William & Dorothy Rex

William Rex – “another link in the chain of early colonists has been severed by the death of Mr William Rex”

William’s obituary described him as being of a roving disposition. He was born in 1818 at North Shields, Northumberland. He trained as a printer and resided with his widowed mother who ran a boarding house in Newcastle.

From there he went to Argentina which coincided with Buenos Aires declaring war on Uruguay in 1851. After riding out those troubles he returned to Newcastle before heading off to the gold fields in California. Gold then lured him to goldfields in Victoria and then after the discovery of gold at Gabriel’s Gully he came to Otago. He spent some time mining on the west coast too.

In between all of those adventures he married Dorothy Ellen Taylor in 1857 at Geelong. Dorothy was born in 1821 in Gateshead, Durham. Their children were Henrietta Emma (b 1859) and George (b 1861).

William lived that last 25 years of his life in Wellington where he returned to his trade as a printer and for many years was at the Government Print Office. He still took an interest in mining and speculating on the Thames goldfields.

The newspapers give us a few glimpses into his life: In 1875 the family were living in Molesworth Street when William was fined 5s for allowing his chimney to catch fire. And in 1885 he was charged for having allowed soapsuds to flow from his property into the street.

The Old Age Pension Act became law in 1898. The Act gave a small means-tested pension to elderly men and women with few assets who were ‘of good moral character’ and had for the previous five years been leading a ‘sober and reputable life’. In February 1899, the Pensions Court granted William and Dorothy £18 each which was the maximum permitted. William died in November the same year, aged 81.

Dorothy continued living at their home in Taranaki Street and kept lodgers. She died in 1906 aged 83/85 (depending on records) and was “held in esteem by a large circle of friends”.

The ‘hip tomb’ form of their plot has three marble plaques – one for each William and Dorothy and a third inscribed with “Erected by their loving daughter”. More about Henrietta next time …

Plot: Ch Eng/M/19

Rex family plot