Central Otago Presbytery Records

While searching for old Church records in the 1930's for a history he was writing of the Central Otago Presbytery area, the Rev Alexander Don noted that the Kirk Session minutes were fairly full however there was a dearth of other material.
On enquiring about old records he was once told "I think there is some old minute book up at our hut, I shall look when I next visit it", and on another occasion, "The used leaves [of the Minute Book] had been torn out, and the rest served for writing paper".

Please Note : The names of many places within the Presbytery of Central Otago have changed over the years. Please click HERE for a list. Although this may not always affect Church records, this list may still prove useful in highlighting the locations referred to in church and civil records.

Alexandra Presbyterian Church -

  • The Alexandra marriage register commences in 1868 when the Parish was formally established. A "gap" exists in the register between October 1871 and July 1877 during which time the Parish was vacant (i.e. without a Minister). Mr Boyd, a Student Missionary, was appointed in 1874 however he was not able to perform marriage ceremonies until after he was licensed and ordained in 1877. During the period 1871 to 1877, Presbyterian Marriages must either have been performed out of town by other Ministers or even by Ministers of other denominations in the town. "Union" Church services and sharing of Ministers were not uncommon in these early years.
  • The Minister at Alexandra, the Rev Alexander Watson, recorded in 1910 that few early records of Presbyterian work in the district (prior to 1879) were held. A Deacon's Court minute book is held from the formation of the Parish in 1868 however a Session was not formed until 1879 when minutes commence. 

Clyde (Dunstan) Presbyterian Church -

  • While writing the History of the Presbyterian Church in Central Otago in 1932, the Rev Alexander Don mentions the oldest record at the Dunstan (Clyde) Church as being "A small 8vo Note Book with the usual glazed-black cover". This cannot now be located.

Cromwell Presbyterian Church -

  • A departing Minister burning 'an accumulation of papers' unfortunately managed to burn down the stable (for the Minister's horse) and sheds. This event is believed to have occurred circa 1905-1910. The ladies of the Parish generously shouldered the burden of funding the building of replacement sheds as well as a Sunday School Hall which eventually opened free of debt in May 1913.
  • As at 1931 the records of the parish were stored in the manse. No list had been prepared of what records were held.
  • We were advised some years ago that Cromwell Parish records had at some stage been stored in a bank vault in Cromwell. When the Bank branch closed proper notification was not given (the Parish were not personally informed) and as the records were deemed to be "unclaimed" by the Bank concerned they were apparently destroyed. The Parish (as at 2003) have been unable to confirm this story and it now appears that less records are missing than we intially thought.
  • Cromwell became a formal charge with its own Minister in 1875 however a Session was not formally appointed until 1892 and a Management Committee until 1898. While there may have been a Church Committee for Cromwell prior to 1875, no such records have survived. Church Committee records for Bannockburn prior to 1875 do survive and they may have provided some oversight for Cromwell.
  • There is no Baptism register from 1875 until 1887 or Communion Roll from 1875 to 1895 however bearing in mind the lack of Session records etc, such registers may never have been kept in the first place.

Frankton Presbyterian Church -

  • The Wakatipy Parish booklet "Mountain Parish 1867 - 1990" records that one of the earliest surviving historical items in the Frankton Parish was the pulpit Bible which bore the following inscription "Presented by the ladies of the congregation to the Frankton Presbyterian Church, 27th October , 1868". This much prized old Bible had unfortunately disappeared in recent years and it was hoped that it could eventually be recovered.

Hogburn (Naseby) Union Church -

  • While writing the History of the Presbyterian Church in Central Otago in 1932, the Rev Alexander Don mentions the only [written] record of the early 'Union Churches' built by the miners for School and Church as being Hogburn. No trace has thus far been found of any such record or minute book. Rev Don goes on to say that "They [the early Union Chuches] all had Committees and meetings more or less regularly" thus even in 1932 he noted the almost complete loss of or lack of recorded history for these early unique goldfields Union Churches.

Mt Ida Parish (Ranfurly/Naseby area) -

  • The Mt Ida Parish Session book from 14th October 1872 to January 1956 is missing. It was noted as still being in use in 1936 and presumably continued in use right up to 1956.

Miller's Flat Presbyterian Church [now known as Wharehuanui] -

  • In 1881, according to the Rev Donald Scott, the Miller's Flat Church narrowly escaped being destroyed by fire through the fire-raising propensities of some small boys. As the Rev Scott was born in Central Otago and would have been six years of age at this time, we presume that he may have been alluding to his own duplicity in this incident!. MIllers Flat is not to be confused with the present day Miller's Flat which may account for the name change. While the area, which is located north of Lake Hayes in the Arrow Basin, is now offically known as Wharehuanui, it appears to be more commonly known in the district as Speargrass Flat. There is no longer a Church at Wharehuanui.

St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Queenstown -

  • The Wakatipu Parish booklet "Mountain Parish 1867 - 1990" records that "Local Presbyterian Committees" were established in Frankton (c.1863 to 1869), Queenstown & Arrowtown (prior to 1869), and Millers Flat (and no doubt elsewhere in the Wakatipu) prior to the appointment of a resident Minister. Unfortunately, the records of these early Local Committees do not appear to have survived. Such 'Local Committees' were responsible to a 'General Committee' (later known as the Board of Managers) which comprised of members of the Local Committees. The first Queenstown 'Board of Managers' Minute Book commencing in Sept 1878 makes reference to such 'Local Committees' existing at that time.
  • The Rev Donald Ross' pocket book for recording Baptisms in the district for the year 1882 was noted as missing in 1891, the year he finally left the Parish. The previous entries from 1869 including the later entries to 1891 were transferred to an official register at this time. A space of two pages (still blank) was left in the new book incase the old pocket book ever turned up with a notation to this effect. 
  • The Queenstown Parish used lead Communion Tokens during the 19th Century until the introduction of Communion cards about 1909. A Session Minute of the 5th Feb 1936 reads: "A letter from HC Williams re the formation of a collection of Communion tokens was received and it was decided to forward specimens formerly used by this charge". Unfortunately no note was made of the type of tokens in use and none survive in the Parish. They appear not to have been marked "Queenstown" as none are known of, and we are unable to determine whose tokens they used.

St John's Presbyterian Church, Arrowtown -

  • Management Committee minutes 1901 to 1946 missing; Baptismal register 1901 to 
     1905 missing; no Communion roll 1906 to 1927.

Teviot Presbyterian Church -

  • In spite of a close search in the 1930's, the first Session Book from 1868 to 1870 could not be located. The first Church Committee Book dated from 1868 survives.
  • The Baptismal Roll includes a hand written note as follows : "The birth and baptism entries from No 1029 [19 Jan 1915] to No 1055 [Jun 1915] were entered as far as possible from scraps of paper. They were incomplete in almost every instance as indicated. Baptism in such case was presumably dispensed by James T. Gunn although in no case was it indicated. James Standring, Interim Moderator, 8th August 1919". Another note made during a six month gap in the register from the end of December 1924 to mid June 1925 states "Interval when infanticide paralysis epidemic forbade". Three baptisms were later reorded for children born during this period.

Upper Clutha Parish -

  • Marriage register 1897 to 1907 missing (noted missing in 1954).

Upper Kyburn Church -

  • A storm in 1894 did a great deal of damage to this Church which had been built in 1881: "The people promptly rallied, and very soon the building was thoroughly repaired"

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