William Webster (11.05.1816 - 23.11.1904)

William Webster was the first settler in the Wairere Boulder valley and erected New Zealand's first waterdriven timber mill.

 Photo: William Webster, Wairere, Hokianga

William Webster was born in 1816 in Montrose Scotland.  He was in the process of studying medicine in Glasgow when the travel bug hit him and he wanted to try his fortune in the colonies and left in 1839 for New Zealand. He arrived at Wellington on Sunday 23.02.1840 on board the Bengal Merchant.  

 

He arrived in Hokianga on the "Arora".  The "Aurora" loaded up spars for England.

His brother John had left Scotland one year before William but his first destination was Australia. 

William settled at Wairere in the Hokianga where the big Kauri trees grew.  He brought out with him a sawmill plant.  This was New Zealand's first water driven timber 

mill. Production started in 1845. His genial nature caused the natives to place great confidence in him. For years in the early days he held services amongst them,  and before there was a doctor on the river, he attended to their ailments with considerable success.

In May 1841  William had a happy reunion with his brother John,  who decided to join him and help him to get the mill going.

In 1842 they were joint by a third brother named George.  He stayed with William and John,  but went back to Scotland in l845 when the troubles with  Hone Heke began. 

 

In 1851 William married Annabella or Hana who’s  mother was a close relative of the big Ngapuhi chief Nene. Her father was Colin Gillies, a Scotsman who landed in NZ in l825 .  This marriage of William’s inlaws is believed to be the first legal marriage between Maori and Pakeha.

Hana and William had 7 children,  2 girls and 5 boys.  Thanks to Annabella Mary, the youngest child,  we have some interesting accounts of the Webster’s early Hokianga time.

 

A flood damaged The Webster's saw mill. The timber business declined and he abandoned operations. He sold the mill and parts of the machinery was put at Mahurangi in a flour mill. The circular saw etc was sold to Thomas Henderson.