Trove Tuesday: a little boy wins a prize

Yesterday I came across this little snippet on Trove about my grandfather’s younger brother George Michael Kunkel. He had won a prize at the Beenleigh Show in September 1895 for “a home exercise book for children under 10”. Now this would be a delightful but comparatively unimportant find in the normal course of research events. However it meant much more to me than that because George would die, aged just 14, less than four years later on 1 May 1899.

Can’t you just see him sitting at a table in the railway camp, writing his evening homework in his exercise book by the light of a kerosene lamp.

Just imagine his excitement to have won that prize – I wonder whether it involved just a certificate or if there was some practical item or money. It warms my heart to think of his pride in his achievement. I’m so pleased that this young boy experienced success in his short life.

Trove Tuesday is an initiative of Amy from Branches, Leaves and Pollen.

Citation: 1895 ‘THE PRIZE SCHEDULE.’, The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), 14 September, p. 520, viewed 11 September, 2012,

Biographical Background

George Michael Kunkel was born in Toowoomba on 18 October 1884 and conditionally baptised there on 10 December 1884 with witnesses Thomas Iain and Annie Iain. Why his baptism was conditional I don’t know but I suspect he was not a well child and may have had some physical disability. It was certainly nothing to do with his parents’ religious standing as George and Julia were dyed-in-the-wool committed Catholics. The mathematical among us will already have realised that George was already 10 when he won the prize. Again his possible disability may have had something to do with that.

Little else is know about George other than that he attended the Logan Village school in the early 1890s.  Oral history suggests he was buried at Jimboomba but I have been unable to verify that. Perhaps it’s time I bought his death certificate.

Jogging into Jondaryan, Jimbour and Jimboomba

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). These “J” stories come with a genealogue warning.

J is for Jondaryan (Queensland, Australia)

Head west from Toowoomba en route to Dalby and you will come to Jondaryan, a pastoral station which in its heyday of the 1870s was a “colonial colossus of 62,750 hectares (about 155,000 acres)”[i] with a large population of sheep, all of which needed shearing in season, and caring for between times. As I read this excellent article about the station’s history, I looked at the bullock wagon-load of wool and wondered if my Denis Gavin had been among the men who moved the vast quantities of wool towards Brisbane.

Was Jondaryan Pastoral Station the place where my great-grandparents, George Michael Kunkel and Julia Celia Gavin met, perhaps through Julia’s father’s work as a carrier?

We visited Jondaryan in 1989, a few years after I started my family history. This was a working example of re-metalling the wagon wheels -putting new metal bands on the wheels and tightening them.

What is known from the station’s records[ii], is that young George (aged 16) was employed as a lamber for three months from 15 September to 3 December 1875, the year of a big drought. This was when the Kunkels were buying their farm at the Fifteen Mile, so perhaps as the eldest son George was helping to bring in much-needed cash, to supplement his father’s railway earnings. Other members of a Julia’s family and another unrelated Gavin family also worked there: hardly surprising given the scale of the operation and the number of people it employed.

These days Jondaryan’s past history is visible to anyone who wishes to visit: it’s now known as Jondaryan Woolshed and is a regular feature on school excursion itineraries. I wonder how many children have visited without knowing a distant relative worked there.

A key reference book on Jondaryan is Jondaryan Station: the relationship between pastoral capital and pastoral labour 1840-1890, click on the link to see my comments on the book. Picture Australia also has a number of images from the early days. The map below gives you some idea of the distirbution of the places mentioned starting from Jimbour in the north west through to Jimboomba in the south east. (it is about 126 kms from Toowoomba to Brisbane, to give you a sense of scale).


J is for Jimbour  (Queensland) 

In the late 1980s I was struggling to unravel the strands of Gavin families all living and working on the Downs in the vicinity of Dalby. I had connected with another researcher by snail mail and slowly but surely we made progress on figuring out these families. Carmel died over twenty years ago but I still think of her and how we collaborated on this challenge…how much easier it would have been via email and with digitised records, but perhaps less fun. We had gone to the same school in Brisbane, some 20+ years apart but somehow we were simpatico.

Among my earliest family history discoveries was the story of two boys who drowned on Jimbour station back in its early days[iii]. The  were cousins aged 12 and 6 and both named Michael Gavin.The inquest[iv] identifies the parents of Bridget and the younger Michael as Stephen and Anna (aka Honora Mulkerrin) Gavin. The twelve year old Michael was the son of Mark and Anna Gavin.

Mark Gavin/Gavan was a convict, one of those known as an exile, who was granted his ticket of leave on arrival in 1849 and sent to Mr Bell at Jimbour to work as a shepherd. Mark’s brothers Thomas and Stephen emigrated as remittance passengers with their families in 1859 and 1862 respectively. One of Mark and Anna’s children emigrated with Thomas and all lived and worked at Jimbour, at least initially. The drowned six year old had arrived as a baby of one. Stephen and his wife Honora are the only family I’ve encountered returning to Ireland, and I feel they must have had some financial support to do so. This only became apparent because the family re-emigrated to Queensland in 1874.

The newspaper story of the “melancholy and fatal accident” was comprehensive.[v] Three children, Michael Gavin 12, Bridget Gavin, 9 and Michael Gavin 6, were playing at bullocky near the water at the Maia Camp outstation on Jimbour on Monday 29 October 1866. They slipped, lost their footing and slid into the water. The little girl, Bridget, managed to escape by grabbing some rushes and could see no sign of her brother and her cousin. Just imagine a nine-year old’s panic as she ran to the hut to fetch her mother, and the distress of her mother as she ran another three miles to the washpool for assistance. The bodies were recovered later by George Perkins and an unnamed Aboriginal man.

The two young lads are remembered on a memorial plaque at Jimbour. These Gavin families had already experienced so many hardships to survive the Great Famine, and then sailing to Australia. Theirs was true pioneer courage. There were new members of Mark’s Gavin’s family born in Australia, baptised by Ipswich’s travelling priest, Fr McGinty who rode many miles across Moreton Bay to care for his own flock.

Jimbour remains a long-standing Queensland property which opens its doors to visitors these days. It’s many years since I looked at the area, but not the house or garden, and it too is on my future visit-list.

J is for Jimboomba (Queensland)

Jimboomba was one of several railway camps and towns where great-grandfather George Michael Kunkel and his family lived and worked. He is known to have started work with Queensland Railways in 1878, aged 20. His wife Julia was also sometimes employed as a carriage cleaner or gate operator. Little is known of their time in Jimboomba and they may have been stationed between Logan Village and Jimboomba. Indications are that two of their children were born in Jimboomba, William Thomas and Matthew David John. Another son, George Michael Kunkel, was reported to have died as a child and been buried there, but I have been unable to get any verification of that.  These days Jimboomba is a village not too far from where we used to live in Brisbane, but in those far-off days, life would have been very basic, as it usually was in the railway camps.

Translation: A station in this context is the equivalent of an American ranch.

Somewhere I have old photos of these three places, or their environments, but they are lost in the maze of my personal photos. The more I scan, the more confused the picture archives become…perhaps a project for May when the A to Z challenge is complete.

[ii] These books were found by John Eggleston in the late 1980s. There is an index of names available at the Genealogical Society of Queensland and also Queensland State Archives (in a book near the door).

[iii] These stories are easy enough to find now that Trove has digitised the newspapers but in the late 1980s, it would have been impossible to find this story without the indexing work of the Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society.

[iv] Page 3, column 6. The inquest into the death of Michael Gavin (12) and Michael Gavin (6) is in Queensland State Archives at JUS/N13 66/174.

[v] Darling Downs Gazette of 3 Nov 1866

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 36 Road Trips, American soldiers and Natural Arch.

The topic for Week 36 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Road Trips. Describe a family road trip from your childhood. Where did you go and why? Who was in the car? How did you pass the time?

Road trips were mostly non-existent in my childhood as we didn’t own a car (Ironically Week 3 of this series featured “Cars”). However I do remember one of the day drives we did with our neighbours, Mr and Mrs Gay. He was a railway man like my father and for some strange reason whenever the car drove over a railway line they’d say “Pull up the railway line and sack all the men”. For the life of me I can’t figure out why and never have been able to! All I can think is that it may have been their equivalent of winning the Lotto and escaping work. Or perhaps it was purely ironic.

An image of American soldiers working at Camp Cable near Logan south of Brisbane c1942. Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, no image number. Copyright expired.

Anyway when we went for a drive we’d have singalongs of old-favourite songs. Do people still do that as a matter of course? Somehow it seems symbolic of an earlier, simpler time when before in-car music systems and indeed DVD, when driving was leisurely. I know that Judy over on Jottings Journeys and Genealogy sings while driving long distances and that’s the likeliest time for me to do the karaoke-type thing….easily explained by being a really poor singer.

Returning to our day drive, our ultimate destination was Natural Arch and Springbrook National Park, south of Brisbane. These days it would be a short enough drive when the freeway wasn’t busy but I remember it as something of an adventure. I guess we just took our time. Along the way we stopped at a cairn which commemorated Camp Cable which had been a US base during WWII and named for the only American soldier, Sergeant Gerald Cable, killed when their ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine en route[i]. I suppose it was relatively new when we visited it. Camp Cable was near the railway line, close to Logan Village and less than 10kms from Jimboomba.  Dad’s grandparents, George Michael and Julia Kunkel, lived near here when George worked on that section of the line and I wonder if Dad knew this when we stopped to visit the cairn. He would certainly have known the area himself from the train line as his father had worked on the Gold Coast line and we travelled it en route to holidays at Currumbin.

Dad and I at Natural Arch all those years ago.

Natural Arch is, as it says, a natural feature in which a waterfall comes down through the roof of a cave. There is a short walk from the park through rainforest and you can see a waterhole and creek before it drops down into the cave. If you go to the mouth of the cave, you see the waterfall come powering down. I do remember being impressed with it – so much so that when we had access to a car while on holidays from PNG one year we went back there for a visit. Sadly it didn’t have the same impact as it had when I was a child and I don’t think we’ve ever been back, favouring nearby Lamington National Park instead. Perhaps the explanation is simple: the first time we saw it there had been plenty of rain and the creek and the waterfall were flowing heavily while the second time the creek was barely trickling.

It appears I was there even if I have no memory of it. How formal a photo for a picnic outing.

This 52 week series frequently challenges my memory, sometimes bringing things back with great clarity and other time highlighting vast blanks. For example I have no memory of a picnic that day though we almost inevitably had one. I surely don’t remember the glow worms the web sites mention. I don’t even recall driving to the New South Wales border that day which we apparently did. Frustrating!

I can’t resist a quick mention of road trips of a sort when we went on Girl Guide camps. We’d load up the girls and camping gear in the back of a four-ton truck then head off to the camp-site singing and waving and generally having a good time. Not only would it not be legal these days, I can’t imagine parents letting their kids do it even if it was.

[i] I’ve learnt more about this cairn through reading the website for the 32nd Infantry Division, the Red Arrows at:

Another interesting history of Logan with reference to this cairn is here: