Our community heritage series: The wedding gift

Publish Date : 30 Oct 2018

To finish heritage month and celebrate our people’s history, we hear directly from the community and discover Aucklanders’ stories about our city’s heritage.

In the second part of the series, Wendy Clark shares a story from her neighbourhood about St Michael’s Church and the woman behind it.

Read the first part of the series, 'Working on Queen Street'.

She was Catholic, he was Brethren; the year was 1889. Patumahoe did not boast a Catholic church but William Waters promised to build Annie Henry one if she would marry him.

The family gifted a site for the church; there was no going back for either of them! And that, according to Wendy, was how Patumahoe got St Michael's Church. 

When did they get married?

They wed on 8 January 1890, the first couple to make their vows in St Michaels. Though William wasn't a Catholic, the Church gave dispensation to marry before the altar because, after all, he had built it. That morning, Annie was still expected to milk the family cows.

Where was Annie from?

Annie was a second-generation settler, a beneficiary of the Special Waikato Immigration Scheme which, in 1864, lured her parents away from their life in Mullagh, County Cavan with the promise of better opportunities for their new family. In later years she often mentioned the harrowing voyage on the Dauntless, though she was only a few months old at the time. Her mother was plagued by illness throughout the 135-day journey and some passengers feared her baby would succumb to the poor conditions on board, as did 20 others, mostly children. 

Romance in Auckland_Annie Henry.JPG (2)
Annie Henry.

What was William's background?

He was a carpenter, newly arrived in the district to build coops for Nathan's ostrich farm. Her father, Philip Henry, was a gum buyer, an owner of several farms and the first European settler to establish a retail outlet in the settlement – a commodious outlet with large show-windows on either side of the main entrance. The family gifted a site for the church; there was no going back for either of them.

What was William and Annie Henry’s life together like?

She bore William 12 offspring, three of whom served in the Gallipoli Campaign. He spent much of his married life in the building trade in Auckland, absent from home for weeks on end. Around 1900 he worked on a John Court project and later helped to build the Smith and Caughey department store. She hand-milked several cows and fattened pigs with the skim milk, earning the family an extra 200 pounds a year. 

What happened to Annie later in life?

Annie outlived her husband by 11 years. Her great-niece Sally Adams recalls her as an imposing figure, dressed from top to toe in black. 

"Widowhood was my first experience of not having to live under the authority of a man,"

Annie said in 1949. "As a girl I feared my father. As a married woman I feared my husband."

And what happened to the church?

Her church still stands on the main street of Patumahoe. However, in 2003, the Catholic Diocese sold it due to a shortage of priests and a decline in church attendance. Today it is home to the Patumahoe Community Church, a non-denominational Christian group.

66 per cent of heritage places built between

Note: The information in this story series was submitted to OurAuckland by members of the public, who were asked to share their stories and memories of Auckland. OurAuckland and Auckland Council have not fact-checked this information.

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