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SURNAMES & THEIR ORIGINS
TRAPSKI possibly TRĄBSKI (Pol) trąba. Meaning: horn or trąbka – trumpet.
Eduard Wilhelm Carl Frederick Trąpski, (b. 1840–d. 1914) arrived at Port Chalmers from London aboard the City of Dunedin on 4 October 1869. In New Zealand, Eduard was unmarried and worked as a carpenter. On 30 Jul 1890, Eduard was institutionalised into the Otago Benevolent Insitution at Caversham in Dunedin due to the loss of a leg, a resident of Palmerston. Eduard died at the Benevolent Institute at Caversham on 15 June 1914 aged 74 and is buried at the Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin.
Frederick Ferdinand Trąpski, (b. 1836–d. 1874) was the son of a tailor who was born in a place called Tusewark in the region of Gdańsk. He made his way to New Zealand sometime in the early 1860s and married on 10 December 1864 at St. Joseph’s in Dunedin to Alice (Alicia) McKenna (b. 1834 at Monaghan, Ireland–d. 1883), the daughter of Charles McKenna. The family born at Allanton were: Charles Henry (b. 1866–d. 1920), Frederick Ferdinand (b. 1868–d. 1946), Alice Alicia (b. 1870–d. 1929), and John (b. 1872–d. 1944). Frederick owned a small house and barn beside the railway and worked as a farmer in the district. In 1874, Frederick applied for 200 acres of section one in Block 13 at Waipahi. Before the family were about to move to Waipahi, Frederick was involved in a coaching accident at Lookout Point in January of 1874 that inferred him to the Dunedin Asylum.
“Steadman’s four-horse Waihola coach, driven by T. Aitken, met with an accident on Monday morning, when passing Lookout Point, the pole broke short, and the coach upset, the horses bolting with the front carriage, and dragging the driver for a short distance with them. He escaped, however, without injury, but some of the passengers of whom there were a good number received nasty bruises from the metal. William Mulligan had one of his wrists sprained; and Fred Trapske, a German, was conveyed to the hospital, being severely bruised, but having no bones broken. The other passengers were forwarded to Dunedin by a Caversham bus.” Otago Witness, 10 January 1874
“Some of the foreign residents in the Taieri are rather unfortunate. A Frenchman had to be sent to the lunatic asylum a few weeks ago, and last week a German named F. Tropski, had to be sent to the same place. It will be remembered he met with an accident through the upsetting of Mr Steadman’s coach, about six months ago, and although he had been in the hospital for several weeks, he never properly recovered the shock, and his ill-health and consequent inability to earn anything to support his family caused great depression in his spirits, which resulted in his insanity. According to the doctor’s opinion, his case is hopeless. We learn that a few of the gentlemen of the East Taieri are endeavouring to raise a subscription to aid his wife and four children, the eldest of whom is not eight years old. As he has been well-known in the district for over twelve years, we have no doubt the gentlemen will be successful”. Bruce Herald, 02 October 1874
Frederick died as a result of the accident on 13 October 1874 aged 35 and is buried at the Southern Cemetery in Dunedin.
Alicia and children moved to Waipahi anyway in the hope of making a better future for her family.
“One of the selectors in the deferred payment block at Waipahi, named Frederick Trapski, died soon after he took up his land, leaving a widow and four children very badly provided for, but the widow, with unusual pluck, determined to keep the 200-acre section, and try to put on the improvements required by law. She had some cows, so made butter and sold it, thus obtaining money to procure provisions and fence in the land, but when the three years were up, she had no land ploughed. The Waste Land Board decided that the ploughing must be done, and granted her time to do it. She informed some of the neighbours of the circumstance, and a subscription was at once started, and sufficient money collected to plough the required twenty acres, and we are glad to state that the poor widow has now received the lease she has so well earned”. Clutha Leader, 27 July 1877, p 5
She is reputed to have repeatedly walked the three or four miles to Waipahi to put the butter on the train for sale in Gore. It was often said that the wandering animals were a bit of a problem due to the lack of fencing in the area. Aged only 49 years of age, she succumbed to cancer and died on 3 September 1883 and is buried in the Gore Cemetery. Edmund Hayes and Daniel Clarke were executors and guardians of the children then aged 17, 14, 13 and 11. The Cooper family in the same district brought up John, the youngest son. Alice, the only daughter at 12, took responsibility for looking after her older brothers.
“A Brave Struggle. — The Waipahi correspondent of the Tapanui Courier writes as follows: — While death has been making its ravages in all the districts around, we have hitherto escaped; but it appears we are not to pass scatheless. The victim is Mrs Trapski, one of one earliest settlers, who, after a lingering and painful illness of over four months, died on Wednesday night. Mr Trapski, it may be remembered, died from the effects of a coach accident on Saddle Hill shortly after taking up the ground, leaving a widow and four children almost unprovided for. The widow, anxious to secure a borne for the children and herself, determined to retain the deferred-payment section. For several years the struggle was a hard one; but she kept bravely on, aided by her two eldest boys, and she had the satisfaction of knowing that she had succeeded, as only a few weeks ago the last instalment of the money was paid, leaving the land their own; and, more than that, free of debt. Napoleon said: ” What France needs is good mothers.” But I am sure that, with mothers such as Mrs Trapski, New Zealand will most surely prosper.” Southland Times, 13 September 1883
Pobόg-Jaworowski, J. W, History of the Polish Settlers in New Zealand, ed. Warsaw; Chz “Ars Polonia.” 1990, pages 106 & 155.
Woods Betty, wrote family history, Danzig to Dunedin (One hundred and twenty six years of the Trapski family in New Zealand (1864-1990).
Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara O Te Kawanatanga; Land Records.
Catholic Diocese of Dunedin, St Mary’s Church, Milton; Baptism Register.
New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs Naturalisations, Births, Deaths and Marriages.
New Zealand Government Property Tax Department, from the rates assessment rolls, Return of Freeholders of New Zealand 1882, (1884).
Mary, Danzig to Dunedin (One hundred and twenty six years of the Trapski family in New Zealand (1864-1990).
Trapski Graham, Danzig to Dunedin (One hundred and twenty six years of the Trapski family in New Zealand (1864-1990).
Compiled by Paul Klemick (2022)
The Polish Heritage of Otago & Southland Charitable Trust
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