Pioneer women – Johanna Kennedy

Pioneer women – Johanna Kennedy (Mrs Robert Barker).

Johanna Kennedy arrived at Port Adelaide on the ship “David Malcolm” on the 4 January, 1854.  She was listed as a “dairy maid”, 21 years of age and a native of County Limerick, Ireland.  Her death certificate stated that her parent’s surnames were “Kennedy” and “Barrett”, but no given names were recorded.

One of the Able seamen on the “David Malcolm” was an Englishman named Robert Barker, and it must have been on the voyage that a romance began between the two.  On docking in Port Adelaide, Robert jumped ship (as did nine other sailors) and married Johanna Kennedy four months later on 7 May, 1854 in Adelaide, SA.

What happened during the next four years can only be speculated, as Johanna’s death certificate states she resided in South Australia for four years and I would speculate that she worked in the State to avoid having to pay her passage money.  In 1854 passengers to South Australia were not required to repay their passage money, by signing an Agreement that if they quit the colony within four years or went to the Victorian goldfields they would be required to pay a large proportion of the passage money.

Robert Barker was under no such obligation and being a ship deserter it seems likely that he went directly to Victoria.  The 1856/57 electoral roll lists Robert Barker as a miner at Steiglitz, Victoria.  Eventually, Johanna and Robert reunited and lived in Sandhurst (now Bendigo) and had three sons: John Joseph, Walter William and Robert Timothy (later known as Robert Kennedy Barker).  It is noted that the Barkers’ lived in the “Irish section” of the goldfields and it seems that Johanna was determined to live amongst her countrymen and receive a little catholic instruction and ministry for herself and her sons.  Johanna lived the life of a miner’s wife with all its hardships, isolation and little reward.

It seems that during the late 1860s the family moved to Caramut where Robert tried his hand at farming, later moving to Cressy and Derrinallum and finally onto Mount Doran in the early 1880s where Robert purchased a 20 acre tenement.  But the lure of goldmining was too great and Robert and his sons used a dam, (still known by locals as Barker’s Dam), located 2 to 3 miles from his property for mining activities.

Johanna and Robert had a good relationship with their neighbours, the McGillivrays, and in 2007 my sister and I were fortunate to meet one of the McGillivray descendants (Ian) who provided a photograph of the Barker’s home at Mount Doran and told us what he knew about the Barker family.

Thanks to the assistance of the locals at Elaine, my sister and I were able to locate her unmarked gravesite and view some records.

Johanna Barker died suddenly on 29 March, 1905 aged 68 years of age from bronchitis and syncope and was buried at Morrison’s cemetery near Elaine.

The sons left the district and Robert spent his old age with his son, Walter, in Rosedale, Vic.  Robert junior went initially to Richmond in Melbourne before settling in Yambuk near Port Fairy, where John joined him.

(Thanks to my sister for her research into the Barker family).


About BeesKnees2013

Interested in family history research.
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