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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Edmund Rolfe

Born: 1841; Died: 1918; Married: 1. Margaret Logue 2. Margaret O'Keefe

Edmund was the son of Anthony and Catherine [Curtis] Rolfe, who together with their five children emigrated to Australia in 1849. The family migrated to the new colonies under one of the Bounty schemes subsidised to the British Government and was part of the wave of free settlers to follow the convict era.  Edmund had been born in 1840 at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. In Australia Anthony joined his older brother, William, and was a tenant farmer at Joseph Kaye's 'Springbank' (Acton) for ten years. In 1861 Anthony had saved enough to purchase 60 acres at Ginninderra, which was to become the start of 'Gold Creek' station. Further purchases followed, and the Rolfes established their home at 'Tea Gardens'. The remnants of that homestead is located in presentday Ngunnawal near Ginninderra Creek, which is now part of the Gungahlin Lakes Golf Course.

According to Newman, the Rolfes were part of an influx of catholic families that settled in the Ginninderra dsitrict'. Amongst others were the Hibbersons, Blewitts, Cavanaghs, Ryans, McCarthys, McAuliffes and Butlers. [see entries for James Vincent Hibberson, Rosanna Mary Blewitt, Patrick Cavanagh, William Ryan, Flourence McAuliffe, John ('Jack') Butler]. Edmund and his family were part of this catholic community, initially parishioners of St Gregory's Queanbeyan, where many Rolfe family weddings and funerals took place. The Rolfes at various times hosted services, held fund-raising events, and helped establish St Francis chuch at Ginninderra (1872) and its replacement, St Francis Xavier at Hall (1910). Sons Anthony and Patrick carted stone for the Hall church from James McCarthy's Glenwood. Daughter Alice joined the Sisters of the Order of the Good Samaritan in Queanbeyan.

Anthony Rolfe financed the initial purchase of 60 acres (24 ha) of land which abutts the present-day 'Gold Creek' Homestead site and transferred the land title as part of a much larger 320-acre parcel to Edmund in 1872. Edmund, who was eventually to build up a large and very successful farming and grazing enterprise, started out as a teamster, driving a bullock cart. That role involved transporting building materials (e.g. sandstone), wool, wheat and even drinking water from and to as far afield as Camden and Braidwood. He was the principal transport contractor for the tower reconstruction work on St John the Baptist Church (in present-day Reid).

Edmund married twice - to Margaret Logue (1861) then Margaret Jane Rolfe [Keefe] in 1867. Margaret Logue was the daughter of Bryan and Margaret Logue, he being manager of the Duntroon dairy. Sadly, Margaret died after childbirth in 1867, leaving Edmund with four young children. However, he married again within three months - to Margaret O'Keefe of Queanbeyan, with whom he was to have another ten children. Seven sons proved a great assett to a pioneering farmer!

On their earliest holdings the Rolfes grew wheat, barley, hay and lucerne - crops for both taking to market and for feeding stock. Later they diversified into sheep and wool production and built their own woolshed. As well as wool-growing Edmund kept racehorses and once ventured into gold mining with Thomas 'Tom' Gribble. Edmund was also active in local politics and community affairs, serving as Treasurer and later Vice President of the Ginninderra Protection Union, and on the committee of the Ginninderra Farmers Union, which conducted the Ginninderra Show.

Edmund's children enrolled at the new public school at Ginninderra, but Edmund crossed swords with the teacher, Thomas Ray, and with the Department of Public Instruction over religious instruction. In 1884 he wrote to the Department:

.....with reference to my son Brian suspended from school by the teacher for gross insolence. I beg to say that my son did nothing further than to ask the teacher to let him out at school during the time he the teacher where [sic] teaching scripture and as soon as he asked the teacher the teacher ran at him and knocked his head against the wall and he then got him down on the floor and punched him with his knees and ...told him to go home.
.....I think it is coming to something when a teacher in a public school can do as he thinks proper ............It matters little to me what this teacher does now as I am determined that my children will not go to that school during the time that he remains as I have arranged with two other families to get a teacher and pay him out of our own pockets rather than send him to this school while he remains.
I remain,
Edmund Rolfe

Edmund subsequently tried to establish a private catholic school for his children and others, where they would be untainted by Protestantism, but the teacher appointed was dismissed after three weeks, and subsequently sued Rolfe (unsuccessfully) for ₤100 for breach of contract. The jury seems to have determined the matter a draw..........[see article below] [Queanbeyan Age, Tuesday 23 February 1886]

The fine stone 'Gold Creek' homestead, much altered but still standing, was built in 1883. The 3,940 acre 'Gold Creek' estate, accumulated and improved over some forty years by the Rolfes, was resumed by the government in 1915 for £13,500. The former Rolfe land west of Halls Creek was subsequently leased to Arthur Bolton, and this land has subsequently been owned and then leased by members of the Bolton family. Edmund and Magaret moved to a new home, Sherwood Grange, at Merrylands near Sydney, but were not long there before first Margaret (July 1918) and then Edmund (October 1918) pased away.

Children of Edmund Rolfe:

to Margaret (Logue)

to Margaret (Keefe)

Court case over schooling at Ginninderra. Forde v. Rolfe

This was an action to recover £100 for breach of contract and damages and was tried by the following jury: J. W. Nugent, J. H. W. Walker, T. Wilson, and G. T. Dudley.

The plaintiff had entered into an agreement with defendant to establish a Roman Catholic school at Gold Creek, Gininderra, and teach four of defendant's children, receiving in consideration £20 per annum, his board and lodging and agistment for his horse. In addition to this, two other neighbouring families were to give him each £10 per annum. It was an understood thing that until a school room was built at Gold Creek, plaintiff was to conduct his school in the Roman Catholic School-church at Gininderra - a mile and a half distant.

Plaintiff had received £1 on account, and had entered upon his duties; but in about three weeks afterwards a misunderstanding occurred and plaintiff considered himself summarily dismissed. In consequence of this he had to obtain board and lodging at Mr. P. Cavanagh's, five miles from the school, and was thus put to expense and unnecessary trouble. For the defence it was shown that plaintiff had behaved very offensively whilst at defendant's house, insulting his wife and children in many ways, amongst others by throwing a plate of cold mutton at Mrs. Rolfe whilst sitting at the table, and eventually refusing to teach in the new school house when built or even residing at defendant's place.

The reason alleged for this was that he had obtained other pupils whilst at Gininderra, and that he wanted to 'break up the State school'. When told he was expected to fulfil the term's of his agreement, he replied that there was no agreement "not even the scratch of a pen." It was also shown that he had in fact whilst leaving of his own accord and repudiating the agreement, been boarded and lodged without charge at Mr. Cavanagh's and that plaintiff refused to enter into a written agreement, as he desired to hold himself free to go whenever he wished. It having been pointed out to his Honour that plaintiff was clearly entitled to 3 weeks' pay for services rendered, amounting to 21s, and that he had received on account only 20s, By his Honour's directions the jury found for plaintiff 4/-, but for defendant on all other pleas. Under the circumstances his Honour ordered that each party pay his own costs.
[Queanbeyan Age, Tuesday 23 February 1886]

Obituary : Edmund Rolfe (Snr).

News reached Queanbeyan this morning that Mr. Edmund Rolfe, formerly of Gold Creek, Gininderra, passed away at Merrylands, near Sydney, last night. The deceased, one of the best-known old time residents of this district, had been ailing from nearly the time of the decease of his wife, which occurred in the Parramatta hospital early in July last; so that her husband survived her just about three months. The remains of Mr. Rolfe will be entrained for Queanbeyan per mail train tonight, and on arrival here tomorrow morning will be taken to St. Gregory's Church, whence the funeral will proceed to the old Roman Catholic cemetery at 3 p.m.

The deceased was brother to Mr. George Rolfe, for some years an innkeeper in Queanbeyan, but now, and for a long time past, following the same occupation in Cooma. The Rolfes are the children of one of Queanbeyan's earliest pioneers, and no one in the early days of settlement in this district was better known or more worthily respected than old Anthony Rolfe of Gininderra. And by marriage the links in the chain of pioneer families were strengthened. Mrs. Edmund Rolfe, who as already said, predeceased her husband in July last, was a daughter of Mrs. Margaret O'Keeffe, the widow of another pioneer settler. She (the daughter) was born in Queanbeyan as far back as in 1841.

The subject of this obituary notice was born at Ginninderra, and his entire life was spent in this district. He was one of our most successful graziers and farmers, and was like many others, driven from his home by the resumption policy of the Federal Capital Territory authorities, Gold Creek being within that territory. However, like his excellent wife before him, in the soil of their native district, as is befitting, their mortal remains will repose till the sound of the Great Archangel's trump shall call them to the resurrection unto life immortal. Nine children survive their departed parents, viz., Sister Mary Pierie (Good Samaritan Order); Mrs. J. V. Hibberson, Glenwood, Ginninderra; Mrs. Flanagan, Sydney; Mrs. Conrie, Sydney, (daughters); and Messrs. Anthony, William, James, Patrick, and Edward Rolfe (sons).

[Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer, 8 October 1918 p. 2]

Related Photos


Chris Newman, Gold Creek. Reflections of Canberra's Rural Heritage. Author Published 2004

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