Canterbury, New Zealand 1851 -1863, The First Twelve Years.

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Canterbury 1851 -1863
New Zealand Bound
The First Twelve Years

Reference online: Papers Past Images online. NZ National Library.
page 5

This time  twelve years ago, within one month from the arrival of the first settlers, the first number of this journal appeared in the shape of a very small sheet, which was printed under great difficulties in a shed by no means weather-proof. The Lyttelton Times has expanded steadily with the growth of the settlement;....


Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser 21 September 1926 Page 12 (Supplement)

As Recounted by Mr. James Ashworth in 1918. The following interesting- account of the early days is handed to us for publication by courtesy of Messrs H. Matson and Co., of Christchurch : — "I was born in Castleton, Lancashire, on Mav 4th, 1845. My father was a farmer and he had a small holding of 70 acres. One of the principal parts of my father's business comprised carting sand to the town and also carting coal for the mills in the neighbourhood, and in this work I used to assist as a boy of eight. -I have never been to school in all my life, and therefore received no education. In July, 1852 my father decided to emigrate to the Colonies to Australia — and the family landed in Melbourne after a voyage of four months from the Old Country. We came out in the "Gipsy Bride," which brought out 600 passengers. My father obtained work on the Melbourne-Geelong railway, and I drove a trolley with one horse shifting ballast, which outfit was called a "Dolly." "The particular site of my activities was the exact site of the present Flemington Racecourse, where the Geelong railway goes by. In June, 1853 (sic) my father decided to come over to New Zealand which voyage the family made in the brig "Colchester." We landed at Port Cooper in July, 1. The appearance of the harbour and the Peninsula was entirely different to that of the present day. With the exception of a few shanties there was no town of Lyttelton and all the Peninsula, was covered with forest. The hills overlooking the harbour were covered with scrub that was good for firewood but little else. While in Lyttelton our firewood was purchased from the Maori women, who brought it to our door for one shilling per load, which wood they brought from the Peninsula by boat. "The "Colchester" anchored in the harbour and the emigrants were landed in the ship's boats and their luggage was brought off in lighters. My father and family lived in the old emigration barracks for a week and afterwards took a house at the back of the present Lyttelton Railway Station, which house (strange to say) is still standing. My father obtained work making the Lyttelton-Sumner Road under the management of Captain Thomas. This work was really relief work to provide employment but this ran out. The wage paid was £1 per week. In this work I helped too and earned the handsome salary of ten shillings per week. Finally the work was discontinued and the men were compelled to seek work elsewhere.
    "After that my father and I obtained work fencing in a small paddock at Sumner for Mr Parkinson, who was an auctioneer. It was ditch and bank work, and we walked over from Lyttelton every morning and back again at night. There was simply a track as far as Gollin's Bay. The Zigzag at that time was not formed, and we scrambled up the tussocks to the saddle. There was not a soul in Sumner in those days; - it was all tussock and sandhills, and a thick row of sand hills ran down the centre of the valley. Afterwards my father shifted the family to Charteris Bay, when he managed a dairy farm for Dr. Moore. We made cheeses and sent them over to Lyttelton by whale boat, and my father and I filled in our spare time clearing the land. This particular land comprised the property at present owned by Mr Orton Bradley. Dr. Moore was quite a big man in those days, and brought into the country some of the best stock. Some of the bulls that he bred sold at from 50 to 200 guineas and I helped to deliver the animals to their new owners. I remember quite well delivering one that was sold at 200 guineas to Mr R. H. Rhodes. Most of the stock were shorthorns, but the Doctor also had some of the best Alderney cows brought to this country. I was the bullock puncher. We used bullocks in those days. I don't suppose there were a dozen draught horses in the country then.
    "At that time there were Maori pahs at Purau, Port Levy, Pigeon Bay Rupaki, and Kaiapoi. The pah in Purau was situated on the flat between the present bridge and the foot the hills coming over from Diamond Harbour. Generally the Maoris numbered about 50. They seemed to have been a moving community as the population was constantly changing. They seemed to roam about the country like gypsies. I have seen as many as 200 Maoris in Purau at one 4 time. They did all of Mr Rhodes' shearing and most of the odd labour about the place. "Frequently I used to go from Purau over to Kaituna for cattle, and Parkinson of the present farming family of that name (who was a single man at that time) was managing at Kaituna. I generally went over there to bring over cattle. I used to go up the back of Purau, over the flat Plateau known as Tableland against Mt. Herbert, along the ridge and down to Kaituna Valley. We used to get a good many scares from wild cattle and from large wild pigs charging across the track. The bush and undergrowth were so thick and tall that it joined overhead all the way and when one heard wild cattle crashing about and could not see where they were going to, one was apt to take a real interest in the proceedings. The tracks at Banks Peninsula were all very dense bush and were very narrow, just wide enough to enable you to get through. These tracks were mostly formed by cattle. When you walked from one man's property to another there were no fences, but posts and three or four panels would be put across the track just to signify where the boundary was and the bush was relied upon to keep the stock together. After being with the Doctor for about six months we went to work for Mr Rhodes at Purau. The greater part of the valley was bush, but there was a bit of clear land at the bottom near the shore. In those days we farmed the piece of land opposite Ripa Island. Mr Rhodes owned the land from Port Levy to Charteris Bay, besides Kaituna and Ahuriri on the edge of Lake Ellesmere. Mr Rhodes used to fatten his cattle at Tai Tapu ; he had the land between the hills and the river. I remember we used to drive the cattle through the river where it was very boggy and surrounded by Rata swamp, and the cattle were left there until they grew fat. They were then sent to Purau to be killed and then sent across by boat to Lyttelton for the consumption of the ships and the town. "Mr George Rhodes was the ploughman in the early Purau days and I remember one day we had just finished a paddock, and I, thinking I knew something about ploughing, went and looked at the finish of the paddock, and I said to Mr Rhodes : "That is not very straight." He replied: "Never mind, my lad, crooked ploughing will grow straight wheat." "A man named Reed, then known as "Scabby Reed" owned land on the south side of the river at Tai Tanu, but I cannot recollect what eventually became of him. The only way of crossing the Heathcote River by Reed's was through the farm of one known as "Paddy Burke" who had his stock yards against the end of the bridge. If Burke happened to be milking he would not allow anyone to pass, and they had to wait until his milking operations were over, or await his convenience.
    "When the sea was calm two men were sufficient to work the whale boat from Purau with the meat, and two experienced boatmen were kept for that purpose, but when it was rough three of Rhodes' men had to go and assist the boatmen, thus making a crew of five. In rough weather it was part of my work to assist also I used to act as coxswain. I remember one particularly rough trip when the boat got nearly swamped and I put in about two hours bailing out the water with my boots. On these occasions when I went over to Lyttelton the boat arrived there at 9.30 a.m. and did not leave until 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I used to fill in the interim carrying mails from Lyttelton over to Heathcote with pack horses, where I had lunch with a man named Fred Newberry and took the Christchurch mail back in the afternoon in time to catch the boat. The mail contractor for whom I did this work was Newberry, and he had the contract for taking the mails over the hills. Wheeler and Nurse had the contract for carting the mails from the foot of the hills to Christchurch. I remember they had an old log trap made of timber from the Papanui Bush. Wheeler and Nurse's trap used to go across the ferry, the piles of which are still to be seen near the present bridge on the way to Sumner. The trap was taken across in the punt, for which the charge was one shilling. We built the house which we lived in at Purau, getting the timber from the bush. Mr Rhodes' house was built of stone obtained from the hillside above the Bay, and with bullocks and a sledge I brought the stone down to the site of the homestead. This is the house which is now Mr Harold Gardner's. "To one man whom I met in the early days at Purau I attribute a great deal of my success in life. His name was Jim Williams and he was one of the very finest men have ever met. Nothing would balk him, and he could hold his own in any class of work.
     "I remember going to Dr Moore's sale in Charteris Bay somewhere about 1855. Jim bought some implements and arranged to bring them round to Purau, and I went with him. Of course there was no road at that time, and I remember that we came to a place where the bullock team could not pass between some big rocks. In a tight corner Williams always had some apt saying and this time he said to me, "Jim. my lad, we haven't been beaten yet and we are not going to be." We unyoked the bullocks, took them through one by one and got the sledge through on its edge; we carried the harrows through and then hitched up and on we went. Nothing beat Williams. I remember we used to get big logs out, of the bush for firewood. One day the bullocks dragged down a log that was all knots and which we could not split up. Jim said "Burn it as it is," but we could not get it into the house. We had a big open fireplace and the chimney was built of stone off the hill, Jim built it himself. We got the log near the door, and then Williams knocked a stone out of the back of the chimney, put a bullock chain through, fixed it to the log and with the bullocks drew the stump right into the fireplace. He was a Colonist of the right sort. I won't forget him.

Star 26 January 1918, Page 9
Shortly before ten o’clock this morning n serious accident occurred on the Main Trunk Road at the Styx Railway Crossing, when a motor-car carrying five persons came into collision with a north bound train. The car was driven by Mr James Ashworth, farmer, of Saltwater Creek, and the occupants of the car comprised Mr Ashworth's wife and three adult daughters, Jane, May and Elizabeth Ashworth. Mr Ashworth is seventy-three years of age and Mrs Ashworth was seventy four. The daughters are; Jane, thirty eight years; May, twenty-nine years; and Elizabeth, twenty-seven years. Mr Ashworth is a very well known resident of the Sefton district. He was born in Lancashire, England, in 1845, and accompanied his father (after whom he was named) to the colony in 1853. He worked on the first section of the Sumner Road, from Lyttelton to Christchurch, and assisted in the fencing of the first little paddock that was made at Sumner. Subsequently, father and son worked in the Bays for several years. As long ago as 1854 Mr Ashworth and other men went overland to Timaru to bring sheep to Rhodes’s Bay. The family settled at Saltwater Creek, in October, 1859, and father and son became the pioneers of the carrying trade for North Canterbury, then roadless, bridgeless, and covered with tussock. Their tracks were afterwards largely adopted by road surveyors.

Lyttelton Times 31 January 1918 Page 1
ASHWORTH. — On January 26, at Christchurch, Eliza Martha, dearly beloved wife of James Ashworth, Harleston, Sefton, in her seventy-fourth year. Loved by all who knew her.

The dangers of level crossings were once more exemplified on Saturday morning, when a fatal accident occurred at the Styx railway crossing, a motorcar coming into collision with a train, one of its occupants receiving fatal injuries. The motor-car was driven by Mr James Ashworth, a well-known farmer of Saltwater Creek, who was driving into town with Mrs Ashworth and their three daughters, Misses Jane, May, and Elizabeth Ashworth. The party left Saltwater Creek shortly after 8 o'clock, and Mr Ashworth. who is known as a particularly careful driver, sent car along at his usual slow speed. When approaching the Styx crossing at about five or six miles an hour he failed to notice the north-bound Culverden train until a few yards from the line, when he discovered the train just about to reach the road. He applied his brakes, but the car just failed to get clear, and the slowly-moving train crashed into it at the rear right-hand end. The car was twisted right round, and much of it smashed to pieces, the tonneau, including the rear seat, being torn right off, and its fragments hurled into a neighbouring paddock. The occupants were thrown heavily out of the car, and all the ladies injured. Mrs Ashworth had her right hand almost torn off. A nurse who was on the train, and a number of others gave prompt assistance, and the motor ambulance was sent for, and the ladies were sent to the Christchurch Hospital, where Mrs Ashworth, who was 71 years of age, succumbed soon after admission. Miss Jane Ashworth, aged 38, was found to be suffering from injuries to the arm and shock, and Miss Elizabeth Ashworth, aged 27, from injuries to the chest. Miss May Ashworth, aged 29, received severe injuries to the legs, but, luckily, it was found that stitching would suffice, and no amputation would be necessary. Mr Ashworth, who is 73 years of age, escaped with a few scratches and bruises.
    The Styx crossing was the scene of a fatal accident under similar circumstances about six years ago, when two motorists were killed. Since that time the trees which obscured the view of trains from persons on the road have been very considerably cut out, but at present the crossing is still somewhat obscured by tall weeds growing near the line, and a test on Saturday morning showed that it was possible for a person not to notice a train until almost on the crossing. Big alarm bells have also been erected at the crossing, and these, it is stated, were ringing loudly as the train approached, while warning whistles were also sent out from the engine, but these Mr Ashworth, who is a little deaf, failed to hear.
    At the last meeting of the Waimairi County Council Mr C. W. Hervey spoke strongly on the matter of dangerous crossings and corners in the district, the Styx crossing amongst them, and urged, particularly on behalf of the Automobile Association, that attention should be paid to the matter. The Council decided to take particular notice of such crossings and corners, in the course of its inspection of the district.
    Mr Ashworth is very well known in the Sefton district. He came out to New Zealand from Lancashire with his father in 1853, and both did much pioneer work in Sumner and the bays. In 1869 they settled at Saltwater Creek, and became the pioneers of the carrying trade in North Canterbury. The father was drowned in the wreck of the Tararua at the Otara Reef in 1881. Mr Ashworth was twice married, his second wife, the victim of the accident, whom he married 17 years ago, being the widow of Mr H. Reeves, of Woodend. She was Miss Eliza  Icks, and came to New Zealand in 1864 with her mother and three sisters to Rangiora. She was a school teacher by profession, and in 1865 was governess with the Perry family at Timaru. After staying there six months she returned to Rangiora, where for some time she was teaching at the public school. Later she was teaching at the Tuahiwi Native School, where she remained 40 years. She was widely known in the North Canterbury district, where she was highly respected for her generous and hospitable disposition. Three of Mr Ashworth's sons are at the front. One of them. Corporal Abram Ashworth [7/2193], has gained the Military Medal, and another, Driver Charles Ashworth [7/1944], was recently wounded. Both left with the Artillery Section of the 9th Reinforcements. The third brother, Trooper Samuel Tweedle Ashworth [35760], is serving in Palestine. At the Rangiora Methodist Church last evening a motion of sympathy was passed to Mr Ashworth and family.
    THE INQUEST OPENED. The inquest on the body of Mrs Eliza Martha Ashworth was opened before Mr T. A. B. Bailey, Coroner, on Saturday afternoon. Mr D. C. Burns represented the Railway Traffic Inspector's Department. Dr. Will, house surgeon at the Christchurch Hospital, stated that deceased was admitted to the Hospital at 10.25 a.m. that day, in a dying condition. She died a few minutes after admission. Death was due to shock, the result of severe injuries, which included fracture of the skull. William Henry Reeves, eldest son of deceased by a former marriage, gave formal evidence of identification, and said that James Ashworth, his stepfather, was a very careful driver, who had been a motorist for some years.

Press, 20 July 1932, Page 13
The death of Mr James Ashworth, a Canterbury pioneer, occurred at his  home, "Harleston," Sefton yesterday morning. Mr Ashworth was 88 years of age, the greater part of his life having been spent at Sefton, and he was closely connected with the early development of the province. His interesting reminiscence of life in Canterbury in its very early days went back to the period when Lyttelton was but a collection of wooden shanties, and the whole peninsula was covered with forest. Mr Ashworth was born at Castleton, Lancashire, in 1845. His father was a farmer-contractor, and he himself received no education. His family came to the Colonies—to Australia first—in 1852, making the voyage in the Gipsy Bride, which carried 600 passengers. His father obtained a contract carting sand on the site of the present Flemington Racecourse. In 1853  [sic] the family came to New Zealand, sailing in the brig Colchester, and landing at Lyttelton in July of that year. Giving his recollections of those early years of the settlement, Mr Ashworth wrote, some years ago, that there were only a, few shanties at Lyttelton, and the peninsula was covered with forest, which Maori women cut down for sale as firewood to Lyttelton people. The Colchester anchored and the emigrants landed in the ship's boats. The lighters brought off the luggage. Mr Ashworth's family lived in the old emigrants' barracks for a week, and then secured a house on a site at the back of the present Railway Station. In 1918 this house was still standing. Mr Ashworth and his father were employed, for a time on the Sumner- Lyttelton road, but when this work gave out, undertook fencing in Sumner, which was then uninhabited. They tramped every day from the port to Sumner, having to scramble up the tussocky hillside on the Christchurch side to reach the saddle. Later the family moved to Charteris Bay, where the father managed a farm. Mr Ashworth was employed in several capacities, including driving cattle on the Peninsula, boating meat and supplies across the harbour to the ships in port, and in carting mails. He secured the contract for the cartage of mails from the port to the Heathcote ferry, from where they were taken in a log cart —built from timber cut out of the forest near Papanui to Christchurch. Eventually Mr Ashworth. after working for some time as a contractor, went to Sefton, where he has resided, as a farmer, for nearly 70 years. Mr Ashworth was twice married, his second wife having been killed in an accident on the Styx railway crossing about five years ago. There was a family of four sons and six daughters, two of the daughters, Mrs F. Reeve and Miss Ada Ashworth, having died before their father. Two of the sons are farming the homestead block, and the other two are farming on the Mt. Grey Downs. Two of the daughters are living in the district. Mrs C. Allington at Balcairn and Mrs J. Reid at Mt. Grey Downs. The other two daughters have kept house at the homestead since their mother's death. All the children were educated at the Saltwater Crook School. There are 14 grandchildren.

1914 Recollections by James Ashworth. The Early Days.