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Two Early Settlers

TWO EARLY SETTLERS IN CAMPBELLTOWN THE JOHN WALLACE KING’S, Father (1828 -1908) and Son (1863 - 1913) John Wallace King, a farmer’s son, born in Dunlop, Ayrshire and Elizabeth Walker of Dumbarton, who had married in New Kilpatrick on the outskirts of Glasgow on 30 Jul 1861 were amongst the earliest white settlers in the Bluff. They had set sail from Glasgow in June 1862, as assisted immigrants on the Robert Henderson, the first immigrant ship to land at the Bluff. On board with them was their new daughter, Jane.

The Robert Henderson was recognised amongst nautical men as a smart little ship, in contrast to the general run of vessels sent out to the colonies, with exceedingly spacious accommodation for her size. This voyage out, with no deaths or serious illness was as easy as her crew had come to expect of this ship, till they reached Foveaux Strait, where the wind was blowing so strongly against them, that it took the boat nearly three days with the help of a pilot to cover the last ten miles. Despite this, these 250 passengers made the voyage, Glasgow to the Bluff in 81 days. Many of the single men on board made haste for the new gold fields, but John, Elizabeth and baby Jane, stayed in Campbelltown, as Bluff was known, becoming among the earliest families living there. For John, who turned his hand to labouring, there was much work to be obtained in this newly developing area. By the end of 1863, a new wharf was being built, a road had been pushed through the swamps to Invercargill, and a rail link was started. Bluff, with its deep water port, became the most convenient point of entry for incoming miners as well as goods, bound for the Lake goldfields, and the population increased rapidly. John and Elizabeth obviously prospered and by the time the 1882 Freeholders survey was taken they had their own freehold home, worth $150, where they were raising their family of nine.

The King family obviously enjoyed the environment provided by Campbelltown, as the eight children who grew to adulthood and married all chose to continue living there.

John was 82 when he died in 1908, and the Southland Daily News noted that the flags of the port were flown at half mast as a token of respect for one of the “Old identities” of the town, and that amongst the many beautiful wreaths was one from his old friend, the Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward who had also lived in the Bluff from the 1860’s.

Family story has it, that my grandfather, John Wallace King was the first white boy born in Campbelltown on Dec 3 1863. (His was actually the third entry in the Birth Register, but I have no way of knowing if the first two registered, 2 weeks earlier, were Maori children) Like his father, he was also to spend his entire life in Campbelltown , attending school there, and starting work at the Bluff Freezing Works. In 1888, he married Janet Burgess, a Glasgow girl, who had been brought out to Southland by the Dunlop family to be their nanny.

John and Janet brought their own home in Slaney Street, just above the wharves and it was here they were to raise their six children. One of their daughters remembered the old Slaney Street home, as a place always full of visitors with her parents often entertaining and looking after sailors from visiting ships.

John was very much a community man, being on the Bluff School Committee, once his children started school, and in 1893 was elected to the Campbelltown Borough Council with his father’s friend, Joseph Ward. As well he was a Volunteer in the Bluff Naval Reserve and was one of the founders of the Awarua Lodge of Oddfellows. He was a keen bowler.

In 1897 John left the Freezing Works and joined the staff of John Mills (?) and Co. which was the largest stevedoring firm in the country at the time, acting as a customs, shipping and forwarding agent. He was quickly promoted as a customs, shipping and forwarding agent. He was quickly promoted to foreman. Later he was to transfer in a similar stevedoring position to the NZ Shipping Co.

Unfortunately John’s life was cut short by a shunting accident at the port, when he tripped whilst applying the brake to a wagon and was dragged under the axle. In this day and age it seems incredible that the doctor, to cope with the injuries he had sustained. Had to wait for the next train to Invercargill, to put the badly injured man aboard to send him to Kew Hospital. The injuries to his legs and the shock combined to his losing his fight for life, at the young age of 49, which his youngest daughter was only twelve.

His widow, Janet was to live on another 40 years, at first moving to Invercargill, but later living for many years in Dunedin with her youngest daughter, Hazel Kettle. She spent her last years in Auckland with her second daughter, Lillian Rollo and her family.

Written for a book published in 1998 “The Southland People” - not accepted.

This was kindly sent to me by Audrey Barney from Orewa.


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