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New Plymouth History, New Zealand

Before the land of New Plymouth was purchased by the New Zealand Company it was inhabited by many Māori tribes.  The Māori began to have contact with whalers and traders from Europe in 1823.  A trading post was set up in 1828 by Richard “Dicky” Barrett after his arrival on the Adventure, the trading vessel.  The Te Āti Awa tribe welcomed Barrett and his companions, as they realized that they could help them in continuing their war with the Waikato Māori and help in providing utensils, food, and clothing.  Most of the Āti Awa tribe moved south to the region of Kapiti after the Ngamotu encounter in 1832.

In 1838, England formed the New Zealand Company to encourage and facilitate migration from cities that were overcrowded, selling the land to the settlers who would work as laborers and farmers.  The Plymouth Company, a separate enterprise, was founded in February of 1840 in Plymouth.  Both of the companies merged together in April of 1841, following a suffering of financial losses via the collapse of the bank.

Barrett went back to Ngamotu in November of 1839 on the Tory, which was the vessel that carried an exploratory expedition of the New Zealand Company.  Colonel William Wakefield arrived with him, who was an agent for purchasing land for the company.  Wakefield claimed to have purchased 20 million acres a month earlier, which comprised of one-third of the country, from certain Māori in Taranaki and Wellington.

Barrett, who was able to speak some of the Māori language, acted as the agent for the company in negotiating the land purchase of Taranaki on the company's behalf.  On February 15th of 1840, a formal Sale Deed was signed between him and the Māori with a payment of blankets, guns, and other chattels.  Later, witnesses testified to Barrett not reading the deed or explaining it adequately during the time of signing.

As settlers began to arrive in New Plymouth from 1842 to 1866, there were many disputes over the land.  However, by 1884, the town had two flour mills and was recorded to have 841 hectares of cultivated land in 1847.

While over 3,500 troops arrived in Taranaki, the city was made into a garrison town from 1860 to 1866.  Most of the women and children were sent away to Nelson while their men joined up with military forces.  For over 2 years, all of the farming was done with the protection of the military, as farmers returned at night to military fort security.

Over 200 farms were burned down or plundered during the raging war.  By July of 1860, New Plymouth was reported to be in a siege state.  As a result of overcrowding, disease was widespread and121 died from the disease (which was 10 times the yearly average), the settlers were in despair, and food was becoming scarce.


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