James Williams Wills (c.1800 - 1869) MP

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Birthplace: Bere Ferrers, Devonshire, England
Death: Died in Upper Moutere, Tasman District, Tasman, New Zealand
Occupation: Inn Keeper
Managed by: Jason Scott Wills
Last Updated:

About James Williams Wills

James Williams Wills was christened on 27 July 1800 at St Andrews Church, Bere Ferrers, Devon, England. James along with older brother John appears to have left Bere Ferrers in 1820 for Calstock, across and a few up the Tamar River from Bere Ferrers. Here he met Betsy Brooming Rickard, daughter of innkeeper John Rickard. James and Betsy were married on 8 November 1822 at St Andrews Church Calstock; both signed their own names. Their first two children were born at Calstock with James listing his occupation as innkeeper, most likely working for Betsy’s father. The family’s movements over the next few years, 1827-1831 is unknown. It’s thought that James worked at Cotehele Quay, near Calstock, at one time, which is quite possible. By January 1832 the family were living at Plymouth, shifting on to Tamerton-Foliot, on the outskirts of Plymouth, and across the Tavy River from Bere Ferrers. It was here that James and Betsy’s last two children were born.

In September 1841 a notice appeared in the London and Plymouth newspapers regarding the New Zealand Company chartering the ship Timandra to take free emigrants to New Plymouth, New Zealand. The chance to settle and own land would have been one, which James could not pass up. Passages were free to workers including agricultural labourers and their wives, except for deposits of £1 and 10d respectively. James Wills and family obtain passage on the Timandra, dropping his and Betsy age to 36 years each so they would be below the 40 years limit set for emigrants.

The Timandra left Plymouth, England on 2 November 1841. The Wills family faced a voyage of four months between decks less than two metres in height and with 200 other persons. Adults were allowed a half-ton of luggage and were required to supply their own bedding, plates, mugs and cutlery. On Christmas day 1841 the Timandra stopped at Capetown, South Africa. Some of the emigrants made it to shore, with many returning worst for wear from the effects of cheap wine. It’s not noted if James Wills was one of these emigrants. Sailing again on 30 December, they sighted the southwest cape of Tasmania on 12 February. Prior to this on 1 February it’s recorded in the diary of Joseph Flight, a quarrel between Betsy Wills and Mary Ann Prout. Prout claimed a pair of shoes, worn at the time by one of Betsy daughters, as her own. The out come is not recorded. What is recorded is the work that Betsy and her daughters, Thirza and Maria did on the voyage. They were employed sewing up garments. The women were entitled to keep for themselves one garment out of every five they made, men’s blue and white shirts and women’s shifts. The Wills women are recorded as handling a number of batches. Mt Taranaki was sighted on 22 February 1842 and the Timandra anchored at New Plymouth on 23 February. The next day all the passengers and their luggage were landed. All the emigrant men were employed immediately on their landing at five shillings per day. The diary of Flight records that “the people on shore were living in tents, huts formed of reeds or mud, and a few in one-storied houses.”

Under the Plymouth Company land scheme, a deposit of £10 paid in England entitled the emigrant one town section of 1 acre and 50 acres of rural land. This was later reduced to a quarter acre and 25 acres. Total payment was to be £75. James Wills’s town section is shown as No. 92, on the inland side of Devon Road, between the Henui and Waiwakaiho streams. The family took up farmland in Bell Block, on what was to become Wills Road. The eastern portion of this road was later renamed Corbett Road, the name Wills was retained in the western portion of the original road. James along with sons Albert and Thomas all held sections in Corbett Road. A report in 1849 lists the Wills property at Mangaiti as one of the few areas that had been transformed from a wilderness to a farm. In 1848 Governor Fitzroy upheld a Maori claim to land in the Bell Block and the settlers were ordered to move off. The Maori owners, however, sent a message to Fitzroy saying that Wills and family were to remain in undisputed possession. It was eight years before the Wills family had any European neighbours again.

The Wills family had become well established clearing land and developing farmland. James Wills placed an add in the Taranaki Herald on 8 March 1854. To be let. A house and 25 acres of land to let for 7 or ten years, at the Bell Block, within half a mile of Devon Road. 20 acres of the land is in cultivation and the fencing of the whole nearly completed. The house containing 5 rooms is quite new, built of wood, and shingled, it is prettily situated, and the whole property is plentifully supplied with water. Mr Wills Senior. Apply to Bell Block.

The Wills family had a good rapport with the Maori people. Eldest son Albert participated fully in Maori affairs, acting as an interpreter encouraging the Maori to enrol as ratepayers and be on equal footing with the settlers. When war came in March 1860 the Wills family suffered along with the rest of the population. James had his house burnt by Maori and the families had to shift into New Plymouth. On 31 December 1861 James was granted 45 acres in the Hua Survey District, but was soon to move.

On 10 September 1863, along with the family of their son Albert, James and Betsy shifted to Nelson. Their son James and his family had made the moved the year before. James bought 51 acres at Lower Moutere, later transferring it to his son Albert. James and Betsy spent their final years living with or near their son Albert and his family. James died on 6 December 1869 and was buried at Upper Moutere Cemetery. Betsy died on 17 October 1875 and was also buried at Upper Moutere Cemetery.

The use of the name Williams is intriguing. I am of the opinion that this was the maiden name of James’s mother Elizabeth. James’s second name was Williams and he used it as a name in three of his six children. Rickard, Betsy’s maiden name was used with two of the children. A very strong case, it just remains to be proved by finding his parents marriage.

source: http://www.auckram.gq.nu/index.htm

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James Williams Wills's Timeline

1800
July 27, 1800
Bere Ferrers, Devonshire, England
1800
Bere Ferrers, Devonshire, England
1822
November 8, 1822
Age 22
Calstock, Cornwall, England
1823
August 1, 1823
Age 23
Calstock, Cornwall
1826
May 30, 1826
Age 26
Calstock, Cornwall, England
1828
1828
Age 28
Calstock, Cornwall
1832
January 6, 1832
Age 32
Plymouth, Devonshire, England
1833
December 1, 1833
Age 33
Tamerton Foliot, Devonshire, England
1837
May 7, 1837
Age 37
1841
November 2, 1841
Age 41
Plymouth, UK

Family set sail on the Timandra from England heading to New Zealand