Title: Octavius Hadfield

Author: Barbara Macmorran

Publication details: 1969, Wellington

Digital publication kindly authorised by: G. H. Macmorran

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Octavius Hadfield


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In 1851 Sam Williams' sister, Catherine, the third daughter of Henry and Marianne Williams, arrived at Otaki. The year before another sister had stayed with Sam and his wife, Mary, for Charlotte Godley described a dinner party given by the Williams for her and her husband and Octavius Hadfield, "and a sister of Mr. W.'s."

Mary Williams, who was both Kate's sister-in-law and cousin, had been visiting the Bay of Islands and invited her to return with her to Otaki. They sailed in the Government brig, Victoria, round the North Cape, calling at New Plymouth and then Nelson before reaching Wellington. The reason for the Nelson detour was explained by Kate in a letter to her mother. "The Captain was persuaded by an influential passenger to cross to Nelson en route to Wellington," she wrote. They arrived in Wellington on May 3, and were met there by Sam and taken to Otaki.

Kate was born on February 24, 1831, at Paihia. Mrs. Maunsell, who arrived there in 1835, described the Williams' home as "a pretty cottage, a verandah in front through the trellis work of which woodbines and roses most luxuriously climb." With a large number of brothers and sisters and cousins Kate did not lack for companionship. It is recorded that Bishop Selwyn spent his first evening in New Zealand with the Williams family and was much amused at the sight of the large tea table set for a party of twenty-four.

As she grew up Kate helped her mother and taught in the Maori schools. At the time of Hone Heke's disturbances Mrs. Selwyn invited the Williams girls to stay with her in Auckland, but it was decided they would remain at home. On one visit to Auckland Kate was taken by Mrs. Selwyn to her first dance. It is recorded by her youngest daughter, Amy Hadfield, that Kate was a favourite of the Rev. Cotton, Bishop Selwyn's secretary, who called her Lady Gris-elda. Acknowledging a gift of home-made jam, he wrote to her in 1846 from St. John's College—"My dear Lady Griselda, I do not remember whether I have written to thank you for the jam, which as your good mother said did you great credit, and which has been page 77 highly applauded I can assure you by better judges than myself. I send you by Henry a pot of English blackcurrant jam—as a kinaki. Some people like this sort, others not at all. If you should be in the latter class, it will do very well for sore throats." It was in December of this same year that the Rev. Cotton wrote a letter from Wellington, already quoted, about Octavius Hadfield.

In May, 1850, the Williams family left their Paihia home, Henry Williams, then archdeacon, having had his connection with the C.M.S. severed after thirty years' service over a prolonged and unpleasant dispute about his land holdings in the country. During the years he had bought considerable land for the support of his large family, and his dismissal was due to an unfortunate attack by Sir George Grey on this subject. He was reinstated by the Society in 1854, but by then he was living at Pakaraka where he built a church which was opened and dedicated in 1851. He carried on there as a clergyman and did not return to Paihia.

Marianne Williams described the scene as they left Paihia for Pakaraka, all mounted on their horses. Crowds of Maoris met them all along their route to shake hands and say their farewells. A group of Kate's school children ran by their side for some distance. On arrival at their son's home, Kate and her sister, Lydia, played a duet to welcome their parents. The new home was named the 'Retreat'—here Marianne and Henry Williams ended their days.

Settled in at Otaki Kate began teaching in the school with Mary Williams. Sir George Grey, who visited the school several times, eventually offered further grants towards its upkeep, and at his suggestion more land was given by the Maoris. Boarding schools for boys and girls were run for some years. The industrial system was used here, as it had been planned for Porirua and was later used at Te Aute and Wanganui; the boys spent time working in the fields and the girls in the house. In the early period children from as far afield as Hawke's Bay and the Wairarapa attended.

But Kate's visit was not all work. She visited the St. Hills in Wellington, and her sister, Sarah, who was married to the Rev. Thomas Hutton at Lower Hutt. And at Otaki Octavius Hadfield frequently joined the Williams party for dinner and in their walks. She also "had a very pleasant visit to Manawatu" in company with Hadfield and Sam and Mary Williams. "When we returned we came down the river," she wrote to her mother on September 27, 1851. "Mr. Hadfield left just before us on Tuesday morning and page 78 got home by one o'clock, but as we came down the river, which is 30 miles, it took us rather longer." This journey would appear to have been to the same place that Charlotte Godley had visited the year before.

Writing earlier, on July 14, she commented—"Mr. Hadfield's brother (Rev. G. H. Hadfield) has sent a very handsome Communion Service for the church; it was used for the first time yesterday." Tamihana Te Rauparaha, on his return the following year from England, brought further gifts for Rangiatea from the Hadfield family. In recent years Selwyn Hadfield, a grandson of Octavius, learned to carve from a Maori carver, and at the centenary in 1950 he presented a lectern he had made to Rangiatea. Because it was too tall he has now carved a standing block to go with it from a piece of wood from the foundations of the Waikanae church discovered in 1961.

Octavius Hadfield and Kate Williams were married in Rangiatea on May 19, 1852, three months after Kate's twenty-first birthday. Octavius was then thirty-eight. Richard Taylor came from Wanganui to marry the couple, and his daughter was the bridesmaid. According to Taylor's journal there was a very large assemblage of Maoris in the church, and after the wedding lunch the couple set off for the Manawatu. Sam Williams gave his sister away, and throughout the fifty years of marriage ahead of them he was to prove a good and faithful friend both to Kate and Octavius, and to their children.

After 14 years in the country Octavius Hadfield now had a family of his own. Although he still travelled extensively up and down the coast between Wanganui and Wellington, to the Waira-rapa and up the Manawatu river, his wife and his home were at Otaki and he could no longer consider himself a rolling stone. During his absences Kate was busier than ever, helping to teach and care for the children at the school. The boys attending the boarding school were housed in a building close to the church— the girls lived in the Mission House, occupied by Sam and Mary Williams until they left for Te Aute in 1854, when the Hadfields moved in. It meant much work and responsibility—the children had to be nursed when ill, and there was a constant struggle through the years to maintain teachers, to retain the interest of children and parents, and to find money. The land given by the Maoris was effectively farmed for the upkeep of the children. In a newspaper page 79 article published when Hadfield resigned as Primate in 1894, the farm and Hadfield's work there were discussed. "His success as a cattle breeder became proverbial, and Mr. Richard Hammond of York Farm used to say that he was a good judge of horses and the best judge of cattle on the coast."

Thomas Bevan in "Reminiscences of an Old Colonist" also wrote of the farm. "The Archdeacon's farm was carried on by Mr. Woods and sons; he had the best shorthorn cattle and merino sheep on the coast; a flourishing dairy was one of the features of the farm, and the settlers used to go there for their supply of butter."

But due to many circumstances the school, and the church attendance too, began to decline in the late 1850's. The school did keep going for many more years, although the boarding establishment was closed in 1868, but it did not survive as the later college of Te Aute survived. In 1905 a Royal Commission investigating the administration of the church lands there, which by that time amounted to nearly 600 acres, gave four reasons for the failure of the Otaki school. (1) Income from the trust was never sufficient without Government subsidy for carrying on a boarding school with industrial training; (2) reduced Maori population, and distracting political causes, such as the wars of the sixties, Hauhauism, etc.; (3) Roman Catholic children who formerly attended the school were now provided with a convent school; (4) the existence of a State school at Otaki.

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The Hadfield's first child, Henry Samuel, was born in April, 1853. Later that year Sir George Grey offered the family a chance of travelling to the Bay of Islands in the Government brig. This was Hadfield's only return to the Bay where he had first landed in 1838. The couple and their six-month-old son spent some weeks with Kate's parents before returning to Auckland. Here they were delayed through lack of shipping to the south, but Hadfield's time was occupied in conferring with Selwyn and others in the church. At last, as the only shipping available entailed first going to Sydney and then back to Wellington, they decided to travel overland.

Kate Hadfield appears to have been the first white woman to have made the journey from Auckland to Wanganui by land. For the first 18 miles she rode in a spring cart; much of it was done on foot, some by canoe, and through one long stretch of swamp Kate page 80 and her infant son were carried on a litter by Maoris. For most of the journey from the Waikato to Wanganui the country was heavily bushed. Her diary begins on their first night at Papakura. Mr. Morgan, a missionary married to Marianne Williams' sister, and Kate's brother, Thomas, accompanied them, Thomas for only one night to Kate's regret.

"Mr. Morgan asked us if we had any objection to travel early and late: of course we had not. He then asked how soon I could be ready in the morning and in the simplicity of my heart I said six o'clock, thinking I should get great praise, but he asked if I could not say two hours sooner! This morning, he called us at half past three. I got up at once, but Octavius and Thomas wanted half an hour. Thomas proposed that Mr. Morgan should boil the kettle and he (Thomas) should drink the tea and thus make a division of labour."

Thomas left them that morning, and Mr. Morgan did not know the way and took them after hours of travel across a bog which eventually had to be recrossed. "However we went on and on, through woods and then open fern, till I nearly lost my patience." Eventually Mr. Morgan left them to try to discover their whereabouts. On returning Kate continues—"We had come miles out of road and he had brought a guide. You can imagine us, not in very good humour. The worst trouble was, how should we cross the bog. ... In rather low spirits we retraced our steps and as we went on our spirits revived. I could not help thinking that it was nothing to the misery of sea sickness."

Friday morning. "At two o'clock Mr. Morgan called us. I had just got to sleep after being tormented with mosquitoes and did not feel at all inclined to move. . . . We had then to go down a little narrow creek which opened into the Mangatawhiri. Half way down the creek we met the Ashwells' canoe. Mr. Morgan and Octavius were walking on the bank of the river so they had a long talk, but Mrs. Ashwell and myself had to be content with sitting and looking at one another as it was too dirty for us to get out. . . . Mrs. Ashwell sent a large basket of cherries which we greatly enjoyed. . ; . We then went a mile down the Mangatawhiri before we got into the Waikato river. It is much wider than I expected.. .. At 12 o'clock we went on shore to dinner and while they were getting dinner I gave baby a bath in the river and put him into some clean clothes ... he gives no trouble at all. ... It was half past nine when page break
Lectern in Rangiatea, carved by Selwyn Hadfield, grandson of Octavius Hadfield.

Lectern in Rangiatea, carved by Selwyn Hadfield, grandson of Octavius Hadfield.

page 81 we came to a little Maori kaianga where we went on shore. . . . Then Octavius pitched the tent for us and made a fern bed. ... I must say that I would rather travel without Mr. Morgan than with him. He makes very good plans but seems as if he could not carry them out and loses his time in a foolish manner."

On the Saturday morning they reached the Ashwells' Mission Station—it was unfortunate that these people had to attend a meeting in Auckland just at this time. The next day was Christmas Day, and they did not leave again until the Monday morning, of which day Kate wrote—"We had a lovely day, and I enjoyed this day exceedingly. At 10 o'clock we left the Waikato river and entered the Waipa. ... At dusk we came to a nice sandbank where we pitched our tent and soon had a large fire and tea. We went to bed about 10 o'clock and slept as soundly as ever we had done in our lives." Mr. Morgan had left them at the Ashwells to collect a horse, and perhaps his absence added to Kate's content.

Tuesday morning. "Octavius called us all at daylight and as we were all so refreshed we were soon up. We had prayers with the Maoris as usual and then breakfast on a duck which Octavius had shot the day before and which we had cooked in the evening. We started about 5.30, and at 11 reached the place of a bush settler named Cowell. He sent to ask us in and was very kind to us. He has a Maori wife, one of the nicest Maori women I have seen. She was so delighted that I could talk Maori to her and when she found out who I was, she made a great fuss with me. They gave us an excellent breakfast and the tea was delicious. The milk was such a treat not having had any since we left Auckland. Mr. Morgan did not arrive with the horse till 1 o'clock."

Mr. Morgan was then so slow in getting organised that eventually the party went on without him. But he caught them up after five or six miles, and after dark they reached his home where his wife, Kate's Aunt Maria, welcomed them. They stayed three days at the Morgans' Mission Station. "Sat with Aunt Maria all evening as she did not seem to like me out of her sight," Kate wrote on the Wednesday.

Friday. "I must say that it comforted me to think that Mr. Taylor does not think it impossible for a lady to go across the country, they can not accuse me of presumption any more." This was Richard Taylor, and shortly after the Hadfields' trip he and his daughter made the return journey north from Wanganui.

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December 31. "We pitched our tent beside a high hedge of elder trees and soon had everything comfortable. Octavius proposed that we should sit up to see the old year out and new one in, but I was so sleepy that it did not meet with my views at all." On the Sunday they stayed in their camp, having morning and evening service with the Maoris. "We sat all day under the shade of some large peach trees as the tent was too hot."

Monday, January 2, 1854. "After going about 4 miles we came to a place called Te Karaka, where, coming out of the wood, we had a most magnificent view of the surrounding country; we saw Ruapehu, Tongariro and Tuhua. . . . After dinner we had to climb a tremendous hill. I started before, as I could not climb so fast as they, but was at the top long before any of them."

For the next few days they travelled through difficult country, Kate and her baby being carried some of the time in a litter. On the Friday they were able to take to a canoe again on the Wanganui river. "At 12 o'clock we went on shore and soon had our dinner ready. . . . There were a few Maoris who knew Octavius very well and they had a great deal to talk about."

Sunday was spent at Pipiriki. "At 5 o'clock we had evening service, then Octavius stayed talking with the Maoris a long time." The following day—"We arrived at the Taylors about 7.30 and took them all by surprise. . . . We had hardly got in the house before it came on to rain heavily and blow hard."

Writing on the 10th of January from Wanganui Kate concluded —"The people here seem to think we have come very quickly. We were three weeks, all but two days, and out of those, we were two days at Mr. Ashwell's, three at Aunt Maria's and two Sundays besides at Maori kaiangas."

Shortly after this they returned to Otaki, and so ended a remarkable journey. Remarkable for Kate Hadfield alone, but even more so considering she had her infant son with her. Remarkable too for Octavius Hadfield, who not long before had spent nearly five years in bed near to death's door.