One of the earliest graves in Hanmer Springs cemetery is a very striking “caged” gravestone, an unusual design.
Its worn stone is hard to read, but an inscription can be made out as follows:
JOHN A W WATTS E(sq?)
WHO WAS DROWNED
ATTEMPTING TO CROSS
JAN 14TH 1862 AGED 31
XXXXX XXXXX BROTHER
The Hurunui District Council cemetery database records the name as “W A Wattse” which is incorrect.
The death is recorded in the New Zealand BMD records:
Registration No.: 1862/591
Family Name: WATTS
Given Names: John Audian
D.O.B/Age at Death: Not Registered
A search of Papers Past reveals more about this death and the unfortunate victim.
So who is Mr Watts?
Another clue can be found in “The Reminiscences of Edward Jollie” (Nelson 1848-1949) in which Mr Jollie writes:
“My share of the profits of our surveying contracts at Otago amounted to between £600 and £700, the greater part of which I invested in the purchase of four hundred sheep, which I placed in the hands of Mr. John Watts (1) who had been one of the ten Nelson cadets sent out by the New Zealand Company a few months previous to my sailing for Wellington in the Brougham. He was about to start a sheep farm in the Wairau Valley and agreed to take my sheep on “thirds” for three years. On “thirds” meant that he was to have one-third of the wool and lambs each year and I was to have two-thirds.”
A footnote (1) ties this reference to our John Watts :
“John W. A. Watts drowned in the Waiau River while on his way from Christchurch to the Hanmer Plain on the 14th January, 1862”
At present I am unable to find any further detail on this John W A Watts. However, his middle name “Audian”, as recorded in the NZ BMD records, could be another clue.
A well-known Watts family owned land in the Nelson area – the family of Charles Fowell Willet Watts. Interestingly, several of his children have the middle name Audain, the maiden name of Charles’ mother.
Could the death record for John W A Watts be mispelt? Might this person be a relative of C F W Watts (he was born too early to be a child of C F Watts and Elizabeth Nixon)?
Do you know anything about this person? If so, I’d love to know!