Stories of love and devotion – Meet the Andersons

Today is St Valentine's Day. In the lead up to 14 February, Local History Librarians at Tuakiri | Identity, Tūranga have been busy trawling through the library collection and archival material in pursuit of things romantic from years past. Here’s a random and eclectic mix of information they unearthed on the themes of love and affection (and a tale of jealously thrown in for good measure!)

Meet the Andersons

John and Jane Anderson were a little unusual among the early settlers - in a colony designed to be Anglican, they were both staunch Presbyterians. John was an exemplary person - as an apprentice blacksmith, he worked 12 hour days at the forge and found the time and dedication to earn a diploma at the School or Arts in Edinburgh. Despite some difficulties regarding their religion, the Canterbury Association accepted John, Jane and their wee son as settlers and they travelled over on the Sir George Seymour in 1850.

The family set up house at the Bricks, a small settlement on the Ōtākaro Avon River, near the current corner of Barbadoes Street and Oxford Terrace. Their little cottage, smoke rising from their chimney, can be seen in this picture:

John worked as the first blacksmith in Christchurch, and alongside his day to day work in the forge, he was known to beat out a golden sovereign into a wedding band for young couples in the colony. 

Every Scottish family in the early days was welcomed by John and Jane, as the pair offered advice and assistance to help new settlers flourish. John was clearly a very hard working man, and little is recorded of Jane (this is a common problem with women in history!) but the enormous amount of help, love and support she gave him was recorded in John's obituary. This is such a rare thing to find; it's fairly normal for wives of prominent men to get no more than a brief mention as a widow grieving her loss, but Jane receives a whole paragraph, showing just how important she was to him, and how noticeable their partnership was even to journalists in 1897. 

"It would not be right to close this notice without reference to the great help and encouragement which was rendered to him by Mrs Anderson in all his work. From first to last she was his helpmeet indeed, and the greatest sorrow of his life was when he lost her. It was evident to his many friends that owing to the death of his wife he felt to a great extent the brightness of his life has passed away."

John and Jane had married in Scotland in 1846, giving them 48 years together before Jane passed away on the 20th of March 1894, age 73. John died a few years later on the 30th of April 1897, age 76. The couple is buried together in the Addington cemetery.