William Fellowes Baker and Sarah Gilbert
By Colette - a direct descendant Email
William Fellowes Baker was christened on 6 April 1790 at Walthamstow in Essex England, the second child of Benjamin Baker
and Mary Fellows. His parents were married at St Mary’s Leyton on January 5 1783. Their first child, Mary was christened 17
November 1786 and their third, Thomas was christened 22 July 1794.
William ‘joined from Europe’ the 46th Regiment of Foot (South Devonshire) 24th October 1814. The Regiment left England on
the ship "Marquis of Wellington" from Dorset on 1 Sept 1814 with 200 convicts on board. The Regiment arrived in the colony of
NSW on 27 January 1815 having travelled via Madeira, Rio. This party joined those of the Regiment who had arrived in the
colony in February 1814. (William stated, on a letter in the Archives in Hobart that he arrived on the Marquis of Wellington)
In May 1815, a detachment of the regiment was stationed in Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land and was called upon to suppress
a gang of bushrangers in the interior. Maguire and Burne were subsequently tried and executed.
In 1815, William was listed on the pay list muster of the 46th regiment as a private. On January 12th 1818 William, former soldier
of the 46th regiment is listed as proceeding to VDL at the Government’s expense per ‘Governor Macquarie’. (Colonial Secretaries
Index). Between then and 1822, he was listed on an index to land grants in VDL.
On September 17 1818, William married Sarah Gilbert (Gould on the marriage certificate) by licence. Both were listed as ‘free’
and he was 28 and she 26.
The previous month Sarah’s stepfather, Theophilus Feuterill, and her stepbrother Joseph had sailed to Ceylon with the 73rd
regiment. Her mother Ann remained in VDL. The youngest of Ann’s children was only an infant of about 1.
Sarah and William’s first child, Sarah, was born 21st May 1820, followed by Bennet Thomas in 1821 and later Frances Mary
Jane in 1824. (Frances later married Dr John Smith, former surgeon with the NSW Corps and early settler at Port Dalrymple.
Sarah Elizabeth Baker married Michael Murphy on the 22 June 1836 when she was just 16. They named their children Sarah
Anne, William Michael, David, Ellen, and Mary. Sarah Ann Murphy named one of her children Thomas Bennett Green, so it
seems many names followed down the generations.)
Sarah’s step father, Theophilus was pensioned off by the military and returned to England. There he was found hanging in a cow
house at Waresley. He was buried in Harlebury Parish.
In January 1826, Sarah’s niece, the daughter of her half sister Elizabeth who had married John Tibbs in 1824, was found
murdered. A man named Jeffrey was arrested and as he was led through the streets of Launceston, Ann Feuterill, the distraught
grandmother, raced onto the street and attacked the policeman thinking he was Jeffrey. (The Colonial data base lists a child John
Isaac Tibbs as born to Elizabeth and John Tibbs in 1825 and also his death in 1826.)
Tragedy struck again soon after the birth of Theophilus William Baker at Norfolk Plains on the 13 July 1826. Sarah died from the
complications of childbirth on July 25 and William committed suicide on July 28.
On the 31st July 1826 Theo was baptised and William and Sarah were buried. Four small children were left orphans.
The Colonial Times of Friday August 4, 1826 wrote ‘Dreadful Event. By letter, which left Launceston on Tuesday, it appears
that the wife of Mr. W.F. Baker, a very respected settler residing on the Lake Plains died in childbed. The midwife, it seems was
rather intoxicated, and the death of Mrs. Baker is in some measure attributed in consequence, at least such is the report in the
neighbourhood. The unfortunate husband took the death of his wife so much to heart, that on the Friday following, he cut his
throat, whereby in five minutes afterwards, he became a lifeless corpse alongside his deceased partner leaving four young orphan
children (including the new born babe) to lament their loss. The little infant is likely to live.’
This was followed, on Friday August 11, 1826 by “The Unfortunate Mrs. Baker. We last week briefly reported the death of Mrs.
Baker in childbed ad the self-destruction of Mr. Baker leaving four orphan children. By private letters since received in
Launceston we find that Mrs. Baker died perfectly sensible, and that on the following Wednesday morning her husband became
so deranged that he was put under the care of a friend, Mr. Charles Reid at the particular request of Dr.s Mountgarret and Smith.
(This Smith later married Frances Baker). About 10 o’clock the same evening he attempted to cut his throat but was prevented.
After requisite medication being administered and undergoing severe bleeding the surgeons gave positive orders that he was not to
be left alone on any account whatever for one moment, but on the Friday after Mr. S. Fentrill was left in the room with him. The
unhappy man made an excuse to look at a small box for some papers when he took up a lancet and cutting his throat immediately
expired. Thus has terminated the lives of a good hearted married couple and four poor orphans are thrown upon the world. We
have however the satisfaction to state that these little innocents have found a friend in Captain Ritchie who with Mr. Field are
trustees, and who will we trust be joined by other humane persons in contributing to their relief.”
* The Mr S Fentrill would have been half brother to Sarah – Samuel Feutrill was born in 1809.
The journal of the Land Commissioner in Van Diemen’s Land 1826 – 1828 referred to the deaths of Mr and Mrs Baker.
‘Into Ritchie’s farm which is part of delightful bend of river, thro’ Bakers who lately destroyed himself”
‘Baker whose misfortunes first led him to intoxication and the premature death of whose Wife made him put an end to himself,
possessed a fine farm on Norfolk Plains, he was scarcely buried when Field, the notorious Field, the King of the Rogues,
(bought?) the farm together with Ritchie and taken possession of it, the plea of the tender-hearted creatures, these exemplary
Christians, is, that they have secured the property for the benefit of the orphans, God help them, if no one succours them but
Field and Ritchie, let Mr Ritchie be asked how he did act towards the unfortunate Eldridge…..”
The Baker children had several relatives living in the district at the time of their parents’ deaths. Their uncle Theophilus Feutrill
was married to Jane Murphy. An Aunt Elizabeth was married to John Tibbs. Another Aunt Mary was married to George Smith.
An Uncle Samuel was married to Maria Murphy. Two further Uncles James and Thomas were alive, but probably too young to
be of great assistance. The children’s grandmother Ann Carey (1)Gilbert (2)Feutrill lived until 1830.
William Henry Hamilton Esq was the lawyer who drew up the documents for the care of the children. He had acted for William
over the sale and repurchase of his property. Baker’s farm had been seized and sold by Ritchie. The purchaser was Field who
obtained the property for a price well below its value. Mr Field allowed Baker to repurchase the property for only the purchase
price and allowed him generous time to repay it. Mr Field sent Mr Hamilton to the farm to see what could be done for the
orphans. Mr Ritchie was found at the farm and he informed Hamilton that the infant which Mrs Baker had died giving birth to had
been taken to nurse by Mrs William Griffith and the next child in age had been taken by Dr Smith the surgeon at George Town.
On The 5th of August 1826, Hamilton was asked to prepare a declaration of Trust for the benefit of the orphans wherein both
Field and Ritchie forgo their claims against the estate of the father for the orphans’ advantage. The children had 90 sheep and 21
head of horned cattle that were left in the keeping of Mr Field for the purpose of increase. The farm was rented to John Powell
whose wife kept a seminary. The three oldest orphans were been placed under her charge for instruction and the infant was
under the care of Mr Feutrill, the brother of the late Mrs Baker.
In September 1826 in another letter Hamilton mentions that the children were far from being objects of charity, that Mr Field
claimed not to have been appointed a trustee and makes reference again to the children’s several relatives in the town.
William and Sarah’s son Bennett lived until 1871 and their daughter Frances eventually married Dr John Smith on the 23
December 1842. They had seven children, including a William and a Sarah.