The letters of Jessie Campbell to her family, from Greenock, Petone and Wanganui.
The texts are taken from the typescript (Ref: qMS-0369) held at the Alexander Turnbull Library. The punctuation and spelling follow the typescript, and may differ slightly from other versions of these letters.
- 25 August 1840: from Jessie Campbell on the Blenheim to Isabella Cameron:
The “Blenheim” 4.30 p.m.
My dear Isabella
Here we are at last and I am glad to say the accommodation is even better than I expected, our cabin, when put in order will be very comfortable. I am in better spirits today strange to say, than I have been since I saw you. The children are very good and have had a comfortable sleep.
Ewen came on board with us and is still here, he is to put this into the P.O. for you. I.B.S. is quite brisk, when I came on board she came to ask me what she could do for me. We came alongside in a Helenburgh steamer and got drenched with rain, there was terrible confusion with baggage & our scritoire and No.9 came on board and was put into the hold on Saturday last, we cannot get them out till tomorrow night, tonight we do the best we can. Tibby never looked better than she does and is so merry. The emigrants have all been mustered today, I have not been out of my cabin as yet not even to see the Capt. Gray I mean. They say if the wind is fair, they will sail at daylight.
I am quite ashamed of dear Ewen’s making presents to us, he has given me the writing portable box which I know he valued and Grandfather’s tales for John. Ewen is off — I must have done —
Your much attached sister
- 25 August 1840: from Ewen Cameron at Greenock to Isabella Cameron:
My dear Isabella,
I have just ascertained that the Blenheim will certainly sail this night at 11 o’clock — a steamer being engaged at that time as a tug. Jessie & the Capt. I left at about 6 o’clock in wonderful spirits, they seem hquite pleased with their cabin and I have not the least doubt that will be very comfortable……The wind is really fair at present.
With best regards to all at Viewforth — in haste
Your affect. Brother
- 29 August 1840: from Jessie Campbell on the Blenheim to Isabella Cameron:
29th August 1840
My dearest Isabella
I have opened my letter to tell you that we have been becalmed since yesterday and have not yet made out Holyhead, the packet from that place is just seen approaching, our Capt. has signalled for it to come alongside, I hope to get my despatches all landed today. We are all in the best of health, you never saw Tibbie looking better. Capt. C. was just wishing this morning you could see her peeping out of her cot like a little mouse and laughing at her Papa, she is a greater pet with the passengers than poor Cocky. The ship is going rather better at present but still very slowly, it is very tiresome. The more I know Capt. Grey the more I like him, my husband seems a favourite with him, he is so obliging to him and his whole conversation is almost entirely addressed to him. Drimintoran’s business about the wine had put him out of favour.
I have not time to write more as the packet is close at hand.
My dearest Isabella, Your most affectionate sister —
We are busy today putting our cabin in order and sorting the scritoire and screwing nails in to hang things up. Some of the gentlement have nice books, the time as yet never hangs heavy. We get our allowance of water every morning, & English pints for washing and everything. We find it quite sufficient with management, the children drink the black coffee and tea very well when made sweet for them
Just off Dublin Bay.
I must beg of you to write to Mrs. W. Campbell give her my love and say I would write but their movements are so uncertain. I do not know where to address. I see the Jane Goudi arrived safely at Sydney. I have not heard from Charles yet.
- For details of the voyage, see Jessie Campbell’s Journal.
- 8 November 1841: from Jessie Campbell at Petone to Isabella Cameron:
Petone, 8th Nov. 1841
My dearest Isabella,
This will the 4th letter besides my journal which have written to you, my last was written in June and announced the birth of William Patrick on 13th May exactly a week after Capt. C. sailed for Sydney. In case my letter may not have come to hand, I may as well mention that I never suffered so little or had so good a recovery. My medical attendant Dr. Stokes, was very attentive and skilful. I had no midwife, my servant and Mrs. Butler were the only attendants, how much I would have given to have had my old friends Crighton and Coley. Miss Beals arrived a few hours after Baby was born and very kindly remained until I was by the fire-side. It was a great trial having to part from my husband at such a time, you may fancy what his anxiety must have been for the ten weeks of absence, he did not get any of my letters, he did not know of the birth of his son, not whether we were dead or alive until his return to Wellington.
Willie is now almost 6 months old, he is very like John, is hardly ever heard to cry and he has never tasted medicine. My mother will be surprised to hear he had not the least of the yellow gum.
The other children are all in rude health, John is a tremendous fellow in size & strength, he is already of great use. We have had no man for almost 3 months, John brings the cow home regularly from the bush. When his Father is from home, he goes to the Pah to buy potatoes from the natives and makes as good bargain as I can. He has great confidence in himself, in some respects he is the better of this, his greatest fault is being very obstinate. When he takes a thing in his head, it is no easy matter to convince him of being wrong.
Colin is taller for his age than John, he is quite healthy and much stronger and more active than when you saw him. We think he shows symptoms of being wormy which makes him thinner than he was some time ago. If he had advantages, I think he would be a tolerable scholar, his judgment is very much improved, he learns by heart much quicker than John. He is the only one who takes a pleasure in keeping himself neat & tidy. A rent in his clothes distresses him beyond measure.
Louisa is a sad romp, from being so much with the boys, she is very hoydenish. She is growing very tall and is thinner which has rather improved her appearance. Her abilities are better than her brothers, she has an immense mop of hair.
Susan Anne, I am sure you would think a dear little pet, she has dark blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and small regular features. She talks continuously and is not the least shy, which makes her very engaging to strangers.
I am delighted to say that altho’ the Capt. continues thin he is in excellent health, he takes so much exercise it keeps him down in flesh, he never has heartburn and much less rheumatism.
I am not quite so stout as I was, my health is excellent, the only thing I complain of is having too keen an appetite. The children are ravenous, it is quite delightful to see how they enjoy their food.
Now that I have satisfied you as to our health, I will begin with all that has happened since the month of June which was when I wrote you last.
Mr. Butler died on the 18th of that month, we miss him very much. On the 15th of July Capt. C. returned from Sydney he returned a month sooner than I expected. I got quite hysterical between joy and suspense when in the dusk of the evening he popped in among us, he brought with him a good deal of livestock, viz. 3 cows, one died on the voyage, 2 mares, 2 goats, 5 turkeys, 5 geese, 6 ducks, 6 hens & a cock.
The vessel went into a harbour in the S.Island and waited for a favourable wind, the Capt. while there got two large pigs for a small blanket each. He got a present of 2 sheep laid in for stock on the vessel from one of the owners, so that we have been living in clover for some time.
I shall send you a newspaper so you may see the prices of things in Wgton. Altho’ we have 5 cows, we have only one giving milk, she has enough for the children and rears a very nice calf besides. Last week I got 8/9 for ½ lb of butter and expect the same this week. The eggs I have sold have more than paid the original cost of the hens. We are fortunate in having our milk cow very quiet which is a rare thing to be met with in this country. Some of the other cows will calve in a few months. The Capt. sold one his mares and a cart for which he got £75, he had a handsome profit by them. Our two goats are heavy in kid. The Capt. has also 4 bullocks and a dray and a yearling ox, he has likewise bargained with an agent here, to give him 20 young heifers which are to be imported from a superior herd in N.S.Wales. A ship load of the same kind came to the Colony some time ago. Unfortunately Capt.C. was absent at Wanganui, they were immediately snatched up by others, 40 head were bought by Mr.Macdonald for which he paid £480, he has six months in which to pay this, has got people to back his bills in the meantime. He expects to sell them at a good profit before his bills became due.
We were astonished at his making so large a purchase, the Capt. took some trouble to find out all about it. Mr.M. is trying to turn over every penny just as he did at home, I have no doubt if he avoided his besetting sin he would do well. I think he is more drunken here than ever he was at home, for the last fortnight he has scarcely been a day sober. On first coming here he was so steady and clever and so pushing that he was very much respected, he is fast losing his respectability. Many people have cut out his acquaintance, many people thought we were related to him. I take every opportunity of denying all relationship. I should feel it now assuredly a most disgraceful connection. His favourite is the blacksmith from [–] in fact he does not care who he drinks with.
I feel deeply for his miserable wife, the eldest son is very fond of his glass and every penny he gets is spent on gin. I wrote you before that he was deprived of his situation for being drunk — and was re-instated. Everyone is astonished that his situation has not been again taken from him.
It is thought Col. Wakefield is not aware of how he is carrying on. I likewise wrote you that Catherine had an offer of marriage, her parents were very anxious for the match but she was determined in her refusal. I have since seen her admirer, he is very vulgar in manner and appearance. He is an agent here for one of the wealthiest houses in Sydney. He offended I.B.S. beyond measure by whistling a valse on Sunday. I said to her some allowance should be made for the poor man’s state of mind.
What will Brodie say when he hears our manservant left because he did not consider £30 a year, bed, board and washing, sufficient wages. The Capt. is so active that with assistance of John, we do very well without a man. My Skye servant has got married, she was so plain looking I thought I was sure to have her for some time. Her husband is a smart good looking young man who came out in the Blenheim from Skye. Likewise I gave her at the rate of £15 a year.
The Capt. got his grant of land in N.S.W. in the government township of Ulladulla on the coast. If he is spared 2 years he will require to go back to Sydney to get his title deeds. He hopes to be allowed to dispose of his grant. He met with great attention from Macpherson Grant, Ballindalloch, he & a brother officer had gone into partnership and bought a station with sheep, cattle, enclosures etc. of which they got a good bargain from some unlucky homo who was in great need of ready money. Mcpherson was in Sydney when the Capt. was there preparing.
- 8 May 1842: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Ewen Cameron:
Wanganui May 8. 1842
My dearest Brother
I have just heard the dear expeditious Brougham is to return to London direct. I am so glad to have an opportunity of writing Home at last. No vessel has left the settlement direct for London since the Bailey sailed last November.
With what delight I received your letter about the end of February and both Isabella’s marked Nos.1 & 2. When I last wrote I was busy preparing for our removal to this place. I shall begin with an account of all our adventure since that time.
We embarked on board the Clydeside on 24th Nov., with all our luggage, poultry, 3 goats, 2 kids, 2 cows, the rest of our cattle were to follow by land, and an arduous undertaking it was to pack up with only one stupid woman servant to assist.
We narrowly escaped shipwreck at the entrance of the river, the Clydeside was too large a vessel to be easily managed in so narrow a space. The pilot from nervousness put her on a reef called the North Spit among the breakers — For a short time we had no hope that all our lives would be saved, even now it makes me nervous to write about it. One gentleman who had a life preserver and had taken a fancy to Susan said he would take charge of her. I was the only one on board with children.
While we were sitting awaiting our fate, they were getting the boats out to try and get the women ashore.
The vessel gave a tremendous bump and we slid into the proper channel. In a short time we were safe at anchor inside the bar. Oh, how thankful I was. Capt. C. was so composed he gave their liberty to a pup and a cat we had on board shut up in a box.
To add to our distress poor John was very ill altho’ his complaint must have been coming on for some time, we did not observe it until on board the Clydeside.
Immediately on our arrival, he was put under the care of Dr. Wilson, his complaint was a very rare one, viz. St. Vitus dance. It was distressing to see at times, quite worn out with the involuntary motion of his muscles. For many weeks he was as helpless as a baby, could not walk or even feed himself. His speech became very imperfect and for some time left him so entirely he could not ask for his wants. He spoke so like his Grandmother, nothing that Dr. Wilson could say would convince me that it was not a paralytic stroke altho’ the convulsive motions were so different from paralysis.
When John took the turn his recovery was very rapid, he is long ago as well and strong as ever. His illness was caused by worms and an accumulation of bile. He has grown very big and strong.
We are so fortunate to have them all at school here and making very good progress, they are taught by Miss King an Irish lady who came here with her brother. She is an old maid and very capable of doing them justice. Her method is excellent, she is so kind and at the same time determined. They have books called the judgment books in which she gives an account of how each task was said and of their conduct. This is brought home every night and has a most excellent effect. Our treatment of them is of course regulated by this account. Colin who used to be so backward is doing wonders, he generally brings home the best character, he has quite a craze for writing — from Aunt Isabella he must have taken this turn — certainly not from Papa!
Miss King encourages them to write letters to her, Colin’s and Louisa’s productions are very amusing. Miss King takes great pains to give them a taste for reading, lends them story books. She has three pupils besides my three, unfortunately for poor Louisa they all boys. Two of them are English, the sons of Mr. Dawson our police magistrate, they are about John’s and Colin’s ages and very nice gentlemanlike boys. I consider it a great advantage for my children having such companions, the third is a son of Dr. Wilson, a little fellow half Spanish half English about Louisa’s age. She gave him such a thrashing the other day that he had to go home. My children will speak a queer lingo half English, half Scotch, half Irish.
Miss King says Louisa has better abilities than the boys. I think Susan will be the cleverest of them all, she is very smart and promises to be very good looking.
Willie is a great stout fellow with a quantity of fair curly hair, he is very good tempered and has never had an ailment since he was born.
Capt. C. is in excellent health and spirits, he is still very thin. I suppose he will never be stout again. He finds himself more able to take exercise than when he was stout. I do not think you would know him, his thinness and the dress he wears have changed his appearance so much, he wears a broad blue bonnet and a round blue jacket and occasionally the French shirt which proves a most suitable dress in the summer. He is delighted with the climate, it is so temperate, there no country in the world where the thermometer ranges so little.
We like this place much better than Petone. We occupy at present the best house in the place, it belonged to a Missionary. Living is very cheap so far as pork and potatoes go, which are the principle produce of the country. We buy everything from the natives by barter, will get a basket of potatoes weighing 20 lbs for a fig of tobacco or a tobacco and pipe. I have bought a basket for a needle and small quantity of sewing thread. They will give a good pig for a single English blanket which costs in Wellington 11/-.
The natives are very inferior to those at Petone and such thieves that we never admit them.
I am glad to hear such good accounts of my dear Mother’s health. How often we speak of you all and wonder what you are all about. You cannot write too often, the postage is trifling, it is too bad of Colin to forget me completely.
And now my dear Brother, it is time to bring this long scroll to a conclusion.
Capt. C. joins me in love to you.
Believe me your most affectionate sister,
It is 2 o’clock in the morning, John Cameron is busy beside me scribbling home.
Will my mother believe that all summer 6 o’clock never caught my better half nor me in bed.
We had this evening to tea, McLeod of McLeod’s only brother, he and Mr. Brodie came down here to look at the place and are so pleased they intend to settle. Brodie has often been at Fort William markets and knows McDonald.
- 4 December 1842: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Isabella Cameron:
Wanganui Dec. 4, 1842
My dearest Isabella,
I fear I shall be obliged to make this a shorter letter than usual. When I tell you my reason you will not complain, for the last fortnight I may say I have had no servts., the damsel I’ve had since coming here chose to get a beau and left me at 10 minutes notice to prepare for her marriage. I cannot get her place supplied here, the only help I have is from a smart little girl about 12 years old who comes in every evening. You may believe I have very little time – I have tried to write at night when all were gone to rest but felt so sleepy and tired I was obliged to give it up. I wrote some time ago to Wgton. I hope Mrs. MacDonald has succeeded in getting a servant for me, the one I had was a most useless, ill tempered gypsy and after all she is to be married to an excellent steady tradesman, a blacksmith who came out in the Blenheim. I often think what a host of admirers Flora Kennedy would have here — where such drabs get good husbands.
I received all your letters by Capt. Gray on the 17th.Nov. and the box in perfect order. My gown did not suffer the least damage — and most extraordinary all the shoes fitted as well as possible. How can I sufficiently thank you and my dear Mother for all your kindness. My gown is most suitable and will make a very pretty winter dress. I wish you could have seen the children on Sunday when they got on their Edinburgh shoes, Maggie might well say of them “So proud as you are”. They said everyone noticed their shoes — the truth was, they obliged everyone to notice. I can assure you the Capt. thought much of his present, the sitting room is the only place he will honour with the slippers on, the shoes are a perfect godsend to him, his stock was getting very low — he says it would be long before any of his own friends would remember his necessities. The purse is very pretty and carefully put up in the scritoire and only gets the air to be shown to strangers. I can assure you all our friends here give you great credit for the judicious contents of your box, I only regret the expense of so many things.
John is beside me perspiring at the letter to his Grandmother, I do not know what he is saying but it seems hard work to judge from his face. Colin and Louisa were most anxious to write to thank Grandmama but as they would require my assistance, I have persuaded them to put it off to another opportunity. Your little notes gave great satisfaction.
I wrote a long letter to my mother in Octer., very little has occurred since, worth mentioning. The Capt. has had a few attacks of his old enemy rheumatism, he thought it was caused by the unusual wetness of Winter and Spring. Since the Summer set in he is as brisk as ever before. Up at 5 o’clock every morning.
John Cameron has gone to Wellington on business of his own also to purchase cattle for the section, if he can get any to his mind. We miss him very much, he makes himself very useful, he sleeps on a sofa in the sitting room, makes his bed every evening and in the morning clears everything away and often even sweeps the room. I often tell him, what would his friends at home say if they could see him with a scrubbing brush cleaning his canvas trousers or in the evening mending them, he can patch as neatly as I can. One evening the Capt. asked to our great amazement for a needle and thread and set to work putting strings in a night shirt which I had long forgot to do, he finished the job tolerably but has never been induced to follow John’s example in that respect since.
The boys make their own beds and Louisa dresses Susan – this is the country for making young people of use.
I wrote to my mother our reasons for building in the town section. John drew the plan of the house, the walls are of clay which makes the warmest house, the natives will thatch the roof, the sitting room and our own room will be boarded, off our room will be two small ones for the children, a room for John and a store room will be the whole concern with a kitchen outside.
The Capt. often takes a stroll to see his country sections and each time seems more pleased with them. The chief to whom they belong made us a present lately of a dish of eels from our own lake, which had a superior relish coming from our own property. John Cameron shot a brace of wild duck the last time he was at the lakes, which we all thought superior to anything we had ever tasted.
Col. Wakefield has not returned from Auckland, he is daily expected accompanied by Shortland who is doing all he can to make himself popular during his short reign, he has done much good already and it is to be hoped will do still more by getting us settled on our land. The Chief, to whom our place belongs, says when he gets the price of the land he is quite willing to give it.
I wrote to my mother about Drimantoran having lost his situation, alas miserable man, the accounts we had a few days ago are still more wretched, he is a ruined man. Everything he had was seized for debt. His son Adam saved him from being sent to jail by giving up the little pittance he had saved. God help his poor wife I feel deeply for her, with all her faults she is well principled. He, poor wretch, is lying dangerously ill, scarcely expected to recover, I think his death would be a happy release to his family, he has brought such disgrace upon them. Adam is very steady and a sensible lad. Donald’s death was a blessing, he was as drunken as his father without his abilities when sober. Catherine’s intended has not returned from Auckland, all this blow up has occurred during his absence. I wonder what he will feel about it when he hears of Macdonald’s disgrace. The Capt. and John Cameron were thankful to be at such a distance from him, they would not like to have intercourse with a man spoken of as he is.
I cannot tell you how vexed I was to think Capt. Grey and the old Blenheim were so near – and yet not to see them, he was off for Taranaki before we even heard of his arrival. I would have given a great deal to see him and the old ship again.
It was so kind and considerate to apprise you of his coming here, I would have written to him if I had known of his arrival.
We were much astounded and I must say not altogether pleased to receive a letter from George Wright dated Port Nicholson, he had taken out his passage to come here so that we expect him daily. What he is to do here unless he commences saving — I am sure I cannot tell, he cannot be a burden upon his uncle I am determined I will work hard for my own family but for no other person, I can assure you the prospect of a grown man being added to our family is not a pleasant look out for me who have so much to do. Precious little trouble his mother would take for me or mine, she would have taken her brother’s last farthing from him if she could.
The salaries given in Wellington to clerks are so small in proportion to the expense of living that without a home he can scarcely support himself.
Cattle are the only thing that pay here, but it requires judgment, experience and money. Of all this John Cameron is possessed, so that instead of being a burden upon us as George would be, he is a very acquisition. He was busy making oars for the boat when he went away, he intends making some of the doors for our new house, in short he can put his hand to anything, even to the nursing of Willie who is an immense pet of his, besides he is well enough informed to support his own side of an argument rather stiffly which makes him a pleasant companion for the Capt. he is quite au fait in all farming matters and gardening.
The Capt. and his brother Justices are in a great fix at present, trying to get rid of Mr. Dawson, our Police Magistrate. All the inhabitants with very few exceptions have petitioned against him. It is too long and uninteresting a story to tell you all the reasons for this, besides the faults found with him in his Magisterial character, he was accused, before his marriage of a crime too horrible to mention, at first few believed it, but although frequently requested to clear himself, he has never taken the least trouble to do so, which leads everyone to believe the horrible accusation to be true.
My husband has not for months, sat on the Bench with him. I pity his poor wife, she is a pretty ladylike creature. I had a note from her yesterday in deep distress at the ill feeling manifested against her husband she naturally considers him very ill used. He has two very fine boys by a former marriage.
- 9 March 1843: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Isabella Cameron:
Wanganui, 9th March, 1843
My dearest Isabella,
Your 8th letter I received yesterday, I cannot tell you how grateful we all feel for your regularity in writing, every letter has come safely generally five months after being despatched. I feel truly vexed that you have been so long in hearing from us. I know how my dear mother and you would be fretting from anxiety about us. There is direct communication from Port Nicholson to England so seldom that our letters take a much longer time and for some time after coming here, John’s dreadful illness prevented my writing. This is my 6th letter since the Bailey sailed, my last was dated the beginning of December. I trust you have received some of these long ere this.
We are all in our usual busy state and enjoyment of good health, the Capt. as thin as ever but in excellent spirits. His old enemy rheumatism has troubled him more this year than usual. We hope when we get into our own house, which will be very comfortable, that he will not be so subject to it.
I expect an addition to the family the end of May, I feel so light and active I am tolerably sure of having but one. Fortunately Willie is a stout strong little fellow except for feeding him and putting on his clothes he is independent of all nursing. Certainly children mature earlier here. Willie is not so good looking as he was when the warm weather commenced I was obliged to deprive him of his beautiful curls, the loss of them has disfigured him very much.
Susan still promises to be very good looking, she is fair complexioned with good features and dark blue eyes, an old fashioned little body, she sits beside me at dinner if I forget to enquire for the other children’s character book she is sure to remind me by asking “Well children, what kind of characters have you got today?”
John is growing very fast and carries breadth along with his height, he is a sensible boy, notwithstanding that we complain of his carelessness at school, he is making tolerable progress. Miss King takes great pains with all of them. John’s great fault is obstinacy from having too much confidence in himself. I sometimes think he is a little inclined to indolence but this will soon be worked out of him. I cannot say he shows a decided taste for reading, he does sometimes take up a book, he is a great trifler in learning his lessons, when he does attend he learns them very quickly and has a capital memory, he has quite a craze for gardening and is forever collecting seeds and plants for his own little plot. The other day he came to tell me he had such a prize, this turned out to be a present from Mrs. Wilson, of some very nice seeds.
I hardly know how to describe Colin, he is very tall and thin, much better made than John and if he can possibly manage it, always neat and tidy. He is very thoughtless and passionate, is rather a favourite of Miss King’s who says he is easily managed, kindness or rather — will make him do anything, he can learn his lessons well, but very often will not. Altho’ smart enough in some things his judgment is not so sound as John’s.
His constitution seems to have changed completely, he never knows an ailment and has a never failing appetite. He has a great deal of spirit nothing will daunt him, to give you an instance of this lately. On a dark night a pig got into our henhouse, on being desired to find out what it was, John hung back. Colin immediately marched out armed with a stick as big as himself, and strutted back in a little to laugh at John for being so frightened of a pig!
Louisa has better abilities than either of her brothers, her greatest failing is a violent temper. I often wish she were near you to manage her, she is very affectionate and has a decided taste for reading, she continues very big for her age, I think she has improved in looks, her figure promising to be good. She and Colin have commenced Geography and very proud they are. They all write from dictation every day which is a capital plan.
I hope I have not tired you with this long account of my little ones, I have tried to give you an impartial account of them.
We had, about 2 months ago, a very unwelcome addition to our family circle, in the shape of George Wright, his mother is certainly a most extraordinary creature, I may call her a most imprudent woman, only think of her sending him off here with only £5 in his pocket? The consequence was he arrived here perfectly penniless, had not even what would pay his passage from Wgton. My better half had to lend him £3 on his arrival a sum small as it may appear he could ill afford to pay, between what he has paid for a lot of cattle lately and the expense of this house building ready cash is rather scarce. It was a great hardship to pay out of the little hoard I make by my milk and butter etc. besides this where there is but one servant and such a family, a grown man makes a great addition to my toil. Even his ships linen was done here, formerly my own servant was able to do all our washing but now I have occasionally to hire a woman at 3/- a day. There is not the slightest chance of his getting a situation here and if he got one in Wgton. — if he is fit to keep it, he is the very essence of ignorance and stupidity and so vulgar that I am ashamed to hear him speak. He is totally unaware of his own deficiencies, on the contrary he has a great opinion of himself. His uncle says “If that lad would hold his tongue and not show his ignorance by his silly remarks and questions”.
His mother has much to answer for — a creature who has been more neglected in every respect — I have never met with.
Mrs. Wright of all her father’s family had the least claim upon her brother and I look upon it as a particular hardship upon me to have to toil for her son.
My own friends, whatever assistance they may have been to us, have certainly never been a burden upon my husband and I am determined that here George shall not remain. I have strongly recommended his uncle to make him work his passage Home again. I should enjoy his mother having him back after she thought of herself so nicely rid of him, she did not even write a line by him. Mrs. Gray wrote to me that she thought he would be very useful to her brother.
The broad Scotch sounds so horrid where most of our own society is English and all speak so well. Instead of […] George says always he is […] the other day he said he had been paddling the canoe. You can read all I have said of him to his aunt Grace I know I have written warmly on this subject but I cannot help it. People have a most mistaken idea at Home that the Colony is the fittest place for a man who is too stupid to do well in own country. On the contrary it requires greater energy of mind and ability to succeed here. Situations are not so easily got at Wgton. as when we first arrived, more young men have come out than supply the demand of them, and certainly neither George’s manner, appearance nor education are likely to procure him a place. John Cameron is still an inmate of our house, and a valuable acquisition he is. He provides so much for the house, such as tea, flour etc. that his living with us is a great assistance besides his own labour which he does not spare. He is the person to do well here, he has so much prudence, good sense, energy of mind and activity of body. My better half was most fortunate to get him for a partner.
He has worked as hard at that new house of ours as if it were his own, I hope it will be his house until he gets a wife.
John made a good purchase of cattle when in Wgton. and we now rent a section of land about a mile from the town for £5 a year — which has excellent grazing for the cattle.
Our new house has a shingle roof and clay walls it will be very comfortable, we expect to be in it in 4 weeks, we will have a garden and a small plot for flowers in front. Capt. C. was determined to build a good house as he will be sure to let or sell it when he goes to the country.
The missionary of whom I wrote as being so troublesome was drowned a few months ago crossing a river on horseback. Since his death the natives are more favourable to the whites, and there is no doubt when the long looked for Mr. Spain makes his appearance and finds what is to be paid for the land, that all disputes will be settled. We heard yesterday that Mr. Spain was at length actually on his way here.
I hope in my next to be able to tell you that we have at length got possession of our land. Capt. C. says he would be quite happy if he was settled on it.
We like this country more and more, the climate is so fine, every animal and vegetable seems to thrive. The soil about the town is poor and sandy but even that produces wonderfully. We have quantities of vegetables in our present garden. My better half never relished vegetables because they are the produce of his own and John’s toil. We have great quantities of Cape Gooseberries. I have made some jam of them which is very good.
I have so much milk that I have actually made some small cheeses, the rennet made from pig’s stomach, which does very well. We have pumpkins not yet at their full growth which already measure 4 ft. in circumference.
For the last week we have had a most pleasant comet visible every night. Capt. C. says the famous one of 1811 was not nearly as brilliant.
Our summer is now drawing to a close, we still have splendid weather. When the mornings were longer, Capt. C. was up every morning at 5 o’clock, is not this a change? I never dreamt he would ever be so active — and better than all he is so much respected, he and Dr. Wilson are bosom friends, it is quite an extraordinary event if they are two days without seeing each other! and such arguments as they have! The Chess players have not met for some time, when the evenings are longer they will have their usual meetings.
One of our visitors, Dr. Allison, came out in the same vessel as Maclachlan, Miss Mackenzie Gramy and husband, he says Mac bore parting with his wife very coolly. I doubt she is not likely to see him again.
Dr. Allison is a very pleasant sensible young man, he must have a good deal of credit as he and his brother have 6 sections the brother is quite a lad.
I am sorry to hear they are likely to have such bad times in the Highlands, last year Capt. C. congratulated himself on being out of the country. I may say I have greater ease of mind here, than I have had since my marriage, the reason is nothing is done unknown to me, and I know exactly what expenses we have and how we are getting on. In every respect this is a great comfort.
The last time I wrote I was very much harassed, being without a servant for two months, I did the whole work of the home except the washing. I have now one I that had for a short time at Petone, she is from Skye and came out in the Blenheim, she is a strong able woman and milks the cows, she travelled from Port Nicholson here by land with John Cameron and the cattle, her brother also. She is the second white woman to travel that route. I hope to have her for some time, as she does not speak good English there is not so much chance of her getting a husband.
I mentioned in my last letter that Drimantoran had gone all wrong, everything he had has been seized by his creditors his subject (capital) it is thought may pay 12/- in the £’, God knows what his family will do, his dissipation has destroyed his mind so completely that he will be quite a burden to the family, his memory is quite gone, only think of his asking John Cameron what ship he came out by. It is quite deplorable to see him such a wreck, the Almighty bestowed talents on him that should have made him a credit instead of a disgrace to his country. Catherine’s intended is still in Auckland, he is highly spoken of as a most respectable man. My servant says he is from Lochaber but left it when just a boy and his parentage is not genteel. Adam is very steady, he is the sole support of his mother.
I had a note from Catherine lately mentioning they had letters from the Bank and that Margaret had written to me her letter has never come to hand, all yours arrive safely! It is laughable if a letter Margaret has taken two years to consider should have miscarried. You and my dear brother Alexdr. are the only members of our family who seem to recollect they have a sister in this part of the globe. I trust to hear that Margaret has got safely over her confinement. What a heavy charge she has with such a large family.
I must now bring this long and illegible scrawl to a close, and hope you will be able to read it. Now my dearest Isabella, I must have done, my husband joins me in kindest love to you and my mother.
Believe me your most affect. sister,
As I know you feel an interest in everything regarding the children, I may as well tell how careful they were when I was without a servant. Louisa every morning dressed Susan and Willie, Colin swept the room and set breakfast. John boiled the rice and infused the tea, by the time I came from the cows all was ready for me, John and Colin always work the churn for me.
- 27 June 1843: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Louisa (Campbell) Cameron:
Wanganui, 27th June 1843
My dearest Mother,
A lady has offered to enclose a letter in a small parcel she is sending to her friends in Yorkshire, she assures me of its safe transmission. I am delighted at having so early an opportunity of announcing to you the birth of another grandson on the 27th May. I was safely delivered of a fine stout little fellow, and have only to repeat the tale of most women in this country that I suffered nothing in comparison to what I would have at home.
Dr. Wilson was my medical attendant (midwives are not known here) my kind friend Mrs. Wilson did everything for me that you could have done, she came every day to dress the baby until I was strong, in short as I often told her, she was both mother and sister to me. I will give you an instance of her care of me. I had a slight threatening of my old pains two days after the baby’s birth and had recource to my old remedy — bottles of hot water — one of them broke in the bed. Mrs. Wilson heard of it late in the evening she guessed, as was really the case that I would not be at the trouble to get my bed so thoroughly changed as I should, she immediately came up and made everything dry and comfortable, except our own family, I have no relation of whom I have such regard.
When the baby is strong enough to be taken to church, he is to be named Ewen Alexander, he is very like Susan Anne.
We got comfortably settled in our new house 3 weeks before my confinement. I was saying the other day, if you could have a peep at us, how pleased you would be to see us so very comfortable, the house is an excellent one for the country, commodious and well planned. Many a hot argument the Capt. and John Cameron had while planning it, the walls are of clay with a roof of shingle, all the partitions inside are of wood, the walls outside are whitewashed which gives it the look of a clean English cottage. The accommodation consists of a sitting room on one side as you enter from the outer door — opposite is our own bedroom — opening from our room are two smaller rooms, one for the boys and one for the girls. On the end of the passage is a small place to be used as a laundry or pantry opening from it is a small store room. John Cameron has a very neat room, the first place he has had he could call his own since he came to N.Z. The rooms are very warm, a capital brick fireplace in the sitting room and what is more in this country it does not smoke in the least.
Capt. Campbell enjoys excellent health, his appearance is improved by being thin, he suffers nothing from rheumatism. Since we came to this comfortable house he is in excellent spirits, he has just the life he likes, he works hard during the day, and during the long winter evenings we very often have some friends in to play Backgammon or chess or perhaps Dr. Wilson pops in to have an argument, we can always have a pleasant society whenever we wish for it. The class of settler is very respectable in general and their numbers are gradually increasing. I am always so busy I have less time than inclination to be sociable.
I wrote to you some time ago that our troublesome missionary was drowned. The Bishop has supplied his place by sending Mr. Taylor, a clergyman educated at one of the English universities and different from his predecessor in every way, he has a very ladylike wife and four children so neatly dressed.
Mr. Taylor brought a letter of introduction from Mr. Busby to Capt. Campbell it is a blessed change for this place to have a clergyman officiating every Sunday. Mr. Taylor preaches pretty well and reads the service beautifully. It is now time for me to give an account of the all important subject, the land question. I rejoice to say that after all our disappointments and delays, we have at last a certain prospect of getting our land very shortly.
Mr. Spain and Mr. Stafford were down here last April and after passing a month, the natives agreed to give up the land for so much additional payment, the only delay arises from Col. Wakefield declining to make this additional payment without referring to the Company. If they decline to pay (which is very unlikely) Government will take the whole matter into their own hands. The natives are very anxious to have the white people settled among them, they cannot live now without tobacco, blankets etc. all of which the Pakehas or White people provide them with. Our old native here, came yesterday with a present of a fine eel. He told the Capt. he was anxious to give him the land, but could not do it until they got more payment.
The settlers would at once advance the required payment but fear if they do so, the Company may refuse to repay them.
We are all delighted with Mr. Spain, he spared no exertion in settling the question, he is a most pleasant gentlemanlike man. All the good people here paid him great attention, there was such a slaughtering of poultry, giving him dinners. Capt. C. supplied the market with good beef. He sold a fat cow to a butcher, the only one that has been killed in the place. A regular invited dinner party is such an event in this part of the world that very few are provided with the necessaries for a dinner table. My things were in constant requisition and so the Capt. followed his spoons etc. and got his own share of the good things that were going. My dinner party consisted of 8 and their fare of fish, beef, chickens and ham, brown soup, cape gooseberry jam and dried peaches. Mr. Spain’s mother in law, an old lady of 78, came to N.Z. with his wife and family. She stood the voyage well until one stormy night she was tossed out of her berth and broke her collar bone. She recovered from it much sooner than could be expected.
Mr. Spain’s residence is in Auckland. He walked with Capt. C. to see our country sections and was delighted with them. On getting to one spot from which there is splendid view he exclaimed he had seen nothing like it in this country. The Capt. and he became such friends after this!!
I will now give you an account of my domestic concerns. Since January, I have had a Skye girl who came out on the Blenheim. I am counted fortunate in having her, she is honest and sober, milks the cows, is strong and not likely to marry in a hurry as she does not speak good English. Her wages are £16 a year.
Some purchases made last summer have increased our cattle to 40 head. I still get 3/- per lb. for fresh butter and 2/6 for Salt. 3d per pint for milk. I made a good deal by my dairy during the Summer and Autumn. We get nothing from our own land except the comfort of growing our own wheat and potatoes. As for raising crops for sale, it is not half so profitable as cattle.
Labourers’ wages have lessened very much the men we had working at this house got 15/- per week, a year ago they would not have worked under £1 and rations.
The natives have a very large crop of Indian corn and potatoes this year which we get for very little from them, the meal of the Indian corn makes very good porridge and cakes and very good puddings, we have had no oatmeal for a long time, the children’s breakfast in general is mashed potatoes or rice and milk, bread and milk for supper. They thrive well on their fare, as they are all so strong and healthy. John carries breadth and well as height he is a very sensible boy of his age, he is very useful to his Father, he is doing pretty well at school. Miss King takes great pains to give them general information and to give them a taste for reading. I hope by the time John is ready to begin higher branches we may have a good schoolmaster to send him to. In cyphering he is in the rule of three. Colin is a tall fishing rod but perfectly strong and healthy he has not the sound judgement of John nor the same confidence in himself. He puts me very much in mind of Donald McDonald, he can apply but is so very thoughtless, yet he is a favourite of Miss King. I consider it an advantage for both boys to have the example of such a steady well principled young man as John Cameron.
Your grand-daughter is the cleverest of them, she promises to be as greater reader as Papa, every spare moment she has is devoted to her books, her memory is excellent. From the growth of her body and her mind, you forget she is only 7 years old. She is a great romp too and a famous hand at destroying her clothes.
Susan has not yet gone to school, I have no time to give her lessons. Willie is a strong rambling fellow, gives no trouble except to find him and put on his clothes, he runs about all day and goes to bed at 6 in the evening. We intend to send Susan to school when she is 5 years old. Miss King is now our nearest neighbour, I like her very much, she is a sociable, well educated person, a younger sister who was in the […] for some time, has […] here, she draws very well and was engaged by a naturalist to make drawings of the plants he collected. Their brother has been very unfortunate, a vessel in which he had valuable property coming from Port Nicholson here was wrecked and lost all. He has an excellent library of which the Capt. takes advantage occasionally.
By the bye I must not forget to mention how grateful he feels for the newspapers sent him. Our Stirling friends are most mindful of his newspaper reading propensities, and my dear brother, Alexdr. has not been behindhand.
We still have George Wright as an inmate, there is not the slightest chance of his getting a situation, his education has been so neglected I doubt if he would be able to keep a situation, it was cruel of his friends to send him. It is very hard upon us with our limited means and large family to be burdened with him. He found out his uncle’s agent in Wellington and drew upon his for £3, and £3 12/- paid for his passage, makes £6 12/-. Capt. C. paid on his […] His clothes are beginning to wear out and Capt. C. proposes to advance him a sum to keep him a week in Wellington, and if he does not succeed there, let him work his passage home. It would be long before his Mother would think of sending me as much as a pair of shoes for one of our children, not even the scrape of a pen by him she seems to have expected as a matter of course that his uncle would provide for him, he is so stupid, does not seem sensible of the wretched position he is in. I expect when Mrs. W. gets tired of her younger son he will be sent here likewise, she provides easily for her sons by paying their passage and £5 to boot! I consider George a bad companion for my boys, and keep them separate as much as possible, his association seems to have been very low indeed.
I wrote you some time ago of the miserable state of the Drimantorans, their son Adam, is the sole support of the family. The father will never do any good and his memory is completely gone, with very little hope of recovery. Alexdr. is likely to turn out a ne’er do well, has gone as cowherd to Angus McMaster their old servant, this seals his fate!
His poor wife, God help her, though much troubled with a stomach complaint, is obliged to do everything as they cannot afford to keep a servant.
Flora is very useful to her mother, but my servant, who was with them for some time, says Catherine was quite the fine lady, did nothing to assist her mother. Her intended has not yet returned from Auckland, she hears from him regularly. From a reduction of the surveying staff he lost his situation, he has been wanting the acting Governor to fulfil his promise of giving him another place, by the last accounts he was on the eve of being appointed Protector of the Aborigines either here or at Kafia, a place further down the coast. I do not know what his salary will be, probably £200 a year. Catherine has been very fortunate. Mr. Campbell has been highly spoken of by all. Mr. Spain told me he was a most honourable well principled young man.
Since commencing the above, I rejoice to inform you that the natives have agreed to allow the whites to take immediate possession of their land and trust to being paid afterwards. My gentlemen propose getting the natives to build a small hut on our land and when the season is far enough advanced, they will go there and begin operations, they hope to have some land under cultivation this year, yet they promise not to disturb me from my present abode until they have a good house for me. Our house on the town section will repay us, will let or sell well. I trust you will be able to read my scrawl, if they are not very legible, you must either suppose me writing with a great disturbance about me, or so sleepy I hardly see my pen!
We attribute the favourable disposition of the natives to Mr. Taylor’s influence, what it is to have a good man and a man of education as missionary.
Say to Isabella with my kindest love how grateful I feel for her frequent and long letters. I trust you have received some of my missing letters long ago, my last was dated Feby. or March. I feel grieved that your anxiety about us, is not more frequently relieved, almost all the settlers here have their friends at home complaining of not receiving letters. It is thought there is some mismanagement at Wellington.
My friends at [Spout Hall?] seem determined that we shall forget them and they are in a fair way of having their wish gratified, the last letter I received from them was dated 2½ years ago.
I am anxious to hear of poor Marget’s safety, I trust this will be her last.
When you write Ewen give him my congratulations on the birth of his son. I intend to devote my first spare time to Alexdr. he and Isabella are all of our own family who seem to remember me.
Will you offer Mrs. H. Campbell our kindest regards, her long letter was most interesting, I hope she will believe it is not the want of inclination that prevents me answering it at present.
The boys desire me to tell Grandmama that they are still wearing their shoes. Colin says he recollects the day he and Louisa attacked you, he says “ I was a senseless little boy then”.
You and all our friends will rejoice to hear that we still continue to like the country, our only disappointment has arisen from not getting the land, altho’ we have often had our hopes swamped I trust I may now write with certainty of our getting possession.
John Cameron is of great assistance, he is so active and can put his hand to anything, he is likewise very prudent and will not consent to any money being laid out that can be avoided.
The greatest complaint we have is one that is I dare say rather general everywhere viz. want of cash, if could only manage to export there would not be such a drain of money from the Colony, there is talk of flax, if it could be turned to account, it would be a great matter.
I hope you have received a letter from John, tell Isabella my dark gown has been most useful to me now, my own gowns were too thin for winter and I have not time to make up materials I have in the house, my work at present is making tartan surtouts for the boys. Now my dearest Mother, my paper warns me to have done with scribbling. Capt. Campbell joins me in kind regards to all inquiring friends, and our best love to you and Isabella.
I remain, your most affectionate daughter,
P.S. Kind love to our Stirling friends, tell Margaret she must not think I forget her if I do not answer her letter for some time. With a young baby and one servant, you may think how my time is occupied – besides I have to make and mend for the household. I have received all Isabella’s letters up to 2nd. November.
- 2 August 1843: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Isabella Cameron.
[the beginning of the letter is not included in the typescript]
…I would be considered quite a Goth if I put on anything but white frocks, until he is shortcoated, which will be very soon. Mrs. Wilson presented him with such a pretty hood trimmed with white satin and a tiny pair of Barbery slippers ornamented with gold thread they are of yellow morocco. I hope Louisa will soon be of assistance to me, she sews very well for her age, she is making pinafores for Baby. She is clever at most things, it is a pity she has such a bold passionate temper. Susan is a mild gentle little body, easily offended but not passionate, she continues good looking, but I do not think she will have her sister’s ability. My paper warns me to bring this letter to a close.
I am glad to hear that a vessel is to be despatched direct to London this month. Offer my best love to our Stirling friends I wish I had time to write to my aunt, though I am sure she will understand it is the power I want and not the will. John threatens to send another epistle to his Grandmama, I tell him that for a few years his letters are not worth paying postage for.
And now my dear Isabella, I must say goodbye, the Capt. joins me in kindest love to my dear mother. God bless you my dearest sister —
Your most affecate.
I think I mentioned in a former letter that one of Drimentorans sons had gone to be herdboy with his own old servt. Angus McMaster is not this terrible? Catherine hears frequently from her intended, he bears a high character. The natives have had a glorious feast lately, a large whale was cast ashore a short distance from this, the blubber has been such a feast to them, they brought us a quantity of oil for sale it was most disgusting to see them licking their fingers and the bottles. We burn nothing else than oil. I see by the days paper that Catherine’s intended has been appointed Protector of the Aborigines for the districts of Taranaki and Mokau, his salary I suppose will be from £150 to £200 a year. I suppose he is in Wellington by this time.
Will you believe it is nearly a week since I commenced this scrawl it is quite amusing to see the number of unfinished letter my desk contains. I see one for Aunt dated April and one for Jessie S- dated Nov. last. My baby takes up my time constantly, even my evenings I cannot reckon my own as I used to do, if I make my appearance to visitors, he must do the same, If I go out to call, I must take him likewise.
- 17 October 1843: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Isabella Cameron.
Wanganui, 17 Oct. 1843
My dearest Isabella,
Your letter of May 8th I received last week, and much pleased we were to have such recent news of you and so grateful to you for writing so regularly. Believe me, my dear sister, if I do not write quite so often as you wish, it is not from want of inclination, scarcely a day passes that you are not in my thoughts and in my conversation occasionally. I plead guilty to the charge of remissness for being months before writing to you after our arrival here, but ever since I have written regularly every two months. I am grieved and astonished some of my letters were not received, this will be the […] I have dispatched since April last (I mean April 1842). We have now a mail established once a fortnight between this and Wellington which is a great boon.
Your letters by the bye, lay 6 weeks in Wellington.
We were much pleased to hear such good accounts of my dear mother’s health.
I fancy you now returning from your summer tour and very glad I daresay to be back in your own comfortable house.
Poor Margaret has really a heavy charge, especially in a country where it so difficult to get daughters well disposed of. Pity some of them would not come here. We have only one young lady here in Wanganui, and she is engaged to be married on her 15th birthday (in March) to Dr.Allison, he is Scotch, has a good deal of money, and altho’ not very polished is very steady and well principled. The young lady is a tall, awkward, long faced tabby. And so stupid, I cannot fancy how the man can be so stupid as to fancy her. She is the daughter of Mr. Gilfillan who brought me a letter from Miss Picken. This marriage is a godsend to them, they are in wretched circumstances, perhaps Grace may know something of them, I wish you would ask her. Mr. G. talks as if he were a very clever artist and says he made £500 a year at home, [is] that was the case, his coming out here is a mystery! He says he lost all by the failure of a London Bank. He has presented me with 2 very pretty sketches but Miss Martha King says they are only copies.
His wife was confined lately. I took compassion on her and was her nurse for which they are very grateful. He has promised to give me a sketch of our lake section when he has more leisure.
The children are all well and growing fast. John is a happy boy today, he has on a jacket for the first time, he has become too big for my tailoring, he looks very tall in his new dress. He is much occupied with his garden at present. Last night he was boasting to his Father that he had strawberries in blossom altho’ only transplanted […] months ago. I am glad to say he begins to show a liking for reading, I am so anxious he should develop a love of reading, if books are properly selected is half an education. Miss King thinks the same and does all in her power to develop this taste. She is very well informed and very able to direct their choice.
Their Father and I make it a principle never to allow them to be idle, this we can manage better by having them so constantly with us.
Susan has gone to school, Henry Harrison, a smart boy of her own age, he calls her his little wife and Susan smiles and smiles. Ewen Alexander is a thriving little fellow, he has been short coated and had no caps since he was three months old, he is so good-tempered that he gives little trouble — a blessing for me.
Willie is a great pet of Papa’s who generally finds him when his breakfast is ready, he bawls all over the place for his Papa, he has a great deal of chat.
John desires his love and thanks for your intention of sending him books, he hopes by the time they arrive to be old enough to understand and enjoy them.
I envy anyone who has the pleasure before them of reading Sir Walter Scott’s novels for the first time. I wish John may yet have it in his power to show his gratitude to you and to my Mother for your remembrance of him and all of us.
George Wright has left us, and in such an extraordinary way that I must you give the whole account of his conduct tho’ it is rather a long story.
I wrote to you before that he came here perfectly penniless and indebted to his uncle £6 12/- for his passage and money he got on Capt. C’s account from Capt. Rhodes in Wellington. There was nothing for him to do here, so Capt. C. employed him herding the milk cows, which was his employment till then — and is now again.
He looked on this as most degrading employment, and complained to everyone who would listen what a shame it was (this we did not hear till latterly) and that he had nothing for it. He is a most unprincipled fellow and made use of such horrid language to the servant girl that she would not remain in the house — and came to tell me only think of him abusing me to my son John? We are now done with him, and happy riddance he is. His uncle does all the slavery he complained of, we could not afford to give wages to a person we could do well without.
He told John that Louisa had heard me say something against his mother but she would not tell him what it was so he had written to his mother about this. On questioning Louisa, all she had heard me say was, how foolish of his mother to send George Wright out here, he paid his mother a poor compliment to suppose I had anything bad to say of her.
I would not have taken up so much of my paper with so unworthy a subject, but I know he has been writing home a parcel of fibs and I wanted you to know the truth, as to his mother believing him or not, I am indifferent, his baggage is still here, I suppose he will send for it.
The land question is in the same state as when I last wrote, nothing further will be done until the arrival of the new Governor. We have a warm advocate in Mr. Spain, he has exerted himself very much on behalf of the Wanganui settlers particularly. Papers in their own language have been circulated among the natives assuring them that they may depend upon the Government seeing them paid for their land and all their claims settled altho’ it may take a little time.
In the meantime our cattle are increasing very rapidly. Next year the herd will be so large that a good many may be sold, and if the land question was only settled, Wanganui is in such good repute that we are likely to have an increase to our settlers, which would of course, cause a brisk demand for cattle.
I wish they could get as good prices for produce and cattle in the Highlands. Capt. C. sold a bull calf lately for £6, it was only six months old, the first cow he had here after getting two calves from her he sold to the butchers for £16 10/-, her first calf is now a fine bullock worth £17 or £18.
Even if we got our land I would be very unwilling to move from this on account of the children’s education. Capt. C.’s heart is set on getting to his lake section, it is such a pretty place. The section we have got possession of is John Cameron’s, it is only1½ hours walk from this, we expect to have good crops off it next year.
It is quite amusing how ignorant some of the ladies here are of the knowledge most necessary for settlers’ wives, a lady told me the other day that she could not make butter, the cream she kept for it always became so sour! She could hardly be persuaded that my butter was made from sour cream.
I think I mentioned to you that our Police Magistrate, Mr. Savory, was dismissed from his situation for various misdemeanours. My heart bleeds for his young and pretty wife, altho’ she cannot see any fault in him and thinks he has been very ill-used by those who were instrumental in getting him dismissed. They have nothing but his half pay of a naval Lieutenant. His successor is not resident here, he is what is called an Itinerant Magistrate — his name is Macdonough, he paid his first visit about a month ago, he is about 30 years of age, very polished in manner, was born in Edinburgh. The Capt. knew his father, he was educated in Germany and was a Lieutenant in the […] Regiment, he is very handsome, a pity we have no young ladies to be captivated, he has much small interesting chat for the ladies. However we are all much obliged to him for establishing a mail once a fortnight to Port Nicholson, and reducing the rate of postage from 1/- the oz. to.4d.
We have had weather unusually warm for the spring during the last fortnight, today it has broken up by a thunder storm, but not severe. I have never heard louder thunder here than at home, we still have an occasional earthquake but nothing compared to the one on 8th July, I am certain no house of two stories could have stood it. At Wgton. it was scarcely felt.
Capt. C. desires me to give you his love and thanks for the newspapers how gay Fort William has become, 3 balls in the season, what a change 4 years have made in that country. I would find myself quite a stranger there, the few friends who remain seem to have forgotten us. My last letter from Sporthale was dated 1840. Dr. Crichton notwithstanding his many professions of friendship, has never answered Capt. C.’s letter, he will never be troubled again.
Jessie Strone and her mother, I flatter myself still remember us with affection. I know Jessie will excuse my not answering her letter, I have so little time.
I am glad to hear the heir of the [R..] is still thriving, I daresay he will be a spoilt boy.
I almost forgot to mention that the “King William” has not yet arrived, I look forward with impatience to your letters by her — I feel half ashamed to send this epistle, so full of blunders.
My old acquaintance Miss Butler is married to a Mr. Barton from Sutherlandshire. I suppose Catherine Macdonald is married by this time, Campbell is at Wgton. [His] father continues in the same state, his memory quite gone. McDonough knows Campbell intimately and spoke very highly of him, she has been very fortunate.
Capt. C. and the children join in love to you and my mother.
Believe me my dearest Isabella
Your most affectionate sister
Offer our united love to Grace and Juliet, be sure to ask Grace about Gilfillan, he was Professor of painting at the Andersonian Institute and boasts of living in great style at home, I do not believe it. Kindest regards to Capt. William and Mrs. Campbell, old Aunty and all enquiring friends.
I must give you an account of the accouchement of a native woman which I heard the other day, I think it will astonish some of the good folks at home. She was delivered without going to bed — on the floor! And an hour afterwards went down to the river to wash herself and the child. Both are quite well.
- 17 March 1845: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Isabella Cameron.
Wanganui, 17th March, 1845
My dearest Isabella,
I had the pleasure of receiving your letter dated 17th Sept., about a fortnight ago, it made the Capt. and me very glad to hear you are so comfortable and happy. When I first heard of your intended marriage, I certainly felt some selfish regret at the prospect at being for ever separated from you, but I have your welfare too much at heart to grieve long at a change conducive to your happiness and comfort. My mother will miss you very much, at her time of life it is not agreeable to be placed among strangers with whom she can have no feelings in common.
I think it is very probable that this letter may find her with you. I am glad to hear she enjoys good health. Flora Kennedy must be everything to her, I should like to hear some of Flora’s funny remarks on all the wonders she seen in her travels.
The Capt. and my little flock are well and I have likewise the good news to give you that the natives in this part of the settlement have agreed to give up the land to the settlers. We have had a small hut built on our lake section and two men have been employed for some time clearing the land.
John Cameron expects to go over next week to plough it up.
We owe this favourable disposition of the natives to the unremitting exertions of the Rev. Mr. Taylor our Missionary, he is a bright exception to most of his brethren. As to the final settlement of the to us all important land question, so much seems to depend on the authorities at Home, that I take it for granted that you know more about it than we do.
We have had undisturbed possession of John C’s section for upwards of a year and a half, he spends most of his time there, returns to us on Saturday, going back on Monday with his little “valet” an English boy about 14 years of age, have got all the crops secured, the stacks thatched and they “took it coolly”, there is not much danger of anyone disturbing them at this season.
I must now give you an account of some stirring events that have occurred here lately. About the beginning of January, some 200 natives came down the river from the Taupo country (about 150 miles from here) with the intention of fighting a tribe who live 20 miles from the coast and who had killed and eaten some of their relatives 8 or 9 years ago. The Taupo natives on arriving here, heard accounts of their enemies mustering so strongly that dared not attack them and here they remained to our great annoyance. Their Chiefs were very friendly to the Whites, particularly the principal leader, grey haired fine looking old man, but they could not control their men who took every opportunity of robbing the Europeans, they broke a pane of glass in our boys’ room and hooked out all their blankets and sheets, one of the chiefs recovered most of the things but poor John lost a new pair of boots.
They at last became so audacious as to break into some house at night and ten of the inhabitants were forced to take it in turn to watch.
Our Magistrate became so alarmed that some collision might take place and wrote to the Superintendent in Wgton. how we were situated. He immediately came down in the Hazard sloop of war, at present commanded by Mr. Robertson, youngest son of Col. Robertson, he and the Lieutenant Governor or Superintendent, Major Richmond, had there been occasion for it, would have landed 50 men from the vessel. Major Richmond was determined to use forcible means to make the natives leave the place.
Fortunately the sight of the vessel outside the bar was quite sufficient to frighten them into promising to go away — they did so 2 or 3 days later.
In case of an attack Major Richmond desired the Magistrate to swear in 40 or 50 of the inhabitants as special constables to arm as best he could, each Magistrate was to have 10 men under him and Capt. C. was to command the whole.
Such a rummaging there was for fire-arms of all kinds, John Cameron casting bullets with as much glee as if he were going deer stalking. The Commander in chief you may believe was very busy he says he could compare his regiment to nothing else than Falstaff’s ragged […] some of them did not know how to load a gun. I must confess I placed my whole dependence for our defence on the Blue Jackets.
It was arranged that on the firing of an alarm gun, all the women and children were to take refuge in a large wooden house and an hotel, they were to be guarded by 100 of our own natives headed by our Bishop Dr. Selwyn and some of his black coats who were here they came not to look after the whites but it happened to be visiting time. Not withstanding these formidable preparations, I cannot say I felt much alarm. We often have hearty laughs now at all our war-like arrangements.
The natives on leaving this went up the coast, they came back about a fortnight ago on their return to their own country but only stayed two nights, their old chief Te Heu Heu sent word that he was so much ashamed of the thefts committed by his people, that he would not come to visit the whites, and did not allow his natives to cross to this side of the river. Major Richmond […] in the Hazard. He is Scotch from Ayrshire the Capt. as usual knew some of his friends. I was delighted to see Capt. Robertson he is smart little fellow and very frank. The Bishop wished to have the policy of landing the men and asked Capt. R. to try the effect. Capt. R. very properly said “No, if I have the trouble of landing my men, it will not be for show but for mischief”.
We had the honour of a call from the Bishop, he is handsome and so fascinating that while he was here I forgot my prejudice against him on account of his Puseyite doctrines and […] towards other sects. He is very zealous certainly in his exertions among the Maoris but like most of our authorities he has too exalted an opinion of them, and seems to forget that tho’ intelligent they are but savages.
Among the visitors we had during these stirring times, the Protector of Aborigines, stationed at Taranaki, he is a Maclean from […] he attended Melfont school, North Ayrshire and knew the Glenmores. We could not find out who he was, except that he had a Grandmother and that the Grandfather was Minister of the Island of [Firee]. Although rough in his manner and appearance, he is a very shrewd and sensible person. I have every cause to speak well of him for he made a very kind offer to us. He wished us very much to send John to live with him that he might attend a school kept by an English clergyman in Taranaki and after returning home he wrote to Capt. Campbell and sent the school terms. We would have accepted of his kind offer but as Miss King has arranged with Mr. Taylor to give two hours every day to our two boys, we preferred sending John to her. Mr. Taylor’s eldest boy aged 13 is under her charge and his father is so satisfied of her ability to carry on his education that he brought him home from the Bishop’s school.
We are very well satisfied with the progress of the girls under Miss Martha King, they have both better abilities than the boys. Louisa’s taste has matured her judgment. I am glad to see that Susan begins to show symptoms of the same taste. John is delighted with the books you sent him, he is ready with a good many of them, is busy with “ Old Mortality” at present.
I have filled my paper with so much of my own concerns that it is high time I should tell you, how gratified we felt at yours and my dear Mother’s affectionate remembrance of us, every article sent was what we stood most in need of. I cannot describe to you the pleasure the opening of the box gave to us all, the children are constantly writing letters of thanks to you and Grandmama, even Susan scribbles her gratitude and comes to ask me if it is sense she has written. The girls were so glad to have the nice shoes for their holiday parties.
The two little New Zealanders are very stout little fellows, they play together and give no trouble to anyone, they are such friends. Ewen is a very lively child, he attempts every word he hears. Willie is exactly what John was at his age. I am glad to say I have no prospect at any addition which is a great blessing with all I have to do.
The Capt. says Margaret’s good qualities are quite thrown away in Britain where there is an excess of population, she would be an invaluable colonist.
You will, I daresay, see a good deal in the papers about our Governor and Government. Capt. Hobson was called King Log but most assuredly we have King Stork now. He never seems to know his own mind, makes laws one month and changes them next. Mr. Martin was a strenuous advocate for the settlers’ interests until the Govt. bought him over by confirming his claim to a large tract of land. Because of the natives’ complaints of prices of tobacco etc. etc. Capt. Fitzroy took off all the duties on every article and to raise a revenue taxed the unfortunate settlers.
To favour Gov. officials, who are the only people with yearly incomes, anyone with £100 a year only pays the same as one whose whole capital amounts to £100, can anything be more unjust? He finds there is so little capital in the country that this does not raise sufficient revenue and he intends raising it. Our only hope is that a report we have heard of his being recalled may be confirmed. By his conduct to the natives and want of firmness he has caused them to lose the exalted opinion they had of the English. They say we are not strong, it is all talk with us that we are afraid to punish them. The report here is that he really is a coward, and the horse whipping he got at home confirms this opinion.
I wrote a long letter to my dear…
[Typescript breaks off]
- 9 September 1845: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Isabella (Cameron) Macgregor.
Sept.9. 1845. Wanganui
My dearest Isabella,
All your letters have arrived safely up to 7th Feby. last received about a month ago, we rejoiced very much to see by that how happy you were, you have so much to congratulate yourself on the important step you have taken.
A longer interval than usual has lapsed since I wrote last to you. I trust that you rest assured my silence does not proceed from decreasing affection. As my excuses would only be a repetition of those I have already given, I shall not take up my paper by repeating them. My last letter I am ashamed to say was dated in March, I wrote to end of April. Since then many stirring events have occurred in this Island. As I have no doubt you will see the whole account in the papers, it will be unnecessary for me to say much about them. Our prospects are glowing enough at present, we owe all our misfortunes to the present Governor who has inflicted upon us a man without principle or honour and upon whose word not the least reliance can be placed and to crown all, firmly believed to be an arrant coward. His conduct has been one continued tissue of absurdities and mischief even if he acknowledgd it now, it would take years to remedy the evil he has been the cause of. It is said he is entirely governed by and advised by an old rascal missionary of the name of C— once a blacksmith, whose advice he has publicly declared to the Council, he preferred to any of his officials.
His conduct to the W. settlers has been most infamous, as indeed it has been to all the Company’s settlements. About a year since he sent one of his Police Magistrates from Auckland such a report of this settlement – on receiving a favourable account from Mr. Symonds the magistrate, he, Capt. Fitzroy, wrote promising to settle the land question as soon as possible and wrote to the natives to the same effect, who were anxious to receive payment for their land. Some of the settlers offered to advance half the sum necessary with Government security. A short time later settlers and natives wrote the Governor imploring him to fulfil his promise, his answer was a flat refusal to do anything for us, desiring us to leave the place or if we insisted on remaining to make the best bargain we could with the natives. His reply to the natives was equivalent to telling them they could turn off the whites. Fortunately for us this malicious hint had no effect upon them, they said the Governor was foolish, but he would go back to England by and bye they said the Settlers were welcome to settle on their land, they would wait for their payment until a new Governor came. No reason can be assigned for Capt. Fitzroy’s conduct except the malicious desire to destroy the Company’s settlements as much as lay in his power. My “better half” says we shall never be right until we get a military man for Governor, those navy people are generally unfitted for a shore command, witness Capt. Bligh and several other instances. The settlers are so dispirited that many of them are leaving […] an instance of the depreciation of land. I may mention that Capt. Campbell, 2 years ago was offered £200 for one of his sections, which he very foolishly refused, now I am certain he would not get £10 for it. Capt. Fitzroy’s imbecility has been the means of starting a war in the North which will not easily be quashed, he has learned what his cowardly undecided measures with the natives would lead to – the result has proved the warnings were given in vain. Fortunately for us the seat of war is near 500 miles from us. There has been already much waste of valuable lives and property, of course you will have the whole account of this in the papers.
Our little countryman Capt. Robertson has gone Home some time ago carrying with him the good wishes of every settler in the Colony. I was quite proud to claim him as my countryman, I trust long ere he joins his family he will be quite recovered from his severe wound.
We have just heard a rumour that Capt. Fitzroy is in such a desperate fright that he has sent his family off to Sydney, and sleeps himself on board the […] sloop.
Although settlers here have now possession of their land from the natives, the payment of Mr. Spains award to them is so uncertain now and our being allowed to continue living on the land depends so much on that, the settlers are afraid to be at any expense improving their sections while affairs are so unsettled — indeed many are without the means.
We have got a tolerable road made over to our sections at the Lakes and several acres sown with wheat this autumn, we expect to have more than enough to supply us with flour. Cattle still fetch good prices in Wellington, the consumption of the troops helps to cause this. Down here we have no market for them and so few have a sufficient number to make it worthwhile to drive them to Wellington till next year it keeps us rather pinched, in Summer we hope to have a good lot of young animals to dispose of.
Money is now so scarce in this quarter that a great deal is done by barter. The two boys we have in our service have their wages partly paid in cattle, our pork we get by the same means, by disposing of a calf six months old we get pork to the value of £6. I do not get much money now for my dairy produce, but it helps to pay a good deal – for instance the shoemaker and tailor take it and my washerwoman is partly paid in this way. The Capt. says that Wanganui is the only place [heever]
I had a long letter lately from my kind Aunt McMillan of a later date than yours. I regretted to learn from it that Margaret, our sister, was laid up with […]. I trust the attack was not a severe one, her life is so valuable that any serious ailment must alarm her family. Donald’s death must have been a great trial. Although prepared for the melancholy event by your account of his illness, I was shocked to see his death notice in a paper which came to hand several weeks before […] letter, I trust his poor mother’s grief has been ameliorated long ere this and that He who never lifts a rod but in wisdom and for the good of his creatures […] and do indeed sympathise with her on the blank and aching void caused in the heart by such a bereavement.
John must be a great comfort to his parents, I have no doubt the world will cure him of a great many of the foibles which made him such a disagreeable boy. I at one time thought of writing to Margaret, but her neglect and indifference to me has been so marked that I doubted on second thoughts if my letter would be welcome. I was very much amused to read in my aunt’s letter that the Macdonald’s gave as a reason for not coming to live in the house they built down here, the threatening aspect the natives assumed now. It is our boast that in no part of N.Z. are the natives so well affected to the whites, they seem quite aware of the benefits they derive from being among them. It is very laughable the wish some of them have to imitate the Europeans in their dress, particularly the baptised natives. A party of them have purchased among them a blue surtout, trousers and cap, shoes and a silk handkerchief. This dress is worn in turn every Sunday the affected air they assume and the flourishing of the silk handkerchief is truly ludicrous. One poor fellow could only get manage to a shirt (fortunately a long one!) and a bk. silk stock, he made his appearance in church one Sunday. This was his first and last appearance, I think Mr. Taylor must have interfered.
The Taupo invasion is the only cause we have had for alarm here. We were more frightened than there was occasion for. Mr. Maclean, the Protector, visited the Taupo country last April, he came down the river on his return journey to Taranaki and stayed a week with us, he gave a most interesting account of his travels. Nothing could equal the kindness and hospitality with which he was entertained. The old chief of the Hau Haus lives in a large house with three fire places — has also about 40 of his natives, children and dependents under the same roof and no one dares approach the old man except his principal wife — except by invitation.
Immediately Mr. Maclean arrived a pig was killed and part of it very quickly cooked by the steam from a hole in the ground close to one of their hot springs. The old chief spoke in most friendly terms of the settlers. He has requested that a missionary be sent to live among them and has built a house.
The true reason for the Macdonalds not coming here was Catherine’s marriage, her mother could not bear to leave her, the old man was likewise averse to leaving his Cronies. I heard from Mrs. Macdonald lately, her son Alexdr. had met with a bad accident going to the wreck of the [Ty…]. He is recovering his health. Her husband’s constitution, she says, is completely broken up, he has lost his appetite and become so thin, she says, I would not know him. His death would be no loss to the family, he is quite useless to them. […] goes on briskly again, I have heard on good authority that if he made £4 a week, he would spend £6. Catherine seems quite wrapped up in her baby and Grandmama not less so.
My little flock is quite well, the two girls are going to school at Miss Martha King’s. They are both very well advanced with their education, Louisa’s temper, I am glad to say, is much improved, she promises to be a great comfort to me. She does a good deal to assist, she darns stockings very neatly, she is at present making new collars for her Papa’s and brothers’ shirts, she is the most determined reader of her age I ever saw, no book comes amiss to her hand, History, Biography, Chamber’s Journal is a never failing source.
The young man who gave lessons to the boys became such a bad character, we were obliged to give him up. John crosses the river to attend Miss King’s, when weather permits, and Colin does the best he can with home lessons.
The two New Zealanders are boisterous little fellows, Willie has begun his letters. John is his master. Ewen has a great deal to say and speaks very distinctly.
I am sorry to hear such bad accounts of Susan Glenmore’s health, it will destroy her poor mother if anything happens to her.
Offer my affectionate regards to the Strone family, say to Maggie that Mrs. M. sent a bit of her heather and heartease to John Cameron. Capt. Fitzroy is more likely to deprive him of his heartease than the young ladies at present. I prize the heather very much — the children had so much curiosity to see it.
I regret to tell you that I expect to be confined in November. I trust this will be the last occasion for I am heartily sick of the business.
If Ewen goes on as prosperously as he has commenced, my Mother is likely to have a goodly number of grandchildren. I regret that my kind brother Alexdr. does not get my letters I wrote him last March to say we could not invest his money for him in the present unsettled state of the country, I regret his losing interest all this time. Mr. Millar (Sydney) will not take any more at the rate of interest he gave the Capt. I think perhaps the best plan would be to invest at home. Capt. C. means to write to him shortly about it. I shall write next to my dear mother. I wish I had time to write to Mrs. Wm. Campbell, but at present I fear it is impossible. I regret to hear of Capt. William’s illness. I should not like to see him so changed in appearance.
[the typescript for this letter ends here]
- Date unknown: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to unknown.
[the typescript for this letter does not include the beginning]
………within the house shortly after coming here, we had 2 iron pots and a grindstone stolen, by the interference of the chief to whom Capt. C. made a present, they were returned, the grindstone was taken 40 miles up river.
We get quantities of pumpkins, the children are so fond of pumpkin pudding.
We are not so troubled with high winds as at Port Nicholson, the climate is warmer as we are nearly 2 degrees further north. We have frequent earthquakes but in general they are slight. The river has no wood on the banks near here, I am told that up a little way there is plenty, it is a pretty sight on a fine evening to see it covered with canoes, skimming up and down or with one small white sail.
The missionaries seem to have thought it quite sufficient religion for the natives to sing psalms, morning and night and a most discordant noise they make, as we have 3 pahs in our neighbourhood we often feel inclined to stuff our ears.
You will be glad to hear that Capt. C. has at length got 2 sections but owing to some dispute with the natives he has not been able to settle on it yet, the dispute is between the natives and the Company, the former say they are not receiving sufficient payment for the land. We are every day looking for the arrival of a vessel with a quantity of blankets on board to satisfy their claims, they feel the benefit of having the Pakeha (white people) among them and would regret above everything to see them leave the country, so we are quite certain of getting our land as soon as their claims are satisfied. At present we do not regret it so much as nothing can be done till Spring and we are certain of having possession before that time. Capt. C. is reckoned fortunate in his choice, the sections are situated between two lakes which almost surround them and plenty firewood also wood for other purposes. The house is to be built so as to have the shelter of the wood and close to one of the lakes about 3 miles from Wanganui, the lakes are covered with wild ducks. The only kind of fish in them are eels but every bit of the 200 acres is available for the plough and the soil is said by a good judge to be as good as any in N.Z. Another advantage is that our cattle will have a range of 2 miles between us and the sea which is not to be surveyed – this enables him to dispose of his other two sections, he sent word to a gentleman in Wgton. who was inquiring about them, there has not been time for a reply yet. The town has been surveyed and the selection for it and for the rest of the country land, takes place in a few weeks.
The only drawbacks our sections have is that of being difficult of access, a few days labour will enable bullocks and a dray to get to them.
Dr. Wilson will be our near neighbour, his sections border on ours. I rejoice at this as Mrs. Wilson is my greatest friend, she is such a sensible well informed person, it is quite a treat to meet with such a woman. Unfortunately we are both so busy we cannot have as much of each other’s company as we would wish.
Dr. Wilson and Capt.Thomas, our principal surveyor, are Capt. C’s. cronies, the latter has been a great traveller and very well educated. By the bye he is a Sandhurst bird, I pitched upon him as such a suitable husband for Isabella, unfortunately he leaves here soon, we shall miss him very much.
John Cameron is still on the surveying staff, he and Capt. C. have entered into a partnership, this will be an advantage for both parties. John finds he has no chance of advancing in his present employment and means to give it up. He will live with us and manage the active part of the business. Labour is so expensive at present that agricultural pursuits will not pay for some time, they will only cultivate for the house consumption.
They mean to confine themselves entirely to cattle as the expense is small and they pay remarkably well.
John is a good judge of cattle and so very steady, he sleeps here except when surveying too far away to return here at night and always spends Saturday and Sunday with us. Capt. C. would make such an active settler, he is constantly working at something or other.
We have at present 5 cows. 4 of them are giving milk and have calves. We had a little Irishman as a servant for a short time who would have been an acquisition if he had not been too fond of gin, he milked the cows made the churn, baked the bread, in short if he had continued steady, I would have been independent of a woman servt. Every second week Dan or Dam as Susan called him, was sure to be absent without leave for 3 or 4 days. Capt. C. discharged him and now trudges for the cattle himself. Servants are a great curse here, I have a young girl from Arbroath whom I brought down here with me, altho’ inexperienced I thought she would be obedient, once here she found out her own value. I can assure you I have enough to do with her, she neither can nor will work, the best I can say of her is that she is kind to the children. Necessity has compelled me to engage her for the next 6 months. She has two qualifications not often met with here, sobriety and honesty.
Capt. C. sold both his mares he brought from Sydney, he intended keeping the better one but the sight of £70 ready cash was irresistible especially as he did not think she was in foal, and there was no gentleman of that species down here.
He has 4 beautiful bullocks that are well broken in.
We brought several kinds of goods down which have been sold to advantage. Besides rearing their calves I make about £1 per week from my dairy I get 3d. per pint for skim milk, 3/- per lb for fresh butter and living being so cheap we are much more comfortable than at Petone. I may venture to say with certainty that if we were once settled on our own land —–
[typescript ends here]
- Date Unknown: from Jessie Campbell in Wanganui to Isabella (Cameron) MacGregor.
[the typescript for this letter does not include the beginning]
………And what strangers to each other, and how uncivilised mine will be in appearance compared to them, to give an idea of Susan’s primitive ideas — she said, the other day, “What a fine lady the Queen must be, I daresay she never makes her own bed”.
I am glad to hear that Margaret is recovering her spirits, poor Donald’s death must indeed have been a sad trial. I recollect he was a great favourite of his mother’s. Their friends at Kaiwarra are sadly used that they write so seldom to them, it is a shame when there are so many women that some of them do not write to such near relations. I am almost ashamed to send you this illegible scrawl, I am half asleep. I have often begged of my husband to write, but as he himself says, it is useless to do so. I will not ask you to continue to write so regularly as you have done hitherto. You cannot imagine what a luxury your letters are, I enjoy the Lochaber gossip as much as ever and above all it gives my husband and me the greatest pleasure to hear of your comfort and happiness.
When you write to Ewen, tell with my best love that I shall expect to hear from him occasionally, I know writing is a trouble to my mother and I can hear from him all about her.
I almost forgot to tell you that excellent prices are given for cattle in Wellington, this is good news for us as they are our main dependence. Wheat sells at 5/- the bushel, our harvest is begun, we expect to have fully as much wheat as we will require for our own use. We are using our own flour at present, every Friday I bake the whole weeks bread for the section and all are thundering loaves. Some of them weigh 7 lbs. I have got so into the way of baking and making yeast that my bread never fails and gives no more trouble than a batch of oaten cakes used to do at home! I often think what a desirable place this would be for a half-pay officer, everything except clothing so cheap. Pork 2d per lb. and much cheaper if bought by barter. Excellent bk. tea we got lately 2/8 per pound, green tea for 1/6 to 2/-. Good brown sugar 3d. Spirits are dear from the high duty, that does not signify to us, for the last year we have only used 2 gals. Spanish Wine is 1/- the bottle and good sherry 2/-.
My washerwoman only gets 1/6 per day. I get a woman in to sew for the same, she will make a pair of trousers for a boy in a day, so you see if the Capt. could have managed to be on half pay, he would have been quite a man of fortune!
I think notwithstanding my hurry I have managed to make my letter a tolerable length. When I sit down to write I forget I am not chatting to you.
Capt. Campbell joins me in kindest regards to Mr. Macgregor and with love to you.
Believe me, my dearest Isabella,
Your most affectionate sister
Kind regards to Miss Nelly I am sorry to hear she is failing so much, she will leave a great blank. My affecate. regards to the Stroves, I hope Jessie forgives me for not writing to her. You may think how tired I am at night when I tell you I fell asleep the other night reading Martin Chuzzlewit!
- c June 1846: from Jessie Campbell to Isabella (Cameron) Macgregor.
[the typescript for this letter does not include the beginning]
…………Broke off the treaty with the natives , sent the money on board ship by stealth, and departed himself at a few hours notice, his only excuse was, some of the inferior chiefs claiming land which a little patience and interference of the better natives would at once have made them give up. Mr. Symonds did not even take the trouble to explain his conduct to any of the chiefs who had settled everything with him. The disappointment to the natives was so great that we were rather alarmed for the consequences, however their conduct has been beyond all praise. They have sent a letter to the Governor offering to give the land for nothing, they say they do not mind the loss of the money so much as the loss of the white people. The unlucky man who claimed the land has been put in Coventry, they have begged of the whites to punish him by buying nothing from him or his people, notwithstanding that we have been here so long we dread that Mr. Symond’s report to the Gov. will be the means of removing us, so much is the opinion of some of the settlers who had their land ploughed, they do not intend putting down any crop.
We are going on as usual, John Cameron is going to live at the lakes and is having a small wooden house put up, if this settlement is broken up, we intend giving a filly foal for those sections to secure a run for the cattle that we may not remove them at a sacrifice, the land can be chosen where the others go and we can move at our convenience. I cannot tell you how it grieves me to leave this place. I have no dread of the natives. Some of the old wives had such a cry or tangi over me the day Symonds left, that I had nearly joined them. The Capt. is an immense favourite, they all say he is a Rangitira (that is a great gentleman) he is very kind to them but never familiar and never loses his patience, from his deafness he has picked up very little of their language. I never attempt to bargain with the natives, they have no idea of the value of time and I lose patience, John is employed as interpreter for us all.
The Capt. is so broken hearted at leaving this place, that he intends going to Wgton. to see the Governor who is expected there soon, to try what can be done. Immediately on his return I shall write to let you know our fate. One of the reasons Mr. Symonds makes for breaking faith with the natives was the dread of giving so much money to the natives in the present unsettled state of the country as they might buy arms and ammunition, they never thought of such a thing, what they thought principally of buying was cattle and horses, one of Capt. Grey’s wisest acts has been making anyone selling arms or ammunition to the natives liable to a fine of £500. Fitzroy never thought of any prohibition of this kind. Capt. Grey is a very young man to hold such a high position, he looks about 30, he cannot be much more, he got his commission in Sandhurst in ’32 so he must have been there with Alexdr. he regretted that his stay was so short, it prevented him from making the acquaintance of the ladies of the place. His wife is very young, pretty and very clever, she was much pleased with the gaiety of Wgton., they gave a grand ball in honour of the Governor’s visit. One of our richest and oldest settlers Mr. Crawford went home some time ago, returning last January, bringing with him a young wife very bright and very stylish, but stone blind. She was in that state two years before her marriage. She attended the ball given the Governor and danced the Polka, to see her move through the dance with so much grace, I am told no one would suppose she had lost her sight. Her eyes have not the glazed look that the blind usually have, still I think it must have been a humiliating sight to see a blind woman dance.
The Military are very much disliked in Wgton. I believe the principle reason is that they do not associate with the townspeople very much. Those storekeepers and auctioneers they consider in the same light they are looked upon at Home.
Although at such we have benefited by the Military from their consumption of beef. John Cameron went to Wgton. some time ago with 6 fat head and got £12 each for them.
The last time I heard from Mrs. Macdonald, Mrs. […] was so ill with rheumatism she was preparing to go to Sydney in hopes of the warm climate benefiting her, her baby is a very fine child, Catherine is so thin and haggard John C, says I would hardly know her.
Campbell Macdonald has determined on going to sea and is bound apprentice to Capt. Dawson of the Skiro Castle when her contract with the Government expires, she is to go Home and will be at least 5 months at Home. Campbell is to spend that time with his friends in the Highlands, he is at present with the ship in Auckland he is a very steady boy.
I have been as usual half asleep over this, I fear you will not be able to read it. I have much rejoiced to hear of dear Alexdr’s return, I would like so much to see his journal, how fortunate his money was not invested here. I regret his losing the interest but it is better as it is in the present state of matters.
The Capt. is just ready to embark on board the little craft for Wgton. so I must have done, he joins me in kindest regards to Mr. Macgregor – With our kindest love to yourself –
Believe me my dearest Isabella
Your most affectionate sister
If you are not too much occupied, may I ask you to write to those friends most interested in us, there are some that I wish much to write to, but really and truly I am so slow at the pen that I have not time. If you write to my dear mother, tell her with my best love what a luxury the canister of arrowroot was for John during his illness.