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THE HON. T. H. HENDEESON, M.L.C., New Zealand Herald, Volume XVIII, Issue 6087, 21 May 1881
THE HON. T. H. HENDEESON, M.L.C.
[FKOM TIIK "AUCKLAND WEEKLY NEWS."] . In our present issue we give a portrait of the Hon. Thomas Henderson, M.L.C., one of our most respected and esteemed pioneers of colonisation in this province—whose fortunes for good or ill have been for forty years inseparably associated with those of the province—and who was senior partner of the firm of Henderson and Macfarlane, a firm whose name was for a quarter of a century familiar in our mouths as " household words" for energy, enterprise, and commercial integrity. Tho subject of our sketch was born in Dundee in December, ISIO, and served his time in the same city to uiachincniaking and engineering work. He remained there for some time, afterwards married in Perth in 1534, and in 1840, like so many more young men, left for New Zealand, in the hope of making thai competence which is so rarely obtained in the crowded labour markets of the Old World. On arrival in Auckland not a single house was erected, there being only a few tents scattered about, but the young couple spent no time ill repining, Mrs. Henderson cheerfully accepting the ups and downs which fell to the lot of the early settlers' wives. Everything was in a state of uncertainty, and people would neither build nor buy until they saw how the city would be laid out and a title secured. At the first Government land sale the late Mr. W. T. Bucldand and 31 r. Henderson jointly bought an allotment in Wyndham-street— on part of which Mr. W. Laurie's stoic now stands. In those days, however, it was too far removed from the business quarter of the town, .and they kept it idle for years. Some time afterwards Mr. Henderson looked around, and bought an allotment from Dudley Sinclair (a name well-known by old 'identities) at the corner of High and Shortland streets, where he crccted the Commercial Hotel at a cost of £'2000. and which was the most pretentions building of its kind in its day. This old histori.al landmark was swept away in the flreat Fire ill Auckland in that locality. In 154"2 Mr. Henderson retired in favour of Messrs. J. and H. Macfarlane, with the former of whom he was afterwards so long in partnership. In the succeeding year the wheel of fortune took another turn, and Mr. Henderson had to go to work again, running a cargo boat from Kiverhead to town with firewood. Shortly afterwards he engaged in the timber trade, but lost money and sold out his stock by auction—our old friend, Mr. David Nathan, acting as the local George Robins — and the prices realised were 2s Gd the 100 feet. In ! SM, Mr. H. Macfarlane left tlie hotel, and went to Honolulu, his brother John continuing in the business till the following year, when he and Mr. Henderson went into partnership as traders, and became the firm so well known in after veal's throughout the Australian Colonies, as Henderson and Macfarlane. During Heke's war, it may be mentioned, Mr. Henderson did the State some service by keeping some 300 fighting men of the Northern tribes from joining Heke, by employing them in gumdiggin;; at Mangonui and Whangaroa. Heke tried to recruit among these men, but failed, as the attractions of trade and money through the employment given were too great to be resisted. The gum when brought to Auckland realised £10 a ton, paid in Government debentures valued at 17s in the £. Not the least of the perils of the settlers in those days was the susceptibility of the military to criticism in their campaigns against the Maoris —a characteristic subsequently exemplified by the sister branch of the service in the attack on the New Zealander Oiiice in ISG4, for some comments on the Gate Pa business. Of th : s sort ot thing a good illustration is given in the affair of the !)6th at the above Commercial Hotel, when kept by Mr. John Macfarlane. One morning a vessel arrived from the Bay of Islands with news from the Northern seat of war. An old identity, but recently deceased, was strolling down the Crescent, when he jocularly called out to the landlord, " Hillo, Mae, what's the news?" Mac replied, "Oh, the %th have bolted as usual." A sharp-eared sergeant passing up the street overheard the remark, informed his comrades at the barracks, and that night a number of the 9Gth, with their sidearms, smashed the doors and windows of the hotel, and destroyed a great portion of its contents. Maddened with drink, they ran all over the premises in search of the offending Boniface, to bayonet him. His sister, with wonderful presence o! mind, hearing the noise from an upstairs room, tied blankets together, and lowered him safely from the window, and he escaped the vengeance of the soldiery. Some of the 9Gth soon after, seeing the window open and the blanket in the hands of the heroic woman, were so enraged that the}' rushed upstairs and thrust their bayonets into the mattress on which she had lain. But to return to our narrative. The firm of Henderson and Macfarlane purchased the schooner John Bull, of some 7- tons, and endeavoured to start a trade between Auckland and Sydney, but tho venture in the then infant state of the colony, did not pay, and Mi*. Jolin Macfarlane went over and sold her in Hobart . Town, taking flour in exchange as v>°j»n«nrj<p. Returning to Auckland wjt-i- cite barter, lfc" sold well, and the proceeds were devoted to building HendersoffiTMill, which afterwards became so well known as the largest establishment of its kind here in that line of business. The mill was worked with moderate success till 1549, when tlie Californian gold-diggings broke out, and the firm then began to make largely by selling timber to exporters for shipment thence; but, becoming infected with the exporting feverl like tlieii* neighbours, they lost their all a the speculation. Nothing daunted by adversity, tlie firm bravely worked on anil bought tlie brig Fanny in Sydney, acfl loaded her up with general cargo for the goldfields. On lier arrival, Mr. .John Macfarlane, who went up iii her, found the market anticipated, and, with the exception of the small portion of timber, which sold at IT* per 100 feet, the cargo scarcely paid landing charges. On return, sold the i :umy to MrPolack, an old identity, who will be well remembered. Mr. John Macfarlane again went to San Francisco in the barque Josephine. As the timber venture had done so well the firm chartered the torque Hamlet and other vessels in Sydney to carry timber to San Francisco, but only to find on
the arrival of the ships that the market had been forestalled by both American and European competitors, attracted by the immense prices previously realised, and the venture was not successful. Tho market in that direction being closed, the firm determined to woo fqrtune in other climes, and accordingly Mr. Henderson went t, China in the barque Glencoe, which was filled up with a cargo seeking a market. The venture proved a success, and Mr. Henderson loaded back with tea, sugar, and notions. Ever thoughtful of anything of benefit to his adopted country, Mr, Henderson selected to bring back with him 50 pairs of Chinese pheasants for acclimatisation purposes, but only three pair survived the voyage. These were turned out at Henderson's Mill, and from thence spread over the whole country, affording both food and sport; and inveterate "pothunters" would do well to remember with judicious gratitude tho hou"htfulness and liberality of the man to whom they are indebted for the pheasant. The bulk of the cargo was sold in Sydney and the balance brought on to Auckland. On arrival in Sydney l>y the Gleneoe, Mr. Henderson found the Victorian goldfields ill full working, and, determining to have a look at business "affairs in Melbourne for himself, lie purchased the brig Spencer and went oil with her to that port. Not feeling quite satisfied, he returned to Sydney, but again took a cargo and passengers to Melbourne. On his second trip he believed he saw a good opening for New Zealand produce, and accordingly instructed his partner to get ready for shipment large quantities of flour, timber, &c. On arrival at Auckland in tiie Spencer, loaded up with those products, and sailed for Melbourne, taking his family with him, in September, 1552." On arriving at the capital of Victoria found timber £3 to £3 10s per 100 feet, and flour £30 to £40 per ton— the result being an immense profit on the venture. Mr. Henderson remained there about a twelvemonth, making a great deal of money, which was remitted to Auckland. The Spenccr was the first of the well-known Circular Saw line of vessels owned by the firm. The origin of the device was a curious one. The mate of the Spencer was of an ingenious and mechanical turn. One day he asked Mr. Henderson what device he desired as a house flag, and he replied jocularly, as there was some circular saw timber on board the vessel, " Oh, anything you like, a circular saw for instance.'' The next thing Mr. Henderson saw one day was a circular saw (blue) oil a white ground painted on the bow of the bri"'s gig in the most artistic fashion by the mate, and thus the device became the house flag of the lirm. The Circular Sawline was thus fairly started, and ;is the firm prospered vessel after vessel was added to the fleet. Among them may be. mentioned the Invincible. Kate, Will o' the Wisp, Gazelle, Constance. Alice Cameron, Sir George Grey, and Novelty—the latter, to encourage local indiistrv. being built in Mechanics' 15ay by Mr. lI.'N ieeoir The firm opened up a trade, not only with the Australian Colonies, but with China, California, and South Americ >, and endeavoured to do so even with the mother country. Mr. John Maefarlane died in ISliO, and his brother Thomas joined the firm in ISGI, Mr. Henderson retiring in favour of his eldest son, George, and Messrs. T. Maefarlane and It. Von der Heyde. For
a number of years everything wont -well, but the tide turned, and Mr. Henderson, after a life of industry and success, was subjected to the vicissitudes of fortune and in his old age was bereft of that ease and competence which he had reasonably looked forward to. In ISG7 Airs. Henderson, who had borne adversity and prosperity alike with an even spirit, died. To her energy and counsels tiie old firm had owed much of its success, Her memory is still green in Auckland as that of a true-hearted woman, whose ear was ever open to the cry of the bereaved and the unfortunate, and in whose death the poor lost a generous benefactor. After her death. Air. Henderson left for California in search of health, and after residing there a twelvemonth was so much improved as to contemplate a vUit to England. 1 " but the affairs of the firm requiring his attention he returned to Auckland. After some time his eldest son, George, and Mr. T. Macfarlane retired, and Mr. Henderson again went into harness. In a vaiu attempt to retrieve the fortunes of the firm, lie went into the steam trade—purchasing the Airedale, Pluebe, and Lord Ashley, so well known for many years on the coast— but the loss of the Airedale and the diminished subsidies rendered the speculation, in the then infant state of the steam traffic of the colonv, unprofitable. Mr. Henderson took an active part in all the enterprises and institutions which were established for the benefit of the province or of the colony. He assisted in establishing the Bank of New Zealand, the Loan and Mercantile. New Zealand Insurance, and Auckland Gas Companies, and was an active shareholder in the first local steam companies. Politically, Mr. Henderson did not take a very active part,-but conscientiously fulfilled the duties imposed upon him by the suffrages of his fellow-colonists. He was a member of the Provincial Council for some time, and a member of the Provincial Executive Council during Dr. Logan Campbell's Superintendence*. He was also for many years a member of the General Assembly, representing the Northern Division, now the electorate of Waiteinata. Air. Henderson was a member of the second Fox Alinistry, ISGI-2, but without portfolio. In IS<9 he was called, at the instance of Sir George Grey's administration, to the Upper House, a well-earned honour to an old colonist, who deserved well of the country for his many services to it. One of these services in this connection is worth recounting:—ln 1563 Colonel Pitt was sent on a mission to A ietoria by the New Zealand Government to raise a regiment of Victorian military settlers, and ship them to Auckland. He took with him letters of credit for £70,000, but the bank in Melbourne would not advance more than £10,000. Colonel Pitt had already made arrangements for shipping and equipping the contingent he had enlisted and committed himself to urgent Air. Henderson, who had been at Adelaide on business, was passing through Melbourne at the time, and hearing of the affair went with Colonel Pitt to the bank, but without avail. Seeing the state of the case, and the necessity for forwarding the reinforcements, he immediately raised £15,000 at the banks on his own personal credit, transferred it to Colonel Pitt (accepting his drafts on the New Zealand Government), and had the satisfaction of seeing the A ictorian contingent at once despatched to the seat of war.
THE HON. T. H. HENDEESON, M.L.C., New Zealand Herald, Volume XVIII, Issue 6087, 21 May 1881
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