Mr. William Gilbert Rees
was born on April 6th, 1827. He is a son of Commander Rees, Royal Navy, and was educated at the Royal Naval School. He arrived in New South Wales early in 1852, and gained his experience of stock in that Colony, being then manager of a large sheep and cattle run. In 1858 he returned to England, where he was married and in the latter part of the same year came to New Zealand and joined Mr. George Janunie. In 1859 he started with a party to explore the then, unknown country west of the Hawea and Wanaka Lakes, and north of the five River Plain, but losing some horses and stores in finding the Molyneux River, and getting into rough country, all the party, with the exception of two, got disheartened and turned back. However, Mr. Rees and Mr. Vou Tunzelman were not to be frightened by a few difficulties, so continued their journey, got into the Arrow country, discovered and explored the whole basin of the Wakatipu Lake, coasting round it by means of a raft built on the site of the present township of Queenstown. Rees secured for his firm (Grant, Jannuie, and Rees) a splendid country, capable of running 100,000 sheep. On his return to Dunedin after the expedition he purchased a whaleboat from Akers, pilot at the Bluff, and got it up to the present site of Kingston, and formed his head station on Whalis, near Queenstown. His sheep, meantime, had been running at Coal Creek, kindly lent him by the late John Jones, of Dunedin, and with much difficulty got them on to his own run, swimming them over the Molyneux, page 244
and then driving them over the Crown range. In 1865 the partnership was dissolved. Mr. Rees then became the Hon. R. Campbell's manager, and occupied that position for sixteen years, and afterwards accepted an appointment as a Government sheep inspector, a position he still retains. In his younger days Mr. Rees was a prominent athlete, being equally successful with the ball and the bat. Mr. Rees, it is worthy of note, is cousin and godfather of that celebrated cricketer, Dr. W. G. Grace, and he gave that gentleman his first bat when he went home in 1858.