Agnes Connor (ca. 1815 – 1893), a convict, was transported to Sydney on the Whitby (1839). By 1848 she was in Brisbane where she bigamously married ex-convict, David Ferguson. They did not have children together but raised Agnes’s son from her first marriage, Charles Chilton, together. Agnes and David Ferguson had a difficult and colourful life, appearing in multiple newspaper articles throughout the 1800s. They were both admitted to the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum in the late 1880s. Agnes Ferguson died there in 1893 aged in her seventies, while her husband died at the Brisbane Hospital in 1897.
Agnes Ferguson was born in Youghal, County Cork and was transported to New South Wales under her maiden surname of Conner [sic]. She married, firstly, Charles Chilton, who came free on the Bencoolen (1842), in Parramatta in 1845 and, secondly, David Ferguson in ‘Brisbane, New South Wales’ in 1848. In 1858, Chilton served a term of twelve months’ hard labour in Bathurst Gaol for illegally using a horse, proving that Agnes Connor’s marriage to David Ferguson in Brisbane in November 1848 was bigamous. Agnes had one son with Charles Chilton, a son also named Charles, but her second marriage was childless.
David Ferguson, a convict per Hooghley (1834), arrived in Brisbane several years before his wife, obtaining a ticket of leave for Moreton Bay in 1845. In March 1851 the Fergusons were both charged with being drunk and disorderly. Both were sentenced to forty-eight hours in solitary confinement. Just over two weeks later, Agnes appeared again for ‘violently assaulting Catherine Driscoll’ while drunk and ‘assaulting Constable Conroy in the execution of his duty’. There was trouble again in 1853 when David Ferguson ‘begged for clemency’ on behalf of Agnes who was charged with disorderly conduct and in 1860 he placed advertisements in the Moreton Bay Courier to caution the public against giving credit to his wife.
In August 1860, it was reported that Agnes Ferguson, ‘the lady who some time ago was sold by her husband to one Aaron Walmsley for a horse and dray’, was charged with assaulting John Dunford at ‘the “Gap”’, an area of Brisbane which ‘bears a very bad repute and requires purification’. Agnes pulled Dunford from his bed and kicked him ‘in such a violent manner as to leave serious marks behind’, while Walmsley struck Dunford ‘about the head with a large stick’ causing blood to flow from his ears. Both were sentenced to short terms of imprisonment.
Between 1865 and 1886 there were no further press reports regarding Agnes Ferguson for drunk and disorderly behaviour. She and her husband moved further away from Brisbane to Kobble Creek at Pine River where they lived with Agnes’s son, Charles. He was born Charles Chilton but by the time he married in 1870, he was known as Charles Ferguson.
Agnes Ferguson was admitted to the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum on Stradbroke Island in 1887 suffering from a broken shoulder. She remained there for the rest of her life, dying there in 1893. Like the majority of Dunwich inmates who died at the Benevolent Asylum, she was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave at the Dunwich Cemetery.
Jan Richardson, ‘Agnes Ferguson (née Connor) (ca. 1815 – 1893)’, Harry Gentle Resource Centre, Griffith University, 2023, https://harrygentle.griffith.edu.au/life-stories/agnes-ferguson-nee-connor/.
Agnes Conner [sic] per Whitby (1839).
Charles Chilton and Agnes Connors [sic], 12 Apr 1845.
Marriage registration of Charles Chilton and Agnes Connor [sic], Parramatta, 1845.
Marriage registration of David Fergusson [sic] and Agnes Connor [sic], married 13 Nov 1848.
Agnes Conner [sic] per Whitby (1839), Certificate of Freedom No. 47/564, 20 Jun 1847.
Agnes was admitted to the Brisbane Gaol eleven times between 9 March 1850 and 2 October 1860 under her married surname of Ferguson.
Agnes Ferguson (née O’Connor [sic]), No. 231, admitted 11 November 1887.
Charles Chelton [sic] per Bencooling [sic], Gaol Annual No. 247, 5 June 1858
Out of sight, out of mind: Ex-convict female paupers incarcerated in Queensland's benevolent asylums. Jan Richardson, Journal of Australian Colonial History, vol. 24, 2022, pp. 133-156.
Invisible stories: The presence of female convicts in Queensland following the closure of the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1842. Jan Richardson, History in the Making, vol. 2, no. 2, 2013 pp. 86-108.
Malicious injury to property, Moreton Bay Courier, 17 Feb 1849, p. 2.
A troublesome character, Moreton Bay Courier, 22 Mar 1851, p. 2.
Indecent conduct, Moreton Bay Courier, 15 Jan 1853, p. 3.
Disorderly conduct, Moreton Bay Courier, 19 March 1853, p. 2.
Drunkards, Moreton Bay Courier, 10 Oct 1857, p. 2.
Caution [advertisement], Moreton Bay Courier, 27 March 1860, p. 3.
Police Court, Moreton Bay Courier, 4 August 1860, p. 4.