Wednesday, October 14, 2009

James McMullen Dargaville

It still seems to me that J. M. Dargaville's pillar is at a bit of a lean in relation to the other graves around it at St Stephen's Cemetery in Judge's Bay, Parnell. It's an illusion -- his marker is set square and straight on the slope. I took the photo in 2006, aware then of Dargaville's influence in the history of both the area around the town he named after himself, and West Auckland. He was an opponent of the Riverhead route for the northern railway, for starters, preferring Kaipara and on towards the Northern Wairoa.
 His bio entry in the Cyclopedia of Auckland is fairly detailed.

Mr. James McMullen Dargaville, after whom the township of Dargaville is named, was a representative of Auckland City West in the House of Representatives from 1881 to 1887. Mr Dargaville came of an old Huguenot family, which left France and settled in Ireland about the time of the revocation of the “Edict of Nantes.” He was born on the 7th July, 1837, in Cork, where his father was a physician of note. ...At a very early age Mr Dargaville was seized with a spirit of adventure, and emigrated with his brothers to Australia; after some experience in Victoria, he entered the service of the Union Bank of Australia in Sydney. He rose rapidly, in five years becoming branch manager, and two years later being sent over to New Zealand as branch inspector.

He came first to the West Coast of the Middle Island, where he so increased the bank's business that in March, 1868, he was promoted to the important post of manager of the Auckland branch. In July following he resigned and started business as a wholesale merchant in Auckland under the title of Must and Co. Mr Dargaville, however, subsequently gave up this business, and entered the timber and kauri gum trades in the Northern Walroa district, where he acquired the land upon which he founded the present town of Dargaville, which now has a population of about 400 people and is owned by his widow and children. At one time Mr Dargaville carried on a very extensive timber business, there being over 400 men in his employ. It was through his energy and enterprise that this district, which was comparatively unknown to the people of Auckland, was opened up, and an industry, which has since employed many thousands of hands, given a great impetus.

Mr Dargaville took an active interest in political matters. He was for some time a member of the Auckland Provincial Council, and contested the superintendency election with Mr. John Williamson, ex-superintendent, and Mr H Lusk, being defeated through the latter splitting the votes. In 1881 he became a member of the General Assembly for Auckland City West, and in 1884 was re-elected by the same constituency as a supporter of the Stout-Vogel Government. In 1887 he was defeated for Marsden, in 1890 for the Bay of Islands, and in 1893 for Eden. Immediately prior to his death he announced his candidature for Auckland City, and, had he lived, would have contested that seat in the general election of 1896. Mr Dargaville was at one time a member of the Auckland Harbour Board, as the representative of Parnell, being chairman of the local body. When on the provincial council he advocated and carried, by a majority of one, a scheme for supplying the city of Auckland with water from Waitakerei, by gravitation. However, during his temporary absence in the north of Auckland, a counter proposal was carried in favour of the existing pumping system. Mr Dargaville took the leading part in the projection of the Kaihu railway, which was originally started by a private company, but subsequently fell into the hands of the Government.

He also took an active part in Volunteering; he was captain of the Auckland City Engineers, and of the Dargaville Volunteers, and a few years before his death was president of the Dargaville Rifle Club. At one time he was United States Consul at Auckland, was Grand Master of the Orange Lodge of New Zealand, and a prominent Mason, being the founder of Lodge St. George, 1801, E.C. Mr Dargaville died at sea, while returning from a visit to the Old Country on the s.s. “Mariposa,” on the 27th October, 1896.

The bit about him being a United States Consul isn't quite true, of course. He was a consular agent, subsidiary to the US Consul at the Bay of Islands, and created a fuss when the consulate moved down to Auckland, and he saw his position therefore made redundant. The post on that ruckus is here.

Even at the time of his death, he was still political, and there was still talk of "deals gone wrong."

The death of Mr J M Dargaville took place under very sad circumstances. He was on his way back by the San Francisco mail steamer, intent upon contesting the Auckland City seat at the general election, but, being in poor health, he gradually sank under liver complaint and Bright's disease and died and was buried at sea. Mr Dargaville was a man of mark in Auckland for many years. To his enterprise the flourishing township of Dargaville owes its existence, and, in his time, he was esteemed throughout the district as the best and most liberal employer of labour in the Kaipara. Mr Dargaville was also a conspicuous figure in local politics and was one of the cleverest and most capable representatives we have ever sent to Wellington. He was essentially a man of progress, broad-minded and liberal in his ideas, and was a fluent and persuasive speaker. Had he lived, there is little doubt that he would have been one of the victorious candidates at the coming elections.
 (Observer, 14 November 1896)

The [Auckland] Star says considerable regret was occasioned in town by the news of Mr J M Dargaville's death. We are open to wager that the regret was not felt in the Star office. There has been no good feeling towards Mr Dargaville on the part of the Star since an unfortunate Kaihu Valley railway transaction, over which the Star proprietor lost £3000. Whether Mr Dargaville was to blame or not we cannot say, but the Star has pursued Mr Dargaville with remorseless malignance since that time, and probably was instrumental in keeping him out of politics.

(Observer, 14 November 1896)

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