A brief background to the layout below. Stewart Rea was my 3x Great Grandfather. He was one of the “ Number 1 party” – the first group of Irish settlers to accompany George Vesey Stewart to begin a settlement in KatiKati in the Bay of Plenty.
The Sam Middlebrook mentioned in the article on the first page, who was in the employ of the Lands and Survey Department was my 2x Great Grandfather. He eventually married Mary Jane, one of Stewart Rea’s daughters.
Journalling on this layout reads:
The Stewart’s lived at Lisberg near Ballygawley in County Tyrone and Vesey Stewart built up a business as an estate manager. He also built a linen mill at Lisdoart, also near Ballygawley. With the mill he also erected houses for the staff which are still standing in 2010. However this venture failed and near bankruptcy and with the land and religious troubles escalating during the 1860s and early 1870s, he began to think of emigration, not only for himself and family, but as an ‘Ulster plantation’. Vesey Stewart departed London on the 19 December 1873 on-board the ss Mongol, the first steamship to New Zealand. He was looking for land suitable for his proposed settlement. In late April 1874 Vesey arrived in Tauranga and was very impressed with the area.The Survey Office put at his disposal a young man named Sam Middlebrook and together they rode towards the northern end of the harbour, through trackless hills, swamps and rivers.
Application for 10,000 acres of land was made to the Waste Lands Board and Vesey returned to England and began the task of recruiting suitable families and friends through the Orange Lodges in Northern Ireland to join his Ulster Plantation in New Zealand.
On June 8th 1875 the Carisbrooke Castle left Belfast with 238 settlers, among them the Rea ( or Wray) family who had worked on his estate in Ireland. In January 1877 Vesey Stewart began arrangements for the 10,000 acres adjoining the original block for a second party of special settlers. He returned ‘home’ with many letters of support from the first party and wrote Notes on the Origins and Prospects of the Stewart Special Settlement, Katikati, New Zealand; and on New Zealand as a Field for Emigration . Again he went on a recruiting campaign and his second party, which included his parents Captain Mervyn Stewart, his wife Frances, his brother Hugh, Hugh’s wife Adela and their son Mervyn left for New Zealand on the Lady Jocelyn. On the 17 August 1878 the Lady Jocelyn arrived in Auckland with 378 immigrants for Katikati on-board.
The letter opposite, written by Stewart Rea (or Wray as the name was sometimes spelled) ,was clearly a great letter of recommendation and assurance to the future settlers of the KatiKati Region.
P2 - transcription of letter
Sir- Being informed that you are about to start for Ireland with the object of bringing out a second party of settlers to locate upon the lands adjoining us, which you secured from the Government for that purpose on such favourable terms, permit me to wish you a pleasant voyage, every success in your mission, and to say a few words of what I think of this country as a home.
I have 80 acres of right good land: a beautiful stream runs through it and whilst the greater part of it is a sort of rich loam, easily worked, I have enough bush to keep me in firewood all my life,and that of many generations after me. All this free of rent for ever. In fact, the trees are larger and the foliage richer, than those at Favor Royal at home. I have about 15 acres in cultivation and the crops are certainly magnificent, and far surpass my most sanguine expectations. My house is comfortable and I feel quite happy and contented, and never regret leaving old Ireland, with its miserable wet climate, for the bright skies of New Zealand.
I have no hesitation in strongly recommended any sober and industrious man, with a few hundred pounds capital, to join your second party, and of course if he has a wife and grown-up family to assist him, so much the better. But you will be able to give a more experienced advice on these points than I can, and looking forward with pleasure to seeing you back with us
again, with many of our old friends and countrymen, with hearty
thanks for your unvarying kindness to me since I left
Ireland with you in 1875.
Yours very gratefully ,