Captain John James Stanaway by Barney Daniel

The following notes have been written by Barney Thomas Daniel, my grand uncle and JJ Stanaway’s great grandchild (his mother being Ida Stanaway). Barney has written his life story in a book we have since published called “A Kiwi Journal”, and we have published a second book on Barney’s father Captain Charles Bamford Daniel.

There is a certain amount of this illustrious man’s early life that is clouded with some uncertainty and presumptively I have endeavoured to fill up some of the gaps. On page one is some detail by the Mariners who compiled this family history. He is described as a Naval Rating but little is known of his rank other than the fact that he must have acquired some skill at his training as a seaman. His visits to N.Z. are not known as to the number but they were probably connected with the requirements of the British Navy to obtain suitable timber for masts and spars. Prior to this, these needs had been met by timber from Scandinavian sources that began to dry up.

Captain Cook in his travels to N.Z. first sighted tall straight trees (Kaihikatia) in the Firth of Thames and his report brought the first ships seeking these valuable spars. It was found that the Kaihikatea from the Waihou River area, although straight and clean, was subject to rot and efforts were directed to Kauri which abounded on the East and West coasts of the North Island from Tairua on the East Coast and from Onehunga on the West to North Cape. The numerous inlets and harbours revealed vast quantities of suitable trees. Kauri, a native hardwood the equal of the Scandinavian variety, as mentioned, now no longer available.

Apparently John Stanaway’s visits must have firmed a resolve to settle in this country and to some extent escape from a record back home that could have precluded any advance-meant in the Navy. He must have resigned – if that term could be used – from the Navy, or more probably was discharged. To contemplate immigration to N.Z. he must have had some capital no doubt subscribed by his family who are assumed to have been middle-class and not devoid of money. So to some extent it could be presumed that this was a satisfactory means of dispatching a son to the Colonies to avoid the stigma of having been involved in a duel in which a man who was reputed to have insulted his sister was killed.

En route from Sydney Australia to Hokianga his wife died, was buried at sea, leaving him with a young baby whose desperate situation required sustenance. That need was to find immediately a lactating female, as in those times `Glaxo’ or baby food or milk was unobtainable. This need it is assumed must have been met, when he met wife No.2 Witaparene (Black Ann) who assumed care of baby Mary Ann, and by whom he had two sons, William Henry Stanaway, my grandfather, and Ngaere Minarapa Tika, who took his mother’s name.

So at this stage the first illegitimate births occurred as there is no record of a marriage certificate and the fact that there was no one around to conduct such a marriage, persons of this status being pretty thin on the ground and faced with considerable difficulties in a country devoid of roads or means of easy travel. The lack of white women also precluded an approach into holy matrimony, a fact that made Maori women more than eager to become wives – even if de facto – to a white man. So none of these comments are derogatory but what, due to circumstance, was an accepted way of life. So at some time in 1842-43 Mary Ann, a white child, was born to him followed by William Henry 1843-44 and Ngaere Minarapa Tika 1844-45, both half-caste and illegitimate.

He then by a polygamous arrangement `married’ Henipapa, a half-sister to Witaparene. Henipapa produced five children by John Stanaway, who adopted the name of the mother and the Stanaway name was not used by them, although their births are all listed in a document attached to the history family tree. It is not proposed to follow this branch of Capt. John’s family nor the fact of their illegitimacy which is a fact of life and not important or relevant considering the times, but all of these children were born in Hokianga covering a period from 1843 up to 1852.

It must be assumed that to provide for these families, and little is known of how he occupied his talent – apart from fathering this large brood – he must have turned his attention to pilotage on the Northern Wairoa, which ultimately earned recognition by Government in bestowing on him the first registered Pilot’s Certificate No.1 on 29th September 1885, at Government House Auckland and signed by Governor Thomas Gore-Brown. The record states he was discharged from the Navy but it would be hard to figure out what that capacity could have been from his settling in N.Z. from 1843 to sometime in 1852 when he travelled back to England. However, he must have been acquiring some standing in the community to consider a return to England where he married wife No.4.

Little is known of this liaison apart from the fact that it would have been solemnized due to his family’s standing in England. Again, it must be stressed this is surmise as no records have been evident in N.Z. Whilst there he fathered two sons but none of this family ever came to this country.

By 1855 he was in Kaipara conducting pilotage at Pouto Heads and no doubt consolidating his status to its ultimate success. What means he employed to sustain two wives and seven young children is a mystery that has not been revealed, but as is the Maori way of coping they all survived, some going in their separate ways `back to the mat’.

However, by 1850 Kaipara was becoming a busy harbour due to the harvesting of the vast resources of Kauri forests of the interior, and mills for its production into building material began to appear along the banks of the Wairoa. Shipping this end product gradually developed, but was fraught with the dangers inherent in crossing a very dangerous Bar at its entrance where strong tides and winds presented a formidable task to safe navigation. It is here that Capt. Stanaway’s ability and knowledge came to the fore and in 1856-68 he became Harbour Master besides the official Pilot for the Port.

It is not proposed to go deeply into this aspect of his work, suffice it to say that it was enhancing his status and no doubt his pocket at the same time. He did employ a couple of his sons to assist, who later win recognition as masters of various craft. I have no knowledge about my grandfather’s work other than I was told he was a mill carpenter, but no doubt like many he would have been a jack of all trades and a hard worker.

On 22nd September 1858, Capt. John and a young girl, Sarah Ann Clark, became parents to a daughter Elizabeth. Three years later in June 1861, Sarah Ann became wife No.5. At this stage it appears that the marriage could have been bigamous, but there is no record of his marriage and family in England or that, in fact, that marriage was annulled or that a divorce had been executed, it’s shrouded in mystery.

Sarah Ann Clark was Capt. John’s last wife by whom he had 8 children. She being white, this family were variously known as the `White Stanaway’s’ as compared to the 8 offspring by Maori mothers, who are referred to by the `White Stanaway’s’ as the `Black Stanaway’s’ and the two never mixed, and I know were referred to by the `White Stanaway’s’ in disparaging terms.

My own father who married the daughter of an illegitimate father William Henry, my maternal grandfather, never had much use for those members of the `White Stanaway’s’ who, like himself, were associated with maritime matters. Whether he found himself on the side of the `Black Stanaway’s’ and therefore owed some allegiance to this fact I do not know, but he had some respect for some of his brothers-in-law. I guess the fact that my mother’s family were all born on the right side of the blanket may have had a bearing as I know he was a faithful and honest man in his bearing with my mother. This study of my illustrious great-grandfather is not in pursuit of skeletons in the family cupboard, it is a statement of the facts as they occurred, and in this day and age is preferable to the cover-ups that occurred in times past.

By this time, the 1860’s, Capt. John’s fortunes began to materialize to fruition. He became an hotelier and built the first pub in Tokatoka. He was its Postmaster and did some trading on the side, thus improving his standing to the benefit of the family he now represented.

At this stage it is now my privilege, as head of the maternal side of this family, to further elucidate for the benefit of those who follow, some of the background of this particular branch of Capt. John’s issue. William Henry, my maternal grandfather of whom I have little knowledge, married Susan Anderson, he was Capt. John’s first son by Witaparene born about 1843-44. Of his wife, Susan Anderson, she was born in Helensville and obviously half caste with no information as to her parentage or background, nor can I find any information as to where they married or when, but Aunt Ellen or Helen was first born of the union, so it is presumed the marriage took place prior to her birth which was 19 February 1871.

From this marriage came 13 offspring mentioned in the family tree history, only a few of whom appear in its contents. However, we are only concerned with our maternal roots at this juncture and that is Ida Isobel, number 10, born at Helensville 1886, making her a grand-daughter of Capt. John. Her marriage took place 7th August 1910, at the Holy Street Sepulchre in Khyber Pass to Charles Bamford Daniel.

The family tree is shown in Chapter 2/5 and so it forms a start of this particular branch of Daniel’s, of which there are at this stage only James, Robert and his son Chaco and the writer. Needless to say, for those who follow on and stem from this branch, it may prove someday to be worthy of note in tracing back to one of the pioneers of this country’s emergence from a primitive, primeval state to what we unconsciously now enjoy through their efforts, and in particular those of our forebear Capt. John James Stanaway.

To conclude, without denigration of the Old Boy, he was a man of his time, his progeny total some 4500 people who can trace back to him their ancestry. It is pleasing to note that the efforts of Mr & Mrs Mervyn and Alexandria Mariner, spread over nearly twenty years of research, brought to light the evidence of one man’s mark upon this land of ours.

There are many aspects of his life which are hidden or lost to sight because little regard, due to lack of time or ability, was spent in putting to paper. It does, however, open up a vast area of conjecture as to what life was like in those times, and to my mind well worth the effort in producing such a volume whose importance may be disclosed in the future. To that end thanks must go to the Mariners for its creation, and their efforts to bring to light the life of a truly remarkable man, and to this end I commend to those members of this branch of Capt. John for their future and those that lie ahead, some record from whence they sprang.

Barney Daniel

November 1988


In company with brother James and nephew Pat Skinner, we found the site of Capt. John’s grave high on the Bluff that overlooks a broad expanse of the Wairoa River at Tokatoka.

Grave site and James

Above: John James (Jimmy) Daniel visiting JJ Stanaway’s grave about 1990.

The original wooden headboard was still there, but in a bad state, now replaced by a large slab of Totara, upon which appears only his name. His date of birth is given as 16th July, 1813. E.K.Bradley in his book `Great Northern Wairoa’ states Capt. John came from the village of Stanaway near Colchester, Essex, England. However, his notes as to the Capt.’s early marriages in New Zealand and resultant offspring are not correct, and the record of the Mariner’s would be sustainable as it appears on page 1 of the Family Tree in handwriting giving the names of all the children as Anglicized from Maori, which is shown on page 2, which was retained by all of these children in the course of their lives.

Now it seems to me that these children of Henipapa were given English first names and Stanaway as surnames and that must have been done by Capt. John or someone at his instruction, but as we now know of course, the Maori interpretation was adopted which has produced a proliferation of Maori names throughout the Family Tree. In effect this meant that of the seven offspring of Capt. John, Witaparene and Henipapa, only one son, William Henry, retained his father’s name thus establishing his name in our branch.

It would be unreal when in pursuit of family records to avoid uncovering skeletons in the cupboard, so whilst maintaining a `holier than thou’ attitude a perusal of these affairs reveals incestuous marriage, illegitimacy, polygamy, bigamy, and for all we know other misdeeds that mankind is heir to since time immemorial.

To return to the opening pages of this postscript, Capt. John’s age at death is given as 63 but according to the date of birth and death he was only 61 years. His head-slab marking his grave is all that is left of his time in Tokatoka. The original hotel was burnt, the Post Office and wharf gone. We met a Stanaway in the Pub but she (perhaps shy) evinced little interest in the mana of Capt. John.

As previously mentioned, some conjecture has been employed as to certain aspects of the life of Capt. John, but statistically whilst important there is room for more of human interest that lies somewhere in between what is known and what, in view of the times, is the subject of conjecture. So if we look first at the dilemma facing him at the death of his first wife. Passage from Sydney to Hokianga would have been in a sailing ship sometime in 1840 or 1841, a voyage that would depend for duration on weather conditions, ability of the ship not only to cope, but arrive safely at its destination, Hokianga, a dangerous bar harbour where later my father was signalman (1915-1918).

The death of Capt. John’s wife some days after the birth of a daughter, Mary Ann, and burial at sea of the mother also imperilled the life of the child. We do not know if there were other passengers aboard, or whether there was a lactating female who could have fed the child, whose early days were dependent upon human milk as there were in those times no patent baby substitutes.

At any rate, we know the child did survive the passage so by whatever means this succeeded during the time at sea, something had to be done about the problem once a landing had been effected. This naturally would be to find a `wet nurse’ or lactating female. There would be very few white women in the 1840’s at Hokianga who were available, or for that matter capable of `wet nurse’ duty. The obvious answer would be amongst the Maori population where a suitable candidate could be found.

It is here that wife No.2 enters, Witaparene, but how she became known to Capt. John is not revealed, whether she was a single girl or wife or mother we cannot know, but her association is believed to have come about by taking care of baby Mary Ann who, because of the times – breast-feeding of infants was the norm up to 8 months or even longer as the practice usually precluded a pregnancy, a common enough occurrence once lactation ceased – baby Mary Ann must have been 6 months old before being deprived of breast-feeding.

The liaison of Capt. John and Witaparene must have occurred about this time. Ultimately it produced two sons already noted with the approximate dates of their births. Witaparene now had three children to care for and here enters her half-sister, Hinepapa, and the start of a polygamous marriage or the desertion of wife No.1, Witaparene. But as Hinepapa came as a young girl to help her older half-sister she found favour with Capt. John, the result being five more children by him.

One son, Ngati Hemi (Jimmy), had various papers and charts confirming some of these records. Another son, Henare, was an outstanding personality and well-known Master on ships plying the Kaipara Waters. The most interesting part of this era was the loosely knit structure of how this family lived, in particular whilst at Hokianga, which was partly tribal, as Capt. John’s time was spent there and in the Kaipara where ultimately he settled at Tokatoka with Sarah Ann Clark, raised a family of eight, adopting a European way of life as opposed to Maori, whom to all intent and purpose he deserted.

We have no clues as to what this meant in the lives of the first of his progeny by Maori women, nor the regard by which they viewed this behaviour. Most reverted to the Maori way, whilst others aspired to emulation of their notable sire. These were William Henry and Jimmy who retained the Stanaway name. The White Stanaway’s are recorded.

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