top of page


This has been a very difficult family to trace.

The best clue we have of their origins is from an Internet entry dated 2003, which states. 

“I know there was a big family of Coulters in County Fermanagh and they spread off to all parts of the world. Two sons James b.1838 and Archibald b.1841 County Tyrone came to NZ. James via Queensland Australia. Their parents were Joseph Coulter who married Mary Weir, no other knowledge of other family members.”

This ties in with an application made by James Coulter for what was probably the equivalent of an entry permit for Archibald Coulter and family. This reads: 

Details for Record      #40136

Person Details ;

Name - Archibald

Family Name - Coulter

Gender - M

Date of Birth – 1841.

Place of Birth - Gibralter, Haydock, Nr St. Helens, Lancashire, Fermanagh.                        

Record Source - Vogel                                                                                                  

Voyage Details Voyage Number -6  

Is NZCO Voyage? No.                                      

Comments  Vessel

Name Oxford                                                                        

Wife's first name(s)  Mary Ann      


Boys name(s)         

Jas' Jos - 19, John – 17, Gibson – 14, William – 7.


Man’s age   42                                                                                                                   

Woman’s age  37    


Girls name(s)           

Letitia – 14, Elizabeth – 9                                                                        

Occupation or calling       - Labourer.

Passage order number 105.                                                                                                      

Source           IM 15/432 'Oxford' National Archives.

Nominator(s) name(s) Jas. Coulter, Farmer, Lower Hutt.

From the above it is obvious that Archibald and his family were living in Lancashire before their move to New Zealand.

In the 1881 census the family appears at 7 Gibraltar Row, Newton in Makerfield, Lancashire, England. Archibald is listed as having been born in Ireland in 1839

Occupation:     General Labourer

Archibald Coulter                   Head   M         42        Ireland                                                                 

Mary Ann Coulter                Wife    F          40        Ireland                                                                

James Joseph Coulter                        Son      M         18        Ireland                                                                  

John Coulter                                    Son      M         16        Ireland                                                   

Letitia Coulter                           Daughter    F          14        Ireland                                                  

Gibson Coulter                      Son            M         12        Ireland                                              

Elizabeth Coulter                Daughter   F          10            Ireland                                                

William Charles Coulter         Son      M            6       Ireland

The Oxford arrived in Wellington on 23 July 1883, having left Plymouth on 26 April, a voyage of 88 days.

Archibald Coulter died in 1893 at the age of 48.

It is hard to ascertain just when James Coulter arrived in Wellington. There is a possibility that he arrived via Australia, and there is a James Coulter who arrived in Brisbane in August 1864 on the Fusilier as an assisted immigrant.

The first definite reference we have is when his wife Mary died.

Wellington Independent. 27 May 1874 On May 25, at Waiwatu, Lower Hutt, Mary, the wife of Mr James Coulter, aged 31 years.          

The following year he married Margaret Sinclair at St. John’s in the City church in Wellington. 

They were to have six children.


James 1876,                                                                                                                            

Mary 1877                                                                                                                                           

John 1879,                                                                                                                                  

Archibald 1881,                                                                                                                       

William Joseph 1884 (27 December 1883)                                                                                     

Margaret Elizabeth 1887,

There are various references to the Coulter family over the years following James’s marriage.

Evening Post, 23 November 1877. The Hutt Agricultural Show. The second day of the Hutt Agricultural and Pastoral Society's show yesterday proved in every respect a success, and fully testified to the growing importance of the district and its agricultural and commercial resources. Miscellaneous. In this list, which included dairy produce, as well as other exhibits, the awards were as follows For the best six pounds of fresh butter in lump, the first prize was awarded to the maker and exhibitor, Coulter, of Waiwetu the second prize being given for the same description of butter to G. M'llvride, of the Hutt; while the exhibit of T. Roberts, Taita, was highly commended.

A Return of Freeholders of New Zealand Oct 1882      James Coulter, Farmer, Hutt – owned 13 acres in Hutt County valued at £900 and 510 acres valued at £1020 in Manawatu County.

Evening Post 24 Apr 1886.  An accident occurred in Tory-street, near the Princess Hotel, about half-past 3 on Thursday afternoon. A horse and spring cart belonging to Mr James Coulter, a farmer at the Hutt, were being driven down the road, when a little boy named Holman Bates was knocked down by the animal. One of the wheels passed over his collarbone and broke it. The youngster was removed to this parents’ residence, where his injury was attended to by Dr Hutchinson. We are assured that no blame can be attached to the driver.

WANTED, a single man to milk and make himself useful on a farm. Apply to James Coulter, Lower Hutt. (12 September 1879)

WANTED, a Man that can milk and & make himself generally useful. Apply James Coulter, Lower Hutt (5 June 1880)

WANTED, a Man, accustomed to farm. Apply James Coulter, Lower Hutt. (28 May 1887)

The first reference I can find to the family in the local electoral rolls is in 1882, where Coulter, James appears as a resident, Waiwetu, Farmer 

In the 1887 Electoral Roll Hutt Electorate, there are rather more entries.

Coulter,           James,             res.      Waiwetu          Farmer                                                     

James Joseph   res.       Petone             Engineer                                                                         

Archibald     res.            Petone             Farmer                                                              

John                res.            Petone             Farmer

Sinclair            John                res.      Petone             Labour

Archibald appears to have leased Greenvale farm, which had been established by the Buick family.

Wednesday next, 28th Sept., At 11 a.m. " Greenvale," Petone. Clearing sale of live and dead farm stock. Messrs. Cuningham, Badham and Co. will sell by auction, under instructions from Mr. Archibald Coulter, on the premises, Petone, on Wednesday next, at 11 a.m. — 15 cows (including 3 prize Ayrshires) in milk and coming to calve 1 prize Ayrshire bull 3 well-bred heavy draughts 4 light harness horses Fowls and ducks (about 100 head) Also, 3 tip drays, 2 spring carts Waggonette, with pole, almost now, and single and double harness 6 sets cart and trap harness Engine and boiler (3 h.p.), and chaff cutter, bolting, pulleys, Ac. 2-horse reaper and mower, Ploughs, harrows, scarifier, lot of window frames, doors, gravel screens, tools and sundries Dairy utensils, milk pans, delivery cans &c, &c, &c.            Evening Post, 24 September 1892.

As well as his farming activities, James Coulter had a financial interest in the Petone Woollen Mill.

Evening Post,  10 March 1887.  Mr. James Coulter said that Mr. Macdonald, the chairman of the company, was the very gentleman who told Mr. Buck that the company was fortunate in possessing such a manager as Mr. Ramsden. He (Mr. Coulter) saw plenty of extravagance at the opening ceremony. Shareholders were then told “that the company would go on and prosper," but if things went on as they had been going there would be a poor look out for shareholders. Mr. Macdonald was sorry that Mr. Buck had been misled into signing the requisition. Mr. Coulter was in the same box. It was a deliberate falsehood that Mr. Ramsden had been interfered with by the directors. No man in this world had had more absolute control than Mr. Ramsden. Further than that, he would say that the relations between the Board and the manager were of the most friendly nature, the relations between Mr. Ramsden and the speaker being particularly cordial.    

Margaret Sinclair arrived in Wellington on 2 December 1874 on the ship Soukar. The ship had sailed from London on August 22 1874

The Soukar, built in 1864, was purchased by the Shaw Savill Company ten years later, and placed on the New Zealand trade to carry immigrants and general cargo. She was a large iron ship of 1304 tons, but, like many other vessels sent out by the company in the "sixties" and "seventies", was not very comfortable for passengers. She was one of the slowest of the company's fleet, her best passage occupying 98 days to Dunedin.

On the 1874 there are two Sinclair families listed, one from Argyle and the other from Shetland. Margaret is a member of the Argyle family.                                                                 

Sinclair Duncan           20        Argyle             Labourer                                                                    

John                             16        Argyle             Labourer                                                                    

Archibald                    12        Argyle                                                                                                

Robert                         8         Argyle    


Sinclair  Margaret        39        Argyle             Servant                                                                       

Margaret                      23         Argyle             Servant                                                                       

Catherine                     6            Argyle                                                                                                

James                           3            Argyle    

This family is that of Daniel Sinclair and Margaret McArthur, who married about 1850.

Births of 6 children have been located –

Margaret                     Sinclair                        1850                Cambuslang,Lanark                         

Archibald Mcarthur         Sinclair                        4/12/1852        Old Monkland, Lanark                         

Duncan                     Sinclair                        4/1/1854          Old Monkland*      

John                                                                 23/8/1858        Old Monkland                              

Jane                                   Sinclair                        8/1/1861          Hamilton                              

Archibald                      Sinclair                        5/1/1862          Hamilton                                    

James                                   Sinclair                        13/3/1871        Old Monkland, Lanark   

*Parents listed as Duncan Sinclair and Janet McArthur.

Margaret’s birth has been located through the 1851 census of Cambuslang. The address is given as Bushyhill in Cambuslang.  

That means that the births of three children, Duncan (1854), Robert (1866) and Catherine (1868) have not been located. It appears that the older Archibald and Jane must have died young. In a later census Duncan’s birthplace is listed as Dumbartonshire.

In the 1871 census of the parish of Old Monkland is the following:

Daniel Sinclair            H         Male    42        born Argyllshire                                             

Margaret Sinclair                   F          40                    Lanark                                                 

Duncan                                  M         16                    Lanark                                              

Archibald                               M          9                      Lanark                                                   

Robert                                    M          5                      Lanark                                              

Catherine                               F            2                     Lanark                                                    

James                                     M         1                      Lanark              


Daniel Sinclair was in born Campbeltown, Argyll 7/10/1828, son of Duncan Sinclair and Margaret Sinclair. Margaret Mcarthur was born in Barony parish, Lanark on 14 June 1829, daughter of Archibald Mcarthur and Jean Mclachlan.

Although Daniel appears in the 1871 census, he is not listed on the shipping list for the Soukar. It is believed that he arrived in New Zealand earlier than the rest of the family, but this has not been proved.

The marriages of two of Margaret’s siblings have also been located:

On 25 Oct 1882 at the Presbyterian Church, Lower Hutt: John Sinclair, 24yrs, bachelor, sawyer of Wellington, born Glasgow, son of Daniel Sinclair, miner and Margaret Sinclair nee McArthur to Julia Mason, 19yrs, spinster of Hutt, born Hutt, daughter of John Augustus Mason, storekeeper and Jane Mason nee Chambers. (From St Johns Presbyterian Church, Willis St, Wellington records.

Marriage. On 8th November, 1888, at the Presbyterian Church, Lower Hutt, by the Rev T. Macdonald, Walter King, to Catherine Sinclair; both of Wellington. (Evening Post 12 Nov 1888)

Life for the family changed dramatically early in 1888.

Hawkes Bay Herald - March 30 1888 Telegram       Lower Hutt

From Constable Harnett, stationed at the Lower Hutt, stating that James Coulter, farmer at Waiwetu, was drowned while crossing the Wainui-O-Mate river yesterday afternoon. Coulter and his brother-in-law (Sinclair) were crossing the river on horseback when they were washed off. The deceased attempted to save himself by clinging to his horse's rein, but it broke and he was drowned. Sinclair saved himself by clinging to his horse's mane. Coulter’s body was recovered this afternoon.

Evening Post, 31 March 1888, In our last issue we briefly recorded the death by drowning of Mr. James Coulter, an old and respected resident in the Hutt district. It appears that on Wednesday morning last Mr. Coulter, in company with his brother-in-law, Mr. John Sinclair, left the former's home for the purpose of enjoying a few days' shooting at Orongorongo. They reached the mouth of the Wainui river in safety, but appear to have taken the wrong ford. The place at which they attempted to cross is just at the junction of the river with the sea, where an apparently safe sand-bank had been formed. While crossing this bank the horses were frightened by the surf, and both riders were unseated. It would seem that the bank had very steep sides, and during the struggles of the horses they got into deep water. Mr. Sinclair managed to cling to his horse's mane, and was safely dragged ashore, but Mr. Coulter was seen hanging to his bridle, which, however, soon snapped. Mr. Sinclair, who was very much exhausted, though able to see his companion for some time after the bridle had broken, was unable to render any assistance. Mr. Coulter's horse struggled ashore, but its rider was unable to do so, and was drowned within sight of his companion. Mr. Sinclair then returned to Wainui Station, and on Thursday morning, with the assistance of some of the station hands, the body was recovered and taken to Wainui-o-mata. It was removed thence on Thursday evening to deceased's residence at Waiwetu, where an inquest will be held to-day. The deceased gentleman, whose age was about 50, leaves a wife and six children to mourn his loss. Mr. Coulter was a most thrifty and industrious man, and had succeeded in his business, so that ample provision is made for his wife and family, for whom general sympathy is expressed.

FUNERAL NOTICE. The Friends of the late Mr. James Coulter are respectfully invited to attend his Funeral, to leave his residence, Waiwetu, Lower Hutt, for the Presbyterian Churchyard, Lower Hutt, on Sunday, 1st April, 1888, at half-past 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Joseph Hall, Undertaker. Lower Hutt, 29th March, 1888.

The following year further tragedy struck the family.

At about 11 o'clock yesterday morning the two-storied residence, with dairy attached, occupied by and belonging to Mrs. Coulter (relict of Mr. James Coulter, who was drowned some time ago in the Orongorongo River) was burnt to the ground, only a table being saved. At the time of the fire, Mrs. Coulter was absent from home, but her children, and a man employed about the place, were present when it occurred. The fire is presumed to have originated through a defect in the chimney, which led to the skirting boards becoming ignited. It is understood that Mrs. Coulter is insured in the Colonial Office to the extent of about £600 (Evening Post 20 February 1889)

Margaret Coulter died on 13/9/1890. She too was buried at Blackbridge cemetery.

Obviously the Coulter family had prospered during the time they spent in Wellington and the Hutt Valley, as the following advertisements show:

Persons desirous of Leasing the Farm of eight Acres or thereabouts, situate at Waiwetu, lately in the occupation of Mrs. Margaret Coulter, with the substantial Dwellinghouse and Orchard in full bearing thereon, for a term up to 10 years (to be agreed on) are requested to communicate with the undersigned, from whom particulars can be obtained. T. W. Caverhill, Belmont or George M'Ilvride, Lower Hutt. Buckley, Stafford & Treadwell, Solicitors, Wellington. (13 October 1890. Evening Post)


By Order of the Supreme Court. In the matter of the Estates of James Coulter and Margaret Coulter, deceased. In the Exchange Land Auction Rooms, No. 84, Lambton-quay, Wellington. on Thursday, 31st January, 1901, At 2.30 o'clock p.m. MacDonald, Wilson And Co. are favoured with instructions to sell absolutely by public auction, as above, in order to close the accounts in the above estates - THE WHOLE OF THE UNDER- MENTIONED VALUABLE PRO- PERTIES IN THE MANAWATU, SANDON, HUTT AND PETONE.

Lots Nos. 1 to 4. FOUR VALUABLE DAIRY FARMS NEAR FEILDING. These FOUR FARMS are the subdivision of rural Sections numbered 234 and 236 on the plan of the TOWNSHIP OF SANDON, and contain ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE ACRES EACH.

Lots Nos. 5 and 6. ALLOTMENT No. 286 on the Plan of the Township of Kiwitea, Sandon Block, containing "ONE ACRE, and fronting WELD-STREET. ALLOTMENT No. 320 on the Plan of the Township of Kiwitea, Sandon Block, containing HALF AN ACRE, and being the CORNER SECTION fronting VOGEL and FERGUSSON STREETS.

Lot No. 7.THE VALUABLE SUBURBAN RESIDENCE and LAND, WAIWETU, HUTT, Forming part of Section No. 26, and containing over THIRTEEN ACRES (13a Or 20p).

Lot No. 8. VALUABLE COTTAGE (FIVE ROOMS) AND LAND, PETONE, Being allotment No. 59, and part of allotment No. 61, containing 27 2 10 perches It has a  frontage of about 36 feet 1 to NELSON-STREET. For plans and full details, apply to Auctioneers.

On the 31st inst., by order of the Supreme Court in the combined estates of James Coulter and Margaret Coulter, the whole of the country and suburban properties, as detailed in the advertisement, are to be sold.                                                          

bottom of page