Topic: Ann Hodgson of Wakefield

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Ann was a notable resident of the early Wakefield Township, and like most of our early pioneer women, she overcame personal tragedies and disappointments to make a successful life for her family.

Ann Hodgson

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Ann Hodgson was born 27th, July 1823 at “Holmwrangle”, Cumberland England. She was the daughter of John Bird and Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird (nee Nicol), who had a large family. Little is known of her early life, but in 1847 she married Isaac Dixon and their only daughter, Elizabeth, was born in 1848. In a letter to Ann’s brother Joshua Bird, then on the Bendigo gold fields in Australia, Ann and Isaac wrote that they were living at Moorhouse Hill in Cumberland, working on a farm, with a free house, for a Mr. Elliott and noted that Ann had plenty of work too. In 1963, Ann Isaac and daughter Elizabeth, now 15 years old, set sail for New Zealand, to join Ann’s brother Joshua Bird who by now had settled in Wakefield with his family. Isaac Dixon worked as steward on the ship during the voyage out from England but sadly died during the trip in 1864. His death certificate says ‘on board ship MERMAID, harbour of Port Lyttelton, cause of death Dysentery’. A sad Ann and Elizabeth arrived alone at the residence of her brother Joshua and family in Wakefield. Joshua was to help and guide her for the rest of her life, which must have been of great assistance to her when she was left on her own.

In 1865, Ann Dixon married a bachelor, John Hodgson. He was 49yrs and she was 41yrs. We have few details of John’s earlier life. He came from the London area in England. We know he was in Wakefield as early as 1856. He was a bootmaker and had set up a small shop in Upper Wakefield. Due to public demand at the time, he had begun to sell some provisions for the settlers, such as flour, sugar, etc. At first, they lived in a home opposite the store, and then later built living quarters attached to the store. In 1866 their first son, Ernest William was born.  The same year Elizabeth Dixon, now aged 18yrs was married to Samuel Baigent. Elizabeth and Samuel became pioneers of the Owen Valley, although Elizabeth spent much of the time in their home in Wakefield, not far from John and Ann’s shop, so that the children could attend school. In 1868 Ann and John’s second son, Herbert John was born. 

At this time in the district, gold was being discovered and small settlements were starting all along the Buller district and down to the Lyell. John was making boots to sell to the miners and they were said to be of excellent quality. Ann’ to help out their income, was making jam and pickles etc. from the fruit and produce by now growing readily on the fertile Waimea Plains, and sending them to the miners on the horse wagons servicing the Buller region, along with john Hodgson’s boots. It was a long hard trip of several days to Murchison then and wagon drivers had to be strong resourceful men.  This trading started the Hodgson connection with Murchison, which still exists today.

With two infant sons and a secure family, Ann’s life was a happy one again, but John Hodgson became ill and Ann, now in her mid-forties, nursed him in a room above the shop as well as caring for a new baby and a small boy. John died in 1869. His death certificate lists his illness just as “heart disease”.  Ann was distraught. She leased the shop, first to Patterson and then Langford, until her infants were older, then took over the running of it herself. We are told that she was popular in the village, especially with children.  My maternal Grandmother McPherson once told me that as small children, as a special treat they were given a penny to buy lollies from “Mrs. Hodgson’s Shop”. They called her “Hoddy”. Ann died in September 1899 after a short illness. By now, her sons were adults. Ernest was managing the business, which they shifted to central Wakefield to be near the newly opened railway Station. His first wife was Polly Cole, who died in childbirth. They had a son Ralph and daughter Rita. Ernest later married Alice Baigent and had a son Leslie and daughters Winifred and Marjorie.  Herbert trained as a wheelwright and carpenter, moving to Murchison in 1892 where he married Agnes Downie. Their children were Bertram and Gertrude. He took over a small store there that was being managed by Frank Bird, Ann’s nephew, and this was to become the General Store of H. J. Hodgson & Co. Ltd. When tragically Herbert died young after a long illness, Ernest took over all the business and Hodgson’s eventually owned general stores in Brightwater, Wakefield, Motupiko and Murchison. Ernest’s son Ralph, and later his family, ran the Wakefield general store under the name of Ann Hodgson and Son until her sold in 1968. Ernest’s daughters, Winifred and Marjorie, ran the Brightwater store for a time.  In Murchison Ernest’s son Leslie took over the store then, building up the business and still retaining the name H. J. Hodgson & Co. Ltd., as it is to the present day. Today it is a much smaller business, owned by his daughter Barbara Oxnam. The modern supermarket trading and improved communications etc. have spelt the demise of the once essential old Country Stores, but our family can thank Great-grandmother Ann’s early courage and fortitude for the good life we all have today.

Ann and John Hodgson are buried in St. John’s Churchyard, Wakefield as are her daughter Elizabeth and son’s Ernest and Herbert and their families.

 

Story written by B. Oxnam. 2018

 

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Ann Hodgson of Wakefield


First Names:Ann
Last Name:Hodgson (Previously Dixon, nee Bird)
Place of Birth:Cumberland, England