TE Crosse Biography


T.E. Crosse, known as Tom, was born at Patangata, Hawkes Bay, in May 1855, the eldest son and second child of Charles Grant Crosse, born 1828 at Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, and of Elizabeth nee Thorby, born 1832 at Bishop’s Stortford, Sussex; England. Charles came to New Zealand in 1852 after serving as a cadet in the Merchant Navy on the England to China run, and Elizabeth came out with her family in 1842 and lived for some time in the bush at Karori where her father owned a store, I believe. According to some accounts she became fluent in Maori at that time, but one of T.E.’s memoirs states that none of his parents’ party spoke any Maori in 1855. At the time of his birth they were on their way to take up a Maori lease at Porangahau, a property known as Mangamaire. Again accounts differ on the details of that journey. One version has the party walking from Napier along the beach to the Tukituki River, whence they were taken by canoe to Patangata, but T.E. himself states that they went by water, presumably by sea, to the mouth of the Ngaruaroro [Ngaruroro], then round the beach to the Tukituki, guided by Maori, who spoke no English, and so up river to Patangata. At this stage his sister Elizabeth was about 18 months old. His mother’s recollections, recorded in a newspaper interview some 70 years later, are a little confusing about that. The family spent some time at Patangata, and T.E. writes warmly of the kindness and hospitality of the Maori both on land and water during the journey and subsequently after they settled at Porangahau. He realtes [relates] that from Patangata they travelled on foot to Pourere [Pourerere] via Kairakau, then along the beach to Porangahau, staying at pahs on the way. Some of the stays must have been quite lengthy, since at one pah the old chief became fond of the baby and offered to buy him for 1000 acres of land. the story goes that T.E. was about 7 months old, cutting his first tooth, and the chief informed Elizabeth that in the old days children of that age made the sweetest eating. T.E.’s memoirs claim that he could never understand why his mother didn’t accept the deal!

When the family reached Porangahau, always with Maori help, the Maori built them a whare, which was damaged by a large flood a few weeks later. This is at odds with a tradition that all their belongings were swept away by a flood the very night on which they reached Mangamaire. Anyway, the Maori came to the rescue, gave them a bed and helped to make the whare habitable again.

Tom’s first recorded memory is of his first taste of cow’s milk, when he was between 2 and 3 years old and his parents bought a Shorthorn cow. By that time his brother Samuel Grant was born, to be followed by another 7

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children, boys and girls, Samuel Grant died very young, [handwritten – allegedly] poisoned by tutu. Another early memory was of a severe earthquake in 1862 or 1863, which brought down the house, a three roomed structure of pressed clay and timber. In a radio broadcast in 1948 T.E. recalled that he narrowly escaped being crushed i in his bed by a huge chunk of ceiling. The Maori whores across the stream being made of raupo, were undamaged by the quake.

In 1864 Tom went to school in Napier, Mr Marshall’s school according to R.M. Bell’s history of the H.B.A.&.P. Society, a room in Tennyson ST in the first year, then on the hill close to the present site of Hukarere College. In a radio broadcast in 1948 Tom described the long ride from Porangahau to Napier with his father; it took 5 days, of which the last began at 5 a.m. and ended in Napier at 8 p.m. Earlier in his reminisces he recorded that at first all the mustering on the farm was done on foot by his father and the Maori who helped him, but later he spoke of breaking in a new colt at the age of 10, and doing all sorts of work on the farm from an early age, and of becoming an efficient handler of a bullock team, complete with the obligatory strong language, probably a bit later in life! He enjoyed his school years, and got into mischief along with his mates as schoolboy do, and in 1867, aged 12, he rode to Wellington with his father, along the beach most of the way. In about 1971 [1871] he went through the Manawatu Gorge road, then newly opened, and found it terrible, including a river crossing in a sort of bosun’s chair. The railway between Napier and Wellington opened in 1872, and he made good use of that later in life.

In January 1871 his father died in a riding accident and Tom left school to manage the farm, not quite 16 years old. His brother Latyma [Latima] George joined him probably a couple of years later, being 3 years younger. Their mother is reported to have moved to Napier in 1873 where her younger children could attend school; several of them were under 10 years old when her husband died. At that time the farm was nearly 20,000 acres, mostly open country it seems, and carried 3,348 sheep, merinos bred solely for wool, though there was a small local market for legs of mutton at 1 shilling each. Old sheep were boiled down for tallow, an operation that often cost more than it brought in. The merinos were originally imported from New South Wales, but after Tom took over he began crossing sheep. Ten years later the freezing of meat for export had been discovered, and in 1884 T.E. travelled to England on the Rimutaka, the first steam ship to carry frozen meat, in order to learn about the selling of frozen meat in England, a trip of 56 days. His return journey on the Tongariro led to a major change in his life, for among the passengers he met the Barker family from Dumfries in Kircudbrightshire, Scotland, and in March 1886 he married the eldest daughter, Susan; who died in 1887 after their daughter Susie Amy was born.

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According to Amy, she was cared for by the local Maori because her father considered that her aunts were too young for the job – “Dolly” was only 18 – but I imagine that she urgently needed a wet nurse, whom he would have found among his neighbours at Porangahau. In 1889, however, Tom and Dollie (David Anne Thomson Barker) were married and Jessie Dorothy was born to them in 1890s. His radio broadcast of 1948 states that he moved from Porangahau to Hastings 1890, and [Handwritten – I have a feeling] that Dolly had a miscarriage before Jessie was born. His diary for most of the 1990s [1890s] is in the hands of T.H. Crosse, his grandson, and a copy has been lodged in the archives of the Napier museum. It records the building of Woodland, in St George’s Road, Hastings, in 1893, the birth of Thomas Grant Crosse in that year, after which Dolly was unwell for some time, the birth of Hugh Edward in 1896, and Louie Audrey 1897, after which Tom and Dolly sailed to Scotland, leaving the children to the care of Margaret Otto Barker – Madge, known to the younger generations as At (aunt) – who lived with the Crosses until she died, teased unmercifully by Tom in the 1930s, when I remember them, though perhaps he was kinder when he was young and fully occupied. Their youngest child, Margaret Mary Crosse, was born in 1904.

T.E. Crosse was a very able and innovative farmer, who developed his properties to a very high standard. In the early days the wool clip was of course harvested with hand shears by the local Maori, presumably in the open air, baled and carried from the beach on barges to lighters lying off the coast – I suppose that inland farms brought it to the beaches by bullock wagon, and that tallow was taken to market the same way. The wool would have been transferred to clippers for transport to England. Tom built up his flocks and experimented with cross breeding on Mangamaire, and as the leases on that land expired he relinquished them to neighbours, and during the 1880s took up 5,000 acres at Kumeroa, while still living on and farming Whakawhakanga, about 6,000 acres remaining at Porangahau. Kumeroa, near Woodville, was heavily bushed apart from 800 acres of excellent river flats, some areas of swamp, and T.E. and his manager, Henry Roil set to work to fell the timber, drain the swamps and sow good English grasses, and build a large house, woolshed, men’s quarters, dairy, outbuildings and sheepyards. Miriam McGregor’s “Early Stations of Hawkes Bay”, my source for this information, doesn’t make it clear whether the dairy served a dairy herd among the hundreds of cattle that she lists for several years, but she mentions a small creamery adjacent to the property, connected to the Pahiatua and Woodville dairy factories, and elsewhere I have read that Tom looked into the possibilities of dairy farming, but at that time it was thought that H.B. was too dry for it – presumably north of Woodville, since the radio broadcast indicates that the Scandinavians who immigrated in the 1960s felled the bush and established dairy farms, and

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their Woodville factory was the first in N.Z., so it seems possible that he added milk products to the wool and fat lambs and beef produced on Kumeroa. He leased more land in that area, and the diary records many visits to the farm during the 1890s, usually by rail, though on one occasion he loaded his bicycle on the train and travelled to Palmerston to visit his mother, then cycled back to Kumeroa through the Manawatu gorge, which must still have been a fairly rough road. After a day’s farming he took the train back to Hastings. Reports vary as to the size of the Woodland farm, rather less than 200 acres I think, but he bought or leased other blocks in the area, “The Lawn” at Mangateretere, and another near Tomoana, and established studs of several breeds of sheep, not all concurrently, carefully detailed in the diary. The house was modelled on Dolly’s family home near Dumfries in Scotland, which I once visited, with two large front rooms on the ground floor with big bedrooms above, a big front hall and handsome staircase, large kitchen, two sculleries and the only bathroom downstairs, and a lot of little bedrooms above. The outbuildings included capacious stables and store rooms, including one fitted with slatted shelves for keeping apples through the winter, slowly shrivelling but edible for many months. The house was of course in weatherboard, painted dark red-brown with white facings for many years, whereas “Woodland” in Scotland was stone, apparently whitewashed in the available photograph. It is now an hotel, known as The Embassy. Tom and Dolly’s Woodland was damaged in the Hawkes Bay earthquake of 1931, and the top storey removed, and has since been removed from Hastings to Bay view [Bay View] and replaced by an enormous horticultural research station.

While still living at Porangahau T.E. had served on the Patangata and Waipawa County Councils, and probably on the H.B. Rabbit Board, of which he was chairman for 60 years (National Dictionary of Biography) and later on the Hastings Borough Council, Heretaunga Riding of the H.B. County Council, which he chaired 1907-08 and 1914-19, Napier Harbour Board, the Hawkes Bay Agricultural and Pastoral Soc. the boards of Woodford House, Napier Boys’ High School and Te Aute Trust, and no doubt of the committees of the H.B. Polo Club and the Napier Golf Club at Waiohiki, of which he was a keen member. He was also a foundation major shareholder of the Heretaunga Co-operative Dairy Company and involved in power development (obituary) His diary records many trips to Hastings and Napier for board meetings, usually by horse and trap, though at times he drove into Hastings to catch the train to Napier. Early in the 1900s he bought one of the first cars in Hawkes Bay, which must have speeded up those frequent trips. Another time consuming activity recorded in the diary was than judging at A.& P. Society shows up and down the country, as far afield as Auckland and Marlborough/Nelson. For many of those journeys he would embark at Napier on a coastal steamer, a vital form of transport for passengers and freight in those early times when roads were few and very rough, and rail

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gave limited coverage of the country. He was also involved in National politics to some extent, the diary records visits to Wellington for unspecified reasons, among which tradition relates that he worked for a law change, eventually put through in 1886 by Cargill, MP[MP] for Dunedin, which legalised marriage to one’s deceased wife’s sister. Apparently Cargill found himself in the same predicament as Tom and Dolly, and was fortunately in a position to remedy the problem. Dolly’s marriage certificate describes her as the daughter of Susan Barker, nee Otto, who was in fact her grandmother, Susan Otto nee Barker, mother of Margaret Chrichton Otto who married David Barker, her first cousin once removed, and was the Mother of Susan and Dolly. In 1991 when the Dictionary of N.Z. Biography volume two was being compiled the editorial staff was most concerned by that discrepancy when researching T.E. Crosse, because the family stated firmly that the two wives were sisters, and by chance I learned from my cousin David Dewar that the husband of another cousin, Lester Castle a Wellington lawyer, had told him of our grandfather’s involvement in the law change, which postdated his illegal second marriage, so I was able to clarify the matter for the editors, and in the process acquired a sheaf of birth death and marriage certificates for nothing, which are coming in handy as I work on this story.

In 1902 Tom sold Kumeroa, by then first class agricultural and grazing land (Miriam McGregor), to the government for closer settlement and bought Patoka Station. I wonder whether he was discouraged by the slump of the preceding few years – he had put it up for auction in 1900 but failed to sell – or found it too far from Hastings, or was bored once it was fully developed and looked for a challenge. Patoka would have filled the bill, although it was clear of bush it was covered in fern and manuka, which was not completely cleared until the 1950s. It is thought that the original bush had been burnt by the huge Taupo volcanic eruption of    , since thesoil [the soil] was largely pumice and far from fertile.

Early in the 20th century the Crosse family paid 2 visits to Scotland, dates unknown, and stayed long enough for the children to attend school there. Hugh attended a primary school long enough to acquire a delightful Scots accent which he used for anecdotes and for reading the works of Sir Walter Scott to his own children, and tradition states that he and Grant attended Charterhouse later on. In Hastings they, with their sisters, attended Woodford House in the primary department; it was then in Hastings and co-educational for small children. It later moved to Havelock North and became a girls’ secondary school. Grant and Hugh continued their education at Wanganui Collegiate School. Grant joined the British Army, served in France during World War One, winning the M.C. and reaching the rank of Major. Thereafter he served in India until he retired. Hugh also served in France, won the M.C. and became the youngest Major in the Imperial Forces. In 1920, returning by sea from a visit to Grant he met an

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English actress, Delmira Bokenham – stage name Mira Kenham – travelling to an engagement in Sydney. They were married in 1921 and in 1923 Hugh took over the management of Patoka Station, which had been managed until then by Harry Roil from Kumeroa. In 1933 Hugh bought the farm from his father(article from unidentified publication), in the middle of the depression, and Tom continued to run a few sheep at Woodland and to stay at Patoka during shearing time to class the wool clip, until after world War two if I remember rightly. Hugh an Mira had 3 children, Marie Catherine, 1923, author of this potted biography, Susan Jane, 1925 and Thomas Hugh, 1928.

In 1924 Tom and another man invested in a sugar plantation in Fiji, which w was a dismal failure. My sources are silent on any visits that Tom may have made to this property, which I believe that he relinquished after a couple of years. In 1939-40 he, Dolly and Madge spent a year at Patoka looking after Hugh while Mira visited her family in England, originally for a few months, but the outbreak of war prolonged her visit until she was able to embark for New Zealand. At that time Woodland was sold and when Mira returned her parents in law went into Napier, to Church Lane Cottage across the road from the Cathedral. In 1942 Madge Barker died, and Dolly died in 1943. Tom then moved back to Hastings and boarded with a woman in Queen St. At that time he took up spinning, which he enjoyed, though his sight was failing and he relied on his sensitive fingers to keep his yarn even, not altogether successfully. The many skeins given by him to Mira were eventually knitted up for her by his daughter Amy into a warm but very heavy rug. He spent a lot of time at the Hastings Club, playing chess as long as he could see, reminiscing, with advantages as Shakespeare once said (Henry V) and putting the world to rights. From time to time visited Hugh and Mira at Patoka, and his brother George and Annie at “Kelvin Grove”, Weber, in Southern Hawkes Bay, and in September 1952 he died in the Hastings Memorial Hospital, of which he had earlier been a board member and had helped to found.

Unreliable footnote; I was told by one of my cousins that T.E. had a Maori wife (de facto?), not unlikely as he was 30 when he married which linked up with an anecdote of Amy Barnicoat’s in the 1960s. She visited Porangahau on National Party business and was greeted by the local National candidate Rangi Tautaki as his “great great aunt”, to her astonishment. Perhaps he meant that an ancestress of his had been Amy’s foster mother; he died untimely so I wasn’t able to ask him when I visited Porangahau some years later – but the kaumata [kaumatua] who greeted us there was Tom Tutaki. He didn’t look at all like T.E.

Catherine Downes

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