Jonathan Lunson

Jonathan Lunson, convicted for poaching

Jonathan Lunson was the third of six children born to John and Elizabeth (nee Graham). He was christened at St Andrews, in Penrith, Cumberland, on 21 June 1818.

On 2 January 1844, Jonathan and an accomplice, William Bell, were tried at Carlisle in the Cumberland Quarter Sessions for poaching and for assaulting Mr Thomas Hall, a gamekeeper for Sir George Musgrave.  The indictment was for being in Coal Hill Wood armed with guns and in pursuit of game on 7 December 1843 at 11pm; and for assaulting the gamekeeper and gamewatcher there, one of whom had a finger bitten off!  Lunson and Bell both pleaded guilty and through their Counsel expressed their great contrition for the offences committed.

They were sentenced to transportation for seven years.  Jonathan embarked on the Maria Somes, a 786 ton Barque, from Woolwich on 25 April 1844, arriving in Hobart on 30 July 1844.

Convict records reveal that Jonathan had previously worked as a farm labourer and shepherd.  He could read and write a little, was single, a Protestant, and came from Penrith.  He was 26 years old, 5’8 1/2″ tall with a ruddy complexion, brown hair and whiskers and hazel eyes.  The records also refer to his father, John, mother, Elizabeth, and siblings John, Joseph, Thomas and Elizabeth, all living at Penrith.  His older brother, Isaac, is not mentioned, possibly indicating that he had moved from the district.

Convict Life

On arrival in Van Diemen’s Land, Jonathan was sent to join a gang at Maria Island.  Under close supervision, Jonathan seems to have behaved reasonably well at Maria Island, the only offence recorded against him, and for which he was admonished, being for misconduct on 21 January 1845 when he was unable to account for his mess utensils and bedding.

On 4 August 1845 Jonathan was transferred to Longford. Possibly less stringent supervision afforded him the opportunities that led to a series of misdemeanors:

–  27 December 1845, charged by Mr. Reid of Longford for rioting and assault on a fellow servant.  Discharged;

–  20 October 1846, charged by Mr. Reid for misconduct in behaving indecently on the public road. Sentenced to one month hard labour;

–  12 May 1847, charged by Mr. Reid for insolence and neglect of duty. Five days solitary confinement.

–  19 June 1847, charged by Mr. Reid for being drunk and leaving his cart with no-one to control the horses.  Fined 10 shillings.

Nevertheless, on 11 April 1848 Jonathan received his Ticket of Leave and the following year, on 27 November 1849, his Conditional Pardon was approved.

Marriage and children

A few months after receiving his Ticket of Leave, Jonathan married Sarah Elizabeth Davey.  Sarah was about 21 at the time, with a three year old daughter, Martha.  Her father, James Davey, was one of the first convicts to arrive in Van Diemen’s Land as part of the original settlement in 1804.  Her mother, Catherine (nee Jordan) was the daughter of convict James Jordan, who arrived in NSW aboard the first convict transport to sail direct from Ireland.

Jonathan and Sarah Lunson

In 1849 Jonathan and Sarah’s first child, named for Jonathan’s older brother, Isaac, was born.  A daughter, Elizabeth, followed in August 1850, just a month after Jonathan found himself in court again with old friend William Bell.

Jonathan, Bell and George Bullock faced the Court in Launceston on 2 July 1850 charged with being armed with a gun and feloniously making an assault on Ann Brumby an inn keeper at Cressy.  A lengthy and rather humorous report was published in the Examiner on 6th and 10th July 1850.  Jonathan was found not guilty, but the others were sentenced to hang (although their sentence was subsequently altered to 10 years transportation to Norfolk Island).

More children followed:  Richard was born in 1853, then came Maria (who was to marry my GG Grandfather William Lamprey), Mary and the youngest, Jonathan, born in 1863 at Sassafras.

The family seems to have moved around quite a bit, probably following the work that was available to Jonathan as shepherd and farm labourer.  After leaving Longford, the family moved to Mt Pleasant near Deloraine and eventually settled at Sassafras.  Jonathan selected 100 acres of land and established a saw mill powered by a water-wheel.

Jonathan died at Sassafras on 5 February 1891 and Sarah moved to a property at Nook the following year. She died there in 1906 after a lengthy illness.

Online resources

Tasmanian Archives:  Jonathan’s convict conduct record

Tasmanian Archives:  Jonathan on convict appropriation list

Tasmanian Archives:  Jonathan’s convict indent

Tasmanian Archives:  Jonathan’s convict description

Tasmanian Archives:  Jonathan’s last will and testament

Launceston Examiner:  Report of Trial – 6 July 1850;  10 July 1850

Jonathan Lunson on my Ancestry tree

Jonathan Lunson on Founders and Survivors

Sarah Lunson’s Obituary

[Updated 24 June 2012]



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