Ballina & Richmond River GenWeb
Henry "Heinrich" Bassmann was born on the 20th August 1826 in Holstein Germany, son of Heinrich Bassmann and Maria Ahrens.Henry spent much of his early life working on his parent's farm.
Henry Bassmann left the army and devoted the next few years to farming pursuits with his father. He then decided to emigrate to Australia when its gold discoveries were exciting and enticing the whole world.
In June 1854, at the age of 27, Henry travelled to Australia landing in Melbourne aboard the ship "The Queen of the East". Henry made his way to Bendigo, with a mate, and had a short attempt at gold prospecting. 'Lady Luck' however did not smile on him and he had no success in finding the precious metal. Henry fairly quickly returned to Melbourne and then made his way to Sydney.
Henry Bassmann worked for Commissioner Bligh for about two years. When orderlies were dispensed with and Henry's services were no longer needed by Mr. Bligh, Henry applied for admission into the Police Force and was accepted. On the 26th May 1857 Henry become a member of the Police Force. At this point in time he was described as being five feet nine and a half inches tall, with brown eyes, fair hair and a fair complexion. Henry was appointed to Grafton as a Constable. He remained there for many years and gained the reputation of being very efficient and multi-talented. He was a man who could use firearms, ride a horse, or pull a boat; the latter service being requisitioned often in the early days of settlement.
On the 7th November 1857 Henry applied for a Certificate of Naturalisation. One of the reasons for this application was that he wished to purchase land and to do so one had a be an Australian citizen. He was granted naturalisation status on 16th November 1857.
Henry married his first wife Christina Jackschon (Jackson) on 8th July 1858, according to the Rites of the Church of England. The ceremony took place in Grafton. Henry was 31 years old and Christina was 19 years old. The officiating Minister was Arthur E. Selwyn. Henry's occupation on the Marriage Certificate states that he was a German Labourer. This is unusual when we know he was a Police Constable.
In the early days the duties of the Police Force were arduous, there was an extensive district to travel with a sparse population, and as there were no roads the boat was the main form of transport, for police as well as settlers. The brave police officers of the day feared little and executed their duties with great forsight and sense of duty.The district was a true frontier and some notable captures are credited to Henry Bassmann during him term of duty. One such incident being that of the capture of the bushranger 'Dan Morgan'. Even though Henry did not know at the time that it was 'Dan Morgan'.
The incident happened shortly after Henry was appointed to the Police Force in Grafton (dates for this event vary in different sources). The story goes that Henry, accompanied by Constable Kelly, had been sent after two absconding servants, who were supposed to be making for the Richmond Region.
The man slipped out a revolver and told Henry to stop or he would shoot. Henry said 'fire away', and closed in. Constable Bassmann then grabbed the man. Bassmann grappled with the man, but he continued to resist. Finding the powerful young Constable too strong for him, 'Morgan' pulled out a knife and stabbed Henry. The blade penetrated Henry's lung and he was near to collapsing but he continued to hold on until Constable Kelly finally caught up and handcuffed the man.
Bassmann dressed his wound himself and returned to Grafton. It was only when the Doctor came to see Henry sometime later, that the serious nature of Henry's injury was realised. Bassmann was put into Grafton Hospital and remained there for three months, Morgan's knife having narrowly missed his heart. Henry was lucky to escape death but thanks to a fine constitution and a strong will Henry recovered. Some accounts say that this injury, however, did eventually lead to his retirement.
But this is not the end of the story, when the man was arrested he gave his name as 'Eggelstone'. He also had another alias 'Wilcox'.
The prisoner was taken to Grafton. When this event occurred the Grafton Police Lockup was a wooden slab structure near the river bank.The lockup had two cells with a narrow passage around them. Morgan was put in leg irons and imprisoned with several other confinees, however he still succeeded in escaping. The other prisoners professed to know nothing of how or when Morgan had escaped. He was never recaptured. The jail keeper was discharged on the spot.
Morgan was later seen by a civilian travelling on the river. The civilian was suspicious, as Morgan still had his leg-irons on. He reported that he had seen a man who was shackled using a pole to propel his craft along the waterway. It later transpired that Morgan, a blood thirsty but cowardly fellow, had fired at and wounded a man near Tenterfield, and this was his reason for avoiding the law. Twelve months after the escape from the lock-up Morgan was shot dead at Peechelba, near Wangararatta, just south of the Victorian border.
On the 27th June 1864. William Forster, the New South Wales Colonial Secretary, gazetted a reward of 1000 pounds 'for apprehension of Daniel Morgan'. After Morgan's death the following report was handed down 'The deceased whom we believe to be Daniel Morgan met his death from a gunshot wound inflicted by John Wendlan on the morning of April 9th 1865, at Peechelba Station on the Ovens River and we further consider that the homicide was justifiable.'
How many people had it finally taken to capture Morgan? The division of the reward went as follows, John Wendlan received 300 pounds, Alice McDonald 250 pounds, James Frazer 200 pounds, Donald Clarke 100 pounds, Alice Keenan 50 pounds and twelve volunteers and policemen 8 pounds 6 shillings and 8 pence each.
Years later, believing the description he had been told of Morgan was identical with the Grafton escapee who had stabbed him, Bassmann visited the waxworks in Sydney where they had Morgan represented in wax. At once Henry picked him out as the same man.
It is interesting to note here, the way they managed things in the 'good old days'. When Bassmann sent to his Department the Doctor's bill, a very moderate one by the way, for attention to his wound, the Head of the Department, curtly told him he ought to be glad to pay for it himself and happy to have his health and life. Henry had pay the bill and never received a single shilling to assist him to do so.
Constable Bassmann was also a chief witness in the Commerce House Fire Case, in which he came into conflict with his superior officer, Sub-Inspector Keegan. Bassmann maintained continually that he was on the right track, and that if he had had his way, the guilty person would have been put on trial, but might not have been convicted.
By the time Henry was promoted to Senior Police Constable in August of 1864 he and Christina had four children; Anna Maria (20th October 1859 - 13th July 1860), John Henry (7th July 1861 - 17th October 1924), Eliza Ann (Dolly) (13th October 1862 - 20th September 1922) and Christina (b. 9th May 1864).
The Bassmann Family continued to grow with Ahrens Albert (b. 8th May 1866), Arthur Clarence (b. 25th June 1867), Annie (Anna) Agnes (b. 25th July 1868), Sophia Maria (b. 27th July 1870 - 30th April 1873), Gottlieb J. (b. 1872 - 1943) and Amelia Adeline (b. 1873) all being born in Grafton.
The unusual story of Sophia Bassmann's death at an age of 33 months, on the 30th April 1873, is quite interesting. Mrs Christina Bassmann had just lifted a large pot of 'Irish Stew' off the fire and left it to look for a large dish. Christina had hardly turned her back, when all the children collected around the pot. While watching the rising of the savoury steam, Sophia fell onto the pot and upset it and the contents. It scalded her from the neck downwards. She was immediately undressed and put into wraps of cloth coated with whitening and oil, but her injuries were beyond help, she lingered only until the next morning. The family felt the loss very deeply. Sophia's name is recorded along with Ferdinand Augustus and Christine (Christina) on the Pioneer Memorial Wall - East Ballina.
In the second half of the 1870's, after service at Grafton, Senior Police Constable Henry Bassmann was moved to Ballina with the instruction "Ballina is like Hell on Earth and you have to quieten it." The first policeman to be appointed to Ballina was Constable Jack McLeod in 1855.
Greville's Post Office Directory for 1875-1877 stated "101 settlers and their families are listed as inhabiting Ballina and District, which includes North Creek and Duck Creek (Uralba), these include Farmers, Planters, Storekeepers and Miners". Henry's family lived for many years on property near Emmigrant Creek in the Shire of Tintenbar Municipality of Ballina.
Bassmann was issued with a German Shepherd dog as his assistant and there can be no doubt that the sight of the town's first policeman and his large canine helper kept many a would-be larrikin on the straight and narrow path. Bassmann had only to point out a person and the dog would run after him, run between his legs, bring the person down, then stand over him until his master caught up and took the person into custody.
In all Henry and Christina had 14 children. Kate Theresa (1876), Ernest A. (11th November 1877 - 4th December 1931) and Ferdinand A. (11th November 1877 - 12 December 1877) were born in Ballina and registered at Casino. Emma Maud ( 4th January 1879 - 17th October 1966) the youngest was born at Emmigrant Creek and registered in Lismore.
Christina was known to be a loving and caring person. Their home was always a happy home, full of laughter, with each child doing his or her chores, and no questions asked. Henry was a very industrious and hardworking person. He was the family disciplinarian. He took no nonsense from his children and they respected him for it. Emma Maud, the youngest daughter, said Henry was a very hard father, very strict; and the strap often found a tender spot on someone's backside leaving tell-tale welts. But Emma also said, 'we children probably needed the discipline'. Emma never spoke disrespectfully of her father.
When Christina died the older girls and boys helped with the younger children at home while their father carried on his work as a policeman.
Henry continued his work at Ballina Police Station. Three and a half years after Christina's death Henry retired with a police pension, on 28th of September 1884. He was 58 years old and a Sergeant Tippet took over when Henry retired. A gun belonging to Senior Constable Henry Bassmann and used during his police service was put on display in the Lancers Room of the Richmond River Historical Society.
Henry continued living on his farm near Ballina. This farm and homestead was at Cumbalum on Emigrant Creek. The property covered 227 acres in the Tintenbar Shire. The farm was cleared and all under grass or cane, except for the orchards and as with most cane farms the snakes were plentiful and caused many problems as well as interesting stories to abound.
The homestead was a large two-storied place with big rooms. There was a very big back verandah, and the verandah posts were the trunks of trees. On these posts hung whips, bridals and ropes, anything a person may need in a hurry. Beyond the verandah there was a covered-in extensive, brick-floored pathway half the length of the verandah. Beyond that was the laundry and the dairy under one roof. The dairy end consisted of big wide shelves where the milk was put to settle in wide shallow tin dishes every morning. The dishes would have cream skimmed off them with a ladle. This was churned in a small barrel like container to make butter.
The farm had a beautiful orchard and flower garden in the front of the homestead. There was also a magnificent grape trellis. One bunch of white grapes that was picked weighed 7 lbs. The trellis was one grand avenue, one and a half chains long. It divided the flower garden from the orchard. At either end of the grape trellis there was a lovely Book Leaf Pine Tree growing and just to the right before one entered the grape trellis, was a small path with half a dozen pine trees growing each side leadingup to the Summer House. The Summer House was a lovely room with four walls and a roof of poles, wire and grape vines. On each side of the entrance door was a lovely big bush of Hydrangeas. On one side of the garden there was a "Zalia Tree" (azelea) which was trimmed to look like a huge ball on a stick. This tree was green all the year, but when it was in flower you just could not see a green leaf, just a big pinky, mauve ball.
In the middle of the garden was an enormous Cactus like plant. It had leaves that were 5 feet long, green with a yellow stripe on each side. Most people that visited the garden broke off a spike at the end of the leaf and scratched their initials in the leaves, a most unusual Autograph Book. It was in the garden for many years.
About one year after Albert's marriage and seven years after Christina's death, in 1888, Henry decided to remarry. His second wife was Johanna A. Eichlaum (Eichbann). Henry was 62 years old and Johannah was 44 years old. Henry and Johanna had no children together.
From the moment the new stepmother stepped foot into the house, things began to go wrong. Firstly the older children resented another woman taking over what they had been doing so well since the death of their real mother and no-one could do anything right in the Step-mother's eyes. She would prance around the house like a lady; watching the family scrub floors, clean off cobwebs, rake the leaves, weed the garden. Whatever Henry's children did, it wasn't done to perfection, so she would make them do it over and over again.
Johanna's life was fairly easy as Henry had his Police Pension and the Bassmann farm was self-supporting in every way. There was very little the family had to buy.Their meat was supplemented with the fowls and ducks they reared. They even had cows and plenty of milk making their own butter from the cream they skimmed off the top. Henry did not have a separator on the farm, so the milk was poured into large tub-like vats for the cream to settle overnight. Then, the next morning, the task of churning the butter was everyone's job, each one helped the other.
Occasionally, the girls would ask their stepmother, Johanna, if they could go out or perhaps go visit a neighbour. The answer was always, 'No! there's still chores to be done'. If there was nothing to be done, the stepmother would sure enough find something to keep them at home.
Apparently Johanna was prone to telling untruths to Henry about the children, and what they had been doing while he was out working on the property. One instance for example was the day Johanna scratched Emma's face in anger. Henry asked, 'How did your face get scratched like that Emma?'. Before Emma could speak for herself, Johanna interjected, 'Poor Emma was up the lemon tree, and she lost her grip and scratched her face as she fell'. Henry believed Johanna. Another day Johanna tore Emma's dress, Johanna's excuse this time was, 'Poor Emma caught her dress in the wire gate'.
Johanna never liked the children, the farm, or Ballina; she always wanted Henry to sell his property and go back to Grafton to live.
As the children reached the age where they could get a job and could keep themselves; they gradually drifted away from the farm and Johanna. Some got married, the others chose to move away to work. Albert, however, stayed on the farm and continued to pay rent for the part of the farm he used. With the children gone, Johanna eventually persuaded Henry to lease his part of the farm to a family called the Perry's. Johanna and Henry moved back to Grafton, Henry's original police posting and where Henry Bassmann still owned a good deal of town property and a house.
The Perry's lived on the Bassmann farm for a number of years but when they had saved enough to buy a farm of their own, Walter Kempnick (Albert's cousin) unknown to Albert brought the property. Albert and his family thought he had just rented and taken over the Homestead but when Albert's lease ran out, and he went to have it renewed, Kempnick said there was no lease and he had to vacate the property. This was a great shock to Albert considering his father's earlier promise. Walter's mother, Annie Jackschon, and Albert's mother, Christina Jackschon were sisters but Albert and Walter were not friends as they had quarrelled about a court case some years earlier in which Walter wanted Albert to tell lies for him.
Sometime just before Wednesday January 12th 1910, Henry made a visit to Lismore, accompanied by Johanna, his second wife. In the Lismore Northern Star (dated as above) it was reported that Henry was a healthy and vigorous man for his age, and that few people probably knew how old he really was. It stated that although he was in his 85th year he might readily pass as a man of 60.
Henry Bassmann was a Charter member of Court Clarence of the Order of Royal Foresters and in 1912 Henry's address is recorded as being a brick building in Pound Street Grafton. This building was demolished in 1931 for railway purposes.
While residing in Pound Street, Henry's sister-in-law from his second marriage to Johanna, died at age 70. This happened in the Pound Street house on the 30 June 1912. Mrs Agnes Theodora Curs, was a widow who suffered from paralysis. She was visiting from Germany and had been in the country for about nine months.
Henry was 86 years old when he died, on 11th November 1914, at his residence in Pound Street West, Grafton. It was a surprise for a man who had been so healthy a year earlier.Henry Bassmann had been in Australia for 60 years. He owned a number of properties bounded by Pound, Alice, and Garden Streets.The funeral took place on a Thursday afternoon and Archdeacon Seymour conducted the burial service. He is buried in the Lutheran portion of the Grafton Cemetery, somewhere towards the middle.
Johanna died eleven years after Henry at the Pound Street residence, aged 80 years, on Wednesday 17th March 1925.
There is an unsubstantiated story that Johanna was implicated in trying to, or involved in, something to do with the poisoning of someone. This may of cause be just a rumour?
Johanna, in her will, left the house and land in Grafton, to her friends, the Layton Family. Johanna was a spinster when she married Henry and as she had no children of her own she left Henry's wealth to her Godchildren. One of her godchildren was Jack Bassmann Layton of Grafton. Apparently his middle name became Bassmann due to the fact that Johanna was his godmother.
As already mentioned the children of Henry and Christina scattered far and wide when Henry married for the second time.
Their first child ANNA MARIA died in Grafton at only 9 months of age.
JOHN HENRY went west and then down south. He married SUSANNAH BROADHEAD in Kiandra on 3rd March 1901. He died on the 17th October 1924 and is buried in West Wyalong, New South Wales.
CHRISTINA Bassmann was married on 2nd February 1884 in Ballina to JOHN SKINNER. It was a beautiful wedding and he was seemingly a nice, well-liked chap. Everything went fine for a number of years and they had 2 or 3 children. Her husband then decided they should go to Sydney to live but when they got there, he told her that he was already a married man and that he was going back to his 'real' wife. Christina was most distressed and wrote to her father, Henry, who reportedly didn't try to help her. Apparently Henry had the idea that there was no way one of his children was going to put shame on him. In those days, it was that way in all families.The family never heard from her again but it is registered that she married a second time on the 22nd September 1900 to a Frederick W.G. Shepherd.
ARTHUR CLARENCE went to the Boer War, moving to Brisbane when he returned home. He never contacted anyone when he came back. In 1897 he married AGNES HART.
ANNIE AGNES married an Englishman, ARCHIBALD OWEN CRAIG on the 17th April 1892. Her husband worked as a dredge engineer and wheelwright at Kempsey. They then moved to Balmain to live. Annie was a personality who would talk to anyone. She was a delightful person, always laughing and joking, telling funny stories and reciting funny poems. She had three sons Archibald, Cyril and Stewart. Later in her life Annie often visited her son Archie in Adam Street Coraki and the younger sibling members of her own family (especially Emma at New Italy). Annie is buried in Ballina, New South Wales.
CYRIL ERNEST lived all his life in Sydney and married a lady named INA POLLARD. They had no children.
The next child, SOPHIA MARIA died from scalding at 2 years and 9 mths old. She died on 30th April 1873 and is buried on the Richmond River.
GOTTLEIB (Guff), was a wheelwright, in Lismore. He was reportedly a very heavy drinker. Guff married MARY A HANNAH in 1898 but they had no children. Gottlieb and his wife took his younger sister Kate's children, Arthur and Phyllis, and reared them when Kate died. Guff and Mary gave Arthur a trade and looked after the children as if they were their own. Gottlieb died in 1943.
AMELIA ADELINE (Amy) married WALTER A WINTON (Alf) in 1894. This was Walter's second marriage. He already had a number of children. Amy helped her husband run the "Ballina Hotel. Amy was called 'Ma' Winton and was loved by her own children, her step-children and all the staff of the Hotel. Amelia also brought up a grandson after the death of his mother.
KATE THERESA left home with EMMA shortly after the new stepmother came in and took over. They got a little cottage in Ballina and took on work washing and cleaning. Kate, Emma and Ernest eventually moved to Woodburn. Kate had a baby, Arthur, and once again Henry refused to have anything to do with a unmarried daughter with a child. Kate did later married a man named FELIX A MACKIE in Ballina and Henry consented to attend the church ceremony. From this marriage Kate had a daughter called Phyllis but then Kate died giving birth to a 'double baby'. Her husband, Felix, rode to Ballina to get the doctor and in the process killed the horse; probably due to exhaustion. He sent the doctor on his way but when the doctor finally got to Woodburn, Kate was dead. When Kate died her husband Felix just left the children and they never heard from him again. This was when Gottlieb and Mary took them in.
ERNEST A. was the youngest son. He had a twin FERDINAND A. who died at 31 days on 12th December 1877 and is buried on the Richmond River. Ferdinand's name is registered on the Pioneer Memorial Wall in Ballina. Ernest was a very honest and hardworking person. He worked felling timber, ring barking and even cutting sleepers. He worked mostly for people by the name of Boland. Ernest never married and lived like a hermit all of his life around the area of New Italy. He lived in an old shed of Bertolis at New Italy, until the white ants ate it all out. Then he moved into the Diary Shed, which wasn't being used and was also made of Bertolis. Ernest earnt good money at his job only going to Woodburn once in a while for supplies. He was an excellent fisherman and a good cook who made the most wonderful dampers. Ernest had his own shotgun and would shoot kangaroos and wild ducks. On his occasional trips to town he would buy a whole case of cartridges and store them in his shack. Also stored in the shack, were coils of barbed fencing wire and all his other gear such as bridle and saddle and leather cartridge belt holders (that he had specially made). He died in New Italy near Casino, New South Wales, on 4th December 1931. One day, when Ernest was away, a thief walked in and stole everything, including his gun, and then set fire to the old building so as to leave no evidence or tracks. On Ernest return he said, 'by jove, they have really hot fires out here at New Italy. The fire even burnt my gun cartridges, wire and even harness buckles'. There wasn't a thing to be salvaged from the fire. Even coins he kept in a tin were missing. It had to have been deliberately lit, but no-one saw a thing. Ernest was a funny person who worked hard all his life and yet money wasn't the most important thing in his life. If the weather was wet and he had no paper to light a fire with, he would use paper money. One day, when Emma's boys were staying with him, Ernest pulled out some money and began to light his fire in front of them. They said 'Uncle Ernest you are burning money'. Ernest said, 'not to worry, it's only money'.
EMMA MAUD being the youngest, had a terrible time living with her step-mother. Finally she went out to work around Ballina and then moved to Woodburn. Emma had one son, GEORGE BAKER, before she married DOMENIC ROSOLEN on the 11th January 1905, at Mrs. Brownings, South Woodburn. Emma and Domenic did not have a honeymoon but moved straight to a farm at New Italy. At this time she wrote a letter to her brother Albert and sister-in-law Grace, saying she had married an 'Istallion'. Albert and Grace thought this was a most unusual description. Domenic adopted George as his own son adding Rosolen to his name. Emma was a good-hearted person, who lived and worked on the farm at New Italy all of her life. She died at New Italy near Casino, New South Wales, on 17th October 1966.
Domenic was from Albino, Italy. Domenic was one of 340 hopeful emigrants who set sail from Veneto, Italy on 9 July, 1880. He joined the third ill-fated expedition of the Marquis de Rays (a French aristocrat named Charles De Bruel) and sailed on the "India" from Barcelona wit his parents, Giovanni and Rosa and brothers Antonio, Joseph, Peter, Giocomo (John) and Lewis. Another brother, Domenic, died in infancy. The India reached Port Breton, the "Capital of the Marquis de Ray's imaginary empire"which he'd called "La Nouvelle France" or "New France" on 14 October 1880. On the 15th February, 1881,the starving expeditioners left, forced the captain of the "India" to take them to Sydney. On the 12th March, mechanical breakdowns forced the India to stop at Noumea. The India was declared unseaworthy. They left Noumea on 2nd April, 1881 on the "James Patterson" and arrived in Sydney on the 7th April, 1881. Only 217 people were left. When the ship came ashore Sir Henry Parkes gave the almost starving expeditioners a glass of milk. Domenic's first job in Australia was a stable boy for Sir Henry Parkes until he came to the North Coast of New South Wales and settled at New Italy.
I would like to express my great appreciation to Debbie Radford (Bassmann) firstname.lastname@example.org for the wonderful information that she has collated and that she supplied me with on the Bassmann Family, and also for allowing the use of her photographs of the Bassmann family. Thank-you.