Prisoner Daniel DAVIS 1883, 1892 and 1897


Born at Castlemaine, Victoria in 1858, Daniel Davis was convicted every few years from 1883, soon after his arrival in Tasmania on board the Derwent, to his discharge from the Hobart Gaol in January 1897. Eleven months later, he drowned accidentally in the Mersey at Latrobe, Tasmania. The inquest was reported on the 29th December 1897.

Prisoner DAVIS, Daniel, photographed by T. J. Nevin
Hobart Gaol March 1883.
TMAG Ref: Q15625

Verso inscription: F. C. (free to colony) Derwent 486 18 months
Prisoner DAVIS, Daniel, photographed by T. J. Nevin
Hobart Gaol March 1883.
TMAG Ref: Q15625

Press Reports 1883

Daniel Davis and Richard Harris at trial
The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Thu 1 Mar 1883 Page 3 RECORDER’S COURT, LAUNCESTON.


Richard Harris (20) and Daniel Davies [sic] (26), charged with having, at Moorina, on the 29th November, assaulted and robbed Ah Tung of £3 11s, pleaded not guilty. Mr. Miller appeared for the prisoners. Lee Kong was sworn as interpreter. Ah Tung deposed that he was proceeding from a store at Moorina to the Native Youth claim on the night of the 29th November, and was accosted by two men. He was afterwards garotted and robbed by them. After the robbery he picked up a piece of meat and some sugar which had been carried by the prisoners. James Alexander deposed to Harris informing him on the night of the 29th November, when the two prisoners were in witness’ hut, that they had robbed a Chinaman that night.


The details in this report by the Hobart Mercury were incorrectly reported by newspapers in northern Tasmania in the ensuing week. The victim’s name was changed and so was the date the crime was committed. No information about the work the offenders were seeking or undertaking was given, nor the reason the offenders were in the area. It appears their crime was predatory and premeditated.

The trial of Daniel Davis and Richard Harris
The Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas. : 1881 – 1895) Sat 3 Mar 1883 Page 235 Law Courts


ASSAULT AND ROBBERY. Richard Harris and Daniel Davis pleaded not guilty to the charge of assaulting Ah Kung on the 29th of December, and robbing him of the sum of £3 1ls. Mr. Miller appeared for the prisoner Harris. It appears that the prosecutor was returning on the night in question from a store at Moorina to the Native Youth claim when he was set upon by two men whom he could not identify, and robbed of two £1 notes, a sovereign, a half sovereign, and a shilling. The prisoners admitted to a companion that they had robbed a Chinaman, and their description of the manner in which it was carried out tallied with that given by the prosecutor. Some beef and sugar were picked up by the prosecutor after the robbery, and it was proved that the prisoners had purchased similar articles that morning. The prosecutor admitted having identified a third man named Jones as the offender. His Honor summed up against the prisoners, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty after an absence of not more than a minute or two. SENTENCES. The following were the sentences pronounced.: .. . Richard Harris and Daniel Davis, assault and robbery, eighteen months’ imprisonment.


Richard Harris and Daniel Davis were transferred south from the Recorder’s Court in Launceston to serve their sentences at the Hobart Gaol in March 1883. Both were photographed on arrival by Thomas J. Nevin. This mugshot (above, TMAG Ref: Q15625) is the first photograph taken of Daniel Davis by T. J. Nevin for police records. The mugshot of Richard Harris, on the other hand, appears not to have survived, for several possible reasons: either Harris did not re-offend; or, he used an alias and kept re-offending; or, indeed, he may have left the colony, and lastly, his 20th century descendants might have destroyed his photo, the latter event believed to be more common than proven. These two entries (below) in convict records give just the barest of details: the photos were kept separately in Photo Books, duplicates of which were pasted to the rap sheet, some mounted as cartes-de-visite, some uncut.

Name: Harris, Richard
Record Type: Convicts
Remarks: Born Tasmania. Tried Launceston
Index number: 30587
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1399477
Conduct Record: CON37/1/11 Page 6161

Name: Davis, Daniel
Record Type: Convicts
Ship: Derwent
Remarks: Tried Launceston Feb 1883
Index number: 17500
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1386017
Conduct Record: CON37/1/11 Page 6160

The victim Ah Tung
Newspaper reports of the assault and robbery by Daniel Davis and Richard Harris varied in certain details: the name of the “Chinaman” they robbed and assaulted was reported as either Ah Kung (Tasmanian 3 March 1883), Ah King (Launceston Examiner 28 Feb 1883) or Ah Tung (Mercury 1 March 1883). The date the offense was committed was reported as 29th November 1882 or 29th December 1882. In every instance, however, the location of the crime was correctly reported.

Ah Tung was assaulted and robbed at Moorina, on his return from the store there to the tin mining settlement working the claim of the Native Youth Tin Mining Company. In the 1880s, there was a thriving Chinese community at Moorina and Weldborough, located near St. Helens in the north east of Tasmania. According to Helene Chung, whose great grandfather mined there

At its peak, Weldborough had about 700 Chinese miners: most of the State’s 1,000 to 1,300 or so Chinese. The original pub slept three shifts to a bed. Not roulette but mahjong and fan tan were played in the island’s first casino. A lottery was part of gambling and a Chinese man was murdered while taking the proceeds to the bank at nearby Moorina. In 1893 a visiting Chinese opera company performed at Weldborough ….

Source: Helene Chung, ‘One Village – Two Names: A Tasmanian Chinese on a Wild Dragon Chase’, a paper presented at the Chinese Heritage of Australia Federation Conference, Museum of Chinese Australian History, Melbourne, 1-2 July 2000.

Helen Vivian’s report on the Chinese tin mining communities in North East Tasmania (1985) gives an overview of the area as Ah Tung would have known it in the 1880s:

The years 1883-85 saw a partial depression in the North East. The most accessible tin deposits had now been worked out and many gold mines were deserted. The European population had greatly diminished as a result. The Secretary of Mines, however, felt that this was more due to a lack of spirit than a lack of mineral wealth. He opined that the initial expectations of the gold miners had been too high and in his report for 1884, spoke favourably of the tin mining industry:

“The tin mining industry appears to be carried on with vigour, the total quantity of ore produced during the six months ended 30th June (1883) being 746 tons, valued at £38,700. Many of the claims in the District are held by co-operative parties, who are steadily prosecuting their work, attracting little or no public attention. A considerable number of Chinese are employed as tributors.”

This period of economic slump apparently affected European wage earners far more gravely than the Chinese, who were by now mainly employed on their own account. Thus, the arrival of 200 or more Chinese in 1885 sparked off a determined anti-Chinese immigration campaign championed by the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council (T.T.L.C.). Protest meetings were organised against Chinese and other non-British immigrants and a number of resolutions calling for the adoption of a restriction~t policy were presented to the Tasmanian government.
Despite the strong anti-Chinese feeling in sectors of the mining community an attempt to start an anti-Chinese movement in the North East met with very little support….

Source: Helen Vivian, op. cit. 1985:19

1892: two more photographs
Two later photographs were pasted to this rap sheet created in August 1892 at the Police Office Devonport on the occasion of Daniel Davis’ imprisonment for larceny, sentenced to six months. Who took these photographs or where they were taken is not clear, but what is clear is that the first mugshot taken by Nevin in 1883 did not find its way onto these later gaol records. What else is not clear is why the photograph on the rap sheet dated 1897 was copied as a black and white version and pasted onto the 1892 rap sheet, which was supposedly created five years earlier when the booking mugshot of Daniel Davis was taken sporting a moustache, arms crossed, hands visible against his chest.

Name: Davis, Daniel
Record Type: Prisoners
Year: 1892
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1486028
Resource: GD63/2/1 Page 416

Detail of above: Name: Davis, Daniel
Record Type: Prisoners
Year: 1892
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1486028
Resource: GD63/2/1 Page 416

Discharged from Hobart Gaol January 1897
This photograph of prisoner Daniel Davis, registered as number 696 and dated 1st January 1897, was taken for the purposes of his discharge from the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street on 16th January 1897.

When this record was created, on the occasion of his discharge from his latest conviction of three months for being idle etc, a summary of eight offences was included dating from the most serious, the assault and robbery in 1883, for which he served 18 months. He was most commonly convicted of larceny, serving 3 to 6 months, almost every year to his death by drowning in 1897.

Detail of criminal record – rap sheet below:

Rap Sheet Details
Photo Reg. No: 696
Date: 1.1.1896
Name: Daniel Davis
Rubber stamped: H.M.Gaol Hobart 4 Jan1897

Star tattooed between thumb and forefinger of left hand.

When Convicted 17.10.96
Where P.O. Latrobe
Offence Idle &
Sentence  3 months
Date of Discharge  16.1. 97
Native Place  Castlemaine, Victoria
Year of Birth  1858
Ship  Derwent  Condition F.C.
Religion R. C.
Edication R & W
State  Single
Height 5.8 Weight 10.0
Build Medium
Complexion  Dark
Color of Hair Black
Color of Eyes Brownish Gray
Trade or Calling Labourer

28.2.83   P.O. Launceston Assault & Robbery 18 months
8.9.85     P.O. ditto ((Launceston) Larceny 3 months
14.5.86   P.O. ditto (Launceston)  Larceny 3 months
25.8.88   P.O. Latrobe Larceny 3 months
17.9.89   P.O. Launceston Obscene Language 5 days
17.8.92   P.O. East Devonport Larceny 6 months
7.9.95     P.O. Wynyard Larceny 3 months
17.10.96 P.O. Latrobe Idle & 3 months

Name: Davis, Daniel
Record Type: Prisoners
Year: 1895-1897
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1449801
Resource: GD128/1/2

Death by drowning December 1897

Daniel Davis drowned in the Mersey
Tasmanian News (Hobart, Tas. : 1883 – 1911) Tue 28 Dec 1897 Page 4 NORTHERN NEWS.


Launceston, December 28.
From Latrobe comes word that on Sunday a man named Daniel Davis, aged about 40 years, was found drowned in the Mersey opposite Watt’s Hotel by Mr Ready, who was walking along the river bank.
He informed the police, and after making a stretcher they had the body removed to the hotel.
It is surmised that Davis wandered away and accidentally fell into the river.



Name: Davis, Daniel
Record Type: Deaths
Gender: Male
Age: 40
Date of death: 26 Dec 1897
Registered: Mersey
Registration year: 1897
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1216969
Resource: RGD35/1/66 no 462


Daniel Davis inquest
Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas. : 1883 – 1928) Wed 29 Dec 1897 Page 8 LATROBE.


At the inquest held on the body of Daniel Davis, before Mr. P. C. Maxwell, coroner, and a jury (Mr A. Ellis, foreman), a verdict that he came by his death accidentally by drowning, and not otherwise, was returned.


Name: Davis, Daniel
Record Type: Inquests
Age: 40
Date of death: 26 Dec 1897
Date of inquest: 27 Dec 1897
Verdict: Accidentally drowned
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1354170

ADDENDA: The Joss House 1937

Source: Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954) Tue 29 Jun 1937 Page 2 Chinese Joss House Presented to Launceston Museum.


LAUNCESTON, Monday, – The joss house presented to the Launceston City Council by Chinese residents of Northern Tasmania will be officially opened by the Mayor (Mr. F. Warland Browne) at the Queen Victoria Museum at 3 p.m. next Thursday.
Brought from China in 1884 by the Chinese miners on the North-East Coast, and established at Weldborough, the joss house has been renovated, and its quaint contents have been assembled at the museum in a special section.
This task has meant a great deal of work for Mr. Chung Gon, jun., and Mr and Mrs A Manchester in the past 18 months.

The Joss House donated to the Launceston City Council 1937. Photo dated 1940