Tales of Banks Peninsula
No. 9.—Early Reminiscences
No. 9.—Early Reminiscences.
The Monarch brought some pheasants, which were turned out at Pigeon Bay, but went over to Port Levy. They did not do well at first, failing to increase much till some Chinese pheasants were added to their ranks, after which they soon became numerous. Besides the pheasants, some cattle were brought out by Mr. Smith.
There were fifty two passengers on board; most were bound for Auckland, at which port the Monarch intended to call first, but forty of these were so delighted with the appearance of Akaroa that they resolved to remain here. At this time little progress had been made since the first settlement by the French. The English were few and far between, though, of course, a good many whalers, French and Americans, visited the harbour.
Mr. Watson was the Resident Magistrate, and Messrs Farr and family, [unclear: Parker] and family, Pavitt and family, two Vogans, Haylock and family, Rule, Harrington, Green and Hilleur were amongst the principal passengers by the Monarch,
Among the earlier settlers were Messrs Bruce, P, Wood, Reed, McKinnon and others. The latter squatted on the land afterwards purchased by the Rev. W. Ayimer.
Messrs Farr, Pavitt, Haylock, and their families, with the two Vogans, settled within the township of Akaroa. Mr. Pavitt, senr., and his family went to Robinson's Bay, where Mr. Saxton later lived, the elder sons going sawing in the bush, The houses were of the most primitive description, the blockhouses being then gradually falling into decay Bruce Hotel had by far the most imposing appearance. Bruce kept it beautifully clean, having it washed down every morning as if it was a ship. He was an old sailor, formerly the owner of a cutter which traded from the south. On Mr. Bruce's first trip here, Captain Smith, lata of the Wairarapa, was on board, and a Maori woman. The vessel, when lying inside the heads in calm water with all sails set, was suddenly capsized in a equall. The Maori woman, who was down below at the time, was page 117drowned, but the rest succeeded in getting into a boat belonging to the vessel; and Bruce was. so struck with the appearance of the place that he determined on settling here, and started the hotel which now bears his name.
Paddy Wood, another "old identity," kept an hotel where Garwood's Buildings now stand. These two publicans were continually quarrelling, but this was nearly entirely owing to Wood's fault, who was very rough and disputatious. Bruce was a most affable man. and many a tale is told of his kindness and generosity.
Where the private part of Bruce Hotel now stands there was originally a store, built by Messrs Ellis and Turner. These two men, like the publicans, could not agree, so after a lengthy series of quarrels they determined to separate and divide the property. Here, however, a difficulty arose with regard to who should have the building. At last they hit upon the most original plan of dividing it, and cut it fair down the centre with a cross cut saw, each party boarding up his own end.
Another store stood where the iron gate, near Garwood's Buildings, is at present situated. This was was built by a man named Duvauchelle, and was afterwards used as a lock up, and at the end of its career in that capacity became a hospital. It later formed the older portion of Mrs, Watkins' store, which stood on the site now occupied by Mr. T Lewitt's drapery establishment.
The late Dr. Watkins' dwelling house was then situated on the beach, and was also near Garwood's Buildings. It was moved in pieces up to a position some chains behind Mr. F. Narbey's residence. It has been pulled down some years since.
Mr. Waeckerle had a flour mill on the section opposite Waeckerle's Hotel. A good deal of wheat was grown, principally by the Natives.
The first willow, supposed to be a slip from the one overhanging Napoleon s grave at St. Helena, was planted in German Bay by Mons. de Belligny. It is from this tree that all those that beautify Akaroa, and the borders of the Avon in Christchurch, originally sprang. This samepage 118 gentleman also planted the first walnut trees, which have so increased and multiplied. The first willow was cut down by Mr. Lucas, who appears to have been utterly devoid of sentiment, and, when reproached with his vandalism, said that he did not see any difference between one willow tree and another!
The history of the first willow trees in Akaroa has since been told more fully. Francois Lelievre, who came to the Peninsula in a whaling vessel, managed to evade the vigilance of the gendarmes guarding Napoleon's grave at Longwood, St. Helena, and take three slips of the famous willow growing there. He watered and tended the three slips most carefully all the long voyage out, and on arrival at Akaroa made a clearing in the bush close to where Mrs H. C. Jacobson now lives. He plantpd the three slips. Only two grew, and of these the one was removrd to German Bay as above mentioned. The other one had a very lengthy life, only falling in 1910. The historic willow was a source of interest to many tourists to Akaroa.
The Canterbury settlement was at first started in 1848 by an association in England, composed of men of influential position, who were deeply impressed with the necessity of a thorough reform in the management of the colonies. Their object was to establish a model colony, in which all the elements of a good and right state of society should be perfectly organised from the first. Unity of religious creed being deemed essential, the settlement was to be entirely composed of members of the Church of England; religion and the highest class of education were to be amply provided for; and everything was to be ordered and arranged so as to attract men of station and character, and a high class of emig ants generally, to embark their fortunes in the undertaking. The scheme was carried out by men whose hearts were in the work, among whose numbers the names of John Robert Godley and Lord Lyttelton are conspicuous. In their bands the enterprise lost nothing of the high character that was first impressed upon it, although many modifications of the original plan were found desirable, and judiciously carried into effect.page 119
The principles of religious exclusiveness was necessarily soon abandoned, and the first ideas of the projectors may have been imperfectly realised in other respects, but it is only just to acknowledge the debt of gratitude that Canterbury owes to its founders, as even the measures of success that crowned their efforts is appreciable in the tone and spirit of its people at the present time.
The first party of emigrants, numbering 791, left England on September 7, 1850, in four ships, and arrived at the port, now called Lyttelton, almost together in December of the same year. Mr. Godley, the agent of the Association, was already in New Zealand, and considerable preparations had been made at the port for the immigrants' reception. When the Canterbury Pilgrims (as they were called) first viewed the new country from the summit of the volcanic bills that skirt the seaboard, they saw before them a bare expanse of plains, stretching from thirty to sixty miles to the foot of the dividing ranges (the backbone of the country), broken only by a few patches of timber, and with no other sign of civilisation than the solitary homestead of the Messrs Deans, who had settled there some years before. The only approach to the level land was over the mountains, about 1200 feet in height, or round by sea to Sumner. and thence by the Heathcote River to Christchurch, as the chief town was named. Those who can look back from the Canterbury of to day to the time when they commenced to spread over the country, to bring their new land under the plough and spade, must feel astonishment as well as pride at the really wonderful results that little more than sixty years have produced. Looking over the Plains now from the Port Hills the eye is delighted with the beautiful panorama spread out before it. The whole face of nature has been changed. In place of the once bare Plains, with nothing to mark the distance or break the monotonous expanse of level grass land, the spectator sees before him a timbered country, with well grown forest trees, smiling homesteads, well cultivated fields, and cheerful hedgerows stretching far and wide in every direction; here and there page 120two clergymen of the Church of England did temporary duty—the late Rev. Mr. Thomas and the late Rev. Mr. Fonton (cousin of the late Mr. H. H. Fenton) On Mr. Aylmer's first arrival, the only building available was Commodore Lavand's original house, containing four small rooms, and a small house built of clay, that used to stand at the back of the present Courthouse. This was close packing for ten people. Mr. Justin and Mr. H. Aylmer used to live in the round house. Mr. and Mrs. Aylmer and part of the family' walked over from Pigeon Bay, but Mr. Justin Aylmer and ten others had the pleasure of coming in a cutter of 17 tons burden, named the Eaka, commanded by Captain Kane, later of Timaru. The trip took no less than a week, the last night off the Akaroa Heads being very stormy and disagreeable, a?, owing to the crowded state of the little craft, the hatches could not be kept on. So long was the delay in the vessel's arrival that Mr Bruce sent out a boat to look for the Kaka, and one of the crew of that boat was Mr. Gerald Fitzgerald, who was afterwards Resident Magistrate afe Hokitika.
The first schoolmaster in Akaroa was Mr Wadsworth, who came out in the same ship as Mr. Garwood. He was a very capable man and much liked, but he soon left, and entered the civil service in Victoria, where he held a good position.
a river glistening in the sun, and the city of Chrisfchurch, only six miles distant, almost concealed amidst the trees.
The first Church of England service was held in the French Magazine, which was also used as a Courthouse, and stood on the site of the present Courthouse, and the seats were borrowed from the Roman Catholic Chapel. Shortly after this, Archdeacons Paul and Mathias paid a visit to Akaroa for the purpose of holding a wholesale maniage and christening of the Natives. The Maoris flocked in great numbers, apparently delighted at the idea. Many of the children had been baptised before by clergmen of various denominations, but they had it done over and over again to make all sure. Some of the ladies left long strings of their children outside the building whilst they went in to be married.
In these earlier days a brig named the Mountain Maid used to visit Akaroa and other New Zealand ports periodically. She came from Sydney, and was the property of Mr. Peacock, father of the late Hon. John Peacock. The Mountain Maid was a perfect floating warehouse, from which the settlers drew their supplies. She bad everything on board, "from a needle to an anchor," and her decks used to be crowded by busy purchasers whenever she arrived.
Some time in the year 1852. Colonel Campbell was sent down by Sir George Grey as Commissioner, to enquire into all land claims. He had with him Mr. J. C. Boys, of Rangiora, as surveyor, and Mr. J. Aylmer as assistant surveyor. Colonel Campbell did not make thingg at all pleasant for the Canterbury Association settlers. He was a disappointed man, having taken great interest in the foundation of the settlement when in London, and fully expected to be appointed first agent, a post that was afterwards given to Mr. Godley. Mr. Robinson, the first Resident Magistrate, while putting forward certain claims of M, de Belligny (whose agent he was), produced deeds that were remarkably awkward for the Rev. W. Aylmer. One of these claims plainly showel that fourteen acres of land on which Mr. Aylmer's house stood belonged to M. de Belligny. Mr. Robinson, when Mr. Godley first arrived, [unclear: presented] this deed to him, which Mr. Godley page 122threw into his safe and would not look at, and afterwards sold this land as part of a fifty acre block to Mr. Aylmer. When one said sold, one means that it was selected by Mr Aylmer, with Mr Godley's consent, for all land was bought in England at £3 per acre, and its locality was afterwards chosen with a right, of exchange. This fouteen acres of land was some that M. de Belligny had received compensation for, both in money and land. The reason for this was that it had been considered necessary to get the land back from M. de Belligny for tha township. In the Association charter these words occur: "Save and except all lands purchased and exchanged with M. de Belligny." M. de Belligny had been away a long time before this Of course Mr. Aylmer, having built his house on the land, was placed in a very awkward position, and he went to Wellington in Mr. Peacock's brig to see Sir George Grey. After hearing his case, the Government of the day consented to give him a Crown grant, and so the affair was settled.
This was only one of the disputes that arose, war raging between Mr. Watson, the Resident Magistrate, and the Commissioner. Sir George Grey paid a visit to the Penin. sula in this year (1852), and endeavoured to make peace, but with small success. Mr. Watson told Sir G. Grey that he had do animosity towards the Commissioner, so Sir George Grey suggested they should shake hands and make it up, upon which Mr. Watson said, "Bedad, your Excellency, I'd sooner not," and be did not. Manners were then very primitive. On this visit of Sir George's he had corns in unexpectedly one night, having walked from Pigeon Bay. He went to bed at Bruce's Hotel, and Mr. Bruce thought this a filing time to push some of the claims of his own, so he walked into Sir George's room, sat coolly down on the side of the bed, and poured his troubles into His Excellency's ears —one does not know with what success.
The New Zealand Constitution was granted in the year 1852. For the Akaroa district two members were required for the Provincial Council, There were three candidates, the late Mr. Sefton Moorhouse, the late Mr. Robert H. Rhodes and the late Rev, W. Aylmer. Before the polling-booth was opened, Mr. Moorhouse drew the attention of the returning officer, Mr. Watson, to the fact that if an elector intended to vote for two members, he must do so at the same time, that is, he could not first vote for one and then go out, and afterwards vote for another. This had a great effect on the election, as, owing to one of Messrs. Rhodes and Moorhouse's supporters voting for Mr. Rhodes first, and afterwards returning to vote for Mr. Moorhouse, the latter vote was objected to by Mr. Aylmer's agent, and the returning officer agreed with him. This made the number of votes between Messrs.page 124
Aylmer and Moorhouse exactly the same, and the returning-officer giving his casting vote for Mr. Aylmer, he was elected in the second place, Mr. Rhodes having a majority over the other. Mr. Moorhouse petitioned the Provincial Council to upset Mr. Aylmer's seat, and Messrs, Pollard and Calvert appeared in the ease, one on either side. The result of the case was that Mr. Aylmer's election was declared valid.
To show how primitive the people of Akaroa were in these days, and the little amount of public money that was being spent, it may be mentioned that the whole of the inhabitants, headed by the Resident Magistrate and parson, turned out to repair the road from Bruce's to Waeckerle's
About this time a sad accident occurred Two men (one of them the father of the late Mr. H. Magee) were going over the ranges at the back of Akaroa, when one missed the other. Magee's mate came back to Akaroa, but could give no account of Magee, so a search party was instituted, Magee was found lying dead at the foot of a precipice. Many rumours were current about this affair, the dead man being discovered in a remarkable position,