Symonds Street Cemetery: John Smith

John Smith

1833 or 1840 -1882

John Smith arrived in Auckland in the 1850s onboard a warship.

Aged about ten at the time he, along with others of the crew, deserted and lived amongst the Maori until the ship had departed.

In the mid 1850s he was apparently in Australia sometimes searching for Gold in the Victoria Goldfields and sometimes “in business”.

After 1860 he was back in New Zealand; in Dunedin and the West Coast Goldfields. In Dunedin he apparently operated a cafe for awhile.

When he arrived back in Auckland in 1864 he had a wife and child and embarked on running a Drapery Emporium o Grey Street .

He relocated the business to Queen Street near the Wellesley Street intersection where it prospered and became one of Auckland’s mor important stores despite being on the “wrong side of Queen Street”.

When the Albert Barracks were dis-established and Albert Park laid out he obtained the leasehold of the property nearest the park on Princes Street.

There between 1877 and 1878 he erected a brick and stucco residence descrided as ‘elegant and tasteful”, which he named “Park House”.


Now called “Pembridge” this house was, and is, the most expensive and elaborate of the “Palaces” erected on Princes Street..

“Park House” was designed by the architect William Hammond who had recently won the design competition for Western Park in Ponsonby.

Smith was well known in the Racing Fraternity and “procured some of the best racing stock in Australia”

“his colours were carried to victory by Maid of Honour and Tom Whittler”. His other horses were Trafalgar, Lady, Xanthippe, and Toi.

Following his death on the 15th of August 1882 his wife liquidated the firm, selling the bulk of the stock to the new Smith & Caughey’s Store.

Eventually Smith & Caughey took over the lease of John Smith’s shop (where they remain to this day).

The transformation of Smith’s into Smith & Caughey has resulted in the idea that he was the Smith of Smith & Caughey’s whereas he and W.H.Smith were actually completely unrelated.

His obituary in the Auckland Weekly News - August 19th 1882 - eulogied -

‘For many years no face and form has been better known than those of Mr John Smith’

‘His probity, his sterling worth and benevolence, although covered with a rough outer crust, proved him to be a rough diamond, the character in which he was appreciated by his friends’

‘His name was a synonym for straight and honest dealing’

His wife erected the large tomb which is topped by the truncated column wreathed in fruiting ivy (a symbol of the ressurection)

Jane Smith was later buried with him. They were survived by one daughter.