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

Chapter XVI — Pioneer Resident Traders on East Coast

page 130

Chapter XVI
Pioneer Resident Traders on East Coast

Did Ferris Lead the Way?—John Hayes and His Obscure Partner—Identification of “Mr. Rabbit-Nose”—Enterprising Hemi Petiti.

It has not been found possible to set down the exact order in which the earliest shore-traders made their appearance on the East Coast. The first at the southern end seems to have been Wherihi (Ferris), who, according to the Harris Memoirs, made his home at Tolaga Bay prior to the arrival of Captain Harris at Poverty Bay in May, 1831. When Barnet Burns went to Tolaga Bay in 1832, Ferris was Captain J. R. Kent's trader. If a trader had been living there when L'Astrolabe called in 1827, there would have been some reference to the fact in the account of her stay. Moana Tautau (who was born at Tolaga Bay in the 1850's) informed the writer in 1928 that his elders had told him that Ferris was the first trader; that he lived on Hauiti; and that he bartered muskets, cast-off clothing, etc., for pigs, potatoes and flax, and, later, for corn. Ferris left no descendants.

When Polack paid his first visit to Tolaga Bay (1835), Te Kani-a-Takirau told him that he had [in or about 1832] invited the Whanau-a-Rua and the Urungawera, of Tokomaru Bay, to assist to scrape flax at Tolaga Bay. He also explained that two white traders unconnected with each other [one would be Ferris and the other Barnet Burns] settled there and that, to prevent jealousy arising, one [Ferris] was placed on one side [the south] of the river and the other [Burns] on the other side. Prior to Polack's visit, however, Burns had returned to England, and his son had been adopted by the Urungawera people and taken to Tokomaru Bay.

It is practically certain that Ferris's business rival in 1835 was Robert Espie, and that he was sent there by Harris. According to Mrs. Lockwood senior (Espie's elder half-caste daughter), the natives built for her father a large storeroom. This would be the storeroom which is described by Polack in his work. Consequent upon a quarrel, the natives burnt it down, and Espie lost a lot of flax and goods. Polack does not identify Ralph as one of the two traders he met at Tolaga Bay in 1835, but he makes it plain that he was there in 1836. Evidently, he was Espie's successor.

John Hayes (Hone Heihi) first came into prominence when he took up his abode at Omaewa (near Port Awanui) with another pakeha known to the natives as “Ropiha.” During the page 131 hearing of the Omaewa case in 1874, the evidence satisfied Judge Heale that the year of their arrival was 1834. Tamati Porourangi built a store for them in return for two casks of powder and one cask of tobacco. All the timber was adzed. Their house was provided with the first stone chimney erected in the Waiapu district. They were welcomed by both sets of claimants to the block. “Europeans were thought much of in those days,” a witness said, “for they sold us guns and powder as well as other goods.” Some natives built whares (native homes) close to their store.

Many guesses have been ventured as to the identity of Hayes's mate “Ropiha.” Quite a number of families bearing that surname are to be found in the North Island. T. T. Ropiha (who in 1948 became the first Maori to be appointed Under-Secretary for Maori Affairs) informed the writer that the Rev. J. Hobbs (the Methodist missionary) was called “Ropiha” by the natives. As Governor Hobson had been known as “Hopihana,” he would have expected that, in accordance with the usual phonetic usage by the Maoris in the early days, Mr. Hobbs would have been called “Hoopi.” He had made inquiries as far north as Whangarei, but nobody had been able to assist him in settling that “Ropiha” was intended to distinguish only one particular English surname.

When the Omaewa case came before the Native Land Court, Judge Heale, in his notes, gave “Robson” as an alternative for “Ropiha,” although it would seem that the correct Maori form for “Robson” should be “Ropihana.” The Rev. Mohi Turei told the court that there was a native song about a house which had been built for Ropiha at Te (Port) Awanui. Ropiha had secured one of the principal women for wife. “I don't know,” he added, “whether it was at that time that he lost his life.”

A Tattooed Ex-Convict

A tattooed pakeha named Robson lived on the Bay of Plenty coast in the very early days. An old whaler, James Heberley (known as “Worser” Heberley) discusses this Robson in the MSS. account of his life which is in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington. Heberley says:

“… We sailed from Sydney in 1826 on the Caroline (Captain Swindle) for Campbell and Co. (We) were 9 months out from Sydney. We parted company with the Partridge and shaped our course for the Bay of Islands. We touched at Tanner's Island; we went on shore to trade … then sailed for the Bay of Islands. We touched at the Bay of Plenty; there we traded for pigs and potatoes. Our trade with them was muskets and lead. There was a man living among the natives; he was a prisoner of the Crown, or what is page 132 commonly called a convict. He was sent to Moreton Bay on board the Mercury brig. There was mutiny on board; they took the brig and put in at the Bay of Islands. Several of the prisoners went on shore to get some provisions. Captain Duke, belonging to the whaler called the Sea Eagle, captured the brig and took her to Sydney. The prisoner who made his escape went in the name of Robson; he got tattooed like the natives.”

Nothing has been traced that would identify Heberley's Robson as Hayes's companion at Omaewa in 1834, nor as to the manner in which the Ropiha who was associated with Hayes lost his life.

Hayes, who had a trading station at Waipiro Bay in 1840, entered into an agreement with Captain Rhodes, on 12 August of that year, to supply his firm—Cooper and Holt, of Sydney—with timber and produce. He promised to engage persons at Tolaga Bay and East Cape to saw timber and put it alongside ship at 16l-per 100 feet or £4/16/- per ton of 50 c.f. and the firm agreed to take all the timber he could procure during the next twelve months, and either pay him by bills on Sydney or Port Nicholson (Wellington) or provide him with goods in exchange at 40 per cent above Sydney prices. Hayes was to be provided with a two-masted boat, 32 feet long, for £40.

It was part of the arrangement that, if a price could not be agreed upon in respect of salt pork, it was to be shipped to Sydney at £4 freight rate, or to Port Nicholson at £2/10/- per ton. In lieu of freight being charged on live hogs, the parties were to divide equally the amount of the net account sales. Potatoes were to be shipped on the basis that Hayes found the tubers and Rhodes provided the freight. Half of the shelled maize shipped was to be taken by Rhodes in lieu of freight, and he was required to pay Hayes 2/- per bushel for the balance.

Writing from Port Nicholson to his firm (November, 1840), Rhodes stated that he had obtained his latest cargo from the firm's trading stations at Waipiro Bay (Hayes's), and at Poverty Bay (Simpson's). He had not called at the firm's station at Wyroa [Wairoa, which was under William Burton], as he had already filled up the Eleanor. He advised the firm that the vessel was too large for the New Zealand coastal trade, and added: “Should you not deem it advisable either to buy a smaller vessel or send the Eleanor with sheep (provided no offers of freight are made) I shall have to wind up all [our affairs] on the [East] Coast, which would be attended with loss, as we have gone to a great deal of expense in erecting houses and to keep possession of the land.”

Among Rhodes's records, which are in the Alexander Turnbull Library at Wellington, there are two invoices headed: “Invoices of New Zealand produce shipped on board the barque Eleanor at page 133 East Cape [presumably Waipiro Bay] for Sydney on account of, and at the risk of, John Hayes and consigned to Cooper and Holt, Sydney.” The first, dated 13 August, 1840, has this item: “420 baskets of shelled maize, supposed to be about 200 bushels, at 2/6, £25,” and the second reads: 2045 baskets of corn, supposed to be about 684 bushels more or less, at 2/6, £85/10/-; 4 live pigs at 20/-, £4.” On the second invoice are the words: “The above goods to be placed at the disposal of Captain Rhodes as per my agreement with him. Waipiro, October 24, 1840, JOHN HAYES.”

In the 1850's, Hayes was living at Reporua. He had two sons, John and Pene (Ben), who were half-brothers. Some weeks before John Hayes junior died in September, 1889, he gave an order for a carved coffin. So pleased with it was he that he sent for the maker and complimented him on his workmanship. He also had his grave dug and fenced in. Upon his instructions, large quantities of pork and beef were salted down for the tangi. When his death did not take place immediately, he explained to his friends that he did not wish unduly to delay dying; he was merely awaiting the return of Pene, who was on a visit to Wellington. Pene Hayes—also styled “Kairakau”—had passed his ninetieth year when he died in February, 1939.

Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit-Nose

In Early Maoriland Adventures (Canon J. W. Stack), an early East Coast trader appears under the nickname “Rabbit-nose.” Stack was only a boy of nine years when he accompanied his father, in 1844, on an overland journey from Poverty Bay to Rangitukia mission station. When they reached Omaewa (just to the north of Port Awanui), it was found impossible to proceed until the tide fell. They rested at the home of “Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit-nose.” The “Rabbit-noses” had been settled on the spot for some years, and, two years before they were visited by the Stacks, the husband had fenced in the house and planted an orchard. That they were living in a considerable degree of comfort is shown by Stack's happy recollection, many years afterwards, of the savoury stew which “Mrs. Rabbit-nose” served up with the aid of a fowl which her husband, in honour of the occasion, had obtained from their poultry-yard.

According to Canon Stack, the trader was called “Rabbit-nose” by the natives on account of his habit of “twitching his nose like a rabbit.” In a footnote, Bishop H. W. Williams suggested that it was unlikely that any such name had been bestowed by the natives, seeing that there had never been, so far as he was aware, any rabbits in the Waiapu district. It was, seemingly, page 134 unknown to him that, when the ownership of the Pouhautea block was being investigated in May, 1886, Hemi Tapeka gave evidence that, in his parents' day, Te Paoku put pigs on Pouhautea and that one of Te Paoku's brothers liberated rabbits on the block. (Pouhautea lies just to the north of Omaewa and is on the southern bank of, and near the mouth of, the Waiapu River.) The name of the district from which the rabbits were obtained is not given, nor is it stated how it came about that they died out. No other reference to rabbits on the East Coast has been found.

“Mr. Rabbit-nose” was Thomas Atkins, many of whose descendants are to be found on the East Coast to-day. Reweti Kohere informed the writer that Atkins was known to his face by the natives as “Tame Akena” (Tommy Atkins), but, behind his back he was always referred to not as “Rabbit-nose” but as “Tame Huti,” or “Tommy the Sniffer,” a nickname which had its origin on account of his habit of twitching his nose in rabbit fashion.

When maize was first grown on Taumata-o-te-Whatiu No. 1 block, some of the crop was taken to Atkins. Kereama (one of the growers) took only a small quantity, and, as Atkins was not prepared to give him, in return, all the goods that he demanded, he helped himself to Atkins's stock-in-trade. A chief threw a spear at Kereama, and then both fired off guns, but neither was hit. Eventually, Kereama recompensed Atkins. Hemi Tapeka (Waiapu N.L. Court minute book No. 19) told the court that the crop was grown just before Whanau-a-Apanui's attack upon Ngati-Porou at Rangitukia and the return fight at Toko-a-Kuku (1834). Maize was grown there for two years to enable guns to be procured. Atkins was not the only pakeha buyer.

Whilst Atkins was engaged in cutting up trees on Pouhautea, he accidentally set fire to some kiekie (a species of fruit-bearing creeper). As compensation he was forced to part with a piece of calico, two blankets, three pieces of duck and a cask of tobacco. He had had to give a spade for a tawa tree and a piece of dress stuff, half a cask of tobacco and two red serge shirts for some rimu and kahikatea trees.

In the 1850's, Atkins went in for cattle-raising on Te Herenga. After the East Coast War (1865), the native owners demanded a cow from him for the right to graze his stock. When it was handed over to them, they mutually agreed upon the order in which her calves should be allocated to the various hapus. The natives then began to collect rent regularly from their tenants. It is believed that Major Ropata instigated the movement. Atkins's first wife was Horiana.

page 135

A Man of Many Parts

One of the most enterprising of the early traders on the East Coast was Captain James Peachy, or Peachey (Hemi Petiti). He used the spelling “Peachy,” but descendants from his adopted son (Wiremu Keneto) spell their name “Peachey.” A Captain Peachy was (The New Zealanders, p. 276) in charge of the sloop Blossom whilst she was engaged on the survey of the Society Islands in 1826. It is not known whether he was James Peachey, or whether there was any relationship.

Peachey made his appearance on the East Coast circa 1840 in the rôle of a trader. His first trading station was on the southern side of the Awatere River. Hamahona Puha (Waiapu N.L. Court minute book No. 25) claimed that his grandfather erected Peachey's store at Te Araroa (1842). Each year, Peachey made a gift of a blanket or a piece of calico for the right to occupy the site. On one occasion, according to Hamahona, his koka [mother] was dissatisfied when Peachey sent along a piece of calico. She said: “I don't want this stuff. Take it back, and get me print for a dress.” Hati te Houkamau explained to the court that, in those days, there was no such thing as leasing land in the Te Araroa district, and that money had not then come into use there.

With other Europeans, Peachey, for a time, engaged in whaling at Te Hekawa and Te Wharariki. In the early 1850's, he had a store at Waipiro Bay. Thomas Fox (born at Puatai in 1849) stated in a letter to the Poverty Bay Standard in 1873: “This old man, years ago, used to land large quantities of liquor, and sell it to all and sundry. At that time, the natives did not know that it was unlawful for anybody to sell liquor without a license.”

Peachey adopted the eldest son of a whaler named William Kento, a Dutchman, who was knonw to the natives as “Keneto,” or “Piri Tatamana” (“Billy the Dutchman”). In his diary (21 September, 1849) the Rev. C. Baker recorded the death of Kento.

“A report reached me whilst I was at Anaura,” he says, “that Kento (a Dutchman) and Dolton (an Englishman) were crossing the Waiapu River on horseback, and got out of their depth. Dolton crossed safely on his horse, but Kento and his horse were carried down the stream.” [This is the first instance that has been traced of the death of a pakeha by drowning in the Waiapu River.]

Kento had married Ani, a woman of high rank. He left two sons, Wiremu, who took the name “Peachey,” and Werepu (“Whirlpool”). Werepu received his name on account of the fact that his father had died by drowning. A similar fate overtook Werepu. Accompanied by Tiopira Hani (a cripple) and Tuhaka Kore, Werepu (who was partly blind) went out to sea fishing on page 136 13 November, 1909. The boat overturned and only Kore got ashore. A memorial to the victims was erected by the residents of Te Araroa.

Returning to Te Araroa in the late 1850's, Peachey went into business with William Collier. Under runanga (native council) rule, irksome restrictions were placed upon them. The master of the Tawera told the Hawke's Bay Herald (30/5/1863) that the natives had told them that they were determined to drive away the magistrate (Mr. Baker) if he attempted to visit the district. They had also been warned that they would be required to pay for the grass and water which their horses and cows consumed, and even for the water which their fowls and ducks drank! When they had indicated that they did not intend to make any such payments, a threat was issued that they would be deprived of some horses. The firm closed down when the East Coast War broke out in 1865, and Peachey went to Auckland.

In 1866, Peachey once again took up his residence at Te Araroa as a trader, but, in 1873, he was in business at Hicks Bay. Shortly afterwards, he went off to Pohaoa, near Te Kaha, where he kept a store in conjunction with Bristow. Peachey died at Parnell. His name is perpetuated on the East Coast by descendants of the lad Kento. Among the best known are Mrs. Poihipi Kohere, of Rangitukia, and Bert Peachey, of Tikitiki.

Other Early Traders on Coast

A Spaniard (born in America) was among the earliest traders in the Waiapu district. His name was Manuel, and he was known to the natives as “Manuera” and to his fellow-pakehas as “Charlie the Spaniard.” He had deserted from an American whaler. In 1850, Porourangi treated him as head among the Waiapu traders. His principal wife was Tapitu. Their daughter Peti married a Portuguese trader named Lima. In 1874, Manuel lived at Port Awanui and had a branch store near the Waiapu River. Charles Christian, another Portuguese, was known as “Poriki” by the natives. He lived sometimes at East Cape and, at others, in the Waiapu district. Ani Kanara, his wife, was reputed to be ninety-seven years old when she died at Gisborne on 18 November, 1925.

Born at Liverpool in 1822, Charles George Goldsmith (Hori Korimete) gained the distinction of becoming the father of more children than any other early trader. He had served on a trading vessel on the east coast of South America before he appeared in the Waiapu district in the early 1840's. For some years, he engaged in whaling at Cape Runaway and elsewhere on the East Coast. In 1851 he kept a store at Waipiro Bay, where he had been preceded by James Fedarb (Hemi Purehua), who, in turn, had been followed by David Bristow (Rewi Pereto), Edward Deacon (Neri) and John Hayes (Hone Heihi). No rent was demanded from Goldsmith or his predecessors, but their native protectors expected, and appreciated, gifts from time to time.

Moving to Poverty Bay, Goldsmith opened a store at Kairoro. In 1865 it was plundered by the Hauhaus. He was on active service both in 1865 and 1868. On the morning of the massacre, he was in Turanganui, page 137 but two of his children, who were at Kairoro, were slain, and his store was burnt down. In 1873 he was in charge of Kaiti native school. Some years later, he kept an hotel at Muriwai. He then became a licensed interpreter. His first wife was Harete and children of the union were: Robert (born in 1848), Sam (1850) and Maria (1852). His next wife was Makere, a sister of Harete. Issue of this union were: Edward and Caroline (who became the wife of the Rev. Mohi Turei). Both of these children were also born on the East Coast. Frederick William (1860) and Albert Edward (1864) were born in Poverty Bay. The wife of the final marriage was a native of Wales. This union was blessed with twelve children. He died on 20 September, 1894.

James Fedarb, the first trader at Purehua (Waipiro Bay), was trading-master of the schooner Mercury when he assisted the Rev. J. Stack to obtain signatures to the Treaty of Waitangi in May and June, 1840. To his copy of the Treaty, he appended the following note: “The chiefs of Opotiki expressed a wish to have it signified who were pikopos (Roman Catholics) and who were not, which I did by placing a crucifix to those who are as above, and at which they seemed perfectly satisfied.” In 1884, he petitioned Parliament for compensation for the trouble he had been put to.

Captain Henry J. Sturley first visited New Zealand in the whaler Essex in 1821. His second whaling cruise to southern waters was in 1829. In 1837 he was master of the Trent, which was in the Sydney-New Zealand trade. On one occasion, whilst he was at Mahia, he was visited by Hapuku and his father-in-law (Puhara) of Hawke's Bay. They made a practice of trying to terrorise the masters of visiting ships. To teach them a sharp lesson, he carried them off to sea. He became a trader at Tuparoa in 1840, but returned to the sea for varying periods. In the early 1850's he was master of the Antelope, which was on the Auckland-East Coast run, and, as late as 1865, he was in command of the cutter Aquila.

William Scott Greene (born at Kingstown, Dublin) had a store at Waipiro Bay in 1852. Three years later, he settled in Poverty Bay, where some property had been made over to children of his first wife (Erena Kuwha). Subsequently he married Sarah Jane, a daughter of Thomas U'Ren, senior. In 1868 he kept a store at Kaiariki. He was the first settler to run stock on Okahuatiu (1870). In the rôle of auctioneer he then became a prominent figure in Gisborne business circles. On 21 September, 1893, some time after he had made his home at Waitangi (near Tuparoa) he was drowned whilst attempting to ride across the flooded Waiapu River.

Edward Deacon opened the first store at Te Puka (Tokomaru Bay). Moses Yule was next and then came George Babbington. Wi Potae (born in 1855) told the Native Land Court that the elders had informed him that Deacon paid rent in calico and shirts. Deacon kept a store at Waipiro Bay in the 1840's. He then settled in Poverty Bay. Captain Harris told the Crown Grants Commission in 1869 that Deacon had left him a small property, subject to payment by him of a legacy of £10 to a native woman with whom he had lived.