Amice John Bertram

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Amice John Bertram


Auckland Harbour in 1863 when Amice Bertram arrived

This article was written by Amice's grandson or granddaughter, whose identity is not known

What made Amice Bertram want to come to New Zealand from Jersey Island? He was the only known surviving son in his family, and the only one of his family to come to New Zealand.

The New Zealand branch of the Bertrams can be traced back to Servais Bertram, born 1540 in Grouville and married Collette Filleul. Amice John, who came to New Zealand, was a ninth generation descendant of this couple. Some families were large, so there are many branches.


Our New Zealand branch commences with Amice John, born in Grouville, Jersey on 7 July 1844, the eldest child of Amice, born 1821-22 and his wife Elizabeth Le Neveu. This couple had six other children, Elizabeth, born 1846, Emma, born 1847, Louisa, born 1849, Frances, aged one year in the 1851 census and eleven in the 1861 census, but no other trace can be found of him. Did he die, fall out of favour with the family or move overseas? Twin girls were born in 1851, Maria Anne and Sophia Harriet.

Amice was educated at the Jersey College, London College [1] and the Lycee Imperial de Saint Brieuc in France.

As Amice John's father had got into such serious financial trouble, was it that Amice John felt there was no future for him in his birth country, so he came to New Zealand? It has been handed down that as he could speak several languages; he hoped to be a university tutor of languages here, but there was no opening for him when he arrived.

One thought is that Amice, born 1821-22, emigrated to British Colombia, but he must have returned to Jersey again, because he was living with his mother in the 1871 census aged 49 years, a general merchant, with no mention of his wife. In the 1881 census he was still living with his mother, marital status married, occupation retired merchant and farmer. He died in Jersey in 1897.


Amice arrived in Auckland on the Telegraph, a boat of 1,118 tons chartered by Shaw, Savill and Co on 6 July 1863. The ship sailed under the command of Captain A R Pope from Gravesend on 23 March. The boat crossed the Equator on 24 April after an uneventful trip. From then on a succession of gales were encountered, the ship crossing the meridian of the Cape on 21 May, and on 4 July 4 sighted the Three Kings, arriving in Auckland two days later with damage to the ship after a trip of 104 days.

This was the only trip the Telegraph made to New Zealand, carrying 172 passengers. One passenger recalled that one woman and her two small children died and were buried at sea. One man became insane and jumped overboard. The Alabama , an American warship, bore down on them, and only let them proceed after establishing their identity.


Amice John arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, on 6 July 1863. When he enrolled in the Forest Rangers, his birthday was given as 1839, aged 24. Did he put his age up to come to New Zealand?

He joined up with a group called the Papakura Valley Rifle Volunteers, later known as the Wairoa Rifles, in July 1863 for three months. On 22 November 22 1863, after the Papakura Valley Rifles Volunteers had been disbanded, Amice joined Major Jackson's Forest Rangers, as a Staff Sergeant at a pay rate of 8s 6d per day; a private got 5s per day.

His statistics at enrolment were found in a roll of the Forest Rangers, and later used for the Troop Account, of the Te Awamutu Cavalry Volunteers 1878, held in the Te Awamutu Museum. His company number was 1078, his age 24, height 5 ft 5½ in, hair colour black, colour of eyes grey, dark complexion, religion Episcopalian, occupation farmer.

Jackson's Forest Ranger Company comprised of 26 men, 22 Privates, one Corporal, one Staff Sergeant and a Sergeant Major and Major. The Forest Rangers Field equipment was simple, two blankets for each man, with fastening for use as a bivouac shelter. A bundle of fern was their bed.

An important item was the rum bottle, encased in leather, to prevent breakage. Two tots a day was the allowance. A veteran wrote: "It was the rum which kept us alive, as we had so much wet, hard work, swimming, fording rivers and creeks, camping without fires”.

It was often unsafe to light fires, so they lay down wet and cold. Would have been dead if it wasn't for the rum".


It is believed that Amice remained in the Te Awamutu area after the Waikato campaign finished. He served with the Forest Rangers until disbandment on 10 October 1867. His allotments were Kihikihi township Lot 205, which was an acre on the eastern side corner of Rolleston and Herbert Streets. The farm Lots were Puniu 180 and 181, as shown on the Military Survey Map No 4, a block of eighty acres, on Long Road.

My father always told me that grandfather’s farm was on the corner of Rangiaowhia and Cambridge Roads on the eastern side, shown as Lot 190 on the Military Map.

I found that he bought Lot 190 in April 1885 from James Cunningham. In 1916 Amice sold to Hodgsons. Today this farm of approximately 94 acres is still owned by the Hodgson family. In the 1867-8 electoral roll Amice's residential address was a household dwelling in Kihikihi. The 1877-8 electoral roll has Amice as residing on a 100- acre farm at Rangiaowhia.

From A Return of Freeholders 1882, it is recorded that A J Bertram was a farmer in the Waipa County, owning 193 acres, valued at £1,300. In Kihikihi he had 25 acres, total value in the Colony £1,325.

I think that maybe Amice was a person who enjoyed buying and selling land, as it is known that he bought more properties with a Thomas Holden. There was a Thomas Holden who was with the first Forest Rangers and then with Major Jackson and received land after his three years service, so guess this was the same person.

Amice claimed his New Zealand Medal on 10 September 1873 and attended the reunion to commemorate 50 years of the battle of Orakau in 1914. Unfortunately this medal is no longer with any family member.

As the land had been so well farmed by the Maoris in the Rangiaowhia district, Amice did not have the heartbreak that many had with their allotments. Amice made a success of his farming. His grandson, Craig Cruickshank, remembered Amice's gnarled hands: “This is the result of hard work, 16 hours a day for 30 years”.

Amice was a person who liked to 'blow his own trumpet'. From copies of the 1883-4 Waikato Times we learn that Mr Bertram had sold 40 tons of potatoes to a Mr Lewis at £4 per ton. Splendid yields of wheat were also grown. Mr Bertram's crop was 55 bushels to the acre, a crop unprecedented in the Waikato.

Mr Wright, a local seed merchant, had purchased Amice's wheat to be used for seed next year. This following season Bertram and Holden grew 60 acres of wheat which threshed out to 40 bushels of clean wheat to the acre. In 1884 Amice was a committee member on the Waikato Horticultural Society.

In June 1875 Amice applied for a Public Hotel Licence for the Central Waikato Hotel which had one bar. The licence fee was £25. It was granted. In March 1876 the licence was transferred to Henry Lewis.


On 17 December 1875 Amice and Maria Fenton were married at the bride's parents home, Prospect House, Auckland. They lived at Rangiaowhia, and had a family of four, all born at Rangiaowhia; Emily born 1876, Francis [Frank] born 1879, Alfred born 1881, and Gertrude born 1888.

While living at Rangiaowhia they were very involved with St Paul's Anglican Church, which was only a short distance from their residence. Amice was a lay reader there for 30 years, a churchwarden and a representative on the Waikato Archdiaconal Council. In 1881 Amice was a member of the Acclimatisation Society. Also he identified himself with many other sporting and local activities in the area.

He was a member of Alexandra Masonic Lodge and a past master. In 1887 Maria won a special prize worth 20 shillings, [two dollars] at the Waikato Horticultural Show held in Te Awamutu, for best half dozen bottles of fruit.

In December 1881 we read in the Waikato Times an account of an accident that Mr Bertram had returning from the races. It stated that Mr Bertram, with two friends, were riding horses at a rapid pace, when near Hunters Saleyards, they tried passing a buggy travelling in the opposite direction on the wrong side. Amice's horse came into violent contact with one of the buggy horses smashing the pole and swingle trees to pieces. The rider fell, was stunned for some time and had to be carried to the hotel on a stretcher. Mr Hunter lent the buggy occupants a pole and they were able to carry on to Cambridge. Mr Bertram was able to return to his Rangiaowhia home that evening.

I read in the previous paper that the spring meeting of the Waikato Turf Club was to be held on St Andrews day, first race 1pm. The train timetable tells of a special train running from Huntly to Rukuhia. I wonder where the racecourse was?

Amice and Maria retired to Auckland, Amice dying of a cerebral haemorrhage, at 43 Woodside Road, Mt Eden on 27 July 1927 aged 82. He was buried at Hillsborough Cemetery. His death certificate stated he had been in New Zealand 64 years. Maria died on 27 May 1928, also in Auckland.

Family tree


Notes and references

  1. It is not clear which colleges in Jersey and London the writer was referring to
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