Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kaipara Ship Wrecks - 1841 Sophia Pate -Updated (version 4)

*Note this is a draft article and may be changed,added to or corrected. I have also included small notations through out this post which may or may not be relevant to those reading it. Please bear with me on this one.
Grateful acknowledgement goes to Malcolm and Ashley both descendants of John Stuart Wilkinson who have provided a lot of invaluable information in regard to the background and precise date of this wreck and on their ancestor John Stuart Wilkinson. Also to Lisa Truttman my closest and dearest friend who has been a great help in the research. Lisa is a Historian of note and has taught me a lot about questioning the accounts of history. Thank you.

The Sophia Pate was a Brig of 165 Tons Built in 1829. Yarmouth
Owners: Filby & Co. Reg. London
. Commanded by Captain George Harrison
- (N.Z Shipwrecks* provided by Ashley)
She was wrecked on South Head Kaipara Harbour on the 31st of August 1841* with the loss of 21 lives.
- (*Buller - though Stannard maintained it was two days earlier being 29th of August 1841 - The Hidden Kaipara)
(* Date Information provided by Malcolm from the Wilkinson Family Bible)

The story began in 1838 *Buller with Dr Richard Day(* the indenture of land was completed and dated 1st September 1840) who was briefly at Hokianga purchasing around 1000 acres in the Kaihu valley from the Chief Parore on behalf of his friends in Cork Ireland. The bulk of the goods stipulated for by Parore to complete the purchase was to be brought by the settlers. None would truly know they would never complete either the purchase or the journey to their new homes.

In Ireland November 1840, three well known and respected men prepared their families for the long voyage to Sydney on the Neptune ( an Emigrant ship of 643 tons - although other reports state it was the Sophia Pate). Mr James Salter respectable jeweller, happily married and the father of ten fine children - perhaps had taken one last look at his fine home on the Grand Parade. He would say farewell to his friends, gathering his wife and children to head with along with all their worldly goods to the docks to leave their homeland for the last time. Also leaving their homes for the last time were Mr George Stannard a cabinet maker, his wife and family of Hammonds Marsh, and Mr John Wilkinson, his wife and their four children formerly of Daunt's Square. Along with other Irish Wesleyan families these hopeful settlers looked forward to their new lives in a new land called New Zealand. The Neptune arrived in Sydney Harbour on 14th April 1841 with 300 emigrants all noted to be in good health by the Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser 15th April 1841 these families amongst them. In Sydney the families prepared for the final journey to New Zealand and this is where the discrepancies in the story of their journey begins.

At this early point in my research I have no record available of which ship the families took from Sydney to Auckland. I have a passenger list for the Sophia Pate ( a transcribed secondary source see further notes at the end of this post) but this will have to be looked at from the original source in The Commercial Journal of the time - *however according to the Wilkinson Family bible the families left on the Sophia Pate from Sydney.

According to Reverend John Buller's account*see paragraph below (Forty Years in New Zealand) the families had arrived in Auckland (we have yet to research which ship they came on from Sydney) and finding no other way to get to Kaipara had chartered the Sophia Pate a brig of 250 tons.Under the command of Captain George Harrison they had left Auckland on the 12th of August 1841 for Kororareka in the Bay of Islands and ultimately their destination at Kaipara.

*This is contradicted however in an article written in 1893 by G. Eliott Eliott. Some fifty two years after the event the article claimed the passengers on board the Sophia Pate had been with her the entire voyage from Ireland. Research by myself and Lisa however into the contemporary accounts of the time of the wreck have agreed with Reverend Buller's account and that of the Sydney and Dublin newspaper reports of that period. The families had chartered the Sophia Pate (*see further notations re Wilkinson Family Bible where it mentions the families taking the ship from Sydney) from Auckland and not from Ireland as the much later article had stated. We can only assume that the basis of the article had come from oral history rather than the actual reports and records of the time. At this stage the accuracy of the 1893 article is being taken as a secondary source of information rather then a primary one.

The Sophia Pate made the journey to Kororareka in the Bay of Islands where Stannard (*later Reverend Stannard) and Stewart both passengers on the ship undertook to go overland via Hokianga then to Kaipara to make preparations for the rest of the settlers still on board the Sophia Pate. Passengers on the Sophia Pate for Kaipara from Kororareka were as follows:

Captain George Harrison, his wife and son Robert (around 12 months old)
Edward Farmer (First Mate)
Henry Harrison (Second Mate)
6 Seaman (not named)

Steerage Passengers:
Mr James & Mrs Salter & ten children (*James Salter Jnr a son had been left behind in Sydney)
Mr John Wilkinson & 4 Children * Mrs Susannah Stuart Wilkinson nee Stuart died on board the Neptune from a burst blood vessel in port at Sydney 1841 (Wilkinson Family Bible)
Mrs Stewart & 2 Children
Stephen Ellis - James Salter Snr's servant
Dr Hughes

Accounts of the Wreck of the Sophia Pate
From my research and information provided by Lisa, Malcolm and Ashley there are varying accounts of the event of the Sophia Pate's demise at Kaipara.

From the Herald Auckland Gazette 18th September 1841 - provided by Lisa

Wreck of the Brig "Sophia Pate"


It is our painful duty to give the following particulars respecting the brig Sophia Pate after leaving this harbour, on the 12th of August under the command of Mr. George Harrison, bound to the Bay of Islands and Kiapara, having on board 25 passengers, viz - Mrs. and Master Harrison (the Captain's wife and child) and Mr. Mackey, in the cabin; Mr. and Mrs. Salter and ten children; Mr Wilkinson and 4 children; Mr. & Mrs Steward and two children; Mr Stannard, and Mr. Stephen Ellis, in the steerage; the first and second mates, and three hands before the mast and two boys.

After a rather rough passage of eight days, the wind blowing hard from the E. and N.E., she arrived at the Bay of Islands.

On her arrival there, the commander being rather doubtful of the passage to Kiapara, offered the passengers compensation if they would waive their right of proceeding in the brig to that place, and wished them to go overland, being about 20 miles distant.

This proposal, however, they rejected, with the exception of three of the pasengers, two of whom, Messrs. Stannard and Steward, proceeded overland,with the intention of procuring a pilot for the vessel, supposing they would arrive before her (which, however, unfortunately, they did not), the third Mr. Mackie, left the brig in the Bay, and returned to Sydney in the Barque Jane, upon which Captain Harrison made every enquiry to find out a person acquainted with the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour, as the charts (of which he had three on board,) varied considerably.

Upon enquiry he found out that the only person in the Bay who was aquainted with the Kaipara Harbour, was a seaman belonging to a schooner lying there; but as his commander was away in the country, he could not leave her to go with Captain Harrison to Kiapara.

After waiting at the Bay for four days, and having shipped three able seamen, took on Mr Hughes (late surgeon of the ship Soucabaya), as passenger, with water and provisions, they weighed anchor and proceeded on their passage for Kiapara, the wind being from the W. they arrived off port after 2 1/2 days, when the weather coming on thick and hazy, the brig was hove to for about 24 hours, the next day the weather clearing up they stood in for harbour, keeping a good lookout from the fore-topmast head for the proper channel. (There are two heads, Bearing N. and S. at the entrance of the harbour, between which running from N. to S. and E. to W. are several sand spits forming three Channels or passages, called respectively the North, the middle, and the South passage.)

The principal and between which (according to the Charts,) there is the greatest draught of water, Captain Harrison made for about 1 p.m., and keeping a hand in the chains to take the soundings which had varied from 8 to 4 fathoms until they were about half-way through when it shoaled all at 2 1/2 fathoms, immediately after which the vessel struck about 4 o'clock p.m.

They continued in this awful situation, the sea continually breaking over them, until 10 o'clock, the flood being at its height, a heavy sea struck her, making a breach fore and aft the decks, sweeping the whole of the passengers overboard, with the exception of one of Mr. Wilkinson's children, lad 13 years of age; (most of them were, at the moment, offering up their devotions to Heaven.) The Captain's son, a child 12 month's old, was twice washed overboard and back again, but was eventually saved by the sailors. All the other passengers met a watery grave.

The captain and hands staid by the vessel until low water (3 a.m.) when they cut away the tackle of the jolly boat on the starboard quarter, dropped her under the stern, and lower themselves by a rope onto her. They staid on the beach for three days, during which time the bodies of Mrs. Salter and two of her daughters (Sarah and Martha), Mrs. Stewart, and her son Alfred, were washed on shore and interred by the sailors.

The following is a list of the survivors:-
George Harrison, master, Edward Farmer, first mate, Henry Harrison, second ditto, 6 seamen, and two boys, John Wilkinson and Robert Harrison, passengers.

The captain and the crew arrived here in a canoe on Sunday evening last, and underwent a lengthened examination before the magistrates on Tuesday and Wednesday last. After hearing the evidence, the magistrates came to the following decision: -

"The Justices assembled in Petty Sessions, are of opinion, from the circumstances detailed in evidence before them, that the attempt to enter so dangerous a passage as that is to Kiapara, was injudicious, but they do not deem any further blame attaches to the master of the Sophia Pate.

From the Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser 2 October 1841 p3


By the brig Porter, which arrived from New Zealand yesterday, accounts have been received of the total wreck of the colonial trading brig Sophia Pate, Captain Harrison, and the melancholy loss of 21 passengers, who were on board that vessel bound to Kiapara (Kaipara), New Zealand.

This vessel left Sydney on the 4th July last, with a cargo of sundries, and 44 passengers, for Auckland, where she safely arrived. On the 12th of August she again sailed from Auckland for Kororareka, and Kiapara, with the following passengers:-

Cabin,Mrs. and Master Harrison, (the Captain's wife and child) and Mr McKie, Steerage Mr and Mrs. Slater (mispelled name should have been 'Salter') and 10 children, Mr Wilkinson and 4 children, Mr and Mrs Stewart and 2 children, Messrs Stannard and Stephen Ellis; after a boisterous passage of eight days, she arrived at Kororareka, where the Captain touched to procure a person to pilot the vessel in the Kaipara, there being none on board who had any previous knowledge of the entrance to that port.

The captain being unable to procure any person who would undertake to bring the vessel round to Kiapara, offered to remit part of the passage money to the passengers, if they would leave and go overland to Kiapara, a distance of 20 miles. This proposal being refused, the Captain set sail, after three day's detention, having however taken on board three additional seaman and Mr Hughs. Mr Stewart, and Mr. Stannard; two of the passengers left the ship and travelled overland to Kiapara to endeavour to procure a pilot there, before the brig arrived, and Mr. McKie , another of the passengers left the ship and returned to Sydney on the Jane.

After a run of two days, she arrived off Kaipara, where she lay-to for 24 hours, till the wind had a little appeased. In running into the bay every caution was taken - a seaman was stationed in the fore-topmast to look out for breakers, and another in the main chains for sounding, but of no avail. She struck at 4 p.m. upon one of the sand banks on the south side of the bay. They remained in this state till 10 o'clock, when she separated.

During this time, the most of the passengers were washed overboard, even the captain's son, who has been saved, went twice over with the roll of the sea. The following parties were saved by betaking themselves to the jolly boat: - Captain Harrison, Edward Tavener (First Mate), N. Harrison (second mate), six seamen, two children, and Mr. John Wilkinson, passenger.

The bodies of Mrs Salter, and two of her children Sarah and Martha, Mrs Stewart and her son Alfred, were washed ashore and interred by the seamen who remained for three days at the scene of devastation.

The Sophia Pate was the property of Messrs Harper, Blundell, & Co., who have suffered considerably by the loss of this ship, as she was only insured for the sum of L2500.

Subscriptions were being got up at Auckland for the benefit of the unfortunate survivors.

From the Freeman's Journal & Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin, Ireland) Thursday January 20th 1842 - provided by Lisa


We regret much to have to record an occurrence which, as bringing deep affliction to several respectable families in this city, could scarcely be exceeded.

In the month of November 1840, three or four families of this city, remarkable for their industry and prosperity in their respective lines of business, including Mr James Salter, his wife and ten children, a respectable jeweller, residing for many years in the Grand Parade, - Mr. John Wilkinson, wife and four children, boot and shoe maker, of Daunt's Square - Mr Stannard of Hammonds Marsh, we believe a cabinetmaker - broke up their respective establishments, and sailed in the ship Neptune for Sydney, their place of destination being New Zealand.

Mr Salter had made an extensive purchase of property in New Zealand, through the agency of a friend who had been there and reported most favourably of the country, and took out a considerable quantity of plate and other property.

The Neptune arrived at Sydney in good order, and the emigrants landed, and sojourned there some three or four months. Mr Salter made provision there for one of his sons.

Matters being in readiness, and all arrangements perfected the families of Messrs Salter, Wilkinson, and Stannard proceeded in the month of August last, in the clipper Sophia Pate from Sydney, and arrived after a run of about three weeks in the Bay of Islands. Here having stopped a short time, Mr Stannard proposed to walk across the country, about fifteen miles distant, to the spot towards which they had looked for months in that spirit of anxiety and solicitude natural under the circumstances.

The proposition to walk overland was not agreed to by Mr Salter or Mr Wilkinson, upon the ground that it may not be prudent in them to leave their trunks and boxes to the care of others, and Mr Stannard accompanied by one of Mr Wilkinson's sons, set off, leaving the remainder to proceed coastways.

Upon arriving at the destined spot he was astonished that no tidings of the vessel had been received, and he immediately proceeded to the residence of the chief, of whom the property had been purchased for Mr Salter, and whose welcome was most gracious. Accompanied by a Methodist Missionary, in connexion with the London Institution, and a number of followers, the chief proceed to the harbour as being likely selected as a landing place for the clipper, when they were met by the master and crew, wearing Mr Salter's clothes.

Explanation quickly followed. The master reported that when close to shore the vessel struck, and had gone to pieces, and that all on board, except himself, the hands and a child of Mr. Wilkinson had perished.

The chief, and extremely intelligent man, instantly suspected that all was not right; his suspicions extended to his followers, and it was only by the greatest exertions of the missionary that the natives were prevented from tearing the crew limb from limb.

A portion of poor Mr. Slater's property, in plate, was found on the captain; and he and his crew being first stripped of the clothes on them, were conveyed to Auckland, a principal town in New Zealand, to await their trials.

Young Mr. Wilkinson is stated to have represented that when the ship struck Mr Salter entreated the captain to lower the long boat, and he did lower her, but it was to send her adrift; upon which he was asked to let down the jolly boat.

He refused at first; but upon letting her down he and the crew lowered themselves into her, providently pushing young Wilkinson, in the confusion before them. He got to the bottom of the boat, and thus escaped, the last scene he witnessed on board was Mr. Salter and family at prayer in the cabin, which at this time was filling fast with water.

These are some of the particulars of this severe calamity, derived from a source on which we implicitly rely - Southern Reporter

After the wreck

Reports concerning Captain George Harrison

October 1841

From the Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser
23rd October 1841 Pg 3

Captain Harrison of the Sophia Pate

We have been authorised by J.A. Murray Esq, passenger on the Julia, from New Zealand to give an unqualified contradiction in the yesterday's Herald, to the purport that Captain Harrison had been detained in Auckland on a charge of murder, from he, and the men under his command had acted in the most brutal and inhuman manner, by preventing some of the passengers saving themselves, when the Sophia Pate was lost - so far from this being the case, or chopping off the hands of those, who it is said attempted to escape, by grasping at the boat, he used every effort that was possible to save their lives.

Captain H., instead of being guilty of the conduct ascribed to him, had it not in his power to save his own wife, who was drowned. Captain Fox denies giving any information that could lead the Herald thus to libel the character of Captain Harrison.

May 1842

From the Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser 17th May 1842

The Sophia Pate

Having at the time this vessel was wrecked, mentioned several rumours prejudicial to Captain Harrison's conduct, we think it our duty to make the following extract from a late number of the Auckland Standard, by which it will be seen that his conduct was blameless -

Captain Harrison and the crew of the Sophia Pate -

Everyone remembers the disastrous wreck of this vessel, about six months ago, in the harbour of Kiapara. The loss of life caused a very strong sensation; and it appearing on an investigation, that the poor cast aways nearly naked and destitute, had picked up a few things, of no great value, which belonged to passenger, the captain and the crew were committed for trial at the Supreme Court.

These people, seven in all, were detained for nearly six months before the sittings came on. The Attorney General (who was not in the colony at the time of their committal), refused to find a bill, so they were not called upon to appear. Amongst the sufferers, it may be remembered, was the captain's young and beloved wife; but his son twelve months old, was preserved by miracle, the men resolved to save 'little Bobby', as they used to term him, when the nurse and him were on deck.

We can assure the numerous friends of Captain Harrison, both at home and in the colonies, that he will leave this, the scene of his disasters and troubles, without a stain upon his character, or any cause for reflection upon his professional skill.

.......more of this post will be coming very shortly

Further research notes:

An interesting post about James Salter Snr regarding Silversmith Hallmarks on Silver Collector.com

Also on James Salter Snr again Silversmiths & Allied Trades Cork - 1824 (link provided by Lisa)

From the Auckland Chronicle April 18 1844 (?) Ships to Australia Website 1844 March-May - Secondary source I will have to view the Commercial Journal of the time to confirm this article.
THE “SOPHIA PATE”—This wreck has caused more speculation than most of the people of Auckland are aware of. She has been sold to five or six different parties, all of whom tried their best to raise her, but without success; the present owner Mr Morley, is likely to succeed better than any of the others, he has succeeded in cutting the cable, and we understand the vessel has risen by this act four feet. We trust as Mr Morley is a very enterprising man he may be rewarded for his labour, and the poor fellows who toil night and day with him in his undertaking—Auckland Chronicle April 18.

Sophia Pate Passenger List (transciption not primary source) 3rd July 1841 from the Sydney Free Press & Commercial Journal 6th July 1841

Sydney (3 Jul 1841) to Auckland
Under Captain Harrison

Ash Miss
Kitchen Mrs
Kitchen Miss
Stanley Mrs
Mitford Mr
Johnson Mr I.
Johnson Mr W.
Dalsey Mr
Mackie Mr
Cooper Mr

The arrival of the Neptune from Port Phillip Sydney Gazette & New South Wales Advertiser 20th April 1841

From Port Phillip, same day, whence she sailed the 14th instant, the ship Neptune. Captain Ferris, with sundries. Passengers, Mr. Harpur, Mr. Wetty, Mr. King Lake, Mr. Smith, Mr.and Mrs. Salter and ten children.Mr. Blake, Mr. Stannard, seven steerage passengers, and forty-three emigrants.

Land Claim Notifications from The Daily Southern Cross 10th February 1844 in which the names James Salter (Jnr), John Wilkinson and George Stannard are mentioned as being amongst the claimants

A brief background for Rev. George Stannard on NZETC where reference to the event of the wreck is made Chapter 12 The Rev. George Stannard : from Maori and Missionary: Early Christian Missions in the South Island of New Zealand. Author T. A. Pybus (1954)

Death Notice for Reverend George Stannard in the Wanganui Herald 8th December 1888

STANNARD - On the 8th instant at Victoria Avenue, Wanganui the Rev. George Stannard aged 86.

Rev. James Buller's Account written in 1878 - 40 Years in New Zealand. Personal Narrative Part 1 Chapter X Sophia Pate * Because of the length of time between the actual event and the writing of his memoirs this account may not be entirely accurate however most of Rev Buller's account does concur with those of the reports of the time. It should be noted however there is a discrepancy in this account as to which ship the families of Salter,Stannard,Stewart and Wilkinson came on from Sydney. Also Chartered could have meant the families had arrived on the Sophia Pate then chartered her from that point for the voyage to Kaipara I'm speculating on this but perhaps that was what Rev. Buller was referring to?

Perils of the Sea 19th Century from Te Ara mentions the difficulty concerning the the navigation of the Kaipara Harbour in the 19th Century

......The coastline was poorly charted. For example, when the Sophia Pate tried to enter Kaipara Harbour in 1841, the captain had three charts, each indicating a different channel to follow. He chose one, and the brig became stuck on a sand bank, resulting in the loss of 21 lives.

Also from Te Ara - Kaipara Harbour Charts with the Sophia Pate mentioned

Australian Ships Passenger lists - Oz Ships - link provided by Ashley

Mentioned in The Trail of Waitangi Website concerning a journey from Manukau to Paihia 1842 by Colenso

Mentioned in South Head - An article on South Head Kaipara by the Helensville Historical Society
Mentioned in a Poem about Harbours on Smithy on Line Website


Jayne said...

How sad...and confusing.

Do you have any further details on that Salter family?

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Hi Jayne - yes I do thanks to Lisa. She found a site on Silversmiths. The whole story is really sad I have to finish this post as well. Loads of research went into this. Lisa has been a huge help on this one. More coming...

M . Hyde said...

im a descendant of the only passenger to survive from the wreck of the Sophia Pate John Stuart Wilkinson ,if either of u have any information on the wreck and persons on it i would be greatful

M . Hyde said...

if u have any information please contact me at

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Hi there thanks for your comment. I'm sending you an email and it's great to hear from a descendant of one of the survivors

All the best

Dan said...

Hi I am the 4 x great grand daughter of John Stuart Wilkinson and would love any information. It can be forwarded to mencancook@hotmail.com. Many Thanks.

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Dan I've just tried the email you've given me. It won't work. Can you email me at backroadseditor@gmail.com

Best Regards

cambridge said...

I am also a descendant of John Stuart Wilkinson.My mother's grandfather.I grew up in Shannon where John Stuart Wilkinson is buried. He died in 1905 after returning to New Zealand as a surveyor.
Any more info. would be most helpful as my daughter is studying this topic for school at present.

Kind regards,
Raymond Walker

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Hi Raymond

Yes I can help. I have Malcolm and Ashley to thank for it as well. I'm just now starting to pull together all the research that everyone has provided. Email me at backroadseditor@gmail.com. There is a rough time line there as well on this blog. I have to redo it and add onto the details of the wreck. There is a lot of information. Also Malcom and Ashley would like to contact other descendants of John Stuart Wilkinson. Let me know when you can if I can pass on your details to them.

Best Regards

Levin said...

Hi liz

I'm also a descendant of John Stuart wilkinson, Raymond walker is my cousin , his mother and my father are brother and sister.
I grew up not knowing about the story of the Sophia pate, and my gr gr grand father John until my Aunty phyliss judd( born wilkinson)
Started putting together our family trees. John went on to have 7 children , one of them named John Stuart wilkinson, he had a son George Thomas' wilkinson, and he had a son Peter George wilkinson my father Who passed away in 2010, I too would like to hear from
Other descendants

Kind regards
Gaye wilkinson