PREBBLETON – James Prebble (1799 – 1877)

I’m sure when new born John Aurora Prebble (spelt Prible on some documents) was placed in the arms of his mother Ann, the discomfort and pain of the delivery faded away when she looked for the first time into his wrinkled little face. Maybe the fact that she had given birth aboard the ‘Aurora’ – the first European ship to arrive at Port Nicholson (Wellington) – didn’t even register at that priceless moment. The year was 1840.

Around her was her husband, James Prebble (a carpenter by trade) and her stepchildren: Richard (16 years), Ann Maria (14 years), William (13 years), Edward (11 years) and Mary (6 years). Other notable people sharing this historic voyage were William Deans and the Gebbies family, the latter now acknowledged in the naming of Gebbies Pass. The Aurora dropped anchor at Port Nicholson (Wellington) on the 20th January 1840. This day is now celebrated as Wellington Day.

Like the Deans, Greenwoods, Hays, Sinclairs and the Gebbies Families – all who had camped together on Petone Beach as the Wellington land wasn’t ready for settlement – the Prebbles followed suit in the early 1840’s and moved down to the Port Cooper Plains (Canterbury). The older male members of the family found work with their old friends, the Deans who had settled at Putaringamotu (Riccarton) and with the Greenwoods at Purau, on Banks Peninsula.

William, now in his mid-teens is recorded in a few stories about early Purau including when the Greenwoods were robbed in 1846 by the Blue Cap Gang – the first robbery in the region. Poor William had been tied up along with another farm hand, William Birdlings who would go on to take up land of his own, now known to us as Birdlings Flat. William was still on staff when Purau was taken over by the Rhodes brothers soon after this troubling event.

In 1855, William bought himself some land. Considered a quite untamed, hostile area, William was the first Prebble to break the ground. It is quite unclear how the rest of the family came to area but with Edward also making a purchase of land – which he quickly subdivided and sold off – and opening a store, the area became known as ‘Prebble Town’ or ‘Road to the Prebbles’. Eventually, brother Richard and sister Ann Maria and her husband settled in the area too.

In 1856, James’ eldest son, George – a bootmaker – boarded the ‘Egmont’ with his wife Mary and their children: Amy (6 years), Marion (4 years) and Charles (1 years).
George would face an unimagable tragedy when Mary died during the voyage. He would marry Sarah Gibbs two years later and the pair would go on to have 6 children of their own.

1856 also saw William sell off some his land. When it was further sold to J.I. Tosswill in 1862, he officially named the area Prebbleton. With the store and the quick subdivision, it was turning into quite a village.

Richard stayed in Prebbleton the whole of his life. He died in 1888. Ann Maria did the same, both of her husband’s taking an active role in their own way in the development of the town. She died in 1913.

William left Prebbleton after the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1872. He died in the Malvern County (out Darfield way) in 1909.

‘A toast to the Prebbles of Prebbleton’ was the toast made in 1862 – and the Prebbles were a great part of the town. They helped with the building of the first church (All Saints), donating a stain glass window. They also opened the first store and further served the community in the roles of butcher and teacher.

Prebble graves stretch from one end of Prebbleton’s All Saints Anglican Church cemetery to the other.

*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*

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