Day 126 (Sunday, Sept. 24th) Church and Finding family on the South Island

We began our day driving 2.5 hours to Invercargill for our last church service in New Zealand.  This was one of the first branches that had more caucasians than Maori.  The Bishop seemed a bit scattered and had a few adaptations to the service. There were two boys from Primary on each side of the podium standing as sentinels to remind us to be reverent.

The bishop seemed a bit scattered.  Picture a professor being late to his class with papers in disarray under his arm.  He stopped to ask our name and where we were from and then off to shake hands and exchange pleasantries on his way to the pulpit. I told Bob that there was no way he was going to remember our names, let alone where we were from.  The meeting began…”I’d like to welcome Brother and Sister Worsley from Arizona.”  Reminder: Always think the best of people:)!

I think this cute little Maori girl in the picture below knew I was taking this picture of her family…during church.  It is hard to sneak pictures in a meeting you are not suppose to be taking pictures in…

Invercargill Branch Maori familyInvercargill Branch reverent boyInvercargill ward building

We were excited to visit Invercargill after Roy Shearstone from KeriKeri told us the history of one of their most famous citizens.  The movie “The World’s Fastest Indian” was actually pretty good.  It is a good clean family activity!  It reminded me that it is the heart that carries us to the finish line…not the brain.  Definitely a feel good film.

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Herbert James “Burt” Munro (Bert in his youth; 25 March 1899 – 6 January 1978) was a New Zealand motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under-1,000 cc world record, at Bonneville, 26 August 1967.[2] This record still stands; Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year-old machine when he set his last record.[3]

Working from his home in Invercargill, he worked for 20 years to highly modify the 1920 Indian motorcycle that he had bought that same year. Munro set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938 and later set seven more. He travelled to compete at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attempting to set world speed records. During his ten visits to the salt flats, he set three speed records, one of which still stands.

His efforts, and success, are the basis of the motion picture The World’s Fastest Indian (2005), starring Anthony Hopkins

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Next stop…Bluff

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Bluff (MāoriMotupōhue),  It is the southernmost town in New Zealand  and, despite Slope Point and Stewart Island being further to the south, is colloquially used to refer to the southern extremity of the country (particularly in the phrase “from Cape Reinga to The Bluff”).

Invercargill was only a 10 minute drive to Bluff.

   Cape Reinga is on the left, Bluff is on the right.

Our pictures when we visited both.  Note Bob is always in is Sunday clothes because all these site seeing trips were after our 10:00 church service.

 Cape Reinga is on the left, Bluff is on the right.

I loved this first picture as it captures a flock of seagulls just taking off

…and of course a light house.

Bluff rock shore with light houseBluff light house Bob seaguls

Apparently dogs like to chase Seagull!

This is the disputed island mentioned in the Bluff details above.  If you look closely you can see the light house.

We take our leave of Bluff and begin our journey toward Owaka where we hope to find family in their local cemetery.  This was a stop we had not anticipated but it was well worth it.  The wind was so strong I felt as though it would lift me off the ground. You could hardly keep your balance.  I am particularly proud of the framed picture with the buffalo grass.  I’m not sure what the dynamics of taking a good picture are but this was one that worked and I keep imagining how proud Annie would be of me…

Beach Florence beach closer viewBeach picture with buffalo grassBeach CowBeach florence Hill Lookout signOwaka Museum SettlersBeach Florence lookout view with Bob taking picture

Another unintended detour.

We knew that Bob’s ancestors were in the logging business so when we came upon this logging site we had to stop.  Just maybe they worked there, touched the equipment, built the boiler.  At the very least, it was an historic marker for what they would have experienced, which was almost as cool…but not quite.

As it turns out, it was not the Forsyth Sawmill but we would like to imagine they visited this mill and worked with the owners since it was only about 10 miles away from the Forsyths sawmill.

We are finally on our way to find the Owaka Cemetery.  Every city in New Zealand has these bright yellow signs directing you to their cemetery and Owaka was no exception. You can see the cemetery just beyond the sign…

Cemetery Sign in all cities example

It was beautifully manicured.

We came to New Zealand to find this one single grave.

John and Mary Hunter Forsyth

Owaka - John and Mary Forsyth gravestone up close

In Loving Memory of John and Mary Forsyth, Late False Island

We also found this grave of what we assume was a stillborn child of the Ruffell family. We aren’t sure they are related to our Ruffell family that left New Zealand to go to Salt Lake City but we didn’t want to leave any stones “Un Photographed”.

These are gravestones with names that may be related.  The Barr grave may be connected to the Forsyth Barr family.  Katie Millar may be of some relation to the Millar that married the Forsyth that was killed in a railroad accident.  He is the one that has his own gravestone.  All of this is in my previous post from our Dunedin graveyard search many posts ago.

After our tour of the cemetery Bob determined it we needed a phone book to look up any possible Forsyth’s living in Owaka.  We did not want to leave anything to chance before we left.  So he pulled into a bar and asked the bartender if he had a phone book or knew of any living Forsyth’s still in the town.  A woman at the bar came over and said she knew Winnie Forsyth very well and that Winnie was most beloved in the town.  She knew her well as a child and then said her father, Alec Black would love to talk to us.  He had a lot of memories not only of Winnie but of Otto and Bill too.

Bob came back to the car and said…”I think we are going to have to stay overnight here!” Apparently the bar trip was a success.  Alec’s home was just around the corner. When we arrived, I think I was as excited to just go inside this very old home!  Oh the history of this little old house!  Owaka Alec and Margarets home

Alec was at the door to meet us.  He took us into the first room on the right.  It was an odd home.  It was made of a main hallway with every room coming off of it, each with their own door.  Even the living room had its own door.  I suppose it was to help keep each room warm in the winter.  I’m just pointing out this was not an “open floor plan”.

The rooms center was clear except for a very worn red carpet.  The clutter hung to the walls and cabinets in an oddly disorganized pattern.  Alec had no teeth and his clothes were worn.  Each elbow of his sweater had holes and his shoes had seen their better days and yet he was as good of host as you could have conjured up in a castle.  He certainly had lots of stories, some very revealing about Otto.  I’m pretty sure Otto was not happy with all the revelations coming out of Mr. Black’s mouth.  I didn’t mind.  It added color and laughter to our conversation and painted a real person who had a real life right there close to Owaka.  The daughter came over to make sure we connected and told us of Winnie and her great skill at marketing and selling her wares.  She said she would take a Barbie doll with a missing arm, tell a wonderful story of its history and sell it for a dime.

Owaka Alec Black, friend of WinniesOwaka Bob in chair talking to Alex Black, friend of WinniesOwaka - Alec Black - Bob talking on the phone with Bruce Wilson, 79b years old and lives next to sawmill and knew John Jr and children Otto, Winnie, William, Mazzie, Isabel

Owaka - Alec Black notes with Bruce Wilson 1Owaka - Alec Black notes with phone call with Bruce

Bob is full of questions and when Alec could not answer some of them he put Bob on the phone with Bruce Wilson.  That is how we made our first contact with Bruce.  He had a great deal of information and Bob was writing it down as best he could on a 3×5 piece of paper.

During all of this, Alec’s wife Margaret, whom we had just been introduced to had gone missing.  Her daughter had warned us that she was in the early stages of Alzheimers so I was a little concerned about where she might be.  Luckily Alec realized she was gone and had his daugher go find her.  She came in sheepish as could be and would only sit on the couch holding her hands.  When it came time to talk about her memories of Winnie though, she just came alive.  Winnie had taught her all she knew about gardening, even though their age difference was 40 years! She then fell silent again…

Owaka Alec Black, friend of Winnies with wife on couch

After I had thoroughly taken in all the intricacies of the room my eyes fell upon these knitting needles and yarn.  I asked her if this was her work and she simply nodded her head yes.  I snapped a few pictures hoping I would not be noticed but I just fell in love with the idea of all this knitting.

Look at the detail of the hat that looks like it has been woven like a basket.  I’m not certain she can still knit like this and I wished she would have talked to me about it.  I really hope that she has not yet been robbed of this memory.  I can not imagine how silent her already very quiet life must feel like.  Life can be simple and survivable.  I’m just not sure I could handle that simple of life!

Owaka Margaret Blacks knitting close up Winnies friend. Winnie taught her how to garden

We thanked the Blacks for their hospitality and set off for Belclutha, hoping to beat the sun before it set on Hill Cemetery.  We did find some grave markers but it was just getting too dark to see. We ended this sabbath day and the long drive home grateful for all the doors opening to find family connections.

Our history is important.  The stories of our ancestors help us connect to similar personalities and traits that we share.  So many times we commented on how much Winnie looked like Grandma Christiansen or the strong entrepreneurial spirit of this creative and industrious family.  Their lives were hard as they pioneered a new country far from their Scottish home.  I tip my hat to them and hope we will be further guided on this journey to connect family.










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