Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Meng Family

Karl Philipp Meng (27-06-1834  - 19-08-1885)

Karl Philipp Meng (also known as Carl or Charles Meng) was born in Hohen-Sülzen, Germany to parents Reichard and Maria Eva (née Dörrschuck).  He was named after his grandfather who was a godparent at his christening.  There is a family story that Karl was a lieutenant in the German army and that he emigrated from his residence of Hohen-Sülzen, Palatinate, Germany on 12-12-1862 to get away from the army.  After talking to a local historian, K. Nasterlack, he thinks this is highly unlikely and that Karl would have left due to poverty.  In the year 1857 it was so dry in the region that people were suffering. In the following years they were poor, they usually had many children and couldn't feed them. It would have been the same for the Meng family as they had 8 children living at the time of Karl’s emigration and they lived in a very small house. Karl was probably not a lieutenant.  Officers in the villages were rare and the German Army had very few officers.  As well as escaping from poverty he may have also been escaping from compulsory army service as a soldier.   There are five letters (the Meng letters) which were sent to Karl in NZ from his family from the year 1863 to 1873 which show how poor the family where and how dependent they were on the weather to get their crops and food for the year.

Karl Philipp Meng 1870s

Karl Meng c late 1860s to early 1870s

In the Hohen-Sülzen protestant churchbook it is written that Karl Meng left for Australia in the year 1863. It mentioned Georg Schmitt was going too and his parents knew nothing of his planned journey. A third person with the name Schneider was with them.  The third person was Peter Schneider, a friend of Karl’s.  Karl and Peter came to New Zealand and not Australia.  Peter Schneider left for London on 24-03-1864 to see about travelling to Karl, as mentioned in the Meng letters.  The Meng letters also talk about a Franz Schmitt (not Georg Schmitt) who was thinking of coming to NZ.  From the letters it looks as if he died in 1865 after leaving for abroad and his family were more upset about what he took with him than the fact he had died.  This just shows the poverty of the time.  We are not sure however where Franz was when he died, or any other details.  He didn’t make it to New Zealand as there is no death record for him here.

Karl was on the ship Sebastopol which arrived in 1863, named as single man Jacob Menges, a farm labourer aged 27.  This is the boat that the Ellenberger family were on and Elise Katharina was wrongly named as Maria Ellenberger, domestic servant aged 24.  The errors could have been due to their lack of English language skills when asked to give their name.  Karl and Elise were recruited to sail on the Sebastopol with others from their area of Germany by a man Phillip Tisch who was already in New Zealand.  Tisch went back to Germany when his father died in 1862 and encouraged other Germans to come with him.  Most of the people on the ship were Lutheran or Reformed and this ensured the German Church in Christchurch would get its promised subscriptions.  In the Meng letter from 1863 it reads, “How happy you must have been and Mr.Tisch that everything went without an accident.

"ARRIVAL OF SEBASTOPOL"  The Press, May 23rd 1863

“The ship
Sebastopol, Captain D Taylor, arrived in Lyttelton harbour, from London, on Thursday evening about 5 p.m., after a protracted passage of over 100 days.  She left Gravesend on the 17th January, and did not clear the land until the 9th February,  experiencing heavy gales all the time. Her passenger list includes 17 in the 1st, and 27 in the 2nd cabin, besides 205 assisted Government emigrants. The passengers speak highly of the Captain, surgeon, and officers, and a few days before arrival presented them with testimonials, the one given to the Captain consisting of a purse of sovereigns and an address containing 230 signatures. This ship has been exceedingly free from sickness, no deaths having occurred during the voyage, but 3 births and one marriage.” 

It must have been a good journey as in the Meng letter from 1863 it reads, “Think about how long the time for us became, until we got a message from you and those, who were with you. Half a year and not knowing, whether a storm took you, or which bad destiny could have happened to you. Three weeks ago we were told from Kindenheim, that there came a letter to Friedelsheim and you arrived all well and healthy but after a journey of 75 days- we saw in your letter that it took 126 days. Well you overcame and you have had sometimes a nice pleasure? We at home trembled and you danced and had concerts?

On 08-09-1865 Karl purchased 100 acres of land in the Ashley district (R.S. 8471) from W.S. Blunt worth 300 pounds.  He sold a small part of it to James Carnegy Lock on 21-09-1865 and the rest on the 13-10-1869.  Karl paid 50 pounds of his own money and had a mortgage of 250 pounds at 10% interest.  In the Meng letter dated 09-08-1865 it reads, “
Dear Karl! You asked for some money. That can not be this year.”  It appears he asked his family for money, maybe to help buy this land or pay his mortgage and at the time they were struggling and could not help him.  The piece of land Karl bought was situated on the corner of Cones Road and Boundary Road, just north of Ashley township.  Whether he ever farmed it or leased it out is unknown.  At the same time he owned this land the family actually lived in Rangiora for a while and at Tuahiwi on the Maori Reserve.  Apparently the Maori Reserve was Maori land but the local Maori often leased pieces to Europeans as they couldn’t be bothered farming it themselves.  It was highly sort after land and some of the best farming land in Canterbury.  Karl may have leased the land there as there is no record of him owning any land in Tuahiwi.

Karl later owned a farm at Mill Road, Ohoka, which was close to 100 acres (R.S. 9449 and Pt 2685 (bought on 01-08-1873)).  It was later owned by his son-in-law Edwin Lord in 1896.  Karl married Elise Katharina Ellenberger on 05-07-1866 at St Peter’s Riccarton, Christchurch, and they had seven daughters and a stillborn child.  Only three of the seven daughters survived to maturity.

Hellene Barbara Meng (23-06-1867 - 03-08-1869) 
Elise Mary Meng (02-11-1868 - 05-07-1881)
Mary Meng (21-05-1870 -  27-02-1937) 
Katherina Meng (23-10-1872 - 14-05-1969)
Emma Magdalena Meng (14-09-1875 - 24-09-1931)
Lina Amelia Meng (08-10-1877 -  19-03-1878)
Amelia Wihelmina Meng (08-10-1877 -  23-02-1878)
Stillborn Meng (29-03-1879  -  29-03-1879)

None of these children were baptised as they are not in the Christchurch parish records.  This makes sense as the Ellenberger family were Mennonite and did not believe in baptising children.  Mennonites believed that baptisms should take place when the person was old enough to make their own decision.  Karl Meng attended the Lutheran church in Hohen-Sülzen, Germany like his ancestors before him, and was not a Mennonite.

It appears that Karl was a labourer living in Rangiora when his first child Hellene was born in 1867.  Whether this was on his piece of land in Ashley, or labouring for someone else, we are not sure.    He was listed as a farmer residing in Rangiora on Elise Mary’s birth certificate in 1868.  A year later they were resided at the Maori reserve at Woodend.
Karl Phillipe Meng & Elise Katherina (nee Ellenberger)

  Elise Katharina Ellenberger and Karl Philipp Meng c1866.  This could have been their wedding photo.

Their oldest child, Hellene Barbara Meng, drowned in Woodend at about the age of two years and one month. It seems Elise left her daughter outside for about five minutes and then realised she couldn’t hear her and went to look for her.  Hellene had followed a furrow on a freshly ploughed field on the property and fell into a six foot deep waterhole.  A full transcription of the inquest is further on in this book.  The following extract was in The Press dated Thursday, August 5 1869.

"An inquest was held on Wednesday last at Woodend before C.Dudley Esq, coroner, on the body of a child, daughter of Mr Meng, residing near the bush.  It appears that on Monday evening the child (two years and a month old) was found drowned in a pool of water in a paddock near where it parents resided.  A verdict of Accidentally Drowned was returned."

The Lyttelton Times and the Star had this extract published August 5 1869.

"Inquest - An inquest was held yesterday at Woodend, on the body of Helena Barbara Meng, whose parents reside on the Maori Reserve.  The child had left the house the day previous and was found drowned.  The evidence of the mother and a neighbour named David Stuart was taken and the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death"." 

In the inquest Elise went to see Reverend Stack for help, so the family likely went to St Stephen’s Church, Tuahiwi for a while before they moved to Ohoka.  It was a couple of months after Hellene’s tragic death that Karl sold his land at Ashley (October 1869).

In November 1869, Karl was awarded 20 pounds compensation for cattle destroyed at the Maori Reserve (under Proclamation) as they had pleuropneumonia.  From The Star, it seems that there were many people in the area affected by this disease. On the 17-04-1871 Karl was compensated again for cattle destroyed on the Maori Reserve, this time 18 pounds.  This may have encouraged Karl to finally leave the Native Reserve and move to Ohoka in mid to late 1870, but we are not sure about this.  Reverend Stack and his family also left the area  and moved to Kaiapoi after his cottage burned down on 05-05-1870.  The Meng family’s support from the local Reverend in Tuahiwi was now gone.

Mary Meng was born in Woodend on 1-05-1870 and the family must have moved soon afterwards as the Meng letter dated 16-02-1871 was sent to Peter Schneider as the family had heard Karl had moved from villagers in Kindenheim (possibly the Griebel family) and didn’t know where to send the letter.  Karl received the terrible news that four of his family in Germany had died within a very short space of time.  They had caught “nerve fever and typhoid illness” with his brother Johannes dying first, then his mother, then his father and brother Jacob.  They were all buried in a row in the Hohen-Sulzen graveyard and the family were very sad.  Marie and Friedrich Meng were also sick at this time and were lucky to be alive . 

Karl and Elise had more daughters.  Katherina Meng was born in 1872 in Ohoka.  The twins Lina and Amelia Meng were born in 1877 and died in 1878 in Ohoka after illnesses from birth.  Lina appears to have had inanition from birth (lack of nutrition) and died at 5 months old and Amelia had general atrophy from birth and died at about 4 months old.  Elise had no milk to fed them and was feeding them cows milk on a teaspoon which was not enough for them to survive.  On Amelia’s inquest she had been sick on the Saturday and Karl Meng had gone to Christchurch to buy a double perambulator for his girls.  While away, Amelia died as Elise had nobody to send for a doctor.  She probably would have died anyway as she was in a very poor state nutritionally.

Ohoka in 1871 would have been a fairly hard place to live.  Despite the main drain being dug in 1860 and 1861 the land was still very wet and ‘the settlers were frequently prisoners during the winter months.’  Phillip Threlkeld, an Ohoka identity, commented that ‘there would be little exaggeration in saying that the land was knee-deep in water.’  The settlers were frequently completely isolated during the winter months until the railway came in the mid-1870s.  Even then the Ohoka section of the railway was known as The Ohoka Punt.  The railway was a great step forward for the Meng family and they didn’t have to wait long for it to arrive.  A two-storeyed hotel opened in Ohoka in April 1871 and a year later a store was opened diagonally opposite the hotel.  By 1874 there was a Post Office facility at the store. 

The sheep records show that Karl had 43 sheep in 1880 and 22 sheep in 1881 on the property at Ohoka.  On the farm Karl used to carry on the German tradition of curing his own bacon and making sausages, according to one of his granddaughters, so it looks like  he may have had some pigs as well.  We don’t know what other animals were on the farm or whether he had crops as well, but it was likely to be a mixed farm.

Karl and Elise went to the Deutsche Kirche or German Church which opened in 1874 on the corner or Montreal Street and Worcester Street (now the site of the Christchurch Art Gallery).  At the Anniversary of opening 400 people were present and “Mesdame Meng” was one of many ladies mentioned who presided over the supper tables.  In 1877 Karl Meng paid one pound as a first payment of two for subscription to the Oxford Church, for Pastor Lohr’s services there.  The Pastor travelled to the Oxford area for those who couldn’t always make it into Christchurch every Sunday.  Oxford apparently had a large German Lutheran population.

Elise Katharina Meng died in 1879 of “postpartum haemorrhage  - ignorant neglect” which was written on her death certificate.  A letter from her sister Maria in 1879 said that she had a feeling something had happened.  She said to Karl that it was very hard for him not being there at the time of her death.  He must have come back from somewhere to find her in the house.  Their daughter Kate Fraser (nee Meng) had written a list of all the children born and there was a stillbirth in 1879, with Elise dying the same day.

At the death of Karl's wife, Elise Katharina, in 1879 he had four girls to look after.  One of his daughters, Elizabeth, later died in 1881 at the age of 12 of acute pneumonia.  He remarried on 28-01-1882 to a widow Sarah Winfield Potts (née Brown).  She looked after his three remaining daughters.  Whether Karl married Sarah Potts specifically so she could look after the girls is unknown but could have been a possibility.  It sounds like he asked Elise's sisters what he should do.  They said that he should think of the children and if that meant remarrying, then he should do this.  Once married it is possible he moved straight to Christchurch and lived at 30 Antigua Street with his second wife Sarah, or maybe they moved when he became ill with cancer in 1883.  He appeared at an evening meeting for the German Church in 1883, now living much closer to the church.  He must have leased his farm at Ohoka as he still owned it when he died.  Karl Meng died on 19-08-1885 after a long and painful illness.  It appears he had cancer for two years.  He was living at 30 Antigua Street in Christchurch.  An extract from his will follows:

"...upon trust in the first place to pay to my wife Sarah Wingfield Meng the sum of one hundred pounds for her sole and separate use and benefit absolutely and to hold in trust for my said wife all the shares which I now possess in the Colonial Bank of New Zealand and all dividends and sums of money if any now and payable in respect thereof for her absolute use and benefit.  My real and personal estate and effects and all sum and sums of money coming to the hands of my said trustees under by virtue of
this my Will and the yearly produce thereof upon trust for my three children Mary, Katherina and Emma on their respectively attaining the age of twenty-one years in equal shares.  They are to be paid 40 pounds per year respectively out of the income of the presumptive share or shares of such dividends when under the age of 21...."

Karl Meng's estate consisted of the following items:

98 ac 24 per of farm land with house thereon at Ohoka 1650
16 shares in the Kaiapoi Woollen Factory 400
40 shares in the Colonial Bank 84
Cash in Bank 100/8/0
Fixed deposit Colonial Bank 100
An I.O.U 26/17/6
Household furniture 40


CREDIT 723/8/5

Karl Meng's will took a long time to sort out and the executors Mr Peter Schneider and Mr Heinrich Kissel received 1885 pounds for administration.  This was a large cut of the will. We think these men weren't cheating the family out of money, it was just because of difficult circumstances around the will.  We don't know why the will was so difficult.  Heinrich Kissel was on the same ship coming out to New Zealand as Karl and Elise and was from Grosskarlbach about 11km from where Karl grew up.  Heinrich went to the Deutsche Church in Christchurch as well, so was probably a close friend.  Peter Schneider was also from Hohen-Sülzen.  We thought he might be a cousin at one stage but is likely not related to Karl as he never addresses him as cousin in letters.  Karl’s Grandmother was a Schneider from the same village but it was a very common name.  

It appears Karl and Elise had a fairly hard and tragic life in New Zealand.  They are buried in the Flaxton Cemetery along with their daughters Elizabeth, Lina Amelia and Amelia Wilhelmina Meng.  It is likely that Hellene, is buried in the Kaiapoi Anglican Cemetery as it was “the burial place for all bodies on which inquests were held in the district between the Waimakariri and the Hurunui” according to the Waimakariri District Council.  The records are not complete for this cemetery and Hellene’s name can not be found.

G.R. McDonald Biographies, Canterbury Museum
Horrell land records, Canterbury Museum
Probate of Charles Meng from Archives NZ
Hohen-Sülzen information from K. Nasterlack
Meng Letters from S. Baker and G. Fraser, translated by K. Nasterlack
Birth, death and marriage certificates for family members from - The Star, The Press, The Lyttelton Times
Hohen-Sülzen parish records, LDS Library
White Wings by Henry Brett
Land Information New Zealand - Christchurch office
Family photos from our own collection (copyright Belinda Lansley 2012)

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