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Title: The old frontier: Te Awamutu, the story of the Waipa Valley

Author: James Cowan

Release date: February 24, 2022 [eBook #67490]
Most recently updated: April 5, 2022

Language: English

Original publication: New Zealand: The Waipa Post Printing and Publishing Company, 1922

Credits: Jeroen Hellingman and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at for Project Gutenberg (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


Original Front Cover.




(The man who civilised the Waipa)

Photo about 1864, lent by Mrs. B. Crispe


Original Title Page.

The Missionary
Early Colonization
The Soldier
The War in Waikato
The Pioneer Farmer
Life on the Maori Border
and Later-Day Settlement
Published by The Waipa Post Printing and Publishing Company, Limited
Te Awamutu, New Zealand




This sketch of the history of the Waipa district centreing in Te Awamutu has been written especially with a view to interesting the younger generation of colonists, and the now large population on both sides of the old Maori border, in the uncommonly dramatic story of the beautiful country in which their homes are set. The original settlers to whom many of the events here described were matters of personal knowledge are fast passing away, and a generation has arisen which has but a vague idea of the local history and of the old heroic life on the Waipa plains. The book is designed to convey accurate pictures of this pioneer life and the successive eras of the missionary and the soldier, and to invest with a new interest for many the familiar home landscapes.

Much of the information given herein is published for the first time, and therefore should be of special value to students of New Zealand history. For the story of missionary enterprise the writer has drawn on a MS. journal written by the Rev. John Morgan, the first civiliser of the Waipa country; for the military history use has been made of an exceedingly readable MS. narrative left by the celebrated Major Von Tempsky, of the Forest Rangers. For the rest, it has been a peculiar pleasure to the writer, as one bred on the old Aukati border, to recall scenes in a phase of life which has passed away for ever.

J. C.





The beautiful Waipa country. The garden lands of Te Awamutu and Rangiaowhia. Hills of the Maori border. The cone of Kakepuku. Ancient fortresses. Maori tribes of the Waipa basin.


In cannibal days. Rev. B. Y. Ashwell the first missionary in Te Awamutu. A feast on human flesh in Otawhao pa. End of the inter-tribal wars. Rev. John Morgan comes to Te Awamutu. His useful mission work. How Mr Morgan sowed the good seed.


Mr Morgan introduces English methods of agriculture. Maori tribes become industrious farmers. The coming of the wheat. Large cultivations at Te Awamutu, Rangiaowhia, Kihikihi, and Orakau. Grinding the wheat. The first flour-mills. Mr Morgan’s narrative. Clatter of the water-mill in many Maori settlements. Exporting wheat and flour to Auckland. Rangiaowhia flour sent to England. Sir George Grey’s practical sympathy with the Maori.


Te Awamutu and Rangiaowhia in 1852. Mr Heywood Crispe’s description. A land of corn-fields and fruit-groves. The peach-groves of Rangiaowhia. Visit to the large Maori village. Old King Potatau. Hochstetter’s view in 1859.


Mr Gorst as Magistrate and Commissioner. The educational institution at Te Awamutu. A newspaper established. Rewi’s raid on the “Pihoihoi Mokemoke.” Mr Gorst leaves Waikato. Te Awamutu re-visited. The last canoe voyage.

CHAPTER VI.—THE WAIKATO WAR, 1863–64        35

Fighting on the Waikato. British and Colonial troops invade the Waipa country. Paterangi and Waiari. The Forest Rangers. Von Tempsky’s narrative of the war. Bishop Selwyn at the Front.


Von Tempsky’s story. A summer morning invasion. Skirmishing through the village. Siege of a Maori whare. Colonel Nixon shot. Dramatic death of an old warrior. Heroic little garrison annihilated.


Sharp action at Hairini Hill. Field Artillery shells the Maori lines. A great bayonet charge. Defeat of the Maoris. Work of the Forest Rangers. Looting Rangiaowhia village. Comedy at the Catholic Church. Von Tempsky and an Imperial Colonel. The return to Te Awamutu. A curious spectacle. “Those rascally Rangers have got all the loot!”


Rewi Maniapoto’s headquarters. British force occupies Kihikihi village. Burning of the council house. Von Tempsky’s night expedition. A fruitless march. Harmless skirmishing. Redoubt built at Kihikihi. Te Awamutu the army’s headquarters. The first expedition to Orakau. [6]


Most memorable battle in New Zealand’s history. Brigadier-General Carey’s expedition. Von Tempsky’s narrative. Animated description of the siege. Work of the Forest Rangers. Heroism of the Maori garrison. The last day. A break for freedom. The soldiers in pursuit. Maori narratives. The reply to General Cameron’s message. Incidents of the siege.


The troops in winter quarters. Description of camp life. The soldiers’ whares. The house-opening dance. Sawyers near Rangiaowhia. The 65th, a model regiment. Soldiers become capitalists. Looting the Maori horses. The romance of Ariana. The hunchback and his flute. A militiaman’s heart and hand, and Ariana’s scorn.


Perils of the King Country border. An unknown, sullen land. Picture from the north side of the Puniu. The pioneer settlers’ life in the Seventies. The peach-groves of Orakau. A chain of blockhouses and redoubts. The murder of Timothy Sullivan. Grave danger of another war. Te Awamutu Cavalry Volunteers. Patrolling the out-settlements. The return of peace. When Tawhiao came out. “The King of the Cannibal Islands.” The peace-making dance in Kihikihi. The capture of Winiata. Mahuki’s raid on Alexandra. Peaceful pakeha conquest of the King Country.


A Folk-Tale of the Maori Border. The “Giant’s Grave” at Tokanui. Fortified hills of “The Three Sisters.” The story of an invasion. An army in ambush. The battle of Whenuahou. The death of Kiharoa. Matau, the Giant of the Wairaka.

APPENDICES        101

Maori place names. The capture of Winiata. Mr Hursthouse’s adventure in the King Country. Mahuki’s raid on Alexandra, and his capture. The King Country railway. [7]





For landscape interest conjoined to the traditional and historic I know of no part of New Zealand more attractive than the zone along the old frontier line of the Waipa country of which Te Awamutu may be described as the metropolis to-day. Beauty of physical configuration! fertility of soil, poetic Maori folklore, memories of the heroic pioneer days, tales of sadness and glory of the war years—all these elements combine to invest the border line of the Waipa and the Rohepotae with a singular value, above all to those who have had the fortune to be reared on this well-favoured land. The physiographic charm of the country on the north side of the Puniu and the east side of the Waipa River is produced by the gently-rolling lie of the land with its countless sheltered valleys and its well-sunned slopes, with its leisurely-winding streams, with here and there a small lake; the old Maori garden lands of Te Awamutu, Rangiaowhia, Kihikihi, and Orakau, now covered with pakeha farms and tree-groves, with fat flocks and herds, and wearing all the aspect of a comfortable countryside enriched by the tillage of two generations of white farmers. The south side of the old Aukati line, more recently broken in from the wilderness of fern and tutu, is even more promising as a land of fat stock and good crops, of dairy herds and meat; and it is singularly interesting to the physiographer and the geologist. Pirongia, Kakepuku, the tattooed cone of Kawa, the fort-scarped “Three Sisters” of Tokanui, Tauranga-Kohu and its neighbour hills, the Maunga-tautari Ranges, curve sicklewise along the old-time frontier, a romantically-shaped ceinture of volcanic saliencies which seem to mount guard like giant sentries over the Rohepotae, just as they formed a belt of fiery lava mouths and cones in the remote geological past. Kakepuku, a Ngauruhoe in miniature, is a peak to hold the eye for many a mile. I came to look on that lone mountain with very much the kind of affection in which it is held by the Maori people who live around its base, whose local folklore and poetry enshrine many a reference to Kakepuku. The fair blue hills of boyhood! Once upon a time when we rode in daily from the other side of Kihikihi to school at Te Awamutu the uplift of Kakepuku, [8]looming a few miles across the valley to the westward, seemed an enchanted mountain, holding infinite suggestion of mystery and adventure. Pirongia is twice its altitude, building up a noble rugged western skyline, but Kakepuku’s indigo-blue cone, with the crater hollow scooped out of its top, was the peak to capture the imagination. On clear days as we viewed it from the Kihikihi hills every line of the deep ravines which scored its sides stood up as bold and sharp as the singularly scarped terraces of Kawa’s nippled hill. Kakepuku almost seemed shaped and hewn from the landscape by the hands of veritable mountain gods, so regular and symmetrical its outline. Truly a picture mountain. Moreover, it was our weather glass. When Kakepuku put on his fog-cap, and the mists filled the long-dead crater of the volcano and crept down the upper slopes, the countryside knew that rain was at hand. The other mountains, such as Pirongia, might cloud themselves with mist and the sign go unheeded, but Kakepuku’s tohu-ua never failed. Then there is the curious nature-myth which tells how gently-rounded Kawa was Kakepuku’s wife, a story told with much circumstantial detail by the old Maoris of the Waipa and the Puniu, a story over-long to be told here with its tale of battle between the jealous Kakepuku and that mountain Lothario Karewa—now Gannet Island, off Kawhia; one which seems dimly to reveal the geological past of these volcanic peaks.1

This singular beauty of landscape setting cannot but enhance the love of one’s native land in those whose lives are cast within sight of the mountains and hills of the border. The Maori loved the country, albeit he made comparatively little use of it, with an intensity which not many pakehas realise. There is a song of Ngati-Maniapoto often chanted in the old days when a fighting column paraded in the village marae before setting out on the warpath. The chief, facing the parade of warriors, uplifted his taiaha and shouted as he pointed to the blue mountain looming near:

Ko whea, ko whea—

Ko whea tera maunga

E tu mai ra ra?

(“What is yonder mountain soaring high above us?”)

And with one voice the warriors yelled, as they burst into the ferocious [9]stamp and weapon-thrusting of the tutu-ngarahu or peruperu dance:

’Tis Kakepuku!

’Tis Pirongia!

Ah, ’tis Kakepuku!

Ah, draw close to me,

Draw close to me,

That I may embrace thee,

That I may hold thee to my breast!


A similar chant, applying to Mount Egmont, was used by the Taranaki Maoris. In each case the mountain was regarded as a lover, and symbolised nationality and clanship, and a reference to it never failed as a patriotic stimulus.

Now the ancient owners of the Waipa and Puniu plains are but a remnant and their tales and songs are but the faintest memory; but the old volcano-gods remain, graceful nature-carved monuments, and their poetry no less than their beauty of form should inspire even the matter-of-fact pakeha with something of the Maori love and veneration for the high places of the land.

The ancient Maori story of the Waipa plains and downs, as preserved by the word-of-mouth historians, the old men of the tribes, is a record of land-seeking, exploration, and place-naming by the chiefs who came in the Tainui canoe, and by Rakataura the priest; then a succession of tribal feuds and wars, raids, pa-buildings and pa-stormings, ambush, massacre, slave-taking, and man-eating. That warrior tale need not be gone into here; we take up our story of Te Awamutu with the first introduction of the pakeha interest, and in truth the place was savage and rough enough then. Here and there, on the well-settled lands to-day, one finds relics of the old cannibal era, when every tribe’s hand, and often every little hapu’s, was against its neighbours. Round about Te Awamutu, even, the lines of ancient trenched forts remain, particularly on the banks of the Mangapiko, where the numerous crooks and elbows of the river provided pa sites readily made formidable strongholds. The celebrated Waiari, a few miles from Te Awamutu and a mile from Paterangi, is an example. Another excellent specimen of Maori [10]military engineering is an old earthwork called Tauwhare, on the Mangapiko, a mile south of Mr Harry Rhodes’ “Parekura” homestead; this is distinguished by a series of enormously deep trenches and high parapets, on the cliffy verge of the river. These forts on the Mangapiko belonged to the Ngati-Apakura tribe. But the King Country, on the south side of the Puniu River, is the land for hill-forts. Every cone, big or little, is trenched and scarped; every eligible river-elbow has its double or triple earthwork. Even on the very top of Mount Kakepuku, crowning the ancient crater rim, are the ruins of two fortresses of the Ngati-Unu tribe.

Te Awamutu was inhabited, when the first pakeha ventured into these parts, by the Ngati-Ruru, a section of the great Waikato tribe. Rangiaowhia was peopled by two other large Waikato clans, Ngati-Apakura and Ngati-Hinetu. Ngati-Maniapoto held all the Puniu country and the land to the southward; their northern outpost was Kihikihi. The Orakau district was held by the Ngati-Raukawa and a hapu of Waikato called Ngati-Koura.



The terms “King Country,” “Rohepotae,” and “Aukati” require a little explanation for those who are unacquainted with the origin of the phrases.

The King Country, embracing a vast area of territory south of the Puniu River and west of the Upper Waikato, with the Tasman Sea as the western boundary, was so called because the Maori King Tawhiao with his adherents took refuge there in 1864 after being dispossessed of Waikato. For some years Tawhiao’s headquarters were at Tokangamutu, close to the site of the present town of Te Kuiti. The name Te Kuiti is an abbreviation of Te Kuititanga, meaning “the narrowing in,” a designation given by the Kingites in reference to the conquest of Waikato and the consequent hemming in of the Maoris in the country south of the Puniu.

“Rohe-potae” means a circular boundary line, literally a boundary resembling a head-covering. The term was applied to the King Country in the early Eighties by Wahanui and his fellow-chiefs, when defining the area within which no pakeha surveys or land-buying or leasing would be permitted.

“Aukati” means a line which may not be passed; a frontier or pale. It was particularly applied by the Kingites to the northern border of the King Country, the Government’s confiscation boundary; pakeha trespass over this line was forbidden. [11]

1 The full name of Kakepuku is Kakepuku-o-Kahurere, or “The Swelled Neck of Kahurere.” It was so named nearly six centuries ago by Rakataura, the priest and magician of the Tainui people. Rakataura and his wife Kahurere explored all this wild new country from Kawhia eastward and southward, giving [9]names to the features of the landscape as they travelled. The name alluded to the shape of Kakepuku, but in truth it deserves a more poetical one, as, for example, that of Tauranga-Kohu, “The Resting Place of the Mists,” a beautiful place-description belonging to a mountain a few miles to the eastward on the south side of the Puniu. 




It was the Rev. B. Y. Ashwell who chose the site of the mission station at Te Awamutu. This was in 1839. He had made a missionary reconnaissance of Upper Waikato with a view to establishing a station among the savage cannibals of the district, great warriors and apparently irreclaimable man-eaters, and in July of 1839 he returned to Otawhao to carry on the mission. Among Ngati-Ruru there were some who had already gained an inkling of the Rongo-Pai, the Good News, from native teachers, but the majority were pagan. Shortly after his arrival a war party of Ngati-Ruru, who had been away with Ngati-Haua and other tribes raiding the Arawa country, returned from the Maketu and Rotorua districts, under their chiefs Puata and Te Mokorou. The party was laden with human flesh; there were, as Mr Ashwell recorded, sixty pikau or flax baskets packed with the cut-up remains of their slaughtered foes. Then came a fearful feast on cooked man (kai-tangata).

Mr Ashwell induced many of Ngati-Ruru to leave Otawhao and establish a Christian pa, which was built on the ground now occupied by the old mission station and the Church of St. John’s.

Mr Ashwell’s establishment of the mission station at Te Awamutu marked the end of the cannibal wars and the periodical fighting expeditions of Waikato in the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty districts. The grim old warrior Mokorou became a follower of the missionary, and was baptised by the name of Riwai (Levi). Most of the people by this time had become tired of wars; there was a general longing for a more settled state of life and a desire to obtain pakeha commodities other than weapons and munitions of war. So Mr Ashwell soon had large and eager congregations, and his preaching of the Rongo-Pai fell on willing ears.

But it was Mr Ashwell’s successor, the Rev. John Morgan, who truly civilised this Upper Waikato. Mr Ashwell had confined his teachings to the spiritual side. Mr Morgan took a more expansive view of his mission and his responsibilities. He introduced English methods of agriculture, brought in English fruit trees, taught the [12]natives to grow wheat, and to grind it in their own water-mills. He it was who by his precepts and personal example made the natives of Te Awamutu, Rangiaowhia, Kihikihi, and Orakau a farming and fruit-growing people, with the result that long before the Waikato War adventurous travellers to this district found to their astonishment a series of eye-delighting oases in the wilds, with great fields of wheat, potatoes, and maize, and dwellings arranged in neat streets and shaded by groves of peach and apple-trees; each settlement with its water-driven flour-mill procured by the community and busily grinding into flour the abundant yield of the cornfields.

Mr John Morgan was a missionary of the London Mission Society, and had had some years’ experience of the hazards of Christianising work on the Waihou, at Matamata, and at Rotorua. He and his brave wife lived in the midst of alarms, and more than once had to abandon their stations. In the most dangerous period of their life at Rotorua they had to take refuge, with the Rev. Thomas Chapman, of Te Ngae, on Mokoia Island, in the middle of the lake. After this sort of missionary pioneering it must have been a vast relief to Mr Morgan to receive orders in 1841 to take over the newly-established station at Te Awamutu. Here he carried on for more than twenty years, the religious teacher and counsellor and technical instructor for half a score of tribes in the Waipa basin. “Te Mokena” was in an infinite variety of ways the benefactor of his Maori flock; never did a missionary take a more liberal view of his duty to the native. In the later troubled days, when the war was looming and it was desirable that the Government authorities should be informed of the exact political conditions among the Maoris, he kept Governor Grey correctly advised of the views and intentions of the Kingites, and so came to be called “the watchman of the Waikato.”

At Wharepapa, the site of a one-time large Maori village on the south side of the Puniu, a few miles from Waikeria, I heard the story of “Mokena” and the “missionary grass.” Here Mr Morgan had a little native church in the days before the war, and on his travels from Te Awamutu through the Maori country he did not confine his sowing of the good seed to the Gospel brand. On his rides from kainga to kainga he took his dog, and to the dog’s neck was tied a little bag filled with English clover-seed and grass-seed, which was allowed to drop out a seed at a time by a tiny hole.

In this way the pioneer missionary scattered seeds of civilisation [13]which spread over many a part of this wild countryside. To this day in some of these old villages there is a beautiful sward that goes back to the good parson of Te Awamutu, and to Wharepapa not many years since the natives used to go for the seed of the “mission grass,” esteemed alike by Maori and pakeha for its making of pasture.

“Mokena’s” fame hereabouts rests more, perhaps, on his thoughtful grass-sowing for future generations and on his practical teaching of English agriculture than on his preaching of the Faith to the Ngati-Maniapoto and Ngati-Ruru of the days before the War. [14]




An illuminating account of the growth of agricultural enterprise among these Upper Waikato people and the position about 1850 is contained in an unpublished manuscript journal written by the Rev. John Morgan.1 The missionary prefaces the narrative of the temporal side of his labours at Te Awamutu with the statement that wheat was introduced among the natives chiefly by the missionaries. The Ven. Archdeacon Williams encouraged its cultivation in his district of Waiapu, East Coast. “It was small in quantity,” said Mr Morgan, “for it was contained in a stocking, but it was sown and re-sown, and at the present time the increase from the little seed contained in a stocking is being sent by the natives to the Auckland market. Much is also ground by the Maoris in steel mills for their own use.

“Shortly after the formation of the Otawhao (Te Awamutu) station,” the missionary’s story continued, “in consequence of the difficulty of obtaining supplies of flour from the coast I procured some seed wheat. After the reaping of the first crop I sent Pungarehu, of Rangiaowhia, a few quarts of seed. This he sowed and reaped. The second year he had a good-sized field. Other natives now desired to share in the benefit, and the applications for seed became so numerous that I could not supply them all, and many obtained seed from Kawhia and Aotea (West Coast), where wheat had been introduced either by the Wesleyan missionaries or the settlers.

“As a large quantity of wheat was now grown at Rangiaowhia, and the natives had not purchased steel mills, I recommended them to erect a water-mill. At the request of Kimi Hori, I went to the millwright who was then building a mill at Aotea. In March, 1846, the millwright arrived, and I drew up a contract for the erection of a mill at a cost of £200, not including the carriage of timber, building of the mill dam, and the formation of the watercourse, all of which were performed by the natives themselves. Seven men [15]were set to work, the natives promising to pay the first £50 instalment within a very short time. Instead of leaving immediately for Auckland with pigs to raise the required amount, they began to take up their potatoes and then the kumara to store them for winter use. They then promised to leave for town as soon as the crops were secured. An invitation, however, arrived from Maketu, and the entire tribe left Rangiaowhia to partake of a feast at that place, the millwright threatening to give up the contract. On their return they accepted a second invitation, and went to another distant village. It was with the greatest difficulty that I now detained the millwright. In this manner four months passed away. The millwright demanded compensation for loss of time, and a chief agreed to give him a piece of land of about 200 acres, but for which no Government grant has as yet been made. Still the natives delayed. The required sum (£200) was large for a tribe of New Zealanders to raise. The Aotea mill was now useless, and many feared that this (Rangiaowhia) would also be a failure, and there were several Europeans who had come up to trade in pigs who from interested motives freely gave their opinion that the whole scheme would fail. In this way two months passed away, and it required many personal visits to Rangiaowhia—first, to persuade the millwright, who was several times on the point of leaving, to remain, and, secondly, to urge the natives to take their pigs to town. At length they started. In a few weeks the £50 was raised, and paid into my hands to be paid to the millwright. After this I had no more trouble. The work went forward while the money was being collected, and the last instalment of £50 being paid into my hands, I had the pleasure of handing it to the millwright the day the work was completed.”

This water-driven flour-mill, it may be explained here, was built at Pekapeka-rau, the lower part of the swampy valley between Hairini Hill and Rangiaowhia, through which a watercourse flows toward the Mangapiko. Here a dam was constructed, and a lagoon was formed; the water collected here turned the mill-wheel.

Later, another mill was constructed, on the watercourse called Te Rua-o-Tawhiwhi, on the eastern side of Rangiaowhia village.

Mr Morgan, continuing his story of the new flour-mills, wrote:

“The Rangiaowhia mill was not completed before other tribes became jealous and wished for mills. I drew up two more contracts, one for the erection of a mill at Maunga-tautari, and the other at Otawhao, at the cost respectively of £110 and £120, not including [16]native labour. Both of these mills have been erected. A new difficulty now arose at Rangiaowhia, that of finding a miller to take charge of the mill. In the arrangement I experienced more vexations and difficulty than in the erection of the mills. There was a person ready to take charge, but the natives, not knowing the value of European labour, refused to give him a proper remuneration. One old chief offered one quart of wheat per day! At length, after two months, this knotty point was settled. On the following day the miller commenced work. In the year 1848 the natives of Rangiaowhia took down some flour to Auckland, which they sold for about £70. The neighbouring tribes, seeing the benefit likely to arise from the erection of mills, began earnestly to desire them. One was contracted for at Kawhia, and the sum of about £315 has been paid on account. About 1850 a contract was entered into for the erection at Mohoaonui [near Otorohanga], on the Waipa, of the largest mill yet built, at a cost of £300. The natives of Kawhia are anxious for the erection of a second mill, and the natives at Whatawhata and two other villages on the Waipa, and of Kirikiriroa and Maungapa, on the Waikato, and also Matamata, propose to erect mills; at several of these places the funds are being collected.




W. Beattie, Photo. 


“Wheat is very extensively grown in the Waikato district. At Rangiaowhia the wheat fields cover about 450 acres of land. I have also introduced barley and oats at that place. Many of the people at various villages are now forming orchards, and they possess many hundreds of trees budded or grafted by themselves, consisting of peach, apple, pear, plum, quince, and almond; also gooseberry bushes in abundance. For flowers or ornamental trees they have no taste; as they do not bear fruit, it is, in their opinion, loss of time to cultivate them.”

The missionary, concluding his interesting narrative, described a visit paid to the district by Sir George Grey, Governor.

“His Excellency,” wrote the missionary, “spent half a day at Rangiaowhia, and expressed himself much pleased with the progress of the natives at that place. He visited the mill, which was working at the time. Two bags of flour were presented to him for Her Majesty the Queen, and they have since been forwarded to London. The Governor has since that time presented the Rangiaowhia natives with a pair of fine horses, a dray and harness, and a plough and harness. He also requested me to engage a farm servant to instruct [17]the natives in the use of the plough, etc.2 The value of the flour sent down this year from Rangiaowhia and now ready for the Auckland market may be estimated at about £330. Of this sum upward of £240 was, or will be, spent in the purchase of horses, drays, and ploughs. Each little tribe is now endeavouring to procure a plough and a pair of horses, and the people expect during the next year to have at least ten ploughs at work. The rapid advancement in cultivation is the fruit of Sir George Grey’s kind present to introduce the plough at those places. One of the chiefs at Rangiaowhia has erected a small boarded house. He has also several cows, one of which he generally milks in the morning.”

*   *   *

Such is the story of the very practical missionary work in this district. “Te Mokena” truly tamed the people; old cannibals followed the plough and spent days in discussing the Auckland market prices of wheat and flour. Distant white communities, too, came to depend largely on the Maori farmers of the Upper Waikato for their breadstuffs; and when the great gold rushes began in California and Victoria, in 1849–52, the cargoes of New Zealand produce sent to far-away San Francisco and to Melbourne often contained shipments from Rangiaowhia and other Maori farm-villages.

From a photo., 1906] 


(Died 1916)

Dedication with signature: Yours very truly John E. Gorst.


1 MS. journal lent to the writer by Mr E. Earle Vaile, of Broadlands, Waiotapu. 

2 The old man Pou-patate Huihi, of Te Kopua, told the writer: “Before we procured European ploughs we made wooden ones, and these were sometimes drawn by men—Ko te tangata te hoiho tuatahi (Man was the first horse).”

Pou-patate also said that when wheat-growing was at its height on the Waipa, before the war, his people received as much as ten or eleven shillings a bushel for the wheat in the Auckland market. 




The period from about 1845 to 1860 was the era of peaceful progress and industry among Waikato and Ngati-Maniapoto. It was not until the latter year that the outbreak of the Taranaki War, the forerunner of that in Waikato, interrupted the new and profitable era of wheat-growing and flour-milling and the pleasures of the annual canoeing expeditions down the Waipa and Waikato to the city markets.

These farm-settlements of Morgan’s making were in what may be called their zenith of prosperity in the year 1852, when prices for produce were high. In February of that year a visit was paid to Te Awamutu and Rangiaowhia by a party of travellers from Auckland and Onehunga, among whom was young Heywood Crispe, later a well-known Mauku settler and volunteer rifleman. Describing long afterwards this memorable Waikato expedition, Mr Crispe said, after narrating that the canoe voyage ended at Te Rore, on the Waipa:

“I can well remember the first sight we got in the distance of the steeple of the church at the Rev. Mr Morgan’s mission station at Te Awamutu, for some of the party were getting a bit tired when it came into sight, and it seemed to put new life into them. The natives at Rangiaowhia had made preparations for a goodly party, as they had two days’ racing in hand. They allotted to us a large, newly-erected whare, the floor being covered with native mats, and it was on them that we indulged in sweet sleep. There was a line of whares erected on the crown of Rangiaowhia Hill, from which we could obtain a fine view of the surrounding country, and it all had a grand appearance in our eyes. There was a long grove of large peach trees and very fine fruit on them. Such a waste of fruit it seemed to us, but of course they were of no value there. One never sees such trees of peaches now. We, the Europeans, must be the cause by the importation of pests from other countries. A large portion of the ground round the hill was carrying a very good crop of wheat, for the Maoris believed in that as a crop, and they used to convert it into flour at the various flour-mills they had. It was of a very good quality, and some of the Waikato mills had a name for [19]the flour they produced, a good deal of which was put on the Auckland market, being taken down the Waikato, via Waiuku and Onehunga. It had taken our canoe party about three weeks to reach this, our journey’s end, but there was no iron horse then by which to make a rapid journey. Now it is only part of a day’s journey to get to the same spot.

“We spent several days in our camp on the Rangiaowhia Hill, taking walks and viewing the country. We attended the races, which afforded some good sport, all being managed by the natives, assisted by some pakeha-Maoris of the neighbourhood. They were white men living a Maori life. Some of them had been well-brought-up young men, rather wild perhaps, who had drifted away from home and had taken up an idle life among the natives, getting regular remittances from their people at Home.

“The Maoris provided all their pakeha friends with a most excellent meal on the ground, and peaches galore, as well as horses to ride. We rode some distance round to view the country, the Maori flour-mills, and cultivation. There were a lot of good cattle and horses about, and the crops of wheat and patches of potatoes were particularly good, although no bonedust was used in those days. The Roman Catholics had a very nice place of worship at Rangiaowhia, where regular worship was conducted. There were mission stations all up the Waikato and Waipa Rivers in those days, and as far as Te Awamutu.”

Everywhere the Maoris of those days showed the travellers on their six weeks’ trip the greatest hospitality. On the canoe voyage the pakehas called in here and there at native settlements and got a supply of pork, potatoes, and peaches.

When the aged Potatau te Wherowhero was made Maori King (1858) there were great gatherings at Ngaruawahia and Rangiaowhia. At the latter place the Europeans in the district—the mission people, the traders, and artisans—were invited to the festivities. The abundance of food at Rangiaowhia was probably the reason why that large village of Ngati-Apakura was selected as one of the principal gathering places of the Waikato in 1858–60. Rangiaowhia in those days was a beautiful place, with its comfortable thatched houses, shaded by groves of peach and apple trees, dotted along the crown of a gently-sloping hill, among the fields of wheat, maize, potatoes, and kumara, and its flour-mills in the valley. On the most commanding mound was the Roman Catholic Church in front of [20]Hoani Papita’s home; a few hundred yards to the south was the English Church, locally greatly admired because of its large stained-glass window, sent out from England by Bishop Selwyn. The Maori congregations have vanished long ago, and the pre-war wharekarakia are used by the white settlers.

A pioneer colonist, Mrs B. A. Crispe, widow of the late Heywood Crispe, the only survivor of the Europeans who witnessed the gathering, recalls some of the scenes in the Rangiaowhia of 1858, when she was a girl at school at Mr Morgan’s mission station at Te Awamutu. She describes the venerable Potatau as a feeble old man with his face completely tattooed; he wore a long black coat and a dark cloth cap with a gold band round it.

Mrs Crispe has memories of the Upper Waikato district as it was toward the end of the Fifties, before the Kingite war had destroyed the prosperous agricultural life of the Maoris, who then constituted the whole population of the interior with the exception of a few missionaries and their families and several traders and other pakeha-Maoris. Mrs Crispe, who was the daughter of Mr Mellsop, a pioneer settler of the Mauku district, was taken up by her father to the Rev. John Morgan’s mission station at Te Awamutu—in those days usually called Otawhao, after the old pa. She was then a young girl, and she was placed with the Morgans to be educated; schooling for children was a difficult problem with the back-blocks settlers in those days. All communication with the Waikato and Waipa country was carried on by canoe, for there were no roads into the interior until the troops opened up the country in the Waikato War. In about 1858 the Mellsops embarked at Waiuku and passed through the narrow and crooked Awaroa Creek in kopapa, or small canoes, the only craft which could navigate this stream, connecting the Manukau harbour with the Waikato River. In the Waikato they transferred to a large canoe, about sixty feet long, well loaded with goods from Auckland for the mission station and the Maori settlements. Their Maori crew paddled them up to Te Rore, on the Waipa; the voyage occupied three days. Two nights were spent in camp on the Waikato banks; the third day was spent in working up the Waipa River from its junction with the Waikato at Ngaruawahia. From Te Rore the party rode across the plain to Te Awamutu. Here Mrs Crispe spent two years at school.

The farming missionary had succeeded in giving the wilds of Te Awamutu a thoroughly settled and home-like appearance, with [21]wheat fields enclosed by hedges of hawthorn. The wheat grown by the natives in the Rangiaowhia-Te Awamutu district was ground at the mills, bagged, and sent down to the white settlements for sale. The flour-bags were sewn by the native girls in Mrs Morgan’s sewing class at the mission boarding school; and when the flour was being ground there would be sewing-bees at the mills, where the girls stitched up the bags as they were filled. The flour was carted in bullock drays to Te Rore, where it was loaded into canoes. The cargoes were paddled down the Waipa and Waikato, along the Awaroa to Waiuku, there loaded into a cutter for Onehunga, and finally carted across the isthmus to Auckland town, a journey of over a hundred miles from the Rangiaowhia water-mills. The Maoris would invest the proceeds in clothes, blankets, tea, sugar, and all kinds of European goods, and then begin their homeward journey. Time was no object in those golden years, and a marketing party from Rangiaowhia and Te Awamutu would sometimes spend several weeks on the trip, returning with pakeha commodities to delight the hearts of their families and endless tales of all the sights they had seen in the distant town.

An incident of the visits to Rangiaowhia over sixty years ago is recalled by Mrs Crispe. She and the Morgan girls noticed a peach tree loaded with great white korako in an enclosure near the English Church, and presently they were enjoying a feast of fruit. A Maori woman came up to them in great alarm and told them that they must not touch the peaches; the tree was tapu, and she was afraid that the fruit would kill them as it assuredly would have killed any Maori who ate it. It often happened that the choicest fruit trees were under the ban of tapu for some reason, such as the recent death of the owner.

In front of Mr Morgan’s mission house at Te Awamutu there was a row of almond trees. These almonds—so seldom seen in a New Zealand orchard now—were widely distributed among the natives; hence the remarkably large trees, up to about thirty feet in height, which grew on the old Maori cultivations at Orakau and elsewhere, and survived long after the land had been confiscated by the Crown and settled by white farmers.

Dr Ferdinand von Hochstetter, the famous Austrian geologist, on his expedition through the interior of the North Island in 1859, admired the settled aspect of Te Awamutu and the neighbouring country. He made an ascent of Mount Kakepuku, setting out from [22]the Rev. Alexander Reid’s Wesleyan mission station at Te Kopua, and from the summit viewed the valley of the Waipa: “The beautiful, richly-cultivated country about Rangiaowhia and Otawhao lay spread out before us like a map. I counted ten small lakes and ponds scattered about the plains. The church steeples of three places were seen rising from among orchards and fields. Verily I could hardly realise that I was in the interior of New Zealand.”

Now the scene has vastly changed. A far more richly-cultivated country than that which the wandering geologist saw in 1859 stretches in all directions, and the railway engine trails the smoke-banner of the pakeha past Kakepuku’s foot, between him and his hill-wife Kawa. But some relics of Hochstetter’s day remain. The picture-like spires of the English mission church at Te Awamutu and the English and Roman Catholic Churches at Rangiaowhia still rise above the tree-groves, heaven-pointing fingers that carry a suggestion of antiquity all too rare in man’s work in New Zealand. [23]




The determination of the Maori tribes to establish a King was not in the beginning hostile to the white Government. On the contrary, Wiremu Tamehana, of Ngati-Haua, a man of lofty ideals and altogether admirable character, continually emphasised the fact that the kingdom must be on a footing of friendship with the pakeha; it was simply to govern the Maoris within their own district and to ensure a measure of peace and order which the Queen’s Government could not maintain. The King movement was originated in 1851–52 by Tamehana te Rauparaha—son of the great Rauparaha—who had been on a voyage to England and returned with ideas for the betterment of his race, and by Matene te Whiwhi, of Otaki. The difficulty was to select a suitable chief as King, and one man after another declined the honour, until at last Matene and his fellow-chiefs persuaded the aged warrior Potatau te Wherowhero, of Waikato, to take the position. Potatau, like Tawhiao his son after him, was merely a figurehead; the destinies of the native confederation were decided by the runangas or tribal councils at Ngaruawahia and Kihikihi. Tawhiao succeeded Potatau on the latter’s death in 1860.

A variety of elements, social and political, combined to produce a war feeling in Waikato. Iwikau te Heuheu, of Taupo, on his way to a great Waikato meeting in 1857, stayed at the mission station and gave Mr Morgan his reasons for supporting the King. He contrasted the uncouth and inhospitable treatment of Maori chiefs when visiting the towns with the kindness shown by the Maoris to even the lowest grade of pakeha who came to their settlements. Tamehana pointed to the inability of the Government to preserve peace and order among the tribes; this could only be done by means of a native king, and he quoted Scripture and modern history in support of his argument. The blundering of the Government in offering civil institutions and then withdrawing them without a fair trial, the construction of the military road from Drury to the Mangatawhiri River, and finally the heavy losses of the Ngati-Haua and Ngati-Maniapoto in the Taranaki War had a cumulative effect in hastening the outbreak in Waikato. It was when this feeling [24]was simmering in the Waikato that Mr John Gorst—as he was then—was induced by the Government to undertake the difficult task of staying the growing tide of anti-pakeha agitation and of diverting the energies of the Kingite tribes to peaceful industries and crafts. He came several years too late. The institutions and the measure of home rule which Sir George Grey offered to the Kingites in 1863 only to have them rejected would have met with a cordial acceptance had they been put forward five or six years previously. But Grey was in South Africa then, and his predecessor, Governor Gore-Browne, and his advisers went from blunder to blunder in their determination to stifle the natives’ legitimate desire for local self-government.

Mr John Gorst arrived at Auckland from England in 1860, and, being a young man of brilliant University attainments, he attracted the attention and friendship of Bishop Selwyn, Sir George Grey, and other notable people of the day. It was Mr (afterwards Sir William) Fox, then Premier of the Colony, who determined to establish him as resident magistrate in the Upper Waikato, and a house was procured for him at Te Tomo, about half a mile from the centre of the present town of Te Awamutu. (Te Tomo is now marked by an acacia grove in a field south of Te Awamutu, near the Kihikihi Road.) This establishment was built on thirty acres of grass land which had been sold to the Crown many years before the war began. Here Mr Gorst set up his home in the beginning of 1861; later he removed to the mission house opposite the church.

During the first part of his residence in Te Awamutu district Mr Gorst was a magistrate and a kind of intelligence officer for the Government. During the latter part he was styled Commissioner of Upper Waikato, and lived at the mission station in charge of a technical school and hospital. In the early period, as Gorst narrated in after years, he was rather the officer of Mr Fox’s Ministry than of the Government. He was a magistrate, but as a matter of fact his jurisdiction was derided by the Maoris, and he found none except a few pakehas to obey him. “The Maori from the first,” he said, “refused to consent to my exercising any kind of authority among them.” Even his great friend Wiremu Tamehana, though anxious to receive advice and instruction, objected to the admission into the Kingite district of a magistrate who received his authority from the Queen. [25]

In 1862–63 Mr Gorst was rather the officer of Sir George Grey than of the Ministry (then Mr Domett’s). The Church Mission estate of about 200 acres, with school buildings and dwelling-house, was lent to the Governor for Maori educational purposes. Describing the establishment then formed, Gorst wrote:

“Everyone in the school was clothed, lodged, and fed in plain but wholesome and civilised style. Clothes and bedding were regularly inspected and kept scrupulously clean. A schoolmaster was appointed, who taught reading, writing, and arithmetic to all, and besides this each young man was employed for five hours daily in one of the various mechanical trades carried out within the school. Thus each had an opportunity, not only of acquiring a sound elementary education, but of fitting himself to gain a livelihood by practising some handicraft taught at the school. The trades carried on were those of carpenter, blacksmith, wheelwright, shoemaker, tailor, and, later on, printer. A few were employed in agriculture and in tending cattle and sheep upon the school estate, some as regular occupations and others as an occasional change from indoor employment. English artisans employed as teachers were chiefly men who had been living in the neighbourhood and were familiar with the Maoris and their language. Most had previously been exercising their trades for the benefit of the district, and the only difference was that they were now more systematically at work and were instructing native apprentices. The Maoris of the district had therefore to resort to the Government establishment for the repair of their ploughs and carts and for their shoes and clothes. The demand for all these services was far greater than the supply, so there was a prospect of being able to supply a great number of Maori apprentices in every department with certain profit. Even Rewi and Tamehana themselves visited the school. The latter extended his patronage so far as to be measured for a pair of trousers, for which he paid £1 in advance, but Te Oriori intercepted them on their way to Matamata, and was so charmed with the fit that he refused to part with them, and told Tamehana he would agree to take them as a present.”

The school establishment certainly did very useful work, and thus far was appreciated by the Maoris; but they could never forget that Gorst was a Government official.

W. Beattie, Photo.] 


Sir John Gorst and party in the “Tangi-te-Kiwi” at Ngaruawahia, December 6th, 1906.



The site of this pre-war mission station was on the left bank of the Waikato, opposite Taupiri. This picture is a sketch made shortly before the war in 1863, by Lieut. (afterwards Colonel) H. S. Bates of the 65th Regiment, who was an A.D.C. to Sir George Grey and Staff Interpreter to General Cameron. Governor Grey’s camp, on one of his Waikato expeditions, is shown on the river bank (see Note in Appendices, p. 103).

It was presently decided by the Government that a native hospital should be erected on an area of Crown land about three-quarters [26]of a mile from Te Awamutu. The position of Medical Commissioner of the Waikato was offered to and accepted by the Rev. A. Purchas, of Onehunga. At the same time Sir George Grey sanctioned the establishment of a Maori newspaper to reply to the “Hokioi,” the Kingite print issued at Ngaruawahia. Mr E. J. von Dadelszen1 (afterwards Registrar-General of New Zealand) was appointed printer; he had learned the trade on Bishop Selwyn’s printing-press in Auckland.

A press and type were bought in Sydney, and set up in Te Awamutu early in 1863. This was the beginning of the end for Mr Gorst’s establishment.

The Government Maori newspaper was called “Te Pihoihoi Mokemoke i Runga i te Tuanui” (“The Lonely Lark on the House-top”—the Maori having no word for sparrow), and it set about briskly replying to the Kingite propaganda of “Te Hokioi e Rere Atu Na” (“The Soaring War Bird”), which was edited and printed by Patara te Tuhi, afterwards a great friend of Sir John Gorst. The first number of the “Pihoihoi” was published at Te Awamutu on 2nd February, 1863, and was widely distributed over Waikato, arousing intense interest among the Kingites.

The “copy” for the first issue was revised by Sir George Grey himself, and was published under his authority. It contained an article which greatly excited the resentment of Rewi and the more truculent section of the Kingite natives. The article was entitled, “The Evil of the King Movement,” and it criticised a letter from King Tawhiao—or Matutaera (Methusaleh), as he was then generally known—to the Governor, dated 8th December, 1862, which had been printed in the “Hokioi,” and which inquired what evil had been done by the King and on what account he was blamed. The “Pihoihoi” gave an answer to these inquiries from the pakeha Government point of view; Gorst’s leader was translated into forceful and idiomatic Maori by Miss Ashwell, daughter of the missionary at Kaitotehe, opposite Taupiri. The strong criticism of the Kingite aspirations quickly provoked action among Mr Gorst’s neighbours, who asked, “Why is this troublesome printing-press allowed in our midst?” Only five numbers of the “Pihoihoi” were printed before the indignant Rewi intervened with his war-party.

The coup planned by Ngati-Maniapoto in the tribal council-house “Hui-te-Rangiora” at Kihikihi was executed on 24th March, [27]1863. A war-party of eighty men and lads, most of them armed with guns, marched into Te Awamutu that afternoon, led by Aporo Taratutu, and accompanied by Rewi Maniapoto, and also by the old Taranaki chief Wiremu Kingi te Rangitaake. (The unjustifiable seizure of Kingi’s land at Waitara by the Government had been the cause of the first Taranaki War.) Rewi and Wiremu Kingi remained at Porokoru’s house, which stood in the middle of the present town of Te Awamutu, while Aporo led his taua down to the mission station, halted them there, and had prayers by way of sanctifying the afternoon’s operations. Young von Dadelszen and a Maori youth were busy at the time in the little printing-office printing the fifth number of the “Pihoihoi Mokemoke.” Mr Gorst was absent; he had ridden over to the mission station at Te Kopua, on the Waipa, to inquire about some bullocks which were being purchased for the Government station. A report had reached him that a taua from Kihikihi would visit Te Awamutu that day, but he treated it as an idle rumour.

The actions of Ngati-Maniapoto are described by Mr von Dadelszen in the following report which Mr Gorst sent to Sir George Grey with his own account of the breaking-up of the station:

“About 3 o’clock in the afternoon of Tuesday, 24th March, while the newspapers for that day were being printed, a number of natives arrived, about 50 of them armed with guns, and the remainder with native weapons, and stationed themselves in front of the printing-office. I locked the door before their faces, put the key in my pocket, and went a little distance off. After a short prayer, they broke the door open, and proceeded to take the press down, and carry it outside to some drays they had there. While they were doing this, Patene, the Ngaruawahia chief, arrived, and partly succeeded in stopping them, turning about six out of the printing-office (it being then quite full of natives). After some time, however, he came away, and the work went on. Everything connected with the printing was taken away, together with a port-manteau belonging to Mr Mainwaring, and a box containing some of my clothes. When all was gone, they stationed sentinels at the door, and allowed no one inside. Before breaking open the door they had a scuffle with the native teacher, who placed himself before it, and was dragged away after some resistance. They also broke down about twenty yards of the fence between the printing-office and the road. They camped all round the house, but about 6 o’clock [28]allowed us to enter and take our clothes from the little bedroom at the back. They did not attempt to touch anything in the main building. In the evening they stationed their soldiers all round the house. About 8 o’clock, Mr Gorst, Mr White, and Mr Mainwaring arrived. There was some talk of setting fire to the place, and one or two fire-sticks were brought, but they determined not to do it in the end. A good many guns were loaded with ball, but none fired. A great many slept in the printing-office that night. During the remainder of the afternoon, Taati, Patene, and Te Oriori on one side, and the leaders of the soldiers on the other, talked a great deal in the road. William King [Wiremu Kingi], Rewi, and a few others stayed some distance off, and gave their orders from there. The mail box, etc., were also taken, with the mail money.—E. J. von Dadelszen.”

The printing-press, the Kingites’ bete noir, was carried out, with all the type, reams of paper, and printed copies of the fifth number of the “Pihoihoi,” and the whole plant was loaded on to bullock drays and carted off to Kihikihi. Nothing else, however, was taken; some private belongings, such as boxes of clothes, were scrupulously returned as soon as it was discovered that they were not part of the printing plant. Then the leader of the war-party surrounded the mission buildings with a cordon of sentries, and awaited Mr Gorst’s return. The Maoris camped on the road and in the adjacent field opposite the church, and their watch-fires blazed as evening came down.

Mr Gorst rode in after dark, and was permitted to pass unmolested. A message was sent in to him that if he refused to go away in the morning he would be shot. Resistance was impossible, for although the youths in the school establishment declared that they would stand by “Te Kohi” there were no arms, and in any case a conflict could only have ended in the victory of Rewi’s veterans of the Taranaki war and in the slaughter of the Government people.

Next morning there were scenes of intense excitement on the gathering road between the mission station and the church where the present main road runs. Mr Gorst was ordered to depart. He replied that nothing would induce him to leave his post but orders from the Governor. Rewi for his part declared that he and his men would not stir from the spot until his object was accomplished. [29]

Presently, through the intervention of the Rev. A. Reid, the Wesleyan missionary at Te Kopua, Rewi, at a personal interview with Mr Gorst, agreed to withdraw his men and give the Commissioner three weeks in which to communicate with Sir George Grey. Rewi then in a speech gave his reasons for raiding the station. The Governor, he said, had shown himself hostile to the Maori King movement, and had been ceaseless in his machinations against the confederation of the tribes. Sir George Grey had begun to make a military road to the Waikato, and finally at Taupiri he had made a speech in which he said he “would dig around the King until he fell.” They looked round to see where the spades were at work, and they saw “Te Kohi”; they were resolved to have no digging of that kind in Waikato, and so they had determined to remove him from the land of the Maori.

Rewi then, at Mr Gorst’s invitation, went into the house and wrote the following letter for transmission to the Governor:


“Friend Governor Grey:

“Greeting. This is my word to you. Mr Gorst has been killed [has suffered] through me. I have taken away the press. These are my men who took it—eighty, armed with guns. The object of this is to expel Mr Gorst, so that he may return to town; it is on account of the great trouble occasioned by his being sent here to stay and beguile us, and also on account of your words, ‘I shall dig at the sides, and your kingdom will fall.’ Friend, take Mr Gorst back to the town; do not leave him to stay with me at Te Awamutu. Enough; if you say he is to stay, he will die. Enough; send speedily your letter to fetch him in three weeks. It is ended.

“From your friend,

Mr Gorst also wrote a letter, informing Sir George Grey of the occurrences, and saying that the natives had beaten him utterly, and that Rewi said if the Governor left him it would be to certain death. The letters were sent off to the Governor, who was then in Taranaki. While an answer was awaited, Wiremu Tamehana came to see Mr Gorst, and sorrowfully told him that he and others of the friendly-disposed party could not protect him now. The Governor did not answer Rewi’s letter, but sent instructions to Mr Gorst that in the event of there being any danger whatever to life he was to return at once to Auckland, with the other Europeans in the employment of the Government.

As the Upper Waikato was now inflamed with the war feeling, [30]Mr Gorst realised that the evacuation of Te Awamutu was the only possible course. He left the station on 18th April, 1863. It was more than forty years before he set eyes again on the olden scene of his labours for the Maori.

The after-history of the “Pihoihoi Mokemoke” press has been cleared up by dint of many inquiries. Practically the whole of the plant was restored to the Government after Mr Gorst’s departure. It was placed in a canoe and taken down the Waipa and Waikato to Te Iaroa, just below the mouth of the Mangatawhiri River, near Mercer; there Mr Andrew Kay—later of Orakau—had a trading store. The press and other material were handed over to Mr Kay, who sent word to the Government, and carts were sent to take it to Auckland. The press was afterwards used for a time in printing the Government “Gazette.” A legend gained currency, and was repeated by writer after writer, each copying his equally ill-informed predecessor, that the Kingites melted the type into bullets to use in the war. The fact, however, is that the plant was returned to the Government very nearly complete. Sir John Gorst told me (1906) that some of Rewi’s young men helped themselves to a little of the type as curiosities, but there could have been very little missing in that way. As for the “Hokioi” press, the Ngati-Maniapoto informed me that it was taken up from Ngaruawahia to Te Kopua for safe-keeping when the war began, and there it was lying, rusted and broken, when I last heard of it; some of the scattered type was now and again ploughed up on the bank of the Waipa.

Sir John Gorst, re-visiting New Zealand after forty-three years, set foot once more in Te Awamutu on 3rd December, 1906, and renewed his acquaintance with some of his old native pupils and travelled over the old familiar ground. He was welcomed with immense enthusiasm by pakeha and Maori alike, and there was a peculiarly pathetic touch in the speeches made by the few Maori survivors of the old regime in Waikato. Sir John, with Miss Gorst, visited Captain D. Bockett, one of the original military settlers of Rangiaowhia, who occupied the historic mission-house. He went through the old buildings and the well-remembered church. Then, with a large party, he visited Mr Andrew Kay at his farm at Otautahanga, and talked over the old Waikato days; and on the day’s drive passed over the battlefields of Hairini, Rangiaowhia, and Orakau. At a great gathering at Te Awamutu to welcome “Te [31]Kohi” one of the speakers was the veteran Tupotahi, one of the heroes of the Orakau defence; he had been a member of Aporo’s war-party which invaded the Government station in 1863. Ngati-Maniapoto greeted with a quite extraordinary enthusiasm the distinguished manuhiri whom they had driven from their midst in the days of the racial quarrels, now happily buried for ever.

There was more than a touch of the poetic in the farewell to “Te Kohi” and his daughter at the railway station, Te Awamutu, when the venerable man bade good-bye for ever to his friends old and new. Two pretty native girls, Victoria and Ngahuia Kahu Hughes, daughters of William Hughes, of Kakepuku—one of Mr Gorst’s old pupils at the mission station before the debacle of 1863—stood hand-in-hand on the platform and sang very sweetly this parting waiata:

Hoki hoki tonu mai

Te wairua a Te Kohi.

Kia awhi-reinga

Ki tenei kiri—ee—ii!

Ka huri koe i Te Awamutu

Ka tahuri whakamuri;

Mokemoke rere a te aroha—ee—ii!

Ka eke ki tereina,

Ka tahuri whakamuri;

Mokemoke te rere a te auahi—ee—ii!

Ka pinea korua

Ki te pine o te aroha,

Ki te pine e kore nei e waikura—ee—ii!


Return, return, the spirit of Te Kohi,

To greet me once again

In the shadowy land of dreams.

When you look your last on Te Awamutu

Send back your love to us,

To the lonely ones you ne’er will see again!

And as the railway bears you far away,

O backward turn your gaze;

Like the smoke that backward drifts—ah, me!

Farewell, a fond farewell!

We will pin you both to our hearts

With the pin of love,

The pin that will never rust!

It was a pathetic little song with something of the sentiment breathed in Tom Moore’s beautiful old Irish melody: [32]

As slow our ship her foamy track

Against the wind was cleaving,

Her trembling pennant still looked back

To that dear isle ‘twas leaving.

So loth we part from all we love,

From all the links that bind us;

So turn our hearts, where’er we rove,

To those we’ve left behind us.



Of a picturesque quality, too, was “Te Kohi’s” passage to Auckland down the Waikato River. It had been arranged with Mahuta, the King of Waikato—son of Tawhiao—that Sir John should be taken down the river from Ngaruawahia to Waahi, near Huntly, by Maori canoe, passing the scenes once familiar to him in his before-the-war journeyings and reviving memories of the primitive old days. Ngaruawahia in his era in the Waikato was the capital of the Maori King, and no craft but dug-out canoes floated on the great river. It was a glorious summer morning when Sir John Gorst and his daughter and their party embarked at the green delta in a fine, roomy, white-pine canoe, the “Tangi-te-Kiwi,” 70 feet in length, with a crew of fifteen Maori paddlers, for the voyage down the Waikato to Waahi. The sun drove away the early mists, and the bush-clad range of the Hakarimata “stood up and took the morning,” high above the willows that fringed the low banks of the shining river. Down the long curving reaches the big waka swept with the powerful current aiding the paddles, and the canoe captain, old Hori te Ngongo, standing amidships, gave the time to his crew with voice and gesture, now and again breaking into a high chanted song of the ancient days. One of Hori’s songs was peculiarly appropriate, for it had been composed in 1863 with special reference to Gorst and the Mangatawhiri River, the frontier line of those days. Thus chanted old Hori, the kai-hau-tu, in a long-drawn high song to which the paddlers kept time as they dipped and lifted their blades:

Koia e Te Kohi,

Purua i Mangatawhiri,

Kia puta ai ona pokohiwi,

Kia whato tou

E hi na wa!

In this waiata the Commissioner of Waikato was requested to [33]“plug up” the boundary river between pakeha and Maori lands and make it a close frontier, and thus prevent the King’s followers passing below its mouth to trade in Auckland, so that presently, for want of European clothing, their naked bodies might be seen protruding from their scanty native garments.

Now and again as the “Tangi-te-Kiwi” approached a native hamlet on the west bank of the river the crew would redouble their strokes and the captain would chant in a louder, wilder key the old-time song for “Te Kohi,” and from the village women would come a shrill reply and long, wailing cries of “Haere-mai! Haere mai!” The canoe swept past the sites of the old mission station and mission schools at Hopuhopu and at Kaitotehe (opposite Taupiri)—the latter was Mr Ashwell’s station before the war—and Sir John’s eyes lingered with a pathetic interest on the scenes he knew in 1861–63 until a change of course or bend in the river hid them from his view.

COLONEL WADDY, C.B., 50th Regiment

COLONEL WADDY, C.B., 50th Regiment

(This veteran soldier was affectionately called by his men “Old Daddy.”)



(Capt. H. C. Ryder, father of Col. H. R. Ryder of Te Awamutu, was paymaster of the 40th Regiment and was stationed at Te Awamutu, 1863–7)



(From a photograph about 1860)



(First Bishop of New Zealand)

High-peaked Taupiri, beloved of the old-time Maori, tapu and legend-haunted, was passed on the right; and then, as the canoe glided down the broad, glimmering reach, willow-walled, toward Huntly town, we saw another long Maori waka appear in the distance ahead, its two rows of paddles flashing in the sun with beautiful regularity. In a few moments the two canoes met. The stranger was the royal canoe, “Te Wao-nui-a Tane” (“The Great Forest of Tane”—the Maori god of the woods), which had been sent up by Mahuta to meet Sir John Gorst’s canoe, challenge us in true Maori style, and escort us down to the meeting-place at Waahi. A splendid picture the “Wao-nui-a Tane” made as she swept up under the strong strokes of twenty-six paddlers, all stripped to the waist, their brown shoulders bowing and rising as one. Amidships stood a red-capped captain, the chief Te Paki, giving the time to his crew and chanting the old war-time songs. The crew were all picked men of the Ngati-Whawhakia tribe of Waahi, the best canoe-men on the Waikato. The canoe itself was about 70 feet in length, like our waka, the “Tangi-te-Kiwi.” As the King’s canoe came alongside, Miss Gorst and the Minister of the Crown (the Hon. George Fowlds) who accompanied the Dominion’s guests were transferred to her, and away down the glistening river shot the “Wao-nui-a Tane,” easily distancing our canoe. Down the river she flashed at racing speed, her paddles glinting like wet wings in the sun. Ngati-Whawhakia gave an exhibition of faultless time [34]and paddling that day as they swept down far ahead of us to Waahi, their old kai-hau-tu yelling himself hoarse with his boat-songs. It was a perfect picture of old Maoridom revived, bringing once more to the honoured guest’s mind the romantic and adventurous scenes in the days before the war, when hundreds of canoes, large and small, made lively this noble waterway; the days before ever a pakeha steamboat’s paddle-wheel startled the Waikato.

And after the great welcome chants of the powhiri at the crowded marae of Waahi, “Te Kohi” gripped hands once again with the venerable and benevolent-looking veteran Patara te Tuhi, the chivalrous Kingite who edited and printed the “Hokioi” at Ngaruawahia in the Sixties, and who, when Mr Gorst had been ejected from Te Awamutu, gave him shelter one night—the ironical humour of fate!—in the raupo-thatched printing-office of the rebel “War Bird.” [35]

1 Died in Wellington, 1922. 




We broke a King and we built a road—

A courthouse stands where the reg’ment goed,

And the river’s clean where the raw blood flowed,

When the Widow give the party.

—“Barrack-Room Ballads.

The eviction of Mr Gorst from Te Awamutu served to precipitate the Waikato War, but in truth a conflict had become inevitable. There was a widespread feeling that the time had come for a racial trial of strength, and the conflict was due as much to the aggressive policy of the Government and the anti-Maori tone of the newspapers and the politicians as to the martial preparations of the Kingites.

The construction of the military road and the establishment of military posts in obvious readiness for an advance into the Waikato confirmed the natives in their belief that the Government meant to force a way into the interior and shatter their home-rule plans.

The first definite act of war was Lieutenant-General Cameron’s despatch of troops across the frontier, the Mangatawhiri River, on 12th July, 1863.

Te Huirama, with a body of Waikato, barred the way with rifle-pits on the Koheroa ridge, near Mercer, and on 17th July the first engagement took place. The troops under Cameron charged the Maori position with the bayonet, and the Kingites were driven out with the loss of their leader and about thirty others. Numerous skirmishes followed in the South Auckland country on the northern side of the Mangatawhiri; the Lower Waikato and Wairoa and Hauraki war-parties carried gun and tomahawk into their enemy’s country, following their favourite tactics of ambuscade and plunder. There were many bush fights, in which the Forest Rangers and the Forest Rifle Volunteers, as well as Imperial troops and militia, were engaged.

The three principal fortified posts of the Kingites in the early stages of the war were Paparata, Meremere, and Pukekawa. These positions were designed to stop the southward progress of the troops and enable the Maoris to levy war on the frontier settlements. [36]Pukekawa is the beautiful round green hill on the west side of the great elbow of the Waikato, where the river bends westward below Mercer; anciently a fortified pa of the Ngati-Tamaoho stood on its summit. When the Waikato War began the Ngati-Maniapoto came down the river in their canoes and selected it as their headquarters, and from Pukekawa as a convenient base they made raids on Patumahoe, Mauku, Camerontown, and other frontier districts. They expected to be attacked there, and entrenched themselves, but General Cameron did not carry the war to the west side of the Waikato.

Presently the arrival of gunboats specially adapted for the river war enabled Cameron to outflank and capture the strongholds on the east bank of the Waikato and to occupy Ngaruawahia, the Maori King’s headquarters, unopposed. His only serious check was at Rangiriri, where in disastrous frontal attacks the Imperial naval and military forces sustained heavy casualties—47 dead and 85 wounded. The pa surrendered next day, and 183 prisoners were taken. The Lower Waikato was conquered, and the General with his steam flotilla shifted the army to the Waikato-Waipa delta for the final blows to the Kingite cause.



Falling back from pa to pa, Waikato and Ngati-Maniapoto at last concentrated their forces in the great series of entrenchments at Pikopiko, Paterangi, and Rangiatea, defensive works intended to block the march of the Imperial and Colonial troops on the principal Kingite cultivations and food stores at Rangiaowhia. The chief fortification was Paterangi; the traces of this elaborate system of earthworks can be seen to-day close to Mr Harry Rhodes’ farmhouse on Paterangi Hill.

General Cameron’s headquarters were at Te Rore, on the Waipa, and there he camped for several weeks early in 1864. The principal engagement during this period of waiting—for Paterangi was too strong for frontal attack—was a lively skirmish at Waiari, on the Mangapiko River. Forty Maoris fell that day (14th February, 1864), and six British soldiers lost their lives.

Here, at Waiari, that free-roving and adventurous colonial corps the Forest Rangers had their first taste of sharp fighting in the Waipa country. We shall hear a good deal of those Rangers in the succeeding chapters. There were two companies of them, each [37]fifty strong. No. 1 Company was commanded by Captain William Jackson—afterwards Major Jackson and M.H.R. for Waipa—and No. 2 Company by Captain G. F. Von Tempsky, who as Major of Armed Constabulary fell in the bush battle of Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu, in Taranaki, in 1868. The Rangers were armed with Terry and Calisher breech-loading carbines and five-shot revolvers, and Von Tempsky’s men also used bowie-knives, made in Auckland from a pattern supplied by him, somewhat on the model of the bowie-knife of Arkansas and Texan fame.

The Rangers at Waiari were ordered to clear the Maoris out of the scrub which covered the old pa in the river-loop. They dived into the thickets, and soon killed or dispersed the Kingite warriors, and then covered the retreat of the main body of troops to Te Rore and Colonel Waddy’s advanced camp. The Rangers enjoyed the work so much that it was difficult to get them home to camp at Te Rore for their tea. The British dead and wounded had been removed, and as many as possible of the Maori dead were brought across to the north bank of the Mangapiko. General Cameron had ridden up from the main camp at Te Rore in time to witness the defeat of the Maoris in Waiari. The Rangers, covering the return of the troops, came under a heavy fire in front and from both flanks, and returned it with coolness and accuracy from the cover of the manuka and fern.

A veteran corporal of No. 1 Company (Jackson’s) recalls Colonel Havelock’s ire at the indifference of the frontiersmen to the bugle calls. “It was getting dusk,” he says, “and still all our Rangers had not come out of the scrub, and we could hear their carbines cracking in reply to the heavy banging of the double-barrel guns. Captain Jackson was standing alongside Colonel Havelock, A.D.C.—the son of the famous hero of the Indian Mutiny—who asked why the Rangers had not returned. Jackson replied in his blunt fashion that he didn’t know; he supposed they’d come out when they had finished their job. The ‘Retire’ was sounded again, but still our fellows kept popping away in the dusk. At last, Colonel Havelock, swearing that he would turn out the 40th Regiment and fire on the Rangers if they did not obey orders, called up all the buglers that could be found and told them to sound the ‘Retire’ all together. Presently our boys came out of the manuka and joined us, as pleased as kings with their afternoon’s hot work.”

A very few of those hard-fighting Rangers are left to recall the [38]incidents of a vanished phase of New Zealand life. Some—like Major Jackson—settled down to pioneer farming, but for others the warpath had attractions irresistible, and long after the battle of Orakau many of the young veterans strapped on their fighting gear again and followed “old Von” to Wanganui and Taranaki to do battle against the Hauhaus. The corps ceased to bear its distinctive name; most of its members returned to their sections of land in the military settlements on the confiscated Waikato land; some joined the Armed Constabulary. And when Von Tempsky fell to a Hauhau bullet before the stockade of Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu it was a young officer who had been his subaltern in 1863–64, J. M. Roberts—now Colonel, and holder of the New Zealand Cross for valour—who coolly and competently extracted the rearguard after a terrible night in the forest of death. He had learnt his work well in Von Tempsky’s practical school in many a scout and in many a skirmish in a country where the name of the Forest Rangers is already but a dim legend, so quickly has the work of nation-making marched in New Zealand.

Von Tempsky was a clever artist in water-colours, and had a gift of writing animated narrative. He wrote a journal of events covering his service in the Waikato War, and his story of the fighting at Rangiaowhia, Hairini, and Orakau will be given in the chapters which follow. His account has the merit of being a participant’s direct description of the engagements; moreover, it now sees print for the first time.1

Among the notable figures of that day whom Von Tempsky describes in his journal was Bishop George Augustus Selwyn. There is a word-vignette of the great Bishop, riding unostentatiously with the army, his old pack-horse ambling along laden with his tent and simple camp gear. “What comfort the wounded and sick derived from his presence may be imagined,” wrote Von Tempsky. “Often have I followed with my eye his fine, manly figure wending its way on errands for the good of others; and the study of that man’s character, strongly impressed in a face where hard work has stamped its signet on high-bred features, would yield materials for an epic poem. How that man’s being has clung to a preconceived idea of his work in this country! How every fibre of his existence has wrapped itself round that one object, the improvement of the [39]aboriginal! Through good and evil times he has stood by his work, strong, fresh, after years of disappointment, unalterable in his purpose, even if in opposition to the good of his own race. There perhaps we find the one flaw in an otherwise almost perfect character.” [40]

1 The original MS. narrative is in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. 




The first British soldiers to reach Te Awamutu marched in early on the morning of 21st February, 1864. This was General Cameron’s force, which outflanked the Maori defences at Paterangi and Rangiatea in a surprise night march, and invaded the chief source of food supplies—Rangiaowhia—the decisive strategic movement in the Waikato War.



Major Jackson was a young settler at Papakura when he took command of the Forest Rangers in 1863. After serving throughout the Waikato War, he settled at Hairini and afterwards at Kihikihi. For many years he commanded the Te Awamutu Cavalry Volunteers. In the eighties he was M.H.R. for the Waipa electorate.

The following is Von Tempsky’s MS. narrative of the night march and the morning’s hot work at Rangiaowhia:—

“On 20th February, 1864, the bugle at headquarters, Te Rore camp, sounded, ‘Come for orders.’ Everyone, almost, knew what these orders were going to be; and great excitement consequently prevailed. The orders were that about half of the troops were to be under arms, in heavy marching order, at half past ten that night. The rest, with the luggage and so forth, were to follow in the day-time, leaving a sufficient garrison for Te Rore. At half past ten the dense columns of our force were drawn up in silence near headquarters. No bugle had sounded; the tents were to remain standing, and the cover of a moonless night was to hide our circumvention of the wily foe. I had the honour to command the advanced guard, composed of my Rangers and 100 men of the 65th under Lieutenant Tabuteau. Next followed the Defence Force under Colonel Nixon, and the Mounted Artillery, doing troopers’ service, under Lieutenant Rait, an active and energetic officer. The rest of the 65th, 70th, some of the 50th, and other detachments followed, Westrupp, with No. 1 Company, Forest Rangers, bringing up the rear, as Captain Jackson had not yet returned from Auckland. As far as Waiari the road enabled us to march in fours. Thence, however, Indian file had to be the order of the march. The importance of our redoubt at Waiari became now apparent to me, as its existence there served to mask our start. On that point alone was discovery from Paterangi to be apprehended. Once past it, our detour of the fern ridges made us nearly safe until we came close on to Te Awamutu. Mr James Edwards (half-caste guide) rode ahead of us, Captain Greaves, of the staff (70th) by his side, and a better combination of local knowledge [41]and military sagacity never led troops on a difficult march. The high fern had to be trodden down, principally by the advanced guard, but we were used to it and knew that honour of position had to be paid for. Ridge after ridge was passed, now and then a gully, but never very steep, so that packhorses and even bullock drays could easily follow our tracks on the morrow.”



(Killed at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu, Taranaki, 1868.)

At dawn (to summarise Von Tempsky’s story) the troops neared Te Awamutu. It was known that at the entrance, by the pass, there was situated an old pa. It was not known whether it was now occupied or had been put into repair. The Rangers scouted on ahead and found it empty. The cocks at Te Awamutu mission station were now crowing, and the steeple of the church came into sight. Bishop Selwyn, and Mr Mainwaring as his aide, galloped along ahead to the mission station, whose native inhabitants “were under a theocratic flag of truce.” The column pushed on to Rangiaowhia. The young troopers of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry now dashed forward in advance to their first serious work.

“Rangiaowhia,” narrated Von Tempsky, “came soon into sight with a blue ridge of mountains at the back, its straggling houses between peach groves crowning cultivated ridges, with two prominent churches at a short distance from one another. Kahikatea forests straggled up to the village, here and there, and when we approached it nearer a succession of ridges with some swamp intervening showed us that we had been somewhat deceived in the distance. The rapid crack, crack of revolvers and carbines announced to us now that the troopers had not forgotten their spurs in getting ahead of us. We listened eagerly for the sound of double-barrel guns, and that sound also was soon heard. So the conflict had commenced, and that idea lifted our feet with the power of galvanism. We probably got there considerably ahead of the main body, but our blood was up, and we wanted to support our troopers in the arduous task of riding through streets lined with houses whence a desperate foe might have great advantage over mounted men. When, however, we got nearer to the thick of the firing, a mounted civilian, with some artillery troopers, met me and said that in that direction there was nothing for us to do; if we wanted to see a good body of men we should go to the Catholic Church, which was crammed full of armed Maoris. I at once took his advice, particularly as I had heard but few double-barrels lately in the direction of the Defence Corps. In extended order, with 100 of the 65th Regiment in support, [42]we advanced past several rows of deserted whares, from which, however, now and then some balls whistled past us. The church being our main object, we paid no attention to these minor matters. I sent Lieutenant Roberts with some men round the right flank of the church, and our circle gradually drew closer. I could see already some black heads at the windows—but of a sudden a white flag went up.

“ ‘Very well, lads,’ I thought, ‘then I shall take you prisoner.’ We advanced still nearer. Roberts’ signal announced to me that the church was surrounded, when I heard Captain Greaves’ voice calling to me from the rear:

“ ‘The General does not want you to press the Maoris any further.’

“ ‘Not take them prisoner, even?’

“ ‘No.’

“ * * * I obeyed, though I was fast consuming my tongue by merciless mastication. But honour is due to the order of a man like General Cameron, so I ordered my men off and marched to where the firing still continued.1

“The two churches lay more towards the left flank of the village. The firing continued more to our right near the centre of the village. As we approached that point we got a few long-range shots from distant whares, but took no notice of them.

“In passing a boarded house, however, one more like the building of a European than a Maori, two shots were rapidly fired at us from its verandah. I did not believe my eyes when I saw there a woman coolly sitting on the verandah and hiding a still smoking double-barrel underneath it. She was decently dressed in the semi-European style adopted by influential Maoris. She was oldish, and not very fair to look at, particularly as her time-worn features were bent into one concentrated expression of hatred—such a hatred as Johnson revered and you read of occasionally in old plays.

“I went up to her and had the gun taken away, looking at her all the time, not knowing whether I should laugh or feel pathetic—the coolness, the ugliness, and reckless hatred of this specimen of Maoridom puzzling my choice of sentiment exceedingly. I thought of passing on, just with a warning for future good behaviour, when [43]some officers shouted to me that ‘the old wretch’ had also fired at them, wounded a man of the 65th, and been warned already, and that I had better take her prisoner.

“Reluctantly I gave her in charge of one of my men, but accompanied the order with a Freemason’s sign which my man understood, the result of which was that the woman afterwards quietly slipped away unnoticed.

“Just as we started again we heard another couple of shots from the same house, and now thinking that some men might be inside I had the house surrounded.

“Just as Roberts got to the back part, another fairy burst from its door, and, running with the fleetness of a deer, dropped her gun just in time to have her sex recognised and respected. I was glad that her fleetness saved me from another female responsibility, and proceeded onward.

“I met Captain Bower, Adjutant of the Defence Corps, one of the Six Hundred at Balaklava. He looked fearfully excited, and hurriedly told me that Colonel Nixon had just been shot, and that the bullet had gone through his lung.”

Von Tempsky, describing what he then saw, says that a circle of soldiers of all regiments surrounded at some distance a nearly solitary whare with a very narrow and low door; in the open doorway lay the body of a soldier of the 65th, shot through the head. A constant firing of rifles into the house was carried on with little regard to the effects of cross-fire, and the narrator formed his men in a half-circle, in the safe radius of the “dead angle” of the house. It seemed that after the house had been first surrounded Colonel Nixon sent Lieut. T. McDonnell and Mr Mair, the interpreter, to ask the Maoris in it to surrender, assuring them of good treatment. A volley was the concise answer. Then the firing into the house commenced, but as the floor was below the level of the outside ground the Maoris were comparatively secure for some time. Then of a sudden an excited trooper of the Defence Corps dismounted, and dashed, sword and revolver in hand, into the whare. Some quick shots were heard, and nothing more was seen or heard of him. A man of the 65th rushed forward to ascertain the fate of the trooper, but, being covered and hampered by his roll of blankets and other paraphernalia, he stuck in the door and was shot in the head. The firing into the whare now became a perfect cannonade, and even Colonel Nixon could not abstain from firing with his revolver [44]at the open door. Stepping incautiously from behind the corner of a neighbouring whare, he received a bullet, fired from that open door.

“When we arrived,” resumes Von Tempsky, “some neighbouring whares had been set fire to with the view to communicating the fire to the all-dreaded one. But somehow this seemed to me an uncertain process, and unfair. So, looking round at my nearest men, I said, ‘We will rush the whare, boys.’

“ ‘Aye! Rush it, rush it!’ was echoed, and with one ‘Forward!’ about a dozen of us were round the door in an instant. Sergeant Carron had got ahead of me, and had poked his head into the low doorway. I stood impatiently behind him, just on one side of the door, thinking that we ought to take the body of the 65th man out of the way first. Carron then drew back his head and said to me:

“ ‘There is only one dead man inside, sir.’

“I could not quite understand this, though I could see that it was pitch dark inside, and so Carron might have been mistaken.

“At this moment Corporal Alexander, of the Defence Corps, had pushed his way between myself and Carron, and, squatting down in the low doorway, commenced to arrange his carbine for taking aim, evidently puzzled by the darkness—I urging him either to make room for us or jump in.

“A double-barrel thunders, discharged from the interior of the house, a bullet knocks through Alexander’s brain, and he drops backward. The doorway was now completely chocked with the two bodies. My men dragged away Alexander, and, after firing five shots of my revolver quickly into the corner from which I had heard the last report, I dragged the 65th man out of the door myself. At that moment, also, one of my men got shot in the hip—a fine young fellow, John Ballender. He staggered forward and dropped, never more to rise, though he lingered for months in hospital. (Note.—A Canadian by birth, by profession a surgeon, he served as a private with me. An excellent shot, and brave to a fault. I had known him first at Mauku. His comrades have erected a handsome marble slab over his grave at Queen’s Redoubt.)

“I now debated within myself whether the rush might not be renewed, as the door was clear now; but I saw that my men, even, had had enough of it, and were pointing significantly and triumphantly [45]to the flames that now commenced to lap over from the nearest burning whare to the fatal and now fated house. What the feelings of the inmates of that doomed fortress must have been passes almost the power of imagination. They must have heard by this time the crackling of the approaching fire; they must have felt the heat already. Could human nature hold out any longer in resistance?

“No! Behold, one man, in a white blanket, quickly steps from the door and approaches the fatal circle at some distance from us. He holds up his arms to show himself unarmed; he makes a gesture of surrender; he is an old-looking man.

“ ‘Spare him! Spare him!’ is shouted by all the officers and most of my men. But some ruffians—and some men blinded by rage at the loss of comrades, perhaps—fired at the Maori.

“The expression of that Maori’s face, his attitude on receiving the first bullet, is now as vivid before my mind’s eye as when my heart first sickened over that sight. When the first shots struck him he smiled a sort of sad and disappointed smile; then, bowing his head, and staggering already, he wrapped his blanket over his face, and, receiving his death bullets without a groan, dropped quietly to the ground. (Note.—Had all the men been with their regiments—that is to say, had had their own officers near them—this would not have happened. In that promiscuous crowd no one knew who one belonged to.)

“The flames now caught the roof. Could there be another being yet in that house of death? The roaring sound of approaching destruction inside the house, the certainty of death outside! What man can bear such wrath of fate?

“Behold! There is one such man! Like an apparition he suddenly stands in front of the door—stands bolt upright—and fires his last two shots at us. Defiance flashes from his eyes even as he sinks under a shower of bullets.

‘The house is one mass of flame—it is near falling—when another Maori bursts from it, gun in hand, and drops pierced by bullets while dauntlessly aiming at the foe. As he fell the timbers of the roof bent inward, the house tottered, and with a crash crumbled to pieces on the well-fought ground.

“Seven charred bodies of Maoris and the first Defence Corps man were found among the blackened ruins. That fortress had held ten defenders. What would not ten hundred of such defenders do when properly armed and commanded? Yet I am sorry to say [46]that much of this unyielding desperate disposition is based upon one of the worst if the strongest features in Maori character.

“After the fall of the house there remained nothing to do at Rangiaowhia. The General, fearing the results of straggling in such a rambling, extensive community as this, together with the presumed absence of water in the most important military points, decided on returning to Te Awamutu.

“On our way to Te Awamutu I had occasion to observe the peculiar insensibility to wounds in Maoris; the same that I had previously observed in North American Indians. I had seen an immense, brawny Maori lying on the ground covered with blood, Dr. Mouat, V.C., of the Staff, attending him with his usual skill and celerity. I thought that kindly attention but thrown away, for the Maori had a sabre cut over the head, a revolver bullet in his mouth, a shot through the liver, and a sabre cut over the back. He was carried in a stretcher half way to Te Awamutu, when he insisted on getting out, and walked the remainder of the way. I saw him the following day in hospital, sitting up among the female prisoners, chatting in such an unconcerned way and with such equanimity of expression in his features that I doubted the evidence of my eyes that this could be the same man I had seen on the previous day with four wounds, each of which would have prostrated for some time a European.”

A veteran of No. 1 Company of Forest Rangers, Mr Wm. Johns, of Auckland (formerly of Te Rahu), gives the following account of his experiences at Rangiaowhia:

“About a dozen whares were burned in the village. The fight extended from the head of the swamp, where Colonel Nixon was shot, right up to the Catholic Church, whence we drove the Maoris over the crest into the swamps, next the native racecourse. Some shots were fired at us from the English Church; some Maoris were inside the building. It was an open skirmish from then right along. There were not more than 200 Maoris altogether in Rangiaowhia that day, but they fought well, and had plenty of ammunition. After one of our fellows had been shot, my commanding officer said to me, ‘Corporal, take two men and see if there are any Maoris in the whare there,’ pointing to a house about twenty yards away. I posted the two men outside and stooped to enter the house, which was sunk in the ground, with a low entrance. As I entered I was felled by a terrific blow on the side of the neck, but deflected somewhat [47]by the edge of the doorway. I lay there stunned for some moments, and when I recovered I saw a Maori weapon, a long taiaha, lying beside me. [It is now in the Old Colonists’ Museum in Auckland; a small piece was nicked out of the blade of it by the doorway edge.] My men told me that the inmates of the whare had escaped by bursting through the thatch at the back, and got clear away. It was a very narrow escape for me, and I took the taiaha as a memento of it. I took no further share in the fight that day, but I was able to march back to Te Awamutu.” [48]

1 Later in the day the Rangers had a skirmish with armed Maoris who occupied the Catholic Church, and drove them out of it, the natives finding that the walls were not bullet-proof. 




On the afternoon of 22nd February, 1864—the day following the capture of Rangiaowhia—the British and Colonial forces were involved in a much sharper affair, a heavy engagement in which all three arms—horse, foot, and artillery—were used. This was the battle of Hairini Hill, a steep elevation about half way between Te Awamutu and Rangiaowhia; the name has since been transferred mistakenly to Rangiaowhia village. The present road follows exactly the military route of 1864.

From a photo in Ceylon] 


(The 50th Regiment, 819 strong, arrived in Auckland from Colombo on 14th November, 1863. Colonel Waddy in the centre of the front row.)

Here the Maoris who came pouring out of Paterangi immediately they discovered that their works had been outflanked had hastily fortified themselves, burning to avenge the surprise capture of Rangiaowhia and the killing of their comrades. An incident of the day’s work was a sabre charge by the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry; this was one of the very few occasions on which cavalry charges were practicable in the Maori Wars.

Von Tempsky wrote the following narrative of his Rangers’ share in the afternoon’s fighting:

“At last about 1 o’clock orders came (to Te Awamutu camp), and away went the Rangers. I had received no order relative to my position or further operations; so, calculating to commit any errors on the safe side, I hurried my men past as many detachments as I could, and got them well in front by the time we had reached a commanding fern ridge, on which line of battle was formed. The firing had been going on already for some time between our skirmishers and the Maoris. I could now see their position plainly. There is a considerable rise just at the entrance to Rangiaowhia proper; the first considerable whares are on that hill; the brow of the same was crowned with a long stake fence, ditch, and low parapet, having been the common enclosure of a large field. It had been strengthened during the night and morning, and a very respectable length of line of black heads was bobbing up and down behind it. A swamp was at the foot of this hill, the main road avoiding it and turning more to our right flank. The right flank of the Maoris was covered by a still more impassable swamp [Pekapeka-rau], [49]so that their left flank was the only point needing much defence, a dense forest on that side giving them also contingent advantages.

“The 50th, under their brave old Colonel Waddy, and the Defence Cavalry Corps, under Captain Walmsley, as staunch an officer as ever put spurs to a horse, were on our extreme right; and were destined to do the work of that day, General Cameron and Staff personally superintending this particular work.

“We saw the 50th fix bayonets, and as they advanced on the main road the Maoris commenced a perfect feu d’enfer, and I, looking in vain for directions, led my men against the right flank of the Maoris.

“We had to cross several little gullies and rises; at each place affording the least shelter I breathed my men for a moment, and then dashed them again over the next exposed space. Three severe instalments of a lead shower rattled, thumped, and whistled round us; each time I put the men under shelter till the shower passed, and then rushed on again. As yet I had seen only one of my men hit.

“As we got into the swamp we just saw the gleam of the bayonets of the 50th close upon the left flank of the Maoris. We heard the British cheer, echoed it, and rushed on to the right of the position, where I also saw a peach-grove that might be of use to us.

“Of a sudden, while panting up the hillside, with an upper stratum of lead travelling over our heads towards our friends we had left behind us, I saw that long black line of heads waver. I heard confused cries and shouts presaging disorder—and lo!—it broke and fled—some to the right, where I saw the Defence Corps after them; and some to the left; to these we lent our company. Maoris have a natural affinity to swamp; there is a strong amphibious tendency in the brown man. Ducks are no more at home in the swamps than Maoris. Only in this instance the ‘being at home’ was extended perhaps beyond the wish of many by our carbines. So soon as we had reached the peach-grove which commanded the swamp to our left, we had a fine play upon the greater part of the Maoris who were trying to make their escape. I had some soldiers of the 70th with me who, seduced by the example of my men, had followed my fortunes faithfully that day. They were, however, despatched back to their regiment by the arrival of Colonel Carey of the Staff. [50]

“Some skirmishers still lurked between us and that part of Rangiaowhia where the two churches stood; so we took our way in that direction, getting now and then a sight of a Maori and a hearing of their bullets. I was just directing one of my foremost skirmishers to aim at a figure of a man which I could see behind a bush, when something struck me in the attitude as being nerveless like that of a wounded man. I gave the word to stop firing, and, surrounding the Maori carefully, as some sham being dead and then blaze into you, then approached him. Resting on his right elbow, his back against a stump, the left leg stretched from him with a large pool of blood around it, the Maori surveyed our approach without a start or a movement of a muscle in his face, even. Now, let me tell you that my men in the day of battle are not very confidence-inspiring objects to look at. What with dust, smoke, their wild dress, their armament, and faces wild with excitement of the hour, a man would be quite justified in hesitating to trust his life altogether to their keeping, not being able to see the golden sub-stratum of that desperado exterior. A calm, steady, almost indifferent look was fixed on me by the dark eye of the Maori. I made to him a gesture of friendship, and proceeded to examine his wound. An Enfield bullet had shattered his left leg below the calf, and he was rapidly bleeding to death. A boot-lace twisted under the knee had to do duty as a tourniquet, and the Maori’s shirt had to supply the bandages. One of our men who spoke a little Maori told him we would come back for him, and left him with water and some rum; the latter he refused taking.

“I had an idea that as the Catholic Church had proved once an asylum to the Maori, it might be occupied the same way to-day. I was determined to be beforehand with the Staff to-day at least, and pushed on by short-cut. Everything seemed quiet about the neighbourhood. The church door was locked, but as it might have been locked from the inside I had a carbine pointed into the lock, which pass-key proved to fit our requirements. I entered the church, found it empty, turned my men out again, and re-fastened the door to the best of my ability.

“Colonel Carey, of the Staff, then arrived, and gave me orders to guard the adjoining dwelling-house of the priest and permit no one to enter it. My men had by my permission gone to plunder the nearest whares. Their whole plunder was then put into the verandah of the priest’s house, and, putting a sentry over it, I dispersed [51]my men once more for ‘loot,’ as they now deserved to have a pull at Rangiaowhia. I remained to guard the priest’s house myself and ruminate over the day’s work.

“Colonel Weare, of the 50th, then made his appearance, and informed me that he had received orders to take charge of this house and grounds. I had no great objection to a transfer of responsibility, but when I was informed that nothing was to be removed from the ground, not even the loot my men had taken from the neighbourhood, now lying piled in the verandah, I most decidedly objected to such an unfair arrangement. A picket under a subaltern was then put over the premises, and Colonel Weare departed. I recalled my Rangers by my whistle, drew them up outside, and carried out myself every individual article belonging to them, not forgetting one or two articles of loot belonging to Colonel Weare, accidentally mixed with ours, considered already as safely acquired by right of seniority. It was to me about as interesting an interlude as could be found amongst the sad realities of higher interests around me. And I look back to my struggle with Colonel Weare for the loot of my men probably with the same amount of amusement as he does himself by this time. He put me under arrest. I took no notice of it, nor did General Cameron, who joked me the next day about it.”

The Forest Rangers’ entry into Te Awamutu that evening must have been a grotesquely picturesque spectacle. Von Tempsky wrote:

“An advanced guard under myself surrounded the stretcher of the chief Paul, whom we had picked up on the way back according to promise. This was serious and respectable, but the main body of the two companies that followed, borne down with the most promiscuous loot ever gathered, were a sight fit for the pencil of Hogarth. There were men representing a walking museum of fowls strung and hung all over their persons. There were men having the carcases of pigs strapped to their bodies; one even carried a live young sow, baby-wise in his arms, restraining its desperate struggles and screams by the strength of a powerful arm. There were men mounted on Maori horses, one of them my half-caste Sergeant Southee, decorated with feathers used at the Maori war dance. The whole two companies bristled with Maori spears, tomahawks, double-barrel guns, and so forth. I myself had a magnificent long-handled tomahawk, given to me by one of my men, who picked it up on the battlefield. I gave it to General Cameron. [52]

“I have since heard that our entry into Te Awamutu created not only admiration but envy, loot being such a scarce article in this war that even Commodore Wiseman could not help saying to a friend of mine, ‘Those rascally Rangers have got all the loot.’ In former days the Naval Brigade generally got ahead of the soldiers in that business, but now the agility of the Rangers had put the long-armed Jack Tar into the shade.

“In dismissing my men that evening, I could not but testify to their gallant conduct, particularly No. 1 Company, under Lieutenant Westrupp, who had followed me when I went a considerable pace, and when my own men, being in high fern, could not keep up with me. General Cameron, in acknowledging the good behaviour of the men, had another ration of rum served out to them that night, so that at the camp-fire our battles were fought over again with even more gusto and less risk.”

Another old-timer, an ex-Ranger in the Waikato, thus described to the present writer that triumphal march back from Rangiaowhia:

“We had found great stores of potatoes, pigs, and fowls lying ready to be carted to the big pa at Paterangi. The stuff was stacked here and there along the middle of the village between the two churches. When we marched back to Te Awamutu that night one of our fellows, Johnny Reddy, was leading, or rather driving, a pig by a rope. As we came near the mission station gate at Te Awamutu we saw General Cameron standing there with Bishop Selwyn. Reddy called out, ‘Make way for the Maori prisoner!’ The General ordered, ‘Arrest that man!’ But Johnny dropped his rope, left the pig, and bolted. All the same, he had a fair whack of that porker for his supper.”

The Royal Navy men, as a veteran recalls, did not come home from the battle quite empty-handed, for when they hauled their six-pounder field-piece in that evening it was loaded with Maori pigs and potatoes.

The day’s casualties numbered two soldiers killed, one of the Defence Force Cavalry mortally wounded, and fifteen others wounded, including Ensign Doveton, of the 50th. The Maoris lost about a score killed, beside many wounded, some of whom were captured and treated in the field hospital at Te Awamutu.



A veteran Forest Ranger (Mr Wm. Johns, of Auckland) says: [53]

“About 1870 the Rangiaowhia blockhouse, designed exactly like that at Orakau, was built close to where the Hairini school now stands. It was constructed of four-inch planks. We used it as a refuge place in the panic times. Being doubtful of its strength, I proposed to my fellow-settlers one day that I would test whether it was really bullet-proof. We all went out, and with an Enfleld rifle at fifty yards I put a bullet not only through the front wall of four-inch planks but also nearly through the rear wall. Then I took one of the solid plugs of the floor-loopholes in the overhanging upper storey, a piece of timber seven inches thick, set it up, and drilled it through with a bullet. We decided that we could not stay in the blockhouse, as it would only be a death-trap in case of attack; so we represented its condition to Major Jackson, our commanding officer. Then the blockhouse was made really bullet-proof by giving it a plank lining and filling the intervening space, four inches or so, with sand and gravel.” [54]







Rewi Maniapoto’s headquarters were at Kihikihi, three miles from Te Awamutu, and General Cameron made no delay in paying his adversary a military call. Rewi had not fought at Hairini; the fact is that he was a more sagacious soldier than most of his fellow-countrymen, and perceived the impossibility of making a successful stand at such a vulnerable spot. No doubt he fully realised that with the bloodless fall of Paterangi the pakeha conquest of the Waipa was practically complete.

On 23rd February, 1864, a mixed force of troops marched from Te Awamutu, and without resistance entered the large village of Kihikihi, an attractive sight with its cultivations of root and grain crops and its peach and apple orchards. The Ngati-Maniapoto retired to the Puniu River without firing a shot.

After burning the large carved council-house (which stood at the south end of the present township) and destroying the tall flagstaff, the force returned to Te Awamutu. The troops were now well established in encampments around the mission station, and several redoubts were soon built. The principal redoubt, occupied by Imperial troops during 1864–65, was built in the middle of the present town, in rear of the post office, as shown on the plan here given. The site of this earthwork can still be traced, although it is intersected by a road. There were also British garrisons in occupation of Pikopiko, Paterangi, and Rangiaowhia.

The soldiers in the various camps revelled in an abundance of fruit and potatoes, and the horses of the cavalry and field artillery throve on the maize that grew in every settlement.

A few days after the first expedition to Kihikihi a scouting party of the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry brought news that the Maoris had returned to the neighbourhood of the settlement. It was decided, therefore, that a redoubt should be built at Kihikihi, and an expedition made a start from Te Awamutu before daylight one morning, in an attempt to surprise Ngati-Maniapoto. Colonel Waddy, of the 50th, was in command. The two companies of Forest Rangers composed the advance guard. [56]

Von Tempsky, describing this expedition, wrote:

“As we approached Kihikihi I went somewhat in advance, and seeing some Maoris near a bush adjoining the village, we gave chase, and sent word back to that effect. We skirmished through some maize-fields, with a dense bush to our left, to which bush I gave a wide berth. But we could not get well at them as they had the start of us, and we were suddenly brought up by a swamp. We skirmished with them across the swamp, but got little good out of it. I saw them retreating into some distant whares, and making themselves quite comfortable, proving to me thereby that they were now supported, and that their position was strong. As we found the swamp altogether impassable without making a detour of miles, I returned, having formed, however, my plan already to look after these gentlemen.

“That night I entered the bush which I had skirted the previous day, thinking of heading the swamp by these means, and surprising the whares. We had a fearful march of it. It was a kahikatea bush, with swamp inside, and night to add to the difficulties. However, we persevered, and by the time it was morning we were opposite the whares. With one ‘Hurrah!’ we rushed across the open space on to one, then to the other, whare, but found both empty and everything in them smashed to atoms—to the very cats of the domicile. The houses belonged to Mr Gage, a half-caste, who had not joined the Maori cause.

“While my men were overhauling the premises for anything useful, I surveyed the neighbourhood, and saw that between us and the bush, which formed a perfect bight around us, there was still another swamp to cross if we wanted to get into the bush. Also, I saw that if there were any Maoris lurking there we presented a fair target for their pleasure, without even the chance of retaliation.



Rewi was the principal chief in the defence of Orakau. From the first, however, he was opposed to building the pa in such an exposed position, and he regarded the defence as hopeless. He died in 1894 and was buried at Kihikihi. This picture is from a photo by Pulman, of Auckland, about 1883.



(From a photo by J. Cowan, at the Puniu, 1920)

“At that moment Sergeant Carron, who had been sniffing around with his usual acuteness, reported to me that there were Maoris in the bush. This decided me in relinquishing my position at once, as we could do no harm to our antagonists if they persisted in remaining in the bush. I had hardly drawn my men down the knoll on which the dwelling-house stood when down came a volley over the heads of the last men disappearing behind the hill. I took up a better position within 300 yards of it, where logs and fern gave good cover to the ground in our favour. But the Maoris would no more cross that swamp in front of us than we would in front of [57]them; so, looking at one another wrathfully, and shaking a figurative fist, we parted at last without much harm done to either side.”

The redoubt now built on the highest part of the Kihikihi village (the spot is just behind the present police station) was garrisoned by Imperial troops for a time, and then by Waikato Militia. In the Seventies, and, in fact, until about 1883, it was occupied by the Armed Constabulary. Unfortunately it was demolished in the Eighties by the townspeople, who did not realise the value of this large and picturesquely-set earthwork as a place of future historic interest.



Hitiri was a chief of Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-te-Kohera, and fought in the defence of Orakau pa, where his father and brother were killed. His sister, Ahumai, who suffered several wounds, was the heroine who declared that if the men died the women and children must die also.

From a photo by Mr. J. McDonald, Dominion Museum, Wellington.] 


Tupotahi, who was one of the leading chiefs of Ngati-Maniapoto, was severely wounded at Orakau.

The Forest Rangers now camped at Kihikihi for some time. On 29th February, 1864, the first expedition was made to Orakau village. Von Tempsky, describing this bit of work, wrote:

“The Maoris at Orakau kept hanging about, irresolute what to do, till we saw them commencing to dig rifle-pits, and then it was high time to give them notice to quit. Colonel Waddy mustered his whole strength, and away we went under the firm impression that we would have a warm afternoon of it. The Forest Rangers were in the advance. There was much scrub on each side of the road, and we had also orders to break down any fence that might impede the action of the cavalry. We had broken down one or two across our road already, when the Maoris commenced with some desultory shots at cannon range. But suddenly I saw a peculiar sort of fence across the road—a stake fence bound with new flax, therefore a new work—a rising bank behind it, with a suspicious look about the crown.

“ ‘Listen, men,’ I said. ‘We must make one broad rush at that place—one long, strong, all-together push—and that fence must go down. Then up the bank like lightning.’

“Thus arranged—thus it was done. With a cheer a wave of sprightly fellows dashed against that fence. Down it went—up the bank we flew. There were the masked rifle-pits just dug and just deserted. They had stuck sprigs and branches of tea-tree into the newly-thrown-up earth to hide the presence of those pits.

“Thence we entered the village, still with considerable precaution, as we would not believe that the Maoris would make no resistance whatever, particularly in such broken ground as the village, straggling amongst gullies and ridges covered with peach-groves, afforded. Thus, however, it was. We went right through the village, and seeing the fugitives in the far-off distance making [58]for an old pa [probably Otautahanga], I gave chase, but was soon recalled, as the orders of Colonel Waddy were to confine himself strictly to Orakau. The next time I entered that village a few weeks after we did not complain about the reluctance of fighting in the Maoris.” [59]




And how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his gods?

—“Horatius” (“Lays of Ancient Rome.”)

The defence of Orakau Pa by the three hundred Maoris who deserve lasting fame as surely as the three hundred of Thermopylæ has passed into imperishable history as an inspiring example of heroism and devotion to a national cause. Many and many a story of that three days’ siege has been written, and yet new narratives with much that is thrilling are still to be gathered from the very few survivors. Far away in the wild forest glens of the Urewera Country I have heard the story of Orakau told in the meeting-houses at night by the old warriors, and travelling over the Huiarau Mountains to Waikaremoana, my companion, a Hauhau veteran, told me how his father fell at Orakau and he himself escaped from the field with a severe wound, and proudly he exhibited the deep scars.



Orakau was one of those defeats and retreats that are grander than a victory. The spirit of Bannockburn was in the defenders’ scornful defiance of terrible odds; but even Bannockburn was outdone by the Maori garrison’s indifference to the foe’s superiority in numbers and arms and by the devotion of the women who remained to share the fall of their husbands and brothers. The pakeha’s cattle graze over the unfenced, unmarked trenches where scores of brave men were laid to rest. Technically they were rebels, holding stubbornly to nationalism and a broken cause, but the glory of Orakau rests with those rebels. And now that the old racial animosities have disappeared Briton and Maori join in fraternal worship of the men and women who died for a sentiment. A Waikato Regiment has taken for its motto the war-cry of the people whom Cameron defeated but could not conquer, and has inscribed on its colours the words, “Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake!” To New Zealanders of the blended races in the years to [61]come that slogan of the soil should carry as thrilling a call in battle-test as the last words of Burns’s ode hold for the Scot: “Liberty’s in every blow—let us do or die!”

Of Ngati-Maniapoto themselves there were but fifty or so in Orakau; the defence fell chiefly on the Urewera—who had come fully a hundred and fifty miles to fight the pakeha—and on the Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-te-Kohera and other West Taupo hapus.

Very nearly all those dogged heroes of Orakau have passed to the Reinga; I know of only five now living—three Ngati-Maniapoto and two Urewera.

In this sketch of Waipa history I need not enter into the already familiar military history of Orakau. There is, however, an immensely interesting MS. narrative at my hand—Major Von Tempsky’s account of the siege—and extracts from this animated description make a valuable contribution to the story of the three days’ fighting.

Von Tempsky, after describing his march with the Forest Rangers from Te Awamutu, as advance guard of Major Blyth’s column, narrates that the force crossed and re-crossed the Puniu and came out in rear of Orakau, soon after the main body under Brigadier-General Carey had opened the attack. His Rangers (No. 2 Company—No. 1 was in camp at Ohaupo) were ordered to guard the east side of the Maori position. Von Tempsky then goes on to describe the events of the first day (31st March, 1864):

“For two hours we lay under what cover the inequalities of the ground afforded, with a heavy and well-directed fire upon us. We could see the Maoris strengthening their works as busy as bees, firing away also with rifles from two or three small embrasures with most unpleasant comparative accuracy. There was one gentleman in particular sending his shots at me with a wonderful progression of skill. I had a hillock somewhat bigger than my head to shelter the same; a gentle incline thence afforded a philosophical resting-place for the trunk and limbs; so that I lay in comparative security from direct shots, though not from the leaden droppings of high descent. The first indication of the notice taken of my insignificant presence was given me by a bullet striking the ground in beautiful line with my head about eight or nine yards in front. The next shot made the distance six, in the same splendid line, the third five, the fourth four, and so on until—he did not hit me after all. [62]

“I had had some hopes that the nearness of our circle to the pa indicated an intention of a general assault, but nothing of the kind took place. We could not even fire, as the danger of a cross-fire was then too imminent, and I must confess that I was heartily glad when we were removed at last from that uselessly-exposed position to a point further back, where the sudden fall of the ridge gave a comparative shelter from bullets. Here I was joined once more by the rest of my men and Lieutenant Roberts, and got from him a full account of the proceedings of the main column.

“They were first fired upon from some peach-groves in the beginning of the village. The advance guard under Captain Ring, accompanied by Roberts and his Rangers, skirmished along the road, the natives retiring before them. It became then apparent that the Maoris were going to make a stand in a large peach-grove before them. There was an old stock-yard fence visible, but as to the nature of any other defences no one had any idea of what was before them. The word for assault was then given, and, Captain Ring and Roberts leading gallantly, they advanced in quick time. The Maoris held their fire until our force was within fifty yards, and then gave them volley after volley. Within a few yards from the ditch, and a parapet now becoming visible, Captain Ring fell dead by the side of Roberts. A few Rangers were trying to get into the ditch, but were not supported. Several men had fallen, and the bugle from the main body sounded the Retire. Another effort to lead the men on to the assault proved as ineffectual as the first. Captains Fisher and Hinds, of the 40th, and Captain Baker, of the Staff, most gallantly set the example, and urged the men on—but the advance of the latter was this time even a milder affair than the first. Captain Fisher was badly wounded, several men shared the same fate, and only a few of my men got into the ditch. Roberts saw that he was not sufficiently supported, and drew his men back. The two pieces of artillery then commenced to play upon the pa. We arrived about that time, and I witnessed the harmless flight of shells and other equally ineffectual shots. A little dust, and a cheer from the natives, were all the results that I could see. This firing of the Armstrong even continued after we were in our encircling position, and I had the pleasure of picking up nice pieces of shell dropped amongst us, after the explosion had taken place over our heads.”

Von Tempsky here comments on the failure to reconnoitre the pa before the troops were rushed against it in premature assaults. [63]

“After we had taken up our position on the east side, closing the circle that now surrounded the pa on all sides, everyone asked, ‘What next?’ A sort of vague idea circulated that ‘the place was going to be blown up that afternoon.’ I heard this myself from an officer of high standing, wondering in myself how this wonderful feat was going to be accomplished, and particularly in the space of time mentioned. However, there was little Hurst of the 12th (acting engineer officer). He suggested sapping. The idea was greedily seized and carried out.

“About twelve o’clock we began to see natives trooping along the ranges to the east, and making for the forest between us and Rangiaowhia [the Manga-o-Hoi bush]. Their numbers increased at every moment. I was stationed in a hollow where the main road from the pa [toward Otautahanga and Parawera] crossed a swamp and led up an adjoining ridge, on which stood a large weather-board house. I had previously put a picket near that house, as the view from it commanded the very point of the forest now that reinforcements were gathering.

“The natives in the pa had seen the arrival of succour as well as we had, and repeated cheers and volleys announced their appreciation of the sight. From the forest responsive cheers soon established a sympathetic intercourse between the two separated bodies, and I must confess that as far as I was concerned at least the enthusiasm was all on their side. Some Maori trumpeter in the pa now commenced one of those high-pitched shouts, half song, half scream, that travel distinctly over long distances, particularly from range to range. He was giving the reinforcements some instructions. I never have been able to find out what they were, though we had plenty of interpreters with us. I went to the picket with reinforcements, and extended a line of skirmishers along the brow of the hill in some tea-tree scrub. There was open ground between us and the line of forest in which the reinforcements were, and they had to cross that opening if they wanted to come to us.

“About this time the natives in the pa commenced a war dance. Of course, we could see nothing of it, but we could hear it—the measured chant—the time-keeping yell—the snort and roar—the hiss and scream—the growl and bellowing—all coming from three hundred throats in measured cadence, working up their fury into a state of maniacal, demoniacal frenzy, till the stamping of their feet actually shook the ground. [64]

“There was soon an echo in the forest of this pandemoniacal concert. Another chorus of three hundred or four hundred throats made the woods tremble with their wrath of lung and the thundering stamp of feet. Twice it subsided, and skirmishers appeared, firing lustily into us. I must confess there was something impressive in these two savage hordes linking their spirits over this distance into a bond of wrathful aid, lashing one another’s fury into a higher heat by each succeeding yell echoing responsive in each breast. Yet when the result of all this volcanic wrath broke against us, when the simple crack of our carbines sent line after line of their skirmishers back into the bush, then the third war dance to get the steam up anew became a most laughable affair, particularly as its result was equally pusillanimous with the first two. No! that open ground under the muzzles of our carbines was not at all to the liking of the war-dancers. There they remained in the bush firing at us at long range, their bullets coming amongst us with that asthmatic, overtravelled sound denoting exhaustion of strength.

“The sap workers were now covered by a good number of Enfield rifles, which dropped most of their bullets into our snug hollow. I must say that as night came on I reflected upon its probable effects, and I experienced a good deal of uneasiness. I was placed on the one point where the Maoris from the pa, trying to effect a junction with the forces in the bush, would have to pass or break through. I never for a moment believed that they would allow the night to pass without making the attempt, as they had no water in the pa. If the forces in the bush, then, favoured by darkness, crossed the opening and attacked our rear while we faced the Maoris from the pa, the chances were ten to one that the junction would be effected, and that thus our prey would escape us after having done irreparable damage.

“I gave Roberts charge of the picket. It could not be in better hands. That day his behaviour before the pa, and on many previous instances, had borne me out in my preconceived idea of the young man that he was as true as steel. I ranged all my men on one side of the road, lying down close to one another in the fern, with strict orders not to stir from their positions until I gave the word—to let the Maoris run the gauntlet of their fire—and then, when Roberts had barred the narrow pass across the swamp, to charge them, bowie-knife and revolver in hand.

“It was an anxious night—so much so, that I even forgot the [65]want of sleep of the night previous, and listened with little need of effort to the firing from the pa on the sap and from the sap on the pa. * * * The Maoris had now fought for more than twelve mortal hours; they had wrought at the spade with marvellous rapidity and pluck; and last, not least, they had hurrah’d and war-danced enough to supply all England with consumption, and all that with no adequate supply of water, as their store of it inside must have been quickly exhausted. I believe that night some daring and devoted slaves managed to creep through our sentries and bring a few calabashes-full into the pa. But what was that for the great number of parched throats? (Also, raw potatoes assuaged their thirst considerably.) Still the roar of their guns did not cease, and allow me to tell you that they had some old-fashioned barrels that roared like the bulls of Bashan and threw balls as big as potatoes. Hour after hour I listened to the firing and to the pinging of bullets whistling over our heads and dropping amongst us the whole life-long night; but the sounds I most listened for were footsteps and that indescribable hum that precedes even the most silent body of men. I went to the picket several times, and returned each time in great haste, fearing the Maoris might break cover during my absence. But I was not the only wakeful officer. I think nearly everyone with any responsibility on him slept little that night, except those borne down by fatigue. The artillery troopers under Rait had hardly ceased their rounds along our whole circle throughout the night, and Rait and I had a long chat about the certainty of the Maoris breaking cover that night. Yet the night passed and nothing happened.

“This is one convincing proof to me that the Maoris after all, with all their cleverness, have not the true military sagacity in them to distinguish when obstinacy of defence turns into stupid self-sacrifice. Had they pushed through us that night we would have suffered at close quarters with their guns quite as much in ten minutes as in the time that the whole siege lasted, and their loss would have been comparatively small, as up to that time I believe not half a dozen of theirs had been hit.



“The morning of the first of April brought Jackson and his Rangers. I was glad to see another half-hundred revolvers [66]make their appearance and strengthen my rather ticklish position. Some of Jackson’s men, on passing by the sap, had volunteered to work therein. They did excellent service, all having been diggers, and, being strong, daring fellows, they pushed the sap in great style. They were under the direction of George Whitfield, who had got his commission for his behaviour at Mangapiko. At Orakau his services were quite as prominent, and should have been recognised more than they were.

“Another weary, weary day—wait, wait—nothing but waiting. There was not even the fun of a war-dance—no water for boilers, so there could be no steam. Now and then yet a hurrah or so of the natives, when someone got prominently hit, but the strength of voice and lung displayed on the first day had made us hypercritical, so that their performance in the vocal department was not appreciated. They made, however, some very good shooting, particularly at unconscious amateurs and spectators. There was poor Major Hurford, of the 3rd Waikato Regiment. He came to me and said that he had just had two very narrow escapes, one ball contusing his breast, another his hip. ‘I am so glad,’ he said, ‘that my wife will not hear of this until all is over.’ The following morning it was all over with him.

“That day the natives began running out a counter-sap to outflank ours, and the firing from each covering party became exceedingly hot. We got all our own lead from those musical Enfield messengers en masse. When it comes to eating, drinking, and sleeping under an unceasing peppering of lead, when it drops into your pannikin, or into the bowl of your pipe—a man may be excused for losing his temper—if he has one to lose.

“The natives in the bush showed again that afternoon, but their spirits were not so high as the day previous. They would not treat us to any more war-dances, and just fired their sullen shots to let their friends in the pa know that they were there. That evening the sapping party of Jackson brought home their first victim of the war—Private Coglan. Having exposed himself rather imprudently in planting a gabion, he was shot dead on the spot.

“I felt a little less anxious that night. More than one hundred revolvers were now in a row, which in half a minute would fire 600 shots, and these at close quarters should tell. At night there is nothing like a revolver for a struggle. [67]



“The following morning (2nd April) General Cameron made his appearance with a detachment of the Defence Corps and some packhorses with hand-grenades. * * * Our sap was now so far advanced that it entered the old stock-yard fence, which surrounded the pa at some distance. It was in rashly jumping out of the sap and cutting down gallantly one of these posts that Major Hurford received his death-wound in the head. He rallied for a short space of time, long enough to receive the attentions of his poor wife, but the ball, remaining in his head, caused his death at last at Otahuhu. Many gallant deeds were done that day in the sap, but the same being at the opposite extreme of the pa from our position I was not an eye-witness to them. I only know from good testimony that Captain Baker was amongst the foremost to urge the work by word and example; Jackson’s Ensign Whitfield behaved with his usual distinction; Ensign Harrison, of the Transport Corps, did good service with his rifle en amateur; my Sergeant Southee later in the day, still with the 65th detachment, was the first to change his footing from our works into that of the Maoris. (Note.—Poor Whitfield lost his life in one of my engagements in the Wanganui district. He was one of the most gallant officers I have known.)

“The weariness on our post on that third day was becoming to me almost unbearable. There was no excitement to compensate for the constant annoyance of bullets flying about you for three days and two nights, and the constant false reports of the assault going to take place sickened one at last of the whole affair. There had been a demand for volunteers in the morning to go sapping. I knew it did not refer to me, but I thought they might accept me after all when the hottest work commenced, so I took sixteen volunteers from my company and marched round to the sap. I was close to the sap when Baker met me and instantly drove me back in spite of all my expostulations and pleas of the morning’s order. ‘No, no! To your post! To your post!’ And as a sweetener for this disagreeable treatment the cunning Staff Machiavelli told me to come back at four o’clock in the afternoon, when I would be allowed to sap, knowing himself perfectly well that by that time I would have found other work to do. I went back crestfallen and miserable. My return instantly enfranchised Jackson, who took the opportunity of [68]trying his rifle skill en amateur in the sap—and his skill in this department is by no means contemptible.

“ * * * what means that shout—that hurrah? ‘Stand to your arms, men!’ Another truly British cheer! They must be assaulting the pa! ‘Forward, men—forward!’ And away I dash with a promiscuous crowd of Rangers and soldiers. But I know the way where we can go in reasonable security. Along the slant of the hill the fern is high, and the level of the ground scarce shows our heads. If we reach the angle of the pa in front of us while attention is concentrated on the diagonally opposite angle where our sap leads to we may get into the pa with little opposition, or shoot down fugitives escaping thence, if there are any.

“We had to go some distance. The Maoris saw us first just on cresting the hill, and sent a heavy fire at us. But all those who followed my guidance were soon safe from it. I saw some heaps of rubbish under some trees, with a half-broken-down pig fence, at 30 yards from the pa. That was a good halting place to breathe my men and count them. Alas! there were not above a dozen. There were my two sergeants, Carron and Toovey, Mogul, and little Keena, and a few of Jackson’s company—but we had lost our tail by the velocity of our flight forward. Well, the place had a very tenable look about it, so, seeing that every man lay well covered, I sent Sergeant Carron back for reinforcements, and saw that my men kept the Maoris’ heads well down the parapet. Our arrival there had in the first instance driven back a few Maoris attempting to escape from the angle I expected they would make use of. After that they kept up a pretty close fire upon us, but we had very good cover, and gave it to them better than they could. Carron returned in a little, and said that Captain Baker wanted me immediately at my post, so nolens volens, I had to return, seeing that a dozen men were not enough with which to assault 300 Maoris behind a high parapet. During my return I was informed by my men that one of those following me had been hit, and was lying in the very path to the pa. This was the first intimation I had of such mishap, for all the men close to me and following my guidance had been untouched. This poor fellow had chosen the main track to walk upon, probably scorning the fern, and had so come by his death. It was Corporal Taylor, an old soldier of the 70th. Sadly we carried our burden to our post, where I found my mentor Captain Baker charged to the muzzle with military reprimands for me. While he and I and Major [69]Blyth were argumenting on this subject a tremendous shout arose from the pa—a volley, and then such an incessant rattle of musketry that I perceived at once what the matter was. At last the Maoris had broken cover.

“Leaving my interlocutors very unceremoniously, and calling on my men to follow me, I rushed up to the picket house. On the other side of the house, at a glance, I saw the state of things. A dense mass of Maoris was rushing through the scrub at the bottom of the gully on the further corner from our post. The ridge where the pa stood was enveloped in a dense mass of powder-smoke, whence the incessant firing of our troops issued as if there never would be a pause to it.

“Giving hurried orders to Westrupp to watch the forest side of the picket hill, and taking Roberts with me, we went off at full speed along the ridge to cut off the Maoris whom we saw now ascending the furthest extreme of that ridge.

“ ‘Run, men, run! Cut them off! Cut them off!’ And the Rangers bounded over the ground as if their feet had wings.

“The Maoris had had a tremendous start of it, but the passage of the swamp and scrub in the bottom of the gully had delayed them somewhat. We came within shot of them, and as their long, irregular mass ascended the next rise our fire began to tell. Still we had to use the utmost exertion to keep within sight and shot of them, and would probably have lost half had not Rait with his troopers and some of the Defence Corps headed them by a daring break-neck ride across country. But the Maoris, seeing only these troopers after them, suddenly turned upon them, and from the other side of the swamp commenced to give them some ugly shots, killing in a moment two horses and wounding some of the men. Now, Rait’s troopers had only revolvers, which were utterly useless at that distance, so they began to be rather doubtful what to do with their Tartar, when the Rangers made their appearance, and the presence of their carbines became soon painfully evident to the natives. Off they started again, and now at a lesser distance they began to drop under our fire very fast; also some of them had outrun their fleetness, and, our wind and stamina beginning to tell after the first three miles, many a laggard was shot down after giving us the last desperate shot of his barrel. * * * The last natives we saw were three or four trotting along the top of a distant ridge. Signs of declining day and a bugle sounding the return made us [70]relinquish further pursuit. On re-crossing the river we found Colonel Havelock collecting the squads of avengers. He marched them home in a body, myself remaining behind to wait for some men of mine who had not yet made their appearance. When these at last arrived I also turned my face Orakau-wards.

“We followed pretty much the direction we had taken in the pursuit, and soon came upon the silent marks of it. Amongst them, however, I found one poor fellow still alive. We bandaged him the best we could, and carried him along. After getting over the next mile he expired, and we laid him to his rest. We found another one, not far off, and carried him also some distance, when he, too, gave up the ghost and left us.”

Other wounded men were carried into the camp, Von Tempsky continued, but not until next day did the troops fully realise the terrible nature of the blow they had inflicted on their foes. Probably fewer than fifty out of little more than three hundred escaped death or wounds. Fully 160 Maoris were killed or died of wounds. The British loss was 17 killed and 51 wounded.

On 3rd April, 1864, the Forest Rangers were moved from Orakau, the main body having left the previous day. Colonel MacNeil, A.D.C. to General Cameron, had been ambuscaded near Ohaupo during the three days of Orakau. It was therefore decided to have a permanent post about half way between Pukerimu and Te Awamutu. Major Blyth (40th) and Von Tempsky were despatched from Te Awamutu to a place a little beyond the native pa of Ohaupo, and a redoubt was built on a commanding ridge. The 40th built the redoubt, while Von Tempsky’s Rangers policed the road and scouted the bush.

“There is some lovely lake scenery,” wrote Von Tempsky, “between Te Awamutu and Ohaupo. Among sombre patches of forest gleams a water mirror every now and then, with a vivid green margin of waving grasses and rushes; here and there a solitary cabbage-tree with its long, irradiating leaves giving to the otherwise home-like scenery the New Zealand character. By moonlight the lake scenery is quite a fairy effect, and has often compensated me for the tediousness of repeated night patrol.”




The Maoris’ reason for not building the Orakau pa in a more defensive position is explained by the survivors. They say that it [72]was not placed where the native church stood, and where “Kawana” afterwards fixed his homestead, because that situation was conspicuous, and would readily be seen from the Kihikihi redoubt. This position certainly would have been superior to that selected as the site of the fort on the Rangataua rise, for on the western side of the Orakau Hill, just in rear of the old homestead, the ground slopes steeply to the Tautoro gully and swamp, and that side of the pa could easily have been scarped into an insurmountable wall. On the southern side there is a quick incline to the present road; on the east and north aspect the land slopes gently from the hill crest.

From a drawing by Mr A. H. Messenger] 


The blockhouse on the hill was built five years after the battle, close to the site of the British field headquarters during the siege. This drawing shows the battleground as it was about 1870.

With regard to the famous cry of defiance associated with the defence of Orakau, it is difficult to reconcile some of the Maori versions with the popular story. From none of my Maori authorities, all of them men who fought at Orakau, have I been able to obtain exact confirmation of the reported ultimatum: “Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake!” (“We will fight on for ever, and ever, and ever!”) The following is the statement of Major W. G. Mair, who, when ensign in the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry, acted as staff interpreter, and conveyed General Cameron’s demand for the surrender of the pa and his promise of safety for the garrison: “I could see the Maoris inclining their heads towards each other in consultation, and in a few minutes came the answer in a clear, firm tone: ‘E hoa, ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake, ake!’ (‘Friend, I shall fight against you for ever and ever!’)” Then Mair made request for the women and children to come out. “There was a short deliberation, and another voice made answer: ‘Ki te mate nga tane, me mate ano nga wahine me nga tamariki.’ (‘If the men are to die, the women and children must die also.’)” The difference between the popular version and Mair’s narrative is obviously very slight.



Major Mair, who served with great distinction in the Maori Campaigns, 1863–72, was General Cameron’s interpreter in the negotiations with the Maoris at Orakau, April 2nd, 1864. For many years after the wars he was a judge of the Native Land Court.



This photograph, typifying the peaceful union of the races, was taken at the monument on the Orakau battlefield, on the occasion of the jubilee gathering, April 1st, 1914.

The Maori account, as given by Te Huia Raureti and Pou-Patate Huihi and the late Te Wairoa Piripi is to the effect that the answer of Rewi and his fellow-chiefs was that they would not make peace. Te Wairoa Piripi said: “The General’s messenger came to us and called out: ‘Do not fire at me. I have a message for you from the General to request that you make peace, so that your women and children may be saved.’ This message was made known by Raureti Paiaka to the whole pa, to Rewi, who was at the northern section of the pa when the pakeha was speaking to Raureti. The [73]people in the western part of the pa were listening. Rewi Manga made reply: ‘Kaore au e hohou te rongo’ (‘I shall not make peace.’) Then all the people cried in chorus: ‘Kaore e mau te rongo, ake, ake, ake!’ (‘Peace shall never be made—never, never, never!’) Then stood up Karamoa Tumanako, of Ngati-Apakura, and said: ‘I shall make peace.’ To this Rewi, Hone Teri, and Raureti replied: ‘We are not willing that the people should be made prisoners, but if we leave the pa you make your own peace.’ Some of the people having fired, the pakeha dropped down, and the fighting began again. It was now that the rakete (rockets, i.e., hand-grenades) were flung into our pa. They were not so bad at first, but when the fuses were shortened many were the deaths. The sap was now close up. The outer fence, or pekerangi, was thrown down on the top of the soldiers, and some of them were killed or injured there. Two shells from the big gun on Karaponia [the hill on which the blockhouse was afterwards built] burst in the Manga-o-Hoi swamp, and the tribes in that direction were scattered. The explosion of a third shell slightly damaged the end of the pa where Te Huia and certain others were. The sun was declining, and now the pa was broken at the south-east angle, and the people jumped out from all parts of the work. The line of soldiers below the pa in the south-eastern direction was broken through by Paiaka, Te Whakatapu, and Te Makaka te Taaepa, and the people fled to the swamp, thence to the Puniu, leaving a great many dead.”

Te Huia Raureti said (1920): “When the interpreter spoke to us, saying, ‘Friends, come out to us so that your lives may be saved,’ Rewi Maniapoto made reply, through a messenger, my father Raureti Paiaka, ‘Peace shall never be made—never, never!’ Again spoke the pakeha, and said: ‘That is right for you men, but as for the women and children, send them out of the pa.’ This was declined, and all the people cried, repeating Rewi’s words, ‘Peace shall never be made—never, never, never!’ (‘Kaore e mau te rongo—ake, ake, ake!’)”

From a photo by J. Cowan] 


From a drawing by Major von Tempsky] 


This picture is a drawing, untitled, among the numerous war sketches left by Major von Tempsky. Major Mair, to whom it was shown many years ago, said he believed it represented the final scene of Orakau, April 2nd, 1864, when the last few Maoris to abandon the pa encountered the bayonet.

The Ngati-Tuwharetoa and Ngati-te-Kohera tribes declared that it was Hauraki Tonganui who replied to Mair on behalf of Rewi—he was simply a mouthpiece or messenger.

It is clear from all the Maori statements, and also Major Mair’s account given me many years ago, that Rewi himself did not speak to the interpreter. (For full details of Orakau and the discussion [74]between the opposing parties see the Official History of the New Zealand Wars, written for the Government, and published 1922.)

Orakau pa was surrounded by a square of post-and-rail fence, about a chain outside the earthworks. A veteran of the Forest Rangers says it was a cleverly-designed obstruction—the predecessor of our modern barbed-wire entanglements. It was partly masked with flax and fern, and it wrought the defeat of Captain Ring’s charge at the pa. The mounted men, too, were stopped by the post-and-rail fence, and there made a good target for the Maoris. The earthworks were not high, but the wide trench was a deadly affair and a complete obstruction to any charge.



From a survey, 1864.



The British headquarters in the siege were fixed just under the fall of the ground on the south-west of the pa close to where the blockhouse was afterwards built. The slopes are covered to-day with a dense growth of prickly acacias. The blockhouse has disappeared; the site is traceable only by a hollow showing where the magazine was under the floor of the building. A short distance to the W.S.W. of this spot, on slightly higher ground, just on the edge of the Karaponia crest, with the acacia grove feathering the abrupt slope to the swamp a hundred feet below, is the place where two Armstrong guns were posted to shell the pa. A tall bluegum marks the exact spot; at its foot are the fern-grown remains of a short parapet, the gun emplacement.

It was estimated that about 40,000 rounds of ammunition were fired by the troops during the three days’ fighting at Orakau. [75]

“Some of our men,” wrote an eye-witness, “lost their lives through foolishly and recklessly exposing themselves to the fire of the rebels. Tired of waiting in the sap, and in some instances excited by drink, they stood up and invited their fate: ‘Come on,’ they would cry, ‘and we’ll cook your head for you!’—in jocular allusion to the preserved heads which once formed an important article of trade in this island.”

The same narrator, an army chaplain, wrote: “Our men were short of caps; the reason for this was that they often used them for lighting their pipes. They placed a small piece of rag inside the caps, which they then caused to explode with the points of their bayonets.

“The Royal Irish had to avenge the death of their gallant leader [Captain Ring]. More than one Maori was slain from the belief that he had fired the fatal shot. It is said that ten Maoris fell in this way; when a fugitive was overtaken the cry arose: ‘That is the man who killed the captain!’—then came a wild yell, a shot, a bayonet thrust, and all was over.

“A Maori fugitive was taken prisoner and committed to the charge of two of the Royal Irish, who were thus prevented from joining in the pursuit. As they heard the shouts of the pursuers dying away in the distance they cursed their hard fate in being obliged to remain behind. An officer came up when their impatience had reached its crisis: ‘Shall we kill him, Barney?’ Barney thought for a moment, then shook his head. ‘I couldn’t kill the craytur in cold blood, Shane, but I wish we were quit of him.’ ‘Kick him and let him go,’ was the ready response. They loosed their hold and applied their heavy boots with full force to the person of their prisoner, who turned round and looked as if he would have sprung at their throats. The love of liberty was stronger than the thirst for revenge; he disappeared in the bush, while Shane and Barney hurried after their comrades.

“Most of the women who attempted to escape from the pa were taken; they were not able to run as fast as the men, and were soon exhausted. One woman was found dead clasping a Bible to her breast. The sacred volume was found on the persons of several of the dead and wounded, who had left everything else behind.

“There was little left to reward those who first entered the pa; they found about three tons of raw potatoes and a little Maori bread, but not a drop of water, nor any vessel to hold water. * * * [76]They had no surgeons to attend to their wounds. One man had his left leg broken by a ball; he bound two pieces of wood round it with wild flax and fought on to the last. Another whose side was pierced plugged the wound with a cork and kept his place among the defenders of the pa. * * * We have officers here who fought through the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny; all unite in affirming that neither the Russians nor the Sepoys ever fought as the Maoris have done; all lament the necessity of having to fight against such a gallant race. On this point the whole army is unanimous; a different feeling may prevail among the colonists, who look forward to reaping a rich harvest from all this carnage and bloodshed.”




The following are extracts from the narrative given to the present writer in 1920 by the veteran chief Te Huia Raureti, of Ngati-Maniapoto, who with his father fought at Orakau:

“Orakau was not a strong fortification. There was no proper palisading around the earthworks—we had not sufficient time to complete the defences—but there was a post-and-rail fence, in the form of a square, a little distance outside the trenches and parapets. The principal parapets were about five feet high and four feet in thickness, composed of sods and loose earth, with layers of fern pulled up and laid with the roots outward. The fern helped to bind the earthworks. We were still working away at the ditches and parapets when the troops came upon us. We had a sentry on the look-out, on the west side of the earthworks, the Kihikihi side, from which the soldiers approached. His name was Aporo. Suddenly his voice was raised in these words of alarm:

“ ‘He pukeko kei te Kawakawa! Kei Te Tumutumu te mea e tata ana!’ (‘A swamp-hen has reached the Kawakawa! There are others nearer us at Te Tumutumu!’)

“The ‘pukeko’ was the advance guard of the Imperial troops; the Kawakawa was the settlement near the large acacia grove [about a third of a mile north of the Orakau church and kainga.] The troops marched by the road which skirted the bush and up through the cultivations. Meanwhile some other soldiers (mounted men) had come a more direct way, a little to the north of the cart road, and we saw them at the peach and almond grove on the hill just west of the Tautoro swamp and creek about a quarter of a mile from [77]our earthworks. Some of the troopers rode at our pa, but had to retire before our volleys. The main body of the soldiers came marching on; and another force which had marched up along the Puniu River, crossing and recrossing, finally fording the river near where the Waikeria joins it and coming out on the Orakau-Maunga-tautari Road.”

After describing the three days’ fighting, Raureti told the story of the retreat to the Puniu on the last day:

“When the people had come to the decision to abandon the pa we all went out of it on the north-east side and retreated on the eastern side of the Karaponia ridge. My gun was loaded in both barrels, and I had some cartridges in my hamanu [ammunition-holder.] The soldiers were already in the outworks of the pa. Only one man wished to surrender, and this was Wi Karamoa, the minister. He remained in the pa, holding up a white handkerchief on a stick in token of surrender. We left many killed and wounded in the pa. Some of the dead we had buried; others were left lying where they fell. Among those whom we buried in the works were Matekau, Aporo (Waikato), Paehua (of Ngati-Parekawa), Ropata (the husband of Hine-i-turama), and Piripi te Heuheu (Urewera). There was bayonet work in the first rushing of the pa. On the first part of our retreat, across the slopes of the pa, we did not fire; we reserved our shots for emergency.

“We had to break through the soldiers at the steep fall of the land east of Karaponia. Here, where the ridge dropped, there was a scarped bank and ditch, made to keep the pigs out of the Rangataua cultivations. Just below this, between us and the swamp, were the soldiers. A man rushed first to break through the soldiers; he was killed. Then the foremost man turned back towards the pa, but my father Raureti Paiaka and his comrade Te Makaka dashed at the line of soldiers and broke through, and all the rest of us followed and made for the swamp. Raureti shot two soldiers here. We now were broken up and separated from one another. We retreated through the swamp, and when we reached a place called Manga-Ngarara (Lizard Creek) we found some troops who arrived there to stop us. There again Raureti Paiaka broke through and we passed on. Ngata was nearly killed there by being cut at with a sword. Raureti raised his gun as if to fire at the swordsman, but he had no cartridge in his gun. The soldier, fearing to be shot, hastily turned back, and our friend was saved. [78]

“Our chief and relative Rewi was with us in the retreat through the swamp, and several of us formed a bodyguard to fight a way through for him. When we had crossed the swamp to the Ngamako side, where the hills go steeply up, we saw soldiers, mounted and foot, in front of us, and we fired at them, and one or two dropped. At last we reached the Puniu River; we crossed it and travelled through the Moerika swamp, and presently halted at Tokanui. Next morning we went across to Ohinekura (near Wharepapa). Some of those who escaped from Orakau retreated to Korakonui and Wharepapa; some crossed to Kauaeroa; and others went to Hanga­tiki. When we crossed the Puniu the old Urewera chief Paerau, who was following us, called out to us from the Orakau side of the river, ‘Friends, Te Whenuanui is missing.’ However, Te Whenuanui (the chief of Ruatahuna) appeared safely, and we continued our retreat together.

“Rewi Maniapoto had gone to the Urewera Country before Paterangi was built, in order to enlist assistance in the war. There were old ties of friendship with the Urewera dating back to the time of the battle of Orona, at Lake Taupo, in the ancient days. The Warahoe section of the Urewera had a pa there then, and there were Ngati-Maniapoto living with them. Some of Warahoe later came and lived in the Ngati-Maniapoto country. Two casks of gunpowder were given to Rewi for the war; one of these was paid for in this way: Takurua, elder brother of Harehare, of the Ngati-Manawa tribe, came back with Rewi, and Raureti gave him £30 to pay for the gunpowder.” [79]




The close of the Waikato War saw some four thousand Imperial and Colonial troops in quarters at Te Awamutu, which remained a large military cantonment for over a year. Surveyors were busy cutting up blocks of confiscated land in the Waikato-Waipa delta for the military settlers, three regiments of Waikato Militia—one regiment was allotted land at Tauranga—and the two companies of Forest Rangers.

An excellent description of military life in Te Awamutu at this period is contained in a narrative written by an Army chaplain (name not given) which appeared in “Fraser’s Magazine,” London, in 1864. The writer narrates the trials and humours of the journey by river and road from Auckland to Te Awamutu in March, and gives an account of the soldiers’ town as he saw it.

“During the hot months,” wrote the chaplain, “officers and men were under canvas. * * * Most of these [the tents] have now disappeared, and a small town of whares has sprung up in their place. These whares are extremely comfortable; the coldest wind or the heaviest rain is effectually excluded. The nearest approach we have ever seen to a whare at Home is a Highland bothy, built of turf and heather. One whare affords accommodation for twenty-four men, who have to act as their own architects, carpenters, and builders. A healthy spirit of rivalry is thus produced; each man vies with his neighbour, and surveys the work of his own hand with honest pride. Raupo, a strong, flexible reed, abounding in the neighbouring swamps, has to be cut down and carried into camp on the men’s shoulders. They have often to remain for hours up to the waist in water, and are thus liable to frequent attacks of dysentery and fever. * * * When the whare is finished the men are allowed to have a dance on the wooden floor. The solitary flute strikes up ‘Judy O’Callaghan,’ ‘Garryowen,’ or some equally lively air, and a light-footed Irishman dances a pas de seul amid the vociferous applause of his comrades, who, inspired by his example, take the floor and batter the boards with hearty goodwill. A few of the huts are built of wood, which has been supplied by contract. Most of the primæval forests in the district have disappeared, but [80]clumps of red pine may still occasionally be seen. A party of some two hundred sawyers are employed about six miles from the camp [near Rangiaowhia]; strange, wild-looking men who have lived for years in the bush and hold little intercourse with their fellow-men. Some of the more skilful amongst them can make as much as £15 per week; the poorest workman can make the half of that amount. * * * The furnishings of our hut consist of a camp-bed, a table, two chairs, two wooden stools, two bridles, a riding-whip, a mirror six inches by four, a few paddles, a rifle, a sword, and a lump of bacon suspended from the roof. The mothers and sisters of officers out here are not to suppose that their sons and brothers are equally comfortable; our habits are deemed quite luxurious; our hut is the envy of the whole camp. The rumour has reached us that the Colonial Government, who claim it as their property [the hut was at the mission station], intend to turn us out, but they will find that rather difficult; possession at Te Awamutu is something more than nine points of law; we know our rights and mean to stand by them.”

Describing some of the troops at Te Awamutu, the chaplain wrote: “ * * * The soldiers of the 65th Regiment are most exemplary in this respect [attendance at religious services]. The regiment has spent eighteen years in the colony; the men have been broken up into detachments and stationed in rural districts, far removed from the temptations of garrison towns. Their appearance is very different from that of the men belonging to other regiments recently arrived. They are grave, serious, thoughtful men, with bronzed faces and flowing beards—living proofs of the healthiness of the climate. They are all in good condition, and occupy one-fourth more space on the parade-ground than any other regiment here. From their long residence in the colony most of them have contrived to save a little money; some who have speculated in land are capitalists possessed of thousands. This wealth does not interfere in any way with the strictness of discipline or the respect due to their officers. On the contrary, they expose their lives as readily as those who have nothing to lose, and from long intercourse are devotedly attached to those under whom they serve. They have never left their officers wounded on the field of battle; it is always a point of honour with them to carry them off, whatever loss may be entailed. Their wealth also sometimes enables them to be generous. It was only recently that a subaltern of long standing was likely [81]to lose his company from not having money to purchase. Judge of his surprise when one of the sergeants waited on him and offered to advance the sum required. * * * The 65th is first on the roster for Home service, but few of the men will ever leave the island. In fact, it is not to be desired that they should, as a better class of colonist could not be found.

“When the natives fled from this district a good many horses, cattle, and pigs were left wandering in the bush. Some months ago it was a frequent amusement among the officers to sally forth in small parties in search of loot. They revived the wild sports of Mexico by hunting down the horses and driving them into camp. We know of one case where an officer brought in twenty horses and sold them at £5 a head, thus netting £100 by the venture. * * * We have several lakes in the neighbourhood. [One of these was the Pekapeka-rau lagoon near Rangiaowhia.] The natives, on leaving, hid their canoes by dragging them into the bush or sinking them. A good many have been found, and some of our men have become skilful paddlers. They venture forth in these frail barques in search of sport. At first the wild fowl were so tame that they seemed to apprehend no danger; they have now become more suspicious. Pig-hunting also was a frequent amusement.”



This Army chaplain narrated with dry humour the romantic little story of a wounded half-caste girl, one of the prisoners taken at Orakau on 2nd April, 1864; her name was Ariana Huffs, or Hough:

“We have a few friendly natives in camp (at Te Awamutu) who receive rations; they have evidently much sympathy with their countrymen in bonds, and we respect them for it. There is one of them, a hunch-back postman, who plays a little on the Maori flute, which is much the same as our penny whistle. As soon as evening sets in he takes his stand at the door of his tent and begins playing a sort of dirge. His music is execrable, but we bear with it for the following reasons: One evening we requested him to cease his serenade or to remove elsewhere beyond our hearing. The deformed creature threw himself into an interesting attitude and said, ‘It is not for myself I am playing; it is for Ariana Huffs. Every evening she comes out to listen, and I can speak to her with my flute; she [82]knows all that it says.’ After this sentimental avowal we have learned to tolerate this black Blondel, this dusky Trovatore. Ariana is a remarkably pretty half-caste, the offspring of an Englishman and a Maori woman. Her mother died some years ago, and her father, one of those restless, unsettled beings so often to be met with in the colonies, left her to the care of her Maori relatives and started for Australia; nothing has been heard of him since. When the war broke out she was living with a settler near Awamutu; the family was obliged to leave, and she was carried off by the rebels. She says that this was done against her will, and that while the fighting was going on at the pa [Orakau] she was tied to another woman to prevent her from attempting to escape. We suspect, however, that she was tied only by the gentle cords of love, and that a Maori warrior had something to do with her presence there. When the pa was evacuated she was hit by a bullet which shattered her arm; it would have gone hard with her in the indiscriminate slaughter which ensued had not some brave fellow stood over her and defended her life.

“Ten men came forward to claim the honour due to this gallant deed; but this was after the report of her beauty had spread over the camp, and each claimant doubtless imagined that he could establish a lien over her heart.

“Nay; some weeks after the fight an enthusiastic militiaman travelled all the way from Raglan, a distance of thirty miles, and demanded an interview with the Brigadier; he stated that he was the preserver of Ariana’s life; he could neither eat nor drink nor sleep for thinking of her; so he had made up his mind to make her his wife. He had £50 in the Savings Bank, which sum he wished to devote to her education, so as to prepare her for the duties of the married state. All that he desired at present was an interview with the object of his affections; Ariana would at once recognise him and rush to his arms. There was only one slight difficulty: he spoke no Maori and she knew no English; but love has a language of its own; he had no doubt that they would understand one another.

“The Brigadier [Carey], amused at the fellow’s earnestness, granted the desired interview, and allowed the interpreter to be present to assist if the silent language of love should prove insufficient. The lover entered the room with a bashful, sheepish air, and stared at Ariana, who stared at him in return; but there [83]was no recognition on her part, no outburst of gushing gratitude, no rushing to his arms. On the contrary, she turned to the interpreter and coolly asked what the man wanted; on learning which she laughed heartily and told him to go away, as she had never seen him before, and would have nothing to say to him. The poor fellow begged, beseeched, implored, and looked unutterable things; Ariana only tittered and turned away her head. Ever since that time the militiaman has continued to urge his suit in letters, written by a half-caste amanuensis, but the Maori maid is still obdurate. He is not the only man who has felt the power of a beauty or claimed to be her preserver; so importunate were some of her admirers that a guard had to be stationed at the hut for her protection. She has now almost recovered from her wound, and an asylum will be provided for her in an orphan institution. We have still some hopes of the militiaman: perseverance often leads to success in love as in everything else.” [84]




“There,” said Ninian, and pointed to the north, “is the start of what my father—peace be with him!—used to call the Wicked Bounds, where every man you’ll meet has got a history, and a dagger in below his coat—Camerons, Clan Ranald’s men, Clan Chattan, and the Frasers—it stretches to the Firth of Inverness for sixty miles, the way a kite would fly.”

Neil Munro, in “The New Road.”

Looking southward across the Puniu in the Seventies and early Eighties we who were bred up on the Frontier saw a mysterious-appearing land, fascinating to the imagination because unknown—a land, too, of dread in the years of unrest, for there in the hinterland only a few miles from the border river lived Te Kooti and his band and the hundreds of Waikato dispossessed of their good lands on which we pakeha families now dwelt. As far as the eye could range it was a land altogether given up to the Kingites and the Hauhaus—an untamed country painted in the dark purple of broken mountain ranges, merging into the vague, misty blues of great distance, the sombre green of ferny hills and plains, and the yellow and white of deep flax and raupo swamps. Clear, dashing hill-streams and lazy, swamp-born watercourses, alive with eels and wild duck, all carrying down their quota to feed the silently-gliding Waipa. And over all, from Maunga-tautari’s shapelessly rugged mass along the curving sector to Pirongia’s fairy-haunted peaks, an aspect and air of solitude; a suggestion of mystery and waiting for the touch of man which was to transform that far-stretching waste.

The contrast! On our side the green farms of the pioneer settlers, roads, villages—each with its redoubt as a rallying-place in alarm—churches, schools—primitive schools, maybe, in the early stages—the flag of British authority flying.

So the border remained, the line of demarcation sharply defined by the confiscation boundary, the southern side inimical, sullen, waiting, for well-nigh twenty years after the final shots of the Waikato War.

Life on the old frontier, on one of the farthest-out farms, seems a kind of dream, a fabric of remembrance tinged with a faerie [85]haze, viewed through the vista of years from these times of new interests, new manners, changed modes of thought. Memories! One strives to marshal them into some order, but the most that can be done is to recall the things that chiefly fixed themselves on the youthful mind. There was the home on the hill, on the famous battlefield, the garden with its sweet old flowers, the cherry orchard, the huge almond trees (with flat stones at their feet upon which Maori children long before us cracked those almonds)—trees grown in the old days from the Rev. John Morgan’s orchard—the wild mint that grew in the tiny creek that went rippling down a swampy gully near the big acacia grove; the dam and the lake-like pond in the Tautoro swamp; and, above all, the peaches. The peaches of those happy dream-days on the old Orakau farm!—peaches vanished, a kind never to be tasted by the present generation. Orakau, Kihikihi, Te Awamutu, and Rangiaowhia were then the favoured land of the most delicious fruit that ever this countryside has known. Peach-groves everywhere, the good Maori groves, trees laden with the big honey peaches that the natives called korako because of their whiteness. Tons of peaches grew in those groves, and those wanted were gathered by the simple process of driving a cart underneath and sending one of us youngsters up to shake the branches until the cart was filled with fruit. Some of the best peaches were preserved by the housewives of the frontier in a way never seen now; they were sliced and sun-dried on corrugated iron, in the strong heat of the long days, and then strung in lines and hung in the high-ceilinged kitchen, criss-crossed in fragrant festoons, until required for pies.

As for the surplus fruit the pigs got it; many a cart-load of peaches from the groves was given to them, or they were turned out to feed on the heaps of fruit lying under the trees. Porkers fattened on peaches!

And it was curious, too, to explore some of those old groves of trees, on the crown of the farm near the road, for there the lead flew most thickly in the three days’ siege of Orakau, and nearly every tree bore the curious weals and knotty growths that indicated a bullet-wound, and a search with a knife sometimes revealed a half-flattened ball or fragment of one.

There was the bush on the north, covering the greater part of the swamp between the farm slopes and the high country of Rangiaowhia; even there, in little islanded oases in the woods and the [86]raupo marsh, were Maori peach-groves. On the south, a few hundred yards from the homestead, was the Blockhouse, with its little garrison of smart, blue-uniformed Constabulary—a tiny fort, but one that came large and grim enough on the eye of childhood.

The nearest farmer neighbour was the farthest-out settler of all—Mr Andrew Kay—and very far out and lonely his home seemed, on the verge of the confiscation boundary. Maoris were more numerous than pakehas; many a savage-looking and tattooed warrior, wearing a waist-shawl—for the Maori had not then taken kindly to trousers—called in at the home from one or other of the large villages just over the border; and native labour was employed at times on the farms.

That was long before the day of the dairy factory and the refrigerator, and while living was cheap there was little ready money in the country. No monthly cheques for butter-fat then; no competing buyers coming round for crops or stock. When a mob of cattle was ready for the market it had to be driven all the way to Auckland; and often there was mighty little profit for all the long hard work. Wheat was one of the staple crops, and in the early years it was threshed by hand with the old-fashioned flail and the grain carted to the nearest flour-mill. There was a water-mill on the Manga-o-Hoi, on the old swamp road between Kihikihi and Te Awamutu, and further south in the Waipa-Waikato country there were several wind-mills. I think I recollect two wind-mills of that old type on the road from Te Awamutu to Hamilton; one stood at or near Ohaupo.

For many a year after the War periodical scares of a Maori invasion were raised in the border settlements, from Alexandra and Te Awamutu around the confiscation line to Cambridge. The shooting of the surveyor Todd on Pirongia Mountain in 1870, the tomahawking of the farm-hand Lyon on the Orakau side of the Puniu in the same year, and the murder and decapitation of Timothy Sullivan near Roto-o-Rangi, on the Maunga-tautari side, all set alarms going. Every settler was armed, and the old Militia organisation presently was supplemented and made mobile by the formation of a fine body of frontier horse, the Te Awamutu and Cambridge troops of Waikato Cavalry. Well mounted, armed with sword, carbine, and revolver, able to shoot accurately and ride well, and thoroughly acquainted with the tracks, roads, and river fords, these settler-cavalrymen could not have been surpassed for the purposes [87]of border defence. Formed in 1871, the troops remained in existence until the introduction of the mounted rifles system in the beginning of the Nineties, and many hundreds of young fellows passed through the ranks during that time. In the early years, when the two troops were a real bulwark for the frontier, Major William Jackson, the veteran of the Forest Rangers, commanded the Te Awamutu troop; his lieutenants were Andrew Kay and William A. Cowan (the writer’s father), the two furthest-out settlers of Orakau. Captain Runciman commanded the Cambridge corps. Te Awamutu was the usual drill-ground of Jackson’s troop, and the shooting-butts were on the Puniu side of the settlement.

Some of the isolated settlers supplied themselves with small armouries of weapons for defence in case their homes were attacked. In our Orakau homestead there were, beside the cavalryman’s regulation arms, a double-barrel gun and a Spencer repeating carbine, a novel weapon in those days, American make; it was the U.S.A. cavalry arm. It held eight cartridges, fed in a peculiar way, by spring action through the heel of the butt.

Towards the Puniu, on a lonely hill where a few bluegums mark the site of a long-razed dwelling, there lived an old soldier who had been a gold-digger, and he devised a method of winning safety, in case of an attack, which would naturally suggest itself to an ex-miner. He dug a tunnel from the interior of his little house to a point on the hill-side, concealed with a growth of fern and shrubs; there he considered he could make his escape into the scrub if his assailants burned his house over his head.

There was another pioneer, a veteran of Jackson’s Forest Rangers, now living in Auckland. He told me of his preparations for defence on his section, which was partly surrounded by bush, at Te Rahu, a short distance from Te Awamutu. There was an old Maori potato-pit, one of the funnel-shaped ruas, not far from the house, and this he determined in one period of alarm to convert into a little garrison-hold. He made it a comfortable sleeping-place with layers of fern and blankets, and after dark at night he cautiously retired there with his carbine and two or three other shooting-irons and plenty of ammunition, and spent the night with an easy mind. His companion was his little daughter—his wife had died—and there the pair rested till morning. To make his retreat doubly secure the ex-Ranger had dug a short tunnel from his rifle-pit, emerging in the fern, so as to have a way of retreat in case his stronghold [88]was forced. The place was quite an ingenious little castle; and, as he said, would probably have been secure even had his home been attacked, for fern grew all about it, and was not likely to have been discovered except by a dog—and the Maoris did not take dogs with them on a raid.

From a photo in 1870. 


From a photo about 1885.] 


Back Row: Bandmaster-Sergeant H. T. Sibley, J. Holden, T. Weal

Front Row: Corporal A. H. North, E. North, R. Cunningham, Corporal J. Q. Tristram

The most anxious time on the frontier in the Seventies was the crisis caused by the murder of Timothy Sullivan by a party of Maoris between Roto-o-Rangi and Maunga-tautari, on 25th April, 1873. This was an agrarian murder, caused through rather careless dealings with native land; Purukutu, the principal in the crime, had not been paid for land in which he had an interest and which Mr E. B. Walker had acquired on lease, outside the aukati line. Sullivan was regarded by the Maoris as a tutua, a nobody; they were really after his employer, Mr Walker, and others, including Mr Buckland, of Cambridge. It was a savage piece of work, for Purukutu and Hori te Tumu, after shooting Sullivan—who had been at work with two companions fascining a swamp—decapitated him and cut out his heart. This was the last deed of the kind committed in New Zealand. The following account was given me by the old man Tu Tamua Takerei, who died recently at Parawera:

“Timoti [Timothy] was killed on the open plain at the foot of the hill. The Hauhaus cut off his head with a tomahawk and also cut open his body and took his heart away as a trophy of war. The head was carried to Wharepapa, where it was left. The heart was carried up country at the end of a korari stick (a flax-stalk), and was taken to a place near Te Kuiti. The slayers of Timoti intended to lay the heart before Te Paea, or Tiaho, the Maori Queen, but she disapproved their action, so the trophy was not presented to her. The taking of a human heart was an ancient custom of the Maori; it was the practice to offer it to Tu and Uenuku, the gods of war.”

This desperate deed was regarded by very many, Maoris as well as pakehas, as a prelude to war, and intense excitement prevailed on both sides of the border. The cavalry troops at Te Awamutu and Cambridge were called out for patrol duty, and the Armed Constabulary posts were strengthened. Additional blockhouses were built, one at Roto-o-Rangi and one at Paekuku, to watch the Maunga-tautari side, and a redoubt was built at the Puniu. The Waikato and Auckland newspapers were full of war rumours; public meetings were called at Te Awamutu to discuss defence measures; and [89]all along the frontier the determined settlers were on the alert. It was many months before the alarm subsided. The fanatical-minded factions among the King Country Maoris might have succeeded in raiding some of the border farms, but no native captain was bold enough to try the experiment in the face of the vigilant watch of the well-armed, well-drilled troops of frontier horse and the numerous garrisons of Armed Constabulary.

From a photo in 1883.] 


Mr. Hursthouse served in the wars in Taranaki, 1860–9, and had a very adventurous career as a Government surveyor. He was the earliest official pioneer of the King Country. See Appendices for narrative of his capture by a band of King Country fanatics.



Taonui was a high chief of Ngati-Maniapoto and took a leading part in Kingite politics.

Formidable on the youthful eye in those lively years of the Seventies loomed the Blockhouse. This was the picturesque little garrison-house which crowned the Karaponia hill at Orakau, as if guarding our homestead that stood a few hundred yards away among its groves. It was very close to the spot where the British headquarters camp had been pitched in 1864 at the attack on Orakau Pa. The Blockhouse was a type of the border outposts built on many parts of the frontier, as far away as the Hawke’s Bay-Taupo Road, in the Hauhau wars. The building was of two storeys, and its curious tall shape and its lonely stand on the hill-crest commanding a look-out over the wild Maori country southward made it the most prominent object in the landscape. On the ground floor the building, constructed mostly of kahikatea, was about 16 feet by 20 feet, with a height of 9 feet. The upper storey overlapped the lower one by about 3 feet all round, and was 12 feet high. The walls were lined, and the space between the outer wall and the lining was filled with sand to make the place bullet-proof. The palisade which surrounded the Blockhouse was 10 or 12 feet high; there was a space of 6 feet or 7 feet between it and the building. In the walls of the top storey there were loop-holes all round, breast high, three at the ends and about six at the sides; and there was also provision for firing through the projecting part of the floor. There were no rifle-slits in the lower storey, but the palisading was loopholed; these firing-apertures were about 5 feet apart and breast high. The loopholes were 6 inches high and 2 inches wide, just large enough to put a rifle barrel through. In the front the palisading was double, with a curtain of timber covering the entrance. The front fence was nearly all tall manuka stakes, but the main palisading consisted of posts 10 or 12 inches in thickness; manuka timber was used to fill the interstices. On the edge of the gully at the rear of the Blockhouse the bank was scarped perpendicularly about 7 feet as an additional protection. To heighten the warlike face which this little fort presented to the world, above the narrow gateway there was [90]set a wooden effigy of a sentry. The figure had been carved by some Maori artist; it represented a soldier, with wooden rifle and fixed bayonet, in the correct attitude of “port arms.” It gave a kind of artistic finish to the “pa o te hoia,” as the Maoris called the Blockhouse, and it loomed very grim and soldier-like in the eyes of us small youngsters from the Orakau farm. A tall flagstaff stood in front, and there were a potato patch and a garden plot, with all the old-fashioned flowers—sweet william, verbena, sunflower, Indian-shot, pansies, and their like. The married men of the Armed Constabulary lived outside the Blockhouse, in raupo whares, and very cleverly the pakeha learned to thatch his house. I remember the home of an Irish sergeant who lived near the Blockhouse, beside the main road; it was a snug, thatched dwelling, very neat and pretty; there was a potato patch, and there was a sweet little flower garden, and honeysuckle twined about the whare and hung over the door.

The Blockhouse stood no sieges; its loop-holes never flashed the fire of Enfield or Snider on a yelling horde of Hauhaus. But it is certain that the existence of this chain of posts along the frontier, with the vigilant patrol of the settlers’ cavalry corps, prevented the hostiles from raiding across the border and descending on the out-settlements.

There were many scares, and more than once the wives and children on the scattered farmsteads were taken in to the redoubts and blockhouses for the night, while the men of the farms, with carbine and revolver, watched their homesteads and rode patrol along the tracks leading to the Maori country and the fords of the Puniu.

They are all gone now, those romance-teeming old blockhouses of our pioneer days. Like many other deserted posts, the Orakau building stood there on the sentry hill-top for many a year, rocking in the gales now that the protecting palisade had gone, until a Crown Lands Commissioner with no interest in historic matters sold it as mere old timber. Few people in those years possessed sufficient prescience and sentiment to help preserve for the new generation of colonists those relics of the adventurous days.

Of the redoubts, less easily demolished, a few crumbling earthworks remain here and there. One, I am glad to say, that is very well preserved is the Armed Constabulary redoubt at Alexandra—[91]now Pirongia—garrisoned up to 1883. The village English Church stands in the centre of the work to-day. I give a sketch-plan of this last surviving example of the old frontier forts.

*   *   *

Pirongia Redoubt.

Pirongia Redoubt.

The year 1881 saw the first definite decision for permanent peace on the part of the Maoris; it marked the nearing end of the necessity for frontier redoubts and blockhouses, and it relieved the border of the Kingite menace which had been an ever-present source of disquiet since white farmers first set the plough to the confiscated lands. Tawhiao laid down his guns at Major Mair’s feet at the border township of Alexandra, and then came a peaceful though martial-appearing march of the Kingite men through the European settlements and much firing of salutes to the dead—the “powder-burning of sorrow”—over the battlefields of the Sixties. Six hundred armed Kingites escorted the tattooed king and his chiefs, the lordly Wahanui and his shawl-kilted cabinet of rangatiras, on the pilgrimage to the scenes of the last despairing fights, and there were amazingly animated scenes in the outermost villages of Waikato when Tawhiao came to town, riding grimly in his buggy, and guarded front and rear by his fierce-faced riflemen. The march was by way of Te Awamutu, and the Cavalry band rode out from the township along the Alexandra Road to meet the Kingites and play them through the village. A right rousing march it was, too, for the tune the bandsmen played as they came riding in at the head of the procession was “The King of the Cannibal Islands.” It was Sergeant Thomas Gresham—then a lawyer in Te Awamutu, and afterwards coroner in Auckland—who suggested the air to [92]Bandmaster Harry Sibley, and that grizzled veteran of the wars seized on the bright idea with joy, and chuckled into his clarionet at the left-handed compliment he was paying his olden adversary. Tawhiao himself was pleased with the liveliness of the music, and later, through an interpreter, inquired the name of the tune; and an angry man was he when he was informed that it was “Te Kingi o Nga Moutere Kai-tangata.” For that same “kai-tangata” was a tender subject; and dour old Tawhiao had no glimmering of a sense of humour.

Kihikihi settlement was given up that week to a Kingite carnival of feasting and war-dancing and speech-making, and the Maori camp at Rewi’s house and in the neighbouring field rang night and morning with the musical sound of the Hauhau hymns, the service of the Tariao, the “Morning Star,” chanted by hundreds of voices. Some unconventional scenes there were, characteristic of the frontier life. For instance, there was the pakeha-Maori dance on the main road in Kihikihi that symbolised the final unifying of the two races. The dashing Hote Thompson, the King-maker’s son, a fighting man of renown, paraded in all the glory of Hauhau war-paint in front of his savage-looking soldiery, and called for a pakeha lady partner to dance “te lancer” with him, and then out stepped a settler’s handsome wife, and the accomplished Hote led her through the mazes of the lancers in the middle of the crowd on the dusty road with as much grace as if he had been young Lochinvar himself. True, Hote wore only a shawl in place of trousers, and his face was blackened with charcoal dabbed on for a haka, but none the less he was a pretty gallant. Had that pakeha dancer been a reader of Bret Harte she might have recalled the historic dance on “Poverty Flat”:

*   *   *

“The dress of my queer vis-a-vis,

And how I once went down the middle

With the man that shot Sandy McGee.”

There was no law but the Maori chieftains’ law south of the Puniu River until after 1883, when Te Kooti was pardoned and a general amnesty to Maori rebels was proclaimed. For policy reasons the Kingites were left pretty much to themselves for some time after Tawhiao laid down his guns at Major Mair’s feet at Alexandra in 1881, and when John Rochfort and Charles Wilson Hursthouse, setting out from Kihikihi, carried flying surveys through the Rohepotae, [93]the state of the country from the Puniu for a hundred miles southward was not very different in essentials from that of the Scottish Highlands in the period described by Mr Neil Munro in his adventure romances that carry a tang of Stevenson’s “Catriona.”

The only occasion on which an offender south of the Puniu was brought to justice before the chiefs of Ngati-Maniapoto voluntarily opened the country to Government authority was in 1882, when a long-wanted man was brought into Te Awamutu under circumstances unorthodox and dramatic. The Maori was Winiata, who in 1876 killed a man named Packer, at Epsom, near Auckland. Packer and Winiata had been fellow-servants in the employ of a Mr Cleghorn, and had quarrelled. Winiata, after tomahawking Packer, fled to the King Country, and for six years was safe. At last the Government reward of £500 tempted a big half-caste named Robert Barlow to make an effort to bring in Winiata. The arrest was accomplished as the result of a scheme devised by the Te Awamutu policeman, Constable R. J. Gillies—a very smart and capable man, afterwards Inspector of Police—and Sergeant McGovern, of Hamilton. At Otorohanga Barlow met Winiata, whose home was at Te Kuiti, and, pretending to be a pig-buyer, set about bargaining with the wanted man. In the night he succeeded in making Winiata and two companions drunk, and about midnight lashed him to a spare horse, after taking a revolver from him, and made off for the Puniu. It was an exceedingly risky undertaking, for Barlow would have been shot had any of the Maoris been at all suspicious. He took the prisoner to Kihikihi, and with the assistance of the Constabulary handed him over to Constable Gillies at Te Awamutu. He received the reward of £500, with which he bought a farm at Mangere. Winiata was tried and convicted, and was hanged at Auckland on 4th August, 1882. As for Barlow, he did not live long himself; he died in a very few years after his King Country feat, and the natives declared that he had been fatally bewitched (kua makuturia) by a tohunga in revenge for his capture of Winiata.

Another incident that greatly excited the frontier was the capture and imprisonment of Mr Hursthouse and a fellow-surveyor by the fanatic Te Mahuki, or Manukura, of Te Kumi, near Te Kuiti. This was in 1883. The surveyors were released by Te Kooti and friendly-disposed King natives. Soon thereafter Mahuki and a band of his “Angels” rode into Alexandra, which they had threatened to loot and burn; but they were smartly arrested by Major Gascoyne [94]and a force of Armed Constabulary and Te Awamutu Cavalry, and were haled off to Auckland prison.1

*   *   *

A wilderness that vast country of the Rohepotae lay for many a year. The cultivations of the Maoris, even the fields of wheat and oats around such settlements as Araikotore—the patriarchal Hauauru’s village—or the large patches of potatoes and maize at Tokanui and Tokangamutu—it is Te Kuiti to-day—gave but scanty relief from the general impression of an unused virgin expanse of fern prairie and woody mountain land. At Otewa, on the Upper Waipa, lived the notorious and dreaded Te Kooti, in outlawed isolation far from his East Coast birthland, ever since his final skirmish with Captain Preece’s Arawa force in the Urewera Country in the beginning of 1872. Not until after John Bryce’s peace-making with him at Manga-o-rongo in 1883 did the white-haired old cateran venture out into the pakeha settlements.

Then miles away to the west, on the beautiful slopes of Hikurangi, giving on to the fertile basin of the Waipa and overlorded by the Pirongia Range, there was the great camp of King Tawhiao and his exiled Waikato, several hundreds of them, looking down with many mournings on the good lost lands and the lost battlefields of the Sixties. Later, they moved down to Te Kopua, yonder by Kakepuku’s fern-shod heel, and then to Whatiwhati-hoe, the Place of the Broken Paddles, on the level banks of the Waipa. In the mid-Eighties they migrated in their canoes, a picturesque tribe-flitting, past Pirongia, down the Waipa and down the Waikato, back to their old ancestral homes, or what was left of those homes, on the west side of the Lower Waikato. But they never had a more lovely or more inspiring home in all their wanderings than those sun-bathed slopes of rich volcanic land on the high shoulder of Hikurangi, where the road to-day goes over the range to Kawhia.

Now the once wild country across the border has become the highway of the motor-car, has become dotted with scores of lively European settlements, with large towns with electric light and asphalted footpaths, churches and police stations, tennis lawns and bowling greens, stock sale-yards and all the other varied furnishings of an advanced day. Hauhauism is a far-off tale of the past; descendants of old king-like Wahanui and the one-time followers of [95]the Pai-marire and Tariao fanatic faiths have fought beside Waikato and King Country white soldiers on the fields of Gallipoli and France. Yet the names of the old trail-breakers, the stories of the heroic missionaries, soldiers, surveyors, road-builders, should not be forgotten by those who look out from their carriage windows or their cars or from their comfortable farmhouses on this well-favoured land of the Waipa slopes and the old Aukati frontier. [96]

1 For further details of these episodes see Appendices. 





This curious tradition, gathered from the last of the old learned men of the Ngati-Maniapoto tribe, is given as a typical example of the Maori folk-lore with which the King Country abounds.

On the crown of the land at Whenuahou, immediately north of the Tokanui hills known to the European settlers of the old frontier as “The Three Sisters,” is an historic spot called Kiharoa, in memory of a giant warrior of long ago. It was proposed by some of the Kingite chiefs in 1864, after the British occupation of the Waipa basin, that a fort should be built here for a final stand against the Queen’s soldiers. The position commanded a wide view over the valley of the Puniu and the conquered lands north of the river, but it would have been useless without a sufficient garrison to hold also the hill-forts in rear of and above it, ancient terraced pas of the Maori. The suggestion was not favoured by Rewi and the other leaders, and the warriors re-crossed the Puniu to the north side and built the pa at Orakau. Long ago, riding along the old horse track from Kihikihi to Otorohanga past Hopa te Rangianini’s little village at Whenuahou, we used to see the Giant’s Grave, as it was called. This locally-famous landmark was a shallow excavation on a ferny mound; it was twelve or fourteen feet in length and about four feet in width, and vague traditions had grown up around it, but none of the European settlers of the frontier knew anything definite of its history. A few years ago, however, I gathered the story of this semi-mythic giant from two venerable warriors of the Ngati-Maniapoto, on the south bank of the Puniu River. There certainly seems to have been a veritable giant, a man of enormous stature and length of reach with the hand-weapons of those days, six generations ago. This Kiharoa, or “The Long Gasping Breath,” was a chief of the Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Whakatere tribes, who in those times owned the Tokanui hills and the surrounding fruitful slopes.



With the regimental mess-house in the background.



[From photos lent by Colonel Ryder.]

The strong terraced and trenched pa on Tokanui, the middle conical hill of the row of three, was built by the two tribes named, [97]under Kiharoa, about a hundred and fifty years ago. The same people fortified and occupied the other two hills; the eastern one is Puke-rimu (“Red-Pine hill”) and the western Whiti-te-marama (“The Shining of the Moon”). There were many good fighting men among the people of these hill forts, but their tower of strength was Kiharoa, who stood hugely over his fellows; he was twice the height of an ordinary man, and he wielded a taiaha of unusual length and weight, a hardwood weapon called by the name of “Rangihaeata” (“The First Rays of Morning Light”). Many a battle he had fought successfully with this great blade-and-tongue broadsword, sweeping every opponent out of his path. Kiharoa was tattooed on body as well as face, and when he leaped into battle, whirling “Rangihaeata” from side to side in guard and feint and cut, his blue-carved skin glistening with oil and red ochre, his great glaring eyes darting flame, his moko-scrolled features distorted with fury, few there were brave enough to face him. But there came a day when Kiharoa met his better on the battlefield of Whenuahou.

The Ngati-Maniapoto tribe, whose great fortress was Totorewa, an impregnable cliff-walled pa on the Waipa River, raised a feud against the Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Whakatere, and a large war-party set out under the chief Wahanui, who himself was a man of great frame, though no giant like Kiharoa. The “taua” took a circuitous route, coming upon the Tokanui hills from the south via Manga-o-Rongo, and then making a detour to the east to avoid the deep morass which defended the southern side of “The Three Sisters”—the present main road from Kihikihi to Otorohanga traverses this now partly-drained swamp.

Meanwhile the garrisons in the hill forts had prepared for war, and their sentinels stood on the alert on the tihi or citadel of the terraced strongholds, keeping keen watch for the expected enemy. Harua, one of the chiefs of the forts, had descended to the plain with a small party before the approach of the foe was detected, and although the people on the hill forts called repeatedly to him warning him to return, no heed was given to the long-drawn shouts. At length a keen-eyed sentry saw the glisten of a weapon—perhaps a whalebone mere—in the westering sun; the direction was well to the east of the pa, and by that token it was plain that the enemy army was lying in ambush waiting to advance silently in the night. It was imperative that Harua and his men outside the pa should be [98]warned, and so in the still watches of the night a strong-lunged warrior on the battlements of Tokanui lifted up his voice in this whakaaraara-pa, or sentinel-chant:

E tenei pa, e tera pa!

Titiro ki nga tahanga roa

I Tunaroa!

Pewhea tena te titiaho

Kia haere ake ki te pa.

Hoi tonu, hoi tonu!

In this chant the garrisons of the pas on each hand, Puke-rimu and Whiti-te-marama, were called upon to be on the alert, and to scan the long slopes towards the place called Tunaroa where the enemy lay concealed. Yonder perhaps was the place whence the foe would advance in the morning sunshine against the pas. “Ye heeded me not—heeded me not,” the chant ended. Had any lurking enemy scout been near enough to hear the words he would take them as being addressed only to the garrisons of the hill-top fortresses, and would not suspect that it was really a warning for the ears of Harua and his small force of scouts who were liable to be cut off from the pa as soon as daylight came.

The cry of warning was heard and understood by Harua, and he and his scouts swiftly rejoined their friends on the hill-tops.

When day came and the war-party of Ngati-Maniapoto appeared, working round to the north-east side of the Tokanui chain of forts, Kiharoa the giant, stripped for battle, took up his taiaha, “The First Rays of Morning Light,” and led his warriors down to the open slopes of Whenuahou to give battle to the invaders. As he dashed down the hill he ran through a grove of karaka trees. Here there was a pool where the kernels of the karaka berries were prepared for food by being steeped in water after having been cooked; this food was termed “kopiri.” There were some dead leaves of the karaka lying on the track, and Kiharoa slipped on these leaves as he ran, and fell, and narrowly escaped breaking his taiaha in his fall. The spot is at the foot of Tokanui hill, just outside the thickets of prickly acacia which now clothe the silent old fortress with a mat of softest green. This accident was in the belief of the Maori a tohu aitua or evil omen for Kiharoa. The knowledge of this fact may have unnerved the giant, or “Rangihaeata’s” mana may have suffered by the mishap. He rushed to meet his foes, but he was outfought for all his phenomenal reach of [99]arm. He fell pierced with spear thrusts and battered with blows of stone clubs, and he lay dead on the battlefield of Whenuahou.

The Tokanui people were defeated; they fled in panic when their gigantic chieftain fell, and many were killed on the field. The survivors, however, held their forts successfully. Ngati-Maniapoto contented themselves with the dead, which would provide many ovens of man-meat, and most of all they rejoiced to find that they had vanquished the dreaded Kiharoa. They gathered round in amazement to measure his height and his giant limbs; and on the spot where he lay marks were cut at head and feet to indicate his length. His enormous tattooed head was cut off and preserved by being smoke-dried, and presently was carried home to Totorewa to decorate the palisade at the gateway of the fort. His body was cut up and cooked and eaten where he fell, and there the excavation remained to mark his great stature. He was two fathoms long! So says the native account. My Maori friends will not abate a single inch. This is the length of the place we used to call the “Giant’s Grave,” on the crown of the land below Puke-rimu, the eastern hill of the “Sisters.” And the battlefield was divided among the victors, and later became the home of a section of the Ngati-Matakore tribe, of whom my old warrior acquaintances Hauauru and Hopa te Rangianini were the chiefs in the days of my boyhood within sight of the terrace-carved “Three Sisters.”

Such is in brief the story of the giant’s grave—a misnomer assuredly, seeing that Kiharoa’s tomb was the stomachs of his slayers. The Tokanui village hall stands within revolver shot of the place where Kiharoa came to his end, and the community creamery at the cross-roads stands where once Wahanui’s cannibal army plied spear and stone club and taiaha on the defenders of the three hill forts. Some distance to the east is the Waikeria prison farm. It was in that direction, at Tunaroa, that Wahanui and his Totorewa army lay in the fern the night before the battle.

There was another giant of those parts in the days before the white man came with his guns. This was Matau; he was, like Kiharoa, a man of the Ngati-Raukawa tribe. He was nearly as tall as Kiharoa, says an old word-of-mouth historian. He was a dreaded warrior, and, like Kiharoa again, his favourite weapon was the taiaha. His home was in a palisaded hole in a cliff above the cave called Te Ana Kai-tangata (“The Cannibal’s Cave”), which you may see in the rocky face in the gorge towards the head of the [100]Wairaka Stream, a tributary of the Puniu River. The entrance to this cave is still marked with the paint kokowai or red ochre; that is how you will know it. It was an excellent place in which to lie in wait for incautious travellers in the days of old. [101]





The following are the meanings of a number of native place-names in the Te Awamutu district; some of these names are now for the first time placed on record:—

  • Te Awamutu: The end of the river; i.e., the head of canoe navigation.
  • Rangiaowhia: Beclouded sky.
  • Kihikihi: Cicada, tree-locust.
  • Orakau: The place of trees.
  • Paterangi: Fort of heaven; i.e., the pa on the high part of the ridge, the skyline.
  • Waiari: Clear water.
  • Mangapiko: Crooked creek.
  • Te Rore: The snare.
  • Mangatea (on the Manga-o-Hoi, where the mill stood): White stream.
  • Matariki (a short distance above the bridge at Te Awamutu, right bank of river): The Pleiades constellation; also reeds used for lining the interior of a house.
  • Te Reinga (old village site behind R.C. Church, Rangiaowhia): Leaping, rushing; thus the place of leaping, the final departing place of spirits of the dead.
  • Hikurangi (the Rangiaowhia heights above the Manga-o-Hoi; Gifford’s Hill; also place on Pirongia-Kawhia Road): Skyline; horizon.
  • Pekapeka-rau (swamp between Hairini and Rangiaowhia): Place where the native bat was numerous.
  • Tioriori (native village, near where the Hairini cheese factory now stands): A kind of kite, made of raupo.
  • Tau-ki-tua (the site of the English Church at Rangiaowhia): The farther ridge.
  • Te Rahu: Basket made of undressed flax.
  • Te Rua-Kotare (Taylor’s Hill, or Green Hill, north of Te Awamutu): The kingfisher’s nest (in hollow tree).
  • Tauwhare (ancient pa on cliffy right bank of Mangapiko River, above Waiari): Overhanging.
  • Tokanui: Great Rock.
  • Waikeria: Dug-out waterway, or watercourse gouged out.
  • Otorohanga: O, food carried for a journey; torohanga, stretched out. According to a Ngati-Maniapoto tradition, a certain warrior chief who set out from this spot for Taupo with only a very small quantity of food caused it by supernatural means to “stretch out” and to last until he had reached his destination. Hence the name.



The Maori murderer Winiata, captured at Otorohanga by Robert Barlow, was brought into Kihikihi early on the morning of Tuesday, 27th June, 1882. At about three o’clock that morning Constable Finnerty, of the Armed Constabulary, found Barlow and Winiata struggling violently outside the Alpha Hotel. Winiata, who was in a naked condition, had recovered from the effects of the grog, and was making a desperate effort to escape. He was overpowered and taken to the Constabulary barracks in the redoubt, and chained to a bedstead. Major Minnett, who was in command of the Armed Constabulary Force at Kihikihi, sent him to Te Awamutu with Barlow in the Government waggon under an armed guard, and Constable Gillies then took the prisoner in charge and delivered him to Sergeant McGovern at Hamilton the same day.

There were two other Maoris in the whare at Otorohanga, and both of these were made helplessly drunk or drugged by Barlow. [102]



The capture of Mr Charles Wilson Hursthouse and Mr William Newsham, Government surveyors, by a band of King Country fanatics under the prophet Te Mahuki occurred at Te Uira, near Te Kuiti, on 20th March, 1883. Mr Hursthouse was on his way from Alexandra to explore the country from the Waikato frontier to the Mokau, and he and his assistant surveyor were accompanied by the Mokau friendly chiefs Te Rangituataka and Hone Wetere te Rerenga and twenty-five other Mokau men. At Te Uira, sixteen miles beyond Otorohanga, on the afternoon of the 20th, as they rode up they saw a large body of Maoris mustering excitedly. These were natives under the leadership of the fanatic Te Mahuki, or Manukura, a Ngati-Maniapoto man who had been a follower of Te Whiti at Parihaka, and who had returned to the Rohepotae to found a sect of his own. He called his followers the “Tekau-ma-rua,” or “The Twelve”—although they numbered many more—after the Twelve Apostles. This was a revival of a term of the Hauhau war days. The selected war-parties of the Taranaki fighting chief Titokowaru were called the “Tekau-ma-rua.” These men attacked Hursthouse’s party, and a lively fight followed, although no deadly weapons were used. The Tekau-ma-rua pulled the surveyors and the Mokau men off their horses, Rangituataka’s followers fighting desperately with stirrup-irons and leathers. The prisoners were marched to the village at Te Uira, in the midst of the terribly-excited Tekau-ma-rua, who were dancing and yelling and chanting ngeri or war-songs. Te Rangituataka and Wetere and their men were not ill-used—there were too many of them; moreover the leaders were high chiefs of the tribe—but the surveyors and a native named Te Haere were thrust into a cookhouse and imprisoned there. Hursthouse and Newsham had been stripped of their coats, waistcoats, and boots. Their hands were tied behind their backs and their feet were fastened together with bullock-chains. In this condition, suffering great pain from the tightness of their bonds, tortured by mosquitoes which they could only brush off by rubbing their faces on the ground, and without drink or food except dirty water and some pig’s potatoes thrown in on the floor, they remained there two nights and a day, listening to the yells and threats of the natives outside, and expecting to be killed. Early on the morning of 22nd March there was a new commotion outside, and Hursthouse heard Te Kooti’s voice. In a few moments the door of the cookhouse was burst open and the prisoners were released by Te Kooti—who had just been promised an amnesty by Mr Bryce, Native Minister—and a large party of natives, including Wahanui’s people; Wahanui himself arrived a little later. Hursthouse and Newsham had already worked their hands free, and the former had picked up a piece of iron chain as a weapon in case he was attacked. The extreme tension and anxiety of the thirty-six hours’ painful confinement and the want of food had affected even the indomitable Hursthouse, old campaigner though he was, and, as he related afterwards, when he was released he fairly broke down and wept. The surveyors were escorted to Alexandra by a large body of Wahanui’s people, and presently resumed their exploring expedition, after their late captor in his turn had been locked up.



On Sunday, 25th March, 1883, three days after the release of Hursthouse and Newsham, Mahuki and twenty-six followers invaded the township of Alexandra (now Pirongia), in pursuance of the leader’s announced intention to loot the place. Mahuki had prophesied many extraordinary things, and his followers had implicit belief in his supernatural powers. He had even sent word of his intended visit, so Alexandra was prepared. A force of Armed Constabulary under Captain (afterwards Major) Gascoyne, who was in command of the Alexandra Redoubt, and the Te Awamutu Cavalry troop were on hand, and so disposed in detachments out of sight as to surprise and surround the invaders. Mahuki’s men, fortunately for themselves, were not armed. Two Europeans who had ridden out to reconnoitre the road to the Waipa bridge had to make a speedy retreat when the Tekau-ma-rua came in sight. One of them—Mr Alfred H. Benge, the schoolmaster at Te Awamutu[103]—returned safely with the loss of only his hat; the other, a well-known Alexandra resident, parted company with his horse in the race, and was caught, tied up, and deposited by the roadside to reflect on the position at leisure, while the Hauhau troop galloped on into Alexandra. Their surprise was complete. Armed Constabulary and Cavalry troopers rushed out and surrounded them, pulled them off their horses, and tied them up. Twenty-three were captured in this way, including the much-astonished prophet himself, and four more were arrested at the bridge. Only one man got clear away to carry the news of the prophet’s capture to the kainga at Te Kumi. Four of the twenty-seven, being young boys, were released; the rest were marched, handcuffed in couples, to Te Awamutu, where they were entrained for Auckland. Mahuki and his principal followers were tried at the Supreme Court for the assault on Hursthouse and Newsham, and received terms of imprisonment.

Some years later Mahuki ran amok again, this time at Te Kuiti, and was once more imprisoned, and he died while serving his sentence. He was the last of the troublesome religious fanatics of the Rohepotae.



Rangiaowhia has been spelled in a variety of ways, ranging from the curious “Rangahaphia” in one of the Auckland papers of 1851 to “Rangiaohia” and “Rangiawhia.” The old men of Ngati-Maniapoto pronounce and write the name as spelled in this book.



The Rev. Benjamin Yates Ashwell, although the first to establish a mission settlement at Te Awamutu, did not live there. He made several visits, travelling through the Waikato and Waipa, and left native teachers in charge at each village where he was early favourably received. In the Forties he established his headquarters at Kaitotehe, near Te Wherowhero’s pa, on the opposite side of the Waikato River to Taupiri. This spot, on the most beautiful bend of the Waikato, became a favourite halting place for canoe crews passing up and down the river, and pioneer travellers have described to the writer the pleasure of landing at Kaitotehe on a hot midsummer day, after a long, cramping voyage in a Maori canoe, and feasting in the cherry groves at the mission station. Mrs B. A. Chrispe, of Mauku, describing Mr Ashwell’s station, says that the church was a large and lofty thatched building, with the walls beautifully lined in the artistic Maori fashion with arapaki lattice work of coloured lathes and reeds arranged in many patterns. The site of the long-deserted mission station, which is seen from the railway train as it passes along the Taupiri bend, is covered with a growth of acacia. The Maoris pronounced the missionary’s name “Ahiwera.”



A highly-important event in the story of this district, and, indeed, of the Dominion, was the turning of the first sods of the Te Awamutu-Marton railway, the King Country section of the Main Trunk line, in 1885. The sods were turned on the south side of the Puniu bridge by the high chiefs Wahanui, Taonui, and Rewi. The Premier of New Zealand, Sir Robert Stout (then Mr Stout), was present, but he contented himself with second place in diplomatic compliment to the lords of the soil. There is a curious inner history to the ceremony on the banks of the Puniu; it was related to the present writer some years ago by Sir Robert Stout. “The sod was nearly not turned that day,” said Sir Robert; and he told the story of the dispute between the Waikato and Ngati-Maniapoto tribes. Early that morning there was a conference at Te Awamutu between the Premier and his colleague, Mr John Ballance, and the Maori chiefs. Mr G. T. Wilkinson was the interpreter. Wahanui, Taonui, and Rewi were there, and all three had agreed that the sod should be turned and the railway should go on through the Rohepotae. But Waikato sent two chiefs to protest against the work in the name of the Maori King, whose headquarters were then at Whatiwhatihoe, on the Waipa. [104]There were long speeches; the only one who was silent was the huge-framed Wahanui; but he was fuming with indignation; his chest was heaving in his efforts to suppress his anger. At last one of the Waikato chiefs, regardless of the fact that his tribespeople were only in the Rohepotae by sufferance of Ngati-Maniapoto, had the hardihood to declare that the sod would not be turned because it was Waikato’s land. “Oh, well,” said the Premier, quietly regarding the deeply-incensed Wahanui, “if it is Waikato’s land we have come to the wrong place.” Then the tall, dignified rangatira Taonui, almost as big a man as Wahanui, arose and said, with angry determination: “It is our land; the sod shall be turned, and turned to-day! And it was done. Waikato were ousted; literally they had no locus standi; and, baffled and disgruntled, they saw the big work begun and the first step taken in the civilisation of the great Rohepotae.



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25, 81, 96 [Not in source] . 1
27 Governmen Government 1
41 [Not in source] .) 2
70 despached despatched 1
72 ”) )” 2
89 [Not in source] a band of King Country fanatics. 33
101 [Not in source] ) 1
104 1