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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

Pioneer Immigrants

Pioneer Immigrants.

In the meantime, while all this was happening in New Zealand, the energy of the New Zealand Company's promoters, and more especially the enthusiastic zeal of Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the real founder of the colony, was making a deep impression on public feeling in England. In several centres, movements were started to settle some portion or other of the newly recognised territories, and it is thus that the history of Taranaki first emerges from the general record of New Zealand colonisation. Indeed, it was at a public meeting held in the town of Plymouth, England, on the 25th of January, 1840, that the Plymouth Company, for colonising New Zealand from the West of England, was formed, with a capital of £150,000. The official head of the company was the Earl of Devon, and the directors and officials were all men of wealth and social standing. The Company purchased from the New
Waingongoro Bridge.

Waingongoro Bridge.

Zealand Company 10,000 acres of its newly-acquired land, and on the 13th of August despatched a surveyor, with a staff of officers and men, by the barque “London,” to select a site for the settlement, and to commence the surveys. On the 26th of August, the Company made a further purchase of 50,000 acres from the New Zealand Company, which sent out instructions to Colonel Wakefield to give Mr. Carrington (the Plymouth Company's surveyor), page 16 every assistance in his power in making the selection. Accordingly, an overland exploring expedition was despatched from Wellington to Taranaki. It consisted of Messrs Stokes and Park, surveyors; Mr. Heaphy, draughtsman to the New Zealand Company; Mr. William Deans, afterwards the pioneer settler of the Canterbury Plains, and six men, bearers of blankets and provisions. After a very fatiguing journey of a month's duration, the party reached the Sugar Loaves, and after a very brief stay, retraced their steps to Wellington.
Old Style Of Maori House.

Old Style Of Maori House.

The report of their investigations was duly forwarded to England, and the outcome was that in November, 1840, preparations were made in Plymouth for the despatch of a pioneer vessel to the Plymouth Company's settlement at Taranaki. For this service, the barque “William Bryan,” 312 tons, commanded by Captain McLean, was selected. Previous to the departure of the expedition, a dinner was given to the pioneer emigrants, who were chiefly from Cornwall, where Sir William Molesworth had made great efforts to induce a number of agricultural and mining labourers, who resided on his estates, or in their neighbourhood, to enter into the scheme. Much enthusiasm prevailed at the meeting, and each emigrant was promised a town section in the town of New Plymouth, on his arrival. The dejeuner took place on the 30th of October, and the Earl of Devon was in the chair. On the previous day the proclamation of the British sovereignty of the Islands of New Zealand had been published in London in the Government Gazette. Mr. Gibbon Wakefield was in London at the time, and, on hearing the important news, he immediately started for Plymouth by the mail coach, and arrived there during the least, at which he was called upon by Lord Devon to communicate to the assembly the intelligence he had brought from London.

The “William Bryan” sailed from Plymouth Sound on the 19th of November, 1840, with Mr. George Cutfield, a naval architect, and late of Her Majesty's Dockyard, at Devonport, in charge of the expedition. On board were Mr. Richard Chilman, of London, who, on the voyage, was appointed clerk to Mr. Cutfield; Mr. Thomas King, of London; and Mr. A. Aubrey, son of Colonel Aubrey, of the Horse Guards. Mr. Weeks was the ship's surgeon. In the steerage there were forty-two married, and twenty-two single adults, and seventy children. After a favourable voyage, the vessel entered Cloudy Bay for orders, on the 19th of March, 1841. Finding no one in the bay able to give him any information respecting the site of the new settlement, Mr. Cutfield hired a cutter, and proceeded to Wellington, for the purpose of seeing Colonel Wakefield on the subject. After a brief stay, he returned with a pilot, and with orders to proceed to Taranaki. The “William Bryan” again set sail on the 28th of March, and came to anchor off the Sugar Loaves at six o'clock on the evening of the 30th of March, 1841.

Unfortunately, the Plymouth Company had scarcely commenced operations, when it was involved in pecuniary difficulties by the failure of its bankers, Messrs Wright and Company, of London. This misfortune resulted in a deed of agreement, dated the 10th of May, 1841, by which the Plymouth Company was merged in the New Zealand Company; but the directors of the Plymouth Company continued to act in connection with the New Zealand Company, under the title of the West of England Board.

While preparations were being made to forward further bodies of emigrants to the new colony, Mr. Carrington, the Plymouth Company's surveyor, had commenced work on the site chosen for the settlement. The base line for his survey was cut from the Great Sugar Loaf towards the foot of Mount Egmont; but in carrying out his work, he had some difficulty with the natives, over the amount they had received for their land.

It was not till the 30th of September, 1841, that the 480 ton barque “Amelia Thompson” (Captain Lawson), after a long but prosperous voyage from Plymouth, brought 187 passengers to people the new settlement. Captain King, the Chief Commissioner of the Plymouth colony, was on board, and undertook the control of affairs page 17 as soon as the immigrants had landed. Under the direction of Mr. Carrington and Mr. Cutfield, whares and huts had been erected, and other preparations had been made to receive the new-comers; and it is interesting to note that the Company's agents had already fixed a scale of wages—five shillings a day for unskilled labour, and seven shillings a day for mechanics. The schooner “Regina” (174 tons, Captain Browse) had been chartered to convey stores for the colonists, and reached her destination safely on the 3rd of October; but before all her freight was discharged, she drifted from her moorings, and was wrecked on the reef outside the roadstead. This misfortune not only meant a serious loss to the Company, but gave the new town a bad reputation among sailors. On the 19th of November, another instalment of settlers arrived in the ship “Oriental” (506 tons, Captain Wilson)—seventeen cabin passengers and seventy-four steerage. Before this—by the 4th of November—the survey of the town was finished, and the immigrants had begun to locate themselves in their allotments. But the promise made to the pioneers of the “William Bryan,” that every family should receive a town section, was not fulfilled. After some controversy, they were granted the privilege of selecting sections in St. Michael's Square at £5 each, and the compromise seems to have been accepted as satisfactory. It should be mentioned that the “Oriental's” passengers included Captain Liardet, who had been picked up at Wellington, and who came up to Taranaki to supersede Captain King as the Company's colonial representative. Captain Liardet had come out to the colony in the “Whitley,” which, in 1841, brought out the pioneers of the Nelson settlement. He was a personal friend of Captain Wakefield (killed in the Wairau massacre), and had served with credit in the navy. But ten days after his arrival at New Plymouth, he met with a serious accident, which, for the time, deprived him of his sight. He left New Plymouth for Sydney early in 1842, and though he ultimately recovered the use of his eyes, he never returned to New Zealand.