The Explorer’s Soul

In the hunt for my family history I have followed the Hunt family from Measham, Derbyshire/Leicestershire, where my great grandmother, Annie Hunt, made her voyage to immigrate to Australia… Brisbane, Queensland to be precise. I also found my relatives in America descended from her father’s second marriage. Here I attempt to tell you Annie’s story.

George Hunt was born in Hungary Barttey, Derbyshire, in about 1805 and on 26th January 1832 in St Peters, Derby, he married Elizabeth (Eliza) Heath. The Measham parish records state that in 1857:-

“George Hunt owns Measham Mills which had been greatly enlarged, and consists of two factories, for the manufacture of gimp, fancy cords, silk bindings etc… one of which is worked by a steam engine of 40 horse power and the other by water and they give employment of upwards of 250 persons”.

George and Eliza had seven children, the eldest being a boy, named after his father and born 9th August 1835. He and his siblings, John (1839), Eliza (1842), Ann (1843), Isabella (1845), Amelia (1848) and Samuel (1852), lived with their parents in High Street, Measham, (then) Derbyshire. At the age of 15, George was employed by his father as a manufacturer’s bookkeeper. In 1860, George senior died from bronchitis and, as per his will (proved 20th September 1860), both factories and land were left to his three sons. However as Samuel was only 8 at the time, the mills were run by George and John. George apparently joined the Merchant Navy around 1862 (I have yet to find his service records) leaving John to run the mills. George was also very strong in the Masonic Lodge. Follow the link to see a page out of George Hunt’s Notebook showing navigational positions and weather notings whilst aboard the ‘S.S. Canada’ in 1872.

On 16th August 1864, George married Ann Bradford at Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex, and on 17th May 1865, she gave birth to a little girl, and they named her Annie. Things didn’t go right with the birth and Ann was sickly for the next six months, dying on 26th November 1865, leaving George with a tiny baby to care for. His mother had died on 31st March of the same year, and with him being away at sea for months at a time, he turned to his married sister Isabella for help. Isabella had married the surgeon, James Webb Booth, and lived in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. They had no children of their own, so were happy to take little Annie into their home. She lived with them until she was 5 years old.

When Annie was around 9, George employed a young school teacher, Nellie Fowler, from Ohio, USA, to look after her, and in 1874, she and Annie took a trip to visit Nellie’s parents. George followed not long after, and married Nellie Fowler on 26th August 1874. The years that followed were an exciting time for Annie. Her father retired from the Merchant Navy in 1881, and at the time of the census, was living with his wife, Nellie, their two daughters, Jessie (1875) and Grace (1878), as well as Annie, at ‘Shrewsbury Street 8 Balmoral Terrace’, Stretford, Lancashire.

It isn’t documented, but some time between the census and February 1882, there was a parade which passed the house. The children were now 16, 6 and 3, and they, along with a 16 year old servant, Nelly Nixon, huddled around an upstairs window to watch as it passed by. A terrible accident happened as little 3 year old Grace fell from the window sustaining serious head injuries, and, I suppose, for a time there it was touch and go as to whether she would live. Little Grace did survive the fall, but she was badly brain damaged. As it happens when disaster strikes suddenly like this, many harsh words were thrown around and Annie, proving to be a very stubborn young woman, booked her passage to Australia departing in February 1882. Her father accompanied her to the docks for a final farewell and a chance to try and get her to change her mind, but Annie’s mind was set and she boarded the ‘Southesk’ for the long three month voyage to Australia.

Alone and sailing far across the world from all that had been familiar to her, the young 16 year old Annie found that she had much to learn. A couple of friendly ladies came to her aid and showed her how to wash her clothes and generally look after herself. They also promised to introduce Annie to friends in Brisbane, Queensland, when the ship arrived, who were looking for a lady’s maid/companion for their daughter, who was around the same age. Ten days out from Brisbane, Annie celebrated her 17th birthday, her first not in the company of a family member to make it memorable.

On 27th May 1882, Annie arrived in Brisbane and was ready to take up her first paid position as lady’s maid/companion, having been aptly schooled by her two lady friends over the prior three months. The house was at Hamilton in Brisbane.

Annie lived and worked in Brisbane attending functions and balls as companion to the young lady and it is unclear why or exactly when, but Annie moved to Gympie where she worked as a domestic for a few years.

The name Gympie is derived from an Aboriginal name for a tree called the Gympie-Gympie tree and before changing its name to Gympie the town was called Nashville. Gympie was mostly a gold-mining area, but it diversified into agriculture and was known as the town that saved Queensland.

The nearest port to Gympie is Maryborough and it was through this port that the siblings of the Worcestershire agricultural worker family of Nott slowly arrived and settled in Australia. The first was Edward, who fell in love with Australia, and upon returning to England in 1879, at the death of his mother, appears to have fired the imagination of his siblings. The two eldest girls were married to farmers, but the younger sisters started the migration of the younger Nott family siblings to the faraway shores of Australia. Emma was the first to arrive in Maryborough, Queensland, aboard the ‘Silver Eagle’ on 15th May 1880, followed by her sister Fanny who arrived aboard the ‘Melpomene’ on 30th January 1883, closely followed by their younger brother William, who paused long enough to marry his sweetheart Agnes – they arrived in Maryborough aboard the ‘Merkara’ on 12th December 1883. As Henry was in the Worcestershire Foot Infantry at the time, Edward waited until he had resigned his service and they travelled together as far as Melbourne, Victoria.

On landing in Melbourne, Edward and Henry found themselves in need of new coats so they entered the general store and found a coat each. When they went to pay for them there was no one to serve them, so they left the money on the counter and walked off down the street (oh for the simple life!).

At this point Edward decided to remain in Victoria, so Henry continued his journey to Queensland to join up with his sisters and younger brother. Henry arrived in Maryborough aboard the ‘Duke of Sutherland’ on 3rd January 1888 and continued onto Gympie, where he obtained employment in the gold-fields as a miner.

On a sunny day he was strolling through a park and his eye was caught by a young lady sitting reading, so he wandered over and introduced himself, and made the acquaintance of Annie Hunt. Henry and Annie enjoyed many a sunny Sunday, sitting on the park bench after church, telling each other about their families and former lives back in the mother country. Their fondness for each other grew and Henry finally asked Annie for her hand in marriage. She accepted him and they married on 25th October 1890 in the home of Henry’s sister Emma and her husband James Wood, who gladly acted as witnesses to their nuptials. Henry and Annie lived a happy life producing three lovely daughters and one son.

In 1920, after the big floods that caused the closure of many of the mines and the loss of many jobs for miners, Henry and Annie moved to Brisbane, where they were joined by three of their married children. Their eldest daughter, Ida, remained in Gympie with her husband, who worked for the Queensland Government Railways. Henry found employment with the gas company, but soon fell prey to the years of working in the mines and then with the coal dust at the gas company – he died of lung disease on 12th November 1923.

Annie moved in with her youngest daughter Agnes and her granddaughter Claris, and lived happily with them until her death from a heart attack on 6th May 1937.

Henry and Annie are now reunited in sleep and buried together at South Brisbane Cemetery, Dutton Park, Brisbane. They left behind the legacy to date of six generations of Australians who are proud of the explorer’s soul and hard work of their forefathers.


© MacPanda 2009


Story of Edward and Henry arriving in Melbourne told to my mother by her grandmother and verified by my mother’s cousin.

Story of 1920 floods in Gympie is an historical fact learned at school and the story of the Nott family migration (along with the Campbell family which Henry and Annie’s youngest daughter Agnes married into and who is my mother’s mother) to Brisbane from Gympie is as told by my mother, as it happened when she was 4 years old.

Story of meeting between Henry and Annie as told to my mother and her cousins by Annie their grandmother.

Family bible

Migrant Ships Arriving In Queensland 1837-1915

Australian Heritage – Historical Towns Directory