Peter Hickson and Matilda Ann Sheppard

- the settler's son and the soldier's daughter -
Continued from page one:

1887: 11th November at Nowra PC [Police Court?] Peter is convicted of unlawfully assaulting
and beating his wife and sentenced to 6 months in Wollongong gaol. He is described as being
a labourer. He was discharged 10th May 1888. [Wollongong Gaol records - Ancestry]
The Shoalhaven Telegraph dated 16th November 1887 reported:
Shoalhaven Court of Petty Sessions, Friday, November 11, 1887. (Before Mr. L. W. A.
Macarthur and Dr H K. King, Js P)
Peter Hixson [sic] on remand from the previous day, (and who was arrested on warrant) was
charged with unlawfully assaulting his wife. Mr. Richards appeared for the prosecution; and
(Mr. Parker of Nichols and Whittells office) was allowed to prompt the defendant.
Matilda Ann Hixon deposed: the defendant is my husband. I was married to him on the 2nd
November, 1868 and after residing at Nambucca and Macleay River we removed to Sydney. I
had 7 children at this time, and defendant refused to work to support them; I put them in the
Randwick Asylum, and went to service myself; I received 12/- per week, out of which I paid
10/ per week for the support of my infant child ; defendant had left before this; after the
children had been 3 months in the Asylum, defendant took  them out, and slept in Moore
Park; I informed on him, and he was apprehended and received six months imprisonment, the
children being again put in the asylum; I had to get a judge's order to protect me [defendant
here objected to the evidence]; I went to live with him again, and we came to reside at Nowra:
on Prince of Wales Birthday I was working all day; when I returned home, defendant rushed at
me and hit me; he ordered the children away front the house ; he hit the little boy ; he tore
my dress; he pulled me about by the hair of  my head, until my son released me; I stopped at
Mr. McPherson’s house that night; he is often tipsy; I don't know what he does for a living, but
I believe he has been scrubbing rooms at Condons hotel ; he hit me on the side of my face  
two or three times; I am afraid of defendant ; he threatened
to take my life saying that he
would hang for me some day ; he has often threatened to take my life.
To defendant: I did not throw a stool at you, or a pair of old boots, on Tuesday night; I wash for
Mr. Richards;  I do not remember you forbidding me to go there.  
To Mr. Richards I only work for Mrs. Richards I wash for her; you did not engage me to wash.
Walter Hixon deposed; Defendant is my father ; on Wednesday last  my father hit my mother
he tore her dress; he went to throw; a box at her ; I took it from him my mother ran out
screaming ; defendant then hit my brother,  he pulled my mother’s hair and hit her about the
head, said defendant had taken 2s out of her purse, and he then struck her;  my mother
remained at McPherson's ; I do not think it safe for my mother to return home; she has good
cause to be frightened ; I was put in the Randwick Asylum; I was there about 3 months; I was
on the “Vernon” ship for 6 year and had £16 10s  coming to me; he took £10 from me, and
would not give it back to me.  I kept £6 and came home; defendant stopped in Sydney for a
week, and came home without a penny.
Ada Hixon deposed:  Defendant is my father ; I have seen my father.. ill-use  my mother ; on
the 9th my father hit my mother  and he was swearing at her;  my mother did not give my
father any provocation ; he shoved her over by the fire place ; my brother and I had to put up
our hands to prevent my, father from hitting my mother; my father was under the influence of
drink; I have been in the Randwick Asylum, and also in the Industrial School ; I was put there
because I had no means of support; my father often ill-uses my I mother; he took hold of the
back of a chair and we ran out of the house ; I left  the' Industrial School in September last,
and live with my mother ; we are supported by my mother going out washing ; so far as I know
my father does nothing to support.
By defendant: I remember and mother and I coming home the night before last; I did not see
her throw a stool at you, or a pair of boots; we slept at home last night ; my mother said she
was frightened to go into the house last night, but I coaxed her in; I saw you hit my mother ;
Thomas McPherson deposed to hearing defendant quarrelling with his wife,
Defendant handed in certificates of character from Patrick Casey, of Nowra, and J. Wilson,
foreman of new Commercial Building. In reply to a question from the Bench, defendant
pleaded not guilty.
The Chairman Mr McArthur said the case was as bad a one as could possibly come before the
Court. There was not a single feature of the case in defendant's favour as he had been guilty
of the worst possible conduct. It would have served him right if they had ordered him to be
lashed for it. The Bench had decided to sentence him to six months' imprisonment in
Wollongong  gaol.

1890: Sands Directory for 1890 shows Peter Hickson at 18 Gipps Street.

1891: The 1891 census records show Peter Hickson residing at 27 Gipps Street, Paddington.
In the household are 5 males and 1 female. The City Assessment Books show Peter Hickson
renting at 8 Crown Lane

1891: NSW Police Gazette dated 6th May 1891 states a warrant has been issued for the
arrest of Peter Hickson charged with using offensive words to
Matilda Ellis [his niece, Matilda
nee Hickson]. Peter's description is given as; 45-50 years old, 5 foot 10 inches tall, medium
build, full sandy beard, whiskers and moustache. He was dressed in a blue serge sac coat,
dark check trousers and a hard brown felt hat. His occupation appears to be a 'rag gatherer'.

1892: Son Frederick is admitted by warrant dated 22nd June 1892 to the Vernon. The
warrant states Frederick 'has been found habitually wandering about the streets in no
ostensible lawful occupation.' The circumstances for him being sent to the Industrial School is
recorded as being 'Mother has no control over him, sleeps out at night, wanders about the
streets'. His parents are described as being Peter Hickson, address unknown, character 'bad'.
Matilda Hickson, character good, occupation - washing earning 8/6 per week. She is willing to
contribute 2/6 per week to Fredericks upkeep. Frederick was also given the opportunity to
make a statement: "I have had three brothers here and my sister has been in the girls school -
my father has been locked up for hammering my mother and for being drunk. I used to sell
whitest?? and my mother beat me if I went home with not enough money. Remarks state:
Comes from a bad family - 3 brothers have at various times been here. See former book for
family history.

1898; May 31st Peter Hickson [delusional] is admitted to Armidale Gaol. His offence is
'unsound mind' He is discharged to the police on 7th June only to be readmitted on the same
date and charged with 'Lunacy'. He is then transferred, presumably to Gladesville Hospital.

NOTE: Peter's address will be shown as Hillgrove, a town about 30 km east of Armidale. It was
the centre of a mining boom in 1880s and 1890s.
Hospitalisation: On 15th June 1898 Peter was admitted to the Hospital for the Insane at
. You can read a transcript of his hospital records below.
Name: Peter Hickson  Age 46  Status Widower  No of Children 14 Occupation Sawyer
NSW Residence Hillgrove Religion C of E Form of Mental Disorder: general
paralysis [Note: This is the term used at that time for tertiary syphilis of the brain]
153 [lbs]
Admitted 15th June 1898    No. on Registrar 8535
Medical certificate states: that patient says he is very wealthy, owning thousands of acres of
land and great herds of cattle. Did not know in what town he was. Says he milks 200 cows a
day and that he has given £200 to the Salvation Army
M  R.H.  2 days  quiet clean
Mental and Bodily Conditions, Symptoms etc.
June 20 1898 On examination: Has double aortic murmurs.
Physically: is a poorly nourished man 5 feet 8 inches in height with brown hair and blue
eyes. Slurring speech, facial and [?tongue?] tremors[,] exaggerated reflexes are present.
Mentally:  is in a state of excitation[?] Has a large number of cattle. Milks large numbers of
cows daily, and owns a large quantity of land. Has all the grandiose deliriums of a general
paralytic. [Note: These are all typical symptoms of Tertiary syphilis of the brain]: June 27:
there is no change in his condition: July 4: No change. July 11 No change. July 18 No change
July 25 No change. Aug 1 No change. Sept 1 No change. Oct 1 ditto. Nov 1 No change. Dec 1
Has had several epileptic ?? attacks. Jan 15 1899 No change. Feb 15 Ditto. March 15 Ditt.
June 28 He died this day after a septic attack of bronchitis.

Peter died on 28th June 1899 at the Hospital for  the Insane at Gladesville. Cause of death
was general paralysis of the insane [syphilis of the brain]. Duration of illness was three years.  
Peter was buried on 29th June 1899 in the Church of England section of Field of Mars
Cemetery [Anglican Portion, Section D, Plot 894].  An entry in the Death Notices of the  
Sydney Morning Herald dated 13th July 1899 reads:

"HICKSON - June 28 1899, Peter Hickson, aged 53 years leaving a wife and six children to
mourn their loss. Macleay papers please copy."
Entries such as this were quite expensive in
their day and it shows the depth of feeling of whoever paid for the notice.

The Worker [Wagga] dated 15th July 1899 carried the following:
29 Lower Campbell St Surry Hills, July 8th, 1899. The Resident Secretary, Temperance and
General Life Office, 301 Pitt St, Sydney. Dear Sir, I must write to express my gratitude to you for
the prompt manner in which you settled the claim under Policy No. 42579 on my late husband's
life, the cheque for the full amount being paid immediately the death certificate was produced
at your office. I also desire to thank you for the valuable assistance rendered me by the officers
of the Society in assisting me to obtain the necessary papers. — Yours truly, Matilda Ann

Sands Directory: Sands Directory of 1910 & 1915 shows Matilda residing at 1 [101] Wallis
street, Woollarha [possibly above a furniture store]

Death: Matilda [late of Oxford Street, Woollahra] died on 16th August, 1924, at the Newington
State Hospital and Asylum in Lidcombe Municipality, Auburn NSW. Cause of death was
senility, chronic [?] and disease of the heart. She is buried in the C of E section of the
Rookwood Cemetery, Section H, Grave 5731. The following notice appeared in the SMH:

HICKSON -August 16, Matilda Ann Hickson, beloved mother of George, Sarah, grandmother of
Ernest, Jean, Alfred, Roberta, great grandmother of Geoffrey and Ruby.

Postscript: It is interesting to contrast Peter's life with that of his older brother Thomas Henry
Hickson. Thomas' life is summed up in his obituary which contains several noted inaccuracies
and possibly more. Click
HERE to read about Thomas

The other Matilda Hickson:  Peter and Matilda also had a niece named Matilda, daughter of
Peter's brother Thomas and his wife Ann Fogarty. I gathered some information on her whilst
researching 'my' Matilda. You can read about her life

Below Left : Approximate unmarked gravesite of Peter Hickson situated between the tree and the
path. Field of Mars Cemetery.
Below Right: The approximate burial site of Matilda Ann Hickson [nee Sheppard] at Rookwood.
There is no headstone. Photos courtesy of Lorna.