Saturday, 21 January 2017


Jan has been doing some further research on my ancestors and that information; combined with some information told to me earlier by my mother; has enabled me to piece together how her side of the family arrived in New Zealand.

The first colonists arrived in NZ during the 1840’s and were mostly wealthy English or Scottish settlers who established large sheep stations on tracts of land near the Coast.  Communications inland was very difficult and these settlers relied on coastal shipping.  Any movement inland invariably meant either using the few rivers or following the tracks created by the local Maori.  My great-grandmother came from a wealthy sheep farming family on the Wairarapa Coast.

There is a line of high hills (they would be known as mountains in England) known as the Tararua and Ruahine Ranges running up the centre of the southern half of the North Island.  The area to the east of this range was heavily forested and known as the Seventy-Mile-Bush being forty miles wide and seventy long.  This was notorious for being remote, inhospitable and mosquito-infested.

By the late 1860’s two major events were occurring in NZ.  The government of Premier Julius Vogel was attempting to redistribute land into small holdings by breaking up the large sheep stations and the country was in a financial recession.

Vogel’s economic plan was for the government to borrow it’s way out of the recession.  To achieve this he needed to provide more land and more settlers.  The government decided to clear the Seventy-Mile-Bush for farming.  They recognised hardy settlers with the necessary skills would be required to clear the forest and process the lumber.  The government sought settlers from the UK, Canada and Scandinavia. 

My great-grandfather’s family were from Oxfordshire and took passage to NZ on the Invererne which was chartered by the NZ Shipping Company.  The ship sailed from London on 21st November 1873 arriving in Napier on 8th March 1874 after a voyage of 107 days.  She carried 240 adults and children.  Sixteen children died of Scarlet Fever during the voyage.  The majority of the passengers were Danish.  Denmark had been defeated by Prussia in the war of 1864 and many Danes were anxious to escape life under Prussian occupation.

The Invererne had previously sailed under the name Atlanta Banfield and had been condemned.  The new owners conducted repairs and she made three trips to NZ before hitting a reef and sinking off the coast of Java (Indonesia).

After disembarking, the Danes made their way inland to the Norsewood -Dannevirke area where earlier Norwegian and Danish settlers had established themselves.


My great-great grandfather, Elijah Mills with his wife Sarah (maiden name Mander) and the first five of their ten children, accompanied the Danes to Dannevirke.  Their children were:

  • George James Mills 1859-1932
  • John Thomas Mills  1862-
  • Herbert Mills 1864-
  • Mary-Ann (Polly) Mills 1865-
  • Thomas Mander Mills 1867-1945 (my great grandfather)
  • Elizabeth Mills 1869-
  • Annie Laty Banfield Invererne Mills 1874-1874 (born on the ship and died during the voyage)
  • William Herbert Mills  1875-
  • Albert William Mills  1877-
  • Harry Charles Mills  1879-1957

Ten children…….. Obviously they didn’t own a TV Smile

So how did my great grandparents meet?  Well that’s actually a more interesting story.


Ade said...

Interesting stuff Tom ready for the next exciting bit!

Jenny said...

That's very interesting, Tom and Jan, to know so much about your family history. Great reading.

Lisa said...

Got any photos? Next chapter please.

Tom and Jan said...

Lisa if they were too poor to own a TV in 1874 then they certainly didn't own a camera! :-) But just for you, I'll see if I can find one......

Judith Emery said...

Wonderful reading, ancestry fascinates me. Looking forward to the next installment.
Nb Serena