Sophia Ginger was born on 7 February 1839 in Monmouthshire, England, the daughter of George and Elizabeth nee Ashton. Sophia came to New Zealand with her parents and six brothers and sisters on the Joseph Fletcher arriving in Auckland in 1852. After a month the family came on to New Plymouth, where whale boats came out to meet them and they were carried ashore by sailors. After a short time spent in a hotel on the beach, the family acquired land at Tataraimaka where they lived happily for ten years.
When the native disturbances broke out in North Taranaki, the family was ordered to New Plymouth. In 1861 all families with no house were sent to Nelson where they stayed for two years, returning to New Plymouth in 1863. The Ginger brothers, having served in the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers, were allotted land in Kakaramea, and after a pit-sawn house was built, the rest of the family travelled via the coast, taking five days by horse and cart.
In the wars of 1868, Sophia and her sister-in-law Elizabeth Rennie Ginger nee Stephen were evacuated to Patea. Upon their arrival they found the township so crowded that accommodation was at a premium, and for a fortnight their abode was a baker's oven. Later Sophia's brothers took refuge in Patea, just ahead of the Hauhaus who burnt the Ginger's homestead. When the fighting got closer to Patea, the women and children, Sophia included, were removed to Wanganui by steamer.
At the close of Titokowaru's war, land in the Manutahi district was offered to settlers who would undertake the defence of the community, each settler being given a free grant of 10 acres. The Ginger brothers, along with Sophia, were among the first to accept, and their first duty was the erection of a blockhouse for the protection of the residents, the blockhouse later being used as a dance hall and as a venue for public meetings.
Sophia had a long period of residence in Manutahi, in which she saw the district and the southern portion of Taranaki opened for development, and also the building of the railway to Manutahi, which for some time remained a terminus from which passengers were transported to and from Hawera by coach.
She then came to Hawera to reside at 6 Cameron Street where she lived until her death, her pastimes including gardening, reading, writing and playing cards. For her 100th birthday she received congratulations from the King and Queen and Their Excellencies the Governor General and Lady Galway.
Sophia Ginger died on the 31 October 1942 in her 104th year, after 90 years in the province. She is buried at Manutahi cemetery. A niece was Elizabeth Lovell.
Ross Symes, Manutahi
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