Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.
Chapter VI. — Sinners and Saints
Sinners and Saints.
"Sunday never comes into this bay."
"So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed."
While the Maoris were thus lying in carnal bonds, and Rauparaha in raid after raid was sweeping all before him, there began to dawn in the east a light, which, though flickering at first, was destined to grow in strength and brilliancy, and has never since been extinguished. This light was borne to the shores of Marlborough by the rude whalers who came to pursue the leviathans of the deep, an employment which at all times secured them a life of exciting adventure, and frequently rich financial reward. For two apparent reasons the coast of Marlborough was made a centre of operations by these daring men. Experience had taught them that the quiet waters of the Sounds were favourite haunts of their prey, and from the numerous headlands they could view to page 211advantage the chance of a "school" passing through the Strait, while their ships rode safely at anchor. The earliest of these whaling depots was established at Te Awaiti, facetiously called by the sailors "Tar White," and was founded by Captain Guard in 1827. His settlement there was purely accidental, for while he was striving to force his way through the Strait his little vessel was driven into a gap in the coast line, which afterwards proved to be the eastern entrance to the Sound spoken of by the natives to Captain Cook. Guard's vessel was thus the first to sail into Tory Channel. Being quick to notice the natural facilities afforded by the place, he at once established his home on the shores of the largest bay, where he was soon joined by other equally adventurous spirits. Theirs, however, was not a life of "slippered ease," for, apart from the hardships entailed by their own hazardous occupation, they sometimes became involved in the tribal warfare of the natives, which at that time was devastating the country. Rauparaha's invasion was at its zenith, consequently the resident Maoris often fled from their cultivations, and even the Europeans were not always permitted to reap everything they had sown, so that frequently there was a shortage of food which compelled them to make their daily meal upon the blubber of the page 212captured whales. But this was not all, for when they returned from the chase it was not an unusual thing to find that in their absence the invaders had descended upon the village and burned one or more of their houses to the ground, and then "commandeered" such property as they could conveniently lay their hands upon; and it may have been these irritating experiences which helped to confirm Captain Guard in his deep-rooted hatred of the Maoris, to which he sometimes gave such forcible expression.
Still with all these discouragements Te Awaiti, as a settlement, continued to grow, and when the ship "Tory," commanded by Captain Chaffers, sailed into the Sound late in August of 1839, with Colonel Wakefield as the pioneer of the New Zealand Company, it was the most important European town in the Middle Island. By this date Captain Guard had transferred his residence to Port Underwood, and his mantle as patriarch of the settlement had fallen upon the shoulders of that now historical personage, Dicky Barrett, who had migrated thither with the Ngaitawa tribe upon their flight from Taranaki in 1834. As Colonel Wakefield first saw him he was a short, stout man, who seemed to be built upon the principle of a tub. His jovial face was a rosy red, and its ruddy hue was lit-up by a pair of twinkling eyes. This page 213figure, adorned in a white jacket, blue trousers and a round straw hat, came out of the door of a neat little cottage, built upon a knoll over-looking the bay, to welcome the Colonel and his friends when they landed on September 1st, and with the cordiality for which his class was proverbial, invited them inside to partake of a whaler's hospitality. E-Rangi, his wife, was a tali and stately native woman of high descent, who had borne him three bright little children, and his family was made up of these and another, a boy, Dan Love, who afterwards grew into the well-known Waikawa chief, and who, on his father's death, had been entrusted to the fostering care of Dicky Barrett.
At the interview which followed between Colonel Wakefield and his host, the latter heard for the first time the gigantic nature of the New Zealand Company's scheme of colonisation, and although his sympathies were readily enlisted, he expressed some doubt as to the possibility of satisfactory arrangements being made regarding the purchase of land, for the reason that the natives seemed to have no definite idea as to its ownership. Some spoke of Rauparaha as the one who had the greatest right to sell, while others claimed that Hiko, the son of Te Pehi, had greater rights even than Rauparaha. These page 214fears, however, were not considered an insuperable barrier to the success of the scheme, and after Wakefield had explored the Pelorus* Sound, piloted by Guard and accompanied by Mr. Wynen, Barrett left Te Awaiti in the "Tory" to assist in the Company's slatepencil and jew's harp purchases of land, which, faulty as they were, helped in some degree to build up the structure of colonisation upon the imperfect foundation already laid by the whalers.
* The old native name for the Pelorus Sound and River was Hoiere, which, the Hemi family say, was the name of the canoe in which the original Maoris came to the district from the North Island. When the whalers began to frequent the Sound, they could not master the uative pronunciation of the word, and so they did the next best thing and called it Hosiery, and to this day some of the "old hands" never call it anything else.
By the irony of fate it was decreed that this veteran sailor, who had passed safely through so many hardships, and successfully braved so many dangers, should be accidentally drowned in Picton harbour, after he had reached the extreme old age of 91 years.
The village of Te Awaiti at the time of Colonel Wakefield's arrival, was comprised of some twenty dwellings, most of them rudely constructed of supple-jacks nailed to uprights with a layer of clay between. The chimneys page 217were built with an eye to comfort rather than architectural beauty, while a thatch of toe toe grass was the roofing material universally used. Barrett's house alone was built of sawn timber, was floored and lined, and was the only one possessing the luxury of a verandah. The occupants of these dwellings were a free mixture of runaway sailors and escaped convicts –rough, strong men who lived hard, worked hard and died hard. Sundays and Mondays were all the same to them, for beyond the fact that some of them might celebrate the former by having a clean shave, there was nothing to distinguish one from the other. "Sunday never comes into this bay," was the explanation given by a gruff boatman to Mr. Jerningham Wakefield as a reason why certain work was being proceeded with on the Sabbath, and except with a few of the natives who had been brought under the influence of the missionaries, the Lord's Day was quietly dropped out of the calendar.
Although the nature of their occupation often prevented the whalers from being models of cleanliness, their homes were kept scrupulously neat by the native women, who, for a consideration, were given to them as wives at the commencement of every season, and who remained wives in everything except continuity of contract. Here and there instances occurred where these temporary companion-page 218ships ripened into affection, and the legal marriage of the parties was effected at the first favourable opportunity. But whether living as wives or mistresses, these dusky damsels were always proud to belong to a pakeha, and ever loyally strove to conserve his interests in the hundred ways that a woman alone can save a man from himself and from others. The influence of these women, therefore, was generally for good, but sometimes they bred considerable mischief by fostering within the breasts of their husbands something of their own tribal jealousy. Thus it frequently happened that a station where the majority of the women were Ngatiawas had constant quarrels with another where the women were Ngatitoas, and the ill-feeling so engendered was responsible for much of the lawlessness that made a whaling station of 1839 anything but a paradise to live in. Outside, where the serious business of the whaling industry was carried on, the surroundings were less savoury than within the whaler's cot. There the tar and try-pot reigned supreme, the beach was strewn with chunks of bone and blubber, and the stench that arose from the oil-saturated shore was certainly not the aroma of violets.
In addition to Guard, Barrett and Hebberly there were other men who laid claim to some prominence at Te Awaiti; amongst page 219these was Jack Love, whose name, it appears, in no way belied his nature. He became an exceedingly popular man in the settlement by virtue of his kindly disposition, and when he died, two hundred natives followed his remains to the grave, and afterwards erected a monument, formed of an old canoe, to mark the place of his burial. Joseph Toms was another of these early whalers, who was better known by the name of "Geordie Bolts," a title he had acquired from the fact that having on one occasion had a misadventure with a whale, he never could be induced to face another. He had married a near relative of Rauparaha's, and spent a great deal of his time with the Ngatitoa tribe on the other Island, to which he traded in a small schooner, the "Three Brothers." A still more noted character was Jimmy Jackson, a man of big bulk and active brain. Had he been alive to-day he would undoubtedly have been the politician of the village, for he was a tremendous talker, and held most pronounced opinions upon almost every subject under the sun. Especially was he an admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte and he invariably clinched his arguments in favour of the "little Corsican" by liberal quotations from Gutherie's Geography, while upon other questions he usually relied upon a text from Holy Scriptures to stagger his opponent.page 220
But his use of the Scriptures was not less peculiar than his application of prayer, of which he sometimes took advantage to extricate himself from an awkward situation. Such an instance is related of him when he was conducting the Rev. Mr. Reay round the coast on a pastoral visit to the whaling stations. At a certain point of the journey there was either an adverse wind or no wind at all. In any case the weather was not to Jimmy's liking, and he began to say some very uncomplimentary things about it, but suddenly he remembered that the missionary was sitting in the stern of the boat, and realising that he had put his foot in it, he immediately assumed a pious air, and exclaimed in most fervent tones, "God forgive me for swearing," and then casting a knowing look at the reverend gentleman, he roguishly remarked," You see, Mr. Reay, I wipes off as I goes along." Jackson came to Te Awaiti in 1829, and has left behind him a race of children and grandchildren who for physical development are hardly excelled in the colony.
The principal native chief of the Sounds about the closing "thirties" was Ngarawa, or "straight trees" as he was called by the whalers, to whom he was exceedingly kind. Te Wetu, "the Star," was the chief at the Wairau, and although friendly to the Europeans, he made it his boast that he was "no page 221missionary," i.e., he had not embraced the Christian faith. He was a highly domesticated man, having no less than four wives, it being his misfortune rather than his fault that he had not five, for the fifth had just died when Colonel Wakefield arrived. Te Wetu's fancy was tickled immensely when he was told that the kings of England had only one wahine, but in subsequent years, when he did become a "missionary" native, he changed his views upon the subject of matrimony, though history does not record what arrangement he came to with his surplus brides.
Pakihure, the Rangitane chief of the Pelorus, was in a less fortunate position than Ngarewa or Te Wetu, for he was then hiding amongst the fastnesses of the Sound to escape the vengeance of Rauparaha and his warriors, who had so recently swept over the tribal lands that the painted posts of the up-rooted pahs were all that remained to denote the former homes of a now crushed and broken people.*
* The Pelorus natives were at this time paying tribute to Te Rauparaha, and it is said that when they sent their contributions of food to the great tangi, held at Mana in connection with the death of his sister, Waitohi, he killed and cooked the slaves who brought it, for no other reason than "that he might appear opulent in the eyes of his guests."
From 1831 the majority of the stations were worked by agents on behalf of Sydney merchants, who paid at the rate of £10 per ton for oil and £60 per ton for bone. The average wage a man might earn in a good season was £35, which was generally paid in kind; beer, spirits and tobacco, being the most popular mediums of exchange, and if the season was a poor one the men's exchequer corresponded with the season.
The whalers were also shrewd enough to make a convenience of Kaikoura, Port Underwood and Cloudy Bay, on account of their easy ingress, their highly sheltered positions and their fast holding anchorages. The principal stations at Port Underwood were conducted by Messrs. Wallace (Ocean Bay), Guard (Kakapau Bay), Williams, popularly known as "Cloudy Bay Williams" (Tom Cane's Bay), and Captain Dougherty (Cutter's Bay). By degrees a few of the bays were permanently inhabited by men from the whaling vessels, and thus the initial stages of European settlement were begun here as early as 1830.
Of the exact nature of the social and moral conditions prevailing at Port Underwood at this time we have no personal knowledge, but from accounts which cannot very well be disputed, it would appear that they were not very different from those prevailing at other whaling stations.
The native population were chiefly Ngatitoas, and "Robuller," as Rauparaha was page 223called by the whalers, was a frequent visitor to the Port. The whalers themselves were a congregation of all nations, and many of them had "left their country for their country's good." This of course was severe on Port Underwood, and as a result of this aggregation of "hard cases," a condition of affairs was brought about which fortunately has long since passed away. We are told that the language of the men was invariably of the most lurid description. Sobriety was the rule only when all the grog was consumed, and it was the custom here, as at Te Awaiti, to make temporary wives of the Maori girls, and not an uncommon practice to hire the other native women out for the fishing season, the payment being half a keg of rum or tobacco, which was generally appropriated by the chiefs who remained at home to enjoy themselves. Matters were in this condition when the Rev. J. H. Bumby, superintendant of the Wesleyan missions, arrived in the colony. After spending some time investigating the progress of the missions in the north, Mr. Bumby decided to make a three months' tour amongst the southern districts and ascertain for himself where new stations might with advantage be opened up. In the course of this journey he arrived in Cloudy Bay, about August, 1839. He first visited the Maori pah and held a service there, page 224being well received by the natives, who had obtained some glimmering of the gospel from the missionaries in the north. His welcome was not quite so cordial at the whaling stations, where opinions were divided as to whether a missionary was required or not. A few of the whalers who had not abandoned all sense of propriety were anxious to have someone amongst them who could teach their half-caste children, but others openly opposed anything in the shape of religion or education. Referring to these obstructionists, Mr. Bumby says:—"Some of them present specimens of human nature in its worst estate. They practice every species of iniquity without restraint, and without concealment. The sense of decency and propriety seems extinct. The very soil is polluted; the very atmosphere is tainted."
At this time the European population at the Port totalled fully one hundred souls, and as the Maoris were also numerous it was soon abundantly clear that a church suitable to page 227the requirements of the place would have to be erected. Up to the present a small squat building, 25 feet square, and built of raupo, had answered the purposes of church, school, and dwelling, the partitioning off of a corner with mats and rugs, being all the privacy that the missionary and his devoted wife enjoyed for many months. To obviate this discomfort, the idea of a commodious and permanent church was suggested by Mr. Ironsides, and as events proved the suggestion was readily and diligently acted upon by Maori and pakeha, the erection of the largest church of its kind in the colony being the gratifying result. This edifice was 66 feet long by 36 feet wide, with walls 12 feet high; its frame was built of timber hewn out of the hillside forests, and its walls inside were finished with the reeds of the toe-toe, which had been stained with various colours by the native women. The labour of its construction was divided between the five tribes who had attached themselves to the mission, and who were each made responsible for a portion of the work. While the men worked in the bush, preparing the timbers, or upon the building itself, the women cultivated the ground, looked after the gardens and kept the little army of one hundred and fifty labourers supplied with food. A young Englishman, who had evidently seen better page 228days, did what joinery work was necessary, the cost of his services and the material used, about £40, being the total expense the New Zealand mission had to bear for a building which Mr. Ironsides estimated was worth from £1,400 to £1,500.
The whole of this work the missionary supervised as best he could in the midst of his other duties, amongst which was included the building of smaller churches in the Sounds, twelve of which were eventually erected in the different bays. But on Friday, August 5th, 1842, he had the intense satisfaction of seeing his principal sanctuary, which he named "Ebenezer," finished and opened. On that day there was a great gathering of natives from the various villages in the Sound, the Pelorus, and even the distant D'Urville Island, all of whom came, full of high and holy expectation, to the opening service. After the prayers and lessons the missionary preached from the appropriate text "Ebenezer, hitherto hath the Lord helped us," and on the following Sunday he received into the visible church 163 adults and 34 children, all of whom had given satisfactory proof of their discipleship. Not the least interesting part of this day's service was the marriage of forty couples who had been living together on the principle of free love, but were now desirous of being united in "the holy estate of matri-page 229mony." There was, however, an initial difficulty to be overcome before this large measure of social reform could be made fully complete, and this was the bridegrooms' inability to supply their brides with that interesting and necessary token of marriage—a ring—but a happy thought struck Mrs. Ironsides, and she speedily produced a sufficient number of brass curtain rings which she had brought from England, and these were utilised on this memorable occaion to make "twain flesh one."
Towards the cost of this church, the first built in the province, the natives had voluntarily contributed considerably over £1000 in labour and material, and in the same way they willingly paid for the first instalment of the New Testament, sent out by the British and Foreign Bible Society. The circulation of the scriptures amongst the Maoris was, of course, one of the chief agencies from which the missionaries were entitled to look for encouragement in the spread of Christianity; but up to that time the scarcity of copies for distribution had greatly hampered them in their work. But in 1842 a supply of ten thousand volumes came from England, half of which were to go to the Wesleyan missions, and Cloudy Bay's share was four hundred and fifty. Early in January the mission ship "Triton" arrived in Port Underwood with page 230the books on board, and Mr. Ironsides was aroused from his sleep by the natives, who informed him, with joyful shouts, that their long-looked-for treasure had arrived. But in the expectation that they would soon have the "book divine" to read daily they were doomed to disappointment, for the "Triton" had only come into the bay to take Mr. Ironsides to the Annual District Meeting, which that year was held at Mangungu, and it was not for some two months later that the first great distribution of the New Testament took place on the shores of Old Marlborough. The church was not nearly large enough to hold the expectant recipients, and so beneath God's own dome the books were piled in convenient heaps around the preaching stand, from which the missionary delivered an address upon the duty of "searching the scriptures daily." Then the teachers were called up, each receiving the complement of books apportioned to their stations, and as they returned to their places, hugging their treasure to their bosoms, there was such an expression of evident pleasure upon their faces that all nature, animate and inanimate, seemed to be in perfect accord. Heaven smiling from above, the calm and glittering sea, the valley and the surrounding hills clothed in the richest verdure of early autumn, the crowd of Maoris, all with earnest gaze page 231looking at the distribution, provided such a beautiful and sanctified sight that Mr. Ironsides declares "an angel in his flight might have been arrested by the scene."
In return for the gift of Testaments the natives gave the missionary a paremata, or a gift of food, which they one day brought and piled up in front of the mission station. Then they invited the missionary and his wife to come and receive it. A magnificently built native in the person of Hoani Koinaki, chief of the Wekenuri village in Queen Charlotte Sound, was appointed to make the presentation, and when Mr. and Mrs Ironsides arrived, he tucked up his blanket in one hand, and with a long spear in the other he ran first from one end of the food pile to the other, striking the baskets in his passage, and exclaiming, "Here is our feast, take it and give it to our loving fathers in England. It is all we can do to show our love for their great kindness in sending us the pukapuka tapu (holy book)." In addition to the six hundred baskets of food there was a collection of gold and silver coins of many nationalities, amounting in value to £9 17s. 6d., and after Mr. Ironsides had sold the produce to one of the coastal traders he had the pleasure of remitting to the British and Foreign Bible Society the sum of £34 17s. 6d as the Cloudy Bay contribution in return for their splendid page 232gift of Testaments. Remembering the sadly degraded condition of the natives only a short two years previously, Mr. Ironsides could now truthfully and gladly say, "So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed."
Mr. Ironsides remained labouring at the Port, and through the pahs in the Sounds for nearly three years, acquiring immense influence over his Maori flock, and the profound respect of the European population. During his ministry he baptised 613 adults, and 165 infants. He married 171 couples, and received 430 of the people into church membership, but not before they had each given the most satisfactory proof that they fully understood the gravity of the responsibility they were taking upon themselves, and it must be admitted that in the trials that shortly after fell upon the station their Christianity was tested to the full, but they came through the ordeal unshaken and unscathed, clinging to their faith "as the shellfish cling to the rocks," thus testifying to the soundness of Mr. Ironsides' ministrations. But events were shortly to transpire which put a serious check upon this good work, and caused the ultimate abandonment of the station. The first of these was the murder of a Maori woman, and the acquittal of the murderer, and the second was the consternation which seized the native population after the page 233Wairau massacre. This catastrophe completely sapped their peace of mind, and after the excitement consequent upon it had to some extent subsided a large meeting was held at Port Underwood, at which Mr. Ironsides was present, and there the Ngatitoas resolved to follow Rauparaha, their old chief, to the north. The Ngatiawas, who a few years before had fled from Taranaki to escape the fierce warriors from the Waikato, seemed anxious to return now that they no longer feared the vengeance of their tribal enemies, and when they knew the Ngatitoa's decision they too decided to go back to their native province. This dual migration was of course a heavy blow to the mission station, and as the whaling industry was beginning to wane, Mr. Ironsides soon found it expedient to remove to Wellington, where a larger field of operations awaited him. The station was then left in charge of a native teacher named Paramena, whom Mr. Ironsides describes as the most eloquent and logical native preacher he had ever heard. He had been permitted by the tribe to remain on the payment to them of a pair of blankets, and he carried out his duties faithfully and well, until the arrival of Mr. Jenkins, a local preacher, who was sent by the church authorities to take up the work so splendidly begun by his predecessor.
When the natives left for their northern page 234homes they believed that Mr. Ironsides would follow them, and he on the other hand believed that in keeping with their migratory habits they would soon return to Cloudy Bay, but as neither of these things eventuated the mission station soon fell into such a state of decay that it was thought unnecessary to keep a resident missionary there. This conclusion was considerably accelerated by the difficulty Mr. Jenkins experienced in working it from Ngakuta, which was now over half-a-day's journey from his chief congregations. The rambling habits of the natives made it inexpedient to build a new church nearer to them than the one already erected, and therefore Mr. Jenkins was shortly after withdrawn, and since his removal there has been no resident minister of the gospel at Port Underwood.
In addition to the arrival of Mr. Ironsides, and the practical introduction of Christianity by him, the year of 1840 was a memorable one for Cloudy Bay and Marlborough generally, inasmuch as it was then and there that the Queen's sovereignty was first proclaimed over the Middle Island. Seventy years before, Captain Cook had, from the heights of Motuara, taken possession of the surrounding country by right of discovery; but, as there seemed to be a danger of rival claims being set-up by the French, to clear up all technical doubts as to Britain's right to the Middle page 235Island, Captain Hobson, who had now assumed the governorship of the colony, deemed it prudent to obtain a more effective title, and to get, if possible, the rights of sovereignty ceded by the southern chiefs, as had already been done in the north under the Treaty of Waitangi. In the conduct of his scheme he considered that his policy would be better served by an ostentatious display of authority than by the puny efforts of single individuals. Accordingly when Major Bunbury and a portion of the 80th regiment arrived from Sydney, he sent them in H.M.S. "Herald," commanded by Captain Nias, to the more important centres in the Island, for the purpose of securing the allegiance of the leading chiefs, and to proclaim the Queen's sovereignty over those districts not already ceded to the Crown. In the course of his mission Major Bunbury arrived at Cloudy Bay on June 17th, and after consultation with Captain Nias he judged that it would be to the best interests of the natives as well as the European settlers that no further delay should take place in making the necessary proclamation. They therefore proclaimed the Queen's authority with the usual ceremony of a royal salute fired by the "Herald's" guns as the Union Jack was run up on a page 236temporary staff reared for the purpose on the shore of the bay.*
* The performance of this ceremony by Major Bunbury and Captain Nias at this time and place is a matter of considerable historical importance to the province, as it establishes conclusively that both on the grounds of discovery and cession the Middle Island was first declared to be a portion of the British Empire on Marlborough soil. It also detracts considerably from the importance attached to the "race" between H.M. brig "Britomart" and the French warship "L'Aube" to Akaroa, which did not take place for two months later, and which so many people believe to have been the turning-point in the destiny of the Middle Island, if not of the colony. No doubt the action of the Governor in sending Messrs. Murphy and Robinson to act as magistrates in the southern ports, confirmed what had already been done, and probably averted a great deal of friction and possibly open rupture between the two nationalities; but the fact remains that to Marlborough, and not to Canterbury belongs the honour of being the initial spot in the Middle Island over which the Union Jack waved as an emblem of our Empire.
Only recently there died at Wellington a very early Port Underwood settler, in the person of Mrs. Dougherty, the wife of one of the principal whalers, who, with her husband, might be justly regarded as a pioneer of the colony. Captain Dougherty had been sailing in the South Pacific during the early "thirties," and being attracted by the beauty of New Zealand he decided to bring his family out from Canada and settle in the new land. With them he arrived in his own ship in 1838 and at once established a whaling station at Cutter's Bay. Here Mrs. Dougherty naturally found the life page 238very different from that which she had just left, but being a woman of great force of character she met the hardships as they came, and was at all times as a ray of sunlight in the little settlement. During the absence of her husband in search of whales her responsibilities were often many and great, and between the visits from the natives, and the Bohemian character of the Europeans, her days and nights at these periods were by no means free from anxiety. By way of illustrating the kind of emergency she was sometimes called upon to meet it is worthy of mention that amongst his other possesions Captain Dougherty had a very fine stand of arms, which excited the cupidity of one of the irresponsible residents of the Port. In several attempts to borrow the guns he had failed, and so he laid his plans to get them by stratagem. His ruse was to induce two natives to light a great fire on the summit of one of the neighbouring hills during the night, and to pass round and round the burning pile to create the impression of numbers. The alarm was soon given, and on emerging from the house Mrs. Dougherty and her daughters saw what they supposed to be innumerable natives passing before the flames in single file, and they at once gave themselves up for lost. In the midst of their trepidation the wily European rushed up, and demanded the guns to repel the supposed page 239attack, which, under the circumstances, were readily yielded up to him; but as no result followed, their suspicions were aroused, and an old "shell-back," who was in Captain Dougherty's employ, crept up to reconnoitre, and discovered that the whole thing was simply a trick played upon the unprotected and confiding women to get possession of the guns, which, needless to say, were never returned.
During these early days the commercial operations of the people were no doubt very limited, but their connection with the outer world was preserved in a remarkable degree by the constant calling of American and English whalers, and of emigrant and cargo vessels waiting for a favourable breeze to enter Port Nicholson. Indeed the first settlers witnessed many a noble sight, when a fleet of perhaps fifty vessels was lying snugly at anchor while a howling "south-easter" was raging through the Strait. And once, on March 11th, 1870, they saw the grand but disastrous spectacle of one of these vessels perishing by fire. The Norwegian barque "Hera," Captain Trekelson, had taken in a full cargo of wool and grain, and was preparing to make the Homeward voyage, when she was discovered to be on fire. For a time the flames were bravely battled with, but their mastery was so complete that they page 240burned the vessel almost to the water's edge, and the remains of the ship were beached to prevent her foundering.*
It was to these people living at Port Underwood that the first tidings were conveyed of those now historical tragedies—the massacres of 1840 and 1843. As there has been so much misunderstanding, and so many contradictory accounts have been given concerning these two tragedies, we propose to furnish what we believe to be an accurate history of the events and the motives that prompted them. But in order to thoroughly understand the latter, it will be necessary to refer to another event not so well-known, but which helped to lay the foundation of all the trouble.
* The hull of the "Hera" was afterwards repaired, and for the rest of her days she did duty as a coal hulk at Nelson.
‡ Mr. Wynen came to New Zealand as the agent for a Sydney syndicate, by whom he had been commissioned to purchase land in the most suitable situations for settlement. He was a man of good parentage, liberal education, and noted for his gentlemanly instincts, and when the first Taranaki settlers arrived in the "William Bryan" at Port Underwood in March, 1841, we are told that he "showed them much attention," and by his courtesy and urbanity left the impression on their minds that he was "rather out of place amongst a shore party of whalers."
The fact that a horrible murder had been perpetrated soon became known to the few neighbours and natives residing in the bays, and suspicion was at once levelled against Cook. Blood, which he had vainly endeavoured to remove, had been seen on his clothes, and other awkward circumstances pointed to him with fatal accuracy, as the culprit. The anger of the natives against him was fierce and strong, and they would have speedily put him beyond the reach of human care, but for the intercession of Mr. Ironsides and Rawiri Kingi Puaha, a dignified and noble chief, who had embraced the Christian religion. They persuaded them to let Cook be taken to Poneke, there to be dealt with according to the European standard of justice. The criminal was accordingly sent to Wellington to stand his trial for the murder of the Maori woman and child. There was no direct testimony against him, because the only living person who saw the deed committed was his wife, and her evidence could not be adduced to the prejudice of her husband. But every link in the chain of circumstantial evidence was complete. The motive was there, the tomahawk, the bloodstains on his clothes and page 243his bad reputation were all pressed forward to prove his guilt, but strange to say the jury acquitted him. Perhaps a prejudice against the Maori character, and a resentment of similar deeds by the natives, contributed to this result, but looking at the facts calmly and dispassionately at this long period after the event, it does appear that a grave miscarriage of justice occurred, and Cook's acquittal had a most injurious effect upon the native mind, by lowering their respect for our judicial institutions. His crime was never forgiven by the natives, and in obedience to their custom of utu they resolved to avenge it.
* Rauparaha was ignorant of the real nature of the deed until he showed it to a pakeha trader named Hawes, who was then living at Kapiti. Hawes told him that all his land at the Wairau had gone, and that he had received a big gun for it; whereupon the chief flew into a violent temper, tore up the document and burned the fragments. He then left the gun lying on the shore of Guard's Bay, from which place it was brought to Blenheim by Captain Scott of the p.s. "Lyttelton." Captain Blenkinsopp not satisfied with merely deceiving the natives, added insult to injury by carefully spiking the gun before he gave it to them. It was called by the Maoris Puhuri Whenua, or "the gun that ploughs the ground." This famous old weapon has now been properly mounted, and after a silence of fully 60 years it will be used to fire a Royal Salute on the occasion of the South African peace celebrations.
There is no record to show that Mr. Unwin was ever in New Zealand to purchase direct from the natives, but that he believed he had a claim to the land, and that he asserted his claim, is clearly proved by an indenture made at Sydney on April 4th, 1840, between him and one George Baldic, whom, with his family, he engaged to work on the estate. Those who accompanied Mr. Baldic were Wilton, who acted as overseer, Hall and Baird, all of whom were afterwards massacred, and no doubt similar contracts were entered into between Mr. Unwin and them.
* The widow of Captain Blenkinsopp was a native woman, and was the grandmother of Harry and Alfred Rore, of the Wairau pah.
No tidings of what had happened reached the ears of the unsuspecting wives for some page 247few days, when a number of Maoris came over to the Port and were somewhat boisterous in their manner. One of them was wearing a pair of boots which Mrs. Baldic thought she recognised, and on looking more minutely at them she saw that they were fastened with a piece of braid which she knew she had given her husband a few days before in substitution for the lace which he had broken while adjusting his boots immediately prior to leaving for his work on the plain. This startling discovery aroused her suspicions, and on questioning the Maoris they reported that the boat had capsized, and all the men were drowned. A search party immediately set out to recover the bodies, but to their utter amazement and horror, they found traces of a catastrophe infinitely more appalling than any death by drowning could ever be. On the beach and in the pah they discovered some of the boat's cargo strewn hither and thither, but there was no sign that it had ever been taken from the water—even the men's tools and clothing were vauntingly displayed by some of the natives, who could give no satisfactory explanation as to how they came into their possession. Only a little distance away there was a charred heap where the boat had been burned, in the vain hope that its absence might verify the story that the men had been drowned. But the most damning evidence page 248of a horrible and brutal massacre, accompanied by the awful rites of cannibalism, was yet to meet their view. On the Boulder Bank there lay a dark blood-stained patch, marking the altar where Wilton and his companions had been offered up as a human sacrifice, and around which their murderers had danced in merry savagery. There was no doubt as to what had happened, but the victims could not be called back to life, and there was nothing for it but to return home with the dismal intelligence.
Only one person not actually implicated in the crime was witness to the tragedy. This was the native wife of Allen, an old whaler, who had acted as steersman in the boat. She had accompanied her husband, intending to remain with him at the station. Her life was spared for the time, but her ultimate fate is undetermined. Some allege that she and a Newfoundland dog were killed a few days after, while others report that she was taken to Robin Hood Bay, and prevented from holding intercourse with any European until her death, which occurred about a year after the massacre. Whichever may be the true account, she never had the opportunity, if she had the inclination, to relate what she saw when in accordance with Maori custom, the page 249crime of Dick Cook was avenged by the massacre of innocent men.
An attempt was made to investigate the affair by the officers of a man-of-war which was sent from Sydney with a few marines, but nothing ever came of the enquiry, and no steps were taken to sheet home the crime to the real criminals. Mr. Unwin was so disheartened by the tragic fate of his men that he gave up the settlement scheme in despair, and it is said that he parted with his title to the land to the New Zealand Company for a nominal figure, but the deeds were of no more value to them than they were to him.