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KEENAN FAMILY in Australia


A book by the late Edward Keenan of Western Australia

Chapter Three

Last updated 9/7/2010


Pioneers of Western Australia

1859 – 1969


Recorded by Edward Keenan

Perenjori, Western Australia, 1995


Scanned and formatted by Peter Keenan, 2007/2010


Continued from ChapterTwo


Other locations and “Ginarmup”


Keenans also took up Locns. 1348 and 1350 down the creek towards Eagle Bay, and later Loc. 660 on the hill to the west of "Glenone".  


Southwards up the creek they acquired Loc. 152, a small block that included Gingarmup Spring, and later Locns. 349, 223, 430 and 828.  These blocks were taken up in the names of various members of the family.


The Keenans called this property "Gingarmup", the aboriginal name of the spring.  Gingi was supposed to have been a person of some note back in the dream-time and his ghost was reputed to frequent the area around the spring.  Therefore "Gingarmup" meant “where the ghost of Gingi camps by the spring”.  Whenever Alf Knapton happened to be at Keenans he invariably referred to "Gingarmup" as "the ghost camp”, much to the displeasure of some of the family in-laws.


The valuable swamps at "Gingarmup" encouraged the further growing of potatoes. Those who worked on the property walked to and fro each day from "Glenone" until a house was built on the western bank over looking the swamp.


"Gingarmup" house was built of brick.  At that stage of the colony's history there were many talented tradesmen roaming the country in search of work.  Carpenters, brick layers, ticket-of-leave men, they were willing to work for little else than food in order to keep body and soul together.  Such was the case with the building of "Gingarmup" house.  Bricks were made in the locality and the place was built with small outlay.  The workmanship must have been of a high standard because after nearly a hundred years a subsequent owner built another storey on top without the original building showing any signs of stress.


When it was first built the house was a square structure of four rooms with back and front verandas.  A hipped roof covered the main rooms and skillion roofs over the verandas. The walls were lime plastered and set. The ceilings were lath and plaster. The plasterer, thinking the chimney breast in the lounge room looked rather bare, hit on a novel idea. Filling a tin plate with plaster he fixed it to the chimney centrally over the mantle until the plaster set. The plate was then removed and the result in there today.


The floors were dressed jarrah boards except for the kitchen which was flagged with burnt bricks 9 inches X 9 inches and three inches in thickness. These bricks were later removed and a board floor put in. 


Apart from being used as a temporary camp "Gingarmup" remained untenanted for a number of years and served the purpose of a store house for potatoes and chaff.


Farming at “Gingarmup”


Fertilizer for the crops came from various sources. Guano was gathered from the rocks on the coast where the sea birds roosted in great numbers, but this was limited in quantity and was costly to buy. Seaweed was used to some effect, and salmon that could be netted by the ton were placed head to tail in the furrows with the seed potatoes.


Keenans relied chiefly on animal manures gathered from the cattle yards and from the "bedding places" of the wandering stock. Cattle on the loose had their special places in the bush where they preferred to camp. These were usually sandy areas, generally among big peppermint trees. As peppermints grow in light soil these spots were warmer and more sheltered than other types of country. Bullocks were yoked to the wagon and any member of the family big enough to throw a cow pat into the vehicle was taken along. The manure was either taken to the potato patch and spread over the ground or tipped into the cow yard where it was broken up by the animals hooves and mixed with a more recent variety.


Keenan children


Francis Henry Keenan, named after his two grand fathers, was born on March 4 1871, the first of Stewart and Isabella's children to be born at "Glenone".


Mary Ellen [Minnie] arrived on October 24 1874, Isabella on December 28 1875, Annie Jane on September 21 1876, and Grace Barclay was born on August 17 1879.


Mrs. Frederick William Seymour was called on many times during her busy and useful life at the Bight, as Dunsborough was then known, to perform the duties of midwife in various homes in the district. Though this often meant leaving her home at night and travelling through the darkness and rain the good lady did it uncomplaining, and many were the mothers who were grateful for her skill and kindness.


So on the night of April 25 1881 young Robert Keenan rode his horse to the Bight to solicit Mrs. Seymour’s services for the last time at "Glenone".  She rode Robert's house and he stayed at Seymour's.  When Mrs. Seymour arrived back next day she announced that a baby had been born.  His name was William Stewart and he was to be last child of Stewart and Isabella.


“Bridge House”


Stewart Keenan was always on the lookout for fresh fields to conquer and during the 1860's took out a leasehold of 4000 acres of land in the Margaret River district in partnership with James Forrest.  This was later to be changed to Keenan and Abbey.  During the early stages of the lease they camped on the Margaret River where the Vasse - Karridale road crossed it above "Wallcliffe".  At this time there were many travellers to and from Karridale and Augusta and increasing numbers of them broke their journey at Keenans' camp.  


Stewart thought it would be a good idea to establish an over night stopping place for men and teams. with this in view and with the help of James Armstrong, a timber worker, who later became his son-in-law, they built what was to become known as the "Bridge House".  The project fulfilled their expectations and many were the travellers who broke their journey and enjoyed the hospitality the Keenans had to offer.


Keenan Pine Plantation


The northern part of the Keenans' cattle run was in later years planted with pines and is today known as the Keenan Pine Plantation.  




Also, for a number of years, Stewart leased "Ferndene" from Mrs. John Brockman.  In 1878 Keenan, Brockman and Lockhart built a bridge over the Margaret River adjacent to the Bridge House.  The old road from Busselton having followed the native paths and cattle tracks, ran much nearer the coast than the one that was to be built through the upper Margaret in future years.  


Eagle Bay


On January 12 1886 Eliza Keenan, then 24 years old, married James Armstrong, and for a short time lived in the house at Eagle Bay. Later they were persuaded to move to "Gingarmup" from where they were to work and manage the two properties.  


Bridge House


Stewart and Isabella then took the younger children and shifted to the Bridge House.  Robert, Harry and other capable hands would travel between the Margaret River and the Cape as necessity demanded.


During these years travellers along the Karridale Road were very numerous and many people called at the Bridge House, had a meal, fed their animals or stayed the night.  Stewart, knowing that his lease was not a permanent arrangement, began to seriously consider taking up land for himself with the idea of establishing a wayside inn.  


Ellen's Brook


He decided on Loc. 673, 200 acres adjoining the Karridale Road on the western side and taking in a section of the Ellen Brook on the south boundary. C. P. license dated January 2 1892 states that this block was in the name of Robert Keenan but this was obviously not the original license.  On November 13 1902 Isabella Keenan was granted a C. P. license for Loc. 354, 5 acres on the south boundary of Loc. 673 and taking in a section of the Ellen Brook.


As time went on Stewart and Isabella added to their property Locns. 433, 493, 673 and 1292.  In 1880 Stewart also applied for the lease in two parts of 10,000 acres; A 103 4850 acres; and No 6/6 Class 1, 4000 acres.  In answer to his application Stewart was told that a lease of 10,000 acres in two parts could not be granted, however his license A 103 was returned with permission to cut timber at no additional cost, and the 2/6 received with his application was returned to him in stamps.  The letter was signed by John Forrest, later Lord Forrest, acting for the Commissioner of Crown Lands.  


“Glenbourne”: a new house at Ellen’s Brook


So in 1888 Stewart started the building of a new house.  A site was chosen in the south-east corner of Loc. 673, on a rocky ridge overlooking the Ellen’s Brook and fronting Karridale Road.  Early in February of that year Stewart approached his son-in-law James Armstrong to assist with the building.  


James was a handy carpenter, clever at shaping timbers with the broad axe, and had done work on the homes and sheds at "Glenone and "Gingarmup".  James was still residing at "Gingarmup" and while there went into the bush, split and prepared the timber and the she-oak shingles for the new house.  Young Robert then carted the timber to Ellen’s Brook and unloaded it on the site.


The original structure consisted of a large dining-come-living room at the Ellen’s Brook end, south end, of the building.  Adjoining this was the sitting room, and opening off this were two small bedrooms.  A gabled roof covered this part of the building.  


At the back was the kitchen and two other small bedrooms under a skillion roof.  A veranda with an earthen floor ran the full length of the front of the house.  


In the early days the building was unceiled, but later the living area was ceiled with stamped metal sheets.  After many years the sitting room and two adjoining bedrooms were ceiled with galvanized flat iron sheeting.  


A door opened from the kitchen to a cobble-stoned area at the back of the house where a bench along the kitchen wall served as a washing area.


 ... to be continued

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