The Blenheim embarkation and subsequent passenger lists included the family of Donald and Mary Ferguson:
- Donald Ferguson, 36, miller
- Mary Ferguson, 35
- Marion Ferguson, 9
- Donald Ferguson, 7
A John Ferguson from Skye, 50, miller and wright, with his wife of 46 and 2 children, were included on the initial passenger list for the Blenheim, but this family was not on the embarkation or subsequent lists.
Spelling: The name has been spelled both “Ferguson” and “Fergusson” in the sources used.
Return to The Blenheim People.
Donald Ferguson and Mary McLean
Donald Ferguson was described as a miller of 36 in the Blenheim passenger list, while his wife Mary’s age was given as 35.
Donald and Mary came from Skye.
From the death registration of their son Alexander, it can be confirmed that Mary’s maiden name was McLean.
In Early Rangitikei, Sir James Wilson, noted (pp 85-86):
The Fergussons, whose land joined his [Mr Paulin] on the north, came out in the same vessel as the Frasers. They came from Skye. Donald and Sarah came with their people in the Blenheim, and Alexander was born in Wellington. Donald and Alexander Fergusson were very good settlers and much respected: Donald has departed, and all their descendants have left the district, but Alexander Fergusson still lives in the neighbourhood.
Lists of persons qualified to serve as jurors for the district of Port Nicholson, published between 1845 and 1850, included Donald Ferguson, Kai warra Road, cartwright, and in 1850, wheelwright. In 1847, Donald Ferguson, cartwright, published a notice in the Wellington Independent of 24 February advising that he would not be accountable for any debts contracted by his wife.
It is possible that Mary Ferguson died before the family moved to the Rangitikei district.
The Wanganui Herald of 15 February 1888 published, as an historical document, an 1864 petition from the electors of Wanganui and Rangitikei to the Governor, Sir George Grey, seeking to establish a separate province. The petition had 273 names attached to it, including Donald Ferguson, senior, farmer, and Donald Ferguson, junior, farmer.
Donald Ferguson died on 15 April 1880, aged 75. The Wanganui Herald of 22 April 1880, reported: “The funeral of an old identity (Donald Ferguson) passed along the principal streets to the Clifton cemetery on Monday. As I noticed many old and toilworn pioneers in the cavalcade, it is to be presumed that he was one of the early emigrants to the Colony. He had been bedridden for many years prior to his death, so he was deprived the enjoyment of participating in or even witnessing the progress his adopted country had made in telegraphs, railways, and steamboats during his location in it.”
Donald and Mary had a further child, Alexander, with some question as to whether he was the sixth child born on board the Blenheim on its voyage.
In her Journal, Jessie Campbell wrote, on 15 December 1840, “A woman delivered of a son last night, this makes the sixth child born on board and all very fine, thriving children, this woman with all her former confinements had long and difficult labours, yesterday evening she did not feel herself very well, the Dr. desired her to go into the hospital, she thought they would have plenty of time to remove after she was taken ill, however matters came so quick upon her that the child was born before she could be removed: Dr C was very angry at her and no wonder, think how unpleasant for him going about her before so many women and married men who sleep in the same place. To crown all not one stitch had she prepared for the child, it was rolled in an old petticoat of the mother’s. She is a carpenter’s wife from Skye. All the other women had their baby things so neat and tidy particularly the low country woman.”
In a letter to the Rangitikei Advocate, published in the Manawatu Standard of 31 December 1912, Donald Fraser, in listing the surviving Blenheim passengers, said. “…and Mr Alexander Ferguson, of the Upper Tutaenui, was also born on the voyage…”
However, Sir James Wilson, in Early Rangitikei, as quoted above, suggests that Alexander was born in Wellington, and the age and place of birth given for him in his death registration would appear to confirm this. One possibility could be that the Alexander born on the voyage died, and the name was given to the next born.
Electoral Rolls show that Alexander Ferguson was in the Rangitikei district with his father and brother in 1875-76, and was a farmer at Silverhope, north-east of Marton, in 1905-06, and at Calico Line, Marton in 1911 and 1914.
Alexander Ferguson died on 7 August 1917 at Marton, with his age given as 73. His parents were Donald Ferguson and Mary McLean, he was born in Wellington and he was not married.
Marion (Sarah) Ferguson
Marion Ferguson was 9 when she boarded the Blenheim, putting her birth year around 1831. Sarah is the anglicized form of Marion.
From the reference in Early Rangitikei it seems likely that Sarah Ferguson went to the Rangitikei district with her father and brother.
There is a record of a Sarah Ferguson marrying George Douglas in 1853 in Christchurch. George Douglas had settled in Canterbury in 1850 and managed several runs before purchasing his own at Broomfield. George and Sarah had at least three children before she died in 1867 aged 36, so the birth year is about right. However, it has not been possible, to date, to confirm whether or not this is the Marion (Sarah) Ferguson who travelled on the Blenheim.
Donald Ferguson was 7 years old when he travelled to New Zealand on the Blenheim with his family.
The Wellington Independent of 3 May 1864 carried the Wedding Notice: “Ferguson-Sutherland – At Lyall’s bay, April 22, by the Rev John Moir, Mr Donald Ferguson, of Rangitikei, to Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Sutherland, Esq.”
Elizabeth Sutherland was born around 1845, the daughter of Alexander Sutherland and Elizabeth MacKay who arrived in Wellington on 31 January 1840 on the Oriental. As outlined in The Streets of My City, Elizabeth’s father, Alexander Sutherland, was allotted his one hundred acres at Lyall Bay, and subsequently bought more land from absentee owners as well as from adjoining neighbours. He obtained sheep from Australia, and farmed at Lyall Bay successfully for some years, but felt the need for more pasture, and in the late 1850s purchased a block in the Pahaua Valley of Wairarapa (Ngaipu).
The Wanganui Chronicle in June and July 1876 in a number of items from their Bulls correspondent, reported on the death of the eldest daughter of Mr Donald Ferguson from diphtheria, and shortly afterwards the death of his little boy, aged 10, from the same cause. They are buried at Bulls with their grandfather.
Donald Ferguson died on 4 October 1894, aged 59. The Feilding Star of 6 October 1894 reported, “The death is announced of an old and respected Rangitikei settler, Mr Donald Fergusson, of Upper Tutaenui. He had been resident in New Zealand for 53 years.”
Elizabeth (Sutherland) Ferguson died on 25 June 1929, aged 84. The Evening Post of 29 June 1929 carried the Death Notice: “Ferguson – On the 25th June, 1929, at the residence of her daughter (Mrs D. Matheson, Wanganui) (late of Stanley street, Wellington), Elizabeth, relict of the late Dr. Ferguson, and last surviving daughter of the late Alexander Sutherland of Lyall Bay, Wellington; aged 84 years. Deeply regretted.”
Donald and Elizabeth had at least five children:
- Katherine McLean Ferguson, born in 1865, died in 1876.
- Donald Ferguson, born in 1866, died in 1876.
- Elizabeth Jane Ferguson, born in 1869, died in 1939, married Joseph Warring in 1892.
- John Douglas Ferguson, born in 1872, died in 1963, married Catherine Matheson in 1897.
- Marion Alice Ferguson, born in 1874, died in 1943, married Dugald Matheson in 1895.
- Blenheim passenger lists at FamilySearch website
- Family trees and electoral rolls on Ancestry.com
- PapersPast website
- NZ BDM records
- Jessie Campbell’s Journal and Letters
- Early Rangitikei, J G Wilson, 1914, available online at The Internet Archive.
- The Streets of My City, F L Irvine-Smith, 1948, available online through Wellington City Libraries
- The Sutherlands of Ngaipu, Alexander Sutherland, 1947.