Letter 18

Edwin Harris to father and mother James and Mary Harris. New Plymouth, 7 November 1846

New Plymouth New Zealand
November 7 1846

Dear Father and Mother

I have for some time intended writing to you but delayed week after week and month after month in expectation that the Governor Captain Grey would have fulfilled his promise of visiting this settlement and thus have enabled me to give you an account of something decisive being determined on for this place and particularly as such a settlement of the Land question would have improved my own prospects, being now the only surveyor left of the original surveying staff which consisted at one time of six surveyors. But I am sorry to say this hope has been delayed until the present time and we are as far off as ever. Great hopes were entertained here when Captain Grey first arrived in New Zealand that a speedy settlement of the Taranaki question would take place but we appear to be doomed to disappointment. All the other settlements have been visited whilst this poor unfortunate place is left to struggle on as it may.

We have had certainly no disturbances with the natives of any consequence to contend with, and as we are obliged to yield to them we are quiet enough, whilst in the north Honi Hake [Hone Heke] had to be put down and when accomplished the attempt to drive the natives from the Hutt at Port Nicholson ended in one tribe, headed by the notorious Rangihika [Rangihaeata], commencing hostilities and which fully occupied the attention of the Governor, this has been partially put down.

Rangihika [Rangihaeata] has been obliged to fly from Port Nicholson and Rongaratia [Rauparaha], his father in law who pretended friendship to the Europeans, has been seized in his Pah [pā] by the Governor himself having been detected in privately aiding the rebels and will probably be taken good care of for the rest of his life. Perhaps it is necessary to remind you that this Rongaratia [Rauparaha] and Rangihika [Rangihaeata] were the principal actors in the Wairau massacre, but all this you will be more likely to see correctly stated in the newspapers. I merely mention them to show the reason why New Plymouth remains in its present condition and any improvement in my condition only still in the distance.

The little sketch of the Town I have sent on the other half of, this is just to give you some idea of its present appearance. The building in front is a Church just finished and opened the 29th of last month when a very impressive service took place. The choir composed of some of the musical gentlemen of the place, myself amongst the number, performed for the day only the service as performed in the Cathedrals at home. In the evening we were entertained at Mr Wicksteed’s (the company agent) when an elegant supper was laid out for [us]. The Church is built entirely of granite and cost 1100 pounds, a large sum for this place. The houses seen in the Sketch are built chiefly of wood, some few only of sand stone, which is not found to answer very well, being of too soft a nature.

The farmers here who have been fortunate enough to get some land to work have been doing very well lately, the price of wheat (of which they have had some quantity to export) rising very high indeed, double the usual sum.

Port Nicholson and Auckland owing to the number of soldiers quartered there requiring all we have and more, and the unsettled state of these parts preventing the settlers from raising corn enough for their own consumption. There has been also a very successful Whaling season, a great number of Whales having been caught. New Plymouth seems therefore to be progressing in spite of every obstacle. I wish I could say the same of my own prospects, my health is beginning to give way. I am just recovered from an illness occasioned by a cold caught when working in the garden. I fear I shall be obliged to give up gardening myself, which being nearly all we have to depend on is unfortunate. I fully expect when my services are required that my health will be found in too bad state to enable me to profit by it. I have a young gentleman to teach drawing, he has been with me the last three months; he very fortunately came when my corn was consumed. This and the few jobs I get barely make up 5 shillings a week which is nearly all expended in bread so that our condition at least is any thing but satisfactory. I would gladly send you better accounts and should write oftener if I had good news to impart but the truth is we are next door to starving and even the postage of a letter is not always to be raised and must be thought of before we can send home. The newspapers too that I sometimes get in sight of are full of the most tantalising accounts of the prosperity of Home Surveyors and Engineers. There is perhaps a great deal of exaggeration; however if it has the effect of withdrawing those who were so foolish as to come to New Zealand it will be something.

With love to Aunt Maria and kind remembrances to all my friends believe me to remain dear Father and Mother your affectionate son


PS I believe Sarah will have an opportunity of sending some letters by a young gentleman who is about to return to England. This will go by post, the only safe way we think.

Handwritten transcript of MS letter to father and mother James Pasco and Mary Roberts Harris, Plymouth, England. Written in New Plymouth, NZ, 7 Nov 1846. Copying date unknown. Puke Ariki. ARC2019-112. Letter 5.


Great hopes were entertained here when Captain Grey first arrived in New Zealand
Grey did not visit New Plymouth until 26 Feb 1847. He arrived on HMS Inflexible with Colonel Wakefield and Te Atiawa leader Te Puni to negotiate with local leaders for the purchase of land outside the Fitzroy block. The Governor departed 6 Mar for Nelson and Whanganui, leaving Commissioner Donald McLean with instructions to resume surveys and the purchase of available land (Wells 140-142).

Perhaps it is necessary to remind you that this Rongaratia [Rauparaha?] and Rangihika [Rangihaeata]
The English transcriber of the original letter is unsure of the names, which Edwin would have known from newspaper accounts of the Wairau incident and its aftermath in the Hutt Valley in 1846.

The choir composed of some of the musical gentlemen of the place, myself amongst the number
Newland 29 Sept 1846: ‘The Church at New Plymouth was this day opened. Divine Service performed by the Revd. Wm. Bolland, full Cathedral Service. Versicles and Responses. Jacksons Te Deum and an Anthem taken from the 29th. Chapter Book 1 of Chronicles. ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel our Father,’ the 132 psalm verses and the 122 psalm verses, a collection was made and 10 pounds …. shillings. The foundation was laid on the 25th March 1845 by Captain Henry King, R.N., Police Magistrate.’

There has been also a very successful whaling season
Newland (17) notes the capture of eight whales by Richard Brown’s crew between June and Aug 1846.

New Plymouth seems therefore to be progressing in spite of every obstacle
Edwin repeats his observation of the previous year (‘We are progressing in spite of every obstacle’). See #16.