John Cameron of Marangai

John Cameron was a cabin passenger on the Blenheim, so was not included on the list of assisted passengers.  Newspaper accounts of the departure and arrival of the Blenheim note that John Cameron was one of the cabin passengers.

Return to The Blenheim People.

John Cameron was a member of the family of Camerons of Callart. According to Somerled MacMillan in Bygone Lochaber, he was born at Lochmaddy, North Uist, on 7 October 1817, the son of Allan Cameron and Mary Campbell, daughter of Duncan Campbell of Ardgour House.

Callart lies on the northern shore of Loch Leven, directly opposite Glencoe, but was forfeited to the Crown because of the participation in the 1745 rising by Allan Cameron, 9th of Callart.  His son John Cameron, 10th of Callart, recovered the estate by payment of a fine, but he then sold Callart to Ewen Cameron of Fassiefern, and was succeeded, as representative of the family, by his brother James.  James’ second son Allan succeeded him as representative of the family, and after serving as Captain and Paymaster of the Lochaber Fencibles, Allan Cameron was factor for Lord MacDonald in North Uist for a period of 27 years and resided at Lochmaddy, where John Cameron was born.

In their history of the Wanganui County, From Sand to Papa, Rex H Voelkerling and Kevin L Stewart devote a chapter to John Cameron as a case study of an early settler in the district.  In this book it is noted, “John initially took up medicine as a career but decided that he was unsuited to this work and studied surveying instead.  Hearing the persuasive propoganda put out by the New Zealand Company and being attracted to the idea of starting afresh in a new country, Cameron travelled to London and purchased a land order.”

John Cameron’s grandmother, Mary Cameron, wife of James Cameron and daughter of Alexander MacSorlie-Cameron, 12th of Glenevis, was the aunt of Jessie Cameron, who married Moses Campbell, making John Cameron and Jessie Campbell first cousins, once-removed. John Cameron and the Campbells were fellow-passenger on the Blenheim, and neighbours and business partners in Wanganui, New Zealand.  Jessie Campbell made no overt reference to the family relationship in her Journal or letters, although she was full of praise for his character and hard work.

In Wanganui John Cameron lived with the Campbells for a period. In a letter of 4 December 1842, Jessie Campbell wrote, “John Cameron has gone to Wellington on business of his own, also to purchase cattle for the section, if he can get any to his mind. We miss him very much, he makes himself very useful, he sleeps on a sofa in the sitting room, makes his bed every evening and in the morning clears everything away and even sweeps the room. I often tell him, what would his friends at home say if they could see him with a scrubbing brush cleaning his canvas trousers or in the evening mending them, he can patch as neatly as I can,” and “Cattle are the only thing that pay here, but it requires judgment, experience and money. Of all this John Cameron is possessed, so that instead of being a burden upon us as George would be, he is a very acquisition. He was busy making oars for the boat when he went away, he intends making some of the doors for our new house, in short he can put his hand to anything, even to the nursing of Willie who is an immense pet of his, besides he is well enough informed to support his own side of an argument rather stiffly which makes him a pleasant companion for the Capt. he is quite au fait in all farming matters and gardening.” In March 1843 she wrote,”John Cameron is still an inmate of our house, and a valuable acquisition he is. He provides so much for the house, such as tea, flour etc. that his living with us is a great assistance besides his own labour which he does not spare. He is the person to do well here, he has so much prudence, good sense, energy of mind and of activity of body. My better half was most fortunate to get him for a partner. He has worked as hard at that new house of ours as if it were his own, I hope it will be his house until he gets a wife.”

Survey work and the allocation of sections of land in Wanganui took longer than expected because of the failure of the New Zealand Company to finalise purchase arrangements in Wanganui with the Maori tribes concerned.  It took until 1848 before Governor Gray brokered a solution and Donald McLean negotiated the details of the purchase.  Up until then John Cameron and Moses Campbell had been working on the land they had selected, although troubles with Maori in 1847 meant that their cattle had to be moved to Waitotara.  Once the land purchase was settled, the Campbells built a house at Wiritoa and John Cameron lived with them and supervised the running of both that property and his adjoining section of Marangai.

In 1853 the partnership with Moses Campbell was terminated, and John Cameron built his own house at Marangai.  In 1863 problems with the Maoris re-emerged.  John Cameron raised a troop of volunteer cavalry from the local area and a blockhouse was constructed.

John Cameron of Marangai
John Cameron of Marangai

In 1863 John Cameron had employed a housekeeper and eventually he married her.  John Cameron and Annie Sutherland were married on 6 June 1865 at Marangai. Annie Sutherland was born in Nova Scotia on 22 October 1832 to Hector Sutherland and Jessie Ferguson.  The family moved to Australia and then to the New Zealand settlement of Waipu, in Northland, in December 1852. Annie (Sutherland) Cameron died on 20 August 1884. The Wanganui Chronicle of 21 August 1884 carried the Death Notice: “Cameron – On the 20th instant, at Marangai, Annie, the beloved wife of John Cameron.”

John Cameron died on 6 November 1892, aged 75. The Wanganui Herald carried the Death Notice: “Cameron – At Marangai, Wanganui, on November 6th, John Cameron, aged 76.” The Wanganui Chronicle of 7 November 1892 published the following obituary:

It was with deep regret that we heard yesterday of the death of Captain John Cameron, of Marangai. None of our readers, we are sure, will read of his death without concern, for a kinder heart was not known in the district nor one more entitled to the respect of either rich or poor. Mr Cameron was one of our oldest settlers, and at such a juncture one cannot avoid the thought that the sturdy race of pioneers who have been the very backbone of the country are surely and swiftly passing away from amongst us. Mr Cameron arrived in New Zealand in 1840, over half a century ago, and we believe that at least 50 years of that time have been spent in Wanganui. In the early days of his colonial life the deceased was in partnership with the late Captain Campbell, and the two estates of Marangai and Weretoa were held between them. In the time of the wars Captain Cameron did good service as captain of the Wanganui Cavalry, but for many years before his death he had ceased to take any active interest in Volunteering. He was President of the Wanganui Jockey Club, and a successful horse breeder, although he never ran any of his horses at the races. In character he was quiet and unassuming, and he preferred the quietude of private life to the stir of public business. He was a kind and hospitable friend, and his family of four sons and one daughter will in their bereavement have the sympathy of all with whom he was ever brought into contact. The funeral takes place to-morrow afternoon, leaving Marangai at 1 o’clock.

John and Annie had five children:

  • Allan Cameron, born in 1865, died in 1950, married Maude Mary Ralston in 1892.
  • John Cameron, born in 1867, died in 1915 (WW1, also served in Boer War).
  • Hector Sutherland Cameron, born in 1869, died in 1944, married Eleanor Grierson Robertson in 1906.
  • Mary Cameron, born in 1871, died in 1954, married Henry William Wilson in 1897.
  • James Cameron, born in 1873, died in 1916 (WW1, Australian Forces).



  • Mr Cameron. Harding, William James, 1826-1899 : Negatives of Wanganui district. Ref: 1/4-008083-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

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