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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Mary Mathieson

Born: 1835; Died: 1915; Married: [Shumack] [McDonald]

Mary Mathieson [Shumack / McDonald] was born around 1835 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, to farmer William and Jane [nee Scott] Mathieson. Her brother, William Mathieson, had emigrated to Australia around 1860 and soon sent home for Mary to join him. She arrived in 1861, and became housekeeper for him.

"Early in 1860 a young Scotchman (sic) named William Mathieson came to Ginninderra and was employed as a shepherd. He took charge of the Bald Hill runs as John Coppin moved to the head station. Mathieson's run joined Shumack's on the south.
He was about six months on the run when he sent home to Aberdeen for his sister, Mary, and she arrived in 1861 and kept house for William.

On 3.8.1865 William Mathieson, bachelor, born Scotland, shepherd aged 28 of Ginninderra, son of William Mathieson and Jane Scott, married Cath Grady, spinster born NSW, housemaid aged 19 of Queanbeyan, daughter of James Grady, Police Constable, and Jane Clarke. The witnesses were John Smallhorn and Chris McDonald. Rev Father Patrick White officiated. [Register of Marriages St Gregory's RC Church Queanbeyan]. William Mathieson died in 1882".

Mary married Peter Shumack Snr in 1862 at St John's Church. Peter, then in his mid-50s, married twenty-seven year old Mary Mathieson on 2 Jan 1862 at St John's Canberra. Peter Shumack (1803-1883) had selected Portion 34 of 100 acres on Yass Road in 1856 and established 'Hawthorn Cottage', with cattle, an orchard, a dairy and a garden.

"Peter Shumack farmer aged 48 of Canberry Plain born Co Limerick Ireland, son of Peter Shumack farmer and Elizabeth Shumack, married Mary Mathieson aged 27 of Canberry, born Aberdeen shire, daughter of William Mathieson farmer and Jane Mathieson nee Scott on 2.1.1862 at St John's Church Canberra. Witnesses were William Mathieson and Margaret Shumack. Marriage Register St John's Church Canberra".

"Report of a small slab chapel just erected at Canberra for the use of the Wesleyan denomination being formally set apart for religious worship on Sunday afternoon a tea meeting was held afterwards followed by a public meeting with Mr Peter Shumack in the chair. The land on which the church was built was the generous gift of Mr Peter Shumack. [Queanbeyan Age 11.2.1869]".

"Advertisement seeking tenders for removal of the old Scotch Church Canberra tender to be returned to Peter Shumack Snr Canberra". [Queanbeyan Age 7.3.1870].

"Planted a magnificent elm tree near St Ninian's Church in 1871".

Mary was about 25 years his younger and they had no children, but adopted Annie Maria Pearce (born about 1868) as an infant.

"Report of William Mathieson's mother-in-law Mrs Jane Pearse being drowned while he was assisting her to cross the swollen river at Canberra after she had been at his place on a visit. He described himself as a farmer and shepherd at Round Hill Ginninderra. [Queanbeyan Age 18.2.1869].
The young couple adopted Sarah, the eldest child of the Catherine's mother's second marriage".

"Anna Maria Pearce - adopted as an infant by Peter & Mary {Shumack} after her mother drowned in 1869 after a cart driven by Mary's brother William overturned in a river".

"Thought to be related through her mother's second husband to the notorious Jingera Mob of bushrangers, sometimes referred to as the 'Jinden murders'".

They lived at Hawthorn Cottage until Peter's death in 1883 aged 74. He was buried on 1 October 1883 in St John's C of E Churchyard. Mary continued working the farm as a dairy.

"Died early on Saturday morning 29 September 1883 at his home near Canberra Inn. Had been a resident of Canberra for upwards of 40 years and was 77 years of age. Had for some years been in a very feeble state of health and his death though regretted by all was not unexpected. Funeral held on 2 October on same day as Thomas Priests. Both men were buried at Canberra C of E Church." [Wizard's Notes Post 4.10.1883].

"Mary was left a piece of land just north of St Ninian's Church by old Peter Shumack. Mary is warmly and widely remembered. Life's work care of orphans and neglected children, one of her adopted sons, George Potter killed during War... Mrs McDonald died 1915 aged 82... Lyndsey Gardiner Witness in Stone pages 25 and 60".

Mary re-married on 4 March 1886 at St Stephen's Church, Queanbeyan to Finley McDonald.

F McDonald, Hawthorn Cottage shown as growing wheat and oats and dairy farming. Yemen's Directory of Landholders of NSW 1900

Mary fostered or adopted several Potter/Bate children.

"George Potter was born George Bate on 27 December 1891 at the Sydney Benevolent Asylum, a site long since occupied by Central Railway Station. Bate was his mother's maiden name and, although she had married a man named Potter in 1884, George's father is unknown.

George and his older brother and younger sister returned to the Benevolent Asylum in early 1897 and afterwards became wards of the State and were fostered {or adopted} by Mrs Mary McDonald of 'Hawthorn' in Upper Canberra".

Mary was again widowed in 1906, but she continued running the farm and dairy with her adopted son George Potter.

"A very old resident of Canberra, Mr Finlay McDonald, passed away on Saturday last at the age of 65 years. The deceased was preparing to go to the Ginninderra Sports but feeling unwell decided to remain at home. Shortly after feeling the first symptoms of illness he lapsed into a state of stupor. Dr Blackall who was in the vicinity was called in and arrived shortly before Mr McDonald's death. The Doctor found he had been stricken with apoplexy and pronounced the case as hopeless. The remains were interred in the Presbyterian portion of the General Cemetery yesterday. The Rev E S Henderson officiating at the grave".[Queanbeyan Age 5.6.1906]

3.1.1913 Queanbeyan Observer - "Report of a social at Hawthorn Cottage the residence of Mrs F McDonald on 26 December to celebrate the coming of age of Mr George Potter".

The farm was acquired by the Federal Capital Territory (100 acres for £823-18-0) in March 1915.

Mary died in 1915 and was buried with her first husband Peter Shumack.

"Died 13th October 1915 aged 82 years, a native of Aberdeenshire Scotland. Buried in the same grave as her first husband Peter Shumack. Tombstone St John's Church. Commemorative window in St Ninians".

"One of the oldest identities of the Canberra District passed away on Wednesday night in the person of Mrs Finlay McDonald at the great age of 82 years. Mrs McDonald had been ailing very much for the past three years but her end was in keeping with her life, for she passed peacefully away after a severe attack of her old complaint. Mrs McDonald was one of the older Presbyterian in the district, of many years standing and held in the highest esteem by all ministers of the Parish for her outstanding Christian works. Her work for the church was completed some years ago as far as active service went but her wonderful spirit of peaceful resignation in the face of trial has been a lesson to all even the evening of her death...The funeral takes place at Canberra".[Queanbeyan Age 15.10.1915]

George Potter grew up at 'Hawthorn', went to Gungahleen School and helped run the dairy. He was employed by the federal government at the gravel pit, Duntroon as a road contractor. He became involved in local sporting organizations, building courts for the Ainslie Tennis Club on part of 'Hawthorn' and joining the Ainslie Cricket Club when it was formed in 1914. He settled the estate of Mary McDonald and then enlisted in the AIF on 5 December 1915 and joined the 53rd Battalion in France at the end of July 1916.

He participated in the 5th Division's campaigns at Flers and Gueudecourt in the winter of 1916, and on the Bapaume-Cambrai road, at Bullecourt and Passchendaele during 1917 and was appointed as a Lance Sergeant at the end of that year. He was wounded in the arm near Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918 but returned to his unit four months later.

At the end of August 1918 the 2nd Division assaulted Mont St. Quentin, a hill overlooking the walled town of Péronne on the Somme River.

The 53rd Battalion had to clear the road to Péronne. As they advanced, Potter's company was faced by German machine guns firing from behind several unbroken belts of wire and a barrage of shells. Potter was the main figure in the attack and became the focus of the German machine guns, sacrificing himself for the sake of his fellow soldiers – "George Potter firing burst after burst from the Lewis gun at his hip silenced a nest of German machine-guns and enabled us to stream through the narrow inlet.".

It is believed that George Potter was the closest resident to the site of the future Australian War Memorial at the time he enlisted.

– "Last Sunday afternoon the Presbyterian Church Upper Canberra was crowded to excess at the service held in memory of the late Sgt George Potter Killed in Action on 1 September somewhere in France. Rev D Finlayson conducted the service". [Queanbeyan Age 8.10.1918]

Henry Edward Gozzard jnr then took over the lease to Hawthorn Cottage which he continued to run as a dairy until he eventually moved to Forbes, NSW.

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