William Mein Smith ( 1799 - 1869)

William Mein Smith (1799-1869) Smith went to school in Devon, entered the army as a gentleman cadet at the age of 14, and obtained his commission in the Royal Artillery in 1822, eventually rising to the rank of captain. From 1822 to 1828 he served in Canada. He assumed the post of master of plan drawing at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in May 1836. In July 1839 the New Zealand Company engaged him for three years as its first surveyor general.
Late in 1839 Smith arrived in New Zealand on the Cuba, entering Port Nicholson (Wellington) on 5 January 1840. Louisa Smith and their three children arrived on 7 March 1840 on the Adelaide.

Smith’s first task was to lay out the company’s settlement at Port Nicholson. Beginning in January, he and his three assistants laid out two towns, first at Petone and then, after April, at Thorndon. In July and August he conducted the ballot for 1,100 town sections, at Dicky Barrett’s hotel. By 1841 he and his staff had surveyed a number of country sections from Pencarrow to Porirua, considerably fewer than the company’s specification, in bush-clad, hilly country. To meet the shortfall, the company attempted to purchase Wanganui, where in September Smith superintended the selection of country acres, only to find that Maori considered the land had not been sold. He made a reconnaissance of Manawatu in December 1841, and supervised its survey by Charles Kettle in 1842. Smith was in Manawatu when Samuel Brees arrived to supersede him.

In September 1842 Smith was directed to map the harbours on the South Island’s east coast, and he explored as far as Bluff, Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands. Unluckily, in November his cutter, Brothers, sank in Akaroa Harbour, with his sketches, charts and instruments. In 1841 he was gazetted a resident magistrate, and in 1845 became captain of the Thorndon militia.

His best-known work, an 1842 vista in oils of Wellington, was published as a lithograph in E. J. Wakefield’s Illustrations to ‘Adventure in New Zealand’ (1845). He made a sketch survey of Wairarapa. As government district surveyor in Wairarapa from 1853 to 1857, Smith surveyed Crown purchases by Donald McLean, and determined Maori reserves. He partly mapped Wairarapa, including the Wharekaka Plains, in 1854, surveyed eastward, completed a coastal survey to Castle Point and the triangulation of the Taratahi, defined the boundaries of Masterton and Greytown during his trigonometrical survey and in 1856 laid out the town of Featherston.

Smith was a member of the Legislative Council from 1851 to 1853, and represented Wairarapa from 1858 to 1865 on the Wellington Provincial Council.

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