Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

A Dark Chapter from New Zealand History

Chapter VII

Chapter VII.

First Alarms—Taureka Station—Massacre—Europeans—Natives—Subsequent Murders—Destruction of Property—Reflections.

About midnight, November 9th, 1868, Mr. Firmin, a policeman, who resided near the Patutahi ford of the Waipawa river, which he and the male adults of three neighbouring families were accus-page 19tomed to watch, heard shots in the direction of Matewhero, two miles from Firmin's house. He woke his wife, but as it was not unusual to hear the sound of shots by night, they considered the sounds heard on this occasion as proceeding from friendly natives, yet they were not entirely free from apprehension, and slept no more that night. At dawn of day, Mr. Firmin went out to reconnoitre. At the Patutahi ford, he saw a Maori, who appeared desirous of avoiding Mr. Firmin, who hailed him to know the meaning of more shots just then heard at Matewhero. The native stopped, and appeared excited. He said the Hauhaus were killing the white men. Nothing more definite could be extracted from him, Firmin being ignorant of the Maori language, so Mr. Firmin hastened to warn his neighbours, Wyllie, Stevenson, and Benson, all married men with very young children. These men and their wives, snatching up their children, fled along the bank of the Waipaua, making for Turanganui, but the firing before them became so heavy they feared they would be intercepted, so they decided to cross the Waipaua, and escape to Murewai, on the coast, by the right bank of the river. The Waipaua, except at the few fords, is generally deep, but although some of the women were nigh drowned, they got to the other side, and made for the village of Tutari, a good man and faithful chief. He received them kindly, and shewed them best how to escape. He was urged to fly with them, but, being very ill, declined. He afterwards lost his life and those of two children for assisting the Europeans. Messrs. Wyllie, Firmin, and the rest pursued their way, overtaking other families as they advanced. Finally, they overtook Major Westrupp. Under his guidance, the survivors south of the Waipaua retreated by a fearful bush country to Mahia, where most of them shipped for Napier, the capital of Hawke's Bay province, at which place they safely arrived.

About an hour after Firmin and his neighbours left the village where the chief Tutari lived, Te Kooti and 12 Hauhaus arrived, and demanded where the Europeans had gone. Tutari declined to tell, though Te Kooti promised to save his life if he would say which route they had taken. Finding threats and entreaties of no avail, Tutari and his two children were taken a few yards away from the house, and killed by Te Kooti's orders. Tutari's wife sat near with her uncle, compelled to witness the murders. When her husband and children were dead, she was asked to reveal by page 20what road the white men went. She, too, was faithful. She pointed out a track which the fugitives had not taken. One of the Europeans, Mr. Wyllie, was especially obnoxious to Te Kooti, for it was Mr. Wyllie who helped to capture Te Kooti in 1865. After being mis-directed, Te Kooti rode off laughing, saying he would cut slices of flesh off Mr. Wyllie until the latter died. Tutari's wife, Miriama, was spared, and afterwards escaped to Turanganui.

About half-a-mile from Firmin's house, Messrs. Hawthorne and Strong resided. They, too, were warned on Tuesday morning, first by Mr. Benson, and directly after by Sergeant-Major Butter. Mr. Butter had been to Taureka, a station owned by Messrs. Dodd and Peppard where he intended to assist in shearing. Arrived at the wool-shed, which stood about 400 yards from the dwelling-house, he was attracted by a furious barking from the chained-up sheep dogs, and wondered to see no one about. So he walked up to the house, and round it. At the back door he found Dodd and Peppard lying dead in their shirts on the threshold. Throwing down his shears, he rode away to the Mission premises at Waerenga-ahika, where he and other people usually resided. After warning the inmates of Waerenga-ahika, he made for Hawthorne and Strong's, who with one friend and a servant lad escaped. It was afterwards ascertained that one of Dodd and Peppard's men got away three miles on his road to alarm Major Biggs, but was overtaken in his night-clothes by the murderers of his employers and killed. Sergeant Butter pursued the road to Matewhero, and had a narrow escape. As he neared the residence of Major Biggs, where he was bound, he found the Hauhaus were inside the premises, and their horses fastened to the garden fence to the number of 12 or 14. He found all the habitations between Matewhero and Turanganui deserted; every one, Europeans and natives, who escaped, were flying for life, and several houses were already in flames. About two miles from Matewhero, he passed Mr. Mann's house. Mann was lying dead, shot and tomahawked; his wife was mutilated and partly burnt; and their baby stabbed in several places. Mr. Mann's family resided nearer Turanganui than other victims, and his place marked the limit of the massacre in that direction.

Captain Wilson's house was the first attacked at Matewhero. It stood in a garden, and was nearly equi-distant from most of page 21the other residences at that place. The Wilsons' premises, indeed, were centrally situated, being surrounded on all sides by those of their neighbours, at distances varying from a quarter to less than half-a-mile.

The assassins, guided by three resident and professed "friendly natives" of Poverty Bay, came to Captain Wilson's house on the night of Monday, November 9th. The family had retired to rest with the exception of Captain Wilson, who sat up late writing letters for the English mail, which was to leave next day. It was probably 12 or 1 o'clock when the Hauhaus knocked at his door and told him they had brought a letter from Hirini-te-Kani the principal chief of Poverty Bay. Captain Wilson appears to have suspected mischief, and told them to put the letter under the door. Looking out, he saw a great many natives flitting about, and, calling to his servant, Edward Moran, who slept in an outbuilding, told him the Hauhaus were upon them, and desired him to come to his assistance, which Moran immediately did, though the Hauhaus tried to catch him as he ran across the open space between the two buildings. They appear to have been afraid to fire, lest they might rouse the sleeping neighbours. Finding they could not induce Captain Wilson to open the door, the Hauhaus proceeded to burst it in with a log of wood. After they had battered down the door, however, they feared to enter the house, knowing it would cost some of them their lives, as Captain Wilson bore a well-deserved reputation for resolute bravery. For some time Captain Wilson and Moran kept the murderers at bay, but at last the Hauhaus set fire to both ends of the house. Captain Wilson even then defended his home to the last extremity, and only left it when the flames had singed his wife's hair and scorched his children's feet. Captain Wilson headed his family in their retreat from the burning mansion, revolver in hand, and his undaunted carriage appears at that terrible crisis to have cowed his murderers. The family comprised Captain Wilson, Mrs. Wilson, four infant children, and the servant Moran. As the little party left the house, the Hauhaus assured Captain Wilson they had made up their minds not to kill him or his family. There was just a chance they might keep their word; the enemy were numerous, and it is probable considerations connected with the safety of his wife and little ones induced him to put faith in the asseverations of the cowardly wretches, who were all armed with rifles and page 22bayonets. To prove their good intentions, one of the Hauhaus took up one of the children to carry. Captain Wilson, his wife, and Moran carried the others, and the party, Hauhaus included, proceeded towards Goldsmith's house, about a quarter of a mile distant. After walking about 200 yards, a Hauhau rushed upon Moran and knocked him down. Another stabbed Captain Wilson with a bayonet in the back. He fell with his little son James (whom he carried) uttering a dying exclamation. The little boy extricated himself from his dying father, and got away in the dark to some scrub. Mrs. Wilson, hearing her husband's death-cry, turned round and uttered an exclamation of horror. The same instant she was thrust through the body with a bayonet, her arm being likewise pierced whilst trying to defend her baby. She fell insensible, and received several other bayonet wounds, to the number of four or five, besides being beat on the breast with the butt end of a rifle. Yet she survived for several weeks, and related how, when she became conscious the following day, she saw all her family lying dead around her, with the exception of her boy James. All that day (Tuesday) she lay unable to rise, with the murderers in sight, busy at their awful work. Whilst she lay helpless, a "friendly" native came and robbed her of her shawl, leaving her attired only in her night-dress. On Wednesday she managed to crawl to what had been her home, and got some water. Still the Hauhaus were about, and many buildings were being fired, at or near Matewhero; but she contrived to reach a little outhouse left standing on her grounds, and hid herself.

In the interim, her little boy, eight years of age, after escaping from the murderers, wandered about for several days, unperceived by the Hauhaus, though one night he slept in a house to which they came. He appears to have confined his rambles to Matewhero and its vicinity, supporting himself by food found in those houses not then destroyed. He said he "did not think it would be exactly stealing," as "everybody had run away." He saw, he thought, "as many Hauhaus as would fill the Turanganui redoubt." One day he went back to his old home, and found his "father, and brother, and sisters, with Moran, all dead," and wondered "what the Hauhaus had done with his mother," but "thought they must have eaten her." After all the houses were burnt at Matewhero, he went "home," and found his mother in the little out-house, to their mutual surprise and delight. Here page 23he subsisted her for several days upon eggs and whatever he could forage. At last the poor lady get a card and pencil from her husband's coat-pocket, and contrived, after four hours' labour, and many failures, to write the following:—

Could some kind friend come to our help, for God's sake. I am very much wounded, lying in a little house at our place. My poor son James is with me. Come quick.

Alice Wilson.

We have little or no clothing, and are in dreadful suffering.

This note, after several attempts to reach Turanganui, six miles distant, was delivered to Major Westrupp, at that place, by the little boy, who had been picked up not far from Turanganui by a party sent out on the 16th to rescue missing settlers, if alive. On the same day, Mrs. Wilson was brought to Turanganui on a litter. She was tended with the greatest solicitude, but though she rallied for a time, and was at one time thought to be out of danger, she ultimately succumbed to the terrible injuries she had sustained. She died in Napier in December, and her death is thought to have been hastened by the intelligence of the Pipiwhakau affair, which occurred whilst Mrs. Wilson was on board the Sturt steamer, in which vessel she had engaged a passage for Napier. Few ladies have lived through such afflictions as those witnessed and suffered by Mrs. Wilson.

It appears to have been Te Kooti's intention to first kill those officers who had distinguished themselves in 1865, judging the settlers, if deprived of their leaders, would become confused, and so fall an easy prey. There is no doubt Te Kooti was right in his conjectures, as the result proved. Had Biggs, Wilson, or even Walsh survived, many of the murders would not have occurred, for neither of those officers would have remained cooped up in the Turanganui redoubt to witness the wholesale destruction that ensued. Knowing this, they were marked first for destruction.

The dwelling of Major Biggs, the Resident Magistrate, was rather more distant than several others from Captain Wilson's house, yet it was the second residence attacked at Matewhero; and it is a singular circumstance that no one at Matewhero seems to have known what transpired at Biggs' or Wilson's until all was over—screams, shots, and flames alike appear to have been neither heard or seen.

page 24

About dawn of the l0th, Major Biggs and family were roused from their beds by a knocking at the back door. Upon opening it, Major Biggs, who was followed by a servant lad, was immediately shot, and fell whilst telling the lad to get his rifle. The boy ran to the front door, but was met by a number of Hauhaus. Making for the back door, he fell over the wounded Major, but got up and ran out into a flax bush. As he lay concealed, he heard Major Biggs calling to his wife, "Emily, dear, the Hauhaus are here, run for the bush." The poor lady would not leave her husband, but stood by him with her baby in her arms. She had not long been married. Her servant, Mrs. Farrell, in her turn, would not desert Mrs. Biggs, to whom she was much attached. So they all died together. They were awfully mutilated. From his retreat the boy heard their dying groans. Afterwards, settlers flying for their lives witnessed the ghastly spectacle. The boy alone escaped to tell the sad tale. He hastened as soon as he could emerge from his hiding place to warn the neighbours, and by his means many ladies and children escaped to Turanganui in their night-clothes. He was subsequently rewarded by the inhabitants of Auckland, who invested a handsome sum for his benefit.

It is not intended to enter into a minute relation of all the horrid butcheries which took place on that fatal 10th November. In two days, 29 Europeans and 32 loyal natives were killed under revolting circumstances. Subsequently, many loyal natives were butchered by Te Kooti at various times. Some hapus of tribes have been well nigh exterminated, and, including natives killed at Ngatapa, most of whom had been carried captives to that stronghold by Te Kooti, the loss of life must have been very great— probably not less than 250 people in all were slain. Some settlers escaped the massacre by miracle, but the instances are too numerous to record them all. Mr. Daniel Munn and Mr. T. Goldsmith were both riding towards Matewhero to ascertain the meaning of shots heard so early in the morning. The former found himself amongst the Hauhaus before he was aware, and barely escaped with a severe bullet wound. The latter rode up to the assassins of the Mann family, who were busy burning the body of Mrs. Mann. Goldsmith seems to have been stupified by the horrid sight, until a Hauhau snatched at his bridle. Fortunately his horse swerved and galloped off, and his master, being a page 25good rider, escaped, though he was chased for several miles. Mrs. James, who had not long been confined, hid with her children for hours in some scrub close to her burning house; and one old man named Garland passed Lieut. Walsh's house whilst the murderers were firing into it.

The exact mode by which many people died we shall perhaps never know. Lieut. Walsh, who had greatly distinguished himself on one occasion, was shot with his wife and child. Mr. Walsh's partner, Mr. Padbury, was killed at the same time. Mr. Cadel, a storekeeper, just about to be married, and a very amiable man, fell shot in front of his store. His faithful retriever dog preserved Mr. Cadel's body from mutilation by pigs for eight days, having never deserted it from the 10th to the 18th November. Mr. M'Culloch was shot whilst milking. His wife and child fled to the scrub, but were overtaken and killed. Mrs. M'Culloch's brother, a child, standing by her when she was bayoneted, escaped to reach Turanganui unhurt. Many people, after lying concealed for awhile, contrived to get off clear, all in a pitiable plight, with nothing on them but the clothes—chiefly night-dresses—in which they escaped. Mr. and Mrs. Newnham, an aged couple with an adopted child, were beguiled into the belief that the Hauhaus would not hurt them, by two old Maori spies. These spies brought the murderers to Newnham's house on the succeeding day, November 11th. The Newnhams were killed; but Mr. Brown, a neighbour, saw the murderers coming from Newnham's to his house, and escaped across a muddy river, whither the Hauhaus declined to follow him. One of the spies was afterwards taken, but was let off in a shameful way by the authorities, as were many other Hauhau villains. The reason why they were allowed to escape the halter was this—in most cases the murderers were connected with friendly natives, and it was thought desirable not to offend those "friendlies," as they might prevent a settlement of the land question.

Two principal rivers divide the Poverty Bay plains—the Waipaua and the Waimataha. With the exception of Messrs. Dodd and Peppard, no Europeans were killed south of the Waipaua until a later date, when one man and three boys lost their lives at Pipiwhakau, whilst Colonel Whitmore looked on at the head of 400 men, he being busily engaged at the time settling the land question in conjunction with Mr. Richmond.

page 26

It was between the Waipaua and the Waimataha that the massacre of the 10th and 11th November, 1868, was perpetrated. All the Europeans who lived between those rivers and escaped the slaughter fled to Wilson's redoubt, situated on the north side of Waimataha, opposite Turanganui, at a distance of a quarter of a mile from the sea. Most of the settlers reached the redoubt on the first day of the massacre, and were joined by the scouts on the evening of the same day. The scouts were 12 in number. They were commanded by Lieut. Gascoigne, some of whose relative were lately destroyed in the massacre at the White Cliffs, Taranaki. The scouts had been set to watch the passes into Poverty Bay for a few weeks before Te Kooti's arrival. No blame can fairly be attached to the scouts, because Te Kooti evaded their notice. They were far too few to keep efficient watch over a tract of country 40 miles by 20. The blame, if any, must be attributed to the Government, who would not even have appointed scouts if the Poverty Bay settlers had not first taken the matter in hand. Great credit is due to the men for forcing their way to Turanganui at all hazards, when intelligence of the massacre reached them, instead of escaping to Mahia, as they might have done. Their arrival was gladly hailed by the few survivors who escaped to Turanganui, and but for the scouts the redoubt could not have been held in case of an attack by the Hauhaus. On the second day of the massacre, several missing settlers reached the redoubt, after narrow escapes. At the same time, some doubtful friendly natives arrived. A few days later, all the remaining Turanga natives, except those residing at Muriwai, joined Te Kooti. Most of them voluntarily went over to the enemy. Of the latter, many afterwards fell into our hands, but were almost invaroably "let off" whenever they chanced to be in a position to assist in "settling" the Poverty Bay land question, although some of them were known to be deeply implicated in the murders of Europeans or loyal natives. Others of those who joined Te Kooti of their own will deserted him afterwards, and "came in" with piteous tales of the compulsion used by Te Kooti to make them join him. These men, in almost every instance, deserted Te Kooti only through fear of losing their lands. Some of them were employed by Government in land negociations, and used their influence to enrich themselves by laying claim to lands belonging to defunct loyal or Hauhau natives. In this way, villains, who page 27deserved the halter, have attained a status they could never have acquired but for the massacre at Poverty Bay.

Those natives who resisted the blandishments of Te Kooti and his band retired to Muriwai, an almost (to natives) impregnable pa, and joined its defenders. There were several reasons for the Muriwai natives holding out against the Hauhaus. They possessed and believed in a rival prophet, who assured them Te Kooti would die by his hands. Besides, their pa was very strong, close to the sea, and only six miles from Turanganui, across the bay. From Turanganui they could and actually did receive assistance from time to time, and they were perhaps doubtful of the treatment they might receive from Te Kooti if they surrendered. They numbered about 70 men, and could easily hold their own; but although they remained nominally loyal, it by no means follows they were heartily attached to our cause, and there is good reason to believe that but for Mr. M'Lean they might have fought against us. Had they done so immediately after the massacre, there is little doubt the quasi-Hauhaus who assisted to hold the Turanganui redoubt would have deserted, and left the little garrison of 40 Europeans to be overwhelmed by vastly superior number.

Through the exertions of Captain Read, all the women and children but a few, who would not leave their friends, were safely shipped for Auckland and Napier on the night of the 10th. During that day, Captain Read toiled for many hours to overtake two vessels in sight, and by his means the female part of the community were placed out of danger, and by his directions, there being no one else left to take command until Lieut. Gascoigne arrived, the redoubts were provisioned and prepared for defence from the threatened attack on the morrow. That night of the 10th will never be forgotten by the survivors of Poverty Bay. The whole plain was lit up by blazing homesteads, which illuminated the entire horizon, and enabled the pensive settlers cooped in the redoubt to trace the passage of the vessels far out to sea which were carrying away those loved ones they might see no more.

Every man who had them stood to his arms and lined the parapets that night. About half the garrison was armed, including the "friendlies" Little dependence was placed in the native allies, as it was evident from their demeanour and language they page 28had no stomach for fighting. Afterwards, when reinforcements arrived, they plucked up a little more courage, but, as a rule, the friendly natives of Poverty Bay took care never to expose themselves. In the subsequent fighting with Te Kooti they had little if any share, which was reserved for the Ngatikahungunu and Ngatiporou tribes.

A faint outline has thus been given of events that occurred at the massacre of Poverty Bay. Some of the deeds perpetrated cannot be even hinted at, and will never be generally known until the great day of reckoning. Of the destruction of property, it is sufficient to say the settlement of Poverty Bay, with the exception of Turanganui and four or five houses, was annihilated; even the few houses left inland were gutted of their contents. Former visitors would scarcely recognize the district; friendly natives and Europeans alike suffered; cultivations and gardens have been swept away, and, most of the fences having been destroyed, live stock have been, dispersed in all directions. The fertile lands, unsurpassed by any in the colony, now lie deserted and waste; and the few survivors, huddled together as close as possible near the coast, have been forced to build a blockhouse upon the margin of the sea; and the spot upon which Turanganui stands represents as much of the Poverty Bay district as the colony can fairly call its own.

It has been shewn that this massacre was brought on by the refusal of ministers to listen to repeated warnings. They were told by Mr. M'Lean and others what would ensue if Fraser's force was withdrawn from the East Coast. There is good reason to believe ministers were influenced by envy of Mr. M'Lean's unrivalled influence with the natives, and they have proved, by the animus shewn in their later dealings with that gentleman, an exhibition of petty spite and malevolence which have never been surpassed in the annals of New Zealand.

Nor are ministers alone to blame for such a sad calamity. There can be little doubt that it was mainly owing to the representations of their creature and tool, the officer commanding the forces, that Fraser's force was withdrawn when most wanted. Colonel Whitmore, by his arrogant, insulting demeanour, had deeply offended almost the entire population, European and native, of Poverty Bay. After his disastrous defeat at Ruakiture, the Poverty Bay settlers were the first to expose what has since been demonstrated— page 29his utter unfitness for command; and he never forgave them or lost an opportunity of venting his petty spleen when he safely could. It is well known that previous to Ruakiture he addressed a flattering "order of the day" to those Poverty Bay settlers who accompanied him upon that disgraceful expedition, and that afterwards, in the Legislative Council, he gave them unlimited abuse.

Intelligence of the Poverty Bay massacre was received everywhere with feelings of horror for the victims, and commiseration for the unhappy survivors. The Province of Hawke's Bay came forward with a large subscription, and immediate aid for those who were most in want of assistance; one lady, Mrs. Tiffen, raised a large sum in two or three days. Taranaki the ruined sent a beautiful and touching address of condolence, with offers of assistance. The kindness was keenly felt, though the assistance was gratefully declined—for the reason that Taranaki out of her slender means was already supporting many people who had lost their all in that province. The distant province of Otago offered homes to the survivors; and Auckland subscribed munificently. Other provinces aided in the good Samaritan work; but it must be said that Hawke's Bay, a small province with not a numerous population, exerted herself to relieve so much distress with a benevolence and energy rarely seen; and it was natural it should be so, for the Hawke's Bay people saw what others at a distance could not see, and reflected that the sad fate of Poverty Bay might some day become their own.