Section 4: March-July 1886

Section 4: March-July 1886

Harris, Emily Cumming collection. Collection of Puke Ariki (ARC2002-190).

March 25th [Thursday]. Went with Mrs Levien, Totsie, & Miss Elliott to a Garden Party Sale of Work at Mrs Andrew Richmond’s, Father went also. There were a great number of people there, we all had tea out of doors, it was very pleasant, there was to be a concert in the evening, Father & I did not stay after seven as I could not stand the night air. As we came home we met such lots of people going down.

March 28th. Today, my birthday, at least the day I keep for I am not quite sure that I was not born on the 1st of April. However it is the first time I ever remember my birthday being kept. Frances made me a cake with icing on it & I had Mrs Rodgerson to tea. The fact was that Frances wanted to try the recipe for a wedding cake, so at the beginning of the month she made two little cakes, one for Father’s birthday & one for mine, but neither of them were quite a success & certainly would not do for a wedding cake.

I wonder if I shall be at all fortunate this year. The last was a very hard year, as far as selling went, the worst year I have had for some time. A great deal of expense with my exhibits & very little received, no sale for cards, our school much less. Indeed if I do not get some more drawing pupils I shall be ruined, unless something else turns up. Ellen has been fortunate to get six music pupils or what would have happened I don’t know.

April 2nd [Friday]. Frances & I went down to the Rocks in the afternoon to see the Hawea which had run on shore just opposite the lamp post. We both went to make a sketch, but just after we had begun a steamer came up to try & pull her off, there was quite a crowd of people to see the attempt. We all watched for an hour or more but it could not be done, however the next morning when the tide was higher she was got off.

Monday, April 5th. Mabel Gully brought me a note from her mother:

Dear Miss Harris,

Many & hearty thanks for your great kindness in teaching Mabel so long without payment. I am pleased to tell you that for the future I shall be able to pay for her, Frank is sending me the money.

Yours very gratefully,
Bessie Gully
P.S. Please send the account by Mabel.

This little note was a most welcome surprise.

April 6th. Got three more pupils among the school children for drawing for Father to teach, on Mondays & Thursdays.

April 8th. Received a short note from Dr Haast which at least shows that he is in London & unpacking the exhibits:

South Kensington
London, Feb 1886.

My dear Miss Harris,
You have not given me the price of your watercolour screen, please to write by return of post.

Yours faithfully,
Julius von Haast,

April  10th. Received a basket of dried moss from F. Smith, & note:

Survey Camp, Rainbow River
April 8th 1886.

Dear Miss Harris,
As Mr Ward, my assistant, is going down to Nelson to get up some stores etc., I thought perhaps you might like to have this bundle of mountain moss that I happen to have in the camp with me. Had I known we should have had to send before I would have tried to get you a better lot.

In haste,

Yours faithfully,
Stephenson Smith.

Harris, Emily Cumming collection. Collection of Puke Ariki (ARC2002-190).

April 16th [Friday]. This week has nearly passed away overshadowed with the gloom caused by dreadful accidents & awful shipwrecks. The Taiaroa was wrecked last Sunday & the fearful thing about it was that many lives were lost when not one need have been if they had not left the ship. Other deaths from shocking accidents have also occurred this week, some in Nelson & others in other parts of the Colony. This year has begun badly so far, if it goes on like this everyone will soon be in mourning.

A syndicate of wealthy English gentlemen have decided to commence the East & West Coast Railway. I am very glad as it will open up so much beautiful country & we shall have opportunities of visiting places inland instead of going everywhere by sea. Another thing is that it will bring money & people to Nelson & so there may be more chance of our getting on.

Saturday 17th. Got up before six a.m., saw the most lovely sunrise that I ever remember to have seen. Clouds fleecy & rosy, in the midst of the clouds here & there the purest & most perfect pale blue, beautiful yellow light below the rosy clouds, the Maitai Hills deep purple, the trees in the foreground dark. It was well worth getting up for although I did not get up for that but to wash my clothes, which I have not had a chance of doing for five weeks or more, & as I had come to the end of my linen I had to make an effort to do.

I wish we could afford to have a woman, it took me about four hours’ hard work & even then all my laces & print dresses, aprons etc. will have to be done some other time. I dare not say next week, for I may not have a chance. I do not dislike doing washing, but I have not the time to spare, besides it makes me so tired. I am not fit for much all the rest of the day, it is very hard to have to do washing, ironing, mending, making, & some household work besides teaching.

Sunday 18th. A pouring wet day, only Father went to church, hope it will not be wet next Sunday, Easter.

Monday 19th. Rain nearly all day, found last night that I had half a sovereign more than I thought. Received a letter from Wellington:

22nd March, 1886.
Memo from The Fine Arts Association of N.Z.

To Miss E. C. Harris.

Dear Madam,

I regret to learn from Mr Callis that an error was made in remitting a cheque for a table sold on your acct. to the wrong person through incorrect information supplied to me by the officials at the late Exhibition, & I now beg to enclose P.O. order for the amount, receipt of which please acknowledge. This would have been forwarded sooner but we have been endeavouring (without success so far) to obtain a refund.

Tuesday 20th. Bought of Alfred Oakey an easel, & paid for it with some of the table money, so that I might have something to keep in remembrance of that particular table.

22nd. Posted receipt to Mr Noel Barraud. Posted letter with price list of all my exhibits to Dr von Haast, posted letter to Mary.

Thursday. Broke up school for Easter holidays.

23rd, Good Friday. Rather wet, did not go to church, do not remember when I ever missed going to church on Good Friday before.

Saturday. Ellen decorated the gasolier with bunches of white chrysanthemums & lychodadium. Easter this year is so late that the chrysanthemums are well out, & the decorations of the church in consequence looked unusually lovely. We expect by next Christmas that the church will be altered and improved considerably.

Easter Monday. Father & Frances went by train to Belgrove. Ellen staying at the Brownings’. I stayed at home all day, partly because I was afraid to leave the house, partly because my back ached so I thought I couldn’t sit in the train so long. Then it was just like my inconsistency to put up a shelf in the dining-room over the door, nearly up to the ceiling. I had had the shelf made, but the putting it up, no easy matter; first it [was] an inch too long, & I had to saw it off, then it was so heavy I could hardly lift it, then I could not put the screws quite in, & lastly, after I had done it all & came down the steps to admire it, I found that after most careful measurement it was not level because the ceiling slanted down a little at one side, so I had to take it down again & allow for the ceiling not being level.

I was quite exhausted when it was done, so I had my solitary dinner, after which it took me all the afternoon to stow away a lot of papers & pamphlets on the shelf. In front of them I put a neat row of books, so that I think it is not only useful but does not look amiss. Anyone would wonder why I should spend my holiday doing all this, but the fact is I could not have done it any other day, & if I had got a man to do it the others would have been sure to object to its being put there. As it was no one noticed it for some time & then Father said, ‘Oh, that’s where you’ve put your shelf is it.’ I was as tired as if I had been to Belgrove. It turned out a fine day, it looked like rain, which was another reason why I was afraid to go, however I was well pleased to have got my shelf put up as we had not nearly room enough for our books & papers.

28th [Wednesday]. Began school again. Claude Black came back to school, very glad to see his handsome good little face in school again. Ellen came down & went back again after school. Mrs Gillam brought me some pieces of nikau berries, which her husband & Mr Worsley had got during their trip to Pelorus Sound. They could not get the whole branch of berries, Mr Worsley was obliged to stand up against the tree on Mr Gillam’s shoulders to get a bit, however I am very much obliged to them for their trouble.

In the evening Charles Curtis came in most unexpectedly, he had not been in Nelson for 20 years. In the afternoon Alice Duncan and Mrs Wise came to see us, she is going away again tomorrow, Alice was looking so pretty & well & had such a lovely dress.

Friday. Tried to do a little painting but not much for besides giving Clara Wright her drawing lesson, there was such a continual interruption of knocks at the door. Mary Leatham came in for a few minutes, she had just arrived from a visit to England & was then going off to New Plymouth.

Frances & I are painting a study of fruit & a vase in oils, I have been remarking to Frances that this is my third manner of painting. 1st watercolour on paper (drawing paper, white) & Bristol Board, then after my visit to the Melbourne Exhibition, painting on satin & coloured paper, 3rd painting in oils. I wonder which manner will be my best.

Next Tuesday the Colonial & Indian Exhibition will be opened by the Queen. I am very anxious, & I wonder if; I wonder very much. I mean to try & get some grapes tomorrow & paint nearly all day if I can.

May 30th [Sunday]. Nearly a month since, more than a month I mean, since I wrote the last. The Exhibition has been opened by the Queen with great ceremony, the day was fine and so far the Exhibition is a success. Every evening I get very restless when it is time for the Mail to arrive. I expect I know not what, but the telegrams are too few & short, it seems to me that the Australians are having it all their own way, getting more than the lion’s share of praise and attention, & no doubt profit also. The Colonials are being feted & made much of just now. Why am I not among them, it is just the time that I should have been in England & to think that I could not go, it makes me wild to think about it, such a time never comes twice. The tide which has notbeen taken at the flood will ebb lower & lower, until the shoals and quicksands of ill health & old age will cast me aside for ever. But stay my pen or note more cheerful things.

Last week Ellen had a letter from Dr Taylor & some coloured views of London. He was in Kent, he intended visiting the Exhibition. His letters are always amusing, he wishes that we would get married so that our names might not harass him so.

May 21st [Friday]. Frances & I went to a dance given by Mrs Buckeridge.

May 24th. I went with Mrs Buckeridge & her three sons & a few others for a picnic up the Dun Mountain line just above the Glen.

Last Sunday, Father, Frances & Ellen were all very unwell, with various kinds of colds, I made them stay in bed, & I did all the work. This Sunday they are all more or less better. Frances is well, Father is very little better, I have not known him so ill for years. Ellen is much better, she has been taking care of herself, only the chances are that she will do something rash, & then the same thing again just as it has been for the last six weeks.

Poor John Gully is gone at last. When people have been ill more or less for years, one naturally thinks that they are likely to go on living, & so his mother thought & no-one dared to tell her that the Dr said he could not live three months & might die much sooner. But so carefully so tenderly so lovingly was he nursed that Death seemed kept at bay and baffled at every point. And the last few days John seemed to be getting better, when suddenly he broke a blood vessel & all was over in half an hour. Poor John, just 21 and with so much talent, to die so young. I made a cross & wreath of white flowers & silver ferns. I took them up early in the morning before the funeral.

The funeral was on Friday. Mrs Gully sent me a message to ask me to go & stay with them from Saturday to Monday morning, which I did. A sorrowful visit, but it was better for them to have someone in the house, for although I could do nothing & say less to comfort them, yet if they liked me to be there I was glad to stay. They have both been in the country now about ten days, & are I hope recovering health & spirits.

I think we are going to have a very cold winter, three weeks to the shortest day, it is usually after the shortest day that the days get very cold but now the cold has begun before, & I fear it will get very severe.

June 5th [Saturday]. Received a note from Dr Hector viz. New Zealand Industrial Exhibition, 1885:

The Postmaster, Nelson.

Please deliver one Silver medal and 2 certificates to Miss E. C. Harris.

A. Horneman
Acting Secretary.

Tuesday 8th. I went to the Post Office & got my Medal & two certificates. The Medal has fern leaves on one side, it is very pretty; the reverse side has too much on it to look well. The certificates I like very much.

We are having such unusually cold weather, we who have to sit still most of the day hardly know what to do to keep warm. In the middle of the day it is generally very sunny, lovely for those who can go out to walk, still we are only too glad to see it come in at the windows. On Monday Mrs Hardcastle brought a lady to see some of my paintings. I suppose she was much pleased for although she will only remain in Nelson about two months she wished me to give her some lessons in flower painting which I am now doing. She is to come every day that she can.

Thursday, June 10th. When I came out of School this morning I found Mrs A. Moore in the drawing-room with a printed telegram in her hand, containing the news of a great & terrific volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera at Rotomahana, earthquakes & darkness at Tauranga, people fleeing from the district. Great loss of life. Steamers telegraphed for. We were all horrified & of course thought that everyone would have to leave the North Island. I at once began to think how many beds I could put in our schoolroom. Then we got the map of N.Z. to find the exact locality, then we read the telegram again & again we found that no damage had been done to Auckland. In the Evening we read a long account of all that had happened, & also that many people in Nelson had heard sounds of the explosions in the night, like distant cannonading, but we all slept very soundly that night.

Headline at Nelson Evening Mail (10 June 1886: 2)

Friday 11th. More particulars of the eruption. We can talk of nothing else.

Saturday 12th. Dreadful snowstorm among the mountains of the Upper Clarence, death of two surveyors, Mr Hugh Thompson of Richmond & Mr Paske, nephew of the Governor. F. Stephenson Smith was the head of the party, he & the rest narrowly escaped the same fate. I am very much concerned for him.

21st, Monday. Very cold, damp & windy. Yesterday it was wet & cold, Ellen got ready to go to church as there was to be a special service & the Bishop was to preach. It being the 50th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign, the Choir were to sing God Save the Queen. However it rained so that none of us went in the morning.

Monday Evening. Father has just read in the Evening Mail Bishop Suter’s sermon, which I like very much. On Saturday I sent 11 papers to England: a specially printed edition of all the accounts of the volcanic eruption. I expect most people in England think we are all living close round the volcano & that if we are not already swallowed up that we soon will be.

Sunday, July 4th. Ellen has been ill with bronchitis, came downstairs this afternoon the first time for eight days. Yesterday put an advertisement that I would give lessons in painting in Colonist & Mail for a week, hope it will bring me some more pupils. Last week Ellen had a letter from Mrs Taylor, the Taylors are in London, but before this may have gone to Norway, then she says, ‘We shall have been all over the world.’ She also says, ‘Tell your sister Emily that I saw her exhibits at the Exhibition. They are well placed & look handsome.’ So that is something to learn. I gather from all accounts that while the Exhibition is a splendid success, the New Zealand Court is rather disappointing.

Spent last evening at the Gullys’, played whist with Mr & Mrs Gully. Mrs Gully wants me to stay a few days with them, when Frances & Ellen return from Mrs Burnett’s where they are going for a week. Half the holidays gone & nothing worth mentioning done either for profit or pleasure. Went yesterday to Mrs Hardcastle’s & had a lesson in wood engraving.

July 11th, Sunday. Twenty minutes to five and it is so dark I have had to light the candles as I cannot see to read or write. It has been raining nearly all day, or else it would not be so dark. Father went to church in the morning. Frances & Ellen have been at Mrs Burnett’s since Monday afternoon, Mrs Gully came in yesterday to know if I was ready to go back with her, & was much disappointed when she found that I could not.

Received a letter from Mary on Thursday. She says Bel Smith had a letter from Miss Morshead, in which she mentions that she had been to the Exhibition in London, & had seen Miss Harris’s exhibits, which are most beautiful.

I find having everything to do more than is good for me; the perpetual standing & running about makes my back ache so I scarcely know what to do with myself, if I hurry over my work in order to get on with my painting I have to get up so many times to answer the door that my time is quite lost. Besides other things that I hoped to finish I bought two splendid Kakas a week ago for a still-life study but I have been so hindered I cannot get them finished. If it had not been so very cold I should have had to throw them away before this.

I was hindered the other afternoon for an hour or more in a way I never dreamt of. Father brought a large tin downstairs & sitting down before the drawing-room fire began putting papers & packets of letters in the fire.

‘What are you doing?’ I exclaimed.

‘Oh, I’m only burning old papers,’ he replied. ‘They are of no use.’

I knew it would not be of the slightest use to remonstrate. I was aghast, for I knew that most of the letters were received for more than forty years by my dear mother & father, besides interesting papers of every possible sort. Mother had tied most of the letters up in little packets & written outside by whom they were written. Most interesting letters I know, for most of them had been read aloud to all of us. How to save these to me most valuable documents & precious relics I could not tell, but I popped myself down on the hearthrug.

‘Take care,’ said I, ‘you’ll set the chimney on fire,’ as the loose letters blazed furiously.

‘Oh, nonsense,’ said Father, stuffing more papers in.

I was in despair when a happy thought came to my aid.

‘Well, don’t be in such a hurry,’ said I, ‘let me have the stamps for Hermann’ (Mary had written a week before to ask for some stamps for him) ‘& look, see what you are putting in the fire, why, those are photos.’

So making him look at the photos I got the scissors & saying, ‘Now just look at this & that & do cut off those stamps, & look at this invitation, & those Masonic hymns,’ all the while I kept pulling out the papers & packets of letters. Fortunately many of the loose papers were bills, which I kept putting into the fire to keep up the blaze while the letters I put in the folds of my dress & sat upon them, or in my apron, & now and then I carried them off & then came back for others. In this way I got all the letters except those first burnt. I think one packet was Aunt Rendel’s letters.

It took several days before all the papers were burnt, there must have been hundreds, but I looked well over them to see that nothing important was destroyed & Father too picked out a good many. I think he must have thought that the tin contained only old bills & papers of that kind.

I have been looking over the letters today, those relating to the first days of the settlement & the Maori War are deeply interesting & the longer they are kept the more valuable they will become. There are hundreds of letters, notes & papers. I must make a selection, some of them may well be destroyed but not in a wholesale fashion.

Harris, Emily Cumming collection. Collection of Puke Ariki (ARC2002-190).

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March 25th [Thursday]. Went with Mrs Levien, Totsie, & Miss Elliott to a Garden Party Sale of Work
Robert Peter Levien (1836-1893) was born in London and emigrated as a child with his family to Victoria, Australia. He arrived in New Zealand in 1861 and became a successful storekeeper on the Otago goldfields before coming to Nelson in 1864. He set up as a merchant, went to Sydney and married Henrietta Cohen (1838-1909) and returned with her to Nelson. Robert Levien’s obituary notes his generosity and sense of civic duty (Nelson Evening Mail 25 Oct 1893:2). The Leviens lived at 36 Nile St for many years. They had six sons and one daughter, Frances Harriet (1868-1960), who was known as Totsie. One son, Cecil Solomon (Chummy) Levien, was a co-executor of Emily Harris’s will in 1925. Henrietta Levien’s 1880 visit to Melbourne with one of her children to visit the International Exhibition and their return on the same sailing as Emily points to the closeness of the friendship between neighbours. See ‘Mrs Levien Signs a Melbourne Visitors’ Book’ (11 Apr 2019).

Mrs Andrew Richmond (née Anna Selina Blundell) was widowed by the early death of her husband, who had been a Member of the House of Representatives (Evening Post 16 Nov 1880: 3). It is unclear from Emily’s diary entry whether Mrs Richmond and her children are living with her father-in-law Major Mathew Richmond at The Cliffs above the Nelson waterfront. By 1889, after the death of Major Richmond two years earlier, Mrs Richmond was in residence at The Cliffs. See section 9.

March 28th. Today, my birthday
Emily Cumming Harris (1837-1925) may have been named for her paternal aunt Emily Theodosia Harris (1813-1840). The origin of her middle name is unknown. Sarah Harris says in her family history that Emily was born in Plymouth, England, in March 1837 (‘The Family Songbook’ 1). Baptism registers held at the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office show that Emily and her sister Catherine were baptised together 18 Mar 1840 at Charles the Martyr Anglican church, Plymouth (Archive ref. 167/11, p. 298). The same record claims that Emily’s date of birth is 18 Apr 1837. Emily’s uncertainty about the actual date of her birth is reflected in these varying personal and official records. It is possible that the family settled on 28 Mar 1837 as a near-enough birth date.

two little cakes, one for Father’s birthday & one for mine
Edwin Harris (1806-1895) was born in Plymouth, England, to James Pasco and Mary Roberts Harris (née Good). A family document, possibly written by Edwin’s older brother James Cobham Harris (JH) gives details of the birth and a Non-conformist baptism:

Enclosed to me from my Sister Emma Court in a letter dated May 3rd 1875, Burton on Humber, Lincolnshire. J.H.

Copy of Entry in Fletcher’s Family Devotion

Edwin Harris son of the above (J. M. R. Harris) was born March 3rd 1806 at half past six o’clock in the morning, and Baptized by the Rev. Mr Jones of Devonport at Norley St. Chapel, Plymouth (Cranstone Papers).

April 2nd [Friday]. Frances & I went down to the Rocks in the afternoon to see the Hawea
The stranding had occurred four days previously: ‘When the residents near the harbor entrance awoke this morning and drew their blinds they were surprised to see a large steamer with her nose on the beach at the beacons opposite Mr Richardson’s house. This was soon ascertained to be the Hawea, which left Picton for Nelson at 9 o’clock last night, and arrived off the lighthouse about 4 a.m. The Mahinapua, from Wellington, came down a little earlier, and Pilot Lowe went out to her and brought her in, and then returned to the Hawea, and arrived with her at the entrance at 4.15, an hour before high water. On approaching the spot where the steamer now lies her helm was put hard over, but she refused to answer it, and having good way on her, although at the time she was under ‘easy’ steam, she ran on to the shingle bed, and with such impetus as to make considerable progress up the shelving bank.’ (Nelson Evening Mail 30 Mar 1886: 2). The Hawea was floated off the beach on the morning of 31 March. (The Prow)

Monday, April 5th. Mabel Gully brought me a note from her mother
Mabel Vincent Gully (1876-1890) was a grand-daughter of John and Jane Gully. Her father Phillip Lewis Gully died in 1879 and her mother Mary Elizabeth (Bessie) Gully is having difficulty making ends meet (Poverty Bay Herald 26 Aug 1936:10). Frank, sender of money, is perhaps Bessie’s half-brother Frank Stanton Allen (1863-1898) (Evening Post 29 Dec 1898: 6). Mabel’s early death is described by Emily in section 12.

April  10th. Received a basket of dried moss from F. Smith
Frank Stephenson Smith (1846-1922) was a surveyor and younger brother of Percy Stephenson Smith. The Harrises and Stephenson Smiths were neighbours in Taranaki and were linked by marriage when Percy and Frank’s English cousin Alfred William Moore married Kate Harris in Nelson in 1863. Frank Stephenson Smith married Florence Sarah Parsons in 1896.

It is with great regret that we record the passing of another member of one of the pioneer families of Taranaki, in the person of Mr. Frank Stephenson Smith, the second son of the late John Stephenson Smith, which occurred at Blenheim on Thursday, October 12, from an acute attack of pneumonia (says the Taranaki Herald). Mr. Smith was born in Lincolnshire, coming to New Zealand with his parents and other members of the family by the ship Pekin, landing at New Plymouth in 1849. His youth was spent on the farm, now part of Westown. Soon after the outbreak of hostilities with the natives in 1860 he joined up with No. 1 Company of Bushrangers, and saw a great deal of active service, remaining with that company until its disbandment. His first big experience of surveying was with his brother, the late Mr. Percy Smith, in laying off for military settlers the extensive block of country lying between the Waingongoro and Patea Rivers, covering the whole of the Hawera-Patea districts. This was in 1865-6, and was a most dangerous undertaking, being in constant danger of ambuscades by the natives. His most important survey work, and one that will mark him for all time as one of the leaders of his profession in this country, was the triangulation, combined with a typographical survey of the Southern Alps lying to the north of the Hurunui-Waimakariri watershed, combined with the country covered by the Kaikoura Mountains. This work demanded great determination and resource. It was highly dangerous at certain seasons of the year, as witness the tragedy that nearly overwhelmed the whole party in the Upper Wairau and Clarence country, when two of the party died from exposure. Like his brother, Mr. Percy Smith, he had taken more than an ordinary share in the dangers that beset the pioneers of the Survey Department in New Zealand. After a long and honourable service he resigned his position as Commissioner of Crown Lands and Chief Surveyor of Marlborough in August, 1911, and had since then resided in Blenheim. He is survived by his wife, a daughter of Mr. Estcourt Parsons, of Kaikoura a sister, Miss B. Smith, New Plymouth, and a brother, Mr. Harry Smith, San Francisco. (Hawera and Normanby Star 14 Oct 1922: 12)

In 1886-1887 Frank Stephenson Smith and Frederick Augustus Thompson were completing a triangulation of the Amuri back- country in what is present-day North Canterbury (Marshall 42). The Rainbow River is a major tributary of the Upper Wairau River.

April 16th [Friday]. This week has nearly passed away overshadowed with the gloom
The Taiaroa went aground near the Clarence River en route from Wellington to Lyttelton with significant loss of life among passengers and crew. (Colonist 13 April 1886: 3)

Memo from The Fine Arts Association of N.Z.
The mystery of the missing table top is resolved. Emily’s transcript is incomplete but her subsequent reference to posting a receipt to Noel Barraud, secretary of the Fine Arts Association, indicates that he is the writer of the letter.

Ellen decorated the gasolier with bunches of white chrysanthemums & lychodadium
A gasolier is a gaslight chandelier. Lychodadium has not been identified and may be a misspelling of lycopodium. Christ Church, the first parish Church of England, Nelson, was made a cathedral by Royal Charter in 1858 when Queen Victoria created the Diocese of Nelson. The church was an unofficial cathedral until 1887, when it was consecrated after the extensive rebuilding Emily mentions. Christ Church Cathedral stands on Pikimai / Church Hill in the centre of the city. (The Prow)

Easter Monday. Father & Frances went by train to Belgrove
Belgrove, once the property of the Bell and Morrison families, was the southern terminus of the Nelson railway in 1886. The Easter excursion was a first for the railway company: ‘The experiment of running a cheap excursion train to Belgrove and back proved, at any rate, from a Railway point of view, an unqualified success. At ten o’clock yesterday morning the longest single train which has yet left the Nelson Station started for Belgrove, but though every available carriage was utilised, the 600 passengers were so crowded that although they appeared to be in excellent spirits, this was certainly not because they were enjoying comfort.’ (Colonist 27 Apr 1886: 3). Edwin Harris made a double-page watercolour sketch during his visit and dated it: ‘Bell Grove April 1886.’ (Cranstone Sketchbook 22)

Ellen staying at the Brownings’
The family of John Spence Browning who was  appointed Chief Surveyor for Nelson in 1876 and held  the position until 1896 (Marshall 36). Miss Kate Browning was a Nelson artist who had work in the Wellington Industrial Exhibition of 1885.

Claude Black came back to school
Perhaps the Master Black who was reported among the Maypole dancers in December 1885. See section 3.

Mrs Gillam brought me some pieces of nikau berries
Mr and Mrs Gillam have not been identified. Frederick Worsley, like Frank Stephenson Smith and Bishop Suter, supplied Emily with plants from locations beyond her daily reach. He was for many years an accountant in Nelson:

Mr Frederick Worsley, who has been connected with the Nelson branch of the Union Bank for the last fourteen years, left on Wednesday week for Blenheim, haring been appointed manager of the branch of the bank there. Mr Worsley during the greater part of the term of his residence in Nelson held the position of accountant, but on several occasions he acted as manager for long periods. He has many friends in Nelson who will miss him, and will wish him good fortune. (NZ Mail 3 Feb 1893: 12)

In the evening Charles Curtis came in most unexpectedly
Charles Curtis and his brother Oswald were the proprietors of Curtis Brothers, the first store to open in Stratford, Taranaki, with a branch store in Inglewood. Emily stayed with the brothers and their families during her 1890 visit to Taranaki. See section 11.

In the afternoon Alice Duncan and Mrs Wise came to see us
Alice Duncan has not been identified. Caroline Grace Munday (c.1845-1899) married George Wise in Nelson in 1876. (Colonist 28 Aug 1899: 2)

giving Clara Wright her drawing lesson
The Wrights lived nearby in Collingwood St. Their children by Emily’s count are Charlie, Clara, Julie, Winifred, Dorothy and baby Fred. See section 7.

Mary Leatham came in for a few minutes, she had just arrived from a visit to England
Mary Leatham, later Mrs S Kyngdon, was the youngest child of Henry William Leatham and Frances Agnes Newland of New Plymouth. The Leathams, Newlands and Harrises lived on Frankley Rd in New Plymouth before the war of 1860 (Puke Ariki. ARC2003-387).

May 30th [Sunday]. Nearly a month since, more than a month I mean, since I wrote the last
Emily notes the anxiety of hearing nothing about her exhibits in the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, opened by Queen Victoria 4 May 1886. She than makes several backdated entries covering events in May.

 I went with Mrs Buckeridge & her three sons & a few others for a picnic up the Dun Mountain line
Widow Matilda Buckeridge and her sons Henry (20), Lee (19) and Ned (9). The Glen was a popular picnicking spot: ‘Consider Glenduan, which is situated north of Nelson city. The name originated from James McKay naming his property “Drumduan” after his Scottish Home. He also named the valley on his property Glenduan, which is now known as The Glen to Nelsonians.’ (The Prow). Emily made at least one landscape study of the area. One of her watercolours in the 1882 Auckland Society of Arts catalogue is listed as: ‘The Glen (Nelson) from Nature’ and priced at £1 5s (Field-Dodgson Appendix 1).

Poor John Gully is gone at last
John Charles Gully (1864-1886), youngest child of John and Jane Gully. He was a musician and died 13 May 1886. He is buried in Wakapuaka Cemetery with his parents.

When I came out of School this morning I found Mrs A. Moore in the drawing-room
‘When Mt Tarawera and the surrounding area erupted in the early hours of June 10, 1886, the explosion annihilated the world-famous Pink and White Terraces, smothered a vast swathe of countryside with ash and killed more than 100 people. It remains the largest volcanic eruption since European settlement, an outburst of subterranean fury that continues to fascinate and terrify more than a century later.’ (NZ Geographic). The Nelson Evening Mail published a special edition about the eruption 18 June 1886 and Emily records sending 12 copies to England.

THE VOLCaniC ERUPTION. In order to give our subscribers an opportunity of sending to their friends in England and elsewhere an account of the recent eruption in the North Island, there will be published on FRIDAY next a Supplement to the Evening Mail containing all the telegrams on the subject up to date. (Nelson Evening Mail 15 June 1886: 2)

Dreadful snowstorm among the mountains of the Upper Clarence, death of two surveyors
Emily refers to the following newspaper story:

FROZEN TO DEATH. MELANCHOLY END OF TWO SURVEYORS.  Late yesterday afternoon Mr Browning, Chief Surveyor, received a telegram from Mr F. S. Smith conveying the sad intelligence that Mr Hugh Thompson, a son of Mr Thompson, a very old and respected settler at Richmond, and Mr Paske, a cadet in the Survey Department, and a nephew of Sir William Jervois, had succumbed to the fearfully cold weather that has of late been experienced in the ranges all through this Island, and which appears to have been quite as severe at Fowler’s Pass, where the tragedy occurred, as in any other part of the colony. Both the unfortunate young men were well known in Nelson, where they had many friends, and great sympathy is expressed with Mr Thompson on the loss of his promising son. As soon as the news reached Nelson, we wired to Mr Smith, who was in charge of the survey party, asking him for full particulars of the sad affair, and we are indebted to him for the following telegram, which will be perused with melancholy interest by a large number of our readers: —

WAIAU. Our party was detained in the back country to complete urgent work. On Tuesday the 8th inst., Fowler’s Pass being open and our provisions nearly exhausted, and snow having set heavily in, we left Lake Guyon. At 10.20 a.m. on the 9th, we cleared the Pass with great difficulty, and reached Fowler’s woolshed at 2.30 p.m., all then being well. With no shelter, firewood, or horsefeed, and but little provisions, and thinking the main difficulty overcome, we decided to push on to St. James’ station distant 12 miles, supposing that the snow would be less lower down. We found, however, that the depth of snow was worse than in the Pass. The pack horses were pushed on in charge of three horsemen, and all continued well for three miles when Mr Paske became delirious and began to show signs of exhaustion. Progress now was very difficult. We endeavoured to carry Mr Paske, but the snow was too deep, Mr Hugh Thompson and two others endeavoured to keep him awake and the circulation going, but failed, everything being frozen. Messrs Ward, McKay, and Hodges then endeavoured to push on for help to St. James. Mr Paske died about 10 p.m. We remained about half an hour alongside to be sure, and then tried to get Hugh Thompson on, but as he had lost the use of his legs it took two hours to do about a hundred yards. He was rapidly sinking when the relief party arrived, consisting of W. Mitchell (who having pushed on with his horse now returned), J. Campbell, Samuel Yeo, and young Gaukrodger. We forced spirits down Thompson’s throat, and Campbell took him in front on his horse, Gaukrodger giving his horse to one of the others. Thompson only rallied for about an hour, and then died in Campbell’s arms within two miles of the station, at 1 a.m. on the 11th. Soon afterwards we caught up the other three, who were quite exhausted. We took two on the horses, Gaukrodger remaining with the other man, and Yeo returned afterwards and brought him in, and all were at St. James by 3 a.m., and every attention was shown that skill and kindness could suggest. All five of the walking party would have perished but for the pluck of the relief party and Mitchell’s foresight. (Nelson Evening Mail 12 June 1886: 2)

It being the 50th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign, the Choir were to sing God Save the Queen
The 49th anniversary. Victoria was crowned in 1837.

Yesterday put an advertisement that I would give lessons in painting in Colonist & Mail for a week
‘MISS HARRIS, Nile Street East, is prepared to receive PUPILS for DRAWING and PAINTING in Oil or Water Colors, on Satin, Velvet, Wood, Terra Cotta, or other materials.’ (Nelson Evening Mail 5 July 1886: 2)

Frances & Ellen have been at Mrs Burnett’s since Monday
Mrs Martha Jane Burnett was the widow of a Nelson mining surveyor:

DEATH OF MR. JAMES BURNETT. From the Nelson Evening Mail, Feb. 24. We have to-day to perform the very painful duty of recording the death of Mr James Burnett, Mining Surveyor, a gentleman who was well known throughout the whole of the Nelson Province. Mr Burnett had for about ten days been confined to his bed by an attack of low fever which had greatly weakened, him, but yesterday he was considerably better, and a telegram to that effect was despatched to Mrs Burnett, who, with a portion of her family, is on a visit to Taranaki. Last night, however, he suddenly became worse, and gradually sunk until 8 o’clock this morning, when he breathed his last. Mr Burnett, as we have said, was well known throughout the province, and to this we may add that he was universally respected by all who had the pleasure of being acquainted with him. (Auckland Star 28 Feb 1872: 3)

She says Bel Smith had a letter from Miss Morshead
Perhaps Mary Pearce Morshead (1854-1916)

Dora Isabel (Bel) Smith (1859-1925) was a younger sister of Percy and Frank Stephenson Smith. She lived in New Plymouth and was a close friend of the Harris sisters. Mary Rendel Weyergang (1845-1932) was the fifth daughter of Edwin and Sarah Harris. She was born 26 Aug and baptised 12 Oct 1845 at St Mary’s Anglican Church, New Plymouth. She married Carl Philip August Alexander Weyergang (1829-1904) in New Plymouth in 1871. The Weyergangs had 2 sons (Carl Herman Alexander and Otto Philip August) and 1 daughter (Ellen Gretchen). Mary was close to her Nelson sisters and corresponded regularly with them. After August Weyergang’s death, Herman, Otto and Mary moved to Havelock North, where the sons became orchardists. Mary moved to Nelson around 1912 and lived there when not staying with her daughter Gretchen in Marton. In 1927, she moved again to New Plymouth to live with her nieces Constance and Ruth Moore. She died in New Plymouth 2 Mar 1932 and is buried with her sister Catherine and brother-in-law Alfred William Moore. See ‘Sisters at a Glance: #5 Mary Rendel Weyergang nee Harris’ (24 Sept 2020).

I bought two splendid Kakas a week ago for a still-life study
The painting, or a similar one, is noted by a reviewer of Emily’s 1889 exhibition in Nelson: ‘Amongst the paintings in oil mention must be made of the kakas.’ (Colonist 24 Dec 1889: 5 [sup]). The same review notes “The Inquest,” with a number of small birds sitting round a dead owl, and near these is “The Fantail’s Nest.” Emily’s studies of native birds survive in a single pencil drawing at Puke Ariki (A66.659). The drawing is undated and is titled ‘New Zealand Wren and Nest.’

Father brought a large tin downstairs & sitting down before the drawing-room fire
The clearest and most dramatic view we have of the Harris family archive and its history. See ‘Flames and archives’ (12 Sept 2019). The bundles of letters Emily saved have disappeared, though sample letters from Catherine Jane (Aunt) Rendel and her sisters Augusta Dobson and Ellen Harris survive in the Cranstone papers and at Puke Ariki (ARC2002-190). No letters from Sarah’s sisters Emma Jane Hill, Ann Mountjoy Paddon or Elizabeth Dyer Cole have survived. Emily’s own archiving activities probably stem from this moment in the late 1880s after the death of her mother. Her own guardianship of the family papers extended to 1925, when her sister Mary Weyergang cleared 34 Nile St for sale and took a selection of documents and art works to Marton and New Plymouth. See ‘Emily Harris after 1900: Moore and Weyergang Collections’ and ‘Emily writes to Harry Moore, 1910’ (5 Dec 2019).

Full Navigation

Section 1: August 1885
Section 2: September-November 1885
Section 3: January-March 1886
Section 4: March-July 1886: You Are Here
Section 5: August-November 1886
Section 6: August-December 1888
Section 7: January 1889
Section 8: February-August 1889
Section 9: September-October 1889
Section 10: November-December 1889
Section 11: January-February 1890
Section 12: August 1890-February 1891