Thomas Shenstone Flindell (1848 – 1879)

Thomas Shenstone Flindell circa 1875Thomas Shenstone was born in Bridgewater September 1848.  He was the third youngest on eleven children born to Francis Bassett Shenstone Flindell and Joanna Northam.  The family arrived in the Swan River Colony onboard the Nile on January 1st, 1858.  The Nile manifest on sailing in September 1854 gives his age as 18.  What he did for the first five years in the Colony is not known, but from February 1863 to December 1864 Thomas was employed as a messenger at the Colonial Hospital where he was paid £40 per annum[1].

Thomas married Mary Charlotte Luff at Fremantle July 11th 1869.  Mary was the daughter of John Luff and Mary Ann Baker.  John Luff was convicted at Huntingdon in 1848 of stealing horses for which he received a 15 year sentence.  He arrived in the Swan River Colony onboard the Hashemy on October 25th 1850.  His wife and three children followed in the Anna McLean arriving November 6th 1852.

Shortly after their marriage Thomas and Mary moved to Kojonup where Thomas set up as a blacksmith. He served on the Road Board from 1878 to 1879.  In 1878 His Excellency the Governor appointed Thomas the bailiff of the Local Court at Kojonup.[2]

Thomas and Mary had five children:

  • Charlotte born in Perth in 1868.[3] At twenty, she headed off on an adventure and sailed from Fremantle on the” Otway”[4] shortly before 5pm on Wednesday 13th February 1889 for Cossack, the port for Roebourne.  In her short time there she worked as a domestic servant.  She died in Roebourne of peritonitis on July 17th 1889 and was buried the following day in an unmarked grave in the Roebourne Cemetery.  Charlotte was born out of wedlock.  While I am not aware whether Thomas was the father, he seems to have taken care of her.
  • Elizabeth was born 1871.  She married Thomas Fitzpatrick in Kojonup in 1889[5]. Thomas was born in 1869 and died in Kojonup on November 12th 1957.  They had at least one child, Thomas born in Kojonup in 1891[6] .
  • Louisa Harriett born in Kojonup in 1874[7] and died in Kojonup on September 7th 1954.   Louisa married Henry Elijah Fleay (1870-1949) at Arthur River on March 25th 1895[8].  They had 13 children on whom I have little data.  They were
    • Augustus James, born 1895, died Katanning June 20th 1978.
    • Thomas Henry Walter, born 1896.
    • Horace Linol William buried Arthur River.
    • Harold Jost Frederick Victor, born 1898, died 1927.
    • George Leslie Whandel born Arthur River April 14th 1902. He had WW2 service in the Army, service number W91592.  His wife Helen Fleay was his listed next of kin. George enlisted from Beaconsfield WA, June 25th 1942.
    • Stella Mary, born 1902.
    • Emily Edith, born 1905.
    • Merton, no data.
    • Alfred Edgar, born Katanning 1910, died East Vitoria Park April 30th 1984.  He married Mary Christobel Ward in Perth 1930.
    • Henry Elijah, born September 16th 1911. He had WW2 Service, in the Army.  His wife, Irene Fleay was his listed next of kin.  Henry enlisted from Toodyay May 14th 1941 and was discharged as Lieutenant on November 8th 1945.
    • Wilfred Waylon, born 1914.
    • Jean Isobel, no data.
    • Kevin, born 1922.
  • Martha Ann born 1876[9] in Kojonup and died in Perth in 1941[10]. She married David James Bradford in Perth in 1919[11].  They did not have children.  David was born in Runneymede, Victoria [12]in September 1879 and died October 13th 1968 and was cremated[13].  David was a saddler and farmer and served in both the Boer War and First World War.
    • Ellen Harriet born October 25th 1878[14], and died October 19th 1939[15].  She married Thomas Gibbs at Arthur River on February 26th 1899[16].  They had at least one child, Charlotte Harriet who was born in Albany in 1904[17] and married Robert Jilley.  Ellen died at Wearne House, Mandurah and was buried with her husband at Boyup Brook[18].  I have no information on children from this marriage.  Robert Jilley was born in Bunbury on May 18th 1908[19].

Death of Thomas

Thomas died in a road construction accident near Albany, Western Australia on July 17th 1879.  It is not clear why he was engaged in this work while he still had a blacksmith business in Kojonup.  One can only speculate that it was an opportunity to add to the family income.  The report stated he died and was buried at the site of the accident, which reported as 24 miles (40 km) from Albany.  The Albany Historical Collection staff checked the Albany Burial Index and advised he was later re-buried in the Albany Pioneer Cemetery, but the only indication of the grave location is that it is on the low side of the cemetery.

Mary Charlotte (nee Luff) A Fascinating Lady

Life after Thomas – Husband 2

After the death of Thomas, Mary married John Watkins[20] (1828-1888) in Kojonup.   There were two candidates for Mary’s second husband.  The first is John Watkins[21] born 1842; convict number 6483, who arrived in the Swan River Colony aboard the Norwood (Journey 1) on June 9th 1862.  He was an unmarried farm labourer who was sentenced in Peterborough to 10 years for rape.  He was granted a ticket of leave on May 12th 1864 and was known to be working in the Beverley area, which would seem to make him the contender.  However, the other possibility is John Watkin born 1829, also known as Watkins, convict number 9603, who arrived on the Norwood (journey 2) on July 13th 1867.  He was sentenced in Swansea to 8 years for shooting to wound.  Watkins(s) was born 1829, had a wife and 4 children.  He was granted a Ticket of Leave on April 25th 1870 and a Certificate of Freedom on March 31st 1874 in Albany.  His occupation was sawyer, labourer and general servant.  It also records his trade and wheelwright and carpenter who employed two Ticket of Leave men in 1871 and was then employed by Flindell.  It also notes that when the sandalwood trade declined in 1884 he was in financial straits and he applied for poor relief and was refused.  In 1887 he was arrested for non-payment of wages at which stage his wife Mary was granted “temporary outdoor poor relief”.  This would seem to be conclusive, but the compliers of the Bicentennial Dictionary may have confused their Watkins.

During that marriage Mary had eight children:

  • David Flindell Watkins, born Kojonup 1880[22] and died Kojonup 1886.  He was the biological son of Thomas Shenstone Flindell.
  • Amelia, born Kojonup 1882 – ?
  • Martha 1883 – ?
  • Emma 1885 – ?
  • Margaret 1885 – ?
  • George 1886 – ?
  • James, born Kojonup 1887[23].
  • Elizabeth 1889 – ?

Was it Murder?

Mary Watkins and Charles Hicks, a blacksmith, were charged with the murder of Charles Jones by a single gunshot wound from a double barrel shotgun firing ball shot.  The trial was reported in The Inquirer dated October 11th, 1882, page 5.

The essence of the case is summed up in the testimony of Mary Charlotte Flindell, the eldest of Mary Watkins children:

I am the daughter of Mary Watkins.  I remember the 19th of last month being in the room together with my mother and Charles Hicks.  Whilst there Charles Jones came to the house; I knew him by his voice.  He was working for Watkins.  He said, “All’s well so far, but it won’t be in a few minutes.”  He came round towards the passage leading up to the back door; he called out for Charles Hicks.  The prisoner (Hicks) said, “What do you want? – go to bed like a good man.”  I heard Charles Jones go into his room.  He called out, “I’ll find you.”  He came out to the back door and said, “Open the door.”  My mother said, “I won’t open the door now that I have shut it.”  He again said, “Open the door.”  She said, “No.” again, and he replied, “We’ll soon have the —- door open.”  I ran out of the front door, having first pushed the bolt back.  I know I made a mistake in saying my mother brought the gun; I saw my mother with the gun in her hand before I left the room.  I was outside when I heard her say, “fire.”  I heard a shot.

Under cross examination by defence council (Mr. Howell) she was drawn to elaborate on her evidence, and said, amongst other things that Jones had returned from the hotel and asked for the door to be opened. She said:

When he was in the room Jones said, “Gaffer have you any money?”  My father replied, “Charlie, I am short of money.”  He asked again for money, and my father replied, “no Charlie, I believe you had the last shilling from my wife this afternoon.”  He made some remark; I caught the words – “This knife, a deed of blood.”  Father said, “pooh, have your supper, Charlie, and go to bed.”  He said no: my father repeated the same words.  He replied again, “this knife, a deed of blood.”

Howell then reminded the court of the case of “Newcastle Jack” who some five years previously while under the influence of drink, attacked a woman and a number of children in Kojonup with an axe and committed suicide.   This had the desired affect and the defendants were found not guilty.

And Then There Was Henry – Husband 3

Mary married Henry Hignett in Kojonup in 1890.  They had at least one child, Eliza May Hignett, born at Arthur River in 1893.

Henry Hignett was convicted at Nether Knutsford, England of stealing and sentenced to 14 Years.  He arrived at Fremantle aboard the Edwin Fox on November 12th 1858 and was granted a Ticket of Leave on July 6th 1860, then Conditional Pardon on January 20th 1864.  Fremantle Prison records described him as born 1832, a semi-literate farm labourer, married with one child.  There is no record of family travelling to Colony, the death of this wife or a divorce.

Henry was self employed in 1863, and then worked for Charles Claydon at Arthur River.  Because Hignett was semi-literate, in the 1880’s Claydon applied on his behalf for a pastoral lease leading to the grant of freehold land at Arthur River.   Henry moved Mary and her family to his property, which he named Coli Gardens.  Here the family grew vegetables that they delivered to Katanning or Wagin for onward transport to the growing needs of the goldfields.  The round journey was about a week.  When Henry became sick, the gardens and shepherding of 600 ewes was left to his wife and teenage step-daughters.  The girls often travelled for days with the flock to find good pasture.

Henry died in 1904.

Gradually Mary’s children married and moved away from home, but Mary continued to live by herself at Coli Gardens.  It was not until she was no longer able to draw water from her well that she was forced to give up and move to Collie.   Despite a life of hard work, Mary lived to age 91 and died in Collie on October 18th 1940.  She was buried and an unmarked grave in the Anglican section of the cemetery.  Mary Charlotte was a fascinating lady with an interesting tale, including being charged with murder and found not guilty.  At her trial the Medical Officer described her as “anything but a strong-minded woman; she is very thin and nervous.” Does this fit the image of the life of Mary and her children as market gardeners, taking crops to Wagin and Katanning or roaming the countryside pasturing sheep for weeks on end?


[1] The “Blue Books” detail the annual returns for the Colony.

[2] The Western Australian Times, Friday 4 October 1878, page 2

[3] Birth Certificate 10935 of 1868

[4] The West Australian, Shipping Notes, Thursday 14 February 1889, Page 2

[5] Marriage Certificate 110 of 1889

[6] Birth Certificate 956 of 1891

[7] Birth Certificate 15450 of 1874

[8] Marriage Certificate 147 of 1895

[9] Birth Certificate 17184 of 1876

[10] Death Certificate 2374 of 1941

[11] Marriage Certificate 385 of 1919

[12] Australian War Memorial nominal rolls

[13] Metropolitan Cemetery Board Records

[14] Birth Certificate 19263 of 1878

[15] Date from her tombstone.  The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australia gives 1941.

[16] Marriage certificate 837 of 1899

[17] Birth Certificate 5858 of 1904

[18] Source Jack Jilley, but not independently validated

[19] WW2 Army Service Records – Jilley, Robert WX15287

[20] John Watkins is also referred to as Watkin.  Here the more common Watkins is adopted.

[21] The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australia (page 3221)

[22] Birth Certificate 21245 of 1880

[23] Birth Certificate 519 of 1887