Thomas Brown (1803 – 5 July 1863) was Edith Cowan's paternal grandfather. He was an early settler in colonial Western Australia, and a Member of the Western Australian Legislative Council. The family immigrated to Western Australia in 1841 arriving on the Sterling to the Swan River Colony. Thomas Brown purchased Grass Dale, a property in York from Revett Henry Bland. He took a position of assistant Government Surveyor for a short time but found the work kept him away from his property so he resigned in January 1841. After ten years of farming in York the property was in debt, so Thomas Brown and his son Kenneth went on an overland expedition from York to the Champion Bay district (now Geraldton). They found very good farming land on the Greenough River and selected 40,000 acres. The following year he established a homestead, naming it Glengarry.
He leased his property in York and his intentions of settling at his property in Geraldton never eventuated as late in 1850 he was nominated to the Legislative Council, a position which required him to be in Perth. He resigned from Council in 1851 with the intention of moving to Glengarry. Unfortunately this move did not eventuate as he was offered a position as Police Magistrate, relieving first in Perth and then taking the appointment full time in Fremantle as Magistrate on a salary of £200. The guarantee of a steady income was very attractive and helped him to pay off debts. After nearly ten years as Resident Magistrate at Fremantle he was appointed as Resident Magistrate for Victoria district in Geraldton. He died suddenly in July 1863 never to live at Glengarry. The residents of Fremantle presented his widow with a testimonial on 26 October 1863.
|John Burdett Wittenoom was Edith Cowan's maternal grandfather. He was born on 24 October 1788 in Newark in Nottinghamshire, England. He was the headmaster at Newark Grammar School in England from 1813 to 1828. He married Margaret Mary Teasdale and they had had five children: John Burdett, Edward, Henry, Frederick Dirck and Charles. Tragically Mary died in 1828 and so he decided to emigrate to Australia. In 1829 he was appointed as Colonial Chaplain for the Swan River Colony by the British Government. He arrived in the Colony on January 30, 1830 aboard the Wanstead with his mother, sister and four sons. He married a second time to Mary Watson Helms on 3 January 1839 and had three more children: Mary Eliza Dirksey (mother of Edith Cowan), Augusta Henrietta Maria and John Burdett Cornelius. |
Reverend Wittenoom was granted land at Beverley, and also took up 5000 acres on the Swan at 'Gwambygine.' He leased out the latter until his sons were old enough to manage it themselves. He served from when he arrived 30 January 1830 until he died in 1855. For many years he was the only minister of any denomination in the colony and in time, the size of his flock grew from a few hundred to many thousand. He opened a small grammar school in Perth between 1847 and 1855, and was the Chairman of the Education Committee. He was a Freemason in the St John Lodge and a Justice of the Peace.
Although based at Perth, Wittenoom was responsible for the whole state in the early years. He visited Albany twice and made many visits to the new settlements at York, Toodyay, Guildford, the Swan Valley, as well as the ports of Fremantle and Champion Bay, now known as Geraldton. He was responsible for the spiritual well being of the settlers, evangelism to the aborigines, and later also had a role in ministering to the convicts who were brought in from 1850 onwards.
John Wittenoom died in Perth on 23 January 1855. After his death, his widow served as the Mistress of the Perth Girls' School between 1856 and 1858. His memorial, which was originally erected in the first St George's Cathedral in 1855, is now displayed on the North wall of the nave in the Cathedral.
Reverend John B Wittenoom
One of Reverend John Wittenoom's sons, Charles (1824 - 1866) was a grazier and bank director. He married Sarah Elizabeth Harding in 1853 and they had four children, Edward Charles (Horne); Frederick Francis Burdett; Rose Agnes Lefroy and James Cornelius. Edward and his brother, Frederick explored the Murchison area and established stations at Murgoo, Boolardy, Nookawarra, Mileura and Belele. Edward was elected to the Legislative Council for Geraldton in a 1883 by-election, following the resignation of Maitland Brown. In 1884 he went to England, but served as MLC again in 1885-1886. He was elected under responsible government as Council member for Central Province, in December 1894. He unexpectedly entered Sir John Forrest's ministry as government spokesman in the Council and Minister for Mines, Education, Posts and Telegraphs. As a competent member of Forrest's ministry Edward Wittenoom acted as Premier in Forrest's absence. He was described as "a man of considerable independence of character … accustomed to having his own way". He left a distinctive, autocratic mark. He resigned from Parliament due to a backlash from miners, after the introduction of a very unpopular dual-title mining regulation, allowing alluvial and reef mining on the same ground. Due to the ongoing protests by miners the regulation was finally rescinded. Edward was then appointed Western Australia's Agent-General (1898-1901) in London where he was in his element hosting parties and being entertained at Henley. Edward was knighted in 1900, the last KCMG to be personally invested by Queen Victoria.
Sir Edward Charles Wittenoom
Kenneth Brown, eldest son of Thomas and Eliza (nee Bussey) married his first wife Mary Eliza Dircksey Wittenoom 15 January 1859. They had five children: Blanche Mary Elizabeth, 24 June 1860, Edith Dircksey 2 August 1861, and Forrest Kenneth 12 December 1862. Another son, Clarence Dirck, 1864 and Ernest Burdett 1866 (who died in infancy in 1866). Eliza died in childbirth in 1868.
Kenneth Brown was an experienced frontiers' man, farmer, explorer, horse breeder and racer and Turf Club Steward. His life had so much promise though ended in failure at the end of a rope for the murder of his second wife Mary-Ann Tindal who he married in 1873. Before he was seventeen he had been on one of the most difficult expeditions towards the inland.
The colony in Perth was expanding north wards in the search for good farming land. Kenneth Brown settled his family at Champion River (now Geraldton) and took over the management of the Brown's family farm, Glengarry, where he ran sheep on what was said to be the best sheep property in the colony and bread horses. The Browns developed a passion for horse breeding and Glengarry became a successful race horse breeding establishment in the colony for thoroughbred race horses and cavalry re-mounts that were sold to India.
In June 1863 he organised an expedition to explore the North West. The party consisted of B. Clarson, S. Hamersley and J. Martin, with Aubrey Brown and four men, who were to form a depot if the land proved suitable. Seven horses and twenty five sheep and food supplies were loaded on the thirty-four-ton 'Flying Foam and Captained by Capt Cooper. This expedition had its dangers and none of the party took up the offer of land.
After his father's death in June 1863, Kenneth joined with his brother's Thomas and Maitland in a partnership to manage and run Glengarry. Over the following ten years Glengarry's success was undermined by drought, wheat rust and sheep scab and began to run at a loss. Kenneth withdrew from the partnership and was paid out. He relocated to Victoria where he continued his horse racing pursuits and was the first Western Australian to enter a horse in the Melbourne Cup. Without success he became very despondent and his behaviour very erratic, he started drinking heavily.
Tragically this behaviour continued on his return to Western Australia and on 3 January 1876 after an argument with his wife, he shot her. He was convicted of her murder and hanged on 10 June 1907.
Maitland Brown (1843-1905), the son of Thomas and Eliza, brother to Kenneth and uncle to Edith Cowan, was also a frontier man, explorer, farmer, horse breeder, politician and magistrate. He was revered as one of Western Australia's most distinguished, capable and zealous public servants, who loved the country and served as a legislator. He was nominated to the Legislative Council then won the seat of Geraldton as a Member of the Legislative Council in September 1874. In an Obituary after his death at the age of 62, he was said to be 'the kindest hearted of men, invested with a winning personality which ripened acquaintances into warm friendship; that his hospitality was unstinted, and as a host he was generous as he was companionable'.
Entry from the Australian dictionary of Biography
Hon Hendy Cowan is the son of James William Halley, farmer, and Ruth Anderson and great nephew of Edith Cowan. Hendy was a farmer in Narembeen Shire. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly for the seat of Merredin–Yilgarn, 30 March 1974–19 February 1977; Merredin 19 February 1977–16 Ọctober 2001 (resigned). He became Leader of the National Party August 1978–February 2001 and Deputy Premier and Minister for a number of portfolio's in the Court Government from 16 February 1993–15 February 2001.
Hon Hendy Cowan
Edith's grandson, Peter Cowan (4 November 1914–6 June 2002) was a celebrated Western Australian author who wrote detailed biographies on Maitland Brown and Edith Cowan. Julie Lewis has suggested that Kenneth’s life and death, “is to some extent responsible for Peter Cowan’s biographical method and also the motivating force behind some of his fiction. The effect of isolation, of a hostile environment, of grief and emotional deprivation on a person’s spirit and the ways in which an individual reacts to these things - mostly in control, but occasionally showing uncharacteristic violence are recurring themes for example in “The Empty Street” – a man driven by unseen forces reacts with violence.
A unique position : a biography of Edith Dircksey Cowan, 1861-1932 / [by] Peter Cowan. Nedlands, WA: University of Western Australia Press, 1978.
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