John Wyeth

John Wyeth was born in Stokes Valley on 31 December 1858 the 6th son 10th child of Robert and Jane (nee Runnalls) Wyeth.


John was a Boot and Shoemaker of Masterton. On 27 January 1881 an advertisement appeared in the Wairarapa Daily (page 3 Col 7) stating that he had opened his business. Further advertisements appeared 18 July 1882 P3 Col2;3 July 1883 P4 Col4.

On 23 January 1885 John's bootmaker's shop was distroyed by fire.


By early 1888 John was Toll Gate operator at the Ngawapurua Bridge and 9 year old Harriet Wyeth attended Pahiatua School. Harriet was the daughter of Sarah Purcell. Sarah, soon to become Mrs Wyeth was presumably living with John in Pahiatua and known as Mrs Wyeth.

On 9 December 1888 the Pahiatua County Council, at what was its 2nd meeting, decided that the Toll Gate at the Ngawapurua Bridge, only completed the previous year, be removed at the expiry of the present lease, ie at 12 noon on 1 February 1889. (It is not known whether this was a one year lease on for a longer period.) This resolution resulted in a letter from the Toll Gate Operator, John Wyeth. John requested that he be allowed to remain at the Toll House until the crop that he had planted was taken up. He also offered the sum of 10 pounds for the house. The register of inward correspondence for the same council for July 1889 contains reference to a letter from John Wyeth applying for a small bridge[1]. At this time John may have gone back to being a shoemaker by trade.


On 30 May 1889 John Wyeth, aged 30, Settler, Bachelor of Woodville was married at the Wesleyan Parsonage in Napier to Sarah Wareham, aged 35, Domestic Servant, Spinster, of Woodville. Daughter of Charles Wareham, a Sea Captain and his wife Sarah.[2]. The witnesses at the wedding were Leslie Grant, Labourer of Woodville, and Jessie McNicholl of the Wesleyan Parsonage Napier. Sarah signed her name with an 'X'.

The description of Sarah as a spinster, which is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as 'unmarried' is perhaps rather loose. The marriage to John was Sarah's third marriage. That was not the only minor variance in the marriage register besides her proper name and her parents names and fathers occupation Sarah's age was understated by 13 years. At the time of their marriage John was aged 30 and Sarah was 48.

Sarah was born in St Helier, on the Island of Jersey, Channel Islands, in 1840/41 the daughter of Charles and Mary (nee Mugford) Gillam. Her father Charles was a Labourer.

At the age of 25, in 1866, Sarah was married for the first time to Henry Wareham. They were married in Jersey and had two children, Kate Elizabeth Wareham born 1867 and George Nicholson Wareham was born 1870.

At age 32, on 5/7/1873, Sarah was married for the second time to James Purcell of Kilkenny; Ireland this marriage also took place in Jersey.

When Sarah was 33, she and James immigrated to New Zealand on the ship "Bebington" with their two children Kate aged 7 and George age 4. The ship birthed at the Port of Napier on 20 November 1874.

Sarah and James had three children.James Henry born May 1876 died at Masterton on 18 June 1876 aged 1 month; William Henry was born in Masterton in 1877; and Harriet was born in Masterton on 25/6/1879.


In 1893 John was a Restaurant Keeper in Dannevirke.[3]

On 13 February 1896, in Dannevirke, William, Sarah's fourth child, aged 18 married Amelia Maria Kilkolly. Maria, as she was known, was a little younger than William. William and Maria used the name Wyeth.

On 19 September 1896 in the house of Mrs Wyeth, Dannevirke Miss Harriet Purcell, daughter of Mrs Wyeth, married Ernest Edmund Smith, a Taylor by trade, aged 23 of Dannevirke. Harriet was aged 17.

John and Sarah adopted another son Bertie Albert John Wyeth born Herbert Sutherland on 28 July 1896 son of Catherine Sutherland. Bertie was adopted at age 7, in 1903 or 4.

On 29 October 1907, in Dannevirke, William and Maria gave John and Sarah a grandson, their 4th grandchild, named James Henry after the son that Sarah lost just after her arrival in New Zealand.


By 1910 John and Sarah were living in Foxton when John advertised that his Landau would meet all trains and go to all parts of the district for wedding parties[4].

From at least the beginning of the 1920s John and Sarah were living at 5 Avenue Rd Foxton[5]

Sarah died in Foxton on 15 November 1921 and was buried on 18 November 1921 in Foxton Cemetery. The cause of death was given as Senility for 8 years and Cerebral Hemorrhage immediate.

Sarah left her estate to her Husband John and children Kate Spiers, George Wareham, and William Purcell ( William used the name Wyeth and the Solicitor had included him in the Estate papers as William Wareham). As the only asset of her estate was furniture insured for 100 pounds the family agreed to hand the furniture over to the widower, John. This would have been fine except that in September 1926 John's house and the furniture were partially destroyed by fire and because the insurance policy was still in Sarah's name Alliance Assurance would not pay out until probate or letters of administration were produced.

In 1927 when he prepared his will John's occupation was given as Night-watchman as it was in 1936 in the local Stones Directory.

John died in Palmerston North on 8 January 1942 aged 78. His solicitor described him, in the estate papers, as an elderly widower residing by himself in a cottage in Foxton. This was on the property at Park and Avenue Streets. His estate was left to his daughter in law Eva who at that time was living in Ngaio, Wellington.

The children brought up by John and Sarah were

William Henry Wyeth William was born in Masterton in 1877 as William Purcell son of Sarah and James Purcell. When Sarah remarried William took the name of Wyeth.

Harriet Wyeth Harriet was born in Masterton on 25 June 1879 the daughter of James and Sarah Purcell. Harriet was married on 19 September 1896 in Dannevirke to Ernest Smith #920 born Circa 1873 Occupation Railway Worker. Harriet died on 24 June 1901 in Foxton and Ernest on 5 February 1937.

Harriet and Ernest had 3 children by the time she died in 1901. Harriet died from Septicaemia resulting from a miscarriage and want of proper treatment.

On 23 June 1901, Harriet made a dying disposition before a Justice of the Peace, her Doctor and her mother Sarah Wyeth[1].

"I am the wife of Ernest Edmund Smith living in Foxton, I will be twenty four years of age tomorrow. I think it is three weeks last Saturday since I was taken bad, I went to lift a hundred weight of flour, I had not seen anything for four months, I did not take any notice of it when it came on with a rush, the next day I sent for Mr Hamer he only gave me a draught that day, I don't remember anything more, after I took the draught there was nothing more than the ordinary flow, nothing else came away. Last Saturday week my mother was here, Mr Hamer and my Husband, when I had a miss of child four months old no more I cannot tell you I am in agony."

The draught that Mr Hamer the Chemist gave her was Bichloride of Mercury. While this was an accepted treatment in days past the facts were referred to the Crown Solicitor to consider prosecution.

Harriet died the next day, her 24th birthday.

Bertie Albert John Wyeth #467 Bertie was born on 28 July 1896 in Dannevirke, as Herbert Sutherland the son of Catherine Sutherland aged 35 from Elgin Scotland.Sarah and John Wyeth adopted Bertie when he was 7 years of age.

[1]Tui Country - A History of Pahiatua County 1888 - 1988 by Angus McCallum.

[2]Registrar BDM 89/1265 Folio 71

[3]1893 Electoral Rolls Waipawa Electorate.

[4]Source "Foxton 1888 - 1988 100 years" page 99.

[5]Part Section 50 Township of Foxton, Park and Avenue Streets area 10.7 perches.

[6]Source Birth Register Tottenham, Edmonton, Middlesex.