Moreover, my ancestors' souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house.

Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Mystery Monday - Poultry Fancier disappears in 1909 - never to be found!

Arthur Adam Clarkson was born in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1866. He was the 4th child of Samuel Clarkson and Sarah Ellen Clarkson nee Lodge and my Great Grand Uncle. At the age of 19 he is listed in the Voter Register of 1885-1886 as an Ironmonger, living in Cashel St, Stanmore, New Zealand. It’s pretty certain that he was living with his parents and surviving brothers and sisters – elder sister Harriette and younger brothers and sisters Edith, Ernest, Frederick, William, Maude and Leonard. He may have started in an Ironmongery business, but he eventually worked as a commission agent buying and selling goods – how lucrative this was, we don’t know.

But if his paid work is a little mysterious, his social life and interests are not. Arthur figures prominently as a keen bicycle rider in the 1 mile Bicycle Race of 1884, at the Crystal Palace Stating Rink in Sydenham entering in the 2 mile handicap in 1888, and playing the ‘Clarionet’ (Solo, ‘Polka Brilliante’) at a concert in 1908 including an encore.

But the Poultry Fancy is where his heart lies. He’s the Secretary of various Poultry Clubs, and newspaper articles have him travelling to Dunedin to show his birds, as well as locally. Hardly an issue of the local paper misses naming Arthur showing birds or organising something to do with the feathered fancy from about 1895 onwards. Canaries, Black Orpingtons and Pigeons were amongst his interests. He attended the Royal Show in Sydney, and came back to inspect the arrangements for the egg-laying competition at Hawkesbury College in 1905.
At some point, Arthur went into business with Frederick Rogen, a married man somewhat older than himself who was extremely well-known in the poultry and dog-breeding world. They went on a grand tour to America via Honolulu in 1907 and then onwards to London, buying livestock on commission for other fanciers. It appears that just before the trip, or shortly after, Arthur and Frederick also bought into a Monumental Mason business in Dunedin together as ‘Rogen and Clarkson’. Arthur continued living in Christchurch at Olliviers Road with his widowed mother and unmarried sister Edith.

On the 29th October 1909 Arthur left for Timaru, apparently to meet with the Government Architect, who at the time was John Campbell. His sister Edith drove him to the railway station ( in a horse and trap, I believe) at Christchurch, but did not see him get on the train. However he was seen in Timaru on the 29th and 30th of October. There is no information that he actually achieved a meeting with John Campbell.
Reports have him planning to go to further south to Oamaru, then on to Teschemaker’s Siding, which was at Reidston, 6 miles south. Because there was a large limestone quarry in the area, his purpose may have been to source stone for the Monumental Masonry business. Frederick Rogen is listed as a ‘Quarry Owner’ on the 1911 Voter’s Register, so as another possibility Arthur may have been visiting Rogen’s own quarry.
A certain Detective Fahey in Timaru, who reportedly had a conversation with him (we are not sure what day) said that Arthur told him he was going to Oamaru, then to Auckland and Wellington.

But he disappeared.

On the 20th of November 1909, his brother began advertising for Arthur’s ‘friends’ to come forward with his whereabouts. From the 24th of November the papers were full of the mystery. By the 29th of November 1909 the family were offering a reward for information about him – or his luggage.

On December 1st 1909 the Police had listed him as a missing person in the Police Gazette.

In early April of 1910 a body of a 'middle aged man' man clad only in cotton underpants and ‘Dark merino ribbed socks’ turned up, half buried in sand in the Waimakariri River near Yaldhurst,southwest of Christchurch. This river is long, and described as braided - rising in the Southern Alps and entering the sea just north of Christchurch at Kaiapoi. The newspaper mention was keen to speculate that this was Arthur Adam Clarkson and gave a careful description. It was a way from where he went missing, but…. Could it have been Arthur?

The Otago Daily Times , 5 April 1910, Page 5 noted that a brother and sister came forward, believing the body was that of their younger sibling, Robert Baker, who had been missing from his home since the end of February. He was apparently a ‘young’ man, not a ‘middle aged man’ so who knows which description is right. I have had no luck finding this family so far. They could not definitely identify
the body, but did identify some clothes, and a slipper, buried in sand not far away. Nevertheless, although this was probably Robert Baker, he didn’t get a death certificate.

Arthur Adam Clarkson was never heard from again.

Frederick Rogen went to Australia with his wife Jessie and lived to be 82. He was remembered as a leading light in the poultry fancy, a renowned expert and a generous friend. Everything about his life indicates he was successful and well-liked, not someone who may have had dodgy business connections or an irregular life. The sudden loss of his business partner and - presumably - a good friend - must have been a blow.
Arthur Adam Clarkson & Mr Speight
In 1917, Arthur’s family applied for probate on his estate, the requisite number of years being up. Arthur was declared officially deceased.Their statements of the circumstances prior to his disappearance indicate he was on good terms with them in 1909. There seems to be a slight indication that he had bouts of depression due to his recurrent fever, picked up in Honolulu – could he have planned a suicide? Was it just misadventure? Did he get sick, stumble, fall into a quarry or drown? Who was he meeting and where was he going? What ‘friends’ were there in the area?
Mysterious indeed!
A postscript to this is my quest to identify Arthur Adam Clarkson's friend, the 'Mr Speight' in this picture. Arthur - he's the one with the mustache - looks to be in his twenties or perhaps a little more, which would make the photo taken about 1888 - 1896. I have searched and found two possible men who could be contemporaries  - Charles Speight born 1865 and Walter Speight born 1869. Some Speights and Clarksons share school references.....but nothing definitive crops up. If you have Speight family in your tree, please contact me! I am pretty sure he is in this picture too - wearing his distinctive 'hard black hat' again.
The same friend is in the group - and come to think of it, those men look very similar and could well be Charles and Walter Speight. The other man looks to be a little older.

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