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The Old Frontier : Te Awamutu, the story of the Waipa Valley : the missionary, the soldier, the pioneer farmer, early colonization, the war in Waikato, life on the Maori border and later-day settlement

Mr Hursthouse's Adventure in the King Country

page 102

Mr Hursthouse's Adventure in the King Country.

The capture of Mr Charles Wilson Hursthouse and Mr William Newsham, Government surveyors, by a band of King Country fanatics under the prophet Te Mahuki occurred at Te Uira, near Te Kuiti, on 20th March, 1883. Mr Hursthouse was on his way from Alexandra to explore the country from the Waikato frontier to the Mokau, and he and his assistant surveyor were accompanied by the Mokau friendly chiefs Te Rangituataka and Hone Wetere te Rerenga and twenty-five other Mokau men. At Te Uira, sixteen miles beyond Otorohanga, on the afternoon of the 20th, as they rode up they saw a large body of Maoris mustering excitedly. These were natives under the leadership of the fanatic Te Mahuki, or Manukura, a Ngati-Maniapoto man who had been a follower of Te Whititi at Parihaka, and who had returned to the Rohepotae to found a sect of his own. He called his followers the “Tekau-ma-rua,” or “The Twelve “—-although they numbered many more—after the Twelve Apostles. This was a revival of a term of the Hauhau war days. The selected war-parties of the Taranaki fighting chief Titokowaru were called the “Tekau-ma-rua.” These men attacked Hursthouse's party, and a lively fight followed, although no deadly weapons were used. The Tekau-ma-rua pulled the surveyors and the Mokau men off their horses, Rangituataka's followers fighting desperately with stirrup-irons and leathers. The prisoners were marched to the village at Te Uira, in the midst of the terribly-excited. Tekau–ma-rua, who were dancing and yelling and chanting ngeri or war-songs. Te Rangituataka and Wetere and their men were not ill-used—there were too many of them; moreover the leaders were high chiefs of the tribe—but the surveyors and a native named Te Haere were thrust into a cookhouse and imprisoned there. Hursthouse and Newsham had been stripped of their coats, waistcoats, and boots. Their hands were tied behind their backs and their feet were fastened together with bullockchains. In this condition, suffering great pain from the tightness of their bonds, tortured by mosquitoes which they could only brush off by rubbing their faces on the ground, and without drink or food except dirty water and some pig's potatoes thrown in on the floor, they remained there two nights and a day, listening to the yells and threats of the natives outside, and expecting to be killed. Early on the morning of 22nd March there was a new commotion outside, and Hursthouse heard Te Kooti's voice. In a few moments the door of the cookhouse was burst open and the prisoners were released by Te Kooti—who had just been promised an amnesty by Mr Bryce, Native Minister—and a large party of natives, including Wahanui's people; Wahanui himself arrived a little later. Hursthouse and Newsham had already worked their hands free, and the former had picked up a piece of iron chain as a weapon in case he was attacked. The extreme tension and anxiety of the thirty-six hours' painful confinement and the want of food had affected even the indomitable Hursthouse, old campaigner though he was, and, as he related afterwards, when he was released he fairly broke down and wept. The surveyors were escorted to Alexandra by a large body of Wahanui's people, and presently resumed their exploring expedition, after their late captor in his turn had been locked up.