Sunday, 23 November 2014

Black Sheep Sunday - WIlliam Nelson McCann AKA William McCann Neilson

When I posted about William Nelson McCann AKA William McCann Neilson back in September finding him in San Francisco in 1870 raised more questions than answers.

To continue with William Nelson McCann (William McCann Neilson) is like untangling a ball of wool or solving a complicated puzzle.  As I previously wrote, there he was in San Francisco in 1870. Wait a minute, 1870? He was sentenced to 7 years prison in 1867 in Victoria wasn't he? When did he enter the US?

I knew he had been sentenced to seven year imprisonment in Victoria in 1867, so how was he in San Francisco in 1870? Searching the voter's register in California I found he had first entered the United States in 1868 - wait a minute - 1868? 

So, a search the Public Record Office of Victoria Register of Male Prisoners finds a gem. William Nelson McCann, prisoner 8077, has a notation - Freedom by order of His Excellency the Governor 7 December 1868. Of course as you see on the right his page has a water stain or some such - would be on that page wouldn't it?

A further search of the Victorian Parliament revealed: borrowed money to finance a grazing run and convicted of forgery Aug 1867; released after serving a short part of a seven years' sentence and went abroad.  So I guess being part of a prominent Victorian family and an MLA meant that the government wanted him out of the state.

William appears in the Daily Alta California on 18 February 1871 refuting claims of imprisonment with a lengthy discourse on three trials and no conviction. He talks of a severe head injury, a lengthy time bedridden and advice to take a long sea voyage for his health.

William next appears in the California papers of note on 2 February 1874 in the Daily Alta answering he claim of being "convicted in Melbourne of forgery, and sent to the hulks, and afterwards being released on the premise of leaving the country."

His explanation is truly amazing and shows how this man had a flair for writing fiction. There is obviously much more about William and his wife to come - we now know his explanation in San Francisco for leaving Australia and establish him in the United States as a journalist and editor.

I will keep looking and I expect there will be much more about WIlliam.
To be continued ...

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