Francis Dillon Bell

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When Bell was 17 his father's cousin Edward Gibbon Wakefield employed him in a clerical position in the New Zealand Company's London office. By 1841 Dillon was the company secretary but then was sent out to New Zealand to be the company agent in Nelson. He was transferred to New Plymouth in 1847 and was involved in negotiations with Wiremu Kingi Rangitake and the members of the Puketapu hapu over land purchases. As a result, Bell Block is named after him.

In 1848, Bell, Wellington, Carrington, Minarapa - a local Taranaki rangatira - and a Mr Turner set out to climb Mount Taranaki from the Hangatahua (Stony) River. While exploring near the head of the river, they became the first Pakeha to discover "Dillon Bell's Cataract" - now called Bell's Falls. The following day the party reached the summit.

Bell then returned to Nelson and entered politics but retained an interest in land negotiations around the country.

He was reputed to be a fluent Maori speaker and was one of Governor Thomas Gore Browne's chief advisors during the controversial attempt to purchase the Pekapeka Block at Waitara in 1859-60. Although he staunchly defended the purchase of the block, several years later he recommended to Governor George Grey that it should be returned to Wiremu Kingi.

In later years Bell was involved in local politics in Otago where he had a sheep station but from time to time was induced back to national politics and later took up the post of Agent-General in London.

In 1880 he was, with William Fox, appointed to investigate claims arising from the confiscation of Maori land in Taranaki.

He died at his Shag Valley station near Dunedin in 1898. (Ron Lambert, Puke Ariki, October 2005).


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