A family history blog

Omaha The Nova Scotian influence

Around the year 2000, in response to an email enquiry, Alvin Smith wrote a short note about the people of Nova Scotian descent who were still living in the Big Omaha area.

In the 1940’s the only Nova Scotian connection left in Omaha were the children of Angus Matheson and their descendents. The children were Duncan Matheson, Catherine Dunning and Jessie Dunning. Catherine and Jessie passed away in the 1940’s, and Duncan in 1956. And Dan Kempt the son of Alexander Kempt jr, who passed away in 1940. Dan Kempt farmed a property on Pakiri hill and did not marry, his nephew, Colin Matheson assisted on the farm from 1940 and on Dan’s death inherited the property. This property with sweeping views of the outer Hauraki Gulf from Coromandel to the Whangarei Heads is still in the family today. At present it is being farmed by Colin’s son John, a Great-grandson of Angus Matheson, and Alexander Kempt. Angus Matheson’s son Duncan married Ellen Kempt; Colin was their second son. Kempts beach and point is situated at the northern limit of the Goat Island marine reserve. Duncan at the age of seventy-three was still performing the fortnightly mail and stores run to the Little Barrier Island. At the age of eighty was rowing his grand children to school across the Leigh harbour.

With the passing of Duncan in 1956 the third generation living in Leigh were Alexander (Sandy) and Roddy the sons of Alex Matheson (born at Capetown on the Spray). Gerty Smith and Martha Newey the daughters of Christina Smith Nee’ Matheson. Ivy Wyatt the daughter of Catherine Dunning Nee’ Matheson. Colin and Gordon the sons of Duncan Matheson. The fore named are all descendents of Angus Matheson. In the wider Omaha Area the third generation was Jessie Birdsall, Sandy and Roddy’s Sister; Roderick (Roy) Neeley; Bill Dunning all farming in Matakana and Bills brother farming at Tomorata, Angus (Pat) Dunning. The total number of grandchildren of Angus and Jessie Matheson was sixty-two therefore the Matheson’s sought work throughout New Zealand not withstanding that ninety-one descendents were living in the Omaha area in 1952.

Alexander (Sandy) lived for a time in Angus Matheson’s original house that had been dismantled in Matheson’s Bay and shipped around by his father and rebuilt at Goat Island. Sandy was in the army for a while and then man powered to shipbuilders during the war. The end of the war saw him return to Omaha to live in a house that was on the original land Purchased by his Grandfather in the 1860’s to work as a builder.

Sandy’s brother Roddy farmed his fathers Goat Island property and lived all his life on the farm. Roddy and his wife Eileen raised a family of eight children. In 1930 (?) a portion of the farm was sold to the University, a laboratory was built with accommodation for the students and Roddy retired with his wife Eileen to a few acres overlooking the Goat Island beach and then to Leigh. Roddy and Sandy both represented Rodney in Rugby and Roddy’s sons followed in his footsteps with Ewan, Alex and Peter all playing Rugby for Rodney and also representing Rodney at Cricket Ewan also played for Northland at Cricket. Roy Neeley farmed at Matakana and with Esther raised seven children Two of their sons Warren and Des both playing Rugby for Rodney.

Bill Dunning a Rodney and Northland Cricket captain and selector and Rodney hockey rep farmed with his wife Annie in Matakana and raised eight children. Elsie, Mavis, and Eileen were Rodney Hockey reps Edward, Ron and Jack were Rodney Hockey and Cricket reps and Auckland Hockey reps with Ron progressing to New Zealand. Edward was an Auckland cricket rep.

Angus (Pat) Dunning a Rodney (Capt.) Auckland Country and Northland cricketer married Dorothy Greenwood and farmed in Tomorata raising seven children. Ina Nancy and Marie all Rodney Hockey Reps. Owen Rodney Cricket. Noel Don and Brian Rodney and Northland Cricket Brian attaining Northern Districts Captain and selector Noel played Rodney and Northland at Rugby Don played Rodney and Auckland country Hockey and Brian Rodney Hockey.

Ivy Dunning married Eddie Wyatt, farmer, saw miller and Lt. Colonel in both WW1 and WW2 and raised five children their four sons achieving high Sporting achievements. Len, Norris, Kelvin and Ivan all played Rep Cricket and Hockey for Rodney. Len as Captain of both codes and continuing on to play Auckland Country and Northern Districts in cricket. In hockey Auckland country, Auckland (Capt. 52/53) North Island and N.Z. Reserve. Ivan also represented in Cricket Northland, Nelson and Auckland and in Hockey Auckland Otago and N.Z.

Colin Matheson as previously stated farmed the Kempt Property on Pakiri hill Married Rona Graham and raised six Children Their son John who still runs the farm played rugby for Rodney. Gordon married Vida granddaughter of Margaret Neeley who was Angus’s Daughter and lived in Matheson’s cove in the Leigh Harbour and farmed the family property raising a family of six children. Duncan lived with them until his death in 1956. Gordon represented Rodney at Rugby.

The only employment in the area was the Sawmill that was self-sufficient with the Wyatt boys and the Post Office that employed Marcia Neeley then Gerty Smith as Postmistress and Marjorie Matheson as Telephonist. This forced most to look for employment outside the area. Roy, Val and Margaret Matheson and Ivan Wyatt into the teaching profession Len Matheson the only descendent to go to sea since Angus’s sons .Today the descendents are working in various places around the world.

The farms in Leigh were on the small side and in the 1960’s the viability of small dairy units became uneconomic and the structure of the land was not favourable to dairying. The farms that had been for years in the one family were eventually sold off. Family retained a few small blocks for holidaying with some holiday units built. This enables family who have been forced away to obtain work, to return to Leigh Omaha the place they will always call home.

At present (2000) there are only five known descendents of Angus living in Leigh, Ewan Matheson who is living on part of the original farm brought by Angus on his arrival in Omaha, Peter Matheson living in Leigh and his son Glenn living at Matheson’s Bay and Alvin Smith living at Ti Point.



One thought on "Omaha The Nova Scotian influence"

  • Desley Wein says:

    Very interesting reading as I am currently researching my ancestors. I am a descendent from Gregor (who lost his life to sea – William Pope in 1961) and Mary Kempt who settled in Omaha then Waipu.

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