Thursday, September 24, 2009

Elizabeth Macarthur

I actually know who Elizabeth Macarthur is. She and her husband did sheep farming in Sydney.

That's about all I know.

I think she may have had some connection to William Charles Wentworth. I forgot what it was though. Maybe he wanted to marry her? Their daughter? I forgot.

I shall go talk to Lord Wiki.

Wow. She goes way back. She was born before Captain Cook set foot on Australia. He came in 1770. She was born four years before...on 14 August 1766. Of course, it's all relative. There are people and things that are from MUCH longer ago. It's just I think she was born before most of the people I've researched. She might have one of the earliest birth dates. I think the only person I've written about, that was born before her, was Arthur Phillip. He was my first ever biography post.

Baby Elizabeth wasn't born in Australia...obviously. There was no white British people there in those days. She was born in Devon England.

Lord Wiki lists famous people from Devon. Agatha Christie is one of them. They don't list Macarthur. I guess she didn't leave a big impression on the Devon people.

Elizabeth was born to farmers. Her father died when she was seven. About four years later, her mother remarried. Lord Wiki says Elizabeth lived with her grandfather. Something like this happened in the book I'm reading now...A Fortunate Life. I don't understand these mothers who remarry and abandon their children. I guess it's the new husband putting pressure on them. Still. It's sad that a woman would choose her new man over her children.

In 1788, Elizabeth married a solider.  John Macarthur. They had a baby named Edward. The three of them rushed off to New South Wales. Macarthur was going there as part of something called the New South Wales Corps. I'll read what Lord Wiki has to say about them.

They were also called The Rum Corps. I'm guessing they were the ones who started the whole Rum hospital thing?

Lord Wiki says the group was formed to relieve the officers who had come on The First Fleet. The First Fleet arrived in 1788....the year that Elizabeth and John tied the knot. The Rum Corps were established in 1789. The Macarthur's came over in 1790. I'm just trying to arrange things in my brain here.

Lord Wiki says this Rum Corp job was not very popular. Most people weren't too excited to go to the very remote continent of Australia. Therefore, the soldiers in the Rum Corps were ones who were fairly desperate. They were men who had been paroled from military prison, soldiers on half-pay (retired...no longer actually working), and other people who really had nothing better do. I wonder if John Macarthur was one of these desperate souls.

The Rum Corps wasn't an original alternate name for the group. This nickname came later. It had something to do with their leader (Francis Grose) relaxing the prohibition on Rum. I think we might learn more about that later. I see Macarthur's name mentioned. But I'm going to move on for now.

Mr. and Mrs. Macarthur moved to Rosehill which was near Parramatta. They bought a farm and named it Elizabeth Farm. That's the tourist destination that we had planned to visit; but we never made it over there.

The Macarthur's had a total of nine children, but sadly two of them died.

Their eldest daughter shared her mother's name. Lord Wiki says she had two offers of marriage. Both of them were rejected by her parents. I wonder if one of them was William Charles Wentworth. This might have been how Wentworth was connected to them.

John returned to England from 1809 to 1817. Elizabeth stayed and took care of the farm. Wow. That's a long time for spouses to be away from each other.

Elizabeth did a great job with all the farm stuff.

Lord Wiki says she was the first soldier's wife to arrive in New South Wales. She was educated and had good literary skills. Therefore, her letters provide a good account of early life in the colony. I wonder if the letters have been published. They probably have been. I figure at least the museum at her old farm might have some of them.

That's about it for Lord Wiki. There's a lot of holes in his information which could probably be filled by reading his entry on John Macarthur. I'm trying to decide if I should do that, or if I should move onto another website.

I think I'll do the latter. I love Lord Wiki, but I think it's best to expand my horizons.

I'll look at the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

They say Elizabeth's parents were probably educated and affluent. Elizabeth too was educated. I wonder how rare it was in those days for woman to be educated. From the little I know, I'm pretty sure it wasn't common.

John and Elizabeth married in October 1788.

Oh. I'm so dumb. I just went to look up when the First Fleet arrived so I could compare that date to their wedding date. I totally forgot the whole 26 January thing. What is wrong with my brain this morning?

Eight months after they married, Macarthur joined the New South Wales Corps. Together they went on the ship headed to Australia. They had a daughter born on the ship, but she died. On top of that, when they arrived their son Edward was sick.

Because of her educated status, Elizabeth was welcomed into the society. She was friendly with all the important officer people.

It seems that changed in 1809. This is when her husband rushed off to England.

Something happened here. I guess it was controversial. Lord Wiki mentions it. This website mentions it. But they don't tell me what it was exactly. I guess I WILL need to do a brief reading on John Macarthur.

Yikes. It's long and complicated...at least on the biographical dictionary site. I shall see if Lord Wiki can put it in more simple terms.

Okay. Yes. This looks like something I can handle.

Macarthur was the kind of person who had a lot of fights with people. He involved himself in a campaign against the Governor John Hunter. The campaign alleged that Hunter was involved with rum trafficking. Hunter ended up having to return to England where he was forced to defend his reputation.

Macarthur had even more problems with the third Governor of New South Wales...Philip Gidley King. I'm not going to go into deep details right now. I'm adding some of these people to my list though.   I'll get to them in a few months. Eventually, I'll probably get most of the story. Hopefully.

For now, to make a long story short..... Macarthur was in England from 1809 to 1817 because he was avoiding an arrest warrant in New South Wales. This had something to do with the Rum Rebellion.

The Rum Rebellion was a fight between Governor Bligh and certain officers of the New South Wales Corps. One of these officers was Macarthur. The officers were accused of a corrupt rum trading thing. That's weird that earlier Macarthur had accused a governor of Rum Trafficking. Isn't that a bit hypocritical? Or maybe I misread something?

Anyway...again, I'll return to this stuff at a later date. Let's get back to Elizabeth and her wool.

Despite having to move so far away from her original home, having many children to take care of, and a husband who surrounded himself with battle and controversy....Elizabeth managed to be fairly happy. At least in her letters she appeared to be happy. I don't know though. I think a lot of times people make themselves LOOK happy in letters because they don't want to appear to be miserable. We don't want people to read our accounts and say, Oh. She sure made the wrong choice. It all kind of depends on who we're writing to. If I'm talking to people I feel comfortable with, I can let it all hang out. If I feel people might judge me, I kind of stress the good and gloss over the bad. Actually, I don't know if I do. I think I sometimes reveal too much to the wrong people. I end up putting myself in the line of criticism. Oh well.

Macarthur kept up a very proper home for her children. That along with her education level, charm, and sense of humor, helped her to avoid much of the criticism that was given to her husband.

I think they had a property besides the Elizabeth Farm one. It was the Camden Park Estate. I'm not sure though if this was part of Elizabeth Farm. Was it nearby? A totally different place? According to Lord Wiki, it was built AFTER John took that long trip back to England.

I'm looking at Google Maps now. There's a whole area named Camden. It's east of Bicentennial Park. There's also a Macarthur Park nearby.

I wonder if they still kept Elizabeth Farm, and then also had this property. Or did the whole family move?

Wait. Something is not right here. I'm not sure if I'm simply confused, or if I'm being given the wrong information.

Lord Wiki says, In 1821 the Macarthurs built Belgenny Farm House, a timber 'cottage ornee'. This house and the related outbuildings, known as the 'Camden Park Home Farm', form one of the oldest surviving groups of farm structures in Australia. I took that to mean that the whole property began at that time. But the biographical dictionary says that while her husband was away from 1809-1817, Macarthur had to deal with the Camden Property. She VISITED it though. She didn't live there. She'd go there and discuss sheep stuff with people helping on the property. Then she'd report back to her husband through snail mail.

I'm guessing then that they HAD the property early on. 1821 is probably around the time that they turned it into their homebase. Actually though, Lord Wiki says they didn't turn it into their home until the 1830's. What did they need the cottage for then? Maybe workers? Perhaps the Macarthurs stayed overnight sometimes?

Macarthur's letters to her husband didn't just deal with business stuff. She wrote of her children...the daughters that were with her, and the sons that were off in England with their father. She seemed to have much love for her family.

The biographical dictionary says that Mr. and Mrs. Macarthur were devoted to each other. They say, The devotion of husband and wife for one another was of deep and moving intensity, yet Mrs Macarthur was able to endure the long years of separation from John without the stress which might have troubled a woman of less aristocratic temperament. That was a pretty long separation. I think it would be hard for most couples to endure it.

From letters, people have inferred that John questioned remaining in Australia. It seems he wanted to return to England. Elizabeth convinced him otherwise. She felt they had a future in New South Wales.

Okay. Now I'm getting the biographical dictionary's version of the Cambden Park thing. They say that once John returned to New South Wales, he began working on building a family mansion there. That was in 1817. The dictionary says, It expressed his own vision of his family and its grandeur more than it was designed to please and delight his wife. I wonder what THAT means? Was his taste different from hers? I wonder if they fought about it. What did he want vs. what did she want?

It seems in the 1820's their marriage problems began. John had depression issues. He also became obsessed with the idea that Elizabeth had been unfaithful to him. Well, he WAS gone for a long time. I wonder if he had any affairs in England.

It sounds like John became quite paranoid. He lost trust in his wife. The website says he no longer could tolerate seeing her. So, they separated. This was all very upsetting to Elizabeth because she still loved her husband. Even though he rejected her, she remained devoted to him.

Macarthur died in 1850. Her husband died sixteen years before. That would be in 1834. Right?

The ABC website has an entry for kids about Macarthur. I'll read that. It seems almost like a child wrote it. It sounds kind of like a child's school report.

The website says Macarthur liked reading as a child.

The website says John was a snobby ambitious army officer. I wonder why Elizabeth married him? Did she love him despite his snobbishness? Was she ambitious herself? Would marrying him get her to the position in life she wanted?

The website says Elizabeth was disgusted by the people that were with them on the ship to Australia. They say, she didn't have much sympathy for poor people. That's sad. I wonder if it's true. I think you can be disgusted by poverty and still have sympathy for the people that are forced to dwell in it. But maybe in Elizabeth's letters she said something to show she had no sympathy for them.

The sheep that they brought to Australia were Merino ones. I guess they were the first people to do this. That's why they're known as the parents of the Aussie wool industry.

In summary, I'm getting the idea that Elizabeth Macarthur was a rich snob who was devoted to her husband and children. It's much better than a rich snob who is NOT devoted to her family.

The Historic Houses Trust website has some brief information about Elizabeth Farm. What's supposed to be cool about the museum, is that it's one where you're allowed to touch a lot of stuff. They say, you can wander freely through the old house and garden as if you were its original occupants. There are no barriers, locked doors, fragile furniture or untouchable ornaments in this unique, ‘access all areas’ house museum. That sounds really cool.

The reason we didn't go to it was that it's open only on the weekends for tourists. We had only two weekends in Sydney. We needed to use that time to be with friends, because that was the easiest time for most people to get together with us. If Elizabeth Farm had been nearby and easy to access, we would have probably squeezed it in. But going to Parramatta seemed like a complicated all-day affair.

I can't say I regret our decision. We had great weekends. Although there was that Sunday we ended up doing nothing. I guess we could have gone then. Although that was the day we found the Cook+Phillip Park. That was pretty fun. It's also the day we lost our camera. That wasn't so fun.

The Historic Houses Trust has some information on the farm and the family. I'll read it to see if they have any unique insights.

Elizabeth was a year older than her husband. That's interesting.

Their son Edward was fifteen months old when they arrived in New South Wales. They doubted he'd survive. But I guess he did.

The website says that her family and friends back home saw the marital union as being disastrous. So I guess this means her parents weren't the ones who pushed her into the marriage.

It sounds like Macarthur was a difficult man. It seems like he had conflicts with almost everyone he encountered. But for some reason, Elizabeth had a soft spot in her heart for him.

In New South Wales, John made a lot of money. But he did not make a lot of friends. That's the basic story I'm getting here.

The websites says that John's letters to Elizabeth, when he was away in England, had much criticism regarding how she was handling business in Sydney. Why did she put up with him? I guess love makes us tolerant.

In 1831, after years of depression, one of the Macarthur's sons died in London. John became even more depressed. That's understandable. It's hard to overcome mental illness when one of your kids dies. By 1932, Macarthur was given the official label of lunatic. He was a rich man who died crazy and sad. As they say, money can't buy you happiness.

The website has an excerpt from some of Elizabeth's early letters back home. She does sound very positive. She talks very fondly of the landscape, and all the fruits they can grow. Her only complaint is the lack of proper education for her children.

I think I might have been right about what I had said before. I think Macarthur was positive in these letters because her family and friends had been so against her marriage. I'm going to assume they also weren't too pleased with Elizabeth leaving them behind to go far away with this guy they despised. They probably expected her to write to them saying, I hate this place. Why did I marry this jerk! It was such a mistake. You guys were right. Please help me find a way home!
I think she was positive because she didn't want to prove them right. And I don't think it was just her letters that were positive. Her whole attitude might have been positive because of all of this. I think sometimes we CHOOSE to be happy....just to spite those who doubt our decisions.

Their youngest son Edward left for England when he was only eight. He made only two return visits to New South Wales during Elizabeth's lifetime. Wow. She didn't get to see that son too much. I can't imagine.

Oh. Wait. There was another son...John. Elizabeth said goodbye to him when he was seven. Then she never saw him again. I can imagine that was heartbreaking. Was stuff like this common in those days?

I know there are people who come to America to find work, leaving their children behind. I think that's so sad. I think these people have no other choice sometimes though. But to send your child off to school knowing you might never see them again? I guess these people valued formal education over family life.

The 1840's were rough on Elizabeth and her family. Her eldest daughter Elizabeth died in 1842. Well, she was pretty old actually....in her fifties. So, it's not like it was a huge tragic death. Still. It might have been sad. Plus, the family had some financial issues due to the Great Depression. Things got to be a bit tight.

The Macarthur's youngest and most cherished daughter married someone that Elizabeth didn't approve of. Like mother like daughter. But eventually the new son-in-law won Elizabeth's heart. I'm not sure actually if Elizabeth disapproved of any marriage in general...or just this specific guy. It's nice that she ended up accepting him in the end. It does seem like the Macarthur's were a bit picky about who their kids married. Remember, Lord Wiki had said they rejected two of their eldest daughter's suiters.

The website says that in the end, Elizabeth returned to Elizabeth farm. She was fond of Camden Park which went to her sons. But she preferred the Parramatta home.

There's an Elizabeth Macarthur High School in New South Wales. It's in Narellan. I'm looking at Google Maps. It's in the southern part of Sydney.

There's a whole area in Sydney named after the Macarthurs. Cambden is part of it. The Macarthur area website says it's located between Sydney and Wollongong....thirty minutes away from each.

There's an Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute. It's part of the government. They deal with plant and animal health. Recently, the Institute was involved with a new type of sheep lice test. They're also involved with reducing the rabbit population in Australia. Rabbits are SO damn cute. They're one of my favorite animals. But they do cause a lot of damage in Australia.

A rabbit disease was purposely introduced in the 1990's. This is RHD (rabbit haemorrhagic disease). That seemed to be working, but now rabbits are showing resistance to it. Before that, there was Myxomatosis. Rabbits became resistant to that disease as well. Rabbits are resilient little creatures, aren't they! They're like coachroaches...but cuter.

In many countries, Myxomatosis came about naturally. People sometimes use vaccines to protect their pet rabbits. In Australia, the vaccines are illegal. There's a worry that the resistance will spread to other rabbits. Really? Since when are vaccines contagious? If that's so, why do I need to get Jack his next shots? I can just have a vaccinated child cough on him.

Not everyone in Australia hates rabbits and supports their destruction. There's a Coalition Against Myxomatosis. They say in Australia that the RHD vaccine is available and legal. In my country, there's no vaccine for either of the diseases. I wonder why? I didn't think rabbits were seen as pests here as much as they are in Australia. Maybe the disease is less of a problem here?

Their FAQ section says that the vaccine contains a live virus. They say, However, the virus does not readily spread from one animal to another and all rabbits in a group should be individually vaccinated. Ah! So you CAN spread a live virus from a vaccine.
I know this has nothing to do with Elizabeth Macarthur. I just find it fascinating.

You know...now that I remember. I had Jack's chicken pox vaccine postponed because my sister was pregnant. I think she was going to be visiting, and there was concern that she could catch the disease from Jack. I totally forgot that.

Anyway, I can spend hours going off in tangents about this. I should probably stop now.

Bye!