George Cone

Writing by George's grandson, Clarence Frederick Cone has been incorporated and expanded on, using archival research and newspaper written reports on Rangiora.

George Cone At age 21, George Cone married on the 16 th of December, 1863 Ellen Burt aged 18 years, St Johns, Church of England, by the Reverend B W Dudley. Witnesses to the marriage were Eliza Hessel, Rangiora, Emma Furby of Christchurch and Thomas Burt, farmer Rangiora, who gave his consent to the marriage as Ellen was a minor.
Thomas Burt, Ellen's father was christened 8 April, 1814 at Ninfield, Sussex, his parent's names were Thomas and Sarah), and his wife was Sarah christened at Petworth, Sussex 26 March 1817, - her parents were John and Sarah Norris. Thomas had been a farmer at Hastings, Sussex when he decided to travel to New Zealand with his family as assisted immigrants on the 1069 ton sailing ship "Mystery" captained by E Mathews. The family boarded the ship at London Docks and sailed on the 15th December 1858, arriving at Lyttleton on the 20th March, 1859.
The Burt family, once on board, William aged 15, Thomas Burt's eldest son ( later he would serve on the Rangiora Council with his brother-in-law George Cone) and his sister Ellen aged 13 (occupation domestic servant, later the wife of George Cone) were separated from their parents and transferred to the single men and single woman's sections on board. The parents were allotted berths in the married couple steerage section along with their two youngest children George 11 and John aged 9
An outbreak of small pox and scarlet fever broke out in the first three weeks of voyage - this had been identified by the surgeon before departure and the affected families were not permitted to proceed with the ship but by the time the ship reached Lyttleton, 15 of the 300 immigrants on board had died. All were children, the most vulnerable and were buried at sea. The ship however made a good passage and taking 83 days land to land and arrived on the Tuesday, with yellow flag flying. It was placed in quarantine some distance away from the usual anchorage and no communication was allowed with any shore boats. The Quarantine Board deliberated and after investigation, the ship was declared free of sickness and the yellow flag was taken down on Wednesday, and the ship was admitted to practique. On Thursday, all but a few girls and the ship's constables were landed, a large number proceeding with their baggage straight to Christchurch by steamer or over the Bridle Path on the Port Hills. William remained at Lyttleton and got employment unloading cargo off the vessel which was then put on lighters to proceed to Heathcote and his father, Thomas Burt and family later settled into farming at Rangiora.
It is recorded that both William and George Cone had land in crop at Ashley in 1866 family which was to stand over 100 years and in 1867 George had bought a block of land from his brother William, 40 acres over the Ashley Bridge on the right hand side of the road going north, between the bridge and the turn off to the Ashley township.
Sod house at Ashley built abt 1866 George and Ellen's first three children, George Herbert(1864), Frederick William (1866) and Ellen Sarah (1868) were all born on the Aldham farm across the Ashley River. It was named after the village where the Cone family were born. Like so many Ashley settlers, George was unable to afford a home of timber so a sod house was made from blocks of clay and earth cut straight out of the earth. It was lined with cob making it very warm in winter and cool in summer. Loburn clay was found very suitable for the cob which was taken and heaped near the house site. Over this would be spread straw and stock manure and a ring fence put around it. After puddling it with water, bullocks were driven round in the pen to knead and pulp the clay.
When the body of house was up, the walls, ceilings, and floors were plastered by hand, trowelling on the cob and it was allowed to dry very hard. It was then whitewashed and a very neat and homely house resulted.
In 1867 George put the farm and all the plant put up for sale. George later bought 50 acres from his brother-in-law William Pursey on the 10th November 1869 for 112. This was adjoining the Pursey property across the road but on the northern side. Pursey had paid 305 for it so it appears that his brother-in-law was very short of money at the time. George won the first ploughing match to be held in the Ashley district.
George and Emma moved into Rangiora and lived on their section on the corner of Ashley and High Street in a small house and adjoining stables and here Nellie, Isabella,Annie and Edie were born. On the corner of the site there was a chemist shop - actually an early cottage, that had been built there in the about 1860. George had this building removed and built a shop and opened his butchery business here in 1869 on this corner. In 1878, to make way for the Bank of New Zealand building, the butcher's shop was moved across to the corner of High and Albert Street. No other buildings were between the two sections, so the shop was dragged across. The family continued to live in their house behind the bank.
A few years later a better section in Victoria street was purchased and once again George moved the shop. A new front was later built on and the old building was moved back and used for a small-goods and bacon curing factory. Here it remained as a butchery until 1950 with the sign writing on its front "Established in 1872" but after this it was painted over and it became firdt a hardware shop and today houses antiques.
The first machinery in the butcher shop was driven by horse power. The horse was attached to the end of beam and driven around in a circle outside and at the side of the building, a geared shaft went through the wall to the machine. If the horse slowed his pace, the machine also slowed down, so consequently a few choice words were often spoken to the horse through the window which speeded things up for a while. This process continued until the sausages were finished. Later a kerosene engine was installed and that finally made way for the electric motor.
George, ever the entrepreneur, went in for land speculation in a fairly big way before he started the butchery, and bought and sold several farms. At one time he was considered a wealthy man and would have continued to be if he hadn't taken a partner in his last deal who gave him bad advice. They had bought a big place in the Loburn district and soon had some very good offers for it as more people arrived in the district looking for land. George was all for selling but his partner still wanted more, so George did his best to persuade him to sell but he would not budge. Then the prices which had been so good started to go down and down even further - in fact there was a slump which lasted right until 1890. The place was finally sold at a heavy loss. The Colonial Bank in Rangiora failed at about this time. George had previously bought a section in Percival Street and had plans ready for a beautiful home to be built on it. This idea had to be scrapped and the section sold.
1880 was not a good year for the Cones. In March, Isabella Marion Cone, Ellen and George's 10 year old daughter died. George now started in business as an auctioneer, and was no longer a butcher. He was described as a contractor when he became bankrupt on the 8th of April the following month. The business had been taken over by his son George Herbert, and George became overseer to Peter McGrath, the railway contractor on the Amberley-Waipara Railway. He later took on a sub-contract on the Little River Line and when this was completed, George retired to Rangiora. George continued to make news - in May 1881 he is in court found trespassing with a dog and gun and in December 16, 1882 we learn that George Cones horse is run over and killed by a train.
Land sales were steadily increasing during the period of the 1860's and a structured development of the roading system was needed. The Provincial Government set up 27 Road districts in Canterbury and George's brother William served on the Ashley Roads Board. The Rangiora Roads Board was established in 1864 and the five representatives met regularly in their office in Rangiora but without finance to build the roads, footpaths, bridges and drains the people soon voiced their discontent about the lact of road construction. This disatisfaction resulted in calling a public meeting on 14 th November 1877, which was well attended, to discuss whether or not Rangiora should become a borough under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1876. It was a stormy meeting so a committee was set up to study the advantages and disadvantages. This committee reported back to yet another vociferous meeting in December 1877 but nothing was decided. Henry Blackett who had been a Road Board member called together a group who set out to get 100 householders to sign a petition for presentation to their local MP asking for Rangiora to be declared a borough. They achieved their objective and on 14 May 1878, Rangiora was declared a borough and Blackett was elected unopposed as Rangiora's first mayor. That same evening, a large crowd attended a meeting in the Institute Hall to hear the candidates for the Borough Council give their views on the following questions:
1. Is the formation of a borough right or wrong?
2. Is the present closet system right or wrong? If wrong, what do you propose to do about it?
3. How do you propose to maintain a supply of pure water.
4. What is you opinion of the existing nuisances that need removing? 5. Would you remove pigsties, stable manure heaps or other decomposing matter from the neighbourhood of dwelling houses?
6. Do you see any needed alteration in the management of the auction saleyards?
7. Are public lamps required?
8. What official paid staff are required and at what costs? 9. Would you advocate a letter delivery?
10. Do you consider a steam power fire engine a necessity?
Rangiora Borough chambers with the Fire brigade Station on leftThe candidates spoke in alphabetical order. The newspaper report of the election day stated: "Their views having been enunciated at the meeting on Tuesday evening, and local skits of the various candidates having been freely used of late, nothing remained but to make a thoroughly active canvass of the town and consequently various vehicles, bearing their owner's particular wishes and instructions, were plying from an early hour on the day."
George was elected to that first council in Rangiora on the 18th June 1878, a position he was to hold until 1892. His brother-in-law William Burt was also elected and he topped the poll with 172 votes, George Cone was next receiving 169. The rest were well short of this figure. Each year three councillors had to retire but could stand for re-election. Standing candidates would again give their speech and would be subjected to a series of questions. Of great concern was the need to improve Rangiora's amenities and by 1879 the council had reformed 400 chains of road, 278 chains of footpaths shingled 347 chains of roads and footpaths, built 56 feet of brick and concrete culverts, 16 chains of glazed tile drains and put in 9 chains of concrete kerbing and in the process, had provided a considerable amount of work for local unemployed men.
As in any small town, councillors also wished to push for their own personal interest and disputes and jealousies were as common as today. Examples of decisions of 1881 were that a by-law be drawn up for the licensing of hawkers. The Jockey club wanted to use the recreation reserve as a race course and this was opposed vigorously - no doubt George was pushing a vested interest! A decision made that gorse not be allowed to overhang roads obstructing drains and that all side channels and ditches carrying storm water be cleaned out once a year, and most especially in the autumn. In February 1882 the council decided to install street lights for the first time and sites for erection of the kerosene lamps on iron posts were selected - and the need for a fire engine and postal delivery in the town. In 1883 there was a row over closet pans to be installed in homes and another row involved the Fire Brigade and their coming to the August meeting who were evenly divided over the appointment of the Fire Brigade engineer and the council took on the role of peacemaker. 1884 and 1885 did not produce any major controversial issues and the same topics - roads, drains, ditches, footpaths, gorse hedges and improvements to the railway crossing came up with monotonous regularity.
By 1888, unemployment and hardship were common and during the year the council provided work on the roads, stone breaking and ditch digging. The Charitable Aid Board was asked to give out bread and meat to recipients of aid three times a week instead of once as food went bad. Rangiora Tradesmen held regular annual Picnics from about 1880 and George Cone was on the organising committee. These events usually involved about 200 or so people travelling by a variety of vehicles to places like Chaney's Bush or Mt Grey, along with the local Brass Band to whose music they danced. The days's programme usually included races etc. and they returned to Rangiora about dusk. Cricket had been played at Rangiora from about 1855 and later the Tradesmen also arranged cricket matches. They would play against local teams or occasionally a team from Christchurch. In the 1870'several matches were played against C Merton's local private school.

Rangiora Tradesman's Picnic - Mayor George Cone on horse
The Tradesmens Picnic of 1889 was indirectly responsible for several disputes within council. In March the Picnic Committee asked for permission to use the council chamber as a meeting place. This was refused so they met in the Road Board Office instead. At the picnic, Cr. Cone who was also a Picnic Committee member, criticised the council for this refusal. so at the next meeting, several councillors had a heated debate wishing to pass a motion of censure on Cr. Cone for his criticism of the council. Tempers rose and words like "bumptious cheek" were hurled across the council chamber. The same meeting had another member complaining that a councillor had purchased grass seed for a borough park instead of patronising local seedsmen which included himself! Feeling must have run high in July for George and Cr. Stevens to tender their resignatiQn from the lighting committee when the Council had spent 5 on lamps without consulting them. Council accepted their resignations although it questioned whether the lighting committee now existed since the appointments had been of a temporary nature and further, it was thought that there had been some misunderstanding with regard to the expenditure of the 5. But despite all the arguments re-elections went on, the work of the council went on, by-laws for hawkers and peddlars were still discussed without decision, licence fees for dogs were set - 10/- for a working dog and 1 for hunting dogs. Rates were set, and it was decided that all borrowing for permanent works should be avoided.
Despite all his financial problems in the intervening years, George remained a charismatic figure and was elected Mayor in 1891. A petition signed by most of the ratepayers was presented to him when he decided to retire after 1992 requesting him to again stand but he refused. George had a concrete house in Cone Street, Rangiora. His wife's father lived with them and made himself useful looking after the garden until Thomas Burt died about 1900.
Early country race meetings held at Rangiora were colourful family picnic occasions - there were sweet stalls, games of chance and skill and itinerant entertainers - all the fun of a fair. Horses, some races were restricted to local horses or sometimes to those with no previous success, and all were registered at the starting post. Jockeys wore anything but had colours by which they were identified. The course was rough, unfenced and marked by spaced sticks and the horses frequently bolted into the crowd. There were disputes and protests from almost every race and local committee stewards oversaw the meetings.
George was always very interested in sport - his racehorse Jimmy won the first North Canterbury Cup, run by the newly set up North Canterbury Racing club of which George was a member, at Rangiora in 1876 for a purse of 30 sovereigns. The Rangiora Easter Monday races were held on a 85 acre reserve down on the Ashley which had an unimpeded one mile track below an old river terrace which was put to good use as a grandstand with a view of the hills. The course was improved - the straight was fenced and saddling accommodation provided. The road to the course was marked to prevent previous years confusion when numbers of visitors had wandered for miles looking the meeting. Early prize money was not large but the formation of a Racing Cub encouraged local horsemen to breed and train their animals and they competed with success against visiting horsemen. George had two other horses at the time, one named Supplejack and the other Manuka and in August, he imported a Clydesdale stallion from Australia called Muirland. He stood at a yard on the BNZ corner at Rangiora. In 1886 the North Canterbury Racing Club purchased its own course on the West Town Belt at Rangiora and abandoned the old recreation reserve which is now the golf links.
George Cone also bred Clydesdales. Peter Boag had bought a Clydesdale stallion in Australia in 1872 called Rob Roy and Cone gave him 205 for it. He next organised a show of Rob Roy foals - 15 were entered and John McFarlane won the first prize of 4.
George was also a prominent member of the agricultural society. During the 1860's, Rangiora was becoming more firmly established as a centre serving North Canterbury. The Northern Agricultural and Pastoral Association was set up in 1866 with the aim to improve existing methods of farm cultivation, staion management and stock breeding. It was hoped that it would bring improved farm machinery, establish industries and 83 members were enrolled. Some idea of the progress being made can be gained from the following account of the first local Agricultural and Pastural Show.
"The first exibition of the Northern Agricultural and Pastoral Association took place on Messrs Buss and Hepworth's paddock, Rangiora on Friday last by our northern neighbours in establishing a society of their own, and promising well for its future prosperity and permanency. All parts of the district were, more or less, represented in the exhibits, and encourgaed by the loveliness of the day, not less than 1500 visitors must have been present on the ground. From early morning the sun shone with an almost tropical brilliancy, and the several roads leading to the showgrounds presented a most animated aspect as the crowds of horsemen, pedestrians and crowded vehicles of every description pressed towards the centre of the attraction. Long before the ground was thrown open to the public, a large number of persons were assembled around the entrance gates waiting for admission, whilst the bars of hotels in the vicinity were extensively patronised. At 11 am the gates were opened, and no sooner were they passed than the visitor was at once struck by the compact appearance of the show, and the "apple-pie order" of departmental arragements. The paddock comprised 10 acres of level English grassed land, an offered ample room for all purposes, without being inconveniently arge. A fine stream of water also intersected it, wich proved of infinite benefit to both visitors and cattle., and rendered it one of the best sites that a show of this kind could possibly desire. The horses and cattle were arranged along two sides of its boundary, whilst the instruments and manufactures occupied the third. The centre was devoted to sheep, poultry and dogs, near which also a large booth was erected in whichMr Baugh of the Lion Hotel and his attendants were, and throughout the days kept constantly busy dispensing refreshments. In front of this tentwere more than the usual nut stalls, wheels of fortune etc. generally ween at such meetingsas this were collected and evidently did a roaring trade. Passing from these a great relief was ecperienced in listening to the enlivening sounds of Mr Merton's Brass Band, made up of Rangiora Volunteer Rifles assisted by a hand organ, which had collected a large crowd, that never decreased during the continuence of the music, which was evidently much appreciated. The band consisted of eighteen performers and is really worthy of special mention, for the admirable manner in which, considering the time it had been established, the several selections of music were performed. It is satisfactory to mention that throughout, not a single accident or disturbance of any kind occured, which itself speaks volumes of the committee and general satisfaction given by the awards of the judges. The total amount of receipts at the gate was 43.13.6d."
Several prominent people including the Superintendant of Canterbury travelled to Rangiora in a Cobb and Co's large 6 horse coach along with a contingent of prominent Christchurch gentlemen in order to attend the show. The show was a display window for new agricultural machinery.A new plough, reapers, stem threshing mill, dressed flax, ales and boots George was president of the athletic society. As early as 1859 a sports meeting had been a feature of New Year's day at Rangiora. Originally it had been designed as an occasion for everyone to get to know each other in the district and was held at various sites each year but it was an important social occasion and was accompanied by a ball in the evening.
The Press 1867 : "These sports took place in a very suitable field adjacent to the Plough Inn and from early in the day, troops of holiday-making persons were seen wandering their way thither from Kaiapoi, Oxford and Woodend, although Rangiora produced the largest number of visitors. Mr Newton's band and a goodly array of the Volunteers in full uniform graced the scene with their presence. (George Cone was a sergeant of the Northern volunteer cavalry group). All the favourite games were well represented except Aunt Sally who was blown over early by the strong NorWester and carried off the field. Refreshments were provided by the Committee for the children and could also be had at Mr Stephen's tent or at Mr Packwood's saloon of canvas. The various arrangements of the committee were in general most successful and the various events well contested. Even the children appreciated most highly the winning of their half crowns and five shillings as much as those who won much higher stakes" The committee solicited money from local businesses and leading citizens for prizes. The popularity of the sports grew especially after the opening of the railway and in 1872 people came by train from all round the district. "
The New Years sports were held in the paddock of J C Bailey which, because of the drought, was very hard and dry for running and jumping. The committee were out very early marking out the course and erecting a ring for the wrestling. Nearly 1000 attended, between two and four o'clock especially there was a regular crowd, the fair sex being well represented. The fife and drum band of the Nth Canterbury Rifle Volunteers was in attendance and dancing was kept up all the time they were playing. Mr Wild had a publican's booth and did a roaring trade. The programme included horse races, trotting, running, hurdles, putting the stone, running and standing high jumps, long jump, one mile, ladies race, girls race, Old Man's race, wheelbarrow race (blindfolded) 3 legged race, half mile, 200 hundred yards race and a Bell Hunt. Thie new feature caused a great deal of amusement. The competitors are blindfolded and are to hold and catch the man with the bell, which is tied behind him and so rings with every step. They are all turned into a roped enclosure and many were the collisions and throws they received, the bellman on this occasion being rather rough, and tripping the blindfolded men when they came too close to him, which, considering the hardness of the ground, could not have been very pleasant. There was also a sack race but as it was late (9 pm) the Devonshire style of wrestling was not held." The horse racing produced at least one protest as indicated by a letter from an owner to the editor of the Press a few days later, in which he said that his horse did not break in the trotting and should not have been disqualified. He continued" It would be well in future years for the committee to be formed from those who understand when a horse is trotting, running or cantering!"
Greatest sports support was about 1874 when it collapsed suddenly and then struggled between 1875 and 76 and then was not held again until 1883. In between 1877 and 1883 the major sports day was that run by Oddfellows and combined Friendly Societies. The New Year Sports of 1883 were the first held since 1874 according to the Press, and were held at the Domain. There was no Publican's booth on the ground, nevertheless, the jollity of the proceedings seemed in no way impaired by the absence of stimulents. (The following year the committee had a tent where they at least could have a quiet beer!) In one part of the field the Juveniles were kept fully engaged in races for toys and other useful articles, 5 having been spent on their purchase by the committee. The Rangiora Brass Band was in attendance and along with the other events, there was a special 44 yds race open only to members of local Friendly Societies.
George also kept a pair of Greyhounds for coursing. While out one day at Springbank, he lost his Fifty Guinea Gold Watch. There would have been over 1000 acres where they used to meet and where he lost his watch, most of it tussock. A week or so later, his watch was handed back to him by Robert Chapman who owned the property who by good luck had found it while riding round his sheep. This watch has been handed down from father to son and Bill Cone of Cheviot, his great-great-grandson has it.
Ellen Cone and her daughter Edith Cunnngham Another story related by his son George Herbert, was that one of his father's horses was entered in three races at Kaiapoi Race Club meeting - this was formed 1876. When the day came, George was unable to go. George Jnr was sent on his own with the horse. After winning two of the races, the bookies approached him to lose the third and threatened him with a beating should he win. After winning, which he did quite easily, he saw the bookies waiting for him so soon as he could, he remounted and rode full gallop out of the gate for home and safety.
One day, a man saying he was a commercial traveller, hired his best horse and gig for the day to travel around the farmers for orders, but instead, he was making his way north and drove to Leithfield where he left the outfit and made off. George had to go and get it back so he took his son George with him on this occasion - they had a photo of themselves taken in front of the old Leithfield Hotel but this photo has long been lost.
George Herbert continued in the butcher's shop until his father's death. His father was returning to his home in Cone Street one day, and saw a horse and cart bolting from the alley way beside the Red Lion Hotel. There were small children in the cart and as he caught the horse by the bridle in an attempt to stop it, the shaft struck him in the throat. He never recovered, for after a long illness, the wound turned to cancer. A tube was inserted in his throat but it only prolonged his life for a short time and he died on the 30th June 1898.
George was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Ashley Street, Rangiora beside two of his daughters, Isabel Marion and Sarah Annie, who had died much earlier. The butchery was carried on for a while by his wife and son as Mrs G Cone and Son then later by George Herbert Cone. Ellen, wife of George, died in 1924 and she was buried beside him as was his daughter Ellen Sarah Elliott.


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