It seems that the stories of the Stewarts and the Middlebrooks are very intertwined. Each family had a massive effect on the other. The tangled web begin in 1873 when George Vesey Stewart, arrived in New Zealand on a search to find land in which to accomplish a protestant Irish Settlement. The Survey Department put at his disposal Samuel Middlebrook, who lead him through the Bay of Plenty where Stewart chose an area now known as Katikati as the perfect area for his settlement and he was granted 10,000 acres for the purpose. The first party of settlers arrived on the Carisbrook Castle in 1875 and amongst them was Stewart Rea and his family. Rea had worked for Stewart on one of his Irish Estates.
Stewart Rea’s eldest daughter was Mary Jane, and in 1883 she went on to marry Samuel Middlebrook
The connection with the Middlebrook family did not end there though, In the early 1890s a young Ellen Hardy, daughter of Samuel’s sister Elizabeth was living in Katikati with her Grandmother. It is assumed it was at this time she met John Rowley Miller Stewart, 4th child of George and his wife Margaret.
Their paths were to cross later as John, despite his marriage and 7 children with Ellen Furness, he maintained a second home with Ellen Hardy and their 3 children, John Rowley, Ethel Muriel and Douglas Stewart. Despite his promises to the contrary, on the death of his wife, John Rowley Stewart did not marry Ellen Hardy, but married yet another woman. A heart broken Ellen was taken under the wing of John Rowley Stewarts mother, Margaret , who had recently separated from her husband George Vesey Stewart . It was on her suggestion that Ellen took on the surname Miller which had been Margaret’s maiden name.
The, actions of their father, in effect disowning them had a life long effect on the three children. The children suffered emotionally and eventually John and Douglas were to legally change their surname to Miller. Ethel spent much time in her childhood in Katikati with her “Aunt” Minnie, the 6th child of Margaret and George Vesey Stewart - and in the process became good friends with her Middlebrook cousins, the children of Samuel Middlebrook