I’d heard the story many times. My great great grandmother Honour Batten was born at sea.
The story went that she was born onboard ship while my ancestors were coming to New Zealand. One of her middle names was allegedly of the ship’s captain - Malcolm.
Great yarn right? Except it's not exactly right.
The family has my great grandmother’s (Myrtle) birth certificate and it says Honour was born at sea.
So I searched, checking ships’ records but it was quickly clear the story could not be true. It was her grandfather John Treweek who came to New Zealand. He had been born in Tregony, Cornwall in 1814 and married Honour Chapman. They had five children and came to New Zealand in 1841 aboard the Timandra.
The ship arrived in New Plymouth and the Treweeks (sometimes spelled Trewick - this will be important later) began to spread first to Whanganui, and then three of the boys headed to Otago, to try mining.
John stayed in the Manawatu region and he and Honour had 13 children including James, born in New Plymouth who married Susanna Gould - my Honour’s parents.
The Treweek family is large and well-documented. There was no chance Honour was born on a ship coming to New Zealand.
So where did the story come from?
I turned to a new “extended” family I had recently joined - all of them descendants of Batten’s and related families - and they came through for me. Someone had already done the research!
Honour was indeed born at sea…..but on a coastal ship in 1871.
James and Susannah were going from Dunedin to New Plymouth. At a guess, they had been visiting family.
They were aboard the SS Māori - which travelled a regular route between the North and South islands. And regularly captained by none other than James Malcolm.
Honour’s birthday was July 4 - the SS Māori had left Dunedin, July 1 heading for Lyttelton. Arriving July 3 in Timaru then heading to Lyttelton. They arrived on July 5….the day after Honour was born, somewhere between Timaru and Lyttelton.
They would have transferred to the SS Taranaki. A list of passengers listed them as Mr and Mrs Trewick and child. Little Honour.
So here’s a tip. Members of your extended family might hold clues - or even the solution - to questions if you are searching.
Honour and her husband William are buried in the Pahiatua-Mangatainoka Cemetery - although her headstone said she was born in 1872.
With special thanks to Janis Brooks who had done the hard work!
In 1901 Wellington was in the grip of a ghost scare.
A ghost was terrorising Brooklyn, scaring residents and ‘haunting’ local areas.
It was also seen in areas like Johnsonville and supposedly targeting the land of one of the city’s most famous residents Mr Kirkcaldie (that turned out to be a poor woman in a white dress walking to see her lover).
A ghost was said to have appeared in a boarding house window and also in a garden near the tramway's stables.
The ghost would pop out at people, causing screaming and yelling but never hurt anyone.
On February 27, 1901, the papers reported the ghost had been run to earth.
A man and two women were out walking home in Brooklyn when it appeared on the side of Owhiro Road about 11pm.
One of the women screamed and had hysterics but the young man gave chase.
He ended up catching the ghost which turned out to be another young man from the Brooklyn suburb.
The New Zealand Times reported that George Balcombe was charged with being an idle and disorderly person in that he had an article of disguise - which turned out to be a tablecloth.
Balcombe was brought before a court magistrate, and the young man who caught him, Joseph Sutherland said he had been heading through Brooklyn after a night at the theatre when he saw the white form.
One of his female companions fainted but Sutherland - made of sterner stuff - caught Balcombe with what appeared to be a sheet on his head.
Lawyer Thomas Hislop (who became a mayor of Wellington) claimed the 15-year-old Balcombe had done it in a moment of regrettable foolishness and that not all the so called sightings were of his client.
The magistrate dismissed the charge but gave Balcombe a telling off.
The outcome wasn’t popular with at least one newspaper saying he should have got half a dozen whacks with a cane.
George Henry Balcombe was born on May 30, 1886, to Florence and Charles Balcombe. The family later moved, living in Hawke’s Bay and then in the Auckland area.
Balcombe married Marguerite Louisa Loader in 1911 and they had a daughter who they called Florence.
Balcombe died aged 69, on July 19, 1955 and cremated at Waikumete.
Picture by Stefano Pollio.
In 1909 two gold miners - Arthur Sharpe and John Scott made the discovery of a lifetime.
They were working the Ross gold field on the West Coast when they found a gold nugget on September 10.
But not just any gold nugget. Described by the Evening Post as as big as a turnip, the Ross nugget weighed 7 pounds and two ounces - over three kilograms today.
It was found on the eastern boundary of the goldfield called Bullock Point - often avoided after the death of another gold miner 20 years before, Jack McCarthy who had fallen and broken his neck.
Sharpe and Scott had found a few other nuggets - but nothing like the size of what came to be called the Roddy nugget after the Minister of Mines at the time Roderick McKenzie.
It was bought from the two men by the mayor of Kumara, James Alexander Murdock, for about £400 - a staggering $70,000 now.
In 1911 the nugget was bought by the government to be used as a coronation gift to King George V.
Here’s where something goes wrong.
The nugget was allegedly melted down and used to gild a tea service. But no one is completely sure. But the Royal Collection Trust which manages the Royals’ collection of valuables have been unable to find either the nugget or the tea service or a record of them.
There was also a conspiracy theory linked to it and whether the nugget was planted by the Ross Goldfields Co to boost its share price.
Arthur Ernest Sharpe had been born in Ross to James (Jim) and Elizabeth Sharpe (nee Phillips). Jim had been born in Staines, Surrey while Elizabeth was born in Hampshire.
Jim himself was a miner and his son followed in his footsteps.
Sharpe died on July 15, 1938 and is buried - along with his parents in the Ross Cemetery.
John Scott is also in the Ross Cemetery - he died on November 3, 1927 aged 76.
On his deathbed, Leo Silvester/Sylvester Hannan confessed to three murders. That brought his total to four, making him a serial murderer.
It’s unusual in New Zealand. We have a few mass murderers, like David Gray and Stephen Anderson, but we are mostly free of what are called serial killers overseas.
Red-haired blue eyed Leo Hannan who also called himself Herbert James Ross, was born on October 23, 1900. He was the last of eight children to Edmond Hannan, a carpenter, born in 1857 in County Cork, Ireland. Edmond immigrated to New Zealand in 1877 on the ship Oamaru and married Annie Bannor from Donegal, Ireland in 1881.
Not all that much is known about his childhood but he was considered of low intellect and somewhat abandoned by his family early.
Despite that he tried to make it as a bootmaker but most often was itinerant around the North Island.
He spent most of his life in and out of prison. He was in Rangipo prison for safe breaking in 1926 from which he escaped.
He wasn’t ever caught, instead he turned himself in and in 1931 was sentenced again in Waipukurau for burglary.
IN 1940 he went to jail for a large number of burglaries and then again in 1941.
In 1943 he skipped out on military service and was picked up by police and turned over to military police.
It was a murder in 1950 that put an end to Hannan’s freedom.
Frederick Andrew Stage, 54, was a tough ex-military man who worked as a night watchman at the Wellington Railway Station. His body was found about 1.30pm on August 10, lying face down, badly battered. He had been bashed with an iron bar.
Hannan was in custody before dawn broke. He had been found with blood on his face, hands and shoes.
Ironically it was Dr Lynch, the pathologist who had been called to the murder of the two sisters, who was called to examine him and noticed the blood.
Despite his denial he went to trial and was convicted and sentenced to life. He had a brief reprieve when he escaped while working in the prison quarry while in Auckland but was caught.
It was in 1962 that Hannan was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He spoke to his lawyer George Israel Joseph confessing that not only had he killed Stade, but also the two sisters Annie and Rosamund Symth in Wairoa in 1942 and that he was also responsible for the death of Herbert William Brunton on December 16, 1948.
Brunton, 69, a former railway guard who lived alone, was killed in his railway hut near the Wairoa Railway Station.
His neighbour went to visit him and found his body sitting propped against the bed in a pool of blood. He had been killed by blows to his head.
Brunton’s killing sparked a huge manhunt by police who took more than 5000 fingerprints from the men in the area.
Joseph included the story in a book he wrote, By a Person or Persons Unknown but did not use Hannan’s name.
It was not until many years later that a researcher for the television programme Epitaph asked Chief Inspector Sherwood Young, the grandson of the police officer in charge in Wairoa at the time of the killings who it was.
Young gave him Hannan’s name.
But by then Hannan had died aged 61, on October 9, 1962, only three months after his deathbed confession
He is buried in Waikumete Cemetery.
In August 1942 the people of Wairoa were deeply troubled.
No one had seen Annie Smyth, 63, or her 74-year-old deaf sister Rosamund Jane Smyth for days.
Annie was well known in the area, out riding her bike. A brigadier in the Salvation Army, she had been stationed in Japan for many years before going to Wairoa. She and her sister lived behind the Salvation Army hall on King Street but often went out and about spreading the word.
Annie was born at Kaiwharawhara, Wellington on October 25, 1878, to Edward Smyth and Isabella Cansick. She was the seventh of 10 children, Rosamund was her elder sister.
When Rosamund went to a talk by William Booth who founded the Christian Mission that became the Salvation Army, Annie went too, later going into training.
When asked to be New Zealand’s first overseas salvationist, she accepted and went to Japan.
She worked for the rehabilitation of prostitutes and travelled extensively.
She never married and served in Japan for 34 years, stopping only because of the outbreak of World War two.
When she returned to New Zealand she asked to keep serving and wanted the most difficult location they had and ended up in Wairoa.
It was war-time in New Zealand and Annie was fond of many things Japanese. It wasn’t a popular sentiment. She was a vigorous, active woman, considered brash and even bullying.
Annie missed a meeting on August 9 and originally it was thought she was just out ministering, then on the 16th, a group turned up for service but found the doors shut.
A neighbour, thinking it was strange, spoke to her lodger Arthur Percy Farn, who managed to get into the house through a window and found, to his horror, Annie lying dead in a chair. She had been brutally hacked about the head.
Rosamund was found lying under a bed with similar wounds.
It began a huge police investigation.
A blood stained axe was found in a wash house at the rear of the property.
Annie had been hit with the axe while Rosamund had been killed with a poker.
Police struggled, pleading for information. A number of people had seen Annie, on August 8 - when both sisters were believed to have been killed.
They offered a reward of £500 to no avail.
There was a inquest more than six months later - headed by Dr Lynch (see one of our previous stories) and he outlined the head wounds to Annie and Rosamund.
Despite Annie’s clothes being rearranged, Dr Lynch thought it was for show and that neither woman had been interfered with.
His belief was despite Rosamund being deaf, she realised there was a commotion in the house and had confronted her sister’s murderer, ending in her becoming the second victim.
A funeral service was held in Wellington for both sisters who are buried at Karori Cemetery.
And for years who killed them was unknown. Until 1999.
Keep watch for our next update: The serial killer’s death bed confession.
In 1890 Arthur Bently Worthington took Christchurch by storm.
He created a new religion, known as the Students of Truth, after he arrived with his attractive wife Mary (Margaret) Plunkett from America.
Worthington had charm in spades. Tall, handsome, with steel-blue grayish eyes, a fluent talker and appeared to be a well-bred gentleman.
People flocked to the new ideas.
Within two years the sect was successful enough to have built a Temple of Truth and beside it, a big 12-room residence for the Worthington family.
Worthington was well ahead of the times. He was teaching, among other things, free love, the non-resistance of evil and was known for ‘visiting’ the female members of the church.
A group of Christchurch clergymen, led by Methodist minister John Hoskin, began publicly opposing him.
And Hosking, suspecting him of swindling his congregation, went further, investigating Worthington’s past.
His investigations revealed that Worthington was actually Oakley Crawford, sometimes called Samuel Oakley Crawford, born March 1, 1847 in Saugerties, New York State. He had served in the American civil war and was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1867.
His first marriage to Josephine Erricson Moore in 1868 was the first of nine. All except the first were bigamous.
He also started on a long life of fraud, changing his name to Worthington, going to jail in 1870 in New York for obtaining money by false pretences.
Once he came out of prison,he began marrying women, taking all their money then abandoning them - sometimes having fathered children.
In 1889 Worthington joined a Christian Scientist sect as a faith healer. There he met Mary Plunkett, the wife of John Plunkett. Plunkett investigated Worthington finding he was the “one of the most notorious rascals in the United States”.
Worthington, declaring that Mary had converted him to righteousness, fled to New Zealand.
Under fire from Hosking, Worthington denied it all. But he then made a big mistake. He ejected Mary from his church and his household, which resulted in some of his church members turning against him.
Mary went to Sydney.
Moves were made during police investigations to have Worthington extradited back to America or to sue him.
The situation was made worse when he ‘married’ Evelyn Maud Jordan, an Australian woman living in Christchurch. In December 1895 he fled New Zealand, supposedly to gain funds, and ended up in Hobart, Tasmania. When his ventures there failed, he came back to Christchurch in 1897 but public opinion had grown against him and he was faced with threatened riots.
He left again - never to return. But he continued his tricks - being jailed in Melbourne in 1902 for defrauding a wealthy French widow by telling her he was the reincarnated god Osiris and she was his Isis.
After release from prison, he and his family - the long-suffering Evelyn and their three children - ended up in the United States where he set up as a Presbyterian minister but continued swindling. He was jailed again and died of a heart attack on December 13, 1917 while in custody in New York.
Meanwhile, the spurned Mary had returned to Christchurch and in 1901 married dentist John Stains Atkinson. Within a few months she took her own life in a fountain at her home aged 53.
She is buried in the Barbardoes Street Cemetery.
Chinese immigrant Ham Sing Tong was, in 1905, found dead in his house, bludgeoned, shot and set on fire.
Today, 116 years later, his murder is still unsolved despite two men going to trial for it.
Tong was aged somewhere between 60 and 65 and was living in Tapanui, a small forestry town in West Otago, known as the place Tapanui flu is named after.
The newspaper coverage of the day reveals a lot about how Chinese immigrants were looked at back then, reporting that Tong was not involved with opium or sly grogging which was often the prevailing racist stereotype.
Despite this, Tong was seen by his neighbours as a good-natured hard-working gold miner and was well respected. He lived alone on the outskirts of Tapanui and was known for either carrying his money around or having it in his house and, as such, always locked himself in at night. This was not unusual in that era as many people did not trust banks or lived so far away that using one was not practical.
Late on the night of 21 August 1905 nearby residents heard a shot ring out.
The next day, his friend Ah Chong found his body in the bedroom.
Initially police were unsure what killed him. There was a large bruise on his forehead and his clothes were nearly burned off.
The floor was strewn with the remains of a bottle.
An autopsy revealed there was a bullet in his right shoulder, which one doctor thought would have left him paralysed as it had severed his spine.
More than £70 was found in his house.
But he was believed to be worth about £200 - a huge sum in those days - worth about $48,000 now.
The police case was that he was bludgeoned with a whiskey bottle first. He resisted, which led to him being shot. Then a lamp was broken to spread kerosene on the bedclothes and set alight.
By the end of August, Thomas Stott, a 38-year-old labourer and George Hill Bromley, a 17-year-old farm hand, were arrested for his murder. The two lived together in a hut on Bromley’s father’s property.
A revolver was found in their hut. Also found were some skeleton keys, one of which would have opened Tong’s house.
Stott, an Aboriginal Australian, had lived in Tapanui for several years. Newspapers reported he had a reputation as a fighting man and was known for becoming "ugly" when drunk. He was more than six feet tall (1.83m) and had a tattoo of a tombstone on his right arm and one on his left arm stating: DO YOU REMEMBER TOM STOTT.
Stott was known to be broke, but in the day or two after the murder he was seen in the nearby town of Heriot, flush with cash and telling different stories about where he got it.
The Supreme Court trial took place in Dunedin in December 1905 and went several days. One of New Zealand's most noted defence lawyers Alfred Charles Hanlon, appeared for the two men.
Bloodstains had been found on the clothes of both men, and one of the pair had borrowed a rifle from Tong only two days before he was found dead.
Hanlon had no witnesses to call in defence, but it did not stop him attacking. He challenged a great many aspects of the Crown case.
He also intimated that a Crown witness - a John Reddit - may also have been the killer.
The all-male jury found both men not guilty, although they asked if they could return a verdict of not proven - which the presiding judge said was the same thing.
No other person has been convicted of the crime.
Three years after being acquitted of the murder, Stott was back in court again, this time for shooting 19-year-old Mary Brown with a double-barrelled shotgun, wounding her in the arm. Stott and the girl's father were drinking buddies. On June 20, 1908, after a drinking session at the Brown's house Mary told Stott to leave. He did, but he returned with the gun charging into the house and shooting her. He was sentenced to five years in prison. Stott was released in March 1912. In 1915 he served a further six months in prison for being a rogue and vagabond. Records don't show what happened to him after that. Perhaps he went back to Australia.
Tong is buried in Tapanui cemetery under the name Am Sing Tong. He has no headstone or grave marker.
Ever wondered how someone came up with the name of the street you live on?
Some - like Main, High, Victoria, Prince, Regent etc- are in every town. And then there are the more musical Maori names.
But what about the stranger ones? Are there stories behind them?
Petone’s Riddlers Crescent caught my eye and I couldn’t resist doing a little research.
(I was pretty sure it wasn’t named after the Batman villain).
Turns out it's a family name.
Thomas Riddler was the son of William and Elizabeth (nee Sparrow) Riddler who came to New Zealand in 1842. William, from Harefield, Gloucestershire in England came on the Thomas Sparks, caring for a cargo of stock for the Hon. Henry Petre - one of Wellington’s founders - who had a 100 acre block in what is now Petone encompassing what is now Riddlers Crescent.
He gave it to William who settled down there with his wife Elizabeth. Their children were born there, including Thomas. When he was born there were only four other houses. He was the first to be christened in the English church in the Hutt.
Thomas went on to be a stock agent and farmed at Tawa until the death of his father. He married Mary Hirst in 1873.
He helped create Petone and was one of the escort of calvary for the Duke of Edinburgh on a trip to Upper Hutt.
At the time of his death aged 87, on 21 August, 1936, he was one of the oldest surviving settlers in the Hutt and had six sons and two daughters.
His land was divided into lots and sold on his death - creating the area through which Riddlers Crescent runs.
He is buried in Christ Church cemetery in Taita.
Ever wondered about your street name? Tell us and we’ll take a look.
William Lee lay pinned to his own bed in his Northe Street, Napier home after a huge beam from his house fell on him.
The beam had been dislodged by a slip that had slammed into the back of his house while he was asleep at 4.30am on April 26.
It was the last day of a three-day rain storm that devastated Hawke’s Bay in 1938.
Prolonged heavy rain caused severe flooding in Gisborne and Hawke's Bay beginning on April 24. The rain fell so fast thousands of acres of farmland was quickly submerged, farm animals drowning, unable to get out of the way. Most roads suffered from slips or flooding.
Near Gisborne, Maki Morepi was drowned when he tried to cross the Waiapu River and the body of waterside worker Donald McLaren was found in the Waikanae Creek after he had fallen from a footbridge.
Picturesque Esk Valley, with its pretty church and vineyards, was the hardest hit. Esk Valley homes and farmland became buried by over 1.6 metres of silt or ruined by floodwaters and landslides. The river rose 10 metres and quickly burst its banks. Silt blanketed the whole valley floor and wrecked houses. Many residents tried to escape through it before being rescued.
High on the hillside of the Upper Esk Valley, on the early morning of April 25 - Anzac Day - Harry O’Donel Bourke and his wife Kathleen Maud watched as the waters rose. But it was not the biggest danger. Above them, a large mass of earth weakened by rain began to move. The slip barrelled through their home at about 9am. The four adults and three children in the house managed to escape to their old woolshed only to watch more earth entirely destroy their house. Cut off from the road, the seven of them huddled for three days in the woolshed before being able to get to their horses and ride out.
Nearby, France House, a boys' home in Esk Valley was also completely cut off and a troop of police were needed to rescue the boys and staff.
In the greater Hawke’s Bay county 51 bridges were destroyed. Residents at Clive had to be rescued in boats, the water being so high.
Some families were so cut off supplies were dropped to them by plane. In a cruel twist, one of the planes crashed in the Pakuratahi Valley and the injured crew had to wait 19 hours to be rescued.
Mr Lee’s fate was discovered by the milkman who, with two other men, lifted the beam off him. He was taken to hospital and found to have severely fractured ribs. His house had been moved 20 feet off its foundations by the slip.
Mr Lee, who was born in County Clare in Ireland on July 12, 1870, had been a soldier for 2 years during World War One and received the British War Medal and discharged in 1918 for no longer being physically fit due to injuries sustained during his service, most likely a sprained ankle while in Egypt. He does not appear to have ever married.
There is no mention of him again in news reports of the time other than to say the former soldier and labourer was not badly injured but he appears to have died a few months later - on August 5 - and is buried at the Park Island Cemetery aged 68.