by Orma Christina Fairweather (nee Lysaght 1917 - 2003)
I would like here to record my appreciation of all the assistance given me by the following people, as without their help this family record could not have been pieced together.
The Rev. G. Roger Woodham, M.A. of Fairlight, Hastings, who gave me so much information, and sent me photos of the Old Church. The Society of Genealogists, London who supplied the addresses of the Putland and Brown families of the 1840 era.
Miss M. Pryde of the Otago Early Settlers’ Association who most willingly helped me many times with information from their records.
The Hocken Library and the Public Library.
The Justice Department and The Lands and Deeds Department.
The Otago Daily Times.
The Holy Trinity Church and The Iona Church both helped considerably with entries from their old records.
The Town Clerk of the Cromwell Borough.
The Alexander Turnbull Library gave me the name of the ship William and Barbara Brown arrived in Nelson on, place of departure from England along with many other helpful suggestions. The Registrar General’s Office has supplied birth, death and marriage certificates on request.
The Rev. W.F. Wilkens of the Diocese of Nelson found the baptism records of Martha among their early records.
Books I Have Drawn From:
“Nelson” A History of Early Settlement - by Ruth Allan.
“The French at Akaroa” - by T. Lindsay Buick.
Almost all books covering the Otago gold mining days.
To all these people I wish to say “Thank you”.
— Orma C. Fairweather (nee Lysaght).
Granny Rochford and her DescendantsOn September 12th 1841, in this very old Church in Fairlight adjacent to that well known town of Hastings in Sussex, England, two young people were married — after their Banns had been called — as is the custom in some Churches today.
William Brown who was 21 years of age took in marriage Barbara Putland who was 18 years old, and from this marriage stems the families of Tunnage, Gibbs and Lysaght of Port Chalmers, Otago, also the Croft family of the Hook, South Canterbury.
William described himself as a labourer and shepherd and if Barbara worked it would have been as a maid, possibly on one of the nearby farms, as at that time Fairlight was a small farming community with a population of about 400. However, quite a good deal of smuggling is said to have taken place along the coast in that area, which necessitated a number of coastguards also living in Fairlight.
Prior to his marriage William lived at Rosemary Lane, Fairlight, with his grandparents Samuel and Mary Brown who were both elderly being over 70 years of age, but his grandfather still worked as a shepherd whenever work was offering.
Barbara’ s family lived at “Little Warren’, Fairlight. Her father, John Putland, a labourer, was at that time 45 years of age while her mother Julia was aged 40. Barbara appears to have had an older brother Samuel [“Samuel” has been deleted and the name “Emmanuel” inserted] who also was married. He and his wife Mary and their son John, aged 4, lived at this same address and these two people Emmanuel and Mary Putland acted as witnesses at William and Barbara’s wedding. Emmanuel could write as he did sign his name on the register, but only an “X” is used for William and Barbara. Barbara’s younger brother was Peter who later became a mariner, then came Mary who was 7 years old at that time.
Fairlight, although only a small village had a long history, it’s old Church was built in 1180 and served many generations during the hundreds of years till 1845 when it was replaced by the present Church, built on the same site and of similar Norman architecture. In it’ s Churchyard are the graves of many notable people, and nearby in Fairlight Glen (‘Marrianne North’) painter of the world’ s flowers, started her life’s work.
In 1841 both working and living conditions in England were extremely bad for the working classes, so we can presume that poverty and perhaps the love of adventure were the main reasons which prompted William and Barbara to leave their parents, families and homes to face a long voyage to the new colony of New Zealand.
In the early eighteen forties much publicity was being given to the settlement of New Zealand which had been claimed by Britain in 1840 although prior to that date the New Zealand Company had been founded with a view to utilizing both the land available in the new colony and the very poor economic conditions existing in Britain at that time. It was on January 6th, 1840 that the first New Zealand Company settlers landed at Port Nicholson as Wellington was then known.
Some months later investigations across Cook Strait were carried out and the trade possibilities of the Nelson Coast were considered to be worthwhile, so Captain Arthur Wakefield decided to place the second settlement at Nelson.
However, it was not until February 1st 1842 that the first Company ship arrived carrying the first contingent of new settlers who were to colonize Nelson. Later many were to spread out to other parts of New Zealand.
Before this period of organised settlement, many harbours and Bays around New Zealand had small groups of men from many nations working first as sealers then whalers, New Zealand having been known to seafaring men for many, many years, but by 1842 their whale catches had diminished to such an extent that it was no longer profitable and many of these men left with their ships for other lands although quite a number did remain and mingle with the new settlers, sharing the misfortunes, the trials and hardships which all these folk had to endure and all no doubt wondered at times if their long voyage from England had in truth found a better way of life for them after all.
Between March and May of 1842 four more vessels arrived from England, these completed the migration of the first group of settlers to Nelson. After a spell of four months the second group started to arrive, including the “Thomas Harrison” which left England on May 25th and arrived in Nelson on October 22nd 1842. On her, among the tightly packed migrants, were William and Barbara Brown with their first daughter Martha who had been born at sea. William was now 22 years of age and Barbara 19, both must have possessed a very strong love of adventure to have left behind them all things familiar to their usual way of living and face the suffering and misfortune of such a long, long sea journey, packed as their ship was, and having to cope with sickness and some deaths during which time Barbara gave birth to their daughter Martha. Yet still they coped with whatever befell them as the “Thomas Harrison” was reported to have arrived in the best and cleanest condition of all the immigrant vessels even though she reported having had 40 cases of measles during the voyage out.
What thoughts would dominate the minds of William and Barbara arriving in a strange land so different to what they had known! At home, even if their conditions were poor, at least houses were there and an organised way of life. Churches were established as part of their living, but now as they must step ashore from the ship that had been home to them for five months, what would they do? Where would they go?
Nelson was not a prosperous settlement at first, everyone had to struggle to even get a living, there were too many labourers for what little work was available, and many families lived in rush whares, building their own quickly on arrival. These did not prove the driest during heavy rains and were later replaced with conventional wooden cottages which cost almost £100 for a very modest size, with a sod chimney. All building material was scarce and consequently expensive, and although four brickfields were quickly established, the cost of the bricks was more than most of the settlers could afford, even for chimneys.
About this time some Hotels and drinking shops were opened, some provided accommodation and meals, but at their best they provided a much needed social centre as they were the only places where working men could gather in warmth and some comfort to forget the primitive conditions under which so many of them lived and worked. A coffee house too was opened for abstainers and here in 1842 the teetotallers met to form a Rechabite Society, while in 1843 a female Rechabite Society was formed, It is interesting to note that the ladies of the area could also share in some of the so called warmth and comfort offered by the coffee houses.
Various other Lodges were also started at this time. Churches too were quickly established and held in any building that was suitable.
It is from the early records of the Anglican Church in Nelson that we have a copy of the Baptism of “Martha Brown”, daughter of William and Barbara Brown, who was born at sea on September 26th 1842 and baptised in Nelson on November 6th 1842. Church records were the only ones kept in the very early days of New Zealand settlement and are now a very valuable source of information.
We have seen how the settlers tried to improve their lives by joining into various groups where they could share both their good times and their misfortunes. Their lives were not easy and the situation did not readily improve, always there were too many workers and not enough work, nor even the prospect of regular work. Then too were various tales told of the Maoris who lived throughout the district. What would Barbara with her newly born daughter think and feel about the whole situation? Would she always have been able to feed her babe? Was there much money to buy food with? I doubt they would ever have had very much money and certainly none to spare! What would the future hold for her and her family? We do know that one year after their arrival the Wairau massacre took place some miles from the township of Nelson and all the Europeans lived in great fear of further trouble from the Maoris. This fear resulted in quite a number of settlers looking elsewhere for safer living conditions.
Akaroa was the nearest settlement of Europeans in the South Island, it too had an early history of whalers and seafaring folk including a settlement of French migrants who were trying with reasonable success to farm the area which was very hilly. Akaroa’s harbour was very sheltered and easily negotiated, so was very popular with the ships of the day. The Maoris who lived around Banks Peninsula were considered to be more friendly than further north, at least they had not been roused by unfair actions to the extent of a second dreadful massacres!
life in Akaroa in 1844 could be considered to be a little safer after their experiences in Nelson, and here we find William and Barbara Brown s second daughter was born on August 24th of that year, named Mary Ann. She was not baptised at Akaroa but in Waikouaiti some years later on January 30th 1854. From this fact we presume they did not settle long in Akaroa, indeed we could say that their troubles were many and their lives hard and that something had gone very wrong with them as we find that William Brown had either remained in Nelson, or returned to Nelson without his family, possibly deserting them as so often was the case in the very early days. The struggle of earning enough to feed a family was just too much, and even with the best of intentions these separations occurred.
Now we find Barbara Brown left with two small daughters, Martha two years of age and Mary Ann just a baby! What would be her prospects of earning enough to keep them? This was long before the days of pensions. Almost all the inhabitants of Akaroa were working folk, all struggling to make a living sufficient for their own needs. Would they encourage a woman left with two children to live with them, especially a deserted one? Every settlement had widows among them who had to be helped, so at this stage we feel Barbara’s life must have been very difficult indeed. When the opportunity came to housekeep for a Mr. Tom Stewart, Barbara took it as it provided her with a home and sufficient food for little Martha and Mary Ann. Tom Stewart was a seaman whaler and as whaling had almost stopped at Akaroa by this time he decided to move still further south to Otakou on the Otago Peninsula where some whaling was still taking place. No record is available of what year they moved to Otakou but they were one of the families living there before the early settlers arrived in Dunedin in 1848, as recorded by the Rev. T. Burns who arrived on the “Philip Laing” and who within his first year had travelled all over the Otago Peninsula visiting and recording the names and occupation of all inhabitants. At that time Barbara was one of the group of Europeans consisting of 55 men, 11 women and 24 children living at Otakou among the Maoris of that area who were all trying to make a living for themselves, the men as whalers and seamen while the women helped by growing potatoes, vegetables and creating homes.
All records not being kept at this time the death of William Brown has not been traced or the marriage of Barbara to Tom Stewart, but in 1848 she is known as Mrs. Stewart and later in 1850 she gave birth to yet another daughter named Jane Stewart. 1850 also saw the death by drowning of her husband, Tom Stewart. An extract from the Otago News of January 26th of 1850 states:- “On Saturday last a fatal accident occurred to a man named Stewart of Otago. He was proceeding with two others in a boat to Port Chalmers when some words ensued between Stewart and another and a scuffle followed and both parties fell into deep water. The accident was seen from the Port and the pilot’s boat put off in time to save one. Stewart’s body must have been carried away by the tide as it has not been found to this date. It is a singular and strange coincidence that the boat in which Stewart and his companion were sailing at the time was the same one which upset and caused the melancholy catastrophe reported in our paper a few weeks ago.”
So now Barbara at the age of 27 was a widow with three young daughters, perhaps a little home, but no income at all and she was so many, many miles away from parents and relations of any kind who may have helped her. We wonder how she managed? Would there have been adequate requirements for her small daughters in their early life. Barbara did the best she could with what was available, but was it enough? Was it as good as Barbara herself had had as a small child in that far away home with the more orderly way of life.
The Rev. T. Burns next reports widow Stewart and 3 daughters to be at Otakou when he visited there in January 1851 and later he records their living in Port Chalmers where Barbara meets and later marries William Rochford who had also at one time lived in Nelson but moved south following the Wairau massacre. William Rochford describes himself as an agriculturist. About 1856 they appear to have moved back to the Otago Peninsula probably farming, here again we find Barbara making a home for her daughters where they lived until they each married. In 1863 William and Barbara Rochford took up farmland as a Crown grant at Portobello where they remained for a number of years.
Martha Brown who was Barbara’ s daughter (and had been born at sea) married John Brown in 1859 at the residence of William Rochford at Portobello. They had two children, young Barbara born July 1862 and William born December 1864, but three years later in 1867 Martha died at the early age of 25 and shortly afterwards her husband John left for South America where he also died leaving young Barbara and William Brown to be reared by their grandmother Barbara and William Rochford on their farm at Portobello.
Here we find that Barbara has had to cope with yet another major upset seeing her eldest daughter die at only 25 years of age. (Incidentally Martha’s death was not recorded in Wellington. I have picked up this fact from an old family Bible so I do not know the cause of her death). The Rochford farm no doubt provided for the needs of all and young Barbara and William Brown lived and worked there for a number of years until in 1879 their Grandfather (as they called William Rochford) died following a short illness and within the next year young Barbara Brown married Thomas Noonan and they moved to Sydney and I have not been able to trace them or their descendants.
This left our Barbara who was now known as “Granny Rochford” and a widow once more living on the farm with her grandson William Brown aged 16, but unfortunately in June of the next year, 1881, young William died following a short illness of measles and gastritis. The farm had been left to Granny Rochford during her lifetime, it then was to go to these two grandchildren. It was from an affidavit attached to the title deeds of this farm held in the office of the Lands and Deeds, Dunedin, that I have acquired this information, and from here the farm was leased out in 1881 to a William Dickson the elder and later to others. It does not appear that the farm was ever sold but was eventually lost ownership of, through leasee’ s inability to work it owing to the economical situation of the day.
Let us now return to the marriages of Barbara’s second daughter Mary Ann Brown (who was born at Akaroa in 1844) married also in the Rochford home, firstly to Joe Rowlands to whom she had a daughter named Ann, and later in 1864 to Joseph Gibbs a widower aged 30 years while Mary Ann was 20. They had three children, William John (Jack), Mary Ann and Hetty. Joseph did have some family to his first wife who’d died the year before, but of this number I am not sure. I have heard of a boy Frank and possibly a girl. Joseph described himself as a carpenter. I shall return to this family later, as my branch of the family tree stems from this marriage of Mary Ann Brown to Joseph Gibbs.
Barbara’ a third daughter Jane Stewart who was born in Otakou in 1850 was married in 1867 to John Tunnage (a fish curer) but four years later Jane died at the early age of 21 leaving a daughter Mary Jane Tunnage born in 1868.
Our next record of this family shows that in 1884 John Tunnage married Ann Rowlands the eldest daughter of Mary Ann and granddaughter of Barbara (Granny Rochford), and from these marriages stem the Tunnage family of Port Chalmers with some eleven children. One daughter of this marriage Ellen Tunnage (Mrs. Miller) has been most helpful to me in trying to piece together our family tree.
Returning to the marriage of Mary Ann Brown (Rowlands) to widower Joseph Gibbs at Portobello in 1864, I have had some difficulty in tracing just where this family lived for the first few years, as at that time Otago was experiencing it’ s great gold rush days and many thousands of people were moving about with few records kept. While Ann Rowlands was born at Portobello during Mary Ann’s brief marriage, the family appear to have moved to the gold fields following the marriage to Joseph Gibbs as we find their son Jack Gibbs was born in Waipori district in 1865. He later settled in Port Chalmers and married Mary White Peters. From this union stems the Gibbs family of Port Chalmers with ten children.
Mary Ann and Joseph Gibb’s next child was also named Mary Ann, she was born in 1870 at Logantown in the Cromwell district, which indicates the family were moving round the goldfields until approximately 1873 when they returned to live at Carey’s Bay, Port Chalmers.
Mary Ann Gibbs married William Henry Lysaght in 1887 at Port Chalmers and among their family of nine children we find one daughter was named Barbara Putland Lysaght. She too has been most helpful to me with her memories of these older people.
In 1905 Hetty Gibbs married George Croft at Port Chalmers where she had been born, They later moved to The Hook district in South Canterbury, farming there, Thus the Croft family of seven children was established.
Let us pause here and consider the state of the goldfields in Otago during the 1860’ s and 1870’s. Hardly the place to have, and try to rear a young family, and yet many did do just that, no doubt trying and hoping to make their fortunes from gold. Throughout Otago Central at this time was little or no vegetation, bareness prevailed everywhere, almost all building material had to be carted there, consequently canvas was the usual covering for homes, such as they were. So we find the name Canvastown often used denoting the sights of these early settlements which would grow suddenly, almost overnight, with hundreds of hopeful miners converging on some riverside, or a creek, they would have to carry all their possessions, hence they would be few.
Many miners were a good day’ s walk away from any of the hastily erected stores so their food problem must always have been a big one, even if they did have gold to spend! It was an ever changing scene throughout all of Central Otago with these settlements growing suddenly and disappearing almost as suddenly. This then was where Joseph and Mary Ann Gibbs had and reared their children for some years. I wonder what comforts they would have had? Would they have lived under canvas winter and summer as thousands did? Maybe as Joseph was a carpenter he would have built a more waterproof type of home. We can only hope so.
Today Logantown, which was the birthplace of their daughter Mary Ann (who was later Mrs. W. Lysaght) is almost unknown, yet at the time of her birth in 1870 a prosperous company operated there known as the Logans - Bendigo Quartz Mining Company which had the previous year extracted £4,000 worth of gold in eight weeks, while in October of that year it made a single clean-up of 300 ozs. Logantown boomed briefly with five hotels, three stores, three butchers shops, two restaurants, a clothier and a billiard saloon, as well as two blacksmiths, with a population of about 400 people. Fortunes fluctuated and the town grew and diminished with the success of the mines, but it’s life was short, within a few years Bendigo (about one mile away) became the main settlement. In turn this too gave way to Cromwell. Logantown did, however, play a significant part in the history of the Cromwell area, a part which had been almost forgotten with the passing of the years. This then was where my Grandmother started her life, and we hope this family experienced some measure of security while the Logantown mines prospered and before they too, had to move on.
I cannot trace Joseph Gibbs after about 1886, nor is his death recorded in New Zealand. We are left with the thought that he may have tried his fortune in Australia, but if he did, he left his wife and children behind. We do know that his wife Mary Ann Gibbs (nee Brown) who was born in Akaroa in 1844, died at Port Chalmers in 1903, aged 59 years.
Prior to her death she was nursed by her eldest daughter Ann (Mrs. John Tunnage). It was also in this Tunnage home, ten years later Granny Rochford was nursed and cared for till her death in 1913 at the very great age of 90 years. Here we see that Granny Rochford outlived her daughters by many years and moved and lived among her granddaughters and their families in her later years.
What a story she could have told of her 70 years of living in early New Zealand, her many ups and downs which she survived, continuing to help others and happily sharing the wisdom she had gained from experience. She never did learn to write, if she had I feel sure she would have written for all her descendants to read —
“Not to mourn the past but keep on
with the job of living.”
She certainly set that example! In her later years she was known to many as Granny Rochford and as such my Father (Bill Lysaght) often spoke of her telling us of the hard life she had had and the courage she displayed in meeting all that befell her. He liked and respected her very much as did all the family. I regret I did not write down all the things he spoke of while he lived, however he must have sown the seed of interest in my mind, where it was to remain for a number of years.
It was not until one of my sons, while at Primary School asked one day, what ship did our ancestors arrive in?” and as I could not answer him I began thinking. “Well, just which ship did Granny Rochford come in?” Then set about finding out, so to all small boys, of the future, asking that question we can now say, “The Thomas Harrison” in 1842 at Nelson.”
These early settlers of ours, though not spectacular, did all contribute something towards the history of New Zealand. They all struggled to support their families and in times of trouble each helped one another which in itself is a fine quality and which I trust will always continue amongst their many descendants, too numerous to mention here. I hope those interested will continue the lines of their own branch of our Family Tree.
Continuing with my branch, my Grandparents William and Mary Ann Lysaght (nee Gibbs) married in 1887, had and reared their family in Port Chalmers. William Lysaght had been a seaman arriving in Port Chalmers on the “Southern Cross”, he then transferred to the Union Company’ s original “Taupo” and was on that vessel when she was later lost at Tauranga but fortunately with no loss of life. He then became a fisherman at Port Chalmers.
William was born in Auckland in 1865 and apparently left home while still very young to go to sea. My recollections of him are that he was a very neat and tidy man with a beard and always with very clean boots. Quite likely his fishing days were over by this time and his going out would be to join some companions over a pint of which he was more than fond. As a child I was amused at seeing him rub up his already clean boots before setting out. He died in September 1935 aged 69 years, leaving his wife Mary Ann who had started life in the goldfields of Central Otago, to continue living, perhaps a lonely life, as of her family of nine children, of the younger ones two had died while in their teens, one son Tom had remained in England after the First World War, the others had married and moved away, leaving only one son living in Port Chalmers with his wife and young children.
These years were by no means the easiest for many folk as during the 1930-35 period the world wide depression was very evident in New Zealand causing untold hardships to most of the working classes, many husbands and Fathers could only get dole sustenance on which to support their families. This was inadequate to house, feed, clothe and educate their young families but it was the best they could manage. It was not until 1936 that conditions slowly started to improve, then in 1939 the Second World War commenced causing further problems and set-backs to most families.
Following a lengthy illness Mary and Lysaght died in 1942 aged 72 years, I remember her as a quietly spoken Grandmother with greying hair drawn into a neat bun, always neatly dressed with clean apron and yes, also clean shoes. She had done some very fine crochet work in her later years and I was given a piece for myself of which I was very proud. She had had a great struggle rearing her large family of nine children, however, they were all a credit to her.
My Father, also named William Lysaght, was her eldest son and he in his turn tried to teach his family to develop good principles by which to live. I feel this teaching was their family inheritance possibly passed down from Granny Rochford herself.
Bill (as he was known to many) was born in 1890 and married Jane Mary Macdonald in 1914. He lived and worked all his life first in Port Chalmers then in Dunedin with the exception of some time in Camp during the First World War and one year spent as Assistant Lighthouse keeper at Akaroa in 1917. He too was, a very neat and tidy person, most painstaking and particular with whatever job he was doing. He would turn his hand to all manner of things and believed in the saying —
“That if a job was worth doing it
was worth doing well.”
He died rather suddenly on January 16th, 1951.