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A Narrative Of Early Methodism in Canterbury by Mrs Quaife

Jottings by an old Wesleyan Pilgrim
In September 1850 in the bark Cressy (one of the first four ships) we left Graveshend for New Zealand. On the evening before we sailed, my husband, self and child sat up in the bulwarks, it being beautiful, clear and calm. We sang that beautiful hymn, "Come ye that love the Lord", and before we got through the first verse, Brother Pattrick, an old Lincolnshire Methodist, came up with tears pouring down his face, took us by the hand, saying "God bless you, you are Wesleyans, I know." We told him we were; he answered, "Praise the Lord for that. I thought my family was the only ones on board." From that hour that family was our fast friends.

We cast anchor in Lyttelton harbour, 27th of December 1850. The minister on board our ship was the Rev. Dudley, now ministering at Rangiora. He said as we were regular in attending the services on board, he would like to do something for us. He asked what we intended to do. We told him, we wanted something to do, as we had but little money. He knew a gentleman, the Rev. E. Bowen (father of the Hon. Mr c. Bowen) who wanted a man and wife. In short he got the situation for us, and we stayed with them three months.

When we left, the Rev. W. Willcock sent for us, and wanted us to live with them. My husband agreed with him, for much better wages than we had before. When all was settled and he was coming away, he asked what place of worship we attended in the old country. My husband answered, "The Wesleyan church." As soon as he heard that he raved and used such language against us and all dissenters, till he fairly foamed out of his mouth that not one Wesleyan ever got to heaven yet. John Wesley might, through being educated in a Church of England College, just escape damnation. Now if you come and live with me, you must burn all your Methodist books, and go down on your knees before me, and say you are sorry that you ever went to their Meeting House and will never go again, and you must promise that you will go once every Sunday to the true Church, and receive the Sacrament once a month. If you promise thus you can come. My husband being a quiet man, did not say anything; he came home and told me. I told him to go and tell him we declined his service, for we would rather live on dry bread, than live with such unprincipled people, and I would pray the good Lord to have mercy on his poor narrow soul. Thus ended this little fray.

We bought a house in Hagley Park. Of course we did not give much for it—seven pounds ten shillings, I believe. In April 1851 we set apart one room for the Lord and opened a Sunday School. I taught them myself for some time, but the members increased so fast, I was forced to seek for help. Brother Pattrick willingly came and took the lead. (You must understand that the first four ship passengers was allowed to settle in Hagley Park for the first year, as those who had land knew not where their allotments were till it was surveyed and made over to them. I mention this just to show why so many children were living near us at the end of the year, ’51.) These families were scattered far and wide on the plains of Canterbury, and our neighbours were few, and far between, consequently our school broke up. Some few years ago, a meeting were held at Christchurch to celebrate the centenary of Sunday Schools. I believe to Mr Farr, a gentleman in Christchurch, was given the honour of commencing the first School in Canterbury. I might have disputed that, but no, I was satisfied believing that the record was up yonder, where it’s best to be remembered.

The reader must not think from what is written here, that it was all plain sailing. At times we were harassed a good deal, by clergymen of another Church. Some two came at different times and tried first by soft and fair words for us to desist from teaching, then when they found us firm, used many a threat, saying we would be brought before the Church for bringing in, and teaching, false doctrine in a Church of England settlement. Poor Brother Pattrick was rather nervous and thought that perhaps we had gone too far, so I was left alone to answer them. I told them we were subjects of Her Majesty the Queen, who granted liberty of conscience to all her subjects, and that liberty we claimed. They turned away in a rage and we heard no more from them.

Soon after, a lady well known to hundreds sent to us, begging us to desist, and give it up, as we were doing ourselves harm, for no one would give my husband work, as they were all pledged to give work to none but churchmen, she would like to see the books from which we taught the children. I packed up a copy of every book, yes, from the ABC Card, to the Bible. She examined them, and returning them, she said she had nothing to say against them, only this, the church Catechism and the Collects for the day ought to be added. Praise God for the victory, they afterward let us alone, saying that we Wesleyans were like mice, for wherever there was a hole we would creep in. I often praised God for the honour conferred upon me to belong to the noble few, who aroused so much opposition, [yet] was permitted to raise the standard of our beloved Methodism on the plains of the high church settlement of Canterbury. Thus passed ’51, our first year in New Zealand.

1852 came in, found us full of trouble. My dear husband was laid aside for weeks, on account of an accident, a tree falling on him, which nearly cost him his life, and just as he began to get about, a still greater trouble overtook us. Our dear and only child, a fine girl of between eight and nine summers, on the eleventh of February was drowned in the River Avon. My husband, thinking it was for the best, removed to Papanui, away from the house where we had lived so happily with our dear one, where we stayed one year and this was the worse year of my life.

There I opened a school. I worked hard, and the Lord alone knows how daily earnestly I prayed that a Gospel Ministry might soon be established. Thus time went on, harassed and perplexed, I thought I should have gone out of my mind. Satan took advantage of my weakness and led me to think I had missed my providential path and had no business to have come to New Zealand. I was obliged to give up my School and continued very ill till the end of the year. My husband said he would let, or sell our place at Papanui, as soon as our year was up, and we should go again to our land at St Albans. This did me more good than medicine. From that hour I began to mend, both in body and spirits was so happy, thinking I should soon join the dear ones, in their Class and Prayer meetings.

In 1853 we removed to St Albans, and shall never forget the blessed, refreshing seasons we had together in worshipping our Father God, when heaven came down our souls to greet, and glory crowned the mercy seat. One day, I think the beginning of April, good news came to us. A vessel through stress of weather was driven into Lyttelton. On board was that dear man of God, the Rev. Wm Kirk bound to Otago, but we doubted not that our Father God sent him in here, to cheer his poor lonely ones, at St Albans. Brother Pattrick and another soon went over to port, their hearts were so light, the mounting of that hill were as nothing. They found him, and brought him back with them. At that time the St Albans road was two or three chains under water, so we set to and cut a lot of tussock and niggerheads, to make a path through the water, and then we went home to wait, and watch for their coming, and none but those who have hungered for the bread of life, as we did, can enter into our feelings as we waited hours for their arrival, so anxious were we, that we seemed to forget that they would have to mount that rugged hill, and if they were not there in time for the passengers cart (which went twice a day) they would have to walk.

Unfortunately they had the whole distance to walk and when we saw them come over the gully some three quarters of a mile away, our joy knew no bounds. There was no houses or trees then, to take the sight from us. When they came to where the road was submerged, one walked each side of him, and led him over the path made. they were soon with us, my heart was so full it was some little time before I could speak. I had often of late looked into some old magazines at the portraits of some dear old ministers, some of whom I had heard years ago, but now I was privileged indeed with seeing one real live Methodist minister, thank God his goodness, in sending his servant to cheer us by the way. In the evening he preached a sermon. The word was precious in those days for myself, I may speak, [had] not heard a Methodist sermon since August ’50, the Sunday before we went on board ship. Our congregation was not large for I don’t think we mustered above a dozen, and children made up that number in part (altho some of our men folks went round about a long way, to tell all they saw that a service was to be held that evening at Brother Pattrick’s house). A bright spot in life, was that evening to me, to sing and pray with Brothers and Sisters dear, and to listen to that beautiful sermon. The preacher took for his text the blessed words of the Master: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." Oh, it was so sweet to sit under the word, it was as marrow and fatness. If it had been an angel from heaven, there could not have been a greater impression made on the hearts of the few hungering souls present. Mr Kirk was a young man, and very nervous. He had a child to baptize, but there was one in the room, a rather forbidding looking person. He was called Ugly White, a name truly becoming him for his face was nearly covered with hair, dark piercing eyes which seemed to strike terror to all, and made our preacher very nervous. Consequently he performed the service on the following morn before he went back to Port. We met him on business, to see if we could get him to stop with us for a time. He said he could not, without leave from his Chairman and—as his vessel would be some time in Port for repairs, we could write to Mr Watkin, Chairman of the Wellington District. Then came the question, who would write. Some said they could not write, others very badly, and could not indite a letter fit for a Minister to see, so the lot fell upon me. We asked him to let Mr Kirk stay awhile with us, for we were here without a guide, and none to Shepherd us. We received an answer that he might stay for a little while. A neighbour named Guildford, with his good wife, offered us a room in his house (which was larger than any of us possessed) and there service was held for some time. Then a man named [??] offered us his workshop—in Christchurch—and there the remaining time Mr Kirk was with us we worshipped.

Thus after a few months were past by us very happily a voice was heard from Otago, wishing to know the why and wherefore Mr Kirk was not in his circuit, and soon orders came from headquarters that he was to go at once, and a promise from Mr Watkin, that he would do all he could to get us a minister appointed, the next conference. Thus we were left alone for some months to do the best we could. A few months after Mr Kirk left, a Brother came to us from England by the name of Flavell who was a local preacher among the Primitives at home. He gave us a sermon once on the Sabbath. we worshipped then in the workshop of Mr T. Lewis, corner of Cassel [Cashel?] Street, and real good times we had together. Towards the end of the year we began to stir ourselves, believing we ought to build a place to worship our God in. There was a deal of pros and cons. Little faith said you cannot do it, for we are all too poor; but those strong in faith said, I believe we can. Some were willing to go with one meal a day, others would beg for help, from house to house—not an easy task that, for the houses were few, and far apart, in those days. Bless the dear Lord, he was our helper. We worked, gave, and prayed and begged, and ere long we got a nice little sum of money together, then another obstacle. Land was wanted, but soon our wants were supplied. A young man by the name of Broughton, a wild, giddy drunken, yet withall a good-hearted fellow. He was taken in by Brother Pattrick who laboured for his soul as one who must give an account. Ere long this dear brother was savingly converted to God, and from that day to this, Brother Broughton’s name has been the household word in most Wesleyan families, and he has been the honoured instrument of leading hundreds to God. This dear brother gave us a quarter of an acre, half of his section in High Street, although at that time there was no high street, nor even a road made, and it was no small difficulty to find out this section at all. When found we took possession of it, for the land, and soon a building was erected on that spot, and our hearts rejoiced indeed when we saw our little Chapel done. Our modern Wesleyan friends doubtless would look upon it almost with contempt, would probably call it a little barn. Let me tell them it was more precious to us than a palace would have been. I know of no building since erected that was half so precious to us as that little place in High Street.

1854. The first quarter of the year saw everything finished, and made ready for our Minister (for the conference had appointed the Rev. J. Aldred to labour among us, in March). On Easter Sunday April 16th 1854 he preached his first sermon in our new church, and commended us on our zeal, and self-denial in getting up such a nice little church. From that time we began to increase in numbers, and soon Lay Preachers and members of our church from Fatherland, and elsewhere, came to settle here: King, Jebson, Dawson, Salter, are names I just now remember, who when they came made themselves useful among us, and by the time six years had passed when Mr Aldred left us, our church was too small to hold the people. Many an instance might be recorded, of the gracious seasons we had together, the Lord blest his servant, and made him a lasting blessing to many a-one. All the first part of Mr Aldred’s time, it was no easy work for us, especially the females, to get from St Albans to Christchurch, for the Papanui Road was formed a long time before they metalled it. Consequently after a rain it was a complete quagmire. Oh, such a sticking in the mud I never did see. We can afford to laugh about it now, but it was no laughing matter then. Sometimes up, at other times down, and when down we left the impression of our features in the mud. Sometimes our feet were so tightly embedded that some good brother came and pulled us out, and more than once minus a shoe. After that we carried clean shoes, and stockings. About where Mr Rutland lives, we left the muddy road and took a straight course for the Land Office bridge. About where the Normal School now is, there were a deal of flax, and in the midst I have gone many a Sunday and changed shoes and stockings and hid them in the flax, and when we returned from service put on the wet dirty ones to go through it home. We could not afford to lose the means of grace for the sake of a little water and mud. Note this professing Christians 1806 [?] who stay away from the house of God because of a little rain when you have good roads to travel on. Surely there cannot be the hungering for the word now, as then. Mr Aldred fared better, the roads not so bad to the ferry. Mr Aldred lived in Lyttelton and preached at each place on the Sabbath. Mr Quaife took charge of his nag Bess for one whole winter to save the good man the expense. When it was his turn to preach here, Mr Q rode down to the ferry for him, and walked back in time to hear the sermon, then walked again to the ferry to take the horse back. This he did in all weathers.

In 1860 the late Rev. J. Buller took Mr Aldred’s place and Methodism went ahead fast. We got a little church at St Albans, where we soon commenced a Sunday School. New classes were formed and lay preachers continued to come out, and the Lord blest and increased us more, and more. In 1862 I was appointed to a class which I held for seventeen years, and only on account of failing health I gave it into the hands of Mr Broughton (by Mr Buller’s permission) who holds the same now and I am privileged with meeting in it. Soon after Mr Buller came a new church was built at Christchurch and our first dear little church was put behind for a school room. So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed, that long before Mr Buller left us, [the church] was crowded to excess, and the cry went forth again, we want more room. Ere long the beautiful new stone church was reared, in Durham Street, and the country places was not forgotten—Papanui, Kaiapoi, Rangorai [sic.] in the North had places erected for the worship of God, and in the South as time went churches were built at most of the principal places. Thus we have increased and grown to a large body.

In 1880 there were 12 circuits, and 14 ministers. What hath God wrought.

Most of the dear ones that struggled with us at the beginning are gone to their permanent home in the skies. the few that remain are waiting the Master’s call, and say with good old Simeon, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes hath seen thy salvation.

M.A. Quaife, St Albans

P.S. I have written simply from memory, having nothing to refer to. If in anything I am wrong in dates I stand corrected, and wish to be put right. But I do not think I am far out.


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