|59B. COLONEL LASSETTER.|
|"Below is the copy of an interesting letter, which also throws some light on Lasseter's antecedents".|
|Errol Coote, Hell's Airport. Pgs 253, 254.|
Researching LASSETERIA leads down some strange paths indeed, even the misadventures of that rather inept pirate Captain William Kidd are cause for legitimate enquiry, Harold Lasseter thought so. On the 5th of January 1914 he wrote to the distinguished soldier and successful Sydney business man, Colonel Henry Beauchamp Lassetter, apparently making a genealogical enquiry of the Colonel with the similar last name, and in the course of the letter Captain Kidd was mentioned. Colonel H. B. Lassetter replied four days later,
Colonel Henry (Harry) Beauchamp Lassetter was a remarkable yet not well known soldier of late colonial era Australia and he might be considered the founder of the Australian mounted rifle brigades. He reluctantly resigned his commission and position as Commanding Officer of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade in 1906 to attend to the family's successful mercantile business. When Harold Lasseter (or Lewis Hubert Lasseter as he was then known) wrote to Henry Lassetter in January 1914, the Colonel was Chairman of Directors for F. Lassetter and Company Ltd, and a very wealthy and influential man. We can only speculate on what was in Harold Lasseter's letter to the Colonel, it may have been nothing more or less than a genuine enquiry, although Coote's claim that it, "throws some light on Lasseter's antecedents," is nonsense.
The inclusion of the letter in Coote's narrative, Hell's Airport, reveals something about Coote and his desperate attempt to legitimise Lasseter, earlier in his narrative Coote mentions several locations in northern Australia named Harding as proof that Lasseter's surveyor friend existed, apparently Coote was unaware that it is not the 'done thing' for a surveyor to name a location after himself, and cited Lasseter's childhood days in Steiglitz, a gold mining area in Victoria, as evidence that Lasseter knew his gold, his remarkable ignorance on the precious metal was revealed in correspondence to Herbert Gepp. Coote also produced Lasseter's two International Correspondence Schools certificates as proof that Lasseter was a competent surveyor, and of course Lasseter's use of the title 'Captain' in his letter to the Colonel confirms, in Coote's mind, that Lasseter was an experienced seafarer and navigator.
Coote concluded his page or so on the Lassetter connection with this observation, What a parallel! On the one hand was the Lasseter of commerce, associated in a way with the treasure of the Spanish Main. On the other was Lasseter, the sea rover and prospector, who claimed that he had found a reef 'worth millions'". There is no parallel whatsoever, in fact more divergent lives would be hard to find, Henry Beauchamp Lassetter, aged 55, rejoined the colours shortly after World War 1 began and by January 1915 had been promoted to Brigadier General in command of a British Territorial unit, by wars end many honours and accolades were bestowed on H. B. Lassetter. As for the 'Lassetter of Commerce', the family firm of F. Lassetter and Co. one of the soundest businesses in New South Wales in 1914, held steady during the war years, it being very much against the Colonels values to profit from conflict. By all accounts he was a generous citizen and employer who believed that investing in the community and country paid dividends. Of course it wouldn't hurt one's reputation to be connected to such a man.
And so to William Kidd, and any guess would be reasonable on what Lasseter may have written that prompted the Colonels reply, (tattered maps and buried treasure come to mind) and the names Shelley and Antill were well known to the Colonel. Giles Shelley was a very successful pirate or privateer (depending on who one was working for at the time) and well established businessman from New York, who was occasionally bailed from jail by his lawyer and backer, Edward Antill, a wealthy man in his own right. In 1698 Antill saved Shelley from the gallows, he was on trial for his life because of an alleged association with William Kidd, who left no fortune, buried or otherwise, using what little loot he had garnered to bribe his way to the gibbet. When Antill died, Giles Shelley adopted his only son, also named Edward, who in due course inherited Shelley's fortune, as well as his fathers wealth, which Shelley had apparently administered wisely.
Edwards grandson Henry Colden Antill joined the 73rd regiment of the British army, in 1809 the regiment was commanded by Lachlan Macquarie who was made Governor of the Colony of New South Wales that year. Macquarie and the 73rd regiment with Captain Antill arrived at Port Jackson on the 28th of December 1809, the following week Antill was named Macquarie's Aide de Camp and in 1811 he was promoted as the regiments Brigade Major and became deeply involved in the affairs of the growing colony, where he chose to remain after his regiment was posted to Ceylon in 1814. Major Antill prospered in wealth and influence, becoming a Director of the Bank of New South Wales, a police superintendant and a magistrate. In 1891 his granddaughter married Major Henry Beauchamp Lassetter. A grandson, John Macquarie Antill commanded the Third Light Horse Brigade and later rose to the rank of Major General. By all accounts the Brothers in Law were good friends.
Of course any story with a mix of Captain Kidd and Harold Lasseter would have its share of 'apparent' co incidents, when he wrote to Colonel Lassetter, 'Captain' Lewis Lasseter was living at Tabulam, northern New South Wales, were the names Lassetter and Antill where well known and highly regarded as past Commanders and trainers of various light horse units in the northern districts, perhaps Tabulam's most famous son in military affairs was Harry Chauvel, one of history's great cavalry commanders and a former leader of the Tabulam troop of the Upper Clarence Light Horse. Then there is the state of New York, U.S.A. connection, where Lewis Lasseter resided from about 1902 to 1909. Here the Antill name was either famous or infamous depending which side various family members chose during the American revolution.
In fact I reckon the Colonel has called Lasseter's bluff by accounting for Captain Kidd's fortune and showing far more interest in Lasseter's sister and the family bible than Harry Lasseter. There appears to be no further correspondence on relationships.
© R.Ross. 1999-2011
Errol Coote, Hell's Airport. Pgs 253, 254. The Sydney Morning Herald,29/01/1915. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Lassetter, Henry Beauchamp & Antill, John Macquarie.