Jones family of Masterton

One set of great-great-grandparents, Henry and Mary Jones, came to New Zealand in 1842 on the ship London. They arrived with three children – another, their youngest, Mary had died on board ship. But a year later (on 4 Sep 1843) another girl was born and christened Mary. Hers was the first Methodist christening in the village of Karori (now a suburb of Wellington).

A little bit of background about Henry and Mary Jones: Henry was born in 1811 in Northamptonshire, England. His parents were James and Susannah. James was from the village of Preston Capes and Susannah from Greatworth. Henry was born in Wappenham, and at four months old was sent back to Preston Capes with his parents on a Settlement Order from the Overseers of the Poor for Wappenham, dated 27 Jan 1812. So we’re not talking of wealthy people here! In 1832 Henry was a farm labourer and he married Mary Willett who was born in 1814 in Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire.

Despite their common surname, I know a reasonable amount about Henry and Mary Jones once they came to New Zealand – mostly because they arrived in New Zealand relatively early in its history of British settlement and because they moved to the Wairarapa in the mid-1850s – also early in its British settlement. However, there are pitfalls with researching such a common name. With my own surname – Morrell – I can be fairly sure that most Morrells in Wellington in the late 19th century were probably related, but … Jones! I know Henry and Mary’s daughter Mary (the second Mary) married David Dixon (the Dixons were on the same ship in 1842) and she died on 14 September 1867 aged 24 after bearing her fourth child. Henry and Mary brought up the surviving three children.

Mary & Fanny DixonBut in 1854 (on 1 September) at the Supreme Court in Wellington a William Ludwell (a painter who lived on Wellington Terrace – now simply called The Terrace) was convicted of assault against a girl under 12 and her name was Mary Jones.[1] He had also been charged with rape but that charge was thrown out by the jury. He pleaded guilty to the ‘assault with intent’ charge and was convicted to three years imprisonment with hard labour. The age fits with ‘my’ Mary Jones, but as no other information, such as a birthdate or parents’ names was given in any of the newspaper reports, I cannot assume it was ‘my’ Mary.

I went to NZ Archives to try to find a record of the criminal court case, but unfortunately one doesn’t appear to have survived. What I did find was a letter dated 19 Jan 1856 from William Ludwell to Governor Gore Browne pleading for a remission of the remainder of his sentence as he had rheumatism and couldn’t do the hard labour. He was refused. As expected, there was no mention of the victim. He said he had been in Wellington 14 years and this was his first offence (he would have arrived about the same year as the Joneses – 1842). Also on the same file was another plea from a man convicted of horse stealing and sentenced to eight years imprisonment – despite appending a few pages of supporting signatures, he was also refused.[2]

Ludwell letter

On the back of Ludwell’s petition is the comment: “The petitioner is a married man and his offence was an assault on a young child with intent to commit a rape. I am of the opinion that his Excellency’s clemency should not be extended to the prisoner…” This was written by Henry St Hill who was a magistrate. Written over it is “Refused. By Command”.

Ludwell refused

According to Louis Ward’s Early Wellington book (p. 103), Ludwell arrived on the ship Birman in Feb 1842, aged 36 with his wife Harriet who was aged 35. By 1860, Ludwell would have been released and in that year his name was drawn to be in the militia, and some of his goods were to be sold under a Warrant of Distress (presumably by a creditor).[3] In 1861 he died, aged 56.[4]

So, although I still don’t know if the unfortunate victim, Mary Jones, was of my Jones family, it was an interesting research exercise. I think what makes it less likely to be ‘my’ Mary is that by 1852 the Jones family were living in the Hutt Valley (on the opposite side of the harbour from Wellington city). Henry was a farm labourer and although he may have visited Wellington I doubt that his children would have – at least, seldom. Ludwell lived in central Wellington and I think it unlikely he would have come across Henry and Mary’s daughter – unless there is some connection that I don’t know of.[5]

Jones familyI don’t know of any photos of Mary. She had already died by the time this Jones family group photograph was taken (it shows Henry and Mary in the centre with their surviving adult children and their spouses, c. early 1880s to 1890s. The eldest daughter, Maria, was by then living in Invercargill and isn’t present).

My future great-grandparents, Edward and his wife Mary (nee Ralph)  are in the foreground – he was Henry and Mary’s youngest child, born in 1854 in the Hutt.

Henry and Mary Jones – I will take up Henry and Mary Jones’ story from 1854…

In 1854 a ballot was held at the Crown and Anchor hotel in Wellington for sections under the Masterton small farms scheme. Henry Jones was successful in gaining a plot of land. In 1855 Henry and his oldest son John moved to Masterton where they took up a 40 acre section and lodged with Charles Dixon. They began cutting timber for a house, but went back to the Hutt after a dispute with local Maori, who said they had not been fully paid for the land.

In late 1855 Henry and John left again for Masterton, the journey taking 4 days. After clearing about an acre they built a house using clay for the chimneys as no one would use bricks after the 1848 and 1855 earthquakes. At the beginning of 1856 they were joined by other members of the family. The Wairarapa at this time was later described by Edward Jones as “rivers and creeks without bridges, dense scrub and bush and deep swamps to struggle through”.[6] The youngest girls (aged 4 and 6) were carried in boxes either side of a bullock and Edward was carried by his mother on a pony. The first night was spent at the Mangaroa accommodation house, the second at Burling’s in what is now Featherston and the third night with people in Greytown. After they crossed the Waiohine River they were met by Charles Dixon with a horse and dray. (In 1866 Cobb & Co began twice weekly trips to Masterton, which took 10 hours and when the railway line was opened in 1878 the journey was shortened to four hours.)

Initially they made their own furniture. It was 8 years before they could afford to buy any – this being 4 pounds for 12 chairs from America. Not long after they arrived, Henry started a Methodist Sunday school in his home and taught with Mary and a Mr Perry. By 1858 a church society met in the Jones home. The first church built was non-sectarian so all ministers could officiate. The Sunday school moved here and Henry continued as teacher for 12 years. He also became a local preacher travelling throughout the Wairarapa conducting about 450 services by 1895, when he retired.

Methodist preachers Wai archiveMethodist preachers, Wairarapa, c. 1899 (Wairarapa Archive record (ref: 04-166/58) lists the names; Henry Jones, with the white beard, is in the front.)

When they first arrived, wheat was bought from local Maori and ground in handmills, but by their third year they were growing their own. In the first few years, Henry continued to cut and plane wood to earn money. In 1857 a meeting was held in Masterton to discuss whether sheep or cattle should be kept in the Wairarapa. Most were against Joseph Masters bringing in sheep, although Masters himself didn’t attend the meeting. Henry proposed a resolution. Tension with Masters seems to have lasted a few years at least, as in 1861 Masters took Henry Jones to court over an unpaid ₤2 16s for ‘pastorage on his run’. Judgment was awarded to Masters. At the same time, Charles Dixon took Masters to court for ₤1 1s for ‘maliciously driving his milch cows and working bullocks into the bush, from off his run’ – however the defendant (Masters) won the case.[7]

In an article written about 1896 under the pseudonym “Delta” it was said that in about 1858 a nephew of Henry’s was killed while bush felling at Te Ore Ore near Masterton. This is the only reference to a nephew being in New Zealand that I have come across. In 1858 Masterton was threatened by an attack from Maori at Te Ore Ore, which was averted by arming volunteers – Henry and his older sons among them. The Government granted 50 pounds of land to all who volunteered for more than seven years, so it is likely Henry got this.

In 1859 when Edward started school, education wasn’t compulsory (it only became so in 1877). It cost parents about 1s 6d a week per child. The school master taught for half the day and farmed for the other half. A night school was also held for the ‘older sons’ who worked on parents’ farms during the day. Edward left school at about age 12 and helped on his father’s farm. Two grandsons also helped on the farm – William Shute (Charlotte’s son), who lost an arm in one of the farm machines, and Charles Deadman (Elizabeth’s son).

In 1867 Mary Dixon (nee Jones) died at the age of 24, probably in childbirth or shortly after. She left three children – Percy, Fanny and Harry – who were raised by Henry and Mary. Susannah Jones, who married Alex Yule in 1871, died in 1872 and left no children.

The Jones’s first farm was in Johnston Street and was occupied until 1879 when it was sold to a Greytown man. The family then began clearing and draining a swamp section nearby to make a new farm but it took some years before it was suitable for cultivation. The farm and house in the 1890s was described by one of the granddaughters:

“There were a few acres on the right side of the house, where a large barn and wagon sheds were built and an orchard planted. On the left were about 12 acres, including grazing paddocks for the horses and where a workshop was built. The house itself had four large rooms, a scullery with pump and sink, and a small room where Henry prepared all his herbal remedies as he was a practical herbalist. Very seldom was a doctor called to our house unless for more serious illnesses like scarlet fever … In the front of the house was a large garden where fruit was grown.” (Amy Rogers, nee Jones).

jonesfarmLeft: Henry and Mary standing by the fence, son Edward and his wife Mary in the gig. There are more photos of the house in my posts on Growing up in Masterton in the 1920s and 30s, and the 1942 Wairarapa Earthquake.

Henry had acquired more land at the back of the house in the 1880s which had also needed clearing and draining. Altogether there was about 100 acres when he died in 1902. Amy Rogers:

“There was a woolshed over the bridge where the sheep were shorn and sometimes killed for meat. Also a sheep dip and pen … Paddocks had to be fenced off. Some were reserved for cropping and we used to be wildly excited to see the reaper and binder later on being pulled by draught horses, dropping the sheaves over the side to be put into stooks to dry… Machinery gradually took over. At the barn there was a need for a form of energy to drive the grindstone revolving to sharpen saws, spades, etc … Grandfather got a large water wheel from some old mill and had it erected in a deep culvert at the south end of the barn. The water to run into this culvert had to come from a creek on the north side, but as this ran around the orchard a dam was built to divert the water into another small creek and into a wooden culvert that ran under the shed to the water wheel.”

Amy also related how she once fell into the creek and was only saved from drowning by her clothes catching on a nail in the culvert: “…however I was stunned and took several hours to come round. Mother told me how the news had spread and friends and neighbours offered warm blankets, prayers and after Grandfather offered up a prayer of thankfulness ….

“Grandfather had a horse and buggy in which we went to church in town. The Jones family took up a whole pew. As the small ones grew grandfather and mother sat in a front pew, later a certain deafness overtook grandfather and he used to hold an ear trumpet.”

Mary Jones died in 1895, aged 80. A year later the eldest daughter, Maria’s husband died and she moved from Invercargill to live with Henry: “Maria was in the Salvation Army and used to sing a lot in a high shaky voice, and used to walk to their meetings in the town, and wore their uniform and bonnet and also a large brooch with SA on.” (Amy Rogers).

Other sons also farmed in the area and Henry Junior was among Masterton’s first bakers. When Henry (senior) died in 1902 the Will stated that everything was to be sold and divided equally between all his children. Edward decided to buy the farm and arranged a bank mortgage at 3000 pounds, with 100 pounds interest every 6 months. The farm was valued at 30 pounds an acre. To supplement his income Edward took on contracting in cartage of wool, chaff and other supplies to farms in the Wairarapa. Amy Rogers remembered one particular incident:

“I remember about midnight a shrill whistle rent the air from the barn. Father was up and away and found our ‘Chance’ in the lead of the team had overstepped on the side of a bridge over a culvert and broken his neck… how we were all upset! So trusty were those horses that even if the driver fell asleep they knew the way home. So long were those trips on the road that no doubt they were all tired after leaving so early in the morning.”

Ed Jones & familyLeft: Edward and Mary Jones with four of their eventual five children. My future grandfather Norman is on the left, and Amy is on the right. Eva and Henry are the other two children; Evelyn is still to come.

Edward eventually bought a traction engine and chaff cutter and invented and patented a machine for loading bags of chaff or hay onto wagons. According to Amy Rogers, the appearance of affluence was deceptive. Extra income was made by selling eggs and butter, and at the age of 19 Amy started work at a tailors (as she said, “girls didn’t go out much to earn those days, except housework”). She started at 10 shillings a week and stayed for four years until she married in 1912. By this time Edward was not doing much contracting but had bought dairy cows and was selling milk and cream.

jones traction engine mast archive

Jones traction engine hauling logs (Wairarapa Archive Ref: 94-83/11)

After Edward’s wife died in 1920 he moved out of the family farm house. The farm was leased by his son Norman (my grandfather) who eventually bought it after the lease ran out in 1948. He sold the farm in 1952.


DSC05899 Some descendants of Henry and Mary Jones (they are the subject of the photograph held in the centre) – taken in Dec 1956 (the 100th anniversary of the Methodist Sunday School in Masterton, which Henry & Mary started).



[1] New Zealand Spectator and Cook’s Strait Guardian, 6 September 1854, Page 3. I first read of this case in Jenny Robin Jones’ interesting book about the 1842 voyage of the ‘London’, No Simple Passage, 2011, pp. 272-273, where she assumes this Mary was the daughter of Henry and Mary Jones.

[2] Archives New Zealand reference: R24899108

[3] Wellington Independent, 3 April 1860, p. 3 (militia notice); 24 July 1860, p. 2 (warrant)

[4] Wellington Independent, 17 May 1861, Page 2 – this says he should be removed from the list of electors as he was dead. NZ Births, Deaths and Marriages index records his age as 56.

[5] Henry and Mary Jones’ two youngest children, Susannah and Edward were born in the Hutt Valley (in 1852 and 1854, respectively).

[6] Joseph Irons, Early Masterton.

[7] Wellington Independent, 14 May 1861, Page 5.


Bagnall, A. G., 1954, Masterton’s first one hundred years

Bannister, Charles, 1940 Early history of the Wairarapa

Carle, C 1954 Pictorial history of Masterton 1854-1954

Carle, C 1950 Wairarapa Biographies (Norman Jones, p 16)

Cyclopaedia of New Zealand 1897-1908 edition (references to Henry and Edward Jones p 981)

Grocott, J Karori Methodism 1843-1946

“In pioneering times – experiences of Mr Henry Jones and his family” Wairarapa Times Age, 5 Oct 1949

Irons, Joseph Early Masterton

Jones, Henry (3 Oct 1894) Will – Wellington Lands & Deeds Office Register – 8/276

Kuripuni Methodist Church, Masterton – Kuripuni Story

Morley, William 1900 History of Methodism in New Zealand

Rogers, Amy (nee Jones) memoirs

Rogers, Amy – obituary Wairarapa Times Age midweek supplement Feb 15-21 1988

Short sketch of the life of Mr Henry Jones of Masterton by “Delta” (c1896, with a few later additions). A copy of this is in the Wairarapa Archive and is available online:

Ward, Louis 1928 Early Wellington (passenger list for London, p 106/7).

“When power meant muscles – veteran driver looks back” Wairarapa Times Age, 31 Jan 1963 (about Norman Jones).


2 thoughts on “Jones family of Masterton

  1. Hi Vivienne, I’ve read this with great interest. Charlotte Jones was my GG Grandmother. I believe she would have been the youngest daughter (born Wellington 1853) above Edward the youngest son, and I’m guessing in a packing box alongside Susannah on that bullock over the Rimutakas enroute to Masterton in 1856. What a wild adventure that must have been.

    My GG Grandparents are to the right of the family photo – Charlotte seated and George Henry Shute standing behind.

    Coincidentally my partner and I bought some land in the Wairarapa last year, and will be moving there over the next few months. I had no idea of the rich history of the Jones/Shute in the Wairarapa past my Grandfather (Gordon Francis Shute) being born In Masterton at the time. I anticipate there will be some reflective cemetery visiting now.

    Thanks for this wonderful account.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s