The foundation and development of Knox Church was
the major interest of George Hepburn’s later years. By 1858 a second
Presbyterian Church had become necessary, and the Rev. Donald
McNaughton Stuart reached Dunedin in January, 1860. George Hepburn was
one of the interim Session, and also one of the first elders appointed
by the new congregation.
January 27th, 1860.
Happy to inform you of the
safe arrival of the Bosworth, all well, only this day. A few of the
passengers came up, including the Rev. Mr. Stuart, to whom we have been
introduced. He seems a fine gentleman, but will give you further account.
January 29th, 1861.
I should not forget to tell
you that our new minister, Mr. Stuart, is giving great satisfaction.
Indeed he is a general favourite. He preaches excellent sermons, without
the paper, very striking and impressive. Besides he is constantly visiting
the people with acceptance. Mr. Burns has been away for the last six weeks
at Invercargill, Mr. Stuart occupying his pulpit to an overcrowded house
daily. Contrary to former usage, Mr. Stuart and I have broken through the
old law regarding Proclamations. Instead of taking three separate
Sabbaths, he has done it all in one day and married the ensuing week. We
expect to be taken over the coals for it when Mr. Burns returns. Mr.
Stuart has agreed to come to our prayer meeting at Wakari once a month.
Last month there were 40 present. He seems a great acquisition to us ;
will infuse new life amongst us.
June 18th, 1861.
I mentioned that our
sacrament was on a recent Sabbath. It was the first Sabbath after the
opening of the addition to our new church. [Old Knox Church, situated on
the site of the present Knox Sunday School, corner of King and Frederick
Streets.] The day being fine the house was filled in every part,
containing 900—all on the ground floor. It is now really a grand house. On
the opening Sabbath the collection was about £78 and the next Sabbath
about £10. About 400 communicated that day. All the centre area
seats were used as communion seats, covered with . . . so two services
held the whole. In the evening the house was again quite full. The Rev.
Mr. Will of Taieri preached, and again on Monday evening.
Since then our annual
soiree took place on Tuesday last, when about 600 were present. After tea
and the annual report read, after which your humble servant was deputed on
behalf of the ladies to present our minister with a new pulpit gown,
Bible, and Psalm book, a crimson coloured cushion for it to lay on the
pulpit, together with a communion service for the congregation—all from
the ladies. I did the best I could, and it passed off very well.
As you observe we have all
much cause of thankfulness to our Heavenly Father for the long continued
measure of health which we all enjoy at our advanced years, and as your
worthy minister says, "We are too apt to mourn over small trials and
overlook the many thousands of God’s mercies which are being daily
showered upon us. I congratulate you on the continuance of your minister
amongst you. Don’t forget him in your prayers; it may do more good than
even a purse of sovereigns (although they are not to be despised).
July 30th, 1876.
You will perhaps see from
the papers sent an account of the annual meeting of the Young Men’s
Christian Association and soiree held in the new Temperance Hall in
Dunedin, at which I was present, being a member. Mrs. Barr had the chief
table on the platform; upwards of
400 sat down to tea. The speakers and choir were first-class. I stopped at
Mrs. Barr’s all night. New Knox Church [Old
Knox Church, though it accommodated 900, was soon too small; but it was
not until April, 1874, that the building of the present church was
commenced. The architect was R. A. Lawson, George Hepburn’s son-in-law.]
will be open in about four weeks. The finishing inside is very splendid.
The whole building will cost about £15,000. Professor Salmond gives a
public lecture in Old Knox Church vestry every week on the "Evidences of
Christianity versus Evolution," now making such an ado in the present day.
The Professor is very popular. You will see it in "Record." [The
New Zealand Christian Record, a
non-sectarian weekly published in Dunedin from 1873 to 1883.]
We also in Otago, New
Zealand, have again been visited with another sad, sad calamity, worse
than the great floods last autumn. Within two miles of Balclutha and
Inchclutha there is a large coal mine called Kaitangata, which was blown
up by fire damp about ten days ago, thereby burying 34 men alive at one
stroke—not one was got out alive—leaving 22 widows and 80 children
fatherless. The news in Dunedin was dreadful, and the scene at the shaft
mouth heartrending. All the country is stirred about it to the core.
Meetings and subscriptions to relieve the distress are being got up all
newspaper sent to Mr. Green gives some details
of what is doing, but next monthly summary will be more full. Oh, how
wonderful are God’s ways of working with the children of men upon the
earth. It may be men’s own fault in this latter, as well as in other
cases, "but who can by searching find out God—His ways are in the deep,"
etc. Our part is to watch and be always ready. Two of these men who are
killed had arrived here only a week ago by the ship Wellington, and
it was only their second day in the pit— sad news to send home.
But to turn to another
subject. You will see from the "Record" sent a pretty full account of Mr.
Varley’s work in Dunedin for the last three weeks. He held meetings twice
every day, Sunday and Saturday, from one to two hours each time, generally
to big audiences. The biggest churches and even the theatre were crowded
on Saturday evening. I heard him several times during the day, but did not
go in the evenings; it made me too late. Trust a blessing will follow his
The development of
Kaikorai Church is recorded. George Hepburn maintains membership in
Knox Church, but gladly serves both congregations.
January 26th, 1880.
Since writing last another
year has passed away and a new one begun, but who of us shall say whether
we shall see the end of it. Our duty is to listen to the words, "Watch and
be also ready." We get many warnings. If spared to see the 28th of next
month I will finish my 77th year. O how good has been the loving kindness
of our Heavenly Father; still spared in health and strength and sound
mind; still able to work a little in the Master’s vineyard. I still teach
a class in the Sunday School. There is 156 scholars and 15 teachers. There
is a congregation and church about half-way into Dunedin from us, who got
a new minister [Rev. R. R. M. Sutherland.] last April, and since an
addition to the building, a transcept, to hold other 200. The new minister
is giving great satisfaction, and has increased the numbers in attendance
and the money for the new part, £500, is nearly all got—the work is
finished. I have acted treasurer to the congregation for nearly three
years past, but have now got relieved of it, they having elected new and
28th.—Since writing the
above I was in town all next day. Met with Mr. Downie Stewart and went
with him to dinner at his own house in Heriot Row. We went by tramway for
3d. each. I suppose you know that we have both steam and horse tramways
running the whole length of the town of Dunedin every ten or twelve
minutes—the whole day, all for 3d. each way. They are very convenient,
only our first laid streets are rather narrow for double lines.
Our William and his wife
also went away on a journey to Invercargill on Friday last per train from
9.30 till 3.30 and had a nice day and well. William had a large land sale
there on the next day. Were to return on Monday, but young Mr. G. Ross and
his young wife followed them on the Monday and got Mrs. William to
accompany them on a further excursion trip to the Lakes (Wakatipu), other
60 miles off by train and steamer. William could not be so long absent, so
did not go, but they are to return on Saturday night. Their family are all
well, so are all other friends.
October 14th, 1883.
To fill up this half sheet
I may mention that our quarterly communion sacrament was observed in all
the Presbyterian Churches and suburbs on Saturday week, the 17th inst.
Although there is a church at the Kaikorai Valley, only ten minutes’ walk
from our house, and a good minister and a good congregation, and a fine
Sunday School of 200 scholars and 16 or 18 teachers, where I still have a
class of females, I still stick to the Rev. Dr. Stuart’s congregation,
called Knox Church. We drive to it in 20 minutes. Well I was there on
Sabbath forenoon and took my part in serving the elements along with the
other elders. There were 601 communicants at one sitting in the area of
the church. Professor Salmond preached the sermon and the Doctor served
the element. The collection at the door was £68 10s. on behalf of the
Benevolent Institution. Dr. Stuart took Mr. Salmond and the writer to the
manse to dinner, after which, at 3 p.m., the Doctor and I went to the
Sabbath School meeting in the old church, where Rev. Mr. Arnott addressed
the children. Dr. Stuart opened the meeting, and the writer was called to
the platform to give the closing prayer. There were 500 scholars there.
Afterwards I walked home two miles uphill, and went to the evening service
at the Kaikorai. Home at 8 p.m. Visited William and had the books as
usual. Home at 9 odd. All well.