The View From Mount Clarence

A look back at settlement along Western Australia's South Coast

Interlude Pursued – Part 4

Originally Published 15 September 2014:

More thoughts on the movements and whereabouts of John James Dunn prior to March 20th, 1881

Telegraph - Albany to Port Augsta - Goog EarthAbove: Construction of the East-West telegraph line between Albany and Port Augusta, South Australia, impacted upon settlement along Western Australia’s South Coast. Both the Gillam and Dunn families established in Port Augusta between 1876 and at least 1888. John Dunn and Henrietta Gillam may have gone there together with their infant daughter Grace, in December 1875.

The city of Port Augusta in South Australia plays a role in the history of Western Australia’s South Coast as much as it does in the communications history of Australia at large. This is because it was the point at which the young continent was linked telegraphically from both North to South and East to West.

From 1870, Port Augusta served as the South Australian base for the construction of the Darwin-Adelaide line, and from 1875, as the South Australian base for the Adelaide-Albany line, which was completed in 1877.

Western Australia had been preoccupied with it’s task of erecting the Albany to Eucla length of the line since the concept of a Trans-Australian/Trans-World link had been nationally backed a year earlier.  In 1870, when work started on the North-South link between Darwin and Port Augusta, a young explorer named John Forrest was given command of an expedition to chart an overland route along W.A.’s south coast, a trek precedented up until that time only by Eyre and Wylie’s great walk in the opposite direction almost thirty years earlier.

Forrest’s route  from Perth took him southwards via Kojonup and Eticup to Jarramungup Station. From there they crossed south eastwards to the Phillip’s River, the Oldfield River, on to Esperance Bay, Thomas River, Israelite Bay, Eucla, Fowlers Bay, across to Port Augusta and down to Adelaide. During the Jarramungup to Esperance Bay stage Forrest met John Dunn, Campbell Taylor and Andrew Dempster, all familiar names in these pages.  The success of  Forrest’s expedition and his positive report of pastures at Eucla caused a wave of excitement among a related group of South Coast settlers who then took it upon themselves to risk absolutely everything and set out to claim their own pastoral leases along that interminable stretch.

These newly motivated settlers were Stephen and William Ponton (and their partner John Sharp), who had been leasing a second sub-division of the Porongurups held by John McKail, called Pilgi-Pilgi; the Kennedy brothers and their partner William McGill, who had been keeping sheep in the Gordon River area (Tambellup) north of the Stirling Ranges; and the Muir family, the relatives of George and Grizel Cheyne I posted about some weeks ago.

Bunda CliffsAbove: The Bunda Cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. The cliffs front the Nullabor Plain east of Eucla for a hundred kilometers. I’m using this photo to give a sense of the scale and isolation the early settlers seemed unwilling or unable to recognise. Photo from the public domain.

Thomas and William (John) Kennedy and William Stewart McGill had come to the Albany area as free men via New Zealand and South Australia. The Kennedys were from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and McGill was Scottish. (Western Mail, 7 March, 1903) They began their journey to the eastwards with 1600 sheep in 1871, almost as soon as the Forrest expedition report had become known. These men subsequently commenced the notorious Mandra Bellae (Mundrabilla) Station west of Eucla in a very dangerous country, home to the Mirning tribe and starved of resources. Peter Gifford’s book, Black and White and In Between, the story of Arthur Dimer, tells of the frontier violence conducted around Mundrabilla in the years following the station’s establishment.

The Kennedy’s and McGill would have settled at the only permament water supply in the region, actually at Eucla itself, instead of their more western locality, had they arrived ahead of the sons of Andrew Muir , Thomas and John. How much the Muir family knew about the Kennedy and McGill overland journey and their end aim of taking-up at Eucla isn’t fully known, but it can be fairly safely assumed that news will have reached them when the Kennedy McGill drove passed Cape Arid, home to Cambell Taylor’s Thomas River station, Lynburn, which was also local to two active whaling leases at that time. In the time it took for the Kennedy’s and McGill to travel from Cape Arid to Eucla the family of Andrew Muir had secured their stock and supplies at Albany and sailed them across, overtaking their competitors while they were in the region of Israelite Bay. This move, and the subsequent grant of 1000 acres Andrew Muir’s family received courtesy of the  Crown for ‘opening up the country’ was a pill bitterly swallowed by William McGill.

I’m relating this story because John Reid Muir, who ran the A. Muir & Sons sheep station at Eucla, called ‘Moopina’, from 1872 until his death there in June 1878, had married Asenath Gillam, Henrietta’s oldest sister.

Both the Dunn and Gillam families would have been familiar with the ex-convict Ponton brothers, Steven and William, who went eastwards from the Porongurups in 1873. The Ponton’s, perhaps, were inspired not only by Forrest’s reports but by the efforts of John and George Dunn at the Phillips River and by Campbell Taylor’s decision to extend his limited Oldfield River holding with one of the new 100, 000 acre ‘blocks’ in the so-called Eastern District at Cape Arid. The Ponton brothers and John Sharpe first established at Point Malcolm, just east of Thomas River, then went on to establish Balladonia Station, inland to the east of Fraser Range. The Pontons and John Sharp also became embroiled in frontier violence.

Remember from an earlier post (Interlude Pursued, Part 1) I said that Dartambaum, the man who organised the killing of John Dunn, had been married to a Ngadju women whose Aboriginal name has been forgotten? This woman, Dartambaum’s first wife, was Anna Ryan or Anna White. There was no known issue from her marriage to old Jumbo but Anna Ryan/White also formed a partnership with William Ponton, probably in 1874, a result of which was the birth of a daughter, Topsy Whitehand.

I’m referencing this information because it shows patterns of relationship existed between both blacks and whites separately and blacks and whites in unison. That there were so few people out there in the first place explains the distances over which these relationships existed and above all illustrates the parallels between both groups with regard to their choices of place. It’s almost absurd to have to spell out the obvious, but fresh water was so scarce it meant everything. The natives were already there, the settlers came along and the disruption caused conflict. The more vital the water supply, the more tense the situation. A pattern repeated all over Australia during that period.

The addition of the Point Malcolm/Balladonia, Mundrabilla and Moopina sheep stations to the South Coast’s earliest collection coincided with the surveying and actual laying of the East-West telegraph track, and in so-doing extended the links between the settler families who occupy these pages. The other aspect of the telegraphing of Australia relevant to this post was the introduction and use of camels into the business of overland transport. Port Augusta played an important role in the migration of Afghan led camel trains into Western Australia (the Coolgardie Goldrush following on from the era of interior travel based out of the gullet of the Spencer Gulf) and one man to involve himself in this business was Alfred Meadows Gillam, Henrietta’s older brother, who went to Port Augusta in 1875 to work.

I discovered this through some research I did last week.  Scouring Trove, I found an article from the South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail which had picked up a post from the Port Augusta Dispatch from April 9th, 1880, relating to the death of John Dunn. The article is extremely useful in helping position the whereabouts of John in the lead up to March 1880 and also tells us more about the connection between the Dunn and Gillam families and South Australia.

That article is also related to another I was referred to by the curator of the Ravensthorpe Museum, Ann Williams, a few days previous. Ann’s article came from a small piece of reminiscence published in the Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail. Dated 11 October, 1905, the article refers to the story of a native fight at Ravensthorpe between the tribes of  Cocanarup and Jerramungup, which I thought was very interesting but only obscurely related to the death of John Dunn at Cocanarup in 1880.

The South Australian report of John Dunn’s death read as follows:

South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1868 – 1881),  Saturday 17 April 1880, page 6, 7,

We are informed,’ says the Port Augusta Dispatch of April 9, ‘ that Mr. John Dunn, who was for a short time residing in Port Augusta about nine months ago, and who was a brother of Mrs. Gillam of this place, was killed by natives on Wednesday last near his brother’s residence, Phillips River, Western Australia.

It appears that while Mr. Dunn was here he heard of a Mr. Moore (Moir) having been killed in that – neighborhood by the natives, and that the police were unable to find the murderers, whereupon he expressed his conviction of being able to find and arrest the guilty persons.

This, it appears, he did soon after his return to Western Australia, and handed them over to the police, who, by some unaccountable blunder, allowed the prisoners to escape, and it is supposed that his murder was in revenge for having made the arrest referred to. The deceased was about 30 years of age, and was greatly respected by all his friends and acquaintances.

The article is buried deep within the general news section of the paper and isn’t accurate, though it did make me think about a possible motive for John being singled out by Dartambaum. What is most telling though is the indication John Dunn was in South Australia right up until the Winter of 1879.

John looks to have been staying with his sister, Margaret, who had married Alfred Gillam in Adelaide, on Feb 1st, 1876. Alfred and Margaret went to live in Port Augusta and it looks like the Gillam/Dunn association with that town may have commenced with them. (That the couple married at Adelaide is also curious, if not revealing.)  Alfred and Margaret’s two sons Percy and Stan were born at Port Augusta in 1879 and 1882 respectively. Margaret sadly died from fever at Port Augusta on November 20th, 1883, aged just 29, and Alfred Gillam went to New South Wales in the wake of that event, returning to Western Australia some years later (married again) to establish a transport business (using camels) at Katanning.

Also, as mentioned above, Alfred and Henrietta Gillam’s older sister, Asenath, had married John Muir in 1863 and gone out to Eucla as part of the Muir family’s claim there in 1872. John Dunn’s ‘Journey to the Eastward’ followed in 1874/5. Asenath took her children and went to live in Port Augusta after her husband died at Moopina Station in June 1878. I don’t know the cause of death but John Reid Muir was only 42 when he passed away.

Henrietta’s younger brother, Arthur Gillam, also went to Port Augusta for a stint at this time, apparently to comfort and support his bereaved oldest sister. Arthur married Louisa Dungey in Port Augusta in 1885, later returning to the West.

In April 1888, Asenath Muir, nee Gillam, died at Port Augusta, aged just 46.

Port Augusta CemeteryAbove:  Port Augusta General Cemetery, Carlton Parade, Port Augusta, South Australia. Henrietta Gillam’s brother, Alfred, left Western Australia sometime in 1875 to take up work in Port Augusta. Margaret Dunn followed and the couple were married in Adelaide on February 1st, 1876.  Margaret Gillam, nee Dunn, died of fever seven years later, in November 1883 aged just 29, and was buried here.

Certainly the Dunns and Gillams of Albany are associated with Port Augusta during the 1870’s and 1880’s and the clear indication is that both were close and supportive of one other.

On the back of that conclusion, I searched to see whether Henrietta Gillam and daughter Grace might have gone there and found a record of what looks like a Miss Gillam and infant and a Ms Dunn and infant sailing from Albany to Adelaide on the Emily Smith in December 1875.

Was this Henrietta with Grace? And accompanying her -Ms Dunn and infant- was this Margaret and a child she had with Alfred?

Henrietta goes to Sth Aust

Above:  The Emily Smith passenger list of December 1875 shows a Ms Dunn and infant and Ms Gillam and infant sailed from Albany to Adelaide.

The is no record of Margaret Dunn having a child prior to the birth of her two sons Percy and Stan in the 1880’s but there was no other Miss Dunn of child baring age in Albany at that time either, as far I can see.

I looked up the the South Australian Birth, Death and Marriage Index  to see if any children with the name Dunn or Gillam might have died in South Australia around that time and found a record for Amy Selina Dunn, aged 2, father John Dunn, who had died at Adelaide on August 2nd, 1877. The record does not show the mother’s name nor the location of the child’s birth.

Was Amy Selina Dunn the second illegitimate daughter of John James Dunn and Henrietta Gillam?

There is no birth record of an Amy Dunn or Amy Gillam anywhere in Australia during 1874 or 1875.

John Dunn’s youngest sibling was Amelia who had died, aged 6, in 1874. Also, Selena was Henrietta’s mother’s middle name, the name of Henrietta’s youngest sister as well, and the name continues down through successive Gillam generations spreading far and wide. But if  Amy Selina was the daughter of John and Henrietta, why did she carry the name Dunn instead of Gillam, as Grace did?

Questions unlikely ever to be answered at this late stage.

Perhaps the infant attached to Miss Dunn’s name on the Water Police record was a mistake and simply the same infant as that attached to Miss Gillam’s name?

Perhaps also, the name below Miss Gillam is not Miss Dunn but Mr Dunn? It’s very hard to tell. I jumped to the conclusion it was Mr Dunn the moment I saw it, certain it must have been Henrietta and John travelling with baby Grace, but historical research of this nature is riddled with such errors, the result of conundrums and reckoned uncertainty. From the information available at this time, it’s just not possible to be sure.

If it was Henrietta and Margaret aboard the SS Emily Smith then it helps explain why Margaret and Alfred were married in Adelaide, away from their families, literally seven weeks after the sailing.

If it was John and Henrietta it means that John must have returned from his journey to the eastward (conducted in 1874/5 during the time of Henrietta’s pregnancy and the birth of daughter Grace) sometime in 1875 -his diary of the journey closes in January 1875 when he was at the McGill and Kennedy Station, Mundrabilla.) had that happened, John must then have reunited with Henrietta, which would necessitate a complete change on my take on their relationship as for some time I have had the two down as effectively estranged.

John Dunn and Henrietta Gillam became entangled in a romantic affair during 1873 which resulted in the birth of Grace Gillam the following year.  Henrietta’s pregnancy was revealed by Mary Taylor in a diary entry dated 16th, February, 1874. John returned to Albany from Cocanarup in April that year and set out eastwards along the coast in June. We know Henrietta and John never married but  it appears, now, that they might have spent time together with  baby daughter Grace in South Australia over the Christmas of 1875 and into 1876.

We also have the record of John Dunn arriving back into Albany from Adelaide in October 1877, but without mention of Henrietta or any accompanying children. Did John go on to New South Wales and New Zealand, as another family member recalled, after Miss Gillam went South Australia with her infant over the Summer of 1875?

I think so.

The Port Augusta Dispatch article said John was in Port Augusta mid-year 1879, about nine months before he was killed, which means he must have returned there once again some time after October 1877.

Further searching of the passenger list database revealed a Mrs Gillam and two children sailed from Albany to Adelaide in April 1878.  Henrietta was not married so the implication is that it was the wife of one of the Gillam brothers. This could only have been Margaret Dunn (married to Alfred) or Louisa Lines who was the wife of the oldest Gillam boy, William Jenkins.

Margaret’s boys Percival and Stanley weren’t born at that time so it wasn’t her with them, though it is possible it was Margaret with two of Asenath’s chidren who she may have taken back to the West for a visit. Alternatively, it may have been Louisa who did have two children at that stage. But Louisa delivered her third, (Albany Raymond Gillam) at Albany, that same year; so, although it’s possible, it seems unlikely.

In any case and after all this, it is no clearer to me now that the relationship between John Dunn and Henrietta Gillam was stronger than I had originally imagined. Importantly, however, is the new knowledge that John Dunn, between March 1874 and the Winter/Spring of 1879, hardly spent any time at all at Cocanarup. He couldn’t have, because it looks very much like he was travelling interstate and abroad.

Henrietta Gillam Headstone

Above:  Photograph taken from an public member tree relating to the original Gillam family of Albany. The relationship between Henrietta Gillam and John Dunn may have been even more complicated than previously imagined. Did John Dunn father a second illegitimate child? If so, was Amy Selina Dunn even Henrietta’s daughter?

From Mary Taylor’s  ‘Candyup Diary’ April 16th 1874 – Dunn came, he seems far from well” April 17th, 1874 “I talked a long time after breakfast with John Dunn but it is very heavy work, he feels ill but has no definite complaint, he can neither eat nor sleep.

For the sake of completeness, I explored what information was available on the relationships which existed between Henrietta, her siblings and the family of John Dunn. Prior to that, though, I’ll provide some further background to the two families, more of which can be found on The Supporting Cast post within these pages.

Albany, back in the very days, was of course a very small town where families of equal social standing became the source of many marriages. When the family of Sir Richard Spencer arrived at Albany on the Buffalo way back in 1833, they brought with them the Jenkins family as indentured servants/employees. There were three young sisters in the Jenkins family; Henrietta, Elizabeth and Emma, respectively 10, 9 and 5 when they arrived.

The sister’s father, William, was a carpenter and shipwright who, once free from the Spencer commitment, oversaw construction of the vessell Emma Sherrat at Torbay. The Emma Sherrat was commissioned by Thomas Brooker Sherratt, a moneyed but highly strung ex-member of the Royal Household staff in England who decided to emigrate with his family and who is well known in Albany’s early history. The Sherratts arrived in 1834 on the James Pattison, the same ship baring, among others, Patrick Taylor, Mary Bussell, James Dunn and various members of the Cheyne family (who did not stay).

William Jenkins’ profession brought him into contact with other carpenters and ship builders in the Albany area at the time, which, apart from the Sherratts, included John McKail, Thomas Meadows Gillam and James Dunn. William Jenkins’ daughters went on to marry into these families.  Henrietta married John McKail. Elizabeth married Thomas Meadows Gillam (who may have come to Albany specifically to build a ship for Captain Thomas Symers) and Emma married Thomas Sherrat Jnr who sailed the Emma Sherrat commercially along the South Coast for many years.

John McKail was a very successful if somewhat controversial figure. He had money, was shrewd and hard working. He was expelled from Perth for killing the son of Yellagonga and almost plunging the Swan River settlement into war. It was McKail who first took up land at the Porongurups, but in fact the Dunn family were the first, as far as I can tell, to ever live there. James Dunn took his family out to Woodburn Farm in 1860 or 1861 when John Dunn was about 12 yrs old.  McKail then let his wife’s sister (Elizabeth Jenkins, who had married Thomas Gillam) live on one of the Porongurup subdivisions he had created, this one called Bolganup. McKail did so because he and Thomas Meadows Gillam had a strong working relationship and may in fact have even been in business together. McKail was later in an auctioneer’s business with the eldest of the Gillam children, William Jenkins; that much is established.

The Gillams look to have been at least partially at Bolganup for some time prior to 1874 when Thomas Meadows died there. Records suggest Elizabeth Gillam (nee Jenkins) moved from the family’s Albany town house out to the Porongurups immediately after her husband’s passing, bringing her youngest children with her. That the Dunn and Gillam families were commenced at more or less the same time, that they were both large (eight or more children in each), that they were of the same social bracket and that they lived proximate to each other but in relative isolation at the Porongurups, makes for a fairly fertile set of circumstances (ala John and Henrietta) when it comes to development personal relationships.

So, to the siblings of Henrietta Gillam.

The oldest was Asenath who we know married John Reid Muir. They had four surviving children, two boys and two girls.

Next was William Jenkins Gillam who married Louisa Lines at Albany in 1874 or 1875. They had ten children, four of whom were born in Newscastle, NSW, after the family moved there around 1885. Curiously, for a period William Jenkins was the Albany agent for the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper. He also held an auctioneers licence and was in business with John McKail for a time.

Then came Alfred, born 1846, who must have teamed up with Margaret Dunn some time before 1876 as they were married in Adelaide on February 1st that year. How they came to marry in Adelaide would be interesting to know. Margaret Dunn and Henrietta Gillam were the same age, Margaret born the 12th of July and Henrietta the 7th of August, 1853. I don’t know if this would have automatically made them close friends but in light of the now established Port Augusta connection it seems very likely they were.  Margaret died tragically; five months short of her 30th birthday when it looks as if she succumbed to an infection. Percival, her eldest son, had only just turned four, while Stanley was less than a year old. Alfred went to Newcastle, NSW, (where older brother William had gone) after Margaret died. He married Mary Taussard there in 1887 (there do not look to have been any children) and later returned to Western Australia where commenced a transport business out of Katanning. His two sons with Margaret lived until the 1960’s

Mary Gillam was born in 1848, the same year as John Dunn. She married Henry James Townsend, the son of another original Albany settler Henry Townsend Snr who was very well acquainted with the Taylors of Candyup. They had five children and lived between Albany, Mnt Barker  and Cranbrook.

Arthur Gillam, born 1855, went to Port Augusta around 1876. He married there in 1885 and also went to Newcastle, NSW, in 1887, later returning to live in Laverton. There were no children.

Then there was Edward Gillam, born 1857 who married Mary Louisa Sounness and went to live in Cranbrook. They had six children. Edward worked for the railway according to one record.

John Pretious Gillam, born 1860, married into the Toovey family who had set up the Stage Coach Inn at Tenterten on the Albany Highway. They had 14 children, two of whom died as young men in the Great War.

Finally, there was Henrietta’s baby sister Selena who was born in 1863. Selena married George Dunn, the fourth of the Dunn brothers and the one who first went out to Cocanarup with John in 1869 to commence the set up. George had done his time by 1873 and it was when he returned with the wool clip that year that he decided not to go back to the Phillips River. This prompted John Dunn to come in as well, no longer able to isolate himself completely. At a family meeting in April or May of 1874, James, Robert and Walter Dunn were given the task of taking over the running of Cocanarup Station. John went on his journey to the eastwards soon after, commencing a period of extended travel, while George, who was still only 19, went to South Australia and from there to the Northern Territory where it is said he spent three years working on stations on the Katherine River. Selena Gillam, aged 23, and George Dunn, aged 31, were married at Albany in 1886. They went to Cranbrook where they ran the Cranbrook Hotel. They had five children; four boys and a girl.

POSTSCRIPT: 24 September, 2014:  The true story of Henrietta’s relationship with the Dunn family may never be properly known but upon further research and thought it occurs to me that Henrietta did have two children. Grace Gillam, born 1874, not to John Dunn but to his younger brother James. In 1875 Henrietta delivered her second daughter, Amy Selina, who was fathered by John.

Grace Gillam’s birth was registered. The father’s name on Grace’s registration is given as James. Grace Gillam grew up and married  into the Pendergrast family in 1897. She had three children; two girls and a boy.

Amy Selina’s birth was never registered. I think she was born in 1875 and that her father was John Dunn. Amy Selina died in Adelaide, South Australia, on the 2nd of August, 1877, aged 2.  Her death certificate lists the father’s name as John Dunn.

I think that Henrietta went to Adelaide with Margaret Dunn, John’s sister, taking her two daughters with her in December 1875. This was probably as soon as Henrietta and baby Amy were able to travel. She probably did this to leave Albany (where she likely felt ostracised) and to introduce John to his daughter. She probably hoped she and John would marry. I don’t know how the relationship or living arrangements went at that time but again there was no marriage. In contrast, Margaret Dunn married Alfred Gillam within months of arriving in South Australia.

Amy Selina Dunn died in Adelaide. This suggests Henrietta lived in Sth Australia for around two years. There could be many reasons why Amy died in Adelaide rather than Port Augusta but the suggestion is that she and her mother may have lived there separate from the Gillam/Dunn presence in Port Augusta.

In October 1877, two months after Amy Selina’s death John Dunn returned from South Australia to Albany on the SS Siam.

There is no record of Henrietta and Grace on that same sailing, nor do they appear on any other passenger lists around that time. They may have gone on to Newcastle (NSW) where older brother William Jenkins had settled.

Miss Gillam, Miss Moir, Miss Lines and Miss Holand (?) returned from Adelaide to Albany on the SS Otway on May 9th, 1879. There were no children listed as accompanying. The Miss Gillam may not have been Henrietta.

John Dunn was said to have returned from Port Augusta to Albany again around June of 1879.

In my opinion these are not the movements of a united couple.

After John Dunn was killed his brother James is said to have wanted to marry Henrietta, but the boys’ mother, Elizabeth Henderson Dunn, strictly forbade it.

If my assumptions are correct, Henrietta Gillam may have been sweetheart to John Dunn while he was away at the Phillips River during 1873, but she fell pregnant to his brother James in the meantime. By June 20th, 1875, when John set off on his South Coast Expedition, Henrietta was once again pregnant, this time to him, but the damage was done and no reconciliation was to come. John Dunn was never going to marry the mother of his brother’s child.

With this in mind, did John Dunn carry his hurt back to the isolation and loneliness of Cocanarup Station?  Did he take the pain of the loss of his daughter and the betrayal of her mother out on the natives there? Did he find himself darkly unhappy with all that had happened over the previous six years and did he do something to bring the sentence of death upon himself by the guardians of Aboriginal lore?

POSTSCRIPT: 20 June, 2023:  Stephen Ponton was officially married to an Anne Ryan in Perth in 1864. The couple had two children, a girl named Ellen Sarah (aka Nellie), born in 1864, and a boy named William, born 1866.

Records of William Ponton, Stephen’s brother, are not easily found. Stephen and William Ponton arrived 1859 aboard the convict ship Sultana, their records showing their 1857 sentences, crime of larceny, originated in Warminster, Wiltshire, in south-west England near Salisbury Plain. Both were on four-year sentences and described as labourers. Stephen (b. 1834) was a year older.

The Ngadju Aboriginal woman who partnered Stephen Ponton in the Cape Arid area sometime after 1874 took the name Anna Ryan or Anna White from Stephen’s legal wife of ten years earlier.  Stephen and William Pontin/Ponton were thought to be brothers from Northern Ireland.  Both were convicts given tickets of leave. Anne Ryan looks to have come out from Kilkenny, Ireland, on one of the so-called ‘Bride Ships’ arriving as an 18-year-old in 1861.  According to descendants, Ann Ryan and Stephen Ponton had two children born in Albany, Ellen Sarah (known as Nellie) and William. Anne Ryan died aged 24 or 25, at Albany during 1868. In 1873, Stephen Ponton and his brother William went to Cape Arid from the Porongurups where they had leased a farm from John McKail.  Topsy Whitehand (daughter of the Ngadju woman Anna White or Whitehand, Aboriginal name Naidi) was born sometime afterwards to William Ponton.  Stephen’s brother. Topsy had a brother whose father was also William Ponton, this was Tom Tucker Ponton. One record put forward by Stephen Hillier of Esperance, found here, says Topsy Whitehand’s mother was named Naidi, which is correct, but claims her father was a shepherd called William Leni., which is not correct.  Another source, here, says Topsy’s father was Thomas Tucker, but this is not correct as Tom was her brother. Naidi also had a child with Stephen Ponton, this child was named William Ponton Jnr. Topsy Whitehand later married the German/American jump-ship whaler Heinrich Dimer with whom she had a large family. Thank you very much to Jenny Bonney, Great-Great-Granddaughter of Anna Whitehand for providing these details. Topsy Whitehand’s mother, Anna White/hand (Naidi) was thought to be one time partnered with a Noongar man by the name of Dartambaum/Dartaban, also known as Jumbo. According to the Bates genealogies, Dartamabum was Anna’s traditional Aboriginal husband. Their relationship was probably a ceremonial or promised arrangement that may not have suited either person. There are no known children from the pairing.

6 responses to “Interlude Pursued – Part 4”

  1.  Avatar

    As a descendant of Stephen Ponton get your facts right and do not write this information for all to see unless you can support with documentation. It is hurtful and untruthful.

    1.  Avatar

      My great great grandmother is Anna Whitehand, and William Ponton is my great great grandfather, DNA has proven it on Ancestry.

      1. Avatar

        I have updated the information about Naidi, also known as Anna White/hand, mother of Topsy. The information was provided by Jenny Bonney, great-great-grand daughter of Topsy. The text is headed POSTSCRIPT 20 June 2023

  2. Avatar

    Hi there. I lay down interpretations of history from an established knowledge base built on available evidence. Sometimes these assertions challenge existing beliefs and can seem intrusive and hurtful. I am all too aware of this and concede that sometimes the assumptions may not be 100% accurate. In order to protect myself and families concerned, where I cannot state facts I use the words ‘may’, ‘might’ and ‘possibly’. I apologise where offence and hurt may occur. However, I am in the business of investigating and interpreting historical events and this necessarily involves exposing the actions and consequences of certain persons and cannot be avoided. If you are certain I am wrong and can supply or point me towards evidence that shows this please let me know and I will most certainly make the correction. My intention is not to cause damage or hurt to living decscendants but to repair damages done many years ago. At the very least to commence discussions which go some way toward the healing and understanding process. I am fully open to this conversation. You can contact me directly at Please do so if you can support your claim that I am wrong and I will publicly apologise and most certainly change the text. With best wishes, Ciaran.

  3. Jenny Bonney Avatar
    Jenny Bonney

    Hi Ciaran, I’m the great great granddaughter of Anna Whitehand (not Topsy Ponton) as you stated.
    Tom Tucker is my great grandfather (sister to Topsy Ponton).
    Jenny Bonney

    1. ciaran Avatar

      Thank you, Jenny. I will correct the text now. Best wishes…

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