W.B.F.P. Logo


Edward J. Wakefield




    A notable passenger on one of K88s early trips...

       The  scene  -  just  outside  a  confectioners  shop  kept  by  one  Peter  Lang  in  Lambton Quay,  Wellington;  the  time  -  somewhere  in  the  eighteen  forties;  the  characters  -  a group  of  well  dressed  young  men  on  horseback,  all  in  the  most  riotous  high  spirits. Somebody  dares  one  of  his  companions  to  ride  through  the  shop!  The  challenge  is promptly  accepted  by  the  gayest  of  the  party,  who  rides  his  horse  triumphantly through  the  shop,  to  the  great  detriment  of  the  goods  inside,  flings  a  cheerful, "Send  me  in  the  bill"  to  an  irate  and  astounded  shopkeeper,  and  canters  away  with his companions, laughing in good humour at the joke.

        Such  in  his  early  day's  was  Edward  Jerningham  Wakefield,  only  son  of  the  great colonizer, Edward  Gibbon  Wakefield,  later  himself  politician,  writer,  and  author  of that well known record of pioneer days, 'Adventure in New Zealand.'

         To  help  get  history  straight,  Jerningham's  Uncle,  Arthur  Wakefield  was  killed  in the Wairau conflict (north of Blenheim) in 1843.

        Jerningham  was  born  on  the  25th  of  June  1820  in  London.  He  traveled extensively  before  settling  in  Canterbury.  At  the  age  of  43  (in  1863)  he  married Ellen  Roe  at  the  Riccarton  Anglican  Church.  Ellen  Roe  was  the  daughter  of  Mr. Edward Roe, the proprietor of Barrett's Hotel on Lambton Quay, Wellington.

        The  two  made  their  first  home  at  Coldstream  in  Fendalton,  Christchurch.  At  first things  went  well.  The  Wakefields  entertained  lavishly,  and  their  house  was  always full of guests.      Their  first  child,  Catherine  Alice,  was  born  there  in  1864;  but  by  1866,  when  a second  daughter  was  born,  christened  Nina  after  Jerningham's  dead  sister  (who  had died  in  1835  at  the  age  of  18),  reverses  had  already  set  in;  Coldstream  had  been given  up,  most  of  the  furniture  sold,  and  the  little  family  had  removed  to  a  small house  in  Worcester  Street.  A  third  daughter,  Lilian  Priscilla,  was  born  in  1869  and by that time life had begun to assume a tragic aspect for the Wakefields.

        Life  had  become  a  grim  and  unceasing  struggle  for  young  Mrs.  Wakefield,  not only  against  adverse  forces,  but  against  the  political  enemies  who  sought  to  destroy her husband.      Though  normally  a  brilliant  and  fluent  debater,  Jerningham  was  now  in  the  grip of  his  besetting  weakness  (alcohol)  and  was  a  source  of  constant  anxiety  to  his party because he could never be depended upon.

        He  remained  in  the  House  till  1875  and  did  a  good  deal  of  valuable  work  in urging  and  outlining  proposals  for  the  construction  of  the  new  railways;  but  he  was defeated at the next elections.

        It  was  now  the  beginning  of  the  end.  In  despair  Mrs.  Wakefield  agreed  to  her husband's  entreaties  to  except  her  brothers  offer  of  a  home  for  herself  and  the children  in  Palmerston  North  until  he  could  again  make  one  for  her.  So  sadly  the little family separated.     Always  an  affectionate  husband  and  father,  Jerningham  took  the  keenest  interest in  his  children's  education.  He  wrote  to  them  regularly,  sending  them  books  and music.  His  three  daughters  cherished  to  the  end   of  their  day's  the  letters  he  had sent  to  them,  telling  of  his  doings,  suggesting  lines  of  study  and  correcting mistakes in their own letters to him.

        Very  early  in  September  1878,  Jerningham  became  very  ill  and  after  leaving hospital  went  to  friends  at  Ashburton  Forks  to  recuperate.  One  of  his  last  letters  to his  daughters  was  written  from  this  place;  it  referred  optimistically  to  the  lecture tour  he  planned  to  begin  the  following  week  in  Ashburton,  after  which  he  hoped  to continue  it  throughout  New  Zealand  and  eventually  to  rejoin  his  family  at Palmerston North.

        After  that  -  silence.  The  letters  abruptly  ceased,  and  after  a  long  and  anxious wait,  Mrs.  Wakefield  was  horrified  to  learn  that  her  husband  had  drifted  into  a home  for  the  poor  and  infirm  in  Ashburton.  In  less  than  six  months  he  was  again taken  very  suddenly  ill;  but,  never  dreaming  his  end  was  so  near,  and  hating  the thought  of  his  wife  visiting  him  in  such  a  place,  he  refused  to  allow  her  to  be  sent for.

        The  end  came  suddenly.  Realizing  too  late  that  he  could  not  live  much  longer, he  requested  that  word  be  sent  to  his  cousin,  Edward  Wakefield  in  Timaru,  as  being the  only  relative  near  at  hand,  but  the  message  did  not  reach  him  in  time,  and  so Edward  Jerningham  Wakefield,  once  affectionately  known  among  his  Maori  friends as  "Tiraweke"  or  "Teddy  Wide-Awake"  died,  a  sad,  lonely,  unhappy  pauper  and drunkard; all alone with only the portraits of his little girls in his hands.

        We reproduce one of Jerningham's last letters:

        In 1878, when this letter was written, his daughters were at the following ages:

        Catherine,  15 years.

        Nina,          13 years.

        Lilian,        10 years.

        When  Jerningham  mentions  in  his  letter  that  he  had  ridden  behind  the locomotive,  'Washington'  the  day  before,  that  day  was  13th  September  1878;  only  1 week  after  the  very  first  through  express,  and  less  than  six  months  before  he  died.

    We  must  not  forget  though,  that  the  Rogers  'K's'  had  been  running  between Christchurch  and  Ashburton  -  and  even  further  south  -  for  some  months,  so  it  was not so very early in K88's career as one might imagine.

    Spread Eagle Hotel

    Ashburton Forks

    14 Sept. 1878.

    My dear daughters,

        Again  I  must  write  to  you  both  together,  in  order  to  save  time.  My  last letter  to  you  was  begun  in  the  hospital,  where  I  had  been  since  Sunday  1st Sept.,  having  been  very  ill  indeed  through  exposure  to  wet  and  cold  for  three days  before  that.  But  I  am  quite  recovered  now.  I  finished  my  last  letter  and posted it on the day I left the hospital, 11th Sept. (Wednesday).

    Yesterday  I  left  Christchurch  at  a  quarter  to  nine  in  the  morning  by express  train,  running  36  miles  to  Rakaia  in  1  hour  and  20  minutes  without stopping at any stations.

        After  a  stay  of  5  minutes  to  let  the  thirsty  "Washington"  -  an  American locomotive  of  great  power  -  have  some  water,  we  set  off  again;  and,  although a  little  retarded  at  first  by  the  presence  of  one  or  two  thousand  sheep  on  the line,  -  who  kept  trying  to  race  us  and  crossed  backwards  and  forwards  over the  rails  in  front  of  the  engine,  -  some  of  them  indeed,  being  rather  rudely picked  up  and  thrown  aside  by  the  "cow-scoop"  in  front,  even  at  our  slowed pace  we  eventually  reached  Ashburton,  53  miles  from  Christchurch,  at  a quarter to eleven - two hours only, including the one stoppage.

        I  had  not  time  to  examine  this  town  of  wonderfully  rapid  growth.  3  years ago  it  had  not  40  houses.  Now  it  has  more  than  1000  inhabitants;  5  hotels;  a large  Town  Hall;  a  small  Public  Library;  spacious  Immigration  Barracks; one  steam  and  one  water  mill;  and  a  Mayor  and  Council:  and  a  Gas  Company has been successfully started.

        My  old  coachman,  Edward  Cookson,  whom  Mamma  will  remember,  is  the owner  and  driver  of  the  Mail  Coach  from  Ashburton  to  the  place  from  which I am now writing.

        16  miles  which  took  us  3  hours  and  a  quarter!  Is  that  not  a  contrast  to  the railway part of the journey?

        We  had  three  good  horses,  and  a  nice  light  coach;  but  the  road  has  been newly  metaled  with  that  nasty  round  river-bed  shingle  nearly  all  the  way, while  the  unmetaled  part  of  the  road  was  too  heavy  through  the  recent  rains. Besides,  we  had  4  passengers  including  myself  who  averaged  14  stone  each  - (How  many  pounds  is  that?)  -  two  lighter  ones  beside  the  driver,  a  young sheep  dog,  two  bags  of  sugar,  and  one  or  two  other  pretty  heavy  packages.  So we had to creep.

        This  house  is  kept  by  a  Mr.  Philipp  Tisch,  whom  perhaps  Mamma  or Uncle  George  may  remember  as  a  settler  at  Papanui  -  a  miller  -  who  came from  Germany  to  Lyttelton  in  1851.  He  had  often  invited  me  to  visit  him:  and he  received  me  with  great  kindness  and  hospitality;  as  an  honored  guest  and not as a customer.

        He  has  six  sons  and  three  daughters  -  all,  I  think,  born  in  the  colony.  Only two  girls  and  one  boy  are  at  home.  The  girls,  about  18  or  19,  are  twins:  and  it is  very  curious  that  one  is  very  dark  and  the  other  very  fair,  and  not  like  each other in features.

        They  are  thoroughly  well  educated  for  their  stations;  write  and  speak English  correctly  and  well  -  the  writing  very  plain  and  legible.  They  play  the piano  tolerably  well:  but  they  do  not  disdain  to  do  useful  needle  work,  attend to  the  general  work  of  the  house,  and  wait  at  the  table  with  attention  and politeness,  and  without  the  slighted  vulgarity  or  coquetry,  although  they  are both very handsome

        The son attends to the bar, and is very quiet and well educated.

        The mother does the cooking herself; a pleasant, smiling matron.

        The  house  is  scrupulously  clean;  and  I  have  not  heard  the  slightest rowdiness  or  noise  for  21  hours  I  have  been  in  the  house,  although  a  good many working-men get their meals and drink at the bar here.

        Now  for  the  place.  We  seemed  yesterday  to  be  traveling  along  a  level plain.  But  we  were  really  ascending  from  an  elevation  of  about  200  feet  to one of 800 feet above the level of the sea.

        The  house  is  in  the  centre  of  a  low  terrace  of  gravel,  with  good  ploughing land all around it.

        We  came  through  a  tract  of  mostly  rich  arable  land,  very  well  fenced  and farmed by a good many small proprietors, as well as two or three larger ones.

        There  are  no  trees,  except  where  they  have  been  planted  (blue  gums, poplars,  willows,  pine,  fir,  oak,  elm  and  other  English  forest  as  well  as  fruit trees)  near  homesteads.  These  plantations  around  some  of  the  more  ancient dwellings make a great show.

        All  the  tilled  land  is  fenced  in  with  mostly  clipped  gorse  hedges:  at  one farm  we  passed  I  saw  five  double-furrow  ploughs  whose  teams  were  at  rest during  the  men's  dinner  time;  and  on  another  farm  three  such  ploughs  were  at work later in the day.

        We  had  forded  the  North  branch  of  the  Ashburton,  a  stream  about  as  large as  the  Turakina,  but  quite  shallow  now,  and  our  journey  was  afterward s entirely between the two branches of the river.

        The  South  branch  is  much  larger:  Cookson's  mail  coach  goes  10  miles further,  to  a  village  called  Mount  Somers,  from  a  high  isolated  mountain  of that  name  not  far  from  it,  but  rather  nearer  to  where  I  am  -  about  6  miles  I suppose  to  the  foot  of  it.  The  village  of  Mount  Somers  is  on  the  North  or  left bank  of  the  South  branch,  just  where  it  issues  through  a  precipitous  gorge from its sources in vast glaciers within the nearest range of mountains.

        To  the  Northward,  another  road  branches  off  to  Alford  Forest,  another village,  8  miles  from  here,  at  the  edge  of  the  "bush"  which  begins  at  the  foot of  the  mountains,  and  reaches  a  short  distance  up  their  sides,  for  a  length  of about  7  or  8  miles,  between  the  S.W.  base  of  Mount  Hutt,  which  rises abruptly  to  the  height  of  6800  feet  above  sea  level  -  6000  feet  higher  than this house.

        Mount  Somers  is  about  4000  feet  higher,  or  4800  above  the  sea.  Mount Rickards,  seen  over  the  lower  mountains  between  Hutt  and  Somers,  is  about 7000 feet high.

        Up  the  gorge,  through  which  the  South  Ashburton,  Hinds,  and  Rangitata rivers  all  emerge  from  the  ranges  onto  the  great  plains,  are  seen  the  sharp peaks  of  the  Two  Thumbs  range  more  than  halfway  across  this  island,  white with  snow.  So  are  Hutt,  Rickards,  Somers  and  Mt.  Peel  south  of  the Rangitata, (about 6000 feet high) quite two thirds down from their summits.

        They  were  very  beautiful  yesterday,  and  are  now,  in  the  brilliant  sunshine. They  were  still  more  beautiful  in  the  light  of  the  nearly  full  moon  last  night; but  just  before  sunrise  this  morning,  when  they  were  all  tinted  a  lovely  blush rose  colour  by  the  sun,  which  shone  on  them  though  the  plain  below  was  still in shade.

        The  magnificent  panorama  was  positively  like  fairyland.  I  was  the  only person  up;  and  I  reveled  in  enjoyment  of  the  solemn  beauty  and  silence  of nature's majesty.

         I  am  going  back  to  Ashburton  today;  and  next  week  I  intend  to  give readings, recitations, and lectures on taxes, at that town.

         You  must  wish  me  good  audiences,  and  a  favorable  reception.  If  I succeed,  I  shall  travel  through  the  whole  colony,  and  perhaps  you  will  hear me  some  day  at  Palmerston  North,  or,  if  I  earn  money  enough,  at  Wellington or Christchurch.

        Good bye, best of love from your affectionate father,


    E. J. Wakefield.


    P.S.  I  forgot  to  say  that  both  the  letters  are  very  well  written:  with  very  few faults; and nearly all those, I think, rather through hurry than ignorance.






Minnie Dean was another early passenger on trains hauled by K class locomotives.

She was executed in the 1890's for killing babies, a crime many believe she never did.

Her body rests in an unmarked grave at Winton, NZ.

Her husband was allowed to take her body away after she was hung in Invercargill, but was told she had to be buried 6 feet down and the grave left unmarked...

Minnie Deans Grave at Winton
Click on this photo to enlarge it. It shows where Minne Deans body is believed to lie.





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