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Parsons, Charles Octavius (1799–1863)

by Nancy Parsons

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Charles Octavius Parsons (1799-1863), pastoralist, was born on 7 May 1799 at Newton Hall, Monmouthshire, England, the eighth son of Rev. John Weddell Parsons, vicar of Wellington, Herefordshire, and his wife Frances, daughter and coheiress of David Morgan of Presteigne, through whom he was related to many distinguished Anglo-Welsh families. Of his brothers, Cecil (1786?-1876) was a deputy lieutenant and Guy (1769?-1834) high sheriff of Radnorshire. Four other brothers were killed in the Napoleonic wars.

Parsons arrived in Hobart Town in the Princess Charlotte in January 1823 with letters of introduction from people of influence, including the Duke of York. He intended to settle on the land but was dissuaded by Major Archibald Bell and Affleck Moodie, upon whose recommendation to Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell he was appointed commissariat store-keeper at Macquarie Harbour. Because of disagreement with Captain James Butler, the commandant, he was transferred to Maria Island in 1828, where his year's stay was characterized by mutual recriminations between himself and Major Thomas Lord. To restore harmony Parsons was dismissed; later events, however, proved Lord's dishonesty. Parsons returned to England, but came back to Van Diemen's Land in the Thomas Laurie in February 1831. At St David's Church, Hobart, on 14 April 1832 he married Maria Jennings (1803-1881), and thus allied himself with a powerful coterie: Joseph Tice Gellibrand was his wife's first cousin and her brothers were important in the colony's legal and banking life. One of her sisters, Sophia Louisa, married Philip Russell of the Clyde Co. and another, Sarah Tice, married Rev. Joseph Beazley, well known as a Congregational minister at Green Ponds and later at Redfern, New South Wales.

On his return to Hobart in March 1831 Parsons requested reinstatement in public service. Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur refused, but proposed putting the 'most liberal construction upon the report of the Land Board which the Regulations admit'. As Parsons had imported a capital of £2118 15s., Arthur allowed him 1560 acres (631 ha) with a conditional reserve of 1000 adjoining acres (405 ha). Parsons took up his location at Clearlands (Cleveland), Ouse. In April 1832 he purchased New Grange, Swanport, but this soon passed to his kinsman, J. T. Gellibrand. However, Parsons was no business man and by March 1836 he was acting as overseer for George Scott. Soon afterwards he joined the party which went to Port Phillip to search for Gellibrand. In September 1837 he put up for sale his estates of Kimbolton, Cleveland, and Athol Brae, comprising 6120 acres (2477 ha) in the Hamilton-Ouse district, stating that he was about to go to England. As only Kimbolton was sold this visit was abandoned, and soon afterwards he moved to Camden, near Richmond, which he sold in 1842 to go to Brush Farm near Runnymede. His great improvements with borrowed money alarmed his friends. In 1846 he became insolvent to the amount of £10,000 (the Clyde Company Papers claims that he lost £40,000) and once again he proposed to return to England for help from his relatives, but again he did not sail. Instead he leased Berriedale, Bothwell, from Philip Russell's estate on a wool rental. In 1862 when Bloomfield, the property still occupied by descendants, was acquired, the deeds were in his wife's name. In 1842 Parsons became a road commissioner at Prosser Plains.

High-spirited, impatient, and fond of horse-racing, Parsons was much liked by his contemporaries who in the time of his misfortune remembered his past generosity. These good qualities, however, did not make for success. He died at Berriedale on 14 April 1863, after a fall from his horse. He was survived by a widow, three sons and four daughters. The descendants of the second son, Cecil Joseph (1840-1928), continued to play an important part in Tasmanian pastoral life.

Select Bibliography

  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vols 1-3 (Lond, 1941-58)
  • correspondence file under Parsons (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Nancy Parsons, 'Parsons, Charles Octavius (1799–1863)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/parsons-charles-octavius-2540/text3453, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 17 July 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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