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

Chapter XII — The Founder of Poverty Bay

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Chapter XII
The Founder of Poverty Bay

Life and Times of Captain J. W. Harris—Trader, Whaler and Grazier—Not Mahia's Mystery Pakeha—Valuable Journal Vanishes—His Contemporaries: Their Careers.

The “Founder of Poverty Bay” was John Williams Harris (born in Cornwall, England, in 1808), whom J. B. Montefiore and Co., merchants, of Sydney, sent over during the early stages of the flax boom to establish trading stations in this portion of New Zealand. To the natives, he became known as “Pene Hareti”—“Pene” being a shortened form of “Kapene,” the Maori word for “Captain,” and “Hareti” being the nearest they could manage in their own language for “Harris.” Why they styled him “Captain” is not clear. Visiting master mariners invariably referred to him as plain “Mr. Harris.” As many of the settlers followed the example of the natives in calling him “Captain,” that designation has been retained in these records.

Family tradition states that Harris, in his youth, made a voyage with an uncle who was the skipper of a China tea clipper, and that, afterwards, he joined the Royal Navy, but ill-health compelled him to give up an intended sea career. Be that as it may, he was still in his teens when he left England to join relatives who had migrated to the mother colony of New South Wales. On that side of the Tasman Sea he engaged only in shore occupations—first of all, in a counting—house; then, on a sheep station; and, finally, on the staff of Montefiore and Co.

For many years, it was widely believed that a great deal of exclusive, and, therefore, very valuable, information concerning the birth of European settlement in Poverty Bay reposed within the dusty covers of a MSS. book which, it was supposed, had been compiled by Captain Harris. No one outside the family circle claimed to be acquainted with its contents. However, in 1926. Francis Robert Harris, one of Harris's grandsons, placed the mystery book at the disposal of the writer, who published its main features in The Gisborne Times.

Historical students were keenly disappointed to find that the so-called Harris Memoirs did not allude to a number of very important events with which Harris had been associated. There was not a word about the moa bone which he took to Sydney early in 1837 and which led to confirmation by Professor R. Owen, of London, that huge birds had once ranged New Zealand. Only bare mention was made of the establishment of the whaling page 95 industry and of the arrival of the missionaries. In regard to the Hauhau troubles in 1865 and the Te Kooti revolt in 1868, there was complete silence. Internal evidence revealed that the notes were compiled in 1897, a quarter of a century after Harris's death, by his elder son (Edward Francis Harris), who, it seems, had intended to write a complete account of his father's life.

A journal which Captain Harris kept has vanished. Writing to Mr. McLean (16/9/1865) he says: “I will forward a copy of my journal, in which events are stated just as I hear them.” It is clear that Harris junior did not have it at hand when he compiled the Memoirs. Most likely, it was lost when the family home at Opou was destroyed by fire by the Te Kooti rebels in November, 1868. However, Harris junior preserved some valuable information not available elsewhere concerning the district's historic past. That he displayed a tendency to claim for his father credit for being “first in the field” in connection with so many things was excusable.

How Captain Harris Reached Poverty Bay

Strange as it may appear, the Memoirs do not give the name of the vessel which conveyed Harris and two subordinates—George White (“Barnet Burns”) and Tom Ralph—from Sydney to Poverty Bay. This omission is made good by Burns, who says (in his booklet) that he made the journey on the Darling. Ro. Carrick (Historical Records of New Zealand South, p. 179) lists this schooner as one of the vessels which made voyages out of Sydney to New Zealand during 1830–31, but he does not give the dates of their sailings. Her captain's name, we are told, was “Stewart” [William Stewart]—a piece of information which, he says, he gained from the official shipping records in Sydney.

Inquiries were kindly undertaken on behalf of the writer by the Librarian of the Mitchell Library in Sydney to ascertain what voyages the Darling made between Sydney and New Zealand and, on 12 April, 1940, the following information came to hand:

“There is no record of the schooner Darling sailing for New Zealand between August, 1827, and February, 1831. The Australian of August 17, 1827, states that she sailed from Sydney two months earlier for some part of New Zealand, and, having encountered heavy gales, was obliged to put in at the Bay of Islands. In 1830, she seems to have been trading to Van Diemen's Land. She sailed for New Zealand on 13 February, 1831, but the newspapers give no details, not even the captain's name.”

Mr. Montefiore, testifying before a Select Committee of the House of Lords (1838) explained that the reason why he visited New Zealand in the Argo in 1830 was that he had some intention of forming extensive commercial establishments throughout the [North] Island. Whilst he was at Kawhia [1 November, 1830] page 96 he bought a site for a trading station and then went on to Kapiti, where he joined the Elizabeth (Captain James Stewart). That vessel had just got back from Banks Peninsula, whither she had taken Rauparaha, with about one hundred of his warriors, on his notorious mission of vengeance. The Elizabeth got back to Sydney on 14 January, 1831.

As Harris, together with Ralph and Burns, reached Poverty Bay on 16 May, 1831 (Harris Memoirs), it is highly probable that they signed their agreements with Mr. Montefiore on 12 February, 1831, exactly two years later than Burns's date, and it seems certain that they left Sydney on the Darling when she sailed on 13 February, 1831. This, then, is the date which is omitted by Carrick, who, however, supplies a list of the vessel's cargo, which was as under:

“4 bales of woollens, 1 box of leather, 9 cases of muskets, 8 cases of ironmongery, 1 case of hardware, 1 cask of oil, 32 casks of powder, 1 box of colonial pipes, 1 puncheon of rum, 5 baskets of tobacco and stores.”

With the above-mentioned stock-in-trade, Harris, it seems, set up his first trading station in Poverty Bay and from it also supplied his subordinates with goods with which to trade.

The Darling did not leave New Zealand waters until 6 July, 1831. Upon her return to Sydney, a month later, her captain's name was recorded as “N. Stewart,” the “N” clearly being a mistake for “W” on the part of the official who made the entry. In this connection, Harris junior, on page 5 of the Memoirs, says:

“If I remember rightly my father came on a vessel commanded by Captain James Stewart [he meant William Stewart], who had previously discovered that Stewart Island did not form portion of the mainland. Captain Stewart came to stay with his old friend [Captain Harris] in 1850, or at the close of 1849, dying in 1851, and is buried in the old garden at Tapatahi (Opou) at the south-east end.”

Upon the occasion of the Darling's next voyage to New Zealand, she left Sydney on 3 October, 1831, under a Captain Skelton, and the Sydney Gazette announced that Montefiore and Co. had disposed of her. It is plain, therefore, that Harris, Burns and Ralph journeyed to Poverty Bay in a vessel which, at the time, belonged to their employers. What is most likely is that the firm left it to Captain Stewart (who had long been acquainted with the coasts of New Zealand) to select the sites for, and to make the necessary arrangements with the chiefs for the opening of, the trading stations which were established on the northern shore of Poverty Bay, at Muriwai and at Mahia.

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Obscure Trader at Mahia

The pioneer trader at Mahia cannot now be identified, but it is certain that he was not Harris. Polack (who was there in 1835 and 1836) says (New Zealand: Travels and Adventures, Vol. 1, p. 315) that he was a shipmaster; that he introduced a horse for his own use; and that, when he quitted the country, the natives, who had become very much attached to the animal, would not allow him to take it away. He adds: “… and it yet remains with Apatu” [a chief, who died in 1853]. The work mentioned was published in 1838, and the date of this pakeha's sojourn was then placed at “some years back.”

There are some vague references to this trader in the report of the Hereheretau No. 2 block case (Wairoa Native Land Court minute book, No. 3), which was heard at Wairoa in 1888. His name is given as “Henare,” or “Hare,” and it is stated that he put into Waikokopu in a vessel named “Pane te Rahi” (“Fanny,” large). Two chiefs, Waaka Torowhiti and Kowhai, made a trip with him to Sydney. When Rangiowaho, of Ngaitahaupo tribe, died, Te Wananga (11/1/1875) said: “It was his ancestor, the Kowhai, who put the pakeha at Kaiuku (Mahia) who was called ‘Hare’ (Harry).”

According to the witnesses, “Hare's “first visit took place about the time at which Te Wera, the Ngapuhi warrior, and some of his followers settled, by invitation, at Mahia (1824 or 1825). “Hare” was the first pakeha to sell guns there. Henare Mihingaere was under the impression that “Hare” lived at Nuhaka. The fact that this trader had a horse is especially interesting: it must have been the first to be landed on the East Coast. “Hare's” sojourn at Mahia might not have been as early as 1825, but, apparently, it was not long afterwards.

Lambert (Story of Old Wairoa) was mistaken in suggesting that “Hare” was Captain Harris. He says (page 355): “Harris used to visit Te Mahia until the arrival of a man named Barnet Burns (1829).” It is, however, beyond question that Harris and Burns, together with Ralph, did not reach New Zealand until 1831. Polack, during his calls at Poverty Bay in 1835 and 1836, could not have failed to become acquainted with Harris, and, if he had been reputed to be the pioneer shore-trader at Mahia, he (Polack) would not have written that the trader whom he had in mind had quitted the country before the date of his own visits to Northern Hawke's Bay. In any case, if “Hare” was at Mahia as early as 1825, Harris was then too young (16 or 17 years old) to have had charge of a vessel trading out of Sydney.

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The chief who became Harris's protector in Poverty Bay in 1831 was Toti, or Pototi, who, later, went by the name Paratene Turangi. [Writing to Mr. McLean in 1868, following upon the murder of Paratene at Oweta upon Te Kooti's instructions, Harris described him as “the most truthful and most reliable native that I have ever had any dealings with.” Lady Carroll was a granddaughter.] Harris junior says that the natives of Poverty Bay were enjoying a respite from the hostile attentions of their neighbours at the time of his father's arrival; but, as they had only a few firearms, they were uneasy lest further attacks might be made upon them. Their main occupation, apart from the rearing of pigs and the cultivation of potatoes, was dressing flax to enable them to barter for firearms. By 1832, when sections of the Whakatohea (of Opotiki) invaded Poverty Bay, the local tribes were fairly well off for arms, and, on account of the ease with which they overwhelmed these intruders at Kekeparaoa, no further raids occurred within their borders.

Poverty Bay in 1831

Along the northern shore of Poverty Bay, the population was sparse. Rawiri had a small pa on Tuamotu Island, where Cook saw a large fort in 1769. Only in song and story would the once famous pa on Titirangi Hill be remembered; it could not have been in existence even in Cook's day. In the vicinity of the Turanganui River, there was only one palisaded village, “Heipipi,” much of which stood on the block which is now occupied by the chief post office and other government buildings. In 1841, when Captain A. Campbell first inspected it, it was occupied by some of Rawiri's people, about one hundred all told.

On the seaward side of Awapuni Lagoon stood the remains of Pa-o-Kahu. This pa was described to the writer by F. W. Williams (author of Through Ninety Years). It was, he said, one mile long, and he had been told that it was built as “a city of refuge for the whole of Turanga in case the district should be invaded by the Waikato tribes.” The south-western shore of Poverty Bay was much more thickly populated, and it was studded with fortifications. Orakaiapu pa, which stood on the southern bank of the Kopututea River, just below the then junction of the Waipaoa and Te Arai streams, was by far the most impressive. It covered about three acres and contained, in addition to many whares for sleeping quarters, several commodious structures.

It is not quite certain that Harris was the first European shoretrader in Poverty Bay. Whilst the Karaua block claim was being considered by the Poverty Bay Crown Grants Commission in 1869, Rapata Whakapuhia said: “The Europeans I saw [at the page 99 time of the sale of Karaua] were only those whom I had placed at Wherowhero. The name of the first man [I placed] there was Cooper. When Simpson came, I understood he came solely as a trader, selling guns and buying flax….” Harris told the Judges that Simpson had come in 1831, not as Rhodes's agent at that time but employed as such afterwards [1839]. Whether Cooper had preceded Harris cannot now be determined. No reference is made either to him or to Simpson in the scanty Harris Memoirs.

Another interesting point which emerged from the testimony given before the Commission was that, in 1840, Simpson had for an assistant a negro named Pompey. Matenga Waaka (born circa 1850 and an ex-clergyman) told the writer that Pompey had a half-caste daughter, who became six feet tall. He gave her name as Tohu, but other accounts suggest that it was Huhana (Susan). Pompey went off to Mahia whaling.

Monarch of All He Surveyed

Shortly after Harris arrived, he moved his trading station from a spot at Awapuni near where the municipal abattoirs now stand to the western bank of the Turanganui River. In the Royal Geographical Society's Journal for 1832, p. 135, there is an item as under:

Hawke's Bay: At Turanga, in this bay, is a flax establishment, with five or six white men resident.”

This is, plainly, a reference to Harris's establishment at the side of the Turanganui River. Turanga is, of course, not in Hawke's Bay.

W. L. Williams (East Coast, N.Z. Historical Records, p. 5) says that Harris's occupation gave him great influence, and that he used to speak of himself as having been “monarch practically of all I surveyed.”

“The original building in which Harris lived and stored his goods,” he adds, “was of the same unsubstantial character as those which the natives occupied; but, notwithstanding the eager demand that there was on all sides for the articles which he had to dispose of, his rights of property were thoroughly respected. Nor had he ever any reason to complain of the treatment he received…. The natives fully recognised the privilege which they enjoyed in having a pakeha, and were exceedingly careful not to do anything that might have the effect of driving him away, even though he might have done what, under different circumstances, might have cost him his life.”

In June, 1841, when Captain Campbell, of the Minerva, came ashore to visit Harris, there was a six-roomed cottage and a two-storey trading store, besides other buildings in wood, on the property.

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It was probably in 1832, or early in 1833, that Harris took unto himself for wife Tukura, a first cousin of Rawiri Te Eke, and, therefore, a woman of considerable rank. Hirini te Kani, a son of Rawiri by his principal wife, succeeded Te Kani-a-Takirau, the renowned East Coast chief. Giving evidence in a land case, Riparata Kahutia said that Harris also took a wife from among Paratene's relatives. This story lacks confirmation; in any event, it was only hearsay, for Riparata was not then born. Harris and Tukura had two sons, Edward Francis (born in 1834) and Henry (born in 1837). Tukura has a memorial in a street name on Kaiti, Gisborne.

An amusing incident, which indicates the amount of care that Harris required to exercise in his dealings with the natives, is thus described by W. L. Williams:

Paratene Turangi had a son about eight years old whom Harris saw one day beating his mother with a great stick. Shocked at such undutiful conduct, he gave the boy a slight blow to make him desist. Upon this, there arose an angry clamour from all sides in which no one joined more loudly than the boy's mother. He had struck a chief's son—an unpardonable offence! Harris listened to the volumes of wrath which were uttered by one and another, not knowing what his fate might be. After much steam had been blown off, Turangi himself stood up and commented for some time on the gravity of the offence, concluding with a reference to the ignorance of the pakeha of the respect which was due to the son of a great chief. ‘What else,’ he said, ‘could you expect from an ignorant pakeha?’ So the trouble ended.”

None of Harris's descendants ever suggested that he had witnessed an act of cannibalism. However, a story handed down states that, during one of his earliest visits to Opou, he came across a young woman's body. In the belief that the natives intended to eat it, he dragged it into the adjacent bush. When it was missed, he was suspected of having removed it. Paratene sent him home by canoe instead of allowing him to return overland. It is added that the chief also warned his wrathful kinsfolk that Harris would leave them if they molested him, and that it might not be possible to get as good a pakeha to take his place.

Some years after Harris had obtained his whaling station site at Papawhariki, complaint was made by some of the former owners that he had not paid enough for it. He explained that Rawiri and others had given the block to him in trust for his half-caste sons. According to the complainants, the consideration had been only a mare. When the matter came before a tribal meeting, Rawiri, it is stated, asked: “How many descendants have there been from the mare?” The progeny were enumerated. “Enough!” cried Rawiri. “If Bene [Harris] hears that she has page 101 had so many foals, he will say: ‘Give me all the horses, and you can have your land back!’” The complaint was then dropped.

Historic Farm at Opou

The foundations of farming in Poverty Bay were laid by Harris, early in 1835, when he bought from the natives a block named “Opou,” which forms but a small portion of the extensive property which, to-day, is known by that name. On 10 November, 1840, he wrote to E. Deas Thomson (Colonial Secretary of New South Wales) as under: “On 10 December, 1839, I purchased from the natives on the river [? at] Turanga, about 10 miles from its mouth [then near Awapuni] a piece of land bounded by the river on the west [? east] and on the south….” It was added: “I have had people living on the said land and two houses and fences erected thereon since 5 February, 1835.” In a later claim, he styled the property “Tampa, or Te Uhi, or Toumata-o-Tamahae.” The consideration, as shown on both claims, included 250 lbs. of powder, ten pairs of trousers and ten duck frocks. There was also mention of a d.b. gun, seventy-six yards of calico, ten shirts and nine boxes of percussion caps in a letter forwarded with the second claim.

That the block was “Opou” and included Tapatahi was made plain when the matter came before Commissioner Bell in 1859. Paratene Turangi then said: “I remember selling to Mr. Harris the land on which his house stands; it is called Ko Opou.” The block, which Harris now described as standing on the bank of the Waipaoa River, was referred to in like manner by Kahutia and Manahi. A trading station was placed upon this property and a loading bank constructed for the convenience of small craft.

Harris junior says that his father obtained three working mares from the Bay of Islands in 1839; they were portion of a shipment which had just arrived from Valparaiso. During the same year he also procured some cattle. The first cattle for Kaupapa mission station left the Bay of Islands on 22 November, 1839, and horses were obtained in the following year. Moses Yule, a trader at Makaraka, introduced Kerry cattle in 1848. To him the district was also indebted for importing good breeds of pigs. Shortly after the arrival of his horses and cattle—and probably in anticipation of engaging also in sheepfarming—Harris set out to secure leases of nearby blocks. He was required to give horses and cattle, together with a small sum in cash, as rent for Pipi-whakao and Kohangakarearea. When he leased Aohina in 1856, the natives demanded the whole of the rent in cash.

Some years after the death of Tukura, Harris remarried, his second wife (as is stated in the chapter dealing with “Whaling”) page 102 being a Miss Hargraves. There were also two children of this marriage—a son, Harold, who became a resident of Hawke's Bay, and a daughter, Bertha, who married a Mr. King, a chemist, of Auckland. Harris's death occurred in tragic circumstances on 4 February, 1872, at the home of Captain Ellis, at Auckland.


An oak which Harris planted at Tapatahi (Opou) in 1837 to celebrate the birth of his son Henry is, to-day, the oldest and the largest English tree in Poverty Bay. In the 1890's, a heavy gale caused the butt to split open. Many years afterwards Willie Clark filled the aperture with cement, as he feared that rot might set in. The treatment has, so far, proved a success. Te Waha-o-Rerekohu (“The Mouth of Rerekohu”) a pohutukawa tree standing in the schoolgrounds at Te Araroa, has the distinction of being the most expansive native tree in the Dominion. Maori tradition states that it was planted circa 1700 A.D. by Rerekohu, an ancestor of Hati te Houkamau.

In Exploration in New Zealand, McClymont, at page 25, states: “On the East Coast, Harris established himself at Poverty Bay in 1831; in the same year, Captain Kent settled at Ngaruawahia, on the Waikato. They, with several others, left little record of their activities and few missionaries deigned to note their existence.” In Harris's case, this sweeping statement does not correspond with the facts. A number of valuable letters from his pen appear on Sir Donald McLean's file, which is preserved in the Alexander Turnbull Library. Important evidence given by him is recorded in the minutes of the P.B. Crown Grants Commission (1869). Moreover, frequent references to his activities may be found in W. L. Williams's East Coast (N.Z.) Historical Records. If his home had not been destroyed by the rebels in 1868, it is certain that much more information concerning his activities would have survived. Not only did Bishop W. Williams hold services at his whaling station, but he joined with him in purchasing the “Pouparae” block.

Contemporary Traders
The Elusive Cooper

No further details concerning the shadowy trader Cooper (Kupa) appear in the minutes of the P.B. Crown Grants Commission. The records of the Native Land Courts make no mention of him. No one named Cooper—apart from Daniel Cooper, of the Sydney firm of Cooper and Holt—was a claimant to land in Poverty Bay, and nobody of that name witnessed the signatures of any party to an early land claim. The first resident named Cooper of whom there are some details was William Binson Cooper, a carpenter who was attached to the Turanga mission station. In 1843 he was sent to Rangitukia to build a house for the Rev. J. Stack. This Cooper had a pakeha wife, and in 1851 they had four children. He became the manual instructor at Waerenga-a-Hika mission station. In the early 1860's he went on to Otago, but some years afterwards he turned up in Auckland.

There was a trader (later a whaler) named Cooper on the Bay of Plenty coast prior to, and for some time after, 1840. Te Hata told the Seth Smith-Hone Heke Royal Commission when it was inquiring into the ownership of Tunapahore and adjacent blocks (minute books 2 and 4) that Cooper was the name of the first pakeha who settled at Te Awanui page 103 (near Omaio). As rent he was required to give a cask of tobacco. He took for wife Apuhau, but she was taken away from him. Cooper was joined there by another pakeha named Webster. According to Tamati Ru (another witness), Cooper and Webster whaled at Te Awanui before they established a whaling station at Whangaparaoa. The Bay of Plenty Cooper might not have been the Poverty Bay Cooper.

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.”
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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.

“Tommy Short” and His Six Wives

Known to the natives as “Tame Puti” (“Tommy Short”), Thomas Halbert reached Poverty Bay in 1832. One of his land claims (4/11/1840) bears a declaration to the effect that he had then lived in the district for eight years. In the Harris Memoirs it is stated that, soon after Harris settled in Poverty Bay in 1831, Halbert arrived, and then some others, notably R. Espie and A. Arthur.

Thomas Halbert junior (born in 1863) told the writer that his father was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne; that he was of Anglo-Scottish descent; and that he landed at Poverty Bay from a three-masted whaler. He went to trade at Mahia for a short period before he settled permanently in Poverty Bay. [As Barnet Burns had cleared out from his trading post there, it is not unlikely that Halbert was sent by Harris to replace him.] Whilst his father was at Mahia he made the first of six matrimonial ventures. His initial spouse belonged to the Rongo-wahine tribe. They had a son who died in infancy. The first Mrs. Halbert did not accompany her husband upon his return to Poverty Bay.

Whilst Halbert was at Mahia he had for an assistant a pakeha who had landed from the same vessel. Cannibalism had not then been completely given up there. One day, they found portion of a human body which had been sent as a gift to their hosts by a neighbouring tribe, but they feared that, if they buried it and the grave was found, that method of disposal would lead to suspicion falling upon them.

Upon his return to Poverty Bay, Halbert set up as a trader in the locality now known as “The Willows.” Soon, he began to do a roaring trade in muskets as well as tobacco, blankets, etc., but, on account of giving too much credit, he had to give up business. On many occasions after his death, his son Wi Pere said to old customers: “Look here, you fellows! Pay me what you owed my father!”

It was probably in 1834 that Halbert took up his residence at Muriwai. He had married again, his second wife being Pirihira Konekone, who belonged to T'Aitanga-a-Mahaki tribe. They quarrelled after she had become an expectant mother, and she went to live with Lazarus (Raharuhi), who, having no children of his own, gladly adopted her infant at birth. The child was named Otene Pitau, and he became a leader among the natives at Pakirikiri. Otene married Mere Whiti Hone (a sister of Tom Jones). He died at Manutuke on 13 August, 1921.

Halbert then associated with Mereana Wero, also of T'Aitanga-a-Mahaki tribe, but she was quickly displaced by a rival named Riria Mauaranui. So disgusted was Mereana by being slighted in such a manner that she took a negro for husband; there was no issue of the union. In turn, she entered into another marriage to become the mother of Peka Kerikeri. Riria, who belonged to T'Aitanga-a-Mahaki, bore a son. Wi Pere, who was destined to play an important part in the political life of Poverty Bay and the East Coast. He told the Native Land Court (Gisborne minute book No. 26) that he was born on 7 March, 1837, and that date also appears in his own account of his life which was posthumously published in The Gisborne Times on 16 February, 1916.

When Halbert went to Turanganui in 1837 to assist Harris to operate his whaling station, he retained his home at Muriwai. Its position is shown on a marine survey plan of the East Coast which was compiled in page 105 that year by Captain Wing of the schooner Trent. His neighbours then, according to evidence given before the P.B. Crown Grants Commission in 1869, were William Morris, James Wilson and Peter Simpson.

Upon purchasing “Pouparae” in 1839, Halbert went to reside there for the purpose of rearing pigs for export. During the hearing of his claim to the property, he stated that Wi Pere was his only child at the time of the purchase. His omission of Otene Pitau can be explained only by the suggestion that, as Lazarus had adopted that child, he (Halbert) felt that he had no further claim to him. A statement by Halbert in 1859 with reference to Wi Pere: “Now that he is 21 years old” has been taken in some quarters to mean that Wi was not born until 1838. On the other hand, his father might have intended merely to indicate that Wi had attained legal age.

Halbert's fifth marital alliance was with Kaikeri, who belonged to Rongowhakaata tribe. This proved a much more durable marriage, the issue comprising several children: Keita (Kate), who became the wife of James Ralston Wyllie, and, after his death, the wife of M. J. Gannon; Mere, who became Mrs. Heany, and, later, Mrs. Donald Gordon; Maata (Mrs. Cuff); and Sarah (Mrs. Cunningham), who was the mother of Moana Paratene, a sister of whom married Reweti Kohere, of East Cape.

It fell to Halbert's lot to have still another wife, Maora Pani, who also belonged to Rongowhakaata tribe. [She had been married previously to Tiopira, and a child of that union became Mrs. J. Woodbine Johnson.] Their children comprised: Thomas Halbert junior; twins, who died in infancy; and Matewai (Alice), who became Mrs. Mataira, of Nuhaka. Maora lived until October, 1913. Upon Halbert's death, she had remarried, her second husband bearing the name Donaldson.

Death in a terrible form overtook Halbert one dark night in April, 1865. With two brothers named Yates, he had been drinking on board a schooner that was lying in the Taruheru River near Makaraka. On their way back to the landing-place, their flat-bottomed boat overturned in a shallow, but very muddy, spot. According to a correspondent of the Hawke's Bay Herald, all three were wearing heavy sea boots. One of the Yates brothers got ashore, but the other (George) and Halbert sank so deep in the silt that they could not extricate themselves, and had so to remain until the tide rose and death put an end to their sufferings.


A schooner named Fanny (45 tons) was in the Sydney-New Zealand trade in the early days. According to Present State of New Zealand (New Zealand Association: 1837) she passed through Kaipara channel on 6 January, 1836, and was one of the first vessels to do so.


Edward Francis Harris (born at Turanganui in 1834) was the eldest son of Captain J. W. Harris, and was known to the natives as Eruera Hareti. As a young man he had charge of a property belonging to his father on the Ruataniwha Plains (H.B.). In 1858 he became registrar of the Native Land Court and clerk of the magistrate's court at Napier. During 1859, he opened a store on a sixty-acre block near Biggs's Corner at Matawhero, but, three years later, he disposed of the property to Captain Read at £2 per acre and went off to Gabriel's Gully goldfield. Before returning to Poverty Bay in 1873, he was for some years assistant clerk in the Native Land Department at Wellington. For many years, he page 106 carried on business in Gisborne as a licensed interpreter, and became prominent as an advocate in the Native Land Court. He played an important part in securing the individualization of the native titles on Kaiti, now a populous suburb of Gisborne. Under an appointment made by Sir Donald McLean, he compiled the genealogies of the more important native families in Poverty Bay and on the East Coast. Mr. Harris served on the Pouawa Road Board, Cook County Council, the Board of Hospital Trustees, the Licensing Bench and the Kaiti Road Board. He was a keen patron of bowling. His death occurred on 26 July, 1898.

John Hervey (born in Stirlingshire in 1816) went into business with a brother at Wellington in 1842, but their premises were destroyed by fire. In 1844 he opened a trading station on the Waipaoa River, his exports including salted pork for the Admiralty. After the Massacre he became storeman for Captain Read. He died on 13 May, 1904. During his 60 years' residence in Poverty Bay he never once journeyed outside the district.

Raharuhi (Lazarus) Rukupo, who supervised the building of Te Hau ki Turanga carved meeting house (now in the Dominion Museum) was a chief of Ngati-Kaipoho hapu, of Rongowhakaata tribe. Each season he planted large fields of wheat and kumaras. When he died on 29 September, 1873, Rapata Whakapuhia was accused of having bewitched him, but it was agreed by his friends that he had died from natural causes.

James Wilson (Hemi Wirihana) was born in March, 1836, at Maraetaha, where his father (who was known as “Yorkie” Wilson, and who claimed to have been an acting captain at the Battle of Waterloo) had a store. Wilson, junior, fought on the side of the rebels at Gate Pa in 1864. Afterwards he engaged in whaling. For many years prior to his death in 1919 he had a farm at Muriwai (Poverty Bay).

James Ralston Wyllie (born in Ayrshire in 1831) entered Captain Read's employ in 1854. He was the first husband of Kate, the eldest daughter of Thomas Halbert, senior. In 1856 they went to live at Tutoko. Loyal natives made a gift of “Kahanui” block to him as compensation for the losses which he suffered at the hands of the Hauhaus in 1865. He died on 19 December, 1875. One of his sons was murdered by the Te Kooti rebels in December, 1868. Another (Gavin) became a well-known auctioneer in Gisborne.

In 1840 there was a trader named Storey at Pakirikiri. James Wilson had a store at Maraetaha. Harry Cambridge was then Capt. Rhodes's agent at Karaua. Traders at Makaraka in 1845 were Jacky (Makaraka) Moore and Thomas Norcross.