Letter 10

Sarah Harris to father William Hill. New Plymouth, 6 and 18 January 1843

New Plymouth,, New Zealand
Jan 6th 1843

My dear Father,

As we are daily expecting a vessel from England, I will try what news I can collect in readiness for you.

I was sorry to see how exceedingly nervous you were when you wrote, and I trust when, nay long before you receive this, that you will be quite restored to health.

I suffer much from rheumatism in this country, and the English do generally, the days are very hot and the [nights] are very cold, even in summer we have as much clothes on the bed as in winter.

January is a very fine month with us, potatoes, peas, cabbages etc are now in perfection. For nearly four months we have had no vegetables and now we expect never again to be without; we have more than one acre tilled with potatoes, turnips etc. etc. Not half the seed brought from England is productive, too old. I have sown flower seeds twice, and they will not grow with the exception of a few peas and nasturtiums. When there is an opportunity of sending get all the flower seeds you can but they must be new.

There is an Horticultural Society formed and the first meeting or show of the produce will, I think, take place in a month. You can scarcely conceive what pleasure it gives us to walk out and see so many houses, gardens with corn growing, fine roads and boat building, in less than two years. When we landed no houses, no cattle, no poultry, no vegetables but native potatoes and pumpkins, no roads, in fact nothing but pigs and potatoes and men that only wanted horns on their heads to make them look like so many evil ones.

I walked to the town a day or two since to get a little medicine for a native woman who lives near us, she had some flour from us every day and indeed she was very ill. On my return I went to her hut which is something like a dog’s house, they cannot stand upright in it and they lie on the ground. I did not find her and on returning home I met her husband who was running and looking very wild. I asked him where his wife was and he told me she was in the road, that he had cut her head for they had quarrelled. I went on and found from some people that saw him strike, that all was true. I could not follow her for she had gone to her friends as fast as she could. The injury she had received was not so great as I expected but I felt for the poor creature. The next day she returned to her hut and found her husband had gone to the bush to hide for fear of the white men who, he thought, would confine him. I had her head bound up and gave her food, and three days after her husband returned and told me he would never beat her again, and put his arms round her, kissed her to assure me they were friends. (An Englishman could do no more) .

A short time since a Chief’s son molested two young men very much about a piece of ground they did not wish to give up, and the agent put the young native in the lock-up house for the night. The Chief was very indignant and wrote to the Chief of Wackata [Waikato] to come and make war with the English. The Wackata [Waikato] chief answered him by saying no, he had receives £500 from the English for the land, and he wished to be friends with them, but if he molested them again he should come and fight with him.

One day a native came in who spoke English, he had been to England, London, and he told us he had come with his men to New Plymouth for they (the men) wanted to make war with the English. I asked him why they wished to do so, he said to get the flour and clothes. Oh no, I said, you must tell them they would do wrong to attempt to fight the English, for our men are strong and war-like, and that we were tilling the land to get the flour to grow, and bringing all kinds of cattle with a great many other things for food which they would in time get a part of, and that if they would not live in peace with us we should leave them and then they would be no better off than they were before. He acknowledged that they had reason to thank the English and he named Captain Cook who first left them pigs and potatoes in the Island. I told them that the God would not love them, I talked a long time with them, they called me good and promised to bring me a fish the next day, but as the weather was not fine they did not, and I suppose  went back to their own places, about a day’s journey, as I have not seen them since. The young man was a Chief’s son, and I think merely came to satisfy his men of the folly of making war with us.

12th. Today we received letters by the Essex with some papers for which we were greatly pleased. It is right that you should know that all newspapers will come free if sent by post in a proper way, and let me impress on your minds the uncertainty of our getting letters by private hands. Always send by post; we pay only sixpence for one letter; if a box is sent send one letter by post to say so.

I consider the settlement in a very flourishing state. All we want is a few capitalists to take some of the men off the Company’s hands. I believe since the bad accounts received from England that no man here would go back. For ourselves I cannot speak, nothing is certain with us. The officers of the Company except two are dismissed, as there is not sufficient for them to do. I could only wish that the Company had kept Edwin on for another year, as then private work must be wanted. Yet I do not fear. On our little spot of ground in a short time we shall be able to get food, and we feel here with plenty of potatoes we shall not starve.

I wish you could be here but the thing is impossible; at your time of life the voyage would kill you. The old Mr Brown survived but a short time after his arrival here. And now, dear Father, as we have but a very short time to stay in this world of sorrow, let us hasten to make amends for our past lives. I cannot endure the thought of our everlasting banishment. Let us be resolved to be the Lord’s through the remainder of our lives, that we may at last find a place in Heaven through Jesus Christ.

God bless you is the continual prayer of your much tried and affectionate daughter,


Typed transcript of MS letter to father William Hill, Plymouth, England. Written in New Plymouth, NZ, 6 and 18 Jan 1843. Typed for Mary Mountjoy Paddon, Aisholt, Watford Heath, Hereford, England, [1922]. Turnbull. MS-Papers-3761. (#3)


As we are daily expecting a vessel from England
The barque Essex arrived in Taranaki 23 Jan 1843. She was the sixth and last of the Plymouth company ships, leaving Plymouth 3 Sept 1842 with 115 passengers. The second date on Sarah’s letter notes the arrival of the Essex and has been transcribed by an English typist as 18 Jan.

There is an Horticultural Society formed
Wells quotes a letter from a Taranaki settler to Thomas Woollcombe, Esq. (90-91):

‘New Plymouth, September 28th, 1842. […] On the banks of the Henui we have several houses, amongst them my own, and a substantial bridge over the river on the Devon line. A tremendous cutting through a high bank on the east side of the river, which is just completed, takes you along as fine a road as a man can desire, to the banks of the river Waiwakaiho. On each side of the road are the houses of the early emigrants, who have nearly all bought four or five acres of ground each. At present the river is crossed in a ferry-boat, but Messrs. Edwin Brown and Goodall have contracted to build a suspension bridge for £500, and if they can procure the chains in Wellington it will be finished in four months. The road, as far as the river Waiongona, would now be in a forward state, but the landowners have all the laborers in their employ. About six miles along the Waitara road are situated the farms and clearings of the brothers Bayly, Messrs. Flight and Devenish, Pearce, Paynter, Edgcombe, and a few others. At the Waitara Mr. Goodall is clearing extensively. To return to the suburban district. Capt. King and Mr. Cutfield have cleared about 70 acres and built a capital house and farm buildings upon their estate. Norice has built a capital thatched house and has cleared about three acres which I am ploughing for him. To the northward, Mr. Chilman has partly cleared and fenced a 50 acre section belonging to Mr. Blank, who let or sold nearly all his land at the average rate of £20 per acre, and then left the Colony to abuse us at Sydney. Distin has a house and clearing in the same direction, but more easterly. Across the Waiwakaiho Capt. Davy and myself are clearing and putting in crops. Added to all these clearings we have nearly 40 acres of garden ground this year, and have established a Horticultural Society.’

The writer is probably Captain JG Cooke, who corresponded with Woolcombe and had a house on the river at Te Henui and farmland at Te Hua. See undated photograph Te Henui Vicarage and Captain J.C. Cooke’s House.

I walked to the town a day or two since to get a little medicine for a native woman
This woman may have been from the Te Atiawa hapū living at Te Henui: Ngāti Tuparikino, Ngāti Tawhirikura, and Ngāti Te Whiti. All three hapū retain interest in land adjoining the river. See New Walkway Bridges opened 12/9/2013.

A short time since a Chief’s son molested two young men very much about a piece of ground
Wells quotes a report of 25 July 1842 from company agent JT Wicksteed to Colonel Wakefield in Wellington (85-86): ‘Sir:–The settlers in this part of the Company’s territory have recently had some difficulty with the natives, the particulars of which I think it right to state, as they are liable to misconstruction.
You are aware that a considerable number of natives have lately been liberated by the Waikatos, who, some years ago, overran the Taranaki district, and carried off a large portion of its inhabitants as their slaves. The manumitted natives are now returning to this district, and not having been parties to the sale of the land to the Company, now complain that they have neither potatoe grounds nor utu in money or recompense. In point of fact, however, the native reserves are sufficient for a population twenty-fold larger than that likely under any circumstances to belong to Taranaki; and I cannot discover among the malcontents a single person who, according to the custom of the natives, has or had a right to sell the land. On the contrary, many of those who did sell the land have distinctly warned me not to enter into any bargain or treaty with these returned slaves.
Not being encouraged by me to expect any utu, some of these natives had resource to violence, and entered a section on the Mangoraka, belonging to a very peaceable settler named Pearce, burnt down his cottage and destroyed some raupo for thatching. They then proceeded to the next section where the Messrs. Bayly had put up their tent and were commencing their farming operations. They were very furious, brandishing their tomahawks, and attempted to tear down the tent; but the Baylys, very resolute and strong men, resisted, and a sort of scuffle or wrestling match ensued between one of the brothers and a native who acted as champion of the assailants. Twice Bayly threw the Maori but was thrown himself the third time; whereupon the natives crowded round him and one apparently was going to cleave his skull with a tomahawk, when a bystander levelled his fowling piece at the native who then gave way. There were about thirty natives and six white men. A parley ensued, and they agreed to refer the case to me.’

the Chief was very indignant and wrote to the Chief of Wackata [Waikato] to come and make war
Te Wherowhero or Te Kati, who sold land to Governor Hobson early in 1842. Wells quotes a translation of the deed of sale (77):

“Know all men by this paper, that we, chiefs of Waikato, do let go and sell these lands of ours to George Clarke, the protector of natives, for Her Majesty, the Queen of England, her heirs and successors, whether male or female; the land, and all things that are on or under this land, we sell to George Clarke, the protector of natives, for an estate for the Queen, her heirs and successors, whether male or female, forever.
“The beginning of the northern boundary is at Tongaporutu, the western boundary is along the seashore between Tongaporutu and Waitotara, the southern boundary is from Waitotara inland by Piraunui.
“We receive these payments on behalf of the tribes of Waikato for their interest in the said lands, namely, one hundred and fifty pounds in money, two horses, two saddles, two bridles, and one hundred red blankets.
“Witness our names and signs:–
“Written in Auckland, on this thirty-first day of January, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and forty-two.

I could only wish that the Company had kept Edwin on for another year
Captain Liardet resigned as Resident Agent after an accident with a cannon that cost him the sight of one eye and damage to the other. John Tylston Wicksteed (1806-1860) was appointed by Wakefield to take his place and arrived in New Plymouth in May 1842. The Company demanded retrenchments in Taranaki and the salaries of Carrington and his surveying staff were cut. Edwin Harris was dismissed in Nov 1842. In Mar 1843 the Company issued notice that it would discontinue its contracts with Cutfield and Carrington (Wells 95).