The Gilfillan farm at Matarawa

The Gilfillan farm at Matarawa

Matarawa, the Gilfillan family farm, about 1845. John Alexander Gilfillan was an artist of some ability and his work provides useful insights into Whanganui’s colonial history.

Gilfillan, his wife Mary and their six children settled in Whanganui in late 1842. They secured an allotment of 110 acres (45 ha) in the Matarawa Valley, east of Whanganui, and moved onto their farm in late 1845.

On the evening of 18 April 1847 a party of six young upriver Māori attacked the Gilfillan farm. Mary Gilfillan and three children were killed and another daughter was badly wounded.

According to the missionary Richard Taylor, one of the Māori involved in the attack later confessed that the Gilfillans had not been the original target. Their isolation had made them easy prey. 

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Johan Gilfillan

Posted: 14 Dec 2009

Johan Alexander Gilfillan was the brother of my great,great grandfather Adam Gilfillan, and another brother William Frederick Anderson Gilfillan. Adam and William came to South Africa as 1820 Settlers, and John Alexander went and settled in NZ during 1841 in the Matarawa valley. After the murder by Maoris of John`s wife Mary and three of their children, John and the remaining two children emmigrated to Australia. The daughter, Sarah ,that survived the attack, wrote a report of the murders, and send it to her uncles in South Africa, of which the original is still in the our possesion. Johan Alexander Gilfillan died in his house at Collingwood cottage, Glasgow street, Melborne on 11 February 1864. Thank you for the opportunity to a small piece of information of my ancestors. Johan Gilfillan.