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Foreword

The Kaurna
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Kudnarto
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Early Years
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Marriage
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Settlement
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Land Grants
   The Protector
   The Reality
   Early Days
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Shepherds
   Tensions
   Killing
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   More Killing
   Harem Life
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   Ferguson's Place
   Deserting Husbands
   Rape
   Sex and Sheep
   Footnotes

Adams
   Problems
   Adams' Birth
   Humberstone
   The Adams Family
   Ann Mason
   Edward Adams
   Conditions
   Labourer's Life
   Footnotes

Literacy
   Was he literate?
   Writing Skills
   Graphology
   Hale
   Evidence
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   Other People
   Adams' Letters
   Footnotes

Childhood
   A Carpenter?
   Birth Information
   Van Dieman's Land
   South Australia
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   Labourer's Lot
   Crystal Brook
   Footnotes

Engagement
   Notice
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   Minor
   Engagement
   Drinking Problems
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Wedding
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Land
   Land Please
   Lodgement
   I have a dream
   Opposition
   Processing
   Approval
   The Licence
   Notification
   Scams
   Footnotes

Farming
   The House
   Who Gains
   Farming Capital
   Reality sets in
   Tom
   Murray
   Inheritance
   Footnotes

Copper
   Port Henry
   Bullock Drays
   Watering Holes
   Gold
   Skilly Creek
   Footnotes

Murder

The Trial

Skilly Creek
   Money Problems
   Leasing
   Tim
   Eviction
   Problems
   Separation
   Sharefarming
   Footnotes

Death
   Single Life
   Kudnarto's Death
   Loss of Land
   Poonindie
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Land Claim
   Unresolved Issues
   Terra Nullius
   Land Conflict
   Subtext
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   The Facts
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Epilogue
   Significance
   At One

Biographies
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   Hotels

Letters
   Adams' Letters
   Replies

Handwriting
   Dissection
   Tabulation
   Analysis

Police Court

Trial Report

The Civilising
   1840
   White Women
   Contact
   Missionary activity
   Footnotes
   Bibliography

1860 Report
   1860
   Report Origins
   Attitudes
   Infanticide
   Sterility
   Promiscuity
   Health
   Gender Imbalance
   Blame the victims
   British Law
   Land Loss
   Social Alienation
   Tokenism
   Conclusions
   Footnotes
   Bibliography

Tom & Tim
   Introduction
   Poonindie
   Footnotes

Bibliography
   Primary Sources
   Secondary Sources

Kudnarto

Chapter 8 ~ Thomas Adams

Problems    Adams' Birth    Humberstone    The Adams Family    Ann Mason    Edward Adams    Conditions    Labourer's Life    Footnotes   

Problems

The problems of tracing the lives of people who were never rich and famous or well-educated lies in the lack of records which relate to them. This stems from the illiteracy of the people themselves. The poverty of people ensures that their voice is lost in the sea of paper produced by the literate and as was generally true, the wealthy classes. Cash and literacy are usually good guarantees to the preservation of a person's memory. Apart from being preserved on paper, the wealthy people also left their memorials upon various buildings and tombstones. The life of the illiterate and poor disappear rapidly after their deaths.

Thomas Adams is no exception to this sad situation. Because of his socio-economic roots, his origins are obscure. There are only few records that deal with Adams in an official capacity. These have been preserved. Fleshing out the records requires educated guesses based upon the reasons for the creation of the records. Furthermore, if there are letters, the historian is able to examine them for their context, their content and underlying assumptions. In so doing, a picture emerges which at best gives only a glimpse at the life of Adams. In the life of Adams only a few letters survive. All the known letters written by Adams are reproduced in Appendix 2.

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Adams' Birth

There are only a few facts upon which the origins of Adams emerge from the mists of time. The date of his birth is uncertain. However, an examination of baptismal records held by the parish of St Margaret's in the city of Leicester, the leading city within the County of Leicestershire in England, reveals that the Adams family was in great number. On 10 May 1811, [1] the parish records disclose that Thomas Adams was baptised.

Since St Margaret's was what was described as an ancient parish, it was a centre for both ecclesiastical and civil administrations. Originally the ancient parish was one that existed for the purely ecclesiastical purposes. From this church, the clergy were able to minister to the needs of the souls which included looking after births, marriages and deaths of those residing within its territory. As time went on, secular functions began to attach themselves to the parish changing its essential duty. At first, St Margaret's was given the responsibility to distribute relief under the Poor Laws. These were initially established by Queen Elizabeth in 1597. It then was given responsibility for rural sanitation and gradually many other functions until it became a busy regional administrative centre. One major political function of St Margaret's was its central role as part of a Parliamentary Borough from 1295 to 1832. After the reforms of 1832, Parliament removed this role. These activities, coupled with the normal ministering to the souls was the imposing and pervasive parish in which Adams was born.

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Humberstone

His father, Edward Adams settled in Leicester some time before 1808. The origin of the Adams family lies within the little village of Humberstone, [2] some three kilometres from Leicester. Today, Humberstone is just another drab suburb encircled by the dull housing estates which constitute the greater metropolitan area of Leicester. Prior to this, in the eighteenth century, Humberstone was another of those pretty country villages that dotted the English landscape. Surrounding it were the various commons and enclosed pastures.

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The Adams Family

The grandfather of Thomas Adams was also Thomas Adams. It was a common family name as will be seen. It can become confusing but with persistence the story unravels. The Humberstone patriarch Thomas Adams was baptised sometime in 1753. [3] It was in this town he was raised, married, had children, worked and died. His occupation was that of a farm labourer and shepherd. He was illiterate as was his wife and later, the children of the marriage. When he was 25 years of age, he married his 21 year old cousin, Mary Brotherhood. She was the bastard daughter of her mother Mary born sometime in 1757. [4] Her father was Thomas Adams, the uncle of Thomas Adams. The marriage was of great necessity to prevent the birth of another generation of bastard children for Mary was well and truly pregnant. Thomas kept his obligation on 8 November 1778 [5] when he married her.

The first child from the union died at childbirth. However, their next child did survive. With great enthusiasm, they baptised Elizabeth on the 26 March 1780. [6] In true style, she was followed by another child, a boy, whom they named in honour of the family name, Thomas who was baptised on 18 March 1784. [7] After the birth of Thomas, a couple more children were born but were never baptised. This indicates that they died either before or at birth. Then on 14 February 1789, [8] Mary gave birth to Edward Adams, the father of Thomas Adams. As if to make up for lost children, Mary Adams gave birth to the twins, Ann [9] and James, [10] who were baptised on 26 November 1791. They were followed by Sarah, 6 July 1794 [11] and finally, Hannah, 12 March 1797. [12] The Adams clan was widespread and large giving a great network of extended family.

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Ann Mason

On the other family side, that of Adams' mother, they were confirmed town dwellers. His mother, Ann Mason, was baptised on 9 March 1785. [13] She was the daughter of Charles and Mary Mason of Leicester. The Mason's lived in the central part of Leicester. They were known as lodgers. They paid no rates and thus they rented their premises. Her father appears to have been an ostler or carter or someone of a similar trade. He travelled around Leicester and the surrounding towns picking up and delivering goods. Her parents were educated. Indications are that the Masons were family unusual in their beliefs. Being of a common and lowly family in the strict hierarchy of British society, Ann Mason’s father had the strangest notion. He believed that all his children should be educated. Thus Charles Mason set about ensuring that his children gained whatever education he could afford to give them. Anne was fully literate. This was rare since girls from such families generally were not considered worthy of educating. It was felt that girls were never going to use their education due to the childbearing future ahead of them.

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Edward Adams

During his travels to Humberstone, Mason took his daughter along with him. During the many wintry visits to Humberstone in January 1808, Ann who was 23 met Edward Adams, a strong shepherd of 19 years old. Their tryst developed into something far more serious and on about mid February their winter rendezvous bore fruit. Ann fell pregnant. They tried to disguise the fact for as long as possible. However, pregnancy was usually a secret that became difficult to keep. When she began to show, there were some hurried negotiations to ensure that everything honourable would occur and maintain a family tradition. Finally, in autumn, Edward made an honest woman of Ann. He married Ann on 6 September 1808 [14] at the church of Saint Margaret.

This marriage certificate gave a window into the lives of these humble folk. Ann was literate and consequently she signed her name upon the Parish Marriage Register. Next to Ann's signature was that mark of her husband, Edward. Being an illiterate person, Edward signed with an "x". This was not a very usual situation.

After the marriage, Ann gave birth to their only daughter whom they baptised on 6 November 1808 [15] with the name Mary. Following this, Ann gave birth to her last surviving child, Thomas. Thus the family was complete. Edward and Ann lived in the parish of St Margaret for the rest of their lives. During their life, the parish changed rapidly and was unrecognisable at the time of their deaths.

The Parish of Saint Margaret's at the time of Edward and Ann Adams was a mixture of urban and rural lands. The church was a wonderful example of Early English nave with extensive additions of beautiful perpendicular work. Adjacent to the church was Saint Margaret's Pasture, a lush green expanse of open land. [16] It was a common pasture land for the animals belonging to the inhabitants of St Margaret's Parish. This area was the common land belonging to all the resident's of the parish. It remained so until 1877 when it was purchased by the Leicester Corporation in 1877 for £380 in compensation for the extinguishing of the parishioners common rights. It was one of the last areas of Britain not yet enclosed. The pasture was converted into Abby Park that was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1882. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the city was slowly being transformed. It was in this environment that Adams was born and raised.

The occupation of Edward Adams was as a farm labourer and after hours, hosiery maker. Both occupations were the chief fields of employment for unskilled labourers. Hosiery making was a common additional form of employment for most families. The area was renowned for its quality of work on various styles of hose. It was an activity for all the family. They usually had a frame that was hired from a hosier who would then have the yarn delivered to the householder. It was traditional for the family to assist in spinning the yarn and then seaming the finished stockings. When the goods were finished, the hosier would collect the hose and store it in his warehouse in preparation for selling the hose throughout England and overseas. By 1825, this activity had almost ceased and the hosiers collected all the frames together into one workshop. The consequence of this innovation was to reduce the contact within the family unit and remove the father from the family for large amounts of time.

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Conditions

Prior to the construction of factories and mills, life was a rude and bound by a continuous cycle of poverty and destitution. This existence was epitomised by Hobbes within his seminal work Leviathan. Within his work, Hobbes described human life, and specially that found in England, as "... solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short." [17] a situation that appeared to prevail extensively among the rural and urban poor and milieu to which the Adams family belonged.

The genial social commentator Reverend David Davies describes the conditions in which such people found themselves living and working. In his incisive work The Case of Labourers in Husbandry - stated and considered he looks at the lot of the common man. Being an inquisitive priest, he was curious to discover why there were so many poor people within his parish. Although living and writing specifically about his parish of Barkham in Berkshire, the observations he makes are generally applicable throughout the various northern and western counties within England during this period. He makes the following commentary about the poor families he met with on his parish rounds:

In visiting the labouring families of my parish, as my duty led me, I could not but observe with concern their mean and distressed condition. I found them in general but indifferently fed; badly clothed; some children without shoes and stocking; very few put to school; and most families in debt to little storekeepers. In short, there was scarcely any appearance of comfort about their dwellings, except that the children looked tolerably healthy. Yet I could not impute the wretchedness I saw either to sloth or wastefulness. For I knew that the farmers were careful that the men should not want employment: and had they been given to drinking, I am sure I should have heard of it. [18]

In addition to describing their conditions, the Reverend Davies also details the weekly expenses faced by a family consisting of a man and wife with five children whose eldest child is under the age of eight years. The time at which the Reverend Davies conducted the study was during Easter 1787. The wages paid were appalling, even for those times. The poverty and destitution caused by such poor wages explains the dire conditions in which these people found themselves. To make a meaningful comparison of the wages received and expenses incurred by the agricultural labourer, it is necessary to compare the items considered to be vital necessities in 1787 with prices that prevail in Adelaide during 1995. This comparison highlights the desperate situation these folk found themselves in by giving a full illustration of the cost pressures facing the family in contemporary terms.

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Labourer's Life

Wages in this example have been calculated as a proportion of expenses rather than related to any wages paid in Adelaide during the 1995 year. However, it is instructive to realise that the average wage paid to an agricultural labourer in 1995 is about $420 per week. It is evident that the earning capacity of the agricultural labourer in 1787 [19] was only 10% of that paid in 1995. Currently, in England the average wage for the agricultural labourer is £95. In 1840, the wage rates in England had not moved appreciably for the agricultural labourer and in fact were almost the same in value while in Australia the average wage for the agricultural labourer was 7s. per day, or 2 guineas for 6 days work.

ITEM

s.

d.

AUD

Flour: 7½ gallons @ 10d. per gallon; or, 28.5 kg @ $0.72 per kg

6

3

20.52

Yeast, 2½d.; or $2.40

 

2.40

Salt

 

1.25

Bacon; 1lb; or 0.453 kg

 

8

1.80

and vegetables

 

 

11.20

Tea, 1 ounce, 2d.

 

2

0.65

¾ lb. sugar 6d.

 

6

.80

½ lb. butter

1

0

.85

Soap ¼ lb. @ 9d. per lb.

 

.80

Candles

 

3

1.60

Thread, thrum, and worsted, for mending clothes

 

3

2.00

TOTAL

8

11¼

43.87

Weekly earnings of the Man and his Wife

7

0

34.36

Task work

1

0

4.91

Wife's common work

 

6

2.46

TOTAL

8

6

41.73

Net deficiency of wages

 

2.14

Table 5. Agricultural Labourer’s Wages and Expenses 1787
(Compiled by Rev. Davies, D., (1795), The Case of Labourers in Husbandry stated and considered, London, p. 8.)

It is easy to gather from this situation the destitution and poverty faced by the agricultural labourers in England. The lot of the Adams family would be no different to that detailed in this chart of misery. The family was large. The occupations of the various members was usually agricultural. In Adams’ case, he came from a family of shepherds. Wages were dreadful for the average labourer and was becoming worse. Copnditions were poor for the struggling workers. The new factories in Leicester compounded this misery. Looking at his lot in life, it is small wonder that Thomas Adams looked towards other lands for earning his living.

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Footnotes

1. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 113.  Return to text

2. Hammerton, J.A., (ed), Cassell's World Pictorial Gazetteer, Cassell, London, p. 550.  Return to text

3. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 112.  Return to text

4. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1073, Leicester, England, p. 2,661.  Return to text

5. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 112.  Return to text

6. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 98.  Return to text

7. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 112.  Return to text

8. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 96.  Return to text

9. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 94.  Return to text

10. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 101.  Return to text

11. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 111.  Return to text

12. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 100.  Return to text

13. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1093, Leicester, England, p. 11,754.  Return to text

14. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 96.  Return to text

15. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints, (March 1992), International Geneological Index, Sheet A1068, Leicester, England, p. 108.  Return to text

16. Bateson, M., (1899), Records of the Borough of Leicester, Cambridge.  Return to text

17. Hobbes, T., (1914) Leviathan, Everyman edition, JM Dent, London, Part I, Chap 13, p. 65.  Return to text

18. Rev. Davies, D., (1795), The Case of Labourers in Husbandry stated and considered, London, p. 6. Return to text

19. Rev. Davies, D., (1795), The Case of Labourers in Husbandry stated and considered, London, p. 8. The price comparisons were derived from a random supermarket survey conducted in Adelaide as at 2 January 1995. The produce prices are those averaged prices paid for comparable items and weights in supermarkets surveyed. Ten surpermarkets were surveyed to produce the results. They included only representatives from the major chains which included Coles, Woolworths, Franklins, BiLo and Foodlands.  Return to text

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Material

Section 346
Skillogolee Creek
The house that Thomas Adams built
Skillogolee Creek
The first letter of Thomas Adams from
Skillogolee Creek