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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 1 (May 1, 1930)

A Tale of Taumarunui

A Tale of Taumarunui.

That brisk heart-of-New-Zealand town, Taumarunui, has its stories of the old frontier days that are, after all, not so very far behind us. It was as lately as the year 1880, that William Moffatt, the powder-maker and gold prospector, was shot by the King Country Maoris on the Matapuna flat, a short distance from the present site of Taumarunui town. It was a political affair, an execution carried out in pursuance of the Kingite head chief's policy to keep troublesome pakehas out of their territory. Moffatt had lived there with the Upper Wanganui Maoris in the war days. He was a clever mechanic; he assisted in the construction and working of several flour mills on the streams (the Maoris were great growers of wheat sixty years ago), and when fighting was on he was a useful man in repairing the Maori guns and in making gunpowder. It was a coarse kind of powder, but it served the purpose, and many a bullet was fired with Moffat's powder, made in a shed in a riverside village near Taumarunui. The saltpetre needed in the making thereof was brought up river from Wanganui town, ostensibly for curing bacon; the sulphur was brought from the South Taupo country.

The Government, some time in the ‘Seventies, issued a warrant for Moffatt's arrest for the illicit traffic in gunpowder, and he was captured in a most daring manner by a man who went up the river and brought him down to Wanganui. After serving a term of imprisonment, he returned to his old haunts, but by this time the Maoris had had enough of him. He was on the look-out for gold in the Tuhua country, between Taumarunui and Lake Taupo, and he was also engaged in getting native signatures for the sale or lease of land to pakehas.