Saturday, 16 April 2016

M is for Mary Jane and Marian #AtoZChallenge2016

My theme for the AtoZChallenge is exploring the Walker family . Thinking about the family I realised that they were around in Mackay, Queensland in the early days of settlement so I have decided to discover some snippets of early Mackay as it relates to this family and others in my family tree. I hope you enjoy the journey.

M is for Mary Jane Walker, my newly discovered 2nd great-great aunt. I came across Mary Jane when I  discovered my great- great grandmother Elizabeth Hanna Antoney's obituary in the Mackay Daily Mercury on Wednesday 2nd February 1921 [1].  The obituary noted that: "A sister, Mrs. Alex Walker, also resides in the district and had of late been at the attendance at the  bedside of her sister..."

So, of course, I followed up on this hint and found Mary Jane's marriage to Alexander Walker in 1872 in Mackay and her death on 17th October 1931 in Marian. Mary Jane is buried in the Walkerston Cemetery with her husband Alexander.

I found Mary Jane immigration on the Royal Dane on 2nd December1871 [2] so she married quite quickly after her arrival. Perhaps her sister knew Alex Walker and introduced her? Or perhaps it was an instant attraction? We will never know.

Now for Marian...

Marian, a rural town, is 24 km west of Mackay. Situated in the Pioneer River Valley, it is in the heart of a sugar growing area.
By the late 1870s, cane was the dominant industry, and David McEachran owned substantial acreage. In 1883 he built a sugar mill, employing Marian Smith for secretarial work. She was the daughter of local commission agent, and McEachran named the mill and its associated plantation after her. 
He also engaged a Melbourne builder, David Mitchell, to construct the mill works. Mitchell was accompanied by his 22-year-old daughter, Helen, who married the mill manager, Charles Armstrong. The Armstrongs lived in the mill manager's house until Helen left him with their son. She embarked on an operatic career under the name Nellie Melba. The Melba house (the former mill residence) was acquired by Mirani Shire and re-erected on the river bank, two kilometres from Marian [3].
The Walkers farmed near Walkerston, probably closer to Newbury and their daughters and grandchildren lived in and around Marian. At different times, their families had the Marian Bakery and General Store. 
I do remember my grandmother telling me that Dame Nellie Melba lived in Marian in the mill manager's house so her memory was accurate. She just didn't mention the Walkers. I find it interesting to discover how places were named.

[1] 1921 'PERSONAL.', Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 - 1954), 2 February, p. 2. , viewed 06 Apr 2016,

[2] Queensland State Archives, "Assisted Immigration 1848 to 1912," 
online index, Queensland Government ( accessed 22 February 2016).
[3] accessed 16 April 2016

No comments:

Post a Comment