School Holiday Fun with Flax!

Drop in during the school holidays for a hands on introduction to Maori weaving!

Only$2 per participant, no booking required although numbers are limited for each session.

Sessions are 2 hours each, 10.30am-12.30pm or 1.30-3.30pm.

Sessions available on 1, 2, 3 and 8, 9, 10 October.

Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to learn from such a talented artist!

Artefacts head into the digital age

Artefacts head into the digital age

Te Awamutu Museum’s digital collection is set to go live next week giving the Waipā community access to more than 18,000 precious museum items.

Museum staff have been working hard to digitise the museum’s extensive collection ranging from the beautiful to the plain bizarre. From Wednesday next week items such as taonga Māori and Social History artefacts from the collection will be available online, complete with supporting information.

Museum collections manager Haylee Alderson, said getting the collection live was a huge achievement and something that had been a long time in the making.

“We have worked really hard on this project and are excited to see it finally go live for the world to enjoy. We aren’t able to physically showcase the entirety of our amazing collection to the public at once so this is the next best thing.”

“We are still working our way through digitising the whole collection but when it’s finalised it will bring the museum into the digital era for everyone to appreciate. The new site is also much more user friendly which is great.”

Alderson said digitisation would also go a long way to helping research efforts by people wanting to find out more about their family history or information on historical events.

The project, which has taken 14 months to complete, involved each item being painstakingly photographed, captioned and uploaded to the museum’s website. Items will continue to be uploaded over the next few years.

Alderson said while the museum may have accomplished one major step, it’s digital collection would be continually updated and added to. The collection will be available online from Wednesday 28 August at collection.tamuseum.org.nz/explore.

New Museum Merchandise

Looking for that unique gift to give friends, family and visitors created here in the Waipā? Te Awamutu Museum is proud to announce a new range of merchandise, now exclusively available at the Museum!

If you have been looking for something different that embodies our local history and tells the amazing story of people, places and events that only happened here in the Waipā, then look no further than our very own Te Awamutu Museum.

A unique merchandise range for sale has been created to showcase key items from the Museum Collection and their amazing associated stories. The Museum objects are: The Queen Victoria Lithograph, Te Hokioi Printing Press, a trio of kete muka and a trio of pounamu hei tiki. Each item sold is accompanied by a free bookmark outlining the fascinating stories of the objects. The idea behind the range was not only to highlight our amazing collection but also to ensure the use of local suppliers and all products had a functionality and use for all ages.

All the designs were created in house by Exhibitions Co-Ordinator Henriata Nicholas, who says “people often ask us for merchandise that really speaks about local history. Today, after a long time in development, we are excited to bring this range and its stories to life in everyday things you can use or buy for friends and visitors alike”. “We have utilised local printers who have sourced us products that don’t break the bank, but do have a function and perhaps will spark some enjoyment”.

Museum Director Anne Blyth says of the range; “we are always seeking new ways to share our collection and the amazing history of our district. Our new range of Museum Shop Merchandise provides another great avenue achieve this, when you purchase from our new range you are not only buying a unique and quality product you are also receiving a slice of our history and providing support to the Museum”.

The range includes neo skin notebooks in a small range of colours, 100% natural cotton re-useable tote bags, and twelve different types of postcards, magnets, badges and keyrings. For those who are into a deal, we have combo sets of each object range available that includes a notebook, tote bag, and three postcards.

You can purchase this range exclusively at the Te Awamutu Museum shop – Miss Jefferson’s Museum Shop of Curious. Come in and browse the shop, another reason to stop in and check out the Te Awamutu Museum.

WALTER HARSANT 1811—1897 By J. F. Mandeno.

WALTER HARSANT 1811—1897 By J. F. Mandeno.

An outstanding personality in the history of Te Awamutu and Raglan districts was Doctor Walter Harsant. He was Government factotum for these districts from 1854 to 1878. Let us turn back and learn something of this Doctor’s background.

He was born at Haverland, Norfolk, England, on the 3rd. October 1811. Of his youth, or as to where he received his early education, nothing is known. Fortunately his diplomas[1] in medicine and surgery have been preserved, and were presented to this Society. Although somewhat battered after 130 years, they are still decipherable. The most distinguished diploma is that of M.R.C.S., a large sheet headed by the coat of arms of the Royal College of Surgeons in London with the motto “Quae prosunt Omnibus Artes” with the seal of the College and the signatures of the President and two Vice-presidents and seven examiners. Two diplomas of the Medical Theatre, London, certify that he also attended lectures in the Principles and Practice of Medicine, and the Principles and Practice of Midwifery and the Diseases of Women and Children. From St. Bartholomew’s Hospital there are diplomas in Anatomical Demonstrations, Practice of Surgery and Lectures on Surgery.

The most spectacular diploma is that of the Court of Examiners chosen and appointed by the Master Wardens and Assistants of Apothecaries of the Society of the Art and Mystery of Apothecaries of the City of London, and, certifies that Walter Harsant has been carefully and deliberately examined as to his skill and abilities in the Science and Practice of Medicine and as an Apothecary, and certifies that he is entitled to practice as an apothecary accordingly. This diploma is authenticated by the seal of the Society and twelve signatures. These diplomas were issued in the years 1830 to 1834.

The only other facts known of his life in England are in a short statement in his own handwriting and signed by himself, which reads: “Walter Harsant, surgeon, practised at Coniston in Norfolk, from May 1836 to July 1840. Removed from thence to the neighbouring small town of Reepham where I continued to practise till August 1853.”

Allured like others, probably, by glowing but untruthful accounts  of conditions in Auckland, the Doctor decided to emigrate, arriving at Auckland on Nov. 30th. 1833, with his wife and nine children, on the vessel “Hamilla Mitchell”. The eldest child being 15 years. He had married a Miss Ann Eliza Noakes at Puehurst, Sussex, on the 2nd July 1836. Disgusted with conditions in Auckland, and also no doubt with the misrepresentations, he resolved to return to his homeland on the first available vessel. It was partially on account of his wife’s health that he had come to New Zealand, she suffering from asthma. The doctor had brought a letter of introduction with him to Sir George Grey Governor of New Zealand, who, after receiving it offered him a post at Otawhao[2], which surprisingly, he accepted largely because his wife’s health was much improved, and perhaps because he was ignorant of what lay ahead.

So they set out on their long journey into the unknown. Mrs. Harsant and the three youngest children were carried in an amo (litter) made of flax, the rest of the party walked, and the Maoris carried the baggage etc., till they reached the Waikato River, where they continued the journey in a fleet of canoes carrying them and their personal luggage and household effects. Up the Waikato they went, then up the Waipa River to the nearest point to Otawhao where they left the canoes and covered the last seven or eight miles cross country. They arrived at their destination after seventeen days travelling, which was considered fast in those days. What must their feelings have been when they saw that a Maori whare was to be their home till a house was built.

The Te Awamutu Historical Society has been fortunate in obtaining photostatic copies of the documents giving Doctor Harsant his appointments. The Commissions of Dr. Harsant are signed by Lt-Colonel Wynyard[3], as officer administering the Government of New Zealand following the appointment of Sir George Grey as Governor of the colony of the Cape of Good Hope in 1854. Lt-Col. Wynyard was administrator from 3rd. Jan. 1854 to 6th. Sept. 1855. While administrator he was elected Superintendent of the Auckland Province. All of the documents are ponderous and flowery, and I will give a full transcription of some of them.

The first notice of Dr. Harsant’s appointment as Resident Magistrate and Colonial Surgeon is contained in a letter written in beautiful copper plate from the Colonial Secretary’s Office, Auckland, and signed by the Colonial Secretary, Andrew Sinclair, on the 8th. February 1854. This states :

“Sir, in reference to your letter of the 2nd. December last, I have the honour by direction of the Officer Administering the Government to inform you that His Excellency has been pleased to appoint you to the office of Resident Magistrate and Colonial Surgeon for the District of Waikato, with a present salary of £175 per annum from 1st. instant. Your commission of appointment will he issued to you from this office on payment of the prescribed fee of 10s 6d.

“I have also to inform you that the sum of £250 will be allowed you for the building of a house at Otawhao for your accommodation”[4].  

The Doctor must have paid his fee promptly, for on the same date his commission of appointment was issued from the Colonial Secretary’s office.

“By His Excellency Lieutenant Colonel Robert Henry Wynyard, a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, the Officer Administering the Government of the Islands of New Zealand.

“Whereas by an ordinance made by the Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council of the said Colony passed on the seventh day of November in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and forty six, instituted ‘An Ordinance to provide for the establishment of Resident Magistrate’s Courts and to make special provision for the administration of justice in certain cases,’ it is enacted and ordained that it shall be lawful for His Excellency the Governor to appoint Resident Magistrates provisionally until Her Majesty’s pleasure shall be known. Now know ye that in pursuance of the power and authority in me vested by said ordinance, I do hereby appoint Walter Harsant Esquire to have, hold, exercise and enjoy the office of a Resident Magistrate by the provisions of the said ordinance until the pleasure of her Majesty shall be known. Given under my hand and issued under the Public Seal of the Islands of New Zealand at Auckland in the said Islands this eighth day of February in the seventeenth year of the reign of her Majesty Queen Victoria and in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty four.”

The three inches square seal is affixed to the bottom left hand corner of the document.

Almost a year later Dr. Harsant was appointed Registrar of Marriages for the district of Rangiaowhia[5], under the Marriage Act of 1854. This is also an interesting document bearing the Public Seal of the Islands of New Zealand and signed by Lt-Col. R. H. Wynyard. The boundaries of the “District of Rangiawhia” are given as follows:

“On the East by the mid channel of the Horotiu[6] branch of the Waikato River, to its source at Lake Taupo, thence by the Eastern shore of Taupo and by the mid channel of the Upper Waikato[7] until its junction with the Southern boundary of the Province. On the West by the mid channel of the Waipa from its junction with the Horotiu to its source, from thence by a straight line to the source of the Mokau River, thence by the Western boundary of the Province to its junction with the Tunua River and along the 39th degree of South latitude[8], being the Southern boundary of the Province, to its junction with the Upper Waikato”.

As Registrar of Marriages it will be seen that the versatile Doctor had a large district, the only consolation being that it was sparsely populated by Europeans. Shortly after his appointment to Rangiaowhia, 37 Europeans and 25 “Aboriginal Natives” signed a petition which was forwarded to the Provincial Superintendent in January 1855:

The petitioners, settlers of the district of Rangiaohia asked that:

“Whereas we have for some years passed, felt the inconvenience of our isolated position in respect of being debarred from receiving any communication by letter or otherwise from Auckland within any reasonable time, and whereas some time a post was proposed as a branch one from that of Kawhia, but which your petitioners deemed unadvisable from the badness of the road to be travelled over, and the extra time and expense it would entail, your petitioners would therefore humbly beg that a postal communication be established by the following route: Viz. From Auckland to Onehunga from thence to Waiuku by the cutters plying across the Manukau, and from Waiuku to Rangiaowhia by canoe, the expenses attending upon which your petitioners should think would not be greater than thirty pounds per annum for a fortnightly transmission and your petitioners would lastly state that in case of any extra expenses over that above mentioned they would cause them to be collected and defrayed amongst them, and your petitioners would ever pray etc.”

As a result of this petition Lt-Col Wynyard recommended the establishment of a bi-monthly post to Rangiaowhia. The cost of carrying the mails to be borne by the Provincial Government. On the 7th May Dr. Harsant, in his capacity of deputy postmaster contracted a native chief William Toe Toe, living at Rangiaowhia, to carry the mails. The agreement, interpreted and duly witnessed and certified was as follows:

“William Toe Toe binds himself during the space of twelve months from this date (7th May 1855) to convey the mails safely, twice in a month to and from Auckland and Rangiaowhia – the days of starting to be appointed from Auckland by the Post Office Authorities – on consideration of which duty the said Walter Harsant makes himself responsible to the said William Toe Toe for the payment of ten pounds sterling quarterly.”

Another photostatic copy of documents held by the Historical Society is related to the Doctor’s appointment as a Commissioner of the oaths for the supreme court. This, like other documents, is ponderous and gives the Doctor power to take affidavits and other Supreme Court documents, and witness them. This document is “Given under the seal of the said Supreme Court and the hand of His Honour Sidney Stephen Esq., Chief Justice thereof at Auckland in the Province aforesaid this twenty sixth day of March one thousand eight hundred and fifty six.”

As can be seen the Doctor must have been very versatile to have held all the various offices, and had excellent education. Unfortunately documents do not tell the hardships of those early days. It is known that on his arrival at Otawhao he, as already stated, lived in a Maori whare for some time. A study of an early survey map shows that the Doctor’s residence was on the corner of Bank Street and Puniu Road. At that time the mission settlement of Otawhao was 15 years of age, and was in charge of the Rev. John Morgan and his wife, who had been as far as is known, the only white woman living at Otawhao, until the arrival of Mrs. Harsant. It is stated that the newly arrived family worshipped in the mission church, St. John’s which was built the year they arrived. The Harsant family had a long seat provided for them in the front of the church, the natives sitting on the floor behind them. Unfortunately the diary the Doctor kept has been lost and only snippets of his work at Otawhao are known. One account speaks of the Doctor always carrying a large umbrella with him on any journeys he made, under which he slept at nights. It is to be hoped that more will be known of his work and experiences in this district from Government archives and perhaps from private sources.

In 1858 Dr. Harsant was transferred to Raglan district[9].  Recollections of a daughter, as printed in the Te Awamutu Courier 9th Nov. 1938, gives a brief account of this journey.“Mrs. Thompson retained a clear memory of the arduous Journey from Te Awamutu to Raglan, which was made on foot with Maori carrying their baggage. The three youngest children and Mrs. Harsant were also carried by the natives over the mountains, and the whole trip took the party twelve days. Each Maori was given food during the journey and received a blanket  in payment.”

Probably the only appointment the Doctor took to Raglan district was that as Commissioner of Oaths for the Supreme Court, and he continued to practice as a doctor and surgeon. His first appointment in Raglan was that of coroner, this being dated 2nd August 1858. The following year he received the appointment of Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages. On the 20th November 1860 another appointment, this time as Collector of Customs for the port. He was informed of this in a letter from the office of the Commissioner of Customs, Auckland. This states that he had been appointed “coastwaiter” at Raglan with a salary of £50 per annum, commencing on the 1st November of that year. He was advised to communicate with the Collector at Auckland who would forward the necessary forms and instructions for his guidance. How much simpler must have been a custom officer’s work in those days.

The authorities must have thought that the Doctor had still time to spare, because in 1863 he was appointed emigration officer for the Port of Raglan. This last appointment indicates that the Port of Raglan was used by some emigration ships, instead of Onehunga. Raglan in those days would be primitive, although perhaps not quite as much as Otawhao, there being, of course, coastal transport. The stores came by cutter and frequently they would be delayed by weather and be late in arrival with the result that provisions for the settlers would be almost exhausted. What was worse, it was not unknown for the stores not to arrive because of some not very creditable reason. The result was that the Harsant children knew what it was like to go to bed hungry. Apparently at one time the family existed on small potatoes for some thirteen weeks. Mrs. Harsant was in poor health at the time, when there came the wonderful present of one loaf of bread. She had a slice every day until it was finished, and an illness was staved off. Though there was water transport the Doctor thought nothing of walking to Auckland if need be for medical supplies. Often on these trips he was accompanied by one of his daughters who was an expert interpreter. This was his eldest, Lucy, who often interpreted for her father on official occasions. The Doctor never attained any proficiency in Maori; even so it is obvious that the Doctor must have been held in high regard by the Maoris, for as far as is known he was never molested by them, or his family. No doubt he would have some anxious moments, as he lived in Otawhao and Raglan when the Maoris were becoming restless and rebelling against the Pakeha. This eventually led to the outbreak of the Waikato War.

The Doctor and his family lived in Raglan through the Maori wars, and no doubt would meet many men who were to figure prominently during the war in the Te Awamutu district. One of these would be Colonel Waddy, commander of the 50th Regiment, who built a redoubt at the head of Raglan Harbour in 1864. This regiment fought on several occasions in this district. Another was the Government surveyor, Richard Todd, who was later killed on the slopes of Pirongia Mountain in 1870. He, in 1863, when it was feared that Kingite Maoris from the Waikato or Kawhia would attack Raglan, strengthened the Court House with heavier timber and dug a deep trench around it and the local gaol.

After twenty years in Raglan came Dr. and Mrs. Harsant’s retirement to Onehunga; where they celebrated their diamond wedding in July 1896. In 1897 the Doctor died and was buried in the Methodist Cemetery at Mangere near his eldest daughter. In 1900 Mrs. Harsant, in her 90th year, was laid beside him.

This account of the lives of these two pioneers, who no doubt played a prominent part in the early days of the Waikato, has been compiled from records held by this Society, and an article written in the N.Z. Woman’s Weekly, 29th July 1954 by C.B. Hay. The Society also owes a great deal to Miss Lucy Gilmore[10], a great-granddaughter of the Doctor. She presented to the Society Photostat copies of all his appointments and other details of his life. Recently she also presented to the museum a deeply fringed hand-painted silk shawl, over 100 years old and still in perfect order, although perhaps the silk is fragile with age. There was also a gold key-wind watch still in working order. Both these were the property of Mrs. Harsant. These gifts, together with the Doctor’s surgical kit which was presented to the Society some years ago, form a link with early Te Awamutu, and add another reminder of our past.

[1] These diplomas were presented to the Society by Mrs. Seifert of Raglan, who is a direct descendant of the Doctor.

[2] Otawhao was the name of the large pa which stood where Wallace Terrace now is. Te Awamutu district was known by this name before the Maori War.

[3] Mr. R. H. Wynyard of Great South Road, Kihikihi, is a direct descendant.

[4] There is an interesting reference to this in Govt. Archives. In 1856 the Doctor was driven to complain that he had been obliged to build a shelter for his family, but also to “secure a place where my duties may be transacted”. Probably referring to a dispensary and possibly a courthouse. Governments have not altered over the years.

[5] Cowan states that the correct spelling is “Rangiaowhia”. An explanation is given in the Editorial in the Te A.Hist.Soc. Jounl Vo.l, No. 2, page 23. I have not altered the spelling as given in the documents.

[6] Horotiu was the name given by the Maoris to the Waikato River from its source to the junction with the Waipa at Ngaruawahia.

[7] By Upper Waikato is probably meant the Tongariro River.

[8] The 39th degree South Latitude passes through Waitara on the coast, just south of Owhanga on the main trunk rail, to a point on the Tongariro River just south of Tokaanu.

[9] Raglan District. The official description of this district is given as bounded on the North by Whaingaroa Harbour (Raglan) from its entrance to the Waitetune River. On the East by the inland boundary of the Whaingaroa Block, on the South-east and South by the boundary of the Ruapuke and Karioi Blocks to the sea. And on the West by the sea northwards to the entrance to the harbour.

[10] I should like to thank Miss Gilmore for reading my draft copy and correcting such facts as were known to be incorrect.

Journal of the Te Awamutu Historical Society, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1968

A SALUTE TO THE LADIES.  A Story of the Wives of the Waikato Missionaries.

A SALUTE TO THE LADIES. A Story of the Wives of the Waikato Missionaries.

By Joyce Neill.

This is a tribute to the first European Ladies to make their homes in the Waikato. Most Church histories show the wives of the men who served them, as just a shadow behind their man; a few Maiden names are mentioned but their Christian names are often only known from their grave-stones.

After an uncomfortable, or even hazardous journey by ship from some other part of New Zealand, these people would arrive at the nearest little port; then usually they walked a Maori track inland. Sometimes they worked their way up the rivers, the highways of those days. At the appointed site, near some Maori pa, they gathered their few personal belongings about them and made a home.

Most of these gentle-women were from England, from homes where there were servants, and daughters were forbidden the kitchen area; when they arrived in New Zealand they learnt to cook over an open fire, for large numbers of people. They had also to do the most menial tasks for their families, without the simplest conveniences. The fear of fire was always in their thoughts, particularly while they lived in raupo-walled houses; so the cooking was done in a separate building.

Swishing to and fro to the “kitchen” in their long frocks, especially in the muddy winter-time, must have been a continuing aggravation.

Whether their men were attached to the Anglican Church Missionary Society, or to the Wesleyan Missionary Society of England, a comprehensive training for these women before they left for New Zealand, would have made a considerable difference. No attempt seems to have been made to give any medical service so even a better supply of medications would have been welcomed.

It is doubtful if many English mission ladies had a clear idea of the life they were expected to live here, or the full extent of their duties. Perhaps it was just as well they were left to learn them as they came along!

Apart from their practical work the missionaries relied on their wives for companionship. As a single man George Buttle, of the Wesleyan Mission, found life so unbearably lonely that he obtained permission to visit Australia in search of a wife. The journey was unsuccessful in spite of John Whiteley, his superior, giving his blessing to the enterprise.

Eventually, while completing some organising work in Auckland he married a Miss Jane Newman, a few months later they were transferred Te Kopua Station on the Waipa River, where she bore eight children before her death eleven years later.

THE MAORI PEOPLE. It is almost impossible for us, looking back from this time of great respect for the Maori people, to picture how they were living when the first white men came among them. From the extensive pa sites which have been discovered in the Waikato, it is evident that there was once a very large Maori population here. Writing of Northland, Judge Maning states his reasons for considering the immense numbers there had decreased by two-thirds during the last two generations before his arrival in 1833. He concluded this, not only from the size, number and closeness of these extensive pas, the number of men necessary to build and defend them, but also by the nearness of the hearth stones to each other at the hut sites within the pa’s. He considered the accepted form of cannibalism was the reason for the decimation; of course this genocidal trend hastened as they acquired guns. The same thing occurred in the Waikato.

Many of the Maori leaders saw what was happening and welcomed the “men of peace”; some chiefs changed and influenced their tribe when they accepted the Christian Faith; others, terrible fighting men, could not, although they encouraged the coming of the missionaries who brought education, agriculture, trade and prosperity, as well as the status symbol of owning a missionary. Most of the Waikato mission sites were selected by the tribes but without taking into account intertribal fighting and movements of population.

It transpired that several of them were badly chosen; the men and women finding themselves in the centre of a local war; or, as at Matamata (C.M.S), on a busy native track where war-parties frequently passed back and forth. There, cannibal feasts were not unusual – and very frightening.

It was at the end of 1834 that the Wesleyan missionaries arrived in the Waikato area and a few months later were making their way to an already chosen site. As they paddled up the Waihou River their canoe stopped at Puriri, near the C.M.S. Thames station, for Mrs. Stack’s time had come and her son was born there on the river bank; this baby was to become Canon James West Stack, well-known for his work at Kaiapoi.

When they moved on, Maori helpers carried the mother and babe in a litter-like amo made of vines and saplings. The haka welcome at each village frightened the young mother, especially as the Maori women, seeing their first white woman, would not leave her alone or give her privacy. They even touched her precious baby. Pretty Mary Stack, married at nineteen just before leaving England, had lived several months among Europeanised Maoris at the Bay of Islands. Now, with the Hamlins they were going to the new C.M.S. Station at Mangapouri, a large village at the junction of the Waipa and Puniu Rivers.

Here the excitable, untamed chief had recently murdered a relative; the wives, left on their own while Stack and Hamlin visited other villages had frightening experiences. Mr. Stack was home when the chief fired a gun, striking their house several times before a convert took away the weapon. One bullet went near where Mrs. Stack was sitting.

They closed the mission and moved to Matamata, where there was the same danger. The Hamlins were sent to open a station at Orua, Manukau Harbour, where the Stacks later joined them for a few months before transferring to Tauranga and Gisbourne.

Mary Stack lived only until she was thirty-five but it was because of her husband’s broken health that they returned to England where she died a few years later. Sometime afterward Canon Stack wrote this tribute:

“I have often wondered since how my dear young mother, with her English training and English ideas, and small experience of the world, could endure the thought of living alone with her little children in the midst of a lawless people who possessed no regular form of government, and all whom within the seven previous years had taken part in cannibal feasts. Nothing to my mind proves so convincingly her possession of perfect trust in the overruling providence of God. She felt quite safe, because she believed she was in God’s keeping.”

While they were living in that insecure situation at Mangapouri the Hamlin’s first child was born, and possibly he was the first child of white parents born in the Waikato. Canon Brown conducted his wife from Tauranga to assist when Henry Martyn Hamlin was born in 1836.

A few bricks, a dying grapevine, a plaque and rows of trees are all that remains from two houses, a store shed, a jetty and a church that once stood for eighteen months of labour and danger. When the Anglicans began again it was Otawhao, further south. There is now no sign of the large Maori Pa at Mangapouri.

The Waipa River was a very important highway leading into the interior, connecting through to Raglan, Kawhia and south to the Mokau and Wanganui Rivers. The Wesleyan mission at Te Kopua upstream from the settlement now called Pirongia, was in a very strategic position; it played an important role from 1841 until well into the Maori War. Six months before they arrived at the Waipa Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Buddle had, with Mr. and Mrs. Ironside been wrecked just outside the Kawhia Harbour entrance. The Buddle’s infant daughter, and most of their possessions were saved with the help of the Maoris. The Buddles lived with the Wallis family at the Raglan mission while the position of the Waipa station was chosen amid difficulties.

Te Wherowhero would not allow them to settle at the first place selected, while at the second choice they had made a home before the Maoris discovered it was “rahi-tapu” and the Buddles were told to move to Te Kopua; they were allowed to wait until a house could be built. To get settled anywhere must have been a relief. Under the shadow of Mt. Kakepuku lived a large population; it was reported that 200 Maoris attended one of the services; the site of this mission is marked by a cairn. After the Buddles the work was continued by George and Jane Buttle, and later Alexander Reid contributed to the peace of the area until the nearness of the fighting made staying unsafe.

HOSPITALITY. There are many recorded stories of the hospitality of these Te Kopua missionaries to others walking the Maori tracks. When Mr. H.H. Turton made an exploratory journey south, hoping to find a more suitable situation for the Wesleyan Mokau mission, he brought his wife and child the difficult trip from their home on the north western side of Aotea Harbour, near the entrance; over to Raglan and up the Waitetuna River. From there they went across swamp and hill country to the Waipa River where they thankfully rested at Te Kopua until his return five weeks later; then the return journey had to be undertaken.

Having the company of other women must have been a great joy on these occasions but unexpected visitors occasionally posed problems. In Rev. Lush’s diary Alison Drummond found the account of how, when he arrived at Kaitokohe, Taupiri, ahead of his host who had invited him, Mrs. Ashwell had to explain to him that as she had four young Maunsell children staying unexpectedly with her for a week, the only place she could put a bed for Lush was in a “closet”. Luckily it proved to be a large cupboard-like room “with shelves loaded with medicine” – the mission dispensary!

It is easy to imagine the baking and scouring that went on at Te Kopua when in April 1840 Thomas Buddle received word that Governor Hobson would be visiting there during the week-end of the 17th. The Rev. G.I. Laurenson in “Te Hahi Weteriana” describes how Rev. Buddle, on invitation from Mr. Morgan, joined in receiving and preaching to Hobson and his party at Otawhao. After dealing with local problems with the chiefs the Governor discussed with the Anglican and Wesleyan missionaries “matters dealing with recent and forthcoming legislation bearing on Marriages conducted by Maori or “Dissenting Ministers”.

After enjoying hospitality in Buddle’s house at Te Kopua, sharing in worship, and inspecting the station, Governor Hobson, whose health was deteriorating at this time, went on a visit to the other Wesleyan Stations at Aotea and Whaingaroa……

SADNESS. Beside the cairn at Te Kopua is the grave of Mrs. George Buttle (Jane Newman); in her late thirties she died there, at the bend of the Waipa, three days after the birth of her eighth child; the baby appears to have survived.

In the story of Mrs. Maria Morgan are many aspects of sadness. Some of it is told by a grave-stone behind old St. John’s Church, near where the Otawhao Mission House stood at the Anglican mission at Te Awamutu. This stone tells the anguish of a mother’s grief. One of their sons died of an obscure disease at three years; the baby born a month later lived only four months; and even their eldest son died at fourteen years of age. Before they moved the Rotorua mission from Mokoia Island a child had died and been buried there. They had moved because the sulphur fumes caused a deterioration in Mrs. Morgan’s health. Their next home, on the eastern shore of the lake was made unsafe by warring tribes so they were transferred to the Waikato.

When Kate Hadfield, with her husband Octavius and baby son, were travelling from Auckland to their home in Otaki, the first overland journey by a white woman, she was able to stay three days with her aunt, Maria Morgan. The older women seemed unable to let Kate “our of her sight” during this brief visit of a relative.

One writer remarks that these early missionaries were all “old before their time”; is it any wonder? The women were inspired by Faith; on occasions its reward would compensate for days of worry. An apparent coincidence once saved the lives of Mrs. Morgan and two of her children. They were all sick the day there were two Europeans in the congregation when Rev. Ashwell of Pepepe preached at Rotokauri Lake near Hamilton. The one was a doctor who agreed to walk down to attend the Morgans.

John and Maria had built up a very successful Government-subsidised school and fertile, picturesque farm there on the bank of the Mangahoe Stream. Nevertheless they left the Station in distressing circumstances after seeing the productive land neglected by the Maoris while they rushed from place to place attending “king” meetings. After being harassed by the Kihikihi Maoris, the unsettled times of 1861 caused the Government to send John Gorst as Resident Magistrate to the district to take over the mission property. Morgan felt he should have been consulted and resigned from the C.M.S. when the Church would not “protect his rights”.

DIFFICULTIES. In the early days Mrs. Maunsell at Maraetai Station, Waikato Heads, and Mrs. Ashwell at Pepepe near Ngaruawahia, (C.M.S. Stations) both lived much the same lives, feeding and caring for Maori and half caste children who lived at the school; as well as their own families. What difficulties there were in training the older Maori girls in the domestic arts – and managing their native servants!

Lack of “time sense” was the beginning of the trouble so when excitement occurred duties of any kind were forgotten immediately. A problem arose when the pa Maoris enjoyed their favourite foods and servants and pupils joined in the fun. Kaanga-wai, or maize kept moist until well-rotted “smelt worse than any drain”; while dried shark and dried turnips produced such an indescribably bad smell that all natives had to be ordered away from the house”.

A different trouble was experienced by the Stacks when they had a frightening time with the irate husband of their nursemaid, who feared and hated him. Peace was restored when the Maoris induced him to swap Ani for some blankets and axes.

At Pepepe and Maraetai they had the worry of too many people for the food they could grow. In each case it was found advisable to re-establish where land was more fertile. The Maunsells moved to Te Kohanga a few miles upriver. Mrs. Maunsell died while still young and her grave is at Maraetai. The Ashwell’s moved down river a short distance to Kaitokohe, althought the boys’ school remained at Hopuhopu, over the river from Pepepe.

There were many times of tension there at Taupiri; the greatest was when a Maori was killed further north in Franklin district – by a pakeha, it was thought, and the Maoris were demanding the right to examine and punish. The Ashwell’s were alarmed when Wiremu Tamihana arrived with a war party of 300 men but he said that “Mr. Ashwell’s house and family were tapu and no one would dare to meddle with them.”

Mrs. James Wallis, like Mrs. Stack, was carried with her baby to her new home at Horea on the north side of Raglan Harbour. It had been a difficult journey from Kawhia so understandably she was delighted to arrive, although the raupo whare is reputed to have had then, neither doors nor windows. It would be well ventilated during the south-westerly gales!

Without any white women to assist, in fact twenty-six toilsome miles from the nearest mission house, her next baby was born there and Mrs. Whitely hurried from Kawhia, through swamp and bush, to help the household. When the Wallis’ returned to Raglan after a spell further north, they found the population had moved to Nihinihi across the harbour. Here the Wallis’ temporary shelter was a “four posted bedstead, roofed over with boards and blankets and had to answer the double purpose of drawing room and bed room. With as little delay as possible the Maoris erected a large raupo Church, one end of which they partitioned off as a temporary dwelling while a weatherboard house was being built”. This is how Rev. Laurenson quotes from Mr. Walli’s account of their home. Elsewhere he mentions that at this time in March they had all recently been ill with influenza.

DANGER. There was always danger; Mr. Wallis nearly lost his life off the coast in his small boat; Mrs. Ironside must have worried about her husband as he flitted back and forth across Cook Strait; until the Wairau incident brought them back, to work in Taranaki. In his book “Tainui” Mr. Kelly remarks that there was danger also from the rough white men who roamed the Waipa-Waikato river country. These mission women were often left alone with their children for days. Also there was always the embarrassment of naked men strolling into their homes; or, as Dr. Maunsell found, coming naked to Church.

The dangers for the missions became more real as the Maori Wars drew nearer, until one by one they closed. Cort Schnackenberg moved from the Mokau Mission to Kawhia and Aotea, taking charge of the coastal missions until they became unsafe; but Aotea continued its work well into the war.

LITTLE ANGELS ONLY LEFT. The saddest part of the story of these women is the number of babes they lost. Mrs. Ashwell bore a son and five daughters. The boy died when he was eleven, while Sarah and Mary were the only girls to survive to adulthood. In 1858, the young lady who became the wife of James West Stack (the baby born at Puriri) visited this mission and describes Mrs. Ashwell: “I wish I could have seen more of Mrs. Ashwell, for the little I did see of her made one deeply interested in the story of her life in New Zealand. She had passed, like all the Missionaries’ wives, through periods of great danger and privation which had left their mark upon her health. The death of her only boy, Benjamin, whom she had hoped to see some day engaged in the sacred work of the ministry, was a sad blow to her, and some lines (a poem) she gave me at parting afford touching proof of the depth of her sorrow and the chastened spirit in which it was borne.”

Kawhia and Whaingaroa (Raglan) were the busy ports of the Waikato and the ladies of the missions, Mesdames Whiteley, Woon and Wallis, were beset by similar problems. Mrs. Woon appears to have been the only mission wife with nursing experience – a course in a London Hospital made her assistance invaluable. Being frequently in demand she travelled long distances giving what help she could. It is sad to read that one of her own babies lived only six months; he starved while his mother was sick, at a time when they were all short of food. The tribes around them were too busy with arguments, and preparations for wars to produce the needed food.

A few years afterwards the Whiteley’s son died and was buried beside James Woon at Ahuahu, Kawhia.

At this large harbour missions were begun in several places before Whiteley settled on a permanent site which later renamed Te Waitere after him. From Kawhia he helped Mr. and Mrs. H. Hanson Turton establish another Wesleyan Station at Raoraokauere, Aotea Harbour, in 1840; Turton named the station “Beechamdale”. Mrs. Turton is reported to have stayed eight weeks with the Whiteleys; her husband lived in a tent while the house was being built. Later Turton successfully delivered their first child, although his relief was overshadowed by his irritation that such a situation should be necessary. In 1846 Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Smales took over that post but months later Smales reported that his wife was “still suffering severely” because of too many journeys in small ships. Previous to arriving Mary Anna Smales’ baby had died as the result of a dreadful voyage from Hokianga to Porirua; which had left both Mrs. Smales and the older child very ill. Mrs. Turton died soon after leaving the Waikato shortly after the birth of her fourth child.

Mary, Mary Anna, Maria, Susan, Jane and ………..the other names seem lost. We remember these women, sadly, by their graves, or the headstones above their little children.

In spite of danger, discomfort and sadness there were moments when the strain was eased by a little humour. One recorded incident occurred after the Matamata house was hurriedly evacuated, their most precious belongings sent down river to the Thames Mission. Mrs. Chapman from Rotorua who had taken refuge at Matamata, spent a very cold night with Mrs. Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan and several native servant girls on the banks of the Waihou River; under a piece of canvas thrown over the bushes. Their small fire of damp wood did not penetrate the cold of a fog and they were not helped by the knowledge that marauding Maoris had captured the baggage canoe containing their treasures. They were taken to Puriri when rescued by two missionaries. They must have laughed with relief as much as amusement when Mr. Morgan returned from a luggage hunt and told how he met a rescue party of friendly Maoris led by Wiremu Tamihana – son of Te Waharoa. This young chief looked grotesque “marching before the rest, with the utmost consequence, his head and olive-coloured face being enveloped in a black silk bonnet belonging to a Mrs. Chapman, while a strip of coloured print, tied around his neck, formed the remainder of his apparel.”

A lonely grave under a White Pine tree with name-stones broken and nearly lost; a clump of arum lilies, a rambling old-fashioned rose, old fruit or acacia trees or a very old grape vine; even a patch of oxalis in a paddock; these are some of the signs that these ladies once lived nearby.

SOURCES.

J.W. Stack, Early Maori Land Adventures.

Alison Drummond, Early Days in the Waikato; Vicesimus Lush.

Dick Craig, South of the Aukati Line.

Canon H.T. Purchas, The English Church in New Zealand (1914).

George L. Laurenson, Te Hani Weteriana.

H.C.M. Norris, Armed Settlers.

Leslie G. Kelly, Tainui.

  1. Maning, Old New Zealand

Barbara Mac Morran, Octavious Hadfield.

John Gorst, The Maori King.

The Ashwell Papers, (Letter from Mrs. James West Stack – nee Jones).

Te Mata. Aotea, R.T. Vernon and C.E. Buckridge.

MISSION STATIONS MENTIONED.

Church Missionary Society – Anglican:- Thames at Puriri;  Matamata at Waharoa; Orua, Manukau Harbour; Mangapouri; Otawhao (called by the Maoris Te Awamutu); Pepepe, Hopuhopu, Kaitokohe, at Taupiri; Maraetai, Te Kohenga, at Waikato Heads; Tukupoko – a name sometimes given to a Taupiri site.

Wesleyan Missionary Society of England:- Te Kopua (sometimes called Waipa); Te Horea, Nihinihi, at Whangaroa (Raglan); Beechamdale at Aotea Harbour; Kawhia at Papakarewa, Waiharakeke, Ahuahu or Lemon Point (changed to Te Waitere. Raoraokauere Maori name for Aotea situation.

Journal of the Te Awamutu Historical Society, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1974