Goldfields Involvement, 1854
There appears to be some confusion about the life of Anastasia Withers nee Splain. Perhaps this is because she and her husband were convicts and they wanted to put this life behind them after they moved from Tasmania to the Colony of Victoria. They certainly ‘made a go’ of it in Victoria and future generations have successfully left their mark in the form of patents, teaching and businesses. Family oral history states that Anastasia helped to sew the Eureka Flag in Ballarat in 1854.
The Tasmanian convict records show that Anastasia Eustes was convicted of stealing five shawls near Clifton, in Britain. She was tried 6 January 1843 in Bristol and because it was her second conviction she was transported. Anastasia Splane (Splain/Spleen) appears to have been born around 1820. The British Census indicates that Splane’s were living at 5 Poole’s Court, Bristol in 1851. This was rather a run down area and an enclave for Irish in Bristol. Anastasia Splane, a 66 year old widow, born in Ireland, was supported by her son Denis, an unmarried plaster and filer. Denis was described as ‘deaf and dumb’ and had been born in Ireland.
Anastasia arrived in Tasmania on 20 December 1844. The surgeon’s report describes Anastasia as ‘very good, quick and exemplary’. She was a dressmaker, five foot two inches in height, aged 20 years, of fresh complexion, small chin, with brown hair, blue eyes, with a scar on her right groin and of Roman Catholic faith. It is also recorded that she had married H. Henry of the 52nd Regiment, but her name is recorded as Eustes on the documents of transportation. She was absent without leave from the Hobart Female Factory on 5 May 1847 and for this misdemeanour was given one month hard labour. Anastasia was six months pregnant at the time. A child, Mary Archibald Eustace [sic] was born on 28 July 1847 but died soon after of marasmus on 10 September 1847 at Dynnyrne House, an orphanage in Hobart. She was charged on 11 July 1848 with feloniously receiving stolen property but was discharged on 19 December 1848. A daughter Anastasia Catherine (Kate) Withers was born on 26 July 1849 to Anastasia Eustace and Samuel Edward Withers who were married on 30 October 1849 having been given permission to do so on 16 October 1849. Anastasia was granted a Free Certificate on 7 October 1850. A son Samuel Edward Withers was born 23 September 1851 in Tasmania, the father recorded as Samuel Edward Withers and the mother recorded as Hannah Stacey (a transcription error for the name ‘Anastasia’).
Samuel Edward Withers was convicted of forgery, a ₤5 bank note, and was sentenced in London to transportation. He was sent on the Hyderbad to Norfolk Island departing 21 October 1844 and arriving on 19 February 1845. He was then moved to Tasmania on the Tory arriving in May 1847. Samuel , a painter and glazer, was a native of Highgate, Britain. He married Margaret White in Hobart before marrying Anastasia. Samuel was granted a Free Certificate on 1 April 1851.
Anastasia, Samuel and their small family made their way to the Bendigo goldfields and were there early in 1853. Here Anastasia was amongst the women on the diggings and was said to have hidden gold in small bags hung from a belt under her dress. While in Bendigo they opened a tent inn at Milkman’s Flat called the ‘Hit or Miss’ Inn. The Withers were still in Bendigo on 10 October 1854 when a ₤10 reward was offered for the recovery of a Bay mare. By 1858 the family moved to the Ararat district and it was here that Samuel purchased land and built a house. They established the Bristol Orchard. Late in the 1870s Samuel Withers opened the ‘World Renowned Wimmera Fruit Market’ in Firebrace Street, Horsham and advertised fruit of all kinds. Anastasia would drive the horse and dray load of produce from Moyston to Ararat for transporting the fruit to Horsham until this job was taken over by the two younger daughters.
Anastasia and Samuel had seven more children in the Colony of Victoria. William Augustus b. 20 May 1853 Bendigo, baptised on 27 March 1857 as William Cosan Hilmoran Joram Ben? at St Lukes, Bendigo, married Julia Jerrard and moved to Ballarat where he became an engine driver; David Henry b. 29 May 1855 Bendigo, baptised 27 March 1857 St Lukes, White Hills, Bendigo, married Alice Hade Smith and lived at Oakleigh, died 1929; John Henry Alfred b. 6 September 1856 Bendigo, married Esther Olive Florence Floyd and became a shopkeeper in many Wimmera towns before moving to WA; Alice Elizabeth b. 1858, married William Matteson and James Fairnie who left provision for a scholarship to be awarded to boys who excelled at chemistry at Ararat High School, died 1941; Flora Isabella b. 1860, married Robert Walker a farmer of Wickcliffe Road, Willaura, died 1938; Albert Arthur b. 1862 Moyston, married Eliza Jane Pidwell in 1888 at Stawell and became a proprietor of Pioneer Tours and inventor of a valve for pneumatic tyres; Amy Helena b. 1867, died 1882 at Moyston of typhoid fever, buried Moyston.
Anastasia sewed all her children’s clothes. She used a Grover and Baker sewing machine which sewed double thread chain stitch. These machines were designed in 1851 and manufactured by 1875. Anastasia’s husband, Samuel Withers died on 24 January 1883 at Moyston aged 64 years. She died some years later on 17 May 1889 and before her death was cared for by her daughter Alice Elizabeth. Samuel and Anastasia were both buried at Moyston Cemetery. They were well respected in the community and left the legacy of a large family proud of their achievements. 
Post 1854 Experiences
Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.
- Information from Robert Ashley