FOSTER of Launceston, Australia, Chapter 2.

The "FOSTER Family" section of this site is divided into 13 chapters and 8 sets of appendices. Please read in sequence by following the links at the bottom of each page or use the "Quick Nav" at top right. If you wish to select individual chapters, please click on the top left link to the Sitemap page.

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This page describes George FOSTER’s wife and George’s early career as pilot at Low Head.

George's Wife: The HAMMOND Family

On 2 Aug 1839 when George FOSTER was 33, he married 19 year old Lucy HAMMOND, in the Residence of Rev. John Anderson of the Scots Church Launceston. The marriage register gave no indication of who were Lucy’s family. The "Ship News" column of the Nov 11, 1837 Cornwall Chronicle gave details of the arrival of the Brig ‘William’ from Sydney in Launceston on Nov 10, 1837 with passengers Catherine, Lucy and Harriet Hammond. Was this Lucy the same person who married George? The Launceston Assessment Rolls from the Hobart Town Gazette showed that there was a John HAMMOND who was a next-door neighbour to George in William St over the period 1853 to 1862 and who had also sold or transferred property to George 1862 - 1865. John HAMMOND also occupied a house George owned in 1862. A John HAMMOND was the executor of George’s will. Perhaps John was related to Lucy as well as being George's friend and business associate?

A newspaper death notice for John gave the breakthrough. It said in 1870 that John aged 77 was late of Farnham, Surrey, England. This enabled a search for John, Lucy, Catherine and Harriet in the Latter Day Saints site. This result showed they were all part of the same family and John was actually George's father-in-law! John's Will confirmed this, since he left a bequest to his daughter Harriet as well as his grandson John FOSTER. Note there was no bequest to his daughter Lucy, probably not due to an estrangement, but due to John transferring real estate to George FOSTER during John's lifetime. John was variously described as a dealer and a baker and his baker's shop was next door to George. He must have been very influential in his grandsons' lives; since both Thomas and John FOSTER became bakers .... perhaps they served their apprenticeships with John HAMMOND?


The following Descendant Report summarises the Hammond family information:

Hammond family Descendant Report


Low Head Pilot: 1837- ~1850

The Pilot Station Low HeadThe Pilot Station Low Head
Photo: PD Strong 1999

George became leadsman (assistant to the pilot) in 1837 at Tamar (Low) Heads and he was gazetted as a full pilot on 11 Sept 1838. His Pilot Station is pictured at the left. In 1838 - 39 George received a £8 allowance for maintaining his house which was additional to his annual salary of £10/4/2, fees £133/17/4, rationing for 3 convicts £60. His first seven children were born at Low Head during the period 1837 - 1850. George’s first child Jane was born on 23 Apr 1841. In the 1842 Census of his Government owned stone construction Low Head house, he declared that only two people "generally reside in this Establishment" on 31 Dec 1841.... the details of these people were: 1 Male and 1 female between 21 and 45... Church of England, arrived free. There was a space for people under 2 years, which was not used. At this time George was aged 36, and Lucy was 22. Where was Jane?

George's second child Thomas was born on 24 Mar 1842. He declared in the 1843 Census that three people "generally reside in this Establishment" on 31 Dec 1842.... the details of these people were: 1 Male and 1 female between 21 and 45... married, Church of England, arrived free. 1 male under 2 years, born in the colony, Church of England. At this time George was aged 37, and Lucy was 23, and Thomas was 8 months old. STILL no mention of George's first child Jane!!

George declared in the 1848 Census that eight people "generally reside in this Establishment" on 31 Dec 1847.... the details of these people were:

1848 Census
TOTALS 1 6 1 -
Under 2 years - 1 - -
2 and under 7 - 3 - -
7 and under 14 - - - -
14 and under 21 - - - -
21 and under 45 - 2 1 -
45 and under 60 1 - - -
60 and upwards - - - -

All were Church of England, two were married and arrived free (George and Lucy) and 4 were born in the Colony (George’s children) and the remaining 2 had not arrived free, were 2 males between 21 and 45, and were bonded in private service. By this stage George and Lucy had the following children: (i) Jane b. 23 Apr 1841 (ii) Thomas b. 24 Mar 1842 (iii) George b. 18 Jun 1843 (iv) John b. 3 Dec 1845 (v) William b. 1 May 1847. Note that two further children were born at Low Head after the 1848 Census…. These were Catherine, b. 25 Jan 1849, and Ann, b. 10 Nov 1850.

Pilot Station Low Head The Pilot Station Low Head
Photo: PD Strong 1999

Only four male children were mentioned in this Census....... STILL no mention of George and Lucy’s first child Jane who was born on 23 Apr 1841!! How can we reconcile this with the record of Jane FOSTER's baptism?..... reg# 1841- 1544. Presbyterian Church Baptisms held in the District of Launceston. When Baptised: 9 Jun 1841. When Born: 23 Apr 1841, Parents: George FOSTER and Lucy HAMMOND. Abode: Low Head. Quality or Profession: Pilot. By whom performed: John Anderson. Perhaps there was a different attitude to female children in those days, and Jane may have been fostered out to another family? Jane was alive at that time, and married James FRANCIS AT George Town when she was 18. George did make an effort to look after his male children. Following a Return of Grants Deed made June 1845, which imposed fines and fees for his Launceston William St property (see "Property"), George gave the land in trust to his sons Thomas and George on 23 Aug 1845.

On July 1, 1844, George complained to the Port Officer Matthew Curling Friend that his boat had been stolen from Low Head on the previous night. Lt. M.C. Friend wrote immediately to Captain Moriarty RN (Port Officer) at the Marine Office (Hobart). Moriarty had been the second Port Officer on the Tamar River for several months just before Friend was appointed Port Officer on Sep 1832.

George had a hazardous job at Low Head. Broxam and Nash describe the wreck of the ‘Tobago’.

"The brig ‘Tobago’ sailed from Sydney for Launceston on 17 May 1845 under the command of Captain Harrison with a cargo of about 150 tons of coal, consigned to the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company (owners of the regular Sydney - Melbourne - Launceston steamer p.s. ‘Shamrock’) and several passengers including her owner (and usually master) Charles Thomas. Arriving off Tamar Heads on the night of 2 June, the master signalled for a pilot, and when Pilot Foster came on board he ordered his men to proceed to a particular spot and show a light to guide them in. This they apparently failed to do, for the pilot mistook a fire at the salt-works inside the heads for the light he was expecting to see, and promptly piled the brig up on Shear Reef.

Heavy seas drove the vessel high onto the rocks, holing her badly and threatening to wash her complement overboard. Several boats put off to assist, one manned by the Port Officer, Lieut. M.C. Friend, capsizing and forcing its own crew to spend a perilous night clinging to the Shear Beacon before being rescued. However, by morning the weather had moderated and the boats managed to rescue all hands from the wreck and the upturned boat.

Neither vessel nor cargo being insured, Captain Thomas was a heavy loser, although he managed to recover much of the vessel's gear and copper before the hull was sold at auction for £50 and the fittings for £110. The convict members of the rescuing boat crews were also rewarded with tickets of leave or remissions of sentences. The ‘Tobago’ was a brig of 136 tons, 72.6 x 20.0 x 12.4ft, built at Barbados in 1830, and was registered at Sydney."

Source: Broxam, G, Nash, M. Tasmanian Shipwrecks (Roebuck series, no. 51). Navarine Publishing Woden ACT; 1998; 1:54.

George FOSTER told another story in a submission to the Marine Board, which further illustrated the danger of his job in this period and the need for back-up rescue:

"On the 21st December, 1847—Mr Waterland’s boat was swamped while boarding the brig ‘Elizabeth Buchan’, from London. The vessel was then boarded by the river pilot, who sent his boat manned with the crew of the brig to pick them up, who succeeded in doing so. The men were much exhausted when the boat reached them, and there is no doubt that if it had been ebb tide they would all have been drowned".

Source: Marine Board. Launceston Examiner, Feb 5, 1879: 2-3.
Note: James Waterland was a pilot… appointed in September 1835.

Bethell(i) tells of one of George FOSTER’s misfortunes: The yacht, ‘Psyche’, was bought by Bishop Nixon & our George FOSTER and sailed to Hobart Town in 1849. A convict passholder was made captain, but he and three other convicts stole the ship. They took her across the Pacific to the Sacramento River where they abandoned her and made for the goldfields.

Broxam(ii) is more specific and says that James Hill, a former English Channel Pilot, stole the yacht on Feb 20, 1849 with Rees Griffiths, John King and Matthew Clark while at anchor off the Commissariat Wharf. He also says that the ship was wrecked on or near Percy Island, Queensland; and that two of the crew posed as shipwrecked sailors and were rescued by the Kennedy relief expedition. He only gives rumour status to the claim that the ‘Psyche’ reached California.

Carron’s eye-witness account(iii) of this relief expedition tells of finding 3 men on North Percy Island on April 15, 1849. One was "in a dying state, quite insensible, his eyes fixed and glassy; a little weak brandy and water was given him, which appeared to revive him; sent the boat on board to get restoratives, on her return gave him some arrow-root and port wine; our aid came too late, he was too much exhausted to resuscitate; he died at sunset." Carron describes the survivors’ conflicting stories. Significantly, he discusses the recovered fragments of a yacht, and the conclusion that they had found the remains of an 8 ton vessel. If we use the "Builder’s Old Measurement" formula which was current at that time, this 8 ton vessel would correspond to a 28' X 8' yacht. Was this the ‘Psyche’?

Did George FOSTER’s yacht make it to America? I quote my son-in-law, since this is a family history site! A few months ago my son-in-law navigated his yacht through the Panama Canal, back from the Americas, across the Pacific Ocean to Australia. He maintains the conventional view that James Hill, the former English Channel Pilot, probably had insufficient mathematical skills for such a voyage. In those days, higher order navigational skills were only available in Naval Colleges, or as on the job training to midshipmen over a number of years.

More on the Bishop, George and their yachts… Broxam(iv) also quotes an advertisement on October 30 1849, which said that a schooner yacht 26' X 8', ‘Shark’ was being sold on behalf of the Bishop of Tasmania and G. Foster. Perhaps yacht ownership was too great a problem?

Sources: (i) Bethell, LS. The story of Port Dalrymple: life and work in Northern Tasmania. Government Printer Tasmania; c.1955;52, 54 .
      (ii) Broxam G. Shipping arrivals & departures, Tasmania, vol. 3, 1843-1850, (Roebuck series, no. 45). Navarine Publishing Woden ACT; 1998; 3:150.
      (iii) Carron, W. Narrative of an expedition undertaken under the direction of the late Mr. Assistant Surveyor E. B. Kennedy. Sydney, 1849. eBooks @ Adelaide. 2006. (located here)
      (iv) Broxam G. Shipping arrivals & departures, Tasmania. Ibid. 3: 167.

What was the nature of the relationship between George and Bishop Francis Russell Nixon? A quotation below from Nixon’s biography (i) tells how the jointly-owned yachts were used, and then mentions a subsequent 1854 voyage:

"Nixon never spared himself in the pastoral oversight of his large diocese, which included King Island, the Furneaux group and even Norfolk Island. In 1849 his yacht was stolen and never recovered, but he still contrived to visit the Bass Strait islands and northern Tasmanian settlements. His Cruise of the Beacon(ii), with his own illustrations, records one such visit (23 Sept to Nov 24 1854). At his home, between travelling, he had interviews, voluminous correspondence, administrative duties, reading and the preparation of sermons and lectures. Even so, he found time for his family and for music, sketching and painting."

Nixon’s account of this voyage(ii) showed that George FOSTER did not accompany him, the master of the ‘Beacon’ was Captain Nicholson, and the pilot accompanying the voyage was the port-officer, Captain King, R. N.. He also mentions his current (1854) partner in a yacht: "Not to mention the extreme hazard of threading these islands without an experienced pilot, the small cutter which I keep, in partnership with my excellent friend the Chief Justice, is ill-adapted to encounter the heavy seas and sudden storms that prevail in Bass’s Straits. Well calculated as is our little craft of ten tons for missionary work in the river or in D’Entrecasteaux Channel, something more substantial is required for a protracted cruise in a tempestuous region."

Source: (i) Barrett WR. Nixon, Francis Russell (1803 - 1879). Australian dictionary of biography. Melbourne University Press Melbourne; 1967; 2: 285-288. Online version.
      (ii) Nixon FR. Cruise of the Beacon: a narrative of a visit to the islands in Bass’s Straits. Bell and Daldy London; 1857. (Placed in Project Canterbury, the free online archive of out-of-print Anglican texts.)

I am hoping that some of Bishop Nixon’s records will give details of George FOSTER. Some of these may be kept in the archives of St. David's Anglican Cathedral, Hobart. James Boyce(i) has written about the Church of England's "Mission to the Islands" and mentioned Nixon’s voyage to Flinder’s Island in 1843 as well as his 1854 Beacon voyage. George was not mentioned.

Source: (i) Boyce J. God’s own country? The Anglican Church and Tasmanian aborigines.Anglicare Hobart; 2001; 43, 49-67.

Perhaps there was a close relationship between the NIXON and the FOSTER families? A Sydney NSW Shipping Master’s Office passenger and crew list i) for the May 1860 inward voyage (to Sydney NSW) of the ship Tasmania from the Port of Melbourne included the following cabin passengers: Captain G. Foster, Miss Foster & two Miss Nixons! At this stage our George would be known as Captain Foster. A coincidence? Regrettably, neither the Tasmanian Archives ii) or Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) iii) have yet indexed the relevant inward voyage from Tasmania of the ship Tasmania to the Port of Melbourne. Perhaps other references might help? iv) However, PROV did index iii) the corresponding outward voyage of the "Tasmania" from the Port of Melbourne, with a Captain GB FORSTER aged 50, Miss FORSTER aged 20. There were also 2 Miss NIXONs, aged 22 and 20.

Was this our FOSTER family? Captain G. FOSTER was about the right age, though the second initial "B" in the PROV record creates doubt. George did have a daughter, Jane FOSTER, aged 20 in May 1860, but she had just married James FRANCIS the assistant light house keeper at Low Head in 1859! Would she have called herself Miss FOSTER on the 1860 voyage with her father? Jane is a puzzle and thus is discussed earlier in this chapter… she was born to George in 1841 in Low Head, but then is not recorded with her family in the 1842, 1843 and 1848 censuses! Subsequent information is given on Jane FOSTER / Jane FRANCIS here.

Are the shipping NIXON records relevant? If they were Bishop Nixon’s daughters, they would have been born to his second wife Anna Maria (m. 1836), before his family came to Hobart Town in July 1843 v). Can someone please help with names & DOB's of this part of the Bishop’s family? At the moment, all we can say is …"limited data… no conclusions!"

Sources: i) State Records Authority of New South Wales: Shipping Master's Office; Passengers Arriving 1855 - 1922; NRS13278, [X100-102] Reel 407. Transcribed by Martin and Sue Brown, 2004.
      ii) Archives Office of Tasmania: Index to Departures 1817-1867.
      iii) Public Record Office Victoria: Index to Unassisted Inward Passenger Lists to Victoria 1852-1923.
      Also… Index to Outward Passengers to Interstate, UK, NZ and Foreign Ports 1852-1886.
      iv) Syme, Marten. Shipping Arrivals & Departures, Victorian Ports:1856-60. (Roebuck series, no. 61). Navarine Publishing Woden ACT; Year(?); 3:page(?)
Note: This reference has not yet been sighted. It will probably refer to the relevant May 1860 inward voyage of the ship Tasmania from Tasmania to the Port of Melbourne. Could someone please help with the details?
      v) Barrett WR. Nixon, Francis Russell (1803 - 1879). Australian dictionary of biography. Melbourne University Press Melbourne; 1967; 2: 285-288. Online version.

The Story Continues