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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 4, September 1978

'Potted Biographies'

'Potted Biographies'

(Those who braved a cold winter's day to visit the old part of the Wakapuaka Cemetery were fascinated by the 'potted biographies' presented by various members. Here is a brief selection of Mr John Savage's research).

Herbert Evelyn Curtis (1818–90) left England in 1853 with his younger brother Oswald in the barque "Mohammed Shah," but the voyage was not without incident, for when off the coast of Tasmania the ship was burnt at sea and the passengers and crew were landed on the coast. When they eventually reached Nelson the brothers set up in business as merchants trading under the name of Curtis Brothers.

In 1856 Herbert Curtis entered Parliament representing Motueka and Massacre Bay (1856–60) and Motueka (1861–66). He was also Government Auditor for the provincial district of Nelson, but upon his retirement from politics in 1866 he devoted himself to business. He was for many years an active Justice of the Peace and up to the time of his death in 1890 he was a senior lieutenant in the New Zea-Militia.

Oswald Curtis (1821–1902) was a member of the Provincial Council for Nelson from 1857 till 1867, but following the retirement from politics of his elder brother Herbert he was elected to Parliament in 1866 as member for Nelson, a seat which he held until 1879. Early in 1867 he succeeded Alfred Saunders as Superintendant of the province of Nelson, a position which he held until the abolition of the provinces. In 1872 he was Postmaster-General and Commissioner of Customs for four weeks in the Stafford ministry but apart from this brief excursion into national politics his public experience was confined chiefly to Nelson. He retired From Parliament in 1879 but a few months later he was appointed chairman of the Royal Commision on railways. He was afterwards a Resident Magistrate and acted on several commissions of enquiry notably that in connection with Dunedin gaol (1883).

His practical ability and his zeal in the cause of education always commanded the respect and esteem of his fellow colonists. He was made a Governor of Nelson College in 1874 and was a member of the New Zealand University Senate (1870–87). He was also a trustee of the Nelson Savings Bank.

Samuel Kirkpatrick (1851–1925) was born in Newry, County Down, Ireland, where he received his early education, but later he was enrolled at Walton College, Liverpool. After leaving college he joined page 43a firm of wholesale provision and tea merchants with whom he remained for five years. He then emigrated to America where he was engaged in the wholesale tea business, first in Philadelphia and afterwards at Pittsburg. In 1876 he went to California where he was engaged in the fruit preserving industry. It was here that he gained the practical knowledge and experience which he was later to use to such advantage in his Nelson enterprise. From California he emigrated to New Zealand in 1879 and landed in Auckland. He moved to Dunedin where he spent some time before returning to Britain. However, his visit to New Zealand had convinced him of the viability of a fruit preserving industry in this country, so in 1881 he returned to New Zealand bringing with him a complete canning plant. He selected Nelson and set up business in Bridge Street on a site which in more recent times, was occupied by Anstice's Bakery. His venture was soon so successful that he was compelled to build larger premises on the corner of Vanguard and Gloucester Streets. The business continued to prosper and for many years was the largest employer of labour in the district as well as providing a stimulus for the growing of a wide range of fruits and vegetables in the area. He was a prominent Mason and upon his death his home in Mount Street was endowed to eventually become a home for orphaned girls whose fathers had been Masons.

Burchard Franzen (1833–1893) was born in Schlesig-Holstein in 1833 and arrived in Nelson in the barque "Ardencraig" in 1862 and returned in the same year. However, he returned to Nelson in 1863 and commenced business as a sailmaker and ships-chandler at the Port. The two-storey building had a wharf attached. Mr Franzen was also interested in the mining industry and he invested large sums of money in the Champion Copper Mine and in other mines in the district. It is interesting to note that he was agent for Washbourn and Sons' Hematite Paints and Knife Powder indicating that he was keen to promote the mineral resources which were being developed by the Washbourns at Para Para. Mr Franzen was naturalised as a British subject and was made a Justice of the Peace. Following his death the business was carried on by his widow and later by Mr Edwin Smallbone.