Topic: Kate Haultain: A woman of courage and determination by Joan Stanley

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Kate Haultain (nee McKain) died during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic on 21 November 1918. Her life story is the basis of Joan Stanley's entry in the 2012 Memoir and Local History competition.

Archived version here.

Catherine (Kate) Mary McKain was born on 29th July 1852 at Port Ahuriri or Western Spit (early names for Napier), Hawkes Bay, the third child of James Buchanan and Sarah Hannah McKain. Kate was the second European child to be born there. Her parents, together with William and Robina Villers and their two children, had arrived there about two years before to set up a trading post.

The families moved inland to take up farms in Petane (now known as Eskdale) in 1854 just after younger sister Robina was born.  The four little girls were first day pupils at the new Petane School, next door to their farm when it opened in 1859. A new baby sister, Hope, joined the family in 1857. Next two brothers James and William were born followed by three younger sisters, Alice, Ruth and Grace. As an older sister Kate had plenty of experience helping to look after babies and bringing up young children as well as learning housekeeping skills.

Her father’s brothers, Frederic and Isaac, had adjoining farms and they all worked together. At harvest time Kate and the older girls helped to cut the wheat with a sickle and later on they loved watching the threshing and winnowing machines hauled by the draught horses. She often had to turn the handle to grind some of the corn on a hand flour mill or on a small sifting mill that had small drawers to catch the bran pollard and flour. This was as well as helping with the regular household chores of cooking, baking, cleaning, washing, skimming cream from the large pans of milk and turning the handle of a churn to make butter.

Kate learnt to saddle and ride a horse at an early age. The girls rode side-saddle using a man’s saddle with a shawl rolled up to form a pommel to support their upper leg. Eggs and home-made butter were strapped to the saddle and taken to Napier to be sold. Apart from travelling by boat on the river, riding a horse was the only means of transport at that time.

Kate and her family were invited to birthdays or wedding parties and other social occasions. They enjoyed dancing and the music which was sometimes provided by a Scotsman who played a tin whistle while his wife stood beside him wiping the perspiration from his face. Kate and her brothers and sisters had plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins to entertain each other and to give help and support when it was needed.


Hauhau Incident in 1866

Two incidents in the late 1860s were frightening for Kate and the other children in Petane. Every evening before the fighting happened they used to hear the local Maori singing and dancing around their flagpole at the nearby pa. On 12th October 1866 a Maori party of Hauhau under the chief Te Rangihiroa was met in the Esk Valley by Major Fraser’s force, together with the armed settlers including Kate’s father, James McKain, and a fight took place.

At their home the McKains heard the firing and after a while a man rode down and said all of the women and children were to go back with him. Several families including fourteen year old Kate walked to join them. They were able to return to their homes in the evening as it did not seem that there would be any further trouble.


Te Kooti Scare in 1869

On another occasion in 1869 when Te Kooti, who had escaped from the Chatham Islands, was in the district the women and children in the Esk Valley went from the country into the town of Napier for safety. Kate’s mother, Sarah McKain and all her family were with them. After a few days Kate, aged 17, and her sister Robina, aged 15, returned to their farm because they needed to look after their animals and their father was on duty with the local Militia. They were brave girls.


Deaths in the family

In 1873 when Kate was 21, her paternal grandmother, Douglas Mary McKain died, followed by her father three days later. Her two older sisters were married, her two brothers were teenagers aged 14 and 12, and her younger sisters were aged from six years old up to eighteen.

Her mother, Sarah McKain, a young widow at 46 with nine children, had to carry on with the farm work. Kate proved to be a capable and conscientious girl who supported her mother and helped with the farm duties as well as the housework.


Kate became a midwife attending local women when their babies were born and staying in their homes for a few weeks afterwards. Her cousin, Louisa Torr, married Arthur Terrick Haultain, a station manager, in 1877 and died four years later leaving three young daughters Blanche, Eva and Louisa. The following year Kate married Arthur Haultain and took over the responsibility of three young step-children.


Kate and Arthur

Kate and Arthur were to have seven children of their own: Lillian, Eardley, Cyril, Enid, Gladys, Seeta and Eric. In June 1884 Arthur started his own business as a stock and station agent in Hastings. Unfortunately the price of land and stock began to drop and the family moved back to Petane where Kate’s family lived, and Arthur continued working as a commission and stock agent.

Times were hard with low prices for stock and there was much unemployment. Arthur’s health deteriorated and on 24th June 1895 he died at the age of 59 and was buried in the Petane cemetery.


Kate carries on alone

At the age of 43 Kate Haultain was left a widow with ten children aged from sixteen months up to sixteen years of age and very little money; there was no pension those days. She continued as a midwife and when she attended patients in their own homes left the older children in charge of the younger ones. Kate read to her family in the evenings from a set of Dickens’ novels and another of Walter Scott’s.

Her husband’s older brother, Colonel Theodore Haultain, wrote the following tribute in a letter to cousins in Canada:


“…. It is wonderful how women can rise to energy and independence when necessity rouses the spirit. Arthur’s widow, Kate, with her ten children, is a remarkable instance of this. With little or no means beyond a cottage to live in, and a piece of ground in which to grow vegetables and keep a cow, she has struggled on, without asking for help from any of us.”


As well as maternity patients Kate nursed elderly people including Emilia von Tempsky, her mother’s younger sister, Mary Hamshar and her own mother, Sarah McKain, who died in January 1911.

Her husband’s sister, Mariana Haultain, left the family a legacy that enabled them to purchase a dairy farm at Horsham Downs, Hamilton, in 1911.  Kate’s sons, Eardley,  Cyril and Eric went first to settle in and build a homestead and cowshed  before Kate and her daughters Gladys, Enid and Seeta moved up to live with them.  

She enjoyed the company of her grandchildren, some of whom came to live with her after their mother died. Kate planted some lovely trees and flowering shrubs in the garden surrounding the house at Horsham Downs, among them a snowball tree planted on the front lawn, two weigela rose trees at one side of the house with an orange blossom tree, and at the front of the garden to the right of the snowball tree, a lilac tree and a stand of bamboo.

Kate loved her grandchildren. The first three little granddaughters belonged to Eva who sadly died not long after her youngest was born and these children went to live with their grandmother and family on the Horsham Downs farm. Lillian’s three children, Terrick, Mary and Bette, often visited their grandmother there too until their father moved to Auckland.


World War I and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Her two younger sons, first Eric and then Cyril, joined the army and went overseas in World War I. Eardley, the eldest, had to carry on with the essential work of food production. Kate was determined to keep the farm for the boys when they returned.

Sadly Kate died on 21st November 1918, during the great influenza pandemic, before Cyril and Eric came home. She was buried at the Hamilton East cemetery with the simple word ‘Mother’ on her gravestone. Her family always showed great respect and love for their mother who had brought her large family up single-handed under very difficult conditions.

Nearly ninety years after her death, a grandson, Rex Haultain, (son of Cyril), and his wife June tidied up the grave and had a new plaque erected below the original word ‘Mother.’


About the author: Joan Stanley (nee Haultain) is the granddaughter of Kate Haultain. She has written or contributed to three Haultain family history books. She has written six essays for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and three for the Book of New Zealand Women. Joan is a local historian and has published articles in local Matamata newspapers for over 30 years. She has also written a number of books including Matamata: Growth of a Town, Matamata Ballot Farms and Families 1904-2004, Matamata-Piako District Heritage Trail, Down at the Hall- Celebrating Matamata Country Halls, and co-authored All Saints Anglican Church, Matamata 1908-2008.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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Kate Haultain: A woman of courage and determination by Joan Stanley

Year:c.1850, c.1860, c.1900, and c.1910
First Names:Catherine (Kate) Mary
Last Name:Haultain
Date of Birth:1852
Place of Birth:Napier, Hawkes Bay
Date of death:21 November 1918
Place of burial:Hamilton East Cemetery
Fathers name:James Buchanan McKain
Mothers name:Sarah Hannah McKain
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Kate Haultain: A woman of courage and determination by Joan Stanley by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License