Writing Lines 7

Letter to mother Sarah Harris in Nelson, 4 February 1861

New Plymouth
Feb 4th 1861
My dear Mamma

I was quite delighted to receive such a budget of letters. I immediately made inquiries about Dr Nield but found to my great disappointment that he had not arrived & I could learn nothing about the lithographs. I suppose he means to come in the next steamer. I hope you have not been similarly disappointed.

I got very anxious to hear how the girls were as diphtheria has been fatal in this place. Thomson’s little girl died from it last week. Several children have died lately. Mrs Elliot has lost her youngest child. Mrs Hood’s little girl the eldest was drowned in the river. Mr Single, clerk of the works, has lost his only child, a girl about ten years old, but the most melancholy is poor Mrs Ritchie’s death; she was buried today, she also died of fever. She had been ill a long time; some weeks ago they hoped that she would recover. Prayers were offered in church last Sunday for several persons who were dangerously ill but their names were not familiar to me. I delivered your letters to Mrs Bayley & to Mrs Gaul. Poor Maggie’s baby is a pretty little thing, she is very fat and her hair is beginning to curl all over her head.

Mrs Gaul seemed quite put out when I called. There had been two or three alarms and she has been obliged to come inside the trenches which seemed to have quite upset her. Catharine and Lizzy were both very unwell from nervousness and fright. But for fear you should be uneasy I assure you there is not a bit more danger now than there has been often before. We have not been the least alarmed but then we have had no real occasion to be, I never get the chance of being frightened. But I suppose I take it all too coolly.

I am afraid your dream of seeing me in Nelson will not be soon realized. I too have been tantalized with a vision, the same save that mine was a daylight dream. Mrs Richardson made up her mind to have a month’s change. She thought of going to Nelson but Mrs Des Voeux will not move an inch unless she goes for good. However Mrs W King determined to accompany her mother and they at last thought of going to Auckland, but they have been obliged to give up the idea for the General will not grant them permission to return.

I should like to hear of the safe arrival of the box I sent before I venture to send anything again. In the box is a letter and some verses of mine which I should like to have returned as I have not even time to copy or even to write out correctly.

There are very few officers in town now and most of them are new officers from India so I do not know them and I do not get so many bows now when I walk down the street. Before they went to the Waitara I knew seventeen. The worst is that I am obliged to be more particular with my dress; my boots & gloves cost more than I could wish.

In going down to the beach the other day to my surprise Mr Edward McKellar came and shook hands with me. He had just returned from Nelson. He said he had done himself the pleasure of calling on you, that you seemed very comfortable, that papa was looking so well etc etc, at which I was very much pleased.

The first fortnight after Mr Richardson’s death I did nothing but go from one shop to another buying mourning, and from one dressmaker to another. I was sent backwards and forwards like a shuttlecock between a pair of battledores. I had no idea it was so difficult to get anything done.

I have had my share to do too. It was unfortunate for me that I was so handy with my needle for I was very much imposed upon. Freddy’s dress to make, three hats to trim, one bonnet to trim, Mrs Des Voeux’s mantle to make, but I have not done it well. But she should have given it to someone who understood crape.

However to make up for that I have made her such an elegant crape bonnet that she has not been able to find a single defect in it. She is very much pleased and says that other people admire the bonnet very much.

She gave me a shape and some crape to make myself a new bonnet which I have done. I have had several things given me so I have been well requited for my trouble. Mrs Richardson is not at all well. I hope that she will be able to go away for I am sure she needs change. I do not think I have mentioned how very ill Mr Adams has been, their oldest child died about three weeks ago. It must be a happy release both for the mother & child, the little boy too has been dangerously ill.

I took tea with Mrs Newland last Sunday, their house is very comfortable. Mr Diamond and Mr Brewer live with them. Mr Brewer is a young gentleman from Auckland sent down to assist Mr D. McKellar. Mr Ronalds boards there but does not sleep there so Mrs Newland has plenty to do. John is at the Block House at Mahoetahi, he has a situation in the commissariat as issuer or dispenser of stores.

I think I have now given you all the news. I hope papa will sell his pictures and get some pupils, I wish Augusta and Ellen would make me some crochet edging. Give my love to the girls, tell Kate & Frances that one letter was as much as I could write. I wrote to Aunt Emma last mail & intend writing this

Your Affec daughter

MS copy of letter to mother Sarah Harris, Nelson. Written in New Plymouth, 4 Feb 1861. Copying date unknown. Puke Ariki. ARC2002-190. Fascicle 1, pp. [19]-[22].

I immediately made inquiries about Dr Nield
Dr JC Nield left New Plymouth with his family for Nelson in August 1860. (Colonist 7 Aug 1860: 2) Neild appears to be bringing news of Edwin Harris’s recently published lithograph ‘New Plymouth from Marsland Hill, New Zealand’ which depicts the arrival of troops from the 40th Regiment in Taranaki 3 August 1860. The lithograph was published in Melbourne and copies were in Nelson by March 1861.

The Argus (Melbourne) 22 Dec 1860: 5. We have received a well-executed lithograph  of New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand. The point of view is Marsland Hill. We believe there can be no question of its accuracy, and in this its value-which, historically speaking, is considerable- consists, for it cannot be said there is anything striking or picturesque in the site or the town of New Plymouth. Soldiers and their tents dispersed over the scene give an additional interest to the print, affixed to which is a key, explaining the chief features and buildings of the locality. The lithograph was drawn by Mr. Edwin Harris, and published by Messrs. Fergusson and Mitchell, Collins-street.

The Colonist 1 Mar 1861: 1. Advertisement. JUST PUBLISHED A VIEW of the TOWN OF TARANAKI from Marsland Hill, showing the several forts, redoubts, barracks, and camps, the trenches, with the military and Volunteers, &c, &c, on stone by Furgusson and Mitchell, Melbourne, from the Drawing taken on the spot by Edwin Harris, artist, Nelson. Price 10s.

Thomson’s little girl died from it last week
Taranaki Herald 23 Feb 1861: 2. Died. On the 18th instant, Alexander, son of Mr R. Thompson, aged 2 years and 6 months.

Robert Thompson, farm servant, worked for WC King at Woodleigh, The Kings’ farm in the present-day suburb of Frankley Park. (‘List of persons’) The Thompsons may have lost more than one child in the diphtheria outbreak that occurred in New Plymouth during the summer of 1860-61.

Mrs Elliot has lost her youngest child
Taranaki Herald 9 Feb 1861: 2. Deaths. On the 2nd instant, Jane, youngest daughter of Mr P. Elliot, aged 14 months.

Peter Elliot was a farmer and near neighbour of the Harrises on Frankley Rd. His farm was named Hurdon and in 1853 he gave the Primitive Methodist church land on which to build a chapel. (Taranaki Herald 17 Aug 1853: 2) Sarah Harris established a school at the junction of Frankley and Elliott Roads for the education of her children and some of their neighbours. Emily and her sister Kate became teachers at the school in the 1850s. When their mother opened a second school in 1859 at the Hurdon Primitive Methodist Chapel near the junction of Elliott and Cowling Roads, Kate stayed at Frankley Road and Emily assisted Sarah at Hurdon. Surviving records indicate that both schools, one for girls and the other for boys and girls, were in operation until the outbreak of war in 1860. See HAH Insull (12 and 16, note 5) and HW Insull research notes.

Mrs Hood’s little girl the eldest was drowned in the river
William Hood was a New Plymouth storekeeper in February 1860. (‘List of persons’)

Mr Single clerk of the works has lost his only child
Taranaki Herald 2 Feb 1861: 2. Died. On the 30th ult., Christabella Ann, aged 9 years, only daughter of Mr George Single, Clerk of Works, Royal Engineers.

the most melancholy is poor Mrs Ritchie’s death
Taranaki Herald 9 Feb 1861: 2. Deaths. On the 2nd instant, Elizabeth, wife of James Ritchie, Esq., Solicitor, Brougham street.

I delivered your letters to Mrs Bayley & to Mrs Gaul
Perhaps the wives of William Bayley, a farmer at Blagdon, and William Gaul, a New Plymouth labourer. (‘List of persons’)

Poor Maggie’s baby is a pretty little thing
Harriet Halse 4 Sept 1860: ‘Mrs. Wm Bayly junior (formerly a Miss Hay) died today of slow fever proceeding from neglected influenza.’

Taranaki Herald 8 Sept 1860: 2. Deaths. On the 4th instant, Margaret, wife of Mr W. Bayly, junior.

most of them are new officers from India
Taranaki Herald 26 Jan 1861: 2. Continuation of Journal of Events. The ship Star Queen from Bombay via Auckland anchored at 4 p.m. with 314 rank and file and 16 sergeants of the 57th Regiment, under Major Butler, Capt. Brown, Lieuts. Baynton, Hasted, Thompson, Cox, and Waller, Ensigns Clarke, Murray, and Clayton, Asst. -Surgeon Davis.

Mr Edward McKellar came and shook hands with me
Possibly a son of Dr Dugald Mckellar and Annette Clark. Annette McKellar was widowed in Madeira and she and her 10 children emigrated to NZ, arriving by the St Michael in New Plymouth in 1852. The family settled at Omata and named their property Fernlea. Annette McKellar’s second daughter Georgina Burne (1832-1898) married Charles Hetley at Omata in 1856 and was widowed with an infant son in 1857. When hostilities broke out in Taranaki in March 1860 Annette McKellar and her daughters moved to New Plymouth. Their Omata home was burnt, crops destroyed and livestock carried off. During her time in Taranaki Georgina Hetley made pencil sketches of Fernlea and Brookwood, and of New Plymouth during the hostilities. She left New Plymouth in 1863 and by 1879 was living in Auckland, where she established a reputation for painting native flora. See Georgina Burne Hetley. (Te Ara)

Taranaki Herald 13 April 1861: 2. Deaths. On the 12th inst., of fever, Gertrude Forbes, the youngest daughter of the late D. McKellar, formerly of Battersea, Surrey, aged 13 years and 9 months.

Freddy’s dress to make
Frederick Henry Arthur, son of Charles and Catherine Des Voeux, born 1 Mar 1857 and still in infant dress.

how very ill Mr Adams has been
Taranaki Herald 16 Feb 1861: 2. Deaths. On the 13th inst., Eliza, wife of E. A. Adams, Esq.

Mr Brewer is a young gentleman from Auckland sent down to assist Mr D. McKellar
Taranaki Daily News 28 Aug 1916: 4. Personal. The late Mr. Dugald McKellar, who died at Wellington on Friday, was a son of Dr. Dugald McKellar, of London, and came out to New Plymouth by the barque St. Michael, arriving here on December 2, 1852, with his brothers, Messrs Henry, Alfred, and James. The St. Michael called at Madeira, where Mrs. McKellar, senr., and the younger members of the family, who had resided on the island for some years, joined the party. Upon their arrival here the McKellar family settled at Omata. In 1858 Mr. Dugald McKellar joined the Customs Department at New Plymouth, and on the outbreak of the Maori war in March, 1860, joined the forces and rendered useful service. About 1862 he was transferred to Auckland. Thence he went to Tauranga, and subsequently to other ports, eventually being appointed collector at Wellington, and finally secretary for customs, from which position, he retired several years ago. Latterly he lived at Kelbourne, Wellington.

John is at the Block House at Mahoetahi
John Newland, junior. A blockhouse was built at Mahoetahi, near Waitara, after the battle there 6 Nov 1860 in which British troops and militia surprised a Ngāti Haua encampment, killing 50 Māori and wounding around the same number.

I hope papa will sell his pictures and get some pupils
Edwin Harris advertised for pupils in Nelson papers 1860 and 1864 before accepting a position as drawing master at the Bishop’s School (later Nelson Boys’ College) which he held until 1889. The advertisements offered a range of lessons:

Nelson Examiner 22 Dec 1860: 2. Advertisements. Mr. Edwin Harris, Engineering Surveyor and Draughtsman (pupil of, and many years assistant to, the late celebrated James M. Rendel, Esq., Civil Engineer, President of the Society of Engineers, F.R.S., &c., &c.), will be happy, during his stay in Nelson, to give LESSONS in Land Surveying, Levelling, and Architectural, Mechanical, Landscape, and other DRAWING.

Address, Mr. A. Moore’s Waimea-road, near the College, or the Examiner Office. December, 1860.