1773 - 29th Aug 1839
The name of John Samuel August first appears in the will of John Cook, of South Carolina, dated June 1782. The will is headed, 'John Cook late of Camden District, now of Charlstown'. The date and place are significant. Charlestown was one of the last places held by British forces towards the end of the American Revolutionary War. The town was captured by General Henry Clinton in 1781 and held until December 1782. By this time, American Loyalists who did not support the revolution were offered transport, together with any enslaved people they owned, to a choice of destinations. These included Florida, then under the control of the Spanish, Jamaica, Nova Scotia and Great Britain. The Camden district contained the largest concentration of South Carolina Loyalists who opposed the Patriot armies of the American colonies. Transports were arranged and continued throughout 1782, until 14 December when the military fort was evacuated and transferred to New York. Loyalists were able to make claims to the British Government for their losses in the American colonies, but compensation was not generous. John Samuel August, therefore, seems to have come from a Loyalist family which left South Carolina sometime during 1782 for an unknown destination.
John Cook made a bequest in his will to his ‘beloved granson John Samuel August’. The bequest was ‘one negro boy named Stephey’. Altogether six enslaved people are mentioned by name and bequeathed to different members of the family. These included Mary Mascall, who was probably John Samuel’s mother. This assumes that John Samuel’s father had died and that his mother had then married Henry Mascall, who was named as the Executor in the will.
At some unknown time, John Samuel August moved to Honduras in Central America where, under the Treaty of Versailles of 1784, subjects of Great Britain were allowed by Spain to undertake logging in mahogany forests. A memorial stone in St John's Church, Belize City, was recorded in 1909 as 'Sacred to the Memory of John Samuel August, Esquire, a respectable inhabitant of the settlement, one of the magistrates and colonel to the militia, who left this county in 1838 after a residence of nearly fifty years and died in England on the 2th August, 1839 in the 67th year of his age.' (The memorial also commemorates his sons Samuel Frederick August and James August and his sons-in-law Leonard Bryon and William Byron who died in Hondoras.) This suggests he arrived in Honduras in 1789 or 1790 when he would have been 15 or 16 years of age.
'John Samuel August, Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Honduras Militia, and Mrs Bryon, widow of Mr J. Bryon, late of the York Grand Stand' married in Honduras, 01/03/1821 when John Samuel was 48 years of age. Sarah Byron’s maiden name was Maskall and she was born in Stillingfleet Yorkshire, in 1792, the daughter of Robert Maskall of Rolfield, a farmer, and his wife Sarah nee Nichols. Sarah had married Joseph Byron in 1816 and by 1821 she was a 29 year old widow with three young children.
John Samuel and Sarah had six children between 1822 and 1830. One daughter Sarah Mary Ann survived, as did three sons Robert Maskall, John Samuel and George Hornby. The youngest son of the marriage was baptised in 1830 in York, England, when his parents' abode was given as 'Honduras in Mexico' and his father's occupation as 'Mahogany Cutter'. Two other sons died in Honduras as infants. Two sons of Sarah’s first marriage also died in Honduras as young adults, leaving a daughter, Mary Byron. Out of nine children born to Sarah, only five survived to adulthood.
In March 1838, John Samuel August made his will in the settlement of Honduras, because he ‘was on the eve of departure for England’. The will is brief and leaves all his property and funds to be divided equally between his ‘beloved wife Sarah’, and his four surviving children Robert Maskall, Sarah Mary Ann, John Samuel and George Hornby. These are the five individuals who benefited from the awards made in 1835 as compensation for abolition of slavery. The following year John Samuel August died at Greenwich, England on 29 August, 1839 at 66 years of age.
Very shortly after his death, all the beneficiaries of John Samuel August’s will emigrated, to the newly established colony of Adelaide in South Australia. Their ship was ‘The City of London’ which left London on 12 November, 1839. Australian papers recorded the arrival on 26 March 1840 in Adelaide of ‘Mrs August and five children’.
An earlier arrival at the new colony was William Robert Smith Cooke, also a former resident of the settlement of Honduras. He was accompanied by his new wife, Mary Byron, the daughter of Sarah August’s first marriage, then aged 22. William Cooke is known to have arrived in Adelaide in March, 1839, aboard the boat ‘Buckinghamshire’. Five months later, Mary Cooke gave birth to a son who was baptised William August Cooke. It is notable that William and Mary gave their son the name August, although neither belonged to the August family. Sarah August and her son in law William Cooke set up a business in Adelaide called August, Cooke and Co, working as Shipping Agents and Merchants. These complex arrangements, the journeys to South Australia and the establishment of a joint venture, suggest that long term plans had been during and after leaving Honduras. John Samuel August’s death may have delayed but did not alter these plans.
Coastal transports were normally thriving businesses at this time in the Australian colonies because of the lack of inland connections. Sarah August’s personal involvement was short lived. Her oldest son Robert Maskall August was given power of attorney to manage her affairs in 1842. In any case, the new business August, Cooke and Co lasted not quite five years, before declaring insolvency in 1844. At this time many bankruptcies were taking place in the new settlement of Adelaide, because of land speculation. William Cooke went on to found other successful businesses in Adelaide, including milling and brewing. After the birth of their first child, William Cooke and his wife Mary Byron went on to have four more children, all girls. William Cooke died prematurely at the age of 39 in Adelaide in July 1851. His will was proved in London.
Sarah August’s younger daughter, later called Sarah Marianne, married in April 1841 at the young age of 16. Her husband was Alfred Langhorne, an English settler from Melbourne who had been in Australia from around 1836. He had made his fortune in a variety of ways beginning as an overseer and squatter and moving on to become a successful merchant and farmer. He also earned a reputation and great profit as an overlander, taking droves of sheep and cattle across country to new settlements which were desperate to buy stock. Sarah Marianne died in Laverton, Victoria in 1871 at the age of 46. The Langhorne station at Laverton, now Altona, was five miles from the centre of Melbourne and would eventually extend to over 2700 acres.
The whole August family seems to have removed from Adelaide to Melbourne, to join Sarah Langhorne and her new family. Sarah Maskall Byron August died in Melbourne at Sarah Langhorne’s home in January 1844, after not quite four years residence in Australia. She was aged about 52. Her share of John Samuel August’s bequest was presumably lost in the failure of the business she had shared with her son in law, William Cooke.
Two of her sons also died young in Melbourne. Robert Maskall August died the following year in 1845 at the age of 23. He had taken part in overlanding trips with his brother in law Alfred Langhorne. John Samuel August died in 1858 at the age of 30 at the Camp, Mount Blackwood close to the gold prospecting fields which started the goldrush of 1852. He was working as a clerk to courts. Sarah August’s youngest son George Hornby August, emigrated to New Zealand in 1854 with his wife Lucy Clarke. Together they founded a large well documented dynasty of August descendants who worked mainly in agriculture, carting and shopkeeping. George Hornby August was 57 when he died in 1887. All three sons of John Samuel August seem to have had modest careers which did not benefit greatly from their father’s bequest of 1839.
We are grateful to Hilary Robins for compiling this entry.
Will of John Cook of Camden District (1782) – South Carolina Archives and History, Reference no. S108093, Record 14 of 89.
John Purcell Usher, Inscriptions and Epitaphs copied from tablets in Cathedral Church of St John the Baptist, Belize, British Honduras (1907) p. 16.
Yorkshire Gazette 17/06/1893 p. 10, 'Old Yorkshire'. Findmypast, Yorkshire Baptisms and Yorkshire, Archbishop of York Marriage licences index, 1613-1839 [database online].
The children who died in Honduras were Leonard Bryon, William Bryon, Samuel Frederick August and James August, see Inscriptions and Epitaphs p. 16. See Australian death records of the remaining children for confirmation of their parentage.
The will of John Samuel August, PROB 11/1916/10. Ancestry.com, London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980 [database online].
Southern Australian, 26/03/1840, p.3.
South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register, 30/03/1839, p.6.
Adelaide Observer, 13/07/1844, p. 2. Will of William Robert Smith Cooke, Merchant of Adelaide, South Australia, PROB 11/2190/337.
Ancestry.com, Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database online].
Ancestry.com, Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database online].
Ancestry.com, Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database online]. 'Index to Outward Passengers to Interstate, UK, NZ and Foreign Ports 1852-1923', Public Record Office Victoria.
Name in compensation records
John S. August
Sarah Byron nee Maskall
Robert Maskall, John Samuel, George Hornby, Sarah Mary Ann, Samuel Frederick, James
£2,362 0s 9d
Shortly after his death, John Samuel August's widow and children emigrated to Australia. His son George Hornby August moved to New Zealand in 1855. See biographical entry for more...
Greenwich South Street, Greenwich, Kent, London, England
From burial record.