Settlers and Pioneers
5 — Auckland Settlement
The missionaries were New Zealand's first English settlers and farmers. They had made oases of civilisation and productiveness in the northern part of the country long before British control of these islands was established. A full quarter of a century of mission effort had elapsed, with its gradual but sure influence for the better on the native population, when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, largely through the appeals of the Church Missionary Society and the Wesleyans. There were church farms at Waimate and other favoured parts of the North, and many Maoris had been instructed in agriculture, especially in wheat-growing. The missionaries introduced sheep and cattle from New South Wales. Fruit trees were planted, and English flowers gave beauty to the isolated stations. The first wool clip from this primitive land was sent from the Bay of Islands sixteen years before Waitangi.
The first sheep brought to the Bay of Islands were landed in 1814 by the great Samuel page 28Marsden. They were from Sydney and the first wool clip was exported to Sydney. Mr W. S. King of Waimate recorded that when a small boy (he was born at the mission station at Te Puna in 1819) he saw his father shear sheep. The year was 1824. His father was the Rev. John King, one of Marsden's missionaries, who arrived in 1814. The missionary sent eleven bags of wool to Sydney, where the clip fetched 2s 6d per lb.
The English buildings at Waimate, Kerikeri, and Paihia, the churches and schools, the fields of English grass, the large cultivations of wheat and potatoes, besides the Maori kumara and taro, impressed early travellers with the beneficial results of the pioneers' very practical mission. It was necessary, first of all, to grow food for the children under missionary instruction, and it was desirable to increase the food staples of the tribes around the stations. The Hauraki shores, Waikato, Hokianga, Tauranga, the Thames Valley, and Rotorua were in turn the scenes of English farming on a small scale, more or less successful, before the first British immigrants reached the newly-proclaimed colony.
After the first English apostles introduced by Samuel Marsden came traders and adventurers of all degrees. Most of them could have been classed as undesirables. There were legitimate trading agents brought over by Sydney vessels to buy flax in exchange for muskets and ammunition, and there page 29were the whalers and sealers. Some of the whalers became identified with the Maori people, and their descendants are numerous in the land to-day. There were men who became timber buyers and loaded vessels with kauri, there were ship-builders who filled a useful place in the beginning of New Zealand industry and commerce.
There were two grades of pakeha-Maori, the white men who took naturally to the blanket and the kainga life, and the better-class squatter or trader who, » although marrying into the tribe, did not abandon his civilised pakeha habits but instead tried to educate his hoa wahine in the elements of European culture.
The runaway sailors, whalers, and miscellaneous adventurers were usually of a much lower intellectual and social grade than the women they acquired as wives. When the missionary came to marry some of these couples, it was found that while the rough pakeha was in many cases unable to read or write, the rangatira woman could write her name in an easy flowing script, proof that she had been taught at a mission school.
There was a quite numerous pakeha-Maori population along the northern coast in 1840, but it was not until Auckland town had been well established that the British settlement of the northern shores by farmers was begun. The Whangarei district was one of the first places of pakeha life that was not wholly devoted to the kauri-timber felling and shipping page 30industry. As the fertile qualities of the soil and the genial climate became known, many bays became sources of supply for the Auckland market, and the shores of Hauraki and the island of Waiheke frequently sent canoe-loads of potatoes, kumara, and fruit.
The first regular immigrants to Auckland and the North were the Scottish settlers from the Clyde in the Jane Gifford and Duchess of Argyle , names of treasured memory. These people were mostly Lowlanders from Ayrshire and Galloway. Twelve years after them came the first of the Highlanders, the famous Gaelic migration from Nova Scotia.
We know that the Scottish Highland evictions, the Irish potato famine, the labour conditions in England, directed the thoughts of many to the new lands round the world, but it would be quite misleading and historically incorrect to say or infer that New Zealand was peopled mostly by people who were starving in the mother countries. The proportion of our early immigrants born in the slums of the Old Country cities must have been very small indeed. There was a process of natural selection which sent the best class of Englishman and Scot and Irishman overseas, at any rate the class best fitted to break in a raw, new country and make it a home of civilisation and comfort. Many were men and women of educa-page 31tion and culture who gave a lead in the shaping of colonial life. The majority of those who settled on the land in the first four decades of New Zealand's existence as a British country were, it may broadly be said, of the class described in England as yeoman farmers and the land-bred men who worked for them. They found their supreme satisfaction in making the soil productive.
The story of the Highland settlement of Waipu is an epic of adventure and endeavour. Its founders were chiefly crofters and their descendants who had been driven from their homes in Ross-shire, Suther-landshire, and other parts of the Highlands to make room for large sheepowners' flocks and rich men's deer and grouse, a series of cold-blooded evictions which Sir John McKenzie used to describe in terms of fiery indignation in the New Zealand Parliament. Many of these people, whose homes had been unroofed and burned in the callous clearances, crossed the Atlantic and settled at Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
The Rev. Norman McLeod, the pastor of the little Calvinist community, had a son who found his way to Australia. The accounts he wrote of the new Australian country, with its bright sunshine and its wealth and geniality, were so attractive by contrast with the hard and wintry land of Nova Scotia that the Highlanders, pastor and all, were seized with a great desire to emigrate once more. The whole page 32community, after many conferences, decided to try their fortunes in the new land in the Southern Seas.
The Nova Scotians set resolutely to work for the great adventure. They felled trees and cut them up for timbers and planking, forged ironwork, and built a brig which they named Highland Lassie , and another vessel, the brig Margaret. They loaded the ships with their goods, and the crowded emigrant craft set sail for Adelaide, South Australia, where they had heard land was to be had almost for the asking. The Highland Lassie was caught in the ice for a season, and it was fully a year before they reached their destination. But there they found things were not quite so bright as they had been painted. Most of the land near the port of Adelaide was in the possession of land companies, and being sea-lovers, like all coast-dwelling Highlanders, they would not go inland. They got into communication with Sir George Grey, then Governor of New Zealand, who persuaded them to make their homes in North Auckland, and so in 1854 the far-travelled Scots brought over by the barque Gazelle anchored at Waipu, just to the south of Whangarei, and found rest at last after their great voyaging. There they felled the bush and made their farms; and Waipu became a little bit of old Scotia transplanted in New Zealand, after two removes, and still persistently and heroically Scottish.
Other vessels followed, most of them built by the page 33Nova Scotians, the brig Gertrude , the small brigantine Spray , and the barques Bredalbane and Ellen Lewis. These vessels brought out from Cape Breton and other parts of Nova Scotia 876 people, all of whom settled in the Waipu and surrounding districts, and at Matakana, Omaha, and the vicinity. The Highland spirit still is strong, though the Gaelic no longer is understood by the growing generation. The old clans are there—McKenzie, McLeod, Matheson, McLellan, McGregor, McKay, McMillan, Cameron, Fraser, Campbell, McLean, Munro, McDonald, McPhee, McRae. Sailors, fishermen, bush-men, farmers, the pioneers could turn their hands to many things. They were the most determined and resolute of pioneers. They sowed their wheat and oats in amongst the stumps where the forest had been cleared and burned. The seed was hoed in by hand and reaped with a sickle. It was a hard life at first, hard indeed for many years, but gradually they made comfortable homes for themselves and they increased and multiplied, and to-day Waipu is one of the most attractive and well-tended small-farming districts of the Dominion.
Its Macs of divers clans are celebrated for their sea-going proclivities. So numerous are the McKenzie seamen of Waipu birth that it is related that on one occasion nine master mariners of the name were in their ships at the same time in Auckland harbour. To the clan lists of Waipu, Mangapai, and Omaha, page 34there really ought to be added the tribe MacNeptune. Two or three of the barques and brigs which brought the Nova Scotians out to this part of the world from Cape Breton were manned by families. There was a doughty Meiklejohn, who built a vessel in a Nova Scotian bay and sailed it to New Zealand; his nine sons formed the crew. The patriarch and his family settled at Omaha, where they built many a brigantine and schooner for Auckland shipowning Macs.
Mr J. M. McKay, a pioneer settler of Waipu, told many backblocks real life stories. 'My father,' he said, 'grew 500 bushels of wheat without using a plough. The work was done by the whole family, who used hoes. The corn was threshed with a hand flail. We really had no use for a plough, as we could not remove the stumps for some years. I had to grind enough wheat with a hand-mill to provide us with food before we left for school in the morning.' But nobody went hungry in those bush days, for there were pigs and birds in the bush and fish in the sea. 'Most of the settlers were handy men, who could saw timber and build houses and boats. All our people were loyal to each other. When a neighbour wanted a day's help all came. When I started on my own, forty men came to help me fell the first bush. They made it a pleasure and looked upon it as a holiday.'
The life of the farmer is so protected and eased to-day by a watchful Government, and the people have become so accustomed to ask and receive State assistance, that the stories of some of the early-days settlement seem almost incredible. Immigrants arriving in the first four decades of New Zealand's existence as a British colony were often sent off to perfectly wild, unroaded forest regions, there to chop out a living. Many race elements have gone to the making of the New Zealander of to-day, page 36though the population is so predominantly Anglo-Celtic in origin. Some of our best pioneers, sturdy, industrious, and courageous, were Danes and Norwegians, who broke into the great bush that covered the country where the towns of Dannevirke, Norse-wood, and adjacent settlements now stand, and made the land a richly productive farm region.
There is the story of the Bohemian colony at Puhoi, some thirty-five miles north of Auckland. The founders of Puhoi were eighty-three men, women and children from Staab, in Bohemia, which was part of the old Austrian Empire.
Puhoi is reached by a good road to-day, passing through Waiwera on the northward journey from Auckland. The founder of this community in the Maori bush was Captain Martin Krippner, who had been an officer in the Austrian Army. He first came to New Zealand as a settler in 1859. He did not make a success of his efforts at farming, but he thought that the small-farming people of his homeland should do well in this new land of great opportunities. So, with the approval of the Auckland Provincial Government, he formed a party of Bohemian colonists. He had asked the Government to allot his people land and this was arranged on the forty-acre system; each adult immigrant paying his or her own passage would receive forty acres free and each child twenty acres.page 37
The first party of Bohemians left Staab, about a hundred miles from Prague, on 26 February 1863 and travelled to Liverpool by way of Hamburg and Altona. At Liverpool they embarked in the ship War Spirit , which landed them at Auckland in June 1863.
The first sight of the Promised Land was most depressing. Captain Krippner's choice was a lamentable error of judgment. There was not a road of any kind; the only way to reach their allotted land was by sea and up a tidal creek; there was hardly a level acre; all was broken into hills and gullies; and every part of it was covered with bush. The nearest inhabitants were a few Maoris who lived in the primitive way under their chief Te Hemara, a tall lean veteran we often saw in Auckland in after years. Nikau huts were built to shelter the people, who set about bravely to conquer the wilderness.
For an account of some of the difficulties of these people, who made excellent settlers and a permanent valuable addition to the young New Zealand nation, I turn to Father Silk's history. Father Silk, who became the parish priest of Puhoi in 1922, recorded the struggles and achievements of the settlement. The people were desperately poor in the first few years of their bush life. Soon after their arrival Captain Krippner formed a militia company to serve under the Government in the Maori war and most page 38of the young men joined it. After the war these militiamen were each given fifty acres of land at Ohaupo, in the Waikato, and settled there. That was good open land; those left at Puhoi struggled along at their bush-clearing.
The Puhoi men—and women, too—felled bush, cut firewood and shingles for shipment to Auckland, and burned large quantities of rimu bark to make charcoal in order to earn money for the necessaries of life. For years everything had to go by sea and there was very little left after freight had been paid. There was not enough money in this little community to buy a cow until several years had passed. Towards the end of the second year when some of the thick bush had been felled and burned, some small patches of ground were ready for potatoes and wheat. The wheat, when reaped, was ground into flour in small steel handmills. So the little community fared along, each year felling more of the all-surrounding bush. Another contingent of Bohemians arrived in 1866 and settled at Ahuroa, close to Puhoi, and these communities by hard work and mutual help gradually built up the pretty and comfortable settlements of to-day.
But for all their toil and semi-starvation in the early years those splendid settlers never lost their courage nor their capacity for making the best of life. Their one great relaxation was dancing. Puhoi became famous in Auckland for its dances, which sometimes lasted for three days and nights. Those hospitable and page 39jovial folk could play as heartily as they worked on their little farms.
Matamata town and the rich dairy-farming lands about it are an excellent example of the changes which closer settlement has brought about in New Zealand. It is all to the good that this once great estate belonging to one man should now support many hundreds of families. But Josiah Clifton Firth, the original lord of 60,000 acres here, was a splendid pioneer and did much to break in a waste land to the purposes of food-growing. He had great ideas and ideals, and he was far ahead of his times. He made the Upper Thames country a civilised land; he cleared the snag-blocked Waihou River to run his own steamers; he made roads and built bridges. The Firth cultivations were on a scale in advance of anything in the island. In the year 1883 he had 3,000 acres of wheat in one huge field. Now that one field of corn makes thirty dairy-farms.
J. C. Firth's son, the late William Thornton Firth, was, too, a pioneer of Matamata. He helped to develop the country and he twice went to America for the latest agricultural and engineering machinery for the big estate. He brought back from the United States the first telephone apparatus used in New Zealand. He erected a telephone line over twenty miles long, between Matamata and Waiorongomai, page 40at the foot of Te Aroha Mountain, where there was a gold-mining field in the eighties of last century.
Speaking of the large estates in the Thames Valley at the end of the last century, a visitor said: 'There is no doubt that farming was more impressive and picturesque on those large estates than it is to-day. I saw 20,000 sheep in one mob on 100 acres of turnips. Great mobs of cattle were frequently on the move. With its vast blocks and herds, Matamata was singularly bare of human life. Apart from the contractors engaged in draining, ploughing, fencing, and similar work, there were only twenty-five men permanently employed, and these apart from the managers only averaged from 20s. to 25s. per week in wages. On the site of the present town district of over 1,000 people, there was only a wool shed, empty and lifeless except during a few weeks through the year. Between the railway station and the homestead, about five miles away, there was not a house to be seen. Those who know the Matamata of to-day can realise what John McKenzie's Lands for Settlement Act did for this estate as well as for others in various parts of New Zealand.'
Several hundreds of an excellent class of colonists, all from Ulster, were brought in the ships Carisbrooke Castle, Dover Castle, Lady Jocelyn , and Halcione. Many of the pioneers were men of high ability in various fields of life; all were a valuable contribution to the colony's population.
Some of the land allotted to them on the Tauranga shores was not of the best quality, but the Katikati settlements and farms were soon scenes of industry and comfortable homes.