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Henry Bentley -
 Came to New Zealand as a Able Seaman

New Zealand Bound

Jumped ship at Port Nicholson in 1841

The following is a transcript from the Otago Witness Thursday April 16 1896 page 40 by N.J.B.

An Early Colonist
Mr Henry Bentley is one of Masterton's earliest settlers and townsmen. He was engaged in her Majesty's service in the early forties. Mr Bentley came to the colony as an able seaman on board the Lord William Bentinck in the year 1841, having left England on January 2, and arrived at Port Nicholson on May 19. Whilst the vessel was lying on port he, like many others before and after him, decided to share his lot with the emigrants, and accordingly ran away on the first opportunity which presented itself. 

Prior to the vessel's departure from Wellington, and some two weeks after her cargo of emigrants had been landed, the party of six decided that the vessel should leave without them. They were all young men, and had well-laid plans for escaping, and one opportune evening, when watch was not being kept, saw them all on deck accompanied by considerable baggage, and a small barrel of biscuits, as well as the 20 fathom leadline, with one end of which Mr Bentley, who was minus all heavy wearing apparel swam to the ship's boat, which was some distance out. The boat was drawn in means of this line, and noiselessly as possible the other five dropped themselves and their belongings into it, and, with oars they had hidden, rowed away across the waters with all possible care and anxiety until they reached land at Kaiwarra, where they moored the boat and escaped with their goods into the dense bush near the spot they landed on. It was raining hard all the time they remained in hiding, and what with their being afraid of attracting further notice by kindling a fire in the vicinity of the empty boat and their food supply giving out they had an exceedingly bad time of it, and felt much like returning to their vessel and standing the consequences rather than longer put up with the hardships of cold and hunger. They were not given a chance to do this, however, as a party in search came across the ship's boat, with which they were content to return and report no traces of the missing men. The captain decided not to wait, and accordingly on the stated day the Lord William Bentinck was seen by the party hiding in the bush on the Petone hills above the harbour to be in full sail, bound to India, whence she was to call on the return journey. Joyful at the vessel's departure, and believing their trouble at an end, the party quickly sought out a warmer habitation, and were well treated by the settlers around, who obtained both work and food for them. They had been engaged road making at the Hutt some time, and were greatly surprised while at their work one day at the approach of a party of men accompanied by an officer of the law, who arrested the, on a charge of desertion.

It appears that their captain had given the authorities notice of their desertion before leaving for India, but no further notice was taken until another ship's captain, himself in want of a few extra hands, and hearing of the six men at the Hutt, instituted the search in question. A few days afterwards they were brought before a justice, and released on condition that they joined this other captain's crew immediately. As they were offered 3 15 per month they accepted the offer as an easy way out of the difficulty, and remained on board for some considerable time, having in the meantime seen sufficient of colonial life during their brief stay in the vicinity of Petone. The vessel was engaged in coastal service for some time, and them Mr Bentley obtained leave to join the crew of the Government brig, Victoria, under Captain Richards, whose name was made mention of last week

During the time he remained with the Victoria that vessel made several calls at various ports around the New Zealand coast, including seven trips to Taranaki, Auckland and Dunedin, there being no settlement at the latter place at that period. The brig was in Wellington soon after the Wairau massacre had taken place, and being despatched to the scene, brought away several wounded Nelson residents and two well-known clergymen.

Mr Bentley soon after this occurance left the Government brig, and became connected with the Customs Department, after leaving which he joined the Militia formed in Wellington as a protection against threatened danger, owning to another outbreak among the natives in the Bay of Islands; but beyond parade duty and a short residence in the barracks, little or nothing was required of them. It was about this time, 1848, that the great earthquake, which did did no damage, occurred.

Mr Bentley left the Militia and joined the Armed Constabulary, and his first experience in that capacity being their encounter with the rebel chief, Rauparaha and Rangihaeata, and their followers, who had left their as in the Manawatu and crossed over the mountain range near Wellington, coming in contact with the troops stationed at Taita. This treacherous band of rebels, having approached the troops at night unperceived, waited in the vicinity until daybreak next morning, when a party of them cut down the scouts, attacked the guard, and were almost in possession of their enemy's stronghold. Fortunately one of the company's buglers sounded the alarm, at the cost of his own life, and arousing the whole camp to arms, the affair ended in a complete roat of the natives, who severed first one arm, them the other, as he clutched the bugle, and finally his head from his shoulders. The natives after a heavy fire into the camp were soon glad to retreat into the dense bush on the Pahautanui hills, where they felled trees all around themselves in a very secure defence. All the combined efforts of the artillery, militia, armed constabulary, and friendly natives, and troops of the 58th, 65th, and 99th regiments, who were ordered to follow in pursuit of the retreating rebels, failed to move them from their almost impregnable quarters. They fired into the forts above them from the wooded gully beneath, and even commenced to cut a road about the hill to make a surer attack, but they were ordered back after the loss of nine men, leaving the masters of the situation to escape to Wainui, where they again gave considerable trouble.

The armed constabulary was then sent to Wainui, where with the assistance of a body of marines from the H.M.S. Castor, one of the fleet mentioned last week, they were soon able to quieten the war-like natives for a time. After so great an amount of skirmishing, the Maori rebels' supply of ammunition was all but exhausted, and their attempt to secure more, a short time after, is somewhat amusing. A native belonging to this rebel tribe, who called at Kapiti island in his canoe one day, saw quite a number of small kegs lying in front of the store in the southern end of the island, kept by a man named Brown and his two sons, for supplying the whalers who periodically called there from their station at the north end of the same island. Thinking they contained powder, he hastened to the main land in his canoe, and informed the chief, who quickly despatched 40 of his warriors in a war canoe to secure the prize in which they were of so great need. They soon reached the island, and before the affrighted storeman had time to realise the situation, the natives were hastening with the treasured kegs to their canoe, and would have gone away satisfied had it not been for the breaking open of one of the kegs, when to their surprise and anger it was found to contain white paint, a mixture of which they were understood or cared little about. In disgust at their loss of time in coming to the island to be hoaxed, they scattered the barrels of paint broadcast, and filled their canoe with bags of sugar and flour, which they had ransacked from the store, rowing to their pa on the mainland in by no means the best of humours. It was quite providential that they did not encounter on their return six of the armed constabulary out at sea in an open boat. Being on a Sabbath when the constabulary, quite unaware of the doings of the natives at the southern end of Kapiti, were enjoying their ease, whilst six of their number under charge of Mr Bentley put out in an open boat for the northern end of the same island, where the whaling station was situate, and got some distance out to sea and were in close quarters with the enemy's line of sail, when they were hailed by a number of whalers in a boat, who having scented these warriors across the deep, were hastening across Waikanae, at which place the armed constabulary were stationed. As the men in both boats were unarmed, they were thankful for their timely escape, and, joining the rest on the mainland, a party was sent to interview these warriors in their own pa some distance up the Manawatu. After obtaining redress for the damage done by the natives, they gave little or no trouble afterwards, as they came to recognise their Europeans foes to have complete mastery over them.

Mr Bentley completed his service with the armed forces in Wellington, settling down to a quieter life in Karori, whence he went to the Australian goldfields in 1853. Returning soon afterwards, however, he, along with army other settlers living in and around Wellington, joined the Wairarapa Small Farm Association, with which commences the history of settlement in the now flourishing Wairarapa district. He was allotted his portion, and he journeyed from Karori to Masterton to see it by the bullock track over the Rimutaki Mountains. He found his selection consisted of a fine block of bush land near the Masterton railway station, known to-day as the Bentley estate; also, some valuable town belt. At that period Wiararapa was one vast sheep and cattle run. The 40 years, which have gone by since forming the association, such towns as Masterton, Greytown, Carterton and Featherston have been built.

Owing to numerous disturbances among the Maoris about the time the settlement began in the Wairarapa. Dr Featherston called meeting, and the settlers formed a volunteer corps, in which Mr Bentley became a first lieutenant, and remained connected with the company until its recent disbandment. He is now some 76 years of age....


Henry Bentley was born in 1819, in Scotland. He deserted from the Lord William Bentinck, which had arrived in Wellington Harbour19 May 1841. Henry married Caroline Cornford, an Englishwoman, aged 20, one of the passengers on the ship Lord William Bentinck, on.16 Dec. 1841. He was awarded the New Zealand Medal for service during the campaign at Pauatahanui. When his service in the Armed Constabulary was nearly finished Bentley was sent back to Wellington to see out his time and rejoined his family, and on leaving the service lived in Karori, where his wife�s family, the Cornfords, were well established. In 1853 he went to the Australian goldfields for a year. Home again, he joined the many other Karori settlers who had joined Joseph Masters�s Small Farms Association. Masterton was settled as a town on May 20, 1854. Mr Master's died in 1874. Henry came to Masterton in early 1854 to check out his allotted bush-clad section which ran from the Opaki Road, towards the Waipoua River, down to what later became Perry Street and he and his family came to live in  Masterton possibly as early as November 1854. He was living in Masterton during the big earthquake of January 1855, family say Nov. 1855. He became a sawyer, clearing timber from his land and preparing to farm his section. He took work on other�s land, and helped with road making. A Congregationalist, he acted as lay preacher in the church and was involved in establishing the first bands in the town. He was part of a deputation to oppose the granting of licences to the Masterton hotels, arguing strongly that the people did not want drunks in their town. He served on Masterton Borough Council for a short time, and was involved with the Masonic Lodge for many years. He in the volunteer movement for 20 years and was a First Lieutenant for many years, and later the Drum Major. Henry opened a shop in Queen St., opposite the Presbyterian Church for a time, but he was not a success as a trader and went bankrupt. Henry lived out his last years with one of his daughters, Mrs Andrews, dying on 10 April 1902 at age 83. Henry and Caroline Bentley had seven children, six of whom were alive when Henry died. One grandchild, Eileen Maud Hanley, nee Bentley, who lived with Henry as a child, lived to be 105, dying in April 2000. Caroline was buried 15 Oct. 1896 at the Archer St Cemetery, QE Park, in Masterton at age 75.