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Chauncey Bugbee–the American Patriot

Unfortunately the story of the North American Patriots coming to Tasmania, has not had the publicity it deserves;  it is an important part of our Tasmanian history. It was not until the 1960s that Australian families felt comfortable admitting they had convicts in their ancestry and the Buckby family knew only that their grandfather was American. Changing attitudes have made a convict ancestor a matter of some pride and status for parts of the population today.

Researching for my book The Buckby Saga, I learned the story of the Patriots, the work they did in building our roads, and working on our farms, while living in appalling conditions. I’d like to share the story of Chauncey Bugbee, who was my late husband’s ancestor. William was Chauncey’s son, my husband’s grandfather. William was a great man and the family are proud of his record and achievements in Circular Head. I hope the 175th anniversary next year, of the Patriots landing in Tasmania will be a big event.

An American Patriot

February 2015 marks the 175th anniversary of the arrival at Long Beach, Tasmania of seventy-nine American political prisoners known as the American Patriots.

The uprising in Canada in 1837 arose because the British colony of Upper Canada was dominated by a small group of appointed officials, in alliance with the Crown Governor. A battle lasted five days and involved an estimated 2000 British/Canadians; twenty Patrons were killed and a further twenty wounded; Chauncey Bugbee survived, was rounded up and taken to Kingston for trial, where he was charged with treason.

Chauncey was illiterate and could not sign his name, his trial record spells his name as Chauncey Bugbee but on the birth certificates of his three children, Jane, William and Sarah, his name is spelled, Bugbie. Misspelling of surnames was a common error, in an age when literacy was not universal. This, and his American accent, might have been responsible for his surname being spelled in a number of ways; his family eventually accepted ‘Buckby’ as the correct spelling.

His record reads:

“Chauncey Bugbee – Native of Jefferson County, State of New York – Farmer – aged twenty two years – resided within ten miles of Millens Bay – was working for Milleniabad, the first of November, one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight and was sworn in as a Hunter or Patriot at Millen’s house on Sunday, the eleventh of November and was requested by William Williams to go on board one of the schooners, then lying in the bay, to see Ira Webb brother-in-law to Williams and to persuade him not to be of the party coming to invade Canada. Prisoner went on board about dark and before he could return, the vessel sailed off – tried to get on shore after the schooner sailed but could not – was landed in the afternoon of Monday at Windmill Point below Prescott from the schooner that grounded. After he was landed, prisoner was in Smithe’s company – does not know what became of Smithe – before prisoner went on board the schooner at Millen’s Bay, he knew that the vessels were taking patriots to invade Canada; he learned so from others – after the schooner grounded prisoner wished to go to Ogdensburg, but could not get an opportunity on Tuesday, the thirteenth of November one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight – prisoner was forced to fight with the others and on the Friday following, surrendered to the British – is of no particular church or religion.

Acknowledged before me, this 10th day of December 1834

Signed by mark X (Chauncey Bugbee)”

“Bugbee, Chauncey – Convicted of Millen’s Bay and sentenced to death”1

The summer of 1839 passed and no more of the Patriots were hanged. At Quebec, on September 27th, the Upper Canadian political prisoners were hustled aboard the H.M.S. Buffalo – Chauncey sailed with a group of seventy-nine men.

The H.M.S. Buffalo was an aged warship, mostly used to carry troops and supplies and as such had been sent to Quebec with a regiment to reinforce the British army. The ship and her crew were also accustomed to carrying convicts; this small three-deck frigate had plied her dismal trade, with cargoes of criminals, from England’s hulks to Australia.

The Buffalo anchored in Hobart Town on February 12th, 1840 after a voyage lasting 137 days. The local newspapers were not very complimentary when announcing the arrival of the North American political prisoners and the Editorial of the ‘Hobart Town Advertiser,’ dated 21st February, 1840 wrote:

These men are a body of Americans of the lowest order, many of whom have been convicted of offences against the laws of their own country, and are now under conviction, not merely of a political offence, but also of the most atrocious acts of wanton robbery arson and murder.”

Lieutenant Governor Franklin ordered the Patriots to be separated into small parties and be distributed to other probation stations, to work and serve out their time. Some were moved to Bridgewater, on May 29th 1841 and Chauncey Bugbee was transferred to Mr. Dromedary.

In consequence of a Dispatch from the Right Honourable  Secretary of State, the Governor sanctioned the issue of Ticket-of-Leave, to Canadian prisoners who arrived per ‘Buffalo,’ but on the express condition that they resided in the following Tasmanian districts only: Fingal, Bothwell, Campbell Town, Hamilton, Oatlands and Swan Port. They were not to leave their respective districts, without the sanction of the Chief Police Magistrate being first obtained.

Many of the Patriots found work at large estates in the midlands and Chauncey went to Valleyfield, a 500 acre property on the Macquarie River, a short distance northwest of Campbell Town, which had been granted to Robert Taylor.

Responding to a suggestion from the Governor William Kermode, on behalf of sixty-one Americans, a petition was drawn up in March 1843 and signed by about fifty of the more influential men in the colony – the petition was sent to London.

One of the letters concerned Chauncey:

Re: Your Excellency’s Petitioners.

Chauncey Bugby (sic) has been in my employ ever since he received this indulgence of a Ticket-of-Leave and his conduct has been satisfactory in every instance. I have employed several others at times and with none have I had occasion to be much dissatisfied.

(sgd.) Robert Taylor

Valley Field – 6th ,November, 18432

A New Life


Chauncey received a Full Pardon on February 14th, 1845 and in July 1846 he sought permission to marry Eliza Hughes. The marriage took place at St. Luke’s Parish Church in Campbell Town, on the 9th August 1846; Chauncey gave his age as thirty-one and Eliza was twenty two, they were both illiterate and each signed the register with an X3.

Eliza Hughes was a convict, transported to Van Diemen’s Land for seven years on the 27th March 1843. She was charged with stealing a shawl and handkerchief, value of 2/- (10¢) and sentenced in the Warwick Assize, England. Eliza was 20 years of age and was employed as a housemaid in Coventry, England, when arrested. She had a record of previous offences, including theft of a handkerchief and drunkenness; she was described as having hazel eyes, dark hair and being 4 ft. 10inches tall4.

At first Eliza was assigned to the Thompson household but her record was not good and she came before the court, charged with disorderly conduct,on October 15th, 1844 then two days later, October 17th, Thompson reported her being drunk and she was sentenced to 14 days solitary confinement.

Robert Taylor complained of her insolence on 7th August, 1845 and she was sentenced to another 10 days solitary confinement. She returned to work and was then charged with being drunk and received one-month’s hard labour, on the 22nd August, 18455.

Chauncey was working at Valleyfield, in November 1843, and at what stage he met Eliza, can only be surmised. After all her problems, perhaps Chauncey managed a steadying influence on her, no further charges were made against her, after the one for hard labour in August 1845.

She became pregnant with Chauncey’s daughter towards the end of that year and Jane was born the 13th July, 1846, a few weeks after they were married.6

Chauncey was still working as a labourer at Valleyfield when Jane, was born, her baptism was solemnized at Campbell Town, August 9th  , 1846. Two years later, they had a son, William, who was born on June 20th 1848 and registered at Campbell Town, October 11th.

The birth of Sarah Bugby in Launceston on the 4th October 1850, creates a mystery. The father’s name on the birth certificate was given as Chaincett (probably misspelled) Bugby and his profession as labourer. Mother’s name given on the registered document on the 7th November, was Elizabeth Bugby (formerly Brown). Resident and signatures of informants were Wm. Chester and Georgette Friend7.

Two monuments in Hobart commemorated the Patriot prisoners: in 1970 one was erected at Long Beach, Sandy Bay and a second one erected in Princes Park, Battery Point in 1995. The 1970 Sandy Bay monument (at Long Beach) refers to the ‘Canadian Exiles’ being incarcerated near this spot. At the time of writing, it had been removed and put in storage, to be relocated in a more suitable position.

The monument reads:

Near this spot in Sandy Bay, ninety-two English speaking exiles of 1837-38 Upper Canada were incarcerated in 1840 before being removed to labour on the Hobart to Launceston Road. Subsequently they were released on ticket-of-leave and eventually pardoned to return to Canada.

Fifty-eight French-speaking prisoners from the uprising in Lower Canada were similarly exiled to the Parramatta River area of New South Wales.

Measures taken as a result of the uprisings in Upper and Lower Canada represented significant steps in the evolution of responsible government and parliamentary democracy in Canada and Australia.

This plaque was unveiled on September 30, 1970 by the Honourable Douglas Harkness, P.C.K.P. former Minister of National Defence of Canada to mark the 130th anniversary of the landing of the Canadian exiles in Van Diemen’s Land and to commemorate the sacrifices made by many Canadians and Australians in the evolution of self governing equal and free Nations within the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Cultural Heritage Officer, Brendan Lennard says: “The monument needs cleaning, but should not otherwise be tampered with and the spelling mistake retained. There may be an opportunity elsewhere within the reserve to place minor additional interpretation. The convicts were initially stationed at the Sandy Bay Probation Station – the exact location of which has not been determined.”

The 1995 monument was erected in Princes Park, Battery Point, in great haste, it was relocated at the last minute from a proposed location in St. David’s Park.   The Colonial Heritage Officer, Brendan Lennard, objected to the St. David’s Park location, on the basis that this was the colony’s first burial ground and had no connection with the exiles.


Fourteen Patriots died while in exile. Nearly seventy percent returned to the USA, after they received their Pardon but at least ten of them decided to stay in Australia.  Until well into the ,families were reluctant to admit to having a convict in their ancestry. It could be assumed, for this reason alone, that William Buckby didn’t speak of his parents. The present family of Buckbys’, have no knowledge of the whereabouts of William’s sistesr, Jane or Sarah, or whether they were sisters or half-sisters.

The Buckby family understands that Chauncey’s teenage son, William, made the journey to Circular Head, on the far northwest coast of Tasmania, with William and Eliza Evans. Aged sixteen, William Buckby is said to have arrived in Montagu, with an axe his only possession.

In 1861, a Surveyor Letter alerted interested settlers to the advantages of the County of Wellington. He said there was “rich soil, fine climate and inexhaustible forests of timber for all purposes”. Perhaps this influenced William Buckby, to the West Montagu area. For sometime William worked for the V.D.L. Company at Woolnorth and saved the money to eventually buy a piece of their land. Every week or fortnight he walked to Stanley to get provisions, he would stay the night and walk back to Montagu the next day - Stanley, the main market town, was twenty-five miles away and, at first, food and stores had to be carried by knapsack or on horseback, along bush tracks often knee-deep mud.

William was illiterate, but eventually learned to sign his name. However, he didn’t allow his illiteracy to handicap or impede his progress or ambition and saw that his children were educated. William proved to be quite a remarkably intelligent man and, in order to keep himself up with the news, he had one of his boys read him the newspapers and any papers he needed to sign.

He bought forty acres, for three pound an acre, from the V.D.L. Company and worked for the Company to pay for it. The deeds were stamped in London, on the 1st November, 1870 and he became the first settler at West Montagu. William cleared 40 acres on the home block and built a high fence around it, to keep out Tasmanian Tigers, which were numerous in the district at the time. After developing his land, he built a small jetty near the mouth of the Montagu River, to ship out his crops of potatoes.

At the age of twenty-seven, William married Mary Jane Howie, the twenty two-year-old daughter of David Howie. The marriage took place at the Wesleyan Church, Stanley on December 5th, 1876. William took his new bride to live, in a timber house he had built on his property, at West Montagu8.  William and Mary Jane had 9 children, three boys and six girls.

Such was William’s intelligence and business acumen he was appointed and served on a number of Boards in Circular Head and became the Warden on the Marine Board, in 1904.

A fitting tribute to William appeared in the Circular Head Chronicle – Sept. 5th, 1923.

There passed away at Wynyard on Wednesday last, Mr. William Buckby of Montagu, at the advanced age of 74 years.


The deceased gentleman was born on the East Coast in 1849, and spent practically all his life in the Circular Head district. He married in 1876, Miss M.J. Howie, eldest daughter of Capt. Howie, and they had a family of six daughters and three sons, all of whom are living. Of the three sons, Messrs. W.D. and J.H. Buckby live at West Montagu and C.A. Buckby at East Marrawah.

The daughters are Mrs. J. Wilson (Smithton), Mrs. McPhail (Strahan), Mrs. H.F. McGuire (Geelong), Mrs. R. Bannister (Footsgray), Mrs. ER.W. Smith (Launceston) and Miss F. Buckby, who resides at Wynyard with her mother.

Mr. Buckby was well known as a farmer and cattle dealer, and was always respected as a straight and honourable man in all his transactions. He was for many years a member of the Road Trust, before the Local Government Act came into operation, and was also a member of the Marine Board.

There was a large attendance at the funeral obsequies at Wynyard on Friday, many residents of Circular Head being present to pay their last tribute of respect to a good citizen.”


I have written to the Canadian High Commissioner in the hope that he will assist in the celebration of this important part of our Tasmanian history, in February 2015, and that the Monument of the North American Patriots, which once stood on the shores of Long Beach, is re-erected and unveiled on the waterfront at Marieville Esplanade as planned.

By Pauline Buckby

Pauline Buckby, although travelled extensively overseas, has lived most of her life in Tasmania. She is 91 years of age and just published her eighth book on Tasmanian history – and is now writing number nine!  Pauline became interested in writing when she moved to Circular Head in 1960, saying, “Writing became a hobby to overcome loneliness of country life after living most of my life in  the city.” Pauline has written a number of published short stories and articles; holds three writing diplomas; and she also won a National Literary Award for her second book, ’Robbins Island Saga’. She is Past President of the Fellowship of Writers and has always been interested in Tasmanian History.

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Sarah Boss
Comment by: Sarah Boss ( )
Left at: 8:53 AM Thursday, May 15, 2014
Very interesting article. I live in the Millens Bay area and have read some articles about the Patriots. This story puts "life" into the history. It never stops to amaze me how 150 years makes such a difference in the area. The land is still here but the landscape is so much changed.
Shirley Farone
Comment by: Shirley Farone ( )
Left at: 9:47 AM Friday, May 16, 2014
For the many Patriot War enthusiasts, this is a must read.
Paul Stott
Comment by: Paul Stott
Left at: 7:55 PM Saturday, September 13, 2014
The question remains. What happened to Chauncey?