Mystery Creek is best known now as the usual home of Fieldays which has its last day today.
But as it turns out how the area got its name is a mystery in itself.
One of the least spooky tales is one of gold robbery in 1867. Waikato War veteran Christian Hansen lived on a farm on the main section of the main route to Hamilton via Ōhaupō to Te Rore. It was remote and at night, very dark.
He was used to travellers knocking on his door to ask directions. But when two men entered his home, threatened him and took his savings of 21 gold sovereigns (a huge sum back then!) he reached for his rifle.
It all went wrong when one of the robbers grabbed it and instead shot him in the left wrist. They took off and Hansen was left to make his way to Orum’s Hotel where they sent for the doctor. The hand had to be amputated (without anesthesia!).
The robbery itself was a mystery, made even more so when a few months later when another settler, looking for a lost cow, found the body of a man that had been strangled. The working theory was one of the thieves killed the other and took off with the money.
But it's not the only story.
Another was the sudden disappearance of a soldier, seen crossing the gully, only to disappear, never to be seen again.
Yet another is about a murder committed nearby and the fugitive hid nearby. When a police constable went to find him, neither one of them was ever seen again.
A saddled horse apparently called Mystery found wandering in the gully is another one. No rider was ever found.
There is also an intriguing story about the attempted murder of a bank clerk but that was much later and we’ll have more about that in another post.
What we can say is that since the records of newspapers began Mystery Creek was already called that. One of the earliest news stories in which the name was used was from 1870.
One more little mystery is what happened to Mr Hansen. There are no records of his death or where he is buried.
Do you know another story about Mystery Creek?
A boring debate in Parliament over the Merchandising Marks Bill on 22 September 1954 took a sudden turn when New Zealand’s first woman cabinet minister Mabel Howard took out two oversized pair of women's knickers and began waving them around.
It’s not likely that women’s bloomers were seen in public all that much, let alone in the seat of power. It must have been a shocking moment for the era, and in fact, the response from the mostly male MPs was to burst out in peels of incredibly immature laughter and giggles.
Miss Howard, who wanted to ensure that women's undergarments would be labelled in inches in future, was trying to make a point about the lack of standardised sizing by showing that the bloomers, which were both labelled OS, were actually quite different in size.
"I have two articles of underclothing here, both marked OS and both of good quality, and now that I am holding them up, I would remind Members who are laughing that this is not a joke. Let them ask their womenfolk, if they are big women, if they think it is a joke when they go into a shop and buy a garment marked OS and find that it will not fit them. Of course it is not a joke; it is a very serious thing for women."
Mabel Howard was no stranger to getting her point across.
Born on April 18, 1984, near Bowden, Australia, she moved to New Zealand in 1903 with her father Edwin (Ted) Howard and sisters Adelaide and Elsie after her mother Harriet Garard Goring died of tuberculosis. Her father had originally been a sailor who had deserted his ship to marry Harriet.
Howard joined the Christchurch Socialist Party while attending the Christchurch Technical Institute before starting work as the secretary for Canterbury General Labourers’ Union.
Howard was a Christchurch City councillor for some years and when her father, Ted - himself a Member of Parliament - died in 1939, she hoped to take his place. That didn’t happen, the Labour Party chose another candidate.
Howard was elected to Parliament in the Christchurch East electorate in a by-election in February 1943. In 1946 she won the then new electorate seat of Sydenham with over 75 percent of the vote. Even when Labour was in opposition in 1963 and 1966, Howard was re-elected with large majorities. She held the seat until she stood down in 1969 after a mandatory retirement age was introduced.
In 1947 she was appointed the Minister of Health and Minister in charge of child welfare and in 1957 became Minister for Social Security, Child Welfare and Women and Children.
A staunch trade unionist, she often spoke on topics like social welfare, the rehabilitation of service men and women and the needs of women generally.
Howard went on to introduce important legislation which led to better treatment of tuberculosis, the regulation of physiotherapists and occupational therapists, the teaching of obstetrics and gynaecology and improving facilities for the mentally ill.
A topic she was passionate about was consumer protection, which led to her infamous stunt with the knickers.
It also led to her throwing a stone on the House floor warning that people buying coal might end up with more stones than coal.
With her four-foot 11-inch (1.5m) height and penchant for speaking her mind, she was a great character, a proponent of equal pay, an animal lover who adored her cats and was President of the Christchurch SPCA for many years.
She was such an animal lover that when she found two mice in her office and decided to keep them as pets, naming them Sid and Keith after former National Prime Ministers Sid Holland and Keith Holyoake.
In 1961 she pulled another stunt, saying she would be seeking re-election in slippers, since it was impossible for women to buy shoes other than those with stiletto heels and pointed toes.
By 1969, her health was in decline and she was in the early stages of dementia. Sadly, a court order saw her committed to Sunnyside Hospital, Christchurch, where she died in June 1972. She never married (although she said she had plenty of offers) and had no children. She is buried at Bromley Cemetery in Christchurch.
Rice Owen Clark got off New Zealand’s first charge of bigamy in 1849 because there was no proof that his first wife was still alive, where she was or even if she was a woman. Even though she was sitting in the back of the courtroom.
Bigamy used to be a bit more common back then than now, usually because it was difficult to verify whether new immigrants coming to New Zealand were not already married when their new marriages were registered here.
Clark (sometimes seen as Clarke) however got the ignominy of a Supreme Court trial.
Clark was born August 19, 1816, in Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire in England to Josiah Clark and Ann Rose.
He had a good career as an underwriter with Lloyds before he immigrated to New Zealand in 1841 on the Gertrude.
At the Supreme Court in Wellington, the jury was told there was a marriage to Ann Insgoldby (records show the name was more likely to be Ann Inglesby) in England. Indeed, records now show a marriage recorded at Christ Church, Spitalfields, London England for December 14, 1835.
On the ship to New Zealand, Clark was assigned a berth as a single man but rumours began that he and Ann, who was travelling on the same ship, were married.
But on arriving in Port Nicholson they went their separate ways and Clark later met and married Louisa Felgate.
Prior to this marriage, he had inquired with Methodist minister James Watkin if he was able to marry Louisa. Watkin performed the marriage ceremony.
The Clarks lived a settled life until suddenly Rice was brought before the Supreme Court, on September 1, 1849, on the charge of bigamy. It was the first case of bigamy to be heard in that court in New Zealand.
Initially Ann was said to have returned to England, but she turned up at the police station in Wellington alleging her husband's misdeed.
The trial was not only odd, but clearly deficient, much to the fury of Justice Henry Chapman. The Crown brought no witnesses to either identify her or to claim she was alive. Even though she sat through the whole trial.
There were no records before the jury and, as his supposed wife, Ann could not be called to give evidence against him.
Clark himself said whoever the person called Ann Ingoldsby was, he had not consummated any marriage - of any sort - with her.
The implication was that Ann was not actually a woman, although there was no proof of this. In the end, the jury found him not guilty.
Clark and Louisa moved to Auckland in 1854 with their first child, initially living in Devonport.
After selling that property they moved to Hobsonville where he was the first European settler.
Despite his ‘nefarious’ background, Clark is best known for founding the pottery and pipemaking family firm that produced the Crown Lynn range of ceramics which later became Ceramco in 1974.
Clark died on June 16, 1896 and he and Louisa are buried at Hobsonville Cemetery, near the church he helped build.
It is not known what happened to the mysterious Ann.
A small plaque underfoot by Wellington’s cenotaph is what remains of New Zealand’s first public library.
Unless you look down and take a second to read it, you won’t even know it’s there.
But in 1841, the Port Nicholson Exchange and Reading room took up residence in what was formerly Richard Barrett’s house on Charlotte St - now the corner of Molesworth St and Lambton Quay.
It was hardly a resounding success. It was badly located (most people lived closer to Te Aro) and its fee, £5 to join with an annual subscription of £2 - some $700 in today's money to join and $200 to subscribe - put it way out of the reach of most people.
Still it was a valiant effort - it’s initial offerings were mostly donations of books often from the very first settlers to Wellington.
When there were protests that the ‘working’ man could not afford it a competing exchange was set up in Te Aro.
The new Wellington Exchange did well but the Port Nicholson one failed to get its own members to pay up, let alone attract new interest and by 1842 it was closed.
New Zealand’s first public librarian was Dr Frederick Knox. Knox was born on April 3, 1794 (or 1791) in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was the ninth child of Robert Knox and Mary Knox (nee Scherer).
He was employed by his anatomist brother Robert (later discredited in a body-snatching scandal) as an assistant. He was licensed by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1831 and had a small practice.
Dr Frederick Knox emigrated to Wellington, as the ship's surgeon on the New Zealand Company vessel Martha Ridgway arriving in Mar 1840, with his wife Margaret (nee Russell) and their then four children.
He had purchased a land entitlement (number 76), a section in Willis St but lived in Johnsonville initially and later in the Hutt.
He was appointed the librarian in 1841 with a princely salary of £75. His main interest was natural science and he was a member of the New Zealand Institute from 1867.
Between 1855-57 he served as a resident medical officer to the Karori Asylum. He also served as coroner in the Wellington district in Porirua from 1861.
He and Margaret had six children, one son and five daughters.
He died on August 5, 1873 aged 79 (or 83) and is buried in Bolton Street Cemetery in a public plot - although its location is unknown.
Ernest Robert Godward is a name you probably don’t know, but this astonishing man is the mind behind one of New Zealand’s most iconic inventions.
We’ve all seen one. It was the egg beater in your grandmother’s kitchen. A handle at the top and a handle to turn the blades.
Designed as a non-slip egg beater, it was so common, I bet you can picture it. You may even still have one.
Well, that was Ernest Godward.
He was born in London, England, on April 7, 1869 to fireman Henry Robert Godward and Sarah Ann Pattison.
His parents sent him to a prep school at age 12, but Ernest ran away to sea reaching Japan where he was working on a cabling project before he was returned by the British Consul.
He ended up apprenticed to engineers although he went back to sea in 1884.
In 1886 he came to New Zealand arriving in Port Chalmers aboard the Nelson, where he jumped ship.
He was a man of many many talents. He played a number of instruments, including the banjo, was athletic, cycling for the Invercargill Cycling Club and was one of the founders of the Invercargill Amateur Swimming Club along with rowing and boxing.
On 28 January, 1896 he married Marguerita Florence Celena Treweek and the couple had 10 children. Nine of their own plus a niece of Marguerita's
But it was the numerous inventions he was most noted for, with more than 30 patents applied for. In 1907 he designed and patented that iconic egg beater.
Among his other inventions there was a new post-hole borer, a new hair curler, a burglar proof window and a hedge trimmer made from bicycle parts.
He also founded the Godward Spiral Pin and New Inventions Co Ltd - which was listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange.
He sold the American rights to his spiral hairpin and was said to have made his first million dollars that way.
His most famous invention, in 1926, was an economizer for a fuel engine which was used by public transport systems in America, allowing them to use fuel oil instead of petrol. In all, Goddard created 72 different carburettors
Even that was not his only claim to fame - he was involved in Southland’s first hot air ballooning and built Rockhaven, his private residence in Invercargill, which is still standing and considered an historic building. The garage where he did a lot of inventing is still on the property.
He spent the last 20 years of his life in America, visiting New Zealand and his wife from time to time.
However, during the stock market crash of 1929 he lost heavily, making only a partial recovery.
He died of a heart attack on December 2, 1936 on board the SS Mongolia out of Gibraltar while returning home to Invercargill. True to form, he had won a skipping contest on board the day before. He was buried at sea.
Ever since we brought you the story of Carl Weber - whose name was given to a little Southern Hawke’s Bay township, we have come across others whose names are familiar to us, even if their stories aren’t. So we thought we would tell you a few. Here's one.
James Heberley was a whaler, boat pilot, settler, mountain climber and liked to forecast the weather.
But it was how he did it that captured attention.
Every time he was asked about the weather he said it would get worse.
Eventually he was nicknamed Worse Heberley - then Worser.
Which led to that name being given to Worser Bay in Wellington, where he had lived in the pilot’s house which still stands today.
Heberley was born in Wyke Regis, a coastal town in Weymouth, England on November 22, 1809 to Johann and Elizabeth Hebley. The spelling was later changed.
Johann himself was a master mariner and it did not take long for James to set out to sea, running away at the age of 11.
He started sea life as a captain’s apprentice and cabin boy, sailing out of London. He kept a diary (now at the National Library) of a great deal of his life.
The early section of the diary recounts Heberley's experiences as a captain's apprentice and cabin boy on vessels sailing out of London to many destinations including Hamburg, Sydney and the West Indies. Much of the later narrative describes whaling and the life of a whaler in Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sounds.
Accounts differ of when he arrived in New Zealand, either 1825, 1827 or 1830.
But by 1830 he was living in Queen Charlotte Sound where he knew Māori chief and war leader Te Rauparaha and witnessed many fights.
He was a whaler at Te Awaiti and Port Underwood and later became a ship’s pilot for the New Zealand company, piloting the Tory into Wellington in 1839.
In 1842 he married Maata Te Naihi Te Owai at Cloudy Bay. She was also known as Te Naihi Te Owai, Mata Te Naehe or Te Wai Nahi. She was the daughter of Aperhama Manukonga and granddaughter of Te Irihau.
Heberley spoke Māori well and was often included in negotiations over land.
After Maata's death in 1877, he went on to marry Charlotte Emily Nash.
Heberley, along with Johann Karl Ernst Dieffenbach became the first European men to climb Mount Taranaki (Mount Egmont), standing on the summit on Christmas Day, 1839. His account of this climb is in the National Library. Local Māori thought they were nuts to do it.
In June 1843 Herbely gave up his role as a pilot operating in Worser Bay and began fishing and returned to whaling.
His death at the age of 91 in 1899 was just as dramatic as the rest of his life. He went missing from his Picton home and was ultimately found in Picton Harbour - according to one account “standing upright in the water, his feet just touching the bottom, his eyes open and his walking stick in his hand, the water just covering his head. The only thing giving a clue as to his whereabouts being his hat, which was floating on the water nearby.”
He is buried in Picton Cemetery. His descendants have been celebrated Māori carvers and many have retained their connection to the sea.
Have you ever wondered how somewhere got its name. Tell us and let's see what we can find.
Featherston’s war graves hold many sad stories but a poignant one is about the grave of the only woman buried among them.
Mabel Helen Howard technically never went to war.
But she was on the front lines of a battle she tried desperately to win.
Mabel was the daughter of John Henley Whishaw and Catherine (sometimes spelled Katherine) Elizabeth Whishaw - both from what was then the Russian Federation. She was born on March 26, 1884 in Kakaramea in South Taranaki before the family moved to the Wairarapa. The family, which included her eight brothers and sisters, lived at Stoneridge in Featherston.
It must have been a quiet rural existence.
Mabel qualified as a nurse in 1909 and worked for a time as a midwife at St Helen’s in Auckland.
At the start of World War One Mabel was 31. She became a military nurse at the Featherston Military Hospital in 1916. In April 1918 she was promoted from staff nurse to sister.
Only three months later the 1918 influenza epidemic started. It swept through the camp and by November that year 2500 men were sick.
The hospital was overwhelmed but Mabel kept working, ministering to all she could.
At the height of the epidemic however she succumbed herself and died on November 10, 1918 at the age of 34.
She was buried at Featherston Cemetery.
But she wasn’t the only loss to the family.
Tragically only three weeks before she died, her younger brother Bernard Guthrie Whishaw died in Cairo, Egypt of malaria and pneumonia. He had been with a machine gun squadron and is buried at the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery.
She had previously lost another brother, Harry Guthrie Whishaw, in 1916 who was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme in France where he is buried.
All three of the Whishaw children are named on the Featherston War Memorial
None of them ever married.
Wairarapa NZ includes a walk about the Whishaw family: https://wairarapanz.com/see-and-do/family-war
Dr Philip Patrick Lynch was involved in some of the most famous and notorious murder trials in New Zealand.
Luckily for him, he was Wellington’s first full-time pathologist rather than on trial.
Lynch went on to write a true crime book about the cases he had been involved with - No Remedy for Death.
Its fascinating contents include the story of Wellington’s Mt Vic tunnel ghost - Phyllis Symons, a poisoning by cake and the last man to be hanged in New Zealand.
His father, Thomas William Hall Lynch, was born in Milton, Otago, son of an Irish immigrant, and his mother, Katherine Walsh, in Dunedin.
Lynch was born in 1894 in Oamaru and caught polio when he was a year old, leading to a permanent partial paralysis of both legs.
It did nothing to hold him back, and after his family transferred to Timaru following his father’s job - a railway worker, Lynch went to school before setting out for Wellington to take up a cadetship with the Public Works Department. He had planned to become an architect but, as he said himself in his book, he wanted to do more, so went on to study at Victoria University. He graduated with a degree in science, which led him to medicine.
Lynch accepted a position as pathologist and bacteriologist in 1924 at Wellington Hospital and married his wife Cecilia and set up their first home in Hataitai.
Later, living in Khandallah, he remembered the phone going often as the police called him out to crime scenes.
He went into private practise in 1932.
His own words describe his cases better than we ever could,
"There were cases in which the body I examined carried bullet holes, contained poison, had been axed or bashed, had been incinerated, was probably hung, was dismembered. Some were exhumed before I examined them.”
In 1954 he received a CBE - Commander of the British Empire and in 1966 he became chancellor of Victoria University and a portrait of him in that role is part of the university’s art collection.
For 30 years he was considered the Crown’s principal witness for matters of death.
Lynch died on July 25, 1978 and is buried in Karori Cemetery.
The imposing Remutaka range between Wellington the Wairarapa was the scene of a terrifying train crash in 1880 when a severe gust of wind blew two passenger carriages off the tracks, plummeted one down a steep ravine and left the other dangling precariously over the edge. The accident claimed the lives of four children.
On Saturday, September 11, the Wairarapa to Wellington train left Greytown at 8.30am. Aboard and seated in the second carriage were John Quin, proprietor of the Greytown Hotel, his wife and five-year-old son William, and four other children.
In Featherston, twins Ida Jessica and Ella Grace Pharazyn, aged 11 years and three months and their friends six-year-old Francis John Nicholas and his brother Stanley George Nicholas, aged five, boarded the front carriage. All four were travelling to Wellington to stay with the Pharazyn girls’ aunt. With a compliment of about 30 passengers, the train left Featherston and continued on its journey to Wellington.
At Cross Creek station, at the foot of the Remutaka range, the regular engine was replaced with a Fell Engine - specially designed to negotiate the steep incline on the Wairarapa side of the hill, which rises 265 metres in four kilometres. The Fell Engine was placed behind the two passenger cars and the guard’s van and in front of two goods wagons loaded with timber and finally the brake van.
As the little train travelled up the incline the wind gusts strengthened. About 1200 metres from the summit, at a point known as Siberia, a massive north-westerly gust blew the two passenger carriages and the guard’s van off the tracks. The passenger compartment of the first carriage plummeted into the ravine, while the second carriage was left hanging over the edge. (The location of the accident is depicted in a diorama [pictured] which can be found at the Fell Engine Museum in Featherston - a great little museum to visit if you are passing through the town.)
Injured and dead passengers from the front carriage were scattered about the ravine lying amongst the shattered debris, while in the second carriage, survivors were forced to clamber up the almost vertical car to escape. The only thing preventing the second carriage from plunging into the ravine and crushing those below was the coupling to the guard’s van.
Attempts to help the injured were hindered by the extreme winds, which at times forced rescuers to crawl up the tracks holding onto the rails.
From the first carriage, both Pharazyn girls survived the crash, but were badly injured, however, Ida died as she was being carried up the ravine by fellow passenger Peter Hickson. Francis Nicholas was killed instantly in the crash suffering fatal head injuries. His younger brother Stanley died on October 2 from his injuries.
In the second carriage, young William Quin was crushed when the upended carriage threw the other passengers forward and on top of him.
The inquest into the accident found no fault on anyone’s part, but recommended that wind shields be constructed on the line.
Ida Pharazyn and the two Nicholas boys are buried in Featherston Cemetery, while William Quin lies in an unmarked grave in Greytown Cemetery.
Ebenezer Bishop, carpenter, Greytown
Alfred Blakesley, farm manager, Taratahi
James Crouch, labourer, Featherston
William Donald, settler, Featherston
Walter Dunn, Tauherenikau
Henry Dunn, Tauherenikau
Rev. C H Gossett, Masterton
Robert Hare, farmer of Masterton
Peter Hickson, farmer, Masterton
Margaret Hodge, hotel keeper’s wife, Morrison’s Bush
Miss Hodge, Morrison’s Bush
Alfred Jackson, saddler, Greytown
Michael Madden, retired blacksmith, Wellington
William McKenzie, shepherd
Mr Montgomery, settler, Greytown
Ella Pharazyn, Featherston
Mr Phillips, navvy, Greytown
Mrs Phillips, Greytown
Mrs Pye, widow, Greytown
Ellen Quin, Greytown
John Quin, Greytown
Robert Riddick, carpenter, Featherston
From his exile on a small rock off Matiu/Somes Island Kim Lee could see the city he had previously called home but he never made it back. A Chinese immigrant, he had a fruit shop in Newtown before he was dumped on the island after he was accused of having leprosy. He came to New Zealand in about 1893 and worked as a market gardener in Lower Hutt and between 1895 and 1903 ran a fruit shop in Adelaide Road. But in 1903, he was reported to the Health Department as having leprosy. He had red lesions on his face and dull sensation in his legs. At the time leprosy was hugely feared, almost to the point of hysteria. It was highly contagious with little known treatment. It was often brought to the attention of the Inspector of Nuisances (who we have previously written about) with members of the Chinese community often accused. Racism against Chinese was rampant, complete with editorials in newspapers and finger pointing. Along with the frequent accusations of disease was anger that the Chinese were undercutting the prices of other fruit and vegetable sellers. It was so bad that the then Director-General of Health often had to comment that it was not true. Kim Lee tried to hide but once caught he was sent into quarantine on Matiu/Somes Island, able to see Wellington but unable to return. Matiu/Somes was often used as a quarantine station and during wars as an interment camp. Even then, the few other quarantined residents complained and Kim Lee was sent into a further exile - to Mokopuna - called Leper - Island about 50 metres offshore. He lived in a cave on the eastern side and was given wooden packing crates to make shelter and furniture. On good days the lighthouse keeper would row out with supplies and on bad days a flying fox was used to send him rice and fruit. The Evening Post reported "Since his confinement on the island the man has been well fed and exercised, and made to take daily baths in the sea, with the result that the leprous symptoms are gradually leaving him, and he is likely to be discharged cured.” Instead, after nine months in quarantine and six months exile, Kim Lee died. He was 56. It’s unlikely Kim Lee even had leprosy - his death certificate lists his death due to heart failure, an enlarged liver and acute renal failure. It seems more likely he had tuberculosis or an auto-immune disease or even malnutrition. Indeed, newspaper reports at the time said he was nearly cured but died of internal complications.
It is not even certain that his name was Kim Lee or if that was just what he was called once he came to New Zealand. Like many Chinese immigrants he likely had family in China. He is buried on the island but has no headstone.