Two of Auckland’s early leading citizens were recognised at a ceremony at Purewa last month.
Judge Francis Dart Fenton and Sir Edwin Mitchelson were both buried at Purewa but without headstones or plaques to acknowledge their significant contributions to the development of the city. The Purewa Cemetery Trust Board decided to prepare appropriate plaques, which were dedicated at the ceremony on September 21.
Judge Francis Fenton arrived in Auckland from England in 1850, having qualified in law. During the next 30 years he held a succession of judicial and administrative positions including Chief Judge of the Native Land Court from 1865 until 1882, when he retired to the Kaipara district to pioneer viticulture, before returning to Auckland where he died in 1898.
As well as drafting early legislation, he also took a prominent role in the community serving on the Auckland Grammar School Board, the Public Domains Board, the Diocesan Synod, and the Auckland Choral Society.
Sir Edwin Mitchelson was born in Auckland in 1846 and after serving his apprenticeship as a carpenter, moved to Northland to work in the timber business. He was elected to the first Hobson County Council in 1876 and in 1881, entered Parliament serving as Minister for Public Works and Native Affairs as well as Postmaster General. In 1890 he served as Acting Premier. He was Mayor of Auckland from 1903-1905 and founder and long serving Chairman of Diocesan High School for Girls. He was also associated with Auckland Grammar School and the Auckland Racing Club, where he established the well-known Ellerslie gardens and held senior leadership positions for more than 30 years.
A large number of representatives from both families attended the plaque commemoration ceremony, where the Chairman of the Purewa Cemetery Trust Board, John Priestley, spoke about their lives and achievements. In addition, the organisations and institutions both men were associated with, were well represented including the Principal of Diocesan School Heather McRae, Auckland Grammar School, Auckland Choral Society and the Auckland Racing Club.
The Reverend Bob Driver, who is married to a Fenton family descendant, dedicated each plaque and family members shared stories and history at both graves. The ceremony finished with a morning tea in the Lounge of Remembrance.