I have long wondered about Sarah's life after the death of her mother in 1880 and before her marriage to Boston Clark Bartlett in 1898, a gap of 18 years. Oral tradition tells that after the death of their mother Ann in 1880, the Higgins children were split up and sent to live with various relatives. Sarah was placed with someone she would later refer to as "Old Redlight" suggesting that the woman was of questionable morals. According to Sarah she eventually escaped, gathered up her siblings from their various new homes and ran away to Sydney to raise them with twin sister Mary. So far I have been unable to prove any of this story to be true, however recent discoveries may shed light on some of these claims.
The whereabouts of Thomas Higgins, Sarah's father, is unknown after 1880. His last recorded appearance is as the informant on wife Ann's Death Certificate in April and in October a warrant for his arrest is issued in Gunnedah for embezzlement. The Police gazette records it is said he had gone to the gold diggings at Temora. When daughters Bridget and Margaret marry in 1888 and 1889 he is not present to give his permission. Instead, permission is given by the Guardian of Minors suggesting that Thomas is either dead or has abandoned his family and his whereabouts are unknown. However when Thomas' mother Mary Higgins dies in 1891 her death certificate lists Thomas among her living children. When Sarah eventually married in 1898 Thomas is listed as deceased.
Sarah had at least four children out of wedlock before she married Boston Clark Bartlett. Given that she was only 17 years old when she had the first [she was 16 when she became pregnant] and that her mother had died the previous year, we can only speculate how difficult a time this must have been for young Sarah.
James Francis Higgins/Richardson: On 25 April 1882 at Gunnedah Sarah Higgins, aged 17 born Maitland, gave birth to a baby boy - James Francis Higgins or Richardson [as stated on his birth certificate] His father is recorded as Joseph Arthur Richardson, a labourer born Singleton, aged 23. I have been unable to positively identify Joseph from BDM records at this stage. The birth certificate states that Sarah and Joseph are not married. Present at the birth was Mrs Stevens. The birth was registered [on 10th June at Gunnedah] by Sarah [mother of the child] James Francis Higgins was baptised on 8th May 1882 at St Josephs Gunnedah. Baby James died on 10th June 1882 aged 7 weeks, the same day that Sarah registered his birth. His death was registered 3 days later on 13th June. Cause of death was convulsions; length of illness was 1 week. The medical attendant was Dr Dowe, the same doctor who had attended Sarah's mother Ann at her death. Dr Dowe had last seen baby James on 10th June. Witnesses wereLucy Stevens [probably the same Mrs Stevens who was present at his birth - see link for more] and Fanny MacIntosh. James was buried at Gunnedah on 11th June 1882. James' death certificate records his father as Arthur Richardson rather than Joseph Arthur Richardson which may suggest that Joseph was known by his middle name of Arthur.
George Jessel Higgins Sarah's second illegitimate child was born 10th October 1886 at the Benevolent Asylum in Sydney. No father is named on his birth certificate however the benevolent Society records record the father as being Robert William Doolan, a married man from Gunnedah. Sarah gives her age as 20 whereas she is in fact 21 by this time. Her place of birth is given as Maitland. Sarah was admitted to the benevolent Society on 1st September 1886. The record book also contains the tantalizing snippet: "Applicant admitted having made false statement to Ladies Committee. See particulars Ladies Committee Book" Unfortunately this record has not survived. Sarah and baby George were discharged on 15th January 1887. The record states: "Higgins Sarah [&] George: To friend McDonald, Chippen Street [Chippendale] Child affiliated [illegible] obtained" 'Friend McDonald' could be David McDonald of 6 Chippen Street as per the Sands Directory of 1887 and 1888
Oral history tells of an "Uncle George" who until now I have assumed to be a nickname for Sarah's brother Martin Joseph Higgins born 1874. However, since the child George would be 13 years older than his half siblings, the Bartlett children, it is possible he may have been 'passed off' as Uncle George. To date I have been unable to find any further record of him.
Agnes May Higgins Sarah's third child was born 15th September 1890 at Elizabeth Street, Sydney. No father is named. Sarah, born Maitland gives her age as 24 whereas she is actually 25 by this time. Witnesses to the birth are Mrs Cornish and Mrs Henry. Sarah is the informant and gives her address as Elizabeth Street. Baby Agnes died on 19th March 1891 at John Street, Waterloo, aged 8 months. Cause of death was Tabes Mesenterica, a wasting disease of childhood characterized by chronic inflammation of the lymphatic glands of the mesentery, attended with caseous degeneration. [Webster] also described as tuberculosis of lymph glands inside the abdomen. An illness of children caused by drinking milk from cows infected with tuberculosis. Now uncommon as milk is pasteurised. Length of illness was 3 months. Dr Bourchier last saw Agnes on 8th March. The informant was Sarah of Jon Street Waterloo. Agnes was buried on 21st March at Rookwood. Sarah was one of the witnesses. Mortuary 1 Area 12 Grave 1223
Howard/Harold Godfrey Higgins Sarah's fourth illegitimate child Howard Godfrey was born on 14th March 1894 at 59 Riley Street, Sydney, the home of Mrs Delia Hagg [aka Hagg-Dahl], a nurse who is also recorded as being present at the birth. No father is given. Sarah states she is 26 and born West Maitland. [She is in fact 29 by this time] Baby 'Harold' Godfrey died on 3rd November 1894 aged 8 months at 25 Stream Street, Sydney. Cause of death was Cystitus Debilty [inflammation of the bladder]. Length of illness was 1 month. Dr McCredie, the medical attendant last saw the baby on 2nd November. The informant is E Finney, custodian under CP Act.[Child Protection Act?] He was buried [as Harold] on 5th November 1894 at the RC section of Rookwood Cemetery. Mortuary 1 Area KK Grave 93