Alexander John JOHNSTON in Court for BIGAMY - Dunedin 1864 :: Genealogy
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Alexander John JOHNSTON in Court for BIGAMY - Dunedin 1864

Journal by ngairedith

this journal is an attachment to the journal
James RUGG & Ann JONES

Alexander 'John' JOHNSTON (1832-) married Ellen Jane JONES (1836-1921) in Dec 1855 in Liverpool.
their known children
1855 - 1917 Thomas James Johnston
1856 - son Johnston to be found
1858 - son Johnston to be found
1862 - 1938 Jane Ann Johnston (born NZ)
- married Alexander Edmond Cairns (1850-1936) in 1886
1865 - 1866 Ellen Overton Johnston (aged 18 months)

Sometime after 1856 but before 1860, Alexander arrived at Gabriel's Diggings. Within a few months he sent for Ellen. I believe that her sister Ann came with her and perhaps their sister Margaret. (Ann's Timeline is at top link)

Jane Ellen Johnston charged her husband, Alexander John Johnston with threatening to stab her with a knife on the 6th inst. The defendant was required to give bond to keep the peace towards her for six months, himself in the amount of £40 (equivalent in 2011 to $4,100) and to find two sureties for £20 each

On 14 April 1864 at Invercargill, Alexander married Bridget Maria Flanagan (1836-1915) from County Clare, forgetting to mention that he was already married, this little lapse of memory had him arrested in Dunedin 3 Sep 1864.
their known children to date
1865 - 1865 Angus Campbell Johnston (died aged 3 months)
1866 - Margaret Ellen Johnston
1868 - Mary Ann Johnston
1870 - Catherine Campbell Johnston
1872 - Robert John Johnston, not verified
1873 - Alexander John Johnston
1875 - Elizabeth Theresa 'Lizzie' Johnston
1876 - 1877 Alexander Stewart Johnston (aged 14 months)
- not verified son
1878 - William Alexander Johnston
- not verified their son
NOTE Maria had first emigrated to Victoria, Australia and there married. At her marriage to Alexander she says she was a widow.
* A Bridget Flanagan married John Molony in 1851
* A Bridget Flanagan married Blair Dougald in 1858
* A Bridget Flanagan married James Kenny in 1862
There was a William Quinton (1832-1902), a convict on the 'Randolph' into Sydney in 1849 who married a Mary Flanagan about 1856 but this will lead us off the path of this story ..
ALSO NOTE The number of Scottish names given to their children

10 December 1864 - BIGAMY
Alexander John Johnston was indicated for bigamy, by intermarrying with Maria Flannagan, while his wife Jane Ellen Jones was alive

Mr Howorth conducted the prosecution; and Mr Wilson appeared for the prisoner.
The following was the evidence:-
Robert LAMBERT, detective officer, Queenstown: I arrested the prisoner on this charge, on the 3rd September, in King Street, Dunedin. He requested me to go with him to a place in the Valley, and I went; a Mr Foster accompanied me. I saw two children outside the house, and I asked the prisoner if they were his. He said they were. In the house, I saw a woman, the same as now answers to the name of Mrs Johnston in Court.
The prisoner said to her that he was going to Gaol and she asked "What for?". I explained the charge, and asked if the prisoner was her husband and she said he was. I asked if she received a marriage certificate, and she said "Yes" and she gave me a document that I now produce.
The prisoner did not, in her presence, admit or deny anything. He asked her not to prosecute him on the charge, and I said that if she was really his wife she could not give evidence against him.
I went outside with the prisoner, and then he denied that the woman was his wife; but I took him in again and repeated my question to her, and she said that she really was married to the prisoner. On the way to the station, the prisoner again denied that the woman was his wife. At the station he gave the name of Alexander John Johnston.

Mr Wilson objected to the admission of the document. Clearly, it was not the original entry or register of the marriage - that was in the parish registry; nor did it purport "to be signed and certified as a true copy or extract by the officer in whose custody the original is deposited"

The Judge confessed that he could not discover from what the document purported to be a copy. It was a great pity that such matters should be left in the hands of such legal dunces.

Mr Howoth thought that the document was admissible as coming from the proper authority.

The Judge could not admit that to be enough. Such documents were, by the enactment, made self-evidence if they were signed and certified as required; and generally they were clearly made to appear as extracts. He never saw one like that now before the Court; and he could not admit it in evidence.

John FOSTER, formerly publican at the Arrow, generally corroborated the evidence of Lambert. He had known the prisoner about two years; and had known him living with the woman in Court as man and wife. By Mr Wilson: Out of the woman's presence, the prisoner had denied that she was his wife

Ann RUGG, wife of James Rugg, carpenter, Dunedin; My maiden name was Ann Jones. In 1855, I was living in Liverpool with my father and mother. There were three brothers and two sister besides. One sister was named Jane Ellen and the other Margaret. Jane Ellen is now sitting there in Court. I knew the prisoner in England. About nine years ago, in a November, he and Jane Ellen left father's house to get married. My sister Margaret, James Munro and John Grey went with them. They went about ten and returned about twelve o'clock. I asked my sister if she was married, and she said "Yes" and kissed me. The prisoner lived in father and mother's house for four months, and always acknowledged Jane Ellen as his wife. My sister Margaret is not here. St James Church, Toxteth Park, is in Liverpool. The prisoner was here before Gabriel's diggings broke out; and three months after that he sent for my sister. They had have four children - I am now 22 years old.

Charles MacQUARIE, seaman: I knew the prisoner and Mrs Johnston. I was in Liverpool about January or February 1856, and I was accustomed to go and see them. They were living as as man and wife. The prisoner often admitted to me, at that time, that he was married. They had then been recently married.

Mr Wilson submitted that there was no proof whatever of a valid marriage. What had been sworn to might be enough in some cases, but it was not enough for a conviction for bigamy. For that purpose, a valid marriage must be proved, celebrated by a person in holy orders. The document put in was nothing. The evidence was just this - the prisoner had said that he was married, and he had said that he was not.

Mr Howorth contended that the admissions of the prisoner were enough, when coupled with the facts of he and Jane Ellen Jones going out to be married, and afterwards living together as man and wife.

The Judge: It is to be regretted that there should be any doubt upon the point raised. But is should be distinctly understood that it is only in cases of bigamy, adultery, and petition for divorce, that there can be the least doubt of the conclusiveness of evidence of the kind now tendered. In bigamy, proof that the ceremony has been actually performed might perhaps be essential. I shall, however, pro tem, take the prisoner's admissions, coupled with the other circumstances, as being enough, and the case must go to the jury.

Benjamin DRAKE: I am a minister of the body called Congregational Independents, at Invercargill. I am the Benjamin Drake mentioned in this 'Gazette' notice, as authorised to solemise marriages. On the 14th April last, at Invercargill, I married the prisoner and Bridget Maria Flannagan, who is the woman now called before me. What is handed to me, is a copy of the register which I myself made.

Mr Wilson objected that the indictment charged marriage with Maria Flanagan; while the evidence and the certificate showed the name to be Bridget Maria
The Judge: That is amenable, and I should allow amendment
Mr Wilson: Does your Honor mean to admit the evidence of admission as sufficient?
The Judge: Not alone - there is cohabitation
Mr Wilson: Cohabitation is only presumptive evidence, and presumption is not allowable in bigamy
The Judge was not inclined to stop the case, although he admitted there was difficulty about it going to the jury
Mr Wilson, addressing the jury, urged that the evidence of Ellen Rugg, as to what her sister told her nine years ago - when she was a little girl - not in the presence of the prisoner, was not reliable. As to admissions, the prisoner had denied the alleged marriage as well as admitted it. The jury ought to have as clear evidence of the first marriage as they had of the second. A valid first marriage must be proved before conviction for bigamy; and even if the alleged ceremony in Liverpool was performed, the prisoner might have been a minor, or the woman might have been - and probably was, judging from her present appearance - or in a dozen other ways the ceremony might have been invalid. The jury could scarcely escape a doubt as to the validity of the alleged first marriage; and they must give to the prisoner the benefit of it.

The Judge briefly went through the evidence. If that evidence as to admissions was admissible, it would be almost to insult the understandings of the jury to think that they could have any doubt as to the marriage of the prisoner with Jane Ellen Jones. The point of objection was purely technical. He knew there was something like authority for it; but he might fnd that authority more seeming that real; and meanwhile he should leave the effect of the evidence as a whole to be decided by the jury
* The Jury found the prisoner Guilty; and sentence was deferred

17 December 1864
ALEXANDER JOHN JOHNSTON, who had been convicted of bigamy, was placed in the dock. The Judge asked what was Johnston's position in life.
Mr Wilson: He was cellarman at the Provincial Hotel for some time and since then he has been a storeman.
The Judge said he should not pass sentence. The point raised by Mr Wilson was a new one and one of vast importance. It was that a document produced, and admitted by the Court, was not admissible in proof of the first marriage, in as much as it did not purport to be a copy of an original register, signed by the person authorised to make it; and that cohabitation being only presumptive evidence of marriage, was not admissible in a case of bigamy. He (the Judge) should therefore reserve a case for the opinion of the Court of Appeal as to the sufficiency of the evidence on which the prisoner was convicted. He should take bail Johnston in the sun of L100 and two sureties in L50 each. The condition would be, as prescribed by the Court of Appeal Act, that Johnston should surrender to the judgment of the Court when called upon. Johnston would be remanded to custody until he had completed the recognaisances

By 1865 Alexander was the keeper of the Argyle Hotel and Concert Rooms, Arcade (later named The Shakespeare)

15 August 1865 Otago Magistrate's Court
Alexander Johnston was charged with abandoning the occupation of his licensed house, the Argyle Hotel, Arcade. It was stated by the police that the defendant had left his house and gone to Hokitika; but that the business was meantime being carried on by a person named King, who did not hold a license. Alexander could not appear as he had just (a few minutes previously) been sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment for assaulting a bailiff. It was then proved that he had sold his business to Mr King and had not lived in the Hotel since the 9th instant. Thee Magistrate declared the license of the hotel null and void.

Tragically, in 1866 the oldest son of Alexander & Ellen, Thomas Johnston, at the age of 9, accidentally shot dead his 18 month old sister Ellen Overton Johnston. Ellen had been deserted by her husband Alexander a few years prior to this date. He was living in Hokitika with new 'wife' Maria Bridget Flanagan and Ellen is living with their 4 children (3 sons, 1 daughter) in the North-East Valley of Dunedin. At noon she leaves the house to work in an adjoining paddock. Her oldest son Thomas James Johnston, aged 9, found the pistol that Ellen had hidden in the house and accidentally shoots his 18 month old sister, Ellen Overton Johnston dead

On 19 May 1873 Jane Ellen Johnston married Edward Williams (well known in shipping circles in Otago)
their known children, more added as found
* born in Oamaru
1868 - 1945 James Edward Williams
1875 - Richard Williams
1877 - 1884 Alice Williams (aged 7)
1878 - 1964 George Rowland Williams
NOTE OAMARU Sep 1884 - WILLIAMS, On the 8th instant, Alice, fourth daughter of Edward and Jane Ellen Williams, in her eighth year. Deeply regretted

By 1878 Alexander was the proprietor of the Northern Hotel, Otago

* Around 1879 the Johnston family moved over to Australia. Alexander later had the Union Club Hotel in Queanbeyan, NSW

Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Jan 1886
GRANT-JOHNSTON - December 28 1885 at St Gregory's Church, Queanbeyan, the Rev Father Birch, Michael Henry, second son of William Grant, Esq., Albion Hotel, Ballarat, Victoria, to Margaret Ellen, eldest daughter of John Johnston, Esq., Union Club Hotel, Queanbeyan, New South Wales

Queanbeyan Age, 18 May 1886
(To the Editor of the Queanbeyan Age)
SIR,- As I understand the Hospital Committee have decided to charge Messrs. A. Johnston & Co. 10/- per diem for all cases admitted in the hospital, I beg to offer Messrs A. Johnston and Co. accommodation in my HOTEL for 25s. PER WEEK for all cases of accident, &c., that may be thought suitable by Dr. Taylor, and find attendants. Yours truly, J. JOHNSTON, Union Club Hotel

Queanbeyan Age, 30 Oct 1886
In the Insolvent Estate of John Johnston, of the Union Club Hotel, Queanbeyan. Dulhunty & Co. have received instructions from the Official Assignee, in the above estate, to sell by Public Auction, at their yards, Land's Hotel, on Saturday, Oct 20th, at Two O'Clock. the official assignee's Right, Title and Interest in and to the Lease of the Union Club Hotel - The Licenses of do., Household Furniture, Stock in Trade, Horses, Buggy & C., and the effects belonging to the Estate

Queanbeyan Age, 22 June 1887
YESTERDAY, being the Jubilee of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, was of course kept a close holiday in Queanbeyan. The weather was tolerably fine in the morning, but the afternoon was showery and bitterly-cold. A very large crowd of people assembled in the R. C. Church at 11 a.m. to witness the marriage of Miss Lizzie Johnston, youngest daughter of Mr John Johnston of the Union Club Hotel, and Mr John McNamara. After the ceremony, the party drove to the Union Club Hotel, where the usual festivities were indulged in.

Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Nov 1915
* JOHNSTON - The Friends of Mr and Mrs H. Grant, are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of their beloved mother, Maria Bridget Johnston; to leave 42 Colin-street, North Sydney, on Monday morning at 10.15 for Catholic cemetery, Gore Hill
* JOHNSTON - The friends of Mr and Mrs J. Grant are kindly invited to attend the funeral of their beloved grandmother, Maria Bridget Johnston; to leave 42 Colin-street, North Sydney, on Monday morning at 10.15 for Catholic cemetery, Gore Hill
* JOHNSTON - The Friends of Mrs M. A. Wilson are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of her beloved mother, Maria Bridget Johnston; to leave her resident, 42 Colin-street, North Sydney on Monday at 10.15am for Catholic Cemetery, Gore Hill
* JOHNSTON - The Friends of Mrs T. Wilson are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of her beloved grandmother, Maria Bridget Johnston; to leave her resident, 42 Colin-street, North Sydney on Monday at 10.15am for Catholic Cemetery, Gore Hill
* JOHNSTON - The friends of Mrs McNamara and family, of Queanbeyan, are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of her beloved mother and grandmother, Maria Bridget Johnston; to leave 42 Colin-street, North Sydney, on Monday at 10.15am for the Catholic Cemetery, Gore Hill
* JOHNSTON - The friends of Mr and Mrs A. J. Johnston are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of their beloved mother Maria Bridget, to leave 42 Colin-street, North Sydney, on Monday at 10.15am for Catholic Cemetery, Gore Hill
* JOHNSTON - The Friends of Mr and Mrs A. Hocking are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of their beloved grandmother, Maria Bridget Johnston, to leave 42 Colin-street, North Sydney on Monday, at 10.15am for Catholic Cemetery, Gore Hill

Jane Ellen Williams died 29 March 1921 aged 85. She is buried at Karoro Cemetery, Greymouth, with her son James Edward Williams (1868-1945)

HEADSTONE of Ellen Jane Williams (nee Jones, formerly Johnston) and her son James Edward Williams, Merchant Tailor

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on 2012-03-07 17:20:13

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by ozrowena on 2018-06-27 12:44:42

Hi Ngairedith,
Thank you for posting this information and I'm curious about your connection to John Johnston or any of the other players in this horrible story. John Johnston and Maria Bridget Flanagan are my third Great Grandparents. I have researched the Johnston family fairly extensively. They were whisky distillers at Tallent Farm, Islay. Despite extensively researching John's brother, Alexander, who was a large scale contractor in three states of Australia, and another brother, Angus Rutherford Johnston who was a wealthy store owner in Nanaimo, Canada. Despite much searching, I could find out much about John when I was doing much of my research which was pre 2004. A recent query from a cousin sent me back into my research to revisit many gaps. I was actually trying to find Maria Flanagan's surname of birth when I stumbled across this information. You hear about people having a whole other family no one knows about, but never thought I'd find this so close to home. It's a lot to take in, especially as I was certain I'd one day find he'd built something somewhere. I never expected bigamy to be his thing.
I would love to hear from anyone connected with this awful saga.
Best wishes,

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