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WOOLLIAMS, ELIZABETH MARY ANN nee DAVIES

 

Elizabeth Ann Davies was born on the 28 December 1873 at Upton St Leonards, South Hamlet, Gloucestershire, England, one of nine children of Charles and Elizabeth Davies nee Wasley. The family came to New Zealand in 1874 by the Douglas, and settled at Hokitika, Amberley and Leithfield in the South Island first, then moved to the North Island in 1882 settling in Otakeho on the Auroa Road.

 

Elizabeth and her father milked 100 cows and each member of the family had a certain number to milk each day. There were no milking sheds and the cows grazed in the scrub. They were called by name to be milked and were so docile that they could be milked while they stood contentedly chewing their cuds. However, the cows would only allow their own milker to milk them.

 

Hard work was the order of the day and the milk had to be at the factory at 8 am except on Sunday when the milk was skimmed and made into butter in the hand churn. Elizabeth's mother and the two eldest girls cleared the undergrowth while the men of the family felled the trees.

 

A lucrative source of income was fungus and the children rode cows into the bush to collect the fungus, which was very heavy, in sacks. They loaded up the cows and took the fungus home to dry. They sold it to traders for 3d a lb and they were told that it was exported to China.

 

Elizabeth was a first-day pupil at the Otakeho primary school in 1884. Before this opened, each evening her father read a chapter of a book to them and they each took a character from the story and acted the part. In this way their imagination was stimulated and they learned a great deal. However at eight o'clock, their father wound up the clock and everybody had to go to bed! Their days work was so rigorous that they needed all their rest to enable them to carry on.

 

Very little bush had been cleared in those days and the climate was much warmer. They grew strawberries, grapes, gooseberries, apples and pears and they had dovecotes full of doves and pigeons. They also had flocks of turkeys and they enjoyed hunting for the eggs in the bush.

 

One time, Elizabeth and her younger brother decided to fell a tree which was growing too near the house. She and her sister took turns on one end of a 7ft cross-cut saw while their brother worked the other end. They didn't know to scarf the trunk to control the fall and suddenly the tree started to fall. Her brother called her to run for her life, but she was paralysed with fear and remained frozen to the spot. The tree struck a stump in front of her and split, gashing her leg badly, but missing her head by inches.

 

 

Later she went to Wellington as a nursemaid for several famous people including Sir Robert Stout and Sir Joseph Ward. While there, she met John Charles Woolliams and after their marriage in 1902, came back to Taranaki to begin farming near Manaia.

 

After bush fires destroyed everything they possessed, including their cattle, the Woolliams moved to Manaia, then to Te Kiri, Eltham, Feilding and to Marton where their six children were all born. A bad accident to John meant he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

In 1924 the Woolliams moved to Hawera where John died on 19 May 1947, nearly thirty years before his wife.

 

On Elizabeth's 101st birthday she was given a copy of "Petticoat Pioneers" by Miriam MacGregor as she featured in the book. Elizabeth Ann Woolliams was thought to be the oldest resident of Taranaki at her death at the age of 102 on the 9 September 1976. She is buried at the Hawera cemetery.

 

Longevity must run in the Davies family as Elizabeth's sister, Flora Alice Emily Davies, died in August 1991 at Tauranga aged 107. Flora married Alfred Smith in 1909. The couple had no children and Alfred died on board a troop ship on the way to service during World War One. Flora returned to Normanby to live with her parents and took a keen interest in fishing, shooting, trotting and greyhound coursing. She developed a great interest in vintage cars and first bought a Saxton, her next purchase being a 1935 two-seater Citroen, one of only three in New Zealand. She was still driving in her 90s. At her death, Flora was believed to be the only war widow still drawing a pension from the First World War.

 

SOURCES

Obituary "Hawera Star"

Interview "Hawera Star" 100th Birthday 28 Dec 1973

Obituary "Daily News" 23 Aug 1991 for Flora

 

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