Inasmuch as I have seen many ups and downs, and passed through many changing scenes, especially of late years, it has entered my mind to write a brief history of my life.
I was born of Christian parents on the Isle of Jersey, June 30, 1833 (according to the record kept in the old family bible). My father kept the Victoria Nursery, St. Clement's Road, for about four years. My youngest brother, Charles Clement Hurst, was born in the above mentioned nursery, May 28, 1839. In the latter part of that year, I think in September, my father sold out and we embarked on board the steamer, "Transit," and after a voyage of two days we landed at Gravesend, England. From there we went down into Essex to visit our relations. About this time there was quite an excitement raised in regard to the colonization of the islands of New Zealand. My father caught the fever. He thought it would be better to go to a new country, especially as ours was a large family, numbering 6 children, myself included, and most of us young (though if all my brothers and sisters had lived there would have been eleven of us). I am the tenth, consequently the youngest but one. There were four of us boys and two girls.
Sometime in the month of December, 1839, with a company of immigrants we embarked on board the BARQUE BOLTON bound for New Zealand, and after a long weary voyage of five months, the greater part of which time my father and I were very sick, insomuch so that the Doctors thought we would never recover. However, sometime in April, 1840, we landed in what is now the city of Wellington. At that time the trees grew down to the water's edge. These Islands were very thickly timbered with pines and other trees.
The Islands of New Zealand are very mountainous, the climate very temperate and healthy. The aborigines, when we first went there were very friendly and hospitable, but before the end of the year 1840, owing to the imposition and oppression of the whites, the natives took up arms and commenced by murdering whole families. Consequently, every able bodied person, my father and eldest brother among the number, had to turn out and drill, and build forts, etc. The H. M. Frigate NORTH STAR brought troops, but like the American Indians the New Zealanders would not come out in the open field but kept in the brush. It is so long ago that I cannot remember the number of ships of war, or the numbers of regiments of soldiers that came there shortly after the war broke out, suffice it to say, there was a great deal of blood shed before peace was declared sometime in 1847.
Sometime in 1845 my eldest brother, Alfred, joined the militia, and my father and my brother, Alexander, joined the volunteers. I had a desire to join the latter, but was considered too small, indeed I could not present a musket. However, I used to practice shooting with a light fowling piece that father brought from England. Although I did not join any particular company, I, with a number of other boys about the same age, was drilled every afternoon. We would go to school about 10 o'clock A.M. and stay till 2 P.M., then an old sergeant would drill us until 6 P.M. Sometime we would have to go and assist in making fortification.
Long will I remember the month of May, 1846. My father had taken up a tract of land in or near a place called Karori, about four miles from Wellington. We had a young man by the name of Haney Mason working for us. He, my eldest brother, Alfred, and myself were felling brush and clearing the land for cultivation. The rest of the family were then living in town. On Sunday, the 16th of May, Alfred started early in the morning for provisions, as we were nearly out of food. Not long after he left, our dog, a large Newfoundland, commenced barking most furiously. We ran out of our hut to learn the cause. There we found a man cursing and swearing, and the dog trying to get at the man's throat. We called the dog off and the man went away. At first we thought the natives had come. If they had, we determined to sell our lives dearly, for we knew if we were taken alive, we would suffer an awful death and then be eaten up by the Cannibals.
We were building a large house to live in, and as my youngest sister Amelia's birthday was near at hand, we wanted to get it finished in time; as they talked of coming up to spend the day and bringing a number of young people of our acquaintance. Among the number was the Reverend Jonas Woodward and daughter, and the Misses Edwards. (I would state that the Reverend Mr. Woodward was a Calvinist, and my father, mother, brother Alfred, and sister Selina had joined his church. I would state here that the Reverend Woodward did not preach for hire, but earned his own living elsewhere.)
Well, to return to my story, Sunday passed off quietly. When Monday came we set to work on our new house. We worked all day and the following night with but very little food to eat. We had a little flour in a small cask, but the dog got his head into it and ran into the brush with it sometime Sunday night. There being plenty of game in the shape of birds, I went out and shot some which we roasted and ate with a couple of potatoes, without salt. Monday passed away, still Alfred did not return. As I before stated, we worked all night, and on Tuesday morning, May 18, Alfred arrived bringing not only the provisions, but also the before mentioned young people to spend the day, and a happier day I had never spent.
When I think back it all appears like a dream, but like all other days of pleasure or otherwise, it had an end. In the evening we accompanied them about a mile on the road and then Haney and I returned; my brother, Alfred, intending to return the next morning. After returning home, Haney amused me all the rest of the evening, telling tales of Lord Nelson, and other noted characters. Just after we had turned into bed the dog barked and presently we heard footsteps. We got our gun ready, then hailed. Much to our surprise, we were answered by both Alfred and Alexander, they informed us they had come to fetch us home, for Rangiheta, the chief in command over the Natives, was going to take the city of Wellington the next morning and eat up all whites for breakfast. They also informed us that father and mother were very uneasy about us, and previous to leaving home they had promised to be back by midnight at the latest.
Before leaving, however, we thought we would try and eat up all the provisions so as not to leave anything for the enemy. Again we wanted to be prepared for any emergency, for we did not know what might happen. After eating, we decided to wait for the moon to arise, as our road lay through a very dense forest the first mile or two. As soon as the moon arose we took up our line of march as follows: Alfred went in advance with the cow, armed with a firing piece loaded with ball; Haney Mason next with Sundries, armed with a musket loaded with bullets; then Alexander, with the bedding and a bayonet; and I brought up the rear leading a one year old steer, and armed with an American axe.
When we got within two miles of home, we met a large company of men under the command of Mr. Rapp, a lawyer. When they met us they called out, "Who comes there!" Instead of Alfred answering, "A friend," he merely said "Me." The men, according to orders, presented their muskets ready to fire at us, but Alexander called out, "FRIEND" and then they let us pass. We reached home in safety just before daylight and found them in dreadful fright, they thinking we had fallen into the hands of the enemy.
Several Men of War were laying in port, also H. M. War Steamer INFLEXABLE. All the men who could be spared were sent on shore, for it was expected that the enemy would attack the town early in the morning. However, morning came and no enemy, they learning through their spies we were too well prepared to receive them. I was never more fatigued in my life, and enemy or no enemy, as soon as we reached home, I lay down and fell asleep, for I had been up three nights.
Sometime in September following, my father leased another piece of land in Karori, close by the main road. They had built a fort at this place out of large pine logs. There was quite a large settlement there at that time. About this time, Haney Mason left us and shipped on board H. M. Frigate COLLIAPE. Alexander was still living at Mr. James Taines Groceries Hardware and Earthenware store. Soon after father had taken the land I mentioned, Alfred, Clement and myself went to work on it, but Alfred was sparking at the time, and consequently, Clement and I were left to ourselves most of the time. Father had a nursery in town and that required all of his attention. Indeed, sometime he would be very sick for he was much troubled with the Asthmatic cough, and was, therefore, unable to do much work.
I remember a little circumstance that happened one day as Clement and I were at work digging a piece of ground. He accidently fell with his right arm under my spade just as I was chopping out a root. If the spade had been sharp, it would have taken his hand off, but as it was it cut through a muscle but broke no bones. Alfred took him to town and I was left alone all night to reflect on my clumsiness, and I resolved to be more careful in the future.
Seeing Alfred was careless and indifferent about the farm, and that, young as I was, I had to attend to everything, I thought to go on my own hook, so much against Alfred's will, I took a situation at Mr. Robert Langdon's Grocery, Hardware, and Ironmonger's Store. I have wished a thousand times since that I had been apprenticed to a carpenter, however, I entered upon my new duties about December 1846. I stayed with Mr. Langdon till the latter part of 1847, soon after hostilities had ceased and peace was declared.
I had nearly forgotten a little circumstance that occurred about the close of the war as follows. One Sunday, while all the folks were in Church, an alarm was sounded that the Natives had attacked the other end of the settlement, two miles from our house and six miles from town, and they were burning houses and everything before them. The Reverend Jonas Woodward was right in the middle of his sermon when the messenger burst open the doors and roared out at the top of his voice, "The natives have come, the natives have come." Out ran the parson followed by most of the congregation, leaving the balance fainting and screaming. As there was nobody to look after them, the poor little dears had to come to as best they could. As stated before, the preacher and most of the congregation had rushed to the scene of action named. In the meantime a messenger had been dispatched to town for reinforcements, but the whole affair turned out to be a hoax. A girl by the name of Susan Hallard, out of sheer devilment, had raised all the fuss, and even went so far as to light a fire in the center of their own house and the people got there just in time to save it from burning down. Besides, she was throwing stones into the neighbors' houses, smashing their windows.
Through the persuasion of my brother, Alfred, I left Mr. Langdon's toward the latter part of the year, 1847, and again tried farming. He bought several cows and we started on a large scale, keeping a dairy. In the meantime the whole of our family had moved into the country, with the exception of Alexander, who still lived with Mr. Taines. I spent the whole of the year 1848 at home, farming or clearing land.
Nothing of importance transpired until about the 15th of October when the city of Wellington was nearly destroyed by earthquake. Most of the brick and stone houses and chapels were destroyed, and scarcely a chimney escaped being thrown to the ground, also some two or three persons killed, and one human actually died with fright.
According to the traditions of the natives, this Island was entirely broken up by earthquakes about 100 years previous, in fact, soon after we landed we were almost shook out of our beds, and not a year elapsed without minor shocks were felt. Strange to say, they were nearly always felt after heavy rains, indeed at the time I am writing about there had been uncommonly heavy rains.
The first shocks were felt about 20 minutes past 2 a.m. Monday. Being slightly sick with a headache, I was lying awake at the time, the wind was blowing a hurricane, and the rain pouring down. On a sudden the wind and rain ceased, a dreadful rumbling sound was heard, speedily followed by a heavy earthquake shock. At first the house reeled to and fro and then appeared to sink into the earth. I cannot describe my feelings on that occasion. Many people stated that every time they felt a shock, it caused them to feel sick, for my part, it made me feel like Pat did when he visited his lady love, my heart flew into my mouth.
Next morning I accompanied my brother, Alexander, into town. When we arrived there, all was confusion. The people thought surely the world was come to an end or that the whole city was going to be swallowed up. The day was very dark and cloudy. Many people left the city and went to the mountains; the earth was not quiet till Tuesday morning, then the clouds cleared away and the sun shone brightly. I never saw a finer or more pleasant day; most people thought that the earthquakes had ceased and set to work rebuilding their chimneys that had been thrown down, but about half past two p.m. there came a shock much heavier than the first. Alfred and I were in the bush at the time and I never shall forget the way the tall pines clashed one against another. Some were torn up by the roots, limbs and branches were falling in all directions, but we escaped unhurt and immediately returned home.
The people assembled from one end of the settlement to the other to the meeting house, and the next day was set apart for fasting and prayer. All the vessels there, lying in port, were filled with frightened multitudes, and in fact one vessel started to go to Sydney, New South Wales, but got wrecked before they got out of the heads and barely escaped with their lives. The vessel was totally lost.
Thursday morning about 5:30 o'clock, we experienced another shock, heavier than any previous, this brought everything to the ground that was not made of wood. The people flocked to the Chapels that were left standing. Many became what they called converted and joined the various churches, many put me in mind of the prophets of Baal, they would shout and roar as if their God was asleep or on a journey, ...
(Here a page is missing from the Journal. The next page begins with his brother, Alexander's sickness.)
When the doctor arrived and saw the condition he was in, said, "How you have been deceiving me, I have been murdering you." He soon ascertained that my brother was severely ruptured, and immediately sent for another doctor. Finally four of the best doctors attended him, had him removed to a hospital and then they operated upon him, but he died shortly afterward. Before he died however, he told the doctors he had ruptured himself several times, but had kept it to himself. It makes me sad to think over these reminiscences of the past, consequently I will close this chapter and rest a while.
After the death of my brother Alexander, I felt that I must exert myself more than ever and try all in my power to make up for the loss of my brother's help and comfort my parents and brothers and sisters. I felt that I could not do too much for them, in fact, I felt that I must be a man. Well, afterward Mr. Taines, with whom my brother had been living, offered much higher wages than I was getting at Messers. Landon and Spinkes, to go and take my Brother's place, but they were not agreeable at the time and promised to raise my salary. But shortly afterward they dissolved partnership and Mr. Langdon retired from business, and furthermore I met with an accident which nearly proved fatal to me. I slipped off the landing out of the loft and nearly broke my back, and I was ill for six or eight weeks, and when I did get about again I was so weak, and consequently I could not do as much work as I was accustomed to. And when Mr. Spinks found I was not so strong as I used to be, he told me if I wished to go to Mr. Taines I might, as he could not afford to give me a higher salary than he was. Accordingly I made arrangements with Mr. Taines and shifted my position immediately. This was some time in June, 1851.
After I had been in this place about one year, I thought I would do better by going to the gold mines in Australia. (If I remember right, gold was first discovered in Australia in the latter part of 1850) Numbers of the people left New Zealand to seek a fortune in the new mines before mentioned. Thomas Strachon and I made up our minds to go to the land of gold and try our luck. It is, or used to be part of my nature to save money, and in the beginning of the year 1852 I left off both smoking and drinking, even wine, and also, as I was boarding myself, left off drinking coffee and tea, and eating meat, and I can testify from experience that I was much healthier than I had ever been before. Well, by the June following, I had saved $67.00 and in the commencement of July I left Mr. Taine, joined a company of six young men, mostly Scotchmen, Thomas's friends. We organized our company, had a cradle made, also a tent and tools. I then went home and stayed until we could obtain a vessel bound for Melbourne, Victoria Colony.
My Father and all my acquaintances tried all they could to keep me from going, and as a last resource my mother got me shut up in a room with the Reverend Jonas Woodward. He talked for at least an hour telling me about people going blind, the pest of flies, outlaws, hot weather, etc. and when he got through he asked, "Well, Fred, what do you think of going now?"
I very politely told him that the more I thought of going the more I liked the idea, and another thing, I would rather go and see for myself, then I would be satisfied and not before. He told my mother I was very obstinate and would go at all hazards. Accordingly, on the 8th of September 1852 I bade my folks farewell. When I bade my father goodbye he said, "Well goodbye, son, the Lord bless you, I shall never see your face again in the flesh." Alas, his words came true for he died on the first of December, about three months after I left home.
|Pages 1 - 6 in the 1961 edition of the Diary of Frederick William Hurst|