JOHN LEWIS was a convict who was buried in an unmarked grave at St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta on 9 January 1794. His identity is unclear, as there were numerous convicts with this name who were transported to the colony prior to this burial date. There were six pre-1794 convicts named JOHN LEWIS. One thing is certain: the JOHN LEWIS who was laid to rest on 9 January 1794 went down in history as the ‘first’ murder to stain the annals of the penal colony.
- Unmarked grave, exact location unknown, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta
Abstract: There had been plenty of killings in the months and years since the newcomers arrived in January 1788. But they did not apparently count as ‘murder’—at least, not to Judge Advocate David Collins. In the main, they had been cross-cultural killings and, for the Judge Advocate, they occurred beyond the borders of the British settlement where the convicts were forbidden to go and, thus, beyond the law. Killing became bona fide ‘murder’ only when it involved a British perpetrator; someone who knew enough of the British laws to be subject to them. As for the remaining cases, out of a total of fourteen British men and women (free and bond) who went ‘missing’ presumed dead in the first year of the colony alone, foul play was suspected on the part of convicts in a few of those instances. Collins would look back at this period one day, ignoring the blood and brains that had littered the landscape following fatal cross-cultural encounters, to see this as a rather halcyon era of the penal colony; for, even as numbers had increased, ‘and the inhabitants’ had begun ‘to possess those comforts or necessaries which might prove temptations to the idle and the vicious,’ he insisted ‘that high and horrid offence’ of murder did not then exist—‘at that moment all thought their person secure, though their property was frequently invaded.’ Thus, it was not until early January 1794—six whole years after the British arrived and established themselves at Warrane (Sydney Cove) in Cadigal Country—that Collins acknowledged the so-called ‘first’ murder had at last splattered blood all over the annals of the colony. Read more>>
- Parish Burial Registers, Textual Records, St. John’s Anglican Church Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.
# Murder victim
# Grave: unmarked