RC2009/2/22 - 22 Jun 1911

The Waitemata Post
Thursday June 22nd, 1911

Mr John Webster, of Hokianga,

Enters upon his 94th year to-morrow, and, after practically 70 years residence in Hokianga, is now living at Devonport, near his son, Mr J.C. Webster. His two daughters, Misses C.J. and F. Webster, and his son, Mr G.F. Webster, reside with him. The subject of this notice was born at Montrose, Scotland, on the 30th June, 1818, and we are delighted to state that, in spite of his advanced years, he is looking very well and walks about unaided. He was educated at Montrose Academy, and his life has been crowded with a series of adventures and stirring incidents which fall to the lot of few men. In 1838 he arrived in Sydney in the barque "Portland", and at once became acquainted with Mr Edward Howe and his brothers, who were station holders, and in 1839 journeyed overland with a mob of cattle to Adelaide. He returned to Sydney, and in the following year again assisted Howe Bros. with another mob of cattle for Adelaide, but this time via the banks of the Murray River. This was the first party of whites to attempt that route, and the blacks were very troublesome. On this occasion Mr Webster discovered and named the "Edward" River, after Mr Edward Howe. The journey occupied five months, and the distance covered was 1302 miles. At Adelaide he saw the first steamer to venture to the colonies, the paddle steamer "Thirteen", with an express speed of nearly five knots an hour. She was going on to Port Phillip, and Mr Webster took passage in her to that port, where at the time there were no pretentions of a city, only a few tents being in view. From here he heard of his brother William's arrival in Hokianga, New Zealand, and on 20th April, 1841, was a passenger per the barque "Jupiter", and landed at the Bay of Islands ten days later. After a few days he took a boat to Waitangi and walked the 40 miles to Hokianga by a sloppy bush track. In those days horses were an unknown quantity. He met Dr. (now Sir John Campbell) there, and they had many pleasant adventures afterwards in Hokianga in the "good old days". Thus sprang up a life-long and true friendship.

In 1845 Heke's war broke out, and Mr Webster and the late Judge Manning fought side by side. In 1849 he went with other Aucklanders to the California gold rush, and was present at the great fire in 1851, which devastated the whole city. At California he joined Captain Benjamin Boyd in the Royal Yacht Squadron schooner "Wanderer", 240 tons with an armament of eight guns (the brass gun now in Albert Park was presented to Captain Boyd by the English Horse Guards, and was the Wanderer's "Long Tom). The expedition was to found a South Sea Islands Republic. The voyage only extended five months owing to the murder of Captain Boyd by the Solomon Islanders at Guadal-Canar. The yacht was subsequently wrecked in a gale at Port Macquarie. In 1853 he visited England and had the honour of showing his complete series of sketches of "The Cruise of the Wanderer" to Her Majesty the Queen, who expressed herself greatly interested in Boyd's untimely and melancholy fate. Ben Boyd was High steward of Scotland at the ceremony of Her Majesty's Coronation. Mr Webster returned to Auckland in 1855 and went on to Hokianga, where he found his old friend, Mr G.F. Russell, dying. Later he married the latter's eldest daughter (whom he survives), and subsequent to Mr Russell's death carried on his timber business at Kohukohu, shipping timber to all parts of the world. He has also travelled through India, Ceylon, Egypt, and was the recipient of the Order of Arrossi, Sandwich Islands, with the Gold Cross. As showing the honesty of the early settlers, the manner in which business was done in "the forties" is worth recording. At that time Mr Webster exported a lot of timber to Sydney, receiving back clothing and other goods. As there was no Custom officer at Hokianga, the Government arranged with him that he should collect his own Customs duties and remit the amounts to the Treasury. Such arrangement would hardly hold good in these competitive times, but the early settlers generally proved to be men of their word.

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