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Mary Caroline Bisley

(1837-1917)
Notable Women Walk
Mary Caroline Bisley was born near Hamburg on 23 December 1836. Her maiden name was Johanna Maria Karalina [Lina] Karsten. She emigrated to New Zealand with her parents from Germany on the “St Pauli” and arrived in Nelson on 14 June 1843.

(1837-1917)

Notable Women Walk

Black and white photo of Mary Bisley standing in a dress. Mary Caroline Bisley was born near Hamburg on 23 December 1836. Her maiden name was Johanna Maria Karalina [Lina] Karsten. She emigrated to New Zealand with her parents from Germany on the “St Pauli” and arrived in Nelson on 14 June 1843.

The Karstens and seven other families settled in the Moutere and became farmers. After a few years they settled in Nelson city and Mary Caroline attended school in Nelson in 1844.

Caroline married Joseph Herbert Bisley in 1864, they had no children but adopted a niece of Joseph’s.

Joseph died of typhoid fever in 1873 leaving Caroline in financial difficulties, consequently she became housekeeper to Charles Harley a brewer, and on his death he left her a cottage in Collingwood Street and an income of £40.00 a year.

In 1899 she wrote her memoirs. Her story illustrates many of the difficulties experienced by women who came to Nelson from the other side of the world in the 19th century. She died 1917 aged 80 years.

Image: Courtesy Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection, 30800/3

Further reading

Unpublished autobiography Bisley J.C.M. Johanna Bisley by H Whelan ‘Journal Nel Marlb Historical Soc Vol 2 no.1

Nelson Notables 1840-1940 by Max Lash

Burial records

  • Karsten Dora buried 26 February 1909 aged 70 years.
  • Bisley Joseph H. buried 6 March 1873 aged 37 years.
  • Bisley Mary Caroline buried 15 May 1917 aged 80 years.

Headstone transcription

In Memory of Joseph Herbert Bisley died March 4th 1873, aged 37 years. Also Caroline, his wife died May 13th 1917, aged 80 years and of her sister Dora Karsten, died 23rd 1908, aged 70 years.

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