William Deans Settles At Putaringamotu (Riccarton) – 21st February 1843

“William Deans stood all alone by the only dwelling on the vast plain, watching and waiting to welcome them. As the canoe with its contents could not be brought further up the river on account of the shallows, and the distance being too great for the children to walk, each father and boatman on landing took a child on his shoulders and bravely strode on, the mothers as bravely following, fighting their way through the tall fern and scrub till they reached their destination. On their complaining of the roughness of the way, and the damage done to boots, William Deans laughingly told them there would in the future be roads and railways in all directions…and that hereafter they would be able to drive about in their carriages” – Jane Deans – 1st November 1882

How did he know?

In May 1843, William welcomed the Manson and Gebbie families to Putaringamotu (Riccarton). Samuel Manson, Jimmy Robinson Clough (a local from Akaroa) and he had spent the last few months getting the new farm ready for the women and children; building a place for all to sleep, a separate kitchen and other farm buildings such as a milking shed, a fowl house and fences with the timber being sawed from the nearby [Riccarton] bush. William’s younger brother John was away in Australia purchasing livestock and wouldn’t see where his future lay until June.

After a disappointing few years at Port Nicholson [Wellington], William had decided to make his farming dreams come true on the Port Cooper [Canterbury] Plains, having previously had a few trips down to the future site of Christchurch.
On 10th February 1840, the Deans and their employees, the Manson and Gebbie Families, along with the Hays and Sinclairs set sail for the South Island. The trip took 10 days and the party first settled at Port Levy. Leaving the women and the children in the care of John Gebbie, William and Samuel Manson headed to Putaringamotu to get the farm started.

William made himself known to the British Magistrate at Akaroa and also got permission from the Ngai Tahu to squat on their land. A deal was soon settled as William could speak fluent Maori and the agreement of £8 a year for 33,000 acres was brokered. So in short, the Deans rented the greater part of what become the city of Christchurch just 7 years later.

The great farming example shown by the Deans to the agents and surveyors from the New Zealand Company and then the Canterbury Association was a great influence to those who decided to build Christchurch here. Even after their untimely deaths in the early years of settlement, the brothers were always remembered for their great kindness shown to all who wanted to make their life here.

“If that 30-ton schooner had not come to Banks Peninsula in 1843, bringing William Deans to establish his farm on what were then described as ‘the plains at Cook’s Mistake’, the First Four Ships would probably have gone elsewhere in 1850, and Canterbury might have been the name applied to the Wairarapa”. – Carl Straubel, Canterbury Historian

Pictured here are the signatures on the rent agreement between the Deans brothers and the Ngai Tahu.

* Image courtesy of the Canterbury Museum – http://www.canterburymuseum.com/ *

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