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Annandale Past and Present 1839-1900

Chapter X. — The Canterbury Settlement

page 126

Chapter X.
The Canterbury Settlement.

We come now to a time of anticipation and intense interest for all, viz., the advent of the "Canterbury Pilgrims." We may surely designate by the name of "Pilgrim Fathers" those few who braved the untried country, and by their energy and industry paved the way for their successors —the "Pilgrims."

On that eventful day—16th December, 1850—Mr. Hay, with the assistance of Tom White, was breaking-in the first four bullocks ever used as beasts of burden on the Peninsula. Those bovine pioneers—"Blocky" and "Ben," "Jacky" and "Rodney"—proved most useful animals for years thereafter, and were ever associated mentally with the arrival of the four pioneer ships in Canterbury. "It goes without saying" that the two boys, James and Tom, were keenly interested spectators. They were seated on the stockyard fence, watching the proceedings, which had engrossed their attention all morning, Ashen their sharp eyes espied a ship passing the East Heads. Immediately all hands were standing up on the fence, the better to see the unwonted sight of a large three-misted ship in full sail making for the harbor of Port Cooper—the first of its page 127size and kind ever to enter it. Very soon it was followed by another, and yet another, while the excitement ran high in the breasts of all, old as well as young. The then small boys have at this distance of time a distinct remembrance of all the events of that memorable day, so fraught with hope and promise for them. The names of these four historic ships were—"Charlotte lane," "Randolph," "Sir George Seymour," and "Cressy."* Governor Sir George Grey was awaiting their arrival in the harbors of port Cooper.

It is easier to imagine than describe the excitement and delight which animated our few dwellers in the solitudes when they saw the first ships pass Pigeon Bay Heads. That in the near future cities would be formed and peopled, railways made, and ships built, seemed not too wild a dream. The earlier settlers had proved the soil and climate, which answered their expectations fully, and now greater hopes of the future arose out of the influx of new-life and enterprise in their midst. Those desolate plains would soon teem with busy life, the wild hillsides be trans formed into pastoral landscapes and picturesque home steeds.

The result justified their hopes, for in an amazingly short time Lyttelton spread itself up the slopes, and Christ church was laid oft'. Business was begun on orthodox Old Country lines, nerved by Colonial energy—the outcome of the character that proved itself equal to the severing of Home-ties, and the rearing of a new nation on the other side of the globe. It is not easy for us in our days of fast and luxuriously fitted up steamers—"floating palaces," as

* The first-named left Plymouth on September 7th, the other three on September 8th, 1850. The "Charlotte Jaue" and "Randolph" ax-rived on December 16th: the "Sir George Seymour" on December 17th: and the 'Creasy" on December 27th; their arrival being almost as simultaneous as their departure from the Mother Country.

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Port Lyttelton—Showing "Cressy" Just Arriving December 27, 1850.

Port Lyttelton—Showing "Cressy" Just Arriving December 27, 1850.

page 129they are deservedly called—to imagine what it meant to undertake a voyage to New Zealand in those days. The numberless articles that had to be selected for comfort or necessity, for the long voyage alone, to say nothing of the subsequent requirements for making a home in a new country. Numbers of the settlers came provided with the framework of their houses, and all the furniture and utensils necessary for their comfort, and those provident ones were speedily settled, ready to begin the business of life.

The arrival of those welcome ships gave promise of a long-felt want being supplied, viz., means of education for the children growing up. It was obviously one of the greatest difficulties the early settlers, had to face, that of getting their children taught. In the midst of their own hard work it was next to impossible to give them regular lessons; but Mr. and Mrs. Hay persevered in the most praiseworthy manner, and the elder ones had mastered the very first difficulties in the upward path of learning before the advent of their first tutor.

After the Canterbury Settlement Mr. and Mrs. May, who had long realised their isolation in regard to educational and religious matters, spared no trouble to secure an efficient tutor, but though there were plenty among the Pilgrims desirous of such an opening, there was considerable difficulty in securing one at first. On making his application Mr. Hay was told—"The teachers brought out by the Canterbury Association are for the children of the Church, and on condition of his joining the Church of England having his children baptized, he should have one. He turned away indignant and disappointed, deter mined to send Home for one for himself without delay. However, it was found there were too many teachers page 130brought out, and he was asked to take one shortly after his application had been refused, and before he had time to send Home He was thankful to settle the matter for the children's sakes, but it was by no means satisfactorily settled for some time. All this, however, as well as the building of the first little schoolhouse, comes into place later. As was quite to be expected in these earliest days of Canterbury's existence, matters were somewhat mixed and unsatisfactory in regard to the settling of the new arrivals.

To quote from a letter from Mr. Hay to his brother—date, October, 1851"much dissatisfaction prevails—emigrants are arriving in large numbers to the Canterbury Settlement; but I think it will ultimately become Government property, for the affairs are sadly mismanaged, £3 per acre for land is a price unheard of in a new Colony, Many who have arrived and are settled wish they had never left England, and others, upon a first glimpse of the country, have sold their land orders for half their value and gone Home again. At present labor far exceeds capital, and until this is reversed the country cannot prosper."

A better balanced condition of things soon obtained, and it is a historical fact that the country did prosper for years amazingly, and great were the hopes based on the establishment of its prosperity for all classes, not least the working man. It has often been said of New Zealand—"the Britain of the South is the British workman's paradise," and in those early years it was, with wages from 8s. to 12s. per day—10s. being, the usual day's pay, he ' surely had his "golden opportunity."*

* Although wages arc now still higher both at Home and in the Colonies, it must be remembered that in those days they were not much more than half what we quote above, in the Old Country.

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Many of our truest personal friends arrived in those first four ships, amongst them Mr. and Mrs. John Anderson, Miss Milan (afterwards Mrs. Ronaldson), Mr. and Mrs. Thacker, Mr. and Mrs. Fleming, Mr. and Mrs. Norman, Mr. and Mrs. T. S. Duncan, Mrs. Williams and her large family, and hosts of others too numerous to mention. How few of that band of pilgrims are with us now! Yet all have served their day and generation, and served it well. The first child born in Canterbury after the arrival of the Pilgrims was our friend Miss Thacker. Mr. and Mrs. Thacker made their home in Christchurch, with many others, before a street was laid off; there they remained for six years; and Mr. Thacker was proprietor and editor of the first newspaper that Christchurch could boast of—the Christchurch Guardian.*

Mr. Thacker, on hearing of the Victorian diggings, left his wife and family in Christchurch for six months, and went to Melbourne, where he at once got employment in the office of the Morning Herald at a salary of, £16 per week—worth a little sacrifice in those days. He afterwards took seven tons of Irish butter in his own vessel, the "Sea Serpent," to Melbourne for the Ballarat diggings. This butter was sent out to him from Ireland in the "Blue Jacket" as a speculation. It was packed in 170 firkins, which were kept in tanks—a large order. He was offered 3s. per pound for it all on the morning he arrived, but held off', expecting a still larger price. Meantime more ship loads arrived, and by evening he was glad to take Is. 3d. per pound to get rid of it. Such were the rapid Auctnations of markets in those days, when fortunes were quickly made, and as quickly lost. Besides the "Sea-Serpent/' Mr. Thacker owned a steamer, the "Alma," with which he

* The first newspaper published in Canterbury was the Lyttelton Times, on the 11th of January, 1851; less than four weeks after the Pilgrims, their press, and printers had arrived.

page 132intended I reading up the Heathcoat. She was wrecked on her first trip at Summer. He had many narrow escapes and Hazardous experiences in these trips. He eventually settled down in Okain's Bay. Peninsula, where Mrs. Thacker and family still reside.*
Mr. and Mrs. Fleming took up land in Port Levy, and in that beautiful hay the Fleming Bros, and families are still located. The first Mrs. Fleming died many years ago. There is still a Maori reserve there, and one of the loveliest Paths in the South Island, so beautifully situated and
Maori Pah

Maori Pah

cultivated as greatly to enhance the natural beauties of the place. Old Mr. Fleming died in April, 1894, after a long, severe illness, bravely borne. He was a shrewd, clever man, much liked, a staunch old friend of Mr. and Mrs. Hay s. His widow and niece - Miss Fleming, so well known to all our circle—reside in Christchurch now, as also Mrs. Fleming's married daughter.
Mrs. Anderson died a little before Mr. Fleming, after a lingering time of suffering. She was honoured and beloved by all who knew her for her real goodness, her ready sympathy 'in all troubles, her hearty interest and practical help in church and charity matters. Mr. Anderson did not

* Mr.'Thncker daed four year's ago viz., in 1896.

page 133long survive his beloved wife, having died in April, 1897 and their loss was widely felt in the rapidly narrowing circle of old friends. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson's family, besides numerous other old friends, are too well known to need comment here; but in reference to the far past of which we are writing, Mis. Anderson's friendship was a boon to many in the days of small beginnings, and her name was a household word. She, Mrs. Deans, and Mrs. Graham were three of Mrs. Hay's dearest friends all through those early years, the friendship lasting all their lives. The two latter ladies did not arrive, however, until 1853, about two years after the wreck of the "Maria," in which (as related in Chapter xi., "Ricearton," quoted from Mrs. Deans' own account of the disaster) Mr. Wm. Deans, Mr. George Wallace (another brother of Mrs. Logan's Wellington), and twenty-five others were lost. We should like to linger over these old-time friendships, of which there are but few survivors remaining now, but we must continue the course of our narrative.

With the settlement of Canterbury began other troubles for our pioneers, that were not overcome for many months, and proved extremely annoying: viz., the land disputes in connection with the Canterbury Association. Mr. Godley, who, as representative of the Association, worked hard to make Canterbury exclusively a Church of England settlement, did his best to evict the Messrs. Deans and Mr. Hay and force them to settle elsewhere. He was earnest in the interests of the Canterbury Pilgrims; but ignored the fact that the few "Pilgrim Fathers" had a prior claim, as having first set foot on the soil and, after years of buffeting and much labour, made the holdings their own; further more, that the business arrangements connected with the transfer of their land orders from North to South Island had been satisfactorily settled years before the arrival of page 134Mr. Godley and| the Canterbury Association in 1850. Only the Crown Titles had not been issued, and instead of being in Mr. Hay's own possession, as they ought, to have been years before, they remained in the seclusion of the Government Offices in Wellington, a common state of things in those days, which ought to have made no difference, as it was entirely the result of official dilatoriness. So much "red-tape" was tied about those long-expected Crown Titles as to keep matters in a tangle for years. Mr. Godley apparently thought that, state of things placed him in a commanding position to carry out his scheme, for he made it clearly understood that, rightly or wrongly, out the pioneers must go.

The disputes in the case of Messrs. Deans and Hay going on simultaneously - became so serious that they prepared for law-suits, Messrs. Deans selling their interest in a run they partly owned—" Dalethorpe "—with all the sheep on it, to cover expenses. Mr. Hay, too, was ready to fight it out, at whatever cost, and all the more when they found these would be made test cases. Happily, however, for all parties, the disputes were settled without the aid of law. Mr. Hay went to Wellington to interview Sir George Grey, who was perfectly cognisant of the promises made by Colonel Wakefield, to Messrs. Hay, Sinclair, and Deans with regard to their selections being made in the South Island, no suitable places being obtainable in the North. Sir George Grey assured him he need have no fear of further trouble, as the promises made by Colonel Wakefield would be kept. Moreover, Mr. Hay was afterwards presented with 20 acres of land as compensation for the delay and annoyance he had been subjected to. On his return Mr. Hay again waited on Mr. Godley, whom he found as determined as ever to eject him, and holding up his Crown grants before his face said—"Now, Mr. Godley, page 135turn me out; do your worst." Mr. Godley found there was a yet higher authority than his own, which could not be ignored, and would see justice done; and he was obliged reluctantly to yield the point. Mr. Godley wanted the place for a friend who greatly fancied it, and if Mr. Hay had been treated with courtesy, he would have been willing to exchange it for a place on the Plains, but he would not submit to be summarily ejected.

Mr. Godley worked splendidly for the new arrivals, and gained the gratitude of all Canterbury settlers. A hand some bronze statue was erected to his memory in Cathedral Square, Christchurch.

In a letter to his wife's parents, of date January 5, 1852, Mr. Hay says—"I have forwarded you a plan of my property. After much trouble and expense I have obtained the signature of the Crown Commissioner appointed to settle the land claims. It only requires now to be for warded to Sir George Grey, the Governor-in-Chief, when my Crown Titles will be returned to me. You will see that I have named the place 'Annandale,' in honor of my wife's birthplace."

Thus it was twelve years after the Messrs. Deans and Hay had purchased and paid for their lands before they got the titles to them, and were enabled with certainty to call them their own. It would, indeed, have been gross injustice, after the years they were baffled and disap pointed by official mismanagement and Maoris in the North Island, followed by years of hard work and rough experiences in their southern homes, if, as a climax of the whole, they could have been deprived of what was justly their own by the will of a new-comer! All the earliest settlers (Sinclairs, Gebbies, Mansons, etc.) were equally liable to be dispossessed of their lands by the new règime; page 136
Port Lyttelton Showing first four Ships at Anchor 1850

Port Lyttelton Showing first four Ships at Anchor 1850

page 137but the cases of Messrs. Deans and Hay being settled in their favour, without their having recourse to law, was a strong precedent for others similarly circumstanced.

In December, 1850, the first body of colonists arrived, and before the end of 1851, 2600. colonists had disembarked. In 1852 the Canterbury Association lost their "Charter" (an Act empowering the Association to dispose of certain lands, the management of which they retained until 1852) in consequence of their inability to pay the New Zealand Land Company for the proportion of land originally agreed upon. The Directors of the Canterbury Association attributed their failure to insufficient quantity of land sold. Millions (of pounds) were expected, but only thousands were realised, and to this, and over-rating the ability of the ecclesiastical party to form an [gap — reason: illegible]sively Church of England Settlement in Canterbury, the failure of their plans was attributed. Gradually these inevitable misunderstandings ceased, the new arrivals got homes and land, and the Settlement of Canterbury began to assume a prosperous appearance.