|William Davidson 1805 - 1837|
Very little is known of William Davidson (or has been researched) before he came to Van Diemen's Land in 1827.
William Davidson was born in Northumberland in 1805 and prior to emigrating to Van Diemen's Land was head gardener in the estate of Robert Walker at Benwell. Now a suburb of Newcastle Upon Tyne, but at that time Benwell was a coal mining town of some 1200 inhabitants located on the site of a Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall.
William arrived in Hobart on board the "Albion" on 31 December 1827. Although, on this occasion his stay was brief, he was able to arrange to meet with the Lieutenant Governor Arthur - no mean achievement for a gardener at a time when Arthur was often criticised for being remote from ordinary settlers. At the end of January 1828 Davidson travelled to Sydney, but not liking the place, returned to Van Diemen's Land, this time to Port Dalrymple, arriving on 10 June 1828 by the ship "Industry".
On his arrival in Launceston, then a town of about 1000 inhabitants, Davidson first lodged with John Smith at "Marchington". Smith had arrived in Hobart at the end of 1822 and had received a large land grant south of Launceston in the area now known as Breadalbane. "Marchington" was being developed into one of the finest estates in the Colony and when advertised for auction in 1832, it was claimed that "there is also one of the best furnished gardens in the Colony, covering 4 acres of ground, and containing every description of fruit tree in sufficient quality to plant out an orchard of double the size". Ten years later the estate was again put up for auction when it was then stated that "there is also one of the best vineyards in the Colony on this estate. It has produced upwards of five tons of grapes this year". How much of these developments can be attributed to Davidson's influence during his brief stay of only two months is difficult to judge.
Soon after arriving at "Marchington" on 16 June 1828, Davidson wrote to the Colonal Secretary:
"On my arrival in Van Diemen's Land per "Albion" in January last I had an interview with His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor and His Excellency intimated that the Government was in want of a person competent to take the management of the Botanical and Horticultural Gardens at Hobart Town.
Being anxious to inform myself of the location of both colonies I could not come to the determination at that time to make application. I accordingly proceeded to New South Wales in the "Java Packet" and have spent my time since that in endevouring to gain information relative to the science.
I arrived at Port Dalrymple in "Industry" on the 10th inst and should the situation remain still vacant and His Excellency inclined to bestow the appointment I beg leave to apply for it".
In August, following a disagreement with Smith, Davidson left "Marchington" and went to live at the home of Newman Williatt, then Postmaster at Launceston.
Having received no reply to his 16 June 1828 application, on 8 September 1828 Davidson applied for a grant of land in the immediate vicinity of Launceston to the North of Mr Bain's allotment and West of Mr Houghton's.
In the letter accompanying his application Davidson state that:
"I am by profession a Botanist, Nurseryman and Gardener and that I am possessed of capital to the amount of 500 Sterling - that I have upwards of 2000 Vines in a state of great forwardness, with various other descriptions of superior Fruit Trees, as well as every variety of Garden seeds and roots from the first Nurseries in England and a complete supply of Garden Utensils and Implements of every kind.
I crave leave further to state that should His Excellency be pleased to allow me a grant in the situation above described my intention is to devote the whole of my time and Capital in the formation of a Botanical Garden and Nursery for rearing of Fruit Trees of the most choice descriptions, and most especially for the culture and improvement of the Vines, with a view of facilitating and bring into general practice the making of Wines in the Colony".
Davidson also listed the various prize medals he had received in Northumberland for pine apples, grapes, peaches, nectarines, asparagus etc. The application was supported by a number of prominent Launceston citizens including the Chief Constable.
Although there is little doubt that under the rules prevailing at the time, Davisdon would have received a substantial land grant (the general rule was a grant of one square mile for each 500 Sterling of capital), Governor Arthur deferred a decision on his application and instructed the Civil Commandant at Launceston, Edward Abbott, to enter into discussions with Davidson over his possible appointment to the Colonial Gardens.
On 23 October 1828 Abbott wrote to the Colonial Secretary:
"Mr Davidson is a Northumberland man age 24, unmarried, he bears a respectable character here, and his appearance is much in his favour........ Since he arrived at this place he has planted about three hundred trees of different sorts besides upwards of two hundred grapevines and cuttings in the gardens and grounds of Messrs Smith and Williatt; many new and valuable plants ........
He has no objection to take the direction and charge of the Government Domain and Gardens at Hobart Town on condition of receiving a salary of one hundred pounds with a ration and a house to live in. He further expects the privilege to sell for his own use such plants and shrubs as he may raise and not wanted by the Government. In going to Hobart Town he would, of course be obliged to make sacrifices on account of the trees, shrubs etc he must necessarily leave behind".
Arthur accepted these proposals except for the sale of shrubs and plants which he said "should be limited and defined". In clarification Davidson wrote "I beg leave to state that I only meant to have the disposal of the shrubs or plants that I brought from England after Government have received such a part of them as may be necessary for its own use or for ornamenting the Government Gardens in my charge".
We can only guess whether, if given his land grant, Davidson would have achieved his winemaking ambitions in the North of the State. Certainly if he had not accepted the Hobart position, the Gardens as we now know them today, would have looked very different.
When the time came for Davidson to leave Launceston to take up his position in Hobart he was living with Newman Williatt, Deputy Postmaster. On 3 December 1828 he wrote to the Civil Commandant complaining that Mr Williatt had destroyed a large number of plants which he was intending to take with him to Hobart.
In this letter Davidson stated:
"In compliance with your request, I beg to furnish you with a written account of the manner in which my various plants, flowers and forest trees got destroyed. I beg leave to state that on Monday evening the 24th of November between the hours of 8 and 9 Mr and Mrs Williatt were quarelling about an Ink Stand. Mr Williatt at the time appeared to me to be very drunk. He got up from his chair, pulled up and actually tore to pieces 6 Cockscombs, 5 Balsam, 2 seeding Geraniums, 5 Ipomoea, 1 nire leaved Ice Plant, 2 beautiful Tree Capsicum plants, very rare in England, all of which I intended taking with me to the Governor. I then left the house and felt satisfied that he was in a state of mental derangement fro the effort of liquor. I went early on Wednesday morning with an intention of saving what I could of the most valuable plants remaining and removed some Cucumber and Melon plants, as they were of a valuable kind, and I wished to have the seed saved of the different plants. I shall not occupy your time with a detail of what afterwards occurred before the Police Magistrate as it is probably known to you already but simply state after proving to the satisfaction of the Bench that the plants were my property I then went to Williatt's to remove what other plants I could save with safety, but regret to say that I found my valuable Trees and Plants torn up which consisted of at least fifty different species of Trees and Shrubs and upwards of one hundred and fifty kinds of Herbaceous Plants, without the possibility of saving one plant so complete had been the destruction".
Mr Williatt's version of the incident was very different and claiming thsat the plants supposedly destroyed were his property and further that Davidson had stolen some of his plants to take to Hobart.
This claim does not appear to have been supported by the Magistrate who concluded that no evidence of theft existed. In a subsequent letter to the Colonial Secretary Williatt referred to Davidson's letter as "founded on falsehood and grounded in malice".
I beg leave to inform you that at the time I became acquainted with Mr Davidson, which was in the month of August last, he was then raising plants on Mr Smith's land but they having disagreed he came to my house and was provided with bed, board and lodging until the 25th ult when he went away without paying one farthing for the same. At the time he came to live with me being the season for putting my garden in order and from his liberal promises of plants etc. I was induced to go to a very great expense, upwards of 30 pounds sterling, in making hot beds, trenching and bringing into cultivation a large piece of land for the purpose of establishing a market garden ........
With regard to that part of his letter charging me with destroying certain plantsa intended by him for Government I beg leave to state that there were only 2 Coxcombs and 2 Balsam, which plants long before Mr Davidson got his appointment were given by him to me ........ With respect to the forest trees and valuable shrubs, there never were any such trees grown in my garden.......
I am far from having any desire to injure Mr Davidson's character as a sober man, tho' I have had many opportunities, yet trust that malice will never by my ruling passion, I trust that the foregoing statement will prove to the satisfaction of His Excellency the falsehoods contained in his letter.
Mr Williatt then submitted his resignation as Deputy Postmaster "as it appears that holding such a situation lays one open to the scurrility to the lowest characters and makes life miserable......"
Davidson finally sailed for Hobart on board the "Prince Leopold" on 10 December, his departure being further delayed when the ship lost its rudder, ran aground and threw the pilot overboard! So ended an eventful first year in Van Diemen's Land and the beginnings of Davidson's career at the Governor's Gardens in Hobart Town (later known as Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens).
On 9 June 1829 Elizabeth Naisbitt arrived in Hobart Town on "Triton".
Elizabeth was the daughter of Edward and Elizabeth Naisbett, born 2 May 1811 at Urpeth, Co.Durham, England and died 15 October 1871 at Upper Liverpool Street, Hobart, Tasmania.
William Davidson and Elizabeth Naisbitt married at St.David's Church of England, Hobart Town on 1 September 1829.
Together they had 4 children: Elizabeth Rachel born 2 August 1830, William Edward born 10 October 1832, Richard born 26 July 1834, Thomas Rowland born 9 May 1836.
William Davidson died 9 July 1837 and buried at St David's Burial Ground, Hobart.
|St David's Park, Hobart|
|In memory of William Davidson who departed this life July 9th 1837 aged 33 years|
Wm.Davidson’s Will - Hobart Town 7 July 1837
The last Will and Testament of one, William Davidson, Davey Street, Van Diemen’s Land the division of his property, his wife Elizabeth Davidson to have the brick cottage, and stable, nearby the centre of the ground, with the ground in front of the said cottage and stable, so long as Elizabeth Davidson remains the widow of William Davidson, the stone cottage with ground now in the occupation of one Mrs. Steward and Newsham, likewise the whole of the ground until the oldest daughter Elizabeth Rachael Davidson is twenty one years of age then for her portion Elizabeth Rachael Davidson to have the stone cottage with the ground enclosed by the circular fence now in the occupation of one Mrs. Steward and Newsham. William Edward Davidson the oldest son of William and Elizabeth Davidson to have the ground from the fence of the stone cottage to Fitzroy Cresent running back to Mr.Barns fence for his portion. Richard Davidson second son of William and Elizabeth Davidson to have the ground eighty one feet from Davey Street along Holbrook Place back to Mr.Barns fence for his portion. Thomas Rowlands Davidson third son of William and Elizabeth Davidson to have the coach house with two stables and ground up to the circular fence belonging to the stone cottage running back to Mr.Barns fence, each and separately as they come to the age of twenty one years to inherit each their separate portions. All money or outstanding debts to be paid to Elizabeth Davidson the wife of William Davidson, this money to be divided equally among the four children as they come of age twenty one. Elizabeth Davidson the wife of William Davidson to have the use and interest of the said money to educate and bring them up to the best of her judgement. At the death of Elizabeth Davidson wife of William Davidson the brick cottage with the ground belonging thereto to be equally divided among the four children Elizabeth Rachael Davidson, William Edward Davidson, Richard Davidson, Thomas Rowlands Davidson, Elizabeth Davidson wife of William Davidson to be executrix of this will, and in case of her death John Wright of Hobart Town to be Executor.
“Colonial Times” (Hobart, Tasmania 1828 – 1857), Tuesday 15 May 1838 Page 6
Re Mrs. Elizabeth Davidson requesting Probate as Sole Executrix to unsigned Will
Friday, May 11, 1838
Mr Stephen, in the case of the will of the late Mr William Davidson, of Davey-street, supplied for a probate thereof, in favour of Elizabeth Davidson, widow of the deceased, who he prayed, might be admitted to prove as sole executrix.
The will, it seems, was never signed by the testator, and was otherwise informal. An affidavit, however of Mr John Wright, builder of Hobart Town, who was appointed as executor, in the event of Mrs Davidson’s death, proved the following facts. On the Thursday, previous to Mr Davidson’s death, he requested Mr Wright to write his will. Mr Wright accordingly did so, to Mr Davidson’s dictation and with the approval of Mrs Davidson. He was about to sign it when Mr Wright observed he had better wait till Sunday, when he (Wright) would bring with him another witness, which was necessary. On the Sunday morning, Mr Davidson died, leaving the will unsigned by himself and witnesses. The will was made in favour of the wife and children, but especially the latter; and Mr Stephen urged (supporting his arguments by several cases) that where there was no suspicion as to the genuineness of the will, it was a matter of course to admit it, notwithstanding it was unexecuted, so that it was perfect in other respects, which was clearly the case in the present instance.
Chief Justice – You may take probate.
Probate in the Supreme Court, Van Diemen's Land - 5 June 1838
Be it known unto all that by these presents that on this day fifth day of June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight the last Will and Testament of William Davidson late of Hobart Town in Van Diemen’s Land, Nurseryman, a true copy where his hereunder written and exhibited and proved before this Honorable Court and that administration of all and singular the Goods Chattels rights credits and affects of the said deceased William the said Island of Van Diemen’s Land and the orpendencies thereafter and is hereby commited to Elizabeth Davidson of Hobart Town aforesaid widow of the said deceased and executrix named in the said Will she having been first duly sworn with and faithfully to perform the said Will by paying first the debts of the said deceased and then the legacies therein bequeathed, so far as the estate shall thereunto extend and the law binds her and to make and exhibit unto this Honorable Court a true and perfect sureity of all and every the Goods Chattels right credits and effects of the said deceased on or before the fifth day of December now next and render a just and true account of her Executorship when she shall be lawfully called thereunto and that she believes the Goods Chattels rights credits and affects of the said deceased at the time of his death in Van Diemen’s Land and the orpendencies - thereof did not exceed in value the sum of one thousand six hundred pounds.
Given under my hand and seal of the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land, and, the day and year first above written.
Seal of the By the court,
Supreme Court Wm. Sorell
of Van Diemen’s Land Registrar.
Elizabeth gave birth to Charles Davidson in 1840, died 5 August 1845.
Elizabeth Davidson married Edward Allason (born 18 May 1819, died 25 November 1888) at "Vine Cottage" 3 Elboden St, Hobart on 16 January 1843.
They had 6 children: Edward John born 5 November 1843, Susannah born 6 November 1845, Robert born 5 April 1848, Sarah Ann born 17 August 1850, Eliza born 23 August 1852, Edwin born 1 February 1855.
|Elizabeth Allason 1811 - 1871|
|Elizabeth Propsting nee Davidson 1830 - 1899|
I am a descendant of Sarah Ann Allason who married William Arthur Macdougall 15 April 1876. I have done a number of Macdougall blogs which are interesting reading as the Macdougalls were early settlers in Tasmania, back to my convict arriving in 1821.For more of Joy Olney's blogs go to - https://sites.google.com/site/joysblogs123/
I would love to hear from any William Davidson descendants via email - firstname.lastname@example.org