Robert William Botting:
Patriarch of a New Zealand Botting Family

Robert William’s interests in Livingstone

It is known that Robert William bought land and built a house at Livingstone. That house was a ‘first’ for the town as the usual dwellings in the area were built of clay and tussock (known as ‘cob’). Robert William’s house was constructed from timber although at the time this was relatively scarce in the district and therefore expensive.

W. H. S. Roberts in his ‘History of North Otago from 1853’ noted that on 8 December 1874: “The town sections of the township of Livingstone, formerly known as Ramsay, Maerewhenua, were submitted to public auction, by Mr Barron, Govt Surveyor. Nearly all the front sections sold at prices ranging from five pounds to ten pounds per section..... the back sections realised three pounds...”

Robert William’s home was situated in "the Upper Township" which was about a mile above Livingstone. At this point it is not known when he acquired the land.

Arrival of the rest of the family

On 30 April 1866 Jane Botting and some of her children left South Australia to join Robert William and son William John in New Zealand. Jane and children arrived at Dunedin on the ship ‘Alhambra’ on 26 May 1866.

‘Alhambra’ was one of several vessels owned by the Otago Steam Navigation Company of Melbourne which were operating between Adelaide and Melbourne and Port Chalmers.

Extract from:

The Passenger List records the names and ages of the Botting Family travellers as:
“Mrs M Botting (35), Ellen (18), Robert (15), James (13), Frederick (11), John (10), Sarah (8), Peter (7), Francis (6), Garibaldi (5), Leopold (2)”

It is not understood at this point why Jane travelled as ‘Mrs M. Botting’ and why her four other children were not travelling with her: Catherine Anne (who would have been aged 22), Frances Jane (aged 21), Christina (aged 17), and Henry (aged 9). Perhaps the three girls had already married and settled in South Australia? Nothing further is known of Henry........perhaps he had died as an infant? We do know that Mary Ann Elizabeth had died at nine months.

Further research will be required in order to clarify the location and situation in May 1866 of Catherine Anne, Frances Jane, Christina and Henry Botting.

No record has been found to date of how the travellers, Jane and her family, would have completed the first part of their journey from Dunedin. But it has been suggested that their journey up to Naseby would have been by bullock wagon, as Robert William and William John had travelled about three years earlier.

At night female members of the party would have slept in the dray and males underneath. As the story has it, for the evening meal they could have lived largely off the land by killing weka’s with a stick.

Robert William’s Naseby home

Robert William and family lived at their residence in Leven Street opposite their business premises ‘Mt. Ida Butchery’

John O’Neil wrote in his ‘Naseby: History 1863 – 1976’ that “One must mention the outstanding contribution made in Naseby’s early days by the Botting family. Arriving here among the first settlers Robert William Botting and his wife Jane together with their 12 children left an ever-lasting mark on the history of the town. Although they themselves stayed for only five years their sons continued to link with Naseby up until recent years. They were a Christian family who channelled their beliefs and ideals into the community at a time when they were most needed. They led by example and by token of hard work and an eye to the future were all successful businessmen.”

Robert and Jane’s daughter Eleanor (Ellen) married Jacob Lory at her parent’s home on 6 September 1869. She was the first of their children to marry.

The ‘Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1904’ noted that “Mr Jacob Lory, who represented Mount Ida riding in the Maniototo County Council for three years, was born in Cornwall in 1845, bought up to the drapery trade, and came to Port Chalmers in November 1862, by the ship “Chilli”. Till 1880 Mr Lory was chiefly engaged in goldmining, in which he had fair success. In the latter year he acquired a farm at Maruimato, Wedderburn, and has worked it since. He has 915 acres, of which 268 acres are freehold tenure and the balance under lease in perpetuity. Mr Lory has served as a member of the local school committee, and as an Oddfellow he is attached to the Naseby Lodge, M. U., I. O. O. F., of which he is a Past Grand Master, and at present a trustee. He married, in 1869, to a daughter of the late Mr. R. W. Botting, of Adelaide.”

Thirty-seven years later in Ellen’s obituary appearing in August 1906 in “The Mt. Ida Chronical” it was said that “..... All through the years of her residence here (Naseby) Mrs Lory was a consistent Christian and was one of our first Sunday School teachers, her service in that capacity being given in the old Union Church (now the Athenaeum). She will be missed in the neighbourhood for she was ever a kind friend to those in trouble and was one of the first to proffer her aid in times of illness. Many deeds of charity were also done by her in a quiet, unostentatious way – so quietly indeed that frequently they were unknown by any but the recipient and the giver. .........the house she came to on arriving here is the one she died in, although between events, it has changed hands several times...”

Jacob Lory returned to Cornwall after her death. There were no children. According to “Witness” 1919 he died on 26 May 1919 after a short illness at his residence Penrose House, Gwininean, Hayle, Cornwall.

In the 1870’s Robert William and some of his family shifted to Dunedin where they lived for a year before moving back to The Maniototo to work in the goldfields.

The lure of gold in Livingstone

In Livingstone they found and worked the ‘hard claim: hard on account of the solid nature of the ground. The diggings from the claims were sluiced with water taken from reservoirs they built near to their claims, and which were usually supplied from water races bringing water from other catchment areas.

Robert William’s sons Henry Thomas, Peter Pomeroy Dungey and Francis William Botting all worked registered claims in the Livingstone goldfield (in fact Francis William worked two claims). Their brother-in -law Joseph Neale (Sarah’s husband) also worked a claim.

Ballad written by
David McKee Wright, 1897

There’s snow on the hills and the creeks are strong,
and the big dam brimming full,
And the Digger’s face is as broad and bright as a boy’s when he comes from school.
The frosts were hard on the winter-time and the summer long and dry.
But the nozzles play on the big face now and the tail-race is roaring by.

These claims were the richest in the district and from them the family mined 1,300 ounces of gold. It is of interest that with gold at the time fetching three pounds seventeen shillings and six pence per ounce the total value of the gold extracted from the Botting family claims was five thousand pounds. It was generally known that no-one ever made a fortune from mining the Livingstone goldfield but for many it at least provided a living, although sometimes at a tragic cost ....... on 10 October 1882 Frederick Richard Botting (age 28) was killed in an earth-fall while working a sluicing claim at the Maerewhenua Diggings in the Livingstone area. He was buried in the Livingston Cemetery Botting Family plot with his mother Jane who had died in January 1876.

In those barren and dry hills of Livingstone supplies of water for gold sluicing were not easily found and at one stage the Botting men decided to draw their sluicing water from the headwaters of the Kakanui River, in order to work their claims at Livingstone. Three summers and two winters were spent by Robert William and his sons on the laborious task of cutting the race. But misfortune struck when the owners of a flour mill near the main road at Maheno served an injunction on the Botting family to prevent them taking water from the river. As the mill was driven by waterpower (and as there was no such thing as "water rights") the court had no option but to restrain the family from drawing water from that river to supply their claims.

Evidence still remains of a water race the Botting men built over farmland in the vicinity of the gold field. The water race starts at a point behind an existing woolshed and has water in it at times. But the goldfield claims it so effectively supplied 140 years ago is now a barren landscape that will never again reverberate with the frenzy of activity of the thousands of men who were determined to expose its sparkling crown of gold to make their fortunes ... some did ... but many failed.

...... and back to Naseby

It is thought that Robert William and Jane returned to live in Naseby again in the mid-1870s. By then Robert William was getting too old for hard physical work and Jane’s health was deteriorating. She died in January 1876 and was buried in the Livingstone Cemetery Botting Family plot. Her age on the inscription of the gravestone was given as 47 years.[1]

[1] That would suggest she was born after January 1828 and that when she married in November 1843 she was 15 years of age going 16. The detail of her age at marriage may be clarified by information on her Death Certificate a copy of which may be sought.

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