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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885

The Massacre

The Massacre.

The parties were on opposite sides of the Tuamarina Stream. When the order was given to the armed men the Maoris disappeared in the shelter of the bushes. As the pakehas were advancing to cross the stream, a shot was fired, quite accidentally, it is said. The Maoris at once returned it with a volley. There were several casualties among the Europeans, who then fell back, and there was some hot shooting on both sides. Then among the Europeans began a general movement up the hill that rose from the rivulet, the men retreating without order. Efforts were made to rally them, but in vain. Seeing that the position was hopeless the Europeans called for peace and displayed a white handkerchief.

As the Maoris came up some of the Europeans continued their retreat, but Wakefield and several of the other officials stood their ground, and throwing down their arms waited for the natives. Having shaken hands with the prisoners the Maoris sat down in a half circle before them. Gold was offered them as a ransom, but this they refused. Two Maoris then approached Wakefield, and attempted to strip off his coat. Flushing up, Wakefield apparently page 65 attempted to draw a pistol, and in course of time this was followed by the massacre.

Rauparaha was apparently inclined to be lenient, but Rangihaeata shouted, "Give no quarter; they have killed your daughter Te Rongo!" It seems that the first accidental shot fired by one of the Europeans had killed this unfortunate woman, Rauparaha's daughter, who was Rangihaeata's wife.

It would be too harrowing even at this late date to dwell on the details of the massacre. Among the officials massacred or killed were Mr. Thompson (police magistrate and county judge), Captain Wakefield, Captain England, Mr. Richardson (Crown Prosecutor), Mr. Patchett (land agent), Mr. Howard (company's storekeeper), Mr. Cotterell (surveyor). Of the 48 in the party 21 lost their lives, and the rest escaped, five being wounded.

This shocking event, which happened on June 17, 1843, gave a great set-back to the settlement, and caused much uneasiness right through the young colony. The natives immediately afterwards forsook that part of the coast and retired to Otaki. "Gradually the excitement passed off, but the young settlement had received a shock from which it did not readily recover. Many people left the place, and all property became depreciated in value," says Broad's very valuable "Jubilee History of Nelson," from which I have largely drawn.

Early in 1844, just when the Nelson people were fairly recovering from the effects or the Wairau massacre, and some progress was being made, the settlement got another set-back, from which it suffered severely. When the English mail arrived with the news that the New Zealand Company had suspended operations there was something like consternation. The Union Bank undertook to pay the wages of the company's employees for the current week, after which nine-tenths of the wage-earning population were out of work and no prospect of finding an employer. The succeeding months were Nelson's darkest period, and the settlers proved their quality by the heroic way they conquered all difficulties and held on until better and happier days came round. "Never before nor since did I see men and women endure so much real privation with so little complaint, or work so hard, or live upon so little," wrote the late Mr. Alfred Saunders in reference to those dark days. "Until the growing potatoes were fit for food the struggle was a stern one, and many a mother went hungry to bed to feed her children."

Such is the story of the founding of Nelson, a story which makes one proud of the race from which we have sprung. Mistakes were made, and some things we could have wished otherwise, but through the whole story runs the same thread of courage and steady perseverance in the face of unheard-of difficulties, that we read of in all the accounts of the wonderful colonisation efforts of the British people of those stirring and virile days.