Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Sepia Saturday 201: Ghosts in an old house - a baby's head

This is my second attempt at Sepia Saturday which is a fabulous thing I've just discovered!  I have already written a post on an ancestral house which had three generations of my family living in it.  Click here to read more about Willowgrove and its history.   It was a beautiful old colonial cottage, built sometime around 1870-1871, probably built by builders for my ancestor Karl Philipp Meng who bought the land from the Crown in the district of Ohoka, Canterbury, New Zealand.  
The farmhouse at Ohoka

This house had many deaths in it - seven in total that we know about, possibly more.  There was the death of twin baby girls aged three and four months, named Lina and Amelia Meng who failed to thrive as their mother had no breast milk and they wouldn't drink from a bottle.  Then there was the death of their mother Elise Katharina Meng in 1879 along with her stillborn baby.  She bled to death and her husband Karl came back and found her dead.  We don't know any exact details of what happened, only that her husband wasn't there when she died and that "postpartum hemorrhage, ignorant neglect" was written on her death certificate.  Very accusing words, but who was to blame was never mentioned!

Karl was left without a wife to care for the four girls he still had.  Then his daughter Elise Mary died aged 12 of pneumonia in the same house - four deaths now in this house.  Karl remarried, moved out and leased the property to other farmers.  When he passed away in 1885, the house and farm passed to his three daughters.    One of the daughters, Mary Lord, nee Meng ended up owning the property with her husband Edwin, eventually paying out her sisters.  

While the Lord family lived in the house they lost two family members.  Catherine Lord who died at aged 1 month old as she wouldn't feed and their son Carl Edwin Lord, or Carly for short, died aged 7 years old in 1910 and so very much loved by the family.  He died of diptheria and left the family in a state of mourning.
Carl Edwin Lord3
Carly aged about three

So Willowgrove, which probably had a lot of good memories, also had a lot of ghosts.  

I visited the property in February 1997 with my Mum, it turns out we made the visit only two months before it was demolished.  At the time we had no idea of this impending demolition and were sitting at the dining table that day and started talking about the house.  Some pine trees had been cut down and the house was now visible in the distance from the road and we kept thinking about it.  We decided if we didn't visit then and there, then we would never do it and might miss the chance.  We drove the 9 kms to get there and knocked on the door of the new house which was built about a hundred metres away from the original farmhouse.  The people in the house were tenants and said we were welcome to look around the old farmhouse but that the floorboards upstairs were rotten and not to go up there. 
Ohoka Farmhouse
We took many photos inside and outside the house and I got them printed and filed them away for a few years.  When I went to do a family history book over ten years later, I decided to scan the photos and put them into my book.  After scanning them and blowing them up, I saw two strange faces looking at me from the picture.  One looks like a face in the top window and the other a baby's head.  They are probably just cobwebs or shadows but everyone in our family agrees that they look ghostly.  I like to think that ghosts do exist.  What do you think?

Ohoka Farmhouse babys head

Spooky baby's head?

Ohoka Farmhouse face in window

A face at the window?

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Beautiful Ada and Hinga!

My Great Grandma and her sister May had two friends from their childhood in Ohoka.  Their names were Ada and Hinga Ropu.  I can not find where they were born, only the record of their burial in Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch.  They likely met my Great Grandma, Dorothy, and her sister through either the Tuahiwi Church or Te Waipounamu school for girls in Ohoka.  Maybe they went to both places?

In adult life they apparently lived in a small house near Hagley College and Hagley Park, Christchurch and never married.  The photos we have of them are glamorous and they were truly beautiful.  They apparently often wore furs and beautiful clothes.

Ada Rahara Ropu was born 1897 and died 31 December 1941 aged 44, spinster.
Rangihau Hinga Te Ropu was born about 1900 and died 31 May 1973 aged 73, spinster.

They are also buried in Sydenham Cemetery with possibly a brother:
Thomas Te Ropu Ropu born about 1900 and died 14 June 1960 aged 60, shearer.

The following photos are the kinds that people used to give to friends and family at Christmas with a small greeting written on the corner.  These ladies had natural classic style and even today it is still timeless! They are some of my favourite photos from our family collection. The first photo is of glamorous Hinga Ropu and the other four photos are of beautiful Ada Ropu.

Hinga Ropu

 Ada Ropu 3Ada Ropu2Ada Ropu4

Ada Ropu

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Oldest Photo I Own

This photo is very very old.  I'm guessing around 1856-1860 judging by the hairstyle over the ears and the sleeves on the dress.  She is wearing a pale dress, not as common in the 1860s and 70s I think (I might be wrong here).  I am not used to seeing such a light coloured dress.  Many of the photos in our collection have women in darker coloured dresses probably because they were serviceable and the fact Queen Victoria was wearing a huge amount of black after the death of her husband in 1861.  Women looked up to her and copied her.  This photo is possibly a daguerreotype photo as it has a weird mirrored look.  But it could be an ambrotype and I'm mistaken.  The image almost appears like a negative, however it is not.  I'm not sure if it is exactly how it was in the 1850s or if it has been damaged over the years to give this weird ghostlike appearance.

Is the picture English or German?  I have both nationalities in my family tree.

I don't know anything else about it which is very frustrating.  It was in an old trunk of photos that my great grandmother stored in her house for 60 years.  If anyone can shed light on it, I would love to know!  I have a feeling it was brought out on an immigrant ship to New Zealand.  A likeness of a sweetheart, which we still have today.

Could it be an image of Sarah Winfield Brown?  Did she give a likeness to her sweetheart James Potts who departed for New Zealand on the ship Glentanner leaving 11 June 1857.  Sarah followed in 1860 on the ship Gananoque and married James soon after arrival.  Sarah is the most likely candidate for the subject of the photo.   It is hard to compare this young girl to the older lady I know as Mrs Potts, age having taken it's toll so to speak.  Or could this girl be a sister of one of my ancestors who left for New Zealand all those years ago.  Less likely but still possible.  Or a sweetheart that never followed her man out and found the idea just too risky and adventurous so stayed behind in her homeland.