Mr Rochlitz continued ….

Back at the end of 2016 I blogged about Mr Rochlitz, who was involved in the laying out of the Botanic gardens in Beechworth in 1861.

At the time I assumed that he had become involved through his scientific background a daguerreotypist, which involved some knowledge of chemistry, and also because he was the first person that we know of to plant vines in the Beechworth area.

However it’s a little more complex than that. I was researching the attempted abduction and rape of Catherine Morton by Michael Meard in February 1858.

Catherine Morton lived with her father and at least one brother in a tent in the gold diggings. One night in February 1858 it was alleged that Michael Meard, who lived in a tent about 200 yards away, cut the wall of the Morton’s tent, attempted to anaethesise Catherine with chloroform and presumably intended to then carry her off and have his way with her.

His plan didn’t work. Catherine woke up and screamed, and her father and brother seized Meard and called for the police – in itself surprising, one tends to assume that the miners would have set about him with spades and picks, but no, the police were called.

The investigation was quite scientific, as well as the usual depositions on oath they took Catherine to Mr JH Mathews, a druggist who had a shop next to the Bank of New South Wales in Ford Street and got her to smell the contents of three bottles, and thence confirm that chloroform was involved. (The Bank of New South Wales building is still there as a Beechworth Honey shop, and it’s within twenty metres of the old courthouse on the police reserve so that makes perfect sense.)

It then emerged that Meard had previously bought some chloroform from Mr Witt, who had a chemist’s shop in Ford Street. Remember that this is 1858 and the sale of chemicals, medicines and poisons is still more or less unregulated in Victoria.

I’ve traced Mr Mathews through the 1857 directory, which incidentally also lists Mr Rochlitz as a Daguerreotype artist in Ford Street, but not Mr Witt, so I started searching advertising material from the local paper, the Ovens and Murray Advertiser on Trove.

Mr Mathews again popped up as a druggist, but no sign of Mr Witt, which is strange. I’m working from a copy of the story in the Tasmanian Daily News of 25 February 1858, so my guess is that Mr Witt’s name has got garbled – my next task is to find a different account of the pre trial hearing.

But, in the course of this I came across an advert for Mr Rochlitz’s daguerrotype business, and next it an advert for a nursery business, run by no other than J A Rochlitz, supplying fruit trees. Further searches showed him also running a wholesale vegetable business – suggesting that as well as the daguerreotype business he also had a thriving market garden and nursery business, and this, rather than his scientific training was what led to his invovement with the laying out of the Botanic Gardens.

Incidentally he wasn’t the only person working two jobs, Mr Ingram, the bookseller in Camp street also had a nursery business on the side.

My guess, and it is only a guess, is that Mr Rochlitz ran his daguerreotyp business as a means to generate cash flow while he got his nursery and market gardening business up and running …

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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3 Responses to Mr Rochlitz continued ….

  1. Pingback: Catherine Morton and the scandalous affair at Beechworth | stuff 'n other stuff

  2. Andrew Taylor says:

    Hi.I just stumbled across your post. Catherine Forte Morton was my Great Great Grandmother. She was one of 20 siblings. Her father William Morton married twice (after his first wife passed away). He had 10 children with each wife. Catherine was Scottish and from the first marriage. William Morton later became the first curator of Bourke Museum in Beechworth. Catherine Married my Great Great Grandfather Richard Taylor in Beechworth a year after the incident you mentioned. Richard owned a grocery store and they prospered in Beechworth and went on to have 10 children, including my Great Grandfather Charles Taylor.

  3. Pingback: A daguerreotype advert from 1855 | stuff 'n other stuff

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