Sunday, November 29, 2009

The death of Michael Coonan Senior, 1873.

Because I can find no sign of Lucy Nihill Coonan having died or remarried, I have no idea whether she ever returned to her husband. She is not buried in the Coonan grave in Melbourne General Cemetery with Michael Coonan and his first wife, so I am assuming that the couple remained estranged for the rest of Michael's life.
When Lucy left in 1861, her three stepchildren were aged 16 (Margaret),13 (Jeremiah) and 6 (Michael). Margaret would have had to step in and help raise her younger brothers as well as care for her father. Even if Michael hired a housekeeper, it still would have been Margaret's place to run the house in the absence of a mother figure.
Their farm was situated at Wollert, which was located only 27 km north of Melbourne.
Michael Coonan Senior lived for another twelve years after his second wife left him, and then,in early Autumn of 1873, things came to a head when he took his own life in the family home. I have ordered his inquest, but a small newspaper article in the Argus briefly tells the sad story:-

" A farmer named Michael Coonan, living at Wollert, committed suicide on the 14th inst. by taking strychnine. He came home about 6 o'clock in the evening, apparently suffering from drink, and behaved in a very strange manner. He turned his children- a son and daughter- out of doors, and took the poison. He then called them in, blessed them, and said he was sorry for what he had done. He died about half an hour after. There was ground for believing that the deceased was of unsound mind, and the evidence of Dr. Barker supported the theory. An inquest was held by Mr. Candler on the 17th inst., and a verdict was returned that deceased died from the effects of poison taken whilst he was of unsound mind."
-The Argus, Thursday, March 20, 1873.

The two children at home were Margaret, aged 28, and Michael aged 18. Twenty four year old Jeremiah Coonan, the eldest son, had not yet married, so I am not sure where he was on the day of his father's suicide.He may have already selected land at Euroa...he was farming there three years later when he married Margaret Mellon.

Michael Coonan had died without leaving a will, so it was his eldest child Margaret Coonan who applied for the Letters of Administration to his estate.She was granted administration on June 6, 1873. An inventory taken after her father's death revealed that he had the following stock on his property:
20 sheep and two lambs
25 cows, 18 heifers and 1 calf.
1 sow and 6 young pigs
1 goat
10 geese
6 horses, 2 of them lame.

There were also the other essentials of farm living- 2 drays,plough and harrows, chaff cutter,3 sets of harness-plough, dray and light- and a spring cart.
Michael's assets at death were valued at almost 270 pounds, and his liabilities came in at almost 160 pounds.He did not owe much money locally, but had a promissory note owing John Coonan of Brisbane, Queensland(most likely his brother John who had settled in Queensland after emigrating)the large amount of ninety four pounds.
Margaret Coonan also claimed wages for nine years at the rate of fifteen pounds a year, for a total of 135 pounds... the poor girl must have been housekeeping for no wages for her father since c. 1865, or from the ages of about 19 or 20 until 28!

John Coonan and George Emerson were trustees of Michael Coonan's estate, and for a number of days in July of 1873 there ran an advertisement in the Argus stating:

" TEN POUNDS REWARD-MISSING DEED. Michael Coonan to John Coonan and George Emerson, conveyance in trust for Margaret, Jeremiah and Michael Coonan, December 29, 1859. Ten pounds reward will be given to anyone delivering the deed to Bellin and Wilkinson, auctioneers, 8 Collins Street east, agents for the estate."

Three years later, on April 1, 1876, there appeared an advertisement in the Argus re. the sale of "three comfortable brick cottages in Nicholas lane, off Bourke Street east, near the Parliament Houses." The auctioneers were the aforementioned Bellin and Wilkinson, and they were being instructed to sell the cottages by "Messrs J. Coonan and G. Emerson, trustees of the late M.Coonan".
The cottages were described as follows:
" Those three comfortable brick cottages, each of four rooms, being in thorough repair, and let to respectable tenants, each at twenty six pounds per annum.The land has 37 feet 5 inch frontage, by a depth of 60 feet. Title, Crown certificate."

The missing deed written in 1859 must have referred to these three cottages in a good Melbourne location, and an income of 26 pounds per year for rent was not to be sneezed at in that period of time.
Adding further to the 'Tale of Three Cottages', we find in the Victorian 1856 Electoral Roll:
Michael Coonan, Darebin Creek, freehold.
Michael Coonan, farmer, Darebin Creek, owner of three freehold cottages off Little Collins Street east, Occupied.Eastern Hill Division.

Margaret and her brother Michael Coonan remained at the family property for some time. Michael married from his Yea property in 1881, but Margaret was still living at Wollert when she married in 1892.

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