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Story: Squires, Catharine

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Squires, Catharine


Church leader

This biography, written by Colleen P. Main, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.

Catharine Dewe, known as Kate, was born on 13 July 1843 in Leamington, Warwickshire, England, the second of five daughters of John Dewe, a bookseller, and his wife, Eliza Matilda Woodhead. The family arrived in Otago, New Zealand, on 21 September 1848 on the Blundell.

From 1850 the Dewe family farmed at The Grove, Tokomairiro (Milton), where Kate and her sisters were raised and educated, and helped with farm work. As a lay reader John Dewe inaugurated Anglican services at Milton. Kate's religious activities began in childhood, assisting at prayer meetings held in their home and later teaching Sunday school.

In 1860 John Squires came to live and work at the Dewes' farm. Kate, aged 17, and John, aged 25, were married at Tokomairiro on 6 April 1861. For two years they farmed in the Tokomairiro district, where their only child, John Westbrooke, was born in February 1862. During this period, to the dismay of her father, Kate Squires became involved with the Plymouth Brethren. Her son was raised in the Brethren faith and John Dewe was 'very grieved' that the child was 'to remain a heathen'.

In March 1863 John accepted a position as farm manager and the family moved to Invercargill. They lived there until late 1864, when John purchased a farm and built a house at Woodend. Over the next 10 years Kate held regular prayer meetings at home, did congregational visiting, and promoted the Brethren faith in the district.

In January 1875 the Squires returned to England on the Invercargill and lived at Haydock, Lancashire, where John helped manage the family coalmining business. Kate was involved with Haydock Chapel; she taught Sunday school, held mid-week prayer meetings, and worked among the mining families to investigate and relieve cases of hardship. She was also active in the temperance movement. In 1878 she held a New Year tea party for young men, 'to keep them away from drink'; 35 attended.

The Squires returned to New Zealand in March 1883, to farm at Pyramid Creek, near Gore, until 1896. During this period Brethren services in the district were led by the Squires family, with Kate the driving force. From 1894 Kate virtually led a schism at Wendon and preached every Sunday to a congregation, known locally as 'Squireites', in a specially built 'temple' attached to their house. She preached there on Sundays, and on Mondays she drove her buggy to visit any neighbours who had been absent. Most attended on Sunday to avoid the embarrassment of a private sermon on Monday.

After a four year stay in England from 1896 to 1900 the family settled at Bluff, Southland, where in August 1900 John Squires purchased two houses. He and Kate lived at Hillend, while their son and his wife, Minnie Rout, resided nearby at Preswylfa. Kate Squires established regular prayer meetings at Bluff and became known throughout the district as Granny Squires. John Squires died in 1901.

Until her death Kate Squires continued to preach, hold prayer meetings, and promote the Brethren faith and the temperance cause in the Southland district. A slightly built woman, she was a tireless worker with strong religious convictions and great strength of character. She died at Bluff aged 69, after a short illness, on 15 July 1912. Kate and John Squires are buried at Bluff cemetery.

How to cite this page:

Colleen P. Main. 'Squires, Catharine', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1s19/squires-catharine (accessed 22 June 2024)