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

Mission Work in the Waiapu

Mission Work in the Waiapu

Dreadful Epidemic of Measles in 1854

When Charles Baker and his family left Auckland in the Dolphin on 11 February, 1854, to take charge of the Rangitukia mission station, they were accompanied by Mr. Malcolm, who had been engaged as tutor to the children at a salary of £100 per annum, plus board and lodgings for himself and his wife. The passage money for the whole party, together with freight space of 40 tons, ran into £50. A Mr. Taylor [“Hori Punehu”], his wife and their baggage were dropped at Whangaparaoa Roads. On account of adverse winds the Dolphin anchored off Te Hekawa, and Mr. Baker and his party travelled overland to Rangitukia. En route a call was made at Horoera, where a half-caste infant belonging to an American was baptized. Mrs. Baker was able to ride a horse most of the way.

According to Mr. Baker's journal, his goods were landed at Te (Port) Awanui and placed in a rush house. Although it was being rented as a wheat store by a Spanish-American [Charles Manuel], Tipuna, a son of Porourangi, demanded £3/12/6 for storage. Mr. Baker says that he got only a scolding. Young Charles Baker went to parcel page 172 out the goods for the carriers, but, after he had gone, the natives reapportioned them. Some came back with only a book or a stocking; some with goods weighing only 3lb. or 4lb.; but, in the end, a few brought a decent load apiece. Mr. Baker was visited by several native teachers—Hohepa Rire (or Riley), of Tuparoa, Raniera Kawhia, of Whareponga, and Eruera Pakura, of Waipiro Bay. The total number of communicants in his district was then 681.

Towards the end of April, measles in a virulent form made its appearance. The Bakers' children did not escape. Quickly the disease spread throughout the whole district. Each day, Mr. Baker was kept busy visiting the sick and conducting funerals, and, every night, he was occupied for some hours making up medicine for messengers who came in from outlying districts. Some of the natives preferred to use their own methods of treatment—an infusion of bark, and the herb, raorika. Here are a few extracts from Mr. Baker's diary—May 22: “Mokena and his party making coffins”; June 17: “There have been many deaths this week; Pita (my assistant) is away at Ti burying three corpses”; July 29: “The natives at our pa have made a coffin for a lad not yet dead, and another for a girl who bids fair to recover”; August 13: “Buried several infants this week”; September 4: “One family has lost five children.” Dr. Schmidt, who had been sent by the Government, arrived at Waiapu on 13 September. The burials conducted by Mr. Baker and Pita totalled 69.

During Archdeacon W. Williams's visit in November, 1854, £4/5/2 was collected at the offertory at Rangitukia. There is no earlier record of the taking up of a collection at a Waiapu church. On 20 November, Mr. Baker conducted two marriages at Whareponga, and began receiving marriage fees. Books for the registration of the dead were opened in the main villages in April, 1856, and the native teachers were authorised to collect 5/- in respect of each burial.

The fourth Waiapu trader whom Mr. Baker married was John Hayes, of Reporua. Hayes had, for some years, been living with two native women, but had agreed to put one away and marry the other. However, after the banns had been published, he had received back the woman he had discarded. Mr. Baker induced him to agree to marry the woman whose name had appeared in the banns. After the wedding, which took place on 13 February, 1855, Hayes's two sons, John and Ben, who were half-brothers, were baptized.

Whilst Bishop Selwyn was questioning a class at Whareponga on 15 February, 1856, the natives seemed confused. Mr. Baker says: “The Bishop poured down on me a volley of abuse for not having spent more time on them. I told him the illnesses of Mrs. Baker and my daughter had prevented me, and, besides, I had myself been ill for ten days. He said that a clergyman should not neglect his duties by paying attention to his wife and family. His own wife might be ill for aught he knew. I replied that there was a material difference between a case of illness in a town and a case at an isolated missionary station. I had done my best and was willing to resign. He said afterwards that I had misunderstood him.”

Several neat wooden chapels were erected on the East Coast during Mr. Baker's term at Rangitukia. Work on them was begun as under:—St. John's, Rangitukia, 27/12/1854; St. Stephen's, Te Araroa, 12/12/1855; St Paul's, Te Horo, 23/3/1856; St. Philip's, Kaiariki, 27/10/1856; St. Peter's, Whareponga, 31/12/1856; and St. Matthew's, Tuparoa, 23/2/1857. Funds were being collected for a church at Waipiro Bay when Mr. Baker was forced by illness to relinquish his duties in May, 1857.

The Church of St. John at Rangitukia was the largest. It was 80ft. in page 173 length and 40ft. broad. Two immense puriri posts, with totara posts at intervals, carried the huge ridgepole. Bishop Selwyn held the consecration service on 17 February, 1856. He estimated that 3,000 natives attended the open-air feast on the following day. The food was drawn on to the feasting-ground in large, shallow canoes amid rejoicings in the form of songs and dances. First of all came the meats and vegetables, and then boiled rice, plum puddings, etc. When a feast was held in connection with the start of the work on St. Philip's at Kaiariki on 27 October, 1856, the food included beef and mutton. [There is no earlier mention of these meats being provided at a feast on the East Coast.] A bottle (containing coins and a document), which was deposited in the hole made to receive the main post of the Church of St. John, would make an interesting memento for the native memorial church at Tikitiki.

On 2 November, 1856, Mr. Baker fixed a site at Manutahi for native farms. “The valley,” he says, “is expansive and fertile, and the Waiapu River runs through it. There may be a farm for wheat and runs for cattle and sheep.” To-day this valley is studded with dairy farms and sheepruns.


James Stack (“Te Taka”), who was born at Southsea, England, in 1801, was associated with the Wesleyan mission station at Whangaroa when it was broken up by Hongi's orders in 1827. He was then stationed at Hokianga from 1828 till 1831. Whilst he was in England in 1834 he became an Anglican missionary. With the Rev. J. Hamlin he was driven from the Mangapouri station (near Te Awamutu) in 1836. After serving at Rangitukia (1842–46) he was, in 1848, invalided Home. He died at Southsea in 1883. Mrs. Stack had died in 1850. A son, Canon J. W. Stack (born at Puriri, Thames, in 1835), also entered the New Zealand mission field, but most of his work was undertaken in the South Island. He died at Worthing, England, in 1919.

Known to the natives as “Kihirini,” the Rev. George Adam Kissling (born at Murr, Wurtemburg, on 2 April, 1805) joined the Church Missionary Society in 1833. Four years later he was sent to Liberia (West Africa). His pupils at Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, included the negro ex-slave who, upon his baptism, took the name “Samuel Crowther” and who, ultimately, became a bishop. Upon Mr. Kissling's return to England he was ordained and, in 1842, sent out to New Zealand. Mrs. Henry Williams, in her diary, describes him as “an old German missionary,” and Mrs. Kissling as “a well-educated Englishwoman.” He was stationed at Kawakawa (E.C.), which was afterwards named by the natives “Te Araroa” on account of the fact that he formed a long, box-edged path from his gate to his front door. His church, which would hold 500 worshippers, stood close to the beach.

Shortly after Mr. Kissling's arrival at Te Araroa many native families dispersed to their own lands. It became a strict practice among them, however, to return each Sunday for the church services. He had a nice garden and orchard and ran cows on an adjacent area which he leased from the natives. J. G. Baker says that he met with much obstruction from Iharaira te Houkamau, whom he describes as “a blustering chief residing at Hicks Bay.” Becoming ill in February, 1846, Mr. Kissling went to Auckland. His doctor would not permit him to return to the East Coast. When his health was restored he took over the administration of the Maori work at Kohimarama, and became the minister of the Church of St. Barnabas. In 1852 he was appointed Archdeacon of Waitemata and placed in charge of St. Mary's, Parnell. He died on 10 November, 1865.

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The Rev. Charles Lucas Reay, B.A. (born in England in 1780), was vicar of Swanburne (Bucks) for some years. He was stationed, first of all, at Cloudy Bay, and then at Nelson before he was transferred, in 1847, to Rangitukia, whither he brought an assistant named Tamati Takao, who, subsequently, became a lay reader at Akaroa. Mr. Reay died on 31 March, 1848. A tombstone which his widow had intended should be placed over his grave was found, in pieces, in a garden in Shortland Crescent, Auckland, in 1914. It was repaired and erected in the locality in which he was buried at Rangitukia, the exact site of the grave being unknown.

The Rev. Rota (Lot) Waitoa—the first Maori to be admitted to Holy Orders—was stationed at Te Araroa in 1848. Rota (according to J. G. Baker) entered upon his work with much zeal, but Iharaira te Houkamau, who had thought it bad enough to have had European missionaries to contend with, regarded as an insult to his dignity the placing at Te Araroa of a Maori deacon whose people at Otaki he looked upon as bitter enemies. By tact and patience, however, Rota won the day, and Iharaira became as docile as a child. After a while he offered himself as a candidate for baptism, and, as a further token of his penitence, begged Rota to appoint him “church sweeper and bellringer to the House of the Lord.” Rota died in 1866 and was buried at St. Stephen's (Parnell).

Mokena Kohere (born circa 1814) took the forename “Mokena” (or Morgan) upon becoming a Christian on account of the high esteem in which the Rev. John Morgan—who, with the Revs. J. Preece and J. A. Wilson, opened a station at Puriri, Thames, in 1834—was held by the Maori people. As far as is known, Mr. Morgan never visited the East Coast. J. G. Baker (Life on the East Coast in the 1850's) described Mokena as “brave and powerful, yet of an extremely kind and gentle disposition, excepting when aroused, and then he became like a firebrand.” Mokena proved a staunch Anglican and an unswerving upholder of British rule. He and Wi Tako (Waikanae, Wellington district) were the first Maoris to receive seats in the Legislative Council. With reference to Mokena, Governor Bowen, writing to the Earl of Kimberley, said: “He is a chief of high rank and commanding influence in the great clan of the Ngati-Porou, and he was recently presented by Her Majesty with a Sword of Honour for his long and excellent services in fighting for the Crown.” Mokena died on 4 March, 1894. Two grandsons—Reweti T. Kohere, of East Cape, and Canon P. M. Kohere, of Rangitukia, are well-known Coast residents. Second-Lieutenant Henare Mokena Kohere (another grandson) was mortally wounded by a high-explosive shell on the Somme (France) on 15 September, 1916, and died next day.