Wendell''s godfather was Sir Hector Louis Langevin, his fathers Uncle. Sir Hector is commemorated in Ottawa, Canada's capital at the Langevin Block, which houses the office of the Prime Minister. Hector was a founding member of the first Government in Canada.
Wendell’s father Frank suffered from a cancer tumour on his leg circa 1903. He died in 1904, in St Paul, Minnesota , some months after his leg was amputated. Wendell was twelve years old. At the time of his fathers death the Phillips family were comfortably off, living in St Paul, where Frank was a lawyer and District Court Judge.
We know few intimate details of Wendell’s education or early life.
I remember Pop (Wendell was called Pop by his grandchildren) telling me he had to dig his front door out of the snow to get to school in the winter. He talked of skiing to school. I don’t believe he ever downhill skied, but cross country skis and snow shoes would have been standard winter equipment in North Dakota. He knew how to cook and to fish for trout and this was a sport he followed all his life and taught his sons. He did not know how to swim but later enjoyed motor boating. From time to time care packages were sent from St Paul by their cousin’s the Martineau’s and Dr DePuy‘s family. DePuy was a well known Physician in St Paul and was married to one of the Plante or Martineau sisters.There was great excitement when these arrived.
By 1910 (USA census in August) the family was living in Dunseith, Rolette County, North Dakota, along with Jeannette’s (20) fiancé Swen Hendrickson (26) and Clara’s (42) brother Albert Plante (38) , (also widowed), his daughter Emma (8). Wendell was 17 and Percy 15. There were 6 boarders and one servant Eliza Larocquey living in the house.
Wendell’s passports states he left the USA June 15th 1910, (this is a bit confusing as Census has him in ND in August that year ) that his permanent residence was in Dunseith, North Dakota but that by 1918 he was living in Vancouver and working for Davis Irwin and Co. of Montreal, Canada in Marine Shipping. Wendell had applied to avoid the draft for the first world war claiming ‘a dependent mother’. He was successful in this and did not serve in either world wars.
Wendell applied for a Passport to travel for the company to Australia and New Zealand. His son, Wendell Craig Phillips, writes in his book ‘The Family of Phillips’ that his father had some knowledge of ships and shipping, had possibly worked on barges in Vancouver and was keen to make a new start in a new country as a shipping agent. It is unknown whether the connection with Davis Irwin and Co of Montreal was through a family connection or genuine employment.
A rather charming courtship ensued between Wendell and Miss Constance Craig onboard the SS Niagara.
A few days out of Vancouver a ships steward came down with the Flu. The influenza epidemic had killed 3,000 in the colony (NZ) and it was thought to be carried by soldiers returning on board the ships. By the time the ship reached Fiji, 84 ships crew were ill and a number of passengers. The ship was quarantined and sent on to Auckland where it was allowed to dock because the Prime Minister Mr Massey was aboard. For many years we believed the ship to have been quarantined on Soames Island, and that the romance blossomed there. But checking records of the ship it seems there was much to do about the fact that the population had been put at risk because of the VIP onboard ship. At Wendell and Connie’s 50th wedding anniversary I remember a story told about pineapples being a part of their courtship onboard ship but have no memory of the details.
Wendell’s knowledge of shipping may have brought him to Connie’s attention, though it is thought she rebuffed him originally. Being a shareholder to one of the largest companies in Auckland, she would understandably be wary of fortune hunters. Wendell was a handsome and charming young man, a quality he carried with him all his life, and though penniless managed to woo her regardless.
The young couple married in 1919 in St Barnabas Chapel (now located in Auckland Diocesan School) Auckland New Zealand. They lived in a house on the southeast side of Mt Eden which still stands today.
Wendell joined JJ Craig Ltd in 1920. Two of the three Craig sons had died by 1924, the remaining son Jim (James Campbell Craig) was inexperienced. The shareholders of the company were Granny Craig (JJ’s wife Mrs Jessie Craig), Jim and the five Craig sisters. None had any business experience. JJ Craig had been a powerhouse whose handshake was his word, a quiet canny merchant/philanthropist whose shoes were too big to fill. He was once shipwrecked with his crew on a Pacific island, marooned and given up for dead, only to be picked up by a passing ship and return to his wife and family in the middle of the night. He owned property all over the Auckland area and beyond and had just returned from a sailing trip to Australia where he had warehouses and shipping interests when he died.
Wendell (Senior) and Connie had three sons, the oldest Wendell (Junior) was born January 16, 1921, and twin sons Paul and Peter born November 18 1925. In 2010 all three of Wendell’s sons live in Auckland.
In 1924 the family moved to 11A Orakei Road, into a two storied house built for them with spacious gardens and a tennis court. There were servants in the house and garden, Clara talks of the very capable nursemaid caring for the twins, when she visited in 1926. Clara visited Wendell, Connie and their three sons for the twins first birthday that year. (See Frank Finlay and Clara Plante page for details of this visit) She also talks of picking an armful of lilies from the garden.
Connie’s mother Jessie Craig was living in Omana, the Craig mansion in Epsom, which had extensive grounds and gardens with glasshouses and sweeping lawns. Clara talks of Jessie bringing her an armful of roses from her garden when she arrived in Auckland.
The young couple attended the opera, races, garden parties and balls that abounded in Auckland society in the 20’s. Connie dressed in lovely clothes (Julie is in possession of two exquisite beaded silk evening dresses of Connie’s from this period, and two Fortuny velvet draped coats), the little boys were dressed in silk crepe de chine rompers and fine linens. They had solid silver teething rings and rattles and toys imported from Europe.
The Craig Family continued to live as before JJ’s death, but times were changing fast, steam was replacing sail and new competitors and products were appearing. With both Capt Alexander Campbell and JJ gone there was no-one to steer the ship. Craig’s needed a strong new leader to move with the changing times.
The onset of the recession was making business difficult and Wendell could not stop the extravagant demands of the family. He decided he could do more for his family from the outside and resigned. JJ’s brother Ernest A Craig took over the failing company. Wendell took a job as manager at the Amalgamated Brick and Pipe Co Ltd, where Mr Tom Clark Senior was Chairman of Directors. The business was primarily concerned with making bricks, at potteries at New Lynn and Glen Eden and was one of Craig's companies until Jessie sold it in 1929.
Paul remembers playing on the tennis court at Orakei Road. The boys used to visit Mr and Mrs Redwood, who had the property on the corner of Orakei and Remuera Road. I can remember going to visit Mrs Redwood in her final years with Paul, my Dad when I was about 5 circa 1962. As a child my family also attended the same church St Aidan’s the Phillips boys attended just across the road from the Redwoods. The churchyard was very picturesque with old graves, scoria walls and little peaked entry house under the oak trees leading to the old timber church which still stands in 2010.
The boys also remember holidays spent at Takapuna in the late 20‘s early 30‘s, then a long car ride by land or ferry ride across Auckland Harbour from the city. The Craig family owned a house on Lake Pupuke, Takapuna, the old stone gates are all that remain today.
The Fletcher family came to visit in their big Hudson motorcar with twin spare wheels in the mudguards. For some reason the boys were banned from the tea party, and decided to explore the car! First there was the cigar lighter that was on a cord that went from front to back seat. Somehow they broke that. Then intrigued by the sound of air rushing from the spare tyres, they proceeded to let down the other four as well! The Fletcher boys were not happy about pumping the tyres up by hand pump. The Phillips boys missed out on strawberries and cream that day! The boys kept rabbits for pets and remember these holidays as very happy times. (Sir James Fletcher was Paul’s godfather, and neighbour to the Craig Estate in Omana Ave, Epsom. Wendell Junior later marries Ella Fletcher, Sir James’ daughter)
The Phillips boys were used in a Horlick’s advertisement about this time. Wendell remembers the taste of Horlick’s, given to him when he woke up in hospital after his appendix had burst. In the next bed was his life long friend Jack Matthews, who went on to be marvellous paediatrician, cared for my siblings and me and was still practicing when my son Matthew needed his attention in 1985.
For two years the family lived in Wellington, while Wendell worked as Wellington manager for his company. The house they lived in is now a well known restaurant in Boulcott Street. Wendell Jnr went to Wellesley College there.
The Slump hit New Zealand hard in the early 30’s and the good times stopped for families all over the country. Wendell lost his job and after returning to Auckland, had to sell their Orakei Road home. There was poverty and petty crime in Auckland as people stole to survive, life as the young family had known it would never be the same.
The Wendell Phillips family moved from their gracious home in Orakei Road, Remuera, to a smaller house in Robert Hall Ave, Remuera, (site of the Remuera Tennis Club) close to the railway line behind Mt Hobson. Though the boys did not notice too much change it was very difficult for Connie to adjust to her reduced means and lifestyle. Growing up as the daughter of a millionaire she and her siblings had wanted for nothing. They had lived royally in a large home and property with servants, a ballroom and the best of everything. I believe it must have been very hard for Wendell, having lived through the decline of his own mothers means after his own fathers death.
My grandmother Connie was made of strong stuff and once reconciled to the change, being resourceful, she made the best of it. Young Wendell, her son, tells of how easily she’d chop the head of a chook for the pot, while the men in her family were not so proficient. One story had Wendell senior and junior trying to kill a chook on a day Connie was unwell and Wendell senior making a hash of it. Junior’s job to tie the feet of three chooks and lay them on the block. He held the neck while Pop (Wendell senior) attempted to cut the neck with the axe. He missed a clean cut, wounding the poor bird which flew angrily away, once caught Pop tried again, this time, nearly cutting the head off, spraying blood everywhere, again the bird flew off, landing on the neighbours lawn, junior had to creep next door and retrieve the bloody chook. Pop, was so disgusted and horrified by his torture of the bird he refused to kill anymore and Junior was left to finish the job!
Connie was a great cook who knew about the herbal properties of various herbage growing in her garden. Even as an elderly woman she grew herbs and would bake or bottle things. Her devilled kidneys were legendary, I’ve never tasted better.
Wendell obtained the position of Manager of the affairs of Mr Elliot Davis, a wealthy brewer, and among the concerns he managed was the Waione Pig Farm at Papakura, the property bordering the upper reaches of the Manukau Harbour. During the time Wendell managed the pig farm and because of his increasing knowledge of the Pig Industry, he was invited to become Chairman of directors of the New Zealand Co-operative Pig Marketing Association Ltd, which had its offices in Hamilton.
A move was made to a very nice house two storied home in Peach Grove Road, which in 2010 still stands. Connie was very happy while the family lived in Hamilton, she was able to forget the humiliation of losing her home in Remuera and busied herself with looking after her family, her fowls and Muscovy ducks and her beloved Scottish Terriers. The property was set in two acres surrounded by a huge hedge, a tennis court, hen house, an orchard and half an acre of grazing at the back. Up the road in a paddock, was a line of plum trees, strawberry garden all protected by a gate with a bell to stop little boys like the Phillips kids getting in!
That property belonged to Mr Amos, a bottleo, who bought and sold old bottles. The kids ran a scam where they would pinch his bottles and sell them back to him then raid his orchard in the dead of night!
Paul remembers the time as being marvellous for them all, living right across the road from the paddocks of the Ruakura State Agricultural Farm, where he used to practice his golf and take the dogs for walks with his brothers. The boys walked to The Hamilton East Primary School about ten minutes away.
Later Wendell went to Hamilton Boys High and the twins to Southwell, a private prep school nearby.
Around 1941 the family moved back to Auckland to Robert Hall Ave. The Pig Marketing company bought out the Nikau Bacon Company in Auckland in New North Road and renamed it Kiwi Bacon Company Ltd, which expanded its business throughout New Zealand to become the largest manufacturer of bacon and small goods in the country. Wendell was Chief Executive and Chairman of the Board, the company flourished in those years. My grandfather Wendell out lived the fine men, John Tiejten’s and Cyril Stubbs who replaced him after retirement and holding a place on the board into his late eighties.
Connie and Wendell regained their standard of living though possibly never to the Craig mansion standards of the time before JJ died. Connie never learnt to drive a car. Wendell purchased 5 acres of land with a cottage on the side of Lake Rotoiti and spent the best of the rest of their years holidaying there with the boys and later with their grandchildren. ‘The Lake’ as we called it was a magical place made more so by Pop in his smart casual clothes, cigarettes barely smoked, driving us about the lake in the old clinker built lake boat with the A40 engine under its timber bonnet. Ian Harris was the caretaker at the lake and would chug up to our jetty in his boat, rolling his ciggies with one hand, smelling of cut grass and motor oil. The cottage at the lake was timber with two skylights with lichen mottled glass in the sitting room. A river stone fireplace took pride of place, great deer heads with pointed antlers adorned the walls. Leather sofas and chairs, a divan with mountains of cushions, skins on the walls and vellum lampshades created a cosy holiday home. There were four bedrooms, Mom’s (Connie was called Mom by most and Gaggy by some) was altered in the 60’s as she spent more time there alone with her dogs in the summer. Its amazing that she was so comfortable to be out there all alone in her sixties and seventies while Pop was at work back in the city.
Pop had two huge commercial freezers installed in the shed out back which ice blocks used to magically appear from. There was a big smokehouse for the trout in the 50’s but this burnt down. After that Paul created one from a 10 Gallon drum. There was an outdoor sink for gutting fish and a tank stand covered in old roses. Blue Hydrangeas lined the lakefront and surrounded the house, interspersed by old fashioned Honesty. Bathing was never a priority at the lake and we kids swam all year round. Pop or Paul would take us to the Hot Pools by boat and to the store for milk and bread or fishing at dawn when the mist wreathed in an eerie way over the water. The best breakfasts were Pops American breakfasts he’d cook for us.. Bacon, eggs, tomatoes with a glass of pineapple juice. There was a waffle iron but I just cant remember having waffles though maple syrup was big news and Pop always brought it back from his trips to the states. Dad’s freshly caught trout cook-up’s came in equal as the best bach breakfast at the Lake.
Wendell sold The Lake house in 1974, when Connie was ill. It broke our hearts to lose the house. We miss it to this day. The same family have owned it all these years.
Overseas travel was something they both enjoyed and cruised to Hawaii ,the States and Canada and Europe and the east many times on ships like the Mariposa and the Monterey in later years bringing exotic gifts for the grandchildren. An electric grey elephant that danced and blew a ping pong ball above its trunk was a big favourite. There were shell necklaces from the islands, little gold inlaid mosaic jewellery boxes from Italy, embossed leather toilette cases with real gold or sliver brush and comb sets inside and historic dolls of Queens from England.
Wendell visited his many cousins and nieces and nephews in Vancouver and California, and out east in New York. He was very much a part of his sister Jeannette’s extended family (see her story Jeannette and Swen Hendrickson page) and his beloved cousin Avis Phillips life. Avis was a celebrated pianist in Canada who never married. Another dear cousin Eva La Belle tragically died while at sea, travelling home from a trip to visit Wendell and his young family in New Zealand.
Sadly I know nothing of his relationship with Clara in later years. Whether he visited her on his trips to the states? One can only hope that he did.
Wendell loved his American and Canadian family and visited for the last time aged 87. I was lucky enough to be with him at San Jose, CA at his niece Jeanne Richards home in 1987. He was quite wonderful, believed in eating a banana a day, rarely drank alcohol, ate sparingly and moved quickly. Wendell was always smartly dressed favouring soft blue and yellow cardigans with pockets, pale shirts and trousers and loafers when dressing casually. He looked like a gentlemen always. They all loved him too.
Wendell and Connie moved to a house in Bridgewater Ave, Parnell and were still there at the beginning of the 60’s. My mother, Moira, remembers Wendell making a bonfire of paintings and furniture from the Craig estate that he deemed ‘no use to anyone’. Luckily my parents persuaded him to let them take the paintings and furniture bringing treasured artworks into our lives. The series of English paintings of Cairn terriers is marvellous, both my sister and brother and I all now own one each. I also own a chest of drawers from JJ Craig’s bedroom set which Wendell gave me when Mom died (this piece had been given to Paul years ago but ad been returned to Connie at some time) and a huge painting called the Sultana from the ballroom. I also received a dining table which Connie had purchased as a wedding present for my parents, but my mothers parents had already commissioned a table by Clarry Neary, the famous furniture-maker in Auckland, so she kept it as a desk.
Wendell and twin sons were members of the Auckland Golf Club at Middlemore, as were the twins wives. Wendell was the first member to import a golf cart and used this in his late eighties. He was the oldest playing member on the course. Peter and Paul are life members aged 85 and play regularly together. As children we walked the course many times with Pop and our parents and learnt to putt and chip while they had a drink at the nineteenth! Many members of the family have followed in the sport and as members at Middlemore.
Connie was very keen on the races and had been a keen horsewomen when younger. She was famed for riding at a gallop into the crater of Mt Eden and drove a little pony cart at shows with her sister Hazel. Paul inherited her interest in the races and is a life member of the Auckland Racing Club.
Their next move was to 141A Arney Road, Remuera. A charming white painted brick colonial with views of North Head. It is this house that Pop retired to and where they both received their 10 grandchildren and various friends, cousins and overseas guests.
Pop became a Great Granddad several times over. He was marvellous to the end. His white head and his welcome smile. A jar of butterscotch at his side as he sat in his chair. Summers were ‘enervating’ but regardless he was always so pleased to see you and charmed my girlfriends, often giving little gifts or trinkets to them when we visited. He charmed all who met him.
Wendell passed away aged 95 and is missed by all.
Peter’s wife Judy died in 2005, they have 5 children Richard, Todd, Michelle, Madeline and Scott and 9 grandchildren. Judy Moore was a renowned potter in the 70’s, a descendant of the Crum pottery company, her signature pottery block tiles adorned commercial properties in the city. Judy was a graduate of Elam art school in Auckland. A keen golfer, Judy had a unique personal style, was tall and slim, wore smart bright colours, had a great sense of humour and was a delight to be with. Her creativity spilled over into every part of her life. Her houses and gardens were wonderful and for a time she owned Walnut Cottage in Taupo selling her own and others crafts and arts.
Wendell Craig's wife Ella died in 2010 at Orewa. She requested the family wear red at her funeral, her coffin was painted bright yellow and the event was a celebration of this very special woman. Ella was tiny with a spirit of a giant. She could quell a strong man with just a look! She painted and wrote poetry and prose for pleasure and self published a number of books. As a younger woman she drove convertibles with a scarf flying from her neck, her hair cropped very short. She was very dashing and wore wonderful jewellery. She loved bright colours and wore them always. In later years Ella would hold court at family parties and had such a sharp clever intelligence it was always an invigorating experience to be around her. She was a master of tapestry and covered a marvellous set of dining chairs in the 80’s. For years she and Wendell lived at Manly beach in a Japanese inspired home. Sadly their younger son Quentin died in 1996 after a long struggle with kidney failure, he was survived by ex-wife Susan Motley and sons James and Matthew Phillips. Their elder son Wendell (III), with wife Margaret has 3 daughters and 2 grandchildren. Ella and Wendell's younger son Quentin died some years ago after a long kidney illness, he left two sons, James and Matthew Phillips.
Message from Julie, Wendell's Granddaughter.
I remember my Grandfather Pop (Wendell) Phillips showing us some family stuff just arrived from America when I was a kid. There was an old Bible, a leather Gentleman's Case, some silver and another leather covered book.
Now I know these things were sent to Wendell after his cousin, Avis Phillips, died in Vancouver because he was last male Phillips descendant
This Bible, with its faded tattered pages seemed important to him, sadly I cannot remember anything he said about it. I do recall him telling us about the Gentlemans travelling case his Great Grandfather took with him to some of the most famous battles in Early American History. At the time I was interested the way a kid is and soon forgot about these old things.
Pop also told me that when he was a child he sometimes had to dig the snow out from around their door so they could go to school. He talked of skiing to school.
It wasn’t until I started to research the family story as a gift for my Dad’s (Paul Brian Phillips) 8oth birthday that I realized what a treasure these few old pieces are.
The Bible was given by Thomas Phillips to John Phillips at the time of his wedding. As the first notations are of John's marriage in Boston at the Kings Chapel in 1734 to Anne Engs (Inge) and of the subsequent birth of his 15 children, Thomas we really know nothing of except for the date his unnamed wife died. We do not know if he had children.
How John and Thomas came to be in Boston I have not yet discovered, it’s a matter of time and research but I will work this out, as there are several Phillips living there at that time and both John and Thomas Phillips appear in records. However, it takes careful cross checking of dates, parents and children before I can report their ancestry.
John was a Captain of the 47th and of English descent that we do know. His descendants are well documented in this site.
Pop had a great love for his sister Jeannette's family, all living in the USA and visited them regularly for the rest of his life. I shared a visit to Jeanne Richards home with him in 1979, his last overseas journey.
When I was a child Pop introduced me to Cindy Richards, Jeanne's younger daughter, as a pen pal. I will be forever grateful that he did this for me as it set in place my connection, friendship and interest with his American family."