John Gemmell was a sheep farmer in Waituna, who ran a flock of almost 10,000 Lincoln sheep and a herd of 250 shorthorn cattle, on land that was originally part of the Cluny Hills estate.
Gemmell was born in Ayrshire in 1847, and came to New Zealand on the Paeroa in 1865. For some years he carried on an extensive and successful trade from the West Coast in a schooner he had purchased not long after emigrating. After retiring from his sea trade, Gemmell had several subsequent farms in the Hawke's Bay and in Wairoa. He was also manager of the Chesterhope and Prior Park estates for six years before purchasing the farm in Waituna.
Gemmell had nine children, though their names are unknown.