A stroll along the Pioneer Pathway in King George V Park, Sheffield, brings you to many pink paving bricks, each inscribed with the name of a Kentish Pioneer. Choosing the brick marked Ephraim Doe 1805-1893 and investigating his story reveals the appalling, degraded criminal life of this early pioneer who lies buried somewhere in the surrounding Park. First, we discover that his photo hangs in what is called Rogues Gallery at the Port Arthur Penitentiary, and can be viewed online. Next, his convict records state he is ‘a thoroughly bad character’. So, who is this incorrigible convict buried in Kentish?
Ephraim Doe Transported for Life.
Born in Norfolk, England, out of wedlock, Ephraim Doe carried his mother’s name. Calculating his birthdate allows for several options, the most likely being 1812. At an early age, Ephraim began a long list of stealing offences which resulted in a three-year jail sentence. Continued stealing, plus an assault charge, had him sentenced in Suffolk on 15 March 1839 to VDL for life. After a 5-month voyage aboard SS Layton 2, with 259 other convicts, Ephraim Doe arrived in Hobart on 7 Dec 1839.
Within a week of arriving in VDL, he was added to a gang of road builders, where he spent the next two years. Upon gaining his ‘ticket of leave’ in 1841, Ephraim was assigned to Richard Kerkham, who owned a property in the Liffey area, west of Longford. While working for Kerkham, he was caught several times with tobacco and consequently spent a total of 3 months in hard labour. Having learnt to split palings, in 1844 he was next assigned to the Don and Forth River valleys, where first settlers were establishing a timber trade with the mainland. At the end of 10 years, Ephraim had returned to the Richmond area, where he received his pardon on 25 June 1850. Now free, his intent was to get married.
Marital Misadventure. One year earlier, Ephraim had gained permission to marry a very unsavoury convict, Anne Connors. But before it happened, Ephraim was assaulted by a fellow convict in company with Anne; the two of them being charged with being drunk and using indecent language. That marriage was called off. Six months later, on 19 August 1850, Ephraim did marry a 30-year-old Irish widow Bridget Norton in St Luke’s Church, Richmond. Bridget had moved from Ireland to Lancaster, England where on 20 Dec 1847 she was sentenced on several stealing charges to 7 years in VDL. Her ship’s report stated: Well behaved, very industrious. Obviously one of the convict women who manufactured 500 shirts during their long voyage out. In VDL Bridget worked as a laundress and seamstress.
Disastrous Decade in the South
Ephraim & Bridget spent their first 10 years employed around the Richmond area in various places. But less than 3 months after their marriage, both were before the courts for stealing and drunkenness. Twice they were caught disorderly in the town of Sorell without a pass. After the second occurrence, both were incarcerated for six months. Ephraim was put back into a road gang and Bridget spent the first of three separate periods in the Female Factory, South Hobart. This became the pattern of their lives. Once, a convict knocked on Bridget’s door. Not only did she let him in, but provided him with a drink, resulting her being charged with harbouring a prisoner for the purpose of tippling (sharing alcohol). Bridget received 10 days in solitary confinement.
When their only two children were born (Ephraim Doe Jnr b3 May 1854 and Mary Ann Doe b2 April 1856) at Coal River, Richmond, it seemed to settle the parents down. They rented portions of two farms seven kilometres north of Campania and commenced to grow grain and run a few cattle. Ephraim began buying and selling horses, and even had a man working for him. For the next three years, things looked good – until his neighbouring farmers began regularly losing sheep. Early in 1859, meat was found hanging in the bush on Ephraim’s farm. He received a fine of £50 or alternately 3 months imprisonment. He left for Launceston to try and earn some money. With Ephraim gone, Bridget could not cope with the farm and children. She sent Ephraim (4yrs 11mths) and Mary Ann (3yrs 6 mths) off to the Queen’s Orphanage, New Town, deserted the farm, and went on a drinking binge that had her sent back to the Female Factory. When Ephraim returned without the money, his wife and children were gone, and his stock taken to pay his fine. It was 5 months before the children were retrieved from the Orphanage. Together again, the Doe family decided to make a new start by moving north near Liffey, a few miles west of Bracknell, beneath the Western Tiers. He had worked here previously as a ‘ticket of leave’ convict. To cart their few possessions and children north, it seems Ephraim stole a horse at Brighton.
Murder at Mountain Vale
For several years, things improved. They lived on a bush property near Mountain Vale at the junction of Liffey & Cluan Roads. But old habits returned; they began stealing their neighbours’ sheep. On the night of 14 Aug 1867, two local shepherds lay in wait for them. Sprung in the act of stealing sheep, a fierce fight followed. Ephraim sustained a broken arm, but still managed to hit a shepherd named Harris over the head several times fracturing his skull, causing death. The next day Ephraim & Bridget were both arrested and charged with murder. At the trial on 17 Oct 1867, Ephraim Junior (13) was asked to swear on the Bible. He stated he did not know what a Bible was; he had never been to church or school and could not read. The evidence against Bridget was so weak, she was found innocent. But the old convict was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years or 5479 days in the State prison, which, at the time, was the old Port Arthur Penitentiary. Records show Ephraim’s prison time included working on the pig farm, logging the forests, cleaning the penitentiary, cooking at Long Bay, acting as a private servant, and being sick in hospital.
Meanwhile Bridget was left with her two children, Ephraim (13) and Mary Ann (11), possibly first in Launceston, later in Latrobe. Her work options were limited: housework, washing, ironing, and sewing. We can only surmise that Ephraim Junior gained farm employment almost immediately, and throughout his youthful years he lived on properties where he gained lots of experience and benefited from the positive input of his employers, possibly including limited lessons in reading and writing. As he grew up, maybe he even displayed some of his mother’s shipboard characteristics of ‘Well behaved, very industrious’. For this seems to be the only explanation for the determined young man who comes to Kentish in 1871, eager to start life on his own.
Ephraim Doe II comes in Kentish
Young Ephraim purchased a 57-acre block of land between the township of Sheffield and the Badgers, on land currently owned by Sam Ralph. He then set out to earn an income by working for other farmers, including Kentish’s entrepreneurial leader Robert Manley. However, three years later, the first of two totally unexpected events occurred that changed his life forever.
His Father Arrives. In March 1874, his notorious father was unexpectedly released from prison, having served only half his time. Presumably, Ephraim Senior contacted his wife Bridget and daughter Mary Ann, but never lived with them again. Instead he came to Kentish to seek out his only namesake son. Interesting, his wife Bridget only lived 8 more years, dying on 6 March 1882 in Launceston aged 58 of ‘paralysis.’ Despite his traumatic and scandalous upbringing, Ephraim Junior accepted his father and set him up in a hut on his block near the Badgers.
His Spiritual Conversion & Marriage. One year after his father joined him, the second significant event occurred. It was ‘Ephraim Junior’s spiritual conversion’, which he records occurred on 7 July 1875. The whole Kentish district was experiencing an evangelistic revival following preaching services held in their homes and barns by two Christian Brethren evangelists from England. Scores of families were affected, including two teenager sisters Caroline and Mary Bryon living with their uncle and aunt William & Mary Ann (Dalrymple) Walker at Upper Beulah. The William Walker and James Knowles families became the centre of a cluster of Christian families that began meeting together in a little Gospel Hall they erected on Knowles’ farm. Access to this new district they began calling Beulah was by crossing the Dasher river at Duck Marsh and climbing over Lizard Hill.
Three years after his conversion, on 11 April 1878 Ephraim Doe Jnr (24) married Caroline Byron (18) in the home of James & Helen Knowles of Upper Beulah. The newly-weds became committed members of the original Gospel Hall, recently erected along the West Kentish Rd. From studying his Bible, Ephraim Junior further improved his reading and writing. Eleven years later, on 8 Sept 1886 when the church property was turned over to seven trustees, Ephraim Doe Jnr became the youngest man appointed. How fascinating it would be to discover how his hardened criminal father handled all this Christianity. He lived for 19 more years; the last quarter of his life surrounded by Ephraim Jnr & Caroline’s family, first at Sheffield, later at Paradise. Without, it appears, any further criminal convictions.
Farming at Paradise
In the mid-1880s, Ephraim II bought a 50-acre farm block along Harland Rise Rd, Paradise. Again, he built a hut for his ageing father and a house for his ever-increasing family. During their first 18 years of marriage, Ephraim II & Caroline had the following 10 children: Amelia b1879, Ephraim III b1880, Mary Ann b1881, William Henry b1883, Clara b1885, May b1887, Roland b1889, Andrew b1890, Albert b1893, and Grace b1895. It was said their 7th child was as big as Mt Roland, hence the name Roland Doe.
Apart from purchasing Paradise, it seems strange that Ephraim Junior had the wherewithal to purchase a large bush block next to the Minnow Gold field as well as two 3-acre investment allotments in the centre of Sheffield, over the road from the present school, between Albert and Victoria St. Stranger still, that in 1889 Wm Whitaker, proprietor of the Devon Herald newspaper in Latrobe, authorised Mr Ephraim Doe Jnr to collect accounts and canvas for advertisements throughout the Kentish district. How had this desperately deprived kid become so successful?
On 30 July 1893, his ailing father died of ‘senility’, aged about 79. Ephraim Doe I, once an incorrigible murdering convict, was amongst the last few to be buried in Sheffield’s Pioneer Cemetery as plans to purchase a new cemetery site 1½ mile out of town had already begun.
Doe Family Finish at Wilmot
During the 1890’s Depression, many local families left Kentish looking for work on the mainland and in New Zealand. The Doe family, however, with several teenage boys, chose the new farming district of Wilmot, where there were also several active mines. Ephraim selected a larger farm, a short distance up Narrawa Road on the banks of Falls Creek, where he built their new house. Their oldest daughter Amelia Doe (17), recently married to Charles Chiplin (24) in Sheffield, also accompanied her parents to Narrawa, where the newlyweds helped work this new farm.
Not long afterwards, the Does became one of the first five families to settle in the Wilmot township. Ephraim & Caroline continued to practise their Christian faith by establishing with others a regular home group that existed for several decades. From time to time they invited visiting evangelists and preachers to Wilmot. Caroline also continued to bear more children: baby Caroline b1897 and Cornelius (Colin) b1901. Tragically, during her 13th pregnancy, Caroline developed ‘toxaemia’ and died on 6 Jan 1903, aged 44. It fell to second-eldest daughter Mary Ann (22) to assume the responsibility of mothering this large family, which she did well. She and her husband Jack Bergan ultimately inherited the Narrawa farm.
When grown, most of Ephraim’s sons found work locally, on farms or at the mines. Roland Doe enlisted in WW1 and after two years abroad was invalided home from France. Colin died of TB aged 19. As the mines closed, scores of country families gravitated to the industrial developments along the Coast. Roland Doe was the last man to pack stores into the Moina mine, was part of the church fellowship group until it closed, and was the only son still living in the Wilmot area when his father died. Today Doe descendants are everywhere, some having excelled.
After most of the family married, Ephraim continued to live in Wilmot. Once, on a visit to Sheffield, he discovered some cattle had broken out of their fenced area in King George V Park and were roaming freely in the cemetery section, destroying and defecating on the graves including his fathers. Annoyed, Ephraim raised a raucous complaint with the Sheffield Cemetery Board. After Mr G J Coles bought the Wilmot General Store, Ephraim found out that George was his neighbour, and they became quite friendly. In fact, when George Coles signed his will, it was witnessed by the humble signature of Ephraim Doe. Ephraim later married Rose Arnold and moved to Lower Wilmot where he died on 29 April 1934, aged 80. His burial in the Wilmot General Cemetery ends these intriguing life stories of Ephraim Doe I & II.