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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Chapter IV

Chapter IV.

The first settlement, however, of the Taranaki district by people who came with the intention of making it their homes and of pursuing the peaceful occupations of Agriculture and Commerce, was due to "The Plymouth Company of New Zealand" established on the 25th January, 1840. The first party of emigrants, numbering 134 souls, were landed from the "William Brian" at Nga-motu on the 30th March, 1841. This vessel was quickly followed by others, each bringing its complement of hardy pioneers fortified with brave hearts and strong arms, all bent on making homes for themselves and their families in the new land of promise. The original settlers of Taranaki were nearly all from the West of England—Devon and Cornwall—and they were a picked lot of small farmers, husbandmen and mechanics in the prime of life and health and strength. It is probable that rarely has the Mother Land sent forth to the extension of her Empire a finer lot of people than our first Taranaki settlers. Stalwart, hardy young men and good-looking, healthy young women all in the pink of health, formed the very beau ideal of pioneers to subdue the wilderness and make it blossom as the rose. It required stout hearts to face this country as the early settlers found it, a wilderness of magnificent forests, the margins of which descended nearly to the sea shore, leaving an intermediate space of dense fern

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early photograph of New Plymouth area

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and scrub that was impenetrable without the aid of axe and bill, with no roads but the sands of the sea shore. But the fertile soil was there, and strong arms soon found means to turn it to profitable account.

Most happily for the new comers, the Maoris were not numerous at the date of first settlement, and those that were here, welcomed the settlers as an additional safeguard against the ever present fear of further invasion by the Waikato and other northern tribes. As time went on and the Pax Britannica began to prevail over the whole Colony, the tribes that had been exiled by the wars of the early part of the century, found that their old homes in Taranaki were again safe places for residence; and so a great number of them returned, to find, however, much of their old country occupied by the settlers. From this and other causes many troubles began to arise between the two races, which had serious consequences in the end, but the immediate result was the decision of Governor Fitzroy to remove quite a number of industrious settlers who had commenced to make homes for themselves between the Waitara and New Plymouth, causing them to abandon their farms and concentrate them-selves within a small block of land around the town of New Plymouth. Space will not allow of a description of the disheartening effect of the Governor's decision; but expansion began gradually to take place as the Government re-bought some outside blocks of land, thus allowing the growing number of settlers to spread, and the generation that was growing up to make homes for themselves.