Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lawrence and Gabriel's Gully

Recently there was a weekend celebration held at Gabriels Gully and the organisers were absolutely amazed at the interest they encountered. Crowds of people. I only found about it when travelling through Balcutha on Monday the 21st and finding the town virtually closed. Everyone was at Lawrence for the celebrations.

However I was able to visit Balcutha again on Tuesday and stopped at the South Otago Museum. The part-time curator, Gary Ross was back from his duties at the celebrations, full of enthusiasm as usual. He said he'd made many contacts who had gold mining information in their families. The subject of Otago Gold Mining is still to be fully researched and any private information will be safe with Gary.

Later on in the week we encountered more comments from people about Lawrence. One was that Lawrence could be another Arrowtown - a fine tourist attraction. It's not there yet but the townspeople are enthusiastic about the idea, even to arguing over who gets what history going.

The date Gabriel Read walked from Evans Flat over a spur into a back valley and followed a creek, dug a hole with a butchers knife and struck gold was the 20th May 1861. Besides the gold he picked up, he won an award for £1000 offered by the Otago Provincial Council for finding a payable gold field.

In the short time I was visiting with Gary Ross, he managed to tell me some amazing stories, I wish I'd had more time to spend with him.

Site Statistics

A milestone is just about to happen for this site, 25,000 page views since its inception. I'm very pleased that New Zealand history is a subject that people like to read about and genealogy as a hobby is in good shape. Thank you all for your comments and support.

Since the beginning on the 7th of June 2010, I've published 225 articles.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some church's in the South Island

Christchurch churches took a hammering in the latest earthquake and everybody laments that. Elsewhere in the South Island are still many fine examples of English buildings, some charming ones hidden away and others on the main highways. We photographed a few. Please feel free to copy these photos for your own use.
Seacliff Church
Oamaru Anglican Church
Church of St Andrews at Maheno
Hampden Presbyterian Church
Oamaru Catholic Church
Waikari Anglican Church of the Ascension
St Johns Anglican Church Westport
Port Chalmers Church

South Island farming folk

I turned up at a cross-roads yesterday in North Canterbury to photograph what was left of a small settlement where my grandmother was born. I'd always wanted to see it although I knew there was nothing much there. The only building was an engineering workshop. While I was taking the photos, the proprietor came over to ask why and I told him my little story. Oh, he says, my wife knows all the history around here, I'll get her.

The wife listened and told me I needed to speak with Mrs B and phoned her then got in our car and all drove up to Mrs B farm. Mrs B said we needed to see the local museum (I didn't know they had one), and phoned Bill. Bill opened the museum for us and told us we should see Mrs S and phoned her for us. So off we went to Mrs S. Mrs S gave us coffee and cake, the school roles and lots of interesting talk. She said we should see Mr C who lived over the road from the grange where my grandmother was born. My husband, bemused by all this drove me to meet Mr C.

Mr C hopped in the car and directed us to big paddock which we drove through to some trees in the distance. Here was the house he said, I remember it clearly, a four bedroom house with a sod cottage beside it, it was pulled down finally in 1951. It was on a block a mile square leased off the church he thought. My father told me about your gguncle, he was a bit of a weasel around home etc! But you should really back track to see Mr and Mrs H. So leaving him there, we did back track about 20km's and the H's who of course had been phoned by now, were expecting us. Here we had more coffee and cake in the big farmhouse and out came the photos.

What a wonderful, welcoming and interesting venture into the heartland of Canterbury.


Travelling through here the other day brought a lovely surprise. The museum was open, gold coin donation. It wasn't like other museums and I appreciate diversity. Full marks to the history lovers of Inangahua.
Three subjects caught my eye. The first was the earthquake on the 24th of May 1968 which shattered the town.The second was some excellent information on West Coast goldmining rushes.

The third was a lovely story about one family of settlers. (One of many you can view there).

Peter Mangos was born on the Island of Siros, south east of Greece.

He arrived in New Zealand on a German sailing Ship at Lyttelton in the 1840's and spoke five languages, English not being his best effort. He was extraordinarily strong and walked over the Otira gorge to Buller and built a business barging goods up the dangerous Buller river to the gold miners. He expanded to six boats and charged fifty pounds a ton. In the 1870's he opened a store at the Lyell. He then built a hotel from scratch in 1878 which he furnished with a grand piano and a billiard table. He was well liked and honest but with a short temper. He entertained guests by walking down the narrow bent staircase of his hotel on his hands and was a great cook.

At age 42, Peter (Demetrius Nicolas Mangos) married Mary Ann Williams in 1878. Mary was aged 16, the daughter of a constable, just out of convent school in Nelson, in an arranged marriage. They had 14 children. Mary was very devout and would pray before leaving the house. Peter died in 1901.


Karamea is the northernmost town on the West Coast of the South Island and is on the same latitude as Picton and a little higher than Wellington and is just over an hour's drive (100 km) from Westport. It's also the end of the famous Heaphy Track.

The Museum didn't open until the afternoon, so I missed this delight and instead went to their tiny library and spoke to the girl in charge that day.

Since earthquakes are topical, we chatted about Christchurch and got around to the 'Murchison earthquake' on the 17th of June 1929, which according to her history lessons should have been called the 'Karamea earthquake' since it was nearer to their town than further south. Silt from the shattered hills filled the river mouth and shut off transport by sea forever, their major transport route. The only alternative was a road route opened in June 1916 but the earthquake damaged this and it was not operational for a year.  I guess it was back to pack horses for a while. South of the town had a small forest on the flats. The earthquake heaved these trees up and dumped them down breaking their roots and the forest died. But no people died in Karamea like they did at Murchison and I don't think they mind it being named the 'Murchison earthquake'.

The first settlers to Karamea arrived on the 'Charles Edward' to Nelson on the 27th of November 1874. They were part of the Vogel scheme of 'special settlements'. The land they were first alloted on a high plateau turned out to have an impervious layer and nothing grew. So much hardship. They later discovered that the Karamea River Flats were fertile and settled there. Today, farming is still the major economic force and for others it is difficult to make a living and about a quarter of the population turn over every five years or so. But such a lovely climate and the isolation will always tempt people to replace those leaving.

The Karamea Museum is open 1 to 4pm Wednesday to Saturday but can be arranged for other times. Price $3 for adults, $1 for children over 5yrs.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Waipu Museum

I visited this museum recently while on holiday. If you like Scottish history, you would love this museum where you can follow the trek of some Scottish families across the globe to the area. They say on their website that they are eager to collect the records of people in the area and that if you have a connection to the settlers from Nova Scotia, they can provide a lot of information.

They also have a selection of history books for sale, some I hadn't seen before.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Christchurch earthquake

A lot of people outside of Christchurch should be reviewing the safety of their history treasures after witnessing such a tremendous natural assault on one of New Zealand's leading cities.  Who would have thought Christchurch was in such danger?  

Of all the nations in the world, I think New Zealander's are the most serious about our connections in history, for being a nation of immigrants and being so far from anywhere, people have felt a little isolated. 

How much personal data has been lost in the quake? It's possible that years of research could be gone in some homes. It's too early to even contemplate or reflect on it beyond these few comments, more important considerations have to be concentrated on.  Poor Christchurch residents.

For the rest of us, living in these tremulous islands, its a reminder. Use any means to upload data onto the Internet or share it out among family to ensure its survival. Don't hoard it, share it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Subjective history

For a non-academic like me, subjective history is difficult to accept, I often miss the clues which should get me thinking more deeply.

One dictionary describes the meaning of the word subjective as; based on somebody's opinions or feelings rather than on facts or evidence.

There has been a move happening for some time to present Maori history in a better light. The wholesome clean, green, New Zealand image it seems, needs this enhancement and Maori, who are nearly always at the bottom of every statistic, have a need to enjoy their heritage more. For a bit more on that, you can read Ranginui Walker's changes at the Auckland War Memorial Museum over the past ten years.

Recently, I was challenged over the presentation of some of my own (non-academic) family history work which I've presented on the Internet for all to see. This was done is a very nice way and I do appreciate that anyone cares enough to try and correct it. The problem was about a conclusion I'd made based on the evidence presented. A common enough problem. I was surprised however, by the reason for the requested change - that a group were attempting to change the whole public perception of a person's life using a bit of judicious censorship. Of course, it can easily be done but should it be?  Jury is out on this one.

Paul Moon's book, "The Horrid Practice", is a good example as well. Not the book itself, but the reaction to it by a group of academics. I'm reading this at the moment and am about half way through. It is an easier read than I expected and no nodding off passages so far. But it is controversial in that cannibalism was so badly thought of by the colonial people who first arrived that it seemed Maori were demonised for it for years and the subject got dropped from public view after a time.  Paul has been attacked for bringing it back into focus explaining that yes, it was a part of Maori culture so why ignore it.

Many of you will have your own views on whether or not, history needs censorship. Whether its just forgetting to add that person's death information to your tree because of the nature of the death, or welcoming a revisionist slant on the history of a whole nation.

Talking about postcards, here is Onehunga

I've been a part-time collector of New Zealand postcards for about 10 years now. Postcards like any other  hobby, waxes and wanes in popularity. When I first started it was waxing, now it seems to be getting a little less popular and this could be because of price increases. The rarer cards are getting very expensive and it's difficult to find a bargain.

Usually a person collects a theme. My subjects have been the Coromandel Peninsula and its towns, schools and hospitals around New Zealand and Auckland suburbs.

The National Library and local libraries have good collections for us to look at and copies are available. But bear in mind that there seems to be vast private collections in New Zealand.

Dealers set up their tables at collector/antique fairs. They also sell online at Trademe where most of mine came from. It need not always be an expensive hobby. The more recent cards are still going very cheaply and these will in time become sort after. If the hobby does interest you, try to always buy good quality cards.

I've chosen some to show you today of Onehunga, Auckland in the early days. I'm sure there were lots of postcards of Onehunga on sale in their day but I've only these three, sad, I'd like more!

Brass Bands as a resource

Photographs of Brass Bands in the early part of last century are a source of faces and are often annotated with names. The one I own is a souvenir postcard from 1922 to show you.

I happened upon this website this morning which collects these photographs from all countries and there are quite a few from New Zealand.