Topic: Henry Morshead Symons

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Born in 1823, Henry Morshead Symons of Cornwall, son of Dr. Harry Symons and his wife Mary (nee Morshead) and his cousin Charles Henry Symons came to New Zealand with their uncle James Henry and his wife Jane and their four children.  Henry was then 18 and Charles 17.  They sailed from Gravesend on the “Catherine Stewart Forbes” which made only one stop at the Azores arriving at Port Nicholson on 11th June, 1841.  Here they first lived with Judge Halswell in a house near the present Parliament Buildings.  James and Jane acquired 100 acres in the Upper Willis Street area which they farmed and called “Goathurst”.

In 1844 Henry and Charles moved north to the Manawatu River where their Uncle James had leased land from the Maoris at Oturoa, just south of Whirokino.  They both took Maori wives and were thus, for a time, safe from raiding parties.

Henry’s first wife was Rauti, a Maori girl of high rank of the Ngati Raukawa tribe.  They had five children, Mary the eldest was born at Oturoa on 23rd July, 1846, as were her brother Henare and sisters Kahu and Waina.

After the arrest of Te Rauparaha in 1846 there were many disputes over land and Rangihaeata came up from Kapiti and ordered the white settlers back across the river to Te Awahou.  On 10th May, 1847, the Symons  homes and farm buildings were burnt down by Rangihaeata’s war party.  The next few years were very unsettled.  Rauti who was expecting her fifth child, took Henare, Kahu and Waina back to her tribal home in the Waikato.  Here Moana was born.  Rauti lived the rest of her life at Te Waotu.  She died in 1914 at an estimated age of 85 years.

Her son, Henare, known as Harry Simmonds, became chief of Ngatihuri and his descendants live at Pikitu Marae at Te Waotu.  Henare had a daughter, Ranginui, whose mother Parewahawaha  died giving birth to her.  This daughter later became Mrs. Ranginui Leonard who died in Rotorua in 1984 aged 112.  Mrs. Leonard has descendants living in Foxton.

Henry and daughter Mary remained in Foxton.  He was employed by Captain Robinson and Dr. Best as stock manager.  Dr. Best died in November, 1850.

On 26th September, 1853, at Rangiatea Church, Otaki, Henry married Ann Maria Barnett Best, widow of Dr. Best although she was many years older than he.  At this time Henry’s daughter Mary would have been 7 years old and Ann Maria’s son William 13.  Ann Maria and Henry had three daughters, Elizabeth who became Mrs. Walter Kirkpatrick Simpson and lived much of her married life at Rangiotu, Eliza Maria and  Emily, one of whom became Mrs. Poole (mentioned in a newspaper account of Mrs. Simpson’s 85th birthday).

Henry and Ann Maria were proprietors of a licensed hotel for a while and Henry also operated a ferry across the Manawatu River but most of his life was spent farming.

Henry died at Foxton on 22nd December, 1886 aged 63 and Ann Maria 20th August, 1889 aged 83.  Both are buried at the Foxton Cemetery in the central section near Rev. James Duncan.

In 1863 Henry and Rauti’s daughter Mary married Ann Maria’s son William George Barnett.  [Their story is also told in Foxton Biographies.]



When referencing this book please use the following:

Pioneers of Foxton : Book Two. p6. [Foxton, N.Z.] : Foxton Historical Society, 1989.

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Henry Morshead Symons

Date of birth:1823
Date of death:22/12/1886