George Maxwell

Date of birth / Date established
Date of death / Date closed
28 Dec 1869
Place of birth / Place established
Place of death / Place closed
Person/Corporate type
George Maxwell was born in 1843 in Alloa, Scotland. He arrived in Wellington in March 1852 after making the trip from Scotland aboard the Agra with his parents John and Catherine Maxwell. After spending several years farming with his father in the Wellington area, in 1862 Maxwell's father bought property just north of Wanganui and the family moved to this property, "Parkhead", on 7 May 1862.

In November 1867 Maxwell purchased the 713 acre Manutahi farm between the Upper Taumaha and Upper Manutahi Roads. 305 acres of the land was purchased from Captain Frederick Ross, who received it as an allotment for his military service (Ross was later killed at Turuturu Mokai on 12 July 1868).

Maxwell kept a diary from 1 January to 8 Jun 1868. The diary records the establishment of the farm and cutting rails for the stockyard from the railway reserve which ran through the farm. Maxwell joined the militia presumably because on 1 February 1868 he received his arms and accoutrements but there is no mention of military training or engagements in the diary.

Maxwell was in close contact with his family at Parkhead throughout the period of the diary and he likely returned to Wanganui when, according to the Evening Herald, in September 1868 his house "was burnt by Maoris at 7am on September 29".

Maxwell was involved with the notorious Handley's Woolshed incident which took place in Novemebr 1868. When Wanganui came under threat from Titokawaru, local settlers, including Maxwell and notable settler and politician John Bryce, formed the Kai-iwi Yeomanry Cavalry Volunteers. In November, troops from the volunteer cavalry, led by Lieutenant Bryce, encountered a group of unarmed 10-12 year old Maori boys whom Bryce and the others presumed to be Hauhaus. The boys were chasing geese and pigs outside of William Handley's woolshed on the Nukumaru flats. The volunteer cavalry charged and killed two boys and wounded others. Years later, in 1883, G.W. Rudsen published his History of New Zealand, a book which mentioned the Handley's Woolshed incident and accused Bryce and Maxwell of orchestrating the event which now included the deaths of several women and children. Bryce sued Rudsen for libel and the book was supressed and damages in the form of 5000 pounds paid to Bryce. It was proved that there were no women involved in the incident. Maxwell, however, died one month after the controversial event on 28 December 1869 in a skirmish outside the Tauranga Ika pa and was unable to voice his side of the story.

The township of Maxwell was named in his memory. The Manutahi farm was famed on a lease basis by his brother-in-law James Crabb and when Crabb died in 1931 the farm was left to Maxwell's sister, Mary Crabb. In 1946 most of the land was taken under the Servicemen's Settlment and Land Sales Act for returned servicemen. Mary Crabb, daughter of James and Mary, who was then owner, was left with an 85 acre section. That piece of land was bequethed to David Harrop, a cousin, in 1955.


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