Country of origin: France
Area in New Zealand: Bay of Islands
Mr Eugene Cafler, one of the oldest and best known residents of the North, passed away peacefully last Monday morning, at his beautiful riverside home, Sans Souci, Whangarei. The deceased had reached the ripe old age of 95. A few years ago when Mr Cafler still retained his wonderful vigour, he was the central figure in Whangarei, and his beautifully kept grounds were the feature of the place, not only in the eyes of visitors but of the residents also. Fancy gardening was his hobby, and the taste displayed and the care bestowed on his grounds was quite remarkable. Not only were the beds and paths kept in the most perfect order, but every fir and pine tree was clipped and trimmed so that a perfect symmetry was preserved throughout. The gardens contained too a great profusion of rare flowers, shrubs and fruit trees. The general tout ensemble of Sans Souci was that of a Swiss toy house with the trees clipped to pyramids. Mr Cafler was essentially elegant in his personal appearance as well as in his surroundings. In the old days he was very fond of riding, and affecting a strictly military style, dressed in riding boots, gilt spurs, French cap and white buckskin gloves, his appearance was unique and contrasted almost strangely with the prosaic surroundings of an upcountry colonial town. Nor did he ride like ordinary people, but once on the back of his beautiful Zuluke, the horse broke into a slow gallop. Mr Cafler rode with dash, and being of a power physique looked well when mounted. When over 80 years of age he rode with the dash of a man of 30. His style was no mere affectation. He was thorough in all he did, and was intensely French, so much so that after a residence of half a century amongst British people, he never learnt our language and could only speak the worst kind of pigeon English .
La beile France was his country, whose customs .and manners he loved, and that he was a native of the polite nation was always in evidence by his courtly manners and punctilious regard to etiquette. He belonged to the old school of society which is fast receding from view in the mist of the later Socialism. He was a man of great force of character, and was very jealous, of his honour. The deceased was a native of Laon, in the Department of Aisne, France, and was born about the year 1796. (There appears to be some doubt as to his precise age, but at is quite certain he was verging on the century.) His father was personally acquainted with the First Napoleon, and was commissioned by that Sovereign to prosecute enquiries into the manufacture of sugar from beet, the English navies having swept the French from the seas, sugar was a scarce commodity and great bounties were offered for its production. The deceased was engaged with Cufler pere in those researches, and the knowledge thus gained proved of value in later life. The deceased was present at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, being in the cadets, but only saw the battle at a distance, his regiment never being engaged. Shortly after this, his health gave way, and his medical advisers ordered him to take a sea voyage. This he did, and being of an enterprising disposition, he continued on the sea for some years, trading with merchandise from port to port. In those days there wore no telegraphs, and he sold where the best market offered. Mr Cafler was very successful, and soon acquired a fortune.
At Mauritius he married a French lady, the daughter of a sugar-planter, and she accompanied him on his voyages. This lady died in Whangaei about 1864, and was buried in a vault in the Auckland Catholic Cemetery;
About 1836, Mr Cafler came to New Zealand, in a French man-of-war, to see his old friend, Bishop Pompallier, who had been sent to enlarge the Roman Catholic mission at the Bay of Islands. Mr Cafler enjoyed such robust health while at the Bay that he resolved to settle there, and bought from the natives the block of land known as Kororareka. He then went over to Australia to get the necessary material for building a house and implements for farming, and on returning started improving his property. The deceased and his friend, the Bishop, were both enthusiastic gardeners, and soon Mr Cafler had made a pretty home. In 1845, the Heka war broke out and Kororareka (now Russell) was sacked, every house being burnt down but Bishop Pompallier's little church, and Mr Cafler and all the other settlers were removed to Auckland. Mr and Mrs Cafler escaped with their lives only.
Mr Cafler again went to Australia, but his health not being good there, he returned to this colony, and finally settled in Whangarei in 1846. Where Sans Souci now stands, was then a swamp, which the deceased reclaimed. About 1887,
Mr Cafler married a second time to the present Madame Cafler, by which marriage there are two children, Alice and Alfred. Mr Cafler had been most of his life a Catholic, but lately he elected to join the English Church, stating that his wife had always been so good to him, that her religion must be equally good, and he would like to die in that religion. The deceased was consequently buried in the English Churchyard, and laid beside the grave of his old friend, the late Sir Osborne Gibbes. Thus the grave has closed over a most eventful life. The funeral, which took place on Wednesday was largely attended, most of the older settlers being present.