Friday, 31 July 2015

Tropical Hotel - Kissimmee, Florida

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt is an elegant view of a hotel.

In his 1910 book Forty Years of a Sportsman's Life, Sir Claude de Crespigny (1847 - 1935), my fourth cousin three times removed, mentions his 1887 visit to the Tropical Hotel Kissimmee, Florida.

View of the Tropical Hotel - Kissimmee, Florida, 1890s, retrieved from State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
Sir Claude also mentions the Ponce de León Hotel, St Augustine, Florida. The hotel was  completed in 1887. Sir Claude would have been one of its first guests.

Ponce de Leon Hotel - St. Augustine, Florida, 1893, retrieved from State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

"Hotel Ponce de Leon, St. Augustine, Florida", postcard about 1909, retrieved from Wikipedia

From Chapter 7 of his book:

In these days of universal travel it is a difficult matter to strike what may be termed new ground. Indeed, it is almost impossible, and the nearest approach one can make to novelty is to pick out the spots least frequented by those two ubiquitous specimens of humanity, the sportsman and the British tourist. Bearing this in mind, and having received an invitation from an ex-sailor, I determined on a short tour through Florida, with Cuba to follow. So having written to S--- to meet me at Douglass's Tropical Hotel at Kissimmee, set about collecting my impedimenta, and engaged a berth by the Cunard boat from Liverpool to New York. Of course there are many ways of getting to the Stars and Stripes, and the traveller can have his choice of which line he will elect to travel by. Mine fell on the Cunarder, and there was no cause to repent it ; everything on board was most comfortable, and with fine weather we made a rapid passage, arriving at Sandy Hook almost before we had well cleared the Mersey — at least so it seemed.

From New York there is again a choice of routes. You can take the luxurious vestibule train or the steamer to Jacksonville, where it will not be amiss to spend a couple of days at St. Augustine, in the palatial hotel, Ponce de Leon, built after the style of old Moorish architecture. From Jacksonville you will take the train to Kissimmee ; or, better still perhaps, the steamer down St. John's River to Sandford, and then on by rail.

Arrived at Kissimmee, Mr. Douglass will, assuming that he is still in the land of the living, make you thoroughly comfortable in the Tropical Hotel at an exceedingly moderate outlay, and will put you in the way of obtaining either a steamer or boat to the best sporting ground, which is in the neighbourhood of Fort Bassenger and Lake Arbuckle.

On arrival at Kissimmee, I found all arrangements had been made by S--- , who had also got punt and everything in readiness so that there was nothing for me to do but overhaul the shooting-irons and kit, and prepare for a start. While on the subject of shooting-kits, it may be mentioned there is no necessity to bring out cartridges, as a gun- maker in Kissimmee, called Farringdon, can supply every requisite ; and, what is more, is particularly careful in loading. When ordering cartridges I found American wood powder by far the best, and can recommend it strongly. Flannel is the best material for clothing, and a stock of quinine should not be forgotten. These, however, are details.

On Tuesday, December 13, we left St. Elmo at 7.15 a.m., arrived at the south end of Lake Tohopekaliga at 1 p.m., and passing quickly through the canal into Lake Cypress, and on through a second canal, came into Lake Hatchineha, just as daylight was vanishing. Here we were lucky enough to hit off a sandbank studded with oak copse, and dry wood being plentiful, soon had our camp fire under way, and supper. The whiff of tobacco, and glass of Bourbon whisky which followed the evening meal, were both mighty acceptable, for we had had nine hours' hard rowing under a blazing sun, and were both fairly tired out. At least I can answer for it that it was with a feeling of deep satisfaction I curled myself up in my blankets for the night, and was quickly lulled to sleep by a chorus of frogs, with the occasional " ouf, ouf! " of a somewhat consumptive alligator.

Map showing Kissimmee and St Augustine, Florida

I was thinking of Sir Claude this week, following the sad news of a lion being shot for sport in Africa.  Sir Claude was an active hunter who killed many animals for his own amusement.

Rhino shot by Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny from opposite page 291 of Forty Years of a Sportsman's Life
Trophies at Champion Lodge from opposite page 295 of Forty Years
I deplore game shooting. I can't understand why people want to kill animals for sport, now or a hundred years ago.

An article by J A Mangan and Callum McKenzie in the International Journal of the History of Sport about the Shikar Club, offers some clues as to why Sir Claude was so keen on hunting:

Patriotism obsessed de Crespigny. He was of the view that every able-bodied Briton had an obligation to defend his country and could not be considered a ‘man’ till he had done so. He practised what he preached. He served in both the Royal Navy (1860–5) and the Army, (1866–70) and later, despite his advancing years, was keen to play an active part in the Boer War. Sporting pleasures and military duties, in his rigid opinion, went hand in hand. Hunting was an ideal training for warfare. He was dismissively contemptuous of all ‘gentlemen of England now abed’ types. He likened such ‘feather-bed aristocrats’, particularly those who declined military duty, to effeminate French aristocracy, and, considered they had no place in the English social hierarchy. His son’s military success was, in his certain view, the result of the family’s predilection for hunting: ‘Men who have been good sportsmen at home are the men who will do best and show the greatest amount of resource when on active service.’ (page 258 of Forty Years) De Crespigny was a pragmatist as well as patriot. Hunting was more than training for war, as noted elsewhere; it assisted military promotion and to this end, de Crespigny used it as a means of consolidating friendships with high-ranking military officials and useful politicians.
In Florida Sir Claude shot and wounded a moccasin snake, bagged half a dozen snipe (for eating), fruitlessly tramped after deer and turkey, but later seems to have shot some venison for eating. (pages 188-193 of Forty Years)

  • (2008) Imperial Masculinity Institutionalized: The Shikar Club, The International
    Journal of the History of Sport
    , 25:9, 1218-1242, DOI:
    10.1080/09523360802166162 retrieved through the State Library of Victoria eJournals service - link :
Similar text appears in Mangan, J. A. Reformers, Sport, Modernizers: Middle-class Revolutionaries. : Routledge, 2013. viewable in Google books Also in Mangan, J. A. and Callum McKenzie Militarism, Hunting, Imperialism: 'Blooding' The Martial Male. : Routledge, 2013. viewable in Google books

Note the article, and the books, incorrectly refers to Sir Claude as a Brigadier-General. The fourth baronet did not achieve that rank. His son, Sir Claude Raul Champion de Crespigny, the fifth baronet, was a brigadier-general.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Death at sea of Walter Wilkes Plaisted (1836 - 1871)

Walter Wilkes Plaisted (1836 - 1871), my 3rd great grand uncle, died of phthisis (tuberculosis) on board the SS Geelong during the passage from Singapore to Melbourne. His probate file, held by the Public Records Office of Victoria, includes an inventory of his effects, a fascinating insight into the possessions of a traveller of 1871.

death notice for Walter Wilkes Plaisted in the Melbourne Argus of 27 February 1871

Walter was the son of John Plaisted (1800 - 1858) and  Ann nee Green (1801 - 1882).  He was the fifth of eight children. Walter's father, John, also died of tuberculosis and in fact the family quite possibly emigrated to Australia for the sake of John Plaisted's health.

The Plaisted family arrived in Adelaide on the Rajah in April 1850.  Walter was then fourteen years old.  In 1856, aged 19,  he was witness in a court case about a forged check. He was a clerk of the South Australian Banking Company.  According to his father's death certificate, John Plaisted had moved to Melbourne five years before his death, about 1853. Walter had obviously stayed in Adelaide, at least until 1856, after his parents moved to Victoria.

At the time of his death Walter was unmarried. He had made a will and left his possessions to be divided between his five living siblings.  At probate he was declared to be a gentleman usually residing at Gipps Street, Richmond. Walter's property amounted to less than forty pounds. His brother Thomas was sworn to administer the estate.

Public Records Office of Victoria: probate file for Walter Wilkes Plaisted, gentleman, usual residence Richmond, who died 7 February 1871, file number 8/804; VPRS 28/P2, unit 1
Inventory of effects of the late W W Plaisted a first class passenger from Singapore to Melbourne. Died on board S. S. 'Geelong' at sea 7th February 1871.

1 small parcel containing

1 gold watch & key (in case)
1 gold guard with appendages
1 set Gold studs
I pr gold sleeve links
1 gold scarf pin
2 pencil cases
Cash 6 Sovereigns 1 Rupee
1 Bunch Keys

1 Black Box No 1 containing

7 prs Cloth Trousers
8 No    "      Coats
9 No    "      Vests
1 No Worsted Jacket
7 No Crimean Shirts [defined by as a coloured flannel shirt as worn by workers in the bush]
19 No White      "
18 prs     "        Trousers
13 No     "        Vests
11  "        "         Coats
7    "   Chamber Towels
4    "   Cotton Sheets
9    "   Pillow Cases
4    "  Sleeping Jackets
4    "  Singlets
9 prs Socks
8   "  Pyjamas
3 No Hat Covers
1   "  Large Scrap Book
1 Book of Photographic Sketches
1 Portfolio containing papers
2 Albums containing Photographs
1 small Medicine Box
1 Packet Stationery
1 Masonic Apron (in tin case)
1 Flask
1 small Carpet Rug


1 Black Portmanteau No 2 containing

1 Bundle Magazines &c
1      "      Books
3 Portraits (framed)
8 Pieces Prints (cotton)
2 Scarfs
2 Sashes
44 Neckties
2 doz Linen Collars
1 Book mark
1 pr Braces
1  "  Kid Gloves
4 Cups
1 dressing Gown
3 White Handkerchiefs
1 Comb 2 hairbrushes
1 Tooth brush
1 Sponge
1 bath Scrubber
1 China basket of sundries


1 Black Portmanteau No 3 containing

3 prs Slippers
4   "  Boots & Shoes
1 Red Blanket


1 Canvas Bag No 4
containing soiled linen &c viz
1 White Blanket
7 Sleeping Shirts
3 Prs Pyjamas
9 Linen Collars
1 pr White Trousers
5 White Handkerchiefs
3 prs Socks
4 Flannel Waistbands
1 Singlet
3 Bath Towels
4 White Vests
6     "      Shirts
1 Felt Hat


Loose Articles

1 Rattan Chair
1 Silk Umbrella 1 Pith Hat

add Japan'd box & tray & Japanese Sword
3 Paper Kites
2 Malacca Canes

  •  POLICE COURTS. (1856, January 3). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 4. Retrieved  from
  • Public Records Office of Victoria: will and probate files for Walter Wilkes Plaisted, gentleman, usual residence Richmond, who died 7 February 1871, file number 8/804; VPRS 28/P0, unit 99; VPRS 28/P2, unit 1; VPRS 7591/P2, unit 1

Related posts

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Deaths at sea

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt is the sea. In fact, the prompt picture of Bondi Beach inspires thoughts of holidays by the beach, but I have recently been researching several members of my family who died at sea and I was reminded that the sea is not always benign.

The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault painted 1818-1819 and now hanging in the Louvre. The Méduse was wrecked off the coast of Africa in 1816. Of the 400 on board only 15 survived.

Arthur Branthwayt (1776-1808) was the second husband of my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth née Phipps (1774-1836). He died at sea in a shipwreck. He was travelling to Gothenburg and the Crescent, a frigate with 36 guns, which was lost off the coast of Jutland. 220 of the 280 aboard her died. A raft was constructed, similar to the Méduse's. Arthur Branthwayt's wife, eight-month-old daughter and four step-children were not travelling with him.

Hampshire Chronicle 6 February 1809

Kentish Gazette 30 December 1808

Morning Post (London) 17 January 1809

Arthur Branthwayt's grandson, Arthur Branthwayt Toker (1834 - 1866), my first cousin five times removed, is doubly related to me as his mother married her half-sister's nephew by marriage, the son of Clarissa Champion de Crespigny (1776 - 1836). Young Arthur died at sea of typhoid fever while returning to England from New Zealand. He had been an officer in the 65th Regiment (later the York and Lancaster Regiment) and fought in the Maori Wars. He was unmarried.

from William Francis Robert Gordon's album "Some "Soldiers of the Queen" who served in the Maori Wars and Other Notable Persons Connected Herewith". Retrieved from the collection of Puke Ariki, New Plymouth, New Zealand

Wellington Independent 27 March 1866

In 1814 another shipwreck took the lives of Henry Gore Wade, his wife and children. Wade was the brother-in law of my fourth great uncle Philip Champion de Crespigny (1765 - 1851).  The Wade family were returning to England from India and died when the John Palmer was wrecked.

Morning Post (London) 31 March 1814

Morning Post (London) 1 April 1814

Gordon Skelly, who died in 1771, was my 6th great grandfather. His granddaughter Sophia née Duff (1790 - 1824) married Rowland Mainwaring (1783 - 1862). Skelly was the captain of the Royal Navy sloop Lynx stationed at Shields Yorkshire. He was drowned when his ship's long boat, ,crossing the bar of the harbour, was overturned by breakers. At the time of his death his two children were aged four and three.

Leeds Intelligencer 2 July 1771

Entrance to Shields Harbour from The Ports, Harbours, Watering-places and Picturesque Scenery of Great Britain Vol. 1 by William Findon retrieved from Project Gutenberg
When I checked my family tree I found a number of others who died at sea:
  • Charles Patrick Dana (1784 - 1816), my 4th great grand uncle, who died while travelling from the East Indies to England on the Sir Stephen Lushington.
  • Michael Hickey (1812 - 1840), the brother of my 3rd great grandmother died on the voyage to South Australia from Cork, Ireland,  on the Birman.
  • Kenneth Budge (1813 - 1852), my 3rd great grandfather, died of cholera while sailing near Elsinore, Denmark.
  • Walter Wilkes Plaisted (1836 - 1871), my 3rd great grand uncle, who died of phthsis (tuberculosis) on board the SS Geelong during the passage from Singapore to Melbourne. His probate file, held by the Public Records Office of Victoria, includes an inventory of his effects, a fascinating insight into his possessions.
My great great grandfather, James Francis Cudmore (1837 - 1912) was born at sea aboard the Siren off the coast of Kangaroo Island. His mother, Mary née Nihill (1811 -1893) was travelling from Launceston to the very new colony of Adelaide to join her husband Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore (1811 - 1891). 

My husband's great great grandmother Margaret née Smyth (1834 - 1897) gave birth to a baby boy as she travelled to Australia from Ireland on the Persian. The baby is recorded on the passenger list but it is not known what happened to him after arrival. He probably died as an infant. His death was before compulsory civil registration.

Saturday, 4 July 2015


The theme for this week's Sepia Saturday blogging prompt is fish. Saturday is the birthday of my maternal grandfather Hans Boltz, who was born 4 July 1910.

At the moment I can't find a photograph of Hans fishing.

This is a picture of my grandfather in 1991 wearing a hat much smarter than his fishing hat.

I am not sure when Hans took up fishing.  In 1949 he emigrated to Australia from Germany and came to Canberra to work for the Bureau of Mineral Resources as a cartographer on geological maps. He bought his first car in 1959. I remember him telling me he would go bushwalking with friends in the 1950s.  I assume others gave him lifts. I don't remember him mentioning fishing excursions. I think he must have started fishing for trout around Canberra only after he bought a car of his own.

When I was a child in the 60s and 70s I remember going with him on trout-fishing excursions to Lake Eucumbene and Lake Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains and to the Goodradigbee River in the Brindabella Valley west of Canberra.

Map showing Lakes Eucumbene and Jindabyne south of Canberra and Brindabella west of Canberra. Jindabyne is about 175 kms south of Canberra and Brindabella is about 60 km from Canberra.

We camped in tents on our fishing trips. I can remember a trip to Buckenderra on Lake Eucumbene.  My brother lost his toy fire engine there.  My grandparents imported a large tent from Germany about 1967 and I can remember the trip to Buckenderra used this tent and my mother, brother, aunt and grandparents were all on the excursion. We all slept in the one large tent that included an inner bedroom compartment. Before this trip I had apparently complained several times that nobody ever took me to Buckenderra.

The giant trout at Adaminaby near Lake Eucumbene photographed in February 2006.
Our fishing excursions to the Goodradigbee River in the Brindabellas were day trips; we didn't camp.  The river and the countryside are very beautiful. The trip over the Brindabella mountains was winding and rough.  As a child I often used to get car sick but never when driving with my grandfather even during the difficult trip to the Goodradigbee in the Brindabella Valley.  I would be allowed to sit in the front seat. In those days cars had a bench seat in the front. I would sit between my grandparents.

The Goodradigbee River in the Brindabella Valley photographed in January 2009

Trout are hard to catch and we often came home empty handed.

My father-in-law, Peter, by contrast, was a very successful fisherman. He used to  catch redfin by the sugar bag in the Hume Weir near Albury.  To be followed up in another blog post, though I did ask my husband Greg how big a sugar bag was - he estimated about half the size of a potato bag which held 50 kgs.

Related posts: