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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May 1, 1935)

The Founders of Taranaki

The Founders of Taranaki.

No British Colony planted in a new country had a more courageous, determined and industrious set of pioneers than the men and women of Devon and Cornwall and Essex, with some from Yorkshire, who peopled the bush-covered province of Taranaki in the young ‘Forties, and, under many difficulties, established a beautiful group of farming settlements beneath the seaward flanks of grand old Egmont. There were many families among them whose descendants bear with pride names of high honour in the annals of New Zealand. There were makers of the nation there, the Atkinsons and Richmonds, the Smiths and Hursthouses, the Messengers, North-crofts, Bayleys, Carringtons and Ardens, and many another who very literally cut out their homes from the wilds. It was not only the obstacles of wild Nature they had to conquer in this forest-tangled land that is now the richest region of the Island. There was the Maori, at first a friend but forced into very active hostility when the inevitable land disputes began. The Maori, for all his early amicable dealings with the New Plymouth pioneers, soon realised that the shiploads of English settlers and the demand for more land for settlement would in the end prevail, and the Land League was formed to dam back the pakeha flood.

No need here to tell the story of the foolish Waitara purchase that precipitated the war in 1860. Sharp and bitter war it was, that set the province back well-nigh twenty years. New Plymouth and the neighbouring settlements had a white population of about two thousand five hundred, of whom between five and six hundred were men and youths of fighting age. The town was entrenched; the outer districts were deserted and left to the mercy of the Maori nationalist forces; and the peaceful citizen and farmer were compelled to cease their activities and learn the art of war. There was good material there; none better. They were not Regular troops fighting because it was their paid calling. They served not for the glory and adventure of one of the Empire's little wars. They were peace-loving men forced into defence of their homes. There were rights and wrongs on both sides; as our histories have recorded. The Taranaki settlers, from the greybeard to the sixteen-year-old lad, took the field under sheer necessity of holding what they had won from the bush.