Mysterious legacy of a generous man

21:34, May 07 2012

Isaac Butterworth left a considerable sum of money when he died on June 10, 1913 at the age of 80. His wife Emma beat him to the grave by two years and there were no children for the estate to pass on to. But Isaac documented his final wishes in the months before his death to make sure a nephew and several organisations would benefit.

A little more attention to detail would have made the resulting process a lot smoother.

Among the beneficiaries listed in his will was the Northowram Orphanage near Halifax in Yorkshire where Isaac and a brother were apparently raised.

Isaac's executors failed to find the facility and 1000 was left unallocated.

The problem, it seems, was in the name.

No Northowram Orphanage existed and a couple of contenders bore very different titles that had changed numerous times in the 40 years since Isaac left the United Kingdom. Whether the mystery was ever solved is not clear.


But the case certainly made headlines in New Zealand and England.

The execution of Isaac's will here was less complicated.

Charities benefiting from his generosity included the Church of England Orphanage at Papatoetoe, the Remuera Children's Home, a similar institution at Richmond Rd in Ponsonby and the Beresford Street Congregational Church.

All received between 500 and 900 each.

Isaac immigrated to New Zealand around the early 1870s and settled in the Northern Wairoa where he took up farming.

He was soon on the hunt for a prospective wife and wrote home to Northowram to see if friends there could assist. His wish, he said, was to marry a girl from his native town.

Emma Briearley put up her hand and made the voyage out to New Zealand for a wedding with Isaac on September 10, 1879.

The Butterworths moved to the Glen Eden area during the 1890s and bought a farm.

Both are buried at Waikumete Cemetery.

Western Leader