Researching my three times great aunt Elizabeth Challoner and her husband Charles Rhodes Bowmar led me to make some fascinating and rather startling discoveries. Reasons for blogging about them together will become apparent. I knew from my Dad’s research from the 1960s, that Elizabeth ended up overseas and whom she had married but my research found an interesting link.
Let’s start with Elizabeth. She was born in the village of Oadby, Leicestershire (3 miles South East of Leicester), on 9th Feb 1840 (Ref_1) to parents John Challoner an Agricultural Labourer and Mary Hill. She was baptised on 23 Mar 1840 in the parish church (Ref_2).
John and Mary had already had several children, unfortunately only my 2xgreat grandfather Thomas (the police officer) in 1833 had survived at this point. Her parents were originally from Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire and they had moved down to Oadby shortly after they had married on 8 Jan 1832 (Ref_3) at St Mary Magdalene church.
According to the 1841 census (Ref_4), I found Elizabeth aged 1 living in London Road, Oadby with her parents and her brother Thomas aged 7. John and Mary continued to have a few more children but only sister Jemima born in 1842 survived. In total they had 8 children and only 3 survive into adulthood. Sadly, on 29 Jun 1847 Mary passed away aged 39 and was buried in Oadby. By the 1851 census (Ref_5), John and his two daughters were still living in Oadby in New Lane and Thomas had left home.
So, for the origins of Charles, he was born in Oadby in 1837/38 but could not find his birth registered in the GRO. It was the beginnings of births, marriages and death requiring to be registered, which coincided when Queen Victoria came onto the throne in 1837 so probably not surprising. I did however find his baptism, on 28 Mar 1838 to parents Elijah and Barbara Bowmar (Ref_6).
I also found him in the 1841 census (Ref_7), not far from Elizabeth, living with parents Elijah, a farmer and Barbara, along with siblings John (1828), James (1830), Thomas (1834) and Alice (1826) along with a couple of lodgers at The Green, London Road. It indicated that some of the family were from outside the county. Only Thomas and Charles were born in Oadby. Unfortunately by the next census, his father Elijah had passed on leaving Barbara widowed in 1844, she and her 2 sons Thomas and Charles (both of whom had become Frame Work Knitters), along with a grandchild Arabella Weston had moved to Church Street, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire (Ref_8). Birthplace for Barbara showed Sutton-in-Ashfield so it seems that the Bowmar’s and the Challoner’s had moved down to Oadby at roughly the same time. It would be nice to know why Oadby, I didn’t find any adverts in any of the newspapers and wondered how would they have travelled? The trains were only coming into play transporting coal but not really passengers. The coach would be one option or perhaps they shared a horse and cart.
So decided to investigate the parents or at least the mothers, I already knew that Elizabeth’s mother maiden name was Hill and wondered whether Rhodes being middle name for Charles perhaps be Barbara’s maiden name. However checking out the parish records for Sutton-in-Ashfield and the surrounding area for Elijah and Barbara’s marriage discovered that Barbara’s maiden name was also Hill. They got married in Sutton-in-Ashfield on 14th April 1823 (Ref_9) at St Mary Magdalene Church.
Of course I had to investigate the baptisms for Barbara and Mary. I found Barbara’s on 9 April 1797 and Mary’s on the 17 Feb 1807 at St Mary Magdalene and both parents’ names were John and Martha. This is definitely a coincidence, so I then searched for a marriage between a John and Martha. On 31 Mar 1794, sure enough found a John Hill marriage to Martha Rhodes at St Mary Magdalene. All of my research had been using Findmypast website but unfortunately it did not have the original images.
So Rhodes comes from Charles’ grandmother, this is a common occurrence in family history, but how often do first cousins marry? I tried to disprove the theory they were cousins, but all records points to being first cousins. Charles and Elizabeth would probably have been close during their childhood and must have kept in touch. They got married on 23rd December 1860 (Ref_10) in the parish church at Stoughton, Leicestershire. By then Charles had become a carpenter, based in Derby according to the marriage certificate. In the 1861 census, I found Charles and Elizabeth was living in Litchurch a part of Derby (Ref_11).
I discovered that they had a son Gershon in late 1861, unfortunately passed away; I haven’t ordered the certificates yet but will at some point. He was baptised at St Peter’s Derby but no specific date found in any records only the year and they must have been devastated when he died. I knew from Dad’s research that they had immigrated to New Zealand. Did this sad event prompt them to move or other reasons?
The next part of my research became harder but websites Wikitree, Findmypast and Ancestry came in handy. My discoveries showed that Charles and Elizabeth departed Liverpool on the ship Red Jacket which arrived in the port of Melbourne, Australia on 23 Dec 1862 (their 2nd wedding anniversary). The passenger list (Ref_12) shows Charles aged 25 and Elizabeth aged 23.
They remained in Melbourne for about 4 months before embarking onto another ship Benjamin Heape, arriving possibly at the beginning of May into the Otago Harbour, Port Chalmers, Dunedin. This I worked out from the Otago Witness Shipping news (Ref_13) during the height of the Otago Gold rush (1861 to 1864), when the immigration to New Zealand increased quite considerably and Dunedin town grew as a result of the influx of precious metal hunters from Victoria, Australia and California, USA.
A brand new life beckoned for the couple in a primitive land. I was lucky to find obituaries for both Charles and Elizabeth which gave a very good insight into their life. They spent the rest of the lives in the South Island of New Zealand in Gore area, West of Dunedin. I haven’t searched the New Zealand census yet, but hopefully these records can provide some more information. They had several children Ernest (1863-1935), Ada (1865-1865), another Gershon (1866-1937), Teressa (1869-1936), Thomas (1872), Claudia (Aug 1873-1945), Erskine (1876-1932), Ethel (1878-1960), and Stanley Challoner (1881-1965). Some of their children remained in the New Zealand but a few immigrated to other parts of the world, USA, Canada, Australia and a South Pacific Island.
Researching Elizabeth has been fascinating but even more so when I found using the Findmypast record searches, discovered that she had signed in Women’s Suffrage Petition of 1892 (Ref_14). It was another year before Women were allowed to vote on 19 September 1893, thanks to several petitions generated over several years courtesy of the suffragist Kate Sheppard. New Zealand became the first self-governing nations to allow the women’s vote. Britain and USA didn’t allow it until after the WWI. According to her obituary, she had become a teacher; perhaps this position enabled her to influence many others in the Gore area.
Throughout my family history research, newspapers have been fabulous resources; the Mataura Ensign newspapers digital archives between 1883 and 1920s (Ref_15) was no exception for death notices and obituaries, but also other titbits. Charles owned a farm in Charlton called Nottingham Meadows, that was run by his sons and there are several instances, where adverts are in the papers for invites to plough his land, to provide chaff cutting service (mechanical machine that cuts straw and hay into pieces before being mixed together to feed horses and cattle), requests to auction off his sheep, pigs and cattle and sheep dipping (sheep are dipped into liquid substance a few weeks have they are sheared, which protects them from external parasites).
Upon reading the newspapers, discovered another Bowmar, which intrigued me, and found that a Joseph Bowmar from Nottinghamshire was a cousin of Charles’ who came over to settle in the area sometime after Charles arrived. Both of who had a big influence over the development of the area, so much so that looking at google maps, it shows a Bowmar Road. The papers mention the various committee meetings they both were heavily involved with, in particular the Gore Farmers’ Club and Otaria Road Board. Elizabeth also appeared in various articles attending Tea meetings, concerts and Soirees whilst fundraising for the schools in the area Slopedown and Charlton.
Charles and Elizabeth children are also mentioned many times. Their sons Gershon and Thomas ran the Threshing Mills as a partnership but they dissolved this in 1890. Then Gershon went on to become an inventor and ended up living a life in London in the late 1890s, where he had various inventions patented, like the Automatic Cornice Pole (String that pulls curtains) and Domestic appliances. Later he moved to the USA working as chief engineer in a Motor company in Buffalo, New York state. The daughters were involved in the Gore Gospel Temperance Society which gave concerts. Another son Erskine was very much involved in the New Zealand Farmer’s union and became the secretary of the Gore section. Their youngest son, Stanley decided to immigrate to USA to study journalism and the papers printed articles from him, which are fascinating to read, but I leave that for another blog along with titbits about the children in more detail.
I could go on with what I found as I think there is a lot more to research to be done. So with further ado here are the obituaries which were most informative too. Charles died on 13 April 1916 and the about 18 months later Elizabeth passed away on 4 October 1917.
We regret to record the death of one of the old identities of the district, Mr C.R. Bowmar, who passed away at his late residence, Onslow Street yesterday afternoon at the age of 78 years. Mr Bowmar had been in failing health for some time, but up to Wednesday morning he was able to get about. Owning to increasing weakness, however, he returned to bed later that day and passed away yesterday afternoon about 3.30 o’clock.
The late Mr Bowmar was well-known throughout the district. He was a man of high integrity and was widely respected. His farm “Nottingham Meadows” was one of the best-managed in the district. He was a native of Oadby, Leicestershire, England, and served his time as a builder at Sutton-in-Ashfield. He left the Old Country in 1862 and arrived in Melbourne the same year, on the second anniversary of his wedding day. He only remained in Melbourne for about four months, when he left for New Zealand, arriving early in 1863. Mr and Mrs Bowmar settled at Mornington, where the former carried on his trad as a master builder and continued to do so until 1883. In 1881 Mr Bowmar purchase a farm at Charlton which he named “Nottingham Meadows”, and his two elder sons managed it for two years, when Mr Bowmar, sen., and the other members of the family came South. The family remained at the farm until 1907, when the home farm was sold to Mr E Tayles, and Mr and Mrs Bowmar came to reside at Gore. During his residence at Charlton, Mr Bowmar was a member of several times chairman of the Charlton School Committee. Mr Bowmar took a keen interest in the Gore Farmers’ Club when it was an active fore in the district. Deceased was a prominent member of the Methodist Church and an ardent supporter of the temperance cause. It was during the winter of 1876 that Mr Bowmar, with the assistance of Mr Robert Stout (now Sir Robert Stout) opened the first Band of Hope in the Mornington district.
The deceased is survived by his widow, four sons and three daughters, Messrs Ernest Bowmar (Lower Hutt), Gershon (Toronto, Canada), Stanley (journalist, Chicago) and Erskine (Gore), and Mesdames J. Booth (Queensland), C.Evison (Niue) and E Tayles (Waipounamu14 April 1916, Mataura Ensign newspaper, Page 5
We regret to announce the death of Mrs C. R. Bowmar, an old resident of this district. Since the death of Mr Bowmar 18 months ago Mrs Bowmar had been residing with members of her family, and she passed away at the residence of her daughter (Mrs E. Tayles), Waipounamu, yesterday. The late Mrs Bowmar (whose maiden name was Elizabeth Challoner) was born at Oadby, Leicestershire, England, in the year 1840, and was married to the late Mr Bowmar in 1860. in 1862 Mr and Mrs Bowmar left England_in the ship Red Jacket and landed “at Melbourne, where they remained for four months, and then sailed to New Zealand in the ship Benjamin Heap, which brought over a large number of diggers for the Otago goldfelds. Mr and Mrs Bowmar settled at Mornington, which was then in a very primitive state, and Mrs Bowmar having been a schoolteacher at Home gathered the children in the locality in a private school, which was the first school of any kind in the Mornington district. At a later date Mrs Bowmar, ever a keen temperance worker, assisted her husband to start the first Band of Hope in the Mornington district. Her capability as a nurse was early recognised, and she rendered assistance on many occasions in the early days. In 1883 Mr and Mrs Bowmar came to dwell at “Nottingham Meadows,” near Gore, which had been opened up by the two eldest sons some two years previously, and here they remained until 1907, when they retired to Gore.
The deceased leaves four sons and three daughters—Messrs Ernest. (Lower Hutt), Gershon (Toronto, Canada), Stanley (New York), and Erskine (Gore), and Mesdames J. Booth (Queensland), C. Evison (Niue, South Sea Islands) and E. Tayles (Waipounamu).5 October 1917, Mataura Ensign newspaper, Page 5
The couple and their children definitely made a name for themselves in Charlton, Gore in Southlands and of course around the world. I think there is much more to discover. I have visited New Zealand a couple of times and loved the country. Of course now I have the impetus to go back again to explore the Gore area to try and imagine their life.
Ref_1 GRO reference first quarter 1840 Blaby union vol 15 pg 67
Ref_2 Leicestershire records office DE1136/3 PG 20 (Findmypast)
Ref_3 Nottinghamshire Marriage Registers, Vol 13 Phillimore Marriage Registers, 1531-1913 (Findmypast)
Ref_4 1841 census HO107 piece 599 book number 6 folio 24 pg 7 schedule 957 (Findmypast)
Ref_5 1851 census HO107 Piece 2081 folio 129 pg 20 schedule 89 (Findmypast)
Ref_6 Leicestershire records office DE1136/3 PG 14 (Findmypast)
Ref_7 1841 census HO107 piece 599 book number 6 folio number 25 pg 8 schedule 964 (Findmypast)
Ref_8 1851 census HO107 piece 2123 folio 499 pg 37 schedule 126 (Findmypast)
Ref_9 Nottinghamshire Marriage Registers, Vol 13 Phillimore Marriage Registers, 1531-1913 (Findmypast)
Ref_10 GRO Reference fourth quarter 1860 Billesdon vol 7A pg 93
Ref_11 1861 census RG9/2505 folio 93 Pg 1 schedule 3 (Ancestry)
Ref_12 1862 Red Jacket passenger list (Ancestry)
Ref_14 New Zealand, Women’s Suffrage Petition 1892 – Ref Micro 6341, Roll 1, Sheet 58, page 91 (Findmypast)