Our Little Folks, Otago Witness, 1895.
This is the letter and portrait of my Great-great Uncle Jiggy (as he was known to the family), otherwise known as William Rosie Junior. (And yes, he was part-Maori). While in the Catlins earlier in the month, we discovered more of the history of my mother's family, the William Rosie's.
They settled in an area of the Catlins called Haldane - which was a thriving little community with two schools, of which my Great great Grandfather was a member of the board.
The New Zealand government offered settlement farms for pioneers willing to clear the bush and farm the land. My Great great Grandfather took one of these (block 3), and as you can tell from the letter above, tent-living was the norm until the land was cleared. The families willing to take the bush blocks were given a sack of wheat and 10 pounds.
We drove through Haldane (pronounced, Hardin) looking for the acreage belonging to my family back in those days (it was sold in 1906). You would never guess that it was once a busy community - all that is there now is an old schoolhouse and farm land stretching for miles. We did find the land that my family had though - this is what is there now.... an old hall which has been converted into a woolshed.
Looking at this place it is hard to picture the bush and the tent and all those children of 115 years ago. When it rained and the wind blew (and it does alot in the Catlins) it must have been pretty miserable in a tent. But the native birds would have been splendid and living with the hope of something better to come. What I love are the letters. They bring my ancestors alive. I heard alot about my Uncle Jiggy from my grandmother - the imprint of his personality lingers when the stories are forgotten. The memory of a fun-loving, well-loved member of a large and loving family. These letters and seeing where they lived make them real and it makes it seem like recent history.
And I adore 'dear Dot' from the Otago Witness newspaper. I found a treasure trove of letters written to her from all kinds of children and places across the South Island. I will do another posting on those some time.