8. South Canterbury 1858-1859
While Lee was looking after Parnassus, where he took up his quarters with Mrs. Lee about the end of the year 1857, I was engaged a good deal in surveying work in Canterbury and in 1858 I joined Hewlings (1) in tendering for the survey of the country south of the Rangitata to the Waitaki [rivers] and the contract was to given to us.
(1) Samuel Hewlings (1819-1896), first settler at Geraldine in 1854, first Mayor of Timaru 1865 and Chief Surveyor for Canterbury 1871-76.
Hewlings was then living with his wife and family, at Geraldine where he had been some time settled, and occupied in surveying the features of the country. The contract which he and I took was to make a compass survey of the whole of the Canterbury country south of the River Rangitata and to survey the sections bought in that district.
The latter work Hewlings undertook and I set to do the compass survey, or as it was called the “Survey of the Runs.” These runs had never been surveyed although many of them had been occupied for several years, and many disputes had arisen between neighbours in consequence.
My work consisted in surveying all the coast line, rivers, hills, lakes, swamps, etc., in a country about sixty miles one way and seventy the other and after making a map of it, to have all the runs properly defined on the map. Then I had to go over the country again and show all the boundaries to the owners. This work occupied me altogether more than two years and I worked very hard at it.
The survey party numbered three including myself and we had three horses, which carried us and also provisions, blankets and tent. The only instrument I used was a prismatic compass, which with a Gunter’s chain completed the surveying outfit. The chain man was a young man of about 18 years of age called William Young, (1) a son of a gentleman of Auckland, who had held the office of Collector of Customs there.
(1) William Spearman Young (1842-1912)
The other member of the party was a Jew named Levy, but generally called Moses for short, who had been for some time shepherding at Parnassus and whose duties on the survey were to lead the horses, while Young and I were at work. Also a cook and washer man, who had to go on ahead and prepare an encampment by putting up the tent, collecting firewood, gathering grass for bedding etc.
Our way of working was very simple. Young and I generally turned out of the tent at sunrise, Moses having turned out at dawn to get breakfast ready. After breakfast, leaving Moses to pack up, we started the angle taking and chaining. After we had done about four or five miles of the work, Moses would overtake us with the horses, on which we had lunch. Moses then went on another four or five miles to a camp while we continued our work up to it. We generally found our resting place close to where we left off work for the day and in the morning began again close to the tent. Occasionally we came across a station where we could stay a night. Whenever we did we were always received with great hospitality and supplied with anything we required in the ration line.
While doing this work, I was instructed to endeavour to get through to the West Coast somewhere in the neighbourhood of Milford Haven [Milford Sound]. And also to make a survey as far as practicable of the country lying near the boundary of the Canterbury and Otago Provinces. This in order that a map of the leading features of the country might be made to guide the Government in determining the boundary of the two Provinces, about which a dispute had arisen. To do this we made two journeys into the Wanaka Lake country and although I took an old Māori with me named “Governor Grey,” who had lived for some time in the Wanaka District, we failed to get to the West Coast. I however was able to make a survey sufficiently extensive to guide the Government in settling the boundary question.
A few years after my attempt, Dr. Haast, (1) with Young (who had been with me), reached the West Coast by way of the Wanaka Lake and down what has since been called the Haast River. But at that time they obtained the use of a boat on Wanaka Lake to take them to its head. When I went, there was no boat and the country was so steep and rough that I failed. Our provisions also ran out and for some time almost our only food was eels and a few Wekas which “Governor Grey” caught. This old Māori was named after Sir George Grey, twice governor of New Zealand, by I believe Mr. Walter Mantell with whom he had been for some time travelling about the Waitaki River.
(1) Sir Julius von Haast, K.C.M.G., F.R.S. (1822–87). The Haast Pass was discovered in 1861 by J H Baker, but not crossed until 1862 when a prospector traveled it, just a few weeks before Julius Haast.
Haast's pursuit of his objectives won him critics and enemies as well as admirers; he quarrelled with and antagonised many. It is said that he solicited honours more avidly than might be thought proper. Yet such traits were offset by his jovial personality and lively enthusiasm for his science, amounting to a lifelong passion that entitles him to be regarded as one of the pioneers of New Zealand science.
When the winter came on, I stopped the out-door work and went to Raukapuka (the present Geraldine), which I believe was named after the first Superintendent of Canterbury, Mr. Gerald Fitzgerald. (1) Samuel Hewlings was living there in a small house made chiefly of Totara bark, and employed me in plotting work etc. In this house, besides Young and I, lived Hewlings, his Māori wife “E’Ware”, and four children, half-caste girls.
(1) James Edward Fitzgerald (1818–1896) was an essayist, poet, artist, journalist, civil servant, politician, orator, singer and inspirational lecturer. First editor of the Lyttelton Times, founder of The Press newspaper and Canterbury's first Superintendent, he was variously described as talented, generous and idealistic, but on the other hand as impulsive, undiscriminating, shallow and dangerous. Jollie confuses him with his brother Gerald Fitzgerald of Timaru.
I now begin to write again at Dresden, November 1879.
Mrs. Hewlings was a daughter of a chief of, I think, the Nga-puhi tribe, which is the name of the great Māori tribe occupying the northern part of the Northern Island of New Zealand. Hewlings became acquainted with her when he was living in the neighbourhood of the Bay of Islands in the early days. She was a quiet, orderly woman and was good-looking for a native, although her lips had been tattooed.
The children were pretty looking dark eyed girls, aged from three to twelve years, shy and wild, healthy and active. Hewlings had not much opportunity at that time of giving them any teaching, but he was a very kind father to them and afterwards did his best to educate them, but with a very unfortunate result.
The two eldest he took to England in 1861 and having placed them in the care of his relations, he returned to New Zealand. I went to see them in London in 1862 with Mr. Lean, one was very ill at that time and died soon after and the other was sent back to New Zealand where she also very soon died after her return. The two younger girls were sent to Sydney to be educated and returned to Christchurch to their father when about seventeen and eighteen years old respectively, but they both died two or three years afterwards. Hewlings also had another daughter born to him in or about the year 1859 who died at Akaroa when about twelve or thirteen years old.
There was also a son called Frederic born when Hewlings was in England in 1861 and is at present (November, 1879) on his way back to New Zealand after a trip to England (where he came to visit us for a few weeks at Dunedin – sic). Another daughter was also born a year or two after Fred’s birth and soon afterwards Mr. and Mrs. Hewlings separated, the latter going back to the Bay of Islands, taking her young child with her.