Cemetery visitors get glimpse of early history
In one short hour 50 visitors to the Dannevirke Settlers Cemetery were given a glimpse of the early history of Dannevirke, sufficient to marvel at the efforts, enterprise and courage of five families and gasp at the tragedies that befell some of them. They were listening to the research of several family experts who in some cases had travelled a decent distance to relate interesting tales. First was Charlotte Dales, married to Jackson Dales, originally farmers at Mauriceville who moved in 1900 to Dannevirke where they opened a second-hand shop to help raise funds for locals struggling, particularly those returning from World War I. Subsequently the shop morphed into JB Dales and Co, a prominent furniture shop which eventually sold out to Mills Bros in the 1980s. Henry and Elizabeth May emigrated from Cornwall, England, working on the railways until daughter Millie in 1907 won a ballot for land in the Te Rehunga district, allowing the family to settle and clear the block while Henry worked on the railways. After struggling with tough forestry clearance, low prices and the 1930s Depression, the family developed a good farm which was sold and amalgamated into another block in the 1980s. Sister Ignatius died in the 1931 Napier Earthquake and was buried in Taradale but was born Mary Deely Walsh in Dannevirke. Her mother and infant brother are buried in the Dannevirke Settlers Cemetery. Albert Ernest Pawson also died young at 28 but after a comparatively long working career (16 years) as a journalist for the Bush Advocate. The paper reported his death, saying he was a popular sportsman from an active and musical family. His parents are buried in the same cemetery but are not related to Pawsons currently resident in Dannevirke. George Wratt, according to researcher Pat Mills was a major force in the development of Dannevirke, moving his sawmilling operation from the South Island to Dannevirke sparking its economy out of the doldrums in the 1880s, chairing the influential Roads Board and Town Boards. He also helped shape the town’s layout the way it is today, securing the railway station and helping set up its first hospital. Several families had organised reunions for this day.