William Hooper Hieatt and and his wife Martha left England on 25 July 1883 aboard the Doric and arrived in Auckland on 17 September 1883. William Hooper wrote an account of the journey and this diary was transcribed by his daughter Elsie (born 1893) when she was just nine years old while the family still lived at Swanson.
William Hooper started work the day after landing in Auckland. This was in a tanyard at five shillings per day and then on 2 October he started work on the railway at seven shillings a day. The following year he worked at the Onehunga Iron Works.
In 1887 the family moved to Swanson as part of the village settlement scheme. (The male members of the Hieatt family are listed on the electoral roll as residing in Swanson in 1887; females gained the right to vote in 1893 and appear on that roll). Their block of 30 acres was up Christian Road at what is now number 32. It was known as Harbour View.
The Hieatt family left the district in 1903 to live at Whakatete on the Thames Coast, but not before four of the children had married during the late 1890s: Lizzie, Helen, William (married Mary Caroline Sisam) and Fanny Jane (married Walter Henry Sisam). All four marriages took place at the Hieatt residence as a church had yet to be built in Swanson. Fanny and Walter Henry Sisam lived on a 150 acre block on the south side of what is now the junction of Christian and O’Neill’s Roads (now 56 Christian Road) from 1894 to about 1903.
William Hooper Hieatt used to tell the following story to his grandson Len Sisam in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when Len collected the old man from Swanson station to visit his daughter Fanny on the Sisam farm (where the Waitakeri Golf Course is now). On the earlier trips Len drove a horse and gig, on the latter an Austin 12hp tourer with gate gears. As they travelled up the Scenic Drive, the old man used to tell his grandson how he had formed part of the road just west of where the railway crosses the road.
When he had finished the job, the county engineer came and looked at the camber, then at the water table, then the batter. Finding nothing to complain about, his eye wandered to where the wind had blown a piece of green bush, which hung down the newly cut bank. The engineer turned to William Hooper and said “Hieatt, you will have to remove that”. Sitting comfortably in his grandson’s vehicle some 35 years later, the old man would say with satisfaction: “I left it there.”
Elsie, the youngest daughter, who transcribed her father’s diary, played the organ at Swanson Church when she was eight years old in 1902. She mentions in a letter sent to Ben Copedo in January 1977 that there were no music teachers at that time — so it must be a gift, she says — and I still love playing and giving joy to others. In the same letter she writes:
“Swanson is another world now—gum digging and scraping gum at night—and what a small price they got for a sack full of gum. My father was very pleased to leave Swanson for the Thames Coast. “
Rugged Determination, p130