The Farthest Promised Land — English Villagers, New Zealand Immigrants of the 1870s
13 New Zealand — Arden
13 New Zealand — Arden
THE BRITISH IMMIGRANTS who began the systematic colonisation of New Zealand in the 1840s had come from a land of ploughed fields and trim pastures, and few of them had been prepared to tackle the taming of the forests of their new homeland. Neither in peace nor in war had they felt at home away from the open country. Some observers of the early 1870s reported a positive aversion against settling bush country.1 In the first thirty years of colonisation, few of the settlers could have been described by the American term ‘backwoodsman’. But the 1870s saw a great change in outlook as the New Zealand backwoods were at last tackled in a spirited manner. By the mid-1870s many settlers, including newly arrived British immigrants as well as experienced colonials, were being rapidly transformed into efficient bushmen. Before we select a few bush settlements for more detailed study, we must briefly examine the formidable difficulties which had led to the postponement of the task, and also indicate some of the chief ways in which the economic and social development of these settlements differed from that of the districts we have studied on the Feldon.
The first problem facing the colonists of New Zealand's dense rain forest was the sheer difficulty of gaining effective access to the land. On the fern and tussock of the Feldon the squatters had found it a comparatively simple matter to drive stock onto their land, and to cart in the equipment and supplies needed to set up a homestead, but in the Arden, roadways had first to be carved through the forest to open up new areas for settlement, and bush tracks made to give access to individual holdings. Unlike the Feldon, the occupation of the Arden had to wait on government initiatives in the opening up of the main communication lines. Not till the General Government adopted a bold borrowing policy in 1870, were the means made available for effectively tackling the task. The government was spurred on to a vigorous attack on the Arden by the needs of defence strategy in the face of the Maori foe. Even so, it was no simple matter to develop effective roading in the forest. After a great deal of labour a roadline might be felled, stumped and metalled, only to deteriorate quickly into an almost impassable quagmire. The traffic entailed by the pioneering of a new district would prove too much for the first primitive metal surface, and its deterioration would be hastened by the effect of the standing bush on either side, which sheltered it from the drying influence of sun and wind. It was quite common for new bush settlements to be virtually isolated from the outside world over their first few winters.
As the first of our bush settlement examples we will select the colonising of the Moa Block in Taranaki, the first forthright endeavour by the New Plymouth settlement to break out of its isolation. The settlement had been founded in 1841 by west countrymen, on the northern edge of Mount page 293 Egmont's great ring plain, and after thirty years it was still a weak and isolated enclave. The ring plain was dominated by great stretches of dense forest, reaching from the mountain slopes to within a mile or two of the coast. The settlers had broken in a coastal strip of bracken and scrub Feldon, but had made little progress in colonising the bush beyond it. Their sea link with the outside world was still precariously dependent on an open roadstead, and their land link was the long, undeveloped road, south round Cape Egmont, through lands occupied by Maoris, with whom the settlers had lately been at war. The settlement's obvious road to security and prosperity lay in the opening of the bush country ‘behind the mountain’, south to Hawera and Patea, to give a shorter and safer link with the more populous settlements to the south, and to provide a developed hinterland on which to base the building of a breakwater harbour at New Plymouth. Weak in numbers and resources, and depressed by the devastation of the wars of the 1860s, Taranaki lagged for a year or two in embarking on a development programme. Early in 1874 the General Government began handing over to Taranaki Province some large blocks of confiscated land ‘behind the mountain’, but the aging superintendent, F. A. Carrington, seemed unable to face the challenge of directing their development. He therefore turned to a younger man, the able Harry Atkinson, and asked him to lead the provincial government. Although he had stood against Carrington in the election for the superintendency the previous year, Atkinson accepted the task, and in five months as provincial secretary, before joining the colonial cabinet, planned and launched an effective programme of bush settlement.5
Beginning in 1871, a road line, financed by the General Government for strategic reasons, had been cut through the forest behind the mountain, to link the New Plymouth settlement with the Patea Coast to the south. This road line, known as the Mountain Road, had been brought out of the bush near Sentry Hill, towards Waitara, in order to avoid the multitude of river crossings that would have resulted from swinging it to the west towards New Plymouth, across Egmont's radial drainage pattern. Over the years, however, settlement had been pressing through the bush from New Plymouth, and the difficult mountain streams in their deep, narrow beds, were gradually being spanned. Deepest in the bush was little Egmont page 295 Village, a military settlement round a blockhouse, founded in 1866. The plan was to carry the road on beyond Egmont Village until it met the Mountain Road, and found the new township of Inglewood at the junction. The site of Inglewood would thus be roughly at the apex of an equilateral triangle with sides 12 miles long, the coastal road from New Plymouth to Waitara forming the base, the Mountain Road roughly following the line of one side, and the road to New Plymouth roughly following the third side. In the exceptionally wet winter of 1874, the surveyors marked out the roadline from Egmont Village to the site of the new township. This road had yet to be cleared, formed, and its streams bridged, so in its early stages the new settlement would have to depend on the Mountain Road. In mid 1874 the Mountain Road was still in a very primitive state. The bush had been cut a chain wide, and a track cleared in the centre fifteen feet wide. The felled bush beside this track had been burnt and sown with grass seed. The creeks and rivers had yet to be bridged, and swamps drained, before the route was satisfactory even as a foot track.
Over half of the 365 immigrants on the Waikato had been recruited by the Kent union. They formed a party of 200 which gathered on the morning of Monday, 16 March 1874 at Maidstone Railway Station, and left by special train for Plymouth.6 Among them was 28-year-old farm labourer George Tapp, late secretary of The Lamberhurst branch and member of the Central Committee of the Kent Union. He probably acted page 296 as leader for the party, and at Plymouth, on behalf of the emigrants, he presented a pocket Bible to Alfred Simmons, who had come thus far to farewell the party.7 The Waikato sailed on 24 March and reached Wellington on 11 July. There she was promptly boarded by Carrington, in Wellington for the parliamentary session, and he was able to persuade 119 of her immigrants to settle in Taranaki. George Tapp and many of his party were among those who landed at New Plymouth on 15 July from the coastal steamer Luna. They were accommodated in the immigration barracks, and by Friday 18 July the townsfolk had a soirée organised to welcome the first party of any importance to come to the province under the ‘Vogel’ scheme. When Taranaki newspapers with reports of this warm welcome reached Alfred Simmons, he quoted from them at length in the union newspaper,8 and wrote a letter of thanks to W. K. Hulke, the New Plymouth Immigration Agent.
On 23 July 1874 George Tapp was one of a party of sixteen single men from the Waikato, who set out under the guidance of a group of surveyors to begin preparations for the making of the Inglewood settlement.9 They travelled first by bullock dray along the coast road to Sentry Hill, through a countryside still bearing the scars of the war of the ‘sixties. Turning into the Mountain Road, they soon entered the forest, and had not gone far before the road became impassable for the drays. All the stores and baggage were therefore unloaded, and what could not be made into swags was left at the house of William Old, one of the military settlers. As they pushed on over the rough bush track, one of the surveyors, E. S. Brookes, later remembered that some of the immigrants began to lose heart. They spent the night ‘jammed up like figs in a box’ in a solitary hut belonging to the most advanced settler inland. Next morning they had to cross the Waiongona River which was too deep to ford. A tree leaned across the river at a steep angle, against a cliff on the opposite side, and notches had been cut in it to form steps for a crude bridge. One of the immigrants, a 42-year-old former Royal Horse Artilleryman named William Barton, but dubbed ‘Jacob’ by his shipmates, fell from this precarious bridge into the deep pool beneath. His mates quickly rescued him but thereafter the tree bridge was known as ‘Jacob's Ladder’.10 Late in the afternoon of this second day the party reached the site of the new township, and spent a cold night in the tents of a survey party which had arrived a few days earlier. They awoke to find the ground white with frost, and were soon put to work building two large whares in which they could live in reasonable comfort, while working to improve the road into the settlement and felling the forest on the township site. Their overseer for this work was Fred Earp, a military settler who had taken up a holding at Egmont Village in 1872.11
On 8 September 1874, after about seven weeks of bush work, George Tapp wrote home to Kent, describing his new life.
The Government here employed several of us at bush felling at 5s. per day (lose no time) until we got a little experienced at the work, and then they put small contracts to us, and men, if good hands, can earn from page 297 10s. to 11s. per day. There are plenty of small contract jobs here that men can take, both ground and bush work. Wages are from 6s. to 8s. per day, day work. We have a deal of rain, being winter, so that a man cannot always get a full week in. The people tell me such weather lasts about two months. I have been working at bush felling, but have left that, and am with the survey in the bush, at 6s. per day, eight hours per day, lose no time, that being very good for a few weeks in the wet season. In summer time a man can do much better … There are no paupers here, no half-starved homes. Everybody gets plenty to eat … Any working man here can get some land and build himself a house if he likes. Nearly every man in the province is the owner of land; most working men have from 50 to 100 acres, and some more. They keep cows on it, and in a few years live entirely on their own land … I hope you will let all my old mates see this, and all the Union members, and tell them I am much pleased with my change, and never intend coming back to England to work again. If I do come it will only be for a holiday.12
Atkinson had drawn on provincial funds to get George Tapp and his mates started on their work, but in due course the General Government voted £20,000 ‘for works in connection with the location of settlers, etc. within the province’.13 Though hampered by a shortage of labour, Atkinson and his administration pushed ahead vigorously with preparations for the flow of immigrants they hoped soon to see moving onto the new land. By mid-summer the township site of 150 acres had been felled, a substantial corrugated iron government store erected, and contractors were working on a number of slab huts which the government was building for the immigrants. A baker was already in business supplying the needs of the pioneers. In old native clearings at intervals up to four miles further along the Mountain Road, twelve acres of potatoes had been planted for use by the expected immigrants, and slab huts were being built in these clearings also. Although the New Plymouth newspapers were already expressing forebodings about the difficulties of supplying the settlement with food in the mud of the coming winter,14 life over the summer of 1874–5 was apparently pleasant enough. A reporter, describing a visit to the new settlement on a Sunday morning in January 1875, told of how he had dropped into one of the huts
The ‘billy’ was put on, and we entered into an interesting chat with the occupants of the hut, comprising four new chums; one of them — a Kentish man, the adopted father of the family, both intelligent and chatty — was busy making the Sunday dumplings; whilst another, with a piece of board on his knee for a desk, was writing a letter; another doing a read; and the other amusing himself in various ways.15
When Carrington opened the 1875 session of the Taranaki Provincial Council on 12 January he was therefore able to report much progress. The surveyors had some 8000 acres of the new bush land ready to be put on sale. Inglewood township sections were also to be offered for sale as soon as the bush clearing was fired. Carrington reported that most of the immigrants introduced had been taken up by private employers, so that much of the page 298 authorised public works had not been carried out for lack of labour. By this date the Waikato party had been followed by a small party of North European immigrants, and a large party of 235 British immigrants, who had arrived in Wellington on the Howrah, and been forwarded on to Taranaki early in December. Meanwhile the Avalanche was on her way, the first immigrant ship to be despatched direct to New Plymouth for nearly twenty years. Her arrival on 22 January 1875 was something of a sensation, for many of the native-born had not seen a vessel of her size before. Her arrival prevented the superintendent from attending the christening of Inglewood, which had been arranged to take place the day the council adjourned. On the afternoon of the 22nd a majority of its members rode out and took lunch on the township site, after which Arthur Standish, as secretary of the recently-formed Waste Lands Board, dashed a bottle of sparkling champagne on the rugged trunk of a lordly pine, and named the township. So conscious was the New Plymouth settlement that a new era had been inaugurated in the district's history, that in subsequent years the anniversary of this day was observed as a holiday.
The Avalanche brought 250 immigrants, and a number of them were prepared to settle with their families on the Moa Block. It was about the time of their arrival that some of the disadvantages of sending inexperienced new arrivals out to bush work began to become apparent. On 21 January 1875 the tent of a working party caught fire from sparks from a standing tree burning not far away, and two of the men lost their clothing. More serious was a fatal accident on 17 February. A party of men working on a bush road near Sentry Hill had gone to their tents as the weather was too wet for work. A tree which had been partly cut, and then left because it was seen to provide shade for the tents, suddenly came down. The two Avalanche immigrants in the nearest tent saw the tree falling, but were unable to get clear of it, and were both injured. The tree struck a further tent, in which the men had had no warning, injuring one occupant and killing the other. The dead man was 22-year-old farm labourer James Wallis, one of a party of about 150 gathered from Kent for the Avalanche by Alfred Simmons.16 Wallis had emigrated with his wife, whom he had married just before sailing. When the coroner's jury censured the men's overseer,17 Carrington called for a report from George Robinson, Inspector of Works, Moa District. Robinson's report highlighted the problems arising from the use of inexperienced men in bush work:
It would be difficult, almost impossible, for anyone not actually on the spot, to imagine the almost ceaseless supervision required by the overseers, over the immigrants, for the first few weeks after their commencing bush work. The men are divided into pairs, and when possible each pair is placed sufficiently far away from the others to avoid danger from falling trees; and this is especially necessary from the manner in which some of the men will persist in cutting their trees. Instead of cutting in their dip straight across the tree, and backing it up in a similar manner, in which case a tree can only fall one of two ways, they will chop all round the tree until there is nothing left but a piece in page 299 the centre shaped like a peg top, and then it is almost impossible to tell, until the tree is actually falling, which way it will go. Just so long as the overseer is with them they will do as he tells them, but as soon as he leaves them to go and direct others, they commence chopping round again as before …18
Once the township site was felled, most of the bush parties were set to work on branch roads to open up land for sale. The roads were felled and cleared three chains wide, one chain for roadway, and those on either side to be grassed, so as to encourage an early occupation of the land once it was sold. The government's hopes that its immigrant workmen would make use of their bush experience and the savings from their wages, to take up sections, were a little dampened by the reluctance of their families to move out to the Moa Block. A month after the Avalanche arrived there were still twenty-five families in the immigration barracks. The men could have taken their wives and children out to their rough bush huts on the block, but the road work on which they were engaged would have continually taken them away from their families, causing various hardships and difficulties. The government therefore decided, on the advice of W. K. Hulke, its Immigration Agent, to allow immigrant families to ‘squat’ rent-free on unsold sections at Inglewood, for two or three years, and to grant each family two pounds towards erecting a rough hut for themselves.19 On 20 February the first Moa Block land was put on sale, and by 24 February 1000 acres had been taken on deferred payment and 716 acres for cash. It was, of course, too late to begin felling for the current season's bush burns. The government clearly anticipated that there would be a strong work force based on Inglewood, felling bush over the winter months. It let a contract for the carting in of substantial food supplies before the winter mud made the task uneconomic. Speaking at the Agricultural Society's ploughing match dinner late in May, Thomas Kelly, the Provincial Secretary, told how the shortage of surveyors and bushmen was hampering the opening up of the block. Most of the men the government had sent out to the work had soon found employment amongst farmers back in the older settled districts.
Over the winter of 1875 prospects for rapid advance on the Moa Block improved. While farm work was slack, more labour became available for bush felling. Good news from Burton in Lincolnshire gave promise of an influx of immigrants in the spring. The province's spirits were greatly raised when Colonel Trimble, ‘a gentleman of means and character and Home influence’, arrived in New Plymouth on 29 May and shortly announced his intention of settling on the Moa Block.20 Before emigrating he had been prominent in the public life of Liverpool. Trimble's son Alfred later recalled his first impressions of Inglewood, ‘just an ordinary bush clearing; black and ugly; with a muddy track cutting it from North to South’.21 A small party of German immigrants came to New Plymouth in July, and the first of Burton's Lincolnshire recruits, from the Coltingwood, in August. In September over 400 immigrants arrived by the page 300 Halcione and Chile, almost all of them Burton's recruits. By means of packhorses, contact was maintained with the settlement throughout the winter, and its population rose steadily from about 300 in June to over 600 in October. Thomas Kelly, speaking in the House of Representatives on 15 October 1875, as member for New Plymouth, told how the settlement was working out. One third of the land was being offered on deferred payment and was being taken up at once. The rest was being offered for cash, and about half of this was being taken up within a month of coming on the market. The cash buyers were largely employing the deferred payment buyers. About half the land was going to immigrants, the rest to old settlers. Kelly considered the project was proving a success.
John King, one of Burton's recruits by the Chile gives a good description of how the settlement looked to a new arrival in the spring of 1875. King was a 39-year-old farm labourer from Grimsby, who had emigrated with his wife and seven children, of whom the oldest were David, 18 and John William, 15. King's letter is dated 27 October 1875.
Now for a little bush work; we have had a fortnight in the bush and it is as rough as any man can desire. I will try to describe the road to Inglewood. First, you may have seen a road into a small wood in the winter. We are about 10 miles in the forest, and it took us 10 hours to go 17 miles, and we had 2 horses to each cart, and we had to follow the cart and hang at it to keep it from tipping over very often; at other times we lift them up a hill. We got there all safe, 23 of us and tools. The women are still in the barracks, for baggage and all provisions cost £7 per ton, going up at present, but dry weather will soon alter this, we have had a lot of wet here lately which is rather against us … Most of us Grimsby chaps has gone up to this new township, and they let any man have a rood of land for 3 years and all the wood on it free, and he can build a house and clear his land and then he can buy it at an auction if he feels disposed, the upset price is £5. King, Keightley, Wilson, E. Perkins, T. Smith, T. Cox, and several others from Lincolnshire are all in one square of land adjoining; so we are nearly altogether, and this is called squatting … nearly all hands here that has been a few months have a cow and a horse, and the women ride to market on a horse and come home loaded with things as natural as they go in a gig at home. … I can't say much about the money earned here yet, for we are house building and have to help one another, so that we have not had a fair chance, but they allow any man to work for himself three days and three days for them, so that he can have a little money to live on time his house is being built. The single men are all sent up into the bush to form a township, and I will state how my own lads is situated, and all the rest are on the same footing. The oldest lad has 6s. per day, and the 2nd lad has 4s. per day of 8 hours, and they live in tents found by the government….22
The superintendent declared Monday 24 January 1876 a holiday, for the celebration of Inglewood's first anniversary. Visitors crowded the township, to survey its progress and enjoy the sports which had been arranged for the occasion. They found the ground still encumbered with thousands of loads of firewood, but cottages were standing all over the site, page 301 many with good vegetable gardens. A two-storeyed hotel and various shops had been erected, one even boasted large plate-glass windows. After long delays in getting a school building erected, it had been decided to open school in the government store in the meantime. Colonel Trimble, already accepted as something of a local ‘squire’, the more readily on account of his liberal views and democratic outlook, chaired an anniversary dinner of provincial dignitaries. Addressing the gathering, Carrington estimated that there were about 700 to 800 people settled on the block.
1876 saw the faltering start of a timber industry in Inglewood. An entrepreneur named Beaton had an engine on the site and a mill under construction by February 1876. Through lack of capital, his enterprise came to grief. His creditors impounded his engine, dragging it with a bullock team to the hotel and locking it up. It was released within a week or two, but soon afterwards passed into the hands of Broadmore and Co., the firm which had the honour of milling the first timber in Inglewood in July 1876.23 Inglewood's second sawmill was established by Colonel Trimble. The machinery, accompanied by an engineer, arrived in Auckland from England in December 1876.24 The establishment of the industry was being hampered, however, by delays in the construction of the promised railway. The advertisements for the first sale of land in the block had stated that the railway should be completed to Inglewood by July 1876, but it was nowhere near at this date. Inglewood was again reduced to importing supplies by packhorse over the winter. Public meetings were held in the township, and elsewhere in the province, to protest at the delays.
Public meetings were held at Inglewood over this winter for other purposes also. On 8 July Colonel Trimble chaired a meeting in the schoolroom, called together for two main objects.25 Some of Burton's Lincolnshire recruits had been disturbed by statements that he had made false representations to induce people to come to New Zealand, and wished to come to his defence. The meeting therefore began with a motion expressing satisfaction with Burton. It was moved by William Carter, who had emigrated from Withern by the Chile, as a 28-year-old carpenter. He had probably been an official of the union, as he claimed to have attended all Burton's meetings held in his district. He maintained that though John H. White had sometimes been carried away to make remarks that were too glowing and highly coloured, he had found all that Burton said true to the letter. John King from Grimsby seconded the motion, remarking that Burton had given a very honest representation of Taranaki as he left it, but the great and rapid influx of people had of course brought some changes, including a rise in prices and shortage of housing. The motion was carried with only one dissentient. Colonel Trimble then explained the meeting's other purpose. A memorial asking for a town corporation was to be circulated for householders to sign. Trimble said that he had found a universal determination to get Inglewood out of its muddy state. Forty-two householders signed the memorial at the meeting. Inglewood was proclaimed a town on 19 February 1877.page 302
Meanwhile steps were being taken to meet the religious needs of the settlement, with the Methodists to the fore, as one would expect. They were well supplied with lay leadership, particularly from among Burton's Lincolnshire recruits. Early in 1876 they opened the town's first church building. It was erected with the help of voluntary labour under the direction of William Carter, who was himself a local preacher, and a class meeting was immediately organised, led by John Jackson, another Lincolnshire local preacher, who appears on the Chile passenger list as a 54-year-old farm labourer, accompanied by a wife and three daughters, and who was reported to have promptly bought a block of 64 acres under deferred payment. Another early lay leader in the cause was George Cartwright, the second secretary of the Laceby branch of the Labour League.26 From a newspaper account of May 1876 it would seem that the Methodists did not provide Inglewood's only attraction of a Sunday morning. The reporter describes how the prayers and singing emanating from the chapel mingled with the yelping, barking, shouting and swearing of a group of twenty or thirty men and boys, and a small army of dogs, engaged in baiting a boar brought in from the bush.27
By the summer of 1876–7 many of the settlers were moving out from Inglewood to set up home on the clearings of their rural sections, and the population of the township probably passed its early peak. It was given new life, and new heart was put into the settlers of the block, by the appearance of the first railway locomotive in the town in August 1877. A vigorous development of sawmilling now got under way. On 29 August the first trainload of timber from Inglewood arrived in New Plymouth, from Colonel Trimble's mill.28 Meanwhile Henry Brown was moving his mill from Carrington Road to become the Moa Block's third sawmill. Henry Brown rapidly became the dominant figure in the sawmilling of the district.29 There was an increasing pace of life on the Mountain Road also. As it was improved it became an important stock route over which cattle were driven from the rich pastures of the Patea district to the river port of Waitara for shipment to the Auckland meat market. The main difficulties in opening up the block were now over, and a steady path to prosperity lay before its settlers. We will conclude our account with extracts from a letter written to his parents by George Douch, who was recruited by Simmons from Hurstgreen in Sussex, and came out on the Avalanche. The letter is dated 14 December 1877, so he had had nearly two years in the settlement.
I suppose I should hear from some of you oftener if I was to send you a ‘fiver’ now and again; but I find them very handy at present, as I am getting a house built, which will cost me £50 for labour … When I get that house built, it will stand on my own ground, and no one can turn me out of it; not if I was to shoot a bird on some one else's land. But there is no need for that, as I have plenty of pheasants and wild pigs on my own land. Pig hunting is much better fun than rabbit hunting. We shall have plenty of pig hunting at Christmas time. You would like to see some of the rusty old boars; they have a hide on them about two inches thick. There is plenty of land for sale as yet, but the price is page 303 going up. There is also plenty of work out here at present, and is likely to be. I am bush falling, and get 8s. per day. How would you like to work for a shilling an hour? I often think about you, crawling to and fro from them old plough-fields, and I might be doing the same if I had stopped at home, but I had more sense than that. I now ride my own horse to work. You told me that there was a good living to be got at home, but I searched a good many years and could not find it. There is a good living to be got out here if anyone likes to work for it. Never shall I forget the white plum pudding in 1855. I shall have new spuds and green peas, roast beef, and nine gallons of ale for this Christmas; that will be more like. When you write, let me know how the Union is getting on, and whether you believe in it now, because I do. It was the Union that opened my eyes, and if the Union had not started I should never have been worth a hundred shillings, but now I can show a hundred pounds.30
In 1882 George Douch owned 65 acres of freehold worth £204 in the Inglewood district. After farming for many years he retired into Inglewood, where he is still remembered as a handy man, and for his skill in scything and thatching.31
Like Taranaki, Nelson Province was slow to take advantage of the ‘Vogel’ immigration drive. Nelson had not suffered through land wars, but the hills and mountains which hemmed the settlement round were a more formidable barrier than Taranaki's bush, and little fertile land lay beyond their ramparts. Until January 1874 the province took no more than a token part in the colony's new development programme, but in that month the provincial council adopted a more progressive plan for public works, and asked for 150 immigrants to be sent each month.32 On 7 May the Agent-General despatched 332 immigrants on the Adamant, as the first response to these instructions. Their arrival on 13 August quickly led to some consternation in the provincial administration, for when they offered themselves for employment few were engaged. Meanwhile a further shipload was already at sea on the Chile, and another party was about to sail on the Ocean Mail. There was therefore probably a little desperation in the provincial government's examination of possible special settlement schemes.33 At first the Central Buller was favoured as a site, but a long dray-road would have needed to be built to tap this area, and even when it was completed transport costs would have been cripplingly heavy. Moreover it might well have taken years to put a railway through the mountains to solve the problem. When Charles Elliott, the Immigration Officer in Nelson, put forward the claims of Karamea as a settlement site, the government quickly took up the idea as the solution to their problem.
Karamea was situated on Nelson's West Coast, to the north of the existing West Coast settlements, from which it was separated by high hills which met the sea in rugged bluffs. The district is succinctly described in a report by the Nelson Provincial Secretary, dated 30 June 1876:
The Karamea is a low-lying undulating tract of country, shelving towards the west to a sandy open beach, on all other sides it is surrounded by steep hills and a mountainous country. It consists of page 304 about 60,000 acres of land available for agricultural and pastoral pursuits, containing a few swamps, but the greater part heavily timbered with rata, black, red and white pine, totara, and pukatea. It is drained by five rivers, all sufficient to admit vessels of light draught, the principal river being the Karamea, which as a harbor is second on the West Coast, only to the Buller, the entrance being straight, and the depth on the bar at high water ranging from 10 to 15 feet.34
There had been gold rushes to the district in 1867, and also in that year some 1,200 acres of choice land on the banks of the Karamea River had been put up and sold in Nelson. However, none of the purchasers had occupied their land, and in the winter of 1867 many of the diggers had had to abandon the district to avoid starvation, as supplies could only be got in by sea in fine weather.35 A handful were still there when the special settlement went in.
Both the Upper Buller and Karamea possessed some land suited to farming, opportunities for road works to provide employment while the settlers got established, the attraction of auriferous ground, and the possibility of a timber industry. The main consideration which led the provincial government to prefer Karamea over the possible alternatives was the cheapness of sea communication as compared with the heavy cost of land transport into the interior. Time was to show the government's estimation of the site to have been unduly optimistic. There were no major finds of gold, sawmillers were not attracted to the area for several decades, a hoped for route through the mountains to Nelson was not found, and the development of a road south to Westport proved more difficult and expensive than anticipated. Even the sea link, the district's main attraction, was poorly serviced once it became clear that the settlement was not going to flourish. In studying the Moa Block we followed immigrants to a well-considered and fortunate settlement which made steady progress towards prosperity. Karamea will serve as an example of a less fortunate and well-considered settlement, whose isolation was its main handicap. Other isolated coastal settlements of the period, and some in more difficult inland areas, suffered similarly. We will first trace the early history of the Karamea special settlement, and then look more closely at the experience of a settler who persisted, and became established there, and more briefly at two who abandoned the attempt in the second year and moved elsewhere.
By early November 1874 the provincial government had committed itself to Karamea, and before the month was out the necessary arrangements had been made and the settlement launched. On 5 November a site of 4,000 acres was reserved on the south side of the Karamea River. Next day telegraph negotiations began with the General Government for the necessary finance, which was soon approved. A prospectus was printed, dated 20 November. This called for thirty families to form the initial settlement. Full-time employment on public works was guaranteed for a month, and half-time employment for six months thereafter. Necessary tools, equipment, and rations for the first seven months, were to be provided by the government at cost price, and payment for these was to be page 305 a first charge on wages earned. Each head of family was to be leased an allotment of 50 acres and another of 5 acres, at an annual rental of two shillings per acre, and after fourteen years the freehold was to be granted without further payment. There were plenty of takers, and Elliott, the Immigration Officer was given the task of selecting the pioneer party.36
The day before they left, Elliott made a rousing farewell speech to the pioneers telling them he was sure they would succeed since ‘colonising was the especial mission of the Anglo-Saxon race, and the same blood flowed in their veins as in the men who gave language and laws to the whole continent of North America, to vast territories in Africa, to the huge continent of Australia, and numerous lesser countries’.37 They sailed on Sunday morning, 22 November 1874, by the coastal steamer Wallace. A number of the men were accompanied by their older sons, so that the party totalled thirty-seven. Over a quarter of them were Shetland Island crofters and fishermen, there were three Manxmen, three Cornish miners, and the rest were from various English counties, mainly farm labourers, but including one or two artisans.38 After delays caused by heavy seas, the pioneers landed at Karamea on 27 November. Some were quickly discouraged when they realised what would be involved in getting established in dense forest on an isolated coast, and thirteen left during the first month. These included the Manxmen, two of the Cornish miners, a carpenter from Middlesex, and two stone masons from Gloustershire.39 Those who stayed were predominantly English farm labourers and Shetland Island crofters. It was subsequently admitted that too little care had been taken in selecting the party. Most of those who left would seem to have had skills more appropriate to other parts of the colony, while those who stayed would seem to have been the ones better fitted for the pioneer task.
The main responsibility for planning and directing the settlement was taken by Eugene O'Conor, the Nelson Provincial Secretary, but he was not, of course, able to give it the close supervision that the Taranaki administration gave to the Moa Block. To the difficulties of the site and the lack of care in selecting the pioneers were added problems created by a rather unsuitable overseer, who had shortly to be replaced, and delays caused by failure to find the survey lines made ten years earlier. While they waited for the survey problems to be solved, the men were set to work clearing land and building a government store and a small jetty, on the Government Reserve on an island at the mouth of the river. Shortly the men were able to get to their sections and begin making a clearing, and erecting their first rough huts, to receive their wives and children. Due to the unfortunate alienation of the fertile river flats in 1867, the first sections to be allocated were on poorer soil on the South Terrace, about a mile from the port and store. Early in January a second party, mainly of wives and children, arrived from Nelson, and three further parties, including new heads of families, followed in February and March. New families arriving in March were given land to the north of the river, also separated from the Government Reserve by the land sold earlier.40page 306
A comparison of Karamea's development with that of the Moa Block is instructive. The establishment of the two settlements followed a similar pattern, with the pioneers simultaneously developing the roadlines and breaking in their sections, the one task financing the other. On the Moa Block we noted the difficulties created by putting inexperienced immigrants to bush work, but also that once land sales began there was a large influx of experienced colonists. The inexperience of newly arrived immigrants must have led to the same difficulties at Karamea, but here there was no prospect of a rapid build-up of experienced settlers. The provincial administration did what it could, offering land for sale adjacent to the special settlement, without much success, and negotiating with the General Government a limited relaxation of the Special Settlement regulations, to allow a few experienced colonists to be included.41 At Inglewood the government store quickly gave way to private traders, and a money economy functioned almost from the start. At Karamea the authorcies had great difficulty in divesting themselves of the store, and were forced into the prolonged operation of a truck system that gave rise to various frictions and difficulties. Inglewood settlers could often earn money back in the older settlements, and soon had sawmills giving employment on the block. Lacking these advantages some Karamea settlers found it very difficult to work off their score at the store. Quite soon the Moa Block settlers were able to concentrate on developing their sections as a united family enterprise. Once the more essential works had been done around the Karamea settlement, these less fortunate settlers were expected to spend much of their time far away from home and family, labouring on the road through to the south.
The worst has yet to be told. After two years of struggle, the settlers on the South Terrace found their soil to be worthless, and had no choice but to abandon the site. They were relocated on a block of their own choosing further up the river, which they named the Promised Land. The name was suggested partly by the Biblical faith of many of the settlers, but also, apparently, because they first claimed it for the 5 acre allotments, which they had been promised in the First Prospectus in addition to the 50 acre sections, and of which they had had no further word.42 Curiously, the quality of the Promised Land was first discovered by Edward King, reputedly an ‘infidel’.43 He had formerly worked for Sutton's Seed Farm of London and was in the habit of carrying some seed with him. Local tradition tells how he and his brother were hunting for their lost pigs one day, and noticing the quality of the soil, cleared a small patch and planted some seed. When they returned some time later, the plants had made spectacular progress.44
In the course of time the settlers came to fix the blame for their various difficulties and disappointments mainly on O'Conor, the Provincial Secretary. In August 1877, thirty-nine settlers expressed their grievances in a petition to the General Government. Alexander Mackay was sent to Karamea to investigate the charges, and his report, based on four days of page 307 informal inquiry, substantially cleared O'Conor.45 With the abolition of the provinces, the administration of the settlement passed to the Buller County Council. By the 1880s those who had stuck to the settlement were enjoying the limited prosperity of a plentiful, mainly subsistence, agriculture. R. C. Reid, a gold miner and journalist, who visited them in the early 1880s described the settlers as ‘poor in world's goods, in money, and in house plenishings’, but considered that they had ‘turned the corner of their troubles’. He believed there was no district in the colony more productive than the Promised Land.
The settlement was made up of people, who coming from their village homes in quiet far-off English counties, have formed a compact community, still clinging to their old home associations, and knowing little of the colony they inhabit beyond the stray news now and again brought to them.46
To ‘quiet far-off English counties’ we must now return, for the origins of Thomas Lineham, our example of a successful Karamea settler. The 1871 census schedules for Lidlington in Bedfordshire, show him as a 35-year-old agricultural labourer in employment, living at Mill End with his wife Mary, 34, lace maker. Four children, aged 4 to 11 are shown as scholars, and there was also an infant son. Both parents and children had been born in Lidlington, and Thomas's agricultural labourer father and lace maker mother were also living in the village. We have already noted how the emigration of Thomas and his family, together with his younger married brother Alfred, his 18-year-old unmarried brother Harry, and Richard Allen, with his wife and family, from neighbouring Ridgmont, must have resulted from Andrew Duncan's meeting there on 14 April 1874.47 Thomas Lineham's application for assisted immigration to New Zealand was supported by certificates from J. H. Readman, Baptist Minister, from John Jenkyns, Vicar of Lidlington and from Henry Taylor, the General Secretary of the National Union. A medical certificate had been signed by a physician and surgeon of nearby Cransfield.48 The immigrants' passenger list of the Adamant shows that Thomas's family had grown to six by 1874; consisting of Georgiana, 15, Caroline, 12, George, 10, John, 7, Thomas, 4, and Harry, 1. Infant Harry died of measles on the voyage. A few days after his arrival in Nelson, Thomas Lineham was removed from the depot to hospital, on account of a bad leg of long standing. The hospital surgeon informed Elliott, the Immigration Officer, that the case was likely to be tedious as diseased bone would have to be removed, and Elliott's report on the matter was forwarded to Featherston in London, for an explanation of Lineham's selection. Thomas thus began his New Zealand career with a considerable handicap. Elliott gained from the Minister of Immigration approval for an allowance of fifteen shillings a week to the family on their leaving the depot, and on 14 December 1874 he reported that Thomas was so far recovered that he hoped he would soon be at work.49
The reason why Thomas was not included in the pioneer party for Karamea is clear enough. What is surprising is that with his son George, he page 308 left with the second party, sailing on 12 January. His fortunes during the early stages of the settlement can be pieced together from a letter he wrote to his parents in mid 1875,50 and from the reports of the overseer of the settlement, available in New Zealand National Archives. His allotment was near the western end of the South Terrace, with the river and the sea only a few minutes walk away, over the edge of the table land. Thomas described his first days on his land:
If you could have seen me and George pitch our tent in the Karamea; we had to cut the wood down before we could pitch our tent. It makes us think about the patriarchs of old pitching their tents. We had to work some days before we could see anything beside the sky above our heads. The trees were so high, some of them were thirty yards long.
Thomas and young George must have worked to some purpose, for the overseer's report of 31 March 1875 shows them with one acre felled and cleared, and with two houses, one of them slabbed but not yet thatched. Possibly the other was a first rough hut of tree fern pungas, kept for use as a shed. Thomas's brothers are shown making good progress on a section not far away, and so too were Richard Allen and his son, from Ridgmont, on the section next to Thomas's. A little further away another Bedfordshire man, Daniel Scarlet, was even further ahead, with two acres ready to be sown with grass seed, but he and his 17-year-old son had come with the first party. Thomas told his parents how they had made roadlines through the settlement, and extended their clearing ‘so as the sun can get us all round’. He tried, too, to describe the setting, so much wilder and more dramatic than the Vale of Bedford and the Chiltern Hills.
We live about 200 feet above the level of the sea, and we can see the wide ocean any time in about five minutes' walk. Ours is table land, and there is mountains above us. The mountains are very high; your hills are like molehills to them; they rise all at once. You can go on the level till you get to the foot of them; then they seem to rise all at once.
Meanwhile back in Nelson Thomas's wife gave birth to a daughter, a week before Easter. When little Mary Ann was a month old, Thomas's wife and family joined him at Karamea, with the exception of Georgiana, who apparently had a good situation in Nelson. Thomas's letter expresses some pride in the home he had been able to provide.
… me and George built us a house, and then Mary and the children come to us. So you see, by the kind providence of God, I have a house of my own and plenty of wood to burn, and it is a better house than our old one at Lidlington … I must tell you that I have a chimney big enough to lay logs five feet long across the fire place, so you may guess we are not cold.
Thomas's house had benefited from the generosity of a kind lady who had sent them ‘two nice windows, three feet wide and four feet six inches long. There was good news, too, about food:page 309
They find us plenty of food; certainly we was short of meat for a week or two, but we lost our sheep in the bush. It makes us think about the poor empty bellies in the old country, when God so kindly spreads our table. I killed a sheep last Saturday night. Me and another man had it together - a fine fat sheep - and we had as much suet as we had in six months in England, and that will last us about a fortnight; and we have our provisions from the stores; sometimes we have two hogsheads of sugar, about fifty or sixty pounds each, and flour any amount, and butter and tea any quantity.
Thomas explained how they were being allowed to live on credit while they got established, and expressed his gratitude for a start such as no one was prepared to give him in England. He already had a few fowls of his own, but it would, of course, be some time before much of the family's food could be taken from their own land.
Before we leave Thomas's letter, we must note its expression of a simple faith and piety, in keeping with the Bunyan tradition of the Baptist connection evidenced among Thomas's immigration application certificates. He writes of the ‘kind providence of God’ whereby he has been ‘restored to health and strength again’ and how ‘God in his goodness has put us in a land of plenty’, and remarks that though they have as yet ‘no public means of grace’, he is nevertheless thankful that ‘where there is a heart to pray God has an ear to hear’. When explaining that there are no venomous reptiles or wild beasts for them to fear, Thomas turns aside to remark that ‘it is as the Bible says, we can worship God under our own vine and fig-tree, none daring lawfully to make us afraid’. The support of this faith must have been an asset during the trials and disappointments that lay ahead.
The overseer's reports for the latter half of 1875 show that from July to early September Thomas had carried out contracts for road making at the South Settlement and that this road was completed by 9 September. By 7 October Thomas had half an acre of his section in crops, including potatoes, barley, oats and a good variety of vegetables. The overseer was now being pressed to get the settlers to work off their debts to the store. It took some persuasion to get them to leave their homes and families and begin work miles away on the road to the south, but by 8 November those heavily in debt were leaving for these works. The records show that Thomas would have qualified as one of these, but nevertheless he and his son were found work around the settlement for another three or four months. Perhaps his young family and his earlier trouble with his leg were being taken into account. However, by March 1876, Thomas and George Lineham were putting in a good part of their time on the distant roadworks. At the end of February 1876 Thomas was still nearly £66 in debt, but by 31 August this had been reduced to £22. The following month Thomas and his son earned over £16, so the debt was probably cleared by the end of the year.
We conclude our account of Karamea by looking briefly at two settlers who, after persisting for eighteen months, left the settlement. We will look page 310 particularly for ways in which they differed from immigrants such as Thomas Lineham, who perservered in the settlement. Frederick Liley and Samuel Friend both came from Westerham in Kent, they emigrated together on the same ship as Thomas Lineham, the Adamant, and both went to Karamea with the initial pioneer party. It is probably significant that their English background was small town, rather than village. Liley appears in the 1871 census schedules for Westerham as a 38-year-old painter, with a wife and five children. All are shown as Westerham born, except the oldest son, William, 14, who was born as Deptford. This suggests that his parents had had an episode of city life. The Adamant passenger list shows Frederick as a pit sawyer, and his family has grown to seven. Samuel Friend appears in the 1871 census schedules as a 34-year-old agricultural labourer, living with his wife and four children in the home of his widowed father-in-law. The whole household were Westerham-born. Another child born before the family emigrated died on the voyage.
The overseer's reports for the early months at Karamea show some differences between the work of Samuel and Frederick. Both had sections on the South Terrace. By 31 March 1875 Samuel had a slab and thatch house, while Frederick had only a grass and thatch one; when they left Karamea Samuel's was valued at £18, Frederick's at only £5. But the overseer had encouraged the men to concentrate in the early stages on land clearance rather than house building, and Frederick had clearly paid attention to this advice, for by 7 October 1875 he had five acres felled and three-quarters of an acre planted, whereas Samuel had only a little over an acre felled and a quarter of an acre planted. When they left, Frederick's land development was valued at £35, Samuel's at only £18. However, Frederick had been helped by an 18-year-old son, whereas Samuel's boy was only 11. The records show that in most months of the settlement's first year, Frederick put much more time into labouring on the public works than did Samuel. Frederick had also twice made the unpopular four-day round trip with the mails over the difficult route to Mokohinui. On 7 October 1875 the overseer reported of Samuel Friend that ‘this settler never exerts himself or troubles himself to work off his debt and will never become a good settler’. In the five months beginning with January 1876, Frederick and Samuel are shown putting in exactly the same time on the same tasks or contracts. It would seem that they had settled down as mates, probably with the set purpose of working off their indebtedness and leaving Karamea. Finally, on 20 May, they are reported removing their luggage to the store, preparatory to leaving. The valuation of their improvements was dated 12 June.
It is not likely that Thomas Lineham was tempted to leave Karamea by letters from Bedfordshire immigrants settled elswhere-for comparatively few had come from his county, and most of the Bedfordshire party on the Adamant went to Karamea. On the other hand, Friend and Liley may well have been unsettled in this way. The colony had seen considerable immigration from Kent, and most of the fairly large Kentish party on the page 311 Adamant did not go to Karamea. Friend and Liley may have been further unsettled by the fact that an old mate (and in Friend's case, probably a brother) was following them from Westerham to New Zealand. Thomas Friend was secretary of the Westerham branch of the National Union. He appears in Westerham's 1871 census schedules as a 38-year-old gas stoker, and he reached Nelson by the Fern Glen on 21 April 1876, with his wife and four children. Arriving at the beginning of winter, he had some difficulty finding work, but after three weeks he was well suited by a position as manager of a small farm at Richmond. He was provided with a large house and garden; ground to keep a milch goat, pigs and fowls; a horse to ride; and thirty shillings a week in wages. Writing home on 16 October 1876, he reported gaining 21 pounds in weight since leaving London. In a letter dated 29 April 1877 he mentioned his two friends returned from Karamea:
I drove to Nelson last Sunday, I went to Sam's to dinner and Fred Liley's to tea. They are all quite well and doing pretty well now; but they made a great mistake in going up to Keremea [sic] as that is a great failure.51
The limited evidence of the overseer's reports suggests Samuel Friend lacked the qualities needed for success as a bush pioneer. This may well have been a matter of health and physique, for Samuel died in Nelson in April 1881, aged only 44, of phthisis of 18 months standing. He left his widow with freehold worth £150. Frederick Liley on the other hand, might well have succeeded, had he persisted, but he possessed skills whereby he could make his way more profitably in the more developed settlements. In 1882 he was a painter in Nelson, owning freehold land worth £250. This comparison between Thomas Lineham and the two Westerham men suggests some of the implications of New Zealand's good fortune in drawing on the Revolt of the Field emigration. The colony needed many settlers who would tackle hard work in the relatively primitive and comfortless conditions of pioneer bush settlements. Under normal circumstances, immigration propaganda might have been expected to reach and attract small town recruits such as Liley and Friend, rather than labourers from outlying rural villages, as so often happened once the link was made with the Revolt unions. To most of the former, ownership of a bush farm would hardly be compensation for losing the comforts and recreations of small town life, but the latter were used to privations, and a bush section would represent the fulfilment of many of their simple rural dreams.
For our next bush settlement example we go to Woodville in Hawke's Bay, concentrating our attention particularly on the thirty-five families who banded together in 1876 to form the Woodville Small Farm Association. We have already introduced nine of these families, for they were from Oxfordshire, part of the strong flow from that county to Hawke's Bay, which we examined in Chapter 6. There we saw them settling first in the Hawke's Bay Feldon, now we must follow them as they take their savings, and the benefit of a year or two of colonial experience, page 312 and move into the Arden of the Seventy Mile Bush. First, however, we must briefly examine the circumstances leading to the settlement of the Woodville district.
In 1870 the Hawke's Bay settlement, like New Plymouth, was an isolated district, conscious of a Maori threat, and separated from its nearer neighbours by large stretches of forest to the south. It was unlike New Plymouth, however, in that it did not consist of a small, closely-settled coastal strip, but rather of a pocket of about four hundred square miles of thinly-settled squatter country, extending some thirty miles inland to the south of the province's capital and port Napier. The southern limit of settlement had been set by the northern edge of the Seventy Mile Bush, which intervened between the Hawke's Bay squatters and those of the Wairarapa, Wellington Province's main sheep district. Events of the 1860s had turned the Hawke's Bay squatters from an earlier opposition to small farm communities, to a desire to see this type of settlement undertaken in the Seventy Mile Bush, to break their province's isolation. Ably led by its Superintendent, John Ormond, the province moved quickly to take advantage of the new public works and immigration scheme. Although it took until June 1871 to purchase the necessary land from the Maori owners, Ormond had surveyors and roadmakers at work in the forest over six months before this. He planned to plant in the bush three villages of Scandinavian road labourers, who were initially to concentrate on completing a good coach road to the province's southern border, some thirty miles into the forest. Here, this Great South Road would meet a military road which the General Government was vigorously constructing through the Manawatu Gorge, to link southern Hawke's Bay with the West Coast settlements and the port of Foxton. Meanwhile the Wellington provincial administration was pushing a road north through its forty mile section of the Seventy Mile Bush, to meet Hawke's Bay's new road near the Manawatu Gorge. Ormond's Great South Road was completed with admirable speed. The first two road labourers' villages were founded in October 1872, at Norsewood and Dannevirke, and the Scandinavian immigrants proved so suited to the task that the road was virtually completed by the end of their second summer, and a regular coach service between Napier and Foxton began in May 1874. The site of Woodville had been surveyed for the third road labourers' village, but there had been no need to establish it for this purpose.52
Ormond's plans also included a railway to parallel the Great South Road, a steady flow of immigration, and a rapid settlement of the province's undeveloped land. Brogdens won the contract for the first sections of the railway, and we have already considered some members of their first party of navvies for this work, those reaching Napier on the Chile in December 1872. To encourage these and other immigrants to become settled colonists, Ormond steadily put on sale bush land opened by his Great South Road, much of it on deferred payment terms. However, he was disappointed to find that the land was only slowly occupied and page 313 developed following its sale. Thus, the Woodville village site, and adjacent rural land, was put on sale in January 1875, as soon as the Great South Road could serve the district. The place was being boomed as a future great inland town, the junction of west-east and north-south routes, and the town sections were snapped up, largely by speculators. But there was no rush to settle the district, and for a time the town continued to exist on paper only. To speed up development, early in 1876 Ormond decided to supplement his land sales policy with special small farm settlements, which had been provided for in provincial legislation of 1872. We will shortly trace the establishment of the Woodville Small Farm Association, the first of five such associations fostered by Ormond before the abolition of the provincial administration. First, however, we must give a brief account of earlier developments at Woodville.
George Hutching, whose reminiscence we have just quoted, was one of three brothers of Essex origins, who arrived in Wellington as assisted immigrants in October and November 1873. George, a 25-year-old labourer, with a wife and infant daughter, and James, a 23-year-old bootmaker with his wife Ellen, 19, arrived on the E. P. Bouverie, and immediately transhipped to a coastal steamer owned by Brogdens, sailing for Napier. By January 1875 the two brothers had saved enough to purchase a block at the sale of Woodville land. Shortly afterwards they tramped through to see their purchase, and that autumn they again swagged to Woodville to carry out a bush-felling contract.55 Shortly thereafter James Hutching began to practise his trade in Woodville. A settler who arrived to fell bush in 1876 recalled the boot repairing shop of ‘Jimmy Hutchins’ - ‘simply a calico fly rigged up on poles in front of a tent in which he and his wife lived and in this calico boot palace Jimmy would sit mending old shoes and whistling lively tunes all day long.’56 On 25 May 1876 a newspaper correspondent reported that timber for a four-roomed house and shop to be occupied by James Hutching, bootmaker, was ready on a section belonging to Mr Carr, surveyor.57 Meanwhile George and James had soon been followed to New Zealand, and on to Woodville, by their older brother, Stephen, a 39-year-old farm labourer with a wife and six children. Stephen had been working as a gardener at Penge in Surrey, and one of the testimonials for his immigration application had been supplied by a local magistrate, J. Broomhall. On Christmas Day 1876 Broomhall, on a visit to New Zealand, passed through Woodville on the stage coach. When the coach stopped to deliver a bag at Stephen Hutching's cottage, a brief reunion took place. Broomhall reported that Stephen Hutching
pointed with pride to his twenty acres of land with the cottage on it his own freehold, and to chickens and ducks in abundance, and, if he have not now, he will soon have pigs, cows and a good farmyard … Mrs Hutchins was not so jubilant as her husband; she experienced the loss of the Christian advantages of Penge Baptist Tabernacle, but if the Rev. John and Mrs Collins would emigrate and open a tabernacle in the Seventy Mile Bush Mrs Hutchins would be as satisfied as is her husband.
A mile further on the road I observed a sign-board, James Hutchins, boot and shoe maker, and out came James, equally pleased as was Stephen … The brothers recounted some of the difficulties which had beset them, and which are incidental to all emigrants, but the experience was beneficial and now each rejoiced over them, and are strong men, able to hold their own.58page 315
Clearly, then, the bush settlement at Woodville had made a certain amount of progress by March 1876, when Ormond took steps to initiate the Woodville Small Farm Association. The man whom Ormond called upon to found the association was Joseph Sowry, a builder in Waipawa. Sowry was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, about 1838, and emigrated to New Zealand about 1864.59 He lived for a time in Wellington, before moving to Waipawa. Here he took an active part in the life of the Waipawa United Methodist Free Church, whose first minister, the Revd Taylor, was appointed shortly after arriving in the colony from England in September 1869.60 The congregation grew steadily in the early 1870s, and would seem to have been a stronghold of temperance. In 1871 and 1872 Sowry approached the Provincial Council on behalf of the ‘Lily of the Valley’ branch of the Rechabite Lodge, asking for assistance to form an association to take up land on the deferred payment system.61 The association which Sowry formed when Ormond gave him the go-ahead in 1876 represented no particular group, but it did draw so heavily on the Methodist Free Church congregation that it resulted in the closing of the Waipawa church for several years.62
The initial meeting leading to the formation of the Woodville Small Farm Association was held in Waipawa on Saturday, 1 April 1876.63 At this meeting fourteen married men signed a memorandum expressing their desire to take up land in a small farm settlement at Woodville. Within a month the association had a full roll of members for the 2,500 acre block which was being allotted to it. A leader on the association in the Hawke's Bay Herald of 22 April had led to a deluge of applicants. Only married men with families were accepted, and the 35 members had a total of 165 children.64 The Hawke's Bay Herald of 2 May reported that most of the members had capital, ranging from £100 to £1000. On 3 June 1876 Ormond wrote to tell Sowry that the rules they had agreed to had been amended a little by the cabinet, and would be signed by the Governor as soon as he returned to Wellington. The block had been surveyed, a road laid out through it, and tracks opened so as to give access to all parts of it. One of the cabinet's amendments required that the order of choice of sections should be decided by ballot.65 This was done on 10 June. On 13 June Sowry wrote to say that several of the members would like to take work cutting the roads through the settlement. Ormond replied that this work had almost all been already let. Some of the members spent time during the winter felling the first clearings on their sections. Others decided to continue in employment elsewhere, and let their felling on contract. A letter written from Napier on 22 September 1876 by one of these latter gives an excellent summary of the association's rules, as well as illustrating the go-getter spirit so common among new colonials.
Charles Hambling had emigrated from Over Norton in Oxfordshire, sailing on the Winchester on 2 May 1874. In the passenger list he appears as a 37-year-old labourer, accompanied by his wife and six children, the eldest of whom were Anne, 15, and Levi, 14, and Emma, 12. Charles wrote: page 316 Dear brother, since I wrote to you last I have got two horses of my own, and a light four-wheeled trap. We call it an express here, with which I take goods and parcels, and remove furniture about the town, to and from the port and station. Some days I earn £1 a day. I have not earned less than £5 a week since I began last April, so you see we are getting on all right, and now I have made another speculation — it is in land. About thirty-five of us have formed ourselves into a society, and have bought of the Government about 2,500 acres of bush land at £1 per acre, and we are allowed seven years to pay it in. We pay 9d per acre quarterly. We have divided the land among ourselves, and mine is nearly 100 acres, and it is the best land in the province of Hawke's Bay. It is about 100 miles from Napier, that is, half way to Wellington. It is a new township called Woodvill [sic] and our land is going to be called the Woodvill Small Farm Association. There is a good road from Napier to there, and from there to Wellington. There will be three railways to meet at that township when finished - the Napier, Wellington, and Wanganui Railways - and that will make our land very valuable in a few years. Some of the men have gone to begin clearing theirs, and I have two men clearing for me. I must have ten acres cleared and fenced - and a cottage to live in at the end of two years; and clear and fence ten more acres in the next two years; after that we can clear it when we like … Dear brother, I must tell you that the greater part of us are Methodists, mostly Primitives, and we expect to start a Primitive Methodist Society when we all get to live there. There are four local preachers — myself, John Pinfold, from Taynton, in Oxon; Edward Harding, from the same place; and George Smith, from Burford, so you see the birds of a feather flock together … Dear friends, the girls are both in service, and Levi is getting on well with his trade. He has grown very much, and you would not know Emma if you could see her; she is taller than her mother, and Anne is quite well. Levi has made himself a boat, and goes on the water when it is calm, and takes the boys and Nelly. We are living on the beach, close to the sea …66
The association included at least nine Oxfordshire members, most of them from the Wychwood area. We have already given some account of the local preachers mentioned by Hambling. The other members known to be from Oxfordshire (most of whom were mentioned in Chapter 6 above) were Henry Cox, Edward Groves, William Maisey, George Millin and Eliiah Mills — all of them assisted immigrants arriving in the colony between March 1874 and February 1875. Thirteen other members of the association have been traced in the assisted immigrant passenger lists. Two were Scots, the others came from nine different English counties, with no more than two from any county, apart from Oxfordshire. The majority of the members were therefore immigrant labourers from rural England. Most of them were working in or near Waipawa at the time they joined the association.
The bush sections to which the members began to move in the latter half of 1876 varied in size from 50 to 150 acres. The settlement adjoined Woodville township, which by mid 1876 possessed a hotel, two stores, a butcher's shop and a carpenter's shop - as well as James Hutching's ‘calico boot palace’.67 By August 1876 enough association members had arrived for Free Methodist cottage meetings to commence.68 When Sowry visited page 317 the settlement in mid-October he found the members very concerned at the lack of a school. He accordingly wrote to Ormond saying that they could wait no longer than the next winter for a school, and that it was expected that in less than eighteen months there would be at least sixty school age children in the district. The settlers were prepared to contribute generously towards the cost of the building.69 Their request was granted, the school being built the following year. Its first teacher was William Gibb Grawford, a member of the small farm association, who had come to the colony in 1874 as an assisted immigrant from Scotland.70 Once opened, the school became the township's main venue for meetings, including the Free Methodist services and Sunday School. No doubt the Rechabite Lodge branch, founded in September 1878, also met there. Of the lodge's seven foundation officers, six were members of the small farm association, and the other was one of the Hutching brothers.71
It is clear that the association's members had a much easier start than the Karamea pioneers, and they also had several advantages over the first immigrant settlers on the Moa Block. They were, however, handicapped through having more limited opportunities for wage labour than the Karamea and Inglewood settlers. In this respect, the more advanced roading that they enjoyed was a disadvantage. Also, they were not helped, as were the Inglewood settlers, by the early development of a vigorous timber industry. The Woodville district was poor in millable timber, and there was no railway to transport it out until the late 1880s. The meagre wage opportunities of Woodville are reflected in two letters which George Hutching wrote in 1877.72 Although Hutching did not belong to the small farm association, some of its members' circumstances must have been very similar to his. The Napier immigration authorities had asked Hutching to pay the £20 promissory note he had signed as his contribution towards the family's passage money. On 1 August 1877 he wrote to the Minister of Immigration complaining that he had heard nothing of the matter for four years, no one had told him when or to whom he should pay the sum. He informed the minister that if proceedings were pressed ‘I shall be compelled to sell my little piece of bush land, and break up what I fondly deemed my home’. The Immigration Department replied that all that was expected was that Hutching would make reasonable arrangements for repayment by instalments. From Hutching's reply, dated 27 August 1877, it would seem that he was the spokesman for a group of settlers similarly placed. Acknowledging the department's reply, he wrote that
… we think the letter evasive and consequently unsatisfactory. We would therefore beg of your honor to give a final and decided answer this time, as to whether the government will enforce payment, they would imprison, or take any property, as one of the two latter courses would have to be taken in half the cases for I am sure there is not one in ten that could follow out the course proposed in your letter viz pay by instalments as tis as much and even more than most of us can do to keep clear of the storekeeper; we had hoped by taking his course to save all unnecessary troubles which would ensue were legal proceedings page 318 taken for recovering the money and more especially, we did not wish to make a noise about it if possible to gain our point by a quiet course of action. For although we are aware that payment might be enforced we at the same time think it a great injustice that payment should be required of us who arrived only a few weeks prior to several ship loads of free immigrants.
Hutching reminded the minister that members of parliament, including some in the cabinet, had stated publicly that to demand payment of these notes would be unjust, and concluded by asserting that there was a strong case for striking these sums from the books, rather than allowing them to ‘hang over our heads like the sword of Damocles keeping us in constant fear, a tax on our energies, a drag upon our existence and a barrier to our progress’. The letter was not answered. Its tone indicates not only the village labourer's new image of himself, but also the colonial's lack of awe and deference for the governing authorities. By 1882 George Hutching had freeholded 69 acres at Woodville, worth £270, but whether he had also met his promissory note is not known.
In October 1879 a reporter from the Hawke's Bay Herald visited Woodville and wrote an account of its progress.73 While wandering about the township he met Joseph Sowry, whom he described as ‘chairman or secretary or committeeman on every local organisation’. He found Sowry ‘an exceedingly intelligent and shrewd man’ with some worthwhile views on the colony's land laws. Sowry told the reporter that
The great disadvantage under which the Woodville settlers labored was, in his opinion, the extent of bush held by absentee proprietors who would not improve. A well-known M.L.C. [Member of the Legislative Council] held several acres next to the township, and not a tree had been felled. If the settler owning the next section fenced and cleared, and built a house, he might find his fences, his grass, and his house destroyed one day when the absentee's bush caught fire.
That afternoon Sowry brought three horses, and conducted the reporter and his companion around the Woodville Small Farm Association settlement.
Our horses went up to their knees in the soft mud of the road, and stumbled over the tree roots which still spread under the surface. No one can get anything like a fair idea of Woodville from the main road. Hidden by belts of trees are special settlements here and there, carrying a large and apparently prosperous population. The particular settlement in question was only some three years old, but the bush had been burnt off and mostly felled, cattle wandered among the stumps, fences divided the land everywhere, and comfortable houses were taking the place of temporary huts which were at first erected. Here and there was a paddock of wheat or oats - all surface sown, for it will be some years before a plough can be put to work. Our guide told us that, though they had to ‘rough it’ at first, the settlers had managed to make both ends meet, and were now drifting into smoother waters. A few had capital, and employed those who had none in clearing and felling. Mr Ormond had an adjoining section of some four hundred acres which he had cleared, and this caused the circulation of about a thousand pounds page 319 … there had been jobs on the road and other ways of obtaining a little money. They sold their butter to road-gangs or surveying parties, and had a market for the increase in their cattle.
The Return of Freeholders shows that by 1882, over a year before the expiry of the seven years allowed them for payment, twenty-three of the association's members had already freeholded their sections.
To conclude our account of this small farm settlement we will briefly recount a few episodes from the experience of Charles Hambling and his family in the decade after he left his carrying ‘speculation’ in Napier for his land ‘speculation’ at Woodville. The Hawke's Bay Almanack for 1878 shows that Charles Hambling served for a time as a Methodist Free Church lay preacher at Woodville. However, in 1879 Primitive Methodists from the Manawatu began sponsoring cottage meetings at Woodville and Charles Hambling threw in his lot with them. When they built Woodville's first church in 1881, he became its Sunday School superintendent.74 By 1882 he had freeholded his 98 acre block in the settlement, and it was valued at £490. His eldest son Levi, who appears as a carpenter at Woodville, also owned 40 acres of freehold worth £334. In 1882 Charles's eldest daughter, Anne, was married at her father's house to John Harris Ebbett, the coastguard's son from St. Keverne in Cornwall, now a painter in Woodville. Levi Hambling remained with the Methodist Free Church congregation, and in 1882 took the contract to build them a church to plans drawn by Joseph Sowry. The first wedding in the building took place on 1 January 1883, when Levi Hambling was married to a colonial-born girl.75 When the railway at last reached the town in March 1887, Charles Hambling promptly returned to the carrying business which he had found so lucrative in Napier, and began running an express to and from the Woodville station.76
The bush settlements at Inglewood, Karamea and Woodville had a good deal of planning and central direction behind them. Many bush districts, however, were settled in a much more haphazard way, being put up for sale to the first comers or the highest bidders after a minimum of preparation in surveying and making of access roads. For our final examples we will go to one such area, south Taranaki, where bush settlement of this type was getting under way about 1880. These bush colonists came largely from older settled areas to the south, including South Island districts, and many of them were assisted immigrants of a few years earlier. Due to the amorphous nature of this process of bush colonisation, the backgrounds and careers of the settlers are somewhat difficult to trace. It is probable for example, that the initiatives of the Co-operative Land Company, whose activities in Christchurch we noted in our last chapter, led quite a number of ‘Vogel’ immigrants to move from Canterbury to south Taranaki, but detailed local research is needed to confirm this. A likely example is J. W. Cleaver, who on 23 June 1880 obtained 100 acres on deferred payment at Te Roti, part of a considerable area of bush land put up for sale that day in Hawera. The sale was well attended and many blocks realised more than page 320 double the upset price of £2 an acre.77 J. W. Cleaver is quite probably John Cleaver, a 45-year-old labourer who emigrated from Warwickshire, with his wife and three children, in Allington's party on the Crusader. A return of 1889 shows that J. W. Cleaver was granted a revaluation of his holding, reducing the £3 15s. an acre he had bid at the auction, to £2 15s. 9d.78
The pioneers of the south Taranaki bush also included some recently arrived immigrants, among them quite a number of the Stad Haarlem's Kentish party. One of these was William Hatcher, 33, an experienced Kentish hop worker who emigrated with his wife and three children. He may well have been among those who brought cases of hop sets with them. By 1882 he owned five acres in the bush township of Okaiawa, and by 1883 had a few hop plants growing luxuriantly on it.79
Joseph and Louisa Johnson and family, and their Taranaki farm home, c. 1897. Of their five children who boarded the Mongol in December 1873, only Ellen (extreme left) survived the voyage
The persistence of Old World habits and traditions is further illustrated by our other bush settler example from Ngaere - George Sparks, the shepherd from Chartham in Kent who emigrated on the Stad Haarlem in 1879. Sparks settled first in squatter country at Patea, where in 1881 his daughter Louisa married a local settler of Scottish origin. By 1882 George Sparks owned a freehold bush section of 126 acres at Climie Road, Ngaere, and he was probably occupying it by February 1882, when he was elected a foundation member of the local school committee. Family traditions tell of George swagging to Ngaere to build a ponga whare for his family, and of his wife Anne walking there from Patea with her youngest child on her shoulders. Although George became a foundation shareholder in the Ngaere Co-operative Dairy Company, formed in 1893, his shepherd days on the North Downs of Kent had not been forgotten. In the 1890s he begins to appear in the records as a sheep owner. Leaving two of his sons to farm the Ngaere Block, he took up land at Alton on the Patea coast, and by 1900 had a flock of 895 sheep there.81
When the Wanganui Yeoman's agricultural reporter visited Ngaere early in 1883 he was struck with the settler's ‘orchard’ approach to farming.82 Besides the more usual fruit trees and hops, they had planted currants, walnuts and Spanish chestnuts. The reporter considered that they would soon need a large preserved fruit factory. The district was not, in fact, so suited to fruit growing as these pioneers thought, and before long they were turning their attention to dairying. The hearthland origins of these settlers would probably account for the earlier interest in fruit — and detailed local research might well find more of the Stad Haarlem’s Kentish folk among them. The persistence and adaptation of hearthland family and community habits and traditions have been repeatedly in evidence in this study Our brief glance at pioneer Ngaere has raised and illustrated this aspect of immigration in a particularly pointed way. Much fuller studies of immigrant origins will surely be needed if New Zealand local history is to get adequately to grips with its subject, and if the country's agrarian and social development is to be properly understood. To conclude this chapter we will briefly return to our first three bush settlement examples, to further illustrate the kind of material which can be uncovered.page 323
A notable feature of the early years of the Inglewood settlement was the flourishing Moa Farmer's Club, founded in May 1881. By March 1883 the Wanganui Yeoman referred to it as ‘the already renowned Moa Farmer's Club’.83 The Yeoman, which circulated widely on the west coast both south and north of Wanganui, was a persistent advocate of farmers' clubs, and considered the Moa Farmer's Club to be the first organisation of the kind within its district. The club held regular monthly meetings at which topics of practical interest to the settlers were debated, and much pooling of experience took place. In its first two years the club dealt with such subjects as the best time of year to fell bush, the best form of plough for breaking up bush land, the most desirable hedge plant for bush country, and the best breeds of cattle and sheep for the district. In the search for a suitable cash crop there were papers on linseed growing, tobacco culture and, more appropriately, cooperation, and cheese factories. The club instituted spring and autumn shows at which all types of garden and farm produce were exhibited.84 During the 1880s the club had few imitators on the North Island west coast, and certainly none which flourished in the same way. How is this unique level of interest at Inglewood to be accounted for? A very likely factor is the stimulation provided by the diverse backgrounds of the settlers. As we have already seen, these included Kent, with its diversified agriculture, the wolds and salt marshes of north Lincolnshire, a variety of districts in northern Europe, and the Feldon of north Taranaki. Another likely factor is the settlers' knowledge of similar institutions in their former homelands. The Moa Farmer's Club minute book has survived, with a list of some fifty-three members, about a quarter of whom seem to have been of Lincolnshire origin.85 Most of these were from the north of that county and would have known of the Tetney Agricultural Society. Tetney is a salt marsh parish, about six miles south of Grimsby. Its agricultural society was founded in 1854, and in 1872 it was recorded to have had about 250 members, drawn widely from the surrounding countryside.86 Beside their knowledge of this association, some of Inglewood's Lincolnshire settlers must have had personal links with the strong marshland peasant tradition from which it sprang, and some would have been influenced by their knowledge of the recent transformation of the wolds by means of well considered improvement techniques.
In our account of the Woodville Small Farm Association we noted its strong contingent of Oxfordshire men, most of them from the Cotswold hills of the Wychwood area. Returns of sheepowners show that in 1882 six of the members of the association owned flocks, totalling 789 sheep.89 Of these 487 were owned by four men from Oxfordshire: Henry Cox, Edward Harding, William Hope and Elijah Mills. They had probably had experience with sheep on the Cotswold Hills. Bush-burn clearings were not very suitable for sheep, as the charred logs and tree roots which encumbered the ground resulted in torn and dirty fleeces, but these Oxfordshire immigrants apparently decided to continue the type of farming they had been used to.
In examining the colonial significance of hearthland origins, it will sometimes be the stray immigrant with a particular skill who merits attention. The Woodville Small Farm Association provides a good example of this. The Oxfordshire members came from a region of stone building, whose traditions and skills had little relevance to Woodville. It was the Perfect family, the only one in the association which has been traced to Kent, which provided the valuable skill of brick-making. George Perfect was listed as a 42-year-old farm labourer when he emigrated on the Hudson in 1875, but in 1876 he is shown as a brickmaker in the association's list of members. His eldest son, also named George, aged 18 when he emigrated, is shown as a brickmaker at Woodville in 1882, with 50 acres of freehold. In 1887 G. J. Perfect & Son were advertising their Woodville Machine Brick Works, with drain pipes and flower pots for sale, as well as bricks.90 Building in rural New Zealand has been predominantly in timber and brick, and it therefore seems likely that Kentish immigrants made a major contribution to housing the pioneer settlers of the countryside.