On leaving school, John became a shepherd lad on the Duke of Sutherland's estate, under his father's management, and before long became expert in the training of sheep dogs. In later years in Otago this ability did not desert him and the intelligent manner in which any of his dogs would manage a flock or a single sheep was the admiration of his sons. He was also a keen sport with the fowling piece, as is witnessed by the following anecdote: On one occasion two noblemen staying at Dunrobin Castle made a wager of £500 as to which, with an assistant, would kill the most game in one day. One of the two selected the head gamekeeper as his helper but the latter said he would find him a better man, or rather boy, in the person of John Anderson, who was then a youth of eighteen years. These two men won the match and John Anderson's reward was a purse of ten sovereign and a suit of sporting clothes. Shortly after this, John went to Canada to join an uncle and cousins engaged in farming there, but only stayed a few months.
After his return to Scotland his father and brothers decided with him to accept the call that was being made for emigrants for the new colony of New Zealand. His father, for some years a widower, was accompanied by his eldest son Donald, John, then aged twenty, and David, a year or two younger. They set sail for from London aboard the Oriental, the first of five 500-ton ships hired by the New Zealand Company to transport settlers to Wellington in 1839.
John and his wife, Isabella, and father, James Anderson ♂, moved to Port Chalmers, New Zealand from Nelson, New Zealand in December 1844, along with Isabella's sister, Janet, and brother-in-law, Alexander McKay ♂. The McKays decided to settle at Kotupai, now Port Chalmers but the Andersons instead spent some time exploring the harbour and in 1845 decided to pitch their tent in a pretty little inlet now known after them as Andersons Bay.
At that time, Anderson's Bay was a strip of clear land, running between the bay and ocean, with plenty of good bush nearby. Here they hoped to run a few sheep and perhaps cattle but initially their time was almost wholly taken up with gardening, fishing and boating. They built a hut of rushes and rough timber on the foreshore. For food they had plenty of wild pork, supplemented with potatoes and other home grown vegetables and eked out half a ton of flour they'd brought with them from Nelson. There was also an abundance of quail which Isabella, who soon learnt to shoulder a gun, quickly brought to earth in a sportsmanlike fashion.
On their boating trips they frequently visited the future Dunedin, then covered with scrub and of uninviting appearance but teeming with wild pigs and quail and home to their only friends, two runaway sailors who lived in a little hut by the side of Kaituna creek.
When the surveyors eventually arrived, in February 1946, John got immediate employment with them and built a small house, where his second son, John, was born; the first child of European settlers to be born in Dunedin.
- Andersons Bay, New Zealand
- Black Gully, Brooksdale Station, Otago, New Zealand
- Dalvey Station, Otago, New Zealand
- Dunedin, New Zealand
- East Taieri, New Zealand
- English Church, Nelson, New Zealand
- Golspie, Scotland
- Kelvin Grove, Kaihiku, New Zealand
- Nelson, New Zealand
- Port Chalmers, New Zealand
- Wellington Harbour, New Zealand
- Notes: Passage from the London to Wellington (ship, ports).
- Event (death): Date and location.
- Event (death): Date and location.
- Notes: Move from Nelson to Otago. Establishment of Anderson's Bay. Familial relationship between Isabella and Janet Allan (sisters). Subsistence and occupations. Employment by survey team. Birth of second son.Extract
- Notes: Date of arrival in Port Chalmers. Departure from Nelson.Extract
- Notes: Naming of Andersons Bay.
- Notes: Passage from the London to Wellington (travelling with father and brothers).
- Event (marriage): Date and location (English Church, Nelson).Extract