Sunday, January 25, 2009

Even more on George Hemus

The above photo of the headstone for George Hemus and his second wife Margaret comes from David Hemus, a great-grandnephew of George Hemus, temperance worker here in Auckland in the late 1860s to early 1880s. Previous posts on George Hemus are here and here. David sent the image and information on George Hemus this morning, and has very kindly given me permission to publish both here. Thanks very much, David, for your info!

My name is David Hemus and I live in San Diego, California. I recently came across your web site with the story of George Hemus. George was my great grand-uncle (I had to look that up), more simply, my great grandfather was Benjamin, George’s brother. I was asked by Fran Kell of Waikanae (who has done extensive research on the Hemus family) to see if I could find out more about George and his life after leaving New Zealand.

By way of background, my great grandfather Benjamin, left Birmingham before the rest of the family emigrated to NZ (aboard the Ironsides). He ended up in the US in Michigan as a farmer, married in 1871 and had several children.

George never settled in San Francisco; he went to Los Angeles. I’m sure not coincidentally my great grandfather packed up his family and went to Los Angeles in 1885. They settled within a few miles of each other in LA. George’s then wife Frances and their four children went on to Topeka, Kansas. George married Margaret Hampson on December 29, 1885 in Vernon California (just outside downtown Los Angeles) They worked at spreading the word but I haven’t been able to find a particular church where they preached. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1888. George died March 8, 1917 and was buried at Rosedale Cemetery just outside downtown LA. Margaret died October 24, 1925 and is buried alongside her husband. I’ve included a picture of their headstone (very impressive, approx 5’ high).

George’s four children were all quite successful. His oldest was his daughter Frances. She married and was widowed early. She remarried and ended up settling back in Los Angeles. In later years her mother also returned to LA and lived with her daughter and son in law. Her only child is Frank Butterworth who I believe was a Methodist Bishop in Hawaii (carrying on the family tradition) . George’s son George Harwood Hemus settled in Colorado Springs, Colorado and spent his entire career teaching at the Deaf and Blind School there. He also was an artist and illustrator. Their third child, Ernest became a lawyer and worked for the AT&SF Railroad. Their youngest son was Percy. He was an accomplished baritone and gave several concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York. He made many records and went into the theatre. When radio came along he stayed very busy, appearing in smaller parts in many programs. His biggest role in radio was on the Tom Mix Show, he played Tom’s sidekick “The Old Wrangler”.

This gives you a thumbnail of George’s life in the US. I have some questions that perhaps someone will be able to answer: Why Topeka, Kansas? Why did Frances settle with her kids in Topeka? You have to guess that she had some relatives there, but I’m not sure who that might be. I’m not totally convinced that George and Frances were ever officially divorced. His remarriage seemed awfully quick (it was official, I have a copy of the marriage certificate). And how were George and Margaret supporting themselves? As time went on they moved to a nice area of Los Angeles and stayed there till the end.

If you have any questions or clarifications please feel free to email me at
David Hemus

Percy Hemus, born in Auckland in 1878, appears to have a stub entry on the Internet Movie Database. There's an article from 1913 describing one of his recitals from the New York Times archive. A list of some of his recordings, and a photo, is on the Victor Discography site.

Further to this, here is something from the Weekly News of 6 January 1883 which I found recently -- a presentation made to George Hemus by his fellow temperance workers in Auckland when he was about to embark for England (apparently not in the best of health at the time).


At the meeting of the Band of Hope Union on Monday, in the Choral Hall, an address and a gold watch and chain (value £40) were presented to Mr. Hemus “upon the eve” of his departure for England, and in recognition of his valuable services in the temperance cause. The Rev. Alex. Reid occupied the chair, having on his right Mr. T. Spurgeon, having on his left Mr. J. Brame. There was a large assemblage present.

Mr. Brame, in making the presentation, said that a committee, composed of the whole of the temperance representatives of Auckland had been hastily called together for the purpose of enabling the friends to express their sense the services of Mr. Hemus. The draft of an address was prepared, and a token of remembrance was purchased for the occasion. He (Mr. Brame) felt it a privilege to be proud that he was deputed to represent the United Temperance Societies of Auckland in bearing testimony to the great value of the services rendered by the esteemed and honoured president of the Band of Hope Union. Those services were recognised not only in every part of the provincial district, but throughout the colony, and even beyond the colonies. He would take leave to read the address without further comment.

“To Mr. George Hemus: Dear Sir – The realization of the fact of your departure from Auckland and its consequences to our work as temperance reformers did not dawn upon us in time to arrange for anything like a public expression of the esteem in which you are held by all sections of the community, but a few of your co-workers and friends could not allow you to depart from our midst, even for a short time, without some slight acknowledgement of appreciation of your valuable service. No words of tongue or pen can adequately express our gratitude to you for the manner in which you have fulfilled your duties as a public and private citizen, and especially as a worker and brother in religious and temperance organizations of almost every description in this city. Indeed, sir, all who have the honour of acquaintance with you and your labours, fully endorse the sentiment expressed in one of the letters of regret at your departure, that you are “a workman needing not to be ashamed, and a brother beloved.” There is not in Auckland, a truly Christian movement that has not benefited by your labours, while the Sunday schools and Band of Hope have had your special attention. Your punctuality and faithful fulfillment of all engagements has been the theme of much praise on every hand, while the example thus set has been necessarily beneficial in very many ways. Knowing that you will not judge the depth of our gratitude, nor the extent of our appreciation of our worth by the value of any present that might be made, we do most respectfully request your acceptance of the accompanying small token of remembrance from temperance friends in Auckland. Earnestly trusting that your future may be as profitable to the cause of temperance as the past (that your tour may be one of pleasure, combined with success in the work you have undertaken), and sincerely hoping to see you soon amongst us again in renewed health, and with an extended knowledge of successful work in our various movements. We are, dear Sir, on behalf of your temperance friends in Auckland.”

Mr. Brame next presented Mr. Hemus with the gold watch and chain, amidst loud applause. The watch bore the inscription on the inner case, “Presented to Mr. George Hemus by the Friends of Temperance in Auckland, 1883.”

Mr. Hemus, in reply, said: “I was at a camp meeting the other day, when a man stood up in our “testimony meeting”, and looking about him said, “I think some other man must have got into this suit of clothes.” (Laughter). I am something like that man. I cannot think I understand this matter quite. If you are talking about “simple George Hemus”, I am afraid I have got into a fog. I do not know that there was anything in my work which needed any remark about me more than was due to my fellow-labourers. Although you have given me an address and a watch, I think that in weighing me you have made some mistake. You have put me into the wrong scale. In measuring me you have given me too much tape by half. But I do thank God it has been my privilege to have worked for temperance in Auckland for the last eighteen years. Yet I have done only what a humble worker could do. Looking back on the eighteen years I have worked here I feel there is much left undone that should not have been left undone. So far as my labours are concerned I fear that you have been looking at them through a magnifying glass; you have estimated my efforts at too high a price. We have had three great aids to the temperance cause. (1) The children, and where the children are, the parents will be, (2) the recognised voice of our labours by the general public, (3) prayer, for I believe our great success has been an answer to prayer. And if there is anything personal in this matter, and you want to know who has worked hardest and deserved best, you must not point to George Hemus, but to Brother McDermott, our secretary. (Cheers). If you had given this watch to him instead of me, it would have been in the right place. (Cheers.) I now say, God Bless the Temperance Cause.” (Cheers.)

The proceedings concluded with the Doxology and the Benediction, pronounced by the chairman.
By the way, as at 17 August 1883, George Hemus held 1000 shares in the Riversdale Manufacturing Company started up by John Buchanan at the Whau. I'll post up the list of shareholders and their shares a little later.

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