Thursday, 24 January 2019

a "scandalous epitaph"

I usually begin stories for "In Loving Memory" by photographing a headstone or perhaps another kind of memorial.  This time, it was a chance encounter with the past in "Papers Past." 

While looking for something else entirely, my eyes were caught recently by the words "scandalous epitaph."  Irresistible!  But was there more?
A scandalous epitaph, imprinted on a gravestone in the Hokitika Cemetery, has lately been removed by the Borough Council, as Trustees for the Cemetery. It is still in possession of that body, and the West Coast Times states that proceedings will be taken against the person who put it there.  -Otago Daily Times, 29/8/1874.
A search showed that there was - indeed, it revealed the epitaph itself...

The following strange epitaph appears on one of the gravestones in the Hokitika Cemetery. It is certainly an anomaly as emanating from the friends of anyone deceased: "Memoria in AEternia of Ellen, second daughter of Thomas and Christina Newhouse, of Preston, Lancashire, England, passed into everlasting rest, 10th day of September, 1873, aged fifty-three years, caused by a cancer, and inflicted upon her, 7th day of January, 1872, by a person the law denominated her husband. For this brutality she sought justice in vain at the R.M.C., H."Several verses of poetry then followed, ending with "His demonical ruffian soul is indelibly branded with the terrors of the state. Justice yet for the sister dear our lives and souls we ever consecrate." The Hokitika Leader of the 20th ultimo says that this extraordinary epitaph was removed by the Borough Council as trustees of the cemetery. It is still in the possession of that body, and there is, we hear, a possibility of proceedings being taken against the person who put it up. It is rather singular that the publication of the scandalous production in a newspaper should be the first intimation that the trustees received of its existence. We are told that, though not exactly superintending its erection, one of the Borough Councillors was present at the time, and saw nothing objectionable in it. Whether this were so or not we cannot positively say, but should hope such a statement is a mistake.   -NZ Times, 7/10/1874.

Searching for the names Ellen Newhouse or Ellen Holding, I found more.

Elisha Holding appeared to an information charging him with assaulting his wife, Ellen Holding on the 8th instant. The information prayed that defendant might be bound over to keep the peace. Mr Harvey was for defendant, and elicited in the cross-examination of complainant that the quarrel originally arose on the 7th instant in consequence of defendant attempting to turn out of his place one Barbara Weldon. On that occasion complainant interfered to prevent the woman being turned out, and struck her husband on the face. A scuffle ensued and it was not easy to understand who fared the worse. On the following day, in the absence of her husband, complainant removed all the furniture to another home, and when her husband came after it, a disturbance ensued. The information was dismissed. 
John Newhouse appeared to an information charging him with assaulting Elisha Holding. Mr Harvey was for complainant and Mr South for defendant. This case arose out of the preceding one. Newhouse is Mrs Holding's brother and during the row on the 7th inst. he interfered on behalf of his sister. According to complainant's evidence, Newhouse gave him "a mother of a beating" with a stick. Both brother and sister got him down and sat upon him. Newhouse when he came into the house got hold of complainant by the legs and threw him on the floor, or, as he said, "plucked the legs from under him." Defendant was fined 10s with costs. The Court was then adjourned.   -West Coast Times, 13/1/1872.

It was not surprising that the "scandalous epitaph" on Ellen's gravestone used her maiden name.  It can be presumed that the stone was paid for and the epitaph ordered by her brother John.  The name Barbara Weldon seemed familiar - yes, it was "the incorrigible" Barbara Weldon, who had arrived from Dunedin - much to the relief of Dunedin's law enforcement community - two years before.
An advertisement in the same paper that reported Elisha Holding's case stated the following:
 I WILL not be responsible for any debt, or debts my wife ELLEN HOLDING may contract after this notice. 
ELISHA HOLDING.   -West Coast Times, 13/1/1872.
A further tantalising snippet...
. — Newhouse v. Anderson was a claim for £6, for use and occupation of the Albion Club Hotel, North Revell-street. Mr Hawkins was for plaintiff and Mr Button for defendant. The plaintiff, Newhouse, went to Melbourne some time ago and left his sister (a Mrs Holding, since dead) in the care of the Albion Hotel. He returned lately and finding defendant in occupation of the hotel commenced the present suit. The defence was that Mrs Holding (who was living apart from her husband) had let the hotel to defendant for one year at L3 per week, and had received one year's rental in advance. In corroboration of the defence a document was produced having something of the form of an agreement and of a receipt for the year's rental. It purported to be made by Mrs Holding, but had a cross instead of a signature. It was, however, attested by Elisha Holding, the husband of plaintiff's sister, and he gave evidence that he saw his wife make her mark, and that the reason she did not sign it, although she could write, was because she had injured one of her fingers and was very unwell besides. Evidence was also given that Mrs Holding had authority from plaintiff to deal with his property.  -West Coast Times, 22/10/1873.

Entering now the realm of speculation, a question arises - why was Ellen unable to write?  Had her husband beaten her?  Only speculation, of course.  
A search through the Westland CC cemetery records shows a burial in the name of Ellen Holding, dated 12/9/1873.  Is there a stone for the grave?  No image was available online.
An interesting sidelight on the background to the affair is thrown by the details reported in John Newhouse's application for a retail liquor licence - 

John Newhouse, Albion Club Hotel, Revell-street. The police reported that the house was surrounded by brothels, and a memorial signed by a large number of respectable residents was presented against the license being granted. Detective Browne on being called, said this was the lowest house in town. Certificate refused.   -West Coast Times, 22/5/1874.

It was only a few months after this that the "scandalous epitaph" appeared.  More colourful details of the life of John Newhouse is revealed here - 

John Newhouse applied for a publican's license for a house to be called the Albion Club Hotel, situated in north Revell street.
The Police reported that the House and premises were in fair condition, and the accommodation consisted of a bar, two sitting rooms, and five bedrooms. A license was refused in April and December 1874. The police then reported that the hotel was the resort of prostitutes. Applicant had now let a house next door to a reputed prostitute living with a convicted thief.
The applicant particularly wished to hear the changes made against him, and was anxious to have Detective Browne in the box. Applicant then called Matthew Ryan, who said he had known applicant for two years. Never saw anything wrong with Newhouse, or knew him to encourage prostitutes. Did not know if there was a prostitute living in the locality. Knew nothing to the detriment of applicant.
John Breeze lived near the Albion Club Hotel. Applicant had no prostitutes in his houses to witness' knowledge. Never saw anything wrong in the way appellant conducted his house. Knew that applicant had opposed the presence of prostitutes and had refused to serve them. Was aware that that class detested applicant more than any other man in the community. R. Gosson was in Court when applicant's license was refused on a former occasion. Did not know whether there were any prostitutes in the neighborhood on that occasion. Had signed an application for Newhouse to get his license, and also one against him. Witness's reason for such a singular proceeding, was that at first he was told that applicant was going to reform that end of the town, and afterwards that he intended to let his houses to any one. Had never seen anything wrong about applicant's house.
Alfred Evans, knew nothing wrong about applicant's house. Never saw loose women there.
John Havill had been a good deal in and out of applicant's house while he kept it. Never saw anything wrong, or bad characters frequenting it. Had known applicant refuse such persons. Did not know what women were living in the neighbourhood when the license was refused. Did not know applicant let his houses to prostitutes. Did not believe he had. Applicant never encouraged disorderly persons, and refused to serve them. 
Elizabeth Haines, milliner and dress maker, had heard Detective Brown's slanderous statement read. It was utterly false. Had never lived by prostitution. Had always lived respectably. Was married, and Browne's statement was a wilful lie. Did not know Browne's wife.
Mr Newhouse was proceeding to put questions to witness reflecting on Browne, when
The Chairman said applicant must not malign other people. He had no right to attack a third person, whose character was not in question.
Mr Newhouse said his character had been vilified, and his property injured by Browne, and what redress had he? He wished to show Browne's motives for his slanderous attacks.
Mrs Haines, cross-examined by Mr James: Had been living in Mr Newhouse's house for eight or nine months. Her husband's name was Robert Haines. During her husband's absence, a man named Talbot and his mates had boarded with her. Talbot never stayed alone with her.
Detective Browne, called by Mr James— Said he knew applicant's house. Mrs Haines had lived there lately. She was for some time alone. A man named Talbot frequented her place. On one occasion saw Talbot in bed in the front room. There was no one else in the house. By Mr Newhouse: Did not know who let the house to her. Had no cause to exhibit personal spite against applicant. Did not write a letter against applicant to the Bench in the year 1870 or 1871. Might have written a report against him. Did not remember what he (witness) had sworn to at the last licensing meeting, did not remember giving the name of Mary Sweeney as a woman who lived near applicant's house. Did not know that prostitutes detested applicant. Never told applicant that in order to get information from loose women in a certain case in which applicant was concerned, he would have to represent him to them as a scoundrel. Did not recollect mentioning to Mr Walker that applicant was going to be opposed by him. Might have done so. Witness was a married man.  The Chairman said it was unfair to gibbet Browne. It had no bearing on the case.
Witness proceeded to say in answer to Mr Newhouse, that Mrs Haines told him she was not married to Haines,
Mrs Haines: It is false.
Mr Newhouse then read a long address to the Bench, demanding to know the specific grounds on which his license had been refused, and whether there was one law for one publican, and another for him. His address occupied considerable, time and he was finally interrupted by the Chairman, when enlarging on the animus and malice displayed against him by Detective Browne. Mr Newhouse said he had more than two hours defence, but he would decline to say any more, and would leave his case in the hands of the Court.
After retiring for a few minutes, the Chairman said that whether the Court would or would not grant the licence, they were precluded from doing so by the second section of the Licensing Amendment Act, to which reference had been made in the previous case. They had no option but to refuse the license.  -West Coast Times, 8/12/1875.

Mr John Newhouse advertised his two Revell Street buildings were to let in August of 1877, on account of his going to Melbourne.  In 1882, the west Coast Times referred to him as the "late" John Newhouse, in the matter of rates arrears for his properties.

And that is all I have - for now.

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