Topic: Rachel Hamilton (nee Lennard) (c1836-1904)

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These two stories were written in 2009 for my children about their third great grandmother, Rachel Hamilton (née Lennard). Part 1 is titled Rachel: an Irish Immigrant to Katikati & Part 2 is Rachel: a Pioneer Woman in Katikati - Debbie McCauley (2009).

Looking strange? See an archived version here

Rachel: an Irish Immigrant to Katikati by Debbie McCauley

Rachel Lennard was born in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, Ireland, about 1836. Her parents were John and Rachel Lennard (née Curnes), who were farmers. Rachel was to become a Katikati pioneer woman. 

On 10 March 1860 Rachel married John Hamilton in Lisburn, County Antrim. John was born at Martray, County Tyrone, in around 1835. His parents were Stewart and Alice Hamilton (nee Wilson). As well as being a farmer, John was a trader between Ireland and Scotland. From 1850  he worked for Captain Mervyn Stewart and his wife Frances (née Vesey) on their Irish estate which was named Martray. John's younger sister Margaret Ann Hamilton (c1845-1889) also worked for the Stewart's. From all reports Captain Stewart was a kindly Irish gentleman.

Rachel Hamilton (1839-1904)

The Stewarts’ son, George Vesey Stewart (GVS), was an entrepreneur who eventually founded an Irish Protestant settlement on the other side of the world in New Zealand, known as an ‘Ulster Plantation.’ Captain Mervyn and Frances Stewart were elderly by now, being 88 and 78, but they apparently wanted to support their son in his endeavours as they organised the sale of the Martray Estate, and planned their move to New Zealand. GVS sailed with the first shipload of new settlers on the ‘Carisbrooke Castle’ in June 1875. The Hamilton’s were to accompany GVS with John to act as steward for him in New Zealand, but tragedy struck. There was a measles epidemic during which it is thought their son, 10-year old Thomas (Tom) Henry Hamilton, died.

The family then found passage on the square-rigged sailing ship, the ‘Ocean Mail’, under Captain Thomas Cawse. Rachel (39) and John (40) embarked with four of their children: Mary aged 18; John aged 9; Margaret aged 6, and Jane aged 2. Rachel was over eight months pregnant at the time. She had just lost a child; to face giving birth on board must have been challenging. The family departed from London on 15 August 1875. Mary was transferred to the single women's quarters for the journey.

In the English Channel, fifteen miles below Portland, and in dense fog, the ‘Ocean Mail’ collided with an Italian barque called the Partitoe. The jib boom and starboard anchor were lost, but there was no other damage. The Partitoe lost its mizzen mast and sustained other damage.

There was a surgeon, Thomas Makepiece Harding, on board who must have attended Rachel when she went into labour. Her son, Thomas Hamilton, named it seems for his deceased elder brother, was born on 11 September 1875 as they rounded the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, and headed for the Southern Ocean. Sailing on a ship in 1875 was uncomfortable. Conditions on board the sailing ship must have been basic, cramped and smelly for the tedious 100-day journey. There were nappies to wash and get dry, seasickness and rough and stormy weather. The ships were usually crawling with rats, with some also infested with cockroaches, bedbugs and fleas. Most of Rachel’s day would have been taken up with cooking, cleaning, washing and caring for the children. The family would have seen flying fish, whales, dolphins and seabirds during the journey.

Rachel would have had her family treasures firmly packed away in their trunks, crates and boxes typical of the emigrant. The precious items included: a pewter bowl; a heavy glass salt cellar; a ruby-red glass bowl; a cake plate with lattice-work edging and flower decoration, and a family Bible. Other items they probably brought with them might have included an iron bed, blankets, farm implements, nails, fish hooks, furniture, cutlery, cooking utensils, crockery, linen, a workbox with needles, silver thimbles etc and clothing.

The on board diet would have been heavy on salt meat and preserved meat along with hard biscuits, butter, salt, flour, potatoes, sugar, pepper, tea, coffee, oatmeal and raisins as well as fresh water. School for the children usually followed morning prayers. Adult entertainment included card games, sewing and dances.

The ‘Carisbrooke Castle’ had arrived in New Zealand in September 1875. The ‘Ocean Mail’ arrived in Auckland two months later on 23 November 1875. On arrival in Katikati, Rachel would have viewed the sea on one side, a long range of heavily bush clad mountains on the other, and in the middle a vast plane of fern land, which would require burning to clear. The family would have had to drag their belongings over the mudflats by hand.

In the 1870s life in a new settlement was fairly primitive. There were no refrigerators, ice, stoves, running water, electricity, or many of the other modern conveniences that our generation takes for granted. The new settlers would have been focused on getting food, shelter and clothing. They possibly slept on fern beds, cooked in the open in camp ovens and existed on a diet of pork and potatoes, maize porridge and bread. They may have tried kumara and puha for the first time. Food would have been scarce and frugality a must.

New settlers stayed in raupo whares that cost about £9 to build until their wooden houses were constructed. The whares were usually draughty and leaky with dirt floors. A Bay of Plenty Times entry on 28 February 1877 reported: 

CAPTAIN MERVYN STEWART, 200 acres  –  Has about 4 acres under cultivation in oats and potatoes. A small wooden house erected and  is occupied by Mr. Hamilton. Captain Stewart is not in the colony. 

Captain and Mrs. Mervyn Stewart arrived on the ‘Lady Jocelyn’ in August 1878 accompanied by Margaret Hamilton. They built Martray House  on Kauri Point Road in Tahawai, named after their Irish  estate. Rachel’s husband John managed Captain Stewart’s farm. 

The children of Rachel and John Hamilton:

  1. Alice Daveron (c1860-1888).
  2. Mary (Maggie) Ann Barraclough (c1862-1901).
  3. Thomas (Tom) Henry Hamilton (1865-1875).
  4. John (Jack) Hamilton (c1866-1902).
  5. Margaret Daveron (1870-1949).
  6. Jane Lomas (1874-1936).
  7. Thomas Henry Hamilton (1875-1935).
  8. Rachel McCauley (1880-1969).
  9. Walter Hamilton (1883-1958).


Rachel Hamilton: a Pioneer Woman in Katikati by Debbie McCauley

Rachel Hamilton's House, 1900The Hamilton’s were allotted 131 acres at Katikati between Tuapiro and the Tahawai and called their home Seaview Cottage. In 1878 they were allotted another 40 acres between Tuapiro and Woodlands Road.

At one point the Hamilton’s lived at the end of Surtees Road, near the Tuapiro River. Apparently this house burnt down in the late 1880s and they then moved to Waitekohe, possibly to what is now called Sharps Road. The children walked three miles daily to the Waitekohe School. From The Bay of Plenty Times, 4 October 1879:

Captain Mervyn Stewart ....Two acres of open land have been laid out as an orchard; the number of forest trees planted is 600, the farm stock consists of 7 sheep, 4 horse, and 2 cows; the area enclosed with fencing is 2 acres and the nature of the fence is post and five wire. Two weather board and shingle roofed dwellings, a stable, coach-house and barn. Mr. Stewart occupies land adjoining that lately in the occupation of a person named Hamilton. I was informed he has purchased Hamilton’s property.

The settlers sowed acres of grass paddocks, wheat, oats, maize, onions and potatoes. From all reports, the first year’s crop was good, but successive failures followed because the soil was depleted. Their animals included cows, horses, sheep and pigs. Goods such as eggs, butter, fruit and vegetables were transported by boat, foot or horseback over rough dirt tracks to the nearby town of Tauranga where they were bartered for other goods.

Rachel would have cooked on a cast-iron wood-burning stove with heavy cast-iron pots and kettles. She might have used a broom of manuka twigs, and worn a wide-skirted, bibbed apron of linen or cotton.

Luckily water and wood were readily available, but water had to be fetched from the nearest stream, and firewood felled, chopped and stacked. Rachel could possibly have milked up to a dozen cows twice a day by hand, shelled maize by oil lamp or candlelight, and followed behind a plough dropping potatoes into the furrows.

There would be fruit to preserve, flour to grind and butter to churn. Instead of yeast, Rachel might boil shredded blades of flax with potatoes and sugar to make maize flour bread. She would make her own soap by boiling fat and lye, and candles from the fat of pigs, sheep or cattle. They would kill and eat their own animals, saving feathers from chickens until there were enough for a pillow. Wallpaper was old newspapers and wooden floors had to be swept constantly, and scrubbed and scoured regularly due to the muddy roads.

There was in all probability a copy of Brett’s Colonial Guide and Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management in the house. Perhaps Rachel followed this weekly routine:

  • Monday:.........................................washing day.
  • Tuesday:.......................................ironing.
  • Wednesday & Thursday:...........general chores.
  • Friday:...........................................baking day.

Washing was done outside in an iron boiler with a fire underneath. Clothes had to be washed, dried, ironed and mended. Rachel would have made all the family’s clothing by hand, often from flour or sugar bags. She would have spun wool and knitted stockings and socks.

Rachel probably wore a whalebone corset with lacing up the back, and full skirts with tight waists. Perhaps she brought on the ship with her: flannel petticoats and waistcoats, calico chemises, shoes, boots, cotton dresses, cotton stockings, handkerchiefs, a cloak, bonnet and shawl, a hairbrush, tooth powder, 12 yards of flannel and 20 yards of strong calico.

She would have been pleased when the Junction Hotel and Store were built (1878); when the library was founded (1879), and when William John Gray built an Anglican church named St Peter’s (1884) – the same year that Te Kooti, making his way through the Bay of Plenty, called in at the Athenree Homestead, where George Vesey Stewart’s sister-in-law Adela Stewart offered him a cup of tea.

Although the life of a farmer’s wife was often isolated, there were social events at Katikati, including an annual school picnic and concert, and an occasional dance. Neighbours helped one another out by sharing farm implements and labour, especially during harvest time. From the Bay of Plenty Times, 14 January 1886:

Harvest operations are now in full swing over the settlement, and (taking into consideration the long continued spell of dry weather we have suffered from) will prove much better than anticipated. The best crops of oats I have seen this year has been cut down on Captain Mervyn Stewart's property, Martray. Great praise is due to his land steward Mr. John Hamilton for the manner in which this property is managed; the crops of maize and potatoes are simply splendid and by far the best sheep on the block are to be found on this estate.

Reverend Kattern's Ostrich's, 1900

Reverend W. J. Katterns' Ostrich Farm at Katikati (c1900). 

In 1886 the Reverend W. J. Katterns became the new vicar of St. Peters and caused a stir when he established an ostrich farm at Katikati. Many residents, including Rachel, were awoken on the cold winter’s night of 9-10 June 1886 by what sounded like explosions coming from the south. Apparently the next day the sun became obscured and a rain of light ash fell. A few days later the settlers learnt of the Tarawera eruption, the loss of many lives and the destruction of the famous pink and white terraces. In September of that same year, Captain Mervyn Stewart died.

John Hamilton. Rachel and John Hamilton were one of the seventy-seven foundation families of Katikati. About half of the original settler families left the district later, abandoning their farms. John died on 22 July 1892, aged about 57, of ulceration and cancer of the stomach. His will, dated twelve days earlier, appointed Tom Dalzell and William John Gray, both of Katikati, as his executors. General Stoddard officiated at the grave in the absence of a clergyman.

Rachel and John’s daughter Rachel married the son of another foundation family, George John McCauley (1876-1943) on 26 November 1902 at Rachel’s home in Surtees Road. George was sometimes nicknamed Peg-leg as, when aged eleven, he had an accident resulting in the loss of his leg (Bay of Plenty Times, 8 August 1889). Rev. Katterns married them, and his wife’s wedding present to Rachel was an ostrich feather from their ostrich farm at Katikati. On Rachel’s marriage the family farm passed to her and George McCauley. When they retired they sold the farm and moved into the Katikati township.

Rachel died on 13 August 1904, aged 62, from cancer of the liver, and was buried in the Katikati Cemetery (Anglican Plot No. 14). William Gray took care of the funeral arrangements, and a four-horse coach provided by mail contractor Maurice Crimmins transported the mourners. Rev. Katterns conducted the service. Her obituary appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times on 17 August 1904:

Passing not to another phase of human life it is feeling of deepest regret that I have to announce the death of Rachel Hamilton, relict of the late Mr John Hamilton, who passed away Saturday after a brief illness. The funeral was held on Sunday and was largely attended. Mr Maurice Crimmins our popular coach proprietor and mail contractor, having kindly placed one of his four-horse coaches at the dispersal of the residents attending this sad but last tribute of regard and esteem. The Church of England service was conducted by Rev. Mr Katterns and the funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr W.J. Gray. Mrs Hamilton came originally from County Tyrone, Ireland. Her late husband Mr John Hamilton occupied a position of trust commencing in 1850 under the late Captain Mervyn Stewart and had intended joining the No.1 party in the Carisbrook Castle but through an out-break of measles in the family postponed their departure, arriving in the Colony by the ship "Oxford" [incorrect, actually Ocean Mail]. Mrs Hamilton has left one unmarried son living in Katikati and three married daughters, while three others have preceded her on her final journey but she is survived by a large amount of grandchildren and I need not add in conclusion that the greatest sympathy is felt here in the sad bereavement they have sustained. Her late residence was situate in Te Mania parish upon a most compact and valuable property.

This page was archived at perma cc May 2017

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Rachel Hamilton (nee Lennard) (c1836-1904)

First Names:Rachel
Last Name:Lennard
Date of Birth:c1836
Place of Birth:Aughnacloy, County Tyrone
Country of birth:Ireland
Date of death:13 August 1904
Place of death:Katikati, New Zealand
Place of burial:Katikati Cemetery
Family Surname:Hamilton
First settled:Katikati
Date of Arrival:1875
Name of the ship:Ocean Mail
Spouses name:John Hamilton
Spouses date of birth:c1835
Spouses place of birth:Martray, Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Spouses date of death:22 July 1892
Spouses place of death:Katikati, New Zealand
Spouses place of burial:Katikati Cemetery
Spouses nationality:Irish
Date of marriage:1858
Place of marriage:Lisburn, Ireland
Fathers name:John Lennard
Mothers name:Rachel Curnes
Name of the children:Jane Hamilton, Thomas Henry Hamilton , Rachel Hamilton, Walter Hamilton, Alice Hamilton, Mary (Maggie) Ann Hamilton, Thomas (Tom) Henry Hamilton , John (Jack) Hamilton , and Margaret Hamilton