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James and Sarah Kemp

by | Jul 21, 2021 | Exodus, Village Folk | 2 comments

(Written by Kathy and Mal Kemp of Australia)

James and Sarah KempJames Kemp and Sarah Wisbey married on the 20th November, 1847 in Chrishall, England.

On 9th January 1851 James (aged 23) and Sarah with their one year old son William, left Plymouth on the ship Wanderer, arriving in South Australia on 22nd May 1851.  They were accompanied by James’ brother Robert, his wife Elizabeth, and their two sons Daniel and Walter.

They travelled by bullock drays to Rhynie and made their first home in a dugout adjacent to the Woodsheds Flat Road.

James worked as a shepherd for Mr Uphill who owned a cattle station.  As there were no fences shepherds were employed to look after the stock.  After a time James purchased an 80 acre section of land on which he sowed grain.  After carting the hay to Burra, he would backload with copper ore, taking it either to Port Wakefield or Port Adelaide.

In 1858 James donated an acre of land, and the stone used to build Woolshed Flat Wesleyan Church.  The church cost £63-3-6 ($A126.00) to build and was opened on 7th August 1859.  There is now no visible evidence of an adjacent school building which opened in about 1864 and closed in 1884.

As the years went on James was able to acquire more and more land, and in 1874 James built his homestead “Springwood”.

James and Sarah reared a family of 1 son and 7 daughters during this time. They were William, Annie, Martha, Mary, Maria, Paulina, Susan Jane, and Emily.

Sarah died in 1876 (aged 53), and James died in 1909 (aged 81).

James and Sarah Kemp memorialKathy and Mal got in touch with us because 2021 is the 170th anniversary of James and Sarah Kemp arriving in Australia. They have set up this lovely memorial to them at the church they founded and they held a reunion with relatives from as far away as Perth attending. Mal had created a family tree of 7 generations of descendants which was put on display in the church and was 10 metres long!

We have James Kemp with his family listed on the 1841 census for the village. There is no Wisbey family mentioned but Wisbey is an old village name and we have the marriage record of James and Sarah:

Nov. 20 1847 James Kemp and Sarah Wisby. James signed his name but Sarah signed with a cross. James was 20 and Sarah 24 and they were both single and living in the village. John Kemp is listed as a Carrier (James’s father) and William Wisbey a labourer (Sarah’s father). Witnesses were John Smith and Ann Newland and they were married by Godfrey Everth.

Mal believes the Kemps “emigrated under what was known as the Wakefield Scheme which concentrated on free settlement, sale of land at a sufficient price to deter labouring emigrants acquiring it immediately (and thus assuring a sufficient supply of labour without convicts) and directing the income from land sales to supporting further assisted emigration of labouring families”. (You can read more about Wakefield here.)

As we know, James travelled with his older brother Robert, and the Kemps lived very near the Button family who travelled out a few years later. So perhaps the Buttons were influenced by the Kemps, among others!

(Apparently in later life James and Elizabeth would marry when their respective spouses (Sarah and Robert) both died at relatively young ages in their 50’s).

kemps high street chrishallWe have a house called Kemps in High Street but we do not have much information on it currently. HIstoric England say that it has a 19th century face but older core. It would be great to know if it was connected to the Kemp family. 


  1. Kathy Kemp

    Hi Rosemarie,
    Below is a website giving details of the barque Wanderer and also the passenger list including James and Sarah Kemp.

    • Rosemarie Gant

      Oh brilliant – thanks Kathy.



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