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Early Wellington

Mail Day at Pito-one

Mail Day at Pito-one.

A highway o'er the mountain waves, that plunge in mad commotion.,
Is opened up for commerce, and we welcome every sail
Which brings us news of loving friends we left beyond the ocean;
Our hearts beat quick with hope and fear whilst waiting for the mail.
Thos. Bracken.

The following are extracts from letters written by Colonists, and published in the New Zealand Journal, London, 1840. The first was written on the 10th March by Miss Riddiford to Mrs. Ramsey, Old Brompton, England.

Port Nicholson, 10/3/1840.

“The beach is covered with little wooden houses and tents… Colonel Wakefield lives in a nice one made by the natives… The town lots are not yet chosen… Those who came by the ‘Oriental’ are settled four miles up the country… We intend occupying a small house on the beach, near to Colonel Wakefield's, facing the sea… Major Baker and several others have had very nice ones built, consisting of four rooms each, for which they pay four blankets… Do not think of bringing a house… the window frames, doors, bolts, bars, etc., may be of use. Dr. Evans, Colonel Wakefield, and others have gone down the harbour to a part called Thorndon, four miles off, which is described as a second Italy, and a most picturesque spot.”

Letter from Mr. T. M. Partridge:—

Port Nicholson, 18th March, 1840.

“A vast number of houses have been built and are in the course of erection. Native houses chiefly, of poles and well thatched. About 300 natives are in the Bay, and all very useful… I am living in a tent which I have bought, for the house is not yet landed; and I am well contented that I have not yet been obliged to sleep with an umbrella over my head, as most others have done… My tent is full of goods, furniture, pots and kettles, and all sorts of bedevilment. I shall have to build a store, which will cost me, I suppose, £40. I like what I have seen of Wakefield very much; he is a straightforward, courageous fellow, and has great influence with the natives, who are a jovial, laughing, fighting, good-natured, pork-eating set of savages.

“Molesworth, Sinclair and Petrie and the aristocracy are setting a good example.

“Fustian coats and thick shoes are very fashionable, and you would laugh to see officers, doctors and dandies digging, thatching and chopping with great frenzy. page 44
Fig. 20—Mr. Molesworth's Farm at the Hutt, 1841.

Fig. 20—Mr. Molesworth's Farm at the Hutt, 1841.

Fig. 21—Aglionby Arms (Burchams) River Hutt, 1841.

Fig. 21—Aglionby Arms (Burchams) River Hutt, 1841.

Fig. 22—Canoe used for carrying the mail from the ships to the Beach in 1840. This canoe, now rests on the flat roof of Mrs. Mantell's residence, 111 Sydney Street.

Fig. 22—Canoe used for carrying the mail from the ships to the Beach in 1840. This canoe, now rests on the flat roof of Mrs. Mantell's residence, 111 Sydney Street.

page 45 The climate is glorious, and the country like a Paradise…

“I carpenterise, and carry logs, and cook, and go to council without detriment to my gentility.”

29th March, 1840.

“P.S.—Revan's paper will be out in 10 days, but we have had printing some time in the Colony.*

S. M. Partridge

Letter from Mr. R. R. Strang (grandfather on the maternal side to Sir Douglas Maclean).
Port Nicholson, April 6th, 1840.

“We are now in all the bustle and confusion of putting up a house… It is situate about 600 yards from the beach, commanding a most delightful view of perhaps as fine a bay as there is in the world, and the ground is so rich and productive, that although somewhat gravelly, peas which were sown last week were, in six days, above ground, and this is the last month of their autumn, and the seed was injured by immersion in the sea. The climate is indeed salubrious and delightful… The natives are perfectly quiet, civil and obliging. I have had two of them employed with my own servants in building my house, and such is the confidence we have in them, that although some natives slept round a fire at the end of our house, we felt no fear, although we have neither door nor windows… On arrival at Port Hardy, the passengers were much disappointed in not finding either ships or instructions as to their rendezvous. After arrival at Port Nicholson, they had about 10 days almost continual rain, which dampened their spirits a good deal, but the weather had cleared up about the beginning of April and things had begun to assume a more cheering aspect.*

Letter from Rev. John Macfarlane:—
Clyde Terrace,
Port Nicholson, N.Z.,
April 6th, 1840.

“I am busy getting up my home, though you would think it rather a strange one, for there is not a single stone in it. It is built of wood, thatched with reeds—28 feet long, 18 feet wide, roof 8 feet high. It contains a good parlour, bedroom, and kitchen. The parlour window looks towards the sea, so that I can see a distance of 12 miles, with every ship that passes in and out.

“Nothing can be more delightful than the singing of innumerable birds. At six every morning I can distinctly hear the mocking bird, imitating now one note, now another.”*

Mr. John Pierce, who arrived in the “Duke of Roxburgh,” writes thus on the 6th April, 1840:—

“Port Nicholson is twelve miles from the mouth of the harbour to the beach, which is three miles. To-day we go to Thorndon. Thorndon bay is a delightful place; it is 8 miles across the harbour, and forms a complete amphitheatre, bounded on three sides by the sea, good anchorage and safe shelter for any number of ships. Excellent water, good clay and, it is said, plenty of coal, iron and limestone. Vegetation seems constantly to be going on. In our garden parsley grows in abundance down nearly to low water mark. The natives never think about the seasons. They never

* New Zealand Journal, 29th Aug., 1840, p. 209.

* “N.Z. Journal,” 12th Sept., 1840.

* ‘N.Z. Journal,’ 1841, p. 311.

page 46 dig, but take a piece of wood and root up the ground and turn over the soil, and if there are eight potatoes they take up seven and just cover the one over and leave it to grow. We finally left the ship on the 6th March, Colonel Wakefield lending me a tent for a shed. On Saturday I gave three yards of calico for a pig 40lb. weight. The part I sold brought me 12/-. On Saturday night it rained tremendously, and we were as badly off as if we were in the open air. I sat three hours with Mrs. Pierce, after which we rolled ourselves up in our blankets and slept soundly. The next morning we were as gay as possible and we felt no cold. People here do not take cold as in England.

“I commenced business on Monday the 9th, and now have the wooden house up and am very comfortable. It is the first house in town. The Bank is to open on Thursday.

“One town acre sold this morning for £300. Prices are hardly yet settled; flour 6d. per lb.

“I had the first bullock consigned to me and sold him at 1/- per lb, tea 5d., coffee 2/-, wine and spirits cheap, ale and porter 2/- per bottle. Clothes and shoes will be very dear, but there is hardly any saying what will be the settled price, as there is not a day passes but that some one or two ships arrive from Sydney with general cargo. On Saturday the first horses were landed, which had a prodigious effect on the natives. There is likely to be abundance of labour. Capital seems flowing in from all parts. Already we have one ship from Port Philip, one from Launceston, one from Hobart Town, one from Adelaide, eight or ten from Sydney, and schooners and coasters in lots.

“There are no reptiles or venomous things of any kind, and there is abundance of the finest fish in the world; so that anyone may live as cheaply as he wishes. There is no corroding care; the natives are pleased.”

When the first site of the new town was partially laid off, it was named “Britannia;” and the village of “Aglionby” was situated on the Hutt River.

Mr. W. B. D. Mantell, in a letter dated Britannia, April 6th, 1840, writes of Lambton Harbour as the destined site of Britannia.

The following is a copy (verbatim) of a letter from Te Nayti, a New Zealander, to a gentleman with whom he resided many months in England:—

“Port Nicholson, April 16th, 1840.

My dear Sir,

I hope you quite well, all your family. I'm very glad if you soon come out to New Zealand. I hope you pleased I give you mat. Give my kind remembrances to Mr. Church. I no forget you, and think of you often. I am very much obliged to you for your letter Mr. St. Hill gave me. Many fine houses in Port Nicholson, like Sydney. I hope you come to New Zealand. I have been quite well, and remain, my dear friend,


Letter from J. Murray (“Bengal Merchant”).
Clyde Terrace,
Port Nicholson, N.Z.,
17th May, 1840.

“Mr. Hunter, the resident partner of the London firm of Arthur Willis and Co., introduced me to Colonel Wakefield; by which means I got temporary employment in Colonel Wakefield's office. Mr. Hunter offered me the superintendentship of one of his extensive stores here, which page 47 I have accepted. For the first three or four weeks all parties were busy erecting dwellings on the beach near the river Hutt. The houses are built of spars cut from the forest and roofed with long flax-grass and a kind of flexible cane called supplejack.

“We are in Clyde Terrace, and the dwellings are the best in the Colony. The minister lives opposite where I live. Messrs. Strang, Banks, Hay, Yule and Logan are among the families.

“Mr. Macfarlane has divine service on the beach every Sabbath; also a Mr. Butler, of the Church of England. The Maoris pronounce my name O'Mare, which signifies ‘a bad cold.’ Colonel Wakefield they call ‘Wideawake.’”

Letter from Mr. J. Pierce to T. C. Salt, Esq.
Britannia Hotel and Stores,
Port Nicholson, 28th June, 1840.

“I was very anxious to tread the land, which I soon accomplished by means of one of the natives, who took me in his canoe.

“Mr. Lyon accompanied me… When darkness came on, we had nowhere to sleep… We found a shed which had been put up for the Company's stores, where I found a coil of rope and an anvil for a pillow, and there I slept as soundly as possible. When I rose I found that I had lost my companion, who had crept unobserved into a corner. I had walked out to see the goodliness of the land. It was enchantment…

“On turning aside twenty yards from the road at the seaside, the most delightful melody fell upon my ear; thousands of songsters of all notes and keys strove to outvie each other; while I inhaled the sweet fragrance of the wild flowers, my companion joined me, and on our return we were invited by the ‘chief’ to breakfast in a ‘warry,’ or native house.

“On the 7th of March we landed and borrowed a shed from Colonel Wakefield, as our house was inundated by an overflow from the river Hutt.”

The most important news from the Mother Country was the formation of a Church Society there, which undertook to negotiate for the appointment of a separate Bishop for the Colony, and the endowment of churches and clergymen. The New Zealand Company had engaged to present the Society with 2,000 acres of land for these purposes.

The New Zealand Journal, London, published a number of letters from the Port Nicholson colonists. Some of them are mentioned, and extracts from others are given as under:—

(1) From J. A. and H. Longford, 26/1/1840; (2) John Lodge, 27/1/1840; (3) B. Exeter, 1840, suggesting the name of “Victoria” for the new settlement at Port Nicholson; (4) E. J. Wakefield to his father, dated 2nd March, 1840.

5. Letter from Samuel Revans to H. S. Chapman, Esq. (Aug., 1840):—

“We have two excellent sites for the town. We are located on the beach opposite Lambton, and away from it about five miles. I live at Captain Smith's in a large tent. This tent is our office in the day. I am putting up a wooden house lent me by the Company for the ‘Gazette,’ and I hope the second number will appear Saturday 11th.* It would have been out sooner, but I have only this day got the wood work from the ‘Glenbervie.’

“Our own wooden house is landing, but we are storing it away until we get the town acre. We have got a small

* The first number was published in London, 6/9/1839.

page 48 native house called a ‘warree.’ The Council sat to-day for the first time under the Constitution. The Bank is in operation, and I believe a local bank will soon be opened. I like Colonel Wake-field very much.” (S.R., 6/4/40.)

Letter from Dr. Dorset 21/11/1840.

6. “We have now settled down into a regular community, and I suspect my adventures are over. Enclosed I send you the second number of the New Zealand newspaper published here, in which you will see better than I can tell your our flourishing state and prospects.

“The 8th pt. No. 20 Town Acre only, held by Mr. Shand, has been sold for £100.

“Sir George Sinclair's son, a few days after his arrival, sold five sections for thirteen hundred guineas; and he is now heartily sorry for the sale, the buyers of them declaring they are worth £10,000, as they are mostly low numbers. Sections below No. 10 are not to be bought for £1,000.”

Letter from Mr. Wm. Gilbert, C/o Mr. Molesworth, 23/6/1840.

7. “We could get a large pig for an old gown. Elizabeth purchased a quantity of potatoes for two large spoonfuls of brown sugar. Mary Anne has got a very good place with a gentleman, her wages £10 per annum. This is a high place for wages. Servant girls now get £12 and £15 per annum. I am sawing, and I and my partner average £3 each per week.”

Letter from J. and S.W., 5/6/1841.

8. “There are plenty of shops here of all description. Ships keep coming in every day. We have always three or four lying in the harbour.

“The ‘Mauris’ are very civil, but you must think nothing of seeing them going about stark naked.”

Letter from Mr. E. Dieffenbach, 15/1/'41.

9. “I have lately returned from a short journey up the valley of the ‘Eritonga,’ or river Hutt.

“I started with my party on the 30th July, 1840, and followed the lines which have been cut by Mr. Deans along the western chain of hills.”

Letter from Mr. W. Bannister, 27/11/1841.

10. “We reached Port Nicholson on the 21st, being Easter Tuesday. I sent my wife to Monteith, a distance of ten miles, on the opposite side of the Port,* where the Town was first to be fixed. Next day we left the ship and took up our dwelling in the new house.

“The second day it began to rain, and so continued for eight or ten days most tremendously. At night our bed clothes were completely soaked.

“I suppose you have heard from William that Eaton's son Richard was speared by the natives, and died. It was his own fault, as I am informed. His father never looked up after, and died in October last. Pierce, of Birmingham, was drowned with eight others. Hughes died on the passage out. I expect my land in six months, but I do not intend going on it myself at present. Tell William to bring James Bishop with him. A watchmaker came here a month ago; he is now making two or three pounds a day. He is the only one, except a drunkard.”

Letter from Mr. Thos. Parker, 2/10/1841.

11. “You are not aware of the hardships that accompany New Zealand; but young

* Probably Oriental Bay. Mr. Bannister resided there later.

page 49 men must not mind about the hardships they would have to undergo. I have myself been in the greatest distress, not for want of money, or victuals, but from the want of a cover to shelter me from the storms and rain, which flows in torrents. Some of my comrades and I have slept for nights under nothing but a bush, but now, thank God, I am comfortable. I have £3 per week, but can save nothing to speak of at present, for I am under the care of the doctors. I hope you will drink my health in a bumper of old English ale.”

Letter from T. and S. Barber, 2/10/1841.

12. “We had a good voyage and landed at New Zealand on the Sunday week before Xmas Day. The Company has wooden houses for the emigrants, where they stay till they build themselves houses or till another ship comes in.

“Some houses are made of wood and some of sticks plastered inside and outside with mud, thatched with bark of trees and covered with rushes. The price of ‘Ki Ki’ (bread) is 8d. for 2lbs., butter 2/6, fresh butter 4/- or 5/- per lb., cheese 2/6, beef and mutton 1/-, pork 7d., beer 1/- quart, gin, wine and rum 6d. a quartern, bacon 1/7, etc.”

Letter from Mr. A. Allom, 11/2/1842.

13. “What will please you most to hear is that I have found out Mr. and Mrs. and Dr. Stokes… Mrs. Stokes was alone and did not recognise me for a moment or two… Mr. Stokes has left the surveying staff, and is in business for himself. He has a great deal of land cleared and plenty of vegetables growing.

“Mr. Brees and I dined with him yesterday… I have taken the parcel to Mr. Hunter and am very friendly with him. I have not yet been to Dr. Evans nor to Mr. Burgess.” (A. Allom, 11/2/1842.)

Letter from Miss Emily Wakefield to Mrs. Allom.

14. “Mrs. Wills arrived out here after all, before we did. She has taken a very nice house and is anxiously expecting her son's return.

“I have seen Mr. Brees, Mr. Wylie and your Mr. Charlton—I met them at Mrs. Wills'. I suppose Francis Bell told you he came on board at the Downs to see me. Papa has got a horse and has sent to Sydney for a horse for me.

“I have a most beautiful large New-foundland dog given me….”