A Very Old Settler - Obituary of Alexander Chapman Hokianga

I came across this interesting obituary amongst my many delvings into Papers Past on the National Library site. The names of many of our early settlers have all but vanished. I'm also mindful that Northland History goes beyond that of the settlers. Without local Maori to help them in those early days many a settler would have perished. Northland Iwi have their own rich histories as well to share. As I can I will include these - it's important that they are. This obituary is from The Evening Post 4 April 1889

The late Alexander Chapman of Hokianga, a notion of whose decease appeared in our issue (N.Z. Herald) of 16 March, was one of the few remaining who were contemporary with the earliest settlers in New Zealand.

He was born at Dunbar, Scotland, on the 2nd of February, 1805. His father was a lieutenant in the navy, and died in India when Alexander was quite a child. His mother with her two sons, then removed to London.

At the age of eleven years Alexander went with Sir Edward Parry's expedition to the Arctic regions, and retained some lively recollections of the severity of the cold there.

After his return he was indentured for seven years to William Yateman, shipbuilder, Deptford. About 1828 he arrived in Sydney, N.S.W., and in 1830 came to New Zealand with the late Mr. G.F. Russell to superintend, at Horeke, Hokianga, the construction of the first large ship in New Zealand, viz, the Sir George Murray, of 400 tons. When completed, Chapman along with several Ngapuhi chiefs took passage in her to Sydney. Shortly afterwards he returned to Hokianga and returned to his trade.

Being of frugal habits, Chapman saved enough money to enable him to live in easy circumstances in his old age. In 1858 he took his daughter (his only child, now the wife of Mr. George Martin, pilot of Hokianga Heads) to Scotland to be educated, returning himself to New Zealand the same year.

Chapman had vivid remembrances of the "early days' if Hokianga, and among his papers is a very interesting account of what he calls "The Battle of Pork."

It appears that some natives on the Mangamuka River had looted the house of a European named Ryan. Mr G.F. Russell, at the head of fifty Europeans and about 400 natives, armed with muskets and a small cannon from Te Horeke, started for Mangamuka to punish the offenders..

On arriving near the pa of the offending natives, the latter, frightened at the formidable appearance of the attacking party, fled, leaving behind them their canoes, two muskets, a quanity of potatoes, and 150 pigs. So the whole affair was accomplished without bloodshed, save that the pigs killed to satisfy the whetted appetites of the triumphant warriors. Would that subsequent battles would be no more sanguinary.

For the last 20 years Mr. Chapman lived with his daughter at Omapere, surrounded by his grandchildren. About a fortnight before his death he caught a severe cold, which with natural causes hastened his decease. The Rev. T.A. Joughin was with him just before he died, and to him Mr. Chapman expressed the happiness he experiences through faith in Christ. Thus, his end was "quietness and assurance." He was interred in the Pakanae Cemetery on Sunday afternoon, 10th March. Of the two 'old hands" in this district only two remain now - R. Hardiman, over 80, and Frank Bowyer, nearly 100 years.


Lyn said…
Yes, a lovely obituary. I'm wondering what happened to Frank Bowyer? No listing for his death at bdm, no obituary in the papers. Did he disappear?
Liz Clark said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liz Clark said…
That's a good question Lyn. He may well have passed away and no death notice was ever placed in the papers of the time. Detective work I think will be required to find Mr Bowyer.

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