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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 4, 2001



Henry Freer Rawson came to practise in Nelson between 1862 and 1873, during which time his advertisements appeared in the Nelson Examiner and The Colonist. His Nelson addresses were variously given as Mr Lockhart, Hardy Street, nearly opposite the Institute, Nile Street East, Trafalgar Square, and Brick House near the Bridge Street Bridge, (formerly Mrs Greenwood's school). He also advised of regular visits to Messrs Laking and Mitton's surgery in Richmond, and Dr Cotterell's surgery in Motueka.

While he was at the Hardy Street address in 1868 Henry Rawson became the talk of the town. It was reported in the Nelson Examiner that 'due to an incautious use of spirits of wine by night light' Henry Rawson and John Greenwood caused a major conflagration while employed in some dentistry operations. Lengthy reports appeared in both Nelson papers, describing how several houses were destroyed but, mercifully, the Panama Hotel was saved. The new fire hydrant system was used for the first time, but there was a sorry spectacle of firemen needing to douse the flames with buckets filled from a hose that was too short.

Henry was perhaps better noted for his paintings than his dentistry and was a friend and pupil of John Gully the artist. Both originated in Taranaki and both toured the country with their palettes and water-colour paints. He was a landscape painter and an engraver and one of his paintings, of the Omata Stockade, is in the Taranaki Museum. Henry died prematurely in 1879.

Henry's younger brother, Herbert Pearson Rawson, was our Nelson doctor Dr Dick Rawson's grandfather. Herbert had been apprenticed to study dentistry with Henry, who was 14 years his senior, and he took over his practice in Bolton Street, Wellington, on Henry's death in 1879. Although, like Tatton, he had mining interests in Nelson, Herbert never actually practised here. He was chairman of an optimistic but unsuccessful mining page 16enterprise which abandoned attempts to mine gold at Wakamarina Gorge near Canvastown in 1898. The company had the grand title of the Wakamarina and Deep Creek Gold Mining Company. The first President of the New Zealand Dental Association in 1905, he was often referred to as the 'father of dentistry' in New Zealand.