The area surrounding the Queanbeyan district was called the Limestone Plains and as a free settler and merchant, Robert Campbell set up a farming property called Duntroon. With the assistance of tenant farmers, the property boomed and the area soon became known as Canberra. John Palmer, who was the brother-in-law of Robert Campbell established a holding near the new settlement that was later called Queanbeyan, he called his holding Jerrabomberra.
Jerrabomberra is derived from the local Aboriginal place name meaning ‘boy frightened by storm’. Palmer arrived with the First Fleet as a purser of Governor Philip’s flagship Sirius and was appointed commissary of the colony in 1791. Palmer’s new property, Jerrabomberra, lay about 2 miles from where the township of Queanbeyan was developing on the opposite side of Mount Jerrabomberra. This new landholding of Palmer’s was exchanged for a property at Portland Head on the Hawkesbury River in 1827 – Palmer was seeking a more suitable area on which to run his stock. Palmer stated “…It is my desire to take land about nine miles south west of that located to Mr Campbell at Limestone Plains in the county of Antrim” (Antrim was a tentative name before Murray was proclaimed).
In September 1828 Palmer moved 2000 head of sheep to Jerrabomberra and in 1832 he added an additional 640 acres at a place then called Quinbeane. In the census of 1828, it was revealed that Palmer had five convict shepherds, a superintendent (Duncan Cameron) and a stockmaster (Barney Pills) living on site. Palmer died in 1833 and left his estate to his eldest son George who resided at Ginninderra. As he was busy with his own property, Jerrabomberra was managed by a younger son, Pemberton Campbell Palmer until his death in 1885. Pemberton Palmer married Octavia Stoll in Sydney in 1855 and they lived at Jerrabomberra raising a family of 11 children there. Palmer was an active and well known member of the Queanbeyan Community. He was an elected member of The Queanbeyan Cricket Club, The Race Club, Church Society and yet still became bankrupt in 1866. Palmer was a signatory to the Municipal Petition in 1884, he employed many people on his estate and permitted horse racing to be held on his land. Palmer was also in front of the local court on many occasions, being charged with assault, selling illegal spirits and charging money without cause. Pemberton Palmer died in August 1885, and was the first burial in the Tharwa Rd cemetery on the 18 August 1885 – the site of the current Lawn Cemetery.
As Jerrabomberra was one of the earliest settlements in the district, The Church of England Rector, The Reverend Edward Smith was housed here. The Rector lived on site with two other single men, Dr William Foxton Hayley and Mr Henry Bingham – a government official. These men resided in a premises called ‘The Bachelors’ Quarters’! Because of the availability of the rector at this location most of the district’s earliest marriages were held here. The first wedding at the Bachelors’ Quarters was that of Henry Rowley who married Mary Ann Murphy. This marriage occurred on 12 November 1838 and was witnessed by John Sweeny. The second marriage was that of Thomas Harvey and Ann McGarr on 29 April 1839 and the third William Roberts to Julia McMahon also on the same day. Christ Church Queanbeyan was built and held its first service on Christmas Day, 1844 and from then on all Church of England religious and pastoral events occurred from this site. After the death of Palmer, the property, excluding the homestead and surrounding paddocks were let out to tender on January 11 1886.
A. M. Dulhunty, Auctioneers Queanbeyan placed the following wording in The Queanbeyan Age:
To let by public tender for the term of ten years the whole of the
Jerrabomberra Estate. Richly grassed and abundantly watered comprising about 4000 acres all securely fenced plain land. This property, bordering on the thriving town of Queanbeyan is so well known and its fattening qualities have been so thoroughly proved that it is needless for us to comment upon it.
From Palmers’ very early beginnings, not long after the settlement in New South Wales in Sydney, Jerrabomberra has grown from a pastoral property to one where many families now live. There have been many large and small landholders in the Jerrabomberra area over the years. In 1987 Jerrabomberra Estate Ltd, with Perth Millionaire Kerry Stokes as a major shareholder, began developing Palmer’s original land for housing. The first serviced blocks in stage one of the residential release at Jerrabomberra were released in February 1988 ranging in price from $28 000 to $39 000. The new suburb of Jerrabomberra has grown from a resident population of 8 in 1828 to nearly 15 000 today.