Transcribed from the April 18th, 1876 Daily Telegraph (St. John, New Brunswick)

Death of a New Brunswicker in New Zealand.

Many will learn with regret of the death of Mr. J.W. Robertson, son of the late John C. Robertson, of Smithtown, K.C., who left St. John for Australia, in the year 1852 , in the brig Australia. To his many friends here it will be interesting to know that the perseverance and many manly qualities that distinguished him while here, have been the means of securing for him a degree of prosperity and a place in the affections of all who knew him, such as few are favored with; as the following extract from the Wakatip Mail bears sufficient testimony:-

To-day it is our duty to perform the saddest task which has ever fallen to our lot since the first existence of this journal, namely, to record the death, on Sunday last, of one of our oldest and most esteemed, we might say most endeared, citizens, not citizen in the narrow acceptation, but rather a citizen of the world. James William Robertson was not only well-known in business as the head and moving spirit of one of our most influential firms, but his ever kind and generous conduct in social life endeared him to every one (sic) who came in contact with him. Even when dealing with unpleasant matters, he always had a pleasant word to say, and his benevolence was too great to allow him to censure, if he could not praise. In short, he was a man of large heart, of generous aspirations and upright conduct, and although passed away in the flesh, his presence will be felt in the spirit for many a long day.

Mr. Robertson's name is a household one, in every sense of the word, in this district, and it is also respected outside the limits of the Wakatip. Deceased was born at Smithtown, King's County, N.B., and the earlier part of his life was spent in the lumber trade there. Like very many other enterprising men, he was attracted to Australia by the fame of the gold mines. Mr. Robertson settled in the far-famed Ballarat district, where his name is favorably mentioned to this day. Being successful in mining operations, he commenced a water race speculation at the head of the Creswick Creek. This race was known by the name of the "Canada Race," and the projectors as the "Yankee" party. They flumed across a high gully, but a hurricane destroyed their work, and a loss of over 2,000 was sustained. Messrs. Joke Bros., Melbourne, had just introduced their papier mache pipes, and the party tried these, but they did not withstand the pressure. Galvanized piping was also tried, with similar result; and the "Yankee" party had to give up the ground, after losing three years of time and expending 5000 on the venture. We mention these facts to show the strong spirit of self-reliance that prompted all the actions of the deceased. He afterwards worked in the timber trade at Bullarook forest, and laid down the commencement of the extensive tramway system that prevails there. There were also working in the same forest Messrs. J.C. Patterson, Thomas Hicks, John McBride and Francis McBride, one of the surviving and senior partner of the firm. A visit to New Zealand to the Shotover opened the eyes of these parties to the value of a timber speculation in this district. The well-known firm of J.W. Robertson was then formed, and, with slight changes, has continued in active business, and its career has been one of prosperity.

All the members of the firm have taken up land, and have always been willing to assist others in following the same course. They are bound up internally with the varied interests of the district, and as time rolls on so will the investments of the firm increase in value.

Mr. Robertson, as the managing partner of the firm, combined the samitor in mode with the fortier in re style of doing business. He placed such great confidence in people that those he assisted looked upon it almost as a crime to deceive. He met, however, in purely business circles, some heavy losses, and the firm's efforts to advance the mining interests also entailed loss to them. The deceased was one of the members of that old Progress Committee, which, amongst there works secured the commonage grant; the opening of the lands, and the establishment of municipal institutions. He was thrice elected mayor of Queenstown, being its first mayor. He was elected without opposition as representative for the lakes district in the Provincial council, but sat only for one session. The task was not a congenial one to him, who was not a public speaker at any time, his remarks being few and pithy and tersely confined to the object in view. His opinions, however, at all times, carried great weight, and as a member of committees, and in the lobbies he did good service for the district. He desired in life to be treated as a plain man and, in this spirit have we dealt with him. No honest, struggling man or woman ever appealed to him in vain. We close our brief and necessarily imperfect sketch, having obtained no reliable particulars beyond those known to the writer of this obituary - with the simple remark that he is mourned and sorrowed by hundreds who are none of his kith and kin. The immense concourse that followed the funeral cortege on Wednesday showed this. Several people came from Cromwell, Riverton and Invercargill, to testify their respect to the deceased, and altogether there could not have been less than 400 present. The burial ceremony was performed by the Rev. Joshua Jones, of the Church of England, who is also the Masonic Chaplain of the local lodge. The Masons, to the number of 50, preceded the coffin, which was borne on the shoulders of the stalwart partners of their chief. At the entrance to the cemetery the brothers fell to the rear and followed close upon the coffin. After the church ritual was finished the Rev. Bro. Jones, chaplain, delivered a Masonic sermon, and this closed the last tribute to the merits of a most worthy and loving brother.


Transcription by Allan J. Tompkins <tompkins@ozemail.com.au> - March, 2003

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