Joseph jun.

(story from Past Papers, Akaroa Mail, issue 1350, 13 February 1906)

Golden Wedding.

A most interesting gathering took place yesterday at Duvauchelle, when, at the invitation of M. and Mdme. Libeau, a number of their relatives and friends attended to celebrate their golden wedding.

A spacious marquee was erected near the house and an enticing luncheon provided for the guests. Among the many familiar faces present we noticed Mr and Mrs Latter, Mrs Mould, Mrs Barwick, Mr and Mrs Jas Bell, Mr and Mrs Brocherie, Mr and Mrs Vogan, Mr and Mrs R Paton, Mr and Mrs O Mould, Mr W D Wilkins, Mr H W Piper, Mrs Hunt, Mrs Adams, Miss Barwick, Miss Alice Jacobson, Miss N Jacobson, Miss Garforth, Mrs Hayward, Miss Clem Clark, Mrs H W Wilkins, Mr Lucien Libeau and many others too numerous to mention besides younger members of the Libeau and Hunt families.

Mr Robert Latter, at Mr Libeau’s request took the head of the table and when lunch was finished, requested those present to charge their glasses to drink to the health of their host and hostess, whom Mr Latter said, amid much laughter, he had known for about fifty years. He said that during those many years Mr and Mrs Libeau had been honoured and respected, and they had his hearty congratulations on the occasion of their Golden Wedding. The health was drank with musical honours.

Mr Lucien Libeau said his father had deputed him to return thanks to Mr Latter and their guests for their hearty response to the toast.

Mr H W Piper said it had never been his privilege to attend a golden wedding before, and he only knew of one other having taken place on the Peninsula. His memory did not carry him so far back as Mr Latter’s, but he had heard that Mr Libeau had a very merry wedding in those long past days, which it had taken a whole week to celebrate. He had known Mr Libeau as a neighbour as long as he could recollect, and had found him one of the best. He heartily concurred in all Mr Latter said.

Mr and Mrs Libeau were then presented by their children with two handsome armchairs, and various other presents by their guests, and were taken for a honeymoon drive by that genial whip, Mr Bob Patton, who wore a golden favour in honour of the occasion, and much more rice was lavished by the young folks. On his return, Mr Lucien Libeau took some photographs of groups, and a very pleasant little festivity terminated.

The following is the story of the lives of this worthy and prolific couple:-

Monsieur Libeau was born in Rochefort in 1834. His parents, Monsieur Joseph (snr) and Madame Marie Madeline Libeau , his wife, joined the Compagnie Nanto Bordelaise in 1840, and went aboard the Comte de Paris with other French emigrants for Akaroa. Monsieur and Madame Libeau took two children aboard the Comte de Paris, our friend whose story we are telling and Madame Eteveanu, who is now living in Akaroa with her husband, who was another of the original French settlers, and older than Monsieur Libeau, being about 14 years of age when he arrived in this place. It is said that Monsieur and Madame Eteveanu will have their golden wedding next year. Mons. and Mdme Libeau, Mons and Mdme Eteveanu, Mdme F Lelievre, Mesieurs Pierre Malmanche and Geo Breitmeyer (the latter two residents at Little River and Ashburton respectively), are the sole survivors of those who came here in the Comte de Paris. All of these were children on board, the eldest being Mons Jean Baptiste Eteveanu, who, as before said, was fourteen when the ship arrived. Mdme Francois Lelievre was eleven when she landed, Mdme Eteveanu ten. Mdme Libeau (whose maiden name was Gendrot) and Mons Pierre Malmanche were about six, and Mr Geo Breitmeyer, the youngest of all was three years old. Landing as he did in Akaroa before being six years old, it follows that Mr Libeau remembers little of the voyage. He remembers tasting white bread for the first time when he went aboard the ship and also the excellence of the soup, the fare in his infant home being very frugal. He also remembers the great storm that took place during the passage when the main mast broke off level with the deck and the fear that the ship had sprung a leak and all the woman and children turned out to help at the pumps. Luckily, however, the ship was sound, though her spars cannot have been up to much, as her foremast went on another occasion. He also recollected having a very smart red cap, of which he was very proud, and how one day when his parents were out of the berth, he put his head out of a porthole, and the remorseless wind blew it away, to his infant grief and dismay. He remembers the first news of the land but is not sure whether it was Pigeon Bay where the ship first stopped or Akaroa Heads. He does not recollect the actual landing, but has a vivid recollection of the group of tents that were erected by the new comers on the site of the old MAIL office. He remembers that all the German immigrants went to German Bay, whilst the French remained in Akaroa.

As is almost too well known to be repeated here, Mr Libeau’s father, as well as the other French settlers, got five acres of freehold land on his arrival. As he wanted to raise pigs and poultry and required room, he selected five acres on a site near the present Long Bay road, just above where the late Mr J Sunckells house now stands. The hill above was called Mount Libeau for many years, but the title got gradually into disuse as the settlers increased and the years rolled on. Mr Libeau snr, was a gardener by trade and brought out his own seeds. These included asparagus, artichokes and all the usual vegetables and herbs. In this he had a great advantage over the other French settlers, whose seed supplies were all drawn from the ship and proved to be very bad indeed. The ship seed must have been very old, for little of it germinated. Owing to the superiority of his seeds, Mr Libeau sen, soon became one of the wealthiest of the immigrants, but his wife died in 1851 and he then married a Miss Edgeman. (Printed in paper as Edgeman, actually Hedgman).

After that things went wrong, for she became insane and died at Sunnyside lunatic asylum, after being there more than twenty five years. The second marriage resulted in a family of eight, including Donatien, the famous walker, now in the United States, and Mrs Sergison, still resident in Akaroa. The others are scattered far and wide, but are all alive but one.

Our friend whose story we are telling, worked for his father till 1853, and then went to Victoria to the gold diggings at Moonlight Flat. He found no big nuggets, in fact did no good at all, and went as striker to the Government blacksmith at ten shillings a day. The same year he came back to Melbourne, and stopped at a hotel kept by Mr Barry, a brother of the Mr William Barry after whom Barry’s Bay is named. M. Libeau left the diggings because he was with some Frenchmen who kept him in restraint, and he wanted to learn English and be independent. His knowledge of English was so imperfect at that time that it prevented his getting work but at last he found some aboard the cutter Isabella. He stayed on board three months, the cutter being employed taking goods from the big ships which could not get up the Yarra to Melbourne. During this period, being alone with the English, he learned to make himself understood by them to his great subsequent advantage. The captain of the Isabella sold her, and took Libeau with him in his fathers ship to Hobart. But our young Frenchman was horrified with the number of convicts there with their clipped heads and chains, and in the latter end of the same year, 1853, worked his passage in a ship to Lyttelton. From Lyttelton he came back to Akaroa, after an absence of less than a year. In March, 1854, he went to Sydney, and became a waiter at the Cafe de Paris, kept by M. Cheval in George Street. He stopped in Sydney nearly two years, and then returned to Akaroa in December 1855. On his return M Libeau did all sorts of general work, and on Feb 12, 1856 was united to Mademoisolle Clemance Gendrot, one of his fellow passengers on the Comte de Paris as before stated.

After his marriage our friend went to German Bay, and sawed in the bush. He afterwards took contracts for wooden bridges over the two trenches of the Grehan Valley creek, and the Wai-iti, the Balguerie street creek. For this he got from the Government 20 acres of land at Duvauchelle and 25 Pd, which gave him a start. The section is the one where M. and Mdme. Libeau are now living, and where the festivities in connection with the Golden Wedding took place yesterday.

It was covered with bush, and so M. and Mdme. went live in a whare near Pipers creek, which was originally built and occupied by M. Duvauchelle, who gave his name to the bay. In about a year the section was partly cleared, and a small house, 24 x 12 was erected, and then our friends went on to their own land, where they have resided ever since, except for an interval of eight years, when they resided in Akaroa in a house up Grehan Valley, then their property, but now owned by Mr Heath, where Mrs Bristow now lives. M Libeau went about sawing and doing other general work – for like most old settlers he would do almost anything, though he had no particular trade.

As the years went on he gradually closed the section, and erected his present dwelling house – a pleasant residence with an exceedingly pretty garden in front, kept in excellent order by Mdme. Libeau and her younger daughters.

Our dear old couple have no less than fourteen children, all of whom came to maturity, twelve being still alive. There are two sons, now living in the North Island, but at present here to attend the Golden Wedding. The rest of the family consisted of no less than twelve daughters – Mesdames E Shrimpton, Clark, S Hunt, J Hunt, J Shrimpton, Nelson and Hall, and Messrs V. and M. and C Libeau, the latter being the youngest children and twins, being the ten left alive. M. and Mdme. Libeau have no less than eighty two (82) grandchildren, and twelve great grandchildren, so they have certainly done their best to populate the country.


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