Turton, Henry Hanson
1818-1887; e.m. 1839

Missionary in New Zealand, born in Bradford, Yorks, the son of a WM minister, Isaac Turton (c.1777-1851; e.m. 1798). With his wife Susannah Lindsay (née Kirk), he was one of the group of missionaries who landed from the Triton at Hokianga in May 1840. He spent some months at Kawhia with John Whiteley before moving to Aotea (Raglan), where he was the first resident missionary. A man of strong convictions, he engaged in controversy with Bishop Selwyn over the status of WM ministers, and with the explorer and naturalist Dieffenbach over his criticisms of missionary activities. He was an energetic worker in what was a very large circuit.

In 1844 he took over the North Taranaki Circuit from Charles Creed, living at Ngamotu, New Plymouth, until 1856. His linguistic ability was put to use by Governor Fitzroy in land claim negotiations and in January 1845 he travelled south to Waitotara to seek to avert a flare-up between the North Taranaki Maori and the Tuwharetoa tribe. A major project in which he was involved was the establishment of the Grey Institute, an educational facility for young Maori in which his wife participated.There were problems later over his farming operation near the Institute and he was moved to Kawhia and then to Manukau in 1857-58. An inquiry found against him and he left the mission station to go on leave to England. He returned to New Plymouth in 1859 and was briefly engaged as a house and general agent. His resignation was formally accepted in 1860, by which time he was enployed by the Native Minister Donald McLean as an interpreter.

He was appointed a Goldfields Warden at Coromandel in 1862. After a year as MP for New Plymouth, he resigned late in 1864 in order to act as Commissioner to investigate Maori land titles. He resided, from 1874 until his retirement in 1883, in Wellington, where he was employed in compiling and publishing the official record of land purchases in the North Island. He died in Wellington on 18 September 1887.

Turton was described as a man 'of good presence, pleasant address and somewhat scholarly tastes', though he was not regarded as a good team man by his colleagues. His work for the Government, however, has assured him a place in the historiography of 19th century New Zealand.

  • G.H. Scholefield, A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (Wellington, 1940)