A business trip to Helensville Museum yesterday saw me having a munch of corned beef sandwiches while sitting on a seat on the verandah outside the main building, sheltering from the rain. In doing so, I spotted and recognised the figures on the mural placed on the side of the Hec Nicolls memorial shed. I decided to traipse across the paddock for a closer look.
Yep. I was right -- John and Helen McLeod, the founding couple of Helensville in the early 1860s. John McLeod, with his then-partner Cyrus Haskell, was one of the lessees of Henderson's sawmill in West Auckland, from 1854 to 1860.
Their names aren't mentioned on the plaque beside the mural, though. The plaque reads:
"He Hononga Hou"
A New Partnership
A historical depiction of two cultures
in Te Awaroa aka Helensville
Ngati Whatua ki Kaipara &
early European settlers
Artists: Daniel Tippett & Darrel Thompson
Organised by: Te Awaroa Youth Club
The mural has taken away much of the most striking aspect of the appearance in life of Nova Scotia-originating John McLeod unfortunately -- his gangly similarity to the President of the United States at that time, Abraham Lincoln. If you want to check that out, see this link and scroll down the right sidebar.
Awaroa, by the way, was apparently the original Maori name for the district, although there must have been considerable confusion at the time with the other Awaroa in the region, down from Drury. In August 1862, it was referred to as "the new Nova Scotian settlement" (Southern Cross, 6 August 1862). Alexander Unthank had a timber operation going at Kaukapakapa as at September 1862 (SC, 6 September), and the following month McLeod advertised his own mill, "at Kaipara". (SC, 18 October 1862) The mills were called the Kaipara Mills in December 1862, and McLeod's Mill the next month. The earliest instance I've found for a reference to Helensville is a letter by John McLeod to the Southern Cross dated 10 August 1863 (printed 13 August) -- only it was published then as "Helmsville". I have my doubts therefore about the story which has been put out before now, that John McLeod called the family home "Helen's Villa", the town's name coming from that. I think, perhaps, McLeod simply put the name out there for the settlement, named after his wife. Awaroa wasn't feasible because of duplication and confusion, and following on from Thomas Henderson's example probably wasn't contemplated (at the time, "Henderson's Mill" was also known as "Dundee Saw Mill".) "McLeodsville" may have seemed pretentious.
By September 1863, though, when McLeod advertised for workers for his mill, the address given was Helensville.