A CHRISTCHURCH PRESS PROJECT

John Hill
The George Seymour

Original information:
John Hill emigrated to Canterbury when he was 14 with his older brother, James (1835-1910). Records show that James was a farmer in Fendalton and later in West Melton. In 1900, John was living in West Melton and James in Westerfield, Dunsandel.

Readers' response:
John and James Hill were grandsons of a wealthy retired businessman, John Hill (1786-1861), who lived at Lyme Regis, south England. John Sen. had disinherited his eldest son, Phillip, the father of John and James, but wanted to ensure his grandsons could establish themselves. He arranged for the two youngsters (aged 14 and 16) to come to Canterbury under the supervision of William Guise Brittan, and he bought a 50-acre farm block and a town section for each of them.

John Hill and his brother selected 50 acres (RS112) between Harewood and the Main North Road and 50 acres (RS60) between the Wairarapa and Waimairi streams. John’s town section was on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Hereford Street (No. 859) and James’ section was in Peterborough Street (No. 112), close to Park Terrace.

Over the next 10 years the brothers trained as farm cadets and worked for Brittan on Halswell Station.

James married Hester Boutell on December 28, 1858. Four weeks later, on January 26, 1859, John married Catherine Lynch at St Peter’s Church, Riccarton. Both couples lived on RS60, and John and Catherine had three children there − George Alexander (b. November 14, 1859), Charlotte Catherine (b. August 20, 1861) and Mary Ellen (b. September 3, 1863). In 1864, the brothers mortgaged their Papanui section, kept their Fendall Town homes, and moved to “Bealey’s Track’’, the present West Coast Road, each buying 170 acres.

John Hill faced a big challenge making a living from his new, small amount of land. He camped on the site while preparing a dwelling, leaving his wife and three young children in Fendall Town. By November 15, 1865, when their fourth child, Emily Kate, was born, the family had shifted to the new property.
Catherine had six more children in the next 12 years − Frederick John (b. January 31, 1868); Harry Edward (b. May 16, 1870), Alice Amelia (b. July 13, 1872), Emma Jane (b. July 25, 1874), Annie Amelia (b. June 28, 1875) and William James (b. November 2, 1880).
John became a community leader. In 1871, the first West Melton school was opened and he was elected its chairman. He and other members of the family were involved in school administration for many years. In 1872, he was also elected warden of the Anglican Church at West Melton, a position he held until 1907.
 By 1873, the 170-acre farm had been increased to 224 acres, valued at £1624. Between 1882 and 1907, John’s farming life was characterised by changes in technology and government economic policy. John adapted to these well − he was prominent in getting irrigation in the area and was instrumental in establishing the West Melton Salesyards and Sheep Dip Co. in 1892.

In 1907, John and Catherine retired. They sold the farm to James Langdale and bought 43 Rugby Street, St Albans, and moved there with their daughter Alice. John associated himself with a nearby church, and visited West Melton to help his son on the farm.

On January 26, 1909, John and Catherine celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. Catherine died on August 17, 1914, from influenza and heart disease. John lived for another four years, dying on July 1, 1918. They are both buried at St Paul’s, West Melton.1

Footnotes:
1:Allan D. Hunter and Harry E. Hill, John Hill of West Melton (Allan D. Hunter, Christchurch, 2003)