John and Harriet Newman

John Litchfield Newman was born in Kinsale, Ireland, in 1815. Harriet (nee Honeyfield) was born in Gillingham, Dorset, in 1826 (see The Honeyfield siblings emigration to New Zealand). Having met and married in New Plymouth in 1850, John and  Harriet were among the earliest migrants to New Zealand.

Unlike his father and brother, who were both attorney’s, John’s interests were in business as a merchant and ship owner. By the late 1830’s the energetic young man had multiple businesses as a wine importer, provisioner (coal, grain, salt, and lime), and ship’s agent on Long Quay, Kinsale. John seems to have had considerable assistance from his family, having acquired his uncle John Spiller’s corn store, yard, offices, and stables and the lime and salt dealership had been owned by his cousin Elizabeth’s father-in-law. John’s wine dealership was initially in partnership with a Lewis Gollock, but was reopened by John as his own business following Mr Gollock’s retirement in 1843. By 1846, John was a ship’s agent and owned a ship, in addition to his other enterprises.

No doubt due in part to the Great Famine of Ireland that ran from 1845 to 1852, John was forced to sell his assets to pay debt and he was made bankrupt in 1847.

Although there is no record of his passage, John is thought to have arrived in New Zealand in about 1848, spending time in Auckland, Wellington and Nelson before arriving in New Plymouth in 1849.

John may have taken some capital from Ireland with him, since he was able to buy land in the Omata district, Taranaki.

At the start of the Taranaki Land Wars in 1860 the settlers of Omata combined to build a stockade for protection and the Newman family at first found safety there. Soon after the family fled Omata during the Maori wars in the early 1860’s, moving to Nelson for a few years where John was a publican. After a few years the family returned to their farm in Omata.

John and Harriet had five children:

  • George John, born 1851, died 1924

George married Annie Poad and was a businessman for many years in New Plymouth and was a founding member of the New Plymouth Bowling Club. George retired to Auckland.

  • William Litchfield, born 1853, died 1921

William married Sarah Hempson and was a shipping agent before establishing a business.

  • Martha Anne, born 1855, died 1886
  • John (Jack) Honeyfield, born 1857, died 1891

Jack was educated in Taranaki and became a shipping agent before going into business with his brother Henry as storekeepers and general merchants in Opunake. Jack did not marry.

  • Albina Elizabeth, born 1860, died 1948

Married Oliver Coombe.

  • Henry James, born 1864, died 1946.

Henry married Zoe Prosser. He went into business with his brother Jack.

After a long illness, Harriet died in March 1886, aged 62 years. John Litchfield Newman died eight months later in November 1886, aged 71 years. Both are buried at Te Henui cemetery.

John L Newman

John Litchfield Newman

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