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Schaw, Maria Susan (1820–1914)

by Xavier Reader and Sandy McGie

Maria Susan Schaw was born in Jamaica on 29 April 1820 in the parish of St. Andrew.[1] Her father Major Charles Schaw (1785-1874) and mother Anne/Anna Frances née Cockburn (1772-1860) both came from generations of West Indian colonists stretching back to the first European inhabitants in the seventeenth century. Their families owned plantations and the people enslaved on them.[2] When slavery was abolished in the West Indies in 1834, Maria’s parents received £196 11s 11d in compensation from the British government for eight enslaved people.[3]

Charles Schaw appears to have been born in Jamaica.[4] He was educated at Eton, in Britain. In 1802 he entered the British Army as an ensign, aged seventeen.[5] By 1811, he had attained the rank of captain, through purchase.[6] He fought in the Napoleonic Peninsula wars, efforts of which earned him a war medal.[7] After returning to England, he accompanied his regiment to America, where he fought alongside General Thornton in 1814 and 1815 during the American War of 1812.[8] Shaw was mentioned in honourable terms in numerous dispatches.[9] In June 1815 he married Anne Frances Cockburn in St Andrews, Jamaica, at the home of Anne’s parents’ plantation, ‘Belle Vue Estate’ at Charlemont near Kingston.[10] In 1819, ownership of the Belle Vue estate was assumed by Charles Schaw, rights he retained until 1825.[11]

Following their marriage, the Schaws divided their time between Jamaica and England. From 1824 Charles Schaw was made a major of a brigade in Honduras.[12] He returned to England in 1830 and transferred to the 21st Royal North British Fusiliers.[13] In 1833 the Schaws emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) with the 21st Fusiliers regiment.[14] Charles, accompanied by his wife, son and several daughters, including Maria, appeared to have arrived aboard the Lotus on the 16 May 1833.[15] Charles was the officer in charge of convicts during the voyage.[16] Anne gave birth to their eighth and last child, Henrietta, on the 23rd of April that year at Green Ponds, a military station north of Hobart.[17] In Tasmania, Charles held numerous civil positions. He was appointed by Governor George Arthur to be a police magistrate, coroner, and deputy Chair of Quarter sessions at Bothwell, northeast of Hobart.[18] By April 1835, Charles’ income enabled him to sell his position in the army.[19]

The Schaws lived first in Bothwell, northeast of Hobart, and from 1841 relocated to Richmond, where Charles was appointed a full police magistrate, serving in the position from 1845 to 1849.[20] The family were well-known entertainers and spent lavishly on their estate ‘Schawfield,’ previously known as ‘Wentworth House.’[21] Purchased for £850, Charles made significant changes, including the addition of a second story, at an expense of £4000.[22] The property eventually consisted of thirty-seven rooms.[23] Schawfield was renamed after Charles’ family’s estate in Trelawney, Jamaica.[24] Schawfield, Jamaica was owned by Charles and his uncle Edward Schaw from at least 1800.[25] The estate primarily produced sugar and rum, and in 1810 held 250 enslaved people.[26] It appears to have been sold between 1811 and 1815.[27] Like the Jamaican estate, Schawfield in Tasmania was home to farming operations.[28] 

For several years, the Schaws lived on the edge of insolvency and Charles Schaw proved to be a deeply unpopular man. His service as police magistrate earned him many complaints aimed at his autocratic temperament and favouritism.[29] He and fellow magistrate J.H. Butcher (Maria’s future father-in-law) were unsympathetic towards convicts and Catholics.[30] Lieutenant Governor Sir Henry Young (1803-1870) condemned Schaw in March 1855 for his slanderous comments towards his ‘enemies’.[31] Charles and Anne retired to England in 1858 on a government pension, accompanied by several of their children.[32] By the time of their departure, Maria and siblings Anne, Louisa, Frances and Henrietta had all married and remained in Tasmania. Anne died at Torquay, in the south of England, in 1860. Charles died at the same place on the 5th of March 1874.[33]

Maria married Edward William Burchell Butcher (1826-1895), a local pastoralist and squatter, in Richmond in October 1853, aged thirty-three.[34] The couple had several children: Edward William Norton (1851-1913), Maria (1856-1921), William James Burchell (1858-), Charles John Hunt (1860-1931), and Frances Emma (1862).[35] In 1876, Maria arrived at Champion Bay, Western Australia, accompanied by her husband and their children William and Charles.[36] Her husband died in Carnarvon, Western Australia, on 28 January 1895.[37] Maria died at Guildford, Western Australia, on 3 June 1914, aged about ninety-four.[38]

Endnotes

[1] ‘Maria Schaw,’ Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, Jamaica, Family Search Online Database, https://familysearch.org/pal:/mm9.1.1/VHDZ-3SL

[2] ‘Charles Schaw,’ 1871 England Census, The United Kingdom National Archives, Ancestry.com Online Database, ancestry.com.au/family- tree/person/tree/180237485/person/272340822399/facts; ‘Charles Schaw,’ Church of England Deaths and Burials, Devon, Ancestry.com Online Database, ancestry.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180237485/person/272340822399/facts; ‘Anne Cockburn,’ Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, Jamaica, Ancestry.com Online Database, ancestry.com.au/family- tree/person/tree/180237485/person/272340822999/facts; ‘Anne Cockburn,’ Church of England Deaths and Burials, Devon, Ancestry.com Online Database, ancestry.com.au/family-tree/person/tree/180237485/person/272240822999/facts.    

[3] ‘Charles Schaw’, Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/20992; ‘Jamaica St Andrew 388,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/claim/view/20969

[4] Julie Carrington Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles (1785-1874),’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/schaw-charles-2634

[5] ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, 30 May 1874, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/rendition/nla.news-article198923337.3.pdf?followup=2d7bd8bc8b5a88061d671d38b323ece1 p.9; Julie Carrington Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles (1785-1874),’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/schaw-charles-2634

[6] ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, p.9

[7] ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, p.9

[8] ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, p.9

[9] ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, p.9

[10] ‘Married,’ London Courier and Evening Gazette, 3 August 1815, The British Newspaper Archive, britishnewspapersarchive.co.uk/viewer/print/b1/00001476/18150803/011/004

[11] ‘Belle Vue/Pleasant Grove Estate Details,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/estate/view/2684

[12] ‘Appendix II: Colonial Careers of Peninsula War Veterans and their Cohort,’ in

Christine Wright, Wellington’s Men in Australia: Peninsular War Veterans and the Making of Empire c. 1820-40 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), p.196.

[13] ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, p.9

[14] ‘Appendix I: Database of Influential British Army Officers in the Australian Colonies who were Veterans of the Peninsular War, and their Cohort,’ in

Christine Wright, Wellington’s Men in Australia: Peninsular War Veterans and the Making of Empire c. 1820-40 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), p.185; ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, p.9

[15] ‘Loss of the Hibernia,’ Hobart Town Courier, 21 May 1833, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/rendition/nla.news-article4192335.3.pdf?followup=f1f93f45d2f73851e8111d6922c1f6ed, p.4; ‘Indents of Male Convicts Arriving on the Lotus, 16 May 1833, and the Jupiter, 28 May 1833,’ Tasmania: Convict Department, https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/19q252h/ADLIB110371057.

[16] ‘Loss of the Hibernia,’ Hobart Town Courier, p.4

[17] ‘Henrietta Barrick Schaw,’ Tasmanian Name Index: Green Ponds, Libraries Tasmania, libraries.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names/search/results?qu+Henrietta&qu+Barrick&qu+schaw

[18] Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles,’ ADB.

[19] Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles,’ ADB.

[20] ‘Magistrates and Justices of the Peace in Van Diemens Land,’ Female Convicts Research Group (2013), p.2 https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/lists/Magistrates.pdf.  

[21] Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles,’ ADB. ‘Schawfield’ was originally known as ‘Wentworth House’ before its purchase by Charles Schaw. Bothwell Historical Society, ‘Bothwell and its Chronology,’ http://www.bothwellhistoricalsociety.org.au/Bothwell%20Chronology.html

[22] Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles,’ ADB.

[23] Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles,’ ADB.

[24] ‘Charles Schaw,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database (online), University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/20992; Laidlaw and Arnott, “National Biographies and Transnational Lives,” p.167.

[25] ‘Schawfield Estate,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database (online), University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/estate/view/2744

[26] ‘Schawfield Estate,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online; Database; ‘1810 Jamaica Almanac: Trelawny,’ Jamaican Family Search Research Library Online Database, http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Members/a/AL11Trel.htm

[27] ‘Charles Schaw,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database.

[28] ‘Schawfield,’ Legacies of British Slavery Online Database, University College London, https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/estate/view/2744

[29] Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles,’ ADB; Peter MacFie, “A Social History of Richmond 1820-1855,” (2017), https://petermacfiehistorian.net.au, p.9

[30] Peter MacFie, “A Social History of Richmond 1820-1855,” (2017), https://petermacfiehistorian.net.au, p.9

[31] Smith, ‘Schaw, Charles,’ ADB.

[32] ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, p.9

[33] ‘Major Schaw,’ The Tasmanian, p.9

[34] The Courier, 12 October 1853, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/rendition/nla.news-article2245518.3.pdf?followup=c3f894f96c30314871aac551b66919f7, p.2

[35] Edward William Butcher, Western Australian Bicentennial Dictionary (WABD) pre-1829–1988, ed. Rica Erickson (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1987).

[36] Edward William Butcher, WABD.

[37] Edward William Butcher, WABD.

[38] Edward William Butcher, WABD.

Original Publication

Citation details

Xavier Reader and Sandy McGie, 'Schaw, Maria Susan (1820–1914)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/schaw-maria-susan-32769/text40751, accessed 2 October 2022.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Butcher, Maria Susan
Birth

1820
Surrey, Jamaica

Death

3 June, 1914 (aged ~ 94)
Guildford, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage