Topic: James Williamson Fedarb (1816-1890)

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James Williamson Fedarb sailed from Paihia on board the 'Mercury', arriving in Tauranga on 22 May 1840 where he was given James Stack’s forged copy of the Treaty of Waitangi (Sheet 6) on which he obtained signatures from Ōpōtiki, Te Kaha, Tōrere and Whakatāne between 22 May and 19 June 1840. Story by Debbie McCauley.

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James Williamson Fedarb was born in Whitstable, Kent, England on 30 December 1816. His parents were Horatio and Elizabeth Fedarb (nee Williamson) who married in Canterbury in 1794. James and his brother, Stephen Williamson Fedarb (1808-1881) attended the Greenwich Hospital School in London.

James went to sea at the age of 14.

James arrived in New Zealand in 1833. He was the first trader at Purehua (Waipiro Bay) and became known by Maori as ‘Hemi Purehua’. He was soon able to speak, read and write in Maori.

He worked as a book binder for the Church Missionary Society (CMS) before becoming trading master of the schooner 'Mercury'.

23-year old James sailed from Paihia on a trading voyage on board the Mercury. He arrived in Tauranga on 22 May 1840 where he was commissioned to carry Stack’s forged copy of the treaty (Sheet 6). This sheet would become known as the Bay of Plenty (Fedarb) copy of the Treaty of Waitangi. James Stack wrote:

An unexpected opportunity occurring yesterday by the arrival of the schooner "Mercury," with James Fedarb on board as supercargo, I prepared a copy of the Treaty, which I gave in charge to him, with letters to our Native teachers at Opotiki and Te Kaha to do what they could in obtaining signatures of chiefs in that quarter.

Along with seeking trading opportunities, James obtained the signatures on this sheet from Ōpōtiki, Te Kaha, Tōrere and Whakatāne between 22 May and 19 June 1840. That was 26 signatures in just 28 days.

James spent over £5 purchasing items such as clothing, pipes, looking glasses, beads and tobacco to give as gifts to Māori. He was supposed to be compensated for each signature he gathered and for the money he spent on gifts, but in the end he was never paid or reimbursed.

What is also interesting about this sheet is that there are Christian crosses against some of the names. The chiefs affiliated to CMS asked Fedarb to identify Opotiki chiefs who were Roman Catholic by placing a cross beside each name. At the time Protestant missionaries in the area were concerned about the rising influence of Catholic Bishop Pompallier. James recorded on the sheet:

The chiefs at Opotiki expressed a wish to have it signified who were Pikopos (i.e. Roman Catholics) and who were not, which I did by placing a crucifix † preceding the names of those who are, as above, and at which they seemed perfectly satisfied. James W Fedarb.

James arrived in the Bay of Islands on 19 June 1840. He passed the treaty sheet on to printer William Colenso, for whom he had once worked, to forward to Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson. It is not thought that Hobson was worried about his signature on the sheet being forged, he was probably just pleased to have obtained more Māori signatures. 

James went to live in Australia. He married Emily Sophia Appleton there on 1 January 1861. Emily left him in c1866 and opened a school in Melbourne, Australia.

He returned to New Zealand in April 1881.

James died at his home at College Hill in Auckland on 17 September 1890 at the age of 73 (reg. 1890/3222) from 'inflammation of the lungs'. His death notice appeared in the New Zealand Herald on 18 September 1890:

FEDARB. – On September 17, at his residence, College Road, Auckland, James Williamson Fedarb, aged 73 years. Beloved and respected by all who knew him. His end was peace. The funeral will leave his late residence at 2.30 p.m. to-morrow (Friday) (p. 1).

His obituary appeared in the New Zealand Herald on 18 September 1890:

Another old identity has passed away, in the person of Mr. J. W. Fedarb, who died at his residence College Road, yesterday. The deceased, who was a native of Kent, England, arrived in Auckland before a house was built in it, and remembered the day when the Governor hoisted the British Standard. He took part in mission work among the Maoris on the East Coast, and secured the signatures of many Maori chiefs to the Treaty of Waitangi. Deceased was an excellent Maori scholar (p. 4).

James was buried in Purewa Cemetery (Block A Row 9 Plot 13). His will went to probate on 30 September 1890.



Bay of Plenty (Fedarb) Sheet, Te Tiriti o Waitangi (2015). (Archives New Zealand).

Crowther, Michelle (n.d.). Trader Fedarb (Impress Books).

Lost in Translation - The Bay of Plenty Sheet (episode five) (NZ on Screen).

McCauley, Debbie (2016). The Treaty of Waitangi in Tauranga: Te Tiriti o Waitangi ki Tauranga Moana.

New Zealand Herald (18 September 1890, p. 1).

New Zealand Herald (18 September 1890, p. 4).

Orange, Claudia (1987). The Treaty of Waitangi.

Price, Terry L. & Everett, Andrew (2013). Sir Vincent RavenNorth Eastern Railway Locomotive Engineer.

Purewa Cemetery Records (Online).

The Rev. James Stack to the Hon. the Colonial Secretary. 23rd May 1840 (New Zealand Electronic Text Centre).

Treaty of Waitangi sheets: Bay of Plenty (5th of 8) (Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand).

Williamson, Stephen, fl 2003 : Papers relating to James Williamson Fedarb. Ref: MS-Papers-7910-1. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2016). James Williamson Fedarb (1816-1890). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2016)

This page was arcvhied at perma cc April 2017

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James Williamson Fedarb (1816-1890)

First Names:James Williamson
Last Name:Fedarb (1816-1890).
Date of Birth:30 December 1816
Place of Birth:Whitstable, Kent
Country of birth:England
Date of death:17 September 1890
Place of death:Auckland, New Zealand
Place of burial:Purewa Cemetery, New Zealand
First settled:Paihia
Date of Arrival:1833
Spouses name:Emily Sophia Appleton
Spouses date of birth:5 March 1834
Spouses place of birth:London, England
Spouses date of death:19 April 1920
Spouses place of death:Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Spouses place of burial:Ballarat Old Cemetery, Australia
Date of marriage:1 January 1861
Place of marriage:Australia
Fathers name:Horatio Fedarb
Fathers date of birth:1767
Fathers place of birth:Whitstable, Kent, England
Fathers date of death:1852
Mothers name:Elizabeth Williamson
Mothers date of birth:1772
Mothers place of birth:Whitstable, Kent, England
Mothers date of death:31 August 1840
Mothers place of death:England
Name of sibilings:Stephen Williamson Fedarb (1808-1881), Francis Fedarb (1810-1871), Eliza Fedarb (1813-1876), Amelia Fedarb (1796-1858), Elizabeth Susanna Fedarb (1798-1872), Susanna Fedarb (1801-1846), Mary Ann Fedarb (1803-1871), and William Shereman Horatio Fedarb (1805-1867)