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Settlers and Pioneers


There were two classes of pakeha frontiersmen that the old patriots of the King Country particularly distrusted and disliked. ('Dislike' is indeed a mild term for it.) One was the Government surveyor, with his instruments, his pegs, his observation marks and stations. The other was the prospector for gold. Both these outlanders gave the Hauhaus of the border much trouble in their time and kept them on the alert to see that they did not trespass on the sacred territory of the Maori King.

Pirongia Mountain, so beautiful and so mysterious a place in our young days, when it rose unspoiled and forested from the valley where the Waipa River flowed, was the scene of both surveyors' and gold-seekers' explorations very soon after the Waikato page 57war ended. Diggers from the Thames and Coro-mandel fields thought that the great mountain, with its deep gullies and its rocky streams, looked exacdy the place for gold. Some of them ventured across the Waipa from the township of Alexandra (named after the beautiful Danish princess who married Queen Victoria's son in 1863). The Maoris suspected their presence, and more than one party of armed men went out to scout the bush. Two gold-seekers in particular were known to be in the ranges early in 1870, and a party of thirty Hauhaus searched for them with the intention of shooting them for their breach of the command 'Keep out!' These gold-searchers would never have been seen again had the guardians of the frontier found them. Perhaps had good gold been discovered and a rush of eager diggers set in, all the gunmen in the King Country could not have kept them out long. But fortunately for the peace of the country, only traces of gold were found in the quartz, and the prospectors wisely concluded that the adventure was not worth the risk.

There were surveyors here and there, however, on the edge of the Dangerous Land, and these were more easily found than the gold-prospectors. In the latter part of 1870 there was a Government surveyor named Richard Todd, an old resident of the Raglan district, camped on the lower part of Pirongia, a few hundred feet above the west bank of the Waipa and about two miles across the bridge page 58from the military township that is now called Pirongia, after the mountain.

Mr Todd, who had several assistants, had pitched his tents in the shelter of the bush, and had made a comfortable camp. One of his party, Mr Frissell, had a tent deeper in the bush and a little higher up the range. Todd's instructions were, first, to clear the line along the mountain foot which marked the boundary of the Waikato land confiscated from the King Maoris as punishment for rebellion; then to mark off a block of the confiscated land as an estate for the chief Hone te One and his tribe. This was to compensate the tribe, the Ngati-Hikairo, for land which had been taken from them in the war. Hone te One and his people lived on the shores of Kawhia Harbour, the most secluded retreat of fugitives from white man's rule. The land was to be taken out of the seized territory on the pakeha side of the boundary. It was only 3 50 acres, but it was proposed to cut it up into separate areas so that each member would have an individual section. The chief, however, strongly objected to this, because it would tend to divide the tribe as time went on. He wished all the land to be held as one block, on the ordinary communal plan.

Several times warnings were sent to the surveyor that to persist with his work would be dangerous. He took no notice of these cautions; and at last some of the extreme Kingite party decided that something page 59more than warnings was needed. A small party of men ready for any desperate deed crossed the range by the Hikurangi track from Kawhia and found Todd's survey camp. (His assistant, Mr Frissell, and his party they did not trouble to track once they had located the head camp.) The attackers crept up to the two tents very early in the morning of Monday, 20 November 1870, and fired at Mr Todd and his companions as they were having breakfast. Another double bang and another. The first bullet passed through Mr Todd's breast and he died almost at once. A half-caste chainman received three wounds, but he escaped death.

When the alarm reached the Alexandra redoubt, a relief party of Constabulary and volunteers hurried off across the river and carried in the body of Mr Todd and the wounded man. As for the shooting party, it was off at its best speed either for Kawhia or for that safe retreat, the densely-forested Hauturu Range, to the south. The leader was Nukuwhenua. The chiefs refused to surrender him and he went free all his days.

Incidents of that kind occurred on all the frontiers of the Hauhau districts in the often anxious period between the end of the actual fighting and the final peace. There was excitement all along the South Auckland border country, and Constabulary posts were garrisoned at strategic points; here and there alarmed families took refuge in the redoubts and page 60blockhouses. There were rumours of war; it was thought that the killing of a Government man was the prelude to a general attack on the conquered Waikato by the Maori King's warriors.

There were some rather hysterical people in Auckland who demanded more protection against the 'savage Maoris.' But the border farmers kept their heads. They attended to their farms, milked their cows and saw to their crops; those who had rifles took them with them to the fields.

A few months later, under the authority of the Native and Defence Minister, Sir Donald Maclean, the Waikato Cavalry Volunteer Corps was formed, consisting of settlers and their sons. There were two troops, one at Te Awamutu, the other at Cambridge, to patrol the border roads and tracks when necessary and reinforce the Armed Constabulary.

There were suggestions that the Maoris over the border should be outlawed and that any who came over should be shot. The Aukati should be a barrier against Maoris, just as it was against the pakeha.*

In August 1879—nine years after the Pirongia killing just related—there was another shooting affair in which surveyors were the targets. D. H. Bayldon and J. Crump had a survey party engaged for the Government on the boundaries of the block

* Aukati Line. Compare with George Borrow's Wild Wales: '"There was a time," said my companion, "when it was customary for the English to cut off the ears of every Welshman who was found to the east of Offa's Dyke, and for the Welsh to hang every Englishman whom they found to the west of it." '

page 61of land at Rotokohu, between Paeroa and Te Aroha. Some of the men of the Ngati-Hako tribe objected to the sale to the Government of this Rotokohu area, and fifteen of them formed an armed party to deal with the surveyors. When they found the pakehas they fired on them, and a young man named W. D. McWilliams, who was one of the chainmen, was hit and severely wounded. The first bullet from a tupara * took off the ends of two of his fingers and the second entered his hip. McWilliams fell down and feigned death. A Maori ran up with his knife and cut off some of his hair and put it in his mouth and chewed it. This was an old war custom, the bunch of hair, like the Red Indian scalp, was the ito, representing the object of hatred and revenge. The Maoris thought him dead and left him where he lay. When they had gone he crawled down towards the swamp. He was found by a half-caste woman, Kate Thompson, who contrived to get him on her back and carried him through the swampy ground to Paeroa. The bullet was extracted in the Thames Hospital and he recovered. The survey went on; the Maoris contented themselves with that demonstration of displeasure.

* Tupara, a double-barrelled gun.