In 1868 the ship S.S. Kaikoura arrived in Wellington from England, via Panama, with two cases of smallpox on board. This prompted the formation of a "Medical Board" which determined that Soames' Island, in Wellington Bay, would become a quarantine area. This was the first time a ship with smallpox onboard had arrived in the colony of New Zealand. In 1858 those quarantined on the island lived in temporary tents. If any of the ill passengers died while on Soames' Island, they were not buried in its cemetery, or their names are lost to history.
The first burial in the Soames' Island Cemetery was 1872, when an un-named child died of smallpox. She and her family were passengers on the ship 'England', which had a large number of Scandinavian immigrants and arrived on Saturday, March 9, 1872 at Wellington. By the next day the death count onboard was fourteen children and three adults. Disease first appeared during the voyage amongst the Scandinavian children and the Wellington Board of Health determined that the disease was smallpox. There was also an outbreak of measles onboard. Passengers had complained about the fitness of the ship's Doctor and after arrival in Wellington he was arrested.
Due to the large number of people now quarantined on the island, the Board of Health decided to erect two buildings on opposite sides of the island, one for the sick and the other for the convalescent.
On 11 March 1872 the newspapers reported the death “of another child” who had been buried on Soames' Island. This child is not listed on the cemetery transcript, which only contains one 1872 burial, two year old Mary Elizabeth Rudman (Redman). Her exact death date is not known, one version says 25 Jan 1872, and another 26 Jul 1872. I tend to believe the July date is correct, as in June 1872 there were almost simultaneous breakouts of smallpox in Wellington and Auckland.
On 26 May 1872 Mr. Kaye, a mail agent, arrived on the ship Nebraska from San Francisco. By June it became aware that he had a mild case of smallpox and was sent to Soames Island, where many of the passengers from the ship England were still quarantined. Mr. Kaye first claimed not to know where he could have been infected, but later admitted that smallpox was prevalent when he was in San Francisco. On 17June a Mr. Thompson, passenger on the same ship as Mr. Kaye died from smallpox at Auckland Hospital. On July 2nd it was reported that one of the Armed Constabulary (Patrick Loughran), who was in attendance on Mr. Kaye, also came down with smallpox (he survived, as did Mr. Kaye). It's quite possible that Mr. Kaye and Mr. Thompson were responsible for the 1872 outbreaks on the mainland.
Next installment - 1873-1876 , 25 burials at Soames' Island Cemetery