Ken James was born on 20 October, 1895, at Ashhurst, a small social and supply centre in the Manawatū, founded in 1877 as part of the intensive Manchester Block settlement.  His father Richard was running a business as a canvas goods maker in Ashhurst at the time of his son's birth, selling miscellaneous items like horse and hayrick covers, oilskin coats and marquees. His mother was Mary Ellen Ruth (nee Funnell) (born c.1863),  whose extended family was based at Lower Moutere, a rural area just outside Motueka. Richard James was born c.1859 in Middlesex, England at Poplar, London, and was third of four sons in a family of eight. His father, William Jenkins James, was a sailor from Pembrokeshire, Wales. Richard became a rigger like his father, and clearly also picked up sailmaking skills as part of the job. He emigrated to New Zealand sometime in the 1880s. He was Ruth’s first cousin through his mother, Caroline James (nee Stepney). Ken was their third child - he had a brother, John Howard Leigh (b. 15 April, 1892) and a sister, Phoebe Ruth (b. 1894).
Before long they were joined by another of Ruth's brothers, Henry Richard Funnell, a brickmaker like his father and grandfather before him, who by 1892 was living in Ashhurst with his family and had set up in business. "Mr H. Funnell, our local brickmaker is about to start a capacious residence on his Ashurst property", reported the "Woodville Examiner" on 24 September 1892 in its "Ashurst News" section."The later gentleman has increased his shed accommodation, very largely for brick making purposes in order to keep up with the increased demand in the district". Ashhurt was booming. The word went out, and other settlers from the Motueka area soon made their way north, one being Riwaka pioneer David Drummond Jnr with his wife Elizabeth Hawken.
Richard James opened his "Sail and Tent Factory" at the start of 1892, amd may have been working from home. Like most settlers, he was versatile. He grazed stock, did work for the Manchester Road Board and some plate-laying for the Wellington & Manawatu Railway Co. He also invested in land, and in August 1898 sold eight properties around Ashhurst, including section 333. He appears to have acquired two other suburban sections around this time; section 11 on Ashhurst's Main Street (now Cambridge Ave) and section 45 on the corner of Mulgrave and Salisbury Streets
Ruth’s parents, Walter and Charlotte (nee Stepney) Funnell, were early Lower Moutere settlers. They arrived in Nelson on the Larkins in November, 1849, after taking ship from London in company with eloping newly-weds, Walter and Leah (nee Gregory) Guy, who also settled in Lower Moutere. The Funnell and Guy families were of long standing in the same area of the East Sussex Wealdan District and had intermarried over time. The two Walters were related - Walter Funnell's mother Hannah (nee Guy) was Walter Guy's older sister, making Walter Funnell Walter Guy's nephew.
Walter Guy had a property with a homestead known as Moutere House on Central Road, in Lower Moutere, not far from the current Jubilee Bridge. He later made a substantial investment in land at Ngatimoti, which was farmed by his only son, John Arliss Guy. Walter Funnell, who came from a long line of brickmakers, set up brick kilns on his farm, which was in the area where the Lower Moutere Hall stands today. He was helped in this enterprise by his father, Richard - his parents had followed their only child to New Zealand on the Cornwall in 1853. Hannah Funnell (nee Guy) died in 1866 and Richard remarried in 1867 to Charlotte Alcock before dying himself 10 years later in 1877. Walter and Charlotte Funnell had a family of eight, four daughters and four sons, all born in Motueka. Ruth was their youngest daughter.
In 1908 Ken's parents shifted from Lower Moutere to Gloucester Street in Tahunanui, Nelson. His grandfather, Walter Funnell, died at his home in 1910.  At some point after Ken finished his schooling around the age of thirteen or fourteen, he started work with his aunt Ada’s brother, James Williams Wills III, known as Jim, who owned a 36 acre property called Willow Brook at Ngatimoti, near the bottom of Church Hill. Ken boarded with the Wills' family during this time. The Willses' two sons were of a similar age to Ken; Rowland, the oldest, was born in 1895, and Allan was two years younger. 
Born at Lower Moutere in 1866 to James Williams Wills II and his wife Emily Patience (nee Scott), Jim Wills was the only son in a family of eight, and grew up on the family farm in the area now marked by Wills Road. Jim's grandfather, fhe first James Williams Wills, emigrated from Devonshire, England, with his wife, Betsy (nee Rickard) and family to New Zealand on the Timandra in 1842. They had settled in New Plymouth, but were driven out by the Taranaki Land Wars and removed to Lower Moutere late in 1863, along with two of their sons, Albert and James William Wills II. They set up on adjoining blocks of land and James W. Wills II had a flour-mill operating beside the Moutere River near the current Jubliee Bridge. Both Albert and his brother James were fluent speakers of the Maori language and often acted as interpreters with local Maori. Life was not easy for Jim Wills and his sisters after their father was declared bankrupt in 1874, and died two years later of a heart attack at the early age of 42. 
and family at Ngatimoti.
They had 4 children; Jean, Rowland, Allan and Meta.
Meta Wills holds the horse
and Grandpa (Stephen Starnes) with crutch stands by.
Rowland Wills, Ken James and Allan Wills
in the back.
Ken's older brother Howard was a clerk with the Civil Service in Wellington when war broke out. He enlisted on 1 December, 1915 with the NZ Medical Corps and served as a Staff-Sergeant on NZ Hospital Ship No 1, Maheno. Howard James had been a member of the Regimental Band, 5th Wellington Territorials Regiment, before the war, and as well as practising standard drill, members of regimental bands were instructed in first aid. By military tradition, band members also doubled as stretcher bearers and medical orderlies. After returning home he married Gladys Ethel Bethwaite from Nelson in 1919. They had no living children. Howard James took a job as a postal clerk in Wellington, where he and his wife remained for the rest of their lives. He died in Levin in 1959 at the age of 67.
After the war Gordon Funnell returned to Kimbolton in the Manawatu and his work as a carpenter. His parents had sometime earlier retired to Auckland. Ivan and Carol Walter Funnell moved from Lower Moutere to the Ashhurst area, where Ken had grown up and their uncle Henry had settled with his family. Their parents William and Elizabeth went with them. Their brother Stepney (Step) Funnell stayed in Lower Moutere and continued to farm there. Tommy Funnell went back to Lower Moutere, where he set up as a carrier under the name E. Funnell & Co. His carrying business was later sold and formed the basis of Transport Nelson. He also donated part of the family land as a site for the Lower Moutere Hall.
Richard James remained at his Tahunanui home. It appears that Ken's sister Phoebe never married, but lived with her father and cared for him until his death in 1942. She moved tfrom Nelson to Hamilton in the Waikato in the 1950s and died there on 27 Seotember 1968. She was buried at the Hamilton Park Cemetery, The note "cousin of Mollie" added to her burial record indicates that she perhaps made the move to be near relatives.
Ken is also commemorated in this inscription on the headstone of his parents' joint grave in the Wakapuaka Cemetery, Nelson (Wesleyan Block, Plots 17&18).
"In loving memory of RUTH, wife of R.James, who departed this life, Nov 2nd, 1916, aged 53 years. And of RICHARD, husband of above, who died Oct. 17th, 1942, aged 84 years.
A registration date for the birth of Ken's mother, Ruth, has not yet been traced, however her age is given as 32 on Ken's birth certificate and on her wedding certificate (BDM Ref: 1887/3105) she is clearly identified as Mary Ellen Ruth, daughter of Walter and Charlotte (nee Stepney) Funnell of Lower Moutere.
2)Fielding Star, 26 March, 1892
5) The Family of Dorothea Mae James Wycherley
Journal at Family Tree Circles.
6) Death of an Early Settler. Walter Funnell (1826-1910) Obituary.
Nelson Evening Mail, 9 August, 1910.
8) In bankruptcy, In the matter of James Williams Wills, Miller, of the Lower Moutere.
Colonist 30 June, 1874.
9) Marriage of James Wills and Ellen Starnes, 19 April, 1893.
Colonist, 24 April. 1893.
12) Beatson, C.B. (Pat). The River, Stump and Raspberry Garden: Ngatimoti As I Remember. 1992. Nelson, NZ, Nikau Press pg 42
1) The Guy and Funnell families were yeoman farmers who were both involved in the local trade of brickmaking. From the mid-18th century they not only intermarried but also tussled over the ownership of several key brickyards at Chiddingly. See: Sussex Industrial Industry
Walter Funnell's father was described in the 1851 Census Laughton, Sussex, as "Richard Funnell, occupation: brickmaker and farmer, with 26 acres, employing 8 labourers". Walter Funnell and his sons also combined bricklaying with farming in New Zealand, but would have been among the last to do so - the time of the artisan brickmaker was over by the 1920s. Richard and Hannah Funnell emigrated to New Zealand on the "Cornwall" in 1853, and joined their only child, Walter, at Lower Moutere. Richard became a partner in th brick-making business Hannah (Anna) died at Lower Moutere in 1863, Richard remarried, and idied n 1877 at the age of 85.
2) Another Funnell family was already established in the Manawatū by 1874. Charles Funnell (1829-1920) a sawyer from Maresfield, East Sussex, his second wife Mary (nee Bashford) and their family arrived on the Manchester Block Settlement charter ship the Douglas, in 1873 (names wrongly transcibed as "Fennell" on passenger list), and settled around Palmerston North. Sawyers were in great demand as the heavily wooded Manawatū was cleared for farming.
Given the closeness of Maresfield to Chiddingly, it seems likely that Charles Funnell was related by some degree to Walter Funnell of Lower Moutere, though any kinship does not appear to be have been a close one. It's not clear if the presence of Charles Funnell's family had any influence on the decision of Ruth James' brother, Frank Funnell, to settle in the Ashhurst area.
3) The Wills family. James W. Wills III and Ellen (nee Starnes) hda 4 children. Jean was a teacher and taught at Ngatimoti and Pokororo Schools. Allan (b. 1897) also taught at Ngatimoti School. Rowland (b. 1895) entered the Public Service and for some decades was an accountant for the Lands & Survey Department in Napier. Meta stayed at home to look after her father (her mother Ellen died in April 1918 at the age of 51) until her marriage in the 1930s. James Wills lived on at Ngatimoti until his death in 1950 aged 83). Ellen Wills' father Stephen Starnes lived with the Willses after the death of his wife Fanny in 1905, and died at the age of 82 at their Ngatimoti home on 11 August, 1913.
Manawatū and Horowhenua Region. Colonisation begins Rapid change: 1870s-1880s.
Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
Cyclopedia of New Zealand (1897) [Wellington Provincial District]
Second Battle of Baupaume, 21 August- 3 September, 1918
Tasman Roll of Honour. Kete Tasman: Kenneth Richard James
Portrait of Gunner Kenneth Richard James
Nelson Provincial Museum. Tyree Studio Collection: 95122
Main street Ashhurst c. 1895
Cyclopedia NZ (1897) [Wellington Provincial District]: Ashurst.
Our School's History 1857-1982: Wills Rd 1897-1918, Harekeke 1919-1974, Lower Moutere. 1857-1982
(1982) Nelson, NZ..
Pg. 24 Lower Moutere School, class of 1907
James W. Wills III with his wife Ellen (nee Starnes) and family at Ngatimoti
Guy Collection/Nelson Provincial Museum Permanent Collection, ref. 315237
"2 H.P.Motor, 1912" The Wills family express courtesy Louise Darroch (Rowland Wills' family photo collection.)
Cadet drill at the opening of the Ngatimoti Peninsula Bridge, 5 July, 1913
From Our Boy: Francis Alexander Cochrane Strachan, published privately by the Strachan family.
The assistance of Heather Smith from the Ashhurst Genealogical Society has been much appreciated.