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Part three: Otago


Flesh on the bones of an ancestor – placing flesh on the bones of an ancestor can be a difficult task, particularly if there are few bones to start with. Reading early newspapers to find out what the MacGibbon family did in their eight years in Dunedin – and in the process, finding out what others were up to in the young colony.

Newspapers in the 1850s – a discussion of the content and style of newspapers published in Dunedin between 1848 and 1858.

Predecessors – the MacGibbons were early settlers in Dunedin, but they were far from being the earliest. Their ship dropped anchor in the second year of organised European settlement, but people had been living in the area for upwards of 900 years. A discussion of the early Maori residents, and the European advance guard who included explorers, whalers, missionaries, government officials and New Zealand Company planners.

Early days in Dunedin – describing the primitive conditions the earliest New Zealand Company settlers faced, and how they adapted to their new situation.

Arriving at the end of 1849 – by December 1849, Dunedin was a slightly more comfortable prospect – but only slightly. The MacGibbon family was relatively lucky, in that they were able to immediately rent a wooden dwelling and a store where they set up their first retail business. Contemporary writers describe a town where it was still possible to be bogged to the waist in the main street.

The MacGibbon environs – John McLay, a fellow passenger in the Mooltan, lived across the street from the MacGibbons in 1850, and described what he saw.

Maori in the media – what the local newspapers had to say about the original inhabitants of the area, and how misunderstandings led to grievances and later claims for compensation. Generally though, relations between the Maori and white settlers were much better than in New Zealand’s northern settlements.

Moving to Caversham – Later in 1850, the MacGibbon family moved to its suburban block at Caversham to begin a life of farming and business. An oversupply of retail shops and general economic stagnation in the settlement had led to John MacGibbon abandoning direct retailing and becoming an importer and wholesaler.

James Macandrew the "coming man" – James Macandrew was one of Dunedin’s more colourful characters, and a man with whom John MacGibbon was linked by business and politics.

Otago on the move – from 1853, economic conditions gradually improved.

Dabbling in politics – John MacGibbon dabbled in politics on the side of the ruling Free Church Scottish clique.

Southland beckons – in 1858 the MacGibbon family decided to seek new prospects in the lands opening up south of Dunedin.

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Dunedin in the early 1850s

First MacGibbon general store advertisement, January 1850

Axtelle's Theatre of Fun and Mirth advertisement

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