Letter 30

Sarah Harris to sister Emma Jane Hill. New Plymouth, [1852 or later]

My dear Emma,

We are now at our Cottage & getting a little more comfortable. Frances Emma was christened by Bishop Selwyn with another little girl the first born in the Province of Taranaki of the Pioneer settlers March 1842.

We remained at the Henui from March 1842 to 1847. Mr. Harris’s engagement with the New Plymouth Company June 1841 surveys finished Mr H dismissed with part of the staff November 1842. This was a great disappointment. Another little girl was born August 26 1845 christened Mary Rendel Harris.

August 1st 1847 Augusta Harris was born. Mr H bought some land about three miles from town & while the cottage we were living in was being removed we hired one about half way which was a great convenience to us while the Bush was cut down & a clearing made for a house. Before it was half finished we removed there and very great was the excitement among the children. I confess I felt something of the same feeling. In front of the house there was a large fire with a pole & hooks for hanging crocks & a camp oven & our delight was to throw sticks on. There were many fires made for the purpose of clearing. Every day there was great excitement, natives cutting down large trees, great fears that they would fall & kill someone. Clearing the ground before & around the house was constant work for many months. The cottage was just a shell at first. Day after day it improved & we got on famously, such was the excitement living in the Bush. One acre of land was enclosed round the cottage for a garden, a verandah round the house, a small shrubbery on one side, in front a flower garden. The Verandah posts were made of fern trees & the creepers grew rapidly around them which gave a pretty appearance to the cottage. On one side a shrubbery, on the other a sloping garden, at the back the kitchen garden, Barn etc etc. At the back of our clearing many miles of bush, behind our magnificent mountain, Mount Egmont. When we were settled in the cottage Edwin & Corbyn had to be on the land very busy. A cart & oxen had to be bought, also a cow, pigs, fowls etc & also a few sheep. This was a small beginning but necessary for food & vegetables came on to help the living. Ellen my seventh daughter was born.

It was five years before any return was made on the outlay when fire wood was sent to the town to be sold & a man was kept for the purpose. It was hard work for Edwin & Corbyn, indeed all had plenty to do. Visitors from Town came to see us, our health was good & I feel sure we were more happy than we had been before in N.Z.

Harris Family History. Compiled by various hands 1871-1934. Briant Papers. Notebook, pp. [127]-[130].


We are now at our Cottage & getting a little more comfortable
Sarah is writing a retrospective account of the family’s New Zealand experience for Emma Hill. She copied the letter into her family history at an unspecified date, noting the births of her four youngest daughters. The child baptised with Frances Harris during Selwyn’s visit in Oct 1842 may have been Clara Isoline Merchant, born 4 Mar 1842 in New Plymouth. She was the eldest surviving daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Merchant.

August 1st 1847 Augusta Harris was born
See note for #25. Augusta Harris was born 1 Aug 1848.

Before it was half finished we removed there
The Harrises moved their Te Henui house, bought from Dr Henry Weekes in 1842, and had it rebuilt on their rural section in 1848. The portable timber house was thus erected in Devonport, then Te Henui and finally in Frankley Rd.

One acre of land was enclosed round the cottage for a garden
Sarah’s description matches an undated watercolour and pencil drawing Edwin made of the house. See ‘Untitled (Residence of Edwin Harris, Frankley Road, New Plymouth)’ at Puke Ariki (A65.916). The painting was in the possession of Arthur and Jane Maria Atkinson for many years before their daughter Ruth donated it to the Taranaki Museum in 1921. A note on the Puke Ariki record reads: ‘Arden Family had farm subsequently.’ See note for #23.

Ellen my seventh daughter was born
See note for #28.