Thursday, August 13, 2009

More early traces of Auckland's Chinese

Folks may wonder why a European-descended person like me should be so very interested and intrigued in the early history of the Chinese community in Auckland. Short answer -- because the history for that theme is so sparse, as wispy as a vapour, like only finding footsteps left behind in transformed stone, and trying to work out who those who left the footprints were, and how their lives entwined with the story of the city and region.

I had thought, at the time of an earlier post on the topic of the earliest Chinese here, that I'd found four likely candidates from around October 1865. Well, another bit of delving into Papers Past tonight has turned up three more people who were living in central Auckland a full three years prior to that date.

James Williams, described by the Southern Cross as "a native of the Celestial Empire" was living in rented accommodation in Chancery Street in 1862. Up until October that year, he worked for James Palmer at the Royal Hotel in Official Bay (corner Eden Crescent and Short Street today). He left the Palmers at that time (around when Mrs Palmer advertised that a bag had gone missing from the hotel - 11 October 1862), and left Chancery Street as well, with unpaid rent due. He moved with his brother and wife to Barrack Street (now mainly part of Lorne Street). In early January, he got a job with Samuel Reed at the Royal Hotel in Onehunga, as a servant and cook, but in early February was charged with stealing a watch, money and cheques from the hotel. After three court hearings, the charges were dismissed on 30 March 1863, and Williams faded back into history.

Southern Cross, 4 February, 6 February and 31 March 1863

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