Friday, May 29, 2009

More on Hendersons Mill

Anthony Flude’s revised edition of Henderson’s Mill (2008) costs around $30 retail. Right now, I wouldn’t buy it at that price. I don’t think it’s worth it, given the errors within it, and that it’s mainly an extended version of the original from 1977. I may buy it at perhaps half the price, in a second hand bookstore, but that would be if I could spare the $15. It has some value as a reference book, and an attempt has been made to extend the index, but its lack of source crediting and reliance on non-contemporary sources of information aside from some Archives New Zealand records and one book from the 19th century means I just can’t trust it for accuracy.

Instead, I borrowed a copy from New Lynn library today for this review of some of the facts around the story of the mill.

My previous posts on Henderson’s Mill, part of my interest in locating the mill in history (geographically, it’s been fairly well sussed), are here : Henderson's Mill, and Flude's emails.

The Lucidan

The Lucidan name is now applied to the schooner Henderson traded to Ngati Whatua in the 2008 edition. (p. 22) According to Flude, it was purchased by Henderson & Macfarlane in 1843, and he has reproduced an early advertisement (both statement and ad are unsourced).

He hasn’t offered a theory as to why the name is different in Thomas Henderson’s own submissions to the government the following decade, which he hasn’t reprinted from the 1977 edition, but included in the body of the text (pp.48-49). There, he corrects Thomas Henderson’s reference.

Update 3 June 2009: Ben Copedo thought one answer to why the name is different in the Thomas Henderson statement may have been because perhaps it was a transcript, written by a legal clerk, and not Henderson himself. We'll never know for sure, but that sounds plausible, at least.

The John Bull

Flude’s statement in 1977 that the sale of the John Bull financed the building of Henderson’s saw mill in West Auckland in 1849-1849 has now been changed. In his 2008 edition, he has it that in 1846, Thomas Henderson purchased the John Bull in Sydney, sailed her to Auckland, loaded her up with Waitakere Ranges kauri, and sent John Macfarlane to Hobart with the consignment. There, the market depressed, Macfarlane exchanged ship and cargo for a consignment of flour, which was delivered back to Auckland and fetch a high price. The partners purchased the scow Mazeppa with the proceeds.

From Papers Past, we see that the John Bull in March 1846 was captained by Twohey, and had H. R. Cretnay as an agent. No sign in the shipping notices that Henderson & Macfarlane owned or were agents for the John Bull at this time. Cretnay was still the agent in March 1847. In September 1847, we see David Nathan has become the shipping agent for the John Bull, now captained by George Clinch, and Nathan was still agent at the end of 1848.

I believe the John Bull can be discounted from this period of the Henderson & Macfarlane story. Flude doesn’t say where he got either version (1977 or 2008) of his story from – but it does appear to be in error, compared with contemporary records.

As for the Mazeppa – this, also, had H. R. Cretnay as an agent in May 1846. I can’t find any association between that ship and Henderson & Macfarlane. In March 1859, it was owned by Jardine, Matheson & Co, and was lost off the coast of China.


Flude claims (pp. 31-32) that Thomas Henderson was the first to introduce pheasants into New Zealand. This website says they’d been introduced over time since 1842.

Update, 3 June 2009: Historian and researcher Anne Stewart Ball has very kindly emailed me with some further info on the introduction of pheasants into the Auckland Province: a presentation was made before the NZ Institute in 1869 by Captain F. W. Hutton who credited Thomas Henderson as being first in the province in 1851. (Elsewhere, it was reported that Canterbury immigrants brought pheasants into the country as Canterbury was settled. I did read in the papers from the 1840s that at least the first shipment died soon after reaching here).

The Spencer

Flude, in his email to me of 27 May 2009, said:
“The Mill upgrade funds were gained as the result of the sale of the ship and cargo of kauri timber on the Brigantine SPENCER 1849, published later in the NZ Herald at the time of his death.”
But, his 2008 book says (p. 32):
“In 1852, speculating there would be an increased demand for exported timber, Henderson & Macfarlane purchased the brig Spencer.”
Here are notes from research into the Southern Cross newspaper:

SC, 14 April 1852 -- Henderson & Macfarlane as agents for the 222 ton brig Spencer, master C. J. Martin.

SC 15 February 1853 --Coombes & Daldy agents for Spencer, J. C. Martin

SC, 22 February 1853 -- H & M agents for Spencer.

Coombes & Daldy again in March

21 June 1853 -- H&M again.

SC, 22 November 1853 -- H&M agents for Spencer, now captained by Captain Wootton

SC, 24 February 1854 --Reported loss of the Spencer, H&M as owners, J. B. Wootton, captain.

So, yes, Henderson & Macfarlane owned the Spencer, but no, they did not sell it in 1849 to pay for building Henderson’s Mill.

McLeod and Haskell

Flude does not mention, in either the 1977 nor the 2008 editions, the partnership of John McLeod and Cyrus Haskell, who managed the saw mill at Henderson from late 1854 until the partnership broke up by mutual consent in January 1858.

Notes from Southern Cross:

SC, 1 December 1854 -- McLeod & Haskell apply for carpenters, good axemen and labourers at Henderson’s Saw Mills.

SC, 3 December 1855 - Advertisement from McLeod & Haskell, for “a man possessing a knowledge of measuring and handling sawn timber.”

Partnership of John McLeod and Cyrus Haskell ended 18 January 1858. (SC, 26 January 1858)

Not a lot is known about Cyrus Haskell. In February 1858, his name appears on a jury list as a “bush overseer, Henderson’ bush” (SC, 16 February 1858), and in February he was a sawyer, same location. (SC, 7 February 1860) He appears to have been living in Graham Street close to Freeman’s Bay by 1865. (SC, 8 April 1865)

John McLeod, the other partner, is known in Henderson histories as “Long” John McLeod, to differentiate him from “Shepherd” John McLeod who looked after Thomas Henderson’s Delta Farm (Flude, 2008, p. 38). The partnership with Haskell may have expired by as early as August 1856 – only McLeod’s name is on an ad for bush workers then (19 August 1856), for “men who are thoroughly acquainted with working in a saw mill” (SC, 18 May 1857), for “splitters and sawyers” (SC, 7 August 1857). Flude says that McLeod left Henderson in 1859 (not long after the partnership ceased). By 1863, he had established his steam saw mill on the Kaipara. (SC, 31 March 1864)

The 1858 auction

This wasn’t referred to in Flude’s 2008 edition.

According to the Southern Cross, 30 April 1858, auctioneers Hardington & Wood arranged to begin “periodical auction sales” at “the mill of Henderson & Macfarlane” to suit demand from settlers in the “District of Upper Waitemata, South”. There may only have been one attempt at such an auction, however.

The items on offer are interesting:

Several Plough, Draught and Saddle horses
Some Milk Cows and heifers
A team of Working Bullocks, with yokes, bows and chains
150,000 feet of sawn timber, 1st and 2nd quality
1 weatherboard house 18 feet by 12
1 weatherboard house 20 feet by 14
1 weatherboard shed 120 feet by 16
1 weatherboard shed 140 feet by 16
1 weatherboard shed 160 feet by 16
6 off-bearing barrows
2 crowding barrows
3 Navie barrows
Spades, shovels, hoes, rakes etc.

Were existing buildings at the mill site being sold off – or was Henderson & Macfarlane diversifying into the construction of simple settler cottages and sheds? Also, a “crowding barrow” is also called a kiln barrow – used around firing kilns, as in brickworks. An “off-bearing barrow” is also used in brickmaking. Was there a simple (and very early) brickyard at or near the mill?

The 1864 Mill Sale

Flude states that in 1862 production at the mill began to slow due to lack of trees. (p. 57) That’s quite possible – it also ties in with a drought over the summer of 1862-1863 which caused the river levels to drop region-wide, reducing the ability of mill owners to transport their timber downstream.
“One arrival during the month (that of the Chilean barque “Dominga,” from Puget Sound), was a novelty in our port, so far as the cargo is concerned. She brought a cargo of sawn timber, &c, from Oregon, to Messrs. Henderson and Macfarlane, well-known timber merchants of Auckland. The reason for this strange importation, which is like carrying coals to Newcastle, is a measure owing to the scarcity of water during the summer, preventing the floating of logs to the various saw-mills of the province, so that with an increasing home consumption which could not be supplied, and with orders from a distance which could not be executed, it was deemed proper to supplement the home produce by a cargo of imported stuff. The development of our timber trade is a branch of business which has attracted considerable enterprise and capital, and we have little doubt in a short time it will be unnecessary to have recourse to imports to supplement our home production.”
(SC, 6 April 1863)

The mill was up for sale in August 1864, along with 5,000 acres of land, including the saw mill (suitable either water or steam power), suitable residence for manager, house accommodation for 100 workmen, store, farm buildings, granary, stables, cowsheds, stockyards, and numerous outbuildings. (SC, 2 August 1864)

Henderson & Macfarlane as a company was already diversifying away from timber supply. By 1860, it appears they had a mill near the bottom of Drake Street at Freeman’s Bay. They sold stock at this mill by auction in May 1860 (SC, 29 May 1860), including “pollard, bran etc., and the whole collected Mill stuff and feeding material.” 1861, J. G. Soppet leased the “Wyndham-street Corn Mill”. (SC, 22 January 1861), converted to a bone mill by 1865. His advertising always included reference to Henderson & Macfarlane’s stores.

I’ve located an “old mill and shed” located along Dock Street, between Dock Street and present-day Halsey Street, in 1866/67 (Vercoe Map). In 1866, there were two or three jetties, fronting onto Freeman’s Bay pre-reclamation. Somewhere there, “near the end of Drake Street” (now part of Victoria Street) may have been Henderson & Macfarlane’s other mill.

What’s in a name?

According to Flude (pp. 35-36, 2008 edition), Thomas Henderson dropped the name Dundee Saw Mills in 1854 after upgrading the mill, and officially called it Henderson’s Mill. Perhaps – but in July 1862, Henderson advertised for an experienced engineer or millwright for the “Dundee Saw Mills” (SC, 16 July 1862), and the first-known horse races in Henderson were run in January that year as the “Dundee Saw Mill Races.” (SC, 14 January 1862) Flude says the races started earlier, in 1858 (p.43). I can’t find a record to substantiate this.

Update 5 June 2009: I've been gathering together more bits and pieces about the mill and those associated with it over the past few days, and have found that the earliest reference to date (via the Southern Cross and Papers Past) is from a letter published by the Southern Cross (31 March 1857) , dated three days earlier, from John McLeod. His address is given as Dundee Saw Mills.

As an aside … Dr. Pollen’s brickworks and John Thomas’ Star Mill

Flude repeats the incorrect tradition (p. 40, 2008 edition) that Daniel Pollen started his brickworks on the Whau River in 1852. Unfortunately, the real date is later – most likely sometime around 1860, when he employed John Malam as a manager there. See this post.

On p. 66, Flude talks about John Thomas’ Star Mill. As at 1865, according to Flude, the “flour building had already been sold to keep his business going, and later became Garrett Bros. tannery. It burnt down in 1873, and was replaced by a three storey building.”

Well, no – the mill wasn’t sold until 1878, when the mill, and the land it was on, was finally sold to the Garrett Brothers. When the first mill burned in 1873, it was owned by John Thomas’ son John, and Thomas Barraclough. See Terminus.

Will this be the last post on the mill at Henderson? Probably not -- noted Henderson local historian Ben Copedo is reviewing my original post, and has said he'll send some comments through on it. I'm pleased with the information that has come out of this so far, anyway.


  1. Love your hard working research, Lisa ;)
    Will look forward to Ben Copedo's comments :)

  2. reading fludes book at the moment very interesting enjoying the wealth of information he has gathered . A great overview of early west auckland . Not a historian only reference i am using is street names in Auckland. ill be wiser by the end of it

    1. No, you'll be far more wise by reading "Henderson, Heart of the West", by Vivien Burgess, Gai Bishop, and Grant Cole of the West Auckland Historical Society. Flude's books have so many misleading "facts" in them, they really are little more than general guides to the topic of Henderson's history. Not entirely his fault, he was starting (initially) in the period before major digitisation and ease of access to newspapers and primary documents. But the second edition of his book just repeated the errors, and added new mis-assumptions, where there was really no excuse other than getting something out quickly for sale.

      A really good thing that the West Auckland Historical Society have taken things in hand and published their excellent book to set things straight.

      As for Davenport's book on street names -- oh dearie, dearie, dearie me, that's a "need to check everything" as well.

  3. Timespanner. Would you please contact me about 1866/67"Vercoe Map" you refer to in the heading 'The 1864 Mill Sale' of Henderson's mill.
    You said, "I’ve located an “old mill and shed” located along Dock Street." I'm trying to locate that mill as it was operated by my GGgrandfather. John Soppet - WAHS.

    1. Go to Kura ...
      Click on Heritage Maps.
      Search box top right (on a PC). Search for Vercoe.
      Open up City of Auckland Map. There's a zoom function, go to Dock Street. On page 4 of the accompanying Description that goes with that map (that bit is probably not yet online), the "old mill" is at site 1, Dock Street West. There's a jetty sticking out into the bay.