Andersons linked to a first for city

The Anderson reunion saw 65 members reunited at Andersons Bay on December 16 after 10 years....
The Anderson reunion saw 65 members reunited at Andersons Bay on December 16 after 10 years. Photo by Kayleigh Broad.
Grandchildren of John Anderson jun, thought to have been the first European child born in Dunedin...
Grandchildren of John Anderson jun, thought to have been the first European child born in Dunedin, are siblings (from left) Isobel Moore, of Lincoln, Graham Anderson, of Tauranga, and Dorothy Clark, of Waihola, at the Anderson family reunion last...

Descendants of Dunedin's first European child born in the area celebrated with a family reunion in Waihola last weekend. Reporter Rhys Chamberlain caught up with the family of John Anderson jun, born in Andersons Bay in 1846. 

The Edinburgh of the South has a rich history filled with tales of immigrant settlers, gold and farming pioneers.

One such pioneer was John Anderson, who landed at Port Chalmers with father James and wife Isabella [nee Allan] on December 30, 1844.

The trio travelled from Nelson with the intention of farming in the area.

Mrs Anderson gave birth to son John Anderson jun a couple of years after arriving in Dunedin.

A celebration of the birth and family was held in Waihola last weekend.

Grandson of Mr Anderson jun, 85-year-old Graham Anderson, of Tauranga, said the reunion was a chance to reconnect with about 60 family members he had not seen in a long time and tell the story to the younger generation.

"It is certain that John Anderson [jun] would have been very proud of the achievements and character of those who attended what was a most [memorable] occasion.''

Mr Anderson said the Dunedin suburb of Andersons Bay was named after the family.

"There were a couple of runaway sailors [in the area] but they weren't permanent,'' he said.

Granddaughter of Mr Anderson jun, Dorothy Clark (83), of Waihola, said the get-together was about keeping the family together by "remembering our forebears'' while younger granddaughter Isobel Moore (80), of Lincoln, said it was important for the younger generation to know the family history.

A letter, written by Mrs Anderson in 1887 and taken from a typescript at the Hocken Library, details the relocation and birth.

"John and his father, after looking all around Dunedin, settled to build on what is now Andersons Bay,'' the letter reads.

"I don't know what made them think of building there except being enticed by a strip of clean land ... thinking it would run a few sheep ...

"My son John was born on December 30, 1846. I feel quite proud of being the mother of the first child and son born in Dunedin.''

New Zealand government encyclopedia Te Ara states this was two years before Dunedin officially became a town in 1848.

Maori had occupied land in the area since about 1250.

Toitu Otago Settlers Museum curator and historian Sean Brosnahan confirmed Mr Anderson jun was generally accepted to be the first European baby born in Dunedin.

"[It is] currently accepted by the Early Settlers Association,'' Mr Brosnahan said.

"The minutes refer to that particular claim.''

The notion of the first "white'' child was problematic for recent generations who did not favour the distinction, which ruled out the "very large number'' of babies born to European men and Maori women in Otago in the 1830s and 1840s, Mr Brosnahan said.

"At the museum we recognise the significance of this group [mixed-race] too as being critical to the changing whakapapa of the manawhenua iwi of Otago.

"They [settlers] were big into first this and first that and there were a lot of doubts about [firsts],'' he said.

"This whole business of the first white child was quite popular at the turn of the century.''

A biography detailing the settlement of the Anderson family in Dunedin, which confirms John Anderson jun as the first European child born in the district and that the family gave their name to Andersons Bay, is due to be displayed at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum soon.

The Anderson family celebration included a double-decker bus trip to "family landmarks'' around the city including Toitu, the Arthur St cemetery and Andersons Bay where a reunion photo was taken.

Three generations of the Anderson family were represented and organiser, great-grandson of John Anderson jun Tony Anderson, said it was about getting everyone together.

"It's been 10 years since the last reunion,'' Mr Anderson said.

"The family members were very keen to get everyone together again.''

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