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KEENAN FAMILY in Australia


Added to site 8/10/2016

  • Typhoid epidemic hits Keenan family.

  • Child burnt to death.

Henry John Keenan (1840 - 1889) and  Nancy Jane Keenan (nee Gamble) (1844 - 1926)

In January 1993 I visited the Tumut Public Library for several days to search through the library's records of the Keenan family.  One of the folders I examined was known as the Perkins Papers. In it I found the following three articles about the 1884 typhoid epidemic at Batlow (then known as Reedy Flat).  One article also refers to the burning death in the same year of a Keenan child, and to the reported mental condition of Henry John Keenan.  These matters are also referred to in George Keenan's 1949 newspaper article.

Perkins Papers - Item 17 - Page 298

Cooma and Tumut in 1884 - from "S. M. Herald"


July 25. Adelong - The typhoid epidemic at Reedy Flat is abating.  A large sum of money has been subscribed for the distressed families by Tumut and Adelong people.  The Government is also granting assistance.


July 30. Adelong - The first number of the "Adelong Argus" has been published.  The third victim of the Keenan family in the fatal typhoid epidemic died last Friday (25th).  She was a domestic servant, and was the bread winner of the family.  She contracted the disease nursing her sick brothers and mother.

Perkins Papers - Item 17 - Page 303

Tumut and Adelong in 1884 - from "S. M. Herald"


July 19. Adelong 18th.  A child belonging to the unfortunate Keenan family, most of whom are laid up with typhoid fever, has been burnt to death at Reedy Flat.  It seems that while the mother was attending to her sick child, the deceased wandered down to some burning logs in the paddock nearby, and fell into the burning mass, while the father, who suffers from St. Vitus Dance and is half imbecile, stood laughing and gesticulating by himself.  In trying to put out the fire Mrs. Keenan got severely burnt. NOTE: This story was published in several newspapers, one with the heading "Shocking Occurrence in New South Wales - Father Laughing at the Burning of his child".  Source: Search of trove.nla.gov.au

Several families are in a sad plight at Reedy Flat, and have suffered great hardships during the past few weeks, and unless timely and substantial aid is afforded, their troubles will be multiplied.


July 26.  Adelong 25th .... The epidemic (Typhoid) at Reedy Flat is abating and several patients are in fair way of recovery.  A large sum of money has been subscribed to the distressed families by the Tumut and Adelong people.  The Government has given instructions that the distressed families are to be provided with all the necessaries they may require.

NOTE:  The child who was burned to death was Isabella (or Bella) Keenan. The death occurred on 15 July 1884. According to Dorothy Lovering, writing to me (Peter Keenan) in 1995, her grandfather, John Keenan (1873-1957), told her that Bella had died "while the others had diptheria and to keep warm they had a big log fire out in the yard to keep the family out of the house (from infection)"..