Edward Salter’s Journey

A brief notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 2nd January 1892 announced the death on 22ndOctober 1891 at St Albans, New Zealand, of 68 year old Edward Salter, formerly of Hook Norton.

Edward was born in September 1824 in Hook Norton, the sixth child of seven whose parents were Edward Salter and Esther Kirtland. Edward was a carpenter in the village and young Edward was to follow in his father’s footsteps. His parents are buried in St Peter’s churchyard in Hook Norton. 

In 1846 Edward married Mary Harwood, a 26 year old bonnet maker from Charlbury. As the reader will note Edward was 4 years younger than his bride. When the 1851 Census was taken the family was living in Hook Norton. In the five years since their wedding three children had been born. Maria in 1848, Ann Frances in 1849 and Charles Edward two years later. The household on Census night also comprised Jane Harrison a 14 year old from Charlbury whose occupation was listed as an improver. Her relation to the head of the household was niece. Completing the household was 17 year old William Fox, described as an apprentice, who also was born in the village.

By all accounts it would seem that the family were well settled in the village, Edward presumably having sufficient work to be able to employ an apprentice. In the years following the 1851 Census Mary gave birth to two more children, Walter b.1852 and Mary Ann b.1854. However, by 1858 the family had decided to emigrate to New Zealand and on 2nd August they sailed from Gravesend on the “Indiana” bound for Lyttelton in the south island of New Zealand near Christchurch.

The New Zealand Company was the original vehicle for promoting colonisation of New Zealand. However, in 1845 it encountered financial difficulties from which it never recovered and it was wound up in 1858. However, by 1854 the various provincial governments in the fledgling country had been given responsibility for immigration. By copying the defunct New Zealand Company they used agents to put positive spin on the colony and thus were able to offer free or assisted passages. Canterbury was the most ambitious province and attracted a fifth of all immigrants between 1858 and 1870. Two thirds of those were assisted with the Province paying half the fare and the immigrant or sponsor paying the balance. The passenger list for the “Indiana’s” voyage from Gravesend is available to view online and it can be noted that the total cost of the family’s passage was £76.10s. The family paid half with the provincial government paying the other half.

Captain McKirdy was the master of the “Indiana”, a barque of 852 tons which was built in Quebec in 1856 by Thomas C Lee. The ship was 160 feet long, with a 34 foot beam and drawing 21 feet of water. In 1857 it was sold to R Shankland & Co, a Greenock based shipping company. As far as can be ascertained its working life was spent sailing between the UK and Australia and New Zealand.

Life on board was hazardous, the journey to Lyttelton took 109 days. No Suez Canal in those days as it did not open until 1869. Needless to say there were several deaths as well as births during the voyage. One of the passengers kept a diary and included information about the health of his wife, Charlotte and their baby daughter. His entry for 26th August, three weeks out from Gravesend, says “we got her (Charlotte) up on deck in the afternoon. Not up long. Faints away. I carry her down and she faints twice, I stay with her. Take babe in with me and it is very ill at night.” From the passenger list I established that the diarist in all probability was James Jenkins a 30 year old carpenter from Pembrokeshire who was travelling with his 28 year old wife Charlotte, and their two year old son, James. There is no mention of the daughter on the manifest, however, she must have been around nine months old when they sailed. On 10th September he noted “(baby) grows weaker and at 5.02am she expires at the age of twelve months short of seven days. The Captain got a nice little coffin for her and she is buried at 11am, (about 100 miles west off the coast of Liberia).”

The Lyttelton Times of 24th November 1858 recorded the “Indiana’s” arrival the previous day at around 2pm. It reported that the ship brought “to our shores another large freight of immigrants. The class of immigrants appears rather above the average, and the list included a number of tradesmen, particularly carpenters, whose arrival will be grateful to the building trade.” It went on to provide a list of passengers. According to the manifest there were 317 on board, 248 of whom were adults.

Upon arrival the family settled in St Albans, which is now a suburb of modern day Christchurch. Edward made good use of his skills as a carpenter by setting up a business which also encompassed that of an undertaker. He was a regular attender at the local Wesleyan Church and in addition to being a member he was also a preacher. The Star newspaper of 22nd October 1891 carried an obituary of Edward. It noted that “his preaching has always met with great acceptance, and in consequence his services were very much sought after in the early days when there were no circuits”. During his time in New Zealand Edward had held numerous offices under the church and was always chosen as a delegate to the annual Conference and attended when he was able to do so.

Edward also carried on the business of general storekeeper in St Albans for several years before selling the business in 1876 and then retiring. After his retirement he undertook an active role in local government first as a councillor and then as mayor. In the mayoral elections of 1887 he defeated his rival by one vote. He was also a J.P.

When he died he left his widow, Mary, who survived him by three years and their three daughters all of whom were married. The two sons, Walter, a minister of the Wesleyan Church and Charles, a solicitor, also survived their father. Edward was buried at Papanui Cemetery, Christchurch.

Edward’s sons continued his involvement with the Wesleyan Church. Although Charles became a solicitor he was at one time the circuit steward of the St Albans Wesleyan Church. His younger brother, Walter was a minister.

Charles married twice, firstly to Louisa Biggs in 1874. They had 10 children. Louisa died, aged 41, in July 1890. Florence Deakin was Charles’ second wife. She was 21 years younger than him having been born in 1872. They married in 1892 and a daughter, Dorothy was born in 1898. Dorothy never married and died in 1977. Charles died, aged 72, in January 1923 while Florence survived him for a further 33 years dying aged 84 in 1956.

Walter, as previously mentioned, was a minister in the Wesleyan Church. Born in 1852, he married Annie Richards in February 1882 in Lawrence, Otago. Lawrence was Otago’s first gold rush town. The Otago gold rush began in the 1860s and at its peak the population was around 11,500. Today the population of Lawrence is about 500! Walter and Annie had seven children. The family moved over the years and by October 1892 had moved to Port Chalmers, a suburb of Dunedin.

During the course of his life as a minister Walter may have undertaken missionary work. The Lawrence newspaper, The Tuapeka Times carried a report on a talk he gave in October 1892 which described his time on Norfolk Island. Walter died at sea on 30th April 1920 aged 68 whilst returning to New Zealand on board the P&O ship “Orsova”. He and Annie had been returning from Bengal where they had been visiting a Mission. Cause of death was primarily toxaemia. The place of death was in the Indian Ocean about 800 miles SW of Jakarta. Annie died in 1934.

Edward and Mary Salter’s three daughters all adapted to life in New Zealand. Ann, the middle married Alfred Heslop who had been born in Durham in 1848. They were married in 1869. They had at least 5 children. Mary Ann, the youngest, married William Scott in 1875. William was a New Zealander by birth, in 1851, so his family may well have been one of the first to settle in the country. Mary Ann and William had at least 6 children.

Maria, the eldest daughter married Thomas Jones who was a widower 15 years her senior on New Year’s Day 1868 in St Albans, Christchurch. They had 9 children. In 1883 they moved to Auckland in the north island. Later they moved to Ellerslie another suburb of Auckland. When Thomas died in October 1911 the couple were living in the suburb of Herne Bay. During her years of widowhood Maria was known as Big Grandma despite the fact that she was tiny. One of her daughters, Alice, who was a widow lived with her. Florence, a single daughter, also lived with her from time to time. Gertrude another daughter was a dwarf and very sickly. She died aged 30. Maria lived until she was 86 dying on 20th March 1934. She had lived in New Zealand for 76 years and died of senility which she had had for 6 months. 

For a family who left Hook Norton, perhaps with some trepidation, for a life far across the world in a land some 12,000 miles away they all seemed to have made the most of it. Their descendants continue to live in New Zealand and are spread throughout both islands. 

I am extremely grateful to Heather Burney and Danny Creech for their contributions to this article. In addition I have made use of Papers Past, an online resource of New Zealand newspapers.