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THE "OTAGO WITNESS." Saturday, April 19th, 1851., Otago Witness, Issue 6, 19 April 1851
THE "OTAGO WITNESS." Saturday, April 19th, 1851.
Another epoch in the progress of our little colony has to be marked. '1 he in-gathering of the present harvest,—the supply of small fruits we have had in the past summer, and the indications of what fruit trees are also to do, by hay-, ing here and there, even as young and unsheltered standards, begun to drop the matured peach and fig,—the improvement, also, of our dwelling-houses, and the better style of new buildings, ought to be noticed; and at the same time to remind us of the labors and realities through which these results have been attained. They should do so, in the ( first place, for the sake of intending emigrants at home—that they may be fully and correctly informed; and, in the second, for our own encouragement to go a-head, because of every step in. our progress being just an instalment of comforts acquired, and of capabilities unfolded.
With respect to intending emigrants, it is no easy matter to impress them with the naked truth. One would think that the graphic and truthful descriptions given by the founders of Wellington and Nelson, should at least have saved our friends at Port Chalmers from being called upon for a cab to take ladies to Dunedin, and our whole Settlement from the charge of ' unmetalled roads as a thing peculiar to Otago. But, besides these extremes, how much have we seen in new comers of the chop fallen and rueful, when more or less disturbed and awakened from the dream described by Mr. Gibbon Wakefield, and to which nearly all are subject from the moment of having first resolved to colonise? The visions of wooded hills and grassy plains in all the luxuriance of Nature's garb! And this again, as having passed into the sheltered hedge row, the waving corn and verdant meadow, the Church, the mill, and busy hum of a thriving and happy people ; and all this, moreover, in harmony with a freely indulged ' constructiveness,'— that darling propensity so restricted at home because of the risk and cost of going beyond what has already been done, — but ' there,' how profitable ! how safe ! and how pleasing ! Few, perhaps, could deny a measure of such dreams ; and if without experience as settlers, or in a soldier's bivouaque, how little had been thought of the actual work of transition from the garb of nature to the product of human skill ! or of the fact that there can be no escape, in any circumstances, from the sentence passed upon man when f driven forth of the garden ' — that the sweat of his brow must still be his portion ; and not the less so, because that, in a new colony, he has so many things to create for himself that, in the old country, were accumulated to his hand ; and more especially iv the matter of roads and internal navigations. One would think that persons who had read what the great Washington and his compeers had first and mainly set about, when acting as men of peace and promoters of industrial development, together with the history of subsequent colonisings down to that of the last settlement in New Zealand, should be able to distinguish between the creation of food and shelter, for which a few months shall suffice, and those other objects that require years, and in some cases the accumulated wealth and industry of generations, to complete — between the settler's report of what he has actually attained, and what he anticipates from the capabilities he has tested. But the dream — the delicious dream ! has blinded his mind, and, like the man who runs foul of a stone, he gets angry for the moment with everything but himself. Such parties, however, do not make the worst colonists. Their energy, when awoke, is generally proportioned to the force of the dream ; and it is, therefore, to "save them from pain, and from the injury done by their first letters home, to themselves and fellow- colonists, that we would have every intending settler impressed with a truthful and business-like view of what he is going to. Suppose, then, the dreamer himself to be one of the first in a new settlement. The wilderness, perhaps, will be much as he expected; nor will the charm be broken if presently on his land, in dry weather, and with his feet upon Nature's carpet. But let rain come, and just in proportion to his industry — to the tread of foot and hoof, will the herbage disappear about his embryo steading, and put him ankle deep into the fat soil. Lines and patches of the same will gradually appear in the direction of his other labors; and though all this was to be expected, and is sure to be overcome, whilst a little management and forethought will greatly mitigate and neutralise the discomfort; be it observed, that the subsoil of Otago being a sandy clay, is easily wet when exposed, but just as easily dried ; and that a few hours' sun and wind completely suffice at any time to make it firm under foot : and we can at the same time affirm, from experience" at home,—^-say, for instance, Esher
Oommon, in the very precincts of Clare mont, — that we have been quite as much bemired in getting to church as anywhere in Otago. And the same may be said of roads within the boundaries of a town, and thence into the country. At first the herbage is laid flat by a passing dray, which keeps .upon hard ground, and leaves behind it a useful tract for others ; and in this way miles and miles may at first be traversed, — slowly indeed, and with some strain to the cattle, but to the comfort and convenience of the settlers. The next stage is that of the road-line being ditched on the sides, the stuff thrown upon it, and bridges erected where necessary by post and plank. This, in wet weather, makes the matter look worse than at first, because of the whole surface being exposed ; but the difference is, that in the former case, with encreasing traffic the road would soon be impassable ; and in the latter, though useless in some places during winter, or for about 60 days in the whole year, the road is good and serviceable for the rest of the year. In other words, as in many places at home, so here also, cartage must be abstained from when the road is decidedly wet, and until it can be finally metalled for continous use.
Now, in both cases, — the farmstead, and the road or streetway, — it will be perceived that the dreamer may notatfirst require to be disenchanted ; but that, in proportion to the progress made, and the state of the weather when he arrives, will he be more or less liable to bemoan his unlooked-for plight until the improved condition, the lusty health and hopeful energies prevailing around him shall have broken in upon his very senses, and roused him from his delusions ? And so also with the unexperienced visitor. A shipmaster, for instance, who arrived in the worst part of the worst of winters (1849), bedaubed his boots in the clay of Dunedin, and got often wet ; and being all unconscious of the vastly worse state of matters at the same moment in Auckland and other places, because of their greater population and traffic than Dunedin, he reported of the latter, honestly, no doubt, but hastily and hurtfully as to the truth. He returned again in the same month of 1850, and was astonished at his folly, the days being then brilliant and calm, with light frosts at night, and the whole scene busy, animated and cheerful. Another case, that of a passenger for Nelson by the * John WicklifFe,' detained in our port for the landing and hutting of our first party in part af April and May ' iS, and during some gusty weather which had caused discomfort to him on board, so that he sailed under like impressions with the shipmaster of '49. But, alas ! he did not return, and his impressions are fixed as the polar ice, so that to this day he warns every passing immigrant for Otago against the hole, as he calls it, for which they are unhappily bound. Be it here observed, that immigrant ships have hitherto been alternately chartered to drop their passengers, beginning at New Plymouth and ending at Otago, or vice versa, and which has had the effect on the part of dreamers, for whatever settlement intended, to make them desirous of going on to another ; and Otago being one of the extremes of the whole line, it was amusing enough to observe in the case of the ' Larkins,' which came direct, that the parties desirous to go on, were turned from their purpose by the arrival of the * Cornwall ' from New Plymouth, Nelson, and Wellington, and which an-
chored beside them in September '49. The^tatement was, * If you had seen as we have done, you would stay where you ai'e ; ' and this they did to a man. _ Now, what we would wish for the good of all, is to urge upon intending settlers a sober and common sense view of what they are embarking in ; and that they should look, as regards Otago, to the Statistics in our columns, — careprepared, and authenticated by publication on the spot ; and whereby errors .or exaggertion of any kind is almost impossible ; a whole community having the facts before them, and access to
the composition and data of every table and report. No individual, however trustworthy, can be relied on to the same extent ; and if in error, like our shipmaster of '49, a whole lifetime of retractation might not suffice in every case to correct it.
A public meeting, called by advertisement, on the subject of the [Port Chalmers road was held on Thursdaylast; but our columns being full, we cannot in this paper publish the resolutions adopted.
THE "OTAGO WITNESS." Saturday, April 19th, 1851., Otago Witness, Issue 6, 19 April 1851
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