BACK IN THE DAY WITH LAKES DISTRICT MUSEUM

BACK IN THE DAY WITH LAKES DISTRICT MUSEUM

BACK IN THE DAY WITH LAKES DISTRICT MUSEUM 2560 1858 The Flyer Magazine

Eliza Jane Johnston (née Wilson) 1834-1919 and the Otago Hotel at Skippers Point

After the rowdy days of the goldrush were over, the Whakatipu saw an increasing number of visitors arriving to admire and explore the beautiful scenery.

There were many successful female hotel-keepers who revamped their accommodation and aimed at the top end of the market. Summer visitors were numerous and in remote areas such as Macetown, Skippers and Bullendale, hotels provided a social centre for the community and often doubled as the post office as well.

Eliza was born a shoemaker’s daughter in Ireland. She married in Australia at the age of 17 but was widowed within three years. She remarried Samuel Johnston and they moved to the Whakatipu around 1864. After running a hotel at Arthur’s Point they took over the Otago Hotel at Skippers Point in 1869.

Samuel died in 1896 and Eliza continued to run the hotel until 1909 when she handed it to her daughter and son-in-law. She made substantial improvements  to the hotel and the Lake Wakatip Mail in 1907 sang her praises: “Mrs E. J. Johnston has replaced her old hotel by a new building. The new hotel is a wooden building built on modern lines andwould do justice to a much larger centre than Skippers. Mrs Johnston is deserving of no small amount of praise for having incurred such a heavy expenditure as the erection of the building must have entailed. The travelling public will now find up-to-date accommodation even at Skippers”.

Eliza had the honour of opening the Skippers Suspension Bridge in 1901.
“Mrs S. Johnston, one of the oldest Skippers residents cut the ribbon across the entrance to the bridge, and then she and the Minister walked to the other side, accompanied by the crowd”  (Lake Wakatip Mail 19 March 1901)

Eliza spent her final ten years in Invercargill and Dunedin and her popularity is evident in her warm and loving obituary: “The late Mrs Johnston was one of the splendid type of early settlers – the salt of the earth. Her womanly and motherly qualities endeared her to a large circle of friends”.

Eliza is buried alongside Samuel in the Skippers Cemetery, close to where the Otago Hotel stood and where she had worked so hard for forty years.

Lakes District Museum is open every day from 10am to 4pm.

Lakes District Museum Logo

Skippers Bridge Opening, 1901

Otago Hotel, Skippers Point

Eliza and Samuel Johnston

Photos – Lakes District Museum.