Mr Joannes ('John') Theodorus Josephus Brüning
Born: 1835; Died: 1907; Married: Emily Josepha [Dixon]
Joannes Brüning was born in the Netherlands 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 'Albatros' 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 Richard Shumack and his family of 'Springvale' as neighbours. He called his property 'Retreat Farm', which researcher Dave Parsons has established had a homestead on the Aranda playing fields, not far from the Belconnen foundation plaque.
The adjacent portion 93 is recorded in the name of his daughter Emily Josepha. 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 . 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. Fuller details of Bruning's Ginninderra years can be found below. The full article by Kirk Palmer can be downloaded above]
Joannes 'John' Theodorus Josephus Brüning by Kirk Palmer, 2021.
Joannes 'John' Theodorus Josephus Brüning was born on Sunday, 22 May 1836 in Amsterdam, in the province of Noord-Holland, Netherlands. He was the youngest son of Dutch parents, Cornelia Joanna Vlaming and Joannes Josephus Brüning.
The family lived at 15 Sint Annendwarsstraat, in the heart of Amsterdam, just around the corner from the Royal Palace and the Oude Kerk (the Old Church), Amsterdam's oldest building. The Amsterdam Population Register 1851-1853 records Joannes as living with his mother and father and two older siblings, Bernardus Joannes Brüning and Geertruda Cornelia Brüning. The family's religion was recorded as Roman Catholic.
At the age of 18, Joannes was conscripted for compulsory military service in the Dutch Army. Recruits typically served 14 or 16 months, during which time they received basic training before being placed on active duty. On the conscription record, Joannes' occupation was recorded as a ????? merchant (B????? koopvaardij) and his father's occupation as ???? hand (???? knecht).
In early 1860, Joannes enlisted as a crewman aboard the 434 ton Dutch barque, Amazone. The ship was owned by George A. Lloyd & Co. and was charted to carry 5900 cases of geneva (Dutch gin), 200 cases of wine, general cargo, and two passengers for Sydney, Australia.
The Amazone departed the port of Amsterdam on 11 January 1860, under the command of Captain Abbink. During its voyage, the Amazone experienced very heavy weather and did not sight any other vessels whilst at sea.
The Amazone arrived in Sydney on 29 May 1860 where it docked at Botts' wharf. Whilst in port, Joannes and the rest of the Amazone's crew were given one month's shore leave. Captain Abbink routinely advertised in the Empire newspaper, warning that he would not be responsible for any debts which his crew may contract while in port.
On 11 June 1860, Joannes was brought before the Water Police Court, charged with having deserted his ship. Joannes was found guilty and was sentenced to 14 days in Darlinghurst gaol. In the gaol entrance description, Joannes was recorded as a sailor, age 20, born in Holland, ex the "Amason".
Joannes' desertion prompted three other men from the Amazone to jump ship, Hans A. Jacobson, John Mellik and Charles C. Brown. The men fronted Police Court on 25 June 1860, but were liberated following Captain Abbink's decision not to prosecute.
The Amazone departed outwards from Sydney on 29 June for Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies (known today as Jakarta, Indonesia). Joannes was not aboard the vessel upon its departure.
After being released from gaol, Joannes proceeded to the Kiandra diggings, in the NSW Snowy Mountains. Word had spread of large nuggets of gold being discovered in river deposits around Kiandra and people from all over Victoria and NSW rushed to the area to stake their claim. Kiandra post office opened on 1 June 1860 and it is estimated that the area at its peak accommodated around 15,000 people, served by 25 stores, 13 bakers, 16 butchers, 14 pubs, several banks and four blacksmiths.
Whilst working in the goldfields, Joannes achieved but a qualified measure of success. By March 1861, the Sydney Morning Herald had reported a "mass exodus" from Kiandra, with the vast majority of miners leaving for Lambing Flat. With the easy pickings exhausted and a bitter winter on its way the population of the town dropped to a mere 250.
On 10 January 1866, the Department of Public Works posted an advert in the New South Wales Government Gazette, seeking tenders for repairs to Queanbeyan Bridge. The bridge was an elegant structure consisting of five arches, first opened on 19 August 1858. It measured 345 feet without the approaches, by a width of 20 feet and sat at a height of 25 feet from the centre of the river. The piers were embedded in the solid rock, and were retained in place by lead which was poured into the apertures around the beams.
Contractors, W. Hall and Albert Muller, secured the tender and repairs for the bridge began in March 1866. It was around this time, that Joannes left the diggings in favour of contracting and proceeded to Queanbeyan where he gained work on the bridge repairs.
Whilst in the Queanbeyan district Joannes met his future wife, Josepha Emily Dixon. Josepha was the eldest daughter of Sarah Alice Purnell and George Frederick Dixon, a farmer and woolclasser residing in Canberra Plains.
Joannes married Josepha on 18 January 1868 at the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Canberra. The marriage was performed by Reverend Pierce Galliard Smith and was witnessed by James Allen and Josepha's younger sister, Eleanor Dixon. Josepha's father gave his consent to the marriage as was required by law if under the age of 21. Joannes was 35-years-old and Josepha 18. On the marriage certificate Joannes lessened his age by six years and gave his place of birth as Brussels, Belgium, despite being born in Amsterdam.
The most likely reason for this dates back to 1830, when Belgium seceded from Noord-Holland. The revolution was due to a combination of factors, the main one being the difference of religion, Belgium being Catholic and the Netherlands being Protestant. As Joannes was raised Roman Catholic it is likely that the Brüning name originated in Belgium. From his wedding day onwards, Joannes declared himself to be Belgium on every official document.
Following their marriage, the newlyweds leased land in Canberra Plains, near to where Josepha's father farmed.
On 7 March 1868, Joannes was presented with his Certificate of Naturalisation. This granted Joannes all the rights of a natural born British subject. On the certificate Joannes was recorded as a farmer residing in Canberra, having arrived per the ship Amazone. Joannes again gave his place of birth as Brussels, Belgium and his age as 29.
Joannes and Josepha's first child, Emily Josepha Brüning was born on 30 December 1868 in Canberra Plains. Emily was baptised by Reverend J. McAuliffe on 18 January 1869 at Saint Augustine's Roman Catholic Church in Yass. The sponsor of the baptism was Bridget Shumack. A sponsor (also known as a godparent) within the Roman Catholic faith, was someone who stood witness to a child's baptism and who took on the role of a spiritual parent.
On 3 February 1870, Joannes posted a notice in the Queanbeyan Age informing the owner of a bay horse with black points to come and claim it, stating that the horse had been running in his Canberra Plains paddock for a number of days. Joannes posted another notice two days later, informing the owner that if the horse was not claimed it would be sold to pay expenses.
The Robertson Land Acts of 1861 enabled smaller settlers to purchase land and establish homes. As per conditions, selectors were required to live on their land for three years and to make improvements worth £1 per acre.
And so, on 9 February 1871, Joannes purchased Portion 34 in the Parish of Weetangera, County of Murray. The land was a conditional purchase and measured an area of 40 acres, located on the main road from Canberra to Uriarra. Joannes took up farming on the property, and set about building the family's home.
The homestead and property became simply known as Brunings Farm. It sat in the shadows of Black Mountain, bounded on one side by Emu Bank estate, occupied by Pemberton Palmer, and Frederick Davis and family, and on the other side the Shumacks of Springvale.
Joannes and Josepha's second child, Bernard Dixon Brüning, was born on 18 August 1872 on their farm in Weetangera. The child was named 'Bernard' after Joannes' deceased older brother, and 'Dixon' after Josepha's maiden name. On the birth certificate, Joannes was recorded as living at Black Hill in the parish of Weetangera. Bernard was baptised by Reverend Gallagher on 4 October 1872 at Saint Augustine's Roman Catholic Church in Yass. The sponsors of the baptism were Florence McAuliffe and Kate McCarthy.
On 5 February 1874, Joannes made an additional purchase of 40 acres, Portion 72 in the Parish of Weetangera. The portion adjoined Joannes' existing farm on the west and grew his holdings to a total of 80 acres.
Joannes and Josepha's third child, Frederick "Fred" William Brüning, was born on 30 January 1874 on their farm in Weetangera. Frederick was baptised by Reverend Dwyer on 27 March 1874 at Saint Augustine's Roman Catholic Church in Yass. The sponsors of the baptism were Jane Grace and Martha Grace.
On 25 April 1875, Joannes made another two additional purchases, each of 40 acres, Portion 93 in the Parish of Weetangera and Portion 86 in the Parish of Canberra. Both purchases were made in his daughter Emily's name, who at the time was only 6 years-of-age. The portions were located opposite Joannes previous two purchases, on the northern side of the road from Canberra to Uriarra. This grew the family's holdings to a total of 160 acres.
Two months later on 29 July 1875, Joannes made a fifth purchase of 40 acres, Portion 89 of the Parish of Weetangera. The portion adjoined Joannes' existing farm on the south-east and grew the family's holdings to a total of 200 acres.
Joannes and Josepha's fourth child, Vida Sarah Gertrude Brüning, was born on 11 October 1875 on their farm in Weetangera. Josepha's mother Sarah acted as midwife to the birth. Vida was baptised by Reverend J. McAuliffe on 13 November 1875 at Saint Augustine's Roman Catholic Church in Yass. The sponsors of the baptism were Mathew Quinlan and Sarah Logue.
In 1876, Joannes was issued a timber license for the quarter ending 31 March. The license incurred a fee of 5 shillings and allowed Joannes to cut hardwood on crown land in the district of Queanbeyan.
On 25 May 1876, Joannes made an additional purchase of 40 acres, Portion 95 in the Parish of Canberra. The portion adjoined Joannes' farm on the east despite it being in the adjoining Parish.
This was quickly followed by another purchase of 40 acres on 20 July 1876, Portion 110 of the Parish of Weetangera. These two additional purchases grew the family's holdings to a total of 280 acres.
Joannes and Josepha's fifth child, John Theodore Stephen Brüning, was born on 27 November 1876 on their farm in Weetangera. John was baptised by Reverend J. McAuliffe on 31 December 1876 at Saint Augustine's Roman Catholic Church in Yass. The sponsors of the baptism were Josepha's parents, George Frederick Dixon and Sarah Alice Purnell.
Joannes and Josepha's sixth child, Joseph Holt Dixon Brüning, was born on 5 April 1878 on their farm in Weetangera. Josepha's mother Sarah acted as midwife to the birth. The child was named after Josepha's uncle, Joseph Hoult Dixon of Sheffield.
On 14 November 1878, Joannes made an additional purchase of 80 acres, Portion 129 of the Parish of Canberra. This was the final portion to be added to Joannes' farm, bringing the total area of the holdings to 360 acres.
By this time, Joannes had become an accomplished farmer and had adapted himself to doing everything on the farm, but shoeing the horses. He made and mended boots and strap riding breeches, did all his own fencing, and raised crops and good stock. After his crops were in, with saddle and pack horse he would make his way to the nearest station for shearing time. Among many of these stations were Narrandera, Billabong and Tubbo. Between sheds, he would return home to clip his flock of 400-500 sheep before heading off again, returning in time to harvest the crops. He was considered one of the best shearers on the Murrinbidge. His average clip per day was from 240 to 250, and his cut was clean and safe for the sheep.
During the winter months Joannes modelled a schooner, two feet in length, fully rigged and 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.
On 12 February 1879, Joannes posted a notice in the Queanbeyan Age cautioning that any owner of sheep and cattle trespassing on his land at Weetangera, would be prosecuted according to the law.
On his property, Joannes placed fifty gold and silver carp in a large waterhole. In September 1879 a flood hit the district cleaning out the waterhole. Some years later an abundance of large carp were caught for miles down Ginninderra Creek.
In December 1880, Joannes leased out his farm and moved with his family to Forest Lodge in Sydney. The property was advertised as 360 acres all enclosed and sub-divided into sheep proof paddocks, with a comfortable house, garden, out houses and sheds, plenty of good water and grass, also 16 acres of a nice, clean crop of wheat and white oats to be sold as it stands.
Following their move to Sydney, Josepha gave birth to four more children:
• Maud Elizabeth Clair Brüning, was born on 14 October 1881
• Mary Emma Pearl Brüning, was born on 1 Nov 1885
• Henry Vincent Brüning, was born on 20 May 1888
• Leonard Albert Brüning, was born on 27 May 1892
On 1 September 1885, Joannes sold his portions of the Weetangera farm to farmer, John Southwell of Rosehill, for the amount of £70. The portions included in the sale were portions 34, 72, 89, 95 and 110 in the Parish of Weetangera and portion 129 in the Parish of Canberra.
On 21 January 1890, Joannes' daughter Emily sold her 2 portions of the Weetangera farm to John Southwell, for the amount of £50. The portions included in the sale were portions 93 in the Parish of Weetangera and portion 86 in the Parish of Canberra.
Joannes Theodorus Josephus Brüning passed away on 29 September 1908, at his home Canberra Cottage on Fitzroy Street, Campsie. Joannes was 72 years old. The cause of death was attributed as heart failure and a malignant growth of stomach and liver. Joannes was buried in the Roman Catholic section of Rookwood Cemetery, attended by his friends and family.
- Catholic Press, Obituary Joannes Bruning, Thursday 8 October 1908
- Kirk Palmer, Joannes 'John' Theodorus Josephus Brüning. 2021