Murder and suicide at Molesworth
The tragic and true story of Ivanhoe Stanley Augarde
In 1866 Ivanhoe Stanley Augarde gained employment on Mr Thomas Carter's sheep station, St Helens, located in the upper catchment of the Clarence River. Today it is part of the mighty Molesworth cattle and conservation station. Ivanhoe (Ivy) was appointed as overseer and had responsibility for the workforce running the station. Mr Carter was the typical absentee landowner who would make infrequent inspection visits from time to time, while Ivanhoe made the day to day decisions that enabled this vast station to run efficiently.
In 1867 Ivy was courting Kate Gee, who was living in the Wairau Valley settlement. It seems that Kate was a member of the Gee family who were based at Renwick. George and Hugh Gee owned an accommodation house in Wairau Valley settlement and Kate was probably employed as a housekeeper at the accommodation house. In his final letter to his younger brother Percy, Ivy gave clear directions for Percy to find both George Gee and Kate at Wairau Valley.
The Nelson Provincial Council financed strategic accommodation houses along the main stock routes to provide safe havens for travellers on foot and horseback. Rainbow, Tarndale, Acheron, Jollie's Pass and the Hurunui were all established by the Council. Usually these were located at river crossings, where journeys were often broken due to impassable fords.
Ivy believed that he and Kate would marry. He left deeds to land he owned at Wairau Valley and important correspondence in her safe keeping, and deeds to property owned by Ivy at Renwicktown were held by George Gee. Kate must have been having doubts about her relationship, however, as Ivy wrote her a pleading letter sometime in late 1867. He entrusted this letter to German Charlie (Smith or Martin), a worker at neighbouring Tarndale Station, to deliver to Kate. Why Ivy trusted German Charlie is a measure of his desperation, as he had a quarrelsome relationship with him when he worked on St Helens for about seventeen months, before moving on to Tarndale. As overseer at St Helens, Ivy may have been instrumental in German Charlie's departure. Charlie opened the letter and saw a golden opportunity to "spite Ivy".
Charlie shared the contents of the letter with his drinking mates at several accommodation houses and enjoyed a laugh at Ivy's expense. One witness at the inquiry, Charles Mathews, a shearer at Jeffreys, stated that Charlie showed him the letter addressed to Kate Gee and reported Charlie as saying "This will spite Ivy." Further, he indicated that the letter was shown all over the place and this fact was revealed to him by none other than Kate Gee herself. Ivy's humiliation was complete and the seeds for the subsequent tragedy were sown.
Ivy soon heard of Charlie's betrayal, but the opportunity for satisfaction had to wait. Ivy's reputation as a passionate man was well known, but he took his responsibilities as overseer seriously, and his personal needs took second place to work commitments. When the two antagonists finally met up, Ivy challenged Charlie to a boxing fight following the rules of the day (Queensbury perhaps) but German Charlie laughed at that preferring "rough and tumble". Ivy came off second best and the fight was broken up by someone. It should be noted that the inquest described German Charlie as follows; "a man of about thirty years of age, strongly built and about five foot five or six inches high." No wonder Ivy was out matched!
Gully, John, 1819?-1888. Gully, John 1819-1888 :Tarndale, Accommodation House [1860s?]. Ref: A-178-007. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22892294. Click image to enlarge
Ivy decided that satisfaction could only be achieved by a murder/suicide plot. He carefully planned how this was to be executed. He wrote to his younger brother, Percy, to come to Clarence (St Helens) as he had secured employment for him. Percy was eighteen at this stage and was happy to oblige although, of course, he was unaware of Ivy's real intentions. Ivy was effectively arranging a replacement worker for his employer Mr Thomas Carter, since he knew that he would soon be short staffed. In the course of the evening Ivy told Percy about his altercation with German Charlie and asked Percy what he thought he should do. Percy stated that Charlie should be horse-whipped.
Click image to enlarge
John Show, the accommodation house keeper at Clarence, was witness to the events on Tuesday evening. He reported to the inquiry that Ivy borrowed a pen to write some letters and that he was disturbed by Ivy twice during the night. After breakfast, Ivy set Percy to work on repairing fences and then later that morning left on horseback. That night Show and Percy went to bed, but were disturbed at one or two in the morning when Richard Kemp called in en route to Nelson from the Amuri and offered to take any letters. Percy gave him one for his sister in Stoke near Nelson.
At about 5pm, Wednesday 29th January 1868, Ivy rode up to the homestead at Tarndale and cooeed. Charlie the German was assisting Charles Sparrow, the brickmaker, at the brickyard and although they heard the cooee the rider was not recognised. Charlie stated "He has a horse, let him come over here". Ivy rode up to the brickyard while the two workers carried on with their tasks. German Charlie was some distance away; up to 20 or 30 metres, when Ivy greeted Charles Sparrow and then asked "Is there anybody at the station?" Charles replied "No, sir they are all down at the woolshed, except us two," while carrying on with his work. Charles did notice that the stranger had a rifle on his left shoulder, which he then drew and rested above his left wrist while talking. Addressing German Charlie, Ivy said "Charlie, I have a letter for you" and then proceeded to discharge one round. The bullet hit Charlie in the back, just below his right shoulder blade, but he remained on his feet. Ivy took off at full gallop straight past the startled brickmaker heading in the direction of the Clarence. Before falling to the ground, German Charlie identified Ivy as the gunman, before Charles ran to the accommodation house for help.
Charles met Edward Hope half a mile from the house at the end of the lake. Edward rode hard to the house and collected Mr Shrimpton and the keeper of the house, George Goble but, by the time they reached German Charlie, he was dead.
Later on Wednesday evening Richard Kemp was returning to Nelson from a survey at the Amuri. He had collected a letter from Percy Augarde for delivery to Nelson while passing Carters house at Clarence. As he approached the junction of the Alma and Severn rivers, he noticed a horse with its saddle and bridle still on. No rider was in sight but, alongside a stone cairn marking the main route between Nelson and Canterbury, he saw a dead body. He deduced that the rider of the horse had accidentally shot himself, possibly while shooting ducks. He rode on to Tarndale, where he met Edward Hope and reported the finding of the dead body. From the description of the body and its dress, Edward concluded that the body was that of Ivanhoe Augarde. Mr Shrimpton explained to Richard that Ivy had shot German Charlie earlier that day.
Edward set off to inform the nearest magistrate. By Friday he had reported news of the tragedy to Mr Graham Lord Greenwood of Motueka Valley and then joined the party of inquest jurors that Mr Greenwood rounded up en route to Tarndale. This party included Adolph Wiesenhavern, the owner of Tophouse accommodation house, and any reliable citizen who had an available horse. A total of ten men were sworn in as inquest jurors, arriving in Tarndale on Saturday evening, 1st February. The urgency was needed as it was summertime and the body of Ivy had lain undisturbed at the stone cairn since Wednesday evening. Care had been taken to protect the body, by covering it with grass and a blanket anchored with stones. Another person who reached Tarndale, before the inquest started on Sunday, was Louis Augarde, Ivy's father, who had also been informed of the tragedy. News spread quickly and was even reported in the Nelson Examiner on Saturday 1st February.1 The report indicates both the intimacy of the 6,481 strong Nelson community in 1868 and its empathy for the Augarde family.
News of the deaths also reached Clarence when Mr Shrimpton rode there by midday on Thursday. Percy immediately asked Mr Shrimpton if Ivy was at the tent camp at Acheron. Mr Shrimpton informed John of the deaths, while Percy tethered the horses. Percy knew something had happened and produced Ivy's letter. John Show then accused Percy of knowing Ivy's intentions, implying that he could have prevented the terrible tragedy. Percy proceeded to fetch the horses, while Mr Shrimpton read the letter. John Show then revealed to Percy what had transpired at Tarndale to which Percy responded, "My brother has had satisfaction out of Charlie at last." The three saddled up and rode to the scene of Ivy's suicide, where Percy dismounted and identified his brother. The party continued on to Tarndale.
At the inquiry it became clear that Percy had had some idea of his brother's intentions. He admitted that he had read the letter before dinner (midday) and understood that Ivy might do something rash such as go away or do away with himself.
The letter in question was included as evidence in the inquest:
"Clarence Station, Jan. 28.
Mr. Percy Augarde,
"My dear Brother-I bid you goodbye. We shall never meet again in this world. I'm very sorry to leave you, but it must be. I leave you all I have in the world; all is yours. You can get my mare when she comes from the Wairau Valley. You must go to Mr. G. Gee, Wairau Valley, and he will give you the deeds for my land in Renwicktown, and you must ask Miss Gee for a packet of letters that I gave her to take care of for me. She has got the deed of my land in Wairau Valley. I have five months' wages due from Mr Thomas Carter. You must pay any debts that I have; the people will send their bills in when they hear what has happened. You must pay all that is right. My house is let at present to Mr John Smart, but you can do as you like with it; he is only renting it. Perhaps Mrs. Smart will give you a bill for two pounds, but don't you pay it. Now, my dear brother, I must bid you goodbye and I hope you get on better than your unhappy brother. We shall never meet in this world again, my dear boy."
" I.S. Augarde"
"My dear brother, never trust her in anyone's keeping but yourself."
A second letter addressed to his employer was also used as evidence by the coroner.
"To Mr T. Carter,-
Dear Sir,- I have engaged my brother for twenty five shillings a week. I hope he will suit you, he is a smart lad."
"I. S. Augarde"
With this evidence it was not difficult for the inquest jurors to reach their verdicts; in the case of German Charlie, "That he died from the effect of a gunshot wound, the bullet entering the back of his body, below the right shoulder, and coming out below the heart in the front of the body, inflicted wilfully and deliberately by Ivanhoe Augarde." In the case of Ivanhoe Augarde; "That he met his death by committing premeditated suicide, by blowing out his brains with a rifle."
The jury concluded their business to allow Louis Augarde to bury his son, and it was understood that German Charlie was buried somewhere nearby. At the request of his fellow jurors, Adolph congratulated the acting coroner, Graham Lord Greenwood "for his energy and zeal in conducting the painful business of the day, under circumstances, which, from the nature of the country and the distances to be travelled, were of a peculiarly difficult and trying character."
Reports on the Tarndale tragedy were published throughout New Zealand in all the colonial newspapers, and it was even mentioned abroad, in Australia and United Kingdom.
It is interesting to reflect on how history views the tragedy. Charlie, the "victim", is largely unknown and his grave is unmarked with no gravestone. Ivanhoe, the "murderer", has a prominent grave with a handsome headstone and further the Geographic Board of New Zealand has seen fit to recognize Ivanhoe and the Augarde family by naming a significant nearby mountain after him in 1973. Mr McLaren, a Great Great Grandson of Louis Augarde, put the case for recognition of the Augarde family's contributions to sheep farming in the Marlborough high country. Public sympathy has become aligned to Ivanhoe over time. A crime of passion, such as Ivanhoe's, arouses stronger empathy because he administered his own justice by taking his own life immediately after the murder. It is the passion of the man that we respect.
Karen Fisher, a descendant of Catherine Gee’s brother, George, has provided information about what happened to Kate after this tragedy.
Catherine Gee – Kate – was the third of James and Margaret Gee’s four children. She and her two older brothers, George and Hugh, were born at Kaiwarra – they were part of the Scots settler group who arrived in Wellington at the end of 1840.
Kate was born in August 1851 so would have been barely 16 when this (Augarde) courtship began.
The extended Gee family had initially lived in Wellington but the records indicate quite a bit of movement in the 1850s; living at Lake Grassmere by 1855, also travelling to be with family in Wellington and the Wairarapa and finally moving to Renwick. The father, James Gee, previously in the 96th Regiment, also left the family to serve in the 3rd Waikato Regiment in 1863, though by 1865 he seems to have returned to the family in Renwick where his wife was the midwife.
The two sons, George and Hugh, seem to have operated an accommodation house in The Wairau. It seems likely Catherine would have had domestic duties there.
By September 1867, older brother George had married (Emma Harford from Hope, Nelson). In December 1869, aged 18, Katherine married Donald Munro, a schoolmaster. They had five children, a girl and four boys, before Catherine died aged just 28. The children were then cared for by their Gee grandparents in Renwick.
After James Gee died in 1885, his widow and some of the family moved back to Wellington – the oldest of Kate’s children would have been 15 by then, but it is conceivable the younger boys accompanied their grandmother to Wellington.
Sources used in this story
- Nelson Evening Mail, Saturday February 1 1868. Retrieved from Papers Past:
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Further sources - Murder and suicide at Molesworth
- Broad, H. & Suistead, R. (2013) Molesworth. Stories from New Zealand's largest high country station. Nelson, N.Z. : Craig Potton Publishing
- Dungan, D. (1992) Rotoiti recollections. [St. Arnaud, N.Z.] : The Association
- McCaskill, L.W. (1969) Molesworth. Wellington: Reed
- Newport, J N W. (1962). Footprints: the story of the settlement and development of the Nelson back country districts. [Christchurch, N.Z.]: Whitcombe & Tombs.
- Newport, J.N.W. (1989). Footprints farewell. Nelson (NZ): Nikau Press, pp.18-19.
- Newport, J.N.W.(1978). Footprints too : further glimpses into the history of Nelson Province. Blenheim, N.Z. : Express Printing Works.
- Newport, J.N.W. (1978). More footprints: Still further glimpses into the history of the Nelson Province. Nelson, N.Z.: self-published.
- Newton, P. (1973) Big country of the South Island. Wellington: A.H. & A.W. Reed
- Tomlinson, J.E. (1968). Remembered trails. Nelson, N.Z.: J.E. Tomlinson.
- Woodhouse, A.E. (1940) Tales of pioneer women. Christchurch [N.Z.] : Whitcombe & Tombs
- Inquest on the body of Ivanhoe Augarde (1868, March 5) Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, p. 8
- The Nelson Evening Mail. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 1868. THE TARNDALE TRAGEDY.
Nelson Evening Mail, Volume III, Issue 30, 6 February 1868, Page 2
- INQUEST ON THE BODY OF GERMAN CHARLIE.
Marlborough Express, Volume III, Issue 103, 22 February 1868, Page 5
- THE MURDER AND SUICIDE AT TARNDALE.
Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Volume XXVII, Issue 17, 8 February 1868, Page 3
- Newport J. N. W. (1972) Wairau Valley Field trip notes
- Molesworth Station brochure (2012) Retrieved from Department of Conservation, 5 April 2013:
- New Zealand gazeteer of official names. Retrieved from LINZ: