John Edward (Jack) Kevans
Block 24 Belconnen District
John Edward (Jack) Kevans was born in Geelong, Victoria in 1883. In 1911, he married Eva Florence (Flo) Hollingsworth from Hall. Before the war, Kevans was a bookkeeper and claimed to have worked on what he termed the "commercial side of the Los Angeles Examiner" newspaper. Flo's father, Malachi Hollingsworth, was the licensee of the Cricketer's Arms Hotel near Hall from 1896 to until his death in 1898. His widow, Susan Hollingsworth, then took up the license and ran the hotel until 1905 when she opened a boarding house in Hall. When Kevan's enlisted in August 1915, Flo and their two sons moved to Hall where her family lived.
Kevans served with the 13th Battalion on the Western Front from March 1916. The 13th Battalion fought at Pozières and Mouquet Farm during the Battle of the Somme in July and August 1916 and spent the winter in the trenches at Flers. He became a prisoner of war on the 11th April 1917 when the 13th Battalion attacked the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt. Kevans spent the next 18 months imprisoned near Limburg in Germany before being discharged medically unfit with a hernia. While her husband was at the war, Flo Kevans leased the old Catholic church at Ginninderra, across Yass Road from Belconnen Block 24, and lived there with her sons.
John Edward Kevans in Uniform. Photo courtesy of Patricia Kinlyside.
Kevans had difficulty in finding work in the Canberra district after the war. He wrote to the Prime Minister and the Department for Home and Territories asking for a clerical position in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) but to no avail. He found work on farms near Forbes and Condobolin, NSW from where he applied for land in the FCT stating that he had £500 in assets.
In February 1923, Kevans applied for a block of land in the FCT and listed Belconnen Block 24 as his first choice. He was successful and given a five year lease beginning on the 14th June 1923. However, the block was infested with noxious weeds that the conditions of the lease specified had to be cleared by the lessee. The lease conditions also stated that the Commonwealth may require the block to be used in the future as a dairy and that lucerne had to be planted along the Ginninderra Creek frontage.
Plan of Belconnen Block 24.
Belconnen Block 24 was 153 acres (62 hectares) and bounded on two sides by Ginninderra Creek and the Yass Road (now the Barton Highway). On its northern side was the Ginninderra Police Station. The land was originally part of the Palmerville estate, established in 1826 on the western bank of Ginninderra Creek by George Thomas Palmer. In 1877, the Commonwealth incorporated the block into Gungahleen. It was the property of Everard Crace at the time of its compulsory acquisition in 1915.
Like many Soldier Settlers, Kevans found that the size of the block was insufficient to make a living. While his wife and sons worked the land, running about 120 sheep, he got a job as a clerk with the NSW Railways. He would work at Chullora in Sydney during the week, returning to Ginninderra on the weekends. In 1928, an unnamed neighbour noted Kevans absence. This lead Commonwealth officials to question whether Kevans was a returned soldier who had deserted his wife. It took Statutory Declarations from Kevans and Charles Thompson, the teacher at Hall School, to convince them that Mrs. Kevans was farming the land on behalf of her husband.
Google Maps image of area c2013 with Belconnen Block 24 boundary in red.
By 1929, during negotiations for a new lease, Flo Kevans was referring to husband as an invalid. On the 8th September 1929, Jack Kevans requested permission to transfer the lease to his neighbour, William Lee, because he wanted to leave the district. Consent was given the following month and Lee took over the lease from the 14th June 1929 to the 13th June 1934 for an annual rental of £70/15/3. Jack and Flo Kevans eventually moved to Sydney where he died in 1966.
- ArchivesACT: Government Property & Tenancy Registers - Belconnen Block 24 ( PDF 449Kb)
- ArchivesACT: Rate Book : Territory for the Seat of Government - 1927 (PDF 17.8Mb) - 1928 ( PDF 18.7Mb)
- ArchivesACT: TL990 (Part 1) - Block 24 Belconnen District - W.G. Lee
- NAA: (A1) 1920/5103 J.E. Kevans Employment in Federal Capital
- NAA: (B2455) First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920: http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/230586
- The Early Days of Hall. The Canberra Times, 28 March 1981, p.15: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article126830335
- Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra by Lyall Gillespie, 1992 (p.73, 148, 228)