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Charles Cross

My 4th great grandfather

On 11 August 1787, Charles Cross was sentenced to seven years transportation at the Bridgewater (Somerset) Assizes for the theft of a silver spoon from a house. He is the second convict ancestor of mine to bear the Cross name. Charles was not related to John Cross a convict of the First Fleet. John and Charles are referred to in our family as the 'double cross'. Coincidentally, as a result of both becoming pioneers of the Hawkesbury River, their lives became intertwined and they have many descendants in common.

In December 1787 Charles was ordered to the 'Dunkirk' a hulk at Plymouth, age given as 22 and was embarked on the 'Neptune' transport at the end of November 1789. During the period the prisoners were held on the hulks they were expected to work on the Thames docks. (See picture left). The 'Neptune' arrived in Sydney Harbour on 28th June 1790 being part of the disastrous 2nd fleet.

Less than five months after landing at Sydney Cove, Cross married Rose Flood, also a convict, at Parramatta on 21 November 1790; both signed the register with a mark X. The couple were living in a hut at Parramatta in July 1791 when Cross was charged with receiving some clothing, the proceeds of a burglary. Two constables searching for the burglar arrested James Chapman and Cross as they were walking together along Parramatta Road at 4am. Chapman confessed to the burglary and named the first fleet convict Joseph Hatton as the man who had received the stolen clothes and hid them in the bush. Hatton said Rose Cross had begged him to warn her husband that constables were searching for the burglar. The court accepted the belief of the constables that, although his behavior was highly suspicious, Cross had not known that the property was stolen. Chapman strongly asserted that Cross was innocent. He was acquitted. Hatton was ordered 800 lashes and Chapman was hanged the next day.

On 12 June 1792 Cross gave evidence relating to an enquiry into the murder by Aborigines of a man at Prospect Hill. Cross appears to have been living at Prospect at this point and stated that he had been carrying a bag of corn to Parramatta (apparently on foot) when five or six Aborigines, including one woman, had taken some cobs from him. Cross also related an incident in which an Aboriginal girl had apparently attempted to persuade an old man with her to throw her spear at him. He said he had found this extraordinary as only a week before he had given her some food at his house.

In the 1790ís Cross acquired two farms in the Hawkesbury district. In 1800 he had 15 acres sown in wheat and another 15 in maize. The couple owned 4 pigs and 24 goats and the their five children were supported by government stores. In 1802 the family were no longer maintained by the government and with six children and one free worker to support, were slightly worse off. They may have been adversely affected by flood damage and the withdrawal of government rations, because in March 1801 Cross assigned two farms in the Hawkesbury district to Thomas Hobby Esq. to secure a debt of $69. Cross held 60 acres at the time of the 1802 muster with 12 acres sown in wheat and 8 in maize; they owned 8 pigs and held 8 bushels of maize in store. They appear to have sold the goats and were recorded as being in debt to the government.

Their financial problems worsened and in June 1803 Cross was on a list of persons whose effects were sold at an auction sale by execution. In December 1804 he lodged a notice warning trespassers off his farm known as Bushells Lagoon, situated just west of Wilberforce. In August 1805 he was again in debt, with his land and effects advertised for sale by execution unless claims were settled. In August 1806 he sold a 100 acre farm (by execution) for £120. This land, situated on the east side of the Hawkesbury River near Cattai Creek was purchased by the First Fleet emancipist Catherine Johnson. In the muster of that year Cross was recorded holding 150 acres, all or part purchased from one Burgess, of which he had 18 acres sown in wheat and a half-acre orchard and garden. He owned 50 goats and 6 hogs and held 3 bushels of maize in store.

Children born to the couple were Sarah (1791), Mary Ann (1792) (my 3rd Great Grandmother), Susannah (1794), Edward (1799), Christopher (1800) and Elizabeth (1802). Cross managed to survive as a landholder and in 1822 he was holding 50 acres by grant (5 sown in wheat, 10 in maize, 5 in barley, 3 in oats and a half in orchard and garden). He owned 3 cattle and 20 pigs, holding 10 bushels of wheat and 20 of maize in store. In 1828 he and Rose were recorded as residents of the Wilberforce area, with 18 acres under cultivation and one cow. This census shows that he was a Protestant, she a Catholic. They employed a convict labourer, were said to be both aged 70 although this may have been an estimate by another household member as Charles was probably nearer 63. In 1831 Cross, described as a resident of Lower Pitt Town, was granted 50 acres on Little Cattai Creek known as Wheeny Farm. His sons Christopher and Edward were each granted 50 acres adjoining their fatherís grant. They were charged quit rent from January 1827 which probably indicates that they had a right of occupancy on the land from this date. Charles probably continued to live at Wilberforce up to 1828, but may have been living on Wheeny Farm by 1831. Charles Cross died on 13 October 1835. His widow died on 4 November 1836. Both were buried in Wilberforce Cemetery.

Submitted by : Jean Macleay, Member WFHG, 9 February 2012

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