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Through Ninety Years

Chapter XVIII

page 146

Chapter XVIII.

1857–1858. James Left for Hawke's Bay. Leonard Returned with Bishop Selwyn. Church Constitution Convention, Auckland. Ahuriri District Described. Maori Spirit Medium. Waerenga-a-hika Work.

Mrs. Williams wrote on January 26th, 1857: “The house we are to occupy while our present one is removed is intended eventually for the Girls' School, and will join our own. Leonard's is still in a very unfinished and comfortless state at present, nor can it be materially improved till the carpenter's family vacates the part they are occupying, which they have to do in a few weeks.”

Many years earlier Archdeacon W. Williams had bought a limited area of land from the natives at Bay of Islands. For this he was now able to find a purchaser. Although the amount received for it was only a few hundred pounds, it proved sufficient to enable James Williams, acting under the advice of Rev. Samuel Williams, to start sheep farming on his own account. He accordingly left Turanga for Hawke's Bay in February, 1857.

Bishop Selwyn took Rev. W. L. Williams on a voyage to the Chatham Islands in his schooner Southern Cross before landing him at Turanga early in February, 1857. The Bishop and Mrs. Selwyn then spent a day there.

On March 25th, 1857, Archdeacon W. Williams, after thanking his relatives in England for their further liberality, wrote: “Our expenses in this work have far exceeded the estimate we had formed, and we had consequently far outstripped the resources we had at command, but I felt sure that we should have the help we required, and that as God had prospered us so far He would carry out the work to the end. During Leonard's absence in the south, whither he went to meet the Bishop to be admitted to Priest's Orders, I had the School regularly page 147 under my care, and can certify to the general character and progress of our pupils. The grand object, that of preparing natives for ordination is likely to be attained.

“I made an earnest appeal to the Bishop and the Board of Education, and I have just received a reply that as soon as we obtain a Crown Grant for the land, we shall receive £250 from the Bishop and £200 from the Education Board.

“Our buildings are now advancing to our satisfaction, and the work of removal will soon be completed. Leonard and Sarah (Rev. W. L. and Mrs. Williams) are already at the Station, and our children go there next week. For ourselves, Jane and I are bound to Auckland. The Bishop requested me when he was here last month to attend a Convention to consider certain Church matters and also at the same time there is to be a Meeting for revision of Translation; this latter will require my presence for two months.”

Archdeacon and Mrs. Williams went to Auckland, and from there he wrote on May 20th, 1857, describing a mishap which befel them before they left home: “After having sent most of our goods and chattels on our large boat to the new station, we at last packed the piano with much care well wrapped up in blankets and placed in its own case lined with tin. It was to be conveyed on the following morning with 24 sacks of wheat and some smaller packages, all taken down to the river-side and placed on board ready to start at an early hour. Soon after daylight the natives set off, but soon came running back exclaiming ‘the boat is upset.’ I set off at once, but hoped it might be a false alarm, but when I got to the river-side there was no boat to be seen, but lower down I saw a native dragging some small boxes ashore, and the large case with the piano was floating in the middle of the river. The boat itself was gone to the bottom in water ten feet deep, with all the wheat in it. A small boat soon brought the piano to the landing place floating by its own buoyancy, and by the help of a number of natives who had collected, it was dragged up the steep bank on an inclined plane of about 145 degrees, page 148 the water pouring out abundantly from the end which was lowest, and when it was on level ground it was raised up on its edge just as a drowned man is placed with his mouth downwards to let the water run out of his mouth. The case looked very well outside, but we had no expectation but that all was destroyed within. I then went to marry a couple of natives, and other natives under the promise of a reward, set to work to dive for the wheat in order that the boat might again float. On returning to the piano the key was not forthcoming. We opened it by a false key, and then proceeded to take it to pieces. Note by note was removed and placed separately, for by this time the wood was swollen, for the case had been, we had reason to think, about eight hours in the water. All leathers at the end of the hammers were sodden with water, and they were most of them lying scattered about, and so too of every other part within, all the innumerable small pieces of leather and felt etc. etc. were out of place and injured, but the wires alone seemed not to have been touched, for the dust was still lying undisturbed. All we could do was to put the fragments of leather etc. into fresh water, and then place them out to dry. In the meantime I sent for Leonard and our carpenter that we might hold a council of war. It was decided that an attempt must be made in a few days to put the parts together again, but as the leather dried it became so harsh that there was little idea that anything could be done. However, after waiting a week Leonard and the carpenter began, and in the first week completed the dampers and some of the parts which were furthest inside, but hammers and many contrivances had to be resorted to, and some of the latter was supplied from the lining of an old pair of boots. After a few days more all the parts were again in their places, and most marvellous to relate the instrument sounded as well as ever. I have heard of a fiddle being improved by smashing and then glueing together again, and now it appears that a piano may be floating for eight hours in salt water and yet be none the worse. It is singular that out of a great quantity of packages this was the only one page 149 which has been placed in jeopardy. When this accident occurred we were expecting daily the arrival of a vessel to take us to Auckland, but it did not come for three weeks, so we had the satisfaction of seeing the piano safe, and also ourselves too quietly inland and make many arrangements which it was well to make before we left on May 12th.”

Archdeacon W. Williams wrote on May 27th, 1857: “Having just effected our removal to the new station at Waerenga-a-hika on 12th I embarked at Turanga for Auckland on board a small coasting vessel with Jane and our youngest daughter Emma. We had a pretty good passage, though somewhat tedious towards the close of it, and arrived at Auckland in five days. I expected that the business of our Church convention would be over, as it was then six weeks after the time originally fixed by the Bishop, but to my satisfaction I found that Henry was on board a schooner which passed us the evening before, and that the members of the Convention had only sat for two days. We have present our own Bishop, and the Bishop of Christchurch from the South, Archdeacons Paul, Hadfield, Brown, Abraham, Henry Williams and William Williams, Revs. G. A. Kissling, and James Wilson from Canterbury, and of Lay Members Messrs. Swainson, Hurst, Tancred, Haultain and Prendergast. The proceedings were conducted with open doors, and we have occasional visitors to watch our proceedings.”

June 13th. “After sitting to the present time our business was brought to a close. I will send you a printed copy of the proceedings. I am much satisfied with what has been done. There may be certain points which may seem to you to be novel, but there can be no question that the advantage to the country will be great. This Constitution if ratified at Home will give us the power of doing all that it is necessary to do for the working of our Church system. There will now be an encouragement to those who are disposed to give property for endowment to come forward and give, in the assurance that their liberality will be appropriated in the best possible way. Hitherto there has been too much power in the page 150 hands of the Bishops, and though our Bishop has never been disposed to abuse his authority there have been cases in Van Diemen's Land and elsewhere.

“It is clear that under this Constitution the power will be in the hands of the Synod, and not in an individual.

“The introduction of the Lay element is a remarkable feature, and the working of this principle at our Conference, it was amusing to see that sometimes the two Bishops were agreed and a majority of the Clergy were in favour of a motion proposed, but that two out of three lay men, being against it, the motion was lost.

“You will see that the business we have settled at this Conference is only preliminary, and most important matters are reserved for the General Synod, which is to take place in the course of the summer.

“The General Synod as it is termed is to be held at Wellington, and out of the body of 62 Clergymen 16 are to attend, all being elected by the Clergy of their respective Archdeaconries excepting Henry, Archdeacons Brown, Hadfield and myself, who are to attend without election to represent the native districts. There are to be 21 Lay Members. The Members of the Convention are now dispersing, and Mr. Maunsell, Mr. Kissling and I, with three of the Wesleyan Ministers are about to set to work upon a revision of Mr. Maunsell's translation of the Old Testament, which will occupy us for six weeks. The utmost that we shall accomplish will be less than one fourth of the whole, but I shall not be able to remain for more.

“You ask how it is that I do not appear as joint translator with Mr. Maunsell, having had so much to do with the New Testament. The fact is that Mr. Maunsell's knowledge of the language is exceedingly good, and I am most happy to resign the chief part into his hands, and that I should merely assist him with the Revision. I have more than enough to attend to of other matters.”

In a letter of July 23rd, 1857, Mrs. Williams described a day's work at Waerenga-a-hika in May (Autumn): “The community was roused before sunrise by the page 151 ringing of the great Church bell at the pa about 100 yards from Mission premises, and soon after sunrise it rang again for about five minutes as a call to prayers, which was taken by Archdeacon Williams or Leonard, after which there was an hour's school. Then breakfast and about an hour after Leonard Williams' school was held, immediately followed by the native dinner, spread on a long table formed of planks in the schoolroom. The afternoon was devoted to manual labour, some being employed ploughing, others at carpenter's work, fencing etc. which required constant superintendence. About an hour before sunset the bell rang for school again, which was followed by evening prayers at the native Chape.

“The women take it in turns to cook for themselves, the men and boys, which includes breadmaking on a large scale. The girls belonging to the household have school in the afternoon in the men's schoolroom, conducted by Maria Williams and a Miss Jones (the lady who joined them in 1853). Kate Williams assisted Mrs. Leonard Williams with her children and the household oversight, which she took charge of and helped in the school or supervised the women who preferred their own shiftless ways to systematic work. Much time was also required for arranging and supervising the making of clothing for the natives. Mr. Baker assisted in Leonard's school.”

During their stay in the north, Mrs. Williams visited the Bay of Islands. When she and Archdeacon Williams returned home in September, 1857, they left their daughters Marianne and Emma at school in Auckland. Archdeacon Williams made another inspection tour through the Wairoa and Ahuriri district in the following month. He then visited Rev. S. and Mrs. Williams, with whom he found his son James, who was recovering from an attack of influenza.

After his return home he wrote on November 26th, 1857, and thus described the appearance of Hawke's Bay and Napier: “It is interesting to witness the gradual march of the energy and enterprise of the white man. I remember this District not many years ago when there was not a single settler within the range of one hundred page 152 miles, but there were vast plains of beautiful grass land wholly unoccupied except by a few wild pigs. Now of the portions bought by the Government there is not a single acre which is not occupied in a certain way, but that way is only suited to the present time, while the land being covered only with native grass is not so productive as it will hereafter become by cultivation. The consequence is that it is let by the Government at a mere nominal rent, and the general holding of a sheepfarrner is not less than 12,000 acres, but any person possessing money can go to the Surveyor's Office and select just where he pleases, and thus it happens that the first occupant has to give way to another, who having laid out more capital, is obliged to take means of making his purchase more productive. In time these baronies will be cut up into farms, and the country will be filled up after a more healthy manner. I went with Samuel to a place 12 miles from his own station, which is as central as most, and there held an English service, but though some persons came the distance of 10 or 12 miles there were only 18 persons present. The duties of a clergyman therefore carry him over a wide extent of country, and he must be satisfied with little knots of people here and there, and must literally follow his scattered sheep into the wilderness.

“At the seaport of this district there is what is called the ‘Town’ of Napier, the chief locality of which is a hill which is flat at the top of about a mile in length and half as much in width. At present there are not more than five or six houses upon the high ground, most of the people preferring the low flat ground at the base, where perhaps there may be altogether about 60 or 70 houses. There is one public house, a blacksmith's shop, a Courthouse, and I suppose a ‘Lock-up,’ three or four stores, and a small shop, a post office, and a steam flour mill. There is also a Schoolmaster, a Surveyor, and a Pilot. The Magistrate I did not see, but having to pay my respects to different people I had to take tea three times in one evening. Twenty years hence there will no doubt be a large community, and the increase of flocks up the page 153 country will cause a great amount of business. Indeed they are talking of supplying a cargo for one wool vessel to England this summer.

“I have just received £300 from the Society for the school. This, in addition to the generous liberality we have received from many other quarters, will now I trust relieve us from anxiety, and that we shall be able to proceed with more spirit in the work which is before us.”

On November 26th, 1857, Archdeacon Williams wrote further: “The state of things in this district is not so satisfactory as I could wish. Satan is full of expedients and will be so to the end. We have had lying spirits of devils at work. They purport to be the spirits of the departed who come back to give words of admonition to their friends on earth.

“The communication is made through the medium of certain persons who are initiated and it is neither more nor less than an exercise of an inferior kind of ventriloquism. The advice is generally of an exceptionable character, and many persons who had ceased to attend service have been induced to attend in consequence of these communications. Still it is a pure piece of imposture, and now and then there is something mixed up which is out of place. I made two attempts to have an interview with what was said to be the spirit of one of our teachers who came with me from Waimate. I felt sure of being able to trip up the spirit by a little examination about the distant locality of the north, but the old woman who was the oracle was afraid of me and she reported that the spirit was out of the way.

“This class of spirit led the way to another which was more assimilated to the old superstitions, and many have sought these sources for the cure of diseases, and one man had the fearful warning of losing four of his children in quick succession under this delusion.

“I am thankful that these extravagancies are confined to Turanga, they have not extended to Waiapu and Wairoa.

“After remaining at home not quite a month I under-took a journey to Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay) which page 154 occupied six weeks. At the latter place I found Samuel and Mary with their children well. James was still with them on my arrival, suffering from influenza, but I left him nearly well again. In about a month he is to move on to his own sheep run, which is a large tract of land he will lease from the Government where he will survey mountains to look at, and grassy plains for his sheep to feed upon.”

At this time two parties of natives were engaged in obstinate strife over the question of the sale of a piece of land to the Government. One chief of influence had disposed of land in which his neighbours were also interested. Through the influence of Rev. S. Williams, this dispute was settled soon afterwards fortunately without serious loss of life.

During the last week of December, 1857, Archdeacon Henry Williams at Pakaraka was seized with a severe attack of very painful illness, which for several weeks continued to cause his wife and family very grave anxiety, and necessitated their summoning the assistance of the doctor from Kororareka. Under his treatment and care he, to their great rejoicing and relief was mercifully restored to health again in about two months' time. This affliction caused a very anxious time to the family at Turanga and they sincerely thanked Almighty God for his wonderful recovery.

On February 1st, 1858, Archdeacon Williams wrote: “One of Jane's (Mrs. Williams) occupations three mornings in the week before breakfast is to stand over and direct two native men making bread in two large tubs sufficient to yield a daily supply of 100 pounds. This they afterwards bake without further instruction, in a large brick oven. It falls to Maria's province to weigh out this bread twice daily as the case may be giving ¾ lb. to each person for a meal. The diet which our Natives get tells well upon them, and they do not fail to observe the difference between Potatoes and Wheat.”

He further mentioned that the Bill authorising the Church Constitution was brought before the Legislative Assembly and passed, and Rev. W. L. Williams went to page 155 Auckland to take his father's place on the translation Revision Committee, and took with him his wife and three children; a second daughter, Margaret Ellen, had been born on the previous December 3rd. Kate Williams also went with them. This was the first time Mrs. Leonard Williams had gone away from Turanga since she first arrived, and from Auckland they went to Bay of Islands on a visit.

On March 11th, 1858, Archdeacon Williams wrote further: “Last week the weather being very dry it was thought to be a favourable time for setting fire to the long grass and bushes upon our unenclosed land preparatory to sowing the ground with clover and Byegrass, and during the last few days, after keeping school till dinner time I have been engaged in sowing clover and grass seed. The plan was as follows. The ground was more or less covered with bushes only partially consumed by the fire, leaving branches all charred, readily imparting their grimy quality to everyone who touches them. Through these we had to force our way. We were therefore mounted on horseback to the number of nine persons, each with a tin pail slung over the shoulder. My lieutenant was first in the rank, a principal part of his duty being to march in a straight line towards a white flag fixed at the further extremity of the ground to be sown. Then the rest took their places at a distance of four yards each. I being the presiding genius came last in the line to look after the whole that they should not march too closely or too far asunder. We then proceeded at a slow march sowing the seed as we went, and this course was pursued backwards and forwards until our portion of ground was completed. There are not many Archdeacons so occupied.

“In the meantime my son Leonard was busy building his chimney, which was the reason I kept School in his stead.”

At this time Bishop Selwyn proposed to hold several Ordinations, and to make a rearrangement of positions which involved a transfer of Rev. Leonard Williams to Waiapu. This, however, Archdeacon Williams could not page 156 agree to, as it would interfere with the Central school of which he was in charge, and this had been sanctioned by the C.M.S. and on which £1,500 had been expended.

He wrote further: “Rota Waitoa, the native clergyman who occupies a portion of that locality is proceeding in a satisfactory manner. Again, Raniera, another teacher who has been with us for twelve months, has gone to Auckland as a candidate for deacon's orders, and he is the most superior native I know.”

Of the £1,500 spent on the new station the principal items were: sawn timber £557, carpenters' labour £398, boating and carting £50, nails and iron work £88, fencing in School Estate £309, sundries £69.

On May 1st, 1858, Archdeacon Williams wrote thus: “Now with regard to the School itself, the number which are clothed and fed and under instruction is 66 besides 10 young children, there are in fact three schools. Twenty-one men, most of whom have been teachers in the native villages, and being select Natives, are brought here for instruction with the hope that some may be prepared for ordination. Some of these have been with us more than three years, and such as are most promising we shall gladly keep longer. Two are gone to Auckland, and in course of time will probably be ordained by the Bishop, the chief object at present being to raise up native pastors for the people.

“Then we have a school of 18 boys who, being young, are pliable, and it is from among this class that we shall get the most promising supply for future necessities.

“The wives of some of the men, and a number of girls constitute the girls' school, and as the wife is often the better half it is of great importance that their education should be well attended to.

“Next week we hope to complete the removal of the last of our buildings from the old station. Then we remove a quantity of trees from the garden. If you come to see us in twelve months' time you will see several Himalaya Pines and other varieties of Cypresses, Elms, Sycamores, Laurels, Mimosa etc.”