Writing Lines 6

Letter to mother Sarah Harris in Nelson, 14 January 1861

Jan 14th 1861
My dear Mamma.

I received your letters yesterday morning. I cannot think why I had not received the others sooner, perhaps owing to Mr Smith’s indisposition or from their not being properly stamped. Since writing my last letter poor Mr Richardson has breathed his last. After long and great suffering he died as quietly as a child going to sleep. I have been and am still exceedingly busy about the mourning.

Mr Richardson was buried on Friday, Mr Des Voeux came up from the Waitara for a few days, he returned yesterday.

Mr Chilman told me this afternoon that the Jane will sail for Nelson tomorrow and with his kind assistance I think I shall be able to send the things for papa. You must excuse this hurried scrawl, I have hardly a moment to spare & my head aches intensely. I am anxious to hear how the girls are. Give my best love to all, yours aff. Emily.

MS copy of letter to mother Sarah Harris, Nelson. Written in New Plymouth, 14 Jan 1861. Copying date unknown. Puke Ariki. ARC2002-190. Fascicle 1, p. [18].


perhaps owing to Mr Smith’s indisposition
John Stephenson Smith (1811-1874), New Plymouth postmaster from 1859 to 1864. JS Smith married Hannah Hursthouse (1813-1891) at Lowestoff, Suffolk, and emigrated to Taranaki with his family on the ship Pekin in 1849. The Smiths’ eldest son Stephenson Percy Smith (1840-1922), (known as Percy) became an eminent surveyor, ethnologist and writer. His brother Frank (1846-1922) was also a surveyor and both men appear in Emily Harris’s 1885-86 and 1888-91 diaries. Their sister Dora Isabel (Bel) (1859-1925) was a friend of the Harris sisters. The Stephenson Smiths lived at Okoare, in present-day Westown. (Taranaki Biography Files)

Since writing my last letter poor Mr Richardson has breathed his last
Taranaki Herald 12 Jan 1861: 2. Died, On the 8th instant, Thomas Watkin Richardson, Esq., J.P., aged 60 years.

Mary Ann Richardson’s nursing of her husband during his final illness is transferred in Stoney’s fictional account to daughter Fanny: ‘Mr. Wellman bears up but badly against these reverses, and great fears are entertained for his life. The shock has been too great for his delicate constitution, and all that he had heretofore gone through now tells doubly on him; thus poor dear Fanny has even a much harder task to perform.’ (Stoney 80)

Charles Des Voeux’s attendance at his father-in-law’s funeral is transferred to Herbert St Pierre, love interest of Fanny Wellman: ‘[F]or near three months our hero remained at the front, continually and actively employed, and without any emolument. Once only during that time did he leave for three days to visit New Plymouth; this was on the melancholy event of the death of Mr. Wellman, which took place about the middle of January.’ (Stoney 103)

Mr Chilman told me this afternoon that the Jane will sail for Nelson tomorrow
Richard Chilman (1816-1877) and his wife Agnes were passengers with Edwin and Sarah Harris on the voyage of the William Bryan to Taranaki in 1841. Chilman was clerk under the successive agents of the Plymouth and New Zealand Companies and was appointed Provincial Treasurer in 1853. In 1861 he was clerk to the New Plymouth Council. (Taranaki Biography Files)

The schooner Jane arrived in New Plymouth 14 Jan 1861 with coal supplies from Nelson. She sailed for Nelson 20 Jan. (Taranaki Herald 19 Jan 1861: 2; 26 Jan 1861: 2)