Thomas and Catherine Henderson

A fortune made

With diverse businesses, including shipping and timber exports.

Blacksmith makes good: Thomas Henderson was born in Dundee, Scotland, in 1810. He and his wife Catherine answered the call for tradesmen to emigrate to New Zealand. They left Gravesend on the barque London in 1840, and arrived in Wellington on 15 December. Their infant son George died on the voyage.

The Hendersons with Catherine’s brothers John and Henry Macfarlane immediately went north to Auckland, arriving before the first (European-style) houses had even been built.

Henderson developed into a significant entrepreneur. He built the Commercial Hotel at a cost of $2000. He employed about 300 Māori in gumdigging – other colonists said this prevented the diggers from joining Māori resistance fighter/leader Hone Heke.

He and the Macfarlanes formed a partnership to develop New Zealand's first commercial sailing ship fleet, the Circular Saw Line. They also operated a mill from 1847, and traded in copra from the Pacific islands.

Swapping a ship for land, they cut the timber for export to America, Australia and China.

Staying ahead of the play, Henderson sold off the ships the Constance, Kate and Neva, and bought the 500 ton steamships Lord Ashley, Airdale and Haversham.

The Auckland suburb of Henderson bears his name. Thomas Henderson and John Macfarlane bought the Henderson land with the proceeds of a cargo of wheat from Adelaide, Australia, that was swapped for a ship load of kauri timber from Henderson's Mill.

Henderson was a MP in the New Zealand parliament 1855 – 1874. He also helped establish the Bank of New Zealand, the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company, the New Zealand Insurance Company and the Auckland Gas Company.

Thomas and Catherine Henderson are buried side-by-side in the Presbyterian section.

  • <p>Composite photograph showing the founders of the Circular Saw Line, Thomas Henderson and John MacFarlane along with nine of their ships, Novelty, Archer, Ryno, Mazeppa, Alice Cameron, Kate, Breadalbane, Neva and Sir George Grey. <em>Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-627.</em></p>

Aerial photo location

Where is the grave?

The grave is close to the low scoria wall that separates Pigeon Park and the Presbyterian section of the cemetery. Site 6 on the Rose Walk Trail Guide.