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Diana Clark about Appo Hocton, New Zealand's First Chinese Immigrant, 1842 - 1920

(August 28th 2010)

New Zealand's First Chinese Immigrant
1842 - 1920
Appo Hocton
Wong Ah Poo Hoc Ting

Diana Clark, a descendant of Appo Hocton, researched her great grandfather and although a book has been written about him considers the book as a work in progress. Diana talked very enthusiastically and with great feeling to the Motueka and Districts Historical Association about her forebear at their August meeting.

Diana is the first to admit with a twinkle in her eye that Appo was no angel. Jumping ship was perhaps not so unusual for the 1840's but having a child to your neighbours European wife was. Appo went on to marry Jennifer Rowling after her husband died and the son became known as William Rowling Hocton. Jennifer died in 1865 and a few months later Appo married again to another European, Ellen Snook, and had 3 children. They later adopted another girl the orphan daughter of a neighbour.

Appo worked first as housekeeper for Dr Renwick the surgeon on board the Thomas Harrison on which Appo was a steward having risen through the ranks from cabin boy and having sailed on many ships all round the world.

Although it appears most Nelsonians accepted this English speaking, hardworking, Christian man in their midst there was anti-Chinese sentiment following the discovery of gold at Collingwood in 1856. The newspapers of the time reported the very large meetings that were held with some very colourful language used. As it turned out the rumours of a large influx of Chinese into the district proved unfounded.

Appo became naturalized in 1852 and was now eligible to own land which he did, firstly in Washington Valley where 3 of his four houses still stand, and later in Dovedale.Appo now became a farmer leaving his eldest son to run the carting business. He ran cattle and sheep, grew hops and even tried tea.

Appo enjoyed his family and the death of a son in a shooting accident would have been a huge blow. He enjoyed his many grandchildren who lived close by until his death in 1920 aged 103 years. Buried at Dovedale cemetery Appo has many descendants still living locally.

Many of the previous generation were unaware of their Chinese ancestry or were reluctant to acknowledge the fact but Diana is proud to say that she and her family have some features that show they descend from "Diamond Eyes" as Appo's wife liked to call him. Unfortunately, most of the descendants were females and the Hocton name has now disappeared in New Zealand.

For the full story look for the book written by Karen Stade at your library.

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