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EXPERIENCE OF THIRTY YEARS
PROVINCIAL DISTRICT OF WELLINGTON.
IN the year 1853, I was disgusted with the branch of Queen Victoria's service in which I had been engaged for nineteen years, on account of a breach of promise. I at once gave twenty-eight days' notice and left it. I made up my mind to emigrate. Where to, was the next question. Australia was open to me with a free passage, which I was entitled to; but I considered the climate unfavorable for my family. A pamphlet by Mr. Hursthouse, came into my hand, which I read and found as an inducement that day labor was then in New Zealand 3s 6d per day, but that land was cheap. My object was to get a few acres of land, and to pass quietly through my allotted time on earth. So taking all things into consideration, I made up my mind for New Zealand, engaged our passage in the good ship Northfleet, and after a passage of seventy-nine days, arrived in Wellington harbour on the 20th of December, 1853. How "quietly" I have passed through, will be seen as I proceed. We arrived with a firm determination to fight our way through life, and to accept the first employment that offered. As soon as the anchor was down, a gentleman came on board, who offered me employment at twenty-five shillings per week with horns of ale per day; but the ale was of no value to me. When I heard that it was in a brewery, I had to decline the offer on principle. The next day I went on shore to find a person whose relative I knew at home, and who was living at what is now called Johnsonville. As I walked over hills and through gulleys I often said to myself, this is not my home. I found the person, and after looking around we had some conversation, when it was agreed that we should spend Christmas Day together. Before noon I was again in Wellington, looking in rain for a habitation. It did not take me long to walk all over Wellington, going at the rate of four or five miles an hour. At night I returned to the ship. Next morning I went on shore again to renew my search, when a person told rae there was a place empty in Manners street,
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which I soon found, and the person who shewed it said it was not fit to live in; the parlor was 6 x 9; kitchen, ditto. Up a colonial ladder was the bedroom 18 x 6 and 4ft. high in middle. I thought it good enough, as people had lived there before me, and then found the landlord, who was ashamed to let it, but on pressing, he let me have it at five shillings per week. Off I went in triumph to the ship in a hired boat at thirty shillings to bring all my belongings on shore, and about noon on the 22nd December we land on the Old Customhouse Wharf, about fifteen chains from my habitation, and thus bid adieu to the salt water. To remove our goods a carter charged me ten shillings for less than an hour's work. Whilst thus engaged, an old Maori woman came along with a load of wood on her back, as much as she could stagger under, the very thing we wanted. When I asked her how much, she said one shilling, holding up one finger. After making our shake-down up aloft, and after a hard day's work, we required a cup of tea, and, for a treat, to have some bread. I went to the baker, close at hand, to get a couple of loaves and paid eightpence per loaf; this made me look round, but I had inquired what the rate of wages were, and had been told six shillings per day, which was nearly double what I had expected. During the passage I had made due preparation, for I paid good money, therefore I would have all my allowances. The surplus I took care to take on shore with me, so we had tea, sugar, oatmeal, barley, rice, &c., to last for some months, with £7 cash. Rest was sweet after a hard day's work, and through the shingles we could see the stars shining. The two public houses close by were very noisy that night, but this was nothing to the fright we got about midnight by an earth quake, my wife insisting that some drunken men were trying to push the house over. After an early breakfast the next morning I went out, but found no one about, 8 o'clock being the hour for rising, and no shops being open till 9. As it was so near Christmas I thought it not worth while to look for work that day, so I had a good look at Wellington; and how did I find it? Simply thus: On Te Aro end I found only three, what in any way may be called streets, viz: Manners, Dixon and Willis streets, unless I take in Maori Row. At Thorndon, there were Molesworth, Mulgrave, and Sydney streets. Lambton Quay was then in most parts within 1 1/2 chains of high water mark, and a few weeks later I saw a dray loaded with firewood drawn by four bullocks bogged up to the axle in front of Levy's old shop. I found two English, an Indepennent, a Wesleyan, a Presbyterian, and a Catholic Church; this I thought was a good sign; but on the other hand I found fifteen public houses, with a small brewery, which to me was a bad sign, taking into consideration the population and trade. "Noah's Ark" (which is now standing on terra firma) was then surrounded with salt water.
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The day before Christmas we made our way to Johnsonville according to promise, but that part of the country did not take with me, although my friend was well satisfied with his lot. Boxing Day we came home, and the next day I was going to look for work, but what sort should it be? I was a Jack-of-all-trades, and could undertake shoemaking, tailoring, sailmaking, painting, or go as a seaman; but my real object was to get a few acres of land. Well, I first got a situation as storeman at a place near where the Empire Hotel now stands, the pay being 6s. per day, we now got more comfortable lodging, and both set to work to earn money to purchase land, I at regular wages and overtime, my wife cooking, nursing, etc., and in a few months I found myself a member of the Small Farm Association, and selected my portion at Greytown in about eight months. I left the store determined to see what lay behind those high high hills, where I had made my selection.
I found one member who had been up before, and he told me he had built a whare or habitation, where I might lodge with him. He was going up next day so we agreed to go together. I hastily made up a swag of biscuit, bacon, tea sugar, etc., and early next morning I called on my friend, and found him ready. At this time the road was made as far as Barton's gate, Upper Hutt, but had been formed as far as the fern ground to Petre's mill some good time before and therefore a bog. Starting early in the morning we made good progress, calling of course at the Travellers' Rest, Taita, where Mr. Buck gave us a cheering word; at Barton's gate we said we had come to the end of the then known world, and plodded on to the Shepherds' Arms, where the Criterion Hotel now stands. Mr. Brown we found true to his signboard clad in shepherd's garb, and very civil. Reaching what is now Cruickshank's mill we had to mount on the flat above. From this to the Mungaroa river, a line of road had certainly been laid off but the travelling baffles description. There had been a bridge over the Mungaroa river, but it was washed away. This was the first bridge built, between Lower Hutt and the Wairarapa. Mounting the north bank we had another mile of swamp before reaching Collins's Hotel; here we thought we had earned our dinner, and had it. After refreshment and a little more swamp we reached the foot of the Mungaroa hills. Here we were all right with a good side cutting all the way up, but the descent was not so favourable, as there was many flats with, I may say, no road. Mounting the Pakuratahi flat we had another mile of swamp before us. That done, we reached the Golden Fleece where Mrs. Hodder welcomed us. We just took refreshment and started again. Crossing the Pakuratahi river we had another mile or more of swamp. Coming to the foot of the Rimutaka, we were all right again. Here we made good tracks, until within about
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two miles of the Summit, where dusk overtook us. There used to be a deserted blacksmith's shop and roadmen's whares, which were burnt in later years; here we took up lodging. My friend was acquainted with this spot, and soon had a fire and billy under way. After supper we made our shake down and slept soundly, notwithstanding the rats, after a tramp of thirty-five or thirty-six miles. At dawn of day, had breakfast, after which we soon reached the saddle, where from a certain spot I got a good view of the plain beyond. We now had a good road to the foot of the hill, except twenty-eight chains, of which more anon. I should have mentioned that drays came down half-a-mile north of the saddle. From the foot we had no road. Here my friend thought my swag was to light, so he loaded me with wedges, which he had "planted" there. On one place the track was cut on the side of the blue rock, about two feet wide; if you made a slip you would go down some one hundred and fifty feet. After much toil we reached the "mountain stream," as it was called, and crossing we soon reached Burling's, where Featherston now is.
Shaping our course for Tauherenikau river, we got into a quagmire over our knees; then into a watery swamp, then on to large boulders. Crossing the Tauheranikau river we came to the Ferry house, where we dined on such as came to hand. Starting for Greytown, a splended large plain lay before us, covered with fern and wild Irishmen (as they are called) up to the waist--and not a stone to be seen. After plodding on for about five miles we came to Greytown. What was it like? Well, there was one solitary whare at the edge of the bush, with my friends on the acre joining, on which was only a few slabs stuck on the slant and with a fire in the centre. This was our lodging place. In going through the bush to what then was called the Maori skull clearing, I found five whares, this was Greytown. The people here at that time had to take contracts to fall and clear what is now called Main street. After looking at my town acre, and taking a general survey I was well satisfied. On the following morning between seven and eight o'clock I made tracks for home, with a full determination to be back as soon as possible, and got home to Wellington at one o'clock next morning, a distance we then called 54 miles. Next day I began to pack up everything that I myself should want intending to leave the family in Wellington until I had a habitation for them. But when I had everything ready waiting for the dray to come in and take my goods as far as it could go, a large slip occurred at the second gorge, Hutt, which stopped all traffic. Labor not to be had, the engineer pressed some of us intending settlers to cut a two foot road in the solid. We formed a party of five, while thus engaged, another slip of about 3000 yards came down upon us; the whole of this kept us employed for seven weeks. This done the Government wished us to take the contract for 28
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chains of road on the north side of the Rimutaka, before alluded to, some would have nothing to do with it, but one being a member of the Association, thought it would be to our own advantage, and asked me to join him in taking the contract, I did so. But during the interval I had another trip to Greytown. I was river bound at Greytown for three days. Our provisions ran short and we could buy nothing, so I was then thankful to get a few cold potatoes. On the fourth morning I started off for Tauherenikau to get victuals. After refreshment I managed to cross the river, and was off for home, but coming to the Mungaroa which I crossed breast high, (which is the worst of all the rivers on account of the large boulder bottom), I nearly lost my life. I got home safe that night, well pleased with the Wairarapa, I now took a selection at Masterton for my brother-in-law at home, and sent for him; in due time I received an answer that it was impossible for him to come. I sold the 40 acres to one McKenzie of Masterton, (whom it joined) in the presence of his brother for £28. Under persuasion and ignorance I put the number of the town acre at the foot of the agreement, though I protested I could not and would not sell it, I conveyed to him by power the 40 acres, but not the town acre. I mention this because in after years this acre cost me all that I was worth. But to return, we now had to prepare for our Rimutaka contract; my partner was a man of some means, and use to such work; therefore he took upon himself to provide everything needful; this was well for me for I should not have been able to do so. He was a man about 63 years of age, but sadly (as he expressed himself) in want of a wife. So I will just relate a first colonial courtship. One day I was making a pair of boots, I had promised before starting, he sitting in front of me lamenting that he could find no partner to share his joys and sorrows. I happened to say without thought, I think Mrs ----- would suit you, but instantly tried to recall my words, as I knew him to be an abstainer, and she to be a tippler. But in vain; I told him the truth, but nothing would satisfy him, but to know who Mrs ----- was, and to have an interview. Mrs ----- had been a fellow passenger, and I had seen enough of her on board; all reasoning was in vain, and at last I had to make arrangements for an interview, which took place at my house, when of course it was my duty to introduce them to each other. The first word my partner said after shaking hands was "Mrs ----- I want a wile." The pert reply was "Mr ------ I want a husband." This was too much for me and I had to run. When I returned five minutes later, I found it was all settled, and shortly after they went off together arm and arm, and in a few days later were married. On that day he put 400 sovereigns into her lap as a present; the lady was a very little younger than her husband. I know not whether there is anything in what novelist's call "eyes meeting," but on this occasion the lady wore specs. We
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had now all things ready for Hodder's dray, and a rare dray load we had, half-ton flour, 5 cwt. cheese, sides of bacon and hams, &c. My wife and daughter took a situation, the boy going with me. We left Wellington the week before Christmas, and got safely to Pakuratahi in two days, where we left Mrs ----- and our goods. We went on with some tools to prepare a place for pitching tents; in a few days we had a piece of road made for the purpose. My partner was well supplied with material, being used to tent life. We walked to and from our work morning and evening, a distance of about seven miles. After Christmas we started with two pack beasts well laden with materials, and we quickly erected a tent 16 x 10, lined with blankets, (for he intended to take care of his wife), with a large stone chimney, as regards myself and boy we soon split a few birch slabs, watling them with bushes and having a tarpaulin over for a roof. In two days all was complete. The next move was that of all our belongings for which we required the dray, which at that time could crawl half-a-mile over the saddle. In yoking up I assisted, there was a bull in the team which rushed, knocked me down and pushed at me; but it happened that he got me between his horns and before he could make a second push, got a blow from the driver with a heavy stick, which made him look round and I escaped, ever mindful of bulls afterwards.
After reaching as far as the dray could go, we had to pack with the four beasts the rest of the way (about three miles) which we accomplished late at night, and from thence back in the coach. Next, as the house is not furnished with a female, we had to pack Mrs. ----- on a horse, no easy matter, her husband holding her, and I leading the horse, and so we got to what we thought would be our home for six months.
We now had plain sailing, all that we had to do was work, as help seemed to be out of the question. We made good progress during January and beginging of February, one day being neither rain nor fine. A traveller looking for work came along, we engaged him at six shillings per day and found, but after dinner he took up his swag, walked off quitely unpreceived the way he had come. In the afternoon two females passed on their way to Wellington. In the evening, just after retiring to rest, I suddenly felt as if standing upright, the next moment on my head, and such a commotion all round that I thought we were all going to the regions below, some 300 feet; when I called to my partner, he said; lay still John, dont get up." Eh! and I would lay still if I could. The shocks continued all night. When daylight came we found everything right, excepting our chimney. This was the cause of the great noise I heard at the first shock. The rocking and tossing continued for several days, so that we could do nothing. We tried to rebuild our chimney, but as often as we did it came down again for the first week. After a while things smoothed
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down a little, but the continued vibration lasted for three weeks more. This was the great earthquake of 1855. The following day a gentleman passed us who had been in Wellington at the first shock, and only had time to tell us of the great damage done, and of one person killed that he knew of. Now it may be supposed I was anxious to hear from Wellington, knowing that I had left the rest of the family in a brick house, but no one came our way. Shortly after we got our chimney to stand we were assailed by another enemy, a gale of wind, with torrents of rain which lasted for eight days. We had enough to do to lash tent, fly and blanket altogether to make a solid mass of it. On the third morning there being no prospect of a change, my partner advised me to try a trip to Wellington as he was secure, which I gladly accepted. I therefore took my boy then about 10 years old. Some times I would take him on my back as ballast against the storm, and sometimes he would walk to keep the blood in circulation. In the evening we reached the Travellers' Rest like two half-drowned rats, a distance of move than 25 miles, where host Buck soon made us comfortable, and in the morning we reached Wellington, where we found all well. As soon as the weather cleared up, we again started for our mountain residence. Here we labored for some months single handed. On one occasion when I was going to Wellington, we agreed to get help, if possible, if it were only natives. At the Taita, host Buck recommended to me about a dozen natives who had been on the Mungaroa hills at work, so they agreed to come up to us at 6s per day; in my absence my partner engaged an elderly man, a good workman at 6s per day and found, who stuck to us to the end. In a few days our native gang arrvied with two carts loaded with provisions, women and children, as far as they could come, then tramped the rest of the way. There was an old roadman's whare close at hand, which they soon repaired, and we had a strong party, but alas they were of little use save for shovelling, and because there was no waipero there in two weeks some of them went home, and in a little over a month they were all gone. I was now within easy walking distance of Greytown, so I used to have a look at what was to be my journey's end. After our native gang had left us we continued as before making good head way. We now frequently saw people coming up to "the land of Goshem." At length the day of selection drew nigh, in prospect of which my partner and I took a trip to Greytown to trace out the sections, and strange to say, the first peg we found on Kuratiwhiti was 29. When we looked at the soil under the fern, (which was up to the shoulder) he said, "there John, if you should be lucky enough to get this you will do;" after looking at all of them we returned home, having taken notes. At length the day of selection arrived, and I was on the spot. The selection was not by ballot, but by rotation as we stood on the Association's book. The
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Association consisted of merchants, auctioneers, storekeepers, bank clerks, &c., who never intended to go into the country. I had offered a bank clerk £5 for his choice because it was early, but he wanted £10; after all he did not make his appearance. All the sections next to the town went first, of course; none of which I wanted. When my name was called, I smartly put my finger on 29. "Well Hall," said the chairman, "you deserve it, for your eyes have been on it all the time you have been here." I now at once became an "Esquire," being proprietor of 40 acres of land, pro tem. Well satisfied, I returned with renewed vigor to work on the hill. We now saw others coming up, among them one day, Mr Terry, with a pack beast well loaded, who had a narrow escape from going down into the gully. As our work drew to a close, at the end of 10 months we agreed, as there was not much more to do, that my partner and the man should finish, whilst I might go to Greytown. With this understanding I came. I need scarcely say that I now found more settlers. The town belt had been purchased from the natives, but more land had to be found for those who had not selected at first. But the question was "Where?" And echo said "Where?" Some sections were laid off in the Moroa swamp as far as Morrison's bush road; some in the south end of what was then called Three Mile Bush; others on the Taratahi plain; and so the Greytown settlers got scattered. "How did you find things in Greytown it may be asked?" Well, I will commence with the necessaries of life; wheat, the staff of life, was 12s per bushel, scarce; potatoes 12s per 100lbs, and we had to go a long way to find them; as for meat, the fare was eels, pigeons and wild pork, if you caught them. One had a steel mill to grind the wheat; charge sixpence per half bushel. Everything else was packed over the hill at £1 per 100lbs. This was a comfortable prospect. Mrs Terry died the day after my arrival. Mr Terry was left with a boy. He invited me and my boy to dwell with him, offering to assist me in building a place for myself; but we soon found this a hopeless case as I had no timber on my section for the purpose. I got the sawyers to cut me some timber, for which I paid 12s per 100 feet at the stump, and 3s per 100 feet for sledging it about three quarters of a mile by bullock.
I wanted a little fencing, but alas I had no timber on my section. There were plenty of burnt logs lying on the plain, but not belonging to me. Mr T. looking round found an old log that would just suit; he told me, and said as the owner was not up here, if he objected to it, I could pay him for it; so we went to work; but before we finished, the owner came up. When he saw what we were doing he said, "Oh, you are very kind to split me some posts and rails, its the very thing I want." We reasoned with him, and I offered him payment, whatever he would name, but all to no purpose; he wanted all the timber that was on the place
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himself, he said, although he had abundance. When Mr Terry said the least he could do was to pay us for our labor, he said he could do the work himself, and would not give us 1d? We had split about 15 posts and 45 rails. Some few days after, my boy told me that the posts and rails which we had split were lying on the road, ready to put up. I at once ran down to see, and having made sure that they were on the road, the boy and I carried them on to my section. But before we got the last load away, my friend was there in a great rage, flourishing a small tomahawk over my head, and dancing a war dance. He wanted me instantly to carry them all back; but I thanked him for carrying them so far for me, pointed out to him that we had split them, and that he had carried them on the road. I again offered him payment. When he found that I would not bring them back he vowed that I should pay for them dearly, and at once started off to Wellington to take out a summons against me. He did so, but Mr St. Hill, then R. M. of Wellington, told him he intended to hold a Court in the Wairarapa on a certain date, and the case would be heard there. In due time I received the summons to appear at Oteria, at Manihera's house there. Where Oteria was no one knew exactly, but "It was down the valley somewhere," I made every inquiry, and the first place I had to find was Mr Morrison's, Glenmorvan; then enquire further. So the eventful morning came when I had to appear at Oteria. I started at daylight across the plain for Morrison's Bush, (no track remember), mounting the hill before me, when by and by I found a bullock track which lead to Glenmorvan. Arriving there and enquiring my way further, I was told that, next I had to find Messrs Smith and Revans, Huangaroa; there was then some bush between Mr Morrison and the river. Mr Duncan Morrison went to the river with me. On the other side of the river were a pair of sawyers cutting for Messrs Smith and Revans. Mr Morrison hailed and a Maori women came in a canoe to ferry me over; the sawyers directed me a near cut to the homestead, whereby I should save a mile and a half; but here I lost myself on the hills. Fortunately I fell in with a shepherd who told me to "go to yonder hill and you will see the homestead below you, and to the left you will see a kind of track to take you down to it; and indeed I found it a "kind of track," where my hands and knees were useful as well as my feet. Arrived of Huangaroa I found that my friend had lodged there the previous night. On enquiring my way further T was told to mount another hill, from whence with good eyesight I could see my destination; I had to descend the other side, cross the river, and then I would be on the Wharakaka plain; when once there I put on steam and made short work of it. Arriving at Oteria a little past noon, the court business was over, only waiting for me; the case was called on at once. When the charge was made, of course I pleaded guilty and stated the whole
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surroundings, as above. This done, Mr St. Hill says, "Now Mr Hall this is diamond cut diamond; you know I have plenty of totara trees on my land; and I value every tree as worth £1; therefore, I fine you £l without costs." My friend wanted his expenses, but they were not granted. In less than twenty minutes after my arrival I was on my homeward journey. When I got to Mr Morrison's, he pressed me to stay over night, as it would be dark before I could reach the bush; but I declined his kind offer and pushed on. Just at dusk T entered the bush, and before I got through, it was quite dark. After getting on the plain, to find Greytown was no easy matter, but I took a star for my guide and steered by it till I got near the bush, when I cooeyed. I got an answer to the left. It was Ben, Mr Kempton's man, who heard me, and showed a light. I found I was about half way between Mr Kempton's whare and Papawai track, and in a few minutes I was at Mr Kempton's, and thus ends the heaviest days walk that ever I had, a distance of 44 miles. As for my friend he did not show up for months afterwards in Greytown.
People began to be dissatisfied, for those who had no cattle had to pay enormous carriage rates; so we had a meeting among ourselves to see what could be done, at which one said that we should have no road for twenty years to come; which was cold comfort. However, the Government was willing that we should have a road, if labor could be got. Finally, it was agreed that five of us should take a contract to open up a portion of the road over the Rimutaka. The party consisted of Mr Terry (the originator), Messrs. Moles, Stevens, Hirschberg, and myself. Mr W. Hawke made up another party chiefly from Hutt settlers waiting to come up. Mr Terry and I met Mr Boy, the engineer, who showed us the work to be done; we there and then agreed to take the contract from the north end of Drake's Elbow to the contract we had just finished, working upward; whilst Mr Hawke's party worked downward. It was agreed between Mr Terry and myself, that my building should be set aside for the present, (I had the frame up 18 x 12); and that I should get the rest of my family up to take possession of his whare and his boy. As I was most conversant with the work, and best known in Wellington, our party appointed me providore. I had now to go to Wellington to provide everything. I spent the third Christmas Day at Karori road, and arranged that my wife and daughter should leave Wellington by the end of January. We took possession of the empty roadmen's whares on what was then called Roy's Flat, to which I sent everything, Stevens and Hirschberg being there to receive it. One of our rules was "no grog allowed on the work." Having everything ready by the latter part of January, some of our party commenced work, whilst I went to bring up the rest of my family, whom I found ready at the Lower Hutt. Starting from there in
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the afternoon in a cart, we reached as far as Jimmy Brown's now the Criterion Hotel, Upper Hutt; next day reached the Golden Fleece, Pakuratahi; third day after leaving the cart near the saddle, we tramped down to Roy's Flat, where we lodged that night. At daylight, took my swag (which was a heavy one) wife and daughter and went on tramp; before we had gone a mile, we came to the stream, which we had to cross five times within half-a-mile. I first took my swag, then came back for the others; at length we reached the edge of the plain, at Burling's, where we had breakfast, after which we started afresh. At the quagmire and the swamp, I was nearly beat with my heavy burden, for I was up to my knees. About noon we crossed the Tauherenikau, and got to the ferry whare, where we dined off such things as came to hand; after which we started across the plain to Greytown. We reached "home, sweet home," pro tem. Next morning I went back to work. In less than a week a batch of emigtants from Australia, came along looking for work, whom we at once engaged at 6s. per day and found. In a few days we had increased our strength to twenty-three all told. As they had made me boss, I had now enough to do. A runaway sailor was made cook at 6s. per day; beef we got from Mr. Kempton and Mr. Buttler, (who had the place now called Batersby farm), at seven pence per pound per half beast; potatoes 10s. per 100 lb. --when we could get them; I bought a large dog in Wellington for pig and sheep hunting. We got some splendid sheep on the hills with wool a foot in length. In about six weeks we got to far from the whare, so we had to move about a mile and half higher, where we repaired and added to some old whares. The weather was favourable, and all went smoothly until about three weeks before finishing, when they pressed me to bring up a case of brandy. Remonstrance was in vain. Our party, now reduced to twelve, which would be a bottle each, and I had to comply; when the stores and case came they were shared out, one would not drink his, but let another have it, who got drunk for two or three days, and when he got into a hard piece of rock, said he had to go to Greytown on business, so he went for a week or more; another had to go to Greytown to brand calves. So the case of brandy spoilt our party. In less than three months from commencing, the road was open for carts to come into the Valley, which reduced the carriage at once from £20 to £12 per ton. When we returned home I found my wife had established the first Sabbath school in the Wairarapa, in the whare; and we had the Rev. W. Ronaldson, Maori missionary, residing in part of Mr. Waterson's house, who gave us an occasional service in Mr. Jones' whare, it being the largest. I thought it was time we had a school-house. When I mooted it to others it was received favourably on all sides, and therefore in due time we had a meeting, at which Mr. Borlase presided. The site was selected where the school now is,
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and a resolution was passed to erect thereon a building called the School-house; open for the worship of all denominations, and for all public meetings. A committee was chosen, of which I became treasurer and collector, Alfred Ball, secretary. Next day I had £23 on my list, when we had a committee meeting, I moved a resolution, "That an order for the timber be given at once;" assuring the committee that the money would be forthcoming. As an amendment, the Secretary moved, "That nothing be done until all the money was in hand," assuring the committee that unless his amendment was carried he would resign. However, my resolution was carried, and the Secretary walked out. The secretaryship was added to my other duties, and I at once gave the order for the timber, at 12s. per 100 feet, delivered; and I found no difficulty in paying for it as I was well-known in Wellington, and I was not ashamed to ask all who had any interest in the Wairarapa. In due time I called for tenders. Mr. T. Wakelin's was accepted at £40. Ironmongery and everything else came in due time. In the early part of 1857 our school-house was built and paid for by contributions, from Smith and Revans £10, to Mrs. Bircham's 2s. 6d., and we had a jolly good tea party in the first school-house in the Wairarapa. But, mark ye! there were many who did not believe in tea, I am sorry to say; in consequence of which this same school-house was much trouble to me in after years.
The Government were now bent on having the three mile bush felled and cleared; the line had been cut, and all the west side had been taken up by absentees; on the east and south end a few Greytown sections had been laid off. We (the same party of five) took the contract. But before starting I was determined to have my house up, so all the party helping, we soon accomplished this. I had bought at the Hutt a two-year-old heifer in calf at £9, and a yearling at £5 as my first stock. We again raised a strong party, among which were three or four natives, and worked with a will. Here we got our beef from Manaia, Mr. Donald's, at 58s. 4d. per 100lbs. by the half or quarter beast; potatoes, 10s. per 100lbs.; flower, 37s. per 100lbs., at Greytown, packed over to us by bullocks. Paying same wages as before, our party consisted of 18 all told. We found in this bush locality one solitary individual named Dodds, who had taken up 100 acres. He had about three acres felled, where now stands the old Pioneer Hotel; he joined our party. In advancing we came to one totara tree in the centre of the road, sixty feet in circumference; our two best men took him in hand, and if ever two men worked at a tree they did; for two days they worked to see which was the best man, until a breeze in the top laid him low. In due time we had to shift the whare. Someone had set fire to the bush at the end and it followed us, so what with smoke and
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mosquitos we were much troubled. On one occasion when I had been to Wellington, returning to the whare, I found it forsaken; looking round, everything was removed. On coming into daylight I saw my white trousers litterally covered with fleas of no ordinary size; following my companions I found them encamped where Mr. Ray's hotel is now, I was told that mosquitos and fleas had fairly conquered then. The upper end of our work was troublesome, the weather being hot and no water; we had to dig holes in the swampy bush, but the water was bad, and therefore we were glad to finish as soon as possible, after which we built a small bridge, and took our departure to the other end, pitching on the little clearing by the Mongatarai stream. We had built a bridge at the south end also. We now had to work on both sides of the river, a 100 chains being added on the Greytown side of the river, so that when measured tip, the whole was 6 3/4 miles. Having finished our contract, our party broke up, and we worked on our land for a little while, Mr. Terry living with me for a time. About this time we (Terry and myself), sent the first agricultural produce to Wellington from Greytown in the shape of a box containing a large horn carrot, weighing 91b., and a potatoe weighing 3 1/4 lbs., and the remainder of the space filled with eggs; the former were exhibited at the Thistle Inn, at Wellington, by Walter Freeman, as specimens of Wairarapa produce.
I had now managed to have something to eat in the ground, but not without labour; many times I was digging till 11 o'clock at night by moonlight; I had many hundreds of brocoli, and the best crop of swede turnips that ever I had (one weighing 36lb). Of course there was no market for them; I had a little wheat, 6 ft. high, and at the rate of 70 bushels to the acre, and a quarter of an acre of peas; these I lost in a freshet after cutting them. We had planted half-an-acre of potatoes, but the early ones were cut off by frost in November and the late ones in February, so we had a bad turn that way.
One evening when I was at work I saw someone coming. He asked me to allow him to sleep in my shed for the night; when I looked at him I was struck with astonishment, for there stood before me a fellow passenger, a gentleman by birth, who, on the day we landed, carried a bag of soverings, as much as he could carry, along to the little Union Bank of Australia. I need not say that he did not sleep in the shed; he stayed with me two or three days, and then went away, I know not whither. There are two or three gentlemen in Greytown who knew him and his end. His name was Robert Burton.
The contract for making Morrison's Bush road came into the market, and Mr. Terry and I took it, one and a quarter miles. This proved to be a rather troublesome contract, as we had to fish for stuff to make the road; the bottom was a concreted gravel
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what we called iron stone. We had to get sawyers to cut us some three inch thick planks for barrowing; all the metal had to be carted from Morrison's run, and only two carts were available; but, on the whole, we got on better than we expected. We had started a temperance society in Greytown, and had 24 members for a little while, but only for a little while, for it soon died out; although renewed several times it never lasted long. Whilst engaged on this contract, some of our men were anxious to buy land. There were then six sections in the swamp not taken up. One day we took a half holiday to explore these sections with them, but before we got to the bush some turned back; with perseverance we reached terra firma; but we saw, to our great surprise, a most splendid bush of totara which delighted Mr. Terry; as for myself I was not much interested in it at first; the others would have nothing to do with it. After a little while Mr. Terry would have me go again to examine it more closely. We did so, and came to the conclusion that it would be a splendid opening for a sawmill if we could get water enough. On mentioning this to one of the emigrants, who had previous to this told us that he was a millwright and engineer, he went with us to give his opinion, and when he saw it, advised us by all means to buy the land at once, believing that a small independency might be made there in a little time if there was a demand for timber. On my next trip to Wellington I met a person at the Tauherenikau, who told me he had bought two of the sections and was coming to settle there at once. When I got to Wellington I bought the other four. Afterwards we searched for an outlet for the water, but found none until we got on the native land; so our water power was a failure.
We now had a consultation, and our engineer advised us to get a small engine. This suited Mr. Terry exactly, he knowing all about engines; and the emigrant observed that he had put up many sawmills. At first I objected, because I knew nothing whatever about engines or sawmills, having never even seen the latter; but seeing before me two practical men, who assured me that the whole affair would not cost £400, I gave my assent. Mr Terry gave me a description of the engine, and the emigrant, everything requisite for the mill; among other things was a lathe which he said would not cost £6, and a plaining machine, which it was said, would cost £20, and that a man could wheel it in a barrow. On my next trip to Wellington I presented the order to a firm of merchants for execution, and they accepted it. Doubtless they were as ignorant of the expense of the order at the time as I was. In due time we finished our contract, and had another piece added thereto through the swamp on the plain; here I received a severe blow on the right side of my head which felled me to the ground, and which impaired my sight and hearing on
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that side to the present day. Finishing this contract, another was waiting; but where? Oh, where? At Burling's swamp, Featherston. It was the depth of winter and the swamp full of water. We removed from Morrison's Bush to Featherston, as best we could, and built a hut of three inch planks, covering it with a No. 1 canvas roof. Our first work was to deepen the stream to get a fall to carry off the water, and for this purpose we had to commence half way to the bush. I and a man named Swain undertook this work. We had long boots, but we found it anything but comfortable, after breaking the ice and stepping in, to get our boots filled over the tops. Being an encumbrance we dispensed with them. The rest of the party sought for tussocks of flax and large boulders for the foundation of the road on the upper side; thus by working the upper side first the lower became nearly dry; nevertheless, on one occasion, when we had two days' heavy rain, part of our road thus made was carried away. Having mastered the upper side throughout, of course another party followed up the lower side, which was nearly dry. We had now a good track in the water on the upper side, for the dray to bring the timber for the bridge, which has since been replaced by the present one. This old bridge was built in less than a week; the timber was cut in Mr Vennel's bush, costing 12s at the pit and carriage 3s per 100ft. We had one carpenter from Greytown at 10s per day and found. The contract price was £44. This little bridge stood the heavy traffic of goods and timber waggons all the time they travelled on the road, and when no longer needed passed away, no doubt to give place to a handsome structure. To testify of the healthy breezes of Featherston I would mention that one night there was a great commotion, our No. 1 canvas cover being blown away, and our three inch planks levelled; this we had not bargained for, so we had to take refuge in the survey office for two or three days, the only building then, except Burling's.
Before finishing we had five more chains added. Finishing our contract we had to pay attention to our own swamp, and took all our traps over there. In the dry season we burnt off our swamp--at least the rushes. This swamp was different to what we had handled before; it had a hard, gravely bottom, the top consisting of decayed vegetable matter; and if it were possible to dry it, would burn as well as any turf cut in the bogs of old Ireland. As it was, we began by cutting a ditch each side when we had our road laid off, throwing the stuff on the road. Of course we never expected to make a cart road. I had made application to have our back line cut, and Mr Tully was instructed to see to it; I, a party interested, was with him on the Friday and Saturday. On the latter day it was very close with a drizzling rain. When Sunday morning came I was aroused by one of the children calling "A flood! A flood!" On rising I found it so,
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and it was the highest that has been in Greytown since its settlement. I had a very bad sick headache, and, as our kitchen was 18 inches lower than the house it was under water, and our fire extinguished. To mend matters not a match was in the house, as I was no smoker. The water was still rising, and rose to within one inch of coming into the house. When it was at the highest, it washed some portion of the road away. Here we were, and ready to give anything for a cup of tea, but alas! it was not to be had. Near noon I got a ladder and climbed on to the ridge of the house to take observations, but wherever I looked there was nothing but roaring, rushing water; not a dry spot to be seen on all the plain. About 3 o'clock the dry land began to appear, and about 7, I made a venture to reach the nearest house, succeeded, and returned in triumph with fire-stick, and matches. I need not say we soon had a fire in the camp oven, and a cup of the best tea that ever we have had, from the muddy water that rushed by us. This was the most miserable day I spent in my life. This is what we used to call the great flood of 1858.
As soon as we could get into the bush we selected a site for the mill, then felled and cleared two or three acres, and set our millwright to work to build the mill, we cutting him logs and everything else he required. We also made a road, intended for a tram. Then we bought another 100 acres in the back bush, and another second-hand section adjoining. When I asked our builder whether he had any plan to work by, he laughed and said, "No, we don't require a plan for this, it is all here," pointing to his head. We had done all we could to the road when I got the invoice of the order for the machinery; and lo, and behold: never have I been more surprised than when I found the total cost, instead of amounting to £400, amounted to within a few shillings of £1000! Still this did not daunt us; but we had to mortgage all that we possessed to raise money. The lathe which was to have cost £6, I found invoiced at about £70; the plaining machine which, it was said, a man could wheel and would cost £20, we found to weigh about three tons, costing £175. It all appeared rather strange to me.
In due time our goods arrived in Wellington, and Mr Terry and I went down. After stating the case, how we had been misled by our millwright, we arranged with them to pay them all the money that we possibly could, and for them to take a second mortgage for the balance. Mr Terry assured them that steam would be up in less than eight days from the time we got the engine into the bush. Arrangements completed, the first thing we did was to get the boiler up. Mr Hastwell borrowed a timber wagon from some one, and before night our boiler was on the road to Greytown. This was the first waggon that came over the Rimutaka, to the best of my knowledge. Having got the boiler to
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the edge of the swamp, we fixed it on two planks, then laid short planks across the road with long ones on them, well greased; and so we slid our boiler in. When we got the wheels up, we soon had our trolly made, and got what was wanted in, on these shifting planks. Mr Terry, in less than seven days, had his engine bedded and steam up and ready for work, but our mill was not ready. We had collected a large number of logs ready to go on, but some of them lay there for months.
Now, I must say what our millwright's idea was of a sawmill; a stage 40 feet long and about 18 wide resting on four rows of pillars about three feet high, 12 in a row, with two frames, one for breaking down, the other for ripping; there were six saws for boards; no circular saw for this work and only two small 14-inch circular saws, fitted on a bench for cutting shingles In about three weeks we got the first log on. As soon as the saws began to work, the whole stage began to dance and the log to jump to a degree that I could not stand on the stage. We had to stop and spend more than a week in strengthening everything. These breaking down saws were about four inches wide and the substance not twice that of a hand saw; the ripping saws still lighter. After about a week we got through the first log, and when it came to ripping, I at once saw that we should never get a marketable board there. I then went down to the fern ground to look at the sawmill there; then I saw what a mistake we had made, everything we had was what we did not want, and everything we wanted, we had not. I saw a circular saw was the only thing to save us, and as there were no saws in the market, I had to beg both breaking down and circular saws, and so after a long time we got a circular bench of a kind, so that we cut something for our tram and shed, and afterwards for sale. We sent our millwright elsewhere, and got a man from the Hutt, but he was very little better. Our timber was in demand as fast as we could cut it, but as months had passed, and having many hands employed, our finances was exhausted. Our merchants kindly had advanced some money in the outset. In the course of twelve months we had learned by sad experience to get the mill in working order. We had got into debt, but I think we could have worked through, only the Otago goldfield rush deprived us of all our men, so the two of us were left alone, and our last days work came when Mr Terry and I cut 2500 feet, my boy driving; it was the best days work throughout. The first timber that went over the Rimutaka was from our mill, to the order of Mr L. Potts, Lower Hutt. We were now strongly advised to give up all into the hands of the mortgagees, to which we assented, for we could not do otherwise. Accordingly, it was advertised for sale in Wellington. Then, certain propositions, which did not appear honest, were made to me, and seeing through the affair I started at once to Wellington
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and stopped the sale, arranging with our second mortgagees to assign it into their hands, they paying off the first. This was done in due time to the apparent disappointment of some people; but it was honest, and I hope they have seen the good of it since. We were advised to go through the Court to wipe off our outside debts. To this we would not listen, but we struggled on, and I am thankful to say, this day, that no one lost a penny by our misfortune.
We now dissolved partnership, dividing our debts. All was gone, and for some years I was only a squatter, at will, on section 29. The question arose was, what shall I do? To make improvements was useless as a squatter. There was a rumour of gold at Terawhiti, so I just took a pick and shovel, made up a swag, and started for Wellington, my last walking trip there. Mr Hastwell overtook me on the plain with a trap and two horses; I overhauled him at Tauherenikau; again he passed me at Featherston; then I gained on him going up the hill and passed him; he passed me going down, I passed him at Pakaratahi; he passed me at the fern ground; I overtook him at Taita; he overtook me near the Hutt bridge, and when I got to Wellington I found that he had beaten me by twenty minutes. The reader may say, why all this? Well, I will explain. Mr H. had not been on speaking terms with me for many months, simply because I could not do an impossibility. He had given me an order for 10,000 shingles and I had promised to have them ready by a certain date; but, while in the act of cutting them, I lost my thumb by the circular saw and thus was compelled to break my promise. When he came for them they were not ready, and I got into disgrace, which lasted for two or three years. But to return. When I got to Terewhiti, I found several parties prospecting; one party from the Hutt just got the colour after two or three week's work. I spent three nights and two days there. When I returned to Wellington I found a letter for me, offering me the mastership of the Papawai school. I at once set out for home, and, seeing the Rev. W. Ronaldson, I and my wife agreed to take charge of the school. The understanding was, that it should be a kind of industrial school, to become self supporting. I will not attempt to describe the rags, filth and dirt we found the children in, but will just say that in about a month we had them clothed and in their right mind, and happy. We had hours for teaching, making and mending cloths, washing, working and playing. When the cook left, my wife took the responsibility of that branch too. We had seventeen boys in our charge. Some of them are occasionally seen now grown into great, strong men. Messrs Wardell and Carkeek were our first inspectors, and subsequently Mr McLean and others, and I believe we gave general satisfaction. But in course of time unpleasantness arose which I do not wish to explain, and at the end
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of the year we left, with the satisfaction of knowing that there was oatmeal (from skinless oats) and potatoes enough for next year.
Whilst at Papawai, I was informed by Captain Thomas (of Chatam Island renown) that I was entitled to sixty acres of land under the "Naval Military Settlers' Act." By making application I found it even so, and as there were no other Crown lands near I made my selection on the Moroa plain, near our former land. Previous to this I had tried to get the title for the town acre at Masterton, but it could not be found, and never was found. One day Mr McKenzie, of Masterton, on his way to Wellington, paid me a visit at Papawai. He told me he had taken possession of the acre, and wanted much to get it. He asked me to try to get the title for it; and I told him I had tried for a long time, but it could not be found; but I would try once more to get the trustee to make a title for nothing; to which he replied "Na, na, I dinna expect it for noot." I there and then wrote a letter to the trustee, and gave it to him to deliver in Wellington; he did not deliver it, but kept it; I do not know whether he knew the contents, but many years after he brought it in evidence in the Supreme Court against me. Town acres at this time were of little value.
We now returned to Greytown. We had a shoemaker in Greytown who charged enormously--28s for watertights which price I did not like to give; I therefore concluded to set up shoemaking myself. I had sold my town acre long before, now I wanted one to build a shop on. I knew a gentleman in Wellington who had one to dispose of; I agreed to give him £40 for it; but this title also could not be found. As I wanted to go to work at once, I built a small workshop 10 x 12, partly on the road and partly on the acre. Here I went to work, and soon had more work than I could do, at a reduction of 4s per pair. In the course of a year or more the title turned up in the hands of a person of the same name, who offered his own worthless acre for sale at £5, which he had partly fenced years before. The man could not read; shewing it to some one, who was about to buy it, he was informed that it was for No. 33, not 117, his own; he said he would not sell it then. Calling at the shop of one of my old partners, who then acted as agent for the trustee, keeping the books for Greytown; he informed him of the mistake. On examining the title, he found it correct; he perfectly knew that it did not belong to that man, and that I had been waiting for it a long time; he at once offered him £25 for it, that he would take all risk, and the man took the money. When this became known an unprincipled lawyer came from Wellington to try to palm the other man's title on me, but when I saw it, I would have nothing to do with it; at the same time I told him that I would authorize a friend in Wellington to pay the money.
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In 1868 I established a Young Men's Improvement Society, with lending library, which, in the end, proved to me a loss of about £50. How? Certain persons induced the librarian to go to the "Sun" to give his opinion on fat sheep, but their real object was to make the poor man drunk, and they made him mad drunk; which his wife told me next day was the case whenever he got drink. I beg the reader to understand me perfectly, that nothing is written in this pamphlet in "malice," either to the living or dead. As I was now only a squatter on section 29, I thought of making a new home on my 60 acres, but I found it to be mostly all stones. On close survey I found a few acres of good soil on the southwest corner. Going further on the unsold land I found some two or three hundred acres--I think the best on all the plain; here then was a good opportunity to get 100 acres adjoining my stoney-land; but, alas, I wanted the needful! A few weeks afterward, when in Wellington, I went to the Land Office in order to see what I had spotted. I was shown the map; there was not an acre sold between my stoney-land and the road. About ten minutes after leaving the office I met on the beach a gentleman whom I had known for years, as owner of some land on the Moroa, coming in an opposite direction. After a little conversation, he puts his fingers into his waistcoat pocket and takes out a tracing, hands it to me, with these words, "there, look at that, I have bought all that." When I looked at it, to my astonishment I found it to be all the unsold land I had just looked at, I could only say, "have you really bought all that?" Yes, said he, will not that make a nice place, so we are neighbours now." After a very few words more we parted. I know not whether he saw my confusion; but the reader may imagine my feeling of disgust when I found a man whom I had always respected capable of telling me such a base lie. Before proceeding a hundred yards I met another gentleman whom I had known for years, very sharp and smart; after salutation he saw there was something the matter with me, and wanted to know what it was. I knew my customer, and said, "have you got any money?" "Yes, --what do you want?" "I want to purchase a hundred acres quick." Of course he wanted to know particulars, and I told him what had just transpired. He promised me that he would go at once to buy it for me, and thus cut the other short; and he did buy it, but not for me, it was for himself. In a few days I received a note from him informing me that he had bought the land, and offered me a lease of it at £10 per annum with purchasing clause at £100; which note I never answered, but treated with contempt. I mention this particularly, as I may refer to it in after years. In 1868 my friend had grown rich; he was now determined to have the acre in dispute. He took the case into the Supreme Court, where the jury gave a verdict of misconveyance, --this, of course, was in my favour,
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but, in Chambers, it was argued differently, and I was made the loser. This suit cost me £80 cash, and finally was sold up for £108 costs; and worst of all it affected my nervous system so much that it interfered with my working. Here I was the second time a man worse off than on the day I landed. As my shop was worth nothing to him, he gave me leave to shift it on to the next acre, a portion of which I rented. From this time to 1876 I was in a measure unable to work, and always on the verge of bankruptcy.
Previous to this suit the lease of the adjoining section, No 30, was for sale; the owner thereof was an absentee and had not been heard of for years. I sold my 60 acres of stony-land and bought it in the name of my son, so that it was safe.
In less than six months after the suit the house caught fire, and I was burned out. Now, I thought, was an opportunity to endeavour to regain section 29, on which I was only a squatter at will; I went to the owners thereof, stated my case, and they promised to deal liberally with me. I made an offer of £150, they accepted the same, but I had not as many shillings; they agreed that if I could not get the money elsewhere, they would kindly take a mortgage. I went to a person who advertised money to lend but he would not lend £150 on 40 acres of land.
Walking along the beach I met a gentleman, before mentioned. In conversation I told him that I had tried to borrow £150 and for what purpose, but that the owners were willing to take a mortgage if I could not get the money elsewhere; to which he replied, by all means get it out of their hands--come along with me, I will find the money. He knew the place well, he advanced the money; as I could not have it conveyd to myself, I had it conveyed to my son.
I now, with a little help, built a house again on 29, and made improvements. The owner of 30 turned up and wanted to sell; we had to buy and did buy, but, finding I could not stand two mortgages, sold again at advantage. With the surplus money built a house on 29 for my son; my son-in-law also built himself a house on it. Shortly after coming from Wellington, in a trap, we stayed at the Pakaratahi Hotel over night. Starting early on a frosty morning with two passengers, the driver, somehow or other, managed to tumble trap, horses and men over an embankment about 20 feet deep. Here I lay, partly under the trap and partly under the horses, and thought my troubles were ended, but not so. Prompt assistance was at hand, I was got out and carried back to the hotel, about 400 yards distant, and put to bed; a doctor was sent for, about twenty three-miles distance; when he came, found, on examination, three ribs broken on my left side, beside bruises. The driver was much hurt, my fellow passenger escaped with a sprained ankle. Here I lay for a week, at the end which they came with a light brake and feather bed to take me
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home. This accident has affected the hearing of my left ear to this day. The owner of the land where my shop was sold it without my knowledge, and my shop into the bargain; consequently I had either to purchase my shop and take it away, or to build a new one. I preferred the latter. I leased a new plot on the acre I had lost, and there built a 12 x 12 place. Town acres were now at fabulous prices; for what I had sold for £6, £300 were refused. I strained every nerve to have my forty acres fenced, and at last I did succeed; but alas, in less than a month, the river broke through above me and made sad havoc. The first flood took about seven chains of my new fence, with land also. This was a threatening aspect for Kuratiwhiti, so we had a meeting of settlers on the plain, and resolved to do our utmost to turn out and protect ourselves. We did so, and spent time and money, but to no purpose, it became worse and worse. The road north of Greytown, where the platform now is, was all washed away, and the sections adjoining were continually under water at every fresh. The people awoke to their interest; meetings were called; resolutions passed, a committee formed to turn the river; indeed all Greytown turned out, in men, money, horses and carts, and for about three weeks the river bed was all alive with cutting new channels, carting gravel, erecting fascines, putting in groins, &c., not without opposition, however, on the opposite bank of the river. But all our labour was in vain. Finally I lost ten acres of land with the fencing.
As before remarked, the school was a great trouble to me; these troubles I do not care to recapitulate, suffice it to say that a certain individual palmed on me a worthless trust title and charged me £2; when I say worthless, I mean it embraced the building, not the land; as the R. M. told me, "your title is good till a better is found." Certain parties understanding this, made application to Mr Carter, sole trustee, to appoint trustees for the acre; he sent up word to call a public meeting, select three persons, of whom I was to be one, send the names down, and he would execute the deed. These persons had a hole and corner meeting, proposed and seconded each other, and got their names; these were sent to Mr Carter, who executed the deed, whilst I was ignorant of the same. Some time after I saw Mr Carter in Greytown; he wanted to know why my name was not sent. I told him I knew nothing about it till afterwards, and told him a little of the history. He had the deed with him and told me that he would keep it for a week. If, during his absence, I would remove the schoolhouse, I might do so. On mentioning this to several persons, they said, "by all means take it away." Mr Moles offered me a site for it where the Foresters' Hall now stands; but I knew if I did make the removal, it would all rest with me, and I had neither money or energy left; therefore I thanked them for their
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advice, but did not take it, because there were subscribers towards it on both sides. As I did not give it up, but it was taken from me, I thought I had fulfilled my trust to the subscribers, so let it go. This school from first to last cost me more than £20 cash.
I was now oblidged to retire from all public matters, through deafness. In the school was a new teacher who, I believe, gave general satisfaction, except in the eyes of some people, simply I believe, because he was a Methodist; and the majority of the committee leaning that way. One day I saw on the roof some individuals with spades stripping the roof of its shingles. When I asked one why they did so, the answer was "by order of the trustees." The trustees were determined to break the school up. When the committee remonstrated, they said they were going to shingle it afresh; there it was, a nice spectacle for months, till the school was again broken up, and the teacher had gone into another province, getting £250 per annum instead of £100 as in Greytown. They re-shingled the roof, got a new teacher and committee to their liking, and there I leave them.
I procured through a firm of solicitors a new title for the Masterton town acre from the trustee, and also bought it from my brother-in-law at Home for £20, honestly paid. This title also I had made in the name of my son. Having now a good title we offered the acre to Mr McKenzie; he would not buy, but told me that he had bought it when he bought the 40 acres. Another party was ready to buy, and did buy, knowing that the other had possession, when a law suit was commenced by McKenzie. My wife, being distracted by the idea of another law suit, would not be quieted unless sec. 29 was assigned to the mortgagee; this I dreaded for I could not trust him, but, as I could not bare to see her in that state, I had to comply with her wishes. The assignment was accordingly made; at the same time my friend entered into a new contract with my wife and me by giving her a small piece of paper, written thereon "present 6s 6d per week, afterward lease with purchasing clause," to quiet her. When walking from one house to the other, he says to me "you would not like me to have all this for £150? No, I would not, was my reply; but a voice within me said "but he has got it," which voice I heard as plain as his own. He also told me in the house that he had been afraid that the assignment would not stand good as the action had been commenced, but the lawyer had said nothing; all this took place in 1874. The property was then valued at £700. In due time the trial came on, I was there as a witness, and gave my evidence as before written, when in a moment the lawyer put into my hand the letter to the trustee before referred to wherein I stated that I wanted to convey the acre to Mr McKenzie; at this I was confounded, and for the time could give no satisfactory explanation, and, being plied with questions, I did
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not know what I said in the excitement. Through this letter the verdict was adverse. It was argued in Chambers over and over again, and I never new how it was finally settled, only what information I got from my friend. For about six weeks I was as in a dream, in fact I could no longer work at the trade, and at length in 1876 had to give up the business to my son. I now employed myself on the ground for a living, chiefly in growing carrots, which I have done ever since. In 1878 I wrote several letters to my friend, but received no answer. I went to Wellington to have an interview, at which he produced a note, which me and my wife had sent him directly after the trial, to the intent that we would have nothing more to do with the place. This we had sent to him when in the state above described, by his instruction, as I was informed afterward. I exclaimed, "what are you going to do with us?" To which he replied, "give you the place;" shortly after he said, "I will give you a lease for your lives." When I mentioned the purchasing clause according to promise, he said that would not be safe at that time. We got a lease for our joint lives. My son went into the town to live. I underlet one house and part of the section, to pay the rent, &c., reserving about three acres to get a living from for the remainder of our lives." In August my wife accidently set herself on fire; I promptly got medical assistance. She was fearfully burnt, never recovered her speech fully, and, from the affects of this and age, departed this life May 13th, 1879.
In September I had an interview with my friend at his house. I made some proposals regarding the place, in case of my death. To these he would not listen; but told me that at my death he would sell the place, give to my daughter one acre free of cost, and give a lump sum to my son; but, at the same time, gave me to understand that he was not obliged to give him anything, but that he would do it of his own goodwill. With all this he assured me that he did not want my property, only his money. When I said "Suppose I could get the money elsewhere, will you sell it to me?" To which he replied, "No, no, no." From this conversation, all doubts were removed from my mind of his intentions. I saw plainly if I did not get it out of his hands while living, my children would get nothing, notwithstanding his promises to me. I continued my labours on the ground, nothing remarkable occuring, only low and lower prices for my produce. In 1880 my friend having business in Greytown paid me a visit; in conversation I asked him, "will £200 buy this place from you?" His reply, "I will take it from you, but not from any one else; have you got the money?" "No, I have not so much." He replied, "when you have the money, come to me."
In January, 1882, I wrote to my friend to the intent that, by the end of the season, I should be ready to buy. But he now
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began to place obstacles in the way. Several letters passed between us, until he took up a silent position. I compelled him to break the silence, whether he would sell according to promise or not. June 16th he informed me that he would not, without shewing reason why not. June 19th I wrote to him the truth, which opened correspondence again; after five letters, my friend sent me an account of £360, which he says I owe, and which he was authorised to settle with me; but of which I had no knowledge, and have none whatever. This induced me to go to Wellington to see if there was a way in the minor courts to make him prove this; but there was not. I have continued to labour on, although feebly and failing. January, 1883, I wrote to my friend, to try whether he would fulfil his promise to give my daughter one acre without charge, at my death, --now; to save something from the wreck, although I have it in his own handwriting. In his reply, he implied that he would not. As I have said we let a portion of the place for our lives, with five years guarantee; but the tenant suited himself better elsewhere, and, as I could not get the rent, I had to take repossession. To mend the matter, my crops were a failure, as I only realised £15 for my year's labour, deducting from this £4 5s for ploughing. This placed me in a bad position, as I have no cattle whatever, consequently had to get into debt. My present prospects are clouded; wheat, oats and early potatoes, nil; or not more than pay for the seed; late potatoes and carrots, perhaps enough to pay liabilities. Grand prospect for one who is past labour, who, for sixteen long years, has gone down, down, down until the crisis has come. The future, ah, the future, is Egyptian darkness! But, lifting one corner of the veil, I will pursue the legal course, as I have no money and no prospect of any to pay my rent next year. My lease tells me that I shall be ejected in less than five months, from the place where I have existed for 28 years, to be a vagrant, adopting the language of the man of Ur, until I find a pauper's grave somewhere.
To avoid this, I hare been induced to pursue the present course; still hoping, trusting, struggling to the end.
Is this Naomi?--no;--Mara.
Robert Burrett, Steam Printer, Molesworth Street, Wellington
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