Letter Home to England

From Mr. WILLIAM BAYLY, Yeoman, late of Clawton, in Devonshire, to his Parents.

Taranaki, Feb. 29th, 1842.


Through all the mercies of God, I thank Him, through Christ, that I now have an opportunity of sending you a few lines of our affairs and health; we are all in tolerable health at present; Mr. and Mrs. Veale and family connexions are all well.

Now, what I send you is with my own judgment; if I write anything incorrect I shall err in judgment. When first we arrived in Cook's Straits, we saw the Cape Farewell on the right and Mount Egmont on the left; we then sailed for Cloudy bay, but its right name is Port Underwood; there we were ordered to receive our instructions to the New Plymouth settlement; we there sailed, but no information. Then we sailed to Port Nicholson, or otherwise Wellington; there Captain King saw Colonel Wakefield, and received information to our distant land; we were there two weeks, and I was on shore much of the time. I travelled for days and found nothing but mountains for miles, which could not be cultivated whatsoever, by no means. There were at a distance two farms; Francis Molesworth and another gentleman had many acres of wheat tilled and looking well; but I thought we were ruined, to hear so many complaints that of this island the great parts were mountains, which could not be cultivated by no means. Then we weighed anchor and sailed again for Port Underwood, to ballast our ship, for we were light, not fit to stand a sea in the Straits; there we were a fortnight, and I travelled for days, mountains a great part, some perpendicular, which no man ever went over; it is a beautiful harbour as in the known, world. A few Europeans and a great many natives; Europeans keep on the whaling station, and every one a grog shop; they are drunkards, the worst of drunkards, in this place; and so in Port Nicholson they are, the great part, the worst that ever a sober man saw. One day, William Bassett and I went down to the bottom of the harbour, in a boat, about six miles, to a Wesleyan missionary; his name is Ironside; there we dined with him, and had much conversation. I said, "Do you know anything about Taranaki, New Plymouth settlement?" "Yes, well; I have travelled over and over it, and found it the garden of New Zealand." And now I have seen it, and upwards of six months' experience, and found it, by the mouth of another Wesleyan missionary--his name is Creed--all to be true. Here are thousands and tens of thousands of acres as level as can he found in England; I would say, when the land is cleared, all that I have seen, that the plough shall go over nineteen acres out of twenty. The soil is very deep in high land as well as low. I believe for climate and soil not better to be found in the known world. I know a man that has tilled the third crop of potatoes in the same piece of ground, and I am expecting a crop within twelve months. In front of my house there are many acres of potatoes, Indian corn, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, peas, beans, cabbages, greens, turnips, radishes, and many things else; and you may till this in five hundred acres together, as well as here, and answer well. There is fern, bush, and timber land to clear; fern and bush extend about two miles back from the sea shore; then the timber. This fern and bush supposed anciently to be timber land, destroyed by the natives and tilled. This fern and bush land, first you must cut it all down and dry it well, then set fire to it, and it will burn the very surface of the earth; you may pull up a great part of the moats with a trifle of mattock labour. Bush and fern land will pay the first crop for clearing, and a good crop will pay double; for the first crop must be potatoes; for many years past they averaged in Sydney 6 a ton, and they are eight or ten this present, and have been more. Tons have been brought by vessels and sold at 1 1/2d. per lb. in this place. Natives have plenty, and they know how to sell as well as we know how to buy. Francis Molesworth, Esq., in Port Nicholson, has cleared many acres last year of timber land, tilled it to potatoes, sent them to Sydney, which has paid him fifteen pounds per acre more than all seed and labour of cleaning the land; but he had an excellent crop--twelve tons in an acre; since he has tilled it to wheat, and how it has harvested I have not heard. I have now in the ear, in my house, wheat, barley, and oats, as fine a sample as ever I wish to see, grown in this place; but the second crop is much finer than the first; and our Rev. Mr. Creed says, since his experience, the more tilled the better the crop.

Thomas and I have cleared one town section each, and tilled to many sorts; beans, peas, cabbage, greens, pumpkins, melons, radishes, turnips, do well; French beans and carrots do not answer.

I have built two houses with wood on my town section, sixteen feet by sixteen and a half, with a wood floor under, and a sley on the back, seven feet by sixteen and a half, with a cob chimney; the wood is of one tree, it is of red pine. William Basset, and Roberts, the sawyer, from Bude, sawed the greater part of it, 5,000 feet, and T. Oxenham, and T. Neale, 2,000, which makes 7,000 feet, which cost 1 per hundred. Roberts I paid 25; Oxenham 19 12s.; and William Basset's 25 I had not to pay.

Now I state to you about content and discontent of men's minds. Our town here is fixed and cannot be altered, and here is no harbour for any ships to lay in safety. Now, here are agents for a company of town land purchasers, from Yorkshire, in England; these company of gentlemen have bought in all these South Sea settlements quantities of town land, and sold to an immense profit; those agents are much displeased with this place; they have ten per cent, for letting and selling. Here is no harbour, and they have no view for doing anything for themselves; at present they can let and sell, but not for expectations nor advantage. Next come suburban land purchasers; they are pleased because here is no harbour. The suburban land is a belt of land all round the town; sold in England much more per section than country land. Next comes country land purchasers. About four months ago our noble Governor, and Principal Agent for the Company, landed here, and a few days after some one told him that ten miles down there is a large river that a small vessel might go up a long way. He went in a boat and surveyed it, and found that a large schooner might go up in it a long distance, thirteen to sixteen feet of high water-mark in the mouth of the river; this land was not purchased in England. Our Governor went direct to Governor Hobson, and he granted him sixteen miles along the sea shore, and eight back in the interior; that is the extent of all our settlement at present. Now I, and all us early-choice country land purchasers, poor unworthy creatures, seem to be pretty well pleased. Samuel Fishley has the seven section for choice. Thomas has the twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, and I have the twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty; which he intended to choose by this large river Waitera; where, at a future day, he expects to export and import handy by our farms; for there is beautiful land, and all say that we early-choice country land purchasers have been worth double to any. Now we have been intruded upon for want of an harbour; two small crafts have traded here, and they have charged so much for freight of goods from our neighbouring settlements, Port Nicholson, and others, as they do from England. Here they are all against us; we have land level and rich; they have good harbours and mountains which cannot be cultivated. We shall increase, but they must decrease. I am living on my own town section; James has bought one of my town and country sections, and living on it; Rundle built his house. Thomas is living in my house at present. The Carrington road leads on before my door into the interior. Across my section runs a large rivulet of water, a never-failing stream, out of my right, across the road into the Ewaoki river, eighteen to twenty-two feet fall of water in one quarter of an acre. A mill might be erected without any interruption; here is iron ore in abundance has been proved, and this water is most convenient for cleaning of that. A sawing machine, and many other machinery, might be erected.

Now, I think, about six or eight weeks we shall have our land ready for choice; the work has all been done by the day, and the wages have been 5s. per day. Now, for some weeks, the best men have had one pound a week in cash, 101b. of beef, 101b. of flour, 1/4 lb. of tea, and 1 1/2 lb. of sugar. Second class of men 14s. a week; rations as before mentioned.

Dear Mother,--This I hope will find you all in good health, as it leaves me at present. My family, Thomas and James are all well; we have buried our dear little baby; nine weeks old when he died. We had a long voyage; our family was not on land, after we went on board at Plymouth, until landed here at New Plymouth, six months and three days on board. The ship Timandra, that left Old Plymouth, arrived here last Wednesday, with all emigrants landed safe. It is a trial for a family that has been reared well, to be closed up, as we were, in the voyage; but thanks be to Him that cared for us over the wide and boundless ocean; and now we may all pray to him that bought us with a price on the cross, under our own vine and fig-tree, and no one dare lawfully to make us afraid. Here we have a view of doing something for a family. The best trades are shoemakers, carpenters, and joiners; but farmers will be the best. I believe, for the land is good. I am glad I am here; I would choose hundreds of farms here that might break a large breach with less labour than that I last broke upon Grensworthy farm. Carpenters' wages 8s. per day; shoemakers'--men's high shoes, 1. 5s. per pair; labourers, 5s. to 7s. a day. Not much employment for blacksmiths at present. Masons, 7s. to 9s. per perch; servant girls, 20. a year. Betsy Kerslake has bargained for 20. a year. Tell them all that have a mind to come here, if they have money they can do well; but lazy men and drunkards have no business here. Teetotalers are the men for this place, and they are the most looked upon. I am a staunch teetotaler, thank God for it; I have never used a drop since I left England. Drunkards are utterly disdained in this place; it is dreadful. Tell Samuel Northy that I shall write to him in a few weeks. Tell Mr. John Veale, Ashwater, Mr. Richard and Shadrach Beale, and Mr. Fary, Muckworthy, that we are all well; so no more at present from your affectionate son,