Page 1: Biography
Farmer, contractor, well-sinker
This biography, written by Gavin East, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Job Osborne was born at Road, Somersetshire, England, on 26 April 1842, the son of Mary Tucker and her husband, George Osborne, a labourer. Job walked to London at the age of 13 or 14 and worked in a candle factory before taking an assisted passage to New Zealand under the auspices of the Canterbury Association; he arrived at Lyttelton on the Cresswell on 12 September 1859.
The Otago goldrush of 1861 lured Osborne from his farm job at Halswell near Christchurch. A year at the diggings enlarged his capital enough for him to return to Canterbury to buy land for farming. He bought land at Prebbleton in 1863, but sold it later the same year. In 1864 he settled at Doyleston in the Ellesmere district and bought the first 100 acres of Winfield, whose name was inspired by Osborne's successful defence in an action brought by the owner of some trespassing cattle. By 1902 it would be a prosperous farm of 2,130 acres but in 1864 it was largely swamp; when drainage ditches were dug, the sods were used for fences and a hut. On 20 August 1867, at Prebbleton, Osborne married Mary Robertson Jamieson.
Osborne's practical skills and his inventiveness produced engineering innovations which were of great practical benefit to farmers in particular. From about 1865, in partnership with John Rennie, Osborne ran a business contracting for work with farmers, firms and local bodies. He used the latest available machinery, and is credited with introducing the portable steam engine, the steam-driven threshing machine and, in 1879, the steam traction engine to the Doyleston area.
In the 1880s Osborne turned his engineering skill to sinking artesian wells. In April 1888, using a double-action well-driving machine of his own patent, he sank a two-inch-diameter well for the Christchurch Drainage Board in Windmill Road. Osborne's machine could reach depths of over 800 feet at less than half the cost of earlier attempts. By 1902 he was working seven two-man plants. He successfully sank wells at many sites in Otago, Canterbury and the North Island, where they produced gas as well as water. His machine was used for boring for coal in the Nelson district and for oil at Gisborne, and was eventually used by all New Zealand deep-well sinkers.
Job Osborne was an active member of local bodies and other organisations. He served on the Ellesmere Road Board in 1876–77 and the North Rakaia River Board of Conservators in 1876. He was treasurer of the Ellesmere Agricultural and Pastoral Association in 1886–87 and president in 1898. He took an active interest in agricultural education at the Lincoln School of Agriculture and was for many years a trustee of the Leeston Methodist Church.
Job and Mary Osborne retired to Christchurch about 1915. Mary died on 19 September 1924 at the age of 74. Hailed as a successful pioneer and public benefactor, Job was able to attend the 60th agricultural show at Leeston in October 1930 before he died at Lewisham Hospital in Christchurch on 31 January 1931 at the age of 88. He was survived by two daughters and a son.