Mammy Johnsons River | What's in a Name

From bridges and parks to mountains and lakes their names live on, but have you ever wanted to know more about the people behind these place names….

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ABOUT 30 minutes south of Gloucester you will come across the village of Stroud Road and cross over the Mammy Johnsons River.

While many details of her life are unknown – what we do know, paints a fascinating picture.

Mammy Johnson was an Aboriginal woman who lived in the Stroud district in the early 1800s.

As a midwife, she helped deliver hundreds of babies to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous mothers over many decades.

She was known to reside along the river in small shacks with her campsites close to the sheep stations and houses that had been established to shepherd the sheep brought out by the Australian Agricultural Company.

She died crossing a flooded river, now named the Mammy Johnsons River in her honour, to attend to a squatter’s wife.

In recent times Stroud Road woman Diana Nurpula-Stephenson accidentally stumbled across Johnson's hidden, final resting place on a rented property on Stroud Road.

“It was about 2004 I uncovered her grave with a friend of mine,” Ms Stephenson said. 

Thanks to her efforts the grave has now been reinforced and registered as a site of historic significance.

Keen to learn more about Mammy Johnson’s life, Ms Nurpula-Stephenson started conducting research and even put a call out in the local newspapers for anybody to come forward with information.

“My research is ongoing. I hope that material will be unearthed to further identify our sleeping friend.”

Diana Nurpula-Stephenson

“Research has been difficult and sometimes very daunting as most documents kept in the local rectory St Johns were burnt in 1856 – 57.”

Ms Nurpula-Stephenson says that like many other Indigenous women of the time Mammy took on an anglicised surname and a John Johnston has been recorded as a landowner in the area at the time.

“Mammy it seems took on the name as it was not uncommon although that meant giving up a beautiful, given, ancestral name.”

Ms Nurpula-Stephenson would love to learn more about Mammy Johnson.

“My research is ongoing.  I hope that material will be unearthed to further identify our sleeping friend.”

If you have any information about this intriguing woman you can contact Ms Nurpula-Stephenson on 4994 7063.