The man who gave his name to Gordonton

In her history column in the Waikato Times, Lyn Williams takes a look at John Gordon, after whom Gordonton was named.  For those of you who missed it, here it is.

John Gordon was a prominent and highly respected Waikato farmer of the late 19-early 20th century.

He was secretary of the New Zealand Agricultural Society, chairman of the Kirikiriroa Roads Board, one of the first members of the Waikato County Council and actively connected with the Waikato Agricultural and Pastoral Association.  He won many prizes at cattle shows.

Woodlands Homestead
Woodlands Homestead today

From 1885 Gordon was manager of Woodlands at Gordonton, part of the extensive Eureka estate.  Gordonton is named after him.After the Land for Settlement Act was passed in 1894, the large estates were broken up to form smaller farms and Gordon bought a parcel of the Eureka Estate at Eureka.

Gordon built a new large homestead.  The house was part of a complex of workers’ cottages, a barn, a smithy and other outhouses with an extensive plantation of English trees.

Gordon took with him from Woodlands some of the milking shorthorn herd.  Later, in 1908, the Department of Agriculture bought some of the descendants of those cows for the new experimental farm at Ruakura.

Gordon married three times, but outlived each wife.  His first wife was Susan Houstan whom he married in 1882.  On the birth of their first son, the staff at Woodlands were given a holiday, with sports and a dance, which became a tradition.

The Gordons at Woodlands

However, on the birth of their second son in 1892 Susan developed serious complications and, despite John hiring a train to bring a doctor from Auckland, she died soon after.

In 1908 Alice and John shifted to Bankwood, a large farm on what was then the northern outskirts of Hamilton.  Their house at Bankwood was the large villa, now part of Waikato Diocesan School for Girls.  The house is registered by the Historic Places Trust.  However, Alice did not have much time to enjoy it – she died a few months later at Opoia Hospital.

Gordon’s third wife, widow Margaret Brown, whom he married in 1910, lived with him at Bankwood until  her death in 1916.  They are all buried with him in Hamilton West Cemetery.

The headstone erected by John Gordon for his first wife, Susan, is one of the more impressive monuments at Hamilton West Cemetery.  He and his second and third wives, Alice and Margaret, and a newborn baby who is presumably his grandson, are buried in the same large grave.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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