Sunday, July 10, 2011


Unveiling of Plaque at KOPUARANGA CAMP
on 27 FEBRUARY, 1972

The sailing ship "ENGLAND" entered Port Nicholson on 9 March, 1872 carrying a party of Danish emigrants destined for the special settlements of Julius Vogel's Immigration Scheme in the Wellington Province.   The voyage had been a stormy one; sickness had broken out, the doctor was a drunken incompetent and there had been fourteen deaths.   Smallpox was feared to have broken out and the vessel was flying a yellow flag.    Another death occurred and before it was discovered that the fear of  smallpox was unfounded many of  the precious possessions of the miserable emigrants had been burned on the beach. 

At last the survivors were released from quarantine and the advanced party of thirteen men left on foot for the Wairarapa to make preparations for the accommodations of the main body.   The party reached Featherston on the first day and on the evening of the second were lodged in the stockade standing on the site of the present day Masterton Queen Elizabeth Park.  Masterton was then the frontier of settlement and on the next morning the party followed s bridle track that led them across the ford of the Ruamahunga River at Opaki and eventually to this spot, which marked the margin of the Seventy Mile Bush.  Here a line of rough huts and some tents had been erected for the reception of the immigrants and these men immediately proceeded  to improve and extend in anticipation of the arrival of the rest of the new settlers. 

The huts were crudely constructed and consisted of long barrack-like buildings of split slabs and nailed upright to a framework of saplings and having roofs of wooden shingles.   There were some smaller one-roomed huts of unsplit trunks of tree ferns set upright in the ground and roofed with canvas.  The larger huts  were divided into sections, each division having two rooms and intended to accommodate married couples with children.  One room served as a living room and had a large open fireplace on which all cooking had to be done.   The fireplace was enclosed in a wide chimney of slabs protected by a coating of plastered clay.  The other room served as a bedroom.   The small window opening were covered with oiled calico, the best substitute for glass and the floor was stomped earth. 

The one roomed huts house housed married couples having no children or only one child. 

The furniture was sparse and rough.  To the walls were affixed bunks of split slabs.  There was a table of the same material supported by legs sunk in the ground, while benches of similar construction provided seating.  

In a short time the women and children arrived by wagons loaded with family possessions.  Examination showed they were pitifully few.   Mush of the bedding and blankets, the spinning wheels and the household articles brought from the old homes in Denmark had been distroyed because of the smallpox scare, carelessly left behind in Wellington or for some obscure reason by the authorities to New Plymoth, from there where they were never recovered.  Some of the families were destitute of household comforts but soon there was a general sharing out by those who had to spare and housewives soon got busy settling in and making home of the rude dwellings as best they could.  All were young and optimism soon returned.  Fires were lit and soon smoke rose from the chimneys of this frontier village on the edge of  a wilderness of  forest extending northward for seventy miles.  What was from then known as "Scandinavian Camp" had been established. 

The first party of  emigrants were later joined by contingents arriving by such ships as the Farfarshire and Halcione, but it was two long years before all could be placed on their sections of land owing to delay in completing the surveys.   In the meantime  the men were employed clearing walking tracts through the bush  to give access to their land.   While carrying out this task they received five or six shillings a day for time worked and from this was deducted installments on account of provisions supplied from the day of their arrival in Wellington, for cost of transportation from there to the Camp, medical expenses, tools and a portion of the cost of passage from Denmark.

The surveys were completed in the early part of 1874 and the last party moved out of  the Camp, each family party carrying its few possessions and children along the bush track to the section of land allotted.   "The Scandinavian Camp" had severed its purpose and was now left deserted. 

Years later one of these settlers recorded his impressions of the exodus of the people from the Camp;

"It was a sight to be remembered to see these sturdy people trudging along the bad roads carrying their belongings to their future homes in the lonesome bush settlements.   After arriving finally in their new homes the men went back to the jobs they had left temporarily.  Many of the wives and daughters were soon at work felling the bush so as to have a first burn the next season in the month of February.  No doubt these first pioneers were a great people and set a fine example for their descendants".  

Dr. G. C. Petersen

This history was taken from the "SOUVENIR PROGAMME" the plaque was erected by the Scandinavian Committee, Sunday, 27th February, 1972 at 2 p.m. 


Mr. W. J Nichols, vice-president of the Wairarapa Automobile association.

Mr. T. H. Daniell, Chairman of the Wairarapa Regional Committee of the N. Z. Historic Places.


Unveiling by:

Dr. G. C. Petersen,
Danish Council to New Zealand

Dedication by:

Mr. Steike,
President of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand

Tea will be served at the Kopuaranga Hall following the ceremony.

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