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The following is an extract from the book 5ilhouettes of The Post --A century ago.
Produced by the Auckland Lyceum Club and dated August 18th 1939
Note: - These are true experiences of the people mentioned in this story. We have permission from their relatives to use their names: the pioneers themselves have passed away.
The autumn leaves are falling, May is here, following soon with winter, and we, who ore in the lost span of life, make the days full and rich in remembrances. So we travel with the post as well as the present when taking a day’s outing into the Waikato.
Leaving Mt. Albert, we have known since childhood, we pass through Onehunga. Why, there are Dr. and Mrs. Harsant walking down the street arm in arm; what a dear old English couple they are. She prided herself she had never changed the fashion of dress, so we see her in shawl and bonnet, with three little curls each side of her face, the Doctor in the style of that period, 1878. They had come to spend their last days in Onehunga.
How interesting it was to hear him tell of their early life in New Zealand. Landing in Auckland in 1853, he was appointed by the Governor, Sir George Grey to act as British Commissioner and Magistrate at T e Awamutu, then the outpost of pakeha influence.
With Mrs. Harsant and their nine children, they started on a great adventure: going up the Waikato River in canoes, a trip never to be remembered. When reaching Ngaruawahia, they branched into the Waipa and arrived at T e Awamutu, which means the end of the river; and there they lived in whares.
Later he was transferred to Raglan, which took twelve days to reach. They had a party of eighteen Maoris to transport the family and household goods. Mrs. Harsant and the smallest children were carried by Maoris on native stretchers; each of the elder children had something to look after. The eldest boy always remembered the cuttings of fruit trees he had strapped on his back.
At first they lived a few miles out of Raglan, their home in heavy bush. Several times they were warned of a hostile tribe of Maoris camping near, so they spent the night in the bush, returning to the house at daylight. They were never molested by Maoris.
When reaching Raglan they had to live on small potatoes for thirteen weeks, not even having a pinch of salt. Mrs. Harsant recovering from an illness, was sent a white loaf of bread as a great delicacy, and had one slice each day. When the supplies came from Auckland, everybody was happy again. Here we leave our old friends, who passed away at a great age.
When crossing the Mangere Bridge, we get a clear view of the Heads, and memories came back to us; when in the early seventies our father chartered the cutter "Agnes," costing forty pounds, to take mother and four children to Raglan. How the waves washed over the small vessel, when crossing the Manukau Bar and, touching bottom, the water poured down into the little cabin! It was a trying experience for all on board, but we reached our destination safely. Sad to relate, the "Agnes" was wrecked on its next trip.
Two Years later we were coming to Onehunga in a schooner, sailing along beautifully. After crossing the Manukau Bar, just inside the heads, the wind dropped and we were becalmed there for three days; hot, without a ripple on the water. One garrulous lady on board talked from morning till night. It was Mrs. Pegler this and Mrs. Pegler that, till poor mother hated the very sound of her name. What a joy, the wind had risen, and we sailed up most proudly to the Onehunga wharf. There was grandfather waiting for us with the waggonette; we wished it had been the phaeton with the little dickie seat at the back. We, who would have loved to sit in it, were never told we could, and dare not ask, for children should be seen and not heard.
What pleasure it is driving so smoothly along the Mangere - Papatoetoe roads, so different from the early nineties; then it was all ruts, bumps and loose metal. We had occasion to remember, for we had bought bicycles, much to the distress of our relations. Such a thing was never heard of before in Auckland. What were girls coming to? Still we were young and happy, and fancied ourselves in dresses worn very much like the present day; only the skirt had to cover the ankles. Even if we were talked about, one had to be respectable. As time went on we parted with our heavy machines.
Nearing Drury we collect our little friend and neighbour, Mrs Appleby, who lived in this part all her married life. When long past eighty she would bring her fine knitted lace to do, spending many afternoons with us, and thrilling were her different experiences.
Her maiden name was Annie Brady, claimed to be the first white girl born in Auckland, in 1842, in the vicinity where Wakefield Street joins Queen Street, the latter being little more than a gully. She remembered, when, as a child, fishing with other children in a stream where Smith and Caughey's shop is now; they using cotton and a bent pin.
Natives used the same school, so she learned to speak Maori. In those days it took a day to walk to Onehunga, through heavy scrub and tea-tree.
Mr. and Mrs. Appleby, married in 1863, went to live near Drury. Inside the house, hanging on the wall in brackets, were ten rifles, belonging to men working on the road. One day when Mr. Appleby and the men had gone to work, a party of Maoris came and squatted outside the door, looking very primitive, with bright tomahawks, deadly weapons. They asked for food, and as she went about her duties she saw them eyeing the rifles. At that time there was a fine of one hundred pounds for selling firearms to Maoris.
(There is a short biographical note on William Appleby in the "Cyclopaedia of New Zealand, "vol. J., page 700.)
Presently a discussion went on, should they knock her on the head and make off with the rifles? Patu-te-wahine - kill the woman - was the talk. Although scared to death, she set the table for midday meal, every bit of china and cutlery was spread out, all saucepans filled, as if preparing for a big feast.
Then hearing more talking; it was nearly twelve o'clock. They pointed to the sun, it being their only time keeper. The men would be coming to eat; better to come and kill the woman and take the rifles the next day.
When they had disappeared, she coo-eed her husband, and he sent a message to the soldiers, who were camped some miles on. Quickly a party was sent and escorted Mrs. Appleby and neighbouring settlers to a church. Even that was fired on later. Bullet holes can be seen in the walls to this day.
Afterwards Mr. and Mrs. Appleby took up land at Pokeno for farming, and brought up a family of nine sons and daughters.
All the sewing was done by hand, clothes for the family, household linen, and when friends popped in for a chat, tapes would be put on pillow cases and any finishing done - not a moment wasted.
As prosperity came along a tennis court was made, and so the young people had their pleasures at the weekend.
We leave our dear little friend, who passed away aged ninety-one. Her husband predeceased her seventeen and a half years before.
On reaching Mercer, we have our morning tea by the river. Suddenly we see ourselves as children coming down in a small paddle steamer from Ngaruawahia. How excited we were with the thought of going in the train to Auckland, Mercer then being the railhead.
We were full of dreams and wondered when grandfather took us into town for a drive, should we be allowed to walk up Jacob’s Ladder?
And so we leave Mercer and travel on to Ngaruawahia. Again come memories: We have our first long ride over the Raglan ranges, just tracks round and round, and up and down, almost on our horses' necks, but we knew we were safe with Uncle Schnackenberg.
Here we are at Ngaruawahia, waiting for the train to Auckland, this being the railway terminus now. Our two cousins will ride on the horses, returning to Raglan with their father, our uncle by marriage.
Mr Schnackenberg was born 1812, he left London for Sydney in 1834, and came to Kawhia in November, 1839, a representative of a Sydney firm in the purchase of timber, dressed flax and other exportable produce. On December 12th, 1842, he was a passenger in the brig "Nymph." There were eleven souls on board the "Nymph" as she sailed from Raglan that summer mom, and she ran into a flat calm soon after clearing the bar. The northerly set of the current took the vessel up the coast, where she grounded on the shoal off the Mussel Rocks. Heavy seas swept over the doomed vessel, while all on board took to the rigging.
A powerful young Maori swimmer, approaching the lee side of the ship, told Mr. Schnackenberg that the Rev. James Wallis, a missionary, had sent him out to take him ashore, saying, "Come down, take off your clothes; I will take you ashore." He, having a considerable amount of gold, poured the sovereigns into the hollow pipe braces and tied it around the Maori's neck.
Then came the struggle. Roller after roller broke over them. The long swim was exhausting. The Maori kept encouraging his pakeha friend. Kia maia (take courage). Eventually they found a floating hatchway and, with its support, finally reached the inner breakers, when others came to their rescue.
Mr. Schnackenberg writes: "The first thing that brave and honest Maori did was to return to me my gold intact. I rewarded him liberally."
All on board the vessel were saved by the Maoris. Mr. Schnackenberg's chest, with clothes in, was washed ashore when the vessel broke up. He made a vow to devote the remainder of his days to the service of the race which that day had saved his life.
We read in Mr. D. McLean's (afterwards Sir Donald McLean) diary on April 30th, 1845, he then being at the Rev. Schnackenberg's mission station, Te Mahoe, inside Mokau Heads.
Later Mr. Schnackenberg was at Aotea and Kawhia Mission Station, eventually becoming Maori Missionary at Raglan, spending his last days serving both Maori and pakeha unselfishly. In his last illness, during his removal to Auckland, he passed away while crossing the Manukau Bar. He was buried in the Symonds Street Cemetery, at the foot of Grafton Bridge, the last resting place of many of our pioneers.
Leaving Ngaruawahia, we greatly enjoy our motor drive into Hamilton. How vastly the roads are improved; no heavy sand to plough through, and as we approach the town we exclaim at the beautiful homes nestling close to the river, each side of the new bridge. Crossing over it, we drive up River Road into the Soldier's Park.
While having our lunch we go back to the days of yester year, when Hamilton was a small town and the road had just been made to Raglan, it took the day to go by coach, with two changes of horses. Now we go by car in one hour.
We cannot talk too much about Hamilton - that alone would fill a book, and we remember Cambridge is our destination.
There, we go to a wedding of our young friend, whom we have known since childhood with so much affection we wish them both many years of great happiness. Theirs will be a different road to travel than ours or our parents before us.
The air seems different when we get into more open spaces. One feels the tang of autumn, and going along the road to Cambridge the farms on either side look prosperous, while here and there, dotted about, are the golden trees of autumn.
Presently we come to the avenue of tall poplar trees. As we enter, the beautiful golden leaves are falling, making a carpet on the ground. We are in fairyland: the years have fallen from us, we are children again. The wind has risen, and the little round golden leaves dance and twirl along the ground. Look, there is a little face peeping round that tree. Come out, dear fairies, we cried. We are children and we love you.
The little golden leaves went dancing on, up and down, one chasing the other, playing all sorts of games. Why, round that tree there is a ring-a-rosie, and the leaves come down in showers of golden ray, for the autumn leaves are falling.
Signed: L.E. BROOKS