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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Trader Who Brought Gold

Trader Who Brought Gold

Nothing has been ascertained with regard to Peter Simpson's career before he took up his residence at Muriwai (P.B.) in 1831 as a trader. His employer at the outset might have been Captain J. R. Kent. In 1839 he became the Poverty Bay agent for Cooper and Holt, of Sydney. Matenga Waaka, of Manutuke, told the writer in 1911 that he had learned from his elders that Simpson (Himiona) reached Poverty Bay in a schooner which had to be taken into a lagoon near the mouth of the Wherowhero River to be repaired. Simpson's stock-in-trade included clothes as well as muskets. Gold coins which he brought were the first that the natives had ever seen, and, for a time, they attached no value to them. Simpson took a Maori wife, and, when their son died, he planted a willow tree over his grave.

Simpson might have succeeded the untraceable Cooper as a flax trader at Muriwai. It would be Simpson whom Barnet Burns visited there in 1832. Burns says that this pakeha “was trading for another person, to whom I sold all the flax and other articles I had in the way of trade for money, some tobacco, powder and other things necessary to carry on trade.” The inclusion of the item “money” is significant in the light of Matenga's statement that it was Simpson who introduced gold coins into the district.

A copy of the agreement which Captain Rhodes made, on behalf of Cooper and Holt, with Simpson in December, 1839, appears in Rhodes's Log of the Barque Australian, etc., which is in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington. The term was for one year. Simpson bound himself in a penalty of £300 not to trade meanwhile for anybody else. He was to be provided with goods at fifty per cent. advance on Sydney costs, and was to receive one-twelfth of the net proceeds of the account sales in respect of the produce, etc., which he supplied. In addition, Simpson pledged himself to use his utmost powers to procure certain lands for Rhodes's firm and to take over the management (if so required) of any stock or farming concerns belonging to it. On 20 August, 1840, Simpson also entered into a contract to supply Rhodes's firm with 10,000 feet of timber—scantling, joists, weatherboards, planks and boat planks—at 15/- per 100 feet, “delivery to be made at the house at Werawera (Muriwai).” Rough oars, 16 feet, 18 feet and 22 feet long, were also to be supplied at 7/- per pair.

Writing to Captain Rhodes under date 24 August, 1840, Simpson said:

“I am doing very well in regard to trading. I have at present upwards of 100 pigs, besides corn. Potatoes: I am not buying any. A great deal of the corn is shelled. I am very busy killing—at work day and night—and have no doubt but that, at the time you return to me, I shall have six or seven tons of pork, with, most likely, as many hundred bushels of corn. I have been trying to get the natives to dive after the pork [apparently some in a sunken craft], but cannot persuade them to go down after it and, therefore, I do not believe it will ever be got.”
page 104

When Mr. McLean visited Poverty Bay in 1851, Simpson had a pakeha wife. His half-caste son was then alive. By 1869, Simpson had removed to Auckland.