John Henric Easton and Esther Gough

John Henric Easton was born about 1839 or 1840, based on his stated age of 15 when he arrived with his family in February 1855 aboard the Wanderer. John was the third child of Thomas Easton and Mary Waldie. According to that passenger list John was a farm labourer and could also read and write, so he received an early education, either formally at school or at home from his parents.1

John Henric Easton married Esther Gough on 6 August 1864 in Bothwell, Tasmania.2 Esther was baptised on 11 March 1827 in a Catholic ceremony in Hobart, the daughter of Patrick Gough and Esther Webb.3 Esther survived an attack by aborigines on the Gough family the following year in 1828.

Oatlands, Oct. 14. - The recent murders committed by some of the black natives on Anne Geary and Alicia Gough, near the big lagoon, Oatlands, have filled the country with alarm and consternation.

Only a few days previous Mr. Bryant's hut at the Blue hills had been robbed by the Aborigines, notwithstanding that the hut was guarded by a man who had a musket in his possession, and several other men were close by. The natives were pursued by two armed men, but they succeeded in getting deliberately away with their plunder.

On Thursday last the 9th instant, Patrick Gough's wife said to her husband that she thought she heard the shrieks of a woman, on looking out he observed Anne Geary running towards his hut, she seemed greatly exhausted, and told Gough that she had seen the natives coming towards Mortimer's hut where she resided. Gough and two other men lost no time in proceeding to the hut to prevent the blacks from getting a gun and some ammunition which were there. One of the men (Bates) carried a gun, the other two had merely black sticks with them. When they arrived at Mortimer's hut they could perceive that the door had been forced open, and a number of things were strewed about the floor and outside the door, the gun, ammunition, with some blankets had disappeared.

On returning Gough was met by his eldest daughter Mary, covered with blood, calling upon her father to hasten home as the natives had killed her mother and sisters. Gough saw his wife about half a mile from the hut sitting on the ground, resting her back against the fence, with her infant child in her lap. The poor woman said - "My dear Gough, it is all over with me, I am killed by the natives.” She was covered wilh wounds and fainted. The man, half frantic, afforded her all the assistance in his power, tearing part of his shirt to make a bandage for her head. He then ran with all speed to his hut, where the first thing which presented itself to his view was his infant daughter Alicia lying breathless in front of the door with her arms extended, but although she had the appearance of being dead the vital spark was not quite extinct.

On entering the hut he found Anne Geary lying stretched on the floor, and on being removed to a sofa she vomited quantities of blood; she died about two hours after, and about midnight Alicia Gough, not more than four years of age, breathed her last. Gough's youngest child, an infant 13 months old, (Esther) had received several contusions, but of a slighter character than those inflicted on the others.

During the absence of Gough the hut had been robbed of six blankets, two sheets, three or four knives, a basin containing some eggs, and twenty dollars.

Mrs. Gough, who still remains in a very perilous situation, made shift to communicate to her husband that she fell on her knees before the savages, begging them to spare the lives of her “Picanninies”, and that one of them told her, in good English, that they should be all killed, they then repeated their blows to her head.

Dr. Hudspeth lost no time, when he heard of the fatal catastrophe, in visiting the hopeless family. It is this gentleman's opinion that Anne Geary came by her death principally from a deep gash into the brain, inflicted by an axe which was lying at the door with marks of blood on it. She had also other fractures of the skull with several spear wounds on the breast, which were considered mortal. The child Alicia Gough died from a contusion on the head, apparent from a waddy.

Mary, the eldest of Gough's daughters, an interesting child, seven years old, and although she cannot read, evincing considerable acuteness of understanding, said that the natives inflicted several wounds and bruises on her when they were attacking the other victims. She states that she made an attempt to carry her sister Alicia away from the blacks, when those barbarous savages struck them down with their waddies, and she fell down "as dead as a gum stick", and when she came to herself they had disappeared.

A Coroner's inquest was held on Saturday last, on the bodies of Anne Geary and Alicia Gough, when a verdict was returned of wilful murder against certain persons unknown, belonging to the Aboriginal tribes of the island.

Such are the particulars of the above horrid transactions, and by comparing what has latterly happened in other parts of the island, it can no longer be doubted that the natives have formed a systematic organised plan for carrying on a war of extermination against the white inhabitants of the colony.

In the instance of the above murders the design is evident, the movement on Mortimer's hut was merely a feint, contrived for the purpose of making a desperate attack on the Gough family. Their operations are now conducted with much cunning, and they seem perfectly able to calculate the chances of the probable opposition they may meet with; they acquire in every successive enterprise more confidence, and will also wait with great calmness till they observe whether the muskets in the hands of persons in pursuit missfire or not. This was the case with those who robbed Mr. Bryant's hut, but they were pursued by two men, both armed, one with a double-barrelled piece, both pieces missed fire, which when the natives saw, they dared them to come on, and then walked leisurely with their booty. It is scarcely possible to conceive but that human beings, let them be ever so low in the scale of the creation, must possess some innate feeling, dictating to them the heinousness and cowardice of murdering women with their infants in their arms, more so as from the English spoken among them, they must have some notions of our manners and principles of acting. Thus the warfare and deadly system carried on by the Aborigines receive daily a new character, and it will require some immediate, vigorous and efficient measures to repel attacks which if they be not speedily put a stop to, must render it impossible to guard the lives and property of the colonists against the most alarming consequences.

Amidst all those scenes of horrors, one gleam of hope appears on which to ground some expectation that the Aborigines might be induced to enter into a good understanding with white inhabitants. They seem to begin to hold in higher value than heretofore, blankets, clothing, knives, bread, and other articles of civilized life. They cannot long hope to acquire those things by casual plunder and precarious warfare. Once under the influence of new wants, they may, in order to satisfy them, endeavour to seek them by more peaceable and less bloody means, than they are at present acquainted with.

It is quite clear that the outrages at Bryant's, Mortimer's and Gough's were perpetrated by the same horde, consisting of about 20 men, no women or children, for the party of constables and soldiers which followed the natives from Gough's hut on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, picked up some of constable Prior's wearing apparel and bedding, and other things which had been stolen by the natives from Bryant's hut. These things were found at different fires which the natives fled from on seeing the approach of the party. They fled towards the Coal River from the big lagoon.4

Esther Gough was married previously to John McWaide on 7 February 1853 in Bothwell, Tasmania.5 John had probably been previously married to the Sarah McWaide that died in Bothwell on 6 August 1852.6 John and Esther had five children.

  • John McWaide, born on 22 February 1854 in Bothwell, Tasmania7
  • Patrick McWaide, born on 14 June 1855 in Bothwell, Tasmania, died on 2 July 1855 in Bothwell, Tasmania8
  • Anna Maria McWaide, born on 26 July 1856 in Bothwell, Tasmania9
  • Archibald Thomas McWaide (as an un-Named male), born on 4 November 1858 in Bothwell, Tasmania10
  • Peter (also known as Percy or Perrie) McWaide, born on 27 September 1861 in Bothwell, Tasmania11

John McWaide died on 31 May 1862 in Bothwell, Tasmania at the age of 64.12 Two years later Esther married John Easton and they would go on to have three children, making eight children in the combined McWaide-Easton family.

  • Flora Adeline Easton was born on 6 June 1865 in Bothwell, Tasmania13
  • Thomas James Easton was born on 6 April 1868 in Bothwell, Tasmania14
  • Ethel May Easton was born on 26 May 1872 in Bothwell, Tasmania15

Oddly enough, just after the birth of their first child in July 1865, John Henric Easton was recorded as insolvent, with Esther McQuade (sic) recorded as a creditor:

BEFORE J. C. Gregson, Esq., Conmissioner.
In re J. H. EASTON.

Adjourned first meeting and on discharge. Mr. Graves for insolvent.

Proofs: Edward Gregory, £13 10s. Gd. for wages ; received as a claim. Jane Smith £64 viz., £24 on an acceptance for money lent, and £40 for work and labor for two years for Esther McQuade, before her marriage with insolvent. (Gill.)

Mr. Gill said he had received two acceptances from Bothwell yesterday, to prove, but that was not in time for to-day.

Mr. Graves said if it were thought worth while to prove, a special meeting could be called.

Mr. Gill asked that they might be admitted, subject to affidavits being produced in chambers. The claims were Robert Jones, £9 10s. and John Baker, £13 15s.

This was assented to.

The Commissioner said he would defer the discharge for a fortnight, pending certain enquiries to be made by the assignee, but without the necessity for a notice to be advertised.16

The result of the insolvency is currently unknown. The next we hear of John Easton is in July 1877 when he sought relief from paying his municipal rates due to illness.

An application from Mr. J. H Easton for remission of his municipal rate was taken into consideration, applicant stating that owing to ill-health he had been unable for 18 months to earn a shilling. Said application acceded to, and rates remitted accordingly.17

John Henric Easton died on 14 October 1877 in Bothwell, Tasmania. The cause of death was recorded as Pthisis, an archaic term for pulmonary tuberculosis.18

John McWaide Jnr. (27) married Alice Moore (21) on 14 November 1881 in the home of E. Easton in Bothwell, Tasmania.19

Percy McWaide (23) married Laura Matilda Quinn (17) on 22 June 1885 in Bothwell, Tasmania.20

Flora Adeline Wilson married Joseph Balgue (recorded as Balque) on 27 November 1886 in Oatlands, Tasmania.21 Joseph was born on 20 November 1856 in Crofton, York, England, the son of George Howe Balgue and Mary Twigg.22 Flora and Joseph had seven children that have been traced.

Ethel May Easton married William George Wheeler, age 33, on 8 October 1889 in the Coffee Palace, Brisbane Street, Launceston, Tasmania. The witnesses were Thomas James Easton and Mary Crocker.23 William Wheeler was born on 8 Oct 1859 in Rangiora, Canterbury New Zealand, the son of William George Wheeler and Agnes Turnbull.24

Ethel and William would have four children in Tasmania that have been traced. In the late 1890s William Wheeler was forced into bankruptcy and it may have been this event that caused the family to emigrate to New Zealand. A further four children were born there but for some unknown reason many of them reverted to using the surname Easton.25

Esther Easton, formerly McWaide, nee Gough, died in the Newington Asylum, Grenville, New South Wales on 11 May 1913.26 While the cause is currently unknown, the location of Esther’s death suggests she was probably suffering some form of dementia.

The fate of the McWaide children is relatively well documented. John McWaide Jnr. died in 1914 in New South Wales. Anna Maria McWaide died in 1931 in Oatlands, Tasmania. Archibald Thomas McWaide died in 1937 in Queensland.27

Regarding the Easton descendants and their spouses, Joseph Balgue, the husband of Flora Easton, died on 16 July 1920 in Queenstown, Tasmania.28

Engine driver's Death

Joseph Balgue, 64 years of age, an engine-driver in the employ of the Mount Lyell Co., died suddenly at his residence, Hunter-street, last night. Deceased had been at work as usual during the day, and about 10 o'clock at night was sitting in a chair reading a newspaper when he collapsed without speaking, and fell back dead. He had been under medical treatment for some time for heart trouble, and as Dr. Walker, who had attended him, certified to this effect, an inquest will not be necessary. Deceased leaves a grown-up family of five sons and one daughter.29

Joseph was buried on 18 July 1920 in Queenstown, Tasmania. Flora, his wife, died on 15 June 1931 in South Melbourne, Victoria, her death registered under the surname Balque.30

John Horton
John Horton's picture
William George Wheeler

Last reference found to William George Wheeler:

A meeting of creditors In the estate of William George Wheeler will be held at the office of Messrs Williams and Page on the 18th inst at 3 o'clock.1

This could mean William died, but no death record or will exists at this time, or he went bankrupt, but no proceedings are logged with the Archives Office of Tasmania. A William Wheeler died on 17 November 1915 in the public hospital in Launceston, Tasmania but this is not proven to the William Wheeler that married Ethel Easton.2