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Best, John (c. 1754–1839)

John Best and John Tasker were found guilty on 29 October 1783 at the Old Bailey, London, of stealing a pair of saddle bags, clothing, shoe buckles and other items. They were sentenced to seven years transportation. Both men were delivered to the convict transport Mercury in March 1784, bound for America. Best was recaptured after the convict rebellion onboard (Tasker had not tried to escape) and was sent to the Dunkirk hulk. He arrived in Sydney in January 1788 aboard the Friendship as part of the First Fleet.

In March 1790 Best was sent to Norfolk Island on the Sirius. His sentence expired in October. In July 1791 he was supporting two people and was sharing a sow with Grace Maddocks. By 30 November he was classified as a settler with a lease of 12 acres on Lot no 65. In 1793 he was elected a member of the Norfolk Island Settlers Society. By the end of 1796 he was working as a general government overseer. By 1801 he held 147 acres and on 12 October he was appointed superintendent; he held this position until 1805. In 1805 he was recorded with a wife but no children.

In 1811 Best was recorded as having deficient eyesight and was considered incapable of continuing his duties. In April, with his 'housekeeper', Rebecca Chippenham, and a child named Mary Wheeler, he was ordered to go to Port Jackson for treatment. He married Rebecca on 16 June 1817 at Castlereagh and was granted 470 acres at Evan that same year. He was still recorded as holding the land in the 1828 Census. When Best died on 6 March 1839 at Windsor he was listed as a pauper; his age was given as 82.

* information from Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), pp 33-34

Citation details

'Best, John (c. 1754–1839)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/best-john-30304/text37584, accessed 29 May 2020.

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