Photograph, Captain John Howell; Unknown photographer; 1860-1870


Photograph, Captain John Howell

About this object

This is a portrait of Whaler Captain John Howell, who is credit as being the first Pākehā settler in Riverton Aparima. While this formal photograph does not reflect the rugged, sociable family man that Captain Howell is remembered to be, it does give us a face to the name.

Captain John Howell:

Born in Eastbourne, England in 1810, at the age of 12, Howell stowed away on a ship bound for Australia. As First Mate on a whaling ship, he landed at Kapiti Island, New Zealand in 1827 or 1828. Howell, with a crew of 60 Pākehā and 200 Māori, established a whaling station at Jacobs River (Riverton Aparima) in 1836-1837. Captain Howell initially established friendly relations with local Kāti Māmoe, however, his delay in taking a Māori wife created tensions. Following an ambushed attack, Captain Howell married Kohi Kohi Paatu, daughter of Chief Horomoto of Raratoka (Centre Island). Prior to the death of Kohi Kohi in 1841, the couple had two children. In 1845, Captain Howell remarried to Caroline Brown a Māori woman from Codfish Island. The couple went on have 17 children together. A large blended family, they also raised three orphaned children.

Following the downturn of whaling, the Jocobs River Station ceased operations in 1850. Howell diversified into exports and imports. He advocated for Jacobs River to become a port town and in 1853 he landed 500 sheep, the first in Southland. In 1862, the town, by then named Riverton, was officially a port. That same year, the community elected Captain Howell to the Southland Provincial Council. Through politics, Captain Howell continued to advocate for Riverton as a port and for the need to increase road access from the port to the goldfields of Central Otago. Unfortunately, the Council went for an alternative plan, establishing the New River port at Oreti River in Invercargill.

With the view that the Council wasted their money on impractical schemes, Howell retired from political life and moved with his family to Garston, near Kingston in 1869. Two of his sons drowned in 1874 and Captain Howell’s health plummeted. The family returned to Riverton, where Captain Howell decided a trip to Sydney might better his condition. He left Bluff, with his son Thomas, on board the Tararua in April 1874. An ill-fated trip, Captain Howell died in Sydney on May 25, 1874.

Place Made

Oceania, New Zealand, South Island, Southland


Unknown photographer

Maker Role


Date Made


Inscription and Marks

On bottom of the wooden frame, cellotaped white piece of paper with writing in black marker: 'HOWELL. JOHN'
On back of frame in black marker: '95 - 2'


h 690 mm x w 560 mm x d 80 mm



Object Type


Subject and Association Keywords

People and Families (including births, weddings, deaths)

Subject and Association Keywords


Subject and Association Keywords


Medium and Materials

organic, vegetal, processed materials, paper
organic, vegetal, processed materials, paper, card
organic, vegetal, wood
processed materials, glass
processed materials, metal

Copyright Licence  

Attribution (cc) Attribution (cc)

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