New Zealand Wyeths - Section 1 Robert Wyeth 

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Robt Wyeth.jpg (31460 bytes)
Pre 1839 - The facts or the Fables

Robert's early life is shrouded by the clouds of time. Robert Wyeth was born on 14 October 1814 or so we are lead to believe. If we don't have a birth certificate and we don't really know who his father was we couldn’t be sure of his birth date. There are a number of stories that circulate round the family to account for how or why Robert came to be in New Zealand and what he did prior to coming.

The nicest of these is that Robert, born in Jamaica, was the adopted son of a very wealthy Jamaican Tea Planter. Robert was still young when his mother died and he was sent home to the care of his aunt and uncle in Suffolk ( or Middle Road, London). Later he became a steward on a cross-Channel packet. There is also a story that there is a vast fortune belonging to Robert arising from an estate there, now in chancery. But family members have tried to trace it without success. [1]

Family members who have researched the Jamaican/Caribbean connection have been unsuccessful. This in no way means that Robert was not born in the Caribbean, as the only source of information is Parish Registers and all of those have not survived. The only Wyeth found in the West Indies was a Miss Wyeth who died in British Guiana.

The second story is that Robert's father was an Englishman serving in the British forces in India who received a land grant upon retirement from the Army. His two sons were causing him considerable embarrassment and so he sent one to New Zealand, Robert, and the other to Tasmania.

The third and perhaps most colourful is that Robert and his brother were involved in the slave trade in the Northern Hemisphere and found it necessary to leave in a hurry, one coming to New Zealand and one to Australia.

These 'stories' could all fit together as parts of the truth or could be pieces of of the truth exagerated by a story teller to amuse his grandchildren on a wet winters afternoon.

The real problem with Robert is, what was his real name. In many instances his name is recorded in Official records as Wyeth however in the shipping list for the 'Cuba' Robert's surname is shown as "Wythe" but his signature when he signed the list was "Whyt".

Robert's father's name on his death certificate is recorded as Robert Wyeth. This may be totally correct, or it may be that Robert had talked of being named after his father or something similar and his children assumed that the surname was Wyeth.

1839 - England

What we do know is that in July 1839 Robert was in England and was engaged by the New Zealand Land Company, as a Labourer, to go to New Zealand as part of the Company's Survey party. The Surveyor General of the New Zealand Land Company, Captain William Mein Smith, who was a Captain in the Royal Artillery, led the party.

The Register of Applications for passage as assisted immigrants to New Zealand, dated July 1839, includes the entries shown: -


Charles Stichbury


1 Middle St Whitechapel London


Michael Lee


1 Middle St Whitechapel London


Robert Wythe

Timber Feller

1 Middle St Whitechapel London

Captain Mein Smith employed all three men as labourers on the survey gang and all three had similar occupations prior to signing up.

Number 1 Middle St, Whitechapel, was an Alehouse and had been one from as far back as 1124. It was demolished in 1849 and rebuilt as the "Hand and Shears" tavern. Arch Tankersley had a photo from Phil Sykes of the rebuilt Hotel. The three men applying for work and a passage to New Zealand presumably used this as an accommodation address, either that or it was used by the New Zealand Land Company for staff they had recruited awaiting passage. And so does not help us as to where Robert was living or what he was doing prior to coming to New Zealand.

1839 - To New Zealand

The Survey party, including Robert, came to New Zealand on the ship 'Cuba'. The ship arrived outside Port Nicholson on the 3rd of January 1840 and entered the Harbour on the 4th, coming ashore at Petone, then known as Britannia. Although the ship was in the harbour on the 4th Captain Mein-Smith's men continued to be victualled on board until the 31 January.

1840 - Petone

Colonel Wakefield had selected two areas for initial settlement in New Zealand a harbour settlement at Thorndon, in Port Nicholson, and a farming settlement at New Plymouth. However the 'Aurora', which arrived some 18 days after the 'Cuba' on 22 January, brought new instructions from London that he was to select a single settlement. As Thorndon lacked the easily accessible hinterland, necessary for farming, he settled on the Lower reaches of the Valley of the Hutt for the initial settlement.

The survey party started surveying the lower part of the Hutt Valley. There had been disagreements with the local Maoris in the Valley and Robert who was working as a chain man for the survey gang told stories of having worked pulling the chain in one hand and holding a rifle in the other in case of trouble.

The Petone Early Settlers Museum has a model of the lower reaches of the Hutt Valley as it would have been when our Forefather and later his bride to be arrived. The Museum also has the plaque made up of Settlers who arrived in Wellington prior to 31 January 1840 that includes the Names of Robert Wyeth and Jane Reynolds (Runnalls).

1840 - Jane's Arrival on board the Duke of Roxburgh

On the 8 of February 1840 Jane Reynolds along with her sister Sarah Poad and Sarah’s family arrived in Port Nicholson on the ship ‘Duke of Roxburgh.’ Jane Reynolds is of course Jane Runnalls #25. Jane was born on 6 December 1816, in Cornwall, England, occupation Seamstress daughter of William and Sarah Runnalls.

Settlement moves to Thorndon

The lower part of the Hutt Valley was crossed by a number of streams and proved to be swampy in many places. On the February 23 1840 it started to rain and continued non-stop for 4 days. The rainy period continued with some fine intervals until March 2 when the Hutt River broke its banks in a number of places and minor flooding of the new settlement resulted. Some settlers had up to 8 inches of water in their riverbank houses. On March 7 the ship 'Adelaide' arrived from England bringing several of the principal colonists and their families. After hearing of the fate of the Hutt residents and examining both sites the 'Adelaide' colonists, voted in favour of the Thorndon site for settlement and the surveying party moved to Thorndon. [2]

Robert and Jane's Wedding

Jane's marriage to Robert Wyeth is recorded in the Marriage register, ref 1840-54, Folio Book 2-61:  27 April. Wyeth Robert, Labourer, of London, and Jane Runells Daughter of William Runells, Parish of St Dominick, Cornwall.

And in the `NZ Gazette' newspaper edition No 11 published at Port Nicholson on Saturday Morning June 20 1840 records, under the heading


"By the Rev. Mr M`Farlane"

"April 27,Mr Robert Wyeth, formerly of London, to Jane, daughter of Mr William Runnalls, late of Cornwall."

The newspaper account does not state whether the wedding took place in Wellington or Petone. This was the 6th wedding recorded in the NZ Gazette List. At that time there were no jewellers from whom Robert could purchase a ring so he had to use some ingenuity and make one. This he did by making a hole through a golden guinea, no doubt crude, but as he recounted to later generations, he was proud of it, as no doubt was Jane

1840 - Willis St., Wellington

Robert would have first arrived in Wellington as part of the survey gang. At that time the Waterfront was in the vicinity of Lambton Quay and the buildings built on the seaward side of Willis St in the vicinity of Mercer Street backed on to the harbour.

Life in the new settlements had its share of adventures. After moving to Thorndon from the Valley of the Hutt as a result of the floods in early March the settlers were subjected to a number of minor earthquakes, an occurrence completely outside their experience. The story is told that a number of settlers experiencing their first earthquake rushed outside firing their rifles as they thought that natives were attacking them.

And then on 25 May 1840 settlers woke up to shouts of “Fire!” as 14 cottages in `Cornish Row', only recently erected for settlers from Cornwall, were totally destroyed. Fortunately there was no loss of life but the occupiers of the 14 dwellings lost all their possessions.

1841-42 - William Born

On the 27 of April 1841 Robert and Jane's first child William was born. William's full name was William George Runnalls Wyeth in later life he used the name George to the extent that his will was prepared in the name of George Wyeth.

After he left the Survey party Robert established a shop in Willis St. With no vehicular transport Robert carted his goods from the ship to his shop in a wheelbarrow. It was probably at this time that Robert had a shop on Warmoll's Corner (now the corner of Manners and Willis Sts),

For 7 or 8 months in late 1841, early 1842 Robert was in partnership with one John Canning, John Canning was a Cabinet Maker. It is likely that the partnership ran a Coffeehouse under the name Wyeth and Co. Canning moved "up North" after the partnership was dissolved three months later he was in Otaki.

In the New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator on the 23 March 1842 Mr John Wade an Auctioneer announced, that he would submit to public auction, on Saturday next, March 26, at his stores Te Aro a VALUABLE LEASEHOLD PROPERTY next door to the stores of Messrs. Wallace, White, and Wallace, now kept as a Coffee-house by Messrs. Wyeth and Co., with a very thriving business. This property taken for 10 yrs at 30 pd per year; part of which is sub-let for 31 pd 10s. per annum, leaving the original leaseholder RENT FREE The house is 32 feet by 24, weather boarded and shingled, and occupies a situation for business second to none in Wellington.[3]

From around the beginning of March Robert employed Johanna Connell as a live-in servant for the family. Over the next few months at least two other people boarded with the family. The house they were living in was the same building as the Coffeehouse. The house contained a Bar though it is not clear whether this was the Coffee-room or in addition to it.[4]

In April 1842 Robert added a further bedroom to his house for his wife, she was expecting their 2nd child at this time.

1842 - Trouble with the Law

On Tuesday the 19th of July 1842 Robert was charged with stealing a chicken of this offence he was found Not Guilty. On the following day Wednesday July 20 1842 Robert was charged with stealing five pieces of scantling and some blocks of wood. On this offence he was found guilty and sentenced to two months Hard Labour. This sentence was served in Wellington Gaol, Robert being confined on 19 July.

On 6 and 10 of August the Local newspaper carried an account of Robert's brush with the Law. (July 19 Account) (July 20 Account.) At the time he was living in the Willis St / Lambton Quay area. An interesting part of the Transcript is the Judge's charge to the jury, that 'all parties discharge, their several duties according to their oaths, however painful it might be to their feelings' and that 'the prisoner had received an excellent character from persons of credibility.'

An extract from the Return of prisoners confined in Gaol at Wellington, sentenced to hard labour for the months of July and September 1842, records the works that Robert and his fellow inmates were involved in during Robert's time in Gaol.[9]

1842 - Charles Born

Robert and Jane's second child, another son, Charles was born in Wellington on 18 September 1842. It is worth noting that if Robert served his full 2 months in Gaol from 19 July he would not have been released from gaol until the day after Charles was born.

February 1844 - River Hutt

In the List of prospective Jurors for the District of Wellington for 1844 Robert was shown as living at the "River Hutt” and his occupation was Sawyer[5].

1844 - Maria Born

Robert and Jane's third child Maria was born on 14 December 1844 in Wellington, so by this time in 1844 they had probably returned to Wellington. When Maria was baptised at St Paul's in Wellington on 23 March 1845 Robert's occupation was shown as farmer, Wellington.

1845-48 - Sarah Born

By February 1845 Robert was definitely back in Wellington, and was recorded in the District of Wellington roll of prospective Jurors. Robert had set up a General store; his abode was recorded as Lambton Quay [6]. His occupation as recorded in the electoral rolls continued as General Storekeeper until 1848,[7] when, it changed to Butcher. During this time their 4th child Sarah Jane was born on 4 February 1847, and baptised on 13 February 1847.

1848 - Major Earthquakes and a short Voyage

In October 1848 central New Zealand experienced a series of very severe earthquakes. The first quake was during a violent storm on the night of 15 October, the quake continued with frequent shocks for the next hour. But that wasn't the end, further major earthquakes were experienced on the 17th, 19th and 24th. This was too much for many of the settlers, as many as 40% of the dwellings in the infant settlement had lost their chimneys and suffered other damage.

A number of the settlers including the Wyeth and Sykes families decided to leave New Zealand, many for Australia and others home to England via Australia. The Wyeth and the Sykes families together with a number of others boarded the Barque `Subraon'.

Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint the 'Subraon' while leaving the harbour went aground in Chaffers Passage and was wrecked. There was no loss of life and the Wyeths like the majority of the other passengers took up permanent residence once again in Wellington.

On Saturday, March the 19th 1955, at a reunion of the descendants of Thomas and Margaret Wyeth, 86 year old George Robert Sykes, eldest son of Maria Ann, eldest daughter of Robert Wyeth recounted his memory of what he had been told by his Grandmother Sykes of their abortive trip back to England.

Grandmother Sykes, who was of a very religious temperament, brought up in a very strictly religious house in the old country said 'George,' when she was recounting it, 'this was ordained, we were not to leave New Zealand, we were to go onshore and start life again with patience and fortitude.' She said, “You remember that incident in the New Testament when Peter fleeing from the vengeance of the Romans heard a voice saying Wither goest thou. George I heard that voice 'Quo Vadis, Quo Vadis, whither goest thou.” So we returned to Wellington and with patience and fortitude we started again to fight our life in the new country'."

1849 - Thomas Born

Some five and a half months after their abortive attempt to leave New Zealand Robert and Jane's forth child, Thomas was born, on 6 March 1849, his place of birth being recorded as Willis St Wellington. Presumably the address of a Nursing home as the families address in the List of prospective jurors [8] for 1849 continued to be Lambton Quay. By this time Robert had changed the nature of his business once again and was now an Eating-house Keeper. Thomas was baptised at St Paul's on 6 April 1849.

Wellington to Upper Hutt

1850 - Mary Born

1850 found Robert and Jane still residing in Lambton Quay, and Robert in business as an Eating-house Keeper.[10] The following year on the 23 March, their fifth child a daughter who they called Mary was born. Mary was baptised on 2 May 1851 at St Paul's Pro-Cathedral Church Wellington. Unfortunately Mary only lived for 17 months dying on the 23 August 1852 and was buried on 25 August.

1851 - Land in Lower Hutt

On 12 May 1851 a Conveyance was registered Witnessing that in consideration of 3 pound 5 shillings paid by Robert Wyeth to William Thomas and in further consideration of 6 pounds paid to George Hart, Hart and Thomas conveyed to Robert Wyeth a small part of section 32 Lower Hutt. A Crown Grant confirmed Robert’s ownership on 18 January 1853 [12]. Robert's part of Section 32 was a residential section situated in what is now part of central Lower Hutt. Robert does not appear to have used this as a residence. On 15 November 1852, Jane's brother-in-law Thomas Poad was given a Crown Grant of a further part of the same section. Robert sold his interest in the property on 20 November 1855 for 40 pounds to Charles Hunt Baker of the Hutt District.

1851 - Farm Land at Silver Stream

In consideration of the sum of eighty pounds paid by Robert Wyeth to Salvatore Cemino on the 2nd of October 1851 Salvatore Cemino and James Taine transferred to Robert Wyeth the residuary 50 acres, more or less, of section 81 Hutt District. The other 50 acres of section 81 having been transferred to George Sykes by deed dated 14 November 1849 [13] . The land was situated just north of the Taitai (now Taita) gorge in the district known as Silver Stream. Section 81 covers an area of land running from just north of the site that for many years was occupied by Silverstream Hospital to County Lane on the North side of the Silverstream straight. Robert's 50 acres was nearest to the Gorge and incorporated the present site of the Silver Stream Railway. On August 15, 1853, Crown Grant confirmed Robert’s ownership of the land.


In 1852 Robert was still living in Lambton Quay his occupation had reverted to `Storekeeper' an occupation he had followed up to 1847. [14]

1853 - Son Born

On 22 April 1853 Jane gave birth to their sixth Child, a baby boy but the occasion was not a happy one as the child only lived for 30 hours. The cause of his death is not recorded.

The 1853 and 1854 Electoral Rolls for the City of Wellington [15]both record Robert's abode as Lambton Quay, Occupation Storekeeper, Qualification Household Lambton Quay District. The District of Wellington list of prospective jurors for 1858 also records Robert's address at that time as Lambton Quay. 1854 was the last year Robert was to appear on the Wellington City rolls.

From 1853 Robert also appeared on the Hutt District Electoral roll, still within the District of Wellington, as Abode Lambton Quay, occupation Storekeeper, qualification Household Hutt District which would tend to suggest he had a home in both Lambton Quay and the Hutt but moved his family to Upper Hutt in 1854.

Robert's appearance in the Hutt District Electoral role [16] continued up until 1877 with a slight change in 1865 when they changed the form of the roll to show qualification household, Property situation and description Hutt District, House.

1854 - Joseph Born

On 25 Jun 1854 Robert and Jane's 8th child Joseph was born. Joseph was baptised at Christ’s Church Taita on 3 December 1854.

1855 saw a second major earthquake in Wellington. The major effect that this would have had on the family was that passage from Wellington to the Hutt Valley was much easier after the quake.

1856 - Elizabeth Born

On 17 Sep 1856 Robert and Jane's 9th child Elizabeth Ann was born in the Hutt. Elizabeth was baptised at Christ’s Church Taita on 12 October 1856, Phillippa Poad daughter of Jane's sister Sarah was Sponsor. Robert's occupation at the time was recorded as Innkeeper of Upper Hutt. In a deed of mortgage dated 6 December '56 over his Silver stream property Robert's occupation was given as Licensed Vitualler. Robert was around this time the proprietor of the Barley Mow Inn.

1857 - Fencing Act Proclamation

On 26 October 1857 a group of "Electors, Land Owners and Occupiers" wrote a letter to Isaac Featherston, Superintendent of the Province of Wellington expressing their concern at the effect the provisions would have on the less affluent landowners.

1858 - Serious Flood

At around 5’o’clock in the morning of Monday the 18th January 1858, Robert Wyeth was standing outside the Barley Mow Inn, at Silver Stream talking to Charles Hartley. The two of them were looking at the Hutt River, which as a result of the heavy rains in the foothills on the previous day had risen considerably, and discussing whether or not the cattle would be in danger from the floodwaters. Robert was at this time the Proprietor of the Barley Mow Inn. (Charles Hartley’s Statement.)

The river continued to rise rapidly, and by 8’O’clock had overflowed its banks in the vicinity of Silver Stream surrounding and inundating a number of houses. As the rain continued to fall incessantly during the day, the water rose to an alarming height. A number of families, who resided in the area, were forced to clamber on to the roofs of their houses. The current being strong around them their escape was cut off and as the waters continued to rise the houses of three families Hagan, Sollars and Stanaway were washed away.

Thomas Wyeth, who was 8 years old at the time of the flood, had very vivid recollections of the event. At the age of 84 he was interviewed for his golden wedding anniversary, and gave the following account of their survival. [17]

Built on high piles, and protected to some extent by a huge tree, which was washed down in the flood and lodged just above the house, acting as a groyne, the two-story homestead of the Wyeths withstood the onslaught of the water, but the Wyeth family went through a harrowing experience."

The scene of this tragedy just above the old Haywards Railway Bridge continued to be susceptible to flooding for the next hundred years until stop banks were constructed and a lot of work undertaken to straighten and lower the channel of the river. On the occasion of this flood, Thomas recorded that; the road had been covered to a depth of 11 feet. The bodies of the 13 who died were buried in the cemetery at Christ’s Church Taita [18] . (A transcription of the newspaper accounts of the Flood.) (Coroners Court Inquisition)

The final episode in the tragedy did not occur until just under 9 months later when the remains of Sarah Stanaway were found where they had been deposited by the flood. The only means of identifying Sarah was from the remains of a blue skirt part of her clothing found nearby. The task of making the identification fell to Robert's daughter Maria who would have been 13 at the time and had known Sarah.

Stokes Valley

"Robert lost his all in the flood, he had retired to rest that evening a comparatively rich man, only to awake in the morning absolutely ruined [19] ." Granny Sykes' account of the move `We wouldn't go back to that flood ridden area at Silver Stream.'

The Sykes family when they left Silverstream moved to the land on the right hand side of the Stokes Valley road right at the entrance to the valley. The Wyeths were further along the road, in a glade beside the river, though at this stage we do not know the exact location.

The Wyeth family removed to Stokes Valley after this flood.

"So Sykes brought a house just at the corner of Stokes Valley and the Main Road. And Wyeth brought a house just about a mile further on adjacent to the river and surrounded by about 20 or 30 acres of land" [20]

On 18 October 1858 Robert Wyeth, Licensed Vitualler raised a mortgage to cover an advance of 237 pounds against his property in Silver stream.

1858 - John Born

On 31 December 1858 Robert and Jane's 10 th child John was born in Stokes Valley.

1859 - Silverstream Land sold

On 3 Nov 1859 the land at Silver Stream (Sec 81) was sold to George Crawford for 310 pounds

Stokes Valley

1860 - Licensed Vitualler

On 9 February 1860 Robert signed an instrument in respect of the property at Silver stream. He was recorded therein as being "of Upper Hutt Valley Licensed Vitualler.

Robt Wyeth Family.jpg (217651 bytes)
     L to R Rear Thomas, George, John, Charles.
Front Sarah, Elizabeth, Robert, Mary, Maria.
1861 - Mary Ellen Born

On 6 December 1861 Jane gave birth to their 11th child Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen was born at Stokes Valley, though at the time of her Baptism, at Christs Church Taita, on 19 December 1861 Robert's residence and occupation were recorded as Upper Valley, Settler. Whether Upper Valley in this case referred to the Stokes Valley or, as was more normal, the Hutt Valley north of Taita Gorge is unknown.

Two days later on the Sunday evening about 10 pm Robert was going from Wellington to see his wife and new baby when he walked over a 15 to 18 foot bank and broke his thigh.  The following account is from the local newspaper.

Serious Accident. — As Mr. George Spackman was passing the first Hutt Gorge yesterday morning, his attention was arrested by a man calling out to him. On proceeding to the spot. he found Mr.Robert Wyeth in. a helpless state, having his thigh broken and unable to move. It appears that Mr. Wyeth was going from town to see his wife and family, who were residing in the Upper Valley. On Sunday night last, about 10 o'clock, the road being very narrow and bad, and his sight defective, as he was passing through the gorge, be walked fairly over tbe bank, and fell a distance of from 15 to 18 feet amongst the rocks. He remained there from that time, until he was discovered by Mr. Spackman. Mr. Spackmau then went to Stokes' Valley to obtain assistance, and returned immediately; and after arranging for his being conveyed home, hurried off to Dr. Boor's. Mr. Spackman being summoned as a Juror, was compelled to come into Town, .Mrs.. Wyeth was confined the same day as the accident. [33]

Where Robert and Jane were living at this time is a mystery on the Wyeth reunion tape George Robert Sykes is fairly clear that after the flood they moved to Stokes Valley. A history of the Taita Hotel [21] by George Kaye records that the forerunner of the Taita Hotel was the Barley Mow Inn, established in the 1850s. It changed its name in 1893 to become Taita Hotel. George also notes that a "mow" is a stack. While Robert definitely was the proprietor of the Barley Mow in 1858 the Taita Hotel location is to far south to fit the account in the Coroners Court so it may be that the Barley Mow was moved after the flood. Across the road from where the Taita Hotel now stands was the Traveller's Rest a name that also appears in the accounts of the 1858 Floods but not in a way that would suggest they were neighbours.

On 17 April 1862 an agreement for the purchase of 153 acres at the mouth of Stokes Valley by George Sykes was signed. This being the same George Sykes who had been on board the ill-fated Subroan with the Wyeths and had subsequently lived next door to the Wyeths at Silver Stream. The land was purchased from Hart Udy and included Section 195 and part of Section 65, lying to the North of the Road into the Valley.

While living at Stokes Valley the Family attended Christs Church at Taita. Christs Church was part of the parish of St James River Hutt. The church records record the baptisms and marriages of a number of Robert and Jane’s children and Jane's nieces and nephews. [22]

1864 - Son Born

On 6 March 1864 Jane gave birth to their 12th child. The baby, a boy, only survived for 29 hours at which stage he succumbed to convulsions which proved fatal. This was Jane's last baby.

Robert in 1865 appeared in the Wises directory as a Storekeeper in Lambton Quay. This continued until 1877.

1865 - New Year's Sports Day

The start of Tom Wyeth's running career. A two day event in Martin's paddock, opposite where the Panama Hotel now stands in Taranaki St Wellington. The, under 16, 220 yards race was won easily by Thomas Wyeth. On the second day he entered and won a further two races. His brother Charles was already well known as a distance runner.

1865 - Maria Married

The 8th of October 1865 was a day for great celebration, and perhaps a little sadness, the first of the children to marry Maria, aged 20, Robert and Jane's eldest daughter, was married, at St James Church, River Hutt, to Issac Sykes age 22, Carrier, Batchelor of that Parish. Issac was son of George and Jane Sykes. The families having been friends for a number of years the marriage was no doubt no surprise. Issac, the eldest child of George and Jane, was born in the Hutt in 1843 his parents having come to New Zealand with Georges brother William and his wife Elizabeth, who was Jane's sister, on the barque Bolton, arriving at Petone on 20 April 1840.

1866 - 1st Grandchild

Robert and Jane's first grandchild Annie daughter of Maria and Isaac Sykes was born. Annie was born on 19 August 1866. The occasion was not all happiness as by year end the baby had died and was buried in the churchyard of Christs church Taita.

1866 - Sarah Married

On the 23 November 1866 another time for celebration Sarah is married to Walter Harris 5th child of Abraham and Sophia Harris. Walter was born 1837 in Broomfield, Essex and came to New Zealand with his family on the barque Bolton, the same ship as the Sykes, arriving at Petone on 20 April 1840. The Harris family had lived in Taita since that time.

The Wyeth boys were by now established teamsters having 2 wagon teams one of which Joseph used on a regular basis carrying timber to Wellington.

1867 - 2nd Grandchild

On 1 February 1867 Sarah gave birth to a son Edward George Harris. Perhaps a little early but after the problems with Annie in the previous year no doubt a time of joy.

Charles & Thomas worked together on the Telegraph line over Wellington to Masterton.

On 18 November 1867 Maria again gave birth, this time a boy to be named George Robert was born. This is the George Sykes who became a member of parliament and, nearly eighty years later (19 March 1955), at a reunion of the Masterton Wyeths recorded a tape of history of Wyeths.

Property at Silverstream

On 12 December 1867 Charles purchased property at Silverstream. The property part of Sec 97 was on the corner of Great Eastern Road and the main road. It is this property that is said to be the cause of Charles making a hurried departure to Southland two or three years later when he upset a number of the locals.

1870 -

On 10 June 1870 Phoebe Annie Elizabeth Sunnex who had been a servant in the Wyeth home gave birth to a son Frank Edward James Sunnex. The fun started when it was discovered not only that son Joseph was Franks father but that he was going to marry Phoebe.

1871 - Bush accident and a death

Tom Wyeth's running career was doing well when, in 1871, he was injured in bush-felling accident which put an end to any future aspirations he may have had in the athletics arena.

The 15 April 1871 was an unhappy day for the Wyeth family and their friends Isaac Sykes Jane's husband, had an accident with a wagon while crossing the Hutt river and drowned as a result.

The Wises directory for 1872 records Robert as a storekeeper in Stokes Valley. It was in this year that the Vogel Government started work on the railway line over Rimutakas. The line took 6 years to complete and both Thomas and George Sykes were employed for a time to help clearing the route for the line. During this time the two boys were also involved in squaring the timber for Haywards Rail bridge across the Hutt River.

To Masterton

1873 - To Masterton

By 16 July1873 Robert had opened a general store in Masterton, and was advertising for business. [23] took the opportunity to see a little more of the country and followed his brother Charles to Invercargill.

His letters home must have been enthusiastic as he was soon followed by Walter Harris. The group worked on roads in Invercargill cutting trees and pit sawing timber. They also caused locals some consternation when one of them blackened his skin with boot polish dressed up as a Maori and staged an attack up the main street.

1873 - Charles married

On the 12 May 1873 Charles now firmly established in Southland married Elizabeth Ann Shirreffs the marriage taking place at the home of the brides parents, Joseph and Mary Shirreffs, in Longbush. The couple continued to live in the south and purchased a property in Woodlands in 1876, on which Charles developed a prize winning market garden. In the 1898 Gore Winter Show Charles won 8 first, 6 second and 3 third prizes for his vegetables. Fifty two years later, when they died within a few months of each other, the property was left to their daughter Rose who had looked after them in their latter years. Rose sold the property to her brother Thomas who carried on working the land.

1873 - Joseph married

On 8 August 1873 Joseph married Phoebe Sunnex at the house of Robert Clarke of Taita, Robert was Phoebe's brother-in-law, they initially lived in Stokes Valley but by 1875 were living in Upper Hutt where they remained. The resultant rift between Joseph and the family was to remain for the remainder of their lives.

1874 - Southland Children

In 1874 on 30 June Charles' bride of 13 months gave birth to a baby girl Mary Jane (Pollie) born in Woodlands. Pollie was followed up a further 13 months later by Joseph and then by a regular succession of baby girls and boys until there were 12 in all. All babies born healthy, all marrying and having a family, and apart from Lucy who died aged 39 all surviving into their late 60s or older. In a time when a very high proportion of children died in infancy to produce a family with an average life span of 78 years was no mean feat. They breed them tough in Southland.

1876 - Elizabeth marries

On 23 July 1876 at the age 19 Elizabeth married Samuel Edinborough Chamberlain. Samuel was born in Northland yes; mso-ansi-language: , Wellington where his family had a dairy farm in 1849. Samuel was the youngest son of Sussannah Catherine (nee Bull) and Thomas Chamberlain. Thomas Chamberlain had been successful obtaining sections for himself and his 5 sons on the Upper Plain, Masterton under the "Small farms Settlement Scheme." The family moved to Masterton in 1858 when the Dairy farm was sold. Samuel's father died just one year later in 1859.

1878 - Maria remarries

When Robert and Jane came over from the Hutt, some of the family came too. One who joined the parents was Maria Ann, their eldest daughter, the widow of Isaac Sykes, with two small children, George aged eight and Isaac, six. Maria Ann was still only 30, neat and nimble, she brought with her the proceeds of the sale of the farm. Not surprisingly, in 1878 she married again. The bridegroom was Orlando Gorringe, bachelor, aged 45, butcher of Masterton with 170 acres freehold on the Opaki. The marriage was held on 10 March at the home of her sister Sarah, now Mrs Walter Harris. They moved to a farm at the Fernridge. Alas, Orlando died from a heart attack on 11 December 1888, leaving Maria Ann a widow for the second time and with a second family of a daughter, Ada Jane, aged nine and a son, Henry Horace, aged three.

1878 - George a storekeeper in Upper Hutt

From 1876 George (William George Runnalls Wyeth) was on the Hutt electoral roll with the qualification of having leasehold residential house and ¼ acre Land on Section 1191878. The Wises directory for 1878 recorded him as a storekeeper in Upper Hutt [24] By 1881 he had followed the family across the divide and was in Greytown working as a clerk. From 1882 he is shown on the Wairarapa Roll as Kuripunui storekeeper

1879 - Diptheria strikes

Elizabeth and Samuel had moved to Miki Miki some 9 miles out of Masterton and were farming a property there. Their first two children Robert and Jane were both born there. Robert was born on 29 September 1877 and Jane on 13 June 1879. When Robert was just turned two both he and Jane contracted diphtheria. In both cases it proved fatal, Nellie (Jane) dying on 5 November and Robert 22 days later on 27 November 1879. Jane was less than 5 months old.

Robert was adverted in the local paper on 3 Jul 1879 as a Seedsman in Masterton. [25].

Robt Wyeth Shop.jpg (139750 bytes)
1880 Robert Storekeeper in Masterton [26]

3 Jan 1881 W.D page 4 Col 4 Advert

27 Jan 1881 Son John opens new business in Masterton as a bootmaker

1882 - Diptheria strikes again

15 February 1882 diphtheria strikes again this time in Joseph's family 5year old Thomas Earnest buried Taita

1883 - Thomas marries

17 Jan 1883 Thomas m Rachael at Miki Miki

1884 - John a bootmaker Samuel Chamberlain dies

1884 John Bootmaker and Robert Storekeeper Masterton [27]

1 March 1884 while visiting his parents Samuel Edinborough Chamberlain, husband of Elizabeth suffers a ruptured appendix and dies to be buried in Masterton Cemetery with his two young children who had died just 4 years earlier

1886 John Bootmaker and Robert Storekeeper in Masterton and Joseph a Carpenter in Upper Hutt. George now also in Masterton shown as a storekeeper in Masterton and living in Kuripuni [28]

1886 - Jane's death

On 30 July 1886 Jane passed away aged 69. [29]

"On the 30th, at Masterton, Jane the beloved wife of Robert, in her 70th year [30] ."

Tombstone Inscription “In loving Memory of Jane Wyeth died 30 July 1886 in her 70th year ‘safe in the arms of Jesus’ ”

1888 Annie Wyeth born 26 June died 27 June premature birth 6 hrs

1889 - John Married

1889 John marries Sarah Wareham.

1890 - Another grandchild and a robbery

On 14 May 1890 Robert and Jane's youngest child Mary gave birth to her first child Aileen Maybird Murray.

A cash-box containing .£3O in cheques, notes, and silver was stolen on Monday evening from the premises of Mr. Robert Wyeth, storekeeper. The police are making enquiries, but so far no clue to the thief has beem obtained.

1894 Robert retired - Sale of stock by Auction. General Merchant of Masterton. [31]

1896 - Two little boys drowned and George marries

A bad start for a year the little Harris boys Reuben and Walter aged 7 and 9 drown while while playing on New Years Day, 1 January 1896.

On 14 June 1896 in the Theatre Royal, Masterton Robert and Jane's oldest son George married Mary Horsfall. George, aged 55, was the last of Robert's children to marry.

1897 - Fractured Thigh

In 1897 Robert, who was by then 83 years of age, was living with his daughter Mary Ellen and her husband John Murray. On Sunday afternoon the 28 March 1897 while visiting his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Alexander McLeod at their home in Upper Opaki Robert fell and fractured his thigh. Robert who was very stout, and his sticks happening to slip, fell very heavily, fracturing his thigh bone. Only Elizabeth was at home at the time, and it was late in the evening by the time Dr Hosking and John Murray arrived. Dr Hosking set the fracture but concern was expressed that "it would go hard" with Robert due to his age [32]


Phoebe Annie died buried St John's churchyard

A lucky escape for Robert at nearly ninety years of age, narrowly escaped suffocation last evening owing to a room ocoupied by him catching- fire. His voice was too feeble to call for assistance, and he was considerably burnt about the extremities and sustained a seriousshock. His predicament was only accidentally discovered.

Robt WyethMemorial Card.jpg (179878 bytes)
1903 - Robert died

Robert died on Wednesday 15 July 1903, just under 10 years after he retired aged 89. Notwithstanding his age he had enjoyed good health until shortly before his death and had only been confined to bed for a fortnight before his death.

Robert's funeral was held on Friday afternoon leaving from John Murray's home in Church Street Masterton at 2’O'clock for St Matthew's Church, where the service was conducted by the Rev. Wyndham Earee. Robert was buried in the same plot as his wife in Masterton Cemetery. 

Robert buried a wife, 2 baby sons and an infant daughter, two son in laws and most recently a daughter in law, and several  grandchildren. He was survived by 4 sons and 4 daughters many grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Tombstone Inscription “also Robert Wyeth beloved husband of the above died at Masterton 15 July 1903 aged 89. Arrived New Zealand by the ship Cuba 1839. ‘United Again.’ ”

1990 Reunion

Some eighty six and a half years later more than 200 of the descendants of Robert and Jane gathered at their grave-side as part of a family reunion to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Robert and Jane's arrival in New Zealand. A plaque was attached to the gravestone to mark the occasion.


[1]Source Phil Sykes. Phil's father attempted unsuccessfully to locate the Estate. Phil has included an account of Robert’s life in “Free Passage” published by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists in their book “Our Lesser Stars”

[2]Source 'Adventure in New Zealand' by Edward Jerningham Wakefield.

[3]The New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator Wed March 23 1842

[4] Source County Court Proceedings

[5]NZ Gazette and Wellington Spectator - 14/2/1844.

[6]NZ Spectator and Cook's Straits Guardian 8/2/1845

[7]NZ Spectator and Cook's Straits Guardian. List of Persons Qualified to serve as Jurors for The District of Wellington for the year 1847. List issued 10/2/1847.

NZ government Gazette (Province of New Munster) List of Persons Qualified to serve as Jurors for District of Port Nicholson for 1848 dated 18/2/1848

[8]NZ Government Gazette (Province of New Munster) List of Personas qualified to serve as Jurors for District of Port Nicholson for 1849 dated 8/2/1849.

[9]See also Police Magistrates Report for Sep 1842 as background.

[10]NZ Government Gazette (Province of New Munster) List of Persons Qualified to serve as Jurors for the District of Wellington for the year 1850 published 4/2/1850

[12]Land Commissioners Report No 267(Archives Reference LS-W 68/3) deals with Claim No410 filed by Robt Wyeth Dated Dec 31. The Land Claimed was 50 acres more or less part of section 81 Upper Hutt and 3/4 of acre part of section 32 Lower Hutt.

[13]Land Commissioners Report No 267(Archives Reference LS-W 68/3) deals with Claim No410 filed by Robt Wyeth Dated Dec 31. The Land Claimed was 50 acres more or less part of section 81 Upper Hutt and 3/4 of acre part of section 32 Lower Hutt.

[14]NZ Government Gazette (Province of New Munster) List of Persons Qualified to serve as Jurors for the District of Wellington 1852 published 11/2/1852

[15]NZ Government Gazette(Province of Wellington) Electoral Rolls for Province of Wellington, City of Wellington; Hutt District. 1853-54 published 16 July 1853, 1854-55 roll published 28/8/1854.

[16]District of Hutt Electoral Rolls including Robert as "Household,Hutt" in NZ Government Gazette(Province of Wellington)

1854-55 E.Roll Gazetted 28/8/1854

1855-56 E.Roll Missing at Nat.A1856-57 E.Roll Gazatted 22/7/1856

1857-58 E.Roll Gazetted 23/7/1857

1858 E.Roll Gazetted 24/7/1858

{17]Published in The Dominion January 26 1933.

[18]The dead as recorded in the Coroner's inquest records are:-

Inquest 20/1/1858 Charlotte Hagan and Infant son;Sarah Price;Charles and Mary Ann Sollars and child; Fanny and Jane Stanaway:

Inquest 21/1/1858 Sarah Stanaway:

Inquest 27/1/1858 Thomas Stanaway and Richard his son:

Inquest 30/1/1858 Eliza Stanaway

Inquest 8/10/1858 Sarah Stanaway remains identified from clothing found with skeleton.

[19] Source George Sykes tape

[20]Source George Sykes Tape

[21]Part 6 in a look at the History of Taita from author and historian George Kaye published in the Hutt News, Tuesday, September 10, 1991. George lives at 27 Hume St., Hutt City, ph 569-6136.

[22]The records of this parish are now held at the Alexander Turnbull Library in the Manuscript Section

[23]Source Obituary The Wairarapa Age Thursday July 16 1903

[24]Source Wises 1878 NZ Directory

[25].Wairarapa Daily Times Advert 3/7/1879 page1 Col7

[26]Source Wises 1880 Directory

[27]Source Wises 1883-4 NZ Directory

[28]Source Wises 1885-6 NZ Directory

[29]The certified entry of Death No 1232/1886/45 shows. Wyeth Jane aged 69 years; Buried 2/8/1886 Masterton Church of England; Married Wellington, aged 23 to Robert Wyeth;

[30]Wairarapa Daily 31/7/1886 Page2 Col 3

[31]Wairarapa Daily Times 15/8/1894 Page 2 Col 7

[32]Wairarapa Daily Times 29/3/1897 page 2 Col 6;Wairarapa Sparkler Mon 29/3/1897 Page 2 Col 7 and 9, and Tues 30th Page 2 Col 6 and 8.

[33]Papers Past - Wellington Independent 10 Dec 1861