Charles Cross

BORN: Taueru, 11 August 1877

DIED: Masterton, 3 September 1942


Charles was born on April 2nd 1877 at Taueru, the first child of Daniel and Annie. He was probably named after his father's older brother, Charles Cross as well as his grandfather, Charles Hercock.

In 1877 Taueru was a small settlement surrounded by bush, about 10 km from Masterton, typical of many struggling bush settlements in New Zealand at the time. It was also an important Maori settlement.

Annie's parents, Charles and Kate were also living in Taueru with their own children. Charles Hercock ran a carting business in Taueru and Daniel had a business supplying drapery to the surrounding farms and sheep stations.

While the conditions were primitive by today's standards, it was probably an ideal environment for a young boy to grow up in. Young Charles would have grown up with his mother's brothers and sisters. Many of his uncles and aunts were not much older than he was; his Aunt Alice was about the same age (born 1879) and Uncle Jack was born in 1881. There was a good deal of freedom for young children, going from house to house. He may have accompanied his father on some of his trips selling drapery to settlements and sheep stations in the area.

Sometime in his life Charles became a fluent speaker of Maori and in later life he used to meet with Maori who gathered at the post office in Masterton and converse with them in Te Reo. He probably picked up the language in Taueru. Since it was a significant Maori settlement he probably had many opportunities to play wth Maori children. His father may also have spoken the language, since many of Daniel's customers were local Maori families, as well as the many Maoris that worked on the sheep stations.

There had been small private schools in the town since 1870. With the Education Act in 1877, the first free national system of primary education was established and it became compulsory for children from ages 7 to 14 to attend primary school, although in practice, children seem to both begin and end school at younger ages. The first public school in Taueru was opened in 1881 in a local woolshed and then the first permanent school building was opened in March 1882 with Alfred Blakely as the teacher. Eliza, Tom and Alice were enroled at the school in 1883.

We have no record of Charles being enroled at the Taueru school. Instead he was enroled at the Carterton School for Boys. He was admitted on the 3rd April 1883 even though he was five months away from his fifth birthday. The family seem to have been keen to get him into school as soon as possible for some reason, since his birth date is given incorrectly as the 2nd April 1877 (instead of 11th August). His younger brother Herbert was enroled at the school in July 1887.

While these enrolments make it clear that the family left Taueru about 1883 and moved to Carterton, at the time of writing other details are not so clear. The subsequent breakdown of Annie's and Daniel's marriage suggests the possibility that only Annie and the children (Charles, Ethel and Herbert) moved, with Daniel remaining in Taueru. In addition, both Charles and Herbert left Carterton school in August 1888 and seemed to have enroled in Clareville school for a short time, suggesting that at least some of the family moved to Clareville, possibly staying with Annie's mother Catherine. Then Charles was re-enroled in the Carterton school at the beginning of the following year (February 1889), but Herbert seemed to have remained in Clareville and didn't re-enroll in Carterton until 1891. It could be that for a short time at least, some of the children were living in Carterton (possibly with Daniel or with the Hercocks) and some in Clareville with Annie. Then in the middle of 1891, Herbert returned to Carterton school, along with his younger brothers Arthur and William.1 There is no indication about what education Ethel was receiving.

Charles left school in December 1889, even though he was only 12 and probably began working on farms in the area, possibly with his mother's family around Carterton and Clareville. The relationship between his parents didn't improve and in August 1891 they agreed to separate. As part of the marriage settlement a trust was set up giving Annie use of land at Homebush, near Masterton, until her death. In addition, the children would live with Annie and Daniel would pay maintenance for their upkeep. As a consequence of this settlement, the boys left the school in Carterton at the end of 1891 to live with their mother. Charles probably did as well.

Despite the marriage settlement, Charles's parents continued their relationship for some years, although we don't know if Daniel lived at Homebush, and Annie gave birth to three more children: Annie, Eliza and Frank. However, after Frank's birth in 1886, their relationship took a turn for the worse. Annie complained that Daniel wasn't paying enough maintenance and charged him with desertion in 1999. In fact Daniel did leave New Zealand soon after and never returned. These years must have been difficult ones for Charles, as the oldest of the family, as well as for the younger children, Eliza and Frank. The electoral records show him living at Homebush until his marriage to Catherine Potter in 1906 so, in the absence of his father, he probably had to take on the role of a surrogate father for the younger children. In 1905 William was caught stealing saddles and bridles from their neighbours at Homebush, suggesting that things may not have been well with the family.2

We don't have the details of how Catherine and Charles met, but there was a considerable amount of opposition from Anastasia towards the relationship, although the reasons are not entirely clear. Religious differences seems the most likely reason. Charles was brought up as an Anglican and Catherine as a Roman Catholic. These were the days when people were expected to marry within their religious group. Catherine's mother Anastasia, as a staunch Catholic, especially diasapproved. As a consequence, their first child Anastasia Marjorie (Madge) was born in 1906 with Charles and Catherine still unmarried. Charles was not listed as the father when the baby's birth was registered, and she lived with her grandmother, rather than with her parents.3 It was only after Catherine became pregnant for a second time that the issue of marriage was resolved. They were finally married on November 8th, 1906 at Saint Patrick's church, but in the sacristry at the rear rather than inside the church. Being prevented from holding the ceremony in the consecrated, holy part of the church was a clear message of disapproval from the Catholic Church of their "mixed marriage".

After their marriage they lived in Featherston and then at Rangitumau about 20km north of Masterton, where Charles worked on farms. Thereafter they moved back to Masterton and lived in various houses, in Church Street, Roberts Road, in Lincoln Road with Anastasia, in the Central Hotel for a while, and Railway Road (now Ngaumatawa Road).4 They then bought their first house in Sussex Street where they lived until early in 1927 when they bought the house at 87 Cornwall Street.5 They remained in the Cornwall Street house for the rest of their lives

In the 1920s Charles had a contract to deliver flax to the flax mill in Masterton (there used to be a mill near the Muhunga golf club). Unfortunately he had an accident and seriously hurt his leg, which prevented him from continuing at this job. When he recovered he was offered a position with the Masterton Borough Council as a driver of one of their steam rollers. This proved to be a lucky break for Charles, because it enabled him to obtain experience in running steam boilers and on the basis of this experience he was employed in the Masterton gas works to maintain their steam boilers. Charles continued working at the gas works during the difficult depression years of the 1930s. When so many others were out of work, he earned £11 per fortnight which enabled the family to get through these years relatively well off.

The family also leased land around the gas works and had one or two cows. Each day one of the children would milk them and bring the milk back to the house in Cornwall Street, where Catherine would make butter and cheese. The Cornwall Street house had a huge section on the back that was filled with fruit trees. Charles also maintained a large garden and grew all the vegetables needed by the family. He would come home from work and spend a couple of hours tending the garden.

Although Charles was Anglican, he fully supported his wife's religion and his children's upbringing as Roman Catholics. He would take Catherine to Sunday mass, although he wouldn't attend himself, and he expected his children to attend. As the boys grew older any attempt to skip Mass would be met with a stern reprimand from their father. His son Denis remembers him as a quiet, gentle man but capable of being stern and forthright when required. When Nicholas Moore replaced John McKenna as parish priest in 1930, they became good friends. Both were fans of the author Zane Grey and swapped his books with each other. Eventually, a few years before his death, Charles converted to Catholicism.

As with most families in the 1930s they could not afford a car, so they would walk to Sunday mass from Renall Street. Sometime after 1930, however, Charles received money from the estate of his father Daniel Cross, who died in England in 1930. There is some mystery about this, since Daniel seems to have gone to considerable effort to keep his New Zealand family secret once he arrived in England. None the less, sometime after his death advertisments appeared in New Zealand newspapers asking for information about the descendants of Daniel Cross and as a result of these investigations, at least a part of Daniel's estate was given to his children in New Zealand. Charles used this money to buy the family their first car, an Austin 12. There after, Charles drove the family to church on Sunday. He then bought a Sunday paper and read it in the comfort of the car while the rest of the family attended church.

In about 1941, Charles was diagnosed with cancer and grew progressively unwell over the following year. He moved out of his own room and into the "boys' bedroom" which he shared with Denis. He died on 3 September 1942 and his funeral was held in St Patrick's church.6 He is buried in Masterton cemetery next to Catherine.


This page last modified 18 July 1211.
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Dan Cross: Ph: (09) 6290052