Is your surname Spencer?

Research the Spencer family

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

James Spencer

Also Known As: "Timi Katoa", "Jimmy the Strong"
Birthplace: Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
Death: October 1846 (35-44)
at sea while returning to Bluff from Sydney
Place of Burial: buried at sea
Immediate Family:

Husband of Meri Te Kauri Spencer
Father of William Te Paro Spencer and James Spencer

Occupation: soldier, sealer, whaler, trader
Managed by: Jason Scott Wills
Last Updated:

About James Spencer

The first European to settle at Bluff was James Spencer, a veteran of Waterloo. James was on board the Cossack when it was wrecked whilst leaving the Hokianga harbour on 27 April 1823. Along with the other survivors, he scrambled exhausted and half clothed across land for five days until they reached the Christian mission station at Kerikeri in the northern Bay of Islands. James worked for the mission station in return for his keep until he could get passage back to Sydney. However he became caught up in the mission’s power struggles and infighting and was refused passage on the next available ship.

Four months later, James was on the whaling ship Brampton when that ship too was wrecked as she attempted to sail out of the Bay on 1 November 1823.

Being no longer under the care of the mission James was forced to sleep on the beach until some of the crew of the Dragon smuggled him onto the ship in the night. Dragon sailed from the Bay with James on board. During the voyage Captain Walker discovered the stowaway and made threats against them.

Once in Sydney, the Dragon’s crew took him to Captain Beveridge’s ship St Michael. James arrived back in New Zealand in 1824 on board the St Michael as a member of Johnny Jones Waikouaiti based whaling team. The following year he returned to establish a permanent home.

James built the first European house in Southland. He bought land from local Maoris and cleared 24 hectares for cultivation before importing a herd of cattle. Finally, he set up a fishing station where he employed a total of 21 Europeans and Maori. Spencer was soon joined by other settlers and the nucleus of the town was formed. Maori living in the Bluff area were subjected to European influence long before those in most other parts of New Zealand. Very few of Bluff’s early settlers had European wives. Intermarriage between the Maori and British, Norwegian and Portugese arrivals occurred.

Bluff grew to become a popular haven among whalers and the production and sale of supplies to meet the needs of both whalers and sealers, provided the basis for the town’s further development.

In 1846 James died at sea while returning from a trip to Sydney.

MEMORIAL: Erected in the year 2000 By the descendents of one of Southlands earliest pioneers James Spencer Who founded Bluff in January 1824 Established a whaling station in 1839 And died at sea 1846 His wife Meri Kauri Was born at Otakou in 1816 And was buried at this site 20 April 1876 Mother of James and William Spencer

view all

James Spencer's Timeline

Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
September 3, 1844
Bluff, Southland, New Zealand
October 1846
Age 40
at sea while returning to Bluff from Sydney
October 1846
Age 40
buried at sea
New Zealand