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Earliest New Zealand


page 157
Rev. S. Marsden to Rev. J. Pratt.
March 21st, 1821.

Reverend and Dear Sir,

A whaler has just arrived from the Bay of Islands. The master informs me that there were seventeen whalers on the coast. As they all barter with muskets and powder, they will buy up all the animal food from the natives, and greatly distress the settlement for provisions for a time. It may seem strange that I have never been able from the first to convince the missionary settlers of the value of cattle. A moment's reflexion ought to be sufficient to convince the most ignorant of the vast importance of cattle in a new country, for labour, milk, butter, animal food, etc. Had the missionaries only attended to the cattle that have been imported, they would not now be in want of animal food…. . At one time I sent over six heifers—very fine ones. They informed me that they wanted a bull (Did he think they would give milk, butter and animal food without?) I sent them over two very fine English bulls. They neglected to put these to the heifers, so that they never bred (How did they keep them apart? there were no fences in those days!) When I returned in the Dromedary, I took more cattle over with me. On my arrival, I found the Revd. Mr. Butler had shot three of my heifers and two bulls, and also one cow in calf. When I asked him his reason for doing so, he said he wanted to get them into the settlement, and finding he could not, he shot five of them, and Shunghee shot one. I was much hurt at this circumstance, as it was defeating my intention towards New Zealand. Mr. Butler had no right to kill my cattle; it was a wanton, thoughtless act. The cattle would not have been worth much less than £100 in New South Wales. Their beef was very fat. (Naturally! they were beef cattle—not milkers!) Had they acted properly from the first, they would have had plenty of milk and butter and a considerable quantity of beef by this time, (These were cattle, without the fecundity of rabbits!) and would not have been so dependent upon the natives. (Note—There were some fifty settlers in the settlement by this time; it reads like the parable of the loaves and fishes!) If the Society could meet with a pious farmer, or a few families were settled upon the Society's land, this would be an excellent thing. I think there is little doubt they might soon maintain themselves if they were industrious……The whalers are like to ruin the whole country by importing such quantities of firearms and gunpowder. How this evil can be remedied, I know not—it is a great one.

I remain,


Rev. J. Pratt,etc., etc.
page 158
August 11th, 1821.

Revd. and Dear Sir,

…. In my two visits to New Zealand, I was put to considerable expense. The Revd. John Butler also killed five head of my cattle, and served the meat to the settlement. (Did Marsden own land in New Zealand?) Under the above circumstances I feel I have a claim on the Society to remunerate me in some degree for my losses and expenses. It is not necessary for me to make out any regular account, but to leave the matter to the consideration of the Committee. I have, therefore, taken the liberty to draw upon you for the sum of £100 on the above account. I flatter myself the Society will not think that sum too high, as I conceive the cattle would have been worth nearly that sum in Port Jackson, independent of the expenses of sending them to New Zealand. Should the Committee not approve of the bill, I will thank you to honour it, and I will settle with you when I receive information from you on the subject.

This complaint necessitates interesting research.

In 1814, the “Active” took the first cattle to New Zealand, there being one bull and two cows, presented by Governor Macquarie of New South Wales. One cow, owned by Ruatara, had a black bull calf shortly afterwards.

In May, 1817, Marsden sent his first cattle, six horned head (page 414, Historical Records of New Zealand).

In July, 1819, he sent four horned head and some sheep.

He says he sent them over two bulls, but the heifers have never bred. There is no official trace of this shipment.

Mr. Kendall, in answer to an enquiry of Commissioner Bigge, states: Nov. 8th, 1819, “There are twenty-five horned cattle and six sheep (the natives having three head of cattle).”

A further shipment of eight heifers and one draft bull had arrived per “Active” on October 28th, 1819.

This accounts for twenty-four of the twenty-five, yet Mr. Marsden says, “Butler shot three heifers, two bulls, and a cow and calf!” (page 567, H.R.N.Z.), and claims £100 for same. That is, up to Mr. Marsden's arrival per “Dromedary,” February 28th, 1820.

Now let us examine Butler's official records of all the cattle transactions up to that date.

page 159

The progeny of Macquarie's gift were unquestionably not Marsden's; although he was evidently depending upon Macquarie's bull. There were no fences in those days, and no grass land; the cattle had to feed in the bush and on river banks, and risk accident through outraging “tapu.”

NOVEMBER 18th. — Butler writes, “Caught cow and calf which we brought with us from Port Jackson.

24th.—Went into the bush to see if we could catch some cattle, which had run wild for some years past.

26th.—Our bull died, after all care had been taken with him.

27th.—Wm. Hall and others killed a bull in the bush.

DECEMBER 1st.—Built a stockyard for cattle.

FEBRUARY 5th.—Cow calved, bull calf.

FEBRUARY 9th.—Lost heifer by dysentery, and valuable ram by native dogs.”

Rangihoua, where the cattle were liberated, must be thirty miles overland from Kerikeri, where Butler was stationed; although only about sixteen by water. It seems unreasonable for Mr. Marsden to expect the missionaries to attend to his beef cattle, when all their time was required in erecting their buildings.

However, let us examine further.

Dr. Fairfoul, in answer to Commissioner Bigge, May, 1821, “Mr. Marsden has twenty-three head that are grazing upon the missionary grounds, besides three or four cows that have escaped, and are running wild in the woods. They are in good condition. The missionaries had killed a bull, as it got wild, but Mr. Marsden had taken another over in the 'Dromedary.'”

Question: “Then no use has been made of these cattle in agriculture by the missionaries?”

Answer: “They were chiefly heifers and cows; besides, there was no one to break them in.”

The “Dromedary” brought down more cattle and twelve yoke of oxen. The cattle were punted to Kerikeri, twenty miles by water, with the remark that food was very scarce. On April 14th, a cow, bullock, and two sheep were lost over- page 160 board, while the “Dromedary” was cruising on the west coast near Hokianga.

DECEMBER, 1820.—“In the bush, looking after cattle,” is another of Butler's entries.

About August, 1821, he writes, “The 'Active' came and brought down more cattle,” and the trouble of tending these leads Butler to write to the Society in England, “I should like to know whether the cattle are Mr. Marsden's or the Society's.” They had evidently caused trouble among the natives, as they had been shooting at them.

SEPTEMBER 7th, 1821.—“Four having small calves.”

A few months afterwards is the entry “Secured bullocks out of the bush.” (The “Dromedary” seems to have left some of the team behind. (See “Historical Records.”) “Caught two bullocks for working them on the farm, and castrated three young bulls, about twelve months old.”

14/5/22.—“This morning got in my black cow, she has a fine calf.

14/5/22.—“Sent down to Tooi (Tommy Tooi who had been in England) one young bull and one heifer.” A cow and calf were given to the Wesleyans at Whangaroa the following year, and the cattle given by Sir Thomas Brisbane were evidently sent to Paroa. Sir Thomas Brisbane also gave the Wesleyan Mission eight cows, one bull, and six sheep, out of the N.S.W. Government stock.

This was apparently the climax to any ambition Mr. Marsden may have had as to owning a herd in New Zealand. Macquarie had made gifts in 1814. To Mr. Marsden's intense annoyance, Sir Thomas Brisbane had given Mr. Butler cattle; and now this last gift; his own were scattered throughout the bush, some of them wild, and the ownership doubtful. He therefore wrote to the Church Missionary Society, 15/1/1823, stating that there must be upwards of fifty head, and presenting them as a donation to the Society.

1824.—Kemp writes, “We have about thirty head of cattle which we keep together in one herd; several have, however, left the herd, and are running wild. The natives have not hitherto molested them, but many chiefs have requested to have a male and female.”

page 161

Four years later, Earle expresses keen delight at falling in with a herd of at least one hundred head of fat cattle, when approaching the village of Kiri Kiri. (Earle's Nine Months in New Zealand, 1827). He does not express the same admiration for the hospitality of the settlement.

JANUARY 4th, 1821.

John Hunter, mate of the brig “Active,” to Mr. Commissioner Bigge.

Question put to John Hunter: “What is the greatest quantity of pickled pork you have delivered to Mr. Marsden at Parramatta?”

Answer: “A ton was the largest quantity we ever delivered.”

(Records show three.)

Ensign McCrae of 84th Regiment, to Mr. Commissioner Bigge.

Question: “Did the missionaries ever complain to you that the preference shewn by the natives for muskets and gunpowder, sold to them by the masters and crews of the whalers, is prejudicial to the trade that they wished to carry on with them?”

Answer: “They often made this complaint, and said they could hardly obtain provisions from the natives for the goods that they were allowed to exchange.”

Question: “What are those goods?”

Answer: “Axes, hoes, plane irons, fish-hooks, etc. The same difficulty was experienced by the ship's company of the 'Dromedary,' and in consequence they were never able to procure by barter a fresh meal during the whole time that we were in New Zealand.”

How then, was the Mission to secure cargo for the “Active?”

Dr. Fairfoul, of the “Dromedary,” to Mr. Commissioner Bigge:

“I have known Mr. Butler to go fifteen miles for the purpose of purchasing a few hogs, and at the time he said he had not a piece of pork in his house.”

page 162
New Zealand,
March 26th, 1821.

Revd. and Dear Sir,

As I have copied my journal, and sent it within a few days of the present date, I have nothing new to communicate, any further than stating that we are at this time on the most friendly terms with the natives, and possess both their confidence and esteem.

My natives, whom I employ in farming and fencing, gardening, etc., etc., go on exceeding well, and improve very fast.

I shall not want any more wheat from Port Jackson for my family, and I hope to be enabled to relieve the settlement very much next year, as I have ten acres of land fit for wheat this seed time.

I have eight native sawyers cutting timber for my house at this time. The farmers and sawyers under my care are all victualled at our place—eighteen in number, and as Mrs. Butler has no assistant, poor woman, she is almost worked off her legs, but we assist each other, and do the best we can.

I have now an excellent garden full of vegetables of various sorts, and also a pretty good stock of young fruit trees, but no gooseberries or currants. I need not inform you how I have spent my time in New Zealand, as my journal will furnish you with every information on this subject.

As we have no school at present, nor means of supporting one, I endeavour to instruct the natives in temporal and spiritual things in the best way I can, and to the utmost of my power. In beginning a new colony or settlement, there is an amazing deal of work and labour to be done before it is possible to set on foot any regular spiritual instruction.

I apprehend the Committee are not sufficiently acquainted with local circumstances. In this heathen land there is no market to go to, therefore everyone is obliged to kill his own pork, and if he wants any comforts for his family, he must obtain them by his own industry, or be content to go without them, as New Zealand produces nothing but potatoes and pork.

On this account I am obliged to be engaged on many more secular affairs than I otherwise should be.

If the Committee would be so kind as to allow me a steady middle-aged man and his wife (without encumbrances), as servants, they could be a real blessing—the woman to assist Mrs. Butler in the female department, and the man to act as steward for me. This would ease my mind from a great deal of anxiety, as well as ease me of a great deal of labour, such as milking my cow, killing my hogs, going with the natives constantly, etc., etc.

As it is the desire of the Committee that I should attend especially to the native language and my ministerial duties, they would therefore enable me to do what is at present out of my power, which is, to devote the whole of my time to my proper duties and calling.

My son, Samuel Butler, is now returned from Port Jackson, and will assist me in getting my house forward, and other business, as well page 163 as improve himself as fast as possible in the native language, and assist me in instructing the natives in every possible way.

The brig “Hope” came into the harbour on Wednesday evening last, bringing stores for our settlement, and having on board Mr. Haywood, Mr. Wilson, and their wives, for Otaheite. Mr. Marsden had intended to send down a little spirit to the settlement, but there was not room to get it on board.

Captain Grime informed him he could spare a little, and he ordered him to leave it at New Zealand, and get a bill on the Society in England for the same.

I have purchased eighteen gallons off him at 10/- per gallon, for to be divided amongst us, and I have drawn on you, Sir, for nine pounds, which you will have the goodness to pay, and charge the same to my account.

In my former letter I ordered some porter for my family. Messrs. Hall and Kemp desired me in this letter to order them two barrels each, to be packed in cases to prevent plunder. Mrs. Butler, myself, and family are quite well, and we present our affectionate love to you and all our dear friends.

Dear Sir,
Yours very affectionately,


Butler to C.M.S. (Evidently Josiah Pratt).