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The Farthest Promised Land — English Villagers, New Zealand Immigrants of the 1870s

12 New Zealand — Feldon

page 260

12 New Zealand — Feldon

THE IMMIGRANT RURAL labourer was impelled by his memories of the world he had left, and by the opportunities of the colonial world he had joined, towards one paramount personal ambition and one dominant social ideal. He would till his own land as an independent yeoman farmer, and he would live in a yeoman community where men mixed in a brotherhood of rough equality. His wife and children would toil with him, helping to bring his dream to pass, and sharing in its fruits. There would be no degraded paupers to shame his new community, and no great ones, exacting deference while living in idle luxury. Rather, in this yeoman's Promised Land, all would enjoy security against the fear of want, a daily round enriched by family fellowship, and leisure to share, according to their interests and abilities, in the affairs and recreations of the local community. In old age one would rest in the enjoyment of the ample fruits of one's own labours, having seen one's children established in the same way of life. This yeoman ideal drew much of its strength from an idealised popular tradition of a ‘Merrie England’ of the past, and from the Promised Land of Old Testament history and prophecy. It had been reinforced in recent times by the North American experience, for there the yeoman had become ‘the hero of a myth, of the myth of mid-nineteenth-century America’.1 The English village labourer's awareness of this myth had been strengthened by the recent spectacle of the triumph of the yeoman North over the plantation South, and by the growing impact of American religious revivalism, which was rich in agrarian imagery. But the yeoman outlook would surely have developed even without the aid of ancient traditions or contemporary myths, for it represented the simplest and most direct way of imagining the removal of all those deprivations and humiliations under which the English village labourers suffered. And in the world of the late nineteenth century such men could have found few places better suited than New Zealand for the furthering of their dream. There were, of course, other personal ambitions held by some of the colony's labouring immigrants, particularly those being fostered world-wide by new patterns of city life. But in New Zealand it was the yeoman ideal which was dominant, and it even found an urban expression by way of the quarter-acre section and holiday bach.

The newcomers of the 1870s were offered no one simple path to the fulfilment of their ambitions, but rather a range of options. For they came with a variety of skills and personal circumstances, and they joined a fluid, rapidly-developing pioneer community in a land with a number of strikingly varied local environments. We must, therefore, search for page 261 simplifying patterns, if we are to achieve a coherent grasp of the significance of thousands of diverse colonial careers. Our first and most basic pattern is that which underlies the division between this and the following chapter. This division draws its two categories from ancient Warwickshire, which was divided by the Avon into the Arden or woodland, and the Feldon or open field country. In both Warwickshire and New Zealand, the presence or absence of forests has had important and enduring social and economic consequences. For all its diversity of landscapes, a division of colonial agrarian New Zealand into Feldon, or open country, and Arden, or forest, offers the best working arrangement for our purposes. The Feldon, in our case, does not represent cultivated or enclosed land, but land on which, in its undeveloped state, stock might be immediately depastured. Whether covered with tussock, fern, scrub, or swamp plants, the New Zealand Feldon could be put to immediate pastoral use. By the Arden we will mean that land which was without pastoral or agricultural value until cleared of its forest. At the beginning of the 1870s, the Feldon of New Zealand was almost all occupied, in the main by large-scale pastoralists, or squatters, while the Arden, which represented a large area of potentially valuable farmland, had barely been touched. The basis for our taking this as our most fundamental pattern can be simply stated. For the immigrant labourer to achieve his ambitions on the Feldon, there would have to be sweeping changes in the existing social and economic arrangements. If he succeeded, he would be fitting into, while at the same time transforming, an existing settler society. If, however, his ambitions were to be fulfilled in the Arden, the challenge he faced was, in the first instance, a physical one-clearing the land of forest, in most cases, dense rain forest. There would also be the task of creating a social and economic order in previously unsettled country. In many districts, particularly in the North Island, once the forest had gone, there would be little superficial difference between Arden and Feldon areas. Yet the effect of the original environment upon settlement can be shown to have had enduring social consequences.

New Zealand's shape and relief have tended to make the Arden-Feldon division largely a matter of west and east. The country extends for a thousand miles athwart a belt of rain-bearing westerly winds, and for much of its length a formidable chain of high mountains forms a barrier in their path. To the west of the mountains the rainfall is high, to the east, relatively low. This pattern of topography and rainfall is most pronounced in the South Island, where the east-west division between Arden and Feldon is very marked. Here the mountains lie close to the west coast, with dense rain forest on their western slopes and on the limited areas of lowland between them and the coast. The western coastal lowland represents a considerable part of the South Island Arden. It had little potential farmland to attract the settler, and the development of what there was, was hampered by difficulties of access. On the other hand, to the east of the mountains lay great stretches of tussock-covered lowlands. This extensive Feldon became page 262 the main stronghold of the colony's squatters. The squatters also established themselves firmly in the southern Norch Island, on the eastern lowlands and hills of the Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay, and west of the ranges on the Feldon of the relatively low-rainfall Rangitikei-Patea coastal strip. It was the Arden, however, which dominated the North Island. It covered the greater part of the western half of the island, as well as extensive areas in the east. By hemming settlement into coastal pockets and severely hampering the development of cross-country communications, it had placed the settlers at a disadvantage in their conflicts with the Maoris. The North Island Arden covered large areas of potentially first class farm land.

The greater number of the assisted immigrants of the 1870s joined settlements which owed their founding to Edward Gibbon Wakefield's dream of a system whereby English rural society might be recreated in a purified form. Among the weaknesses of the New Zealand Wakefield schemes were the failure to appreciate either the difficulties of colonising the Arden, or the attractions of an alternative form of settlement, the pastoral occupation of the Feldon on the pattern already developed by the Australian squatters. It would have been difficult to find anywhere in New Zealand of the 1870s a district where there was anything resembling the English rural pattern of gentry, farmers and labourers. Rather, the Wakefield settlements had given rise to two main types of community — those shaped respectively by the emerging yeoman farmers, and by the squattocracy. The yeoman pattern had become firmly established around the original sites of each of the Wakefield settlements. The heavily-forested and hilly site of the Wellington settlement had held no attractions for anyone aspiring to the style of life of the English rural gentry. Most of these, if they chose to stay in the colony, moved to the Feldon districts of the Wairarapa, Rangitikei or Marlborough, and took up squatting. By the 1870s considerable districts of yeoman farms had been carved from the forests adjacent to Wellington Harbour. This was one of the few districts in which a beginning had been made in colonising the Arden. In Taranaki the New Plymouth settlement had developed as a small isolated pocket of yeoman farms on a narrow coastal strip of Feldon, the fernlands between the sea and the forest. The Nelson settlement had also become a yeoman stronghold on a rather larger scale than New Plymouth with most of its population concentrated on a small pocket of Feldon, the Waimea Plain. The Canterbury settlement had given rise to a coastal fringe of yeoman-type settlement, on a strip of country running south from Christchurch to Ellesmere, and north to Rangiora. This marshy land was not suited to the squatters' purposes, and they were happy to leave it to the yeoman, while they occupied the great stretches of well-drained tussock grasslands further out. In Otago a similar development had seen the establishment of yeoman farms on the Taieri and Tokomairiro Plains, south of Dunedin, while the squatters had quickly staked out their runs on the extensive tussock grasslands throughout the rest of the province.

If we wished to give a quick, simplified picture of the development of page 263 rural New Zealand in later Victorian times, we might say that by the 1870s the Feldon had been occupied, and was under the economic, social and political dominance of a new, colonial type of gentry, the squatters. The colonising of the Arden had barely begun, so it represented a great, unrealised asset. The power of the squatters was under challenge, for the measure of success which yeoman farming had achieved had whetted the appetites of the landless. During the preceding decade the gold rushes in the south and the Maori threat in the north had both served to advance yeoman farming - the gold rushes by creating a market for the yeoman's produce, and by providing both manpower and capital for the establishment of new yeoman farms, the Maori threat by leading even the squatters of the North Island to foster some extension of yeoman farming as a means of building up settler manpower. In the 1870s the arrival of large numbers of land-hungry rural immigrants, and the political power which the steady extension of democracy gave to the landless, brought a growing challenge to the squatters' position. The 1880s and 1890s saw the steady decline of the squatters, and the rise of the yeoman to a position of economic and political dominance. There were a number of reasons for this yeoman victory. The squatters were not interested in the Arden, and over these decades it was steadily occupied as new yeoman country. A long-term decline in the price of wool was a severe economic blow to the squatters, while the coming of refrigeration favoured a shift to yeoman farming on much of the Feldon. Everywhere the yeomen benefited during the depression of the 1880s from their ability to ride out hard times with a subsistence approach. By the 1890s, the yeomen had replaced the squatters as the main political force of rural New Zealand, and they used their power to accelerate the reshaping of New Zealand along the lines of their ideal.

Most of the main forces patterning the careers of our immigrant rural labourers will now be clear. We will find them cooperating with the various influences encouraging the extension of yeoman farming on the Feldon, and we will find them providing a steady flow of recruits for the stream of settlers moving from the Feldon to colonise the Arden. As a result of this movement there developed what has often been referred to as ‘the drift north’. Its causes lay in the fact that the greater number of the rural recruits of the 1870s went to the Feldon of the South Island, while over the following decades it was the Arden of the north which offered the best opportunities of farm ownership to the man of small means. The term ‘drift north’ is not altogether a felicitous one. For one thing, it obscures the fact that the movement was from the Feldon of both islands, to the Arden, and for another, much of the movement was too deliberate and well organised to be aptly labelled a ‘drift’. It found expression in settlement institutions which have yet to be researched in detail. Some idea of their nature, and of the forces which created them, may be gained by examining certain developments beginning in Christchurch late in 1879.

The working men of Christchurch and the surrounding districts were disturbed by the curtailment of public works and the appearance of page 264 unemployment, and were stirred to form a land settlement company by reports on the opportunities offered by the Waimate Plain in South Taranaki. This was a most attractive stretch of coastal fern land, part of a large district which the government had confiscated during the land wars, but which it was only just beginning to survey for settlement in the face of Maori opposition. In December 1879 the Christchurch movement began to campaign by means of public meetings and the despatch of telegrams and delegates to the ministry in Wellington, for the passing of an act empowering the government to hand over the Waimate Plains to them. They would then undertake to settle 8,000 souls in the area, assume the responsibility for its defence, and do all the necessary public works.2 In mid-December the movement claimed a roll of about 500 heads of families in Christchurch, and its secretary was in correspondence with groups of unemployed from Auckland to Dunedin.3 Late in December William Rolleston, Minister of Lands, was in Christchurch, and a delegation from the ‘Waimate Plains Co-operative Land Company’ waited on him with further details of their requirements and plans. The ‘native difficulty’ would be met by having at least a thousand settlers armed with rifles in the initial migration. Ten thousand sheep and a thousand cattle would be depastured at once, and the settlers would take in all necessary machinery and mills. The men would work on government contracts, while the boys of 13 to 18 got some 50 to 100 teams to work tilling the land. One delegate maintained that with hundreds nearly starving in Christchurch, the government should throw these lands open immediately.4 Rolleston gave this land company little encouragement. It was eventually forced to restrict its activities to sending delegates to inspect forest land which the government put up for sale in Taranaki over the following winter, and to facilitating individual applications for sections by its members.5

Working men's settlement associations were by no means new to New Zealand, but it seems likely that the sweeping proposals and rather direct and outspoken methods of the Christchurch movement owed something to the influence of more recent immigrants with an experience of the unions of the Revolt of the Field. Over the following two decades, settlement associations played an important part in the migration from the Feldon to the Arden. We must now, however, turn our attention to those who did not choose to join this movement, but rather set out to fulfill their ambitions on the Feldon. We will give our main attention to Canterbury, choosing this province because of its predominance of Feldon, and because it received more English assisted immigrants in the 1870s than any other province. We will first briefly survey the topography and social history of the province, as a necessary background to our account of the careers of successful immigrant labourers.

The Feldon of Canterbury consists of the Canterbury Plains, the downlands and low hills to the north and south of the plains, and the grazing lands of the High Country of the eastern slopes of the Alps. The Canterbury Plains were formed by the coalescing of the gravel fans of the page 265
Canterbury Plains from Lyttelton Hills

Canterbury Plains from Lyttelton Hills

snow-fed rivers flowing from the Alps. The Plains rise steadily from the coast to a height of 1,100 to 1,400 feet where they abut the foothills. They are about forty miles wide opposite Banks Peninsula, and taper away to north and south. Their surface is very level, except where the rivers have cut their wide, deep beds, often a mile across, with the stream braided into many channels. The remarkably even coastline of over a hundred miles is interrupted by Banks Peninsula, formerly a large volcanic island, now tied to the mainland by the alluvial growth of the plains. The hilly peninsula, catching much more rain than the plains, was thickly forested, in contrast to the predominantly Feldon nature of the region. The value of the Canterbury Feldon for agriculture depends largely on how much the original shingle-waste has been built up by wind-blown silt, or loess. Over considerable areas of the plains the loess cover is thin, giving poor stoney land of limiied value for farming. The deepest blanket of loess is found immediately south of the main rivers, and over considerable areas of the downland to the north and south of the plains. Only these better soils were really suited to small farming. The areas to which the small farmer first gained easy access were, for the most part, the large swamps which occurred in the depressions between the main shingle fans, and in a number of coastal areas. We have already noted that districts of this type near Christchurch early became a yeoman stronghold. The High Country is, of course, only suited to large-scale pastoral farming, and so has never been coveted by yeoman farmers.

The English labourers who immigrated to the Canterbury Feldon in the 1870s found that most of the useable country had been turned into a great sheep farm, and that the interests and power of the sheep owners stood in the way of closer settlement. Unlike the original squatters of Australia, whence the term had come, few New Zealand squatters fulfilled the original implications of the word. They had not taken possession of land by page 266 merely driving their sheep onto it, but rather had taken up their land as leasehold under depasturage licences. Few men either then or later would criticise this approach to the initial use of the land. What was resented and widely criticised was that the squatters, once they gained political power, proceeded to take undue advantage of their priority of tenure, especially in the form of pre-emptive rights to compensate them for their improvements. One of their critics, Crosbie Ward, satirised their shrewd political moves in his ‘Song of the Squatters’ published in February 1858. He told how the ‘crafty squatters, subtle shepherds’ came down to the Provincial Council in Christchurch, and ‘humbugged, diddled all the members’, and how

… the few that stood their ground there,
Stood their ground and asked for justice,
Simple justice to all classes,
They were bullied and brow-beaten,
Called to order, reprimanded,
By the big men, the stock owners,
Squatters and the friends of squatters,
And the timid ones around them

Who would fain be friends of squatters…
Then departed all the stockmen,
Crafty squatters, subtle shepherds…
And they kicked the farmer backward
From the fertile spots of country
In the region of the Westward —
Never thinking of hereafter.6

By the 1870s the rougher pioneer days of squatting were past. The station homestead, in the centre of its wide stretch of pastures, had become an attractive and comfortable place, where the pastimes and social conventions of the homeland gentry had taken colonial roots. Each homestead had a dependent colony of servants and labourers, and it was among these that many of the newly arrived immigrants found their first employment. Not surprisingly, some of the newcomers equated the squatters with the English squires. Thus the Lincolnshire immigrant Michael Cook wrote home in March 1876 to tell how he had taken a break from his sawmill job because

A squire they call Sir Thos. Tancred lives near us; he saw my stacks and was so taken up with them that he came and borrowed me three days to go and stack for him, so my master drove the engine to let me go … I charged 18d. an hour — good stackers can get that.7

There can be no doubt that among the squatters there were those who aspired to the creation of a colonial gentry class. Thus it is reported of Charles Reed of Westerfield Run that it was his ambition to ultimately work the place like an English country estate and let the land in farms.8 In 1877 the Canterbury Times wrote of John Studholme's ‘almost chivalric attachment to his order, like aristocracy…. The belief that squatters are a different order, essentially of a higher nature, a more perfect mould, has page 267 taken hold on his mind.’9 But such dreams were not to come to pass. Too many of the squatters had risen from the ranks of the labouring class, while others who had come from better circumstances had no desire to recreate the English class system. For any who did hanker after such things, the obvious course was to make a colonial fortune quickly and return to England. However, they would have had little chance of doing this if they had not made good by 1878.

The years 1877 and 1878 saw a great land boom in Canterbury. Much of the land leased by the squatters from the Crown was put up for sale, and over these two years the Crown alienated a million acres. Many squatters who had failed to get a freehold grip on their stations in earlier years, now went deep into debt to buy land at inflated prices, and were in the hands of their mortgagors over the long depression years that followed. Small farmers bought some of the land put up for sale, and other areas were bought by speculators, who in many cases disposed of their purchases on deferred payment to aspiring yeomen. In the 1880s the line between the squatter and the yeomen began to blur. Forced to forsake their dependence on wool, the squatters diversified into grain and meat, and their style of farming came more into line with that of the yeomen. Meanwhile, as successful yeomen added to their acres, and as the large stations of the squatters were, for one reason or another, broken up, the distinction between two ways of farming began to lose its meaning, except that the old squatter style of life continued on the high country runs. On the lowlands the subdivision for more intensive farming had been encouraged by the coming of the railways, the appearance of improved farm machinery, especially that for harvesting grain crops, and the development of refrigeration, which made new kinds of exports possible. The farm labourer immigrants of the 1870s had appeared at a propitious time, and over the following decades a considerable number of them became successful landholders, by one or another of the routes that were open to them. Many found their opportunities in private deals or through the commercial market in land. Others were given their chance by various settlement schemes sponsored by the State. These schemes steadily increased in scope under three progressive Ministers of Lands, Rolleston (1879–84), Ballance (1884–87) and McKenzie (1891–1900).

An experienced New Zealand colonist on a visit to Britain in 1874, wrote to The Times of the prospects which rural New Zealand offered to the immigrant. He maintained that it was almost an advantage to arrive without capital. He had found that men of small means often bought land soon after arrival, before they had enough experience of colonial conditions to buy wisely, and as many such men were unaccustomed to hard fxphysical labour, they started with a double disadvantage, and often lost, rather than made, money. On the other hand, some of the richest men in the colony had arrived penniless, and had made their way up by steady work and by investing in land only after gaining the necessary experience.10 As we have seen, most of the assisted immigrants of the 1870s page 268 belonged to the penniless variety, but before we examine the various ways by which they raised themselves in the world, we must briefly mention those who brought some capital with them. The very fact that these men chose to travel as government immigrants suggests that they were not unprepared for rough conditions or hard work, and they may therefore have fared better than those described by The Times's colonial correspondent. They can only have been a small minority of the assisted immigrants; how numerous one cannot say, as the only indication of their presence is provided by a few examples that have come to light in a fortuitous way. Thus the captain of an immigrant ship arriving at Port Chalmers early in 1874 was quoted by an Otago newspaper as saying that early in the voyage he had had occasion to advise such immigrants as had money to place it in his hands for safe keeping, whereupon one free immigrant handed over £1,200; and a Taranaki newspaper reported that the immigrants who arrived in New Plymouth on the Avalanche in January 1875 introduced a considerable amount of capital, which they deposited in the banks in various amounts up to £500, each.11 John H. White reported that one of his recruits, 34-year-old William Fenwick from Irby-upon-Humber, who arrived in Canterbury in January, 1875, had written home soon after to say that he had got seven per cent for his money and ‘he had a nice sum’.12 Fenwick settled with his family at Oxford, and in 1882 was returned as a farmer there with eight acres of freehold valued at £150, so it is unlikely that he bought land precipitously and unwisely. Another of White's recruits, 48-year-old farm labourer Charles Dent, must also have arrived with capital. He reached Timaru in November 1875, and after only a month there, began farming, apparently on rented land, at Arowhenua. Dent was probably a farmer's son, as he had worked for his father until he was fourteen, then left to work for others. His emigration would seem to have been a considered endeavour to regain the status his father had enjoyed. His two eldest children, Joseph, 20, and Jane, 17, had emigrated with Henry Tomlinson's party nearly a year earlier. After a short time in New Zealand, Jane wrote home to tell of her good position on a farm eight miles from Christchurch, and reported ‘I am learning to milk and make butter; it will be useful for me when I have your cows to milk’. Evidently there was an element of planning behind this family migration. Although he began his colonial career somewhat late in life, Charles Dent achieved considerable success. In 1880 he took up land at Charing Cross, inland from Christchurch, and at the turn of the century he owned 616 acres of good farmland there.13 Other examples of immigrants with capital might be cited from elsewhere in New Zealand. Thus when 51-year-old William West arrived in Taranaki from Lincolnshire in February 1876, he was able to buy and stock 50 acres at Tikorangi almost immediately.14 At the 1871 census he had been a carrier and farmer of six acres at Brigsley.

However, much more typical of the assisted immigrants who succeeded as farmers in New Zealand were those who arrived as married men with little or no capital. On the Canterbury Feldon they found several ways of page 269 building up the savings needed to get into farming. If they had no family, or only one or two children, there was a good chance of gaining employment for both husband and wife on a squatter's station. With food and accommodation provided as part of the bargain, good savings could be made. Those with larger families might go to one of the country townships, acquire a home and section, and sell their labour and that of their family in the surrounding district, after the fashion so common in the homeland, but with a new security provided by the ownership of a freehold home and garden. Some found that they could build up their savings more rapidly by using or developing skills other than those of farming, and so left the land for a time, without changing their ambitions. Some, with only the barest beginnings of savings, nevertheless went directly to existing yeomen districts and began farming in a limited way, while spending much of their time as wage labourers to strengthen their position. As we examine individual cases, we will find that they often combine more than one of these approaches, together with other activities, such as farm or station management, and farm contracting. We will, however, group our cases so as to illustrate each of the main approaches clearly.

In Eli Bloxham and John Jewitt we have already given two examples of immigrants setting out to establish themselves in Canterbury's original yeoman stronghold, the forty mile strip of country between Rangiora and Southbridge. By 1882 John Jewitt was well established as a yeoman farmer, the two acres mentioned in his letter of 1875 having grown to 50 acres of freehold, valued at £500, situated at Papanui on the northern borders of Christchurch. Meanwhile another member of Tomlinson's Lincolnshire party had been establishing himself at the southern end of this yeoman strip, at Doyleston. This was George Hill, a 37-year-old farm labourer from Laceby. Having taken a position at £75 a year, with a house and a cow, he proceeded to build up his capital by labouring, while his wife made her contribution by means of their little farmyard. Their letters show that over his first harvest season in the colony George went working with a threshing machine, and hoped to clear £20 to £30 in about six or eight weeks. Meanwhile his wife Mary Ann was looking after the cow and a calf, and making butter to sell at fourteen pence a pound. By autumn she had also fattened two pigs for them to kill. In 1882 George owned the freehold of a two acre farmlet at Doyleston, valued at £540, though he was still listed as a labourer. He may not have progressed much further towards a yeoman career, as the obituary of his wife, who died early in 1929, records a long widowhood, during which she moved to nearby Leeston, where she had gone into business, and become a trustee of the local Wesley an Church.15

To complete our account of newcomers settling in this yeoman district, we will take three Warwickshire immigrants as examples. Daniel Hewitt, his wife, and eight children, emigrated with Holloway's party on the Mongol. The passenger list shows him as a 35-year-old gardener, but he had in fact had quite a varied career as a gentleman's servant, groom and coachman. After six months in Dunedin he moved to Woodend near page 270 Rangiora, and by 1882 owned eight acres there, valued at £200. Twenty years later he was farming 100 acres at Woodend.16

Thomas White was born at Bourton, which neighboured George Allington's home parish of Stretton-on-Dunsmore. White, with his wife Sarah and their four children, joined Allington's Crusader party of 1874. They were apparently an attractive couple, as Sarah was later said to have been the life of the ship, cheerful and given to witty sayings under all circumstances. On Christmas Day 1874, a week before reaching Lyttelton, she gave birth to a son, who was named Crusader Guthrie, after the ship and its surgeon. The White family settled first in Rangiora, and it was here, in 1878, that Thomas is reported to have made his first public speech. An old settler, in opposing the desegregation of the sexes at Rangiora School, maintained that a proportion of the recent immigrants ‘were merely the sweepings of the large towns of Great Britain’. Thomas vigorously attacked him for these words and so moved the audience by his eloquence that his supporters carried him shoulder-high at the close of the meeting. In ‘A Shipmate's Advice to His Children’ Thomas wrote

So now, my own dear children
You all have to be fed
And I must work with hands and arms,
Likewise with feet and head,

This he clearly proceeded to do. He is recorded in 1882 as a labourer at Rangiora with freehold land worth £250. About this time he moved a few miles north to North Loburn, where he bought a 50 acre farm, later increased to 150 acres, and took an active part in local affairs, particularly those connected with education and the public library.17

For our third Warwickshire example a good deal of information is available. James Lilley, a 21-year-old farm labourer, and his wife Selina, 22, were also members of Allington's Crusader party. James was born at Webtoft in north Warwickshire, and began farm work at an early age. Following his acceptance for Allington's party, he married Selina on 8 September 1874, walking thirteen miles to Claybrooke in Leicestershire for the wedding. Both bride and groom then went back to their work to earn a little more money for their start in the colony, James spending his last weeks in England working on a threshing machine. Within a few days of arriving in Christchurch the Lilleys were engaged as a married couple by a settler with a farm of rather over a thousand acres at Southbridge. Here their first home was a sod whare with a thatched roof. They did not wait long before venturing into land ownership. In partnership with James's brother, they bought 50 acres of light land about half a mile distant from the sod whare. Their new property had a weatherboard house, a stable and a cow shed. Keeping a few cows, and growing crops of wheat and oats, now occupied part of James's time, the rest he spent as a casual farm worker and shearer. The shearing took him across the plains, sometimes as far as Mt. Somers, over forty miles from home. In 1880, in partnership with his brother and two other men, James bought 40 acres of land across the plains page 271 near Sheffield. James and Selina continued to live at Southbridge, raising a family of four sons and three daughters, and participating in the life of the Southbridge Methodist Church. After a quarter of a century at Southbridge, the Lilleys moved to Lyndhurst, where in 1899 James bought an 800 acre property for a little under £5,000, and this he farmed until he retired to Ashburton in 1916. The property brought over £9,000 when it was sold in 1937, following James's death. His career is thus a good example of an immigrant labourer arriving with virtually no means, and by hard work and judicious management becoming a well-to-do New Zealand yeoman farmer.18 He had also helped each of his four sons to purchase farms and owned a freehold home in Ashburton at the time of his death.

We turn next to those immigrants who chose to get their start on a squatter's station. One such was 38-year-old farm labourer George Addington, one of Duncan's recruits from Cardington in Bedfordshire. Addington reached Lyttelton with his wife and six children in August 1874, and found employment with John Middlemiss, a landowner with properties at Aylesbury and Courtenay, on the belt of good land south of the Waimakariri River. After barely two months in New Zealand George wrote home to his brothers telling how well pleased he was with his new life and his new master:

We are doing well, and you need not wonder at it, for we eat half a sheep in a week, and I think you must value your place to get up at five in the morning; but if I get up and have my breakfast by eight o'clock that is soon enough in this country. I have a good master; I have a cottage and garden. He got me a six-gallon boiler, a tea-kettle, a saucepan and frying pan, two sacks of potatoes, six cwt. of coal, a peck of sugar, a tin of tea, and a grate and oven, and two hundred feet of boards to do what I liked with; and when he sent my wife and family to me he went to Christchurch and bought two hundred of flour, half a sheep, and bread, and some salt and hops to make yeast with, to bake our bread; he also got tickets for my wife and family, and saw them safe in the train. I don't know how far I might have travelled in England to have found a master to have done that. I have not seen my master for over two weeks; he has over twelve miles to come to see me. He has two hundred acres of land where we are, and he bought it for fifty shillings an acre.19

George and his wife had been engaged as a married couple. Probably one reason why Middlemiss was prepared to take on an older man with a considerable family was that he was farming two widely-separated properties and was looking for a man with potential as a manager. Middlemiss may also have been attracted by George's physique. His descendants report that he would come home from Christchurch taking the train to Rolleston, and then walking the eight miles to Aylesbury with a 70 pound bag of sugar under one arm, a shin of beef under the other, and a bag of groceries over his shoulder. In his letter to his brothers George described the Aylesbury landscape.

We are fifteen miles from the snowy mountains, and can see them quite plain … It is a nice level place where we are; we have no trees in the page 272
Cheviot Hills: a squatter's station

Cheviot Hills: a squatter's station

way. There are no hedges like there are about you; they are sod banks, and are sown on the top with goss, what you call fussins.

Probably George was not quite so happy with the bare open landscape as his letter may have led his brothers to suppose. Certainly the settlers transformed the plains over the next few decades, breaking its monotony with hedges, shelter belts, and tree surrounded homesteads. George will have helped with this transformation while moving up from farmhand to substantial landowner. He first took a small holding of about 60 acres at Aylesbury, next moved to a rather larger holding at Courtenay, and finally, in partnership with two of his older sons, bought a farm of 390 acres of good medium land, on what became Addington's Road, near Darfield.20

While George Addington was making his way in the district south of the Waimakariri, Henry Tomlinson, former secretary of the union branch at Laceby, was making his way in a very similar fashion on the rather poorer country to the north of the river. He was the kind of married man that station owners were looking for - experienced in farm work, yet still young, and without a large family. He went first to work on a large sheep station at West Eyreton, owned by Marmaduke Dixon, who was also Lincolnshire born. Dixon had grown up at Caistor, and belonged to a branch of the Holton-le-Moor Dixons, another of whose members, William Dixon, we have noted as a pioneer of popular education at Caistor. page 273 Marmaduke Dixon had left a successful career at sea to settle in Canterbury in 1851. He took up a large area of manuka scrub country at West Eyreton, and by hard pioneer work, and a willingness to experiment with new farm techniques and machinery, had made his way to become a leading Canterbury squatter. He was active in provincial politics and an earnest supporter of education.21 After a little experience with this excellent mentor, Tomlinson had sixteen years as manager of another West Eyreton station, owned by P.C. Threlkeld, a pioneer of wheat-growing in the district, and a noted sheep breeder.22 By 1882 Tomlinson owned eight acres of his own, and was styling himself ‘farmer’. After a career which included three years as manager of another large property, Tomlinson purchased a farm of 251 acres, and an accommodation house, at Hawarden, in North Canterbury.23

Our next examples of men who began their New Zealand careers as station hands are two young farm labourers who arrived as single men, and married after a short time in the colony. Henry Hearn was twenty when he joined Allington's Crusader party for New Zealand. He had grown up in rural Buckinghamshire, and had been ‘on his own’ in the world from the age of eight. Late in life he recalled that as a lad he had had the care of four horses, and had begun each day at 3.30 a.m., to earn two shillings and sixpence a week. In 1870 he moved to Long Itchington and took employment in cement works there until he emigrated. In New Zealand he first worked as a ploughman on two stations near Oxford, and then bought four and a half acres in Oxford, built a four-roomed house, and on 16 page 274 October 1876 married Mary Ann Clay, who had been a fellow shipmate on the Crusader. Mary Ann must have been one of Arthur Clayden's recruits, as she was born at Littleworth, near Faringdon. She had emigrated as a 17-year-old housemaid, like Henry, venturing ‘on her own’. Considering the strong demand for domestic servants in Canterbury, she must have been able to earn a substantial dowry in the twenty months before her marriage. In 1879 the Hearns moved to Ealing, on the dry plains between Ashburton and Geraldine, to start a station for John Ruddenklau. Ruddenklau was a German immigrant who had had an active career in the Christchurch commercial world since his arrival in 1857, and he was to serve as the city's mayor in 1882 and 1883. The Hearns found Ealing a vast expanse of tussock plains without fences, trees or water. In seven years of toil and hardship, Henry Hearn fenced the plains and brought them under cultivation, and planted trees. After managing another property for a further seven years, Hearn decided to strike out on his own. In 1893 he leased a farm of 1,528 acres at Rangitata Island, and in due course acquired the freehold, adding surrounding land to build up a freehold property of 2,262 acres. Meantime the Hearns had raised a family of five sons and three daughters. Late in life the one-time ill-nourished ploughboy was able to pay two visits to England as a well-to-do colonist. In old age he divided his property among his family and retired to live in comfort in Christchurch.24

Robert Brookland arrived in New Zealand on 1 February 1879 as a 26-year-old immigrant from Devon. He found work on the Kingsdown Estate near Timaru, and while there, in 1880, married Jane Gardner, also from Devon. The earlier history of the Kingsdown Estate is of interest, as it throws some light on the acquisition of Canterbury runs, and also indirectly affected Robert Brookland's career. The district was first stocked with sheep in 1852 by three of the four Rhodes brothers, Yorkshiremen who, with shrewdness and drive, made the most of the opportunities of the colony's pastoral age. Finding themselves with more country than their licences entitled them to, the Rhodes withdrew from the Kingsdown area, and it was taken over by James King and became known as Otipua Station. Around New Year of 1862, Thomas King, no relation to James, arrived at Otipua disguised as a swagger. He had come across from Victoria to spy out the land, and had walked all the way from South Otago. He was not very hospitably treated at the station, but was much impressed by the fertile loess soil of the district. Next morning he resumed his walk to Christchurch, where he went straight to the Land Office and paid down f20,000 for the freehold of 10,000 acres of the best land of his namesake's run. He then sailed for England, whence he never returned. His purchase, which became known as the Kingsdown Estate, was managed for him by Samuel Bristol, who had emigrated from Wiltshire, settling in New Zealand in 1863.25 It was Bristol, therefore, who employed Robert Brookland on Kingsdown. While still managing Kingsdown, Bristol had taken up land of his own, and Brookland was sent after about two years to manage a farm of Bristol's a mile or two away at Pareora. After a year here, page 275 Brookland himself began to branch out on his own. As parts of the Kingsdown estate were subdivided for sale, he acquired the freehold of 153 acres, and the leasehold of three other sections, to build up a well-equipped farm, of over 800 acres by the end of the century - not a bad achievement for a man who had arrived with eightpence in his pocket twenty years earlier.26

Among those arriving in Canterbury in January 1875 with Thomas Osborne's party on the Lady Jocelyn was Thomas Timms, 39, shepherd, with his wife Ellen, 40, and their four children, all under ten. They can be identified as a family referred to by Joseph and Ann Leggett in a letter to Ann's mother, written from Ashburton in August 1875. The Timmses seem to have come from the Wychwood area, and the Leggetts' letter shows that they had found employment on a sheep station. They write

Tom was up to see us last Sunday and Monday, he is well; much better, he says, than he has been for a long time. He has not much to do except to ride a horse round the sheep twice a day; he has two or three dogs which do most of the work. Ellen and the children are well; but Ellen does not like the country, it is lonely where they are; there are some ‘cockatoos’ or small farmers living near them. One of them was at our house yesterday, and we sent Tom some potatoes and fowl down — Walter gave him four. He will get on better after a bit; the worst of it that Tom dislikes is because there is no school for the children near, but, he said, one would be built soon.27

This illustrates another, and less attractive, aspect of the thinly settled sheep country. A woman used to the bustle of an English village could find it very lonely, and important social institutions, such as a school, could be lacking. In the letter, Joseph Leggett mentions that he had discussed with Tom Timms the idea of their going into partnership in a farm, starting with fifty acres and working up. This plan was not proceeded with, but Timms found his own solution to his family problems. In 1882 he appears as a labourer on John Grigg's famous Longbeach property. At Longbeach there would have been plenty of companions for Ellen, and good schooling for the children. Timms had already acquired the freehold of 30 acres, valued at £220, so was himself on the way to becoming a yeoman farmer.28

Longbeach merits our attention for it will have given many of the ‘Vogel’ immigrants their start in colonial life. John Grigg (1828–1901) was a Cornishman who emigrated to Auckland in 1854. After ten years of farming at Otahuhu near Auckland, he moved to Canterbury where between 1864 and 1871 he bought up 32,000 acres of land on the coast between the Hinds and Ashburton Rivers. Much of this land was marked on early survey maps as ‘impassable swamp’. Grigg spent the rest of his life draining it and developing it into ‘the best farm in the world’, while steadily selling off farms from the estate, many of them to Longbeach employees who wished to set up as yeomen farmers. Grigg had his own brickworks, manufacturing bricks for farm buildings, and drainage tiles for his extensive drainage schemes. While keeping large areas under grain crops, Grigg was also a pioneer of the frozen meat and dairying industries. The page 276 permanent staff at Longbeach usually numbered 150, and this was doubled at harvest.29 The Ashburton Guardian described a good harvest in 1889. There were 7,000 acres in crop, of which 4,000 acres were in wheat, averaging 35 bushels to the acre. To reap this harvest 300 men toiled with 35 reapers, 60 drays and waggons, 300 horses, and several traction engines and threshing machines.30 It is not surprising that men were proud to say they had worked at Longbeach. Most of the assisted immigrants of the 1870s who have been traced to Longbeach came from Cornwall and Devon, probably a result of Grigg's own Cornish origins. We will cite two Cornish immigrants as examples. Thomas Henry Brewer was born at St. Columb-Minor in Cornwall in 1856, and emigrated to Canterbury as a young farm labourer in 1875. After eight months of railway navvying he spent two years at Longbeach before moving to Gore and opening a livery -stable business. He served as Mayor of Gore, 1894–9, and had electric lighting introduced to the borough during his term of office. Obviously he shared with Grigg a Cornish enthusiasm for the advantages of modern technology.31 Our other Cornish example was William Gluyas, who grew up in Helston and learnt his father's trade of saddlery. Like many other Cornishmen, he had lived for a time in the Midlands, before emigrating. He arrived in New Zealand with his wife and infant daughter in 1877, and followed his trade in Christchurch for some years, before moving to Longbeach in 1887 as saddler for John Grigg. He remained at Longbeach until the turn of the century, and then took advantage of one of the Liberal government's settlement schemes, the breaking up of the 48,000 fertile acres of the Waikakahi Station on the province's southern boundary. Gluyas's farm consisted of 193 acres leased in perpetuity.32

A position as a station-hand generally gave much more security of employment than was enjoyed by the typical English village labourer. We now turn to those who did not seek or were unable to secure, such employment, often because they had a large family, and who chose to live in a rural centre and take whatever labouring work they could find. The position of these men would have seemed superficially similar to the situation they had left in England, but the easy access to a freehold home, and the vastly different economic and social context meant that in reality they too were entering on a new life. For our examples of these immigrants we will turn to Ashburton, the township which began to develop in the early 1870s, to serve as the main commercial, industrial and market centre for the country between the Rakaia and Rangitata Rivers, including, of course, Longbeach. As late as 1871 a newspaper account ironically dismissed the township as ‘a flourishing place [with] an hotel, a store, and a lock-up’, but by 1873, with the railway approaching from the north, it was reported as ‘going ahead with Yankee rapidity’,33 having doubled its population to fifty permanent residents in the preceding twelve months. Alfred Saunders, Christopher Holloway's host during his visit to Ashburton in April 1874, had settled in the town in 1872, on his return from a long visit to England. He proceeded to erect a large flour mill in page 277 Ashburton, and for many years, until trees grew on the plains, it formed a prominent landmark in the district. In 1874 an immigration barracks and immigrants' cottages were erected in the town, and this encouraged an inflow of newly-arrived immigrants. The railway reached Ashburton early in 1874, and was serving the town in a limited way for some months before the official opening in August. On 24 June 1874 a special train brought 147 newly-arrived immigrants to become the first occupants of the Ashburton barracks.34 Those arriving on the Atrato, and with Leggett on the Ballochmyle, were among the first to use the barracks. Leggett himself must have moved with his family to Ashburton, after only a short time in Christchurch, for on 16 December 1874 a member of his party writing from the town reported that ‘we see Leggett every day’.35 Leggett had taken his carpentering skills to a ready market. Ashburton became a borough on 1 August 1878, by which time it could boast some fifty places of business and at least 200 dwellings.

How three Warwickshire families of Leggett's party set about getting established in Ashburton is described in letters written six to seven months after they arrived. The Jeffs, Berry and Taylor families were apparently all from the village of Ettington, and settled as neighbours in Ashburton. Emmanuel Jeffs emigrated as a 30-year-old labourer, with his wife Ann, and four children. During his early months in New Zealand Emmanuel apparently wrote back giving a poor impression of colonial life, and the letter was printed probably in the Labourers' Union Chronicle.36 When he wrote again on 16 December 1874, he had a better report to give.

The last time I wrote to you it was poor news, but the last words I told you were that I would send you the truth, good or bad. Now for some good news. I had 24 weeks in the barracks, firing found. We did not pay any rent, as I told you before they wanted us to do. I have bought half-an-acre of land for £20. I have paid £5 towards it, and I have got to pay the remainder in two years. I have a house 20 feet long and 9 feet wide for £46. I have paid £16 towards it. I agreed to pay 10s. a week till it was paid for, but if all is well I shall be able to pay £4 a month, so you see it will soon be my own. I have got my land ploughed, and planted spuds, turnips, radishes, lettuce, cabbage and other plants, and all look well. Fred and Jim have got the next two half-acres to me. I have got it fenced in. Fred and I have left our first master and started on the repairs for Government on the same length of line as we started on before, at 8s for eight hours, from eight in the morning till five in the evening. We have been lucky to get on regular close to home. My wife goes out some weeks two days, some three, besides washing at home. She gets 5s. a day and her food, so my money at the least is £3 a week. … John Drinkwater is coming back after harvest, so he will tell you all about it. He has got £20 and he wants to get back. He would never have had that if he had stayed at Eatington, but I think he would rather come back and go to the workhouse than stay and get him something to live on when he got back … I would not persuade any one to come, for if they did not do well they would blame me. I know there are many who think of picking up money in the street. The children go to school every day.37

page 278

‘Fred and Jim’ who had the next two half-acre sections to Emmanuel, were Frederick Berry, 37, labourer, who emigrated with his wife Elizabeth, 38, and six children, George, 13, Ellen, 10, Emma, 8, Rose, 6, Fred, 3, and infant John; and James Taylor, 39, labourer, also with a wife and six children. Fred Berry wrote home to his father by the same mail as the letter we have quoted from Emmanuel. Fred reported that

… We are doing well … and like the country much. I do not regret coming. I only wish I had come out sooner … I have got a bit of land and I hope I shall have a home by the time you get this letter … I am very much indebted to Mr. Ford; send me his address, and I will pay him as soon as I can.38

‘Mr. Ford’ is probably Edwin Ford, who took over as district secretary of the union when Leggett emigrated. It was Ford who sent in a later letter from the Berrys for publication. It was to a friend, dated from Ashburton on 17 January 1875.

Jim Taylor and W. Petty are at harvest, and six more men, and they think they are doing very well; but E. Jeffs and I are packing on the same length, so we can't go harvesting … We have all got half an acre of land, and the spuds are ready to get up; and they have all got a sort of a house but me, and mine is not done yet, so I have a long stop in the depot. But there is plenty of room, plenty of firing, and we have had nothing to pay for rent…. We had E. Jeff's letter back in print, and the men don't think much of him, for we all know that folks can't live and do so well at home … I don't know anyone that wants to come back, and I should think I was going to be transported if they said I was to come back … Dear Friend, - I thought as ‘Fred’ had not time to finish his letter I would just write a few lines myself … George is at work on the line at 3s. 6d. per day and overtime sometimes; he is a good lad. Ellen is at service. Emma is out for a little while, as it is school holidays, so we have only two at home now …39

The Return of Freeholders shows that these three men were still labourers in Ashburton in 1882, each with freehold land worth about £200. On 5 July 1890, young William Jeffs, now 21, was married at Maungaturoto in North Auckland, to the daughter of a farmer in the same district. William had gone north, to make his way up in the world; he described himself as a farmer, and gave the occupation of his father, Emmanuel, as plate layer. Whether the parent generation in each of these three families developed farming ambitions, and if so, whether they succeeded in realising them, has not been discovered. The letters show them making good use of the boom days of the mid 1870s, but Ashburton was particularly hard hit when the depression set in, and this may have frustrated their plans.

We must now turn again to the two letters written from Ashburton by Joseph and Ann Leggett in July and August 1875. Leggett is a good example of an immigrant who built up his capital in a more lucrative calling than farm labouring, and then took land and went farming. He was one of the foundation settlers in the Highbank State Settlement which was balloted for in June 1896. This settlement was formed out of the Highbank page 279 Run, of some 9,122 acres on the south bank of the Rakaia River. There were 3,400 applicants for the farms, with an average of 40 for each, so Joseph was fortunate that his wife won the ballot among the 193 applicants for Section 44, 138 acres under lease in perpetuity.40 The Leggetts' letters of 1875 are of interest both in showing the early stages of their progress in colonial life, and for the light they throw on working class Ashburton.

Like the three families from Ettington, the Leggetts had bought a good sized section in the township.41 From Ann's report to her mother, it must have been run almost as a small farmlet:

We rise our own fowl. We have a horse, three pigs — killed one to-day — two sheep, two cats, a fine great dog, seven children, and some fine fowls. We growed over thirty sacks of potatoes thinking you would be here to help eat them.42

Joseph's letter explained that they were feeding the pigs on the potatoes they had grown, ‘mixed with good sharps’. The sharps were doubtless a byproduct of Saunder's flourmill. Joseph reported that most of the men who had come out with him were making similar progress, having each a house and land of their own, worth nearly a hundred pounds. His own children were all doing well. The two youngest were at home, three older ones were at school, while Annie and Louisa (14 and 12 respectively when they emigrated) were both in service. Both Ann and Joseph gave news of their church associations. Ann wrote that ‘there is no Baptist up here; we mostly attend the Primitive Methodists’, while Joseph reported that ‘We are going to build a new Primitive Methodist Church in the township; no Chapels out here, all Churches’.43

Joseph's comment reflects the fact that in the colony ‘nonconformists’44 found that they could largely throw off the low status of despised poor relations, and that they celebrated this fact by dropping the use of the word ‘chapel’. In later Victorian New Zealand it was in the Feldon districts that denominations with ‘church’ origins fared best in competition with those of ‘chapel’ origin, and this was particularly so in Canterbury, on account both of the Anglican basis of the original settlement, and of Presbyterian migration from neighbouring Otago. But the strong ‘chapel’ element in the immigration of the 1870s gave Methodism a prominent place in Ashburton's early history. Ashburton's first clergyman, an Anglican, had been in the town a year or two when Joseph wrote, and the first Presbyterian minister was to be inducted the following month. But although they did not yet have a minister, it was Ashburton's Primitive Methodists who were to erect the town's first church building, carrying out the decision referred to in Joseph's letter. The strength of the congregation at ‘Little Bethel’ was to be a notable feature of the religious life of the town over the following decades.45 The strength of Primitive Methodism among the labourers of rural England, and its strong links with their Revolt of the Field, lie behind these facts.

There was also a considerable number of Wesleyans among the immigrants settling in Ashburton, and in 1877 a circuit was formed and a page 280 minister appointed. An ambitious building programme was immediately launched. An appeal went out through the columns of the New Zealand Wesleyan, for contributions to help the church get established in a strategic and promising district. The report on the first quarterly meeting explained that ‘most of our people … have no spare cash at present having laid out their all in purchasing land, but they promise liberal aid in a year or two’.46 But this was not how it was to be. In ‘a year or two’ Ashburton was hard hit by the depression. Early in 1880 the Ashburton minister sent out a desperate appeal to New Zealand Wesleyans, for help to save the circuit from financial collapse. He explained that the depression had coincided with two successive bad harvests in the district, that many local farmers had only been on their land a year or two and were facing bankruptcy, and that the whole community was suffering with its farmers.47 Clearly, many of Ashburton's new colonials were not getting established on farms as easily as they had hoped.

For our final examples from the Canterbury Feldon, we will look south to the Temuka district, where the plains meet the downland. Temuka had become established earlier than Ashburton, and grew more slowly, remaining a smaller centre. On his visit to the Timaru and Temuka farming districts in April 1874, Christopher Holloway had noted that a good deal of land was already in the hands of small ‘cockatoo’ farmers. Temuka was one of the districts in which the provincial government placed immigrant labourers in village settlements in 1874 and 1875, and when the hard times came at the end of the decade J. E. March, the Canterbury Immigration Officer, maintained that there would have been far less distress if this policy had been persisted in. He described how the immigrants had been settled. The land was laid off in sections varying from half an acre to two acres. While the women and children stayed in the depot on rations, the men built a sod hut for each family, under the direction of a competent ganger. These huts were constructed of turf cubes about a spade depth square which were piled on top of one another to form low walls. These were then plastered with a watery clay, a low-peaked roof was added, and a thatch completed the structure. While they were building their huts, the men received rations but nothing further. As a result the huts cost only about £10 each. The terms of occupation were, no charge in the first year, 2s. a week in the second and third years. March believed that none who were located in this way were among the unemployed of 1879.48 Aided by this easy start, the more enterprising of them may have already got established on small farms.

It seems likely that Eli Pratley from Ascott-under-Wychwood became one of these village settlers, for he later reported that following his arrival by the Crusader in December 1874, he went directly to Temuka and built his own house. After eight years of labouring for the farmers of the district, he went farming himself, on a property of 128 acres which he leased in conjunction with his brother and another partner. After three years he went into business on his own, and continued farning leased properties in page 281 the district throughout his life, while raising a family of ten sons and a daughter.49 Frederick Pratley, also from Ascott, and arriving on the Crusader, is possibly the brother referred to. He also went directly to Temuka and took labouring work. After three years he leased a farm at Temuka, from which he moved in 1888 to another at nearby Winchester. His wife, Mary, the woman imprisoned with her infant in 1873, died in New Zealand, and Frederick remarried in 1895, to Elizabeth Simmons of his native Oxfordshire.50 Another Oxfordshire man who had a career similar to the Pratleys was farm labourer William Bragden, 38, who came as a member of Leggett's party, with his wife and six children. After a year or two of labouring at Temuka he went farming, and by the end of the century was leasing a property of 400 acres in the district.51

A glimpse into the lives of immigrants newly arrived in Temuka in 1874 is provided by a letter from Mary, the wife of Henry Robinson, a carpenter from Bedfordshire, who arrived with their five children by the Peeress in July 1874. The letter was written to her parents after a month in the colony. Mary first described the voyage and then wrote of their landing at Timaru:

You should have seen the people on the beach when we landed, there were hundreds to receive us. We were taken to a large building and provided with plenty to eat and tea to drink. This is the place for drinking tea. We stayed there till Monday morning, when eight families were taken about 12 miles farther to a place called Temuka, and put in the barracks until the men got into work, and a home to live in. Harry got work the same day; he has got a good master and he gets 11s. a day for eight hours work … We have got a nice little home to live in, it is a new house, belonging to the government, with a quarter of an acre of ground belonging to it; there are only two places - one to live in and the other to sleep in, and the rent is six shillings a week. When we have paid enough rent to pay for the house it will be our own, if we stop long enough. Carpentering seems the chief trade about here, for the houses are all made of wood, except the chimneys; our house is all on the ground-floor, and it is stained and varnished inside; we are obliged to make Harry's chest do for a table, until he can make us one, for furniture is very dear; he has made us a beadstead [sic], which, if we had bought an iron one, we should have had to have given £3 10s. for. It cost him only 3s. for wood, besides his time for making; his next job will be a table; we have bought two chairs, six shillings each, but people about here don't look for a fine house and a lot of furniture; it is all pushing ahead; it is a very pleasant country, and I think I shall like it very much. There is a good school, and two churches and a chapel. We can sit in our house and see the mountains with the tops all covered with snow, although they are about 60 miles off.52

From various other immigrants who have been traced to the Temuka district, we will choose one last example. James Braddick was a 35-year-old labourer from Devonshire who arrived with his wife and six children on the Hereford in July 1874. This family had been nominated from Timaru, and on arrival went for a few years to Rangatira Valley, near Temuka. In 1880 Braddick moved with his family to land he had purchased up country, a block of 100 acres of rough hill country, unroaded and unfenced, near page 282 Opihi Gorge, a few miles from Fairlie. While breaking in this property, he also managed an adjoining property for its owner. After ten years of pioneering on ‘The Hill’, Braddick bought another farm at the foot of the range on the Gorge road, about two miles from Fairlie, and worked this property in conjunction with the hill block. After a successful farming career Braddick finally retired to Fairlie.53 The colonial careers of a number of immigrants follow a similar pattern - a few years gaining experience and capital in a more developed district, then a move to undeveloped country inland, as a means of obtaining a reasonable area of freehold, on limited means.

We will now leave Canterbury, to look at a selection of immigrants who settled on the Feldon elsewhere in New Zealand. We will choose them particularly to illustrate aspects not covered by our account of Canterbury, and we will move through the colony from south to north. We have not yet followed an immigrant family to the spacious life of the high country runs. For this we will go first to Central Otago, to Blackstone Hill, a district about 2,000 feet above sea level. To this place went Richard Parratt, a 44-year-old farm labourer, who emigrated from Owersby, near Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, sailing on the Otago on 6 June 1874, with his wife Dinah, 44, and family, Thomas, 23, Dinah, 19, Enderby, 15 and Mary Ann, 12. In a letter written from Hawkden Station on 26 April 1875, Thomas Parratt reported that his father was working as a dray and ploughman on a station, at £65 a year and all found. Dinah had a good place at fifteen shillings a week. Thomas himself was just changing his job, and expecting to get £60 a year and found, and young Mary Ann was so fat ‘she can scarce see’.54 Another letter signed ‘Edward and Dinah Parratt’, and dated from Hawkden Station, Blackstone Hill, on 7 October 1875, gave further news:

[Father] is thinking of buying a mare, so that he can breed a foal for himself, as it will cost him nothing to keep a horse on the station…. Father wishes he had been out sooner … We might have been on our own land and a house of our own; we hope we shall after a bit. Dinah and Tom are very well. We expect Dinah over before long. She comes over on horseback. She is ten miles from us, and she has £36 wage.55

Another who found his way to a high country run was Thomas Warren, a 28-year-old labourer who emigrated from Willesborough in Kent in September 1874, with his wife Mary Ann, and one-year-old Susan. On 28 July 1875 he wrote from Weld's Hill Station in Marlborough, to tell how he was faring. He had heard that there had been a hard winter back in Kent, and was very glad to have escaped it, for ‘things were going hard enough with us before we came away, and I am sure such matters would have been worse in the winter’. Apparently Thomas had taken solace in drink, but in the colony he had managed to break the habit. He had found good work in the New Zealand harvest, earning eight shillings a day and his ‘tucker’ while with a threshing machine. Now he was happily settled with his wife and child on Weld's Hill Station. This property, of nearly 40,000 acres, was page 283 situated in the Awatere district, and much of it consisted of high country on the Inland Kaikoura Range. At the time of writing Thomas was temporarily laid up with a swollen knee, having injured it while wattling hurdles. However, he was happy to report that no pay was stopped for lost time, and his enforced leisure had given him an opportunity to observe his young daughter.

You would not credit how well Susy gets on. She is quite fat and hearty, and our employer is very fond of her, and she is [of] him. Her playmates are three cats and four dogs, besides fowls and some young pigs, with all of whom she plays for hours at a stretch, and the animals are all very fond of her, especially the cats, two of which are young and very docile.

Thomas's letter shows that he was well pleased with his wages and prospects:

I put our wages, which are £55 cash a year, with food for the three of us, firing, and house-rent, at £120 a year at the very least, and I am told by the station hands that is very low, but then I am only a learner in station life, and shall have more if I stop after the year has expired, as I shall then be of some value as a station hand, and I am acquiring a knowledge of the work very rapidly and can do it. Besides, the wages are wealth to us, who could never find a sixpence, as there are no bills to pay, no Saturday night to look forward to, no rent to hunt up.56

We go next to the Hawke's Bay Feldon for an example of an immigrant who included rural contracting in his career towards farming. Charles Codd was born in 1858, and grew up on his father's farm at Grainthorpe on the coastal marshlands of north Lincolnshire. He emigrated in May 1879, and for over two years worked for the Hon. J. D. Ormond, a prominent Hawke's Bay squatter and politician. After working for several other squatters he moved to Taradale, near Napier, and spent three years as a
A North Island squatter homestead — Tuputupuru, Gladstone, Wairarapa, c. 1895

A North Island squatter homestead — Tuputupuru, Gladstone, Wairarapa, c. 1895

page 284 contractor for ploughing, road metalling and carting. Then in 1890 he leased a farm of 369 acres of good arable land at Puketapu. Codd's native Lincolnshire was noted for the manufacture of farm implements and machinery, and his birthplace lay between Louth, one of the centres of manufacture, and Grimsby, which handled the export part of the county's output. It is not therefore surprising to find that Codd furnished his farm with the latest farm machinery, including a traction engine, threshing machine, chaff cutter, three reapers and binders, and two mowing machines.57 It seems probable that agricultural contracting continued to be an interest even after it had helped him to get established on a farm. A period of agricultural contracting has been noted in the careers of a number of other immigrants settling in Feldon districts.

Although the Auckland Province had the most extensive Feldon of the North Island, it did not see the development of a strong squattocracy, for reasons partly of geography, partly of history. In the 1870s, apart from the early settled farmlands near Auckland, white settlement was scattered or in small clusters, broken up by extensive swamp areas, expanses of mineral-deficient soils, hills and mountains. The province had some two-thirds of New Zealand's Maori population, and this fact, with the wars that resulted from it, also served to discourage and delay the development of extensive pastoral farming. In many parts of the Waikato, the district to which we now turn, it was the Maoris who first practised European-style farming, planting large numbers of fruit trees, and growing grain to supply Auckland. At the end of the land wars the Government confiscated large areas of the Waikato Feldon, and pushed the frontier of white settlement forward, using about 3,000 former militia men, established on farms of 50 or more acres, to form a frontier screen, with Hamilton, Te Awamutu and Cambridge as key points. Of these we will choose Cambridge and its district as the final area for this chapter.

Cambridge was selected as the site for a military settlement in 1864, on account of its position near the upstream limit for river steamers, such as the gunboats used during the Waikato War. Due to the military nature of its establishment and the continuing racial tensions of the district, Cambridge remained a predominantly male settlement for a number of years. In 1866 the district's military surgeon reported its population as being: 843 men, 87 women and 198 children. Among these earlier settlers the Scots and Irish seem to have heavily outnumbered the English. However during the 1870s the English were strongly reinforced by ‘Vogel’ immigrants, and today Cambridge has a reputation as a very ‘English’ town. This owes much to the planting of the ‘Government Acre’ in the centre of the town with English trees - and appropriately an assisted immigrant from Oxfordshire, and his son, were employed to do this work. The town's name dates from the 1860s, but the naming of its suburb, Leamington, was due to the advocacy of a native of the Warwickshire town, an assicted immigrant of 1875, who came out as a member of a National Union party. As we examine Cambridge's English assisted page 285 immigrant inflow of the 1870s, we will find representatives from most of the main strands in the recruitment story. We will also find that they brought a rich diversity of skills and talents to their new community.

On 30 July 1872 Jonathan Kingdon, a 54-year-old farm labourer from Cornwall, arrived in Auckland on the Celestial Queen, and found employment with a fellow Cornishman, William Reynolds, who had taken up land at Cambridge soon after his arrival in the colony in 1867. Jonathan was accompanied by his wife, and five single daughters, aged 9 to 21, so the coming of this family helped somewhat to correct Cambridge's imbalance of the sexes. Two married daughters, Mesdames Bridgman and Cowling, had joined the Cornish emigration to America. By 1882 Jonathan owned ten acres of land valued at £280, and the ladies of the family were providing tables at tea meetings of the local Wesleyan Church.58

In October 1874 a 22-year-old cooper, Charles Boyce, arrived at Auckland, and proceeded to Cambridge to practise his trade. He came from Faversham, where he had been a choir boy, and was probably one of the recruits of the Kent union's 1874 emigration drive. After a short time Charles left Cambridge to live in various other North Island centres, but in 1884 he returned as a married man with four children, and settled in Cambridge, where he conducted a bakery and grocery business. The family grew to eleven, all of them musically gifted. Charles himself founded the Cambridge band, and sang regularly in the local Anglican choir. Each of his children served at some time as either organist or chorister in the choir. The family also united in a family orchestra, and made various other contributions to the musical life of the district.59

On 5 November 1874 the ship Hydaspes brought to Auckland two Lincolnshire families who were to find their way to Cambridge. Joseph Brocklesby was a 38-year-old farm labourer whom John H. White had recruited from Binbrook, and he had emigrated with his wife and four young children. When he wrote from Tamahere, near Hamilton, on 24 April 1875, he was working for a bachelor with about 2,000 acres of land. He explained some of the advantages which the Waikato had over the Lincolnshire wolds, for the working man:

It is a beautiful country, there are all kinds of fruit grows wild; you can go out and gather as much as you like…. The peaches are as big as a good sized apple, and grown by tons. There are scores of pheasants, and you can go and shoot one when you think well, and no-one to interfere.60

The Brocklesbys' move to Cambridge is indicated by the December 1879 prize list of the Cambridge School. Charlotte Brocklesby, who was a two-year-old on the Hydaspes, appears as one of the prizewinners of the Infant Class.61

The other Lincolnshire family on the Hydaspes had been recruited by the National Union, and consisted of 37-year-old Richard Wattam, his wife and three young daughters. Richard's younger brother George arrived in Auckland with his wife a few weeks later, and another younger brother, page 286 Thomas, immigrated with his wife and two children, in 1877. All three brothers settled in the Cambridge district.62 Richard wrote home from Cambridge on 21 February 1875 to tell of his early experiences of the new land. After about a month in quarantine in Auckland, Richard had accepted work draining a swamp in the Waikato. The Government had paid their fare by steam boat to Hamilton, and sent them off with seven shillings and sixpence each for expenses. Richard had put his wife and family in a Hamilton hotel, and then gone to the work. He soon decided it wouldn't do, ‘it is like the Fens; all wet, thousands of acres … so wet we could not make anything of it’. The wage was only seven shillings a day, of which two shillings was stopped for food, and he was making no headway.

So I left it, and had a look among the farmers near Cambridge. I got a house and plenty of work, they was busy with their hay; 6 bob a day and your meat; we finished last week…. My brother is with me, we are living in the same house at present, but we are going to build him one this winter. A farmer has promised us 2 acres of land to build it on, and to have it as long as we like for nothing … I have an acre of garden with my house, with between 30 and 40 peach trees, 6 cherry trees, 3 apple trees, and some gooseberries; the peach and cherry trees has been loaded; we had all we liked for the house garden, and plenty of fire wood are all free to us. We are 5 miles from Cambridge, the nearest shops and public-houses, but we get everything brought us for nothing.

Richard then proceeded to quote the local prices for food and other everyday necessities, and for workman's tools, before continuing with a most interesting account of the district and local society.

This is a new district only now opening, it is land that was taken from the Maories [sic] in the last war, about 10 years ago, and it was given to the men that fought in 50 acre lots. Five or six years ago you could buy it, for a bottle of grog, 50 acres of fine land as need be, but now it is from one to five pounds per acre, according to quality and situation. … Tell Mrs Dorbakin this is the place to keep a public-house; talk about drinking in England, it is nothing to compare to New Zealand according to population, they do not pay here same as they do with you. They work till they get 20 or 40 or 100 pounds, and the masters give them a cheque for the amount, and they will then go to a public-house and spend it all in a few days, and then go to work again. You can tell Webster that this is the place for brick making; if he was here he could start anywhere where there is clay, and the owner would help him and go shares, £3 per thousand, and they talk of raising. Coals are no dearer than in England and plenty of wood for carting it. Most of them are single men about here, they got their fifty acres in the war, they have built themselves houses and ploughed a part of the land and sown it with clover, and the rest is in a wild state. They live in the houses by themselves, eating a few hens and turkeys which some of them let sleep in the house with them. There are plenty of natives about here but they are very civil. They do not work much, they all have horses both men and women, the latter ride astride the same as men. … Very little corn is grown, although it makes a good price … They are all for clover and keeping cattle, and it takes a good three year old bullock to make £10. They have one steam machine up here and they page 287 have 4s. 8d. per quarter for thrashing, and the farmer finds hands. They talk about working, we do not work half so hard as we did in England, and we always have two or three masters want us at once. We have plenty of piece work for the winter, it is fencing …63

In January 1875 William Harris, a 36-year-old labourer from Oxfordshire, arrived in Auckland with his wife, his 11-year-old son, William James Harris, and two younger children. Throughout his life William James remembered picking peaches from the banks as they came up from Mercer on the river steamer. William Harris took up a piece of land at Leamington, across the river from Cambridge. He and young William James were two of the three workmen who planted Cambridge's ‘Government Acre’ with sixty English trees. For a time young William James worked for Henry Reynolds a pioneer of the New Zealand dairy industry. One of his tasks was to drive the horse which went round and round providing the power for churning the butter at Reynold's first dairy factory.64

In August 1875 James King Peirce arrived in Auckland as leader of a party of National Union immigrants. Peirce was born in Lancashire in 1837, but in the early 1870s was living at his wife's native village of Wardington in north Oxfordshire. At the end of 1872 he was appointed secretary of the Banbury district of the National Union. He resigned from this position in the spring of 1875, and shortly afterwards left for New Zealand, accompanied by his wife and two young children. His early experiences of New Zealand were not very happy. He went to the Waikato, but in wet winter weather was unable to find work. He also suffered ill health. To add to his worries, he had to borrow money to pay the freight from Auckland on two one-ton packing cases. The contents of these belonged to several families in his party, but they had not been unloaded from the ship when the party dispersed. An appeal to the government eventually secured the reimbursement of this expense.Peirce settled at the Waikato frontier township of Pirongia, and although he had come out as a shepherd, went into business as a butcher. After three years he moved to Cambridge, where he had a varied career, at times working as a butcher, at other times in business as a fancy goods, fruit and confectionery retailer. He served a term on the Borough Council, and became a sergeant-major in the Salvation Army.65

Among Peirce's party were two families of Keeleys from Warwickshire, who settled at Cambridge. Joseph and Elizabeth were accompanied by five single children, two of them in their twenties, and also by their married son James, and his three young children. Joseph built a cottage in Cambridge, and by 1882 owned a farmlet of four acres of freehold valued at £200. His married son James came from Leamington where he is reported to have held a position as head gardener over forty men. In Cambridge, he promptly set up a nursery business, and over considerable opposition managed to have his choice of name accepted for Leamington. Gyles Keeley arrived as the 21-year-old unmarried son of Joseph. In Warwickshire he had first worked on a farm, and then as a guard on the Great page 288 Western Railway. He lived at Cambridge West until 1898, doing farm work, taking road construction contracts, and for a time driving the first Cambridge to Rotorua coach. In 1898 he bought 200 acres at nearby Karapiro, and went dairy farming.66

In the later 1870s a number of further Cornish immigrants settled at Cambridge. Among them was William Vosper who had arrived in Auckland in 1873 as a 21-year-old farm labourer. For several years he worked as a farm manager at Pakuranga, before being appointed farm manager of a property at Pokekura, Cambridge. He went on to become prosperous local landowner, and his sons contributed in various ways to local horsemanship, including racing and polo.67 By the Hereford in January 1878 arrived Samuel Cowling, 28-year-old farm labourer, with his wife Anne, 29, and three children. Anne was a daughter of Jonathan Kingdon, whom we have noted arriving in 1872 and settling at Cambridge. Also on the Hereford were John and Jane Bridgman and their three children - Jane may well have been the other daughter of Jonathan Kingdon who settled first in America before moving to New Zealand. Samuel Cowling was born in St. Teath, Cornwall in 1850. He married Ann Kingdon in 1869, and the following year emigrated with his wife and young baby to Canada. After farming there for eight years he decided that the severe climate did not suit him, so he sold his Canadian property, returned to St. Teath, and was accepted as an assisted immigrant for New Zealand. He took up land at Hautapu, and had a highly successful career as a farmer, while taking an active part in both local and district affairs.68

Clearly, in the Cambridge district, as elsewhere in the colonial Feldon, many a one-time English village labourer was finding a measure of fulfilment of his dreams and ambitions.