Letter 19

Edwin Harris to sister Augusta Dobson. New Plymouth, 25 November 1846

New Plymouth November 25th 184

My dear Augusta

Your letter as well as one from Emma Hill has reached us; I am rejoiced to find you are all doing so well. The arrangements made for Father and Mother I think excellent and will be the means no doubt of completely establishing their health. You think I am not sufficiently explicit with regards to our circumstances and prospects. I certainly had not at the time you wrote done more than hint at the situation we were in, being unwilling to grieve you or cause more anxiety than the disturbed state of this Island must alone have given, but in my last letter I have been more explicit although my return to England which Emma Hill speaks of never once entered my head, the expense of such an undertaking entirely precluding the idea being entertained. Miss Hill also mentions that enquiries were making as to the precise sum necessary to bring us back with a view I suppose of attempting to raise it. This I do not suppose you will be able to accomplish nor should I like to return to England without a certainty of employment awaiting me particularly as the sum required for the voyage would almost make me independent here. But when I consider the distance we are from England, the long time that must elapse before an answer to a letter could be obtained it certainly appears idle to make propositions or suggestions to you when the probability is that it will be too late to present any arrangement that might have been made supposing you are successful.

This settlement is still quiet. The Governor on whom our hopes depend has not yet visited us. The natives are quiet but how long they will continue so is uncertain, any outbreak amongst them would be particularly unfortunate for this place we should be entirely at their mercy without a chance of escape. You may suppose then that very little opposition is made to their wishes and hitherto we have been enabled to keep on good terms.

I am grieved to hear of the illness of poor Lewis Rendel he was always a favourite of mine. I trust he is by this time quite recovered. Your account of the young men who went in the office with me is interesting, I am pleased they are doing well. You say nothing of that scape grace Shepherd, I suppose no good can come of such a fellow.

Our little family are all enjoying excellent health. Emily is being educated by Mrs Bolland, the Clergyman’s wife, together with another young lady. She has been nearly twelve months and is getting on nicely. Corbyn’s religious education is also attended to by Mr Bolland who is very anxious about the rising generation who are in a sad state in the colonies. Katie has been staying six months with the Nairns who have a good farm, their large family of sons are a treasure to their Father and Mrs Shepheard will remember them. We have some new friends in a Mr and Mrs Standish the kindest people that possibly can be, they are much interested for us. Our situation has been some how discovered and we are not likely again to be in that extremity of distress for want of food that we have been in. You need not be surprised at my health giving way, I am now getting stronger.

It is reported that the New Zealand Company is about to be dissolved; if so this will take away my last hope. The Resident Agent having promised me in the event of their going on that I should be employed. The Government Officers here are all well inclined towards me but there is very little chance of anything of consequence being done by Government should the Settlement fall into their hands.

Tell Aunt Maria the money was received safe; part of it went to pay the duty which is levied on all articles received from England and the rest was most acceptable to Sarah in her confinement.

With love to Father, Mother, Aunt Maria, Ellen, Emma Court, Henry and kind remembrance to Dobson, Stephen Court and all friends and when you write Mrs Rendel tell Kate that a letter from her would be most welcome and believe me to remain your most

Affectionate Brother


PS I have written this letter with uncertain ink and a more vile steel pen that will only mark by fits and starts as the very idea of returning to England suggested to me by Miss Hill’s letter has so upset me that I fear my letter must be very incoherent at least very unconnected. I hope however to be able to send this to Port Nicholson by the same vessel that brought yours so you must excuse all. I find I have forgotten in my long list of remembrances James and Elizabeth Harris, pray give my kind love to them, also to their family, the young James I presume is in London. I am indebted to him for some nice letters. Sarah will write Miss Hill next, she cannot doubt of our affection.


Handwritten transcript of MS letter to sister Augusta Dobson, Plymouth, England. Written in New Plymouth, NZ, 25 Nov 1846. Copying date unknown. Puke Ariki. ARC2019-112. Letter 6.



Your letter as well as one from Emma Hill has reached us
Edwin is responding to Augusta’s letter of 28 Apr 1846 (#17)

Miss Hill also mentions that enquiries were making as to the precise sum necessary to bring us back
Both families were alarmed by the continuing hardship Edwin and Sarah were experiencing, and Emma Hill’s proposal of a salvage operation has stung Edwin’s pride.

Your account of the young men who went in the office with me is interesting
A reference to the six years Edwin spent in the Plymouth office of JM Rendel. This part of Augusta’s letter is missing. George Dobson also worked for JM Rendel: ‘From about 1831 to 1837, Mr. Dobson was chiefly engaged in assisting Mr. J. M. Rendel, Past-President Inst. C.E., and was occupied among other things on the drawings of the floating bridges established at Torpoint and elsewhere in 1832-34.’ (Grace’s Guide).

Emily is being educated by Mrs Bolland the Clergyman’s wife together with another young lady
Emily Harris diary, 13 May 1889: ‘Mrs Stapp, Fanny Webster was one of my companions in childhood, she was four or five years older, but all my companions were either some years older or younger, before we left the Henui I used to go every morning to the Parsonage where Mrs Bolland & Miss Wright use to give me lessons. Fanny Webster also came for a few months.’ Jane Bolland and her sister Caroline Wright supervised Emily’s lessons at the Te Henui vicarage in Courtenay St, probably until the illness and death of William Bolland in May 1847 (Bolland Family Papers).

Corbyn’s religious education is also attended to by Mr Bolland
Bishop Selwyn to William Bolland 2 Dec 1843: ‘I have already explained my views with regard to a general system of education to be in the hands of the Deacon at the different settlements, and therefore shall be glad to hear that the sons of the most respectable settlers are reading with you.’
Edwin Harris’s professional services were called on in Mar 1846 to produce plans for an addition to the Te Henui vicarage, showing the site plan, front elevation, plan and section of chimneys. The plan, in watercolour and ink, is signed ‘Edwin Harris, Surveyor’ and is held at Puke Ariki (A65.917).

Katie has been staying six months with the Nairns
John Nairn (1792-1883) married Eliza Liston (c.1790-1876) in London in 1815. The Nairns had five children: Elizabeth, Francis, Charles, John and Henry. Nairn owned a nursery in Plymouth in the 1830s. He emigrated on the William Bryan to Taranaki in 1840, hoping to be appointed botanist to the Plymouth Company and taking four of his children to NZ. According to family tradition, John and Eliza were reunited with their son Charles who had arrived in NZ on the Tory in 1839 and was now working for Frederick Carrington’s survey party in Taranaki. The Nairns bought land at Te Henui and had a farm on the east bank of the Waiwhakaiho River (Taranaki Biography Files). The Nairns’ children were grown up by 1846 and Eliza appears to be taking Katie Harris off her mother’s hands for an extended stay. See also #15 and #20.

We have some new friends in a Mr and Mrs Standish
Thomas and Mary Standish and their three sons Frank, Arthur and George arrived in New Plymouth from Pontefract, Yorkshire, in 1843. Thomas Standish (1805-1863) was a solicitor and magistrate’s clerk in the 1840s. He was appointed Crown Prosecutor for Taranaki (NZ Gazette 27 Dec 1860). The Harrises and the Standishes were close friends for many years.

It is reported that the New Zealand Company is about to be dissolved
Wells (17): ‘Owing to the opposition of many of the Church of England missionaries in New Zealand to the unjust and arbitrary measures of Governors Hobson and Fitzroy, and owing also to the Wairau massacre, the Company were compelled to suspend operations in 1844. In consequence of this the Imperial Parliament passed two Acts, one in 1846 granting to the Company a loan of £100,000, and another in 1847 giving them an additional loan of £136,000, with this proviso, that if they could not repay the money in 1850 they were to discharge the debt by surrendering their charter and property to the Crown. In 1850 the charter was relinquished, and a New Zealand Settlement Bill passed the Imperial Parliament, by which Act the debt of £236,000 was cancelled, and the directors were to have five shillings an acre for their property in the island; in other words £268,370.’