Thomas Edward Lawrence lived in Taranaki in New Zealand. He told his family that he had been born and brought up in Longford, Tasmania, but so far we have not been able to find any proof of his origins.
Tom married Mary Jane THOMPSON in Taranaki, NZ in 1891. They lived and farmed in Taranaki where they brought up six children.
Extracts from Lawrence book
James Thompson and Elizabeth McCance
Thomas Edward Lawrence and Mary Jane
My correct email address is the above, minus the'x' characters (I am sick of junk mail)
Glenys Lawrence, 26 Nov 2001
Please email me for any of my references. I am happy to receive any additions or corrections to my information.
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* generation 7
b. born about 1838 in County Down, Ireland.
d. 1912, 30 Jun, Auckland, New Zealand.
b. born about 1844 in County Down, Ireland.
d. 1904, 18 Jun, Manaia, New Zealand.
m. 1868, Jul 17, Christchurch, New Zealand
Children of James and Lizzie Thompson
|surname||given names||b. year||b. place||b. country||d. year||d. place||d. country|
|Thompson||Mary Jane||1869||Hurunui||New Zealand||1948||Stratford||New Zealand|
|Thompson||Eleanor||1871||Waitohi||New Zealand||1909||Stratford||New Zealand|
|Thompson||Sarah||1873||Waitohi||New Zealand||1941||Rangiora||New Zealand|
|Thompson||Wilhelmina||1876||Waitohi||New Zealand||1952||Palmerston North||New Zealand|
|Thompson||Elizabeth||1882||.||New Zealand||1940||.||New Zealand|
|Thompson||James||1885||Waipara||New Zealand||1934||Eltham||New Zealand|
|Thompson||Annie||1888||Waitohi Flat||New Zealand||1943||E. Lismore, N.S.W.||Australia|
Mary Jane married Tom Lawrence in 1891, and had six children.
Eleanor married William George Cousins in 1909 and died after the birth of her only child.
Sarah married James Lundy in 1901, and they had five children.
Wilhelmina married Frederick Wilson in 1899, and they had three children.
Elizabeth married Charles Edward Cousins in 1906, and they had five children.
James married Emily Letitia McKenzie in 1907, and they had four children.
Annie married Henry Edwin Kopp in Australia in 1911, and they had four children.
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Thomas Edward Lawrence
b. ? possibly born in Longford, Tasmania, to parents Thomas Lawrence and Anne McIntyre.
d. 1935, 28 Jul, Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand.
Mary Jane Thompson
b. 1869, 20 Apr, Hurunui, North Canterbury, New Zealand.
parents: James Thompson and Elizabeth McCance
d. 1948, 31 Jan, Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand.
m. 1891, Mar 28, Manaia, New Zealand
Children of Tom and Mary Lawrence
|surname||given names||b. year||b. place||b. country||d. year||d. place||d. country|
|Lawrence||Ada||1892||Manaia||New Zealand||1970||New Plymouth||New Zealand|
|Lawrence||May||1893||Manaia||New Zealand||1964||New Plymouth||New Zealand|
|Lawrence||Arthur Fred||1894||Manaia||New Zealand||1912||Toko||New Zealand|
|Lawrence||Charles Edward||1896||Manaia||New Zealand||1965||New Plymouth||New Zealand|
|Lawrence||Stella||1904||Toko||New Zealand||1937||Hawera||New Zealand|
|Lawrence||George Byron||1909||Toko||New Zealand||1983||Hastings||New Zealand|
Ada and Fred didn't marry.
May married Jack Wafer in 1924, and they had three children.
Fred died aged 18 when he was accidentally shot.
Charlie married Doris Davis in 1918, and they had five children.
Stella married Arch Davis (brother to Doris) in 1929, and they had one child. Stella died from tetanus after a sidecar accident.
George married Bessie Wellington in 1933, and they had two children.
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The following extracts are from a self-published book produced in 1997.
'The Lawrence Family at Gordon Road' by Glenys Lawrence
'But these are deeds which should not pass away,
And names that must not wither' (Byron)
One hundred years ago the Lawrence family settled at Gordon Road, on a farm of just under three hundred acres. Thomas Edward and Mary Jane Lawrence had four children then, Ada, May, Fred, and Charlie; Stella and George were born later, at the farm. The farm has changed greatly of course, and is a little larger now, but the old farmhouse remains, and the hills, and there is still a Thomas Edward Lawrence living there with flowing beard and a fondness for books, but Ted is more likely to jump out of an aeroplane than ride a horse. His great-grandfather set a trend, taken up by some of his male descendants, of not getting married too early, but despite this has managed to produce just over a hundred direct descendants.
To celebrate the centennial of the Lawrence arrival at Gordon Road I have tried to piece together some of the history of the Lawrence family and the farm. The story begins with Tom Lawrence, a Tasmanian mystery man, who emigrated to New Zealand and married Mary Jane Thompson, a daughter of Irish immigrants who had farmed in North Canterbury before moving to South Taranaki. Tom and Mary had a family of six children, three sons and three daughters. Ada didn't marry, and Fred was shot dead as a young man. May married Jack Wafer and had three children; Charlie married Doris Davis and had five children; Stella and Archibald Davis had one child, but she died when he was only seven; and George married Bessie Wellington and had a family of two sons. Stella's husband, Arch Davis, was a brother to Charlie's wife, Doris, and Arch's second wife, Ethel Wellington, was a sister to George's wife, Bessie Wellington. Only May's and Charlie's children went on to produce grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who are now multiplying at an alarming rate.
I have tried to tell the truth as I know it. I have asked and researched, but have been hampered by a deadline. It is inevitable more information will be revealed in the future, and I would be very grateful to be told of any mistakes I have made, or of any details I have missed.
All families have secrets, and there is probably no family around without some 'skeleton in the closet'. Our family has its share and some details remain unknown. My opinion is that we can understand the past better if secrets are told, particularly if the truth can no longer hurt, but I am not interested in unearthing secrets for the sake of scandal alone.
The ancestor at the beginning of this story remains a man of
mystery, ironic when one of the few things we do know about him
is that he disliked hypocrisy, and left home for the sake of exposing
a secret. Maybe his past remains secret because of another scandal,
but maybe it is simply a matter of my not having asked the right
questions at the right time.
Lawrence Arrival at Gordon Road
'My way is to begin with the beginning.' (Byron)
To find Gordon Road you must drive first to Stratford in Central Taranaki, where the streets are named after Shakespeare's characters and the clock tower is Elizabethan. Stratford has a river, the Patea, and a broad main street, Broadway, with a roundabout defining each end of the main shopping centre. Pause to check on the progress of Cliff Lawrence's trees, and to admire the mountain if you're lucky enough to see it out of the clouds, then turn east at the Northern roundabout and head for the hills. About five kilometres out of town you'll pass Kopuatama Cemetery, where you could find this tombstone, so crowded with words they run over onto the base:
'In memory of
Arthur Fred Lawrence
Who was shot at Toko
30th November 1912
Aged 18 years.
In memory of
Thomas Edward Lawrence
beloved husband of
Mary Jane Lawrence
Died 28th July 1935
in his 79th Year
Mary Jane Lawrence
Died 31st January 1948
in her 79th year'.
Drive on across the Kahouri Bridge, over Sangster's Hill, through the village of Toko, past Toko School. Watch carefully now. Immediately over the railway line is Gordon Road, and if you miss it you'll be heading out to Douglas and Whangamomona.
Gordon Road is narrow, a no-exit road, with hills crowding closer. Count the houses on the right; pass the first (on Kirby's farm) and the second. Some of the flat land on your right now is the Lawrence farm, which reaches into the hills behind. Around the next corner is the old Lawrence farmhouse on the right, opposite Ancell's, then the cowshed, and Ted and Alma Lawrence's house up the hill. Lawrences have lived and farmed continuously on this farm for the last one hundred years since it was first bought by Thomas Edward Lawrence in 1897.
Today the Lawrence farm is just seventeen kilometres by car east of Stratford, the nearest service centre, six and a half kilometres from Toko, the nearest pub and petrol station, and four kilometres from Toko School, the local primary school. The roads are good and sealed all the way, even to the end of Gordon Road. The farm looks green, grassy, and well-established with trees, two houses, several farm buildings and beautiful gardens. Even the steep hills are green with grass, and the friesian cows chew their cud contentedly.
One hundred years ago in 1897 the roads were poorly formed and often almost impassable with mud in winter. The farm was hilly and the small area of flat land was swampy. The land was possibly still covered with thick bush, although maybe some had already been cleared in the four years since the farm was first sold. Crown grants had not yet been issued to neighbouring farms and only the farms further towards the top of the road had recently been sold.
One hundred years ago Gordon Road was a bridle track through the bush. Transport was by horse or bullock cart. The railway was complete between New Plymouth and Wellington but the line east of Stratford had not yet been built. The nearest service centre was Toko, already a rapidly growing settlement by the early 1890's with two stores, two butchers, a baker, a post office, sawmill, school, hotel, billiard saloon and a creamery . Stratford had been growing rapidly and now had a population of over 1200.
It was to this farm on Gordon Road that Tom Lawrence brought his family in February 1897 - his wife Mary Jane and their four children, Ada, May, Fred, and Charlie. All the children were aged under five; the youngest was only four months old. The family had been farming at Skeet Road near Manaia in South Taranaki, but Tom Lawrence had leased that farm a few months earlier. We don't know why the family moved from a flat farm of 100 acres to 293 acres of probably bush-clad hills and swamp. Maybe Tom wanted a bigger farm, maybe he liked hills, maybe the land was considered better, maybe he wanted a new challenge. . . The Skeet Road lease agreement negotiated in 1896 included an option to buy the land at £9 per acre, but the Gordon Road farm cost £4 per acre, implying less developed or poorer quality land.
Today's Lawrence farm is made up of two sections, 17 and 18 in Block XVI of the Huiroa Survey District. Tom's original purchase of 293 acres (Section 17) was first bought from the crown by Christian Peter Johnson of Toko, a settler, on 13 June 1893 for £293, i.e. £1 an acre. Johnson, then aged 46, was born in Norway, and married Annie Downie (born in Scotland) in 1880 in Wellington. They lived in Hawkes Bay for several years, where their daughter Elizabeth Falconer Johnson was born in 1881. In 1899 she was to marry Julius De Silva, a jeweller from Ceylon, and their son Julius, known as Johnny Johnson, was to marry Thelma Wafer in 1946 - a marriage of two grandchildren of the first two owners of the Gordon Road farm.
We don't know for sure whether Johnson lived on the farm or developed the land in any way until he sold it four years later, but he seems to have had other interests so I don't think he could have spent a lot of time establishing a farm. We do know that Johnson was listed in the 1893 and 1894 electoral rolls as the hotel keeper in Toko, but by 1896 the hotel keeper was R. Campbell and Johnson appeared in the electoral rolls at both Toko and St Aubyn St in New Plymouth. Johnson negotiated a mortgage for £850 immediately before selling the farm on 23rd January 1897 to Thomas Edward Lawrence for a total of £1172, a sum of exactly £4 an acre. The transfer was registered on 4th February 1897. Of the £1172 paid, Lawrence seems to have taken over Johnson's £850 mortgage, and paid Johnson £322, for which he took out another mortgage of £100. Both these mortgages were discharged in 1901, and a new mortgage was begun, which was discharged sometime after 1904.
It would be very interesting to know the state of the farm when the Lawrences arrived. Certainly it had appreciated a great deal in the four years since Johnson had bought it, having quadrupled in price, but that appreciation could be partly due to increased land values. I am hesitant to speculate whether Johnson was speculating, or whether he had 'improved' the land during his ownership. I do know he had been busily taking out mortgages on the land, in 1893 when he bought it, in 1895 and 1896, and again in 1897 when he sold it. All these mortgages were discharged on 4th February 1897 when Lawrence became the legal owner.
It would also be good to know when the present (old) house was built, whether by Johnson or Lawrence, but the written records don't mention it and no one seems to know. I think it was probably built by Lawrence. We have a photo of the house, showing Tom and Mary standing on the verandah with their two sons, who look about eight and six years old. In the photo the garden is still undeveloped at the front but the size of the vegetation next to the house suggests it was no longer a brand new building. My guess is that the photo was taken about 1902, and the house was built about one year earlier. In 1901 Tom discharged his mortgages and negotiated a new one, and finally sold his Skeet Road farm - perhaps this was to organise his finances for a new house. If Lawrence did build the house around 1901, the family must have lived in a previous building until then, probably a much smaller building.
'It must have been very beautiful. I am glad to say that today it is still beautiful.' (Ted)
Where Did They Come From?
Although I have been unable to confirm any details of Tom Lawrence's first thirty years, we know he had been brought up in Tasmania, according to family legend. He was brought up or adopted by a doctor and lived in Longford. He was a Roman Catholic, but when a young priest got a girl pregnant he renounced the religion and left home with his brother. He was then about fourteen, and his brother was three years older. He walked from Melbourne to Sydney, working in shearing sheds, and on to New Zealand.
I don't know when Tom arrived in New Zealand, or where, but he would have travelled by ship. In the 1880s ships arrived frequently from Australian ports, and there was a direct service between Sydney and Wellington, as well as services linking other ports of both countries. In the 1880s most people and stock moving to South Taranaki came from the south, through Wanganui, rather than from the north through New Plymouth. Coastal shipping routes linked Wellington with both Wanganui and Patea, and with other ports around New Zealand.
The first written record I have found referring to T.E. Lawrence was his land purchase in South Taranaki when he was aged thirty. When he married in 1891 he stated he had lived in Manaia for four and a half years, suggesting he arrived there at the time he bought the farm.
In July 1886 Thomas Edward Lawrence bought a flat one hundred acre farm on Skeet Road near Manaia in South Taranaki (section 32 of Kaupokonui Survey District, Block XV) for £190, mortgage free. He was thirty years old. The farm had been owned for three years by Percival Reid, who had bought it from the crown for £210. The area around Skeet Road and Manaia, known as the Waimate Plains, had been surveyed in the early 1880s, so Lawrence was among the early settlers in the area.
Tom Lawrence lived for ten years at Skeet Road. He got married there, and his first three or four children were born there. The farm is at Kapuni on a bend of Skeet Road, between Rowan Road and Manaia Road, and about halfway between Kaponga and Manaia. It is currently owned by Mr and Mrs Vallender who bought it about twenty years ago from the Murphy family. An old dairy factory, once the Kapuni branch of the Kaupokonui Co-operative Dairy Factories, marks the border of the farm when Lawrence owned it - a small part of the farm was sold for the dairy factory in 1908.
It is possible that the Vallenders' house, about a hundred years old, was built by Tom Lawrence. Until recently Mr and Mrs Vallender ran a small nursery at the farm, which had been visited by keen gardeners and plants people Zelda Corner and Cliff Lawrence, unaware at the time that their ancestor and keen gardener Mary Jane Lawrence had started her married life there.
When I saw the house in September 1996 the garden was crammed with plants, full of beautiful spring flowers. A pet lamb was tethered to a garden fork, contentedly nibbling grass. The house is surrounded by tall trees, shelter from the salt winds with the coast only a few miles away. The land is very flat with many streams; it was probably very swampy.
Mrs Vallender kindly let us take photos, and told us a little about the house. Built of rimu, possibly from trees on the property, the wood is still solid, difficult now to hammer a nail in. Inside there are three bedrooms, a high stud and wood panelling half way up the walls. Maybe Mary Jane had developed a garden there but it was gone when the Vallenders arrived - the previous owner had pigs through the garden, and the only plants left standing were two old apple trees. The apples are old varieties, still very productive, one a 'Bismarck', good for both cooking and eating, and the other similar to a Cox's. Perhaps they were planted by Tom and Mary.
Skinner and Skeet, Surveyors
An early surveyor, W.H. Skinner, recorded his memories of the area. Sometime between 1880 and 1883, when about to survey the land immediately south of Stratford, he was instructed by his superior, Parris, to 'attempt to survey the Waimate Plains', together with Skeet. Skeet was stationed at Manaia under the sponsorship of Manaia Hukunui, described by Skinner as 'the leading chief of the district'. Skinner laid out foot and horse tracks at Oeo and Otakeho from the coast road, to connect with the Stratford to Opunake track, which was being cut through the forest by C.W. Hursthouse. Hursthouse's track is the present Stratford to Opunake road, and Skinner's tracks are the present Oeo and Auroa Roads. Meanwhile Skeet was cutting a track, the present Manaia Road, through the forest from Manaia to Hursthouse's track.
Having formed the tracks, Skinner then surveyed land for settlement
purposes, including the land which became Lawrence's Skeet Road
farm. Skinner expressed the opinion that
'This was the most promising area of forest country that I had encountered in Taranaki and it was my firm belief that a prosperous future awaited those settlers who were fortunate in securing a section within this area.'
Waimate Plains in 1886
In 1886 Hawera, at the junction of the coastal road through the Waimate Plains and the railway to New Plymouth, had become the most important large town in South Taranaki, with a population of 1026.
'The town of Hawera, or the City of the Plains, is a well built and apparently thriving young town. There are, I believe, eight hotels, four banks, and as many churches. All the buildings seem substantial, and the town is very compact... This place seems to be the camping ground for all the trains on the line and on Saturday there are nine trains through Hawera.'
In 1886 the nearest service centre to Skeet Road was Manaia, which had been growing rapidly since the first land sales in 1880. By March 1881 the census had listed one hundred and twenty people living on the Waimate Plains around Manaia, including some road makers, and fifty within the township, and in August that year the residents petitioned the Waimate Road Board for a school for the 210 children living within a ten mile radius of Manaia.
The railway had reached Hawera from New Plymouth in 1881 and
the line to Wellington was opened at the end of 1886. Ports at
Patea, Wanganui, and New Plymouth linked Taranaki to the rest
of New Zealand and the world. South Taranaki roads in 1886 were
busy with driven stock, settlers on foot or horseback, carriers
with drays and wagons, and regular coaches between Hawera and
New Plymouth. The Hawera Star's Kaupokonui correspondent
described some of the hazards of the roads towards the bush:
'Along the bush roads there are at present numerous rata trees which were burnt down some time ago, and there has been made no attempt to remove them. Settlers who use these roads cut a make-shift track around, and so the matter rests - and so do the trees. Strangers and even residents find it rather awkward, coming along in the dark, to be brought to a standstill by a forest giant.'
The same journalist described a further hazard to travel, particularly
'Along almost every road numbers of horses are kept tethered, and some with ropes long enough to stretch three or four times across the 16ft track.'
In The Bush
Skeet Road was a track through thick bush in 1886. A journalist, John Finlay, described a trip that year from Okaiawa on the edge of the bush, to look up an old friend, John Bentley, living on Skeet Road. A bush settler, W.A. Arnold, offered to show him the way and gave him dinner.
'Leaving Okaiawa and heading towards the standing timber, we soon found ourselves 'in the bush'. We were on the Ahipipi [Ahipaipa] road. . . Night coming on fast, it being about seven o'clock in the evening, we pushed on. A smart canter over a level and partially metalled road, and we were at the residence of Mr. Arnold... Our ablutions being hastily performed, we soon found ourselves in the kitchen, where the half-burned rata logs on the fire-place threw out a strong but to us pleasant heat... From the ceiling and around the walls hung, to settlers, the most profitable pictures - huge sides of bacon and ham.'
Finlay's record of his trip to Skeet Road includes further
descriptions of a typical settler's home of the time. At night
the fire was raked and large logs put on 'for in the bush the
fire is never allowed to go out'. Outside was a stack of timber
ready for a new dairy . On Sunday afternoon some of the local
settlers called in:
'The gentlemen talked of bushfelling, grass, beef, and fungus; while the ladies were dead on butter cheese and children.'
Possibly Tom Lawrence was one of these settlers - we have no
way of knowing, but he had bought his land in the same area just
a few months previously. Another journalist wrote of the large
number of bachelor farmers in the Kaupokonui Survey district,
'lonely looking little houses built by the roadside throughout the block, some with nice gardens'.
This journalist quoted one of the local bush settlers:
'I want a wife who can bear a hand on the cross-cut saw, look after the house, milk the cows, and pick fungus'.
It is tempting to wonder whether Tom Lawrence shared this view.
Squeezed in the Gateway
In 1886 Maori resistance to confiscation continued with occasional peaceful protests, involving ploughing of disputed land or sit-ins. Just a week before Tom Lawrence bought his farm at Skeet Road a riot occurred which became known as 'the battle of Hastie's farm'. At ten in the morning of Sunday the 18th July a group of Maori peacefully occupied a paddock on A.J. Hastie's farm , two miles south of Manaia. While trying to arrest the leaders a policeman was injured by 'being squeezed in the gateway'. Maori reinforcements included men, women and children, and scores of Pakeha settler volunteers arrived, many on horseback. Eventually nine men were arrested including the great warrior Titokowaru, now a frail old man, who was taken off in a buggy 'too weak to walk'.
Again, it is tempting to wonder whether Tom Lawrence took part in this 'battle'. He would almost certainly have been in Manaia at the time while he organised the purchase of his farm.
All Charred with the Flames
Tom Lawrence took up his farm on 26th July 1886. One of the first jobs to turn the thick bush into a productive farm was to build a simple dwelling - if Percival Reid lived on the farm during his three years of ownership he would probably have already done this.
'The selector, armed with billhook slasher and a heavy seven-pound axe cleared enough land to build a house. The felled area was ring-fenced to keep in a couple of cows and a half acre was grubbed with an adze to cut out the roots and form a vegetable garden. Fruit trees and gooseberries were planted. Meat, and sport, came from wild cattle, pigs, pigeons and eels. Homemade butter packed to the local storekeeper was credited against the cost of supplies.'
Possibly the clearance of the bush had been begun by Reid,
but Tom would have had to continue the development of the land.
Settlers began clearing the bush by cutting the underscrub, then
they felled the trees in winter, leaving them to dry off before
a late summer burn. A common practice was to cut only trees up
to five foot through, leaving the largest trees standing. A contractor
was often employed to fell the trees, at rates in 1889 of thirty
shillings an acre to cut all trees, or £1 (twenty shillings)
an acre to cut only those up to five foot in diameter.
'There they stand, all charred with the flames, in course of time the tops rotting and tumbling down.'
Stumps of larger trees were left and grass sown in the ash,
with the resulting grass seed crop sold for cash. The remaining
logs and stumps would be stacked together and burnt. Grass grew
after the burn, but by the second or third year the thistles become
so bad 'that cattle can hardly get through the forests that spring
up'. Makomako or corkwood was also quick to establish on the bush
'Settlers do not therefore obtain paddocks of grass without considerable labour and difficulty.'
As well as the sale of grass seed, most bush farms earned supplementary income from road making or bush felling on contract or from cutting roof shingles for sale. In South Taranaki a very important source of cash, and a comparatively easy one, was the sale of fungus (Auricularia polytricha). So important was the fungus in Taranaki in the 1870s and 1880s that it was known as 'Taranaki wool'. The fungus grew on fallen trees in autumn and was prized as a gourmet and medicinal food in China. A Chinese storekeeper, Chew Chong, paid about threepence a pound for the fungus, at a time when butter sold for fourpence a pound. Butter required considerable labour, whereas fungus just needed collection and drying and could be gathered easily by children. Fungus sometimes exceeded butter in annual export value and was still an important income earner in 1889, three years after Lawrence's arrival, although we do not know whether Tom ever sold fungus.
Every Farmer Looks To His Cows
The 1880s saw the establishment of the dairy factory system in New Zealand and the export trade in butter, and Taranaki became the leading dairying district for many years. Taranaki's first dairy factory had been opened at Lepperton in about 1883. Cheese factories opened at Opunake in 1885, and at Otakeho and Manaia in 1886. Chew Chong was an important figure in the South Taranaki dairy industry, opening three butter factories in 1887 including his Jubilee factory at Eltham. He had been buying or bartering nearly two tons a week of the settlers' butter, and exporting it to England and Australia, but often lost money through bad butter. Factories were the key to better quality.
'every farmer looks to his cows to yield him a return for his labour in the same way that in other districts farmers depend on wool, meat or grain growing.'
Tom Lawrence would have had dairy cows at Skeet Road, and sold or bartered butter. If he hadn't worked with cows before, he could get excellent advice from the weekly newspapers, with their detailed farming and gardening sections.
Tom Lawrence would certainly have owned a horse, essential for transport and labour. Horses were very important in Taranaki - in 1886 the province had New Zealand's highest horse to population ration, at 473 per 1,000. Saddle horses cost from £5 to £10, and were cheap to feed.
The Thompsons arrive
Almost two years after Tom Lawrence moved to Manaia a nearby farm running between Mangawhero and Rowan Roads was bought by James Thompson, a farmer from Waitohi, North Canterbury. In April 1888 James bought 359 acres in the Kaupokonui Survey District, sections 22 and 31 in block 14. He paid just over £2 an acre, and bought the land freehold.
When James bought this new farm his wife was several months pregnant with her seventh child, Annie. It seems likely that James would have moved to South Taranaki when he bought the property and Lizzie followed later with the children, after Annie's birth in June. Some written records give a clue - 'Intention to Marry' records give the length of time each party had been in the district. Mary Jane's Intention to Marry notice says she had lived in Manaia for two and a half years at the time of her marriage in March 1891, suggesting she arrived about September 1888.
When the Thompsons arrived in South Taranaki they had a family
of six girls, aged nineteen, seventeen, fourteen, twelve, and
a few months, and one boy aged six. Although now derelict, their
house still stands, a simple cottage next to a small stream, set
back from the road. It is found by turning down Rowan Road from
Skeet Road and is the first farm on the left next to the railway
line. The farm is now farmed by the Watt family.
By road the old Thompson and Lawrence farms are just under two kilometres apart. If the land had been cleared of trees Mary Jane and Tom may have been able to wave to each other from their verandahs.
'I have a passion for the name of Mary' (Byron)
James and Lizzie Thompson's eldest daughter, nineteen when she arrived in Taranaki, was to marry Tom Lawrence two and a half years later. Thomas Edward Lawrence, a thirty five year old bachelor farmer, and Mary Jane Thompson, aged twenty two, were married on 28th March 1891, in the Registry Office, Manaia, Taranaki. Mary Jane told her grandson, Ivan Davis, that after her wedding she rode her horse home and churned the butter.
Although he had bought the farm freehold, just six months before he got married Tom Lawrence took out a mortgage from the bank for £150. It is tempting to wonder whether the mortgage was to enable him to build a new house, perhaps one more suitable for raising a family. An 1883 guide for settlers described a simple two bedroom cottage with verandah, costing about £100, so it seems likely the £150 loan may have been to build a three bedroom cottage. The mortgage was discharged just under four years later in May 1894. A witness to the mortgage, declaring he personally knew Thomas Lawrence, was Michael Joseph Brennan, a journalist who later established the Opunake Times in 1894.
The Lawrence family grew quickly. Ada was eldest, born in 1892, the first Thompson grandchild and only four years younger than Annie Thompson, Mary Jane's youngest sister. May was born thirteen months later, Fred eighteen months after that, and then Charlie in just under two years more. Within five and a half years of marriage Mary had four children to care for under the age of five. As well as her work in the house and caring for the children, Mary was probably also expected to help with the dairying duties of milking and butter-making.
Tom was now aged forty, with three very young children and
another on the way. He had been ten years at Skeet Road when he
leased his farm to George Mudford for a term of seven years at
a yearly rental of £42.10.0. The lease agreement was several
pages long, even including detail of how Mudford was to deal with
'if planted any gorse hedges he shall properly trim the same before the month of September each year and shall yearly grub up and destroy before September any gorse plants on said land or on the roads adjacent.'
The lease agreement specified that Mudford was entitled to buy the land unencumbered at £9 an acre, but he eventually paid Lawrence £750 when he bought the farm in 1901, after leasing it for five years.
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