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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Archibald McKeahnie

Born: 1836; Died: 1930; Married: Mary McMillan

Archibald McKeanhie was the eldest child of Charles and Elizabeth McKeanhie (nee McGowan), who were early arrivals in the Queanbeyan area, and later settled at 'Booroomba' beyond Tharwa. Archibald McKeanhie was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1836 and came to Australia in 1851 at the age of fifteen. His parents had left him behind in England when they emigrated in 1838. Charles McKeanhie was originally employed by J J Moore on his 'Canberra' property, but by 1849 was able to purchase 'Gudgenby' station, and ten years later added 'Booroomba' station which he acquired from William Davis (Snr). His next purchase was 'Orroral', and as Archibald was his oldest son it was his job to build a homestead.

In 1864 Archibald married Mary McMillan who was described as spinster and dairywoman of Booroomba. They were living in the Orroral Valley, NSW, when their four children were born. The children were: Charles (1866); Elizabeth (1867) (Mrs Jospeh Winter); Mary (1873) (Mrs Charles Pedan); Jane (1877) (Mrs Jane Walker Bell). Archibald soon became a successful farmer and landowner.

Whilst they were living at Orroral the family was involved in an unusual coroner's inquiry:

Local intelligence. Fatal accident

Dr Morton, the coroner, left Queanbeyan early on Monday morning to hold an inquest at Orroral, Mr Archibald McKeahnie's station as to the death of a girl named Smith living in the employ of Mr McKeahnie  who came to her death on Sunday morning. Orroral is nearly forty miles from Queanbeyan, and for the latter part of the distance the road is of a very difficult nature; it is not likely, therefore that the particulars gathered at the inquest will be procurable till sometime today. But, so far as we have ascertained, it appears that the deceased went on Sunday morning into the paddock on horseback to bring up a horse for Mr McKeahnie. Finding she did not return in reasonable time, her master looked out, and saw the horse she had been riding standing by a fence with the bit out of his mouth and the horse she had been sent after over the fence. Upon search being made for the girl she was found dead a short distance away under a tree. [The coroner returned to town late last evening. The circumstances of the death, as revealed by the depositions taken at the inquest (and which will be published in our next issue) vary slightly from the foregoing.] [Queanbeyan Age,14th October 1874 p. 2]

In the 1880's they purchased land in Goorooyarroo Paish and moved to Well Station, north of Canberra, where Archibald was a grazier and the Winter family were their neighbours. In Yemen's Directory of Landholders of NSW 1900 Archibald McKeahnie of Well Station is shown as 'growing wheat and maize, and grazing'. Archibald added a kitchen, a sitting-room and a bedroom to the homestead.

Archibald was in the news again in relation to a 'novel capture':

Mr Archibald McKeanhie, Well Station, Canberra, made what might be termed a novel capture of a fox on Saturday, 28th August. Whilst travelling from his own place to that of his brother (Mr. C. H. Mc Keahnie, Booroomba), Mr. McKeahnie made a halt in order to rest and feed his horse and to partake of his mid-day meal. The halt was made somewhere in the vicinity of Mr. R. J. Harris's house on the Queanbeyan-Tharwa Road, and the horse was fed from a nosebag. During the interim a full-grown fox came along and on seeing the horse walked up to obtain a near view of the animal and perhaps of the cart also. However Reynard (fox) probably did not notice any human being for he walked near enough for Mr. McKeahnie to hit him on the back of the cranium with a stick which 'settled him'. Mr. David Winter, of Canberra, who was with Mr. McKeahnie at the time and who skinned the fox, vouches for the truth of this statement.
[Queanbeyan Age. 3rd Septr, 1909, p 2]

He and Mary were evidently active supporters of the Canberra Presbyterian Church; he is reported as chairing and speaking at Tea Meetings at the church. Mary was also involved: 'With Mesdames A & C Cameron and Mrs P Shumack [Mary McKeanie] took the responsibility for the tables at the annual tea meeting held at Canberra Presbyterian Church. [Goulburn Evening Post 4.4.1885]. In the following year she is reported as 'playing a leading part in the catering with Mr F McDonald at a tea meeting at Presbyterian Church at Canberra'. [Wizard's Notes Post 19.10.1886]. Whilst still at Booroomba Archibald was a subscriber towards the erection of a Presbyterian Church at Queanbeyan (The Golden Age 29.3.1862). He was chosen as one of trustees of Hall Burial Ground in 1883 and also appointed a trustee with J W C Affleck of Gundaroo Cemetery.

In 1885 he suffered a serious injury when he was unseated while riding a spirited horse. 'The horse collided with the yard fence and Mr McKeahnie fractured his right collar bone and breast bone. He was taken to Queanbeyan by a neighbour Mr Gribble. Dr Des Sartos attended'. [Goulburn Evening Post 17.9.1885]

Archibald McKeahnie kept extending his property until, by 1915, he had acquired 2723 acres of freehold land in the area. This property, along with others in the same district, was resumed by the Commonwealth in March 1915.  McKeahnie's son-in-law, Charles Peden, then leased the land from the Commonwealth from 1915 to 1926, followed by John Joseland, the Gungaderra Pastoral Co, E A G Mawson and the Rose family. Part of the old homestead is still leased.

Mary died in 1913 at Well's Station Homestead. Archibald moved to Queanbeyan following his wife's death and died there March 10, 1930. He is buried in St John's Church of England in Reid. His funeral service was conducted by the Rev J Frew Brown, Minister of St Stephens Presbyterian Church, Queanbeyan.


After a lengthy illness the death took place in Queanbeyan District Hospital yesterday of Mr Archibald McKeahnie at the advanced age of 93 years. Deceased was the eldest son of the late Mr and Mrs Charles McKeahnie and was born in Scotland arriving in this country at the age of 18 years with his parents who were among the pioneering families of the Queanbeyan District in which deceased resided ever since. For many years he owned Well Station, Canberra, which was resumed by the Commonwealth some fifteen years ago and since that time he has lived in Queanbeyan. Two daughters, Mrs W Bell Queanbeyan and Mrs C A Peden Goulburn survive him and there are 14 grandchildren. His wife predeceased him many years ago...His remains were interred in the Anglican Cemetery of St John's Canberra this afternoon. [Queanbeyan Age 11.3.1930]

[Ed - with contribution by Dylan Rattenbury]

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