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Earliest New Zealand

Appendix. Letters by the Husband of Hannah Butler

page 432

Appendix. Letters by the Husband of Hannah Butler.

9th February, 1840.
Ship “Oriental,” Port Nicholson, Cook's Strait, New Zealand.

We arrived here on the afternoon of 31st January, after an excellent passage of one hundred and thirty-eight days; and I've since seen sufficient of the climate, soil, and capabilities of the country to convince me none in the world can excel it. Here is to be found everything that constitutes the romantic and sublime, and it seems arranged so tastefully, that it has made an impression upon us all; and I might say, insensible indeed must be the soul that can look at it with indifference.

I will run over a narration of our passage out.

14th SEPTEMBER, 1839.—Invited by the directors to dine on the “Mercury,” steamship, on the Thames. First, after leaving London Bridge, ran down to Gravesend, visited the “Aurora,” “Adelaide,” and our own ship, the “Oriental;” read and signed articles on board. The Sutherland Highlanders dressed in uniform looked well and were much applauded, stepped on board the “Oriental” that night from the “Mercury,” amid much cheering and congratulations.

15th SEPTEMBER.—Weighed anchor, and dropped down the river. During the following week in company with the “Aurora” and “Adelaide,” part of our squadron, and finally weighed from the “Downs” on the 21st, passed the I.W. (Isle of Wight) on the 24th, and though at a great distance, could discern by our glasses many well-known spots.

The wind down channel was unfavourable and sea heavy yet our good ship beat through, and on Saturday, 28th, we saw the last objects in England, Eddystone and Start lights; from thence we had a fine run to the Cape Verde Islands, and dropped anchor off the small capital Portopraia, Isle of St. Iago, on the evening of 16th October.

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OCTOBER 17th.—Went on shore with the captain, called on the British Consul; kind reception; invited to dine the next day; saw much of the town and country.

18th.—On shore to the Consul's; saw his lady, a Portuguese. The whole population appears to be a mixture of Portuguese and African negroes. Very attentive to us; walked through the beautiful orange, lemon, lime, tamarind, bananas, and guavas. Thermometer, 88. Laid in a large supply of excellent fruit.

19th.—Weighed anchor, and soon after met with the variable winds which detained us near the line some weeks; was hereabout in sight of another ship for some days, at last made out by signal the “Brankensman,” bound to South Australia with emigrants, among whom I had some acquaintance; lowered our boat and went on board her with our captain. On returning late at night, Sandy and two or three more of the Highlanders came up and entreated me not to go in an open boat again.

8th NOVEMBER.—Passed the line in longitude 20. Compensated Father Neptune by giving our seamen 5/-. Thermometer in my cabin, 85; in some parts of the ship much hotter. My usual pastime was reading from six until breakfast (nine o'clock), then walk on the deck, and talk with all around, visit my own people, and attend to any request from them, return to my cabin and read until dinner, three o'clock. Rise from table about five. In good weather upon deck, otherwise to cabin; tea at seven, grog at nine; lights out at ten. On fine nights I generally stand hours afterwards on deck, beholding the cheerful space of the spangled heavens, conversing with those whose tastes lay the same way. Cards, chess, and backgammon was the amusement of many, but I never joined either.

We ran down the South American coast in about long. 32, or very near it, and at noon 26th November, high land appeared on the lee bow, and soon after more ahead, which proved to be the Islands of Tristan D'Acunha. Lat. 37 south, long. 12 west. We weathered them before night, coasting the easternmost for miles, which rises abruptly from the ocean for, it is said, nine thousand feet high; it appeared to be of volcanic origin like the Cape Verde, but its outline was rugged and desolate. Myriads of birds swarmed around, and many page 434 fell by our passengers' guns, and one albatross upwards of ten feet across its wings.

We soon after made lat. 40 S., and long. 8, and kept south of the Cape of Good Hope about four hundred miles to avoid its currents, and stood along the parallel the remaining part of our passage, eighty-two degrees, or more than half the circumference of the globe. Saw nothing more until we arrived at New Zealand, except on 6th January, latitude 42 S., longitude 129 east, a whale ship was announced, a long way head under, whose stern we passed about noon as she lay-to cutting up a whale. She proved to be an American, out five months; had one hundred and forty-two tons oil, and expected to complete in four months more, and call at New Zealand on her way home to New Jersey. We expected to have obtained a sight of Van Dieman's Land, but were driven off by gales too far south, and soon after passing its meridian, stood N.E. until the evening of the 20th January.

Much excitement and looking out for Cape Egmont and its eternal snow-clad mountain, said to be fourteen thousand feet high. On looking from my cabin window on the morning of 21st January at daybreak, a portentous haze hung on the eastern horizon, and soon after as the sun broke through its beams were distinctly seen playing on Mt. Egmont's snowy top, while a broad wreath of fleecy mist enveloped its base.

Our rendezvous, Port Hardy, D'Urville Island, being only one hundred miles due south, we now stood direct for it, and about noon came in sight of land on all sides, which proved to be Blind Bay, in which lies D'Urville Isle, but some heavy gales coming in, we were obliged to run out to sea again for the night, and on the 22nd January sailed in and found Port Hardy.

It is beautifully formed by one of those coves common in New Zealand, the ground on each side rising with rugged slope, and adorned with shrubs of delightful fragrance to the water's edge. It was in one of these reaches, surrounded on all sides by hanging woods, that we dropped anchor in the afternoon. At the entrance we passed a small canoe in which there were three natives fishing, and on beckoning to them, they came on board and bartered their fish and some potatoes they had with them for old clothes, refusing silver coin. These poor people are of a copper colour, their whole dress consisting of check shirt, tied round the middle by a branch of tree. page 435 Although they were of the lowest caste in their country, or slaves, they displayed a mental acuteness, and gave us to understand that if we fired one of our cannon, white men with instructions would come. On leaving us they engaged to bring more fish in the morning, which they did, and then set a hill on fire as a sign to their tribe.

23rd JANUARY. — Went on shore with Messrs. Petre (son of Lord Petre), Molesworth (brother of Sir Wm.), Sinclair, and Duppa, and took the gardener, Walker (one of my Sutherlanders) to the woods to inspect the beautiful shrubs; this, with the noise of the birds and their beautiful plumage, was almost enchanting. On going on board to dinner, found a number of natives had arrived, the chief and his wife among others, bringing pigs, fish, poultry, vegetables in abundance. Most of these were tolerably well dressed in the fashion of their country, splendid mats the size of a good blanket; but “Europa” fashion is all the go now, and the chief's lady, with other ladies of quality, appeared in our fashion with tolerable good grace, as their figures are fine; and from what I then saw, and have duly observed since, I am inclined to believe the benevolent views of the Missionary Society will be realised. Many of those on board had good books given them by the missionaries, some even a Testament in the N.Z. language, and were extremely solicitous for pencils and paper to write, which we gave them. They are a fine race of people, and our ladies declared some of them would have been very handsome if not made frightful by tattooing.

24th.—Two white Englishmen living among the natives, probably whale-deserters, or runaway convicts, came with letters for us to proceed to this place.

JANUARY 25th. — Weighed anchor at daylight; much difficulty in working the ship out of the narrows as the wind blew in; got clear out the next morning, wind S.E. direct against us; beat the whole way through the straits, saw much of both the North and South Islands; volcanic origin and wooded close to the shore in most places.

31st.—Entered Port Nicholson; a strong N.W. wind down the harbour; it was only by hard beating we came to our anchorage about sunset. The “Cuba,” “Aurora,” and a small Sydney merchant ship on speculation, saluted, which we returned on coming to.

FEBRUARY 1st. — Alone found the channel, rowed up the river to a native pa or town; a grog shop kept by a sus- page 436 picious white man attracted our people's attention (this man boarded us at the mouth of the harbour the evening before gave his name as Rose; spoke the broad west Highland dialect. Mr. Sinclair asked me to get what information from him I could, and we three then retired to my cabin). This civility was now returned; he came to the shore, procured us grass to send on board for the cows, and treated us with extraordinary attention; around him about half a dozen white men (British) much inclined to look anywhere than to show us their faces. There seemed to be about a dozen native houses in this town, and the gardens surrounding them were tolerably well kept, containing Indian corn, pumpkins, kumeras, and potatoes.

The evening of 31st January. This is a most splendid harbour, and the capabilities of the country around insures it under providence, of success.

1st FEBRUARY.—By a formal introduction, I soon became acquainted with Col. Wakefield, an excellent person, and chief agent to the N.Z. Company, and who sat next to me on coming on board, as we came up the harbour; he invited me on quitting the ship in the evening to accompany him to explore the river and sound the bar the next morning. Many of my young friends on board wished to go; fortunately it rained in the morning, when I took eight of my own men, and started with them alone. On landing I allowed the men to go through the country; the gardener kept with me; the day cleared up, and the country looked beautiful.

The natives seemed much pleased at our coming to settle among them. On going through a wood I saw a native with a double-barreled gun shooting pigeons and beckoned to him. We were without even a pistol. He spoke some English, and on my admiring the size and plumage of the pigeons, he begged me to accept them in that earnest manner, that I could not refuse him. He then took us to the maize field and potato ground, which was well enclosed and kept; he next pressed us to go to his house, where we found he was a native missionary teacher. He gave us an account of the wars between these tribes; said he used to shoot “Manene” (strangers), which was very bad. “No shoot man more, but shoot pigeons now.” He has visited me since.

I have been up the river with the Colonel, and found a valley of many hundred of thousands of acres of the finest land in the world which he has purchased of the natives for page 437 our habitation, but at present one entire coppice, which we have already begun to clear; the few natives on the coast—there seem to be none in the interior—help us. The head of the tribe on the river is become my particular friend, and brought his three sons on board this morning for me to take my choice of to live with me; the eldest, about sixteen, a fine and very intelligent fellow, came to my cabin after I was up, and speaking some English engaged, “You give me clothes, I build your house, you give me book.”

FEBRUARY 4th.—Went on shore with a large party for the purpose of erecting temporary cottages, until the surveyors can give us our allotments. Emigrants allowed 20/- per week; mechanics grumbling at being reduced to labourers.

Selected a beautiful situation on the river bank, about three miles from its mouth; rise of tide at this spot, two feet one and a half inches, but in no ways brackish at high water, five o'clock, second day of the moon. Heard of some dispute among both cabin and steerage passengers about……

(Remainder of this narrative is missing.)
August 24th, 1841.

My Dear Sir,

I addressed a few lines before to you upon our arrival here, by a small vessel then leaving this port, merely announcing our safe and excellent passage; since which I have had many opportunities for observation, and believe no other country possesses more natural resources than New Zealand, while the romantic and sublime scenery with which it abounds is particularly striking. Both Islands are mountainous, some parts to the height of perpetual snow, and the lesser hill and dale covered with beautiful evergreens. Myrtles and other of our choice English plants and shrubs here flourish in wild luxuriance, and attain gigantic size, while many of the culinary vegetables, turnips, radishes, onions, carrots, etc., of excellent quality spring up when we clear the land of scrub, and are apparently indigenous to the soil.

From the backward state of the survey, and the constant distant prospect of obtaining our allotments of land, on my arrival I engaged the Surveyor-General to employ myself and pupil on his staff, and cut survey lines through the thickest of the country. Our friends there have been compensated by the excitement of discoveries in a new country: at one time a vegetable—at another, a mineral would present itself to us; even at mid-day we found ourselves immersed in the dark forest, where the thick foliage above obscured even the face of the compass, when probably on a sudden the cutting line would open on some hillside and exhibit a most magnificent scene around. Birds of the most splendid plumage came constantly within our reach unconscious that man was an enemy. The smallness of many was their protection, but the ducks, pigeons and some others supplied us with half our food.

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I must now give you a short sketch of our copper-coloured neighbours. The native men are of a firm and stately form, but the women who are the slaves of their lords, are in general ugly; both tattoo, the women slightly, but as we ridicule their tattooing, the young people say, “No more tattoo.”

The sixteen tribes, or rather families, who inhabit this extensive district, came overland several years ago from about one hundred and fifty miles north-west, and in their five months' route, fought through upwards of thirty other tribes, and out of the three hundred and seven warriors who exiled themselves from their native land (from the dread of being devoured by a powerful neighbouring tribe), only one hundred and sixteen reached this place. They have since been converted to Christianity, but retain many of their former superstitions, yet improve daily from their intercourse with us; it is allowed they are an intelligent race, and capable of being brought shortly to a high state of civilization.

On first landing here, I fixed my residence with the Sutherland people on the banks of the river above all other emigrants, and between two small tribes of natives, who supply us with pigs and vegetables in abundance and take old clothes in return; and except a momentary dispute with two or three of our young men who gave a dozen of the natives a sound thrashing, the harmony has never been disturbed. The morning after the encounter. I was invited to a “Karahow” (korero), or meeting with the chief of the tribe, to discuss the subject, and after much explanation and an observation from an elderly native, that the slight shock of earthquake that we had the same night was caused by “Atua” for their making fight (to which I nodded assent) a mutual exchange of presents took place, a dozen baskets of potatoes was sent to my hut, and a pig tapued or set aside to be fattened on purpose for me, which the honest man has since brought, and in return I gave him a bag of rice, some sugar, and about twelve yards of calico; it was also mutually agreed we were to banish the ringleaders of each party.

Be assured, we are under no apprehension from the natives, and although a bold and manly race, and ready to exchange blow for blow with us, they are too conscious of our superiority, and have too much sense to injure us, as their conversion, and connection with Europeans have been the salvation of the few inhabitants left. Previous to this era, the tribes were constantly at war, and devouring each other. At this time I believe these fertile islands, blest with the best climate in the world, do not contain more than twenty thousand Mouri, or native inhabitants.

They are assuming our manners and customs with alacrity, and everything is now Europa fashion with them. The young men are learning to read and write, and several of them work daily with our people, who are delighted with their honest and manly deportment. Our colony is at present in a disagreeable state of suspense, from a dread of our large landholders have of the bill in progress in Sydney, depriving the colonists of their land by not recognising their title, given out last week, from a supposition they will fall back upon the company for redress. For my part I think possession everything, and took it immediately.

Republican feeling has been very predominant here, and dissent from the parent government and judicial authority lately established here; and to such a height is it grown that the ex-counsellors propose page 439 to “up-sail” and away to settle in Chili, South America. I think too highly of New Zealand and our parental home to go thither.

Pray remember me to your kind father and all enquiring friends. Tell Mr. Fenn, with my respects, his cast-steel axes have turned out well. I wish I had another supply of them.

Adieu, my Dear Sir, and
Believe me,
Yours truly,


To Mr. Malcott (Jun.), Newgate Street.
New Zealand
22nd November, 1841.

My Dear Sir,

I addressed a few lines to you soon after arrival, and I believe about twice since mentioning our progress in this, our first colony. Other settlements are now starting around us, and little doubt remains of New Zealand being quickly peopled by the Anglo-Saxon race. Notwithstanding the vast labour in clearing the dark forest valleys for our future cornfields, and the hanging hills for our orchards and vineyards, climbing the steeps with our newly-imported flocks, and penetrating the interior over swamps and rapid rivers, the climate is so delightful, and our hopes from the fertility of the soil so great, we are apt to forget, happily, the many privations incurred, for, believe me, the first settlers in the bush have had a few.

There has been much disappointment and consequent grumbling from not obtaining the country sections of land, arising from the dilatory state of the survey, and at this time there are no more than three hundred, out of the first eleven hundred surveyed. Many persons lounge about the town, waiting the survey; others turn to mercantile pursuits, go into some retired vale, clear and cultivate the beautiful spots. On arrival here, I selected a small peninsula formed by the river of the valley, at the head of the bay here, made a garden, from whence I have obtained all our culinary vegetables in great profusion.

On the adjacent hills I have two shepherds in charge of a prosperous flock of merino sheep, imported from Van Dieman's Land eighteen months ago, and a few miles up the valley I have obtained a hundred acre section of the most fertile land, part of which I have let in a clearing lease for a few years. My walking, for it's impossible to ride from one concern to the other, is excessively fatiguing at times, and what would have been deemed impossible two years ago.

The town of Wellington is situated on the S.W. angle of the harbour. On going through it yesterday, I observed more than twenty square-rigged ships lying at anchor, some homeward bound with whale oil and bone, others recently arrived with emigrants and stores, an American from Boston with household funiture, etc. Land on the beach for store-houses is, in consequence of the increasing trade, become extravagantly high; annual rent 25/- per foot frontage.

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The accounts from the exploring of the Nelson settlement (middle island), being so good, and confirming an opinion I had formed on seeing that part some time ago, induced me to purchase a 200 acre section yesterday for £300. A new colony is a strange place, and much wild speculation is going on amongst us, but as this district of Nelson is in the neighbourhood of an extensive and almost unknown coalfield, as well as much pasturage, I have thought of crossing Cooks Straits to it and settling (distance one hundred and fifty miles).

(Remainder missing.)
The End.