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Settlers and Pioneers


Mention has been made of the foodstuffs, especially wheat and flour, that were brought to Auckland from the Maori country. It was the Rev. John Morgan who civilised the Upper Waikato in the period 1842-1861. He introduced English ways of farming, brought in English fruit trees, taught the natives to grow wheat, and to grind it in their own water-mills. He it was who, by precept and personal example, made the natives of Te Awamutu, Rangiaowhia, Kihikihi, Orakau a farming and fruitgrowing people, with the result that long before the "Waikato war travellers found there to their astonishment many beautiful settlements, with large fields of wheat, potatoes, and maize, and dwellings arranged in neat streets, shaded by groves of peach and apple trees. Each large village had its water-driven flour-mill procured by the community, which after the harvest was kept busily grinding into flour the abundant yield of the cornfields.

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The Maoris of the Waikato and the Waipa, as well as those of other districts, were industrious and prosperous, thanks to the missionaries and to the help given by Sir George Grey in his first governorship. Waikato's surplus produce was taken to Auckland in large canoes. This consisted chiefly of wheat, flour, maize, pigs, fruit, and muka (dressed flax). After each harvest the Waipa and Waikato rivers were busy with this canoe transport going down fully laden to the market and returning with goods purchased in Auckland. The route was via Waiuku, which was then a very busy place, and Onehunga.

A great deal of the heavy work on the farms was done by means of an ohu (working bee). The harvesting was also done by this method.

A member of a leading half-caste family of the King Country, the late Mr Arthur Ormsby, of Te Kopua, on the Waipa River, gave an account of the old-time farming methods on the convenient and helpful community system, which was revived in his district after the war. 'In one season,' he said, 'I was for nearly a month assisting with the harvest at Te Kopua going from one wheat or oat field to another, working hard every day and all day. The owner of each plot would provide a feast for the workers on his crop as part payment. I have been one of 50 sickle hands on one field, and there were more than a score of lassies behind the reapers binding the sheaves with flax, which had been prepared before reaping page 44commenced. Frequently the leading man or woman would start a song, which would be taken up by all the workers in the field, and the effect on the listeners and workers alike was inspiring. The community singing seemed to make the sickles go like miniature mowing machines.'

The war ended the golden age in the Waikato. The British conquest replaced the Maori tribes with military settlers, as far south as the Puniu and Waipa rivers. Waikato took refuge with Ngati-Maniapoto who lost only their northernmost village and headquarters, Kihikihi. Some 3,000 military settlers were introduced, and were given free sections ranging from 50 to 300 acres. Redoubts were the centres around which the settlements were grouped.