Potto, McCaul, & Pollock families: Wanganui and Wellington

By Fiona G

The Potto family migrated to New Zealand on the ship Oliver Lang in 1856 with four children. While not New Zealand Company emigrants, most likely it was the economic opportunities of New Zealand that motivated them.

Henry Potto, Mima Potto, Mima Pollock, John Henry Pollock, Clara Potto, Clara McCaul, Benjamin McCaul, Rosalia Potto, Rosalia James, Jemima Potto, Jemima Pollock, Sarah Potto, née Tisdale, Walter Allison McCaul, Suffrage, family history, Whanganui,

Henry Potto, (1823-1902), and wife Sarah, née Tisdale (c1816-1871), migrated from Walsall, Staffordshire England, on the ship Oliver Lang, in 1856, with four surviving children: George (1846-1935), Alfred (1848-1916, Clara (1852-1909), and Mima (Jemima) (1854-1920). Their youngest child, Rosalia, (1858-1910), was born in Wanganui, where the family settled. Henry set up his saddlery business there in 1857, although later newspaper advertising asserts that it was 1856. No images are extant for Sarah Potto, who died suddenly in 1871, one month after Henry had been declared bankrupt. She had been conducting a small business making Tuscan straw hats and bonnets for clients, and in April 1871, one month after her death in March, a Miss Potto, carried on the business briefly, before venturing successfully into dressmaking and millinery. 

Image: Miss Mima (Jemima) Potto

Mima (Jemima) Potto (1854-1920)

Mima, briefly followed in her mother's footsteps as a milliner, before embarking on a dressmaking business (c1872-1879).

Miss Mima (Jemima) Potto

Alexander Turnbull Library

Image: Miss Mima (Jemima) Potto

Mima (Jemima) Potto (1854-1920) c1871

Partly on account of the Jet jewellery Mima is wearing, the photo was likely taken in memory of her mother.

Miss Mima (Jemima) Potto

Alexander Turnbull Library

“Miss Potto” advertised in Wises' New  Zealand Post Office directory from c1872 - 1891, in Wanganui, and was most likely Mima, to begin with, as two month's worth of advertisements in the Wanganui Herald newspaper from November - December 1872, list a "Miss J Potto." However, once she married John Henry Pollock, a butcher, formerly from Wanganui, on the 2nd February, 1879 in Wellington, she would have been unable to continue. Thereafter it is hard to know which Miss Potto, carried on the dressmaking business up until 1891 on the same premises as Henry’s saddlery. It is possible that one or both of the two sisters assisted: Clara or Rosalia; however, Clara, the eldest, married Benjamin McCaul, in 1878, and was likely very busy after having four children in close succession from 1882-1884, and a fifth in 1889, although not all of the children survived beyond infancy. But it is entirely possible that both Clara and Rosalia were able to carry on the dressmaking and millinery business under the brand name "Miss Potto." 

Image: Mr Henry Potto, saddler of Wanganui

Henry Potto (1823-1902)

Established his saddlery business in Wanganui, Feb 1857; was bankrupted in 1871, but back in business by 1874.

Mr Henry Potto, saddler of Wanganui

Alexander Turnbull Library

Image: Mr George Potto

George Tisdale Potto (1846-1935)

George moved to Patea c1872 setting up as a saddler. He married Rachel Adams, in 1878, and moved to Helensville c1904.

Mr George Potto

Alexander Turnbull Library

Image: Young jockey

Wanganui jockey, c1870s

There is an outside possibility that this could be Fred Potto, (1848-1916), a famed jockey in the Manawatu district.

Young jockey

Alexander Turnbull Library

While Clara Potto, the eldest daughter, does not appear in the William James Harding photograph collection, that doesn't mean that her photograph wasn't taken. There is a copy photograph in the Auckland City Libraries' collection of the McCaul couple made in 1911 that could well have been taken in Wanganui. Although there was an Auckland connection, in that Walter Allison McCaul, (1821 -1904) a tailor, from Scotland, father of Benjamin, was well established in business there, along with his second wife and family. A legal dispute developed later, with Benjamin McCaul's son, also called Benjamin, suing the estate for his father's share of his grandfather's will, as his father had predeceased, W. A. McCaul.  (Walter Allison McCaul, deceased, Waikomiti - his estate; Plaintiff: Benjamin McCaul, Bulls, Blacksmith; Defendant: Francis William Mason, Auckland, Perfumer - 1907) 

Image: The three McCaul brothers

McCaul brothers, Wanganui

Sons of Walter Allison McCaul's 1st marriage: Benjamin & Walter McCaul, were born in NZ; George, in Scotland.

The three McCaul brothers

Alexander Turnbull Library

Image: Copied photograph in the name of Miss McCaul 1911

Clara (nee Potto) and Benjamin McCaul

Clara (1852-1909) & Benjamin McCaul (1853-1903), married 1878 in Wanganui, this photo was likely taken about that time.

Copied photograph in the name of Miss McCaul 1911

Auckland Libraries

Image: Miss Rosalia Potto

Rosalia Potto (1858-1910)

Born in Wanganui, she married Edward James, 19th Jan 1889, in Melbourne; and died in Palmerston North, 26th May 1910.

Miss Rosalia Potto

Alexander Turnbull Library

Image: Panorama view looking across Taupo Quay, Whanganui

Panorama view looking across Taupo Quay, Whanganui [c1860]

Part of: Harding, William James, 1826-1899 :Negatives of Wanganui district

Panorama view looking across Taupo Quay, Whanganui

Alexander Turnbull Library

Image: Miss Rosalia Potto

Rosalia Potto (1858-1910)

Rosalia Potto, was musical and later worked as a music teacher to support her children, Ivy, Rosalia, & Donald.

Miss Rosalia Potto

Alexander Turnbull Library

 Rosalia appears in the Wanganui newspapers for musical items while still young, and appears in some Electoral Rolls with the occupation music teacher. The birth dates of her children are quite puzzling however; in that the eldest child, Ivy Gwendolyn James, has no recorded New Zealand birth, although it has been asserted she was born in 1889. However, her parents married on the 19th January 1889 in Melbourne, which leaves very little time for a New Zealand birth. The other two children's births were registered in Melbourne, Australia: Rosalia in 1890, and Donald Potto James, in 1892. The James family came back to New Zealand, possibly in late 1892; and  Rosalia James, music teacher, is listed in the 1893 Electoral Roll, as living at Taupo Quay, Wanganui. However, she doesn't appear in the Suffrage petition, but her sister Clara, and two other McCaul women, mother and daughter, Marion and Jessie McCaul, do.  While middle sister, Mima Tisdale Pollock, is on the 1893 Electoral Roll, living in Roxburgh Street, Mount Victoria, Wellington, but is missing from the Suffrage petition. The only Pollock from Wellington listed on the petition, is a Jessie Pollock, living in Crawford Street, now known as  Dunlop Terrace, adjacent to the Vivian Street Design School, Victoria University of Wellington. 

Image: Race course at Whanganui, with grandstand and carriages

Whanganui racecourse

The Potto family were interested in horse racing: Fred was a jockey, and George, Secretary of the Patea racing club.

Race course at Whanganui, with grandstand and carriages

Alexander Turnbull Library

Image: Mr George Potto
Mr George Potto

Alexander Turnbull Library

Marion McCaul, nee Dickie, was married to George McCaul, the eldest of the McCaul brothers, and a teacher, although later a lawyer. Her eldest daughter, Jessie McCaul, seen here as an infant, was also a school teacher when she signed the Suffrage petition in 1893. When Marion died in 1932, in her will, she named her two daughters Jessie Slipper, and Florence May Gordon, as being allowed to remain in her house for as long as they wished. 

Image: Suffrage petition, 1893
Suffrage petition, 1893

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Image: Marion McCaul and her daughter

Marion McCaul, nee Dickie (1847-1932) & daughter Jessie McCaul, (1870-1930)

Three McCaul women signed the Suffrage petition in Whanganui: Clara, Marion, and Jessie. http://bit.ly/2Lum0CU

Marion McCaul and her daughter

Alexander Turnbull Library

Image: Wellington city

Wellington city and harbour, 1893

Seen from above Roxburgh Street, Mount Victoria, where Mima and J H Pollock, lived.

Wellington city

Alexander Turnbull Library

When Henry Potto, died in 1902, according to his probate, he left his modest estate to his two daughters, still living in the Manawatu: Clara Carter McCaul, and Rosalia Elizabeth Styles James.  Jemima Tisdale Pollock, was the wealthiest of the Potto sisters, and features in the 1882 Return of New Zealand Freeholders; her probate is accessible via the FamilySearch digitised Historical New Zealand records collection - which you need to register and sign in to for free access (courtesy of Archives New Zealand.)

Image: This is Herd man. the man of renown "When, elections weie waging in trratn  He stroye "toai d to excel.  And he's getting on, w&Hl, TJ/ndistmrhed hy the world1's simile or frown.  If you're talking of athletes amid racomg, Here's a main \rho is breezy and) br&cmg;  J. H. Pollock's his name, And his favoiiir a.nd fame Are so fixed tlhat they'll take some effacing. (New Zealand Free Lance, 19 December 1908)

John Henry Pollock (c1853-1918)

This is Herdman. The man of renown. Obituary https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19180827.2.57

This is Herd man. the man of renown "When, elections weie waging in trratn He stroye "toai d to excel. And he's getting on, w&Hl, TJ/ndistmrhed h...

National Library of New Zealand

Image: The Wellington Conciliation Board and the representatives of the meat trade

Wellington Conciliation Board and Representatives of the Meat trade

J H Pollock, is standing in the back row, third from left.

The Wellington Conciliation Board and the representatives of the meat trade

Auckland Libraries

Mima Tisdale Pollock (1854-1920)

The death occurred in Wellington of Mrs Mima Tisdale Pollock, a much respected citizen of this city for forty years.

WOMEN IN PRINT. (Evening Post, 04 June 1920)

National Library of New Zealand

Postscript: 

I first encountered the striking image of a Miss M Poto on Twitter, when Courtney Johnston, tweeted a DigitalNZ set for Whanganui born photographer, Ben Cauchi, in 2012. I then became intrigued by the surname, was it Maori, Italian, or something else? However, on closer examination of the image in the NDHA, I realised that the surname was Potto, and that a Wanganui man initially identified as a Mr Potts, was much more likely to be Henry Potto, father of these striking young women.

Addendum: the Jet jewellery both girls are wearing, is quite possibly worn in memory of their mother who had died unexpectedly, March 1871, which would make Mima, nineteen years old, and Rosalia about thirteen. 

A selection of sources: 

  •  Archway     https://archway.archives.govt.nz  
  •  Family History Research Guide    https://natlib.govt.nz/researchers/guides/family-history  
  •  GRO index search     https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/Login.asp 
  • Historical Births, Deaths, & Marriages records online     https://www.bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/search
  • National Library website     https://natlib.govt.nz 
  • New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Probate Records, 1843-1998    familysearch.org/search/collection/1865481
  • New Zealand, City & Area Directories, 1866-1954    https://search.ancestrylibrary.com.au/search/db.aspx?dbid=1845
  •  New Zealand, Electoral Rolls, 1853-1981    https://search.ancestrylibrary.com.au/search/db.aspx?dbid=1836 
  • Paperspast    https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz
  • Petone Settlers data  huttcity.govt.nz/Leisure--Culture/Museums-and-galleries/Our-museums/petone-settlers-data
Image: Whanganui township

Whanganui township, 1880s

Whanganui township

Alexander Turnbull Library