The Jubilee History of Nelson: From 1842 to 1892.
The Wakefield System.—Dissatisfaction of Land Selectors and Labourers.— Government and Company.—Coal Discoveries.—First Bank.—First Schools:—Price of Bullocks.—Some early Payments.—First Bridges. —First Licensing Meeting.—Meeting re Benefit Society.—The "Squatters."—Complaints against Government.—Delay in Paying ing for Services.—First Ploughing.—Eight Hours System.—Freemasons. —Rechabites.—Distribution of Suburban Lands.—First Wesleyan Service.—Rev. S. Ironside.—Visit of Bishop Selwyn.— Rev. C. L. Reay.—Rev. Charles Saxton.—Captain Wakefield visits Massacre Bay.—What Nelson cost.—Delay in establishing Courts of Justice —Land Purchasers' Complaints.—Divine Service first held at Waimea.—The United Christians —Do you want a Harbour Master?—Inefficiency of the Police.—First Public School opened.— Distress amongst Labourers —Distribution of Suburban Sections.— Position of the Company towards the Labourers.—Return of Mr. Tuckett from Wairau.—Reports Discovery of splendid Land.—Deputation of Labourers.—Visit of Acting Governor.—Visit of Te Rauparaha and Rangihaeta.—Anniversary Day, 1843.
Some of the objects of the Wakefield system were, to ensure the emigration of labour to balance that of capital; to give land a value by exporting labour which the very foundation of the system presupposed it had not without the labour; to prevent land-jobbing by throwing sufficient land into the market to render all attempts at jobbing futile; to prevent as far as possible the old evil of large tracts of land lying idle and uncultivated by two means—first, by making the price of land too high to make it a profitable investment to purchase largely as a speculation without intention to cultivate, and also too high to allow of the labour market being emptied by making every labourer a landowner without capital, and every landowner a capitalist without labour, and so utterly annihilating the possibility of applying the important principle of division of employments; the high price at the same time ensuring the immigration to the Colony of a certain amount of capital for every acre of land sold, whether to actual settlers, or absentees, in the shape of funds for public works or other purposes.
Such were some of the avowed objects of the Company, and no settlement could apparently have made a more promising start. But after two or three months causes of serious dissatisfaction existed amongst both land-selectors and labourers. The former expected, when they left the Old Country, to find on arrival their lands surveyed and ready for occupation; instead of this, the survey of the town acres was not yet finished, and that of the rural and accommodation lands scarcely begun Emigrants who had come out expecting to be able to go upon their land, found themselves compelled to loiter about the township page 31with nothing to do. It was not long before it became pretty generally known, also, that the Company had sold more rural land than at present they were able to deliver, even if all to which their title was supposed clear were surveyed and distributed; and it was not till the 28th December that all the suburban sections had been allotted, and even then no progress had been made in surveying the rural sections. The delay was not only made a subject of complaint against the Company, but the distance of many of the sections, as well as the inferior quality of much of the land, and its unfitness for cultivation, was the ground of much discontent among those who were ready and anxious to enter on the cultivation of their purchases.
This dissatisfaction was very much increased by the time the rural sections were open to selection. Nor were the town allotments so valuable as might reasonably be expected, seeing that the Company had promised that the best remaining site in New Zealand should be obtained for the purposes of the Nelson settlement.
The labourers, as work got more scarce and wages fell, began to entertain feelings of resentment against the Company, considering they had been deceived by false pictures and unfulfilled promises, to come to what seemed then an unfertile country, with little prospect of future prosperity.
The Emigration Agents of the Company in England had held out to these men the alluring prospect of regular work, good wages, short hours, cheap provisions, and the probability of becoming in time landowners themselves. At first work was plentiful, but this was not so when the number of people wanting work increased out of all proportion to the number required to do it.
At this time the local Government could hardly be charged, with being responsible for the troubles of the settlers, unless the delay caused by the stand taken by Governor Hobson was a contributing cause. They were caused mainly by the mistaken policy of pouring thousands of people into the place before the lands were surveyed, allotted, and occupied—where there was nothing to induce the belief of remunerative work being at once procurable— and where the Company was not prepared itself to give work immediately on arrival to all those who had been induced by the brilliant pictures of the Emigration Agents to come out to the Company's settlement.
The Company and the Home Government were having a sharp dispute; they could not agree upon the interpretation of the agreement arrived at between them, prior to the grant of a Charter of Incorporation. The Company construed the agreement as giving them full and unconditional grants of all lands previously purchased by them from the natives, and acting upon that construction had sold a consider-page 32able quantity to the public in all their settlements, including Nelson. The Government, on the other hand, interpreted the agreement to mean, that the Company were to get Crown Grants for these lands, only after investigation of their alleged purchases, by the Commissioner's Court, which it was intended to establish. And thus arose a serious question as to land-titles. To the troubles that flowed from this, reference will necessarily be made hereafter.
During the first part of April, 1842, the Nelson settlers were in a state of "mineral" excitement. The men at work making a road to the Port found a small seam of coal and a block of freestone. There was a general rush to get a share of the coal. Everyone tried to get all he could. Unfortunately the seam did not last out, nevertheless the acre upon which the coal had been found was, as we have seen, one of the earliest selected, and the selector who spent a good deal of money in trying in vain to find more of the mineral, probably regretted afterwards he had not chosen an acre nearer the centre of the town.
Whilst the coal rush was going on in Nelson, Mr Tuckett returned from Massacre Bay, where he visited five or six native settlements, and reported he had found coal on the banks of the Motupipi, between high and low water mark, and that it was of the very finest description and in large quantities. He had proceeded across to West Wanganui, where he also found coal on the central ridge running between Massacre Bay on the one side and West Wanganui on the other. But this was no new discovery; Captain Moore, in the "Jewess," having taken a cargo of coal from West Wanganui to Port Nicholson two years before.
A further piece of evidence of the growth of the settlement may be found in the fact that at this time Mr Thompson, in his capacity of local Director of the Union Bank of Australia, called for tenders for the erection of a banking-house.
On the 2nd April, the "Martha Ridgway" arrived with more land-selectors and emigrants.
On the 10th April, the "London" came in with yet more people.
From the very first there had been a strong desire to establish a primary school for children; but there were some difficulties in the way, which will be more fully explained in the chapter devoted to the detailed account of the educational history of the settlement; and it was not until the 12th September that the first public school was opened. But private enterprise was not wanting, and in the ' Examiner ' appeared the following advertisement:—
"J; Wilson begs to inform his friends and the inhabitants of Nelson in general, that he intends opening a school for the instruction of children in reading, writing, &c., on Monday next, the 4th April. For particulars, apply to J. Wilson, near Mr Howroyd's store."
The first ladies' school in Nelson was opened in the beginning of June, 1842, by Miss Huxham, in a house near the Eel Pond.
On August 17, 1842, the Company bought a pair of working bullocks from Mr George Duppa, for which they paid £68—by February, 1843—the price was usually £25 per bullock. Flour in August was £31, and potatoes £10 per ton.
Some of the Company's payments during the early months of the settlement are not without interest. In October, 1842, we find they paid John Armstrong 12/6 for carriage of a case of native plants from "Foster's, the gardener, in Brook-street;" and they paid Foster £10 for collecting them. On November 1st they paid the Hon. W. F. Byng 10/- for hire of 4 bullocks to bring a cannon up to Captain Wilson; and on November 16, 1841, Fred. Geo. Moore and Charles Heaphy, each received £50 for special services rendered during the Nelson Preliminary Expedition.
The first bridge over the Saltwater Creek was completed on 15th October, 1842. The cost was £130, and the contractor Mr W. Brown.
The first bridge over the Maitai was begun in April, 1843; the contractors being Messrs. Reuben Bird, Hugh Young, Henry Flower, Cephas Goddard, Charles Astle, and William Jones.
The first Licensing Meeting was held in Nelson on the 19th April, 1842. On the Bench were Mr H. A. Thompson, the Police Magistrate, and Captain England, J.P. Licenses were granted to Richard Mills, Joseph Hoare, William Millar, John Collins, James Collins, Edward John Ellerm, William'Wright, and a joint license to Frederick Augustus Lloyd and Andrew Turner.
At this time, too, was held a meeting for the purpose of determining the best means of carrying into effect the resolutions passed at the meeting on board the "Mary Anne," having for their object the establishment of a Benefit Society or Friendly Association. This meeting was held in the open air in front of the ' Examiner Office. Captain Wakefield was the Chairman, and the following Committee was appointed:—Captain Wakefield, Dr. Monro, Messrs. Boddington, Dobson, Greaves, Kerr, McRae Maepherson, MacShane, Richardson, Spence, Tuckett, and Young. Captain Wakefield was elected President, and Mr Charles Elliott, Honorary Secretary. Shortly after another meeting was convened to take steps to establish the Nelson Literary and Scientific Institution.
The distribution of the town sections had no sooner taken place, than the acres were, many of them, cut up into smaller sections, and the local paper bad numerous advertisements of sections for sale at per foot; or to let on building leases.
The purchasers of allotments had all along looked to the page 34subdivision and sale or letting of their town sections, as a means of recouping their original outlay—and possibly of substantial profit. But at the outset they found that their market was limited from the fact that so many of the immigrants had built whares and other primitive dwellings upon lands which, after the survey, were created public reserves; and even upon the surveyed streets. The section holders clamoured for the removal of these "squatters." But the "squatters" declined to remove. The Company's Agent was appealed to, but was either powerless or disinclined to interfere. Then the Police Magistrate was asked to take steps for their removal; but he likewise refused to do anything.
The indignation of the section-holders vented itself in the usual British fashion, by the calling of a public meeting to petition the Government to take action. This meeting being open to the public, was attended by several of the "squatters," who were by no means inclined to fall in with the wishes of the landowners. A vigorous protest against the object of the meeting was made by Mr Joseph Bungate, who said the labouring classes would be subjected to great hardship. They were told, on arrival, that they were at liberty to erect whares and huts wherever they pleased, and that for two years no rent would be expected. At that time no one knew what portion of the land was intended for reserves, and after their expenditure of labour, time, and money in making themselves fairly comfortable, it was most unjust to call upon them to remove for the benefit of the section-holders, who were asking exorbitant prices and rents, before the two years had expired. The discussion waxed warm, and the sympathisers with Mr Bungate being in a majority, a resolution was carried, that "this meeting stands adjourned for two years."
By the end of May there were fully 1700 people in the settlement, and murmurs were, frequently heard of the insufficient appropriations by the Government for the protection of the place from outside attack, and for the preservation of social order. The Government had already received £1400 in Customs duties, and this was an increasing item of revenue. The Government officials were the Police Magistrate at £250 a year, a chief constable at five shillings a day, a sergeant at four and threepence, and two privates at three shillings and sixpence each per diem. To these it was intended to add a landing waiter at £200 a year, and five boatmen at £70 a year each.
The Police Magistrate was the local representative of the Government, but his powers were limited. There was no money at his disposal, and people had to wait many months for payment of small sums for the most ordinary services. One Michael Peel adopted the unsatisfactory and expensive method of giving vent to his disgust in this respect, by keeping the following advertisement in the newspaper for several weeks: —page 35
"Warning to boat proprietors.
"On the 13th April last I was hired by two of the constables of Nelson to go with my boat and crew on board the schooner "Gem," on police business. On applying to the Police Magistrate for payment, he said he was unable to settle my demand (£2), and that I shonld possibly have to wait twelve months before the Government would pay it. Being about to leave this settlement, I shall of course lose that.
Another victim of Treasury delays relieved his feelings in quite a different fashion. One day in June, Figgis, the constable, attempted to arrest a man for drunkenness; and was at the same time assaulted by another man. Thereupon Figgis loudly called upon all and sundry the citizens of Nelson, in the Queen's name, to come to his assistance. There happened to be passing at the time one John Clark, who had done some work for the Government, for which he had not been paid. In reply to his calling, Figgis "heard some one say that as soon as the Queen paid the money she owed him he would assist." Having ascertained that Clark was the utterer of these disloyal expressions, Figgis laid an information against him, for "refusing to assist the chief constable when called on in the Queen's name to do so." The case came on for hearing before the Police Magistrate, and Figgis gave evidence of the facts sworn to by him in the information. A witness named James Hopkins was called for the prosecution, and stated that he saw the constable trying to make an arrest, and heard him call for assistance in the Queen's name; that the defendant was passing at the time, and said "that the Queen must pay the money she owed him before he rendered her any assistance." Then the defendant was called upon for his defence, which is recorded in his own words, as follows:— "I refused to do the Queen a kindness until she paid me the money she owes me." The Magistrate, who failed to appreciate the humour of the defence, ordered John Clark to pay a fine to the, Queen of twenty shillings and costs—a sentence which appears to have been wholly illegal, the offence being a misdemeanour at common law, and therefore only punishable upon conviction upon an indictment.
It is certainly worthy of record in the annals of the place that on the 25th May, 1842, the first plough was put into the ground by Mr John Kerr. Such an event was of course celebrated with due ceremony; critical eyes followed him as he turned up the furrow of the acre in Hardy-street adjoining the present site of the Union Bank; and it was almost universally declared that "the ground turned up beautifully."
Mr Kerr, with his family of strong boys, was started by the New Zealand Company to cultivate a farm of fern land, on the borders of a bush in the Waimea; but although ultimately very successful, the first crops, as on all other fern lands, were a complete failure. Mr Duppa went to work on low-lying fern lands on page 36the north, bank of the Wairoa, and although too late in the season with some of his crops, he soon proved that the best fern land was fertile enough after a summer fallow.
From the first, the eight-hour system prevailed in Nelson. This did not please Mr Tuckett, the Chief Surveyor to the Company. He considered that he ought to get twelve, or at least ten hours work a day out of the labourers, and endeavoured to give effect to this. The men indignantly protested that the proposal was a direct breach of the understanding arrived at between themselves and the Company before they left England; and they appealed to the Resident Agent, Captain Wakefield, who decided in their favour; and eight hours has ever continued to constitute a day's work in Nelson. This was the first sign of any labour troubles in the settlement, but in May an attempt to reduce the wages of the journeymen carpenters led to their holding a meeting, at which they resolved that no carpenter should work for less than twelve shillings a day. Mr Isaac Hill and Mr Brown attended and explained their reasons for supporting the resolution; and Mr Richardson endeavoured to impress upon the meeting the impropriety of attempting to combine to fix any rate of wages. The carpenters listened to him quietly, and then unanimously passed the resolution.
During the month of May several matters of social interest occurred, indicating that the people were getting settled in the new town The Freemasons met at the Freemasons' Tavern, at the corner of Trafalgar and Bridge-streets, for the purpose of forming a lodge; and the Teetotallers determined, at a meeting, to form a Provident Society of those only who were, total abstainers, and to be connected with the Independent Order of Rechabites. The "Tent" to be at once opened, and to be called "the Nelson Reformer." The fifteen officers required to form a "Tent" were elected, Mr Alfred Saunders being the Principal.
The first distribution of suburban lands commenced at 10 a.m. on Monday, the 21st August, and continued to noon on the following Wednesday.
It is somewhat singular that the best land in the district, which only required a few ditches to make it accessible, was left neglected; none of the early selectors cared about it, although afterwards it made fortunes for those who acquired and cultivated it. Acres of bush land at the Moutere were selected in preference to the fern land of the Waimeas. The possibility of successfully cultivating the latter kind of land was, as yet, doubtful, and it is not surprising that many of the labouring men brought out by the New Zealand Company chose to accept from the Company from sixteen to twenty-one shillings a week rather than cultivate land on their own account, and hardly any capitalists had confidence enough to employ them.
The first service held by the Wesleyans was on 25th June, page 371842, the minister being the Rev. S. Ironside, who had been for some time a missionary to the Maoris at Kapiti, Cloudy Bay, &c., and whose name will be historical in connection with the Wairau affair.
On Sunday morning, the 20th August, Bishop Selwyn arrived on his first visit to Nelson. He was too late for the morning service, but preached in the afternoon in the Surveyor's mess-room, which was used as a temporary church. The following Sunday his Lordship preached in a large tent brought out by him, and erected on the low ground between Selwyn Place and Nile-street, where the flax from the margin of the swamp had to be cleared for the purpose. The congregation numbered about 200. He held another service on September 4th, in the tent, and left on the 8th, leaving behind him the Rev. C. L. Eeay as first resident clergyman in Nelson. The Rev. Charles Saxton, who arrived by the "Clifford" in May had up to this supplied the place of a regularly appointed clergyman, and continued to officiate in Mr Reay's stead when the duties of the latter called him away to distant places.
The "Sir Charles Forbes" arrived on the 22nd August; among her passengers was Mr Alfred Domett, afterwards Editor of the ' Examiner,' Commissioner of Crown Lands, Member of Parliament and of the Government; and last, but very far from least, New Zealand's most illustrious poet. His principal poem, "Ranolf and Amohia," was published after his final return to England.
In September, 1842, Governor Hobson died. He and the Company had failed to get on together from the first. He seemed to have conceived a dislike to the Company and all its works, and to regard it as a mischievous agency. Possibly had the Agent consented to plant the Nelson Settlement where the Governor wanted it, in the Auckland district, things might have gone more smoothly. He was succeeded by Lieut. Willoughby Shortland as Acting-Governor, who regarded the Company with equally unfavourable eyes.
By the middle of September, seven months after the arrival of the first emigrant ship, 77 vessels, representing a tonnage of 12,272 tons, had entered the harbour. A road had been made along the beach from the haven to the town, jetties erected for the landing of goods, and a bridge over the Saltwater Creek. The population of the town was upwards of 2000; there were 250 good houses built, and 50 more being erected; and 230 whares or huts put up as temporary residences.
Captain Wakefield was at Massacre Bay, whither he had gone for the purpose of having a korero, and to make presents to the natives on taking actual possession by commencing the surveys. He returned much pleased, and reported that the extent of flat land was considerable, limestone in any quantity, and coal page 38at Taipo, Tata, Motupipi, and Takaka. The surveys were proceeding at Takaka, and the natives delighted with the presents made to them by "Wide-awake," as they called the Captain.
"The Statement of all Presents made to sundry Native Chiefs in the Nelson Settlement by Captain Wakefield," has fortunately escaped destruction, and is extremely interesting. The first consideration given for the lands about Wakatu consisted of 10 blankets, 1 felling axe, 1 squaring axe, 1 cwt. of tobacco, 800 pipes, 1 keg of powder, 1 double-barrelled gun, 1 pair shoes, and 1 cwt. of biscuits, of the total value of £24 19s. 3d. These articles were handed over on the 29th November, 1841, and apparently all to one chief.
Then followed a further payment to 13 chiefs, as follows:— 130 blankets, 13 felling axes, 13 squaring axes, 13 cwt. of tobacco, 3900 pipes, 13 kegs of powder, 13 double-barrelled guns, and 13 cwt. of biscuit, of the total value of £319 9s, 11d., which gave each of the 13 chiefs goods of the value of £24 11s. 6¼d.
No further payments were made until February 22, 1842, when a pair of boots valued at nine shillings and fourpence was given to E. Manu.
Shortly after goods of the same kind, and proportionately of the same value as those given to the above 13 chiefs, were given to 4 other chiefs. Total value, £88 13s. 5½d.
On the 29th March, 30lbs, of flour and 10lbs. of biscuit; valued at 9/4, were given to E. Piko; and on 7th April, E. Manu came in for another pair of boots, valued at 7/6; and another chief, whose name is not given, received a pair of blankets and a gross of pipes, valued at £1 6s. 8d. On 1st August, E. Piko was given a ewe and a ram, valued at £4 10s.; E. Naki was presented with two glazed windows, valued at £2 10s.; and a pair of fustian trousers and a pair of shoes, valued at 13/5, were given to E. Eino. The total value paid, therefore, for the site of Nelson and the whole of the surrounding districts, including the Waimeas and Motueka, was £443 8s 10½d. In September, 1842, the payments for the Massacre Bay district began to be made, and 9 chiefs divided among them the following articles:—90 blankets, 9 double-barrelled guns, 9 felling axes, 9 squaring axes, 9 cwt. of tobacco, 2700 pipes, 9 bags of flour, 9 cwt. of sugar, of the total value of £182 3s. 10½d, giving each chief £20 4s. 10½d. On 7th October, 7 other chiefs received a similar quantity of blankets, guns, axes, pipes, flour, and sugar (but no tobacco) of the value of £92 3s. 6d., giving each chief £13 3s. 5¼d.
Tobacco appears to have been getting scarce, and on the 17th November, 1842, when similar articles to the foregoing were paid to six other chiefs, and in the same proportions, there was no tobacco included, and the value of the guns had fallen from £4 4s. to £3 10s. each. Total value, £99 4s.=£16 10s. 8d. for each of the six chiefs, On. January 25th, 1843, 22 kegs of page 39powder and two tierces of tobacco of the value of £75 15s. 9d., were given to sundry chiefs at Massacre Bay; and a superior double-barrelled gun, in mahogany case complete, valued at £13 2s. 6d., was given to E. Tai. On February 3, 18 bags of flour, of 100lbs. each, were given to the chiefs in the Motueka district on the anniversary, value £18; and on March 10th, 2cwt. of tobacco, valued at £22 19s., were given to the chiefs at Massacre Bay. In March, 1843, 5 pair of blankets, valued at £8 15s., a bag of sugar, and a bag of flour, valued at £2 8s., were given to E. Iki; and another of the double-barrelled guns, with mahogany case complete, and valued at £13 2s. 6d., was given to E. Puha, who also received 3 bags of flour, valued at £3.
Last of all is recorded the payment to the great chief Rauparaha of a cask of wine, valued at £5 4s., and a bag of sugar, valued at £1 8s. The total value, therefore, paid for the whole Nelson Settlement, including the Waimeas, Motueka, Takaka, and the Aorere districts, was £980 15s.
There was in Nelson absolutely no form of local Government save that vested in the Police Magistrate; and the inhabitants began to demand a Corporation. The Government would not spend a penny save for the simplest accommodation of their officers, who were far too few in number for the population, and there was no machinery by which the residents could impose taxes for local purposes, such as drainage and the improvement of the streets.
The delay in the establishment of Courts of Justice was a serious matter. Persons had been committed for trial for criminal offences, and had been waiting to be tried for months. The Government knew this, but made no sign. The Police Magistrate had no civil jurisdiction, and there was no legal mode by which an ordinary contract debt could be recovered. Mr Thompson, who had been called to the Bar at the Inner Temple, hit upon the expedient of taking informations in cases of debt as for a criminal offence, and some very remarkable proceedings in this respect took place. Certainly if the jurisdiction the Magistrate conferred upon himself, and the methods he adopted to enforce it had been law, no Bankruptcy Acts would have been needed. This is what took place at the hearing of one of these informations: —A person was summoned before the Magistrate upon an information charging that he was indebted to the informant in the sum of £2 3s. 6d., for goods sold and delivered, and for which he refused to pay. At the hearing the defendant admitted the debt. The Magistrate then proceeded to ascertain, first, what other debts he owed; and second, what means or goods he had out of which to satisfy them. It appeared that the total debts were under £5, and that the only things available for payment of them was a trough and a few other articles belonging to the defendant, valued at about £5. Whereupon the defendant page 40was ordered to sell the trough and other things forthwith, and out of the proceeds to pay the complainant his debt, and to divide the balance between his other creditors. If there was any surplus, he might keep it for himself. Here was a simple process, saving all the trouble of distress-warrants; and securing in a cheap and summary way a prompter distribution of the "estate" amongst creditors, than the best Bankruptcy Act has ever been known to accomplish.
In the month of November the people heard that a County Court was to be established, and the first sitting was fixed for the third Tuesday in January, 1843. But no Judge appeared. There was no Sheriff, and no Jury List. No explanation was forthcoming. The prisoners languishing in gaol awaiting trial had to solace themselves as best they could. Mr. Thompson had ceased to treat actions for debt as criminal proceedings, and there was no Court of civil jurisdiction at all.
The following case will illustrate the shameful delay in providing for the administration of justice:—
On the 16th December, 1842, Peter Leonard was charged before the Police Magistrate, Mr H. A. Thompson, with having committed a burglary in the house of John Collins, and stealing a dressing case, gold studs, and other articles, the property of the said John Collins.
The examination of the witnesses was partly taken, and adjourned from day to day; but on 21st December, 1842, Peter Leonard was committed to Nelson Gaol, "there to be imprisoned until he shall be called upon to take his trial, whenever and, wherever called upon by Her Majesty's Attorney-General for New Zealand, or the Crown Prosecutor for the District of Nelson shall direct or appoint."
Her Majesty's Attorney-General (there was as yet no Crown Prosecutor) does not appear to have been particularly concerned about Peter Leonard—although it is to be presumed copies of the depositions had been duly forwarded. At all events, in July, 1843, Peter was still lying in Nelson Gaol waiting to be "called upon." No doubt he felt the delay a little irksome, and so it is not surprising to find him bitterly complaining to the- Magistrates, and praying them to let him out on bail. Accordingly, on the 7th July, 1843, "A. McPonald and Dr. Monio, two of Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace," having heard what the burglarious Peter had to say, released him on bail—himself in £10, and one surety (Robert Ross) in the sum of £2, to appear when called upon as before. The bail was, to say the least of it, modest in amount for such a charge.
Well, the months went by and still no one "called upon" Peter. He must have begun to think the position of bailed-out burglar somewhat monotonous. But the law, if it moved slowly in those days, moved surely, and, though appearances were page 41against it, had not lost sight of Peter Leonard by any means. Early in March, 1844, the Crown Prosecutor of our Lady the Queen made the long-expected "call," and on the 19th March, 1844, Peter Leonard was tried before the County Court at Nelson for simple larceny, and promptly acquitted.
The resident original land-purchasers soon formed themselves into a Society to watch over their own interests. They had several grievances against the Company and the Government. There were the "squatters," whom neither the Government nor the Company seemed able or willing to remove from the public reserves. Then they objected to the sale of lands to absentees, who took them up as a matter of speculation only.
The general complaints against the absentees were, (1) that they paid no contribution to wards the fencing of land, (2) nor rendered any assistance where drainage was required, (3) nor help of any sort in the general improvements by which unoccupied land next door was equally benefited as one's own. Then there were the usual evils arising from no powers; limited powers; land lying unlet; short leases; high rents, &c. The expression was frequently heard, "Confound those absentees, they do more harm than they are worth."
And there was the substantial complaint, that the Company could not supply the lands they had contracted to sell; the surveys of the lands acquired were proceeding slowly; and it was pretty clear that unless the Wairau lands could be made speedily available, the Company would be inundated with claims for compensation. The result of the latter complaint was, that the Company decided most imprudently to proceed with the survey of those lands, with what results will be told in the next chapter.
Divine Service was first held in the Waimea district by the Rev. C. L. Eeay, on the 4th November, 1842, at the house of Mr Kerr. At the morning service there were 42 present, and in the evening 48. At this time there were scattered between Waimea West and Cotterell's landing on the Waimea River, 87 people.
In November the "United Christians" opened their Chapel and Sunday School. There were three services, presided over respectively by Mr Hough, Mr Andrews, and Mr Mears. Shortly after, this body opened a day school, which was well attended.
In December the Government woke up to the fact of there being such a place as Nelson, by proposing to appoint a Harbour Master, who would be sent from Auckland. This was firmly but politely declined. The people had a thoroughly efficient Harbour Master in Pilot Cross, and did not want anyone else.
During the latter part of 1842, and during the first months of 1843, there were constant complaints of the inefficiency of the Police. Burglaries, malicious destruction of property, and threats of personal violence, were frequent.page 42
In the chapter dealing with the history of the School system of Nelson, more details will be given. It is sufficient to state here, that the first public school was opened on the 12th September, 1842. The first Master was Mr Moore; and the Committee consisted of Captain Wakefield, Captain England, Dr. MacShane, and Messrs. Tuckett, Anderson, Richardson, King, Spence, J. Barton, McDonald, Domett, Tytler, Jollie, Brown, Cockburn, James, Cautley, and Captain Wilson.
The distress amongst the labourers was becoming acute. Emigrants continued to arrive, and the labour market was much overstocked.
The whole of the Suburban sections were given out on the 28th December; Motueka and the Moutere being the places selected. Strange to say, the selectors preferred the heavily timbered Moutere Valley to the fertile and comparatively clear lands of Motueka. This may be accounted for by the fact, that there was an impression that fern-land was no good for cultivation; and thus the Wood at Motueka was selected in preference to open land.
The Company was by this time placed in the position of being almost obliged to send out labour without sufficient respect to the amount of capital also emigrating. They gave employment as a preventive to distress arising from this want of correspondence between these two elements.
The Company never intended, keeping a supply of labourers on hand, whom they would employ themselves until they were required by others. Had this been intended, they would have been more careful in sending out a larger proportion of labouring men.
As it was, they gave employment, so far as they were able, to all and sundry—tailors, music and dancing masters, clerks, and journeymen of various kinds, were employed in labour to which they were unaccustomed, which they did not understand, and they had not strength sufficient to allow of their doing a moderate day's work. Many of these amateur labourers were made gangers over capable pick-and-shovel men, which gave rise to great dissatisfaction, and it soon became a point of honour that the best men should do no more than the worst, which, as may be supposed, was very little indeed.
The survey of the 150-acre rural sections was progressing slowly, and it became more and more evident that the quantity of land bought by the land-purchasers could not be delivered. At this juncture Mr Tuckett, the Chief Surveyor to the Company, returned on Sunday, 11th December, from an overland trip to the Wairau, and reported that there was ample land of the finest description, and easy communication between the Waimeas and the Wairau.
This was good news to the Company's Agent, who now saw page 43the probability of supplying all the land sold, and of relieving the prevailing distress.
The labourers do not seem to have participated in his satisfaction. On Monday, the 11th January, 1813, all the men employed by the Company in making roads, bridges, drains, &c., marched from the Port in a body, and waited on Captain Wakefield.
Their complaints were, that they had heard that wages were to be lowered; and they demanded that they be restored to the price given for labourers in the earliest days of the settlement. They also spoke of leaving for Australia, as they could not live upon the wages and rations supplied.
This last assertion was denied by the Agent, and no satisfactory reply could be extracted from him. They adjourned to an open space in a brickfield, where a meeting was held. Some strong language was used, and a resolution passed "that a memorial be sent to Governor Gipps, asking him to send a vessel for them."
On the following Tuesday they reassembled, and again waited upon Captain Wakefield to repeat their demand for a rise of wages. He talked to them in a temperate and conciliatory tone, but refused their demand. On Wednesday most of them returned to work, but it was rumoured that a memorial had been sent to some Company in Western Australia, requesting assistance to enable them to remove to that Colony.
In February, the Acting-Governor, Mr Shortland visited Nelson, and promised the immediate establishment of a County Court, of which Mr Thompson was to be appointed Judge, with Mr W. L. Shepherd as Clerk, Mr Richardson as Crown Prosecutor, and Mr Cautley as Sheriff. But no Court was, in fact, established, as we have seen, for some time afterwards, although the officers were appointed. The Judge and Crown Prosecutor were both massacred at Wairau.
It is somewhat remarkable that no reference is made in the 'Examiner' to the visit during the month of February of Te Rauparaha, and his fighting general Rangihaeta, to Captain Wakefield. They came to talk over the alleged purchase by the Company of the Wairau; and they left after making a vigorous protest against the surveys being allowed to proceed, until the Commissioner s Court had decided the question of title. They were feasted sumptuously by Captain Wakefield, who also sent Te Rauparaha a cask of wine; and he doubtless was misled by their apparent friendliness into the belief that they were merely bouncing about the surveys, and would be as easily managed as Ekawa had been at Massacre Bay.
This last affair is described in the next chapter, which is devoted to the story of "The Wairau Massacre."page 44
The first of February, 1843, being the Anniversary Day of the foundation of the Settlement, was celebrated with much feasting and amusements of various kinds. All classes seemed determined to put their animosities on one side for this day, and to forget their hardships as well as they could. The Committee to carry out the arrangements were—Messrs. Wakefield, Thompson, Richardson, McDonald, Sclanders, Poynter, Empson, Leighton, Cautley, Greaves, Pell, Mills, Macfarlane, Hoare, Ross, King, Dillon, Duppa, Tytler, England, Monro, Young, Otterson, Wallace, Howard, and Mac Shane. Mr W. M. Stanton acted as Secretary; and he and Mr David Sclanders (now of London) are the sole survivors.
At the "Fair," as it was called, the programme of the day consisted of guns firing from Britannia Heights and the Church Hill, at 8 o'clock a.m. Regatta at 9 o'clock, under the auspices of Mr James Howard, Mr Pilot Cross, Assistant Pilot Claring" bold, and "Bosen" Wilson, including whale boats, sailing boats, and Maori canoes. Races at 11 o'clock—the course being from Trafalgar-street, round the Church Hill by the east and south to the Waimea Eoad. The horses were Captain Wakefield's Sly-boots. ridden by Mr Thompson; Hairtrigger, ridden by his owner Mr Duppa; Mr Weightman's Lottery, ridden by Mr Thorpe; and Mr Tinline's Cannon-ball, ridden by Mr Rutter. Hairtrigger was the winner. At one o'clock the Sports commenced. Vaulting, running, wheelbarrow and sack races, climbing the greasy pole, catching the soap-tailed pig, and the piece de resistance, the war dance of the Maoris in great force.
Refreshments ad libitum during the whole of the day, were finished by a monster free tea at five o'clock on the grounds, which had been specially levelled and rolled for the occasion; afterwards known as The Green, and fronting Hardy and Colling-wood-streets, near Selwyn Place.
At night there a grand dance on the Green, which was brightly illuminated with variegated, coloured, and other lamps, and surrounded by refreshment tents and lounges. The mirth was kept up to a late hour; the orchestra being composed of Messrs. Purnell (violin), Miles (clarionet), Smith (cornopean), and Parker (trombone).
It was the first and last anniversary some of these, the earliest Nelson settlers, were to see. Within a very few months the awful tragedy of the Wairau had closed their earthly careers.