown read and write
Mother Sarah TRESS9 40 5’ 2” black a full face and dissipated appearance; wearing a light dress, shepherd’s plaid shawl and black hat
Inmate Elizabeth THOMPSON10 13 4' 5½" light brown blue fair thin make
Inmate Elizabeth11 30 5' 0½" brown blue fresh
Inmate Elizabeth CLARKE12 31 5' 0½" brown brown13 sallow medium nose, mouth and chin
Inmate Elizabeth THOMAS14 44 5' 1" brown blue

WARNING: Details of the story of Elizabeth Ann THOMPSON may cause distress to descendants.

Elizabeth’s life was difficult. The NSW Police Gazette in October 1868, about six months before her admission to Newcastle, reported that a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Elizabeth's mother, Sarah TRESS, for committing an assault on the twelve-year-old Elizabeth.15 Sarah was arrested by constable KERR and appeared in court charged with assault.16 Elizabeth stated in court that on 23 September, after her mother had been discharged from the Court after an earlier appearance for assault, she had told her mother that if she beat her again she would run away.17 At about 7 o'clock that night, Sarah tied Elizabeth to the bedpost by a cord passed round her neck. Elizabeth was eventually released at about 9 o'clock and she then reported to a constable that her mother had tried to hang her. The constable took Elizabeth to the Benevolent Asylum where she remained until her court appearance and her admission there at the age of eleven occurred on 22 September 1868. Elizabeth was discharged from the asylum on 3 October.18 Arthur RENWICK, M.D., medical officer at the Benevolent Asylum, stated that when Elizabeth was admitted he had found a deeply indented mark round her neck, the result of 'friction by a ligature'. Sarah was found guilty of the assault and was fined £5 or alternatively she was to be admitted to prison and an assessment of her sanity was to be undertaken.19 No admission to gaol has been found after this court appearance so it seems likely that Sarah paid the fine. Six months later, in April 1869, Elizabeth ran away from home and Sarah placed an advertisement in the paper that stated:

I HEREBY CAUTION all parties from harbouring my daughter, ELIZABETH ANN THOMPSON – she having left her home without cause or provocation. Sydney, April 30th, 1869. Mrs. S. TRUSS.20

On Sunday night, 12 September 1869, Elizabeth was found by constable McALEER, lying near Balmain Road and was taken into custody under warrant for protection. She appeared in court on 14 September.21 McALEER stated that he had known Elizabeth for a couple of years and that her mother lived on her own property at Balmain. She often cruelly treated and beat Elizabeth resulting in her leaving home, wandering about the country and sleeping in the bush. Elizabeth’s body was described as being covered with marks of ill-treatment. The court was reminded of Sarah's trial the previous October when she had attempted to hang Elizabeth. Mary Ann LEO deposed that during the early part of 1869 she had lived in Sarah's house. She stated that Sarah used to beat Elizabeth unmercifully and sometimes fastened her to a chain in a cellar, leaving her for days without food. LEO further reported that Sarah had told her that she would willingly pay four shillings a week for Elizabeth’s maintenance if she were sent to the Industrial School22 and it was this arrangement that was agreed to by the court. Sarah was again found guilty of assault and this time she was fined £6.

Elizabeth was admitted to Newcastle on 18 September 1869, where her age was confirmed in the Entrance Book as twelve. The page recording her personal details is the first missing from the record so no confirmation of her family, religion, education or discharge is available from this source.23 No reports of any kind have been found for Elizabeth until early March 1871 when she was involved in the third riot at the school. She subsequently appeared in the Newcastle Police Court24 with the other ringleaders on 13 March where, at the request of CLARKE, the superintendent, she and Jane WINDSOR were reprimanded and returned to the school.25 After the next riot during early April 1871, and after the change of superintendents, Elizabeth, Jane and two other girls,26 appeared in Newcastle Court charged with wilfully destroying Government property.27 The four girls were sent to Maitland Gaol where they remained for a month. The Maitland gaol Entrance Book confirmed that Elizabeth was thirteen, that she had been born in Bathurst and that she was was a Catholic. Elizabeth was released from Maitland on 13 May 1871, and returned to the school. Her age on this record was recorded as fourteen.28 This may have been an error or she may have had a birthday in prison.

On 31 May 1871, Elizabeth was one of those who transferred to the new school at Biloela on Cockatoo Island. She was listed as eligible for service by LUCAS in a letter to the Colonial Secretary on 23 June29 and was again mentioned by LUCAS in his report of 19 September 1871,30 where he noted that she had been placed in No. 3 Dormitory on a bread and water diet for fourteen days for stealing. Elizabeth continued to rebel as in a further report on 20 November later that year, LUCAS noted that she was one of seven girls31 who were 'confined in No. 3 Dormitory for the remainder of the day for holding conversation with some men in a boat cruising off the island.'32

In a further letter on 18 March 1872, LUCAS confirmed that Elizabeth had been apprenticed.33 Her apprenticeship was arranged on 23 February 1872, and was to last for four years. She was to be paid one shilling a week for the first two years, two shillings a week for the next year and three shillings a week for the final year. LUCAS noted that Elizabeth had been 'conducting herself well'34 but it is unclear whether this was true or whether it was a standard response made by LUCAS on all his discharge correspondence.35 In his April 1872 list, LUCAS confirmed that Elizabeth had been apprenticed to David HILL of Randwick, on 11 March.36 Subsequent records strongly suggest that Elizabeth didn't complete this apprenticeship but no reference has been located indicating how long she remained employed by HILL.

Many aliases were adopted by Elizabeth during her life. No clear indication can be made for the choice of some of the surnames she used. Confirmation that this is the same woman is made within the records themselves where her various names and aliases are linked and those recorded descriptions that do exist consistently match. By matching her given name, her approximate birth year and birth location, the gaol records of NSW allow her to be tracked from 1874 to 1901. She used the names Elizabeth TRUSS or TRESS, Elizabeth THOMAS, Elizabeth JONES, Elizabeth CLARKE and Elizabeth RILEY but her description and birthplace remain constant.37 Only admissions that can be linked to the Elizabeth who had been born in Bathurst can refer to refer to the Newcastle admission. Elizabeth Ann THOMPSON and her aliases should not be confused with another woman named Elizabeth THOMAS alias WILSON who also frequented the gaols of NSW. This second woman was born in Mudgee in approximately the same year but she was slightly taller and had darker hair than the Bathurst woman. The Newcastle girl was known to have been admitted to Maitland gaol for three months on 21 December 1881. While this sentence was being served the Mudgee woman was tried for using obscene language at the Sydney Water Police Court. The records therefore cannot refer to the same person and unfortunately the Newcastle girl cannot be the woman who has a photograph in the NSW gaol records.

Elizabeth TRUSS appeared in court for riotous behaviour in September 1874,38 as Lizzy TRUSS in February 1875, when she spent a month in gaol for drunkenness39 and again as Elizabeth TRUSS40 on 13 June 1875.41 Gaol records indicate that Elizabeth used the surname CLARKE between approximately 1874 and 1882. The origin of the use of this surname is unknown and it must be considered that this alias may have been used because of her association with the Newcastle Superintendent, Joseph CLARKE, who had, on at least one occasion, demonstrated his kindness to her. On 21 December 1881, Elizabeth again appeared in the Sydney Water Police Court for 'being a common prostitute and behaving in a riotous manner' and was again identified as Elizabeth CLARKE.42 At this appearance she was sentenced to three months with hard labour in Maitland Gaol. Her age in this record however, was recorded as thirty when she was in fact only twenty-five.43 At the time of her release after her transfer to Sydney in April 1881, she was recorded as Elizabeth CLARKE alias TRUSS.44 Very soon after this release, again as Elizabeth CLARKE, she was arrested and appeared at the Sydney Quarter Sessions on 30 May 1882,45 charged with stealing from the person. The Police Gazette in May 1883, at the time of her discharge from Yass gaol for this crime, confirmed her identity as Elizabeth CLARKE alias TRESS, and the additional aliases of TRUSS and JONES were attributed to her.46 It is unknown whether Elizabeth stayed in the Yass area after her release and it is also uncertain whether either of these aliases were used by Elizabeth again.

Elizabeth CLARKE and Elizabeth JONES continue to appear after 1883 in the Sydney courts for prostitution and theft and these incidents may refer to the Newcastle admission but they are still being investigated. There are many appearances for Elizabeth as Elizabeth JONES and THOMAS. It is unclear whether there was a relatively calm period in Elizabeth's life as the period between 1883 and 1895 is still being investigated but in the mid-1890s, Elizabeth begins to appear again in gaol records. In April 1899 she was sentenced to twenty-one days for breaking a window.47

The 1901 Biloela gaol records indicated that the Newcastle admission lived at 17 Abercrombie Lane, Redfern, and was the sister-in-law of Mrs SHORT of Bonus(?) Street, Rockdale. She was identified as the wife of John David THOMAS and this man married Elizabeth BYRNS in 187748 so it is unknown whether BYRNS was a further alias used. Elizabeth was again admitted to Biloela gaol using the name Elizabeth RILEY who lived at Forest(?) Road, Hurstville. The record still indicated that Elizabeth's sister-in-law was Mrs SHORT of Bannan Street, Rockdale. A further admission to Biloela in November 1901 provided the name Elizabeth THOMAS alias RILEY. A John SHORT was living in BOWMER street, Rockdale, in 1890, 1895 and 1900 so it is possible that this man was connected but no person with this surname lived in Bonar Street, Rockdale, and this is the more likely address for Mrs SHORT. No suitable marriage has yet been found for any John SHORT. Elizabeth was very probably the woman appearing in court on 25 October 1901, for using obscene language.49 A Joseph J. RILEY lived in Abercrombie Street, Redfern and Randwick, between 1895 and 191550 but this man is unlikely to be directly connected to Elizabeth as his first child was born in 1870 but he may be connected through Elizabeth's marriage.

The seventeen-year-old man Sydney Joseph RILEY who was killed in a fall from a horse51 at Norwood and who had been a state ward, was Elizabeth's son. She was identified at his inquest as Elizabeth RILEY.52 The inquest was held at Goulburn Hospital and Sydney's death registration was made in Goulburn. Sydney's father was recorded as James and the informant was almost certainly the coroner who had been provided the information by Elizabeth.53 Sydney's birth was very probably registered in 1885 as Sydney R. RILEY and his father was recorded as Walter on the birth registration.54 It is considered a strong possibility that Walter was the man who was often in gaol during the late 1800s and early 1900s and who used a number of aliases.55 It may be that the following incident also indicated a further appearance of Elizabeth. In July 1905 as Elizabeth THOMAS in Parramatta Court.56

Elizabeth is not the woman who married John Richard RILEY in 1885 in St Leonards57 as this woman was only 23 years old and was the daughter of the mariner, Andrew THOMPSON, and his wife, Agnes, and had been born in Ballarat, Victoria. It is possible that Elizabeth was the woman who was fined for not registering her dog on 20 October 1903.

Family

Elizabeth was the illegitimate daughter of Sarah THOMPSON aka TRUSS and her birth was registered as Elizabeth A. THOMPSON in Bathurst in 1857. Elizabeth's father was not recorded on the NSW BDM Index but the location of her birth registration connects her with the Bathurst area of NSW. At the time of her arrest for assaulting Elizabeth, Sarah was reported to have formerly lived in Petersham and it was thought that she had gone to Sydney.58 Darlinghurst gaol records for Sarah A. TRUSS in 1873 identify that she had been born in the colony in Sydney in about 1828. She could read and was a member of the Church of England. Elizabeth's court appearances disclosed that Sarah live don her own property at Balmain59 but no woman who might match this description can be located in either Sands Directory or the City of Sydney Archives.

It is uncertain whether TRUSS was Sarah's maiden or married name but it is believed that she was more likely to have originally been Sarah THOMPSON. She is very likely to have been the Sarah Ann THOMPSON who was assaulted by William HING in August 1866.60 She was also likely to have been the Sarah A. THOMPSON admitted to Darlinghurst in 1871 who stated that she had been born in Bathurst.61 Her sketchy description loosely matches that of Sarah TRESS but the ages do not match well as this woman was approximately ten years younger than Sarah TRESS. This can however be explained by the fluid state of ages at this time. Elizabeth's birth registration62 should most accurately indicate any details for Sarah but only if the truth was recorded there. Sarah has disappeared from the records and cannot be verified after 10 April 1873, when she completed a four day sentence for drunkenness in Darlinghurst Gaol.63 Police court records rarely recorded the names of drunks and this seems to be the case as no newspaper report for this date in this court mentions her. Because of the use of the surname JONES, she may have been the woman admitted to Biloela Gaol in 1888. The surname JONES was used also by Sarah's daughter, Elizabeth, so this lends weight to this being Sarah. This inmate, Sarah JONES alias THOMPSON, was described as having come to the colony young. She was 5' 2" with grey hair and blue eyes and had been born in England and was a member of the Church of England. It is believed that after this date she almost certainly assumed a surname and so cannot be traced.

Sarah may have been connected with thewoman named Sarah THOMPSON who had been transported aboard the Diana in 1833.64

Sarah may possibly have been connected to the family of the Sarah TRESS (c.1810-1895) who married James Ramsay KAY/KEAY (d. 1864) at Queen Charlotte Vale at St Stephen’s Bathurst Episcopal Church or it may be that a member of this family was Elizabeth's father. This couple were married by K. D. SMYTH on 26 April 1847. Both were from Bathurst and neither had been married before. The witnesses were William Richard TRESS and Mary Ann CROKER who had married in 1832.65 William was a brother to this older Sarah66 and the younger Sarah, Elizabeth’s mother, may have been his daughter. No traces of any other marriages for Sarah have been found.

Where has She Gone?

No trace of Elizabeth has been confirmed after 1902. It is not considered likely that she was the Elizabeth TREES who was recorded as a landlady living at 49 Pitt Street, Redfern, in 1928.67 There are no marriages registered for Elizabeth TRUSS or TRESS recorded on the NSW BDM Index but there are many for Elizabeth THOMPSON although none can be matched to any of the known aliases of Elizabeth THOMPSON.

Updated April 2017

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