The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
THE MASSACRE AT PUKEARUHE REDOUBT
THE MASSACRE AT PUKEARUHE REDOUBT
Colonel Whitmore, before going on to Auckland and the East Coast, gave consideration to the question of military operations against the people of the Ngati-Maniapoto at Mokau Heads in avengement of a shocking massacre by a raiding-party of that tribe. On the 13th February a small war-party from Mokau, led by the chiefs Wetere te Rerenga and Te Oro, suddenly appeared at Pukearuhe Redoubt, the northernmost Taranaki outpost, established in 1865 on the site of an ancient Maori stronghold, the key of North Taranaki. The raiders slaughtered the white inhabitants and also a venerated missionary, the Rev. John Whiteley, of the Wesleyan Church. The military outpost at Pukearuhe (Fern-root Hill) had been established in 1865 in order to command the only practicable route along the West Coast between Mokau Heads and Taranaki, and its existence there, blocking the passage of recruits from Ngati-Maniapoto and Waikato to the camps of the Taranaki Hauhaus, was a continual source of annoyance to the Maoris at Mokau, for it was regarded by them as a direct challenge. In 1869 it was temporarily defenceless; the military settlers in the district were working their bush farms, and the vulnerable condition of Pukearuhe was a temptation which Wetere and his section of Ngati-Maniapoto at Mokau Heads could not resist. Lieutenant Gascoigne and his family and two men were the only people at the post, and, although armed natives were sometimes seen passing along the coast, they considered themselves secure.
Drawing by Mr. A. H. Messenger]
Pukearuhe Redoubt, from the North
This drawing shows the horse-track up the cliff from the beach. The Armed Constabulary post at Pukearuhe was the key of North Taranaki. All Maoris travelling along the coast had to use this route, because of the precipitous cliffs, and the redoubt completely commanded the track.
Meanwhile the Maoris stood regarding her intently, and there was something in their savage appearance that convinced her danger was impending. When Captain Messenger arrived he questioned the two men closely. They told him they were on their way north to the Mokau, and wanted him to put them across the Mimi in his canoe. This he did, and after they crossed the river he watched them disappear along the track to Pukearuhe.
The Original Redoubt at Pukearuhe
This picture of Pukearuhe Redoubt was drawn by Mr. A. H. Messenger from a sketch by his father, the late Colonel W. B. Messenger, who with his Taranaki Military Settlers garrisoned it in the early “sixties”. A blockhouse was afterwards built in the redoubt, and the work was enlarged. Pukearuhe was occupied as a frontier Armed Constabulary post until the year 1885.
Realizing that nothing more could be gained by a close inspection, and that the Hauhaus were probably waiting in ambush for him, he turned and galloped off towards the Waitara, with the feeling haunting him that this was only the beginning of a great organized raid on the North Taranaki settlements. On the track to Urenui and the Waitara Mrs. Messenger was being urged to haste by the Maori escort. “Hurry, missus,” he kept saying; “Hurry—they'll catch us if we don't hurry!” Continually he looked back apprehensively, expecting every moment to see some of the war-party in pursuit. However, his fears were needless, and he took his charges safely into town. The strange Maoris seen, it was afterwards discovered, met the Ngati-Maniapoto party from Mokau.
On news of the attack reaching New Plymouth an expedition was organized and went up to the White Cliffs by sea. The bodies of Lieutenant Gascoigne, his wife, and their four children were found, lightly covered over with sand. All had been tomahawked. The body of the Rev. John Whiteley was found at the foot of the hill on the inland side of the redoubt; he had been shot at close range, and there were seven bullet-wounds in his body. The bodies of two military settlers, Milne and Richards, who lived at the redoubt, were also found. The blockhouse and other buildings in the redoubt had been set on fire before the raiders returned to the Mokau, twenty-five miles away. The bodies were taken to New Plymouth by steamer and buried in the cemetery at Te Henui.
The Gascoignes’ Home, Pukearuhe
This photograph, taken shortly before the massacre at Pukearuhe Redoubt, White Cliffs, in 1869, shows Lieutenant Gascoigne standing in front of the house, and Mrs. Gascoigne in the doorway carrying one of the children.
The Pukearuhe Blockhouse Destroyed by Wetere's War-party, 1869
(Drawn by Mr. A. H. Messenger from a sketch by his father.)
Soon after the discovery of the bodies a party of men under Captain Messenger scoured the ranges in rear of Pukearuhe and in the direction of the Mokau, and on the occasion nearly caught Wetere and several of his war-party, who were in the act of preparing their evening meal when their pursuers came on them at twilight in the bush. The surprise would have been complete but for the uncertain light. There was a rush of Maoris into the gloom of the forest, followed by a few hasty shots, and that was all. Wetere was an outlaw with a price on his head until 1883, when he was included in the Government's amnesty to those concerned in the war. He always denied having killed the Gascoignes or Mr. Whiteley. After the massacre Pukearuhe was garrisoned by Armed Constabulary under Captain Messenger, and remained an important military post until the demobilization of the field force in 1885.
The Later Blockhouse at Pukearuhe Redoubt
This sketch shows a blockhouse, still in existence, erected at one of the angles of the Pukearuhe Redoubt, after the destruction of the original building by Wetere te Rerenga's raiding-party. The inset shows detail of the rifle loopholes. The drawing was made by Mr. Messenger in 1916.
* For the Maori narrative of the massacre, see Henare Piripi's confession in Appendices.