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Terminus: Lives at the mouth of Te Auaunga (Oakley Creek


Part 1: The Flour Millers
Lisa J Truttman Updated 30 July 2012

The Oakley Creek is the longest waterway completely within the bounds of Auckland City, from its beginnings in the former swampy areas of Three Kings, Mt Roskill and Hillsborough west, via man-made drains through verdant playing fields. It winds a course through parts of Mt Albert, and forms the natural eastern boundary for Avondale and Waterview, including the much beloved waterfall and Oakley Creek walkway. Then, after cutting deeply into the seam between clay and the basalt lava flow from Owairaka, the waters pass through a stone culvert from 1901, and mingle with the tidal salt water from the Waitemata. Today (2012) to the north is the never-ceasing growl of traffic on the North-Western motorway. To the south, the northern-most part of the suburb of Waterview. Reserves, both restricted and publicaccess, line the banks. All this is expected to change, to varying extents, once the Waterview connection and tunnel for State Highway 20 is completed. It is this part of the long waterway which is the subject of this study. In the terms of legal descriptions and districts, it is bounded by five separate allotments within the old Parish of Titirangi: numbers 18 and the south-western part of 18A along the south bank, the rest of 18A, number 19 and number 20 along the north. Until Pt Chevalier amalgamated with Auckland City in 1921, and the Avondale district followed suit in 1927, this area was scarcely documented or monitored, except in terms of land ownership. On the border between early territorial authorities, the area’s topography seemed to prevent dense settlement, and so appeared to be good for only three things: the clay, the basalt, and the tidal channel by which clay, rock, and for a time wheat, flour and tanned hides, were conveyed from this largely unsung early light industrial area. Here is part of the story.

The Flour Millers

The original Crown Grant for both parts of Allotment 18A was held by a partnership of three: Andrew Rooney, along with two others by the names of John P Chandler and Erasmus Brereton, in 1849.1

Little is known about Chandler, and as for Brereton there is only the possibility that he was the same Mr. Brereton reported as starting up a saw-mill at the head of the Waitemata in 1843, 2 and by 1849 had formed another partnership and convinced the government of his land title there.

First Chandler, then Brereton, transferred their

share of title to Rooney in December 1857 and May 1858 respectively. 4 Nearly a year later Rooney transferred title to John Thomas senior for the property at Allotment 18A, along with the bed of the Oakley Creek up to high water mark from the top of an existing mill dam to the creek’s waterfall feature . 5 This water right wasn’t referred to in the original Crown Grant for 18A – Rooney presumably granted it from his holdings on the other side of the creek. By June 1855, Rooney had also purchased Allotments 31, 32 and 33 on the eastern banks of the Oakley Creek.,6 most of the site of the Auckland Mental Hospital farm and today’s Unitec.

John Thomas and the Star Mill (1859-1865)

The first documented reference to “Thomas’ mill” is in a letter to the editor of the New Zealander published 27 April 18617 presumably two years after the construction of the mill and dam. By coincidence Thomas’ mortgagor Andrew Rooney was involved with the beginnings of another flour mill in the region, one also close to the Waitemata Harbour – at Riverhead. Rooney is believed to have been Auckland’s first known shoemaker, originally from Belfast, who arrived in Auckland c.1841. According to the history of Riverhead, 8 he had three interests: acquiring land, owning horses, and running cattle. He was a keen freemason, and founder in 1842 of the Ara Lodge No. 348 I.C, and is said to have donated land in Pt Chevalier to Bishop Selwyn in the Point Chevalier Highway District. He was based in Chancery Street in the city from 1842-1845, then shifted his shoemaking premises to Queen Street from 1845. He ran unsuccessfully for the office of warden of the Hundred of Auckland in 1851, but

was successful in 1852 and 1853. He advertised a building for sale which was being used as a slaughterhouse in Freeman’s Bay in 1847, and advertised horses for sale on view at his Queen Street stables in 1848. 9

In 1849, he advertised a farm “of about 200 acres, 6 miles from Town, near the residence of W. Hart, Esq.”,

and just 6 days before the deed was signed between

him and John Thomas senior for Allotment 18A at Oakley’s Creek, “a delightful Country residence situate at Epsom, on the Auckland and Onehunga Road, belonging to and now occupied by Mr. A. Rooney”, was for tenancy or lease. 11

Six months after the deed with Thomas, Rooney entered into another partnership, this time with ex-NSW Commissariat Officer, John Sangster Macfarlane, and took control of John Brigham’s Waitemata Flour Mill at Riverhead in October 1859, bidding £410 in an enforced auction. They let the property to millers John Lamb and Alexander Adam Melvin. In 1861, Macfarlane’s place as co-owner with Rooney was taken by James Williamson. Rooney was to remain as co-owner only until 1866, when financial difficulties forced him to pass his interest to Williamson as well. Shortly after this, John Lamb obtained the freehold for the mill property at Riverhead. Rooney still owned a farm at Riverhead, however – the last known mention of him in Auckland’s newspapers comes from 1874, when he had an accident and was thrown by a young colt just passing the Whau Hotel on his way back to his Riverhead property. 12

The Star Mills at Oakley Creek would have faced direct competition from Low & Motion’s larger mill operation at Western Springs, and the Waitemata Flour Mill at Riverhead. While Rooney co-owned the freehold of the Waitemata Mill from 1859 to 1866, he held the mortgage over Thomas’ land at Oakley Creek from 1859 to February 1865.

Unless Rooney was confident that there was enough of a market to

have sustained both mills, this appears to have been a curious method of investment.

Adding to the coincidence, Rooney’s partner at Waitemata Mills, Macfarlane, was also connected with Thomas back at Oakley Creek, at least up to the beginning of 1864, when Thomas described J S Macfarlane & Co as being able to provide a

business surety for him in tendering for the ill-fated Auckland Provincial Lunatic Asylum brick contract. 14

John Thomas (1829-1865) arrived in Wellington on the Duke of Portland in February 1854.

Sometime between 1855 and 1859, he with his family made the move up to

Auckland. It is unknown whether he built the mill and mill dam – despite his father apparently being a master mason, there is no evidence seen to date indicating that John Thomas had the ability to construct a mill from scratch. He may, however, have had assistance from his younger brother, George. By February 1860, he was established as a miller at “Whau Bridge”. 16 (Whau Bridge was actually, at that time, a subdivision which is now part of the Avondale Racecourse, but in the period of the 1850s-1870s there were many names applied to the Whau district as a whole. The Star Mills was described as being at Whau Bridge, the Whau, Oakley’s Creek or Waterview, and all these would have been correct.) At the same time, there were two George Thomases listed, both millers, one at Barrack Street (today’s Lorne Street in the city), the other at Wellesley Street. 17

After the descriptive letter published in the New Zealander in April 1861, there is no further mention of John Thomas senior until 1864 when he decided to take the unusual step of becoming a brickmaker in January, and was an unsuccessful litigant in June.

The decision to turn brickmaker for what may have seemed certain income was made in the aftermath of the loss of around 14 tons of Adelaide wheat purchased from J S Macfarlane.

Thomas had for some time regularly used the services of Jeremiah

Casey and his 20-ton open cargo cutter Mount Albert to convey supplies of wheat to his mill at Oakley Creek before early November 1863. That year, the Waikato War began in earnest. Auckland’s fleet of small cargo boats were occupied with servicing the needs of the military, and the crews were called into part-time service (Casey testified at the hearing that he told Thomas “that had it been at any other time I would have gone myself; but I had been carrying a gun all night.”) With certainty of supply for the mill in question, Thomas was even at the point of deciding that he would build his own boat.

Thomas purchased the bags of wheat from Macfarlane – only to find out that Casey, his usual means of conveying the bags to his mill back at Oakley Creek, had two boats both already occupied with carrying coals to the troopship Himalaya, including the cutter preferred by Thomas, the Mount Albert. Outside the Waitemata Hotel, Thomas secured an offer from Casey to lend Thomas the use of the Mount Eden, an 18-tonner, if Thomas could find men on the wharf that day to crew her. This Thomas did – only to lose much of the valuable cargo to the waters of the harbour when a squall blew up close to the shoreline by Low & Motion’s property at Western Springs and swamped the Mount Eden, ultimately sinking her. Thomas did get as much of his cargo back as could be salvaged, but tried suing Casey for the total cost of the consignment, plus damages; he ended up losing the case heard before the Supreme Court in June the following year. It was a mix, the jury decided, of an unavoidable Act of God, plus the lack of a written contract between Thomas and Casey. I wouldn’t be surprised if Casey had refused to carry any more wheat for Thomas ever again.

By June 1864, however, Thomas had much more on his mind than the loss of a court case and the bags of wheat. Earlier that year, he had tendered for the contract to supply bricks for the new Auckland Provincial Lunatic Asylum.

It is uncertain

exactly where John Thomas had his brick yard, but some descriptions point to most of the bricks he supplied being made on the site of the new asylum building itself. Thomas submitted his tender for the supply of bricks on 5 January 1864

for the

price of £3 16/- per thousand bricks for a total of 900,000 to be produced over 7½ months. This was an amazingly bold step on his part, as he himself later said that he wasn’t in the trade before that point; he had no machinery, sheds or “the requisite apparatus for conducting the business”, only the clay. 22 He had made no contingency preparations for the oncoming winter of 1864 when he’d tendered, and relied heavily on exemptions from military duty for both himself and his foreman (the presence of his foreman seemed to have been pivotal to the numbers of men Thomas could employ for brick making.)

Thomas indeed thought that the fact that there was a

militia service call-up happening at the time he tendered for the work would be advantageous: “The militia were on service when I tendered. I thought the fact of their being on service would be an advantage to me as many would like to take employment, to escape militia duty,” according to Thomas’ later testimony before the Provincial Council. 24

Lacking any brick making equipment at all in early January, he wasn’t even able to submit samples of his bricks, which he was supposed to have done on tendering for the contract. In his tender, he asked to be “provided a little more time” for the delivery of the total number of bricks, “say two months.”

So from that point, he’d

planned to produce the 900,000 bricks over the course of nine months, not just over seven as specified in the tender documents. Thomas clearly thought that the extra two months had been agreed to,

using Graham’s letter confirming acceptance of his

tender on 11 January as proof. The next day, he advertised in the papers for a “brick burner” to apply to him at the Star Mills, Oakley’s Creek, or to C Arthur, Queen Street.

However, it is possible that Thomas did not properly check the

specifications of the contract he later signed on 20 January. The Superintendent could not have altered the terms of the tender without also cancelling the tender entirely and asking those who had already tendered along with Thomas (including Dr Daniel Pollen) to resubmit under the altered conditions. Also, the specifications called for the first delivery of 180,000 bricks in February 1864. Thomas, in his testimony, emphatically denied that the specifications were the ones to which he’d signed. Pollen himself expressed grave doubts, advising his fellow Provincial Councillors that in his opinion it was “a physical impossibility” for Thomas to “half perform the contract in the time specified.” 28

Even so, Thomas still had the backing of the influential merchant and trading firm J S Macfarlane & Co, and he also assured the Superintendent “J S Macfarlane & Co will become sureties if required.”

Two weeks later, the situation had changed

somewhat, with Thomas himself putting up half of the £1000 bond, while the rest was split between merchants Thomas Macky and Thomas Milne Machattie partner of Macfarlane’s).

(the latter a

Mr. Daldy a day later, in reply to a question from Mr. King in the Council’s session, said that the separate tendering of bricks, instead of treating the contract to build the asylum “as a whole”, was due to operations “being considerably facilitated by having the supply of bricks ready.” 32 (Daldy was apparently completely unaware that the successful tenderer was not only a novice, but starting absolutely just from clay, as it were.) They’d decided to try to secure brick supply before the final drawings were

completed. The tender for the building contract was advertised in late January-early February, with the Daily Southern Cross describing the colours of the bricks as per the design thus: “The outer walls will be of coloured bricks, and the building will depend for effect upon a combination of colours. The facing bricks are to be yellow, with red moulded brick dressings. A few of the centre bricks will be white.” 33 Thomas was unable to produce the yellow bricks at all. “Have you been able to supply a single yellow brick?” he asked Dr. Pollen during his petition hearing in March 1865. “I could hardly distinguish whether they were yellow or purple; they were not perfect yellow.” 34 James Wrigley the architect for the Asylum was to testify: “Those [bricks] supplied were not in accordance with the specification, inasmuch as I got no facing bricks. I got good red bricks, but no yellow ones.” 35

All round, it turned out to be a sorry tale of errors and serious misunderstandings. Thomas had ordered machinery from Vickery & Masefield, but they “were not bound to supply the machinery within a specified time.” 36 Once again, Thomas had counted on an agreement without a proper written contract with a supplier. He applied to “Fraser of Mechanic’s Bay”, 37 a foundry operated there by Fraser & Turner,


possibly borrowed machinery from there until his own was eventually supplied by Vickery & Masefield. (Incidentally, Fraser & Turner were also to be employed by the Provincial Council, manufacturing the girders for the new asylum later that year.) 39

And then, there was the matter of militia exemption. Low & Motion at Western Springs in December 1863 were quite wisely adding to their employment advertisements for millers that they required those who were exempt from military duties.

John Thomas didn’t seem to take up this example. Shortly after 5 January

1864, Thomas claimed he’d spoken to the Superintendent who told him to come to him, and “he’d make it all right”. Shortly after the bond agreement was signed (20 January), Thomas and his men were called up for duty, four days a week, in Auckland. His foreman had to serve in Otahuhu for a month. Thomas again appealed to the Superintendent, and was told to come back in February when the Exemption Board would be sitting. In February, the Superintendent informed Thomas he would not be applying for him, as he felt it was no use: other applications made by the Superintendent for other people had been turned down. 41

So, short-staffed, with borrowed or leased equipment, and no experience on Thomas’ part in the brick making business, he carried on. At the beginning of April, he advertised for more brickmakers and labourers, including 12-year-old to 15-year-old lads.

10,000-15,000 bricks were delivered in March, according to him; 40,000 in

April; 35,000 in May; then nothing until around August. In June, his time now likely to be wholly taken up with brickmaking and militia duty, Thomas advertised for a miller at the Star Mills. 250,000 bricks. justified.
44 43

By September, he claimed to have delivered only around

Pollen’s doubts of late January 1864 appeared to have been

In September, Thomas claimed he received “verbal notice that I had better give up the contract.”

The Southern Cross reported on 28 October that the brick making

contract had fallen through, and that work on the asylum had been at a standstill for the past month. “The supply now devolves upon Dr Pollen,” it was reported, “who is at present busily engaged in carting a superior material from his Whau and other yards, in order that no further delay may arise from this cause.”

There must have

been somewhat of a panic that this major project would be retarded further – and prove an embarrassment for the Provincial Council. After complaints from the builder, Henry White, Wrigley agreed to have Pollen supply the remaining bricks. Pollen’s involvement was agreed to so swiftly that no written contract was drawn up with him for supply.

When Thomas was paid for the bricks he supplied up to

September, he received only £289 9/- 8d. £497 10/- was held back, to pay for the increased costs of Pollen’s bricks, over and above the original contract with Thomas. At that point, MacHattie was informed, and in turn told Thomas, that the contract with Thomas was terminated. Again, there was nothing in writing. 48

MacHattie spoke to the architect and asked if he’d let Thomas supply the last of the bricks, as the equipment had by now arrived. 49 The architect agreed; and so Thomas, without a written contract and charging an increased cost, supplied over 200,000 more bricks up until late March 1865. The Weekly News on 11 February 1865 reported: “Much progress has been made in the construction of the new Lunatic Asylum. A plentiful supply of bricks has been obtained from Dr Pollen’s manufactory at the Whau, and the kilns on the spot, kept going by Mr. Thomas, the original contractor for the bricks, and since the supply has been equal to the demand, the contractor Mr.

Henry White has gone on rapidly with the building, and much of the lost time has by this means been made up.” However, Henry White wrote later to the Southern Cross stating that the supply wasn’t “equal to the demand” at all. 50

Thomas took his petition to the Provincial Council in late March 1865 to recover the money deducted the December before. Before Henry White could appear before the Council after repeated requests to do so, Thomas died on 5 April 1865 of dysentery. 51 The Provincial Council voted a week later to arrange to have the half of the sum deducted from Thomas’ contract payment the previous year invested and held in trust “for the benefit of the widow and children of the late John Thomas; interest to be paid quarterly.”

The Superintendent however did not feel it was his “duty to place on

the Additional Estimates the half sum deducted in consequence of the non-completion of Mr. Thomas’ contract.” In his message to the Council, Graham continued that he objected to the “desire expressed by the Council” because (a) he was satisfied that Thomas did not have even an equitable claim against the Province, and (b) that the £250 if returned “ought to be carried to the account of the Estate of the deceased for the benefit of his creditors.”

Whether this sum was ever actually paid to Jane

Thomas I have yet to determine.

It’s interesting to see that a sworn statement to the Supreme Court signed by his widow Jane in June 1865 is said to list among John Thomas’ assets: debts owed to the company of £400, brick making machinery £300, bricks £400, wheat and flour £450 and even a third share in a cargo boat £100 – but no listing for the Star Mill buildings themselves.

As Thomas had re-financed with Andrew Rooney in 1860, and again

with David Nathan in February 1865, it’s no wonder that the land he owned and the mill buildings were left off the list. Effectively, his milling business would have been heavily subsidising his brick making business when, I suspect, it was intended to have been the other way around.

If John Thomas had the manpower and the equipment, he might not have failed as he appeared to have done. We will never know for certain. But, today there still stands a recognised heritage building in Pt Chevalier partly made from bricks from one of Auckland’s briefest-operating brick making firms.

By the time of his death in April 1865,


his affairs were in a sorry state; debts were

owed to others and legal questions were raised as to his last will. Even his passing left debts that needed to be paid: Dr Aickin’s bill of £9 15/-; hiring 2 nurses for £5; the undertakers’ fee of £32 5/-; and the “mourning and refreshments” at his funeral, £27.56 At the time of Thomas’ death in April 1865, his widow declared to the Supreme Court that, amongst a list of assets held and valued was £450 in wheat and flour.

The brick making equipment was finally put up for sale at the Star Mill on

31 January 1867, consisting of the following: “54,000 Bricks, in Lots 1 Brick Mill with Die Barrows, Crowding and Bearing-off and Navvie Pallets, Shedding, Iron Shafting Remains of a Dam 1 Large Punt of 5 tons 1 Small Punt of 1 ton, Sails, Sculls 2 Breeding Pigs &c., &c., &c.” 58

Thomas’ initial mortgage from Rooney was £175 in 1859. This was paid by January 1860 and replaced by a much larger mortgage of £450 (this one including the mill and plant). This second Rooney mortgage was paid in full two years later in February 1865, and one was then taken out with David Nathan for £350. This one should have been paid in full by 1867 – instead, it was settled in mid 1870, once the property left its estate administration period. 59

It is uncertain if Jane Thomas was still living at the Star Mill during this period, but her son William was certainly close by, stating his occupation in November 1866 as a fisherman living at Oakley’s Creek, working with a Robert Simmons (later working as a tanner at the Gittos yard in 1869)

who was “living at Thomas’ mill, Whau.” 61

By then, the Thomas family member operating the mill was John’s younger brother, George.

George Thomas and the Star Mill (1865-1870)

According to family historian Trevor Price,

John Thomas’ widow Jane Thomas

made a statement to the Supreme Court on 25 April 1865, accompanied by Thomas’ last will (made out the day before he died of dysentery) and a statement of value of his estate, thought to be no more than £2,800. On 10 June Mrs. Thomas was given authority to administer the estate, provided two sureties were sworn. These two surety providers by 11 July were apparently Thomas MacHattie (who had backed John Thomas senior similarly during the ill-fated brickmaking venture), and Thomas’ younger brother George Thomas. The bond, signed by Mrs. Thomas, George Thomas and MacHattie was for £5,600, or three times the value of the estate as listed by Mrs. Thomas in June. This was a substantial sum for this period – and a considerable investment on the part of George Thomas (1837-1902). The large amount of the bond was likely to have at least reassured David Nathan of the repayment of his 1865 mortgage investment.

George Thomas was apparently working in the family flour mill as a miller back in Devon from at least the age of 13. He arrived in Wellington in 1855, just over a year after his brother, and by 1860 was residing at the Whau, where he was married. 63 His association with the Star Mill may therefore go back as far as John Thomas senior’s purchase from Rooney in 1859. However, he chose Ponsonby for his first land purchases, buying sections in Napier Street and Sheridan Street in 1860 and 1864 respectively.

It is possible that his Ponsonby purchases were land and rental

investments – if so, this could be the reason why he was able to sign surety for his share of the large bond on the Thomas estate by 1865. (However, his application for voting rights based on his Ponsonby holdings was objected to by the registrar on the grounds that he didn’t have the freehold there.) both in 1865 and 1869.
66 65

He was residing at the Star Mill

His first advertisement was in November 1866 as part of

one published by commission agent George Oughton at 41 Queen Street: “G O has also the pleasure of intimating that he has been appointed Sole Agent for Mr. George Thomas (Star Mills, Great North Road), for whose Flour, &c., he will be glad to receive orders.”

Then by August 1867, George Thomas struck out on his own:

“George Thomas of Star Mills Begs to intimate to the bakers and the public that he

has OPENED a FLOUR STORE opposite the Wheatsheaf. G T, being a practical Miller, will be able to guarantee a first-class article, and as cheap as any mill in town. N.B. – Mr G Oughton will cease to act as his agent from this date [14 August 1867]”68 The “Wheatsheaf” in the advertisement was the Wheatsheaf Inn, so Thomas had his store somewhere on the western side of Queen Street, between the old Market Square and Wellesley Street. The Civic Theatre and adjacent buildings occupy the site today. (I recall thinking, when I had tracked down the location of the Wheatsheaf, that Thomas, as a flour miller, couldn’t have chosen better than a location opposite a hotel by that name.)

During this time (December 1867), he also purchased a block of the Greytown township (present day Avondale Mainstreet) bounded by Great North Road, Layard, St Judes, and Crayford Streets. down in February 1869
70 69

He no doubt rebuilt the store there which burned

as by the 1870s he had the Morris Brothers as tenants at

that location. By July 1868 back in the city, he had changed the site of his flour store once again, taking the store “next to Messrs. Owen and Graham’s, near the Wharf, where he will have a consistent supply of good flour.” As well as flour, though, he was selling “about three tons of Fine-quality Mill-fed Bacon and Hams.”


February 1870, however, perhaps as a result of the expense of the Avondale fire, he was back to selling his flour through an agent, a seedsman named G H Lavers in Durham Street. Now, though, he was taking in gristing. 72

His nephew William Thomas and Thomas Barraclough, had meanwhile purchased the land in January 1870 from David Nathan under power of sale (William held a 2/3 share, Barraclough a 1/3 share, as tenants in common.

They immediately took out

another mortgage with Nathan.74 ) However, George Thomas’ first period as the operator of the Star Mill possibly came to an end by the middle of that year. In August 1870, a “valuable PROPERTY situated at the WHAU, at present let to Mr G Thomas MILLER”, a farm said to have been under cultivation, was put up for mortgagee sale.75 Sports were held at “Mr. Thomas’s Paddock”, near the Whau Hotel on Boxing Day 1870, May 1871. 1871,
78 76

and George Thomas was still a member of the Whau Hall committee in He was a trustee on the Whau Highway District Board as at 26 July


but from that point on he appears to have vanished from public life in the

Whau district.

A George Thomas is referred to as a mill manager at R R Hunt’s Ngaruawahia Mills as at 1874 when he was replaced as manager by the new owner, R S Lamb (of the Waitemata Flour Mills family). Hunt took over the mill there in October 1873.79 1874 was the year when George Thomas bought out the partnership of Barraclough and John Thomas the younger. Price has found, from NZ Post Archives and the Postal History Society, that George Thomas was a postmaster at the Whau from 1 April 1871 to 20 January 1872 (from the store at the Whau village), handing the job to William Morris (of Morris Bros, who ran the store on the corner of Great North Road and Crayford Street West), only to handed back the job by Morris on 1 April 1877. 80 George Thomas, therefore, was possibly in the Waikato from January 1872 until he returned in 1874. Then again, there may have been two George Thomases, both on the flourmilling trade, one at the Whau, the other at Ngaruawahia, and they may never have crossed paths. It is possible we may never know for sure.

Thomas Barraclough and the Star Mill (1867-1873)

Thomas Barraclough is an enigma. In terms of the history of the land close to the mouth of Oakley Creek, and that of the greater Whau District, he steps suddenly out onto the stage amid public admiration for his theatrical talents, becomes part of the weave of the local community for seven years – and then, leaving his wife but taking at least one child, he leaves New Zealand abruptly and with no explanation that survives to tell us why. Barraclough was originally from Holbeck, Leeds in Yorkshire, born 1832. 81 His first documented appearance in the story of the Thomas flour mill is in March 1867, as one of the Whau Amateur Minstrels fundraising for the building of a public hall for the district. He was a sure crowd-pleaser, being a combination of tenor, violinist and musical conductor, and obviously enjoyed performing before his local community, especially for charitable purposes; he and the Whau Minstrels, the group which first brought him to prominence in the newspaper reports of the time, were giving performances at the Lunatic Asylum by March 1868. 82

In August 1867, he married John Thomas’ widow Jane, and was described then as a

“machinist” in the newspaper notice of the marriage, a word used for a number of occupations in mid-Victorian colonial Auckland. His occupation at the time was also recorded elsewhere as “engine fitter”.

Where he worked before he married Jane is

uncertain. He may have worked either at the Gittos tannery in the district, seeing as he took a leading role in the Whau Minstrels which was made up mainly of workers from the tannery, or at Gittos’ bootmaking premises in the city. A “machinist” could just as well have been a description for someone handling some kind of machinery involved with the bootmaking process. The Thomas family historian Trevor Price noted that Barraclough operated an “Oakley Creek Store”. However, there appears to be no evidence to date of a store in the Oakley Creek / Waterview area at this time. The store may have been the one at Wellesley Street East, connected with Star Mills in June 1870, 84 or the term “store keeper” may have had some other meaning.

The marriage of Thomas Barraclough to Jane Thomas took place at the Newton home of one Rev. J Wallis on 29 August 1867. Rev. Wallis, appointed by the Session of St Andrews in Auckland to work in the upper part of Symonds Street (St David’s), was a bit of a character in his own right. He ran foul of the Presbyterian authorities for commencing evening services in the Temperance Hall in Newton in early 1867, but they accepted his explanation for a time that he only took such action at the request of those living there, and hadn’t intended forming a new charge -- in another minister’s parish. 85 Just over six weeks after he married Thomas Barraclough and Jane Thomas at his home, Rev. Dr. Wallis asked for sanction to erect a church on the site of the present St Benedict’s Church in Newton. The petition for sanction fell through, and Wallis resigned from his own charge in July 1868, advising the Presbytery that he had received a call from a congregation in Wanganui; 86 but two years later he was back in Auckland, building the Newton Kirk on the site overlooking the Symonds Street cemetery. There he established an independent congregation, outside of the Presbytery, called the Newton Independents. “A fair congregation gathered,” according to a history of the Presbytery of Auckland, “and a Sabbath school conducted by a capable band of teachers was well attended. Hymns were not used in the church services nor any instrumental music. One who attended the services as a boy has recollections of the singing led by a Mr Skinner, a Roman Catholic, an architect and a champion rifle shot, who faced the congregation and used a tuning fork to get the right pitch for his tunes.” 87 By 1877, however, the congregation Wallis

had attracted started to drift back to the main Presbyterian churches, and he entered politics, sitting as member for Auckland West into the 1880s and becoming known (ahead of his time) for his ardent support for women’s suffrage.

The local

Wellington press, however, at the time simply and dismissively referred to him as a windbag.

There is an intriguing possibility of connections between Barraclough and Rev. Wallis the Presbyterian rebel, especially as Wallis first struck out independently at the Newton Temperance Hall, while Barraclough was known as being the leading light of the Excelsior Lodge No. 37 of the Independent Order Good Templars, a Christian temperance group, in the Whau district from 1873. It would definitely seem, however, that Barraclough and his bride were married by a rebel Presbyterian.

According to the Mittens family history (the family of Charlotte Cutter, who Thomas Barraclough was later to leave the country with to live in Australia), there were at least two children born to Thomas Barraclough and Jane – Walter Noble Barraclough (born c.1867 but died shortly after) and Thomas Coates Barraclough born 1869. There may have been a third child in the early 1870s. 89 There certainly appears to have been an extra child accompanying Barraclough and Charlotte Cutter when they left Auckland in September 1874. 90

Barraclough’s name was listed on the Whau Assessment Roll for 1869 as the ratepayer for the mill site at Allotment 18A, (somewhat oddly only paying rates for 2 acres of land there, not 3 acres). Barraclough’s son Thomas was born “at Star Mills, Oakley’s Creek” on 14 January 1869.

Earlier he took part in the meeting of local

residents in October 1868 which elected the first Whau Highway District Board (at which George Thomas was elected) and which also set the first land rates for the new authority. 92

He was one of those who attended the first election of Whau Highway Board trustees in October that year, where George Thomas was elected to the Board and Barraclough commented that it would take a considerable amount of money to repair the area’s roads. He suggested at the same meeting that he thought it would be “a good thing to

form a miniature agricultural society in the district, and to give prizes to the growers of the best vegetables.” 93

From April 1869, Barraclough was prominent regarding the issue of provision of education in the district. He attended a public meeting at the Whau Hall concerning whether or not the district should be brought under the operation of the Common Schools Act (which meant a special rate imposed on all district ratepayers to go towards teachers’ salaries in the local school). He opposed bringing the district in under the Act, as did George Thomas.

By November that year, however, he had

been appointed collector of rates for the school district. 95

John and Jane Thomas’ son William married on 28 May 1870, and a month later was part of a partnership replacing the estate administration of his late father’s property. David Nathan sold the property, the 1865 mortgage in default, to both William and his step-father Thomas Barraclough for £240 and £120 respectively in June. The two partners immediately took out a mortgage with Nathan for £450, £90 more than the purchase price, secured over lands, buildings, machinery, tools of trade, goods, chattels and effects as listed:

“… 1 water wheel with driving shaft, drums, cogs, wheels etc; 2 pair 4ft 6” mill stones; 1 dressing machine; 1 smutting machine; hoisting gear and chain; 2 pair of trucks; 1 mill-proof weighing machine with 11 weights for same; all belting required for driving above machinery all fixed in good working order; all other machinery which may during the continuance of the security be fixed on the land.” 96

In June, “Messrs. Thomas & Barraclough” advertised they “are now prepared to receive WHEAT, MAIZE, BARLEY, &c., for GRISTING, either at their Produce Store, Wellesley-street East, or at the Star Mills, Oakley’s Creek, Great North Road, the only Grist Mill in Auckland.”

The Southern Cross congratulated the two on

supplying “a want much felt in many rural districts – the practice of gristing” which they said would encourage “the growth of cereals in the North”, Thomas hadn’t already introduced grist milling at Oakley Creek. as if George

In July 1870 William signed over half of his interest to his brother John Thomas.99 According to Price, William was a flour miller residing in the Waikato area from mid 1871 until late 1874. 100 Thomas & Barraclough meanwhile had secured G H Lavers as their agent in town “for gristing wheat, etc.”

In October 1870 Barraclough,

previously one of the auditors for the Whau Highway Board, was elected to the Board in place of Robert Chisholm who had been disqualified through rates arrears. was appointed to the Board in 1872 103 and again in 1873. 104 He

During this time, Barraclough may have become involved with a troop of volunteer cavalry called the Prince Alfred Light Horse. In the period after the Waikato Wars, a number of volunteer brigades sprang up, with the Prince Alfred Light Horse starting around early 1870. They mustered “in one of the large open spaces at the Whau for parade,” in April 1870,
106 105

and their headquarters was identified as Edgecombe’s

Hotel (the Great Northern, or Old Stone Jug on Great North Road in Western Springs) by May that year. The name Barraclough appears in newspaper reports of the

brigade by December 1870,

and as Sergeant-Major Barraclough by June 1871. 108

Two months later, two new recruits were admitted into the brigade, a John Thomas and William Thomas. One of the Thomases moved that meetings of the Brigade be alternated between Auckland and the Whau.

A further sign that Barraclough and

the Thomas family were involved with the brigade came with the organising, by the brigade, of “Whau Races and Sports”, at “Thomson’s paddock” near the Whau Hall;110 “Thomson” being a misprint for Thomas, as in George Thomas who owned the sizeable paddock between his store and the Public Hall at the time.

The site of the Thomas property at Oakley Creek had changed since 1865. William Thomas apparently had paddocks nearby as at April 1872.
112 111

His brother John and

Barraclough kept chickens; one of their pure white cochins won first prize at the NZ Agricultural Society’s Exhibition in 1872. At the time of the 8 January 1873 fire, the value of the building and machinery was estimated at £7000. 113 This suggests that there had been substantial improvements made to the property over the course of the previous decade, judging by the valuations made at the time of Mrs Thomas’ submissions to the Supreme Court. The mill was by then a five-storey structure, standing separate from the two houses, one a “small dwelling-house” possibly lived in by the Barracloughs and the other a “new cottage” where John Thomas and his

wife lived, plus outbuildings. The entire mill was destroyed, taking with it a portion of the waterwheel and all the machinery. 114 A further mortgage of £100 was taken out with Nathan by the Thomas brothers and Barraclough on 18 January 1873.

The replacement mill by June that year, “on a

more extended scale” was three storeys with a brick foundation. One wall, constructed from brick and scoria with a heart of kauri beam, supported the new wheel designed on the high-breast principle: 20 ft in diameter, 5 ft across the face. 116

Another chapter in Thomas Barraclough’s life began in late 1872, when Charlotte Cutter returned to Onehunga from New South Wales. She was born in 1847 at Cape Town, her mother African. She originally arrived in New Zealand with her parents in 1864, and lived at Onehunga where she married James Cutter in 1865. In 1867-1868, the couple moved to Australia with their young family, but Charlotte returned to Onehunga in 1872, pregnant and with one daughter. According to family history, a few months after her arrival, her father William Kendall was committed to the Auckland Provincial Lunatic Asylum. Her father was there for five months, but was re-committed in 1874 and died there 29 May 1875. 117 At some point, perhaps during her father’s initial five-month stay at the asylum or the later one, Thomas Barraclough may have performed there as he regularly did – and it may have therefore been at the asylum where Barraclough and Charlotte met.

In July 1874, William Thomas transferred his 1/3 share equally to his brother John and to Barraclough.

On the same day, the two partners took out a mortgage with

auctioneer George William Binney.

Either Barraclough and Thomas had financial

backing of some sort to be able to recover from a £7000 loss so quickly and rebuild – or they gambled on running a business in debt. In the end, it seems, they lost. Baraclough was still in the Whau district in January 1874, elected to a Whau Public Hall committee in that month

and reading “a very good sermon as “Brother

Barraclough” at an open night of the Excelsior Lodge in the Whau in February.

Barraclough’s commitment to the local temperance movement at this point was undisputed. “Mr Thomas Barraclough, D.R.W.G.T., writes in reply to the correspondent who took exception to his remarks at a Good Templar meeting held at the Whau. He says “He has got hold of my meaning by the wrong end, which by his

style of writing I should judge him capable of, or any other piece of absurdity. It was a Good Templars open meeting, and the language I used was to try and stir up those professing abstainers who make professing suffice, and are very lukewarm about putting their shoulder to the wheel to advance the cause of Good Templarism. However, your correspondent wishes to know what I meant by saying that we wanted only the lowest classes of society to join us—not my language, Mr Editor. I did say, and without prejudice would have been understood to say, that I, individually, would sooner see poor drunkards and other unfortunates join our society than a set of people, cold blooded as frogs; and, sir, I submit there is a class of cold, calculating, professing abstainers who refuse to join the Good Templar organisation, or who, by a great deal of persuasion, have joined and are merely drones in the hive. Individually I have no respect for these people—their own selfishness is sure protection for themselves, and they feel no sympathy for any other individuals. Not so the recovered drunkard he is truly grateful for his own escape, and is ever ready to lend a helping hand to a brother in distress."122

Both he and John Thomas were in the market to buy part of the Mt Albert and Whau districts’ wheat crop that March; 123 and Barraclough took part in an Excelsior Lodge concert at the Whau Hall in April. performed at the Whau Public Hall; dissolved from the 26 of that month.
th 124 125

Early in September 1874, Barraclough but his partnership with John Thomas


With an infant and three children, Charlotte

Cutter boarded the Victoria at the end of September 1874, bound for Sydney; on board also was a Mr. T Barraclough. 127

When Thomas Barraclough died in 1888, Charlotte’s son Percy by her marriage to James Cutter was the informant, and had noted on Barraclough’s death certificate that while his mother died under the name Barraclough, she had never married him, and that both Barraclough’s known sons by Jane and those children he had by Charlotte were illegitimate, as if his marriage to Jane Thomas had somehow ceased to have happened. 128

Back in Auckland, when Jane died in poverty at the Costley home in 1893, her death certificate was under the surname of Thomas.

A Jane Thomas made an application

for relief on 4 July 1889 to the Auckland Charitable Aid Board from her home in

Arney Street, Newton, listing relatives as liable for contribution a son William Thomas (labourer), John, and a daughter possibly with the surname of Hill, connected with Napier.

Jane Thomas’ daughter Elizabeth Hill was living in the Kaipara

District at the time, John Thomas was in Ashburton and William Thomas in Woodville, so that entry is uncertain. Another Jane Thomas of Wesleyan faith living in Union Street, born in England and residing in New Zealand 40 years, was admitted to Auckland Hospital on 11 December 1891 with dyspepsia and discharged again without improvement on 18 December, then readmitted 28 May 1892 with hemiplegia. After an 87 day stay, her condition on discharge was noted as “not improved.”
132 131

If this was the same Jane Thomas of Star Mills, the hemiplegia may

have been the reason why she was granted admittance at the Costley Home by March 1893 even though she was unable to work. After all, the chairman of the Costley

Home committee for much of the early 1890s was none other than John Bollard who would have known the Thomas family well from the Avondale district where he also lived and which he represented. It is unfortunate that Jane’s last years were to end thusly.

George Thomas again, the last of the Star Millers (1874-1876)

Returning from possibly being ousted from his manager’s position at Ngaruawahia, George Thomas was back in the Whau district by September 1874, paying £1300 for the land, the water right, and the mill and plant at Oakley Creek. This included the complete inventory of both houses on the property, including Jane and Thomas Barraclough’s chattels, and those of his nephew John Thomas.

He borrowed

money from George Binney to the tune of £1200, but the mortgage debt of £550 to Nathan still remained.

By October, George and his nephew John were back in business and putting advertisements in the newspapers.

George Thomas was also using his former

contact G H Lavers again as the central city location for orders.

By March 1876, however, it was all over. George Thomas transferred the property to Binney, in return for Binney paying all the outstanding debts, including Nathan’s

mortgage, 17 years.


and the Thomas family’s interest in Allotment 18A ceased after nearly

6G.372, LINZ records Southern Cross, 16 December 1843 3 New Zealander, 10 March 1849, p. 2 4 DI 7A.463, LINZ records 5 9D.389, LINZ records 6 DI A2.129, LINZ records 7 That by “J. C. Loch”, referring to passing over “Oakley’s Creek, with its sparkling waters high on either bank, and Thomas’ mill – for whose especial use its aqueous treasures have been hoarded up …” 8 Ian B Madden, Riverhead – The Kaipara Gateway, 1966, pp. 36-38 9 Auckland Provincial Index, Auckland Research Centre, APL 10 New Zealander, 21 April 1849, p. 1(3) 11 Southern Cross, 15 April 1859, p. 2 12 Southern Cross, 4 September 1874 13 DI 9A.935, LINZ records 14 Letter from Thomas to the Provincial Superintendent accompanying his tender, 5 January 1864. APC files, Special Collections, APL. 15 Price, 2001, p. 41 16 Jury List, Southern Cross, 7 February 1860, p. 4 17 ibid 18 NZ Herald 8 June 1864; Daily Southern Cross 8 June 1864, p. 3 19 Much of what follows has been previously published as “An Unfortunate Brickmaker” in the Avondale Historical Journal 20 Weekly News 11 February 1865, p. 6 21 Letter from John Thomas to Robert Graham, Superintendent of Auckland Province, NZ MSS 595 Sess 16 “Lunatic Asylum (New) Contract Bond for Bricks (Thomas) etc., Box 14, Folder 20, Special Collections 22 Thomas’ testimony before the Private Grievance Committee, 21 March 1865, JAPC Sess. 18, p. 125 23 ibid 24 ibid 25 Letter, 5 January 1864 26 Testimony, p. 124 27 Southern Cross, 12 January 1864 28 Daily Southern Cross, 28 January 1864, p. 4 29 Letter, 5 January 1864 30 Bond document, Special Collections. 31 Southern Cross, 17 October 1865, p. 1 is where a notice appeared for the dissolution of their partnership. 32 Daily Southern Cross, 22 January 1864 33 Daily Southern Cross, 25 January 1864 34 Testimony, p. 125 35 Testimony, p. 140 36 Testimony, p. 125 37 ibid 38 Local news report mentioning “Messrs Fraser & Turner’s foundry in Mechanics Bay, Daily Southern Cross, 28 April 1865, p. 4 39 Southern Cross, 2 January 1865, p. 5 40 Southern Cross, 8 December 1863, p. 1 41 Testimony, p. 124 42 Southern Cross, 9 April 1864, p. 1 43 Southern Cross, 1 June 1864, p. 1 44 Testimony, p. 124 45 ibid


Daily Southern Cross Testimony, p 140 48 Testimony, p. 124 49 ibid 50 Southern Cross, 10 February 1865, p. 5 51 Price, 2001, p. 51 52 JAPC, Sess 18, p. 181 53 JAPC, Sess 18, p. 210-211 54 Price, p. 52 55 Death notice, Southern Cross 6 April 1865, p. 4 56 Price, 2001, pp.51-52 57 Price, 2001, p. 52 58 Southern Cross, 29 January 1867, p. 2 59 ibid, pp. 45, 48 60 Heart of the Whau, 2003, p. 11 61 Coroner’s Inquest, Southern Cross, 23 November 1866, p. 5 62 ibid, pp. 51-52 63 Price, The Thomas Family of Devon and New Zealand, 1993 pp. 207-208 64 ibid, p, 210 65 Southern Cross, 13 May 1874, p. 6 66 Price 1993, p. 213 67 Southern Cross, 12 November 1866, p. 8 68 Southern Cross, 15 August 1867, p. 1 69 Price 1993, p. 214 70 Southern Cross, 6 February 1869, p. 3 71 Southern Cross, 21 July 1868 72 Southern Cross, 22 February 1870 73 Deed 41875, DI 9A.935, LINZ records 74 Deed 41576, ibid 75 Southern Cross, 8 August 1870, p. 2 76 Southern Cross, 22 December 1870, p. 1 77 Southern Cross, 24 May 1871, p. 1 78 Southern Cross, 26 July 1871, p.3 79 Waikato Times, 30 October 1873, p. 2 80 Price, 1993, p. 219 81 Marriage notice, NZ Herald, 16 September 1867; Mittens family history p. 44, via Robert Cutter, 17 February 2008 82 Southern Cross, 18 March 1867; 6 December 1867; 6 March 1868; 13 January 1869



Price, 2001, p. 51

Advertisement, Southern Cross, 21 June 1870 85 Southern Cross, 1 March 1867, p. 5 86 Southern Cross, 2 July 1868, p. 4 87 W J Comrie, The Presbytery of Auckland, 1939, p. 179 88 Evening Post, 9 August 1879, p. 2 89 Mittens family history p. 45, via Robert Cutter, 17 February 2008 90 NZ Herald, 1 October 1874, p. 2 91 NZ Herald, 16 January 1869

Southern Cross, 15 October 1868

Southern Cross, 15 October 1868, p. 3 94 Southern Cross, 1 April 1869, p. 4 95 Public Notice, Southern Cross, 26 November 1869, p. 1 96 Price, 2001, p. 69 97 Southern Cross, 21 June 1870 98 Southern Cross, 14 June 1870 99 24D.195, DI 9A.935, LINZ records 100 Price, 2001, p. 69 101 Advertisement, Southern Cross, 29 August 1870, p. 1 102 Southern Cross, 6 October 1870 p. 5 103 Southern Cross, 24 July 1872, p. 3

104 105

Auckland Gazette, p. 196 Southern Cross, 13 April 1870, p. 3 106 Southern Cross, 3 May 1870, p. 7 107 Southern Cross, 24 December 1870, p. 3 108 Southern Cross, 15 June 1871, p. 7 109 Southern Cross, 17 August 1871, p. 2 110 Southern Cross, 22 December 1871. p. 1 111 Public Notice, Southern Cross 22 April 1872, p. 1 112 Southern Cross, 27 November 1872, p. 3 113 NZ Herald, 9 January 1873 114 Southern Cross, 9 January 1873 115 13M.825, DI 9A.935, LINZ records 116 Southern Cross, 20 June 1873 117 Mittens family history pp. 44-45, via Robert Cutter, 17 February 2008 118 27D.684, DI 9A.935, LINZ records 119 18M.568, DI 9A.935, LINZ records 120 Southern Cross, 15 January 1874 121 Southern Cross, 23 February 1874 122 Auckland Star, 25 February 1874, p. 2 123 Southern Cross, 31 March 1874 124 Southern Cross, 8 April 1874, p. 3 125 Southern Cross, 11 September 1874 126 Public notice, NZ Herald, 29 September 1874 127 NZ Herald, 1 October 1874, p. 2 128 Mittens family history pp. 46, via Robert Cutter, 17 February 2008 129 Price, 2001, p. 54 130 Register of Applications of Relief, Charitable Aid Board, 1888-1894, YCAB 15245/1a, Archives New Zealand 131 A475/4, p 195 and p. 212, ZAAP 15288/1A, Archives New Zealand 132 Note re timber for beds, Costley Home committee minute book, p. 59, YCAB 1525/1a, Archives New Zealand 133 Price, 1993, pp. 217-218 134 Southern Cross, 1 October 1874 135 29D.944/945, DI 9A.935, LINZ records