Walter [2] Ferguson & Margaret McKerrow


The story so far: Walter [1] Ferguson and Anne Phillips had married in Cumnock, and then served in both Ireland and South Africa with the British Army from 1799–1820. All of their children had been born while on active service, and the surviving family had returned to Cumnock after Walter [1] was injured. Walter [1] and Anne lived their lives out in and near Cumnock, Anne dying in 1855, and Walter [1] in 1861. [Read their story on this page.]

Their son Walter [2] had been born on Mauritius, but in 1836 married Margaret McKerrow, and was a miner in Cumnock. As seen on the previous page, this couple had nine children between 1836 and 1858, but Walter [2] and Margaret departed Scotland for ever with seven children in 1861. Read on …

Arrival in Brisbane

Sailing Vessel “Jessie Munn”.

The Ferguson’s three-month journey to Brisbane, via Queenstown, New Zealand, on the S.V. “Jessie Munn” (with 304 passengers) was certainly eventful. There had been two fires aboard on the journey out, and a mutiny by the crew when the ship arrived in Brisbane. It was claimed by later descendants that “… the travellers were fortified with a brew from Dr Normady’s [Newbolt’s ] distillery apparatus that was in use on the ship.” 1Source: Gold Coast Bulletin, September 8 1982; p.29. If the crew were less than efficient, then apparently the passengers made up for their failings — The Maryborough Chronicle reported the following in 1862:

“[…] information given by Mrs. L. Knox, the Matron, respecting the conduct, of the passengers, was very gratifying, and we were much pleased with the cleanliness and orderliness of everything on board;  only one matter which caused a feeling of disappointment, being the fact that the married couples were in one compartment, without screens or curtains.  This we hope will be avoided in the future arrangements of the emigrant vessels; better to limit the numbers than encourage any system which might be repulsive to the feelings of the passengers. The Captain informed us that he had been put to much inconvenience in consequence of the crew having mutinied off Moreton Island. It appears that on several occasions during the voyage some of the sailors had used bad language whilst working the vessel, and sung loose songs; eventually Captain Kerr interfered, and the ringleader having defied the skipper, he instantly ordered the man to be put in irons, upon which the others refused to work. The passengers came forward, in a gale of wind off the lighthouse, to assist the officers, and the young women came on deck, offering their services “to pull the ropes” and nobly they did their part. Singular as it may appear, we were assured that they took their places as stationed by the Captain, and brought the vessel into port. We were glad to find that the passengers were of a very superior description, and on interrogating different classes in various portions of the vessel, they expressed themselves highly pleased with the voyage. Dr. Newbold stated that there had been five births, and only one infant had died. The Captain reported that he sighted a Hamburg vessel on the line: the Ashburton, for Port Adelaide, and the Queen of England for Point de Galle, off the Brazilian coast; and a schooner from Melbourne to Otago, off Tasmania. About 350 tons of cargo are on board (as per manifest.)” 2Source: Maryborough Chronicle, Thursday 13 February 1862; Advertiser, p.4.

Some of the ‘mutineers’ were to receive prison sentences of three months with hard labour and, throughout March, newspapers continued to report on the scandalous behaviour of crew members in the streets of Brisbane! The new immigrants, however, were always spoken of in glowing terms.

Almost exactly one year later, another branch of Robyn’s maternal family was to arrive in Brisbane on the S.V. “Wanata”. This was the Hardman family from Lancashire, and their ‘Queensland’ story can be read here. Indeed, it is worth reading the Hardman story first, as it has several old pictures of Brisbane as it was when the Fergusons arrived. However, we have little information about the Ferguson family in that first year. What we do know is that, in 1863, Walter and his son William took up a land selection south of Brisbane on the Albert River, at a place called Cedar Creek — We know this date only from a newspaper report of descendants who gathered at the property for “… the first reunion picnic in 1963 to celebrate the centenary of when William Ferguson selected his Cedar Creek property near Beenleigh …”.3Gold Coast Bulletin, September 8 1982; “Ferguson clan remembers pioneer couple”, by Doug Kennedy; p.29.  Historical newspapers tell us that, at that time, the usual cost for immigrants taking up land grants was £30. So, the family was ready to start a new pioneering life as timber getters in the forested hills that lie 50 km (30 miles) south-east of Brisbane, and 25 km (16 miles) north-west of today‘s Gold Coast — but before leaving Brisbane, the oldest daughter, Jane, tied the knot with another immigrant Scot:

1864 Colony of QUEENSLAND MARRIAGES: District of Brisbane 4Source: Ferguson, Jane & Sim, James; 1864 Colony of Queensland Marriages; Nº 1094; Brisbane.

married: 2nd November 1864     at: Brisbane
According to the Rites of the Presbyterian Church

James Sim  (Bachelor) Sawyer   age: [19 –ed.]    of: Maryborough
father: [blank]     mother:  [blank]

Jane Ferguson (Spinster)   age: [20 –ed.]     of: Brisbane
father: [blank]     mother:  [blank]

minister: James Love      witnessesAlexander Sim; Ellen Patten

It is interesting that no ages were given, no parents were named, and no Ferguson family members were witnesses — perhaps Jane was ‘eloping’!  Whatever the circumstances, Jane went north to Maryborough to start a new life just as the rest of her family moved south to Cedar Creek. Jane and James were to have three children between 1865 and 1870, all born at Dundathu, just north of Maryborough.  Jane died in Maryborough Hospital of a stroke in 1923, aged 79; James had shuffled off his mortal coil nearly five years earlier in 1918, aged 74.

Cedar Creek, Albert River

An old sketch of “Woodhead”.

As soon as the Fergusons arrived at Cedar Creek, they began building a wooden house with the help of neighbours — and they named their new property “Woodhead”, which is the place that Margaret McKerrow had lived with her family back in Ayrshire. The property immediately west belonged to David Veivers, and that family would become entwined with the Fergusons in the years to come. Very little is known of the family in the next few years other than what can be found in  marriage and death certificates.  We know that life for pioneers was a hard one, and we have one recollection from a descendant that paints the picture: “When the men had to make trips on horseback and with packhorses 14 miles through bush to Beaudesert to get supplies, they would be away two days. During their absence, the women and children would gather in one home for company and to feel safe from the natives.” 5Source: “Ferguson History”, by Agnes Neinert (Ferguson), Kingscliff, NSW, 1982.

It wasn’t long before two more daughters got married. In 1867, Agnes married Kenneth Morrison, another immigrant Scot from the district. However, this couple must have moved north to Gympie quite quickly, as their 10 children were all born in that town between 1868 and 1893 (this town becomes more important to our story in the years to come).

1867 Colony of QUEENSLAND MARRIAGES: District of Brisbane 6Source: Ferguson, Agnes & Morrison, Kenneth; 1867 Colony of Queensland Marriages; Nº 2169; Brisbane.

married: 23rd July 1867    at: South Brisbane
According to the rites of the Congregational Church

Kenneth Morrison (Bachelor) Laborer   age: 24 years   of: Albert River  born: Scotland  [Isle of Lewis –ed.]
father: John Morrison    mother: Margaret McRitchie

Agnes Ferguson (Spinster) age: 21 years   of: Albert River    born: Scotland
father: Walter Ferguson    mother:  Margaret McKerrow

minister: David Mossops      witness: John McEleace

Agnes died of diabetes mellitus in 1915, seven years before her husband; she was 69. Kenneth, who had been a school master, was in Brisbane when he died in 1922, aged 80. It was two and a half years after Agnes left the family home before her sister Marion married John Veivers, a brother to their neighbour David:

1870 Colony of QUEENSLAND MARRIAGES: District of Brisbane 7Source: Ferguson, Marrion & Vevers, John; 1870 Colony of Queensland Marriages; Nº 2169; Brisbane.

married: 6th January 1870    at: Brisbane
According to the rites of the Presbyterian Church

John Vevers (Bachelor) Timber getter   age: 26 years   of: Nerang Creek  born: Canonbie, Dumfrieshire, Scotland
father: John Vevers    mother: Grace Hill

Marrion Ferguson (Spinster) age: 18 years   of: Albert River    born: Ayrshire, Scotland
father: Walter Ferguson    mother:  Margaret McKerrow

minister: James Love      witnesses: Susan Petty; William Ferguson

Marion and John Veivers had their first child at Cedar Creek (1870), and the next one in Brisbane (1871), before settling at their dairy property called “Talgai”, which was near Worongary on Boobegan Creek. Their next eight children were born at “Talgai” between  1873 and 1890 (this address would become significant for Robyn’s line during these years). John died of a stomach disease in 1904 at “Parkhouse”, his brother’s home 5 km (3 miles) north-west of “Woodhead”; he was just 66.

In 1906, Marion faced a court case where a Harry Timbs accused her and some of her sons of badly assaulting him because of his attentions towards her daughter Nellie. She survived that, and battled on until 1908 when she died at home of endocarditis; she was only 57. After her death, their dairy property at “Talgai” was auctioned off, along with: “… about 85 Milch Cows, from three to six years old, about 35 Heifers, 5 Bulls, about 20 Steers, and about 30 Calves on the bucket. Also one horse, farming implements, springcart, dogcart, harness, 75-gaIlon Princess cream separator, eight cream cans, six buckets, grindstone, cob crusher, nailers, dray, one plough, one harrow, one new disc plough, household furniture and effects, and a number of sundries.” 8Source: Brisbane Telegraph; Friday 18 December, 1908.Robyn’s grandmother, as we will find out, had been born there in 1879.

However, the next event at Cedar Creek was when Margaret McKerrow finally succumbed to dropsy (oedema, or fluid under the skin) in 1873:

1873 Colony of QUEENSLAND DEATHS: District of Logan 9Source: FERGUSON, Margaret; 1873 Colony of Queensland Deaths; Nº 46; Logan.

Margaret Ferguson, Farmer’s Wife
died: 12th January 1873   at: Woodhead, Cedar Creek   age: 60 years  [57 –ed.]
cause: Dropsy – 12 months

father: John McKerrow, Ploughman    mother: Jane Hodge

informant: Walter Ferguson, Husband    of: Woodhead, Cedar Creek

buried: 12th January 1873     at: Woodhead, Cedar Creek     undertaker: Andrew McLatchie  [!!]
minister: Peter McLean, acting Minister of the Methodist Church     witnesses: John Lea; George Bowser

born: Auchinleck, Ayrshire, Scotland; 11 years in Queensland
married to: Walter Ferguson     at: Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland    aged: 19 years
issue living: Walter (30); John (28); William (25); Jane (23); Agnes (20); David (19); Marion (18); James (16); Helen (14)

issue deceased: 1 male (still born)

It was from this record that we first discovered Margaret’s mother was Jane Hodge, which helped us to build the story in the previous  chapter. We know she was buried on the old homestead, but the current owners are not sure where her grave is located on the property. An intriguing thing to note is the name of the undertaker. McLatchie is a rare name, but several of the Ferguson family were buried back in Cumnock, Ayrshire, by a William McLatchie — is this Andrew McLatchie related, and carrying on the family business Downunder? It seems feasible. Margaret, however, was actually only 57, and had spent most of her life in places called “Woodhead”. The ages of her children on the death certificate are generally underestimated; they should read: Walter (36); John (34); William (32); Jane (28); Agnes (27); David (24); Marion (21); James (19); Helen (14).

Walter was 58, and now a widower, but this is where his chronology becomes uncertain. Sometime in the next eight years, he was to leave the Cedar Creek farm in the hands of his son William and head north to Gympie, possibly to live near his daughter Agnes Morrison. However, William was about to put his stamp on the history of Cedar Creek when he married about eight months after his mother passed:

1873 Colony of QUEENSLAND MARRIAGES: District of Logan 10Source: Ferguson, William & Ferguson, Margaret; 1867 Colony of Queensland Marriages; Nº 2169; Brisbane.

married: 5th September 1873  at: Fern Vale, Albert River
According to the rites of the Wesley and Methodist Church

William Ferguson (Bachelor) Farmer   age: 30 years  [32 –ed.]  of: Cedar Creek
born: Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland
father: Walter Ferguson, Farmer    mother: Margaret McKerrow

Margaret Ferguson (Spinster) age: 19 years   of:  Fern Vale    born: Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
father: William Ferguson    mother:  Margaret Baird

minister: Robert Pearce      witnesses: David Ferguson; Jane Ferguson

An 1887 surveyor’s map of the Cedar Creek properties, showing the Ferguson allotments in blue, and David Veivers’ holdings in pink. The neighbour Edward Harrison (bottom) helped cut the weather-boards for the “Woodhead” homestead.

William had married a Margaret Ferguson from Glasgow (no relation). Fern Vale was a property on the Albert River about 10 km (6 miles) north of Cedar Creek, and one of their descendants related this story about the wedding: “There were so many guests at the house for the wedding, William had to get dressed behind some gum trees nearby … After the wedding William took his bride to the Cedar Creek property near Beenleigh and, in the years that followed, had 10 children.” 11Source: Gold Coast Bulletin, 8 Sep 1982, p.29. Another thing to note, as with his mother, he was now a Methodist. Presumably, Walter was still at “Woodhead” when this marriage happened. William himself eventually handed the property on to his own son John (born 1887), and for a while ran the Queen’s Hotel at Nerang before retiring to Ipswich.

In 1874, a writer for the Brisbane Courier waxed lyrical about journeying in the district: […] From Henderson’s, the route is pleasant and easy to Sandy and Cedar Creeks; at the latter place a call at Ferguson’s will be exactly the thing, particularly if the party should be fortunate enough to reach there in time to see Old Sol go down. From Ferguson’s house, which is situated at the foot almost of the mountain, is to be seen Cedar Creek gliding along in a semi-circular form on one side, while on the other are rich grazing flats, running gently up to some picturesque hills on the other side […] if the travellers should be fortunate enough to find Ferguson at home, they will be sure of shelter for the night and hospitable treatment […]”12Source: The Brisbane Courier, Saturday, 11 July 1874; “Out for a Holiday” by Pilgrim; p.6.

William and Margaret had ten children between 1875 and 1895, most of them born at “Woodhead”; their last child, Kenneth, was born in Mudgeeraba, probably when they were at the Queen’s Hotel. William died of senility and enteritis at Musgrave Street, North Ipswich, in 1921, aged 80 (though his death certificate said 71). Margaret had passed on at Ipswich in 1919 when she was 64 — both are buried in Toowong Cemetery.

Nerang Creek, Gympie and Maryborough

We know that Walter eventually was to leave “Woodhead” and move north to Gympie to work as a miner at the One Mile gold mine, where he came to an unfortunate end — but, sometime in those years,  three more of his children married. First up was Helen:

1874 Colony of Queensland MARRIAGES: District of Gympie 13Source: Ferguson, Ellen & Sim, William; 1874 Colony of Queensland Marriages; Nº 125;  Gympie.

married: 17th July 1874
at: residence of the Bride’s sister, Redhill, Gympie
According to the rites of the Presbyterian Church

William Sim, Sawyer (Bachelor)   age: 24   born: Tain, Ross, Scotland
of: Coutharaba Mill
father: James Sim, Sawyer    mother:  Ann Grant

Ellen Murdoch Ferguson (Spinster)   age: 21  [actually 16 –ed.]   born: Old Cumnock, Ayr, Scotland
of: Maryborough
father: Walter Ferguson, Farmer  mother:  Margaret McKerrow

minister: Archibald Crawford   witnesses: George F. Nicol; Augustine Smith

Helen was youngest of Walter and Margaret’s children, and she seriously lied about her age when she married William Sim (she was only 16!). Her sister Jane, you will remember, also married a ‘Sim” , but it doesn’t seem William and James were related, even though they were both sawyers and lived in the same region.  Helen married at the home of her other sister Agnes who, as we know, had already moved to Gympie. So, now, three of the four Ferguson sisters lived in or near what today we call the ‘Fraser Coast’, a good 260 km (160 miles) north of Cedar Creek. Helen and William had 5 children between 1874 and 1884, the last one being registered in Tiaro, about 25 km (15 miles) south of Maryborough. However, Helen, the last of her siblings, died in 1934 at Tweed Heads, New South Wales, aged 76. Her husband, William, died in 1907; he was only 57. Helen’s obituary tells her story: 14Source: Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW); Saturday, 1 September 1934, p. 3.

❝ Mrs. Ellen Murdoch Sim, a highly respected and well-known identity of Tweed Heads, died yesterday afternoon, in her 78th [76th –ed.] year. A native of Ayrshire, Scotland, she came out as a young girl in a sailing ship to Queensland with her parents, who settled at Cedar Creek.
She married at Gympie, in 1874, William Sim, who died at Alstonville in 1907 as the result of a sawmill accident. Mrs. Sim came to the Tweed with her husband 40 years ago. They took up residence at Condong, and later at Tumbulgum. [Then] to Southport, back to Murwillumbah and later to Alstonville. On the death of her husband, Mrs. Sim removed with her family to Tweed Heads, where she had resided for the past 27 years. [She] was of a placid and kindly disposition [and] an excellent horsewoman in her young days. She thought nothing of riding 30 or 40 miles through scrub-country to assist others, being noted for her great kindness of heart. She was also a skilled needlewoman.
For the past six months her failing health had been causing her family anxiety, and the final attack during the past week proved too much for her heart and she passed away peacefully shortly before 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. […] The funeral will move from the Presbyterian Church, Tweed Heads, today at 3 p.m. for the Tweed Heads cemetery.❞ 

The next to take marriage vows was Robyn’s great-grandfather, and this is where we get our connection to the Hardman family of Lancashire:

1877 Colony of Queensland MARRIAGES: District of Brisbane  15Source: FERGUSON, David & HARDMAN, Emma Alice; 1877 Colony of Queensland Marriages; A 39191;  Brisbane, Queensland.

married: 21st February 1877
at: the house of the Revd. D.F. Mitchell, Hope Street, South Brisbane
According to the rites of the Presbyterian Church

David Ferguson, Sawyer (Bachelor)   age: 26   born: Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland
of: Nerang Creek, Gilston
father: Walter Ferguson, Timber Cutter    mother:  Margaret McKerrow

Emma Alice Hardman (Spinster)   age: 22   born: Manchester, England  [actually Tonge, Lancashire –ed.]
of: South Brisbane
father: James Hardman, Farmer  mother:  Mary — [Frankland –ed.]

minister: D.F. Mitchell   witnesses: Walter Ferguson; Ellen Patterson

Emma was five-months pregnant when they married, and given that her new father-in-law, Walter, was at the Brisbane wedding, it seems likely that he had not at that time moved to Gympie. Indeed, he was still described as a “timber cutter”, so had not yet become a miner. David and Emma must have soon after moved to “Talgai” (the property owned by his sister Marion and her husband, John Veivers), because both of their children were born there: David Ferguson in 1877, and Margaret McKerrow Ferguson in 1879. We’ll read more about this family later on. David was the first member of his family not to marry another Scot, but a year later he was followed in that regard by his younger brother James:

1878 Colony of Queensland MARRIAGES: District of Brisbane 16Source: Ferguson, James & Bozier, Robina; 1878 Colony of Queensland Marriages; Nº 5943;  Brisbane.

married: 2nd February 1878
at: Manse, Ann Street, Brisbane
According to the rites of the Presbyterian Church

James Ferguson, Timer Getter (Bachelor)   age: 22  [24 –ed.]   born: Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland
of: Nerang Creek
father: Walter Ferguson, Timber Getter   mother:  Margaret McKeeler  [McKerrow –ed.]

Robina Bozier (Spinster)   age: 22   born: Tweed River, New South Wales
of: Nerang Creek
father: William Bozier, Timber Getter    mother: Ann Bushel
minister: Charles Ogg   witnesses: David Ferguson; Emma Alice Ferguson

The witnesses to this marriage were Robyn’s great-grandparents. Robina’s parents were English, and this couple had five children between 1878 and 1894. The first four were born in Queensland, and the last one in Murwillumbah in New South Wales. We know very little about this family, but  James died at Lismore in 1926 (aged 72), and Robina at Murwillumbah in 1937 (aged 79).

Final curtains

It seems that Walter Ferguson probably moved north to Gympie to live near his daughter Agnes Morrison. He would have been in his mid sixties when he started working as a miner at the One Mile gold mine, but died in a tragic accident in 1881:

1881 Colony of QUEENSLAND DEATHS: District of Gympie 17Source: FERGUSON, Walter; 1881 Colony of Queensland Deaths; Nº873; Gympie.

Walter [2] Ferguson, Miner
died: 24th August 1881  at: One Mile, Gympie   age: 77 years  [actually 67 –ed.]
cause: Accidentally drowned in the shaft of Nos. 2 & 3 South Smithfield Reef
A Magisterial inquiry was held by J. Farrelly J.P. on 31st August, 1881

father: Walter [1] Ferguson, Soldier    mother: Agnes Phillips  [actually Anne Phillips –ed.]  

informant: William (X mark) Ferguson, Son   of: Gympie

buried: 25th August 1881   at: General Cemetery, Gympie   undertaker: C. Rowe
minister: Leslie C. Jamieson, Congregational    witnesses: Thos. Cockburn; C. Johnson

born: Africa [actually Mauritius –ed.]; 19 years in Queensland
married to: Margaret McCarragh [McKerrow –ed.]  at: Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland   aged: 36 years [actually 21 –ed.]
issue living: William (40); Jane (38); Agnes (30); David (28); James (24); Ellen (22).
issue deceased: 1 male

Again, the ages of his children are all wrong and, worse, three were not mentioned at all! This section should have read: Walter (45); John (43); William (40); Jane (37); Agnes (35); David (32); James (27); Marion (30); Helen (23). However, a work-related death was always going to be the subject of a magisterial inquiry, and reports of the findings were published in several newspapers throughout the region — this one from the Brisbane Telegraph: 18Source: The Telegraph, Brisbane; Monday 29 August 1881; p.2.

❝ FATAL MINING ACCIDENT.— On Wednesday morning … a most deplorable and fatal accident happened at the 2 and 3 South Smithfield mine. It appears that the men employed on 12 o’clock shift were, at about half-past 5 in the morning, firing some shots in the northern drive at the 300-feet level, and, as usual, had gone back to the shaft preparatory to crossing to the western crosscut for safety. The captain of the shift remained at the mouth of the drive to see that the fuses ignited, and as soon as he was satisfied on that head, the men under him were informed of the fact, and an elderly man named Walter Ferguson, who for some time resided near the Perseverance line of reef, attempted to get over the shaft to the crosscut. Unfortunately, just as he was in the act of this, the tank, used for bailing, descended, and, striking him on the head, precipitated him into the shaft, which was filled. with water to within about eight feet of the level from which he fell. The tank continued to descend, and must have forcibly kept him under water sufficiently long to cause his death through drowning. As soon as possible the manager of the mine, Mr. Jno M‘Gregor, was sent for, and a grappling iron being meanwhile procured, Ferguson was shortly afterwards pulled out. He was buried yesterday afternoon.❞

It was a long way from Walter’s birth at Port Louis on Mauritius to his accidental death at Gympie Queensland. He had been an army brat at Mauritius, the Cape of Good Hope, and Calcutta; a miner in Cumnock, Ayrshire; a timber getter at Cedar Creek; and a gold miner at Gympie. He had married, had nine children and had migrated with most of his family on a small sailing vessel halfway round the world. He had been named for his soldier father, and eight of his grandsons bore his name.

A later photo of “Woodhead”.

Margaret McKerrow likewise had endured a life of hard work in her 57 years, and had shared the pioneering life of her man. Seven of her granddaughters were named ‘Margaret McKerrow’ and she now lies peacefully in an unmarked grave — and there’s some corner of Cedar Creek that is forever Scotland [apologies to Rupert Brooke]. I may never be able to fully account for all their descendants, but Walter and Margaret had in at least 58 grandchildren, of whom 41 reached adulthood — and, collectively, they and their parents are part of the history of both Cumnock in Ayrshire and several places in Queensland. Our part in that story will continue with David Ferguson and Emma Alice Hardman.



3. Queensland: 1861–1920 — No Comments

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