Updated 14 January 2020
Caroline (Kararaina) and Sarah’s (Hera) lives transcended a period of rapid economic, social and cultural change in Aotearoa/New Zealand. They were born into one of the first Māori/Pākehā families and witnessed a number of major historical events, including inter-tribal conflicts, the arrival of the New Zealand Company and negotiation of land sales, and the early British colonial period from 1840, involving land sales, the Land Wars between Māori and the Crown, and subsequent land confiscations, lands placed in native reserves and land compensations. In their life time Aotearoa/New Zealand was transformed from a naturally pristine country with a small population of around 100,000 Māori living within the independent iwi / hapū structures of traditional Māori society with a handful of European residents, to a British colony of around 1 million overwhelmingly British immigrants.
Caroline was only three year’s of age when she left Ngāmotu in 1832 as part of the migration south (Tama-Te-Uaua) to avoid more conflicts with the more powerful Tainui. While most of their whānau settled in Waikanae or Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington), from late 1833 or early 1834 to November 1839 the Barrett family lived at a whaling station at Te Awaiti in the Marlborough Sounds – within a largely white-male dominated culture but also cohabited with Te Atiawa kin. The location was not without conflict with other tribes however, as the whaling station residents from time to time sort refuge at sea from Ngai Tahu war parties.
Caroline was aged 10 and Sarah was four when the family eventually sailed with NZ Company representatives on board the Tory, to Port Nicholson where their father, Dicky Barrett and mother Rāwinia, played influential roles in persuading their Whanganui-a-Tara relations to sell land to the Europeans.
Caroline and Sarah witnessed the first arrival of settlers from England, firstly at Wellington and then New Plymouth. Moving from an isolated and small whaling community to Wellington must have been a huge change, such as when their father’s hotel became the civic centre for the new colony. By the time of the Barrett family’s next re-location to the new settlement of New Plymouth in 1841 the sisters were living a largely European way-of-life… but still at least initially, within a whaling community at Ngamotu.
The sisters spent some time within their hāpu following Dicky Barrett’s death early in 1847. Eruera (Rāwinia’s father), Rāwinia, Kararaina and Hara were included in the census of Ngāti Te Whiti in 1847. Rāwinia died in 1849 and her father died in 1851.
The sisters were both young when both their parents had died by the late 1940’s. In a community that was in the very early stages of European settlement, their lives would no doubt have been made that much harder while on-going disputes over land sales may have adversely affected their relationships with their Māori kin.
Lawson Insley, collection of Puke Ariki, New Plymouth
The daguerreotype portrait of Caroline and Sarah shown above is thought to have been taken by Lawson Insley just before Sarah’s marriage to William Henry Honeyfield in April, 1853. According to Andrew Moffat’s research, there is evidence to suggest the portrait may have been commissioned by the Reverend Henry Hanson Turton and given to Sarah as a wedding present. Reverend Turton had a daguerreotype of himself done at the same time. Rather than being styled by others for the occasion, it is likely the sisters had dressed themselves. Caroline was 24 and Sarah was 17 when the portrait was taken.
Although the sisters wore European clothing, they would have been bilingual and bicultural through their hapū inter-relationships, at least in their early years when their father, Dicky Barrett lived as a Pākehā-Māori. Both were given Maori names: Kararaina (Caroline) and Hara (Sarah).
Given Sarah’s first child, Richard Barrett Honeyfield, was born on 10 June 1853, Sarah would probably have been pregnant at the time of the portrait setting. The original of the portrait has been held at Puke Ariki after having been gifted by a descendant of Sarah in 1967.
Rev. Turton’s wife died in 1849 leaving him with four sons to care for. As the sisters were also suffering from family bereavement at around the same time – Caroline had just turned 20, and Sarah was only 13 years of age when their remaining parent, Rāwinia, died in February, 1849 – Caroline and Sarah may have joined the Turton household for a while. According to Moffat’s research, there is evidence of this from a letter written by Turton in the late 1840’s, ‘In it, he complains of an incident in which Mrs Billing (a fellow settler) struck Sarah Barrett with a stick, making the part swell and the girl cry. When she told me I went over to Manihera … and told him and Poharama to go to Billings and his wife and advise them to keep their hands of [sic] the girls, because we should not allow them to be struck’. That is significant also in that Turton obviously regarded the Ngāmotu rangatira has having an ongoing role in caring for their kin, the two Barrett daughters.
Reverend Turton had joined the New Plymouth Wesleyan Missionary Service (WMS) with his family in 1844. However, Turton’s first appointment in New Zealand was in 1840 when he was charged with developing a new mission house at Aotea, located between Kāwhia and Raglan.
The Turton family relocated to New Plymouth in 1843, so he would have known Dicky and Rāwinia. From the mid 1840’s Turton assisted in land claim negotiations for Governor Fitzroy. In 1848, Governor Grey established an industrial school for Māori youth on missionary land at Ngamotu, and placed it under the care of Rev Turton and his wife (Wells).
Around the mid 1850’s Turton returned to Kāwhia.
Caroline and Sarah were not forgotten by their whānau. In a letter from their uncle Epiha Karoro to Donald McLean on 28 March 1951, Epiha wrote “Another matter for you is that my children be bought here, that is, the children of Dicky Barrett. One of them is with you, with Te Paka”. Epiha, son of Tautara, was living at Port Nicholson (Wellington) at the time. The letter also reveals an ongoing interest by Donald McLean in the affairs of Barrett’s children following Rāwinia’s death in 1849, with one or both of them perhaps living in his household for a time.
However, there is evidence that the girls grand-father, Eruera, died around February 1851. There is every possibility that Caroline and Sarah continued to reside with him in the Barrett residence following Rāwinia’s death in 1849. That timing also coincides with Epiha’s subsequently asking for the girls to be bought to him.
Following Sarah’s marriage in 1853 Caroline joined the Turton household and spent several years working at the Kāwhia mission, a place she would have known to have family connections, as her whakapapa traces back to Ngāti Maniapoto, and as far back as the great waka, Tainui. How long Caroline remained at Kāwhia is uncertain, for Turton did not stay in Kawhia for that long and resigned from the WMS in 1859. He went on to hold several positions with the colonial government, including at Coromandel and the Waikato. He was a member of parliament between 1863 – 1864. No longer part of the Turton household, and with missionary work in the Waikato suspended during the land wars, it is likely that Caroline was back in New Plymouth by 1859 or earlier, before the land wars started.
The sisters inherited estates from their father, Dicky Barrett and from their mother, Rāwinia, being 23 hectares at Moturoa, and 68 hectares at what was called Barrett’s Lagoon Farm, now the site of Barrett Domain Walkway. According to Barrett’s will, Caroline and Sarah were not entitled to their inheritance until the age of 21 or upon their marriage.
According to the Crown Grants Gazette Notice published in the Taranaki Herald on January 10, 1884, Caroline and Sarah were granted land in the Grey and Omata districts.