Archive for the ‘New Zealand Settlers’ Category

My recent article about William Booker and his family, who were early New Zealand settlers, has caused a small flurry of interest from some of his descendants in New Zealand. They have also provided me not only with a lot of information about some of his descendants but also more about how the family came to New Zealand.

Mary Booker

I had suggested that the reason William and Jemima Booker had emigrated with their children in 1856 was probably connected with of their daughter Mary Booker. I wrote:

 The answer I think must be connected with the couple’s first daughter, Mary Booker, who had been born in Saint Pancras, London in 1833. Somehow Mary had made her way to Melbourne in Australia where she arrived on the 5 October 1853 on the Statesman. She met and married George Ishmael Clarke there in 1854. The couple like many others had joined the Victoria Gold Rush and worked in the “diggings”, but George had quickly contracted a chest infection and before he died he had asked Mary, who was pregnant, to go to his parents (Ishmael and Mary Clarke), who were living in Nelson in New Zealand, to have their baby. After George’s death this Mary did and their child, George William Ishmael Clarke, was born in Nelson in April 1855. So I don’t think it beyond the realms of reason to think that it was perhaps Mary who had written to her family in London and encouraged them to join her down-under?

It turns out that this was indeed the case. Mary’s descendants have provided me with the text of a very poignant letter written by her to her parents on February 10th 1855, after she had moved to New Zealand following the death of her husband in Australia:

 I write these few lines hoping they will find you well. I am glad to say they leave me well at present (considering the circumstances in which I am placed) I have written one letter to you but as yet have received no answer which makes me feel very anxious. After my arrival in Melbourne I became acquainted with George Ishmael Clarke, and was married and then proceded to the diggings, but we have not been there about three weeks when he caught a severe cold which settled on his lungs and soon terminated in death. He was a kind and faithful husband to me the short time that we were permitted to enjoy each other’s society which was not for more than five months and only two out of them he was in the health. It was his wish that I should come to his parents here in Nelson who are very kind and affectionate towards me. Before the bearer arrives with this letter I expected to be confined the latter in of April, and I thank the Gracious Providence I am places along with kind and affectionate hearts who respect and honour me on account of their dear son and my husband who died at the age of 24 years. I hope and trust that this letter will find you in good health and that you will write as soon as possible. I have sent this letter by care of the bearer a friend of Mrs Clarke on board the ship Monsoon for London who has kindly promised to call upon you on his arrival. Give my love and plenty of kisses to my dear brothers and sisters. I will enclose a piece of my husband’s hair and a piece of mine. The darkest is his. I must now conclude with my dearest wishes for your welfare and should we not meet again on this earth I hope and trust we shall have a happy meeting where parting is not known and death can never sever. I will wish you good bye my dear parents and no more at present. Your affectionate daughter. Mary Booker.

In addition:

 The Booker Family…  arrived in New Zealand aboard the ship Cresswell in October 1856. New son-in-law, Jock Fraser, (he & Mary were married in March 1856) stood surety for William, Jemima and their seven children.

 Finally:

 George Ishmael Clarke was the first born to Mary Booker on 10 April 1855 at Nelson, after being widowed at the Goldfields in Australia. When she came to Nelson at her husband’s wishes, Mary lived with Ishmael and Betsy (nee Steeden) her in-laws until the baby was born and for the first year or so of George Ishmael’s life. It appears that the Clarke’s were neighbours of Jock Fraser in Nelson, and so not surprising Jock and Mary became acquainted and were married at Nelson on 27 March 1856. 

George Ishmael Clarke Jnr

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The Grisdales of Matterdale it seems went everywhere: to Canada, to the United States and to Australia. They also fought in England’s armies. But the son of one Grisdale woman was also an early New Zealand settler.

In a previous article I wrote about Levi Grisdale and his life as a soldier during the Napoleonic Wars.  After returning from Spain, where he had taken the French General Lefebvre prisoner, Levi and his first wife Ann Robinson had a son, who not surprisingly was also called Levi. He was born in March 1811 in Arundel, Sussex. At the time of their son’s birth it’s very likely that Levi and his wife were visiting Levi’s sister Jane who had moved to Arundel some years before and married a local stonemason called John Booker. It’s possible Levi’s wife had been living in Arundel while Levi was away fighting Napoleon in Spain. Whatever the case it’s a good guess that Jane was present at the christening of her brother’s child.

But this child was to meet a sad end. In the London Morning Chronicle of 5th March 1814 there appeared this notice:

ACCIDENT: Saturday a fine boy, the son of Serjeant Grisdale of the 1oth Hussars, who so gallantly took General Lefebre (sic) prisoner in Spain, and afterwards presented the General’s pistols to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, was killed in Romford by a gentleman’s carriage, the wheels of which went over his body. The child lingered in great agony twenty-four hours. The mother of the boy was so much affected by the fatal accident, that on Monday and yesterday she appeared to be in a state of mental derangement.

This is the story of one child of Jane Grisdale and John Booker who was to emigrate to New Zealand and found there a long line of New Zealand families.

Jane Grisdale was born in 1784 in Greystoke, Cumberland, one year after her brother Levi. On the 25th March 1805 she married a stonemason called John Booker in Arundel in the County of Sussex. How they came to meet we have no idea, but between 1808 and 1814 they were to have six children in the town. They then moved with their children to London where they had a final child called Jane in 1817. This is pretty much all we know of them. Jane died aged just 34 in early 1819 and was buried in the Church of St James, Piccadilly. Whether John Booker looked after the young family or whether they went elsewhere is unclear but they definitely stayed in London.

William Booker, Jane Grisdale’s Son. A Stonemason and early New Zealand Settler

The second Arundel born child was called William Booker and was born in 1808. In 1826 he married Jemima Neave in Saint Mary’s Lambeth, London. Ten children were to be born over the next 22 years: James (1827), Mary (1833), Frances (1834), Jane Ann (1834), Sarah (1837), Emily (1838), Elizabeth (1842), William (1844), Jemima Annie (1846) and John (1848).

In 1841 the family was living in Dorset Place, Westminster; William like his father was a stonemason. By 1851 the family was living in Hollings’ Cottages in Kensal Green, in the Parish of Chelsea. Did William ever meet his actor cousin Walter Grisdale in London? (see earlier blog).

But the family was obviously interested in starting a new life because in late June 1856 William and Jemima Booker, with seven of their children, boarded the sailing ship Creswell  bound for a new life and new adventures in New Zealand. They arrived at the little settlement of Nelson in the north of the South Island on 6 October 1856.

The Creswell, a barque of 574 tons, was a superior craft to most of the vessels sent out by Messrs. Willis, Gann and Co., and on each voyage to New Zealand made a fair average run for a ship of her size. She brought out a large number of our early settlers. Judging from the brief reports of the passages published in the papers during the fifties, nothing of an eventful nature occurred on any of her voyages.

In 1856 the barque arrived at Nelson on the 6th October, after making the passage in 104 days, and on this occasion landed 172 passengers.

The Bookers among them.

The small settlement of Nelson had been founded in 1842 by the New Zealand Company and it is possible this company paid for the family’s voyage. But why New Zealand? The answer I think must be connected with the couple’s first daughter, Mary Booker, who had been born in Saint Pancras, London in 1833. Somehow Mary had made her way to Melbourne in Australia where she arrived on the 5 October 1853 on the Statesman. She met and married George Ishmael Clarke there in 1854. The couple like many others had joined the Victoria Gold Rush and worked in the “diggings”, but George had quickly contracted a chest infection and before he died he had asked Mary, who was pregnant, to go to his parents (Ishmael and Mary Clarke), who were living in Nelson in New Zealand, to have their baby. After George’s death this Mary did and their child, George William Ishmael Clarke, was born in Nelson in April 1855. So I don’t think it beyond the realms of reason to think that it was perhaps Mary who had written to her family in London and encouraged them to join her down-under?

It’s interesting to imagine whether or not Mary crossed the path of the family of William Grisdale about whom I wrote in a previous article: . They were distant relatives and William Grisdale and his family were certainly in the Gold “digging” town of Mansfield, Victoria, by 1855. Even if they did meet would they have known that they were related?

Nelson, New Zealand in the 1840s

Actually the young widow Mary had already remarried in Nelson some months before the arrival of her parents and siblings in New Zealand. She married the widower John “Jock” Fraser on the 27 March 1856 in “the residence of John Carter, Waimea Road, Nelson”. Jock was a Gaelic-speaking Scottish shepherd and he and Mary were to go on to have a large family before Mary died aged only 43 in 1876 in the Mount Cook region. But that was still years away and we can imagine Mary greeting her newly arrived family when they stepped ashore in the little settlement of Nelson.

What sort of place had they come to? For Europeans New Zealand was a new land:

In 1839 there were only about 2000 Pakeha (Europeans) in New Zealand. However the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, which saw New Zealand become a British colony, had an enormous effect on the New Zealand population. British migrants were offered a paid passage to New Zealand, and 40,000 arrived here between 1840 and 1860.

Regarding Nelson:

 The New Zealand Company was set up by merchants, bankers and ship owners to sell plots of land to eager people in England and then transport them via ships to the new colony of New Zealand. The New Zealand Company established Port Nicholson as its first settlement, but wanted a second settlement in the South Island and had discussions with Governor Hobson about which land they could have.

The New Zealand Company knew there was going to be a place called Nelson and they knew they wanted it to be in the South Island, or Te Wai Pounamu as the Maoris called it. In May 1841, the New Zealand Company had three exploration ships ready to sail to New Zealand for this second settlement. The three ships were the Whitby, the Will Watch and the Arrow and they were under the command of Captain Wakefield. The ships arrived in Wellington in late August- early September 1841.

In October 1841, Captain Wakefield had successful discussions with the leading chief at Kapiti, regarding land available for settlement. The ships set out looking for a place suitable for settlement in the top of the South. Boats were sent out every day. The surveyors of the ship had decided upon what is now known as Kaiteriteri, but Wakefield wanted to look further. He sent out men to look in the far South-East corner of the bay and it was there that the site was discovered. The natural harbour which is now Nelson made it the preferred place for the new settlement. The Arrow entered Nelson on 1 November 1841.

Lack of an actual site for Nelson did not slow The New Zealand Company down in its quest to populate the settlements. In October 1841 it had arranged for the next four ships to set sail for Nelson. These four ships were the Fifeshire, captained by Captain Arnold, Lord Auckland with Captain Jardine as its head, Captain Bolton with the Mary Ann and lastly the Lloyds, with Captain Green. All of these ships ended up in Nelson, the first to arrive being the Fifeshire, on the 1st February 1842.

The Bookers lived in a Mud House like this in Blenheim

At first the Booker family lived in Nelson but later moved to the settlement of Blenheim, where William and Jemima were to remain until their deaths. Life was rude. The New Zealand National Museum tells us that William Booker was a “stonemason and his name can be found at the base of early head stones around Marlborough.” And that:

The Bookers lived in a mud house in Grove Road, beside Peddie’s and opposite Ball’s malthouse.

In the years to come we can find William and some of his sons in various New Zealand Electoral Registers. In 1876, for instance, both William Booker Senior and William Booker Junior were owners of allotments in Wairau, Blenheim and later Registers show them being “Bricklayers”.

I won’t trace here all that I presently know about William and Jemima’s children. I leave that to others – possibly their New Zealand descendants? But perhaps just a few facts: their daughter Jemima Annie Booker married William Henry Attwood in 1864 and went on to have many children before dying in 1928 in Blenheim. Their daughter Frances married William Hannam in 1857 and died in Blenheim in 1920. Son William married Rose Ann and John married Rachel, both had children as well. Daughters Elizabeth and (Violet) Emily it seems never married.

But finally, regarding their daughter Mary, who I have suggested was probably the reason the family came to New Zealand, one family historian has told us the story after she married John “Jock” Fraser. I will reproduce it here in some detail, with thanks, because I think it can give us a little flavour of the life and times of those early New Zealand settlers:

Jock/John Fraser…. came to New Zealand about 1840 with his younger brother Hugh.

On reaching New Zealand Jock and Hugh first settled in Nelson. In 1856 Jock married Mary (nee Clarke) Booker, a young widow (37 years his junior) with babe in arms. Before her premature death in 1876 they would have 8 children.

The Frasers and others left Nelson (the oldest settled corner of South Island) seeking clean, free sheep country free from the taint of scab. Their search took them to the Canterbury Region, home of “Mackenzie Country”. Mackenzie Country was one of the most celebrated pastoral areas in New Zealand. A great inland plain, noted for its pastoral richness and lakes.

About 1857 Jock took ownership of a large area (20,000 acres) in South Island from Pleasant Point to Marlborough. The Fraser brothers (Jock and Hugh) were the only highland Scots to take up sheep runs in the area. Most of the other men working the Mackenzie sheep runs were from England or low-land Scots. Jock and brother Hugh were the first to overland sheep from Nelson to Canterbury in the 1850s….

Jock’s brother Hugh sold their land in 1860 to Andrew Patterson and moved to North Island. In the 1860s Jock and Mary moved to Mt. Cook Station, one of Mackenzie Country’s historic sheep runs.

In May of 1876 Mary and her 18 year old daughter Jessie die within a week of each other and are buried in Pleasant Point Cemetery. Jock lived until 14 April 1893 when he died at the Timaru Hospital. His funeral notice was published in the Timaru Herald on 17 April 1893:

“FRASER – The friends of the late Mr John Fraser, are respectfully invited to attend his funeral, which will leave the Timaru Hospital at 11 o’clock this Morning, for the Pleasant Point Cemetery, which will be reached about 1 o’clock.

Brother Hugh’s family (after moving to the North Island) branched out of farming and ran a box factory in Eketahuna before moving to Wairau (Hawkes Bay) and owning Willowflat Saw Mill. 

William and Jemima Booker’s Grave in Blenheim

In terms of the Grisdale family, although Jane Grisdale Booker had died at a young age in 1819, when her children were still small, I like to think that maybe in London and later in New Zealand her son William Booker just perhaps kept her memory alive. Did the family also know that they had a famous “Uncle” Levi Grisdale who had “saved England and Europe from Napoleon”?  It’s pretty certain that William Booker had met his uncle when he was a boy in Arundel, but whether he remembered anything and told his children we will probably never know.