James Gordon: a ‘useful all-round man’ at Te Aroha and elsewhere
Hart, P. (2016). James Gordon: a ‘useful all-round man’ at Te Aroha and elsewhere. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 140). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/10479
Some confusion over the early details of James Gordon’s life is unavoidable because his birth was not registered and there were several namesakes. Born to an Irish father and a Maori mother, after the latter reputedly abandoned her family his father remarried and Gordon was brought up by an uncle. Typically, he had a variety of jobs, though after the Thames goldfield opened mining was his main occupation; and like so many prospectors and miners, he exaggerated his involvement, which was minor and brought him little financial reward. Consequently, he took whatever job was available, becoming known as a ‘useful all-round man’, capable of doing almost any physical work. His financial state was revealed by his being sued, regularly, for small debts – and he tried to evade maintenance payments despite having the ability to pay these. Gordon identified with his Pakeha ancestry, fighting against Maori in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty at a young age and joining the Volunteers in Thames and Te Aroha. The most notable aspect of his life was his marital complications: 18 children from two wives and three from the same number of mistresses. The total number born would have been 22 had he not savagely attacked his first wife, causing a stillbirth and, eventually, a divorce, though the latter was mostly in consequence of his being convicted for child molestation. In most other ways, his life was unremarkable.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart