Lot Cross

BORN: Lidstone, Oxfordshire, 18371

DIED: Cross' Creek, Featherston, 15 December, 1891.2


Lot was born in the tiny hamlet of Lidstone in 1837, the youngest of eleven children. Since Lidstone was too small to have its own church, he would have been christened in Kenelm Church in nearby Enstone. Lot was considerably younger than his older brothers (24 years younger than his oldest brother, Cornelius) and the 1841 England census, when Lot was only 4, shows that the older boys (Cornelius, Deodatus and Augustine) had already left home. Ten years later the 1851 census shows only Lot and his older brother Elijah were still at home.

We know nothing about Lot's early life and very little about the family's situation. The 1841 census lists his father Henry as a labourer. These were often among the poorest paid workers and most vulnerable to reductions in rural wages as farming became more mechanised, so we can assume the family was not well off. By 1859, however, Henry's will describes him as a yeoman owning three freehold houses3, indicating a considerable improvement in the family fortunes.

We have a copy of a letter written by Lot, so we can assume he had some schooling, possibly in the church school in Enstone. As he grew up he probably worked, like his father, as a farm labourer. It was not unusual for boys to be out working as early as ten. The 1851 census shows his father was working as a "vermin destroyer" and Lot may have helped his father. This would have involved looking after the dogs and ferrets used for catching rats and learning how to use nets and poison.

In 1858, at the age of 21, Lot emigrated to New Zealand, arriving in Wellington in April on the sailing ship Montrose4. We can only guess at what prompted him to make such a journey. He never returned to England. Strangely, Lot was the only child not listed in Henry's will. Had Lot and his father fallen out over some issue which prompted him to try his luck on New Zealand? We will probably never know.

Lot married Annie Franklin about 1862. Annie (or Anne) had arrived in Wellington from England in 1855.4 Their son, Henry Franklin (he was known as Frank) was born in April, 18635. The family moved to the farm at Cross' Creek about the same time; Lot is listed in 1864 as a voter for the Electoral District of Wairarapa and owning freehold 180 acres at Popokoite Western Lake Block, around the area that later came to bear his name.6 The exact position of this is unknown but may have been the block between Blocks 6 and 7 on the Google map (see right).

On 30th June 1865 he bought 80 acres from Thomas Webb and John Vicary, and took out a mortgage on this land for 100 Pounds (at 15% pa for 5 years). This block is described in the Land Deeds Register as Block 6 7. The attached Google map indicates the possible position and size of this block based on information given in the Lands Deeds Register, and from a sketch map made in 1867 by a P. Wilkinson.8

Sadly, Frank was drowned in Lake Wairarapa in April 1880, aged only 17. One Sunday he went out duck shooting on Lake Wairarapa and the boat in which he was crossing the lake capszed and he was drowned. Lot never recovered from from the blow and right up to his death he mourned the loss of Frank9. He is buried in Featherstone cemetery. Lot and Annie had no other children.

Despite this tragedy, Lot continued to expand the farm, and in 1882 he advertised in the Wairarapa Daily for tenders for felling about 20 acres of bush.10. By 1891 the farm comprised 636 acres with another 164 leased acres, partly laid down in grass, with 70 acres of felled bush and the remainder covered by light bush. The farm carried about 1000 sheep, with cattle and horses. They had a six-roomed house, a cowshed, a barn and a garden and a men's cottage. At the time of writing, the position of the house is unknown, as are the exact boundaries of the farm, but it was described as "situated between the Pidgeon Bush and Cross' Creek Railway Stations". 11

For reasons that are unknown, Lot and Annie put the property up for sale and the farm was advertised in the Evening Post in January, 188512. They may have decided that, with Frank gone and nobody to pass the farm on to, their hearts were no longer in it. Or they may have been concerned about the impact of the new railway between Upper Hutt and Featherston which was opened in stages during 1878. In the end they didn't leave but it is highly probable that they were continually disturbed by people from the nearby rail yards. In 1890 Lot put a number of advertisments in the Evening Post warning that trespassers would be prosecuted and unregistered dogs destroyed13.

In 1891 (possibly over the winter) Lot caught influenza which eventually culiminated in bronchitis. In August, he wrote a rather dispirited letter to his nephew Charley (the son of his older brother Augustine) complaining of his health and state of mind.

"Dear Nephew Charley, I received your letter should have answered it before but was rather cut. I am not very well nor have been for some time. I do not eat 4oz. of food a day on a average. My mind is very unsettled at present."14

He laments that there is nobody to take over the farm, and also expresses his sorrow at his brother Elijah's recent death and his feeling of isolation from his family in England, "If Elijah is gone I am the only one of the old stock. I have often wished to see my past brother again."

Lot didn't recover and died on 15 December 1891 at the age of 55. The Evening Post said of him, "Deceased was an old settler, and highly respected"15. The farm at Cross' Creek, that Lot and Annie had worked so hard to establish, was sold after his death.

The total worth of the farm, after all expenses had been paid was £3390.9.0. Lot's will (which was dated 21 September 1891) shows that Lot wished for half of this was to go to his widow and the other half to "my nephew Charles Cross son of my brother Augustine Cross". 16 It seems unusual that Annie did not receive all, or most, of Lot's estate. Clearly, Lot had a special relationship with Charles. This generosity towards Charles raises the question of Lot's relationship with Charles's brother Daniel, living just a short distance away in Masterton, and why Daniel was not also included in the will. Whatever the relationship was when Lot was alive, when Daniel's youngest son was born in 1896, he was named Francis Lot in honour of his uncle.

We can be fairly sure that there was a close relationship among other members of the Cross clan in the Wairarapa. In 1898, Annie made an amendment to her will which was witnessed by Ethel Cross (Daniel's oldest daughter) and John (Jack) Hercock, the youngest brother of Daniel's wife, Annie (Hercock).17 Although Jack was Ethel's uncle, they were both born in 1881. Both lived in Featherston at the time and clearly had a relationship of trust with their old aunt.

Annie lived in Featherston until her death on 11 November 1899, aged 6118. Both Lot and Annie are buried at Featherstone cemetery.

How did Cross Creek get its name?

There is some dispute over the naming of Cross Creek. Not everybody agrees that Cross Creek is named after Lot Cross. Robert Hope, in his recollections of life at Cross Creek thought it was named this way because the men who were constructing the railway line had to cross the creek to get the dining hall for their meals and to play cards19.

Wikipedia has the following entry supporting the opinion that Cross Creek is named after Lot:"Though the origin of the name Cross Creek has not always been clear, it is generally accepted based on the writings of surveyor John Rochfort that it was derived from a Mr. Lot Cross, who lived and farmed in the vicinity of the site that was later to become the station. In the early days of the railway, it was known as Cross's Creek, but was simplified to Cross Creek in the 1880s." 20

In fact it was written both as Cross' Creek and Cross's Creek in the newspaper advertisments referred to on this page, but always included an apostrophe. By writing Cross with an apostrophe it is clear that people associated the Creek with Lot Cross, rather than thinking of it merely as a place to cross the creek.


This page last modified 30 September 2008.
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Dan Cross: dcross@slingshot.co.nz Ph: (09) 6290052