SARAH MOSES was born “SARAH BROWN” in Pontefract, Yorkshire, in northern England and likely travelled to southern England to obtain work as a lady’s maid. However, for unknown reasons, she resorted to ‘uttering,’ i.e. circulating forged Bank of England bank notes of low value; a crime for which she plead guilty and received a sentence of fourteen years transportation.
SARAH arrived in Van Diemen’s Land per Morley (1820) and was assigned to a number of masters who likely counted themselves lucky to have a highly skilled lady’s servant working for them. However, SARAH’s convict profile reveals that she was a difficult convict servant who was frequently punished for insolence. Even when she married fellow convict MOSES MOSES per Marquis of Wellington (1815), with whom she had six children, SARAH was still recorded as an unruly, regular absconder who made use of violent and obscene language. For this, it is thought her punishment of solitary confinement was spent in the Cascades Female Factory.
When SARAH migrated to Sydney with her husband and children she continued to have problems with others. Eventually, her husband publicly disowned her, warned the public not to trust her, and moved to Yass (without her). He even married a free immigrant woman while SARAH was still alive. According to her headstone, SARAH ‘died of a broken heart from peculiar family trials’ around a year later and was buried in the Parramatta Burial Ground (St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta). For six years and one month her grave was unmarked until unidentified ‘friends’ raised the money to erect her headstone.
- Maiden name: SARAH BROWN
- Section 2, Row V, No. 5, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta
- Lady’s maid
- Confectionary Shop assistant
Abstract: For centuries, folk singers have sung cautionary ballads about women who, following seduction, abandonment, betrayal and often shame, died of a broken heart and were buried in their local churchyards. It would seem St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta, is not without its own lovelorn one, for to this list of disconsolate heroines we may add Sarah Moses, whose headstone declares in a clear yet vulgar hand that ‘Sarah, wife of Mr. Moses Moses, formerly of Hobart Town and now of Yass. Died of broken heart from peculiar family trials, April 1st 1841. Aged 47 years.’ Given the long, established folk tradition, Sarah’s epitaph conjures images of the quintessential sheltered gentlewoman who fell victim to a rake and consequently died the most delicate and feminine of deaths. But in this and so many other ways, the epitaph is a stone counternarrative to much of what was said about Sarah in the paper trail left in her wake. more >>
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# Crime: Uttering
# Trial Place: Somerset Assizes
# Prison: Ilchester County Gaol and House of Correction
# Punishment: Seven Years Transportation
# Ship: Morley (1820)
# Van Diemen’s Land
# Cascades Female Factory
# Burial year: 1841
# Grave: marked