Rush Family History

The Story of the Rush Family


Palmerston North Cemetery Records:

A Plucky Act - an incident involving John George Rush.

Description of the New Zealand Medal.

Obituary - John George Rush, An extract from "A Humble Beginning".

John George Rush

This page documents the life of John George Rush, the third husband of Cecilia Eliza Herbert.

John George Rush

John George Rush was born in Essex in 1827. He went to sea at the age of ten, serving for years under his sea captain Uncle before deciding to emigrate. He travelled to New Zealand by way of Australia, probably looking for his father Richard Rush. He spent time there before arriving in Wellington on the schooner "Esther", from Sydney, in 1842.

John settled in the Hutt Valley, taking up farming in Taita, where he remained for the next forty years. He joined the Hutt Militia, and served with distinction during the Maori Wars of 1845/46. He was subsequently awarded the Imperial Campaign Medal. John was involved in a number of clashes with the natives, and seems to have been held in high regard by his fellow militiamen and settlers.

The image shows John George Rush wearing the New Zealand Medal. This medal is currently in the possession of a member of the Rush family.

John George and Cecilia

Shortly after the murder of his father, Richard Rush, John took up with his stepmother, Cecilia Eliza. Their first child, John Henry, was born late in 1847, although it was another five years until, on July 3rd, 1852, John and Cecilia were married. Cecilia, already twice a widow by the time she was twenty-seven, joined John on his farm in Taita, where the nearby stockade was garrisoned with a small party of the Hutt Militia. Altogether, Cecilia presented John with two sons - John and Alphonsus, and three daughters - Maria, Alexanderina, and Pelagia. The family lived on their Taita farm named "Waltham Abbey Farm", as noted in Alexandrina's marriage notice.

John George called himself "Jack Rush" when involved in political discussions during his time in the Hutt. At this particular meeting the residents were discussing who should receive the nomination for representation in the next Colonial Parliament (Wellington Independent, Volume XXI, Issue 2324, 17 February 1866, page 6).

Although both John and Cecilia were originally Anglicans, they had been so impressed with the mission work performed on the Wanganui River by the Roman Catholic Church that they elected to take up the faith. John became very active within the church, and was largely responsible for instigating the establishment of a Catholic church in Palmerston North. He was closely associated with the French priest, Fr. Moreau, of Otaki.

Interest in new Palmerston settlement

In the early 1870s, John and Cecilia became very interested in the new settlement of Palmerston, that was being established in what were known as the Manawatu Wastelands; several of their children, by now married, moved there about 1871. John discussed with Fr. Moreau the feasibility of building a Catholic church in Palmerston, and it was largely due to this that the first Mass was celebrated there on 17th March 1872. This was attended by less than a score of people, more than half of whom were the family of John and Cecilia.

Although Miriam McGregor's "Petticoat Pioneers" claims that John George was listed amongst the Palmerston Residents of 1872, this was in fact, John Henry, his son. John George and Cecilia continued farming in Taita for another ten years, before making the move to Palmerston in 1882. They travelled up the coast to Foxton by ship, before transferring their family and belongings to canoes for the trip up the Manawatu River to Palmerston. They built a new home on Broad Street (known today as Broadway Avenue), on the site that is now "Garden Supplies", and some time later John purchased six and a half acres in Avenue Road, (now Park Road), on the eastern side of town. Here he turned the bush into pasture, planting several acres in apples, plums, pears and other fruit trees. Although some reports claim that he named this orchard "Ake Ake", after the hedges that surrounded it, the "Cyclopaedia of New Zealand" maintains that he actually called it "Aveley", after his native village. The latter is probably correct.

Active in community life

John George Rush and 3 generations

John was a well known and respected member of the community, taking an active part in local affairs. He successfully represented two wards on the borough council, holding a seat for nine years and acting in the capacity of Chairman of the Local Aid Committee. He was a member of the Palmerston North Licensing Committee for eight years, and also served on the Palmerston North School Committee before the town was divided into three school districts. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1882.

John and Cecilia and family lived in a large, square wooden house with a verandah across the front, the main rooms being divided by a central passage which ran from the front door to the kitchen, where the range was always kept hot. The gardens and drive were bordered with Ake Ake hedges. Every year, according to granddaughter Cecilia Bodell, John would mark the occasion of his wife's birthday by firing a twenty-one gun salute to her, a practice that continued until Cecilia passed away in 1886.

The image shows John George Rush with his son John Henry Rush (seated at right), grandson John Alphonsus (standing at rear) and great grandson John Joseph. Circa 1899.

John George remarries

On December 30th, 1886, five months after the death of Cecilia, John remarried. His new wife, herself widowed just six months before, was Catherine Francis, nee Kusach, of Tipperary, Ireland. Her parents, Edmund and Mary Kusach, ran a farm in Ireland. John and Catherine were married at the Palmerston North Registrars Office, in the presence of a small group of family members.

In 1891, with his son Alphonsus now in charge of the orchard, John became the first proprietor of "The Traveller's Rest", (later the Family Hotel), in Rangitikei Street.

A local newspaper reported John's sudden ill health: Personal. We regret to learn that there is no improvement in the condition of Mr John Rush who has been confined to his bed for some time past. Mr Rush is one of the oldest surviving settlers in the district, and his many friends wish him an early recovery. [Manawatu Standard, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 6828, 19 October 1900, Page 2]


John had survived to see in the twentieth century, before succumbing to a short illness and passing away on November 24th, 1900. He died just a few minutes after talking to one of his sons, having previously never had an illness in his life. As befitted a well known and respected public figure, flags were flown at half mast in Palmerston as a last mark of respect for this pioneer settler, who died at the age of 74.

John George Rush lies buried beside his first wife, Cecilia Eliza, in family plots 33 and 34, Block 79 of the Roman Catholic section at Terrace End cemetery, Palmerston North. The grave is shared by his daughter, Pelagia and her husband William Henry Cox, and is marked with a large cannon ball on a pillar. John was survived at his death by a family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren numbering nearly one hundred.

Today, the direct descendents of John George Rush is over 1200 people.

You can view his obituary and cemetery record from the links on the right.