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Through Ninety Years

Chapter X

page 78

Chapter X.

Voyages by Sea and Work on East Coast, 1846.

When going to and from school Archdeacon Williams's sons made several voyages to Auckland in small trading vessels.

The following extracts taken from their letters home give some idea of the nature of coastal travelling in those early days, and of the life at St. John's College at that time.

On May 20th, 1844, Sydney Williams wrote: “We came out from Turanga on Wednesday, and next day were going back, but when we got to the heads the wind changed and we turned round and got to Uawa on Friday evening, took in the two Bakers. We spent Sunday at Reporua, and on Monday went on and landed Mr. Stack's things. On Tuesday went round East Cape, and in the evening landed Mr. Kissling's things. Wednesday we saw White Island, and on Thursday got into Tauranga. Stopped four days. On Monday came out with Mr. and Mrs. Chapman and Marsh Brown, and on Thursday got as far as Mercury Island, Friday got into Auckland. Monday we got out of Auckland, Thursday went back to Auckland and on Saturday came out again, and on Monday got as far as Whangarei, Friday came out and got into Bay of Islands at midnight on Saturday, and landed Monday morning.”

Leonard Williams wrote to his sister from St. John's College (then at Purewa) on May 1st, 1845: “Now for a little about Purewa; when we came we found two or three houses building, several tents up, but now the tents are all done with, and the students are all in this house. We are lodged in a large building that is hereafter to be a barn, and which is divided into two parts, for there are two separate schools now, one under Mr. Tudor and one under Mr. Hutton. We have our meals all together in a
St. John's College, Purewa, 1846

St. John's College, Purewa, 1846

page 79 house that Mrs. Watts lives in. There is very little sugar now in Auckland, so we have to go without any in our tea. A vessel came in from Wellington a day or two ago with some, so I hope we shall have some soon. Pene is going in this vessel, he will take these letters as the vessel is only going to Uawa.”

On August 28th, 1845, he wrote again from Purewa Bishop's, Auckland: “I was up at the College this morning assisting to mark out the sites of the different buildings, among which was one which when we had finished the Bishop said to me ‘Do you know who is going to live here, it is someone you are very well acquainted with,’ so I suppose it is to be the house of Mr. Quam. The buildings are getting on very slowly, they have hardly done the lower story of the only one they are going on with at present, some of the others are to be built of brick and wood, so that they will be done quicker when once they set about them.”

On February 6th, 1846, Archdeacon Williams recorded that he marked some cattle, thus varying his usual occupation.

On Sunday, February 15th, he administered the Lord's Supper to 233 natives at Turanga, and on the following Sunday, February 22nd, to 135 natives from Patutahi and Toanga, making a total of 368.

On 23rd February he received a letter from Mr. Stack telling him that Rev. G. A. Kissling was seriously ill. He therefore left next day for Waiapu.

Three days later he met a messenger who reported that Mr. Kissling was better. He was also glad to learn from the same source that peace had been re-established in the Bay of Islands.

On his arrival at Hicks Bay on 28th February he was thankful to find Mr. Kissling so far recovered that he was able to appear out of doors. While in the Waiapu District he conducted the usual instruction classes and examinations, and held religious services at the various settlements. He was pleased to note a distinct improvement among the natives who were now attending the schools with much greater regularity than formerly.

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On March 4th he started on his return journey, and after calling at the various settlements reached home on the evening of March 16th. The next day he arranged with Mr. Yule about passages for his sons to Auckland by the cutter Swan.

After several delays the Swan eventually put to sea. Writing from Bishop's, Auckland, on April 20th, 1846, Leonard Williams thus describes their experiences: “After a long passage of 17 days we reached Auckland on Easter day which was the third Sunday since we left Turanga. We had very poor accommodation on board the Swan, at least much more so than I expected. There were three berths in the cabin, two of which Sydney and I occupied, and the Captain the other, and Mr. Yule took up the floor. Then again we had no sugar, which was a great inconvenience as we had nothing but wretched coffee to drink, which was horrid. We had no basin to wash in, but used a tin dish. We got a little sugar from Mr. Baker's place at Matahia. We did not get round East Cape for nine days, but were poking about first in one place and then at another till we were tired of it. On the Saturday just as we were round the East Cape it blew a smart gale from the North East, which I suppose you must have felt, as they had it very bad here, and we more particularly remember it as we had only one meal that day and were obliged to be in bed all day, for we could not go on deck, nor could they keep a fire alight for the rain. When we got here we found the place much improved, as they had got a little grass to spring up about the place and the garden in better order with cabbages and cauliflowers growing in it.”

From St. John's College he wrote on April 30th, 1846: “The Bishop is still at his house in Auckland, he was out here last week, and has been since to Kawau and since he returned from there he has had an interview with the Governor who arrived from the Southward last Sunday in the Driver. On Tuesday we went with Mr. Cotton on board the steamer, and went down the engine room and saw all the works. She is a good large vessel and makes all the other vessels in the harbour look small. page 81 I believe we are to have one of Mr. Busby's sons at school here, but I am not certain. We are rather more comfortable here now than we were last term in the old barn, which is now a Native school-room. I shall have a room to myself soon, which will be much more comfortable than being in a room with a great number of companions. I hope you are comfortable by this time in the new house, which ought to be a good way on towards being made habitable all over by this time.”

He wrote further from St. John's College on July 3rd, 1846: “I hope Mita Uru (Mr. Yule) will look out for a comfortable vessel for you to come up in, at any rate more comfortable than the Swan for she was wretchedly uncomfortable, and I hope that he will not trade along the Coast with you on board and make a floating pig-sty of her, for if he does that will be another source of discomfort as it was with us. My friend King is come at last, better late than never, and he and I have got this room to ourselves now, which before was mine without anyone to dispute it with me. I do not think there is much chance of our going in to Auckland to see Mrs. Selwyn this term, or even to read the library through either, as we did last term. I hope you have got into your new house long before this, for I think Cooper has had lots of time to finish it now. They do not get on very fast with these buildings here. The kitchen is done as much as it will be for some time to come, and the masons are laying the foundation of the hospital which is going to be a wooden building. You may tell Mary that the house to be hers and… . 's, will not be done for some time yet, on account of some of the sawyers falling out about the price of the timber, or something of that sort, but there is a lot of stone ready for the foundation of it, and also a quantity of bricks for the chimneys.”

He wrote again from St. John's College on July 22nd, “We were glad to hear that you were all well and were getting into the new house. I think the buildings will go on faster soon, and you may tell Mary that the house will very likely be begun soon. We have been doing a good deal lately towards improving the look of the place by page 82 planting several hundred of Ngaios about, so that if only half of them grow it will be a regular Ngaio hill. The trees are bought from the natives at the rate of a penny a piece. I bought more than 200 to-day.”

The new house spoken of in these letters was the house at Whakato to which Archdeacon Williams and his family moved during this year.

In writing to England on February 4th, 1846, Archdeacon Williams expressed his hearty approval of the Bishop's plans for his College and School at Auckland, and that his son Leonard had recently been awarded one of the two scholarships attached to the College, which would be a great assistance. He also noted the Bishop's extreme satisfaction with the steadiness and perseverance displayed by his nephew, Samuel, “who is a great acquisition to the College.” Writing later he mentioned the birth at Whakato of his youngest daughter Emma Caroline Williams on February 20th, 1846.

On March 23rd news was received by a vessel from Port Nicholson that the natives at the Hutt had provoked hostilities with the Military, and that several of them had been killed.

During the next five months the missionary work at the Turanga and East Coast Districts was continued as usual. Archdeacon Williams recorded that the Local Missionary Committee sat from April 2nd to 7th and that Messrs Baker, Hamlin and Stack were present. On Good Friday and Easter Sunday, April 10th and 12th the Lord's Supper was administered to 269 at the Home station, and 151 at Toanga, who, 420 in all, had been previously prepared. He recorded that on April 16th he took honey from three hives, and was also engaged in preparing returns.

On April 20th he started on a journey to the southern districts. He noted that at Ahuriri, Mr. Colenso's Station, he had a congregation of 250, and that 127 natives there, in addition to 140 who attended in smaller groups at other centres on the way, partook of the Lord's Supper.

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On his return he reached home at 9 p.m. on May 12th, having had to swim the Karaua creek, as the tide was high.

In the three weeks from June 28th to July 19th he was pleased to record that he administered the Lord's Supper to 680 natives, 259 at the Home station. 184 at Toanga, and 237 at Uawa.

On July 2nd he moved all his books to his new house at Whakato. An attack of rheumatism with which he was unfortunately troubled about this time does not seem to have appreciably diminished the number and extent of his activities during July and August. These were of a most varied nature, and included the entering of baptisms and marriages in the census returns, cutting glass for windows, grafting trees and visiting and treating the sick, and compounding medicines for use.

It is of interest to note that on July 29th he was called to attend an Englishman brought from the Whaling Station at Table Cape, whose two thighs had been broken by a whale, and recorded that he was likely to do well. On the following day he heard of the death at Wherowhero of the wife of the native teacher named Edward. As she had been highly respected, a large number of natives assembled for her funeral on August 4th. These included many who for some months had neglected their religious duties, but now professed a desire to return to better ways.

At the end of July Archdeacon Williams had been making preparations for a visit to Auckland, and towards the end of August he arranged with Mr. Yule to take passages for himself and his family by the Dolphin. On August 29th they moved to an empty house at Turanganui belonging to Mr. Harris, where they waited favourable weather for embarking.

Going on board at noon on the 31st they set sail with a south-east wind, and were off Uawa by midnight. Next morning it was so hazy Mr. Baker did not sight the vessel till noon, when he came off in a small canoe from Cook's Cove. His sisters were to accompany Archdeacon Williams's family to Auckland, and he brought page 84 a portion of their luggage. It had been intended that the Misses Baker should come off with their father as soon as they could cross the bar, but in the meantime a north-easterly gale sprang up and the vessel had to put to sea again. They lay to all that night and next day were all very seasick. On the 3rd September the weather moderated, and the members of the party were soon convalescent. They found they had drifted sixty miles to the south and were abreast of Portland Island.

Towards evening they stood on their course again; with a fair wind they were off Whangara by daylight next morning, and reached Uawa at noon. Here the Misses Baker came aboard and they took in two casks of fresh water, after which they set sail again with a light north-east wind. By 6th September they encountered a heavy sea off East Cape. Cape Runaway was passed on the 7th and Mayor Island about 20 miles off on the 8th. While in this vicinity they saw the smoke of the Government steamer on her way to Auckland.

Next day they sailed through the Mercury Islands and rounded Cape Colville; finally they anchored in Auckland Harbour a little before sunset on the 10th. At 10 p.m. Samuel Williams came out in the Bishop's boat, and made arrangements for the party to land the following morning. At 8 a.m. next day the Bishop arrived with two boats and took the whole party and their baggage direct to Purewa Creek, which was quite near St. John's College.

Such a voyage as that just described was typical of those early days.

In his journal of September, 1846, Archdeacon Williams described Purewa as an interesting and romantic little village, close to the water's edge, studded with native houses, and affording a population close to St. John's, upon which the influence of the College might act with benefit. “At present the Native Teachers' and Native Boys' Schools are carried on here, and the Printing Department, but all will be moved up the hill as soon as the permanent buildings are prepared.”

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In consequence of the illness of Rev. G. A. Kissling in the previous February, mentioned earlier (page 79), he and Mrs. Kissling moved to Auckland, and at this time resided about three miles from St. John's College. Though in better health than when he arrived he was forbidden by his doctor to return to his old station near East Cape.