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KEENAN FAMILY in Australia


A book by the late Edward Keenan of Western Australia

Chapter Two

Last updated 7/9/2009


Pioneers of Western Australia

1859 – 1969


Recorded by Edward Keenan

Perenjori, Western Australia, 1995


Scanned and formatted by Peter Keenan, 2007/2009


Continued from Chapter One


Cape Naturaliste, "Glenone" and a Promissory Note


About this time Stewart decided to try his luck further field and headed for the opal fields of South Australia. From there he journeyed to the goldfields where his brother had preceded him some time before. It is evident that during his wanderings he did not make any finds of major importance.


In his absence Isabella had managed well and had prospered sufficiently to purchase Loc. 70 at Cape Naturaliste from Mrs. Amelia Chapman. This property they called "Glenone" in memory of Stewart's old home in Ireland. To this property in 1869 they took their belongings, their cattle and three children. The horse Nonsuch, of course came too as he was the Keenans' most valued possession.


Then, after all these years, the promissory note given to Lippiatte raised its ugly head. It was now held by a man called McGibbon, a timber merchant at the Vasse, and McGibbon demanded instant payment. Stewart who did not have enough ready cash to honour the promissory note asked Mr. Yelverton to settle with McGibbon, in return offering Mr. Yelverton some bullocks for his mill. Mr. Yelverton offered to settle the debt with timber but this was not acceptable to McGibbon, who summoned Stewart for the original promissory note.


The case was heard in 1871 by Magistrate Strelly Harris. Stewart said in defence that the cheques he had received from Lippiatte in payment for the potatoes had been dishonoured. However, it appeared that although the cheques were valueless the promissory note was still a valid document and while the Court was sympathetic towards the defendant it was required to make a ruling in favour of the plaintiff.


In a short space of time a bailiff arrived at "Glenone" to seize the Keenans" possessions. Stewart, his Irish temper coming to the fore, threatened to put the bailiff head-first into the water barrel under the eaves but Isabella appealed to his better judgment. "Stewart! Stewart !" she cried, "when your hand is in the dog's mouth you take it out gently. I'm going to see Mr. Yelverton. He'll surely help us out of trouble."


Mounting the horse Nonsuch she set out and it was well after dark before she found Mr.Yelverton in the office at his mill. "Mrs. Keenan !" he cried "what brings you here at this time of night ?"  After hearing her story he said, "I have no money either, but we'll go to town tomorrow and see what we can do." Isabella stayed at Yelvertons' overnight and next day went with him to Busselton. Everywhere Mr. Yelverton went Isabella was at his elbow.


Many people owed Mr. Yelverton money but none had the ready cash, though most offered to settle with goods. Late in the afternoon and almost despairing they observed the Rev. Mr. Brown in the street and decided to ask the parson. Mr. Brown had the money available and Isabella rode back to "Glenone" having redeemed the debt.


Farm life

After the incident with McGibbon, life for the Keenans proceeded in a fruitful manner.

Potatoes were grown in the moist soil of the swamps and the dairy herd produced butter for sale or barter. Isabella always had a ready market for all they could make, the Police Department being a eager client.

The cows and working bullocks were run in the bush when no cultivated pasture was available and much valuable time was lost in looking for and rounding up animals that had wandered. There was often a sorting out of neighbours stock as boundary fences were few and the runs were mostly of large extent. Sometimes the milking cows whose calves had been locked away from them would come home to their calves at the end of the day bringing other animals with them. These occurrences were a bonus to the stock owners and saved many searches on horse back or on foot.

Quite often trips with the wagons could not be made until sufficient bullocks had been rounded up. An operation that could cause serious delays.

Such a tragedy happened when the first wife of William Curtis who farmed at "Cape Farm" took seriously ill during the latter stage of her pregnancy. William decided to take her to his relatives at "Inlet Park" a short distance beyond Busselton, but as the bullock wagon was their only means of transport he set out in the bush in search of his bullocks. This proved to be lengthy exercise and when they finally began the long and torturous journey his wife was gravely ill. As the journey progressed her condition worsened and she died shortly after reaching their destination.

Bullocks were used by the Keenans for many years as means of transport, clearing and ploughing the land and for other purposes that required traction and strength. They were generally more versatile than horses and could forage better for themselves in the bush. Stewart Keenan owned and worked bullocks soon after getting established on the land. He bought the bullocks from Lippiatte that involved the unfortunate promissory note, and a receipt from Mrs. Amelia Chapman dated March 23 1874 shows that Stewart Keenan paid Twenty Pounds for two bullocks.

In the early years of settlement at the Cape (Cape Naturaliste) there were no bridges over Toby's Inlet or Molloy's Ditch.  The wagons had to take to the sea to get around the boggy sand where the streams entered the ocean.  One instance is recorded when Stewart was on his way back to "Glenone" with supplies and had to make such a detour.  The tail board of the wagon was placed across the sides so that such perishables as flour and sugar could be placed out of harms way in case the floor of the wagon became submerged.  The passenger who was sitting on the tail of the wagon was soon forced to remove his feet to a dry area before the sea filled his boots and he finished up sitting on the bag of flour with his knees under his chin.  "Stewart!"he said, "I've done some strange things in my day, but this is the first time I've been to sea in a bullock dray".

Eagle Bay and the Chapmans

In 1871 Isabella bought Loc. 65 at Eagle Bay from James Chapman who was the original owner.  He was one of the four Chapman brothers who were among the first settlers in the Busselton district.  James resided at Eagle Bay for some years until plagued by gout and with advancing age he was forced to leave. Isabella took up the adjoining Loc.203 in later years, thus becoming the owner of approximately 80 acres at the bay.  

The dwelling at Eagle Bay consisted of two buildings.  The kitchen was a single room with a limestone chimney at one end.  The other section was larger, consisting of two rooms, also with a chimney at the western end.  The walls were made of split slabs with wattle-and-daub on the inside.  The buildings had hip roofs covered with wooden shingles.  The place was untenanted for a number of years and was destroyed by fire in 1920.

First "Glenone" cottage and the Curtis family

The first home at "Glenone" was a slab cottage on the western slope and was built under a huge peppermint tree.  The land was sandy and would not grow things as well as the rich black soil on the flat between the two creeks.  Besides, all the water had to be carried up the hill from the well in the flat.  This well must have been subject to flooding because after heavy rains it had to be cleaned out to make the water usable again

While the Keenans were living in the slab cottage on the hill William Curtis and his new bride, Mary Jane Dawson, came riding along the road on their way to "Cape Farm'.  Seeing them coming Isabella walked up the hill to the road and spoke to the travellers. "Welcome to the cape," was her opening greeting.  The Curtis' used to remark that in Isabella's rich Irish brogue it sounded like "Welcome to the kip".  This was to be the beginning of a family friendship that was to endure through several generations and through many trials, difficulties and hardships of those pioneering days.

 Second "Glenone" home

The next home was built between the two creeks on the flat.  One of the winter creeks flowed within a few metres of the kitchen chimney.  When heavy rains came the creek overflowed and it was not uncommon to have the house surrounded by water.  This was later rectified by digging a deeper drain a few metres further away.  To do this it was necessary to remove the old stone oven where the Keenans did all their baking before the installation of a modern wood stove.

The house was built of the usual slab outer walls and the wattle-and-daub lining.  The main building consisted of two large rooms.  The end wall of the kitchen was built completely of stone and incorporated a large chimney and fireplace.

A gabled roof covered the two main rooms.  There were two smaller rooms under a skillion roof at the back and a veranda ran the full width of the front.  

The main rooms were ceiled with half inch tongued and grooved jarrah boards.  These were nailed to the undersides of the rafters for about a third of the way up, then horizontally across the collar ties to give more height to the ceiling.  

The doors were made of vertical planks with thinner battens over the cracks.  The locks on the outer doors were robust metal affairs.  The internal door fasteners were a wooden tongue moving up and down in a wooden guide and controlled by a piece of string or a strip of leather operating through a hole in the door.

Flooring consisted of rough sawn jarrah boards fastened down with Ewbank nails.  These nails had large heads and after years of traffic the wood around them wore away.  To slip on the floor was nearly impossible but to trip over the nail heads required no practise at all and was frequently accomplished.  

The back rooms were not ceiled and the under sides of the shingles could be seen between the roofing battens.  

Much later another two rooms were added at right angles to the existing house, with a breeze way between the old and new building.

In front of the house the Keenans planted pear, fig and peach trees.  These were to flourish and prove a boon to the owners for many years.  On the bank of the creek near the kitchen chimney grew an English hawthorn, as far as they knew it was the only one known to be in the district.  The white blossoms and red berries were the delight of the English visitors who ate the ripe berries with great relish.

 ... continued CHAPTER 3

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