Prisoner Elijah ELTON aka John Jones and ‘Flash Jack’

ELIJAH ELTON aliases Elisha NELMES and John JONES aka Flash Jack
JOHN JONES and Henry JONES IXL family

Prisoner Elijah ELTON or NELMES, alias John JONES
Photographer: T. J. NEVIN 1874
NLA Catalogue: nla.obj-142917611

The prisoner whose identity was established by police as Elijah ELTON had many aliases. He was transported in 1842 as Elisha NELMES per Emily 1. He was sought on warrant with the aliases Thomas TURNER and John JONES. He was incarcerated and discharged as Elijah ELTON from 1865-1879. The birth of his daughter Mary Elisha to Sarah Ann Brown formerly Clark was registered with his full name as father in 1862 (see Addendum below). But when he died of cancer of the tongue on 31st May 1883 (at 64 yrs old) his death was registered at the New Town Pauper Establishment with the name Elisha NELMES, the alias by which he was originally known when transported to VDL back in 1842 (Archives Office Tasmania RGD35-1-10P111) .His nickname was Flash Jack. He was not known to police over the two decades of his criminal career by the name of BROCKLEHURST – see this photograph and police records for James Jones aka Spider. This alias and this moniker were used by an entirely different prisoner called James JONES.

The one extant photograph of this prisoner Elijah ELTON whose alias was John JONES is held at the National Library of Australia. It was donated to the NLA from estrays of a defunct government department by Dr Neil Gunson in the 1960s (per personal correspondence to this weblog). Presumably, the verso of this prisoner mugshot held at the NLA is inscribed with notes used to devise the catalogue entry per these catalogue notes, retrieved in 2013:

Webshot 2013 of NLA Catalogue

Title John Jones, per Wm. [William] Jardine 2, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
Date 1874.
Extent 1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.4 x 5.6 cm. on mount 10.5 x 6.3 cm.
Context Part of Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
Series Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.
Biography Also known as James Brocklehurst, see NLA 06/117.
Notes:[disregard Clark’s essay as deliberate falsification for personal ADVANTAGE]
Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.
Gunson Collection file 203/7/54.
Title from inscription on reverse.
Inscription: title and “104”–In ink on reverse.

Whether or not the verso inscriptions also suggest that this prisoner was known by the alias “Brocklehurst” is difficult to ascertain because the photograph was not available to view in situ at the NLA when requested in 2014.

The NLA notes given for this photograph are factually incorrect in five respects::

  1. the subject of the photograph is not one of TWO convicts called John Jones who were transported on the William Jardine 2 in 1850;
  2. the subject of the photograph is not the convict called John Jones whose alias was James Brocklehurst, transported on the Theresa in 1845.

  3. the verso inscriptions “John Jones per Wm Jardine 2” and “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” are incorrect, written in the early 1900s by John Watt Beattie et al across dozens of these cdvs of prisoners as so much spin to attract tourists to the ruins of the Port Arthur prison on the Tasman Peninsula. The archivist who created the error used convict transport records prior to 1853 instead of the later police gazette records which would have shown Elijah ELTON using the alias John Jones. Only prisoners housed and/or relocated from Port Arthur to the Hobart Gaol after February 1872 were photographed. Neither Elijah Elton/Nelmes or any prisoner called John Jones per Wm Jardine 2, appear on the earnings records of prisoners at Port Arthur (1868-76 CON94-1-2). Elijah Elton was already an inmate at the Hobart Gaol Campbell St. when further warrants were issued 20 November 1874 and his photograph taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin.

  4. the photographer of this prisoner cdv (and several hundred similar cdvs of prisoners extant in public collections) was correctly identified as government contractor Thomas J. Nevin on accession to the NLA in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, but by 2010 the laughable misattribution to the non-photographer Port Arthur prison commandant A. H. Boyd had appeared in the catalogue.

  5. this misinformation also appears in the National Library of Australia’s publication of a selection from their collection of Tasmanian “convict portraits” titled Exiled, The Port Arthur Convict Photographs (NLA 2011, pp 166-171). It has misled descendants of the successful businessman Henry JONES who established the IXL jam factory in Hobart, to believe that this mugshot shows Henry Jones’ father John Jones. The prisoner in this mugshot is Elijah ELTON aka John Jones. He is not John JONES, clerk, 30 yrs old, who married Emma MATHESON, 25 yrs old, on 8 September 1853 at Hobart (Archives Office Tasmania NAME_INDEXES:847686), the only plausible ancestor of the IXL founder Henry Jones (see this summary on Sir Henry Jones 1862-1926 at the Australian Dictionary of Biography online). This prisoner was transported as Elisha Nelmes, and officially recorded by police as Elijah Elton.

The author(s) Edwin Barnard with Hamish Maxwell-Stewart of the biographical text accompanying the inclusion of Elijah Elton aka John Jones’ mugshot in the NLA publication Exiled, The Port Arthur Convict Photographs ( pp 166-171) had no real idea they were conflating a prisoner who used the alias John Jones (Elijah Elton as Elisha Nelmes as John Jones per Emily 1) with at least one of TWO prisoners whose names ostensibly were John Jones, both transported per William Jardine 2 in 1850, though a pencil note on one record of these men suggests another name “Phillip Stephens”, who was “blind in left eye”. Had they used the later police gazette records, they would have ascertained that neither of the convicts called John Jones on the William Jardine 2 was convicted of further serious crimes after 1868 to warrant a Supreme Court mugshot, and since photographing prisoners did not commence in Tasmania (per regulations in NSW and Victoria) until mid 1872 when Thomas J. Nevin was engaged for the purpose by Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, no photograph of either prisoner called Jones from the William Jardine 2 was taken.The major shortcoming of this book in general is that the authors (both former British nationals) were more preoccupied with entertaining the British-based reader market with the crimes of the transported convicts in the UK prior to arrival at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land, than with the later local crimes of prisoners whose photographs have survived from the 1870s, now in public collections. The author(s) admit at least to confusion, top of second column, page 171. Unfortunately, errors such as these mislead descendants, sometimes with serious consequences.

Webshots, Google books: NB: this published information is incorrect.
From Exiled, The Port Arthur Convict Photographs ( pp 166-171)

This photograph of prisoner Elijah ELTON alias John JONES was taken by Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol on 20 November 1874. By May 1875, the police had confidently identified “John Jones” as Elijah Elton. He was transported as Elisha Nelmes on the Emily 1 in 1842. Prison and police administrators used the name Elijah Elton on official records, and recorded as well his other aliases John Jones, Thomas Turner, and the moniker Flash Jack.


Elijah Elton Conduct Record
Archives Office Tasmania

Name: Nelmes, Elisha
Record Type: Convicts
Departure date: 28 Jun 1842
Departure port: London
Ship: Emily (1)
Voyage number: 203
Remarks: Reconvicted as Elijah Elton
Index number: 52505
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1422010
Archives Office Tasmania


Page on right, 7th name down, Elijah Elton convicted for housebreaking on 3 October 1865 at Richmond, sentenced to 4 yrs imprisonment.
Court records AB693-1-1_077. Archives Office Tasmania.


1873 – John Jones alias Flash Jack

Warrants issued on three counts in the 1873 police gazette index for the prisoner John Jones alias Jack Flash.

Stolen property, suspicion attaches to John Jones alias Flash Jack, 18 July 1873

Warrant for the arrest of John Jones alias Flash Jack escaped from custody, 25 July 1873

Jones heading for a port, 5 September 1873

John Jones alias Flash Jack was travelling with a boy who was arrested, per this notice of 5 September 1873. Dressed in black velvet and white moleskin, his style was probably one reason for the moniker Flash Jack. The police at this stage had not equated this prisoner John Jones aka Flash Jack with his earlier alias Elisha Nelmes or the name under which he was finally charged, Elijah Elton.

1874 – Elijah Elton or Nelmes

Elijah Elton or Nelmes was arrested on Nov. 20, 1874, photographed by Thomas Nevin at the Campbell Street Gaol, Hobart on being received from Richmond.

1875 – Elton or Nelmes alias John Jones and ‘Flash Jack’

Three names for this prisoner, 1 May 1875.

The man suspected of the robbery from the hut of William Morton, at Cape Portland, is identical with Elijah Elton, alias John Jones, alias Flash Jack.

‘Flash Jack’ John Jones identical with Elijah Elton, notice of 14 May 1875
Elijah Jones, cognomen ‘Flash Jack‘ and John Jones: his “real” name confirmed, notice of May 21, 1875. The police had already identified the prisoner called Elijah Elton using the alias Elisha Nelmes by 1872, but once he had escaped custody and evaded arrest while on the run under the alias John Jones, they had yet to equate all four names with the one prisoner.

Police Records 1872-1879


Discharged 12 January 1872: Nelmes, Elisha as Elton, Elijah, 53 yrs old. Notes on physical appearance included the remarks “piece out of left ear, nearly bald.” He absconded on the Canton in November 1865.

Discharged 17 January 1872: Nelmes, Elisha as Elton, Elijah

Elias Elton, convicted , 12 October 1872. More variations on the name Elijah – Elias,

Elias Elton or Nelmes, absconded 1 November 1872. Full physical description given, eg. balding, age now recorded as 58 yrs old.


Warrant for escape of Elijah Elton, and arrest on 20 November 1874

Elijah Elton or Nelmes, seen on 10 December 1874

Photographer Thomas J. Nevin was active in the detection of prisoners on warrant, as this notice confirms. Elijah Elton alias John Jones alias Jack Flash was suspected of robbery on 14th May 1875 while still under sentence at the Hobart Gaol . On the 21st May 1875 Thomas Nevin assisted police in the arrest of William Graves.

Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police 21 May 1875 p. 78.
Elijah Elton suspected of robbery
Arrest of William Graves “… assisted by Thomas Nevin

Elijah Elton, or Nelmes, convicted on 24 April 1875, age recorded as 56 yrs old

Suspected of robbery, Elijah Elton alias John Jones alias Flash Jack, 1 May 1875

Warrants lodged against him while undergoing sentence at H. M. Gaol, Hobart Town. Here the police identify Elijah Elton again with his alias: John Jones and Flash Jack, 14 May 1875 by police at Richmond and Glamorgan.


Elton, Elijah as Elisha Nelmes, discharged at Hobart 28 March 1877: charged on 21st April 1875 for Larceny, and 27 April 1875 for escaping from a gang.

Elijah Elton or Nelmes, arrested in Hobart, 6 April 1877

Elijah Elton or Nelmes, discharged from Hobart on 3 October 1877


Elton, Elijah or Nelmes as Jones, discharged, 9 January 1878

Suspicion attached to Elijah Elton, alias Nelmes, 27 Feb 1878

Elijah Elton alias Nelmes, using the name Thomas Turner was arrested, 1 March 1878


Now with another alias, Elijah Elton, alias Thomas Turner or Nelmes, arrested 28 March 1879

Elijah Elton or Nelmes, arraigned in the Supreme Court, Hobart, 13 May 1879, discharged by proclamation. Elijah Elton died at the New Town Charitable Institute in 1883 but was buried under his name on transportation, Elisha Nelmes.

The reason for Elijah Elton’s discharge by proclamation probably came down to a lack of evidence or witnesses. This episode in 1861 prompted the reporter to query discharge by proclamation:

DISCHARGED BY PROCLAMATION. Our readers know that when a prisoner has been “committed” to take his trial it not unfrequently happens, or rather it too frequently happens, that the grand jury of the colony, the Attorney-General, declines to file a bill of indictment. In that case when the court is in session the crier at the command of the judge begins, “0yez, 0yez, 0yer,” and invites all and sundry who know of treason, felonies, &c., against the prisoner, to come forward and prosecute, and the functionary then informs all and sundry that if they will not or cannot do so, the prisoner will be discharged, and discharged he is. At the last sessions of the Supreme Court, this operation was performed in the case of two individuals charged with housebreaking, brought home to them by the clearest and most conclusive evidence. A witness saw part of the property identified, in the dwelling of the prisoners. Another witness saw them jointly planting property on the north side of the Cataract. The police were informed of this, and two detectives discovered the articles. They also found a counterpane belonging to the prosecutor on the bed of the prisoners. The male prisoner was seen in the plundered dwelling on the day of the robbery. Now why were not these persons left to the disposal of a jury ? Why were they discharged by proclamation ? We ask on public grounds and in the interests of justice to society -Can any satisfactory explanation be given ? We fear not.

Source: Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), Tuesday 22 January 1861, page 2

Addenda 1: Birth of daughter Mary Elisha in 1862
On the 6th September 1862 a daughter, Mary Elisha, was born to parents Elijah Elton and Sarah Brown formerly Clark. Her father’s occupation was listed as labourer. Her mother Sarah Ann Brown registered the birth as informant on 24th September 1862. Sarah Ann Clark, 17 yrs old, had married Wm Brown, 38 yrs old in 1856 (Archives Office Tasmania RGD37-1-15P385). The fate of her husband is not known, but she most likely left him for Elijah Elton, giving birth to their daughter Mary Elisha in 1862 while still married to William Brown, as neither child nor mother was registered under the surname “Elton”.

Last entry
1862 Births in the District of Sorell
Number 1575. 866
Archives Office Tasmania
Online: RGD33-1-40P530

Not only is the surname ELTON spelled incorrectly on this record entry note, the daughter is assumed to bear the father’s surname, viz:

Eltin [sic. ELTON], Mary Elizabeth
Record Type:Births
Father: Eltin [sic. ELTON ], Elijah
Mother: Clark, Sarah Ann
Date of birth:06 Sep 1862
Registered: Sorell
Registration year:1862
Record ID:NAME_INDEXES:1013825

Addenda 2: Death of Elisha Nelmes 1883
Elijah Elton died at the New Town Charitable Institute in 1883 but was buried under his name on transportation, Elisha Nelmes.

Death of Elisha Nelmes, cancer of the tongue

Nelmes, Elisha
Record Type:Deaths
Date of death:24 May 1883
Registration year:1883
Record ID:NAME_INDEXES:1230479
Resource: RGD35/1/10 no 885
Archives Office Tasmania

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