Firth’s enquiry

From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: edward bibby

Hello Jan,

What a wonderful site. I have enjoyed reading about the Bibby’s and their family history. All those photographs and Mary Bibby’s paintings, great.

The reason for my interest in the Bibby’s, goes back to my gt, gt, gt  grandfathers brother Samuel Baines Firth who purchased two blocks of land  next to Edward Bibby’s block.

I have a photocopy of a map circa 1872 of the Ruataniwha Survey District.
Samuel purchased block Appl N 130 130 acres and Appl N 122. Edward Bibby  had block Appl 99 105 200 acres 10. These were at Blackburn, Onga Onga.

I have a photocopy of a painting by Mary G Bibby, painted in 1904 showing the dairying set up, on Firths block. Haybarn, (calf rearing pens underneath) cowbail and trap shed. I also have another photocopy of “The Cottage” built by Edward Bibby in about 1911.

Samuel went to New Zealand with his wife Elizabeth sometime between  1853-1858. He built and ran Te Aute stores in 1858. From about 1877 it was  leased to various people and was sold after his death in 1886 to Florence  Grundie. He also had a sawmill at Te Aute. He also had sawmills at  Ormondville and Papatu.

Samuels’s brother Abraham also went to New Zealand in 1874 with his wife Eliza and children Tom and Elizabeth. The land at Blackburn was where Samuel built a house for Abraham. Abraham’s daughter Elizabeth married Walter Williams at Onga Onga.

I have another photocopy of Blackburn Bush picnic circa 1879 with Abraham,  Eliza, Elizabeth and Walter on it and their daughter Amelia/Milly.

There was also another brother Rueben who went there but didn’t stay.

I was wondering if you knew anything about this family.


Judith nee Firth
St. Just

From Jan
To: Judith
Subject: edward bibby/firths

Hi again Judith,

Well I’ve been down to the Museum and talked to Rosheen this morning and she’s going to see if she can find anything.

I’ve also been over now to talk to mum.

She found your email really interesting… and said that there is still part of the family farm called ‘Firth’s block”.

Her cousin is still farming that part of the farm which is called ‘Lunesdale’ and her brother lives on another part of the Bibby farm called ‘Glen Appin’

My Grandad (who was also an Edward Bibby) wrote a book called “Lunesdale” back in 1990 a year or two before he died , where he wrote from a personal point of view about the early beginnings of the farm/ Blackburn area.

We looked up your family name and found the following exert – which I
thought you’d find interesting.

Mum’s ringing her cousin at Lunesdale about seeing if can find out more about  the Firth’s, and she’s also contacting a person who is part of a committee which has just written a history of Pukehou/ Te Aute region to see if they have any more information about them up there.

Hopefully between us we can help you out a little.

Hope this is of some help to you


Oh – I found a black and white version of Mary Glover Bibby’s painting of Firth’s Block too.
Hopefully I can track down the original and get a colour scan of it.

Exert from “Lunesdale: A bush Farm Community From 1871” by E.S.Bibby and Claire Bibby (pg 16)
“Early Settlers Sell out”

In about 1890 the settlers who had tried to live on the small sections around Lunesdale found them uneconomic. These brave hard-working people sold out to Grandpa.(Edward Bibby)
Farmlets purchased were George Burkin’s (50 acres), Firth’s (130 acres), Eager’s (50 acres), Williamson’s, and George England’s (100 acres).
Some of theses sections were detached from the farm, but all were on the Blackburn Road making stock movement to Lunesdale woolshed easy.
There were dwellings on Burkin’s Eager’s and Firth’s.
Mrs Firth’s husband died and was buried on the side of a hill on the farm, with views of the lake, Tuki Tuki River, and surrounding farmland. She called the hill Mount Piscar, from the Bible. I believe a child might have died also, as I once picked out the graves in spring surrounded by jounquils.
Mrs Firth first sold her property to two bachelors, who in turn sold to Grandpa. These bachelors had laid down a portion of her garden for parsnips with the intention of making parsnip wine. The parsnip wine may not have been a success, but certainly the parsnips themselves were. They grew wild on to the roadsides. Their descendants are still growing and were once regularly harvested by a Waipawa County Council grader driver!
The Firth’s property and buildings were to play a major part in Bibby family and farming life.
All that is left today is a pear tree and a line of sheltering firs.

From: Jan
To: Judith
Subject: Found painting!

Hi Judith,

Really exciting news!

I have found the original painting of Firth’s Block and have been able to scan it!

It actually belonged to Mum’s sister who came around today for a cup of tea and read you email. She is very interested in family history and found your family connection to ours really interesting – and of course when she read about Mary’s painting she said “I know where that is. It’s hanging on my bedroom wall.”

So it was very easy to borrow and scan.

She has a special feeling about the painting as she (and my mum) were raised on Blackburn Ridge and she felt that Mary (their grandmother) had captured the atmosphere of the place really well.

I’ll attach the scanned image to this email so you can print it if you want.

We’re still following up some other avenues about Samuel… and you’re right… he sounds a very interesting character!

I’ll be in contact when I find out more.


From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: Blackburn bush

Hi Jan,

Here are some amendments to my e-mails

Elizabeth Firth married Frederick Williams, not Walter, Walter was their son. They married at the United Methodist Church, Waipawa. I also put that Abraham Firth returned to England in 1888 it should have been 1898.

It must be all the excitement or loosing my marbles

Blakburn bush photo

Top right hand side, second to back row, man in light coloured jacket, hat tilted back Fredrick Williams. Women to left light coloured hat, youngster on her knee, Elizabeth Williams nee Firth. Youngster Amelia/Millie. Older couple in front of them Eliza Firth, small shawl around shoulders, frills sticking out side of dress, man to left, jacket open, waistcoat, Abraham Firth.

From: Jan
To: Judith
Subject: Firths

Hi Judith,

My aunt -Rachel (who lent me the painting to scan – I hope it got through to you OK) was so interested by your original email that she went home and looked up the notes that her father (my Grandad) wrote about the Firths…

She emailed me this… and I thought you might find it interesting so I’ve forwarded it on.

And the photo of the Blackburn bush Picnic I haven’t seen before, and so far looking through grandad’s history books it hasn’t appeared. So thanks for that.

It’s always exciting finding some old treasure.



From: Rachel
To: Jan
Subject: Firths

I looked up the notes on Firths. Not very different to the Lunesdale comments.
I will attempt to replay the tape one day.

A comment of dads re a 1901 photo in Museum?Waipawa. Of the then Militia?1901 seems an odd  date and must be a mistake.

In the photo he saw a Lieut. Firth

He had also seen a depression in the ground near where original house stood that he attributed to being a pit dug to bury furniture  in the case of bush fire.This was a big threat up on the ridge cos of wind thru the regowth and fallen bush.

Dad lived on the site with his cousin Ella Smith right after his return from war and when the dairying was being done, so he knew the area intimately. He was very fond of his cousin and would have talked about all sorts of family stuff.

He remarked that the land owned by Firths was very broken country  so no doubt that hastened the end of the farming venture.

Dairying only began after Firths era, so pix of calf pens yards & not highly relevant to the rellies.

I find this detective work intriguing.


From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: mary bibby

Hi Jan

I have seen at the New Zealand Dictionary site a piece about Mary Bibby,  where she came from etc. It say’s that she made one visit back to England  in the late 1890’s. I have wondered whether she travelled back with  Abraham and Eliza as they came back in1898.

From an old bill heading that I have Samuel owned Waipawa sawmill it was  managed by his brother Rueben. It has also been said that he had one at  Onga Onga, this could have been managed by Abraham. Abraham had his own  boot and shoe making business in England.

Another Elizabeth firth daughter of Sarah Firth. Sarah was Samuels older sister. Elizabeth also went to NZ in 1874, to live and work for uncle Samuel at Te Aute stores. I have a letter she wrote to her mother in March 1875, sadly what should have been a new life, ended with her dying of a Fever in May 1875. I will type this letter for you to read I think you might be interested in the way of life back then were money seemed to be  no object.

Bye for now


From: Jan
To: Judith
Subject: Mary Bibby

Hi Judith,

No – I asked mum when about her granny went back to England, and she said it was either 1899 or even 1900 when Mary’s father was dying so they weren’t on the same boat.

As you can imagine sea voyage took even longer then than now and it must have taken months to get back.

I have attached to the emails a few sketches Mary did on her voyage either going to England or returning back to New Zealand. I thought you might be interested as its about the same time as Eliza and Abraham travelled so it gives you an idea of sea voyage activities.

I particularly like the one of the man having a haircut on deck.

I’m still writing up information I’ve found about Samuel. He was a real
entrepreneur! I’ll email it when I have it all together.


And yes – I’d love to see that letter.

From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: Elizabeth firth letter

Letter from Elizabeth Firth (daughter of Sarah Firth) to her mother in March 1875, sadly what should have been a new life, ended with her dying of a  Fever in May 1875

Te Aute,
New Zealand 
12th March 1875

Dear Mother & Father

I have not received a letter from you yet and it makes me uneasy, as I am
very anxious to know how you are getting on it almost makes me wild to think
of it.  It seems ages since I left home I should be happy if you were here
with me, I regret leaving you so very much.  I do assure you that you are
never absent from my mind.  Dear Mother   if Mrs J H Beaumont has taken her
self offended and will not write to me ask Betty Hardy to be kind enough to
write for you.  I would have wrote to her this mail but I really had not
time, we are pretty well kept at work the house and store together.  I
assist Lucy with the house and work on in the store as well.  The young man
in the store has married Lucy that is A Taylor’s daughter and there was a
fine wedding we had. Uncle Sam bought her a splendid silk dress, money is
no object here, then we had a Grand Ball at night.  There was about 20 men
came with tins and bullock bells, tin kettleing as they call it, and a fine
row it was.  Paulina that is the youngest my aunt has sent her to boarding
school.  I was at a Ball last Friday and stayed until 3 o’clock in the
morning.  I like the Country on the whole very wel,l we had a severe shake
the other morning when in bed.  It did no damage that I hear of, you will be
surprised when I say I have only been to Church only once since I got here.
There is one but it belongs to the Maories, we are going to have the use of
it once a month.  There is a nice young man going to come to preach, he is
like Mr Cheetham.

Uncle Reuben does not like it here and seems very unsettled.  I feel very
sorry for him he is at Uncle Abraham’s.  Aunt Elizabeth and him don’t speak,
they had some words over him taking a few raspberries when there is more
than she wanted for peaches and them are very plentyful.  They think nothing
of giving boxes full of them, I believe she is very bad if she takes against
anyone. He says he will never settle here, only me is wanted here,  He talks
of coming back to England.  I told Uncle Sam I should not stay with them if
there was nothing for him. The saw mill is not ready yet, they are splitting
and getting ready.  Uncle Sam keeps saying to me to keep in with my Aunt, it
will be all the better for me in the end. That he only intends carrying on
the store on about twelve months. The more I look after it will be to my
interest as it will be mine.  They can do without it, and that I am alright
only I think so, but I want a wage Lucy has ten shillings a week. Paulina is
my Aunt’s favourite she can do no wrong.

On Sunday I went a side horseback about 30 miles with a young man.  As soon
as our Reuben heard he came to ‘blow me up’.  Aunt and Uncle were in the
room, the young man, I was in the kitchen getting tea.  That vexed him more
still, you know how ‘black’ he can look.   He did not say as much as he
could have liked because I would not talk to him.  I was so grieved at him
and could not sleep that night.  Uncle & Aunt have gone to Napier, they
drive to the train and leave the horse and trap at an hotel.  The horse has
come back and left them I shall have to take it and meet them I am getting a
first class rider.

We are all of us enjoying very good health, hoping you are the same with the
exception of Cousin Tom, he got fever I am sorry to say but he will be
better soon for he is a steady young man beloved by all who know him.  I
have not wrote to Aunt Mary Ann & Uncle Walter yet.  I forgot the address,
give my kind love to them accept the same yourself.  Uncle Reuben has wrote
Cousin William this month and sent you a paper.  I must now conclude with
kind love.

Believe me to remain your affectionate daughter.

Elizabeth Firth

P.S Please write by return and send me a newspaper.

From: Jan
To: Judith
Subject: Samuel Firth

Hi Judith,

I’ve been really busy the last few days finishing a statue I’ve been commissioned to make (due to be picked up on about Wednesday), and getting a few pieces ready for a little exhibition I’ve been asked to participate in first weekend in June. But last night (after a very long day sculpting) I finally got the Samuel Firth information typed up last night and ready to send to you.

I don’t know whether you have this information already – but I realised when I was typing it that the letter you sent me from Elizabeth Firth (Samuel’s niece) actually let’s us know what happened to her – very sad – those early settlers sure had to deal with a lot.

I’ve also inserted in “The Opening Gate” exert a few photos  – one of The Te Aute Store (which was the building Samuel built) and some photos of clearing the bush. I just thought it might give you an idea of what it was like over here back then.

I was wondering – and you can probably help me with this. (just idle curiosity really as your family’s story is really interesting – with boot-legging and the such as part of its history)

Samuel died here in New Zealand – but you’re one of his descendants back in England… Did your family get back to England the next generation – or with Eliza?

Anyway I’d better get back to my stone-work as it won’t carve itself.

Hope this is of some help.

I’ll email any photos if they come to light


Exerts from
“The Opening Gate: The story of the Te Aute District”

The hills and countryside around Te Aute and Raukawa were covered with dense native bush, rough scrub and low lying swamps which attracted a number of sawmillers and flax millers who set up mills under the arrangement with the local Maori. One of these sawmillers was a man named Samuel Baines Firth.

The bush back then was really dense – unlike now when there is very little in the way of stands of native bush in this area. Bush was cleared and tram tracks built to help take the logs out of the forest for milling

In order to supply his mill workers with necessary equipment and goods, he set up a store shed at Te Aute on a piece of land offered by Te Hapuku on behalf of one of his relatives. This area was on Te Koroki No. 2 block which consisted of two acres, on which the chief wanted a store and “grog” shop built like those available to him further north. It is thought the shed situated on the south side of the present old house and store formerly known as the Te Aute Store, could be the original building, but unfortunately during the early 1990’s a falling tree demolished the shed completely.
Samuel Firth also built a cottage nearby where he would have lived with his wife Eliza, but the shed or store building was probably where the main business dealings were carried on. This was in 1858, though the store did not have a legal Bush Licence (permit to sell alcohol) granted until 1859. It has been suggested an illicit still was hidden underneath the store at one time.

In 1858 Peter Bourke, who had been in the Napier Constabulary in 1842, came from Napier with his family to Pokawa and is said to have taken over the lease of the Te Aute Store.

Peter Bourke and his family left the store in 1862 to return to Napier where he became Postmaster for several years.
He was followed as leasee at Te Aute by William Heaslop, who was also appointed Postmaster that same year, working there until 1865/66.
Although there is little information to verify the movements of S.B.Firth and his wife at this time, relevant newspaper advertisements in 1864 show that he must have built another store and shed back at Te Aute, where he began selling retail goods. Firth then took over both stores from 1865 with his wife, and William Heaslop left the business.
The sawmilling business was continuing.
There was an advertisement in the Hawkes Bay Herald in 1862 for timber exported to Napier from a sawmill in Coromandel run by Firth and Roe, which may be the same man.

During the 1870’s when S.B.Firth built the substantial two storeyed house/store, he imported kauri logs from Coromandel for the building and counters in the shop which still stands and is occupied, close to the original site.

This photo is of the store that Samuel Firth built (mentioned above). Unfortunately it is not taken at the time that the Firths owned the store, but much later,  in about 1900 when the Gundries owned it. This is Constance and Jessie Gundrie standing outside the Te Aute Store.

It was reported that the logs were floated down river in Coromandel to the ships which then transported them to Hawkes Bay.
The store run by Samuel B. Firth, no doubt with the help of his wife, Eliza, was gradually expanding, as shown by advertisements which appeared in the Hawkes Bay Herald between 1866 and 1869. The following is an example and appeared on October 30, 1868:

To the Inhabitants of Te Aute and Kaikora,
On or after 1st November, a reduction of ten to twenty five percent will be made on all cash purchases, to make room for SUMMER GOODS.
Grocerie, drapery. Clothing, ironmongery, earthernware, saddlery, Colonial made boots and shoes & c, as cheap as any other house in the trade.
Also for Sale: 34,000 feet totara timber, delivered to any part of the province by agreement. Timber delivered at the roadside Te Aute for house purposes – totara 14/- per 100 feet, white pine 12/-, Totara and Matai posts, rails, pailings, shingles, house blocks &c. Totara and Matai junk as per agreement.
Te Aute.
S .B. Firth.

Here are some bushmen standing in front of a giant Totara tree. I decided to include this photo since it gives you an idea of the size of these old trees which were hundred or thousands of years old.  Totara was a fairly commonly used timber back then especially for the blocks for building houses on in New Zealand (our house still has Totara piles )

It was obvious the sawmilling was still a large part of Samuel Firth’s business, which continued for a number of years.
One newsparer notice –
Offer a reward of £5 for information leading to conviction of whoever stole the screw jack from the Bush Man’s hut, Raukawa Bush. – Te Aute Store (May 1868)

In 1869 Firth was granted a wine and spirit licence under the 1869 legislation and in 1870 he was selling timber and firewood from the Te Aute Store. Among old store accounts there is evidence of a form of bartering which carried on at times to meet the customers’ needs and financial situations. No doubt butter, eggs, meat and various wares were swapped for agreed values of purchases with the storekeeper.
Firth applied to be an elector, claiming entitlement due to his ownership of stores and house in 1867, but that was rejected, as he did not own the land at the time. This still belonged to Te Hapuku’s relative by arrangement. It was not until 1871, confirmed by Native Land Court records, that Firth purchased 2 acres for £70 and was given title to the property.
It is thought he would not have built such a substantial house on this site earlier because of having to pay a premium of £300 for such a building with the sale.

During the 1870’s when the country districts were being settled by pakeha farmers, the Te Aute area was becoming quite a settlement with the shops, hotel, blacksmith, and school which at that time was situated in a room of a cottage offered by Eliza Firth. She was also the Postmistress, following her husband who had held the position of Postmaster since 1866.

Te Aute became an important stopping place for the coach between Napier or Havelock North and Waipukurau. As time went on, the number of services increased from twice weekly to several times per day, traveling one way or the other. This would have added greatly to the work of the proprietors of the store. Not only that, it was a meeting place for the local families, many of whom lived lonely lives in remote homesteads or huts, so visits to the store would be an exciting event in very busy but isolated lives.

Unfortunately Samuel Firth ‘blotted his copy book’ rather badly when he was arrested for receiving stolen good. In a Supreme Court report in the Hawkes Bay Times, August 14, 1872, before His Honour Mr Justice Johnston, he was charged with receiving a gold watch and chain and waistcoat, knowing they were stolen, the goods and chattels of David Trone.
His Defence Counsel, Mr Lascelles and Mr Lee argued he was a victim of conspiracy between two named men (the thieves). Firth pleaded not guilty. Police Inspector Scully said there was no record against him but his reputation was not good. He was said to conduct an honest business as his main income, but was tempting some young people to become common criminals. The Police Inspector quoted ‘that one receiver made many thieves.’ And considered Firth was a dangerous enemy to society. The jury returned a verdict of guilty. He was sentenced to three years penal servitude.
This must have been shattering to Eliza Firth who was left to cope with the stores on her own. She had no family and must have been lonely as well as extremely busy. This would have been when she took over the Postmistress position. She then decided to nominate family members from England to come to New Zealand as immigrants to help her. These relatives were her neice, Elizabeth Firth, aged 23 from Huddersfield, Yorkshire, Eliza’s brother Abraham Taylor, a carpenter, his wife Paulina and their two daughters, Paulina aged twelve and Lucy aged 19 from Halifax in Yorkshire. Elizabeth Firth arrived on the ship ‘Bebington’ in November 1874, but the Taylor family arrived earlier on the ship ‘Douglas’ at Wellington in September 1873 though Mrs Taylor died during the voyage and was buried at sea. Because she died ‘on the high seas’ no death certificate was issued.
It is understood that Lucy helped Eliza Firth in the store. Very little is known of these relatives after their arrival in New Zealand, apart from Paulina, the youngest immigrant who went to school while living at the store, later working as a maid or doing housekeeping. In 1876 at age 16 she met and married Charles Leach whose wife and child had both died on their journey from England. The couple were married in the Christ Church, Pukehou by Rev Samuel Williams, but they could not receive their marriage certificate till a year later as Paulina was legally below marriage age at that tie. There were four children from that union.

The sawmilling business continued without Samuel Firth at the helm. As well as Te Aute sawmill, he was the proprietor of Waipawa Steam Sawmill (1875) and proprietor of a saw mill in Ormondville.

It is not known if Samuel Firth gained his freedom earlier than the three years of his sentence, but in another advertisement in 1875 there is a request for a storeman who must be a good accountant, Apply S. B. Firth, Te Aute.
1877 seems to be a watershed in the business life of the Firths, as another newspaper advertisement describes the business as wholesale and retail store at Te Aute, and later in June there is a disclaimer for: Being responsible for any debts that my wife Elizabeth may contract from that date, signed S B Firth.
By this time Eliza may have taken over the ownership and running one of the stores herself, possibly Samuel and Eliza were living separate lives after his release from prison. Lists of businesses in the region between 1873 and 1876 have Eliza as owner of the Te Aute store

On July 16 1877 in Hawkes Bay Herald:
S B Firth thanks the people of Te Aute and Kaikora for liberal patronage for the past 13 years that the Te Aute Store has been sold to Charles Leach.

From 1881 Samuel B. Firth was in Ormondville where his main business was saw milling and advertisements attest to this until 1886.
In the Daily Telegraph, August 23, 1886 there was a death notice for S B Firth who died at Papatu on August 20, 1886.


From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: ‘The Opening Gate’

Hi Jan

Thank you for the information from “The Opening Gate.” I rang my sister this afternoon we like the bit about illicit alcohol, seems to be in keeping with Samuel.

We have some of the information already from a different source: ie Te Koroke no 2 block, Peter Bourke, blotting his copy book.

We think Samuel was released from prison early, he was sentenced in August 1872 for 3yrs, in Elizabeth’s letter dated March 1875, he was mentioned as being in the other room.

My sister says if you would like more information on the Firth’s back in England she will send them as attachments.

Elizabeth Firth who arrived on the Bebington in Nov 1874 on the shipping list I have, it say’s she was 25yrs, she was born in 1845 so she should be about 28. I have her birth certificate. She was born at Boothtown, Halifax.

On the shipping list I have for the Douglas 1873, Abraham Taylor arrived with his daughter Paulina and Lucy but no wife; she had died 8yrs previously at Halifax. I haven’t got the date but Pat my sister has.

Got to dash going out

Speak to you tomorrow after reading information again


From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: ‘The Opening Gate’

Hi Judith,

Its interesting seeing the little inconsistencies with dates etc. But I think that through sharing information we can sift out what is more likely to have happened (since no one is around from that era to verify what actually did). I have forwarded on some of the info you sent me to one of the people who helped compile the book and they were very interested.

Do you have any photographs of this period of your family history?

I have talked to a few people and we couldn’t find any of the Firth’s Te Aute experience… and very few taken around the district either.
Apart from the ones I sent you earlier with the Opening Gate exert I have found these few  of pit-sawing timber that I’m sending you, which are slightly later than Samuel’s time circa 1900 and are not actually taken in Te Aute but at Whakarara – which is not far away from Blackburn… I thought you might be interested as the activity that these men are doing would be fairly much the same as Samuel would have done.

Gives you an idea of what New Zealand looked like back then…. and the hard work that went into clearing the forest and turning these massive trees into timber. There are very few stands of forest like that left around Te Aute which is a bit sad.

Now there are lots of paddocks and sheep… and large swampy wetland areas with lots of ducks and black swans.

Even the old Te Aute store has been moved back from the Main road because a few years back some crazy speeding driver crashed into the front verandah breaking the verandah posts and collapsing the verandah’s roof. Luckily it stopped there and didn’t destroy the old building or hurt anyone.

Hope you enjoy the photos


From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: Photos

Hi Jan

I did know about the drunken youth running into the store. Pat is going to scan a couple of pictures for you.

Pat has been helping a man called Trevor Harris find information on the Leach family here in the UK. He was in NZ at the beginning of this year or the end of last year and he took some pictures of the store.

He has also has lots of pictures of the Leaches including Charles and Paulina.( Charles  and Paulina Leach bought the store from Samuel Firth- and Paulina was Samuel and Eliza’s niece).

Pat and I are both going to buy the Opening Gate.


From: Pat
To: Jan
Subject: Re Firth Photos

Frederick Williams and Elizabeth (nee Firth) picture taken at Diamond Wedding 6/2/1937

Elizabeth was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire circa 1857 she is the daughter of Abraham Firth and his first wife Sarah Thompson

From: Jan
To: Pat
Subject: Re Firth Photos

Hey really interesting photos you sent me of your ancestors (see above) and the store!

I’m sure I’ve seen one of them before (the one with the little girl standing outside the store) but I can’t think of where. I haven’t found those in my search…

Do you know who the people are in them? or what year they’re taken?

Love the pictures of your ancestors too.

You just don’t get photos like that now-a-days

I noticed that Abraham’s second wife was called Elizabeth too!

You have a lot of Elizabeth Firths in your family.

It’s almost as confusing as Edward or Mary in the Bibby family – as there are lots of them too. We usually distinguish them now by using their middle names as well as the first… but I am sure they wouldn’t have been called by their first and second names when they were alive.

Thanks again


From: Jan
To: Judith
Subject: NZ Firths

Hi Judith,

It’s been a while since you’ve heard anything from me, but this morning when I checked my emails I found this (email below)…. from another Firth descendant living here in NZ.

Kerry also rang me a little later and asked me if I knew the names of those buried in the graves up on Firth’s block – and while I can’t at this point in time – but I know that soon I will be able to.

You see (and this is a REAL coincidence) my Uncle, Ted Bibby, has been in the process of buying a block of land up on Blackburn Ridge from his cousin Tony.

I’ve known about this for ages but didn’t realise that the block of land he’s just bought is Firth’s Block! Anyway Ted’s been over in Ausie and quite unaware of us trying to piece together bits and pieces of you family history – but when he came back my Aunt told him, he talked to his cousin, and (to cut a long story short) Tony has all the information about who is
buried there.

Due to computer issues with Ted’s computer, he hasn’t been able to send it to me – but Kerry who emailed me this morning is very keen to find that out too.

Anyway once I have it I’ll email it to both you and her and post it on the website.

Also I think Kerry is quite keen to swap family history information with you and she also said that she is due to be going over to England later this year – so maybe you can hook up???

I will pass on any more details that come to light


From: Kerry
To: Jan
Subject: Elizbeth and Fredrick Williams

Hi Jan

Just stumbled across this page an was astounded to find photos of my G Grandparents who are buried in the Hastings cemetry.

The info you have here is really amazing and my Mother (94) daughter of Abraham Firth Williams will be blown away.

I have a photo of F & E’s family taken about the time of the golden jubilee and Mum has the cable sent by the King.

I am desperately trying to find out who Fredricks mother and father were but unfortunately none of Mum’s family know.

Also have heard of infants being buried on the Bibby estate. Is S B Firth buried there?

Will take some time to digest more

Kind regards

Kery C

From: Jan
To: Kerry
Subject: Firth graves on Blackburn Ridge

Hi Kerry,

I have forwarded your email to Judith and hopefully you two can get in touch and find out exactly how your family tree connects. Seems a small world doesn’t it when two people find they have ancestors in common and they live so far apart.

I also rang up my Uncle and found out the names of those children who are buried in those graves up on Blackburn Ridge. They are….

Eliza Williams
27th June 1877

Samuel Baines Firth Williams
lived 24 days
27th November 1880

John Clifford Williams
20th February 1886

Hope this helps


PS. I would really appreciate it if you could share any information you have that may be useful to add to the website ‘Firth enquiry’ so that others like you who somehow happen upon it can learn more about their ancestry.

From: Jan
To: Judith
Subject: NZ Firths

Hi Judith,

It’s been a while since you’ve heard anything from me, but this morning when I checked my emails I found this (email below)…. from another Firth descendant living here in NZ.

Kerry also rang me a little later and asked me if I knew the names of those buried in the graves up on Firth’s block – and while I can’t at this point in time – but I know that soon I will be able to.

You see (and this is a REAL coincidence) my Uncle, Ted Bibby, has been in the process of buying a block of land up on Blackburn Ridge from his cousin Tony.

I’ve known about this for ages but didn’t realise that the block of land he’s just bought is Firth’s Block! Anyway Ted’s been over in Aussie and quite unaware of us trying to piece together bits and pieces of you family history – but when he came back my Aunt told him, he talked to his cousin, and (to cut a long story short) Tony has all the information about who is buried there.

Due to computer issues with Ted’s computer, he hasn’t been able to send it to me – but Kerry who emailed me this morning is very keen to find that out too.

Anyway once I have it I’ll email it to both you and her and post it on the website.

Also I think Kerry is quite keen to swap family history information with you and he also said that he is due to be going over to England later this year – so maybe you can hook up???

I will pass on any more details that come to light


From: Kerry
To: Jan
Subject: Elizbeth and Fredrick Williams

Hi Jan

Just stumbled across this page an was astounded to find photos of my G Grandparents who are buried in the Hastings cemetry.

The info you have here is really amazing and my Mother (94) daughter of Abraham Firth Williams will be blown away.

I have a photo of F & E’s family taken about the time of the golden jubilee and Mum has the cable sent by the King.

I am desperately trying to find out who Fredricks mother and father were but unfortunately none of Mum’s family know.

Also have heard of infants being buried on the Bibby estate. Is S B Firth buried there?

Will take some time to digest more

Kind regards

Kerry C

From: Jan
To: Kerry
Subject: Firth graves on Blackburn Ridge

Hi Kerry,

I have forwarded your email to Judith and hopefully you two can get in touch and find out exactly how your family tree connects. Seems a small world doesn’t it when two people find they have ancestors in common and they live so far apart.

I also rang up my Uncle and found out the names of those children who are buried in those graves up on Blackburn Ridge. They are….

Eliza Williams
27th June 1877

Samuel Baines Firth Williams
lived 24 days
27th November 1880

John Clifford Williams
20th February 1886

Hope this helps


PS. I would really appreciate it if you could share any information you have that may be useful to add to the website ‘Firth enquiry’ so that others like you who somehow happen upon it can learn more about their ancestry.

From: Kerry
To: Judith and Pat
Subject: Firth graves on Blackburn Ridge

Good morning Judith and Pat from a cold and wintry Napier.

Pat’ I hope you have not been a victim of the recent flooding.

Welcome to our extended family at the other end of the earth and I wonder at the chance finding of Jan’s website, which has brought this opportunity of a once in a lifetime family acquaintance. I was actually looking for Fredrick’s family – again!!! I am forwarding her copies of these e-mails in case there is something that may be of interest to her.

I will send my info by way of several e-mails as it may be too much for one.

So with this one I have attached a basic tree as to how I fit in. You will note that I have a Danish surname. My Father’s parents were of Danish and Norwegian descent who settled in N Z not very far from the Te Aute area (70 miles). Also have a little Scottish thrown in for good measure.

May I say at the outset it has been quite taxing with so many Elizabeth Firth’s in the mix. At one stage I thought Abraham had married Samuel’s widow.

Jan confirmed yesterday that Samuel is buried on the Bibby Estate. Samuel has always been a mystery to us as he just seemed to have fallen off the map around the time of his conviction. Mind you the news of his conviction was new to me and perhaps none of our forbears wanted to acknowledge a ‘ black sheep’ in the family. (Also have the same feeling about Fredrick). Again until finding Jan’s website I never knew of the Firth farm. I could never fathom the reasons for family burials on the Estate but now all falls into place.

As you will see I have started with John as this is as far back as I know. It would be fabulous if you are able to go back further. 200 hundred years of history is a long time in N Z.

Will leave it here have another wine (maybe a long night) and move on to Fredrick and Elizabeth



John Firth m (1812 Yorkshire) Elizabeth (Nichols) – Abraham Firth
1791-1873 1792-1841 1816

Abraham Firth (Bootmaker) m Sarah Thompson – Elizabeth
1816-1898 1823-1865 1858

(Came to NZ 1873 passengers on the ‘Parsee’ with second wife, Daughter Elizabeth and Son Thomas Thompson)

Abraham returned to England and was buried
in Wheatley Wesleyan Chapel near Halifax
Overson (Velingworth Moir)

Elizabeth Firth m Frederick Williams – Abraham Firth
1858-1940 1853-1939 1889
7/2/1877 Waipawa Methodist
Rev Joseph White
(Both buried Hastings Cemetery)

Abraham Firth Williams m Jessie Rachel Palmer – Freda
1887-1968 1889-1964 1913
(Both Buried Old Gorge Cemetery)

Freda m Rodney Christensen – Kerry
1913 – 1915- 1950 1945

Kerry m Barbara Brown – Corinna
1969 1972

Fredrick and Elizabeths’ parents

Elizabeth not a worry. Maybe though you will be able to take us further back.
Fredrick’s parents are the worry. Barb and I stood on his grave and demanded that he tell us who they were.

All I know for sure (hopefully) was born at Freemans Bay Auckland 1853 and moved to Napier in 1860 with his parents. End of story.
You mentioned Clive. Clive is a little village some 8kms south of Napier so it is very possible they lived there.

What else I know is not a lot. All I have been doing is theorizing.

I referred as to Samuel being a ‘black sheep’ in the family and have so wondered if Fredrick’s father was not also. In some ways I hope he was – as it would add a little colour to our colonial past.

There is in existence a Williams family bible. For some unexplained reason the page that should have had reference to Fredrick’s parents has been torn out and destroyed. Why?.

Williams in NZ, was a very common name in the early settlement in fact quite renowned. Early missionary were Henry and William Williams one of whose son Samuel was very much involved in the establishment of the Maori College at Te Aute and the Anglican Church. I have looked at all descendants from this family and can not find a link.

So here is my theory for what its worth-

Have you ever heard of the Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight and the Parkhurst Boys? (See attachment)

You will see one Joseph Williams aged 17 occupation cooper which I understand is the making of wooden barrels. The key here being wood.

Then I found this…..

The New Zealander 16th June 1858
Names from the Electoral Roll for the Province of Auckland
for the Electoral District of the Southern Division
WILLIAMS, Joseph Waiheki Sawyer Householder

Joseph would have been 27 at the time of Fredrick’s birth.

They could easily been at Napier two years later but this is only speculation.

Occupation is consistent with Fredrick’s in Central Hawkes Bay.

Another researcher tells me that Fredrick Dawes (Parkhurst Boy) changed his name to name to Fredrick Williams.

As for his Mother one can only guess.

That’s where it ends.


Frederik and Elizabeth.
Married 7/2/1877 Methodist Church Waipawa by Rev White.
Last address was 804 Willowpark Road Hastings and are both buried in the Hastings Cemetery.
Like a lot of our ancestors, worked overtime, and had a lot of offspring, this couple having 13, three of who died very young and two have been confirmed as being buried on the Bibby Estate with Samuel Baines.
Eliza:- b March 1877 d June 1877
John Clifford – b January 1886 d February 1886
Also Samuel – b 2/11/1880 d 27/11/1880 not sure of his burial All have very ‘Family’ christian names.
Then the rest are in the attached photograph taken around the time of the 60th Wedding Anniversary.

Tonight I can only extend Abraham’s family.
Married Jessie Palmer and had four children:-
Freda (Christensen) Frederick (Williams) Millie (Fraser) Roberta (Bobby) (Collins)
Leonie Robert Firth (dec) Grant (dec)
Children Karen Wayne Lyall
Kerry Brent (dec) Noel

My Mother has all the rest so will endeavour to get for you if you wish.
We are confident that Frederick had one sibling (at least) a sister Harriett.
Curry is a name that is associated with the family and I attach a notice that may confirm this.

Only one more !!!! Us

Kerry m Barbara Brown – Corinna
1969 1972

Corinna lives in Melbourne Australia and is coming home in November to be married.
Lee (a Welshman) and Deborah live in London and are expecting their first very soon.

So there we have it. From Firth to Christensen.

Believe me when I say that Samuel, Eliza and John lie in a very beautiful part of NZ.

There is a secondary highway going south from Napier that we always use because no matter what the time of year it is always beautiful. We must have passed the road to the Bibby Estate many many times over the last 30 years and have not once taken the turn towards the mountains. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day as forecasters promise a sunny day.

I also look forward to a possible meeting with Jan in the very near future as she shown how our two families have been linked by a little of N Zs history and has revealed the mystery I had with the referral to the Bibby Estate.

Barb and I will be arriving in London for nearly 3 weeks on 3rd September to see our first grandchild. I’m not sure if I believe in fate but at this close time to our arrival we may have been given the opportunity to meet members of a family that went different ways some 140 years ago.

Until next time it’s good morning to you and goodnight from me

Kindest regards and best wishes

From: Jan
To: Kerry
Subject: Firth graves on Blackburn Ridge

Hi Kerry,
It looks like you have done some serious family research.

I’m quite lucky with mine because my grandad was an historian and he kept lots of interesting stuff which relates to the Bibby’s and also my coming to live back here in Waipawa (which really is the original Bibby base of NZ) there are lots of photos and stories locally.

Anyway to get back to the point of why I thought I’d better write – if you do decide to come for a drive down here in CHB looking for the Firth’s block I thought I’d better give you some directions.

As you can appreciate my great, great grandad bought a large quantity of small landholdings off other settlers which he then divided amongst his sons – and they divided with theirs etc, etc… so there is quite a number of Bibby farms still up around Blackburn and Petits Valley Road.

If you turn right off Highway 50 up Blackburn road you will drive quite a way up towards the mountains and after a while you will come across a little church on the left. This is the Bibby family church – but it is open for visitors – so feel free to go in and have a look. If you do you will see lots of little plaques on the wall with various names from my family history… and also you will notice a stainglass window which my Uncle Ted asked me to design in memory of his parents ( my grandparents). I decided on the scene of the Ruahine ranges, the rolling hills in front of them, and a tui in a kowhai tree – mostly because of the love of the land my grandad had and his love of planting trees (which the previous generation had worked so hard to clear off the land to turn it into pasture).

The land on the Highway 50 side of the church is ‘Firth’s block’ which Ted has just bought to build his daughter a home and it has truly amazing views for miles and miles down into CHB and Takapau plains.

He pulled down a huge big hayshed not long ago so there are no buildings there to mark it as anything different than other farm land. And although I do not know exactly where the graves are or which hill they are on (Ted might know) – from the little write up in Grandad’s book I know that the graves are only visible in spring when they are surrounded by jonquils.

Anyway- better send this.


From: Jan
To: Kerry
Subject: How did your trip to Blackburn Ridge go?

Hi Kerry,
It was really nice to meet you today and put a face to a name.

Did you find your way out to Blackburn OK?

I would imagine today would be really beautiful up there with the snowy mountains and the clear skies.

Mum always has romantic notions about living up there. She said that on a fine day it was like being at the top of the world… but she also said it could be VERY cold.

But it is nice to go back to the places where our families had some tie as somehow it seems to bring us closer to them. I suppose that’s why I live in this house here in Waipawa.

Anyway I hope my direction were clear enough for you to find it – as it really is a beautiful place.


From: Kerry
To: Jan
Subject: Blackburn Ridge

Hi Jan

Yes we did find our way to Blackburn Ridge.

Yes it was everything your Mother used to say about it..Quite cold but magnificent views and well worth the effort.

Thought your stained glass window was absolutely stunning and was fitting in the wee church.

Took lots of photos. Was not going to do much tonight but after re-reading Judith and Pat’s mail feel they would love to share the day. Sadly we found no jonquils.
It was lovely meeting you and admire your stone carvings. Sure it won’t be the last time

Kindest Regards

Barb & Kerry

From: Jeanette
To: Judith (fwd to Jan)
Subject: Te Aute Store

Article – from Historic Places Magazine, March 1986

Historic Store Seeks Sympathetic Owner
About 20 km south of Hastings, on the main highway to Wellington, is the small village of Te Aute. Next to the hotel and the old school house, which was built in 1889, stands the old Te Aute Store and house, on a property of about three quarters of a hectare. The property is bounded by the small Okahupupunui Stream and has on it a never failing spring and gnarled apple, medlar and other old fruit trees which still bear fruit today.

In the early 1850’s the Opapa area was in the midst of dense native forest which attracted several sawmillers, among them Messrs Firth and Gundrie of Ormondville.

Sensing a business opportunity in the difficultly of obtaining supplies in the area Abraham Firth decided to build a house with a store within it to serve the families of the timber cutters and the flax cutters working in the vast swamps nearby. The house/store was built in 1858 and soon became a thriving business, even though it took 5 days to bring the goods from Port Ahuriri down the coast, up the rivers and along roads through forests and swamp.

The two storeyed house and shop were built of kauri, some adzed by hand, tawa and heart matai. Some original square nails still show in the shingles on the roof, which were covered by corrugated iron when the building was still young. One of the original sheds still stands, the one by the roadside having being crushed only recently when a macrocarpa of great age and girth fell onto it.

The counters of the shop are kauri, the main one nearly 4 m long, a metre wide and 8 cm thick, reputedly having been made from a log floated down from Coromandel and cut for the purpose in a local mill. The turned shelf dividers and some doors are also of kauri.

The house originally stood on rough hewn totara posts, but these have been replaced by concrete piles.

When the first road through Te Aute was constructed in 1860, it was part of a direct link between Napier and Waipukurau. When regular coach services along the road began the store became a changing station for horses, allowing passengers to take a welcome rest, enjoy cups of tea or meals on the long back verandah and walk around the garden. The coaching stop became the centre of a thriving village with the first forge, saddlery, farrier and schoolroom in the district.

The schoolroom was built of upright totara slabs.

The children of workmen attended and local Maori brought their children to learn the new ways, the parents often sitting at the door to absorb some of the teachings themselves. Many workmen and their families lived in cottages and huts in the vicinity through patches of bulbs by the spring are perhaps the only evidence of the early one-room, earth-floored homes

As the bush was cleared, farm holdings were taken up in the district. In early 1870’s work began on laying the railway between Napier and Ellington. This doomed the old coaching services. For some time the meals and urns of tea were made at store and carried down to the nearby Opapa station for the convenience of train travelers.

After changing hands two or three times, the house and store were taken over, in 1888 by Mrs Gundrie and her family. The business was run by her daughter, Flora, and then her granddaughter, Jessie Osborne, until 1970. In this time this family owned the property, the gardens were laid out in an old English style, with many delightful old roses, French and English. They still delight visitors and are being propagated by members of the local Heritage Rose Society to ensure they survive for posterity.

For many years the store was a place of companionship for country women whose lives in the country were otherwise lonely.

There was a lending library, places to sit with their sewing or mending, and endless cups of tea with all who came.

The store’s last owners were Mr and Mrs I.E. Smith, who finally closed the business down in 1982. At the time it was closed it was reputed to be the oldest business continuing as one trade in a wooden building in New Zealand. In its latter years the store was set up as much as a museum as a shop. Hundreds of visitors came to inspect the old building and gardens and admire mementoes – books, ornaments, old tins and bottles, old tools and grocery samples – on shelves which in pioneering days have been stocked with English china and silverwares, French shoes and hats, groceries, schoolbooks and farm requisites.

The building has been extensively renovated in recent years, though in a manner in keeping with its original style. Now ill health is preventing the present owner of this small part of Hawkes Bay history from completing the extensive renovations and repairs which have been begun. The store/house is therefore up for sale, its owner hoping for someone who is willing to retain the buildings historic character will buy it.

From: Jan
To: Judith
Subject: Te Aute Store

Hi Judith,
I really appreciated the article. Thanks.

Mum actually gets that magazine but it’s a while since that story ran and she doesn’t always keep all the magazines so I didn’t remember seeing it. I thought it was interesting that they mentioned Abraham Firth at the Te Aute Store and not Samuel. As far as the information I’ve found it seems that Samuel had much more to do with the store than Abraham…

Anyway I suppose it could be a bit like the Bibby store from my family where people associate Edward Bibby as being the one who ran the store (mum thinks that his wife Mary was probably the real driving force behind the business)… But later his sons all had a stint in the Store and so did a few of the next generation.I know my granddad did until after the First World War when he moved away from Waipawa and for a time lived in Firth’s old house – where he decided he really wanted to be a farmer not a storekeeper.

I only found out recently from my uncle that he actually lived in the actual house which belonged to your forebears – Ted thinks there could be a possibility (although back then people didn’t talk about it much and people were supposed to just ‘get over it’) that granddad had post-traumatic stress related to the terrible things he saw in the war.Before the war he worked in the china department in the Bibby store – but after the war he didn’t want to do that any more and he took himself away from the family and worked quietly up on Blackburn Ridge.

I did get my hopes up that we were going to find an actual photo of Firth’s house as we found a copy of the things that Granddad donated to the National Archives in Wellington. Listed on there was a photo of Firth’s house…

Anyway we went down (since it was the school holidays and had a look. – only the catalogue (which was extremely long and extensive) was not catalogued the same way in Wellington.

We ended up going through boxes and boxes of letters and photos, newspaper clippings and other documents and after two days looking didn’t find that photo – but I did find some other stuff relevant to Waipawa and old Bibby photos neither Mum nor I had seen before.

We might have another trip down to Wellington in the next school holidays in September and see if we can do a less rushed search.

Also – next week I will give Tony a ring and ask him about the photos that Kerry and Barb saw when they tried to visit his place (the Te Aute Store) a couple of weeks ago. Tony was out when they visited but they glimpsed a photo of a bearded man hanging on the wall and they wondered if it was Samuel??? No harm in asking….

Anyway thanks again for the article. Who sent it to you?

All these little pieces do help to make a more complete picture don’t they?


From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: Te Aute Store
Hi Jan,

(I wrote)

Does anyone have issue 12 of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust magazine?

There was an article about The Te Aute Store, Hawkes Bay in this issue. I would really appreciate a look up if anyone has this magazine. One of my relatives built the store in 1858.

I subscribe to the Hawkes Bay mailing list, this thread was picked up by a lady called Jeanette who works in a library and they have all the back copies of the magazine. Pat originally found that it was in issue 12 as someone, on something like e-bay was selling all their collection.

I have a photocopy of a picture a house that is said to be Firth house, Blackburn Rd, Onga Onga. In 1993 it was called ‘Redwood’ and lived in by a lady

From: Tony C
To: Jan
Subject: “The Parkhurst Boys”

Hello Jan,

I was reading through the website and in a series of correspondence you had entitled “Firth’s Enquiry” mention was made of two Parkhurst Boys, Joseph WILLIAMS and Fredrick DAWES (changed his name to WILLIAMS).

My interest is that I am a mature Postgraduate at Southampton Unioversity here in the UK researching for a PhD on “The Parkhurst Boys”, essentially attempting to write Biographies (life histories) for as many as I can. Tracing the 123 who landed in Auckland in 1842 and 1843 aboard the “St George” and the “Mandarin” has been extremely difficult and the two mentioned are ones that who “vanish” so to speak after they arrived.

I wonder if there is any possible way you can help, either from your own knowledge or people you are in contact with who are interested. I have tried so many avenues in NZ, sadly with little success.

My regards

Tony C

From: Jan
To: Tony C
Subject: “The Parkhurst Boys”

Hi Tony,

Unfortunately I know very little about the Parkhurst boys. I didn’t know of their existence until Kerry emailed me about trying to trace his family roots… But he did have some documentation which he got from somewhere so I’ve emailed your enquiry on to him.

I think its very sad that these boys were uprooted from their families and sent away to live in some far-away land… especially when it sounds like many of them were not hardened criminals at all but maybe only slightly gone astray youths – but perhaps many of them did have the opportunity to make a new start and begin a life over in New Zealand without their past deeds hanging over their heads.

Anyway as I said I’ve forwarded you email to Kerry and I know that he was due to go to England around about now so I don’t know if he’ll be checking his emails while he’s away or not. So you may have to wait until he gets back.

It’s fairly amazing how the internet opens up these avenues for historical research.
My website is fairly insignificant when it comes to the scheme of things -being mostly to document little bit of history from my town and the people who have lived here – but I have found it interesting that people from the other side of the world often have enquiries about an ancestor which sometimes can lead to intersting results… it also brought Kerry here in New Zealand(a Firth Descendant) in touch with two distant cousins over there in England.

I hope Kerry can help you – But if you like I will add your request to the website and we’ll see if anyone else out there responds and can help you out??? Let me know if you want this and I’ll put it on – sometimes we get a response and other times not but I think it’s worth a shot.


From: Kerry
To: Jan
Subject: Parkhurst boys

Hi Jan
Nice to hear from you.
Baby Sophie arrived 19th August and we are leaving Sunday for our visit. Looking forward to making contact with Pat & Judith once there.
A very interesting line you have on the Parkhurst Boys as they are the very two I am trying connect to my Gt Grandfather Frederick Williams. I have requested a Birth Certificate search and still awaiting results.
Will reply to Tony with the very little information I have.
Will let you know how we got on in UK on our return 22/9
Had a nice talk with lady in Waipawa museum last week while looking into Te Aute store and through her met with Tony Fuller. He emailed me following. Unfortunately the dates quoted in the article beside the picture of Abraham are before his arrival in NZ. I still think that he was involved in building the existing store as I think it was built in the mid 1870’s.
The ladies in the UK are not sure who he is. I can see a likeness in the beard to later photos but perhaps they all looked the same in those days. It was suggested that he was too young to be Abraham. Because the portrait is there it does necessarily not mean that it was painted in New Zealand. Here’s hoping.
Thanks again
Kind Regards

From: Tony F
To: Kerry
Subject: Abraham Firth

Hi Kerry,
Nice to meet you yesterday. Here are the photos as promised, but as you will see from the conservation architects report it is Abraham not Samuel in the picture.

Tony F

From: Kerry
To: Jan
Subject: “The Parkhurst Boys”

Hi Jan and to you all

My best to you for 2008

You will recall that Tony C wrote to you regarding the Parkhurst Boys.

Over the past few months I have been trying to solve the mystery of my Gt Gt Gt Grandfather and have finally arrived at a scenario.
You will recall that the link between the Williams and Firth families is that Gt Grandfather Frederick married Elizabeth Firth daughter of Abraham.

(aka John Richardson)

Born c1827 probably London

( Father of Frederick Williams????)

John Richardson appeared at Old Bailey 17th August 1840, charged and found guilty of ‘Larceny of the Person’. He was sentenced to 7 years ‘Transportation’.He was sent to Parkhurst Prison from where he was ‘Transported’ to New Zealand aboard the
‘Mandarin‘ in 1843.
During the voyage he changed his name from John Richardson to Joseph Williams.
Was 17 years of age on arrival in New Zealand.
(ref. Tony Cock’s e mail 12/8/2007)

Married/Met Sarah Higgins. (Born 1828)
Sarah seems to have come to New Zealand from U.K.via Australia

Frederick born Freeman’s Bay 1853

Joseph Williams is listed on the 1857 Waiheki Electoral Roll occupation sawyer
(ref. “The New Zealander” 24th February 1858)

Fredrick moved to Napier with his family 1860
(ref. newspaper report of Golden Wedding)

Joseph came to Clive with his family 1860 and worked in the new sawmill at Big Bush, Whakatu. Was the first sawmill in Hawkes Bay and may have been sent down from Auckland by Robert Cashmore who had milling interests in the Auckland area (Cox Creek near Freemans Bay).

“Big Bush” Maori name “Te Pakiaka” Whakatu.
(Milled out by 1875)

Joseph Williams is recorded in newspaper 7th May 1869 as having an objection lodged against his name appearing on the Clive Electoral Roll.
(ref. Papers Past Jan-May 1869).
There is record of Joseph Williams paying a subscription towards the building of a
School-house in Clive.
(ref. Papers Past June-Dec 1869)

It is known that Frederick had two sisters. Harriett who married James Curry (ref. Napier District Court Reg. 1881 re Margaret’s death) and Sarah Jane (refer Early Ahuriri/Napier Birth Register 1863) who married Hugh Leete.
It has been suggested that there may have been one or two other
Walter and Jim (James) ?????

Frederick Williams married Elizabeth Firth in Waipawa 1877

Sarah died 1896 at the age of 68 and is buried in the Mangitanoka Cemetery.
Records show that Elizabeth Williams (Frederick’s wife) and Jane Eager (nurse)
witnessed the death and that Jane Eager registered the death.

Sarah’s death certificate disclosed:-
Wife of Joseph Williams. Father’s name: Higgins. Born in London.
In New Zealand 50 years. Married New Zealand aged 18.
Issue surviving at time of death:-
Two sons, 41 and 34 and two daughters, 39 and 32.


Were Joseph and Sarah legally married?
There seems to be no official record of a marriage between Joseph and Sarah. Verna Mossong, a very experienced researcher in the NZ Society of Genealogists, has suggested that the phrase in Sarah’s Death Certificate ‘Wife of Joseph Williams‘ did not necessarily mean that he was still alive but to indicate that they were not legally married.

Was Joseph Williams legally recorded in New Zealand?
Reference to Papers Past 1869 where an objection was lodged against Joseph Williams name appearing on the Clive Electoral Roll.

Are the dates of the Sarah’s surviving children correct?
Frederick : Born 1853. 43 at time of death quoted as 41.
Harriett: Born 4/1/1856. 40 at time of death quoted as 39.
Sarah Jane: Born 12/7/1863 33 at time of death quoted as 32.
Second Son: Quoted as 34 at time of death.
It has been suggested that there may also have been another son. The name Walter has been referred to. There is reference to a Walter John being born in Napier/Ahuriri 1869. (Early Births Register) Could he be a son who did not survive Sarah. He would have been 37 at time of death. Joseph and Sarah were still at Clive at that date. That would mean that the other surviving son would have been born around 1872.
Interesting to note that Frederick and Elizabeth named two sons Walter Valentine and John Clifford.

What happened to Joseph Williams?
Elizabeth Williams’ uncle , Samuel Baines Firth, established a sawmill at Papatu (Ormondville) prior to 1875. Did he go there?

Sarah Jane married Hugh Leete in 1882 and went to Woodville before finally settling in Invercargill via Tasmania.
Harriett married James Curry and went farming near Woodville.
Frederick farmed in the Pahiatua area (Kaitawa) after leaving the ‘Firth Block’. CHB.

Sarah died in the Pahiatua area. (1896)
If Sarah and Joseph were still ‘Husband and Wife’ we may be able to assume that he was in that area in 1896.

After Sarah’s death did he?

  • go south to be close to Sarah Jane?
  • stay in the Northern Wairarapa to be close to Frederick and Harriett?

Did something happen that caused his family to ‘disown’ him, consequently the lack of information about him? This may explain the missing page from the family bible.

Did he change his name back to John Richardson?

Have I found John Richardson in the records of the Mangaoranga Cemetery (Eketahuna)?

Internal Plot 7593 Block A Section Main Plot # 129
Last Name: Richardson First Name: John
Nothing else known
Comments: Found Dead.

The Tararua District Council could not shed any more light on the burial. I have ascertained from burials in plots nearby that the death would have occurred 1912 making John (Joseph) 84-85

(File Still Open)
Regards to you all

From: Kerry
To: Tony C
Subject: “The Parkhurst Boys”

Hello Kerry,

My best wishes for 2008.

Thank you for the latest details on John RICHARDSON (Joseph WILLIAMS) from which I have completed his Biography. It is fairly comprehensive and although you are uncertain about some of the information it all seems to hang together very well. A copy of the Biography is attached.

Please do cast a critical eye over the script and if you would like to amend, add or delete any parts I should be grateful.

For the moment, my regards


(Known as Joseph WILLIAMS in New Zealand)

Little is known of his early life history, except he was born c1827 probably in London.

He was committed to appear at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) on 17/08/1840 accused of “Larceny from the person”, found guilty and sentenced to 7 years transportation. Then aged 13 he had been employed as a Labourer. Initially held as a temporary measure at Newgate Prison he was subsequently transferred to Parkhurst Prison on 31/08/1840. His Gaoler’s Report indicated that he was also known as “Williams”, was single and could both read and write. He was discharged from Parkhurst Prison on 21/06/1843 in readiness for transportation.(1)

He sailed as a Free Immigrant, that is, under no constraints other than not being eligible to return to England until his sentence was completed, aboard the “Mandarin”, disembarking at Auckland on 14/11/1843.(2) David Rough, the Immigration Agent, recorded in his “LIST of Passengers in the Ship” the arrival of Josh Williams (Note: NOT John RICHARDSON. See later), aged 17, and as a general remark that applied to all the ex-Parkhurst convicts he commented “The Boys have all learned some useful trades but not so much as to qualify them for setting up in business; they are generally available for farm servants”.(3) The question of John Richardson changing his name to Joseph Williams was the subject of the following correspondence between London and Auckland which began on 10 May1844 with this letter to The Colonial Secretary in Auckland:(4)

Col. Land & Emigrat’n Agents reporting
discrepancy in name of a Parkhurst Boy
per ‘Mandarin’

Colonial Land & Emigration Office,
9 Park Street, Westminster
10th May 1844

I am directed by the Colonial Land & Emigration
Commissioners to request that you will have the goodness to
furnish them with any information which you may be able to
obtain upon the following matter:-
In examining the Account recently presented by the
Owners of the ship “Mandarin” for the conveyance of 31
Parkhurst Boys to New Zealand, it was found that the number
certified by the Immigration Agent to have been landed in the
Colony agreed with the number for whom a passage was engaged;
but that whilst the name of one, John Richardson, who embarked in
this Country does not appear in the list of those landed at Auckland,
the name of Joseph Williams of whom the Commissioners have no
cognizance, is contained in that list. The Board have declined to
recommend the Second Surety of passage money in respect of
Joseph Williams until they shall have been able to refer the case to
you for any explanation with which you may be able to furnish them
from the spot. I am to remark that amongst the 51 Boys embarked
for Van Diemen’s Land & certified to have been landed at Hobart
Town, there was two named Williams, but their Christian names were
John & Thomas, and not Joseph.

I have the honor to be,
Your Obedient Servant

L. Walcott

The letter is then annotated:

(i) I would recommend that this be referred to the Guardian
of the P.Boys for any explanation he can give.

(sgd) AS Oct 8/44

(ii) Refer accordingly.

(sgd) ?? Oct 10/44

(iii) The Boy in question gave his name to me as Joseph
Williams, but on enquiry at the Surgeon of the Mandarin
I find that he went by the name of John Richardson on
Board and I have every reason for believing him to be
the John Richardson mentioned in this letter.

(sgd) David Rough
Guardian Oct 11/44

(iv) I would recommend that the Guardian’s satisfactory
explanation be communicated to the Commissioners,
but that he should be requested to avoid writing across
a letter that must be kept as a record.

(sgd) AS Oct 11/44


(v) I agree – Let the Supt. be cautioned verbally – it is not
worth a written minute.

(sgd) ?? Oct 11/44

I think that the manner is of less consequence than the
intention – We must excuse want of acquaintance with
office ways.

(vi) Informed.

(sgd) AS Oct 19/44

It is reputed that Joseph Williams married 18 year old Sarah Higgins in 1846 but no certificate to authenticate this detail has been found, except her Death Certificate identifies her as the “Wife of Joseph Williams”. Their first child, a son Frederick, was born at Freeman’s Bay in 1853 and a daughter, Harriett, on 04/01/1856. At this time Joseph, according to the 1857 Waiheki Electoral Roll, was employed a Sawyer.

In 1860 the family moved to Clive on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, near the town of Napier, where Joseph was to work at the new sawmill in Big Bush, Whakatu. The family continued to live in this area and a second daughter, Sarah Jane, was born in 1863. It has been suggested, but not substantiated, that two further sons were born, Walter and Jim (James).

Joseph’s wife Sarah died aged 68 in 1896 and her Death Certificate, besides containing the notation “Wife of Joseph Williams” as mentioned above, also referred to the fact that she was survived by two sons, aged 41 and 34, and two daughters, 39 and 32. There is no further trace of Joseph Williams after this point, although it is thought that possibly he reverted to his original name, for in1912 there was entered in the records of the Mangaoranga Cemetery the name of John Richardson, with the comment “Found Dead”.(5)

Comment: There are no known instances of re-offending and therefore
assume that he was absorbed in to colonial society as a free


(1) Parkhurst Prison Register, National Archives, HO24/15, p.12.

(2) Buddee, Paul, ‘Fate of the Artful Dodger: Parkhurst Boys Transported to
Australia and New Zealand 1842 – 1852′, St. George Books, Perth,
Western Australia (1984), pp 165, 168.

(3) Internal Affairs, Series 1, Archives New Zealand, 43/2207..

(4) Internal Affairs, Series 1, Archives New Zealand, 44/2097.

(5): The Birth Death and Marriage details have been provided by Kerry
Christensen, Great Great Grandson of John Richardson (Joseph

NB: A large amount of the Parkhurst Prison information can be
substantiated by reviewing the website ‘Convicts to Australia’
which deals with the ship ‘Mandarin’.

Acknowledgement: My thanks are due to Kerry Christensen, Great Great
Grandson of John Richardson (Joseph Wiliiams).
His help has been invaluable compiling this

This may be as close as I will ever get.

From: Fran
To: Jan
Subject: Firth-Gilmore Family


Upon doing some research on family heritage I have stumbled upon your interesting article which mentions Sam Firth as well as this information regarding the Firth-Gilmore line.

I hope that we can link the two.

This is all of interest to me as a ‘Samuel Charles Gilmore’ is my great grandfather.

Thanks so much,

Fran Shepherd

From: Barbara (from archive link)
Subject: Firth-Gilmore Family

Hi all Happy new year.

Well after 27 years trying to find information on my Gilmore line. I got an email just before Christmas it was from a lady in the UK researching her Firth line and had just received Samuel Firth’s Will. Goodness me if when transcribing it she came across my Gilmore names and using my website sent me an email. What a shock and excitement for me.

Here is a part of that email

You will now be wondering why I am telling you all this, and here comes the more insensitive bit, for which I have thought long and hard as to whether to contact you. My sister and I have discussed it and we feel if it was the other way around any information regarding our ancestors would be welcomed, whether it would change things dramatically or not.

In Samuels will dated 5th July 1886 (Samuel dies 20th August 1886 aged 62) there are 3 executors, one being Anne Gilmore of Papatu. It goes onto mention that he leaves a portion of his real estate “in trust for Lottie Gilmore daughter of the said Anne Gilmore and of whom I am the father” another portion “in trust for Ada Gilmore of whom I am the father, daughter of the said Anne Gilmore”. And remaining portions of his estate “in trust that if Samuel Charles Gilmore son of Anne Gilmore and of whom I am the father”.

So as my Gt Gt grandmother was Ada Gilmore I guess she wasn’t a Gilmore after all though all through her life she was known by this name.

When trying to work this out I got a map of Ormondville in the early days only to find the Gilmore Farm and Firth farms were beside each other.

Now I have bored you can anyone tell me how I can find out if the bequests were honoured and as Ada and her husband lived on a farm in Ormondville all their lives how can I find out if it was the same piece of land.

Cheers Barb

NZ Genealogy

From: Jan
To: Fran
Subject: Firth-Gilmore Family

Hi Fran,

Thanks for your email.

Gee – Samuel Firth was an interesting character! I didn’t know about these children but it doesn’t surprise me when you look at everything else he got up to… sometimes wills can be very interesting documents… and I would love to see it.

Did you get the will from Barbara or Judith who have emailed me about Samuel Firth?


From: Fran
To: Jan
Subject: Firth-Gilmore Family

Thank you Jan for your reply.

I came across the information on the will online. It was included in an article written by Barbara, and I have emailed her too, to check if she knows any more. I am now waiting for her reply.

I don’t know Judith though, is she involved in this story too?

Thanks again for all your help.

From Fran

From: Jan
To: Fran
Subject: Firth-Gilmore Family

Hi again,

Judith was the first person to contact me last year via about Samuel & Abraham Firth who had a small landholders block next to my great, great Grandfathers (Edward Bibby). A lot of those early settlers found making a living off a very exposed ridge close to the Ruahine mountain range fairly impossible and after a while they nearly all sold up and their little blocks were incorporated into larger farms such as the Bibby estate (which later was made smaller again as it got split between sons and grandsons etc. A large area still belongs to a number of Bibby families up on Blackburn ridge.

Because of Judith’s email I found out about Samuel Firth and some of his early endeavours around Te Aute including the store and his time in jail for bootlegging.
So there have been a number of emails between Judith and I as you can see on the website – Her sister is Barbara, and both seem passionately seeking information about their ancestor Samuel Firth.

You probably might have made contact with Kerry who is another Firth descendant living here in Hawkes Bay. He’s a descendant of Samuel’s brother Abraham… He also has been researching Firth history and although descendant of Abraham he is very interested in his more wayward brother, Samuel.

Would you like me to send you their email addresses? Maybe they could help you with your research?


From: Fran
To: Jan
Subject: Samuel Firth

Hi again,

Thanks so much for your quick reply!!

All of this research is very new to me, actually I only started looking at the information related to the Firths and their possible relationship with the Gilmores at the beginning of this week 🙂

At this time, you are the only person I have contact with.

I would love Kerry and Judith’s email addresses if you think that would be ok, and I will let you know if anything develops further.

Thanks so much again.

From: Judith
To: Jan
Subject: Samuel Firth

Hi Jan

Belated New Year greetings

Well what a day, having just read your e-mail, would you believe it I had another enquiry further down in my in box, about Samuel Charles Gilmore. The second e-mail was from a lady called Trish Gilmore she is his granddaughter. I have replied to her mail and was about to e-mail Fran, when I wondered if they new each other. This lovable rogue has caused some excitement. I will let you know the outcome.


From: Colin
To: Jan
Subject: Firth/ Williams

Hello Jan,
I was directed to your website by a fellow in the UK (sorry cannot recall his name). I am attempting to track down my family tree. Like many people, my parents were either remiss or as children we were not interested in family tree’s when younger.
Anyway, My Grandfather was a fellow named Lawrence Thompson Williams, I think he was known to his nieces as Uncle Laurie.
Lawrence served in the first World War and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery, he was badly wounded late in the war and did not get back to NZ until after war’s end.
Lawrence lived in Regent Street, Pahiatua. His father’s name was Frederick Williams and mother Elizabeth nee Firth.
I have a single photograph of my grandfather taken in the UK (I think) during World War 1

Some of the people in that photograph look similar to the picture in your website (Firth’s enquiry) also attached.

I am hoping perhaps that anything I have mentioned above links my grandfather to the Frederick and Elizabeth Williams mentioned in “Firth’s enquiry”

Kind Regards
Colin Williams

From: Jan
To: Colin
Subject: Firth/ Williams

Hi Colin,

I’m finally over my jet-lag. It took a while but then I suppose we were in the air flying 26+ hours (plus a few waits in between waiting for connecting flights). Anyway I’m back home, and after having a very quiet time just before I left for Rome, I’ve found there had been quite a few enquiries while I was away. So I’m just working my way through them.

Its interesting how the Firths keep popping up. It has been a very interesting line of family enquiry – and just when I think we’ve gone as far as we can then another twig of the tree crops up. So interesting.

Anyway I think you’re wanting Kerry’s email address. He’s the one who did a lot of research into Frederick Williams and Eliza Firth – and orginally brought up Parkhurst boys – who I hadn’t even heard of before. Since then there have been a number of descendants of Parkhurst boys and Tony (in England) has been really helpful in providing information into the boys court cases.

Its great to be able to put distant family members in touch with each other so that they can compare notes, make connections and hopefully learn lots of new stuff.

I haven’t heard from Kerry for a while so I hope he’s still got the same email address. It was -a couple of years ago – (email address supplied) Give it a try anyway and see and let me know how you get on.

🙂 Jan