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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 2, 1998

Richard Mills

page 34

Richard Mills

The Lord Auckland was a teak barque of 628 tons commanded by Captain Jardine. Her passengers, who embarked at Gravesend, England on 22 September 1841, were headed for new hope in the relatively unsettled colony of New Zealand. In addition to me crew, die ship held 16 cabin passengers and 155 emigrants. Among the emigrants on board were Richard Mills, a butcher aged 30 and his wife, Ann Sophia nee Hearn, aged 27. They were accompanied by their children, Ann 8, Thomas Hearn 6, Richard II 4, Eliza 2 and John, an infant.

Richard had been born in Portsea, England on 10 February 1822 and his residential address before departure was Bedford Street, Southsea. George Samuel Lidbetter was die surgeon on me Lord Auckland and Richard was commissioned as his assistant, with Ann as matron. One adult and four children died and two babies were born during die voyage. Richard and Ann had lost a youngster named Richard Henry in England, and it must have been devastating for them when 4 year old Richard U died on 20 October while they were sailing off die coast of Portugal.

Travelling with the family was Ann's sister, Mary Ann Cole, a widow who was a dressmaker by profession, along with her two small sons, Thomas 8 and William 6.

The Lord Auckland arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, on 7 February 1842 and the ship was delayed mere by me paying of customs duties and me desertion of die crew. Another crew was soon found and on 18 February they sailed again, reaching Nelson on 26 February 1842.

In a letter dated 28 July 1916 Richard's daughter, Eliza Redward, wrote:

"Father found it most difficult to obtain labour to cultivate the land he bought from die NZ Land Company as the settlers were all too busy with their own land and it was eight miles from town (or settlement) … no roads, only tracks through the dense bush. He had to start work on Monday morning and work mere till Saturday with what few friendly Maori were willing to work for him".

The Nelson Examiner of 12 and 26 March 1842 carried the following advertisement:

Mr R Mills
General store
Selling earthenware, domes, boots, blankets,
brandy, ale, porter and wines.

Richard held one of the eight hotel licences which were granted on 20 April 1842 and kept the Lord Auckland hotel in Nile Street. This venture did not last very long however, and on 20 July 1844 we read: "Richard Mills converts licensed house to private board and lodgings". Richard was listed as a tenant at his Nile Street home with die occupation of gaoler in die census of 1845 and again in 1849. Richard and Ann were blessed with three page 35more sons. Alfred was born on 21 January 1843 and, although he has been said to have been the first European boy born in Nelson, this seems unlikely, but he was the first to be registered in the Anglican church records there. Charles Houghton, who was born on 10 June 1844, became a prominent member of parliament under Richard Seddon's government and was honoured by the king. Henry (Harry) was born on 4 April 1846.

Tragedy struck die family on 12 January 1848 when Ann died in childbirth. No record has been found of where she is buried, but her friend Mrs Bush, who had died die day before, was buried in die small Quaker cemetery in Nelson and perhaps Ann also rests there. Richard remarried on 22 May 1849 at Nelson. His new wife, Ellen nee Yeverly, who was nine years his junior, was a very amiable woman who proved to be a good stepmother to her seven stepchildren. The witnesses to die marriage were Richard's eldest daughter, Ann, and George Bush. Richard and Ellen had two daughters, Harriet, born 7 May 1850 in Nelson and Ellen, born August 1852 in Wellington.

In July 1849 Richard wrote to the Superintendent of the Province after reading in the government gazette mat his salary as gaoler would be reduced, unlike other gaolers in Auckland and Wellington. His starting salary had been fixed at 92 pounds and 5 shillings per annum and increased to 109 pounds in 1846, but by 1849 it had reduced to only 85 pounds. When a position became vacant at the Terrace Prison in Wellington, Richard was the successful applicant and started at his post on 24 April 1851.

After some years Richard became unwell and was unable to continue working at die prison. He spent considerable time between 1856 and 1859 in trying both to get better conditions for prisoners and to son out day to day matters concerning die running of the prison through die correspondence columns in the Wellington Provincial newspaper. Richard Mills suffered from epilepsy and this was documented as the cause of his death which occurred on New Years Day 1860. He was 48 years of age and is buried in me Bolton Street Cemetery in Wellington*.

* Ann is buried in Hallowell (Shelbourne Street) Nelson.