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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Mr Joannes ('John') Theodorus Josephus Brüning

Born: 1835; Died: 1907; Married: Emily Josepha [Dixon]

Joannes Brüning was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1830, the son of Joannis Josephus Bruning, corn merchant and Gertrude Bruning. He spent the early part of his life at sea, becoming mate of the sailing vessel 'Albatross' which traded between Sydney and Hongkong. In 1864 he left the sea-faring life behind, and choosing Australia as his home, he married in 1867, and settled at Weetangera, where he acquired land and became a successful farmer. He is recorded on the Weetangera parish map as purchaser of portions 18, 72, 89, 110 – just south of the old Weetangera road, with the Shumacks of 'Springvale' as neighbours. The adjacent portion 93 is recorded in his daughter Emily Josepha's name. These five portions were each of 40 acres. They also acquired portions in the adjoining Canberra Parish - 95, 129 and 86 which brought their holdings to 380 acres - a sizeable farm. Their farming life was relatively brief however. Joannes sold his land to John Southwell in 1885, and Emily did likewise in 1890

In 1868, aged 29, he married Josepha Emily Dixon [1850-1926], the fourth of five daughters born to George Frederick Dixon and his wife Sarah. Joannes was naturalised in the same year, granted 'all the rights and capacities of a natural born British subject'. The Dixon's had a farm in north Canberra in the area of present day Mitchell. Joannes ('John') and Josepha had ten children, born between 1868 and 1892. The children were:

Emily Josephine 1868-
Bernard Dickson 1872-1936
Frederick William 1874-1946
Vida Sara Gertrude 1875-1943
John Theodore Stephen 1876-1963
Joseph Holy Dixon 1879-1947
Maude Elizabeth Clare 1881-1974
Mary Emma Pearl 1885-1988
Henry Vincent 1888-1977
Leonard Albert 1892-1966

In a memoir written after his death his oldest child Emily Josephine (Mrs Emily J Farrer, Illinois USA) writes:

"Mr Brüning adapted himself to doing everything on the farm except shoeing the horses. After his crops were in, with saddle and pack-horse he made his way to the nearest station for shearing time. Among many of these stations were Narrandera, Billibong and Tubbo. Between sheds he would return home to clip his flock of four to five hundred sheep and be off again, returning in time to harvest the crops.

He was considered one of the best shearers on the Murrumbidgee. His average clip per day was from 240 to 250, and his cut was clean and safe for the sheep. He gave up farming in 1880 and moved to the city of Sydney with his family.

The shearing machine was introduced about 1890 or 1891 and he competed with this machine in its first test, at Mort's Wool Store, Circular Quay. The machine won (by one minute and two seconds) but the sheep was badly cut.

Mr Brüning was a man of many activities. He built his home at Weetangera, did all his own fencing, raised crops and good stock. He could make and mend shoes, [............?] riding breeches, and [.............??]. During the winter months he modelled a schooner, two feet in length, fully rigged, and he called it 'The Warrior.' He mounted it in a cedar case and took a prize in Sydney. He later remodelled it, and made a clipper out of it, which he named the 'Atlas'. The latter is now in the possession of his eldest son, B.D. Brüning [Bernard] of Sydney.

Mr Brüning departed this life in 1907 at the age of 77 years".

His death was recorded in the Catholic Press, 8th October 1908:

On the 29 ult. there passed away, at his residence, Fitzroy Street, Campsie, the late Mr John Theodore Bruning, one of the earlier settlers of this State and one who had led an eventful and strenuous life. Born in Brussels, Belgium, he arrived in Port Jackson as mate of the ship 'Albatross' in 1854. The gold fever being then at its height, he left his ship, as did most others, and proceeded to the Kinandra [Kiandra] diggings. Achieving but a qualified measure of success, he discarded digging in favour of contracting; and, proceeding to Queanbeyan, erected the first bridge there, remaining in the district to farm for some years.

He then migrated to Sydney, where he remained till the outbreak of the South African War [1899]. Proceeding to the seat of hostilities, he enjoyed the unusual experience of witnessing a battle, in which, without his knowledge, his eldest son was engaged. Returning to Sydney, he journeyed to West Australia, and later again to South Africa, from which he finally returned, when 70 years of age, three years since. He was attended in his last illness by the Rev. Father Dalton.

The interment was made in Rookwood Cemetery, and amongst those who attended were his widow (Mrs. Josepha Emily Bruning), his sons and daughters (Messrs. Fred, John, Joseph and Leonard Bruning; Mrs. Filewood, Mrs Davis and Miss Bruning), together with Messrs Filewood, Davis, Hamer, Hardy, M???, Owen, Mrs. Wallace and Miss Howell, and others. Messrs. Coffill and Co. carried out the funeral arrangements — RIP.

Bruning Street in Gungahlin is named after Joannes ('John') Bruning. The citation notes that his wife Josepha Emily Bruning 'passed away at her residence, 'Canberra', in Campsie in 1926.

[material for this entry kindly supplied by Kirk Palmer]

Related Photos


Catholic Press, Obituary Joannes Bruning, Thursday 8 October 1908

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