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RICHARDS (SMITH), HARRIET LOUISA nee PEVERIL

 

Harriet Louisa Peveril was born in St Brevals, Wales in 1844 and came to New Zealand with her parents in 1861, settling in Auckland. At the age of 17, Harriet came to New Plymouth to nurse injured soldiers

 

In 1865, she married Andrew Smith, the son of a settler who came from Aberdeen, at St Mary's Anglican Church, New Plymouth. Sometime after their marriage, they took up a section of land at Ohawe, near the mouth of the Waingongoro River, Hawera, and established a store and a "way-side" accommodation house for people travelling up the coast from Patea to New Plymouth, north or to the south. Sometimes they were paid, sometimes the travellers had no means to pay, but nobody was turned away without a bed and something to eat. Harriet was the first white woman in the area between Patea and the Waingongoro River, and for the time that they lived there, Harriet never saw another white woman. The couple became friendly with the local Maori, and Harriet taught the women to weave and the ways of European life, and the men helped Andrew establish a house and garden in return for such things as clothing and tools.

 

 

On the 9 June 1868, three saw-millers were killed at a clearing in the Ketemarae area near Normanby. This became the start of Titokowaru's War. The next day, an armed party of soldiers from the Waihi Redoubt (near Normanby) sent a dray for Andrew and Harriet (eight months pregnant) and their baby, and with the local Maoris help, took what possessions they could hastily gather, to the redoubt. The local Maori joined them too, as they knew their lives were in danger because they were friendly to the white people.

 

The Smith's house was burnt on the 14 June by the hostile natives. Early next morning Harriet was sent on to Patea. A very early start was needed as the Tangahoe and Manawapou Rivers could only be crossed at low tide. Andrew had to stay behind and help. (The European civilian population for the area surrounding Waihi redoubt for 1868 was put as 25 settlers, 5 women and 8 children.)

 

While at Patea, Harriet carried despatches from there to New Plymouth. Riding her horse, she slept in the bush at night and swam the rivers at low tide, carrying her (new) baby on her back.

 

After the disturbances had subsided, Andrew and Harriet Smith took up land at Kaupokonui, and established another house for the convenience of travellers, and they carried this on until the land was surveyed and sold to Mr Glenn.

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew and Harriet had five children, Andrew born 1866 Ohawe, Isabella born 26 July 1868 Patea, Elizabeth born 9 Feb 1870 Patea, John and Richard. Andrew Smith Snr died at Hawera on 3 February 1874, aged 39, leaving Harriet with a young family. The local settlers helped her provide for the family - the Livingstons, Larcoms, and Winks were amongst these.

 

Harriet's nursing experience was always available and she was frequently called upon in case of accidents, illness and maternity cases, by both European and Maori.

 

In 1883, Harriet married Dr George Pickering Richards at Auckland and at the age of 40, Harriet had a daughter Clare. George had come to Hawera as surgeon to the Taranaki Mounted Rifles. At one time after their marriage, George was declared bankrupt. As a number of his patients had little money and many were Maoris, he was often repaid with vegetables, firewood etc which he frequently gave away to families in need. On one occasion the bailiff seized his two grey horses and buggy and impounded them in Fred Faber's stables. When Harriet returned home and heard the news she went to the stables and demanded Fred harness the horses into the buggy, telling him they were hers, not the doctors, and then drove them home. Harriet was frequently called upon to help her husband with difficult cases at their home.

 

Harriet Louisa Richards died at Hawera on the 13 May 1913, aged 70 and is buried at the Hawera cemetery with Dr Richards. Her obituary said that "she was one of those undaunted women that could not be put down by adversity, was always cheerful and helpful, and would be greatly missed."

 

Elizabeth, Harriet's second daughter, frequently accompanied her step-father on his visits, attending to the horses, feeding and covering them while he attended patients and driving them to relieve him. Their journeys took them as far as Pihama on the coast, and to Bird Road in the north.

 

Frequently the doctor was called to a Maori's house to attend a woman who would not let the white doctor in. On such cases, the doctor would tell Elizabeth to go in and find the trouble, then she would come out and explain to the doctor and return to the patient. Often after a lot of talking between Elizabeth, the doctor and the patient, the doctor would work his way in. Elizabeth was known to the Maoris as Eriwai. She married Percival Henry Pease in 1897 and died on the 22 September 1951 at Eltham aged 82 years. She is buried at the Eltham cemetery.

 

SOURCES

Percy Pease, Eltham. (Grandson)

Obituary Hawera Star

I Shall Not Die - Titokowaru's War by James Bellich