On 18th August 1840, French ship, the ‘Compte de Paris’ sailed into Akaroa harbour with French and German settlers aboard. They all carried huge dreams but disappointment was to meet them in the form of the British flag.
François Lelievre was born in Les Parlierre, France around the year of 1811. He grew up on a farm where he developed a love for all things mechanical. He became a locksmith and moved his life to Paris. He soon grew restless with that trade so he became the driver of the mail coach from Versailles to Paris.
In 1830 he went to sea, joining the whaling ship ‘Les Nil’ (The Nile) where he worked as a harpooner. In 1837, ‘Les Nil’ sailed into Akaroa harbour and François fell in love! He resigned his position and took work as a blacksmith. The following year, the French whaling ship ‘Cachalot’ dropped anchor at Akaroa. Captain Langlois – with François beside him – purchased Banks Peninsula from the Maori, for the French, for £500 and included two whalers boats (that weren’t even sea worthy), old muskets and military uniforms.
Thinking that the purchase was secure, the ‘Cachalot’ returned to France, with François on board. It would be two years before the Captain and François returned to the Peninsula. With them were 82 French settlers.
The ‘Compte de Paris’ first dropped anchor in Pigeon Bay on 9th August 1840, and the following day unbeknown to the new settlers, British Captain Owen Stanley arrived in Akaroa to squash the French chances of owning land there. As the ‘Compte de Paris’ sailed into Akaroa harbour 9 days later, their dreams were indeed crushed by the British flag flying at Green’s Point.
Accepting that there had been a misunderstanding or mistake made, the French settlers gratefully accepted 5 acres each from the British Government. François also received land on Rue Balgueri where he built himself a whare.
It was around this time that François took 2 tree cuttings from an unnamed French ship. The cuttings were from the Weeping Willow that graced Napoleon’s grave at St. Helena. Françiois planted one (now dead) at German Bay and the other in his garden. It is from these two trees that we now have this species of tree in Christchurch.
François ventured into farming during the 1850′s, becoming a partner with George Rhodes at some stage. He married fellow French settler, Rose de Malmanche in 1851 and the pair would go to have 4 sons and 5 daughters.
Later in life, François opened an accommodation house where the Duvauchelle Hotel now stands. François was still living in his whare when he took a nasty fall in 1902. He cracked a rib and at the age of 94 years, the shock proved too much. He died a few days later. He was a much loved settler.
*Image courtesy of Tiromoana – http://www.tiromoana-akaroa.co.nz*