Sunday, 15 December 2013

Jean Aubin

                        JEAN AUBIN
Written By David Bell
1831 ~ 1889

Aubin is an old and familiar family name on Jersey Island, its origin tracing back to Saint Albinus, the Bishop of Angers in 7th century England where it was predominantly a Christian name, evolving into a surname around the 14th Century AD. It first shows up as a Surname on Jersey in 1331 in court records that state one Richard Aubin of St Brelade to be owing 8 sols a year for twenty vergees of land on the king's fief; a Jersey vergee equating to 19,360 square feet or about 40 perches. What became of him is not known but by the 16th Century two family branches of Aubins had become established at Les Pigneaux, St. Saviour and Grouville.

The next earliest record of the first Jersey Aubins is that of Marin Aubin (born about 1470) of St. Brelade. He married in 1498 and had several children: Marin, Germain, Benoiste, Sire Jean Aubin (clergyman), Charles, Andreis, and Thomas with two more daughters, Catherine and Genette, appearing on another record. 

Over the next few centuries the Aubin family proliferated to become one of the most prominent Jersey families. But, while there are many signs and evidences of the Aubin name across the island, few live there any more, so many having emigrated to other lands of the British Empire in the 18th ~ 19th Centuries. 

Today the Aubin name can be found around the globe in countries like Canada, U.S.A., Britain, Australia and New Zealand; to name a few. Undoubtedly, given the mobility of the modern human being, there's sure to be Aubins in many unexpected corners of the world.

Jean Aubin, New Zealand

JEAN (John) Aubin was born on the island of Jersey off the coast of France in 1831. As a young man he studied medicine for a while in France then moved to Canada where he went into business with his older brother setting up a trading post. Jean remained some years in the Hudson Bay area in Canada where he and his brother did a brisk trade in animal pelts with the Indians and immigrant Canadian trappers and fur traders. However, the harsh, cold climate and rigorous conditions of Canada were not to his liking so he sold his share of the trading post to his brother and set sail for the warmer climes of New Zealand.

The Ganges was built in Boston, 1856 with a burden of
1,209 tons and boasted excellent passenger accommodation
He arrived in Auckland New Zealand on the ship Ganges after a 103 day voyage from London, leaving Monday, 22 June and docking at the Auckland Queen Street wharf Monday, 12 October 1863. According to the shipping report in the Daily Southern Cross newspaper the Ganges carried a cargo of general merchandise and 226 passengers. Jean Aubin is listed as a passenger in the Second Cabin class under the name John Aubin. This indicates he enjoyed a reasonably comfortable trip to New Zealand. 

Upon leaving London the Ganges, under the captaincy of Thomas Funnell, caught moderate south-westerly winds through the English Channel and on past the Cape de Verde and Canary Islands without sighting them. They then caught the south-east trade winds to the equator arriving on the 29th of July. They rounded the Cape of Good Hope on the 27th of August and headed for Tasmania which they passed without sighting. From Tasmania they sailed to the South Island of New Zealand sighting Banks Peninsular on the 4th of October. They passed the North Island's East Cape on October 6th and then Great barrier three days later where they struck some foul weather, slowing their progress. Other than that it was, by all accounts, a fairly smooth voyage and at a time where on-board  births, illnesses, and fatalities were common, the Ganges experienced no serious illnesses, two births (the first while still in the London docks, and the other a still-born on the 22nd of August) and only one death; a 20 year old male. 

The newspaper article also gives a good report on Captain Funnell for his clean ship and his concern for the health and comfort of his passengers. The passengers themselves also praised him for the same, presenting him with a document signed by all as a testimonial of his good captaincy.  

From Auckland Jean made his way to the small township of Alexandra (later renamed Pirongia) on the Waipa River where, in December 1864, he established a small trading post. He situated it near the river boat landing on the flats of the Waipa River for ease of offloading and on-loading goods. The Waipa, being a wide and deep river, was the main means of transporting cargo and produce to and from the Waikato district to the bigger communities further north, especially Auckland. Alexandra in those times was the main centre in the Waipa surrounds. Unfortunately, the frequent rains and the subsequent flooding made it too costly and time-consuming to remain on the river flat, always having to shift his stock to dry ground, a task done only by the use of Maori dugout canoes when the flats became inundated. It became unfeasible to remain in that location so he shifted the store to the village on higher ground on the corner of Franklin and Belcher Streets where his house was. 

The original Aubin Homestead Corner Franklin and Belcher Streets.
The house was destroyed by fire in 1918.
The disused Alexandra Masonic Lodge was moved to the site of the
original house and extended and renovated to become the second Aubin residence. 

Jean took this opportunity to expand the size of his premises by building a very big store for the day fully equipped with a three foot high parapet around the roof lined with thick lead to proof it against musket shot. Sentries, if needed, could walk around the whole roof perimeter and fire down on any attackers. This precaution was not an extravagant fancy as there was often conflict between the Maori and the settlers.

The Aubin store near the house corner Franklin and Belcher Streets; note
the parapets along the roof.
When William Sloane, the Alexandra Chemist, moved shop to Te Awamutu in 1876 Jean took the opportunity to add a doctor's surgery and dispensary to the premises using his medical skills to treat both Maori and Pakeha alike. A report in the Waikato Times dated 28th November 1879 states: Mr Aubin is kept fully employed in his dispensary as there is still a great amount of sickness prevalent, and from his successful treatment of several severe cases, he has the entire confidence of the natives, and patients are continually brought to him from long distances.

The new store became a combination of general store, doctor's surgery, and pharmacy. As mentioned before, Jean had studied medicine before emigrating and this skill as a healer made him an invaluable and highly respected personage among Maori and Pakeha alike. The large Maori population particularly benefited from his medical efforts as he tended to their ills and ailments and he became so highly esteemed among them that when he died the paramount Maori chief, Tawhiao, and many hundreds of Maori, attended his funeral and greatly mourned his parting.


Tawhiao also gifted his widow, Ann, a magnificently carved and priceless whale bone mere. He had also earlier gifted an even more priceless greenstone mere to Jean which got stolen from the house and turned up in a Sydney museum. The family managed to get it back but tragically, it, and the whalebone mere and so much other historical memorabilia, were destroyed when the old homestead burned to the ground just after World War One.

By October, 1881, his extensive experience at dispensing enabled him to qualify as a chemist and druggist under the 1880 Pharmacy Act. He also obtained registration as the smallpox vaccinator for the Alexandra district, a duty he performed until his death.  

Anne Elizabeth Lempriere, wife of Jean Aubin.
Anne died in 1933 aged 92, having outlived Jean
by 44 years.

Besides establishing his own business in Alexandra, he opened a branch general store in nearby Te Awamutu which he named, Aubin and Company. He sent to Jersey for two of his nephews to come and assist. Their names were George and Aubin Ahier and Jean set them up as managers of the Te Awamutu branch. After eleven years he sold the Te Awamutu shop to George. The other nephew, Aubin Ahier, purchased a large tract of land at Te Tahi on the eastern slopes of Pirongia Mountain and took to farming.

Anne Elizabeth's name in the Old Colonists' Association Register as a member of the New Zealand pioneers
and Descendants Club (Inc). See 10th name down as Aubin, Ann Elizabeth, showing her to have arrived in N.Z. on the Empress in 1865.
After his passing in 1889 his wife, Anne, ran the store with the assistance of their son
Eugene who took over the business ten years later in 1898.  

Anne Elizabeth Lempriere

At this point it will be useful to learn a little more about Jean's great wife, Anne Elizabeth Lempriere, who left Jersey to board the immigrant ship, Empress, which set sail to New Zealand  from Gravesend, London, on the third of February 1865. The Empress was a clipper class ship commanded by a Captain Ellis and took 95 days to reach Auckland 14 May, 1865. A summary of the journey was printed in the Herald on the 16th of May, 1865.
The following are the particulars of the voyage as kindly furnished us by Captain Ellis.
The Empress quit Gravesend on 3rd February, landed the pilot on the 5th and took her final departure from the Lizard on the 8th February. She crossed the Equator on the 3rd March in 23 degrees west and was becalmed twelve days in from 15 degrees to 20 degrees south. On the 2nd April passed the Meridian of the Cape in 46 degrees 28 south and Desolation Island on the 11th of the same month, of which the vessel experienced heavy northerly gales and was compelled to take the southern route. The Snares were made on the 1st may only 81 days from home. Experienced variable winds off the coast and was becalmed two days off the East Cape, after which she encountered a heavy north-westerly gale and arrived in Auckland at 11 pm on Sunday night having taken pilot on board at Rangitoto at 10:30 pm.  The Empress has accomplished the passage in 95 days from the start, being the quickest made during the season. On her last trip she made the passage in 92 days, on which occasion it will be remembered she brought the Officers Men of the military Train.
The Herald goes on to say that the Empress brought a large cargo of general merchandise as well as nearly 300 passengers with the greatest harmony prevailing among the passengers during the voyage, and from the testimonials that appeared elsewhere, it seemed that the Captain and Chief Officer won the esteem and goodwill of those placed under their charge. Captain Ellis and Mr Drew, the Chief Officer, made two rapid voyages in the Empress to this Port (Auckland) and were to be congratulated on their success.
Ann appears on the Empress' passenger manifest in second class with the misspelled name, Anne Lemprure. Curiously, the name Jane appears on the list alongside hers, written Jane and Anne Lemprure. At this point I am have no information on Jane but when more is known then her details will be added to this account. It might be safely presumed Jane was Anne's sister or a close relative.
Anne met Jean Aubin in Auckland and on their way to Alexandra (now Pirongia) where Jean had a successful business, they took out their wedding vows in the small Anglican church in Newcastle (now Ngaruawhahia). This was on the 28th August, 1867; two years after her arrival. She was 26 years old. The church had just been built and theirs was the first marriage solemnized there. consequently, they are number one in the marriage register for the church and it can be viewed to this day. Anne and Jean became well-known personalities in the Waipa District and together produced a brood of nine children:
1. Mabel (1868 - infant death - 1868).
2. Emile du Pont (1869~1957).
3. Eugene Horace Cabot (1871~1936)
4. Claude Gabrielle (1873~1887)
5. Estelle Johanna (1874~1904)
6. Victor Charles de Gruchy (1876 - infant death - 1876)
7. Lillian Ann (1877~1858)
8. Reine Dolbel (1878~1968)
9. Adele Queree (1833~1963)

In 1848 Anne celebrated her 90th birthday at the homestead in Pirongia. A newspaper clipping gives a description of the big family event:

Anne showing off her 90th birthday cake

Posing for a photo-op.
The family gathering at Rozel

Anne (about 1932-33) on the lawn at the Aubin homestead called Rozel after the Rosel Manor
on Jersey Island
Anne lived to the grand old age of 92 years, having been born on the island of Jersey on the 27th of December, 1840 and passing away on the 25th of August, 1933. She lies at rest with her husband in the Pirongia Cemetery.

Concluding Years

Now, back to the Aubin store in Pirongia. As mentioned, Anne took over the running of the store after her husband's death with the help of her son, Eugene. Some ten years later, in 1898, Eugene took the reins and was afterwards joined by his brother-in-law, Walter Bell. In 1906 he sold the shop to a Mr Skuse who moved into the district from Pukekohe. Eugene moved to Hauturu near Kawhia and built a small store there. By 1910 the store at Alexandra was deteriorating so Walter Bell built his own store a short way up the road on the south-west corner of the Franklin and Crozier Streets intersection. It became known, as 'Bell's Store'  and remained in the Aubin-Bell family to the next generation when it went into the hands of Reginald and Eric Bell, Walter's sons. It was sold to an outside buyer in 1972. The old wooden building was finally demolished in 1982 and a modern superette now stands on its former site.

The 'Bell's Store' in the 1950's

Jean was also noted for his civic spirit and was involved in most of the projects and initiatives that promoted a better community. He was the first chairman of the Waipa County, the first chairman of the Alexandra School Committee, along with numerous other local concerns.

He was an avid chess player and arguably the best in the district. His most regular opponents were none other than the famous Majors Von Tempsky and Mair. It hasn't been recorded how he fared against them.

Jean Aubin died at his home at Alexandra (Pirongia) on Thursday the fourteenth of February, 1889, aged fifty eight years.

The family of Jean and Anne Aubin. From Left to Right: Reine, Estelle, Emile,
Anne, Eugene, Lily and Adele
Jean Aubin's funeral was a big one, as reported in the Waikato Times, Tuesday, 19 February, 1889:

The funeral of the late Mr John Aubin took place here on Saturday last, a large number of mourners attending from all parts of the district to show their respect to the deceased and his esteemed widow and family. The Reverend Mr Boler, with the assistance of Captain Hearn, lay reader, conducted the service. As the deceased was an old member of the Masonic fraternity, and past Master of the Alexandra Lodge, the funeral was in charge of that body and he was buried with full Masonic honours.

The brethren assembled at three p.m. at their lodge room in the Alexandra hotel and from thence marched in procession, in full regalia, to the residence of the deceased and brought out the remains, the coffin being covered with floral wreaths sent by friends, and the Masonic insignia of the late brother. With the Masonic brethren in front, a numerous body of settlers, together with every native man, woman, and child who could, attended from Whatiwhatihoe.

The mournful procession proceeded to St. Savior's Church, where part of the funeral service was most impressively read by the Reverend Mr Boler and his assistant, and a short address delivered on the mournful occasion. A hymn, being sung, the procession then proceeded to the cemetery where the ceremony was conducted, and at its conclusion the Masonic funeral service was read most impressively by Brother R. W. Roche, followed by the usual Masonic ceremonies.

The two sons of the deceased, Messrs G. A. Ahier and A. Ahier, nephews, and Mr Lempriere, uncle of the deceased, followed as chief mourners. Never since Alexandra was a township did the natives attend so numerously at any such ceremony, but the deceased gentleman from his long residence here and intimate relations as their medical adviser, had won their thorough respect and esteem. Many of them were much disappointed that they were not enabled to show their grief for the loss of their friend in their own way, and would have liked free admittance to the remains and hold their tangi in their usual manner. But this, of course, could not be done. That they were sincere mourners and were not ashamed to show their feelings was most unmistakable.

Our Te Awamutu correspondent writes: The news of the death of Mr John Aubin was received here with the utmost regret and sympathy for his family and relatives. Mr Aubin was widely known and highly esteemed and respected by a very large circle of friends throughout the whole district. Alexandra will sadly miss him for he has been closely identified with the town for twenty five years, taking a keen interest in all public matters, not only for Alexandra, but for the whole district. In every public institution in that place, he held office, giving advice and assistance for the public good. His place, therefore, will not be easily filled. Up to the time of his death, his interest in such matters was unflagging, and finding his end approaching, he gave final instructions to his successor in some of the public matters. 

He was a prominent member of the Masonic Order, being a P. M. of Lodge Alexandra, the chair of which he filled on various occasions with great tact and ability. He was the last of its founders, the others being dead or dispersed. He was justly looked up to as the founder of the lodge, his intimate knowledge of all matters of Masonic jurisprudence caused the Brethren to seek his advice and counsel. He was, for a long time, a member of the Board of Benevolence of the District Grand Lodge of Auckland, an honour to which his long experience and unfailing readiness to assist in all of charity, justly entitled him.

The funeral, at the deceased brother's wish, was conducted with full Masonic honours, the magnificent and solemn burial service of the Order being read at the grave by Brother Roche, a P. M. of Lodge Alexandra, a good number of brethren appearing in regalia from Te Awamutu, Kihikihi, Hamilton, including a visiting brother from Auckland, who assembled to pay the last sad offices of respect to a departed brother. There was also a very large concourse of friends from all the surrounding districts. Were it not for the fact that settlers are pressed with work in getting in their harvests, many more would have been present.

Everyone who was acquainted with the deceased gentleman sympathizes most sincerely with his family in their bereavement.

DEATH OF MR. JOHN AUBIN (obituary notice, Waikato Times, 16 Feb. 1889)
It is with great regret we announce the death of the well-known storekeeper, Mr John Aubin, of Alexandra, who died at his residence there on Thursday morning. The deceased gentleman had suffered greatly for some time past, and had but lately returned from Auckland, where he, in vain, went for medical relief for some internal complaint. Mr Aubin was a native of Jersey, and one of the first to take up his residence and commence business in Alexandra very shortly after the foundation of the settlement and has ever since resided there. He will be greatly missed, as he always took great interest in all local affairs, and served as chairman on the road board and school committee, always attending punctually to his duties. The deepest sympathy is felt for his widow and the large family he leaves behind him to deplore his loss. The funeral will be a Masonic one, the deceased being a P.M. of the Order, and will leave his residence at 3 p.m. this afternoon. 

Jean Aubin Lies at rest in the Pirongia Cemetery with his wife, Anne.

Written and compiled by David Bell.
Sources used:
1. Family documents.
2. The Waikato Times, February 1889. Funeral reports and obituaries.
3. The Bells of Pirongia, a family history compiled by Robin Wood, daughter of Reg Bell. Published 2001. 
4. Papers Past-Daily Southern Cross-31 October, 1863. Shipping Reports on Arrival of the Ganges and Empress. For full report Google: Papers Past Ganges Auckland 1863.
5. Wikipedia and Theislandwiki: Google Aubin family Jersey.


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  6. enjoyed this reading as I lived in Pirongia from 1970 and great to read old memories I had once heard.