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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Jeir Station

'The selection and settlement of Jeir Station has its roots in early Colonial history. Robert Johnson, Collector of Internal Revenue, took up ownership of the land which was to become Jeir Station in 1840, though it is believed that the original buildings date from 1835. Today the place is highly significant as one of the earliest surviving homesteads in the area.

Robert Johnson was the son of George Johnson, who in 1804 led a detachment of NSW Corp in an attack on an uprising of 250-300 Irish convicts working at a government farm at Castle Hill, in what was to become known as the Battle of Vinegar Hill. For this action he received a grant of 2000 acres at Annandale. Johnson was also a key player in the arrest of Governor Bligh. When George died in 1828 his estates were willed to his wife Esther and son Robert.

Following passage of the Free Selection Act Robert was able to expand his holding at Jeir to in excess of 9000 acres. Few detailed records have survived of Robert’s personal involvement in the Murrumbateman district. He died in 1882 and it appears that his son Robert Percy inherited Jeir station. Robert Percy and his wife Eliza had eleven children, four of whom were born at Jeir. Their daughter Emily died in 1881 and is buried on a hilltop behind the homestead. By 1890 Jeir Station provided homes, occupation, schooling and a place of worship for those who worked there, and a social focus for the district.

Patrick Magennis purchased Jeir from the Johnson estate in 1918 and set about the major task of planning the new Jeir homestead, which was completed in 1921. Patrick was a highly skilled breeder of fine wool and also produced quality fat cattle. His real passion however was racehorses.

Following the end of WW II a resumption order was placed on Jeir under the War Service Land Entitlement Act. The property would be purchased at 1942 prices for the settlement of returning soldiers. In a landmark decision of the High Court the order was rendered invalid. An out of court session approved the sale of a small section of the property for soldier settlement, and the rest was divided amongst Patrick’s five children on his death. Management passed to his son Joe, who lived there with his wife Jean until 1965 when, following Joe’s death, the property was further sub-divided and sold.

A church was built on the property in 1912. After WW II the congregation decreased and the church was demolished in 1963. The land on which the church stood was sold to Frederick Dempsey.

A slab blacksmith’s shop was located in the bullock paddock opposite the mens’ quarters. As well as serving property it served the Cobb and Co. coaches that stopped on the journey from Yass to Queanbeyan.

The homestead complex today comprises the original pise and rubble homestead dating to c. 1836, the present homestead (1910-1921), the brick pit,, dairy, stables,weir, original road crossing and 1836 gate posts, the grave of Emily Johnson and archaeological sites of the church, school, blacksmith’s shop and the Jeir public hall. The 1835 homestead originally had a shigle roof and rammed earth floor. The roofing timbers were lashed together with greenhide. The rooms open out to a rear verandah running the length of the building. A station store and post office appear to have been at the western end of the homestead.

The new Jeir homestead is a two-storey red brick house with a roof of corrugated iron with influences of Queen Anne styling. The symmetrical front has hipped roof wings with bay windows at the ground floor and double hung windows either side of a two storey verandah with a single balustrade. Bricks for the house were produced on the property using two kilns, one to the north of the homestead on Jeir Creek and one to the south west on Chain of Ponds Creek'.

[Edited extract from Yass Valley Heritage Inventory]

Jeir Station to be auctioned (1983)

'What remains of one of the finest historic rural properties in the Canberra district is to be offered at auction in three lots on November 19 (1983). The property is Jeir Station, situated along the Barton Highway about 30 kilometres from Canberra - about halfway between Canberra and Yass.

Its history dates back to 1827, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie granted 700 acres to Mr George Johnston in recognition of Johnston's management of the NSW government sheep flocks. By 1846 Jeir Station extended from the Belconnen and Ginninderra stations in the south, to Murrumbateman in the north. The grant was additional to the Johnston family's already extensive holdings near Sydney and on the Darling Downs, which totalled 4,162 acres. Johnston was the son of Colonel George Johnston, said to have been the first man in the First Fleet to set foot on Australian soil when he stepped off the Lady Penrhyn in Sydney Cove in 1788.

What now remains of the original Jeir Station holding consists of 296 hectares (733 acres) of unrestricted freehold land, and this will be offered in three lots at the auction, according to the agent for the sale, Mr Pat Reid, of P. W. Reid Real Estate.

Lot 1 is the Jeir homestead block of 120 hectares, which includes an impressive turn-of-the-century two storey house of about 560 square metres (60 squares). Adjoining the main homestead at the rear is the original convict-built homestead built in the 1830s.
The homestead block also includes a tennis court, stables, machinery shed, cattle yards, two bores and frontage to Jeir Creek. Lot 2, known as Hayfield, is 95 fenced hectares with a four-bedroom colonial-style cottage, about 60 years old, a hayshed and two dams. Lot 3, known as Racecourse - `apparently because it overlooks a site on which horse races were once held - is 81 hectares with a highway frontage and three dams.

The auction will take place on site from 10.30am on November 19, and will include a clearance of the contents of the homestead, including a cedar London-built billiard table, a Victorian walnut dining setting for 12, and many other antiques and furniture items'.

[Canberra Times 21 October 1983, p. 15]

Jeir Station (1917)

'After being in the hands of the Johnston family for about 90 years, the trustees in order to wind up the estate, have decided to submit the well-known Jeir Station to public auction at Sydney, on Friday, November 30. Jeir is situated on the main road, Yass to Canberra, and is within easy reach of the railway and only ten miles from the boundary of the Federal Territory.
It comprises 14,253 acres freehold land (Torrens title), the country being undulating, heavy carrying, and fattening, producing high class value in wool. Between 3,000 and 4,000 acres are wheat land. Its carrying capacity is estimated at l1/4 sheep to the acre, besides large stock. The rabbit pest has been thoroughly eradicated. To graziers having properties in the dry areas and desiring a depot in the safe district of the south of New South Wales, as an insurance against drought, nothing better can be recommended, the watering facilities being exceptional, abundant, and permanent. Stock consists of a high class 'Merino flock, including 18,000 grown sheep and lambs, in addition to 40 horses and 20 cattle. The plant is thoroughly up to date, while the improvements are of modern character. The auctioneers are Stubbs & Co., of O'Connell-street, Sydney, and Yass and Tamworth, who will supply all information and arrange for inspection. Delivery will be given on March 1'.

[Chronicle (Adelaide, SA), 13 October 1917, p 13]

Ball at Jeir (1905)

'The opening of the magnificent new wool shed at Jeir station on Friday was fittingly celebrated by one of the most successful balls ever held in the district. The event had been looked forward to with keen interest for months past, but it was hardly expected there would be such a splendid response on the part of the residents of the surrounding villages and towns. Jeir has for many years occupied a foremost place amongst the outlying supporters of the Yass Hospital, and the receipts from the annual ball have been welcome additions to the funds of the institution. All previous efforts however, were eclipsed by Friday's event, as the result of which about £32 will be handed over, an amount comparing very favourably to the average sum netted by the annual ball in Yass.

Dancing commenced at half past eight, but for a full hour previous to that time, visitors arrived at the shed in a continuous stream, in all manner of conveyances, on horseback and on foot. Not only was the surrounding district of Jeir fully represented, but there were people from Queanbeyan, Gundaroo, Taemas, and many other distant places, while a contingent of about thirty ladies and gentlemen drove over from Yass. A fair estimate places the total attendance at 300, but it would probably be safe to say 250 people were present, a number that taxed even the splendid accommodation to its utmost.

The ball was held in the wool room. The walls were gaily decorated with flags and greenery, and the floor was in excellent dancing trim. The costumes worn by the dancers were varied, some were in evening dress, and many pretty gowns made their first appearances, while others who came in fancy dress exercised their imaginations in producing striking and original effects. The sprightliest of music was supplied by Elliott's band, who with their usual generosity gave their services gratuitously. Supper was served in the press room, and was on a scale equal to the occasion. The ladies of the district worked hard to provide this important part of the entertainment, and their efforts were fully appreciated by the dancers.

During supper the President of the hospital (Mr. T. T. Alkin) in the course of a few remarks referred to the generosity of the Jeir people who had set a splendid example in their support of the hospital. He thanked all those ladies and gentlemen whose efforts had been directed towards making the occasion such a brilliant success, and trusted that other country centres would take a hint from Jeir and so help along the funds of the institution (loud applause).

Dancing was kept going steadily till day break, and on all hands the ball was voted the best affair of its kind that has ever been held in the district. Great credit is due to the ladies and gentleman who acted as a a committee, and made all necessary arrangements. Mr. Fred Johnston, manager of Jeir Estate, was untiring in his efforts in looking after the visitors. Miss McClung and Mr. Hazlett were the hon. secretaries, and it was due very largely to their capable management that the affair turned out so succesfully. Mrs. Desmond was a most efficient treasurer, and the MC carried out his arduous duties in a masterly manner'.

[Queanbeyan Age, 17 October 1905, p 2]

Related Photos


Jeir Sation - sale poster 1908 ⧉

Click on the caption (⧉) to view photo details and attribution.

References

Mulholland, D. 1995. Far Away Days: A History of the Murrumbateman, Jeir and Nanima Districts. Murrumbateman Old School Grounds Committee: Murrumbateman

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