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The Descendants of Matilda Adsett

by F. J. Erickson

Children Sex Age Born Birth Place Died Death/Burial Site
1Matilda MargaretF??11 Feb 1859Brisbane??? ????unknown
2George SimonM01860Brisbane1860/1??Brisbane
3John HM01863Casino district1863/4??Casino district
4WalterM6916 Feb 1866Tintunba NSW14 Oct 1935Figtree via Clermont
5Samuel FinchM7718 Mar 1868North Ck Richmond R13 Sep 1945Ingham
6Alfred DunbarM5316 May 1870Queensland21 Feb 1924Llandillo Clermont
7Dora AgnesF9727 Feb 1873Mt Clara QLD8 Aug 1970Ipswich
8Annie CooraF852 March 1876Mt Coora QLD22 May 1961Brisbane

Matilda Adsett was born on Wednesday, 18 April 1838, at East Horsley, Surrey, and came to Brisbane with her father, John, late in 1855. On Tuesday, 23 November 1858, at St John's Church, Brisbane, she married John Simon Kehl, an American.

There is no clear record of the married life of John and Matilda Kehl, and there are elements of mystery that have, to the present, defied efforts to resolve them. This account draws on such documentary evidence as birth and marriage certificates, and also on family lore, where it seems valid. One may hope that some Kehl descendant reading this holds information not presently available

The marriage certificate of John and Matilda Kehl shows the groom's name as "John Williams Kehl". No information is given with respect to ages, places of birth, and parents' names. Information obtained from the Diocesan Archivist of St John's, however, shows that John Kehl was born in Philadelphia. His parents were John Kehl (occupation sawyer) and Hannah Williams. The groom's age was given as 25.

From the foregoing it would appear that John Kehl was born in 1833; but other sources make it seem more likely that he was born about 1831. No record of his birth (year or date) is held; but it has been possible to trace some record of his parents and two other issue of the union, Louisa and Daniel Jacob. In the 1840s John and Hannah Kehl were living at Ringtown, in the vicinity of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, rather less than a hundred miles from Philadelphia. This confirms information given to the writer by his grandmother (Annie Ham), that her father had come from Harrisburg. (It also contradicts a piece of family lore that John Simon Kehl came from Scotland.) It is historically true that a great many German migrants settled in Pennsylvania. This fact, the name "Kehl" itself, and the fact that Louisa and Daniel Jacob were baptised in the Lutheran Church, suggest that the antecedents of John Kehl (senior) were German.

It is evident that at the time of his marriage, John Kehl had chosen to use the name Williams (his mother's maiden name) rather than his father's name Kehl. His daughter Dora (born 1873) is said to have remarked that the family was known as the Williams family till her childhood; and confirmation of this comes from several sources. It is most likely that the family lived inder the name Williams until the marriage ended.

It is easy to suggest reasons for which a man might assume as alternative name; but it must be admitted that the most likely reasons would be related to evading the scrutiny of the law. Even in this there are numerous possibilities, but family lore provides the most likely explanation. John Kehl's occupation, as given in his marriage certificate, was 'seaman'; and the likelihood is that he had deserted from his ship to remain in Australia. Desertion from ships was not uncommon at the time, particularly in ports adjacent to the goldfields. It was, in fact, a significant source of migration; but it was an offence. Nevertheless, there are questions to be answered. If John Kehl was a deserter, when, where, and from what ship did he desert? If not, under what circumstances did he come to the country?

At the time of their marriage in 1858, both John Kehl and Matilda Adsett were living in Fortitude Valley, and the pair continued to live in Brisbane for a time. Their first child, Matilda Margaret, was born in 1859. In the following year a son, George Simon, died in infancy.

At some point during the period 1860 to 1863, John and Matilda Kehl moved south to live in the Casino area, on the Richmond River. Their third child, John H., was born there in 1863, but did not survive. Two more sons, Walter and Samuel, were born in 1866 and 1868, respectively. The youngest son, Alfred, was born in 1870, after the family had moved back to Queensland. Two daughters, Dora and Annie, were born in the neighbourhood of Mount Clara and Mount Coora. An adopted daughter, Christina Jane, was also taken into the family, possibly early in the 1870s.

Although a number of birth and marriage certificates give John Kehl's occupation as "seaman', there is no evidence that he went to sea after his marriage. Other certificates give his occupation, probably more realistically, as "sawyer", "carpenter", and "labourer".

An article in the magazine Parade (April 1968, pp. 16-17) makes reference to John Williams (Kehl). The article describes the criminal career of an aboriginal, Johnny Campbell, who was brought to trial in April 1880, in Maryborough.

A few days late the daughter of Yankee Williams, an outstation manager at Brooyar, decided to go fishing in a nearby creek. She was sitting quietly on the bank when she heard sounds behind her. She turned. Johnny Campbell was charging straight at her.

The girl screamed and ran towards her house. Campbell was rapidly overtaking her when Williams appeared at the hut's doorway a rifle in his hand.

The bullet whistled past Campbell's ear as he raced for the protection of the bush.

The article gives few precise dates and no references; but the incident must have taken place in 1879 or early 1880, and the daughter referred to could have been the adopted daughter, Jane. The magazine article accords with anecdotal evidence from Annie Ham, concerning an incident in which Matilda, armed, in her husband's absence, threatened to blow the head off a night prowler (described as "a bushranger") who tried to break into their home.

It is likely that John Kehl left the family about this time, but no record of his death has been found. In September 1886, Matilda Kehl, widow, married John Barlow, widower, in Gympie. Barlow (born at Clay Gloss, Derbyshire) worked as an engine driver in the Gympie mines.

At some time in the late 1880s or early 1890s, the family moved to Herberton, another mining field; and a further move, probably late in 1892, brought them to Charters Towers.

The last years of Matilda's life (presumably following the death of John Barlow) were spent with her brother, Aaron Adsett, at Chermside. She died in Diamantina Hospital, Brisbane, in September 1916, and is buried in Toowong Cemetery. top of page

Matilda Margaret, eldest daughter of John and Matilda Kehl, was born in Brisbane in 1859.1 In 1878 she married George Albert Gibson, miner, of Gympie. In 1879 the pair went through a second marriage ceremony, in St Patrick's Church, Gympie, and the family has followed the Roman Catholic faith. Following the birth of the first child, the family left Gympie for Charters Towers, where the mines offered employment. They lived in the Towers for many years, until closure of the Towers mines forced members of the family to scatter and seek employment elsewhere.

There were nine children in the Gibson family. Unfortunately, contact with the family has not been strong, and only brief information, based mainly on recollection, is available here.

George Ernest Gibson (born 1879) became a blacksmith, working for the railways in Townsville. He and his wife (Nellie) had two children, Lelvin and Olive.

Emily Theresa (born 1882) married Jack Arnold, an engine driver in the Charters Towers mines. The family later moved to Townsville. The children were Phyllis and Vincent.

Mary Maude Victoria (born 1883) married Charles Wallace. Their children were Vine, Maud and Hazel.

Alfred Joseph Gibson (born 1886) married Amelia Anna Olsen. Alfred was a racehorse trainer, at first in Townsville, and later in Brisbane. There were four children, Alfred, Olaf, Amelia, and Iris. Iris married Les Heale, and is well known as a breeder of cattle dogs.

Lily Matilda was born in 1888. There were two children of her marriage, Zena and Vale (Bullock).

Frank Burleigh Gibson (born 1891) married Emma Thomson in 1913. Frank was at first a miner, and later a grocer in Charters Towers. His daughter, Elva, married Bill Brown, a cousin. His older son, Frank, was for many years in the Australian Army. He married Akie Hara, of Kure, Japan, and their family live in Brisbane. Max, the younger son, lived in Charters Towers.

Bertie Samuel Dawson Gibson (born 1893) married Bella Maxwell, and became a jeweller in Innisfail. Their children were Audrey and Warren.

Rubie frances (born 1895) married Thomas Short, a successful Cairns tailor. Their son, Vallis, married Hazel Munrow.

Ivy May, youngest of the family, was born in 1898. Her husband was John Hannay.

Matilda Gibson spent the last years of her life with Rubie and Tom Short. top of page

Walter Kehl, the third son of John and Matilda Kehl but the first to reach adult years, was born at Tintunbar, Richmond River, in 1866.2 He came to Gympie as a boy, and became a stockman and drover. All his life he worked in the area of Rockhampton, Mount Morgan and Clermont. The last thirty years of his life were spent around Clermont, and he tended cattle till the day he died, on Figtree selection, at the age of 69. In 1888 he married Mary Ann Geary, in Gympie. This marriage was dissolved in 1918, and Walter Kehl married again in 1918. His second wife was May Young, a cousin.

Six children were born to Walter and Mary Ann Kehl in the years before 1900. The oldest, Winifred Agnes (born 1889) married Angus McGilvray, and took up residence at Port Kembla.

Lydia Evelyn (born 1891) married Joseph Nolan, and lived for many years at Baralaba. Their children were Sonny, William, and Ellen Louisa.

Walter John Kehl (born 1892) was also a stockman, working in the area of Rockhampton, Mount Morgan and the Dee Valley. He did not marry, and died in 1969.

Ellen Louisa (Nellie) was born in 1894. Her married name was Egan. The family lived at Yeppoon.

George Francis Kehl (born 1895) did not marry. He spent his life as a stockman and bush worker. He was also a good amateur jockey. He died in Camooweal in 1961.

William Alfred Kehl (born 1899) married Eileen (Kit) Brett. Like his brothers he became a stockman and bush worker. After his marriage he worked at the meatworks in Rockhampton. In 1947 the family moved to Brisbane. The seven children were Ron, June, Kevin, Billy, Rita, Vince and Rhonda.

Three family members were born in the early years of the twentieth century. May Hannah (born 1902) married Henry Buckler, whose family had an hotel in Clermont. The family moved to Sydney. Their son, Edward, became a doctor.

Emily Jane (born 1908) married George Johnson, a baker. The family lived in Rockhampton, and later moved to Sydney. The two children were Neville and Maureen.

Iris (born 1917) married William Balaam, a cabinet maker and shop fitter, and the family lived in Rockhampton. The children were Brian, Alan and William. top of page

Samuel Finch Kehl, fourth son of John and Matilda Kehl, was born in 1868, at North Creek, Richmond River, near Casino.3 His original birth certificate shows his parents to be John and Matilda Williams; but it is interesting to find that an amendment to the registration, made in 1943, directs that the name "John Williams" be changed to "John Simon Kehl known as Williams". The reason for the choice of the name "Finch" is not known.

Like his older brother, Walter, Samuel Kehl acquired the skills of a stockman during his early years in the cattle country west of Gympie. He was a short man, a little under five feet in height, though wiry and strong. He was also a person of strong will. It is recalled that he compensated for early lack of education by teaching himself to read and write.

Early in the 1890s Samuel Kehl was employed on a farm at Sandy Creek, near Charters Towers. His employer, formerly a gold miner at Ravenswood, was a victim of the lung disorder that afflicts many miners. Following his death, Samuel Kehl married his widow, Isabella (Bella) McCrone, and accepted responsibility, not only for running the property, but also for four stepdaughters and a stepson.The marriage took place in the Wesleyan parsonage, Charters Towers, in September 1894.

During the following years three sons were born to Isabella and Samuel Kehl. These were Albert Walter Samuel (1895), Arthur Eric (1897), and Edwin Roy (1899).

About 1904, the Charters Towers property was sold, and the Kehl family moved to a property at Mayfield, near Ingham, raising cattle and growing sugar cane. The family farming interests were later extended to include a property of 640 acres at Stone River, and another of 1000 acres, Peak View, at Trebonne.

Isabella Kehl (nee Davidson) was born at Smedfield, Northumberland, England. She died in March 1935, while on a visit to Mareeba, and is buried at Mareeba. She is remembered by her descendants as a very friendly and sociable woman. The issue of her first marriage were Margaret Annie, known as Maggie; Florence May (Firth); Ethel Violet (Loder); George Alexander; and Mabel Alice (Baldwin).

Samuel Kehl died in September 1945, and is buried in the old cemetery, Ingham. He was nursed in his last illness by Maggie, his eldest stepdaughter, who did not marry. Maggie had assumed household care after her mother's death. In her later years she lived alone in the family home at Trebonne until her death in 1961. She is remembered as a person of considerable ability and talent.

Albert Walter Samuel Kehl, eldest son of Isabella and Samuel Kehl, served with the 41st Battalion in France during World War I. He married Mary Scott, and was for many years a cane farmer in the Ingham area, at first at Stone River, and later at Trebonne. The property at Trebonne is now held by his son Eric.

Arthur Eric Kehl, also with the 41st Battalion, died of wounds received at Messines, France. His death occurred on 6 August 1917, the day after his twentieth birthday. He was buried in Le Grand Beaumart British Cemetery, Steenwerck, near Trois-Arbres.

Ray Kehl married Maud Ellen Cameron, in June 1927. The couple had two sons, Keith and Stewart. Ray Kehl was a cane farmer at Lannercost, near Ingham. His property is now worked by his son Keith. top of page

Alfred Dunbar Kehl, youngest son of John and Matilda Kehl, was born in May, 1870.4 His descendants can offer no explanation for the choice of the name "Dunbar", although one source (in Annie Ham's handwriting) gives it as his place of birth. Like his older brother, Walter, Alfred Kehl became a drover, and handled mobs of horses as well as cattle. The Kehls were not a tall family; but Alfred is described as being broad and deep-chested, and strong.

In 1892, Alfred Kehl married Louise Zimmer (born Maryborough, 1872). The The Zimmers were a German family, from Frankfurt on Maine. Four children were born to Alfred and Louise Kehl. Their only daughter, Ivy Louise, was born in 1894, and died at the age of four, in Gympie.

It is likely that the family moved from place to place in the earlier years of their marriage. It is noted that the first son was born in Gympie, and the second at Brooyer, near Kilkivan. The family home was estabished at Tameree, about three miles north of Gympie. Droving, however, took Alfred Kehl far afield, and included taking mobs of horses to Darwin, to be shipped as army remounts to India.

Again like his brother Walter, Alfred Kehl worked with stock until the day he died. His death took place early in 1924, at Llandillo, near Clermont, while he was on a droving trip. The story is told that he was overcome by illness, and lay down under a tree while the mob went on. It was here that he died and was buried. His body was later recovered by his brother Walter, and taken for burial in Copperfield cemetery, Clermont. His silver spurs, approximate symbol of his life's work, were buried with him.

The three sons of Alfred and Louise Kehl were Percy Alfred, Walter Henry, and Herbert Joseph. The two older Kehl brothers married two sisters, daughters of an English couple, Reuben and Caroline Dunmall, of Gympie. Percy Kehl and Grace Anne Dunmall were married at Gympie, in 1916; and several years later, after the War, Walter Kehl was married to Ruth Mary Dunmall, also in Gympie.

Percy and Grace Kehl set up house on River Road, Gympie. As a young man, Percy worked on milk delivery in Gympie, using horse and cart. Early in his married life he was a miner, but later worked in sawmills, as sawyer, benchman, and saw doctor. Grace was born in 1893. During the great flood of that year she and her family had been rafted to safety from their property.

Three children were born to Percy and Grace Kehl. Their son, Clive, married Burneice Copp, and lived in Maryborough. Clive worked as a radio technician, and later as advisory officer with Wide Bay and Burnett Electricity Board. Iris, the older daughter, married Rodney Plunkett, a Gympie businessman in motor spare parts and hardware. Olive married Keith Cramb, who worked as linesman with Telecom.

Walter Henry Kehl, like his father, was a drover and stockman. In the years before Alfred's death, Walter Henry and his family lived in the Clermont area, and father and son worked together as drovers. It is likely that the pair also worked with Alfred's brother Walter, whose home was in Clermont. At another stage in his life, Walter Henry was running a farming property for his father-in-law at Eel Creek.

Walter and Ruth Kehl had five children. The oldest, Merle, married Gordon Millfull, a sawmill worker in Imbil. Mavis married Fran Godwin, a small crops farmer and farm worker. Vivian Kehl became a farmer in Monto. Colin Kehl found employment in the Central Queensland coalfields, at Moura. Noel Kehl became a farmer at Bouldercombe.

Herbert Joseph Kehl, third son of Alfred and Louise Krhl, was born in 1899, at Tamaree. He served an apprenticeship as saddler with Fleischmann's, of Ipswich. In 1923 he married Cecilia Reddy, in Ipswich. For a time during the Depression, he ran a small grocery shop in Coorparoo. Later, with George Wright, he returned to saddlery, a workshop being set up under Wright's home in Palmerston Street, Annerley. The two established a saddlery business in Stanley Street, South Brisbane. This business was sold in the 1960s, and until 1973 Herbert Kehl worked as packer for S. Hill and Sons. He died early in 1974.

The two daughters of Cecilia and Herbert Kehl were Veronica and Cecilia. Veronica married Desmond Kilmartin, a french polisher by trade. Cecilia married Ernest Stratton, a motor mechanic. top of page

Dora Agnes, second daughter of Matilda and John Simon Kehl, was born in 1873, at Black Snake, west of Gympie.5 Family lore reports that she was born under a bullock wagon and, bearing in mind the conditions under which the family lived, the report is probably true.

In 1892, in Herberton, Dora Kehl married Charles Halcotte Wagner, butcher. The marriage certificate shows that Charles Wagner was born in Port Mackay. The bride's occupation was given as "domestic servant". Two daughters were born to the couple. Annie Elizabeth was born in 1893, at Herberton; and Matilda (known as Cissie) was born in 1895, also at Herberton.

In the years before and during World War I, the Wagner family were living Sellheim. During this period, both daughters were married. In November 1912, Annie Wagner married George Bussey (born Maryborough), who was at the time working as a labourer at the meatworks at Macrossan, near Sellheim. In August 1919 their only child, Annie Doreen, was born; and five weeks after the birth, Annie Bussey died of pneumonia. She was buried at Charters Towers. Following her death Dora Wagner assumed household care for her son-in-law, and raised the child.

Cissie Wagner's marriage to George Brown took place in 1914, in Charters Towers. George Brown was also working at the Macrossan meatworks. Born in Fulham, England, in 1881, he had travelled widely, working in diverse places. He had experience as freezer hand in meatworks in the United States, and he was in San Francisco during the earthquake of 1906. He had worked in railroad construction in the Canadian Rockies, and in logging operations in British Columbia. He worked in meatworks in New Zealand and at Lakes Creek (Queensland) before coming to Sellheim.

The first child born to Cissie and George Brown was William George John, born in 1915. Their second son, Eric Charles, was born in 1918, after the family had left Sellheim.

In 1916, Dora Wagner accompanied the Bussey and Brown Families to Edmonton. For a time the two men worked a farm at Saw Mill Pocket. George Bussey later undertook share farming at Wright Creek. In the later 1920s the Bussey family moved to Barr Street, Edmonton. At this stage George Bussey was employed in farm work, and he also undertook house-building. It is recalled that he had good skills in carpentry and plumbing.

In 1934 Annie Doreen Bussey married Gordon Kirby, who was then a stationary engine driver at Queerah meatworks, near Cairns. Gordon Kirby enlisted in the RAAF in 1942. He remained in the service for twenty-eight years, becoming a Warrant Officer Engineer. In 1949, when he was stationed at Amberley, the Kirby family moved to Ipswich. Their home was established in Advance Street, East Ipswich.

George and Cissie Brown lived for a time in Innisfail, but established their home in Edmonton. At each centre George Brown built his own home; and the Edmonton house is now occupied by one of his grandsons. For twelve years he was incapacitated by a neck injury received in 1927; but from 1939 he was again able to work. After the War he was employed by the Mulgrave Shire Council, and he retired at the age of 81. Cissie Brown died in 1952, at Edmonton; and George Brown died in 1974, at Cairns, aged 93. George Bussey died in 1972, aged 90.

Following her granddaughter's marriage Dora Wagner lived with the Kirby family, and for a time with her brother, Samuel Kehl, at Trebonne. She left the north after the death of her daughter Cissie, and again lived with the Kirby family, in Ipswich. Her final years were spent in Lauriston Centre Nursing Home, Eastern Heights. She died in 1970, aged 97.

Dora Wagner's descendants remember her as a woman of very strong will. She was a very small women, but in her earlier years she had considerable practical skill. She could kill and dress stock, and was an excellent rifle shot.

Following war service, Bill Brown, elder son of Cissie and George Brown, developed a cane farm at Edmonton. His brother Eric, also following war service, was for many years involved in a motor body repair business in Cairns. top of page

Annie Coora Kehl was born at Mount Coora, near Mount Clara, about 35 kilometres west of Gympie, in 1876. In 1893, at the age of seventeen, she married Joseph John Ham. The wedding took place in Townsville, although both bride and groom were at the time living in Charters Towers. Josesh Ham, miner and mine manager, came from a Cornish mining family that had settled in Bendigo, probably around 1867. After the marriage, Joseph and Annie Ham lived in Millchester Road, Charters Towers, where two children, Alfred and Annie Queenie, were born (1894 and 1895). Joseph Ham was then managing the Grace Darling mine.

There is evidence to show that the family moved to Bendigo late in the century, and lived for a time at Golden Gully, returning in 1899. Doris Adsett Ham, the youngest of the family, was born at Brookville, near Ravenswood, in 1903. The family also lived at Sellheim and Liontown, and returned to Charters Towers.

Before the first World War the Towers mines were working out; and many Towers people, including the Ham family, went to Friezland, near Cloncurry, in search of work. The name Friezland was changed to Kuridala during the War. Joseph Ham found work at the mines, and both Alfred Ham and Queenie Ham taught at Kuridala school. Doris Ham also began pupil teacher training there.

At the conclusion of the War, the Kuridala mines also closed. By this time Joseph Ham had lost his sight in an accident. At the end of 1919 the family moved to Bowen, taking up residence in Livingstone Street; and in 1920 Queenie Ham began teaching at Merinda, about six miles from the town. Doris Ham tought at Bowen school until her marriage in 1927 to Edwin Stackelroth, farmer, of Delta (Bowen). Joseph and Annie Ham then lived with their daughter Doris. Annie Ham ran a small shop under the farm residence, opposite the Delta siding, until the second World War forced its closure in 1942.

Joseph Ham died in 1933, in Bowen. After the War Annie Ham continued to live with members of her family, in Bowen, Brisbane, and Charters Towers. Atthe time of her death in 1961 she was living with a granddaughter, Mavis Denmar, at Upper Mount Gravatt.

Descendants recall Annie Ham as a very small woman; but, like her sister Dora, she was independent and strong-willed. She was an excellent needleworker, and in her early years she was a very good rifle shot. When she was sixty years old she bought and learned to drive an Overland utility.

Alfred Ham married Elsie Blackburn, in Proserpine, in 1922. His teaching career took him to several Queensland centres, including Selwyn, Proserpine, Thursday Island, and Finch Hatton. At the time of his death in 1944 he was head of Cleveland State School. Two children, Beryl and Mervyn, were born to the marriage.

Queenie Ham married Will Erickson (also from Charters Towers and Kuridala) in Bowen, in 1924. Formerly a gold miner and prospector, he was later employed in waterside work, share farming and labouring. Their children were Joy, Fred, Mavis, Val and Fay.

Doris and Edwin Stackelroth continued farming at Delta until their retirement. They had one daughter, Dell.

With respect to the adopted daughter of Matilda and John Kehl, Christina Jane, little information is available. It is not known if the adoption was formally registered, but a close relationship was maintained for years. Jane married James Goodman. Issue of the marriage were Tom, Annie, Janey, Maud, and James.

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1 Information concerning the Gibson family has been supplied by Frank Gibson, grandson of Matilda and Albert Gibson.

2 Information concerning the family of Walter Kehl has been provided by a granddaughter, Rita Little, who has done considerable research.

3 Information concerning the family of Samuel Kehl has been provided by Stewart Kehl, grandson of Samuel and Isabella Kehl.

4 Information concerning the family of Alfred Kehl has been supplied by Clive Kehl and Veronica Kilmartin, grandson and granddaughter respectively of Alfred and Louisa Kehl.

5 Information concerning the family of Dora Wagner has been provided by her granddaughter, Annie Kirby, and by Bill Brown, grandson.