Through Ninety Years
1850–1854. Continuance Work on East Coast. Visit to England. Meeting with C.M.S. Committee. Work with Printers. Return to New Zealand. Ordination, Marriage, and Return to New Zealand of Leonard Williams.
Throughout the year 1850 Archdeacon W. Williams continued the work of the Mission in Waiapu and the East Coast district as well as he could with the limited staff available. He also proceeded steadily with the task of translation revision.
At the beginning of January Messrs. Baker and Hamlin spent a week at Turanga for the usual meetings of the Local Committee, and were able to assist at the various services there.
The arrival of Mr. Baker with Mr. Kissling at Hicks Bay on January 3rd to reoccupy the post there was an encouragement.
Archdeacon Williams at this time arranged for Mrs. Rich to open a school for his young daughters and other girls at Whakato, and on January 7th engaged Cooper, the carpenter, to erect a building for Mr. and Mrs. Rich to occupy.
On February 11th he set off by way of Waikohu to attend a Central Committee meeting at Tauranga. Heavy rain and floods hampered his journey, and on February 14th his horse plunged as he was crossing a river and he slipped into the water and got wet through. He arrived at Mr. Wilson's, Opotiki, at 4 p.m. on February 19th and proceeded on his way two days later. As the tide was rising rapidly at Ohiwa he had to be carried across on the shoulders of a tall native.
At Opotiki he had got wet wading in the river to speak with natives who were busy extracting oil from the livers of sharks they were catching. This, together page 123 with the wetting he had received a week earlier, now brought on a severe attack of lumbago which kept him a prisoner in his tent for a day or two; he had then to be carried on a native litter back to Mr. Wilson's house, where he remained until February 28th. He embarked that day in a small native vessel of about 12 tons, very poorly found in sails and gear. They reached Tauranga at 6 p.m. and he landed next morning.
The Central Missionary Committee sat from 2nd to 15th March. During this period Archdeacon Williams devoted a portion of his time to working with Rev. R. Maunsell at translation revisions. He also took his share of the native classes and services in the neighbourhood.
On March 16th he started homewards by way of Mr. Chapman's station at Maketu where he and his party of natives spent Sunday, March 17th. Next day they proceeded via Rotoiti to Tarawera where they met Mr. S. M. Spencer. Accompanied by him they continued their journey on March 21st. Travelling by way of Rotomahana they reached Mr. Preece's house on the 22nd. Next day they proceeded up the Whakatane River, which they had to cross sixty-eight times. At several of these fords Archdeacon Williams was glad to have the assistance of a native to carry him. On March 26th they crossed the high land of Huiarau (above Waikaremoana) where snow which had fallen the previous day was still lying.
When they reached the lake a large canoe was sent for to convey the party across. A start was made on this four-mile trip at 8 p.m.; it was a clear night with the moon nearly full. Shortly before they reached their destination two hours later, a strong breeze sprang up which would have raised dangerous waves had they been further out, but the natives who had been hailed quickly dragged the canoe up the beach. A little later the wind blew with hurricane force so that Archdeacon Williams had difficulty in keeping up his tent.
They proceeded thence to Wakamarina and after some little delay procured a canoe to convey them up the river to Te Reinga where they arrived on March 30th. There page 124 they spent the next day (Easter Sunday) and then continued up stream in a canoe with a supply of provisions of potatoes and eels for their two days' journey to Turanga. Rain delayed them, so that it was April 4th before they reached home safely.
At Turanga Archdeacon Williams found Mr. and Mrs. Baker, who had come at his request to attend to the work of the station during his absence. The visitors then returned home, and he resumed his usual duties.
The attitude of Governor Grey and the Parent Committee of the Church Missionary Society in regard to the missionary land purchases had caused Archdeacon Henry Williams and his brother much anxious thought, and considerable correspondence had taken place between them. Archdeacon W. Williams felt strongly that in dismissing his brother the Parent Committee had been unduly influenced by the erroneous and misleading reports that it had received. He therefore decided, as he had then been twenty-five years in the employ of the Society, he could fairly ask for leave of absence which would enable him to visit England. This was duly granted by the Bishop and sanctioned by the New Zealand Central Missionary Committee, which held a special meeting early in September, 1850.
Archdeacon W. Williams prepared a full record of evidence on the Missionary lands question, which he proposed to lay before the Parent Committee with a view to induce it to rescind its resolution dismissing his brother. He also purposed while he was in England to see through the press the Maori New Testament, the Maori Prayer Book, and the second edition of his Maori Dictionary.
It was arranged that during his absence his place at Turanga should be taken by Rev. T. S. Grace, who had lately come out to assist in the Mission work.
In December, 1850, Archdeacon W. Williams and his wife, accompanied by two of their children, James and Maria, took passage in the Wesleyan missionary brig of 237 tons. “After a long and stormy struggle with the winds and waves” (as Mrs. Williams put it) they reached page 125 Plymouth on April 29th, 1851. Here they disembarked, and on May 1st they proceeded to London by train. On arrival there they were met by Archdeacon Williams's elder brother John; their son Leonard joined them a little later. and soon after they met other relatives. On May 6th they attended a meeting of the Church Missionary Society at Exeter Hall.
On May 20th Archdeacon W. Williams was received by the Committee of the C.M.S. and in a very able manner laid before it a full, clear statement of the missionaries' case. After careful examination and consideration the Committee passed a resolution completely exonerating the missionaries, and declaring that the disturbances in New Zealand were in no way attributable to their acts. A week later he specially addressed the Committee on his brother's case, and urged it to rescind its resolution dismissing him from the service of the Society. On this occasion he was unsuccessful, the Committee stating that no sufficient ground had been shown for rescinding the original resolution. Later, however, he had a lengthy correspondence on the subject with the Chairman of the Committee (Lord Chichester). In this he fully explained several discrepancies in statements which had been laid before the Committee and had misled it.
At the close of this on February 24th, 1852, His Lordship stated that he was satisfied with the explanations given, but he wrote: “I consider that the severance from the Committee was Archdeacon Henry Williams's own act. He had two alternatives offered him. Had he chosen one his connection with the Society would have continued, he chose the other, and so severed that connection. I can honestly say that I can quite believe, that if all the circumstances were known to me, I could acquiesce in the rectitude and propriety of his decision,” and he closed his statement “no one had a right to blame the Archdeacon for the election which he made. I feel bound to believe that he adopted the course which under all circumstances his conscience honestly approved.”page 126
Notwithstanding all this, when Governor Grey and Bishop Selwyn were in London in July, 1854, at the Bishop's request, the Committee reinstated Archdeacon Henry Williams as a Missionary of the Society.
In acknowledging the receipt of this resolution Henry Williams wrote on February 28th, 1855: “Your letter of October covering a Resolution of July 18th, 1854, I received with unexpected pleasure. In this communication I have to acknowledge the hand of a Righteous Judge. I must regret that the Committee allowed themselves to be carried away by vain speeches and unsound statements; these ‘having passed away’ I have no desire to recall them.” Pages 302 to 308 of Volume II of the “Life of Henry Williams” contain full details. It may be mentioned that Archdeacon Henry Williams still maintained the position he had originally taken up.
On May 26th, 1851, Maria had an attack of measles which necessitated the family's isolation while it ran its course; and a few weeks later James caught the same complaint while he was at Beasley with his cousin John Marsh.
Later on both children went to school for a time, Maria to her aunt, Mrs. Heathcote at Southwell, and James to the Church Missionary Society's Missionaries' Children's Home at Islington.
In June, 1852, an Honorary D.C.L. Degree was conferred on Archdeacon W. Williams by the Oxford University.
During his stay in England he was kept busy reading the proofs of the Maori Testament and Prayer Book, and of the second edition of his Dictionary; in this work he was assisted by his son Leonard.
Seeing these books through the press took longer than he had expected, and it was October, 1852, before he could leave England.
After saying farewell to relatives and friends, Archdeacon Williams and his party embarked at Gravesend on the Cashmere, a ship of 640 tons. They set sail on October 24th, 1852, but met stormy weather running page 127 down the Channel which delayed them very considerably. In a letter written in April, 1853, Archdeacon Williams thus describes their experiences: “The continuance of contrary winds led us to seek refuge for a time at Falmouth. There being a change for the better, we left that on 21st November, but within a few hours were met again by a south-west gale just as we had cleared the Lands End. Then we were struck by a heavy sea which carried away our bulwarks and one of our boats, and the damage was so great that we had to put back again. This time we went to Plymouth and the repairs altogether occupied a month. Again we sailed on December 23rd only again to meet with adverse winds, and on 26th December we reached our Harbour again in the midst of one of the most terrific gales which had been experienced since the year 1838. The number of wrecks on every part of the Coast was fearful, and one large Brig went on shore the same evening close to the heads of the harbour, and all hands perished. Our long delay was wearying, but there seemed to be a special providence over us, and without doubt it was wisely ordered that we should be so kept back from our purpose. At last on January 17th, 1853, we were able to get clear off.”
In consequence of these experiences several passengers left the ship. Archdeacon Williams and his party were glad of this; they now had more room in the cuddy, which had previously been overcrowded, and James who had originally been in a dark cabin below was now able to obtain more comfortable quarters.
On the voyage Archdeacon Williams acted as ship's chaplain, and held services whenever he could; he also conducted a class in Maori for those who wished to learn it.
After they finally got away they had fair winds on the whole, though about the equator there were the usual light breezes and calms. They sighted Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on April 24th, 1853, and reached Auckland on May 9th, exactly sixteen weeks after leaving Plymouth.page 128
On arrival at Auckland they were met by Rev. R. Maunsell and by Archdeacon H. Williams's son Thomas, who gave them a welcome and news of the family in New Zealand.
As Archdeacon Brown and Rev. R. Maunsell were both in Auckland at this time, the Bishop decided to hold a special meeting of the Central Missionary Committee to consider the instructions which Archdeacon W. Williams had received from the Church Missionary Society. At this meeting the proposals of the Parent Committee in regard to Central Schools were fully confirmed.
Archdeacon W. Williams was thus authorised to proceed with the establishment of his proposed school at Poverty Bay, and was provided with the means for erecting the necessary buildings. He hoped also to receive assistance from the Government, which had determined to spend up to £3,500 per annum on Church schools. For efficient working he proposed to have three Boarding schools, one for boys, one for girls, and one for native teachers.
On May 20th Archdeacon W. Williams and his party left Auckland in a small native schooner for the Bay of Islands. Here they spent several enjoyable weeks with Archdeacon Henry Williams and his family, who were now comfortably established in their new house at Pakaraka, twelve miles inland from the old Paihia home. Archdeacon H. Williams, despite his separation from the Church Missionary Society, still continued his work among the natives. As may be imagined the two brothers found much of interest to discuss.
The vessel by which Archdeacon W. Williams and his party had hoped to travel to Turanga was unfortunately wrecked at East Cape. This kept them back for five weeks, and when they eventually left Auckland their voyage was further delayed by adverse winds. Thus it was the middle of August before they reached their destination.
The natives gave them a very hearty reception. When Archdeacon Williams paid his first visit to the principal native villages he was greeted with “Haere page 129 Mai” (the Maori cry of welcome), and after the formal speeches had been made he had to go through the process of rubbing noses with 146 persons.
The lack of workers in this field was more pressing than ever. Mr. Colenso had fallen grievously, and had left the Mission, Mr. Barker (who had been at Waiapu) had also left, and Mr. Baker on account of bad health had retired from his post, though he hoped to return. The Bishop had decided to ordain Mr. Baker deacon, and had admitted Revs. Samuel Williams and T. B. Hutton to priest's orders. The latter had taken a post in Wellington. Archdeacon W. Williams looked forward to the early return of his son Leonard to join him in this work.
Rev. T. S. Grace had been in charge of the Turanga station during the absence of Archdeacon Williams. He was a man of considerable energy, but was not generally acceptable to the natives, so that numbers had taken offence and remained at a distance. When relieved, Mr. Grace left to explore the Taupo region for a new station site. His family had remained at Turanga until March, 1854, when they moved to Auckland.
Archdeacon W. Williams began at once to push on energetically with his heavy round of work, and was glad to obtain the assistance of Rev. Rota Waitoa who was a native of Kawakawa, and then began his ministry there. Of him Archdeacon W. J. Simkin wrote in Chapter XI of “The Founding of the Church in the Diocese of Waiapu” on October 1st, 1929: “Te Matamua o nga Minita Maori— the first Minister of the Maori race. For over ten years Rota Waitoa had been in close contact with Bishop Selwyn, often as his travelling companion, having offered to accompany him to Auckland in 1842. From being at first a bare-footed lad in a blanket, with a pack on his back, he became a lay associate of St. John's College, and was at length chosen to be the first Abraham Scholar and Assistant Master in the Maori Boys' School; raised step by step he was called to catechise in Church, for which his knowledge of Scripture, far in advance of any other Maori in the College, specially fitted him. Urged page 130 by many that the time had now come for the beginning of a Native Ministry, and the right man was at hand in the person of Rota, the Bishop no longer hesitated, and himself undertook a special course of instruction for him, and sent Rota to Rev. G. A. Kissling for it. The examination of Rota was conducted by Archdeacons W. Williams, Brown and Abraham, who satisfied the Bishop that the standard he required was satisfied. Rota was ordained Deacon in the old St. Paul's Church, Auckland, on Trinity Sunday, May 22nd, 1853. The Bishop's sermon was partly in English and partly in Maori. There was a large congregation of both races present. Archdeacon Abraham wrote: The few words of special advice to Rota from the Bishop were some of the most touching I ever heard. Both were deeply affected.
“After his ordination Rota was stationed and worked at Kawakawa, except for intervals when he returned for a time to College ‘to fill up his seed bags again’ as he himself expressed it.”
During October and November, 1853, Archdeacon W. Williams suffered from a serious attack of illness, which confined him to his bed for three weeks and delayed the progress of his work. He was very thankful, however, when his health was restored a few weeks later, to feel better than he had been the year before.
Under the New Zealand Constitution Act passed in 1852 the Ahuriri district became part of the Wellington Province; this was later known as Hawke's Bay. In April, 1852, it was recorded that Mr. Donald McLean, the Native Lands Commissioner, had purchased for the Government several large blocks of land from the natives. These areas included the site of the town of Napier which was soon afterwards laid out. English settlers soon began to come into the district.page 131
William Leonard Williams completed his studies at Magdalen Hall, now Hertford College, Oxford, while his father and mother were in England, and sat for his examinations in June, 1852. After taking his B.A. Degree with honours he offered himself to the Church Missionary Society for service in the New Zealand Mission, and was duly accepted. After taking a course of Theological training at the Church Missionary College at Islington he was admitted to Deacon's Orders by the Bishop of London on March 22nd, 1853.
When visiting his aunt, Mrs. Heathcote, at Southwell, Leonard had met the daughters of Mr. J. B. Wanklyn of Halecat, Westmoreland. They had previously been pupils at Mrs. Heathcote's School, and two of them at times afterwards used to visit Mrs. Heathcote and assist in her work. This acquaintance led later to Leonard's marriage with Miss Sarah Wanklyn, which with the approval of both families was celebrated at Witherslack Church on June 6th, 1853. After the wedding a short honeymoon was spent in the English Lake District.
Rev. W. L. and Mrs. Williams embarked at Gravesend on August 15th, 1853, on the Hamilla Mitchell, a ship of 540 tons. They spent the next day arranging their cabin for the voyage. Captain Bradley came on board during the afternoon, and on the morning of August 17th the tug boat towed them down the river to an anchorage off Deal, whence they set sail the following morning. They had a complement of 48 passengers of whom 18 adults and 11 children were in the cuddy. On August 22nd they were off Plymouth. Later they sighted the Madeira Islands, from which they were able to send their first letters back to the Old Country.
After variable winds and weather, on September 23rd they reached the Line, where they received the customary visit from Neptune and his party. Rev. Leonard Williams and Rev. A. Stock, a fellow-passenger, shared the duties of Ship's Chaplain, and Mrs. Williams held a Sunday class for the children. The voyage generally was without remarkable incident. A mild excitement was caused at times by the capture of fish, also of an albatross with a page 132 wing spread of 10 feet 7 inches, and other birds. They dropped anchor in Auckland Harbour on November 30th, 1853.
Before proceeding to their home at Turanga, Leonard Williams and his wife visited the members of the family at the Bay of Islands.
Rev. Leonard Williams entered upon his duties in the second week of February, 1854, and soon set about establishing the school for teachers which his father had proposed. He began with only two pupils, but the numbers soon increased. Mrs. Leonard Williams devoted herself to the Maori children, to whom it had previously been impossible to give attention. When Mr. Grace's family left early in March, the school for teachers was carried on in the dwelling which had been originally erected for Mrs. Rich's school.
When Archdeacon and Mrs. W. Williams had returned from England in 1853, a Miss Jones had accompanied them to take part in their mission work. For several years she assisted Misses Maria and Kate Williams, who took a regular share with their mother and Mrs. Leonard Williams in teaching the native women and girls, and in directing their house work.
It is of interest to insert here the following extract from the “Church Missionary Record” for the year 1853: “On August 8th, 1822, Rev. William Williams, now Archdeacon Williams, received the Instructions of the Committee on his departure for New Zealand. On August 6th, 1853, the Archdeacon's son, Rev. Leonard Williams, received the Instructions of the Committee on his departure for the same Mission Field. The Instructions delivered on August 8th, 1822, expressly stated that there was not then a single convert amongst the Natives of New Zealand. At the present moment the remnant of heathenism left among them is so small as not to interfere with their being pronounced a professedly Christian people.”
Plan of Cottage in orchard. First house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Williams at Whakato on arrival from England in 1854
During this period an epidemic of measles was introduced to the East Coast by a small native trading schooner, and from Waiapu gradually spread southwards, attacking both adults and children, and carrying off a number of the older natives. Leonard Williams and his two younger sisters were among those attacked.
The gold diggings in Australia created a demand for provisions, and this had induced the natives to cultivate their land industriously. At this time they shipped to Auckland annually some thousand quarters of wheat, which brought them a very good return at the prices then ruling for it. This aroused in them a greater desire for material things, and led to a neglect of the precepts of their Christian teachers.
Mrs. Leonard Williams wrote in September, 1854, that she and her husband were then settled snugly in the cottage in the orchard, which consisted of two rooms each 8 feet by 10 feet with a passage between them. This was close to Archdeacon W. Williams's house at Whakato, where they usually took their meals. This cottage remained their home until they moved to their new Waerenga-a-hika station in 1857. Here their eldest son, Frederic Wanklyn Williams, was born on October 13th, 1854, and their eldest daughter, Emily Jane Williams, was also born there on March 7th, 1856.
At the end of 1854 Archdeacon and Mrs. Williams received a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Williams and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Williams, together with their two daughters. The whole family spent the last fortnight of December together.
* See “Pioneering in New Zealand” by W. T. Williams, Chapter X.