Story: Livingston, James

Page 1: Biography

Livingston, James

1840–1915

Soldier, community leader

This biography, written by G. L. Baker, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.

James Livingston, a founding settler of the Patea district, was born on 7 February 1840, at Darngarroch, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, the son of Janet Kelly and her husband, James Livingston, a farmer. His father died when James was only five, and he received little formal education.

Livingston and a sister emigrated to New Zealand in 1859, arriving in Auckland by the British Queen on 30 August. By 1864 they had been joined by their mother, brother and sister, and a cousin, James McMichael. Livingston and McMichael were shepherding near Napier in 1867 when they bought 250 acres of land in partnership in the northern Patea district.

Livingston distinguished himself in Taranaki in 1868 as a sergeant in the Patea Field Force, formed to oppose Titokowaru's armed resistance to the survey and settlement of Ngati Ruanui tribal lands. In spite of overwhelming numerical superiority, the colonial force was unable to prevent the settlers from being forced to abandon their lands, and was defeated in battle at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu on 7 September. The force withdrew to Patea, but Livingston was awarded the New Zealand War Medal for his part in the campaign. He took his discharge in October, then held a military stores contract until its expiry in December. Early in 1869 he departed for Napier, after showing his willingness to uphold an unpopular cause by reporting to the commanding officer atrocities committed by the Wanganui Cavalry.

On 6 October 1870 Livingston married Louisa Elizabeth Caldwell at Wellington; they were to have three sons and one daughter. They lived until 1873 in Wanganui, where Livingston worked in the Land Office and as a foreman on the construction of the Wanganui bridge. About 1874 they returned to the Patea district, residing in the new township of Hawera, and Livingston rejoined his partner, McMichael. In 1877 the partnership was dissolved and the ownership of each half of the property determined by tossing a coin. The portion bounded by the Waingongoro River fell to Livingston and the homestead called Waipapa was built soon after.

Livingston was again involved in the land conflict in Taranaki when in June 1879 Te Whiti-o-Rongomai III sent men to plough the settlers' land in protest against the survey of the Waimate Plains. The Waipapa homestead lawn, being on property adjacent to the Maori land, was the first to be affected. A state bordering on panic seized the district, the settlers believing that the Armed Constabulary and the troop of Hawera Light Horse Volunteers were inadequate defence. Livingston was elected captain of an 'Ejectment Committee' and took a prominent part in organising defence. Two companies of infantry were enrolled and accepted for service on behalf of the government by Major M. Noake, officer commanding the district. The settlement became known facetiously as the Republic of Hawera, although no attempt at secession was involved.

For the remainder of his life Livingston lived peaceably at Hawera. After Louisa Livingston's death on 31 December 1883 the household consisted of Livingston's mother (until her death in 1893), his four children, his widowed sister and her two sons. He married Catherine Ann Brett at Hawera on 20 February 1901; they had one daughter before Catherine's death on 16 January 1903.

In 1880 the Waipapa property was added to by the purchase from the government of adjoining sections of the Waimate Plains. In 1900 the property, with the exception of 90 acres at Ohawe, on which Livingston retired, was taken over by the government at £20 per acre, to be subdivided for dairying. The settlement was named Tokaora or 'living stone'.

Livingston was involved in many local organisations, as a member of the first Te Ngutu-o-te-manu Domain Board and the Egmont Agricultural and Pastoral Association. He was a founding member of the Normanby Horticultural Society, the Egmont Racing Club and the Hawera Gentlemen's Club, and was the first president of the Hawera Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. He was also a justice of the peace and a noted horticulturist, the Waipapa garden being renowned throughout Taranaki and beyond. He was not conspicuously religious, although he supported all Hawera churches by paying pew rent. In 1913 the Veterans' Association presented him with his New Zealand War Medal, which he had failed to claim on his own behalf. On his 74th birthday he was honoured by a public function at Hawera, at which he was presented with an illuminated address and a phaeton and harness. He died at Hawera on 7 May 1915.

How to cite this page:

G. L. Baker. 'Livingston, James', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1l8/livingston-james (accessed 25 January 2020)