Samuel Charles FARR - "Life at Akaroa" 1849-1900
reminiscences of Samuel Charles FARR (1827-1918)
on LIFE AT AKAROA 23 June 1900 (this is the original article. I have added relevant, genealogy info below)
... In the romantic early days, before those four historic ships dropped their anchors into the peaceful haven of Lyttelton harbour, there came to Canterbury a young, resourceful Englishman. He is now an old man, but he retains, and tells with pleasure, many interesting reminiscences of these stirring times, which, seen through the haze of years, seem to a younger generation so much more exciting than this slow-going, common place nowadays.
It was the privilege of a "Press" interviewer to have a long chat yesterday with Mr S. C. Farr, and some of his stories of the past because of the historic interest which attaches to them, and some because of the recollections they will recall in the minds of the survivors of earlier days, are chronicled here.
Mr Farr left London in the bargue 'Monarch', of 375 tons, in November of the year of grace 1849, bound for Auckland. But the vessel ran short of provisions and attempted to put in at Hobart for stores. But the winds were perverse, and a great storm blew them away to the south, the ship lost her rudder, and before another could be made she was far down in the frigid latitudes below Stewart Island. A temporary rudder was improvised, and this shipload of starving people buoyed themselves up with the hope of reaching Otago, as Port Chalmers was then called. But there is no accounting for the moods of the sea, and off Cape Saunders, within sight of their refuge, the rudder carried away again. The barque was saved from shipwreck by cutting overboard all the anchor chain, the anchor having been lost. Afterwards a wind came up and blew them to Akaroa, where, after a week of waiting, they landed, almost dying of starvation.
By this time many of the passengers had had enough of shipboard, and forty of them, including young Farr, decided to remain. Their names were:-
Mr & Mrs John PAVITT (1794-1865) and ten children. John's wife was Elizabeth MUMFORD (1804-1893) & 9 of the children were hers. John had first married Elizabeth's sister Sarah Mumford (1799-1923) with whom he had 2 children, the oldest, John Pavitt (1822-1878) was already married and stayed behind in England. He & his wife had 21 children). The 10 children accompanying John & Elizabeth were:
* 1823-1900 Sarah Hannah Pavitt
* 1826-1912 Mary Ann Pavitt, married Samuel Charles Farr (as above)
* 1828-1906 Frederick Pavitt
* 1831-1860 Henry Pavitt
* 1832-1917 Alfred Pavitt
* 1834-1909 Francis Pavitt
* 1836-1921 Thomas Pavitt
* 1838-1920 Edward Pavitt, married Charlotte Abbott who may have been a passenger (see W. G. Abbott below)
* 1840-1937 Augustus Reid Pavitt
* 1842-1926 Elizabeth Ellen pavitt
Mr & Mrs HAYLOCK and four sons
Mr & Mrs John PARKER and two children
Mr & Mrs James MAHONEY and three children
T. and G. VOGAN
E. L. KING
Mr & Mrs W. G. ABBOTT and two children
Mr FARR himself
and two sailors who left the vessel
There were settlers in Canterbury of course, before that time, but not many. Mr Farr has kept a fairly accurate record of them and their movements, and gives them as follows:-
Mr George HEMPLEMANN (1799-1880), a German whaler, arrived in 1833, and was the first settler - George was the Captain of the whaling brig, the Bee, which came from Sydney about 1835. A couple of years later he established a shore whaling station at Peraki Bay and purchased from "Bloody Jack" and other Southern chiefs, the whole of Banks Peninsula. George died 14 Feb 1880 aged 81 in Akaroa while eating a peach
Mr J. PRICE, who was also a whaler and is still alive, arrived in the same year
Mr William SIMPSON, a cooper, arrived in 1836
Mr James ROBINSON, whaler in 1837
Mr W. B. RHODES landed the first cattle in Akaroa in 1839 and Messrs COPPER and LEVY came with him
Mr C. B. ROBINSON, the first Magistrate, arrived in 1840 and returned Home in 1847
The French and German settlers arrived on August 18th of 1840, in the Count de Paris (Captain Lavaud).
The next year, 1841 must have been an influx of people.
Amongst the arrivals who were settled on the Peninsula and the Plains were:
Captain James BRUCE, of Bruce's Hotel
Mr William GREEN (who had the first Hotel, the 'Victoria', close to Green's Point)
Mr James HERIOT, agent for Abercrombie and Co., of Sydney
Mr Archibald McKINNON and his wife and three children
Mr William REID and his wife and family
Mr James ELLIS, also agent for Abercrombie and Co.
Mr Joseph RHODES, who came down to look after the cattle landed by his brother and sold the first cow for 43
Mr William BIRDLING (1822-1902), servant to the Deans. He came to Akaroa in the early forties to assist Messrs. W. B. and G. Rhodes with their cattle at Red House Bay and Flea Bay. A few years later he bought the property about Lake Forsyth, now called Birdling's Flat and built up the Waikoko estate of 5220 acres. He married Jane LOVERIDGE (1826-1900) & had 8 children
Mr William PREBBLE
Mr Samuel MANSON with his wife and three children
Mr John GEBBIE with a wife and three children
Mr Ebenezer HAY with a wife and two children, who settled in Pegeon Bay
John and William DEANS, 1st & 3rd of four sons of John DEANS, a notary, and his wife, Catherine YOUNG, born in the parish of Kirkstyle, Riccarton, Scotland
Captain James SINCLAIR
Mr Peter BROWN, baker
Captain Henry GAY, who married a daughter of Captian Sinclair
Mr Alexander McINTOSH, a farmer
In this eventful year Captain Sinclair sailed for Wellington in the Scotia, and the vessel, like many of the small craft that ventured on the high seas in those days, was never heard of again
Mr & Mrs W. TODD, servants to the Deans arrived
the GREENWOOD Brothers
Mr Robert CAMERON
Mr George RHODES
Mr John WATSON, the Magistrate who took the place of Mr Robinson
Mr Robert RHODES arrive
William PRATT, storekeeper
Thomas CASS, chief Surveyor (see also Charles Torlesse below)
C. J. BOYS
Charles TORLESSE, (1825-1866), a prominent surveyor for the Canterbury Association in Canterbury. His mother Catherine Torlesse was the sister of Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Torlesse together with fellow surveyor Thomas CASS returned to New Zealand by the Bernica, and arrived in December 1848, to work under chief surveyor, Captain Joseph Thomas.
James LILLWOOD, the first Constable
Mrs KNIGHT, who married Mr WEBB a sawyer, who settled in Pigeon Bay
Mrs WELSH and family also settled
These early arrivals formed quite a small colony, so that the settlement of Canterbury seems to have been assured before even the Canterbury Association sent along its four ships
Though by profession an architect, no architecture was required in Akaroa in 1850, and Mr Farr turned his attention to whatever means of earning a livelihood were available. His first job in New Zealand was to pick a lock. Unlike many pickers of locks, he was paid for it by the owner of the sideboard to which the lock was attached - Captain Bruce of Bruce's Hotel, who was so satisfied with Mr Farr's ability in picking locks that next day he sent him a clock to clean. Mr Farr had never cleaned a clock in his life before, but he boiled it in an old frying pan, and, strange to say, it agreed with it so well that it went merrily afterwards. His fame as a cleaner of clocks promptly spread and he got all the watches in the settlement to clean very shortly. But he did not confine his attention to cleaning clocks. He was contemplating matrimony, and busy manufacturing his own furniture and he even succeeded in making an oven. But these were not the only difficulties attached to marriage in those days. There was no one to perform the service and never a spare wedding ring in the country. So Mr Farr made his own wedding ring out of a half-sovereign. The magistrate, who had been married some three weeks before, had had to go to Dunedin for the purpose, and had got himself legally constituted registrar of birth, deaths and marriages. Then, on June 15th, 1850, at Akaroa, Mr Farr married Miss Pavitt, who had been a fellow passenger in the ship with him, and the first wedding in the province of Canterbury was celebrated. The service was a comical one, because the Magistrate was compelled to consult his instruction book at every second sentence. Finally, he told them that they were married, and the first marriage of the settlement was over. There were formalities to be complied with before a wedding could take place even in those days. Mr Farr had to give nine days' public notice on his own back door, as the most public place he could think of.
Afterwards Mr Farr went into the bush, and sawed wood for a while, and then he made the drawings of a proposed Church of England. Bishop Selwyn having sent the Rev Mr Thomas to Akaroa. He left before the building was erected however, and the next cleryman, Mr Felton, failed to obtain the necessary funds.
After this Mr Farr erected and repaired buildings, and in December, when the four ships were expected, he went to Lyttelton, and saw the pilgrims land. "We had a jolly time," remarked Mr Farr, "and friendships were formed that have never been severed."
A few days after they landed Mr Farr went over to Christchurch, and helped to build the first public building and the second building on the site of the city of Christchurch. It was the land office of the Canterbury Association. He remembers the contractor, a Mr JOHNSTON, sweeping his arm round in a circle, and saying to him, "Here is the site of the future city of Christchurch". That contractor made a very succcessful prophecy.
Mr Farr was receiving the munificent wage of 9s a day, which was more than the other workmen were getting, when he took rheumatic fever and had to go back to Akaroa. He had studied a book on the voyage out entitled "Maunders Treasury of Knowledge", and a very useful treasury it seems to have been to Mr Farr. He got every information he wanted out of it, from picking locks to making wedding rings and by its aid he built sawmills and made the machinery. "I knew nothing about sawmills," he naively confesses, "when I started, and had never seen one, but I first manufactured a working madel and the mills in Robinson's and Devauchelle's Bays were both practical. The former was afterwards destroyed by fire, but the latter made two or three men's fortunes".
Mr Farr also built the first jetty that was erected for the Governmen at Akaroa. He knew as much about making jetties as he did about mending watches, but with the aid of "Maunder" and commonsense he appears to have been most successful
Perhaps the best illustration of how little civilisation existed in those early times is a story of how the Maori, who lived across Akaroa Harbour at the Kaik, were mystified and astounded by the sound of a cornet. Mr Farr was musical and brought with him a cornet and a flute. One glorious summer's evening, after dusk, he ascended to the top of a cliff above his house overlooking the harbour and began to play. Soon the hills resounded with the echoes and presently there came the sound of paddles dipping in the glassy water. Four canoes crowded with natives hove in sight. They beached their canoes and scrambled up the cliff to discover what the sound was. Seeing Mr farr they asked him if he had heard the noise in the sky. After mystifying them for a few minutes, Mr Farr blew a blast on the instrument and their astonishment and delight were unbounded.
Mr Farr recollects the first Provincial Government election., The candidates for the district were Messrs R. H. RHODES, W. S. MOORHOUSE and the Rev W. AYLMER. There were open hustings in those days and the candidates had to make speeches. Mr Aylmer said he had never been taught to make a speech, but he would read them some testimonials his parishioners had given him. "Capital testimonials they were" added Mr Farr, "but they did not contain anything to recommend him for political honours".
Mr Farr remembers distinctly the great fire which destroyed twenty-five miles of bush in 1853 and burnt millions of feet of timber during the three weeks it raged.
One of Mr Farr's reminiscences is his discovery of some of the handiwork of Bishop Selwyn's in the depth of this primeval forest in 1852. He set himself to explore a track through the bush that covered all the hills, from Akaroa to Purau. About a mile and a half from Mount Sinclair he came on a flat, and at the far side ot it an immense totara tree, towering above the rest of the forest, and yet for all its cast size symmetrically-shaped. He proceeded to measure it and found that four feet from the surface it was 57ft 4in (17.47m) in circumference, but at the far side of this huge denizen of the bush he found a panel cut out of the bark as if with a chisel and carved in the sap wood these words "Wonderful are thy works, Lord God Almighty". Mr Farr says, "I stood aghast, believing that mine was the first foot that had trod near the spot. Afterwards I was told by a man named Barry that it was probably the Bishop. Barry remarked "You never find his footsteps. He travels with an aneroid and a compass all over the mountains". Later at a confirmation service at Akaroa I met the Bishop. He admitted having done it and, pulling a sheath knife out of his belt, remarked, "There is the tool I did it with".
It was in 1853 that Mr Farr had an adventure in Akaroa Harbour. He was out in a boat with a young man named HAYLOCK, when it capsized in a squall and Mr Farr was compelled to swim a quarter of a mile with his companion, who could not swim and became unconscious and then to carry him nearly two miles on his back to a swayer's hut.
These are but few of Mr Farr's many interesting reminiscences of bygone days, but newspaper space is circumscribed. Before concluding, however, it must be mentioned that information in his possession from the diary of Mr Robinson, the first magistrate, explodes one fiction, that Captain STANLEY hoisted the colours at Akaroa. As a matter of fact, it was Mr Robinson himself, and he refers to it in his diary, which Mr Farr has seen
AKAROA BAY 1837-1840
taken from The Voyage of the Astrolabe
[Akaroa Bay, 1840]. Baie d'Akaroa, from 'Voyage au Ple Sud et dans l'Ocanie sur les corvettes lAstrolabe et la Zle,... 1837-1840', by J. Dumont d'Urville, 1842-1854, Atlas Pittoresque, Vol. 2., Plate 185,
Macmillan Brown Library Collection