Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Captain John Austen - 1823 to 1899

I've been doing some research lately into the various sides of my family tree. One of which is my grandmothers family who are Austens originally from Suffolk in England. Back about 4 generations is a sea captain called John Austen born 1823 died 1899. Here's what I found out about him:

John married Anne Willcox on the 12th October 1858 in the St Barnabas Church in Auckland. Anne was 17 years old whereas John is listed as 28 on the marriage certificate but was actually 36. He is also listed as a "widower". The marriage seems to have been a happy one and they had 9 children, 5 boys, and 4 girls, (information from Capt Austen's blog) one of which was my great grandfather Alfred Edward Austen.

John Austen is listed in paper's past as being a well known sea captain and various advertisements for cargo proves this, however one particular article from NZ Historical Data states that the ship Sea Breeze was wrecked through fault of Mr Austen:

Ship "Sea Breeze"

AJHR 1872 Return of Wrecks

Date of Casualty : 25 Oct 1871
Name of Master : John AUSTEN
Age of Vessel : 10 years
Rig : Schooner
Register Tonnage : 70
Number of Crew : 6
Number of Passengers : 1
Nature of Cargo : Guano
Nature of Casualty : Stranded; total loss
Number of Lives Lost : None
Place of Accident : Reef at NW end of Staarbuck Island
Wind Direction : ESE
Wind Force : 5

Finding of Court of Inquiry
Master blamed for wreck. Loss believed to have been caused either by drunkenness (as in case of "Marwell", lost by him on Tiri Tiri
about 3 years ago, and for which his certificate of service was taken away) or from a desire to show off the capabilities of his
vessel, which had the reputation of a smart sailor.

However the West Coast Times 24th January 1872 at Papers Past says this:


It sounds like Captain Austen is free of blame and that the heavy rollers on the starboard side of the ship were so huge that they rocked the vessel over which cause it to shipwreck.

In fact several newspapers such as the Evening Post 1880 state that Captain Austen went on to take charge of other vessels like the Schooner "Marion" and the Wanganui Herald says as captain he left for Onehunga in the boat "Glenelg". Back then I would've thought that if he'd been found responsible for drunkenly wrecking a boat thereby endangering lives and cargo, he would have been fined and/or jailed.

There are more newspaper articles and journeys by Mr John Austen but I will share those in another post.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review - The Castaway

Another book review - this time it's The Castaway by Aaron Fletcher - another one from the Maungaturoto Library.

Australia and its surrounding islands were settled by colonists from the British Isles in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, beginning with a penal colony established on the site of the modern city of Sydney in 1788. Tasmania (known as Van Diemen's Land in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and now part of Australia) was also established as a British penal colony in the early 1800s. Transportation of convicts continued through the mid-1800s. Many free immigrants also settled in Australia and Tasmania, especially during the 1850s when they were attracted by the wool industry and a series of gold rushes.

The first Europeans to settle in New Zealand were Christian missionaries who came in the 1800s to convert the native Maori. The Maori initially welcomed European settlers, but as more and more flooded in, displacing the Maori, conflicts erupted into the Land Wars of the 1860s and 1870s. Native Australians, dubbed Aborigines by European settlers, did not fare well as colonization spread, but modern novelists recognize the positive aspects of their culture.

- Quote from Historical Novels.

My personal review is that I really enjoyed this book. I've been researching my family tree for a while now and found it interesting to know that my immigrant ancestors could have or would have lived similarly in early New Zealand. I liked reading how the main character William Pollard, an escaped convict escaped from the ship he was being transported on and swam to the nearby Bay of Islands - back then was called Kororareka, met up with the local Maoris and married one of them. Although this is a fictional novel the author captures the history well.

This is definitely worth reading and is one of my favourites - I highly recommend it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

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.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New blog for Maungaturoto history

Just to let you know Liz has created a new blog for Maungaturoto history over here at Maungaturoto Memories. This one will be kept for Northland history only. See you there :-)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Under Northland Skies - Florence Keene

If you're like me and you are interested in the early settlers to Northland you're bound to enjoy this book found at the Maungaturoto Library last week. It's called Under Northland Skies by Florence Keene and features information on some of Northland's fairly well known and unknown first European and Maori women in the region.

Here's some of the names you can find in the book along with stories of how they came to be in the area they lived in.
  • Yvonne Rust
  • Sister Ivy Driffill
  • Ethel Maude Sands
  • Iritana Rangi Kamara Randell
  • Mary Ann Matthews
  • Daisy Schepens
  • Dame Whina Cooper
  • Violet Pau
  • Caroline Bedlington
  • Marie King
  • Hannah Chiffinch Hare
  • Susannah Cullen
  • Anka Matich

If you're looking for photos you can find some here at the Whangarei Library website, the book has been privately published.