Waller and Montgomery County Stories Generally
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Isabella Grace Prouse was born on 27 November 1880, in Whitemans Valley (near Wainuiomata), to Richard Prouse iii and his wife Christina (McIlvride) Prouse. Both Richard and Tina were from prominent Wainuiomata logging families. They had moved to Whitemans Valley a few years prior to continue with the business of sawmilling and timber work.
The name Isabella was that of Tina's mother, as well as many other relations on that side of her family; the reason for the name Grace is not so clear.
Grace was not their first child, but she was the first to survive infancy. A year earlier, Tina went into labour several months early, while visiting her parents in Wainuiomata for Christmas, 1879. The child, named Richard iv, lived only about 36 hours. He was buried in the Sinclair Cemetery in Wainuiomata.
Grace attended school in Whitemans Valley until 1891 or 1892, when the family moved to Levin. Logging in the valleys out of Wainuiomata was getting difficult, and Richard and his brother James decided the opportunities were better in the Manawatu. They moved their families and the sawmill in its entirety. They built two identical houses, and each lived in one. The house that Grace lived in was close to the railway station at Weraroa, the other out to the east on Queens Street (it was called "Ashleigh"). A third brother, John (famous as a singer...) had a third house, on Clifton Terrace in Wellington.
Grace left school in the middle 1890s, and helped her mother with the younger children and the housekeeping. There are several records of her musical abilities, particularly with the piano. She also was a successful candidate in the State Schools Drawing Examinations in 1892.
Grace played the organ for the Methodist Church in Levin for 8 years, from 1894 until her marriage in 1902.
The marriage was on 22 April 1902, at the house of her father and mother at Weraroa, Levin. She married Charles Cecil Nation, son of William Charles Nation and Sarah Ann (Webley) Nation. William Charles and Sarah Ann had a family of mostly girls, at least seven, with Charles being the oldest of the siblings, and the only other boy, Percy William, being the youngest.
The Nation family was prominent in several regards. As well as being a respected newspaper journalist, William Charles and his family were well-known in the field of spiritualism. Charles inherited interests in both, and carried on both activities throughout his own life.
The marriage was quite a large affair, as Grace was the oldest and the first of the Prouse girls to marry.
The tone of the marriage may have been somewhat tempered by the death of Charles' younger brother Percy less than two months earlier. Percy was killed at Langverwacht Farm near Vrede O.R.C., South Africa, while fighting in the Boer Wars.
Following their marriage, Charles and Grace continued to live in Levin. A house was built for them, probably with Prouse Brothers timber (!) at 27 Weraroa Road, Levin. The house, called "Te Ngaio", was massively modified in later years - in the early 1900s it was a small and simple dwelling.
At some point around 1910 or 1911, Charles and Grace moved to Ohakune, where Charles extended his newspaper journalism work. It was at this time, however, that the marriage had its final dramatic ending.
Much of the following information comes from the divorce papers, held in the Wellington Archives - they make for surprisingly exciting reading for a legal document!
On 4 March 1912, Grace wrote two letters to Charles, one being a detailed, enumerated listing of the reasons she was leaving Charles. She referred to forgiving him for adultery two years earlier, but that she had evidence that he had been "seeking to be unfaithful again" and that "if you have not committed adultery it was not your fault". Rather than just the one woman that Charles had originally admitted to, Grace now believed there to have been at least three.
One accused Charles of the theft of an overcoat, telling other people that Grace drank too much whiskey - even "trying to watch under the curtains of the drawing room window the operation of massage on Mary Goldsmith, in a state of nudity".
Charles responded in a letter dated the next day. He was abjectly apologetic and admitted to almost all of Grace's charges. He variously attempted to explain, or deny, some of Grace's claims - saying he hadn't really stolen the overcoat, but he went along with someone else doing it as a form of revenge against the owner. He didn't deny being outside the house to watch the massage, but said he was not the only one out there!
In the subsequent divorce papers (filed exactly one week later!), the adultery assertion is given more detail - Grace claimed that Charles had been adulterous with Gertrude Mary Prouse, Lizzie Walton, Charlotte Adzett and Annie Sturner prior to January 1910. In the period from December 1911 to March 1912, she claimed further adultery with an unknown woman.
The most significant name included there was Grace's younger sister Gertie, four years younger than Grace. The January 1910 date was significant in that it was the time of Gertie's marriage to Stephen Edward "Ted" Webley. Ted's mother Eliza was a sister of Charles' father William Charles. That would make Ted and Charles first cousins.
Gertrude and Ted subsequently moved down to Christchurch where they remained for the rest of their lives. While not cut off from the family, Gertrude did not seem to be so involved in later years, to the point that she was the only child who did not attend Christina's 90th birthday celebration in 1950.
Grace's petition for divorce was uncontested by Charles, and was heard by the Palmerston North Supreme Court on 29 May 1912. The marriage was dissolved, and Charles ordered to pay Grace's costs of 24 pounds, 7 shillings. On 3 September 1912, the final decree was issued.
From the date of leaving Charles - 14 March 1912 - until the divorce was finalised - 3 September 1912 - was only a bit less than six months. Grace moved first down to Palmerston North, and then back to her parent's house in Levin. As well as the divorce, there would have been other matters on Grace's mind - her child Christabel Grace Amori Nation was born on 24 December 1912. Speculation about the father is all that is available - Christabel was born just under 9 1/2 months after Grace left Charles. Charles and Grace had been married for 10 years, without having any children.
Charles might well have been the father, and the child was born somewhat later than normal. It is also possible that Charles was not the father, and the child was conceived shortly after Grace left Charles. No further information is known in this regard. There is some speculation from some Nation family papers that Grace "getting mixed up with a lodger", referring, I'm almost certain, to Thomas Whetton, who figured so prominantly in the divorce proceedings.
Thomas Whetton doesn't figure in this story any further, but was quite a character in his own right - in later life he went on a prolonged crusade to be acknowledged as the inventor of the jet engine!
As well as raising Christabel, Grace played a significant part in the rearing of her younger sister Phyllis, born in 1898. Christabel was named after a combination of Christina and Mabel, Grace's mother Christina and Grace's sister Mabel. The child was never able to pronounce the name properly, and referred to herself as "Cuffie"; the name was used by Phyllis and some other family throughout Christabel's life.
In the period from 1913 until 1922, Grace was not much of a mother, according to a letter written by Phyllis in later years. Phyllis believed that by the time Cuffie was born, with Grace being 32, she just never developed extensive maternal abilities. Grace appeared to have spent a lot of time playing the piano for church, movies and just about any other social occasion.
Grace was also burdened with a life-long history of bronchitis. She would have debilitating attacks on ten or more occasions through each year. When she was in her middle 30s, the bronchitis developed into whooping cough. According to Phyllis (Prouse) Taylor it came close to killing Grace, and it weakened her heart considerably.
Grace died suddenly on 28 July 1922, in her parent's home. She was still recovering from a bout of bronchitis, and the family had just finished a meal. While they were preparing for a cup of tea, Grace suddenly said "I think I am going to faint" and fell over. She was not able to be revived, and the death was attributed to heart failure. The coroner, incidentally, was her (former) father-in-law, William Charles Nation! In the house at the time she died were her mother, Tina, her brother, Allan, and her sister, Phyllis.
Grace was buried in Tiri Tiri Cemetery in Levin two days later, sharing a stone (placed in later years) with her infant sister and her parents.
Though Charles expressed extreme remorse to Grace when she left him, saying that he would "... have to pass through life a lonely & heartbroken man", he did not take long to bounce back. Just over a year later, on 1 June 1913, Charles married Sarah Ann (Munro) Sigglekow, the widow of Johan Ludwig Christian Sigglekow, a prominent Levin farmer.
Sigglekow had died only 4 years earlier, at the age of 84. He and Sarah Ann had married on 5 November 1900. Their child Walter (more often called Wattie) was born 5 weeks later. Again, speculation as to parentage is all that is available. Johan (generally called John) was 75 when he and Sarah married, and had already had a family with his first wife.
Wattie subsequently took the last name Nation and worked on the newspaper in Raetihi (the family having moved from Ohakune) with Charles. Wattie later married and carried on the Nation surname, though he himself was not strictly speaking a Nation - and perhaps not even a Sigglekow.
Charles and Sarah Ann did not have any children of their own, but Charles' will refers to a child named Violet Pearl that they had adopted, possibly the child of another member of the Nation or Munro families. Another somewhat confusing connection is contained in the information about the death of Walter Alexander Munro during WWI. His contact information is shown as "c/o C Nation, Ohakune". His mother was Sarah Anne (nee Virgo) and his father John Murray Munro. A final unknown relationship is a reference to Ann as a child of Sarah Ann, a reference on her burial marker in the Raetihi Cemetery.
After Charles' death in 1928, Sarah Ann remarried yet again, this time to William Stephen Waring. Waring was somewhat younger than Sarah Ann - about 13 years or so. He had been one of the trustees who handled Charles' will. Both Sarah Ann and William Stephen lived in Raetihi until their deaths in the late 1960s.
Cuffie was raised mostly by her grandmother, and like her mother grew up with an appreciation of music. In later years, she taught piano.Cuffie with viola
She did not marry until quite late in her life, when she was 47. She married John Tunnington, fourteen years her senior. They did not have any children.
Cuffie lived until 1988, and maintained a keen interest in the family history and personalities. Her greatest legacy in my estimation is leaving her work to the NZ Archives!
In Wellington, it is quite a good sized box full of papers and photos. Though much of her interest was in the Prouse family before they left England, she also maintained a lively correspondence with her aunt, Phyllis Elizabeth (Prouse) Taylor.
Many of the details in this narrative come from those letters, albeit one sided (it only has the letters from Phyllis to Cuffie). They reveal a lifelong friendship and shared interests, and make for delightful reading!