Through Ninety Years
1875–1878. Diocesan Synod. Bishop's Journey to Taupo, Rotorua, Tauranga, Opotiki. Missionary Conference Auckland. Last Journeys and Work in Diocese. Archdeacon Williams's Gisborne House Built. Bishop's Illness, Resignation and Death. Bishop Stuart's Election and Consecration.
The annual session of the Waiapu Diocesan Synod was held on September 22nd, 1875, and two following days. At the close of this Archdeacon W. L. and Rev. S. Williams had to proceed to Wellington to give evidence before a Parliamentary Committee on the management of the Te Aute and Waerenga-a-hika Native School Trust Estates.
On November 5th, 1875, the Bishop, accompanied by his daughter Kate and granddaughter Edith, set off on a journey to Taupo, Rotorua and Tauranga. They were driven early to Port Ahuriri where they were ferried across the harbour entrance. The Bishop wrote thus describing their travels: “Kate's avowed object was to take care of me and Edith came to take care of her aunt. Our road lay through the heart of the country in the direction of Taupo. Our conveyance was a rough kind of coach drawn by four horses, the roads were moderately rough, such as you may expect in a new country. It was about 7 a.m. when we were fairly off. The weather was cold and the coachman observed ominously that he thought there would be rain, and so it proved, for there were several showers, and when we reached Pohue for dinner it came down hard for a time. The road now became more critical, but our driver was a skilful and careful man, and it was really a pleasure to see how he managed his horses around the sharp turns as we came down the hills, with generally an ugly precipice close to us. At Mohaka River we had to walk three miles because page 298 a landslip the day before stopped the coach which should have come on to Mohaka. The luggage was packed upon the horses, and we managed the walk tolerably, but I was nearly done up when we came to the coach again and took our places. It was dusk when we got to Tarawera where we had an inn and comfortable accommodation. Tarawera is a military station, and I proposed to have service, but it did not appear to be practicable, the men being away at another station.
“The next morning our road lay over steep hills densely wooded and extremely beautiful. Having passed them we came upon a plain, dreary country devoid of interest, covered entirely with pumice sand, showing that in remote ages it had been the scene of violent volcanic action. As we approached Taupo we were well repaid by the sight of the grand lake, at the southern end of which lies the volcano of Tongariro which is still smoking, and the snowy mountain Ruapehu a little further south.
“At the hotel we had comfortable bedrooms, but the sitting room is common to all parties and tobacco smoke as well. However, we had a good meal to make up for it. The river Waikato runs out from the lake at this spot, and the native village is on the opposite side. I went to look for natives that I might arrange about a service next day, but did not see any. I then followed Kate and Edith to the house of Captain Way, the Commandant who married a daughter of Mr. Spencer our missionary, and to my surprise I found Mrs. Way's sister Lettie Spencer who was with us at Turanga at the time we had to leave in consequence of the Hauhaus. We thought we could not do better than remain there for the evening.
“November 7th, Sunday. A glorious day which gave us a splendid view of Tongariro and Ruapehu which were both completely enveloped in snow which had fallen in the night. Before breakfast I walked to the side of the river opposite the native village, and waited a long time before I could see any one to hail. At length one appeared to whom I said I would be with them after dinner and have service. I then made him repeat what page 299 I had said, that I might be sure he understood. At eleven we assembled for English service at the Courthouse, having a very respectable muster, though there were many absentees. After dinner I kept my appointment with the natives, and sat a long time before anybody appeared. At length two men came to the canoe which they launched, and I took it for granted they were coming for me, but instead of this they pulled down the river and were out of sight.
“November 8th. The sky was overcast and threatened rain. The road was tame after that of Friday and Saturday, but still there is much romantic and wild scenery. Our journey for the day ended at Ohinemutu on the margin of Rotorua lake, where Mr. Chapman once lived, and where his premises were plundered and burnt during the war between Rotorua and Matamata. Here Mr. Spencer was waiting for us, and had arranged good accommodation for us at a respectable hotel.
“November 9th. Mr. Spencer went to arrange with a man who keeps a trap which was to convey us to Tarawera lake where Mr. Spencer's house is. Took Kate and Edith to the village and talked to some natives, and looked at the hot baths and boiling cauldrons. I was sorry to find that the natives do not seem to keep up even the form of religion. Paora, who was formerly a teacher, and is chief of this place, seems to have laid aside his religion altogether. Left at noon on our trip in our trap which is a very primitive affair with shafts bound round with wire to prevent them coming asunder. The horses which went tandem, were steady, and the driver was civil. We went on very well until we came to a descent in the wood, when the loose boards which formed our seat gave way and let us down to the floor of the trap, but they were easily replaced and all was right again. We drove along the borders of what is called the Blue Lake from the colour of the water, and then by Rotokakahi which has an island in the centre covered with houses. I found that our driver had been an undergraduate of Jesus College, Oxford, who tells me he had to leave because his father died and his funds page 300 would not allow him to remain at college. November 10th we were up early having to cross the lake Tarawera, where we slept at Mr. Spencer's house. There is a small village here, and a school for the children which is partly supported by the Government. We hurried on to the canoe which was pulled by ten natives. The canoe, which was a large one, has been used by many visitors, whose names are carved upon the sides, some of which I recognised. The lake was calm and we crossed comfortably. From the landing place we walked about a mile, and then came upon the Terraces of Rotomahana, of which I sent you a photograph, but we had first to cross a small stream which is fully three feet deep and about five yards across. This for Kate and Edith was a difficulty; they had to sit upon a man's shoulder while one of the native women of our party held their feet out of the water. We then walked up the terraces which are truly beautiful, the incrustations being exquisitely crystallised in great varieties of forms. At the top of the terraces we came to that which looks like an island in Collie's picture, upon which a native is sitting. Behind that is a large cauldron of clear water which is in a continual boil, and every few minutes throws up a jet of water which sometimes rises to the height of 25 feet. The cauldron itself is about forty feet in diameter. I thought that this was all we had to see, but our principal guide drew us on to a great variety of curious places at the back of the hill which seems to be one heated mass, and sends out jets of steam in all directions. When we had seen all that was worthy of notice in that part we returned to the boiling cauldron by the side of the lake, in which old Mary who has charge of Mr. Spencer's house, boiled our potatoes by suspending them in a basket in the boiling water. Our crew also did the same for themselves, and by the help of our various tins of preserved meats and sardines we all made a splendid meal. We had the disagreeable incident of a heavy shower before dinner, and again a second when we had crossed the river the second time. There was still another place of interest to see, the Pink Terraces, page 301 Te Kapa a Rangi, but I had had walking enough, and I left Kate and Edith with the rest of the party to go by themselves with the Maori woman, being a distance of a full mile. I made a fire down by the canoe and dried my clothes, and took a nap in the canoe. Just as the rest of the party appeared there came another shower. After this the weather cleared and we pulled back without any further mishap.
“November 12th. We arrived at Tauranga where my principal business was the consecration of the Church. It was a very neat and satisfactory building costing about £1,000, of which sum more than half is borrowed. The clergyman unfortunately is much disliked, and the people wish much to get rid of him. If it were otherwise I imagine the inhabitants would come forward, and at once pay the debt upon the Church. On Sunday, November 14th, the Church was consecrated according to the usual forms, and I trust that God's blessing will rest upon this effort to promote his glory, and that all difficulties about the Clergyman may be overcome.
“My next duty was to visit Opotiki where poor Volkner was murdered. Kate accompanied me in the steamer which was going to Ohiwa within nine miles of the place, leaving Edith under the care of Mrs. Brown. Mr. Brabant, the Magistrate, was to meet us with a trap, but it was late when we arrived and we were glad to find accommodation at the small hotel, where the people were very civil. The next day Mr. Brabant came, and we first deposited Kate at the house of Mr. Thompson who has lately come to live here, and I went on to Mr. Brabant's. Mr. Brabant's father, a barrister, lived at Hampstead many years ago, and I hear from Mr. Burrows that they were highly respectable people. Mr. Brabant and his brother, who is now a barrister, were both at Cambridge, but my host did not take his degree, and was probably wild in those days. The Thompsons turn out to be decidedly religious people, and Kate much enjoyed her visit there.
“Poor Volkner's church which was grievously desecrated at the time the Hauhaus were here, and was page 302 afterwards used as a barracks for our troops, has now been put into repair by the Government, and was to be consecrated while I was there. The principal part of the land here has been confiscated and is occupied by military settlers who are for the most part an industrious population. The natives are located on land which is about 9 miles off. An English Clergyman is here in charge, and though a man of little attractive exterior is much respected by the people. The consecration took place on the 21st and was a deeply interesting service. The inhabitants of the place are half Church of England, but there being no minister but our own, the other people generally attend Mr. Soutar's service, and sometimes also a few of the Roman Catholics. At the evening service I confirmed eleven persons who were principally adults. In the Sunday school there is an attendance of about 70. Mr. Spencer, our Missionary, came to visit the natives on the coast to the distance of 40 miles Eastward. We were to have returned the following Tuesday to Tauranga, and Kate and I went to Ohiwa to meet the steamer, but she came to the mouth of the harbour but not liking the appearance of the bar she went back again, so that we were detained a week longer than I intended, and then took passage in a small cutter which conveyed us back to Tauranga on the morning of the 30th. Finding that the steamer for Auckland was not likely to leave before morning and that if I went by her I should be able to keep my engagement in Auckland, I at once communicated with the Tauranga clergyman and appointed to hold the Confirmation in the evening which was to have been held on the Sunday previous. In the meantime I had to meet a deputation of the principal Church people respecting the affairs of this place, and then I was able to leave next morning. The steamer from the Bay of Islands brought my daughter Jane, who was to meet us in Auckland to accompany us to Napier. Here then we are awaiting the arrival of our Napier steamer which is to be here in a day or two.”
While in Auckland Bishop Williams took part in the Conference of Missionaries on December 6th and dis- page 303 cussed cussed with Dr. Maunsell a revision of the Prayer-book services on which they both had been recently engaged. Archdeacon Leonard Williams's proposal to open a school at Gisborne for training Maori candidates for the Ministry he also talked over with Rev. R. Burrows, and it met with his approval.
The Bishop, accompanied by his daughters, Mrs. Henry Williams (junior), Kate, and granddaughter Edith, returned to Napier on December 16th, 1875.
Archdeacon W. L. Williams, after consultation with his father had decided to have a house built in Gisborne that would be more accessible to his field of work on the East Coast. The plans had been drawn and were approved early in November. In January the building was begun on the sections in Cobden Street that he had selected some years earlier, and it was ready for occupation in June. This house was named “Te Rau Kahikatea.”
On February 8th, 1876, the Bishop wrote to his sister: “The funds for the erection of Leonard's home at Gisborne will come in part out of the money which we have had from you. When he is settled in his new habitation it will not be long before he puts forth his efforts to have a school for the prophets, obtaining where he may find them a few students from schools in operation where an English education is given.
“Our Railways are now advancing, we can now travel to within three miles of Te Aute.”
The Bishop closed his journal for the year 1875 thus: “The close of another year brings before me the multitude of mercies we have experienced at the hands of our gracious God, the health of our families, preservation in the early part of the year, during a season of trying sickness, blessing upon our work, improvements in many parts among the natives, the blessing upon our Church Clergy, Anderson, Eccles, Lambert, Marshall, Shearman, Soutar, Jordan and Williams. Churches Gisborne, Taradale, Tauranga. Now we have the assurance that our Heavenly Father will keep us in the page 304 hollow of his hand, and preserve us to His heavenly Kingdom.”
The Bishop recorded further Prayer Book revision work early in January, 1876.
The Rev. W. Lambert had just gone to his post among the English population at Wairoa, and on January 11th the Bishop went there by S.S. Fairy and found the work progressing satisfactorily. A heavy sea on the bar at the river mouth delayed him there several days, which he spent in visiting the Church members both English and Maori. The steamer finally got away early on the 22nd and proceeded to Waikokopu to load wool, reaching Napier in the evening.
At the beginning of February he went to Te Aute and Waipawa, where he conferred with the Church people about the division of their parochial district now ministered to by Revs. J. C. Eccles and J. Shearman. On March 12th he held an ordination service at which he admitted Revs. P. C. Anderson and W. Marshall to priest's orders. These journeys and services were the last episcopal duties that Bishop W. Williams was able to undertake. On March 26th, the fiftieth anniversary of his first landing in New Zealand, an attack of paralysis affected his right hand and speech, and seriously impaired his health. His doctor ordered him to relinquish all business and to be kept perfectly quiet. Though his general health improved slightly for a time there was no permanent recovery of his powers.
On May 31st he therefore sent his resignation of the see of Waiapu to the Primate, Bishop Harper of Christchurch, who appointed Archdeacon W. L. Williams his commissary.
For a time the Bishop's health improved slightly under medical treatment. While his general health remained fairly good, he was able, so far as his limited powers would allow, to interest himself in the work of his garden, of which he was very fond. There was, however, still no permanent restoration.
The Diocesan Synod met in September with the Archdeacon presiding as Bishop's commissary. He had page 305 been asked to allow himself to be nominated for the Bishopric and had declined. The following is an extract from his letter to the Clergy who had asked his reasons for declining: “Since my name was first mentioned in connection with the Bishopric I have given the subject much earnest consideration, with prayer for Divine guidance, and have come to the conclusion, according to the best of my judgment, that Our Lord's work in that portion of His Vineyard in which His Providence has placed me, has the first claim upon my services, and that unless I can see how this is to be provided for, I am not free to abandon it even for a wider sphere of usefulness.
“That the Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, will vouchsafe to direct us all, both Clergy and Laity, in discharging the solemn duty now before us, is the earnest prayer of
The Synod at this session failed to elect a successor to the Bishop. However, at the next session held on September 24th to 28th, 1877, the Synod unanimously elected Rev. Edward Craig Stuart to fill the position. He had lately retired from a missionary post he had held in India for a number of years, and had come to visit his brother in New South Wales and friends in New Zealand.
After his election had been approved by the other dioceses of the province, Rev. E. C. Stuart was duly consecrated at St. John's Church, Napier, on December 9th by the Primate, Bishop Harper of Christchurch, assisted by Bishops Cowie of Auckland and Hadfield of Wellington.
Since the new Bishop's election, Bishop Williams's health had continued to fail; though it did not permit him to attend and take part in the consecration of his successor, he was very pleased in the afternoon to have the privilege of bestowing his blessing on Bishop Stuart as he knelt at his bedside, and of presenting him with a copy of the Maori Bible.
Two months later, on February 8th, 1878, Bishop page 306 Williams passed quietly and peacefully to his rest; the funeral took place in the Napier cemetery.
The translation of the New Testament, his Maori Dictionary, the founding of the Diocese of Waiapu, the Hukarere Maori Girls' School, and the assistance he gave to the Te Aute Boys' School, were fitting memorials to his laborious life's work.