Monday, June 30, 2014

The McRae Letters continued..


This is the second letter in the series – Unfortunately we dont have Janes reply to Welsh’s last letter . The next letter we have is a couple of weeks later in November


Auckland 14 November 1887

Dear Jane,
Yours of the 9th to hand, and contents noted.  In reply, will say yes, am pleased that you received the beef in good condition. Sorry bacon proved fraud. Will forward some 'Canterbury' this trip..tested and proven good. Also chest tea of undoubted quality from a Mongolian importers in Quay Street  Will send along ( at some future time) fixings for Christmas. Information of needs in this respect acquired beforehand. Will make enquiries re “Norval” and be guided by your suggestions( as far as may be) re future shipment of goods.  My letters are still being illegally detained at Opua. Am sending along stamps and a preemptor order to the bungling official for their immediate release and dispatch to Auckland.  Failing in this, I will report his conduct at headquarters and see if such culpable neglect is  not punishable by the Department.
Sorry you did not act more advisedly in the matter. Much worry and bother might have been avoided all round and I would be in possession of my own long ago.   I look forward with extreme pleasure to the receipt of Amy's and Nellie's letters and can appreciate the love they send along, especially Amy's. As I know , it is genuine. It has the true metallic ring,, its existence is a reality.. an established fact.. a bygone conclusion,, returnable in time. But I grieve that you see fit to foreshadow your disgrace in the dear girl's future. And I despise the most remote thought of its realisation and cannot entertain it even for a moment. Though I am willing to admit that her moral bias has received a slight shock from evil example and improper tuition ( and this is equally applicable to Nellie). But time will certainly overcome this difficulty. And my pet will come out all right in the end..'top side up'. And don't you forget it. I may  not hazard an opinion, for good or evil, regarding Nellie, as my knowledge is altogether too limited. But from what little I know, I have learned to esteem her highly, and this is as far as I desire to extend.
Your complaint of feeling lonely in the bosom of your 'cheerful family' doth considerably surprise and grieve me. And if I might hazard the remark that my presence would aid in mitigating it, I would be most happy to give you a prolonged trial of it. And notwithstanding my taciturn and uncommunicative disposition, the result might justify experiment.  But unfortunately, I cannot even promise that Christmas will bring us nearer to each other, ,as city pastimes (at this season) are too attractive to be exchanged for the country.  Notwithstanding the coveted companionship of you and your worthy family, and the unremitting and unmerited kindness that ( I am certain) would be awarded me. But as I am sending along my good brother Hector's address, I am hopeful that you may secure his presence during the holidays. He is better qualified, by nature and art ( than I am) to impart tone and zest to social gatherings, no matter for what purpose assembled.. eating, drinking, dancing, singing..  What you please...  in the house or out of it. Tis all one to him. I am proud of the opinion you entertain concerning him as I know it is merited, and would as who is the young lady( to whom you refer)  as having a like opinion of him? If she is a good looker, amiable, unmarried and not too young, I might endevour to supplant him in her esteem, though not so worthy of her, by a long way. I have been instituting enquries at Hannaford's on the subject of a wife. There are numbers offering.. mostly too young.. and not quite up to my standard in other aspects.
I had a very pleasant time of it Fathers Day, with an excursion party to Governor Grey's Island home 'Kawau'. Started out per steamer 'Belling' at 8 a.m. And returned to town 9 p.m. All well.
Sorry to learn of your  mother's illness.. trust it will be of short duration.. remember me to all.
Yours very sincerely ,
PS “Norval” schooner not reported in. Will ship goods per “Clansman: viz 1 chest 5 ½ pound. Tea 12/6...16lb bacon@ 6 ½ d. 8.8
                                        1.1.2 freight not paid
Hector McRae, Hokaihau, Bay of Islands
( oh this is actually Okaihau)

Unfortunately we dont have the letter from Jane that Welsh refers to in this reply, however this letter does give some great insights into life in 19th Century New Zealand.
You will note that Welsh had sent Jane some bacon but it was clearly not of great quality.  Articles in NZ newspapers in the late 1880s elude to the fact that Canterbury bacon was consistently  of great quality, however bacon from other areas of the country, (especially Auckland) often was of dubious quality.

The “Norval” and the “Clansman” mentioned in this letter,  were two of the coastal steamers whic plied the waters and carried goods and passengers between Auckland and the Northern Regions. Travel by Steamer was the main form of transport between Auckland and the North.

It is of great interest to read that Jane felt  lonely. It is not surprising- Its clearly apparent that her husband is not living with her and she has several children to bring up alone. Her brother James Thompson Middlebrook did move to Opua around this time, he was newly married in 1887, however this marriage too was fraught with difficulties, so perhaps he was not much company for his elder sister either. It seems both Jane and Welsh at this point are toying with the idea of developing a relationship beyond that of brother and sister in law but the city life seems to have a greater pull for Welsh at this time. You will notice that Welsh is instrumental in this letter, in the introduction of Jane to his younger brother Hector, and we know that this introduction had great consequences in Jane’s live, as she went on to marry Hector 3 years later.

Welsh mentions that he has enquired at “Hannahords” re suitable women. Hannafords was a “Matrimonial Agency” in downtown Auckland.  A precursor to todays match making website,s Hannafords claimed to “ not only obtain ”life Partners” for gentlemen in town and country, but those who have suited themselves can have all the preliminaries  taken off their hands by addressing themselves to Hannafords Agency. They can then be married any day or hour that they like, without the least trouble on their part,everything being done for them”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The McRae Letters–Part one


We are lucky enough to have transcripts of 6 letters between Jane Thompson McRae ( nee Middlebrook) and her brother in law Welsh McRa.

This is the first of a series of layouts featuring the letters which appear on one side, with the facing page having notes and explanations (where possible) . Unfortunately there is no information contained within the 6 letters to help us with the “marriage” of Jane and James John McRa, but he is clearly not living with them at this time despite Robert Irwin, their youngest child being only 2 years of age when the first letter is written.


Kaeo 5th October 1887
Dear Jane
I address you this time on the subject of your daughter, Amy, and as her moral and physical welfare deeply concerns both of us, I feel compelled by a sense of duty, to strike a note of warning in reference to her present position and surroundings. And while, unbiased by malice, and unprejudiced by selfish conceit, I strongly advise ( in the interest of all concerned) that you remove her into your own keeping for a season.
As from long absence from home associations and your moral tuition she is losing track of those influences that should serve as “guide marks” to her proper course through life; moreover, I am not aware that she reaps any substantial remunerations from the performance of her arduous duties here. Harriet is to mean and Jack too poor to contribute any material assistance in this respect. And I am certain that her “employment” is a lamentable failure in reference to mental and moral culture and cannot be regarded as commendable, from a physical standpoint, Fact is, Harriet was never designed by God as a trainer for the young, otherwise she would have had children of her own running round. She is altogether too versatile and volatile for the business, and her relations to Amy are simply of a mercenary nature. A mere matter of pounds, shillings and pence, and only a mockery of interest in her general welfare.
I am far from being a 'moral' man myself, but I claim to be nearer to heave than nine tenths of those who wear the cloak of religion to hide their moral deformaties, and my esteem for Amy is so sincere that I would grieve beyond measure if it were ever hinted to me that she was running on a 'down grade'. But I have no fear that this can ever be stated truthfully of her... I entertain too high an opinion of her merits to even dream of such a calamity. Nevertheless (for obvious reasons, subject to her removal from her, and as I have the consent of all interested parties, saving your own. I will say in order to gain yours, that I intend to leave this section by steamer on the 12th inst( if all goes well) and I am prepared to take Amy along with me, and convey her to your door in safety, and defray all the expenses of the trip, provided that you forward your answer by return mail and I receive it in time.
Trusting that this may merit your approval and that our greeting will take place on Opua wharf as desired,
I remain,
Yours very sincerely
P.S. Whether you sanction this proceeding otherwise, I am duty bound to go through with it anyhow. And will shoulder all the responsibility attached to it. So that if we are not at Opua by the next trip of the steamer, we will certainly be there, trip following.
With kind regards from Amy and Jack
Welsh McRa was Jane’s brother -in-law. Born in 1829, he is 20 years older than Jane, but two years younger than Jane’s “husband” James John McRa. Unfortunately nothing in these letters gives us any more indication of the nature of Jane’s relationship with the father of her 7 children, though it is clear that she is not living with James at the time of these letters.
Amy is Jane and James’ eldest daughter, born around 1869, she would have been 18 at the time of these letters and it appears she is “working” for another McRa brother, John ( Jack) and his wife Harriet, who were living in Kaeo. ( In electoral rolls from several years later John is listed as a surveyor, and also as a bushman)
It is clear that Welsh doesn’t think very highly of his sister in law Harriet. At this time she and Jack had no children but later apparently was to have a son Ian Malcolm who died in infancy, but neither the birth nor death appear to be registered. Later she and John apparently adopted 2 other children, Malcolm Innes, and Lucy Selina. Malcolm died in Palestine in World War I but Lucy lived till her late 80s.
We dont know what Jane was doing in Opua during the late 1880s. A timeline of her life sees her moving frequently, and often between Auckland and areas of Northland, from Whangaroa to Matakohe, but her brother James was also living in Opua during this period. He built a house on the top of the hill overlooking the wharf. We are unsure of where exactly Jane was living in the small settlement, however she had at least 5 children at home with her, if Amy and Nellie( who is mentioned in later letters) were away, that would leave 16 year old John Roderick ( known as Roddy), 9 year old Thomas, Jane Elizabeth aged 7, Mary aged 5 and Robert Irwin aged just 2 years. Quite a handful for a woman on her own ( which we know from future letters that Jane was at this time) .
Family legend has it hat James John McRae was somewhat of a drinker- perhaps Welsh felt some responsibility to his sister-in-law because of this fact.
A note on the surname McRa. : Welsh, in his letters always signs his name McRa. The eldest of Jane and James’ children are registered with the surname McRa, but the younger children are registered as McRae, and Jane signs her name as McRae in these letters. It seems that the spellings are fairly interchangeable

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Grandsons


Here is the Grandson version of the post I did yesterday – We are missing a few photos here and I made an educated guess on Robert Farrer Middlebrook- so please do correct me if I have the wrong person in his spot. If anyone has better quality photos of anyone in this layout, or any at all for any one missing, please do send them to me as I would love to include them.



Once again I see remarkable resemblances here – especially between Walter and Russell in the bottom line, and Robert Farrar and several of the sons of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook.

This has been a most interesting project Im sure you will agree.

The Granddaughters

After doing the layout showing the similarities between Ellen Hardy and Jane Thompson Middlebrook, I decided it might be a great idea to display the photos of all  of this generation – As there are 43 1st cousins I decided to split it into 2 layouts – One for the Granddaughters and one for the Grandsons

Here is the page for Granddaughters.


As you can see we are only missing a few photos – those of the daughters of Benjamin and the first two of Jane’s daughters, along with the three girls who died in childhood, of whom conceivably no photos may ever have been taken.  There are similarities amongst many of the girls – the square chin, that seems to have passed down several generations, is evident on many of the girls, along with dark hair in most .

If anyone has better photos of Eleanor, Mary Ann Harriet and Olive I would love to include them in this layout, but all in all I think we are quite lucky to have photos of so many of this generation.

Look out for the Men’s photos tomorrow!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Family Likeness


The Middlebrook Family photos show some remarkable likenesses between siblings, but not only relationships as close as that, as these photos show. Jane Thompson Middlebrook, eldest daughter of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook, ( not to be confused with her Aunt of the same name) on the left, and on the right, Ellen Hardy , 2nd daughter of Elizabeth and George Douglas Hardy were first cousins but as shown in these photos could almost be mistaken for the same woman. Jane ( known as Cis) was born in 1876 in Auckland and Ellen was born two years earlier in 1874 also in Auckland.  We know the Middlebrook families connected with each other frequently despite geographical distance between them - I wonder how often Jane and Ellen's paths crossed and if they too remarked on their likeness.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Stewart Connection



It seems that the stories of the Stewarts and the Middlebrooks are very intertwined. Each family had a massive effect on the other.  The tangled web begin in 1873 when George Vesey Stewart, arrived in New Zealand on a search to find land in which to accomplish a protestant Irish Settlement. The Survey Department put at his disposal Samuel Middlebrook, who lead him through the Bay of Plenty where Stewart chose an area now known as Katikati as the perfect area for his settlement and he was granted 10,000 acres for the purpose.  The first party of settlers arrived on the Carisbrook Castle in 1875 and amongst them was Stewart Rea and his family. Rea had worked for Stewart on one of his Irish Estates.
Stewart Rea’s eldest daughter was Mary Jane,  and in 1883 she went on to marry  Samuel Middlebrook

The connection with the Middlebrook family did not end there though, In the early 1890s a young Ellen Hardy, daughter of Samuel’s sister Elizabeth was living in Katikati with her Grandmother. It is assumed it was at this time she met John Rowley Miller Stewart, 4th child of George and his wife Margaret.
Their paths were to cross later as John, despite his marriage and 7 children with Ellen Furness, he maintained a second home with Ellen Hardy and their 3 children, John Rowley, Ethel Muriel and Douglas Stewart.  Despite his promises to the contrary, on the death of his wife, John Rowley Stewart did not marry Ellen Hardy, but married yet another woman.  A  heart broken Ellen was taken under the wing of John Rowley Stewarts mother, Margaret , who had recently separated from her husband George Vesey Stewart . It was on her suggestion that Ellen took on the surname Miller which had been Margaret’s maiden name.

The, actions of their father, in effect disowning them had a life long effect on the three children.   The children suffered emotionally and eventually John and Douglas were to legally change their surname to Miller.  Ethel spent much time in her childhood in Katikati with her “Aunt” Minnie, the 6th child of Margaret and George Vesey Stewart - and in  the process became good friends with her Middlebrook cousins, the children  of Samuel Middlebrook

James Thompson Middlebrook–A Timeline




Here’s a simple timeline for the life of James Thompson Middlebrook.  I’m sure there are many gaps in this which I will fill in as I find more information about his life but I like this format for easily getting a snapshot of someone’s life

BIRTH – Millbridge Yorkshire 7 march 1858
BAPTISM – St Barnabas Hightown Yorkshire 4th July 1860
DEPARTURE – In August from Liverpool onboard “Shalimar”
ARRIVAL -  Into Auckland In December 1862
SHOT -   In the arm while “Placing the Butts” age 13 years – Tararu Creek Thames
RESIDENCE – Matakohe, Occupation  Carpenter 1880 Electoral Roll
MINING CLAIM – Lucky Strike Gold Mine Te Aroha January 1881
RESIDENCE – Katikati 1882 Freeholders Roll
RESIDENCE – OIiphant Street Auckland 1883 Valuation Roll
PURCHASE – “Cains Hotel” TeWharau Loading Grounds 1884
OCCUPATION – Begins working for NZ Railways as Carpenter 1885
MARRIAGE – To Elizabeth Edgar Murray 1886
RESIDENCE - Opua Bay of Islands 1890
RESIDENCE – Opua Bay of Islands 1900
DIVORCE – Application for divorce from Elizabeth Edgar Murray 1902 on grounds of Desertion August 1902, Absolute November 1902
MARRIAGE -  to Julia Bartle Sullivan 7 December 1902
BIRTH – Son Farrar Middlebrook 28th November1903
BIRTH – of Twins Eva Rhys and Nelson Bartle 26 January 1905
RESIDENCE – Opua Bay of Islands 1905
BIRTH – Son Charles Russel Middlebrook 7 April 1908
RESIDENCE – Ward Tce Kingsland 1911
RESIDENCE – Mamie St Remuera  1914
DEATH – of Stepson Frank Arnold Sullivan at the Dardanelles  1915
RESIDENCE – “Ngapuhi” Manukau Rd Epsom 1919
RESIDENCE – 13 Burch Street Mt Albert OCCUPATION Retired 1928
DEATH – November 29th 1930
BURIAL – Purewa Cemetery