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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 12 (March 2, 1936)

Leading New Zealand Newspaper

page 20

Leading New Zealand Newspaper.

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Kev. John Hobbs.

Kev. John Hobbs.

The Rev. John Hobbs at Whangaroa.

It was in August, 1823, that John Hobbs and Nathaniel Turner came to Wesley Dale, at Kaeo, walking overland from the Bay of Islands; presently they were joined by their wives, brought by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, who always gave the Wesleyans a helping hand. Hobbs was the man for the rough life in the Whangaroa country. He was a competent man with his hands, he was a carpenter, a gardener, a bit of a doctor, a maker of anything from a table to a house or a boat. He and Turner soon had a comfortable timber cottage built, to replace the raupo hut of Leigh, and they fenced the place and made a vegetable garden. But the Kaeo station, which by 1825 was an attractive little oasis in the wilderness, was not left in peace. Intertribal wars blocked progress, and in 1827 the Ngapuhi raided and looted the place, and the missionaries sorrowfully gave up the struggle and with their families abandoned Wesley Dale. They walked across to that haven of refuge Kerikeri, where the Church mission people took them in and tended them in their everkindly way. The home at Kaeo was burned by the looters soon after they left it. On their way across to Kerikeri they met a war-party from Hokianga. It was the Maori way to sacrifice anyone they met when they were out on a blood expedition, but the benevolent Patuone, brother of Tamati Waka Nene, was the commander of the taua, and he stood protectively by them until the warrior band had passed on.

The New Station at Hokianga.

The Wesleyan party returned from Kerikeri to Sydney by the first vessel, but they were soon back, determined to succeed in their crusade. This time they chose the other coast, the West. Hokianga invited them because of the friendly character of its people and the convenience of its great system of internal waterways for travel from place to place. Patuone, that chief who had so befriended them on that alarming encounter in the forest, was anxious that they should plant a station in his territory. So John Hobbs returned to pioneer the land anew. He was joined by the Rev. J. W. Stack. A site was selected at Mangungu, about twenty miles up the great tidal river. Here an estate of 850 acres was bought, with deep-water frontage, a house was built, and cultivations were begun. It was a place of beauty, fertility and pleasant climate, no more kindlier home for a pioneer station in New Zealand. Hobbs and Stack gradually built up their institution, they taught and preached and introduced the better part of civilisation to the Hokianga tribes. The neat buildings and fencing and cultivations were a lesson to them all.

In 1830, the Rev. W. White joined them. The proselytising campaign was gradually extended down to the Kaipara, to the Waikato and to Kawhia. The Rev. James Wallis and his wife arrived in 1834, and he and the Rev. W. Woon and the Rev. John Whiteley were the pioneers of the West Coast stations. Nathaniel Turner returned in 1836—he had been in Tonga—and with him came James Buller, a stalwart Cornishman; he was at that time a tutor to Turner's family, Every year now brought more recruits for the mission work.

“Te Wunu” meets the New Chums.

In 1838 the new arrivals, by the ship James, were the Revs. J. Waterhouse, J. H. Bumby, Samuel Ironside, Charles Creed, and J. Warren. Mr. Ironside wrote this vivacious description of their reception in the Maori country:-

On the tenth day after leaving Hobart we crossed the bar of the Hokianga River, and anchored safely in the stream, a mile or two below our branch Mission station at Pakanae. The Rev. W. Woon was missionary in charge. Soon after we came to anchor a large boat, manned by a Maori crew, was seen coming to us at a racing speed, the rowers apparently in a great state of excitement, roaring at the top of their voices; ‘Ko Te Wunu! Ko Te Wunu!’

In the stern sat a large-framed stout gentleman, the picture of health and comfort. While yet at some distance from the ship, he called out in stentorian tones, ‘Is that the James?’

“The Maoris were still yelling ‘Ko Te Wunu!’ It was our big friend Mr. Woon come out to welcome us. There had been some joking between the ship's officers and ourselves as to whether we should find anything to eat, or should ourselves be eaten in the strange land. Seeing Mr. Woon so stout, easy, and comfortable, the conclusion was soon unanimously reached that whatever the diet, we should at any rate fare very well.”

Pioneers of 1840

In 1840 the Triton sailed up the Hokianga from Sydney; she brought the Revs. T. Buddle, G. Buttle, H. Turton, G. Smales and J. Aldred. All these names are worthy of remembrance; in every case but one their long self-sacrificing toil and the affection with which they came to be regarded give them a permanent high place among the makers of New Zealand. The one exception was the Rev. J. H. Bumby; he did not survive long in the mission field. In 1840, after visiting many places on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf, he was drowned when on a canoe voyage, soon after leaving Motutapu Island for Whangarei. Mr. Creed—always a marvel to Maori and European alike for the wonderful beard he displayed, covering most of his chest like a hairy cuirass—was one of the two missionaries who settled in turn at Karitane, on Waikouaiti Harbour, Otago, where the celebrity Johnny Jones had his whaling station and farms.

Rev. James Buller.

Rev. James Buller.

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Rev. John Whiteley.

Rev. John Whiteley.

Ironside was sent to the South Island also; his station—generally known as the Cloudy Bay station—was at Ngakuta, in at the head of Port Underwood; a narrow ridge separated it from Queen Charlotte Sound. It was he who, when the Tuamarino tragedy, generally known as the Wairau massacre, occurred in 1843, was the first European on the scene after the retreat of the survivors, and he buried the victims of the Ngati-Toa's guns and Rangihaeata's tomahawk.

Buller at Tangi-te-roria.

Mr. Wallis was the first to camp at the station established at Tangi-teroria, that beautiful spot with a name of music on the Northern Wairoa River. But he was soon sent south to Whaingaroa, now Raglan, and in 1839 James Buller was sent from Mangungu to become the permanent minister on the Wairoa among the tribes living along that great inland waterway.

For fourteen years Buller and his wife lived there and reared their family in the heart of the great forest. Buller had learned Maori well, and he was a right proper stalwart for the pioneering of the wilds. The river was the only road, and up and down this tidal highway this missionary travelled with his Maori crew. It was the most lonely of places for a white woman. There a boy was born who became celebrated as Sir Walter Buller, the great authority on New Zealand birds. It was in the bird-teeming bush of the Northern Wairoa that he learned the ways of the wild and acquired with the Maori tongue his Maori-like knowledge of the country's forest life. The Rev. James Buller's book “Forty Years in New Zealand,” tells of those times of pioneering in the most isolated part of the North Country.

He was a mighty tramper in his prime was “Te Pura.” In 1840 he travelled from the Kaipara to Wellington, mostly on foot, by way of Kawhia, Taupo, and the Wanganui River. His business was to arrange for the establishment of his church in the just founded New Zealand Company's settlement, and foot and canoe were the only means of travel. Everywhere the Maoris were most friendly and hospitable. Buller found that even in those places where the people had never seen a missionary there was some knowledge of pakeha prayers and Scriptures, the Rongo Pai had been spread by Maoris from tribe to tribe.

“Te Waitere.”

Another great and tireless traveller and teacher was the Rev. John Whiteley, whose New Zealand career began in 1832. His work at his station on the south side of Kawhia endeared him to the Maoris and every pakeha traveller who passed that way in the years before the wars found a welcome under the missionary roof. His tragic end in 1869 is an unhappy chapter in our history. The Ngati-Maniapoto from Mokau who wiped out the pakehas at Pukearuhe Redoubt had not intended to kill the revered missionary whom they met on the road after they had killed the Gascoignes. His death was an unpremeditated act, a killing of which they repented immediately afterwards, for it so affected them that they broke off their expedition southward from Pukearuhe and returned to the Mokau. Their leader, Wetere te Rerenga, and most of the others, had been taught by the man they murdered. Long after the war, when at Mokau Heads, I became acquainted with two of the men who, as young and eager Hauhaus, had been in that war-party. They considered they were within their rights in destroying the Government outpost and its few occupants, the Gascoigne family, it was a legitimate act of war; but they both disclaimed any share in killing their good missionary “Te Waitere.”

“Te Kitohi.”

There was a missionary of the second generation whom I knew very well and met frequently on his travels among his native friends in the Waikato and North Auckland. No better and wiser and more kindly teacher and preacher ever lived and laboured here than the Rev. William Gittos, “Te Kitohi,” as the Maoris called him. He arrived in New Zealand at the age of twelve with the Scottish immigrants from Glasgow, in 1842; he became a thorough pioneer in the North Auckland bush, and he saw something of the Northern War about Lake Omapere in 1845 when Hone Heke was “out.” He gave up farm life to become a missionary, for which his knowledge of the people, his command of the Maori tongue, and his sympathy with church work qualified him, and in 1856 he began work at the Kaipara, where he continued to labour among the Ngati-Whatua and related tribes until the middle Eighties. Then his sphere of activities was extended, and he became Superintendent of Maori Missions in Waikato and North Auckland until he retired in 1913. He died in Auckland in 1916.

Mr. Gittos was not only a missionary but a pioneer with a practical knowledge of many things useful in wild country where the settler had to do without the services of professional doctors and skilled artisans and tradesmen. He was something of a doctor himself, for he could set broken bones, extract teeth, tend wounds, and on one occasion he amputated a leg to save a man's life. He did all without any thought of compensation; he helped the new settlers of the Kaipara and the adjacent parts in a hundred ways, his reward was their gratitude.

Mr. Gittos at the Sawpit.

In a recently published book on the Waipu Highlanders, “The Gael Fares Forth,” by Mr. N. R. McKenzie, there are several references to Mr. Gittos's kindliness and his spirit of helpfulness so frequently displayed. In the early days of the Highland-Nova Scotian settlement he walked across from the Kaipara to Kaiwaka, Hakaru and
Rev. William Gittos.

Rev. William Gittos.

page 23 Mangawai once a month to visit the newcomers in those parts and hold services. As an example of his deeds of kindness and his practical knowledge, a Kaiwaka contributor to Mr. McKenzie's excellent history tells this story from his youthful recollections of the Nova Scotian's first years in the new land.

He [Mr. Gittos] came to our place, and my father and a neighbour were trying to break down a log with a pit saw. Through the saw being badly out of order, they had got the cut so rounded that they could hardly pull the saw. He had a look and said, ‘That saw needs setting and filing very badly; let me do it up for you.’ Then looking at the log, he said, ‘That is no good, anyhow. It is kahikatea [white pine]. Tip it over the side and put a log of that totara on, then you will have something that will last.’ He did up the saw, helped to break down the totara log, and lined out the flitches in one of the halves before he left. He was an absolute wonder. There seemed to be nothing he could not do. He was a living encyclopaedia to the early settlers, and nothing was too much trouble. As soon as he heard of a newcomer, he would be there with advice as to which timber to use for different purposes and which to discard, and he was very rarely wrong.”

The late Mr. S. Percy Smith, Surveyor-General, held his fellow-pioneer “Te Kitohi” in great admiration as the right kind of missionary to the Maoris. Writing of his first surveying experiences in the Kaipara country, 1859–1860, he said: “It would be difficult to find a finer people than the Ngati-Whatua were at that time; they retained all the best points of the Maori character, while the worst had been eradicated by the efforts of the missionaries, the Rev. Messrs, Buller and Gittos. They were strictly honest and honourable in all their dealings, hospitable to a fault, and appeared to me to follow the teaching of the missionaries in a true spirit of Christianity.” There were only five white men living in the whole of the Kaipara in 1859—besides a few temporarily engaged under Mr. Marriner in the timber business—and one of these was Mr. Gittos, whose headquarters were at Oruawharo.

“Te Kitohi's” perfect knowledge of Maori character, his diplomacy and tactfulness frequently smoothed over inter-tribal quarrels, and more than once prevented serious trouble between Maori and pakeha.

The Peacemaker.

Whenever there was talk of fighting in the North Auckland country—the old martial spirit burned up now and again long after the wars—Mr. Gittos, then the head of Wesleyan Maori Missions in North Auckland and Waikato, hurried to the spot to do what he could in the cause of peace. His mana was great to the last. In 1898, when Hone Toia, and his hapu, the Mahurehure, of the Waima, Hokianga, rose in an armed protest against the pakeha laws that affected them, I saw “Te Kitohi” at his peace-making work. He went to meet a war-party, stripped and armed, that made a threatening demonstration against Rawene township, and he addressed them as foolish children; and told them that they could not hope to influence the Government in that way; to resort to arms was to incite Government action that would ruin their tribe. They reverenced him as the friend of their parents and grand parents; his face and voice called up sacred memories. Though Hone Toia, the chief and soothsayer, persisted in his rebellion, until Hone Heke, the Northern Maori member of Parliament, at last induced him to surrender to the Government force at Waima, it was Mr. Gittos's influence and counsel that helped greatly to prevent a tragic little war. On many occasions before and after that Hokianga incident I talked with “Te Kitohi” about the Maori, past, present and future, and came to understand why the people everywhere, even the Waikato—always grieving over the arbitrary confiscation of their best lands—held him in such affectionate regard and respect. He approached them as a friend who could feel as a Maori and enter into their thoughts and sorrows and joys. He was not forever scolding and preaching at them; he could discuss their tribal and family problems, and advise them
“Wesley Dale,” the pioneer Mission Station at Kaeo, Whangaroa. (From a sketch in 1827.)

“Wesley Dale,” the pioneer Mission Station at Kaeo, Whangaroa.
(From a sketch in 1827.)

in all their troubles. His spirit of helpfulness to the new settlers in North Auckland was in keeping with his lifelong work for the betterment of his adopted people, the Maori.

Te Kopua, and the Three Kings.

For five years, up to the beginning of the Waikato War, a station at Te Kopua, on the Waipa River, near the foot of that conspicuous volcanic mountain, Kakepuku, was carried on by the Rev. Alexander Reid. A great many of the Ngati-Maniapoto and allied tribes received their instruction from him, and from the Rev. John Morgan, of the C.M.S. at Te Awamutu. Young John Gorst, Sir George Grey's protege, magistrate and manager of the school institution at Te Awamutu, became very friendly with Mr. Reid, and frequently rode across to Te Kopua to ask his advice on problems which confronted him in his Government outpostwork. But Reid's principal service to his church was his work in charge of the training school and farm institution at the Three Kings (Te Tatua), those little volcanic mountains near Auckland. There both Maori and pakeha pupils passed through his hands. In the days before and after the Waikato War, boys from a score of tribes received their secular, religious and industrial training at Te Tatua.

This sketch of the Wesleyan Church's brave enterprise beginning in the period of cannibal warfare in New Zealand, necessarily can cover but the leading figures. There are several books which between them narrate fully the story of the mission; the principal of these are the Rev. Dr. Morley's and the Rev. W. J. Williams's histories, the books by the Revs. James Buller and Rugby Pratt.

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