skip to content

Rediscovering Ginninderra:
George Frederick Dixon

Born: 1821; Died: 1907; Married: Sarah Alice (Purnell)

George Frederick Dixon was born in Sheffield UK in 1821 to an upper class English family. He emigrated to Australia on the 'Lascar' (first class) in 1841 - on the same ship that carried the Gillespie's, Shumack's and Currans to Australia! In Sydney he found employment with the Campbells as a wool-buyer. In 1845 he married Sarah Alice Purnell. They had five daughters, only two of whom - Josepha and Eleanor - survived childhood. In 1855 the family moved to the Limestone Plains, where George acquired land in the Parish of Canberra and became a farmer.

[This is a brief synopsis of a substantial illustrated article on George Frederick Dixon and family, kindly made available by the author, Kirk Palmer.]

Pioneers of Canberra

Mrs Josepha Bruning [Dixon], who recently passed away at Canberra Cottage, Campsie, Sydney, was an old identity of Canberra. Her father George Henry Dixon, of Bolton Hall, Leeds, Yorkshire, England, came to Australia in the early 30's, as a wool classer and buyer. He was connected for some time with the Blackwall Wool Stores of Circular Quay, Sydney.

Later, Mr Dixon opened a wool wash at North Willoughby. In 1845 he married Sarah Purnell, daughter of William Purnell of Bath, England, who was a lime burner and builder on the Hawkesbury River. In 1854 Mr Dixon left Sydney for Canberra, taking his wife and two daughters. The journey was made then by stage coach to Queanbeyan. He lived for a time at old Ginninderra. Later he purchased a large tract of land at the end of Canberra Plain, adjoining property of Mr Wm. Davis.

Mr Dixon built here a substantial home, raised fruit and crops, and grew the first buckwheat in this part of Australia. About 1862 he built for Mr Wm. Davis that fine old home named Gungahleen Gungahlin homestead. It was three years under construction. It derived its name from one of the oldest Aboriginal gins, of the tribe that then roamed Ginninderra and Canberra at that time. 'Old Nanny' as the gin was called, would repeat over and over 'Gungahleen'. As far as anyone could learn it meant 'wonderful' or 'beautiful', so it was spelt thus in English.

Mr Dixon was also a member of the board of education at Canberra and Ginninderra. Gungahleen became the property of Mr E.K.Grace, about 18??, and later Mr Dixon sold all his holdings to Mr Grace and moved to Sydney. Mr Dixon lived to the age of 92 years. He and his wife are laid to rest in the Church of England cemetery in Goulburn.

[Their daughter] Mrs Josepha Bruning received her education at the little stone schoolhouse Stone Hut school under the instruction of the venerable couple Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright. Mrs Bruning was confirmed and married in St Johns Church of England at Canberra in 1867 by the Rev Canon Pierce G Smith.

Mr Joannes ('John') Bruning, her husband, built a home on the Weetangera Road, bounded on one side by the Emu Bank estate, occupied at that time by Pemberton Palmer, and Mr Fred Davis and family. On the other side, by the Shumack family. Mr Bruning was a well-known shearer in New South Wales. In 1879 he placed fifty gold and silver carp in a large water hole on his property. Some years later an abundance of large carp were caught for miles down the creek. In 1899 Mr Bruning sold his property to Mr John Southwell of Rose Hill.

Both Mr and Mrs Bruning passed away at the age of 77 years, leaving six sons, four daughters, forty grand-children and seven great grand children, and many friends. They are both at rest in Rockwood cemetery.

[Contributed by Kirk Palmer. A memoir by Josepha's sister Emily]

Related Photos


Palmer, Kirk. (2021) George Frederick Dixon 1881-1907. Privately published

< Rediscovering Ginninderra