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

Mr. William Henry John Seffern

Mr. William Henry John Seffern, sometime Journalist and Justice of the Peace, New Plymouth, was born in 1829, and came out to Australia in 1851. Having visited more of the colonies, he finally settled down in Auckland. From 1863 till the end of 1865, he was one of the proprietors of the New Zealander, the first morning paper published at one penny in New Zealand. In connection with another partner in Auckland, he bought out the Penny Journal in 1866, and the Auckland Budget in 1867. In January, 1868, he accepted the editorship and management of the Taranaki Herald, and remained in that position nearly twenty-eight years. Mr. Seffern was the Auckland correspondent of the Empire (Sydney) for several years, and the Taranaki correspondent of the Otago Daily Times from 1868 to 1875. In 1888 he wrote a work named “The Early Settlement of New Zealand,” which appeared simultaneously in the European Mail (London), Colonies and India (London), the Auckland Evening Star and the Family Friend in New Zealand. “The Battle of Waireka,” written by Mr. Seffern, appeared in the New Zealand Volunteer Gazette in the year 1890. On Taranaki celebrating its jubilee, Mr. Seffern wrote a history of the province, and the sale was so large that the book went out of print. Considering that the Taranaki Herald's fortieth anniversary was an event worth recording, Mr. Seffern wrote “The History of a colonial newspaper—its Start, its Vicissitudes during a ten years' war, and its progress up to 1892.” The work received notices from a number of London and colonial papers. The Marquis of Salisbury wrote an autograph letter to the author, thanking him for the receipt of a copy of the work, and adding: “I have a lively recollection of my arrival in New Plymouth in the little vessel you mention.” Mr. Seffern, in 1895, published “The Chronicles of the Garden of New Zealand, known as Taranaki,” in which he describes the revolting scenes that took place during the old Maori tribal wars, and gives full details of the privations the early settlers had to undergo. After being connected with newspapers in New Zealand for over forty years, Mr. Seffern retired from active journalism in 1895, and on leaving the Taranaki Herald was presented by the staff with an address and other parting gifts. Another address was also presented to him by the pressmen engaged on papers within the Taranaki district. Mr. Seffern continued to contribute articles on the early history of New Zealand to various journals, and in his later years he also wrote a history of “The Maori Rebellion during the Sixties.” He died some time ago.