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A photo study of the
William Stevenson family

William Stephenson

of "Carswell," Levels,
Timaru, South Canterbury, N.Z.

STEVENSON, WILLIAM, Farmer, "Carswell", the Levels.  Mr. Stevenson was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland, in 1842, and brought up to farming.  He arrived at the Bluff in 1863 by the ship "Sir William Eyre" and after four years in Southland on one of the New Zealand Land Company's stations, he removed to Oamaru where he was on another of the Company's stations for seven years. On settling in the Timaru district, Mr. Stevenson bought land at Washdyke and farmed 340 acres for some years.  In 1881 he sold his interest in the Washdyke property, and bought his farm of 400 acres at the Levels, where he carries on mixed farming.  Mr. Stevenson was for twelve years a member of the Washdyke school committee.  He has long been associated with the South Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association, having been on the committee for over twenty years.  Mr. Stevenson was married, in 1869, to Miss Leonard, of Galway, Ireland and has four sons and two daughters. Reference: Cyclopedia of New Zealand, Canterbury edition. Part 4. pages 929-931. Published 1903

The name Carswell and how it is connected to the Stevenson family of Levels, Timaru.

William Stevenson of Levels was the fifth son and tenth child of Hugh Stevenson and Margaret Carswell and was born 10 Feb. 1840 at Knowglass farm Neilston Parish, Renfrewshire, Scotland.  Hugh Stevenson's sister, Jean, married Allan Carswell [John Carswell's, ggg grandfather], tenant farmer of Neilston, and Hugh's mother Margaret Carswell was the daughter of [John Carswell's gggg grandfather] Allan Carswell also tenant farmer of Neilston so there are actually two connections here. Family folklore says that these Stevenson's were related to author R.L. Stevenson because of his families connection with 'Nether Carswell' farm at Neilston but we have never been able to find a connection!  RL Stevenson often visited either an Aunt or Grandmother at Carswell House a couple of miles to the south of Neilston, not to be confused with West, Over or Nether Carswell.

Have been unable to find William Stevenson in 1861 Census of Scotland.  He emigrated to NZ in 1863. Johan, a distant cousin, in Largs, Ayrshire, however did find the family in 1841 in Barony, Glasgow with Hugh, a dairyman, and William one year old. In 1851 found them back in Neilston Parish at Craighall farm with Hugh as a Cotter and William 11 years old. William was certainly not in Neilston Parish in 1861 and most likely working on a farm somewhere in Renfrewshire.


John Carswell, Taree, NSW, AUS. July 8 2001
STEVENSON: I am researching a family of Stevenson's who emigrated from Renfrewshire, Scotland in 1863 and were at "Carswell," Levels. The father, William, died in 1919 aged 79 and is buried in the Timaru Cemetery.  There were three sons and two daughters, Margaret & Mary, who were at the "Levels" in 1923. 

John Carswell wrote April 2006
I have made a little progress this time around with many thanks to the generous genealogists of New Zealand and the Rootsweb mailing list. The catalyst for the latest search was that my distant cousin in Largs, Ayrshire, made contact with Sheila White of Glasgow, a descendent of Williams Stevenson's brother Hugh.  She was in possession of family photos of the Stevenson family and their farm at "Carswell" (farm) at the Levels, Timaru.

July 2006
William Stevenson's son William & his wife Jessie Mitchell Murray farmed at "Ardyne" Albury, Mackenzie County. 'Ardyne' was the farm on the Castle Toward Estate at Dunoon, Argyll. The will of Jessie Stevenson (nee Mitchell Murray) wife of old William's son, William 'well known farmer of Albury'. Information gleaned was their only child, Mary Stevenson married Ivan Littlejohn.

William Stevenson and Jessie Murray were married in Riwaka, Nelson, N.Z. April 29 1918 at Jim Scott's house – the house still exists. They weren’t able to marry in a church because she was Catholic and he was Presbyterian. Their boys were to be bought up Catholic and the girls Presbyterian. John Murray was a witness.  According to the marriage certificate John Murray was a farmer at Riwaka". Source: Sarah Littlejohn.

Jessie Mitchell Murray (wife of young William Stevenson) was born at Castle Toward, Dunoon, Argyllshire on 13 Feb 1882. Her parents were George Murray, (head gamekeeper at Castle Toward) & Janet Murray nee Mitchell . George & Janet Murray were married on 5 Dec 1867 in Edinburgh and lived at Castle Toward. Janet Murray came to NZ in 1886 with her children after she was widowed. She had a brother in NZ who owned Ngatari station in Wanganui. Her parents were woollen mill owners - not sure where. She died in 1907 in NZ

Hugh Stevenson, eldest son, died at "Hadlow," Harlow Road. Did Hugh marry?
Who was Jane Stevenson, of Claremont, on the 1893 electoral roll for Timaru. Claremont is only a few miles from the the Levels.
Margaret Stevenson,  b.c.1873, the second daughter, a spinster, carried on as housekeeper at the 'Carswell' homestead for years possibly until her death in 1941. She lived at 9 Campbell St. Timaru. Died. 25-3-1941, age 68.

The Timaru Cemetery

Age at Death 78
Date of Interment 22/8/1919
Timaru Cemetery
Section GENERAL Block G  Plot 335
Age at Death 66
Date of Interment 31/5/1935
Timaru Cemetery
Section GENERAL Block G Plot 335
Age at Death 60 Years
Date of Interment 1/11/1902
Timaru Cemetery
Section GENERAL Block G Plot 336
The Stevenson's are buried in the same plot as William at the Timaru Cemetery
Deliah Stevenson 	wife 				died 17 October	1902   	aged 59 years at Carswell, Levels
William Stevenson 	husband of Deliah 		died 20 August 1919 	aged 79 years
Mary Stevenson 		eldest d/o William and Deliah 	died 14 Sept. 1926 	aged 52 years at Carswell 
Hughie Stevenson 	son 				died 29 May 1935 	aged 66 years
Margaret Stevenson 	daughter of William and Deliah 	died 25 March 1941 	aged 68 years
Robert Stevenson 	son of William and Deliah 	died 11 August 1943 	aged 67 years

William married Deliah Leonard of Galway, Ireland in 1869.  Bridget Leonard also lived at 'Carswell,' Levels. Bridget is a mystery. Was she was a sister to Deliah or was Deliah was also know as Bridget??

Timaru District Council has made available online its database of burial records for the Arundel, Geraldine, Pareora West, Pleasant Point, Temuka and Timaru cemeteries. Jessie Stevenson, age 71, buried 27/07/59, Timaru Cemetery, Lawn section, Block L, Plot 689. 

In Loving Memory
The beloved wife of
William Stevenson
who died at
Carswell, Levels,
on the 17th October 1902
Aged 59 years
"Thy will be Done."
William Stevenson
Died Aug. 20th 1919,
Aged 79 years

eldest daughter
Died at "Carswell."
Sept. 14th 1926
Also Hughie Stevenson
Died May 29th 1935

Died March 25

died Aug. 11th

A few snippets!

NZ Gazette 1911 "T.J. Stevenson of Timaru NZ applied for a patent for a weed & root crop lifter No. 29958 on 2 August 1911."

Timaru Herald, 10 February 1899, Page 2
A fine draught mare, the property of Mr Stevenson, of the Levels, we were informed, dropped dead at one of the Heaton street sidings last evening, as a train was passing. Though the mare was startled by the train, the circumstances of the death are suggestive of bots as the real cause.

Auckland Weekly News 22-7-1915
STEVENSON, T. J. on Thursday last. - walked into the open sea off the beach at Napier and drowned on Thursday last. Believed to have been a Chief Engineer at a freezing works & had just undergone surgery at Wellington. A letter to him was found in his pocket address: Carswell, Levels.

Evening Post, 16 July 1915, Page 2
A man named T. J. Stevenson walked into the open sea off the beach this afternoon and was drowned. After being in the water for about fifteen minutes he was brought to the beach by the aid of a, life-line, but efforts to restore animation were unsuccessful. The deceased, who was practically unknown in Napier, had been here for a few days only. He told the licensee of the hotel at which he was staying that he was chief engineer at the Tokomaru Bay freezing works, and had just undergone a surgical operation in Wellington. A letter was found in his pocket addressed to him at Carswell Levels, South Canterbury. A short time before he was seen to walk into the sea he received a telegram from Masterton. Stevenson had been very despondent since arriving here.  

The 1893 Timaru electoral roll, with the address "Levels Estate"
William Stevenson 		farmer
Margaret Cresswell Stevenson 	spinster 	domestic duties
Bridget Leonard Stevenson 	married		dom. duties 
Hugh Stevenson					farmhand
Mary Stevenson			spinster	dom duties.
Jane Stevenson resident of Claremont, Timaru, married dom. duties

The boys - Hugh, James and Robert are not found on the embarkation rolls for South Africa or WW1 but Robert was on the reserve list for WW1.

Given Name 		Robert
Category 		First Reserves of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Last NZ Address 	Levels
Occupation 		Farmer
Recruiting District 	South Canterbury

Timaru Herald 6th Sept 1919 The Late Wm Stevenson
There passed away recently another of the fast disappearing band of pioneers, in the person of the late William Stevenson, 'Carswell', Levels. Born in Renfrewshire, Scotland, in 1842, he was brought up to farming. While a youth, he sailed for New Zealand by the Sir William Eyre, arriving at the Bluff in 1863, under engagement to the New Zealand Land Company. After working four years on the Morton Mains Station, he was removed to the Totara Station, Oamaru, where he was overseer for seven years. When the Levels Station became available for cropping he came with a number of others from Oamaru, and cropped there for some years, and later bought land at Washdyke. Selling his interest there in 1899 he bought again at the Levels, where he carried on mixed farming until his death. While residing at Washdyke the late Mr Stevenson was a member of the School Committee for twelve years, and for over twenty years he was on the committee of the Timaru A and P Association. He was well known as a judge in the show ring, and at one time was a breeder and exhibitor of Ayrshires and draught horses. The late Wm Stevenson was predeceased by his wife about twenty years, and is survived by a family of two daughters and three sons, one of whom is a well known farmer at Albury.

The Carswell homestead.  The family were pioneers at the "Levels".

At 'Carswell', Levels, Timaru. Typical of homestead in the area with large lawns.

Property Search

The original property today had obviously has been split up into smaller blocks.  Today there were some magnificent tall cypress to one side of the drive which were very old. A very pleasant spot with an northern outlook over the Levels plain. The weatherboard homestead no longer exists but it had a painted corrugated iron roof which was typical of homesteads in South Canterbury with a large sunny front room, multiple fireplaces, an outhouse, a verandah, set on park like grounds with a large landscaped sloping front lawn with the stables, dog kennels, and other out buildings out of sight, radiata pine trees acting as a shelter belt, a driveway lined with native and deciduous trees and shrubs and a view of the foothills, The Two Thumb Range, to the north and a view overlooking the Levels Valley to the east, all within ten minutes drive of Timaru. There was another Stevenson family at Washdyke in the 1880s, the James Stevenson, Jr. family. Not connected.

The Levels District         The olive square marks the spot of the homestead.         DP Numbers         A 2005 aerial view

Information contained in land-title deeds can provide insight into the lives of a settler.  Once an address is established records pertaining to that property can be checked. The legal description may lead to a DP number. The "Carswell" farm was located in the Levels area, Canterbury, N.Z. and bordered State Highway 8, was on the left heading towards Pleasant Point north of Washdyke at the intersection of the Kerrytown road and Falvey Road with SH8.  To the right of Highway 8 to Pleasant Point the land is a plain, it is entirely flat, so the farm would have been on the left heading north.  Zoom in Map Timaru Explorer To do a property search through LINZ can be made with DP numbers.  A search agent can be helpful.  DP = Deposited plans - is a survey plan. Surveyors produce these plans and are required by law to submit them to LINZ for approval when land is surveyed. Do do a property search you need:
1. The correct Land District
2. A survey plan number including the record type prefix SO, ML or DP and any suffixes shown.

Stevenson's Christmas Day 1918 at home "Carswell."

1. William Stevenson (father) 
2. Lena Hawkins (was a orphan in the district & was taken in by the family)
3. Mary (eldest daughter) 
4. Robert (Bob) (third son)
5. Margaret (daughter)
6. Jessie nee Murray (Will's wife) (daughter-in-law)
7. Will (son)


1. Is William listed on the passenger list for the Sir William Eyre, 1863, into Bluff?? If not was he a member of the crew? Which family members came out to NZ? Why did they leave Scotland?   The "Sir William Eyre" departed Clyde 17 December and arrived at the Bluff, New Zealand 23 April 1863 under the command of Captain Blakey.

Otago Witness April 25 1863
The Sir William Eyre, from Glasgow has arrived at the Bluff, which had been for some time overdue. It may be remembered she made a bad commencement of her voyage, having put back to Rothesay and been detained there through the prevalence of sickness on board. Among the 400 passengers, 22 deaths had occurred - 5 adults and 17 children - and there were two cases of fever on board on her arrival. The Sir Wm. Eyre left the Clyde on the 21st of December last, but had to put into the Cape of Good Hope, and had a passage of 55 days thence. She sighted the s.s. Aldinga on the evening of Monday last, 200 miles due west of the Solander. Both the Aldinga and the Alhambra had called at the Bluff on Sunday last, and the Alhambra had also proceeded on her passage.  Passenger list (135 passengers listed) also (203 passengers listed on yesteryear)

3. Alexander Carswell b. 1783 who is said to have died in New Zealand.  Alex. was born 2 June 1783 at Craig of Neilston farm, Neilston Renfrewshire & that he is referred to in an 1920 family letter as having died in Van Diemans Land or NZ. There is absolutely no record of him being in Tasmania ,convict or otherwise. Any word on him?

4. New Zealand lake scene. Can anyone recognise the lake? Found with the other Stevenson photos.  email John Carswell, N.S.W. Australia

 5. Who is the lady? Cousin_____? Can anyone read the writing above the lady's hat? Could be young Will bottom right! What are they sitting on? Looks like they are sitting on the side of an old dray with the 'Carswell' driveway behind them. Willy, top right, & son Bob bottom left .

 6. Who's cottage? Probably 'old' William on horse back. Not the Rhodes Brothers 1856 timber, thatched roof cottage at Levels Station, near Timaru. The roof is too high but probably an old cottage near the property.

Timaru Herald   1864 -1900 

Timaru Herald Tuesday 17 December 1889 pg3
Anniversary Day
    Canterbury celebrated its birthday yesterday, the thirty-ninth, the towns at least keeping a general holiday. Timaru loyal shut up shop with the rest. The weather for the occasion was made for it, fine enough to tempt people to enjoy their holiday out of doors; dull enough to make the midsummer day comfortable. Picnics were the first order of the day, and the railway staff had to deal with three of these. A double train took about 600 people along the Point line, the Presbyterian and Congregational Sunday schools, teachers and friends, teachers. The former, occupying the bulk of the train, were bound to Waitohi station, the or destination being Mr Stevenson's farm. The Congregationalists were bound for the Point. The train started a little before nine o'clock. About half -past nine the Naval Volunteers and Garrison Band steamed away for the or picnic at Winchester. The Wesleyan Sunday School teachers, filling six expresses, made an early start for their annual jaunt to Gordon's Bush. With the country looking its very best, and the route a varied one, their drive alone was an enviable one. There were of course several less numerous private picnic parties. In town the attractions were the unfading one, the breakwater, and in the afternoon the Flower Show and the Cyclists Sports.

The Presbyterian Picnic
    From all we hear the Presbyterian Sabbath School Picnic was the most successful function of the day. The town and suburban Sabbath schools were mustered under their teachers, and with parents and friends made up a freightage of about 659 for the special train engaged to carry them to Mr Stevenson's farm on the Levels plain. Mr Stevenson had kindly placed at the disposal of the managers a first rate paddock close to the railway line, and the authorities were reasonable enough to pull up the train opposite the field gate. The train left town at 9 a.m., of a beautiful morning, and half an hour' s jarring in seated trucks was not a bad beginning for a day's play, as it tendered to shake people into a more compassionable frame of mind. Riding in a cushioned first-class carriage has not this effect.            
    Arrived at the trysting place, everyone in the best of humour, miscellaneous games were indulged in for a couple of hours or so. Then was heard the now welcome call to lunch. The children were first attended to by teachers and friends. Seated in circles, a well considered plan of operation soon supplied all. The excellence of the organisation for this part of the day's work was an admirable feature, preventing needless trouble, and preventing crush, whilst ensuring that not one missed a fair share of the good things that were amply provided. After a liberal lunch and a digestive rest, a long programme of races was got off, for which a good supply of suitable prizes had been taken to the ground. These games were entered into with great zest, the keenest anxiety being displayed to capture the prizes. In carrying out this part of the programme Messrs T. Thomson, W. Martin and M. Mackay worked with most successful industry. The races over, the prizes were distributed to the successful competitors by Mrs Gillies, and each one appeared more delighted that the rest at the capital prizes they received. These, we are informed, were gifts of tradespeople towards "fun of the fair." Tea was served about five o'clock.
    The train hove in sight. Before leaving the ground the pastor, Rev. W. Gillies called for three hearty cheers for Mr Stevenson for his kindness in placing at their disposal a field in every way so suitable, and for the material assistance he had rendered during the day. Need less to say the call was responded to with hearty good will and then the teachers and the busy bees of the day came in for a similar compliment. At 6.30 the train drew up opposite the gate, and in a short time al were aboard again and bowling home, the children having improvised banners, singing and cheering. The weather was almost perfect for the outing, the sun was a little hot at times, but a nice fresh breeze tempered its beams.

William Stevenson
 William Stevenson on the driveway. William, died in 1919, aged 79.
Cabbage trees to the left and right with a slender popular in the centre.

Otago Witness, 2 May 1885, Page 13 DRAUGHT HORSES
Mr William Stevenson, of the Washdyke, told me of his experience in weaning foals. He took his mares to harvest, and let the foals suck for a few days, but he found that the mares could not stand the strain, and he decided to wean the foals. So shut them up in a house, and gave them mangolds. They would not touch them for about a week till, as Mr Stevenson said, " and their bellies were up to their backs " He was beginning to think, like myself, that this would not do, when, about the sixth day, one of the foals broke a mangold. From that day they took to mangolds, and would eat nothing else. They throve splendidly, and he never had a lot of foals than he had that year. One of these foals beat our young Major Lauder at the Timaru show as a yearling. So you see, the great point is to provide for the foals when they are weaned.

Please contact John Carswell if you would like more information or have information to share on this family.  John would like to acknowledge Sheila White who gave the photos to Johan Lochridge who kindly scanned them & forwarded them to John. Johan and along with the help of Linley Welford of Timaru, both had a big input in the search. John visited South Canterbury in April 2002 and had a had a very pleasant time in South Canterbury. Spent 16 days in the South Island and still had to rush some areas. Wonderful scenery, a great people, very well maintained and engineered roads.  Found the Timaru cemetery, large, in a very well cared for condition with no or very little damage to headstones & was well mown. There was a plan of the layout with rows well numbered near the office on the grounds near Dominion Ave. The Stevenson grave had an iron boundary rail displaced which John replaced & one rail missing.  In fact all the cemeteries further south were all in good condition with just the odd headstone damaged. 

John travelled to Renfrewshire, Scotland in May 2005 and spent a week in and around Neilston looking at the old Carswell & Stevenson tenanted farms and had a reunion at an old ruined Stevenson/Carswell farm named Barrhouse where there was an archeological dig taking place. Barrhouse is where William Stevenson's father Hugh farmed and had their second child Allan in 1822. Artifacts discovered which included salt glazed pottery which go back to the middle ages, an oat grinding bowl and some more modern Spode china. 2006 - excavations have now finished. Final use of the building as a house would seem to be in the mid 19th century. Excavation evidence so far would point to it being abandoned then, after a disastrous fire, so fierce that window glass melted into large blobs. Today there still are several Carswell families and there are also plenty of Stevenson's farming around Neilston. Barrhouse is owned by Elderslie Estates, landlords of about a third of Renfrewshire for several centuries. Records dated 1797 show an Allen Carswell renting Craig of Neilston and Barrhouse in the Neilstonside Estate, for £115 pa from 1786 to 1805. Prior to that in 1769 it is noted that John Carswell of Neilstonside rented Barrhouse for £9:8:4


Surname profiler: Carswell and Stevenson in 1881 - county map

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project