1889 - Colenso, W. A few brief Historical Notes and Remarks concerning the Early Christian Church at Ahuriri - [Text] p 1-16

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  1889 - Colenso, W. A few brief Historical Notes and Remarks concerning the Early Christian Church at Ahuriri - [Text] p 1-16
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"Think naught a trifle, though it small appear;
Small sands the mountain, moments make the year,
And trifles life,"--YOUNG, Love of Fame.

"No pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage-ground of Truth."--Bacon, Essay i, Of Truth.


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A few remarks on a portion of a very curious letter, written to the Editor of the "Daily Telegraph" Napier, from "St. Paul's Parsonage, Murrurundi, N.S.W.," by "the Incumbent the Rev. W. Marshall."--

"Quoniam quidem multi conati sunt ordinare narrationem rerum: visum est et mihi, assecuto omnia a principio diligenter, ex ordine tibi scribere"


------"I pray you in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice."----

SHAKESP., Othello.

SIR,--My attention has been repeatedly drawn to a peculiar letter from the Rev. W. Marshall to you, of January 5th, and published by you in your paper of the 19th of that month. I should have publicly noticed it before, only my two months summer absence in the woods (at Christmas and the New Year), and subsequent illness on my return to Napier prevented me. It is rather

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late now, I allow, to remark upon it; but I feel constrained to do so for several reasons,--some of which may, perhaps, be rightly inferred from this letter to you,-- my chief one, however, being to leave a true historical record of a few significant and important matters which happened here at Napier (then Ahuriri), during the early time mentioned by Mr. Marshall-- and for many years before. I being then resident here and fully acquainted with them all. Moreover I may also say, that I feel the more inclined to do this from both the manner and the words of Mr. Marshall's letter; in which, at the opening he says:--

"In alluding to the work of the church in the early days in Napier, and the part I was privileged to take in initiating her services, an omission was made, which might mislead some, and which for the sake of accuracy, I think it may be as well for mo to supply." Now I purpose to follow Mr. Marshall's leading, and what he has overlooked forgotten or omitted, I hope to supply; and all from original documentary sources.

My letter must, therefore, necessarily be a long one, but I hope it may prove both interesting now and useful hereafter.

Mr. Marshall goes on to say (1) "In the year 1852 I arrived in Napier (then called Ahuriri) from Wellington: (2) at that time there was no house--only Mr. Alexander's store: (3) no sound was heard except theory of the sea-gull, and the song of the Maori as he paddled his canoe: (4) Two months after my arrival in Ahuriri Bishop Selwyn paid the district a visit,-- and he appointed me lay-reader: (5) I held my first service in the raupo (rush) building in Domett's gully, where public prayer was offered up on the island for the first time. (6) Afterwards I conducted service in the school-room (afterwards burnt down), which then occupied the site whereon now stands Newton's store."

In the autumn of 1852, Bishop Selwyn paid his usual Episcopal visit to the district; he came overland from Wellington on foot, and stayed several days at my house at Waitangi; where some hundreds of Christian Maoris from neighbouring villages in

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Hawke's Bay had assembled to meet him. 1 On his leaving for the North I travelled with him (both of us on foot) to the River Waikari, where the Rev. J. Hamlin from Wairoa met him. Mr. Marshall never saw the Bishop during that visit; which, of course, was his only one for that year. Moreover I find, from a letter, that Mr. Marshall was residing at Wellington in October, 1852.

Again, in the autumn of the following year, 1853, (on March 30th,) Bishop Selwyn was again here in Hawke's Bay. On that occasion there was a large party of English gentlemen travelling with him (all mounted), including the Governor Sir G. Grey, Mr. Tollemache, Mr. Valentine Smith, and the Rev. (now Archdeacon) S. Williams. The party had stopped at Hapuku's pa (village) near Pakowhai the preceding night and part of that day; and late in the evening they halted at Renata's pa Te Pokonao, on the banks of the river Ngaruroro; whence on the next morning (March 31st) they proceeded towards Petane and the North; and probably on that occasion Mr. Marshall and others saw Bishop Selwyn at Ahuriri, in his passing through, though the travelling party made no stay there.

Here I should state that my large dwelling-house at Waitangi had unfortunately been burnt down with all its contents on the

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8th January, 1853. 2 At that time of their visit I was obliged to reside in my small unlined weatherboarded store in the adjoining field, without fire, etc.,--although it was very cold and wet, for the whole flat country had been recently deeply flooded, and was then very deep in mud and water! insomuch that the party of visitors had some difficulty in getting their horses through the mire on to the outer beach, in the absence of roads.

I may, also, observe, that I never before heard of Bishop Selwyn having appointed Mr. Marshall as lay-reader at Ahuriri; though, as Mr. Marshall says so, I do not doubt it; but he could only have filled that office for a very short time--a few weeks at most; --for it was during that same autumn, and in about a month or so after the Bishop had passed on, that Mr. Marshall himself with Mrs. Marshall and two pupils, also left Ahuriri for Mr. Guthrie's station at Castle Point, where he remained for three (or more) years as tutor to Mr. Guthrie's rising family. I have particularly good reasons for remembering this (my first acquaintance with Mr. Marshall), as Mr. Marshall with his travelling party on foot brought-up unexpectedly at "my small and cramped weather-boarded store" on the first evening and night on their journey from Ahuriri.

Some years after this, on Mr. Marshall's return to Hawke's Bay from Castle Point (I believe in the year 1857), he resided at Clive; where during another very severe

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flood, both he and Mrs. Marshall narrowly escaped drowning, being saved with some difficulty from the roof of their schoolhouse in a boat!

In due course, however, Mr. Marshall came back to Ahuriri, (then rising Napier! with its shops, hotels, public offices, magistrates, &c., &c.,)--but then the transformation had taken place and Napier was firmly established. And it is worthy of notice that it was during those very years of Mr. Marshall's long absence (after his first brief residence) that the large influx of early respectable settlers took place; men determined to stay, and to brave the many discomforts inseparable on first settling and colonizing; men who have mainly constituted "the backbone" of Napier, and of the District;-- who have been the true cause of the "unearned increment" (falsely assumed by the Government). These remained, and they, or their descendants, are here to this day.

In Napier Mr. Marshall dwelt for some time, but not very long, as he again, at the end of the year 1858, removed far off to Pohui, 27 miles W. on the hills, to a sheep-run he had there. It was, I suppose, during this second short residence in Napier, that he "conducted Service in the Schoolroom"; but certainly not down to the time of its being burnt, nor for a considerable time before that event, as that duty was for a long time performed by the late Capt. Newman until the arrival of the Rev. Peter Barclay, the first resident Scotch Presbyterian Minister in Napier and Hawke's Bay, who, from his arrival held Divine Service regularly in that School-room.

At Pohui Mr. Marshall remained for a few years; ultimately returning to Napier; where he conducted a very respectable Boys' Day and Boarding School for several years the benefits of which to the then rising generation are still remembered.

Two other matters, prominently related by Mr. Marshall, I have yet to notice:--

1. --The romantic or dreary solitude of Ahuriri! He says, that "in 1852," (or, it may have been early in 1853,) "there was no house where Napier now stands, only Mr. Alexander's store in Onepoto; and no

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sound was heard save the cry of the seagull, and the song of the Maori as he paddled his canoe," and yet Mr. Marshall could seek the office of Lay-reader in the Church to such a congregation! and find a large and suitable house ready to hand "in Domett's Gully" (of which, more anon) in which to hold his first service."

Here, I think, it might be very properly enquired,--In what capacity did Mr. Marshall come to such a solitary out-of-the-way place as Ahuriri? What for? What to do? After residing for some time in Wellington--where he broke up housekeeping to come to Ahuriri. I believe, that he came to Ahuriri to carry on his occupation of Teacher or School-master; and surely he must have made fitting enquiries before he left Wellington.

At that very time (so pathetically deplored by Mr. Marshall) and before, I suppose there were at least 50 whites residing at Port Ahuriri; some with their wives and large families, who, or their descendants, still remain settled here:-- As, for instance, Messrs W. Villers, and James McKain, who had arrived at Ahuriri 2 or 3 years before (in 1850). In fact, (and as a significant proof of how early and quickly the white population of Ahuriri was increasing,) I may mention,--that early in May 1852, (at least 6-7 months before Mr. Marshall's arrival,) Mrs. Villers had applied to me as the Resident Minister to marry a young servant-girl of hers to a young carpenter of the Port; and it was their (united) wish the marriage should take place there. But I was obliged to inform Mrs Villers in reply, that as I was bound by the laws of the Church of England and by the instructions of Bishop Selwyn, I could only marry them during canonical hours in one of the neighboring churches, viz. at the Mission Station (Te Awapuni) Waitangi; or at Petane; and the young couple were married by me at Petane (their choice), their Banns having been previously called at the Mission Station Church. Moreover Mr. (afterwards Sir) Donald McLean, as Government Land Purchaser, with his party were also at Ahuriri residing in the summer of 1851, (to which place Mr.

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McLean removed after his first 3 days spent with me in my house at Waitangi). On his first purchase of land from the Maori chiefs in that same year, a number of Surveyors were immediately required with their assistants; among those early professional men were Mr. Park, Mr. Pelichet, and many others (now no more!)--and all long before Mr. Marshall's arrival. And the little port had even then, and for some years previous, become quite a bustling place of trade,--with small vessels constantly coming and going both N. and S.,-- the Maori trade, in wheat, maize, potatoes, pigs, and dressed flax, was very large, all of them then were industrious raisers of crops for sale and export, and hard-workers, too! such, indeed, was the concourse at times at the Port, that three hotels were very speedily established there; in which it was often difficult to get a meal or a bed. Early in 1853 the late Mr. Fitzgerald (then Chief Provincial Surveyor of the Province of Wellington) with his wife and family, also his sister and her husband Mr. Tyser and their family, Mr. Bousfield, wife and family, Mr. W. Burton, wife and family, and many others (all forming one party) also arrived. And as this large party arrived in the early autumn, I believe they were actually here before Mr. Marshall left for Castle Point. In fact, "the raupo building in Domett's gully," which Mr. Marshall mentions, was a very handsome and strongly built Maori house, specially erected by the combined Maori chiefs as a fit residence for Mr. Maclean, and made (at his request) after the English plan and fashion of my own detached study at Waitangi, which he had so greatly admired. It is also worthy of note, that early in January, 1853 (I think, on the 11th, and therefore during that short time that Mr. Marshall was first residing at Ahuriri), Mr. McLean held the Magistrate's first Court in this same building, which was largely attended by both whites and Maoris,--the place being literally crammed, (I, myself, was present on that occasion.) And in this same building, the Hon. Mr. Domett, C.M.G., our first Land Commissioner and Resident Magistrate, (to whom

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Napier is so largely indebted,) who came here early in 1854, resided with his wife and family several years, during Mr. Marshall's long absence at Castle Point; when it, also, served the Government as our first Crown Lands Office, in which nearly all Napier was sold! and, afterwards, for many years, it was the residence of our second Resident Magistrate, Capt. Curling; and after him of Major Scully, so long our Inspector of Police.

2. That "he, Mr. Marshall, in 1853, was the first to offer up public prayer on the island in the English language" !! and this after, at least, 10 years of pretty frequent visits and sojournings there made by the Bishop, the Archdeacon, and several other non-resident visiting English Protestant Clergymen; besides those common clerical ones of the late Father Reignier and other R. C. priests who had preceded him; not to mention my own many times of meeting and teaching and of Divine Service during those 10 years as the resident minister of Ahuriri, in the 3 Maori villages formerly situated at the Port including Scinde Island,--as well as, occasionally, to the English sick and others of the shipping and on shore.

Had Mr. Marshall remained at Ahuriri, I should not (in all probability) have had to come hither from Waitangi (on two special occasions) to bury the dead in the Church-of-England Cemetery; the first one interred therein being the daughter of Mr. Wm. Villers, Senr., in 1854; another, some years after, the child of Mr. E. Hamlin.

In thus briefly narrating the foregoing, (and mostly condensed from documentary sources,) I have been scrupulously particular to be truthfully exact; for, I confess, I fail now to see (as formerly to know) the especial prominent "part" that Mr. Marshall says "he was privileged to take in initiating the services of the Church in the early days in Napier." When--long before Mr. Marshall's name was ever heard of at Ahuriri or in Hawke's Bay--the Bishop of the Diocese had confirmed more than 500 adults, and with the Archdeacon (afterwards the first Bishop of Waiapu) had often administered the Holy Communion to

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about 600 male and female Communicants!! I say nothing respecting my own labours in bringing forward and in building-up the Church (also ignored by Mr. Marshall) during my 10 years of residence and active service;--and that "not in another man's line of things made ready to our hand."

In conclusion: I will further say, that I much wish the Rev. W. Marshall had written less, and also written more: less, about himself and his doings; more, so as to show clearly those great breaks (or "leaps and bounds") absolutely required to discern truly those years and long intervening periods of time so closely strung together by him in his letter. No doubt, to some, who do not know Mr. Marshall, that mode of writing may appear both as suppressio veri and suggestio falsi; but I would rather charitably set it down to the well-known and proverbial "old man's want of memory" (especially when invalided), coupled with a desire to shorten his letter written to a foreign paper so far away. Others, again, may be inclined to ask, "Why have written his letter at all?" To such inquirers I cannot give an answer.

If any old resident in Hawke's Bay, having a perfect knowledge of the past, (A. D., 1850-1858,) can correct, or add to, my narration, I will thank him to do so. I purpose sending a copy of this letter to the Rev. W. Marshall, in N.S.W.

I am, &c.,
The Ordained Church-of-England Minister to Port Ahuriri.

P. S. --Of course, it will be plain to the reader, that I have merely and briefly brought forward circumstances in connexion with Mr. Marshall's letter. There are many others more or less historical, and much more strange and interesting, that I could narrate, which took place during my first ten years of residence; to these I may return at an early date. --W. C.

Napier, March 20th, 1889.

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SIR,--In a copy of the DAILY TELEGRAPH which was sent to me I read an account of the consecration of St. John's Cathedral. In alluding to the work of the church in the early days in Napier, and the part I was privileged to take in initiating her services, an omission was made, which might mislead some, and which, for the sake of accuracy, I think it may be as well for me to supply. In giving a sketch of the early history of the Church of England in Napier, the writer of the article in question, says:-- "Some thirty years ago Mr. Wm. Marshall used to hold services on the site which is now occupied by Newton's store. Mr. Marshall afterwards became an Anglican clergyman, and after his ordination removed to Queensland, where he is now settled. The services by Mr. Marshall were greatly appreciated by the small community." Now, the fact is, after my ordination, I was appointed to the Cure of Havelock, where I remained for over five years.

Perhaps it may not be uninteresting to some if I gave a short sketch of my career in Napier--that is, as far as the Church of England is concerned. In the year 1852, I arrived in Napier (then called Ahuriri) from Wellington. At that time there was no house where Napier now stands. There was only Mr. Alexander's store (afterwards Mr. Newton's) in Onepoto; and no sound was heard save the cry of the seagull, and the

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song of the Maori as he paddled his canoe. Truly, "a little one has become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation." Two months after my arrival in Ahuriri, Bishop Selwyn paid the district a visit, and at a meeting which was held in Onepoto, he appointed me lay reader, and I held my first service in the raupo building in Domett's Gully, where public prayer was offered up on the island in the English language for the first time, Mr. Tanner, Mr. Newton, and about half-a-dozen others being present. Afterwards I conducted service in the schoolroom (afterwards burnt down), which then occupied the site whereon now stands Newton's store. In the year 1872, I was ordained by the late Bishop of Waiapu, and appointed to the Cure of Havelock, which then included Clive and Hastings. During the five years I lived in Havelock, I managed, with the aid of warm-hearted and loyal members of our church--how warm-hearted and loyal I remember with gratitude to this day--to get the three churches St. Luke's, St. Mark's, and St. Matthew's built. My health failing, I was advised to try the drier climate of Australia. In 1878 I left Napier and went to Townsville, in North Queensland, for a short time. Whilst there the late Bishop Tyrrell offered me the incumbency of Murrurundi, in New South Wales, which I accepted, and where I still am.

Apologising for the length of this letter,

I am, &c.,
St. Paul's Parsonage, Murrurundi, N.S.W., January 5th, 1889.

Printed at the "Daily Telegraph" Office, Napier,

1   As I am writing chiefly on Church matters, it may not be considered amiss for me to mention, in a note, that on this occasion the Bishop Confirmed 229 adult Maoris at the Mission Station, and 19 aged persons at Tangoio on our way North; and these, with many others, were subsequently Communicants: (besides several whom he had also Confirmed at the various large Maori villages on his way North from Wellington.) On a former Episcopal visit he had also Confirmed 136 adults at this Mission Station, and 104 on his journey through the district under my charge. All had been gathered from Heathenism in these parts during the previous 7-8 years! it was a memorable time, and the Bishop was highly pleased.
2   It may be worthy of a short Note to remark, that this very day (January 8th) was the one on which all the Maoris round about were gathered together at Ahuriri (including my own male domestics), to receive the stipulated payment for Scinde Island (now Napier); hence, too, it was that I was well-nigh left alone at the Mission Station at Waitangi, when, at noon, the fire took place; the wind, at the time, was one of those strong Westerly hurricanes, so that nothing could be saved! The conflagration was soon seen and known by them and the Europeans at Napier,-- who climbed to the top of the hill, from the house in Domett's Gully--to lament over it.

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