1940 - Mathew, Felton. The Founding of New Zealand: The Journals of Felton Mathew, First Surveyor-General of New Zealand, and his Wife, 1840-1847. - Chapter IX. Life In Auckland In The Early 'Forties,' p 200-212

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  1940 - Mathew, Felton. The Founding of New Zealand: The Journals of Felton Mathew, First Surveyor-General of New Zealand, and his Wife, 1840-1847. - Chapter IX. Life In Auckland In The Early 'Forties,' p 200-212
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[The extracts which follow are taken from Mrs. Mathew's so-called "Diary," which is rather an autobiography, or book of reminiscences, written at Sleaford, England, about 1873. Though she is often hazy about details, the story she tells of early Auckland is full of delightful touches. --Ed.]

During this year [1840] great progress was made, the town laid out, public buildings erected, chiefly of wood, the harbour full of shipping, every week brought emigrants. As soon as the Governor's house was erected, he and his family came down to reside, but in the meantime, he used often to come in the Brig, and then was always our guest for meals, though he slept on board the Victoria which had been bought by the Government and the Command given to our friend Robert Richards. Often when I saw from our tent the Brig coming in, I have been greatly troubled how I should provide for our guests. Of course, there were no shops to go to. I had a supply of Preserved meats and soups, and the natives would perhaps bring some fish, if

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I bribed them with a present of tobacco or flour or sugar. Then Helen and I had to make our preparations. We used to bake cakes in a camp oven, that is a sort of iron pot on legs, with a flat cover, on which hot embers can be put, as well as fire underneath.

We had at that time plenty of wood, which the Natives used to bring in huge loads on their backs, as well as potatoes and Kumeras, which they gladly sold to us for 6d. or 1/- according to size. If the weather were fine our gipsy cooking was comparatively easy, but in wet or windy weather it was a sore trouble. After a little time we had contrived a sort of shed for our cooking place, of poles and Rapoo like the Natives construct as shelter, and one day, when our dinner was cooking in this place, the wind blew some embers on to the dry reeds, which caught fire and in a minute it was all burnt down; of course the contents of oven and saucepans were all made into cinders; and what was most to be regretted, as irreparable for the time, were my new boots, which had been left in the shed to dry. I think we had a few visitors that unlucky day, which was a great relief to my mind; and in a few hours, when my husband returned soon rebuilt our primitive kitchen.

We used to buy Stores from the Ships which came in; barrels of American flour, and biscuits, and dried apples, the latter exceedingly good; they are pared, cut in quarters, strung upon twine, and so after drying in the sun, or oven, are packed in casks. We used to buy them from the American Whaleships, which are always supplied with these apples, as they are found to be an excellent antiscorbutic on long voyages. We used them for puddings and sauce for the Pork, which at first was the only fresh meat we could get; so we used to dress it in a variety of ways, with seasoning to make it resemble beef, mutton, or veal. The animals we used to buy from the Natives, and as they are nearly wild, the flesh was very different from the fed

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Pork in this country, and much less unwholesome; it was very lean and dark coloured when dressed, not white as in England. Then if a Ship arrived from India or China, we used to get barrels of Sugar and bags of Rice, preserves and Tea in Chests. All these things were piled up at the back and side of our Tent, covered with Tarpaulins. I used to make my bread on the top of a cask outside the tent, and after a time we got Natives to build us a regular Native house of two rooms, with a roof of Palm leaves and Rapoo, or reed thatch over it; this was really a much more comfortable habitation than the tent, especially in wet or windy weather. The doors and window frames, we bought from an enterprising carpenter who made these things for sale, and for glass we had oiled calico, which kept out the rain and gave us light enough within, tho' of course no view.

Meantime work went on, the town was laid out, allotments sold, 1 people put up wooden houses and stores and shops, and a scite for the first Church was selected very judicially, on the highest point of land, just above our dwellings in Official Bay; it was to be St. Paul's, and would be a landmark at Sea to Ships as they entered the harbour. It was decided it should be built of brick, and the first stone was laid by the Governor, with all the ceremony which the presence of all the officers military naval and civil, and the freemasons could give. 2 We sometimes were visited by one of the Missionaries, who in their travels through the country, among the Natives, would stop and

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give a service in our Marquee, but it was not for several Months that we had a regular Chaplain appointed. The first was Mr. Churton, who had come out from England with his family, with land orders from the N. Z. Company to Port Nicholson, on the southern shore of the Island, where the Company were anxious to place the seat of Government then, and called their town Wellington, but most of their settlers came up to Auckland and Mr. Churton was among them.

I think it was in the second year of our occupancy that we went with the Governor to visit these southern settlements, Wellington, Akaroa, and others in Cook's Strait. I took my little maid Helen with me as I could not leave her in our tent alone. We went in the Brig Victoria, and a most interesting excursion it was. Akaroa was a French Settlement, and there were two French ships lying in the harbour; and their officers came on board, and were most friendly and agreeable. The Superintendent of the French emigrants, a M. Bellini, was a very clever botanist and naturalist, and his conversation was delightful. He occupied a small house and was most hospitable. We used to dine there almost every day, for the Governor could not speak French, and I was obliged to make myself useful as interpreter to him, and the Frenchmen; some of the Officers could understand and read English but none could speak it. I was the only lady of the party, and of course was made a great deal of. I think we were here 4 or 5 days; the Governor with his aide de camp and secretary were in a Man of War, the Favorite, Captain Dunlop; we were in

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the Victoria, the ships keeping near each other. When not in attendance on the Governor, we used to take long walks over the hills, and through the little settlement, where a few small huts or houses had been set up by the vine-dressers from the banks of the Rhine, who were to plant the sides of the hills with vineyards. Poor disappointed folk, they had been sadly deceived, and many had been utterly ruined.

From Akaroa we proceeded to Wellington, the ships in company, leaving on shore a Mr. Robinson who was appointed Police Magistrate, and was to represent British authority in this spot. Since this time the whole of that portion of the Middle Island has been settled, and is called the Province of Canterbury, with many populous towns and several Ports; but my reminiscences look back more than 30 years. I was very much pleased with the first view of Wellington--or rather the country, for town there was none at that time. A few scattered houses of wood, along the beach, contained the whole population. There was one of rather larger size than the rest, called an Hotel, and there rooms were taken for the Governor and his staff, and there we also found a room. It was more like a wooden box than a house, but it was a relief to be on shore again for a short time. Here we found great kindness from several of the inhabitants and we made some pleasant acquaintance. The Superintendent, Colonel Wakefield, had a small but comfortable wooden house, and he gave some dinner parties to the Governor to which we of course were invited. There was also a Mr. St. Hill, whose wife called on me, and with whom I spent some days pleasantly while my husband was engaged. They also lent us horses, and we had some beautiful rides through the forest to Porirua and other native settlements. Then there was held a grand "Korero" of the principal Native Chiefs, who came from various tribes to explain to the Governor that the Company had not paid for

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Mathew's Sketch of St. Paul's Church, Auckland

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The Mathews' House (with flagstaff), near St. Paul's Church
From a sketch by Col. R. H. Wynyard (1847)

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the land they had taken, and there was a great deal of discontent, and some hostility among them. There were Missionaries to interpret their Speeches, and some were very threatening and unpleasant, but they were soothed with fair words and presents of Flour and sugar and plenty of Tobacco, and the Governor was persuaded that all would come right enough.

We had such a rough passage up the coast to the East Cape, near which is a curious Sulphur island, which we were desirous to visit, but it was blowing too hard, and we only saw the smoke which constantly rises from it. While we were away, we had given permission to Mr. Swainson the Attorney General, who had just arrived from England, to occupy our native house or "Warre." He had brought with him from England a framed house which would take some weeks to put up, so he was very glad of the accommodation we were able to afford him.

I think it was in the second year of the Settlement, that the city being now all laid out, the streets marked out and named, the sale of the Allotments took place, 3 and my husband bought two of them, in order to include the pretty spot on which our tents had first stood, and then our house was begun. A ship came in from Van Diemen's land or Tasmania as it is now called with a cargo of superior timber for building purposes, and of this our house was built. Its durability has been well tested, for now, after the lapse of more than thirty years, I understand the dear old house is as good as ever. It cost upwards of £2000, though of very moderate dimensions and simple construction, much after the fashion of an Indian Bungalow, all on the ground floor, with windows to the ground opening on a wide Verandah, and a terrace, beyond which a sloping lawn with flower beds and then a belt of shrubbery partly native trees,

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but sown with acorns, chestnuts, walnuts, and planted with vines and fig trees, which we brought from Sydney. The Acorns were from the Oaks at Hobartville, the estate of our old friends the Coe's. Great changes have taken place, but I hear the Oaks are flourishing still. Twelve years ago, when I last saw the place, they were goodly trees.

We continued to inhabit our little Warre for some time after our return from the cruise to the South, making several expeditions by land exploring the country round Auckland, sometimes on foot, but generally on horseback, or in our boat, on the Manukao or Waitemata. One of our most fatiguing expeditions was to the top of the highest of the Volcanic Peaks on the Island of Rangitoto. We were accompanied on this occasion by our young friend, John du Moulin who was indeed at that time one of our family, Captain Rough the Harbour Master, and Captain England, a retired Officer who had come out to settle in the new Colony. Poor fellow he was killed by the Natives a few years afterwards, 4 but at that time, all was bright and hopefull, and no one had the least apprehension of hostilities. We started early in our boat, taking provisions with us. It was a beautiful day I remember in early spring time, when all the trees and shrubs were in flower--the bright yellow balls or tufts of the Acacias, with numbers of those beautiful birds the Tui, which specially affect these trees as if aware that their shining black plumage appeared to great advantage in contrast with the golden blossoms and graceful foliage of the Acacia, --then the "Rata" with its small red flowers, and the Fuschias with varied flowers, red or white or purple-- and largest of all, the "Pohutokawa" which grows quite down to the coast, covered with large crimson tufted blossoms shaped like a bottle-brush. But besides all these,

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and climbing over all, are the largest flowered white clematis I ever saw; and many other shrubs we noticed, as we clambered over the broken masses of Scoria of which the whole Island seems to be composed.

Track or path there was none after we left the Beach. We were more than three hours in the ascent, every step over huge masses of brittle substance, sometimes so thin as to break under our feet, every interstice filled with fern or shrubs and parasitic plants, which were in some places a help, their tough streamers giving us something to hold on by when the Scoria and broken rocks rolled from our feet. The height is by measurement only 900 or a thousand feet above the sea level, but the nature of the ground to be trodden, and the steepness of the ascent, makes it more fatiguing than many higher mountains. And there were deep hollows, extinct craters, which we had to go round, or descend into and ascend on the other side. Here the ground was bare of all vegetation, and was only a mass of fine cinders, into which, the feet would sink, as on a shingly beach, so we tried to keep to the steeper parts of the hill. The heat was excessive and not a drop of water was to be found all through that toilsome day.

At last we reached the summit, all quite exhausted, and sat down to rest and breathe. We found the top of the mountain was a deep hollow and surrounded by irregular Peaks, apparently formed by the action of the Volcanoe throwing up heaps of ashes or scoria in several directions, probably at different periods. It must have been long extinct by the quantity and size of the vegetation. But what a wonderfully extensive view we gained from this point-- all the Frith of Thames studded with its islands, the great and little Barrier islands with their rich Copper mines, the dense forest of the island Waiheke, the Mercury isles, Coromandel with its gold diggings, then suspected but all as yet

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unknown, and then Koreho sleeping in the sunshine, and the little busy hive we had left in the morning scarcely to be distinguished from the unknown forest. The wind blew so strong on the summit, we could scarcely stand, and after resting awhile, and making a fire of the dead wood, which burned for some days, we began our descent, trying what appeared an easier way, than that by which we ascended. It seemed from the top of the mountain as if a stream of Scoria and stones had poured over the lip of the crater, quite down to the shore; but this was broken by deep fissures, and in places so covered with vegetation that our progress was often impeded. The sharp rocks and scoria had worn my boots to pieces, and my dress of grey merino was torn in shreds, struggling through the thorny brush wood, and by the sharp edges of the rocks. Thankful was I to see the shore and boat at last, where we had some wine, but no water had been found, tho' the men left with the boat had searched half round the island for some spring or stream. This absence of water would account for there being no living creature on it; we saw nothing, not even a bird. We were all quite exhausted, and after a short rest returned to Auckland.

It was quite dark when we landed, and we had scarcely reached our house, when my husband was taken with faintness and shivering which alarmed me very much. I sent for Dr. Johnson who administered brandy, and sat with him some time after he got to bed. He told me it was exhaustion from over-exertion, and that he would be well in the morning, which was indeed the case after a night's rest. This alarm quite cured my fatigue. I watched the greater part of the night, and felt no want of sleep, tho' previously in the boat, I had scarcely been able to keep my eyes open.

But I must recall other scenes besides these, our solitary wanderings and excursions, for as the months and years

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rolled on, great advances had been made and there were social duties to be performed. The Governor and Mrs. Hobson had taken up their abode at Government House, and there were many families now, besides the official circle. So there were visits to pay and receive, there were parties and balls, and a Philharmonic Society established of amateurs, who met at each other's houses, and subsequently at an hotel, the first which had been built, and was called "Wood's." Here there was a large room which was used for such public entertainments; and our Philharmonic meetings every month generally ended with a dance. We thought it right to take our part in these duties to Society, and aids to civilization; but we were never so happy as when alone, and at home, reading or conversing, though always ready to give up these our favourite occupations, when the duties of hospitality required it.

Travelling missionaries would sometimes come for a night on their way, and we had now a house, large enough to afford this accommodation. About this time before our house was finished, our friend Mr. Whitaker 5 wished to marry Miss Griffiths. He was building himself a house, but it was far from completion, so we prepared and furnished two rooms in our house for them, which they were glad to occupy for 2 months and more while their own was made habitable. Weddings generally took place at Government House, before the Church was built, and generally all those who had the entree were invited. We had seen the marriage of Mr. Coates to Miss Bendall, the lady had come from Sydney for the purpose, and was staying with Mrs. Hobson. Then there was Mr. Young, who married Miss Hargraves; she came out with the Chaplain Mr. Churton. Then there was Miss Short who came out with Mrs. Hobson as governess to her children; she married Captain Rough the harbour-

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master. On these occasions the weddings took place in the Evenings, and there was always a ball afterwards, when the Governor would dance the first quadrille with the Bride. Of course there were no honeymoons in those days, the brides walked quietly to their new homes, and the bridegrooms were seen at their post next day attending to their duty. The family of Miss Griffiths being Presbyterians, Mr. Whitaker was married in their house by the Minister of the Scotch Church, and then came down to our house, after dinner, to which we had been invited. Another Bride whom we helped to prepare for, was Mrs. Shortland. She too was married at her Father's house, Mr. Fitzgerald, and there were no wedding-guests; but Mr. Shortland (he was then Colonial Secretary) had built a house next to ours, and he had asked me to make suitable arrangements, and prepare the rooms for her reception, as he had only a manservant; and in the evening we received them at dinner (in their own house) accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald; soon after which we all retired and left them. I can't remember whose was the first wedding celebrated in the Church. I suppose it must have been some people in whom I was not interested, for Auckland was now becoming quite populous, and the streets were rapidly taking form, houses and shops filling up very fast.

It was during the second year of our occupancy, that our good Bishop Selwyn arrived, but he did not come to reside at the College near Auckland founded by him till two or three years after his arrival in the country, having taken up his abode at Waimate the oldest Missionary Station, 15 miles from the Bay of Islands, on his first arrival with Mrs. Selwyn and his Chaplain, Mr. Cotton. But he used to visit us sometimes in his tours throughout the island,, which he always made on foot attended by a train of Natives.

Soon after this I think it was that Governor Hobson

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died after a short illness. Indeed he had never recovered properly from the first attack of paralysis, which he had when first arriving on the Coast in the Herald. A second and third seizure in quick succession carried him off. Poor man, he retained the rule of the Colony, when quite incapable of coping with the difficulties which increased with every year, and lived long enough to involve the Colony and everyone connected with the Government in ruin. But of course, poor man, he was greatly lamented by his family, and personally, he was much liked by all his officers; but his measures were weak, and his policy vacillating, and injurious. He was taken away from his post at a critical juncture, and his successor suffered from the evil consequences of measures not his own.

The Natives were becoming extremely irritated. Some terrible acts of cruelty had been discovered. The murder of poor Captain England, and others, especially what was then called the Wairau Massacre, had aroused the fears of the white population, then comparatively but a handfull, whom the Natives declared they would drive into the sea. The death of Captain Arthur Wakefield, and his seven companions at the Wairau, 6 was clearly the result of a most rash and ill advised attack on a Native village, by a small body of the Nelson settlers, under the orders of their Chief Magistrate, Mr. Thompson, and the Superintendent Captn. Wakefield....

Poor Mr. Thompson had a wife and child, they returned to England. A young settler named Moliny had a wife and two young children. She poor thing on hearing the dreadful tidings of her husband's death lost her senses

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and died shortly after. The poor little orphans were brought up to Auckland by the Bishop, and our friends and neighbours, Captain Rough and his wife, adopted them, aided in some small degree by the Bishop and others. The boy, now grown up, is doing well and independently as a surveyor, and his sister is still a daughter to Mrs. Rough. Of the other victims I know nothing, but I think they were unmarried, as was Captn. Arthur Wakefield.

1   Supra, page 198.
2   This ceremony occurred July 8th, 1841. In 1885, when workmen were engaged in the demolition of the old church, its foundation stone was unearthed at the east end of the church, and in a cavity of the stone, a broken bottle containing coins and a copy of the "New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette" for Saturday, July 31, 1841, containing a full account of the ceremony. The "New Zealand Herald" (March, 1885), which reports this curious incident, comments: --"The actors at that ceremonial could hardly have fancied that in 1885, the very face of nature would be changed in the place where they then stood, that the 'beautifully situated' hill on which they were about to build what they were proud to call the 'metropolitan' church, would be taken away bodily to make level ground in the harbour on which to build a large railway station and a place for freezing meat for exportation."
3   Supra page 198.
4   Captain England was one of those killed at Wairau, June 17, 1843. Vide infra, p. 211 note.
5   Later Sir Frederick Whitaker.
6   In all, some twenty settlers lost their lives in this miserable affray, a number being shot before Captain Wakefield and his seven companions laid down their arms, only to be slaughtered in cold blood. See accounts by W. P. Reeves, "Long White Cloud"; G. W. Rusden, "History of New Zealand"; and A. Saunders, "History of New Zealand."

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