Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The unveiling of a memorial to an American soldier and diplomat



After 106 years, a grave in Waikumete Cemtery finally received its headstone today.



Waikumete Cemetery in West Auckland, is New Zealand's largest, started by the Auckland City Council in the 1880s and transferred to Waitakere City Council after local government restructuring late last century.



It is an intriguing place. I hope to be able to do some exploring amongst the history on its vast fields before my own earthly remains go up in smoke at the on-site crematorium.





I was invited to attend the unveiling of a memorial to an American who had been buried last century, but whose family then left the country, returning to the land of his birth. It was a good ceremony, on a fine sunny (and hot!) day amidst old gravestones and tall grass.

The following information comes primarily from historian Audrey Lange, who conducte the research into his story and first located the grave.

Andrew Andrews St. John (according to his headstone, although Audrey and the printed order of service for the unveiling of the headstone had his name as Andrews Andrew St. John), was born in 1835 in Connecticut, and enlisted as a private the Union Army during the American Civil War, mustering as a Corporal in August 1862. His time in the Army was short; after his regiment marched from Harrisburg to Washington DC, followed by postings at Poolesville and Falmouth, St. John received a disability certificate in December 1862, and was invalided out of the army.

His occupations over the next 20 years are indicated by service as a county clerk in 1870, and a return to his pre-war trade as a dentist by 1879. Next, he appears as the Commercial Agent in Fiji for the United States government in 1886, appointed initially as a “recess appointment” (one made by the U.S. President during the recess of the Senate) which was confirmed a few months later. He was posted initially at Levuka, already by then no longer the capital of Fiji (this had been shifted to Suva earlier by the British Government), but later he operated from Suva.

He left his post in 1893. According to John Desrocher, Consul General of the United States in Auckland (in his speech today at the graveside):
"It was in 1893, when the second administration of President Grover Cleveland turned its attention to what was called the ‘spoils system’ and, in particular, the salaries of U.S. representatives overseas, that St John left his post. Consular officers earning up to $1,000 per year could live off the fees they charged for their services, and also engage in trade locally. Those earning over $1,000 were no longer allowed to engage in trade. By Executive Order President Cleveland also required officers with salaries more than $1,000 to pass exams on consular regulations and foreign language proficiency. It was presumably this combination of more work for less money which prompted Andrews to leave Fiji after 7 years."
St. John took up another position in Batavia (modern day Jakarta), but ended up by 1894 in Australia and the New Zealand. He died here in 1902, and was buried at Waikumete without a headstone. According to John Desrocher, his widow and family returned to the United States in 1908.

Audrey has been in touch with the surviving descendants of St. John, who are happily overwhelmed that their ancestor’s gravesite has been located and will now be marked with a veteran’s headstone.

Early photographs of Levuka from the 1880s can be seen here. Actually, I think there should be a book done sometime about the American commercial agents/consuls in 19th century Fiji. They appear to have had a lively history. Aaron Von Camp was also a Civil War veteran (of sorts) – he operated as a spy for the Confederacy, yet was still appointed to the post in Fiji (and also Samoa). Another, William Henry Bruce apparently invested in land in Fiji, the majority of which he lost when the British Government changed the rules in 1892. It's a shame any archives on Fijian history are at present inaccessible.

An update here.

Further update (10 November 2009): Jim Gray, of the American Civil War Round Table of Queensland Inc., has advised today (see comments below) that he was instrumental in the provision of St John's headstone at Waikumete Cemetery (and he's sent through documents via email to prove it). Good on you, Jim. I'm sorry that his part in this was not fully publicised at the time.

16 comments:

  1. Most interesting, Lisa, and I am happy that Mr. St. John finally got his headstone at his newly discovered gravesite.

    Question: In New Zealand, is "St. John" pronounced "Sinjen" as it is in the UK?

    Also, very beautiful photographs. May I ask what camera/lenses you favor?

    Thanks for those very interesting insights into your history, Lisa!

    Bill

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  2. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for stopping by! Here, "St. John" is pronounced "Sint Jon" (as in Saint John). Funny thing, I was thinking about the UK pronunciation this afternoon while writing up the post. If Mr. St. John had been English gentry, though, the correct way to pronounce the name would have been Sinjen. Then again if that had been the case, instead of attempting to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" (my first time!) along with "God Defend New Zealand", we'd have probably sung "God Save the Queen". That would have been easier!

    As for the camera, I have a Kodak C875, and basically point-and-shoot, aside from the odd special doodad such as the "scenery" setting I use from time to time for something in the distance. Thanks for your comments -- it was a bit difficult getting a space to get a good shot with a TV crew, a couple of news reporters and a radio interviewer all clustering around the centre of the action!

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  3. Lisa,

    You lead such an interesting life, and I say again: I suspect you have done so much research, there MUST be film material available, and I know just whom I would like to star in it: One of your most famous actors: Sam Neill.

    I asked about the camera because I have an interest in old abandoned theaters and motels as well as houses.

    They fascinate me and make me want to find out what went on there and write stories about them. Unfortunately, I am not a very good photographer, so I need a camera that will do the work for me.

    Lisa, YOU sang The Star Spangled Banner??? SOLO??? I bet that man's spirit felt so honored that you would do this for him. What a wonderful thing for you to do for him!

    Hon, please do me a favor and tell your friends who are followers of my blog that I am having a bit of difficulty, because it seems I am not able to leave comments there as I can here on yours, and I didn't want them to think me rude.

    They apparently have their blogs set up differently, but I just cannot figure it out.

    Looking forward to your next tale from the Waugh, my friend!

    Thanks

    Bill

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  4. Sam Neill in a film about Avondale history? That would be cool beyond words, Bill!

    I wasn't singing solo (that would have been a tragedy in the making). Those of us there with enough guts and windpower sang the two anthems all together. When the Star Spangled Banner came up, I guess I kind of remembered how it was sung on American TV shows I'd seen, and followed the American consul's lead. (Hey, when singing the American anthem, you follow the Americans' lead, right?) We muddled through (but thank heaven it wasn't in front of a crowd of baseball fans!)

    I'll pass on to the other blog owners that you're having problems. There seems to be a bug in the comments system with Blogger, others have mentioned it on the common forums -- I never seem to have an issue, though. Never have a problem with yours, for instance. Take care, and lots of love, dear friend.

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  5. Actually there are more than eight veterans of the American Civil War, buried in New Zealand, as my recent research work has shown. These are just the ones who have been confirmed, through documentation and other sources, but I also have a further list of about nineteen names, which require further research to prove Civil War service. These are persons who have been mentioned as having been in the Civil War, but so far without any proper verification. The additional ones, seven in number, located in the last twelve months, and not amongst the eight already known, include some very interesting characters, including a major of cavalry, the highest known ranking officer of the Civil War, buried in New Zealand, as well as a Confederate Army officer who was unique amongst the veterans buried in both Australia and New Zealand, in that he served in the military service of three different nations, and was quite highly commended, even by officials of the Confederate government. Also, amongst these seven new names is that of a soldier from Pennsylvania, who was executed in New Zealand, for the crime of murder.

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  6. Thanks for that, Terry. I'd be very interested to see how your research pans out. Any sign of Charles Gallagher on your list -- committed suicide after killing his wife? You'll find info I have on him elsewhere in this blog. Cheers.

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  7. Sorry, but I neglected to also mention another interesting character, buried in New Zealand. He was John Ocho (or Juan Ochoa) who had been a sailor aboard the famed Confederate cruiser, CSS ALABAMA, and was in the action off the coast of France, in June, 1864, that resulted in the sinking of the ALABAMA by the USS KEARSARGE. John/Juan was one of the sailors captured and paroled by the KEARSARGE. He continued as a merchant seaman, after the battle, and was in Australia in 1866 before finally ending up in New Zealand. Unfortunately, this Spanish born gentleman fell for the charms of a lady who did not reciprocate, and he ended up in a lunatic asylum, where he passed away. He is buried in an unmarked grave in New Zealand.
    Another interesting Civil War veteran was Robert Curham, also buried in New Zealand, and who was definitely the same person who served in the Civil War, but whose name was used, by his brother, who resided in the United States, to obtain the United States government pension for Civil War service. Whether this fraud was perpetrated with the knowledge of Robert or not is unknown, but Robert, who was quite well to do, did not need the pension himself.

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  8. I reckon there could be a book in all this, about the fates of those who were involved with the American Civil War and who came down here to Australasia, Terry. Fascinating stuff! Thank you very, very much for sharing your information on my blog. I'll certainly drop you a line if I see anything further in my travels through NZ history sources (although judging by the depths of your research, I'd say you were the expert!) Cheers!

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  9. As a matter of fact, there was a book published in 2000, CIVIL WAR VETERANS IN AUSTRALIA (which, at that time also included only the three then known New Zealand veterans), published by the daughter of our late mentor, Roy Parker, in all this research. Since then we have uncovered quite a few more, but it should also be known that one person, in Queensland, has used all this for a web site of his, without our permission. Be warned, that he has also added so much spurious data, and inaccurate information, that every single biography of his includes errors, sometimes dozens of inaccuracies. He was forced to remove at least eight of his own biographies, after it was proven, through our own investigative research, that those eight he claimed service for, were never in the Civil War in the first place. There are at least a dozen more being investigated, and for whom we have some basic data that indictes they also may not have served.
    Anyway, to get back to the veterans in New Zealand, another interesting one was JOseph Eppright, who served in a Pennsylvania regiment, and was, after the war, executed in New Zealand for the crime of murder.

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  10. Doesn't seem that the book is readily available here in New Zealand, Terry, which is a shame. I'd love to see it.

    I found the website you mentioned -- pity such folks go to such lengths just to put up wrong information which leads people astray.

    Is the surname of the man executed Eppright or Eppwright? There appear to be more newspaper references available with the second spelling.

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  11. By the way, several of the names on that website mentioned, are not of persons who served in the Civil War, as he makes a large number of assumptions. As it was, in about August of last year, he had to remove at least eight of his biographies, which were proven to be non-Civil War veterans. However, the major damage has already been done, as he applied for American government gravestones for at least three of these persons. I was quite surprised that they supplied these markers, despite the fact that there was absolutely no proof of service, and our own evidence proved that they definitely did not serve. There are still several names on his web site which are definitely not persons who served in the Civil War. We have evidence for about half a dozen of these, and will be searching for more on other names.
    The name shown in the military records for Joseph Eppright, and in some of the newspaper articles is for Eppright, though Eppwright is used a couple of times.

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  12. Thanks, Terry. The "Eppright" spelling, although correct as you say from military records, was scarcely used here in NZ. Even modern websites listing the executions here don't use it.

    http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/the-death-penalty/notable-executions

    Probably, as we were "more English than the English" at the time, the "w" was stuck in.

    A search for "Eppright" in Papers Past comes up with 5 entries. "Eppwright" has 38 entries.

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  13. Just thought I would let you know, that the headstone you have pictured on your website was acquired by James Gray and the American Civil War Round Table of Queensland, Inc. The first one shipped arrived broken and we had to have it replaced; which they did in short order. It is but one of many we have acquired for veterans in New Zealand.

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  14. In New Zealand there are indeed more than 8 veterans. There are presently 16 confirmed American Civil War veterans either from or buried in New Zealand. Their stories can be found on www.acwv.info, the Veterans Memorial Website which has been archived by the National Library of Australia. They are:

    (Name-Birth-Years-Units-Buried)

    Ambrose, Robert, Ireland, 1840-1908, 4th Mass. Lt. Art, From NZ

    Banks, Charles Wells, England, 1839-1915, 131st NY Inf, Rarotonga, NZ

    Calkin, Samuel Richard, England, 1841-1909, US Navy, Whangarei, NZ

    Davies, Sydney Herbert, England, 1838-1915, Conf. States Army, Dunedin, NZ

    Duffin, Michael, Unknown, 1836-1912, 12th NY Inf, Waikaraka, NZ

    Durnett, William A, USA, 1838-1905, 1st Cav, Calif. Vol, Kaiori, NZ

    Flowers, Charles William...England, 1845-1920, 21st Ohio Inf, Invercargill, NZ

    Gamble, Thomas Tallman, USA, 1833-1886, 11th NY Cav, Auckland, NZ

    Kember, Henry, England, 1836-1916, Conf. States Army, Karori, NZ

    Lightbourne, Ashburn…England, 1836-1899, 25th Tenn. Inf, Hawwera, NZ

    Meredith, Thedore John, England, 1843-1928, C.S. Navy, Taumaranui, NZ

    Ocho, John, Spain, 1847-1889, Confederate Navy, Waikumete, NZ

    Pelham, John Charlesl, England, 1841-1886, U.S. Navy, Purewa, NZ

    Sanderson, William, England, 1840-1909, U.S. Navy, Mangapai, NZ

    St. John, Andrew A, USA, 1835-1902, 141st Pa. Inf, Auckland, NZ

    Wareham, Joseph, USA, 1840-1920, U.S. Navy, Karori, N.Z.

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  15. That's interesting, Mr. Gray, because none of the local papers mentioned you or your organisation at the time, and Audrey Lange said that the headstone came about through direct negotiation between herself, Waikumete Cemetery, and the US Government. She did tell me at the time that the first stone had come in broken, but that her team then got a replacement.

    Also, re T T Gamble -- how far has your organisation gone toward negotiating a space along the wall at St Marks for a replacement headstone for him? He is of special interest as far as I'm concerned.

    And what of Charles Gallagher?

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  16. I would like to thank everyone involved in the headstone process. I know it made my Grandma, Andrews granddaughter, very happy before she passed away.
    Thanks again,
    Joel MontEton

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