Topic: Anne Catherine Wilson (nee Hawker) (1802-1838)

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The wife of Reverend John Alexander Wilson, Anne Catherine was the first European person buried in Tauranga's Mission Cemetery (Otamataha Pā).

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Anne Catherine Hawker was born in the army barracks at Carrick, Ireland on 24 November 1802 to Francis and Frances Hawker (nee Cripps). Her father was Major Francis Hawker, of the 12th Dragoons. By 1814 the family had moved to Fort Henry on Jersey in the Channel Islands.

She married naval officer John Alexander Wilson in Jersey in 1828. He was the second son of Captain J. A. Wilson, 2nd or Queen's Own Regiment. They had four children together:

  1. John Alexander Wilson (1829-1909). Born at Condé-sur-Noireau, Calvados in France on 21 April 1829. He married his cousin Anne Lydia Dent (1835-1915) on 20 November 1855 at St Helier, Jersey and they went on to have twelve children. For a time he owned White Island off the Bay of Plenty coast. This scheme didn't go well however and as Stephanie Smith writes, "enraged citizens built a bonfire on the beach in early 1887 and burned Wilson in effigy". John died in Auckland, on 28 April 1909.
  2. Charles James Christopher Smith Wilson (1831-1908). Born at Fort Henry in Jersey on 21 August 1831, he became a JP. Charles joined the Auckland Battalion of New Zealand Militia on 6 December 1856 (Daily Southern Cross, 13 January 1857, p. 2). He married Jane Antezanke (c1834-1908) in 1865. He died in Grafton Road on 19 January 1908 and was buried at St Mark's Cemetery in Remuera (Auckland Star, 20 January 1908, p. 8)
  3. Francis Hawker Wilson (1834-1887). Born in Puriri, New Zealand, on 30 July 1834. He married Irish widow Georgina Barryin England. Francis died at Algiers on 5 March 1887.
  4. George Alfred Wilson (1838-1889). Born in Tauranga, New Zealand, on 14 February 1838. In 1869 he married Frances Clayton at Broughton, England. He served in the Dragoon Guards and Loyal North Lancashire Regiment then the East Surrey Regiment. George died on 21 January 1889 and was buried at St Saviours.

John had been appointed a lay preacher with the Church Missionary Society (CMS). On 21 September 1832 the couple and their two young sons sailed from London on board the convict transport ship Camden to Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia. They continued their journey on board the Byron to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, arriving on 12 April 1833. Their missionary service would include:

  • Bay of Islands (1833 & 1837)
  • Puriri (1834 to 1835)
  • Tauranga (1836 & 1838)

On 16 December 1835 the family left Puriri. They arrived in Tauranga on 5 January 1836. Soon after a war party of Te Wharoa's arrived and along with other missionary families Anne boarded the Columbine as a safety precaution on 31st March. On April 25th they again boarded the Columbine for safety reasons, spending most evenings aboard. The families were 'much perplexed and tired and occasionally cast down, yet, on the whole... resigned and even cheerful' - Wilson (1889, p. 32).

["In January, 1838, Mr. Wilson and his family had returned to Tauranga. The station was now occupied by three missionaries, namely, the Rev. A. N. Brown and Messrs. Stack and Wilson, together with their families. The dwellings were built with raupo (bulrush), facing seaward, near where the residence of the late Archdeacon Brown now stands. These houses were surrounded by gardens connecting with one another, a path running the whole length both front and rear; the fences were of manuka and very high. Here both flowers and fruit grew in abundance, and horses and cattle fared well on the rough feed around the settlement. On February 14th Mr Wilson's fourth son George Alfred was born. - Ed] - Wilson (1889, p. 57-58).

Anne lived the life of a busy missionary wife. She taught in the Maori schools, trained Maori girls, organised food for the mission station, ran her household and raised her children with a frequently absent husband. 

In March 1837 Anne discovered a small hard lump growing under her left arm (Porter, 1996, p. 269). 

Anne died of cancer at Te Papa Mission Station in Tauranga on 23 November 1838, leaving four young sons behind. She was aged 33 and was the first European burial in Tauranga's Mission Cemetery (Otamataha Pā). When she fell ill 'Charlotte Brown nursed her, but after lingering on for five days, she died, in spite of her hostess's ministrations. As the family prayed beside her body, the savage state of the country was brought home to them forcibly. In the early hours of the morning a war party from Rotorua seized a canoe on Tauranga harbour and killed, and later ate, its eleven occupants in sight of the mission settlement' (Vennell, pp. 76-77).

"Mrs. Wilson, after a long and painful illness, died at Tauranga on November the 23rd, and was bured in the cemetery where now rest so many of our soldiers and sailers who fell in the flight at Gate Pa. " (p. 58). Wilson in a letter to the Secretary of the CMS wrote; 'The desire of mine eyes, my beloved wife... is taken from me, you will perceive that my loss is great indeed... she never once lamented her choice." Wilson (1889, p 58).

Anne Catherine Hawker (1802-1838)

Anne was apparently great friends with the Brown's son Marsh: 'He and Mrs Wilson had been very close friends and, just as he was about to embark, he ran into the garden, picked a few flowers, and hurried across to the mission cemetery to place them on her grave' (Vennell, p. 44). Born in 1831, Marsh would die in 1845, aged 14. 'His body lies in the mission cemetery not far from that of his good friend and teacher, Mrs Wilson' (Vennell, p. 46).

Charlotte Brown wrote an account of Anne's death in November 1938:

Although dear Mrs Wilson had been long suffering from a complaint which we had every reason to fear would terminate fatally - still we were by no means prepared for the solemn event which has deprived the Mission of one of its most consistent members, and the fellow labourers of this Station of an endeared and highly valued friend assistant, - her dear children of a most affectionate and tender mother - and her afflicted husband of a wife whose worth he only could really appreciate. Our departed friend had been suffering for some days from severe rheumatic pains but it was not until the Friday before her death that she was confined to her bed - on the Saturday she was unable to move any of her limbs and in the night of Sunday this complaint had reached her chest. The acute pain and difficult respirations under which she laboured induced Mr Wilson to bleed her - this afforded her temporary relief. But in the forenoon of Monday more severe attacks came on which we did not expect her to survive. - Her bleeding was repeated and again afforded relief though but for a short time - during the paroxysm that succeeded she said to her husband "I must be going to leave you, this agony must be death - the eldest of the four little boys was standing at the foot of the bed and though she could with difficulty speak she said to him with affectionate earnestness "My son seek the Lord while He may be found" - her sufferings now became very severe and we expected that every attack would release her waiting spirit from its earthly tabernacle - but it was the wish of her Heavenly Father that the furnace should be heated seventyfold - so insupportable was the pain in her chest and side that in the hope of drawing it to the extremities no fewer than ten cataplasms were applied on different parts of the body several of which were twice renewed - these severe remedies were the cause of much pain but she patiently submitted to whatever was proposed, although her happy experience was that it was better to depart and to be with Christ. - During one of her sever attacks she exclaimed with much anguish "What shall I do" three times - and then as if remonstrating with herself, she said "Why, trust in the Lord - what else can I do?" This was the prevailing feeling of her soul, and the holy jealousy which manifested proved indeed that she was referring to Heaven. Once while in great agony she said "Oh how I long to be at rest but I am afraid I long to go because I am suffering so much - this ought not to be, I ought to long to go when all around is peace". At another time she was observed to weep and being asked the reason she said "I think of my sins and then of the kindness and love of my God I cannot help crying, ought I not to cry?" - On the Wednesday she was got into a chair to have her bed made and we hoped a favourable change had taken place during the nigh however she had but little rest - and the extreme weakness of her frame occasioned a transient absence of mind though even there she distinctly knew those around her. - This slight wandering was deeply interesting for the best of her thoughts was strikingly displayed during its continuance - after asking some questions as to where she was and how she came in that room, she commenced singing - beating time with her feet. The soft tones of her voice under such circumstances at the hour of the night was touching in the extreme - she did not keep to any tune but her words were connected and sweetly indicative that the joys of heaven were anticipated by her with strong assurances and lively hope.

On the Thursday morning she suffered a good deal from fainting and in the afternoon became so restless that the hopes we had entertained the day before began to give way and we trembled at the approach of night - Alas! Our fears were but too fearfully realised and it was indeed a night of intense bodily suffering such as I hope never again to witness - Her agony arose I should suppose from the source of suffocation, for she was importunate to have all the doors and windows open although the air was so cold we were obliged to wrap her up closely in blankets. Once when respiration became extremely difficult she raised herself highly in the bed and said "Open the window and let me now go to my Saviour I cannot stay I cannot stay". When asked her being was she replied "Oh it is deep distress and bitter anguish - have pit upon me Oh my friends" - we reminded her that the Lord was very pitiful and of great compassion "oh yes" she said, "He is Elias. He will help me. Lord give me patience to bear all Thy will". Her cries at times were heartrending - and to hear her without the assurance of helping her was almost too much to bear - but nothwithstanding this agony and suffering from a complaint which was peculiarly depressing she was enabled to bear testimony to the faithfulness of Him who has said "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" - nor was Satan permitted to cast the shadow of a cloud over her bright prospect. Her ejaculations at times were very affecting - during one of her intervals of rest she said "Oh my Father cover me over with Thy winds as I pass through this dark valley". She was anxious for her dismissal and when we thought her disorder had taken a favourable turn she said "were it not for my dear family I should regret returning to life and health I thought I had got so far through this dark valley". On repeating to her the words "All the days of my appointed time will not wait till my change come" - she said "Yes I will wait, Lord, not my will, but Thine, be done. I have not had one pang too many". To one of our friends she said "live near to God - while in health you may not feel the importance of it but on the bed of death the trifles of this world will appear in a very different light". Referring to the blisters produced by the cataplasmas she said "I am like Lazarus". She was reminded that Lazarus had a better portion than the sick man. "Oh yes", she replied, "and I have a rich portion. Also, I would not exchange any hope for all the eases of body I could have". From nine o'clock on the night of Thursday her paroxysms became more violent and she was able to say but little still we were not aware that death was so near, in as her voice appeared very strong - at one time when looking towards the window she remarked how bright the stars were, and then asked to be lifted up so that she might see the Morning Star adding "I shall soon be beyond that star" - about three hours before her death it was proposed that we should unite in prayer and as from her frequent attacks we thought she would not be able to attend Mr Brown and Mr Stack who were with us assembled at her door - Mr Brown commenced by reading the 32nd Psalm when she heard him she said "who is that?" and on being told she lay more quiet listening with deep interest - at the words " I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for ever" she repeated the words "for ever" and turning to her husband she again said, with much emphasis - "for ever - for ever". Mr Stack then engaged in prayer - Mr Brown afterwards read several passages of scripture and concluded in prayer - on the Lord's Prayer being repeated she joined in the different petitions and at the close said amen several times. It was a solemn occasion - we seemed as if on the verge of the eternal world and the effect it had on the mind of our dear sufferer was very striking during the whole time she was preserved from her distressing agony, and at the close she said "How sweet to have Christian friends to pray for me". After some time she said "cannot we sing a hymn - let us sing ' "Thou Dear Redeemer dying Lamb" that sweet hymn" - This was a difficult task for her weeping friends, but we felt a melancholy pleasure in endeavouring to comply with her wish - the hymn was commenced and her sweet voice was for the last time on earth raised in singing the praises of Him whom her soul loved - to hear this when almost in the agonies of death uniting with us in this delightful part of worship was indeed affecting - she seemed to be anticipating the employment of the blessed whose happiness she was so soon to share - soon after this she suffered severely from a pain in her stomach - on its abating a little we expressed hope that she would get some sleep - yet she again said "I shall sleep in Thy arms" then requesting that the bed clothes could be smoothed and the place kept quiet she added "let me die this death of the righteous - let my last ends be peace". After lying quiet a short time, she again became restless and the last severe paroxysm came on - in which we could with difficulty persuade her to remain on the bed. Mr Brown was holding her hands - she looked at him with much earnestness and said "Oh my friends do not detain me" - nor was she much detained after this - at 5 minute before three her ransomed spirit fled to be for ever with the Lord. Her last struggle was in much mercy but a faint on and she sweetly breathed her soul into the hands of her Redeemer with a few gentle sobs - a very short time before she ceased to breathe Mr Brown said "Where heart and flesh fail God will be the strength of your heart and your portion for ever" - "I know He will I know it" was her animated reply. these were her last words and were strikingly expressive of the confidence she had all along enjoyed even amidst her sharpest sufferings. It was indeed a privilege to be with her for though her bodily pains were particularly severe - her consolations abounded and she was not permitted in her last hour through the paints of death to fall from her God and Saviour - although one of the tenderest of mothers she was mercifully preserved from any anxiety respecting her dear children - she asked for them a short time before her death and being told they were happy asleep - she said no more. On the Sunday before her death on seeing her dear babe she said "Ah my love you will never know your mother". She was particularly sensitive of every little attention and one day looking at me with much affection she said "Mr friend I thank you for all your kindness may the Lord support you on a bed of death as He does me". Most earnestly would I say, may my last be like hers, yes, even her pain I would gladly suffer for the assurances of so abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord. C. Brown [A copy of this account is in the Wilson Papers and the original in Mrs Brown's handwriting is in the collection of Mrs Frances H. MacDonald - this version is from the work of M G Armstrong]. 

It appears the Charlotte Brown and Sarah Wade helped to care for Anne's children. As Richard Taylor wrote in 1839: "she has had until now, the care of Mr Wilson's five [four - ed] children who, with himself, have been inmates of her house' (Vennell, p. 77).

"In 1839, accompanied by two of his sons, Mr. Wilson took a short leave of absence and visited his uncle, Captain Allman, at Campbelltown, N.S.W., sailing from the Bay of Islands in the "Magnet" (Captain Watson), and returning in the "Achilles" (Captain Veale), the Rev. Richard Taylor coming at the same time to join the New Zealand mission. By October 23rd Mr. Wilson was again at Tauranga - Ed". - Wilson (1889, p 58).

In February 1862 John visited Europe, and in Copenhagen, by special license of the King of Denmark, married Anne's niece who was also his daughter-in-law's sister, Charlotte Jane Emma Dent (1832-1890) on 19 June 1863 [His son John Alexander Wilson had earlier married Charlotte's sister Anne Lydia Dent in 1855]. The Anglican Church had refused to marry them because of how closely related they were. The couple had two sons and three daughters together: Frances Elizabeth Wilson (1865-1937); Charles Digby Wilson (1867-1902); Charlotte Emma Dent Wilson (1869-1959); Anne Catherine Wilson (1871-1914) & Digby Dent Wilson (1873-1883).

John departed New Zealand for good in 1866 and resigned from the CMS on 21 January 1868. He lived at Pau and then Jersey. John died at Mount Aubin at St. Helier's in Jersey on 5 June 1887.



Anne Catherine Wilson (Tauranga City Library: Research Collections - Biographical Vertical File).

Anne Catherine Wilson by Dorna Crowther (Friends of the Elms Newsletter, February 2009, pp. 8-13).

Auckland Star (13 August 1887).

Brown and the Elms (1984) by C. W. Vennell

John Alexander Wilson (1993) by Jinty Rorke (Te Ara - Encyclopaedia of New Zealand)

Lee Switzer (Tauranga City Libraries, personal communication, 2015)

Missionary Life and Work in New Zealand (1889) by John Alexander Wilson (pp. 57-58).

My hand will write what my heart dictates: the letters and journal of Anne Catherine Wilson (1802-1838), missionary wife in New Zealand (n.d.) by M G Armstrong [Part 2].

My hand will write what my heart dictates: the unsettled lives of women in nineteenth-century New Zealand as revealed to sisters, family and friends (1996) by Francis Porter.

Tauranga Mission Cemetery: also known as the Military Cemetery: formerly Otamataha Pa

Women with a Mission (2006) by Cathy Ross (pp. 65-96).


How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2015). Anne Catherine Hawker (1802-1838). Retrieved from Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2015)

This page was archvied at perma cc March 2017

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Anne Catherine Wilson (nee Hawker) (1802-1838)

First Names:Anne Catherine
Last Name:Hawker
Date of Birth:24 November 1802
Place of Birth:Carrick Army Barricks
Country of birth:Ireland
Date of death:23 November 1838
Place of death:Te Papa Mission Station, Tauranga, New Zealand
Place of burial:Mission Cemetery (Tauranga)
Family Surname:Missionary
Date of Arrival:11 April 1833
Name of the ship:Byron
Port of arrival:Bay of Islands
Date of arrival in Bay of Plenty:5 January 1836
Spouses name:John Alexander Wilson
Spouses date of birth:15 June 1809
Spouses place of birth:Ipswich, England
Spouses date of death:5 June 1887
Spouses place of death:Jersey, Channel Islands
Date of marriage:1828
Place of marriage:Jersey, Channel Islands
Fathers name:Francis Hawker
Fathers date of birth:1767
Fathers date of death:1848
Mothers name:Frances Cripps
Mothers date of birth:1770
Mothers place of death:1852
Name of the children:John Alexander Wilson, Charles James Christopher Smith Wilson, Francis Hawker Wilson, and George Alfred Wilson
Member of Society:Church Missionary Society (CMS)