Crosbie Ward (1832 – 1867)

For Crosbie Ward, his three month voyage to Lyttelton must have been like sailing through a continuous slow choking fog. His heart had been heavy ever since the news of the death of his older brothers had reached his family in Ireland. When he wasn’t grieving, he was sick with worry as his remaining younger brother [John] Hamilton, who was only sixteen years old, was now alone in the new colony of Canterbury. Well, he wasn’t exactly alone, as he was now being kindly fostered by Canterbury’s founder, John Robert Godley and his wife Charlotte but nothing is as comforting as being with your own people, with your own family.

Edward, Henry and Hamilton had made their journey to Lyttelton aboard the Canterbury Association’s first ship, the ‘Charlotte Jane’ – which arrived on 16th December 1850. The three brothers had been very popular with the other passengers and no one saw anything but great success for the trio. After a few weeks of living in Lyttelton -Edward being sworn in as one of Canterbury’s first ‘Justice of the Peace’ – the Wards chose Quail Island to set up their farm. As you can imagine, they were met with quite a mixed response. Edward took great comfort when old school chum and Canterbury Association surveyor, Charles Orbin Torlesse (nephew of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, co-founder of Canterbury Association) told him that he would be crazy not to take the chance. So the brothers made their move and set up their farm with what must have been one of the best views in Lyttelton Harbour!

Roughly six months later, a picnicking party arrived at Quail Island at the Wards’ invitation. They were met by a very distressed Hamilton. Edward and Henry had gone out the day before to collect firewood from the mainland and failed to return. Immediately, the men of the party took to their rowboat and started a search. Tragically, the discovery of a drowned Edward on a nearby beach confirmed everybody’s worst fears. Henry would not be discovered for another few months, only now recognisable by his clothes. Young Hamilton returned to Lyttelton with the party and stayed with the Godley’s as word of the disaster was sent home. And this is how Crosbie found himself sailing to the end of the world to take care of Hamilton and square away any business related loose ends that his late brothers may have left behind.

The first thing Crosbie did was sell the Quail Island farm. It was sold to fellow settler Mark Stoddart who is remembered today as giving Diamond Harbour its name. With the money from that, Crosbie and Hamilton brought land in Rangiora. They would only farm together a few years as Crosbie soon grew bored and with Hamilton now a young independent man by 1855, Crosbie set his sights elsewhere.

In 1855, Crosbie was elected into the Canterbury Provincial Council. A ‘…glutton for work…’ as it was once said about him, Crosbie with Charles Christopher Bowen (another ‘Charlotte Jane’ settler), purchased the ‘Lyttelton Times’ and Crosbie fell in love with journalism. He soon made a name for himself as he had ‘…penetrating wit and a dangerous gift…’ for writing quick and sometimes insulting verses, poetry and articles about the big names in the news and of the events happening around Christchurch. As political war gripped the city with the upcoming Superintendent elections in 1857, partner Bowen was so worried about what Crosbie had written, he destroyed – without Ward’s knowledge – a whole issue of the ‘Lyttelton Times’ fearing serious backlash if printed. Even this did not slow Crosbie down or give him warning – though he did find time to marry his sweetheart, Maggie Townsend. In a lovely twist, Hamilton would also marry into the Townsends (a family that arrived via the ‘Cressy’), taking as his bride Maggie’s sister, Marcia.

In 1858, as Crosbie was elected into the General Assembly, and again the Canterbury Provincial Council, Hamilton was also making a name for himself as a brewer. He had renamed his business to ‘Wards Brewery’ and it was situated on the south west corner of Kilmore Street and the East Town Belt (Fitzgerald Ave). We knew this beer as Canterbury Draught, now a part of our history as of 2012. Hamilton also left his mark in the Selwyn District with the naming of Wards and Bangor Roads, his farm still known by the latter term.

As for Crosbie, it seemed he never had enough of new projects or an increased work load. In 1860, he helped to set up the Canterbury Rifles Volunteers, taking the rank of Captain. He also co-founded the Lyttelton Chamber of Commerce and relaxed amongst the other big wigs at the Canterbury Club. In 1861, he was made the Postmaster General and the Secretary of Crown Lands. This landed him physically right into the land disputes happening between the Maori and the Government. It almost all came to an end when the steamboat he was traveling to Auckland in was shipwrecked. Other lucky passengers to escape with their lives included Henry Sewell and Sir William Fox.

1863 saw Crosbie back in England. Even though he was mainly there to negotiate contracts for a faster mail service via the Panama, he also delivered speeches to the British Government and updated Lord Lyttelton on the Canterbury news.

Upon his return to Christchurch, he took on arch enemy James Edward Fitzgerald (founder of The Press and Canterbury’s first Superintendent) in a newspaper war over the upcoming Superintendent elections. He also wrote for the ‘Punch for Canterbury’ publication and was a popular editor for many other Canterbury writers.

Even with his health quickly failing, Crosbie accepted the position as the England based agent of the Canterbury Provincial Council. Sadly, he died soon after on 10thNovember 1867 in London.

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