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

Chapter XXIII — Clash of Rival Judicial Systems

page 196

Chapter XXIII
Clash of Rival Judicial Systems

Native Crucifixion on East Coast—Woman Hanged Near Gisborne—Muru, Witchcraft and Tohungaism Rampant—British Laws Introduced Cautiously.

The introduction of the British system of law and order into Poverty Bay and on to the East Coast had to be delayed because the natives clung so tightly to their age-old customs and deep-rooted superstitions and because so many of them stoutly refused to acknowledge Queen Victoria as their ruler. Some of their chiefs had not signed the Treaty of Waitangi and they openly feared that their mana would diminish if British laws were brought into force. Te Kani-a-Takirau, the greatest among them, was not a signatory, but he proved a good friend to the Europeans. Wisely, the authorities decided to proceed cautiously.

In 1854—only a year before the first resident magistrate was stationed in Poverty Bay—an act of barbaric retribution came under the notice of pakehas residing on the East Coast. At Akuaku, a native named Tamatoi slew Te Kiri (a fellow-tribesman) by creeping up behind him whilst he was saying his grace and almost decapitating him. Wi Pokiha (Waiapu Native Land Court minute book, No. 18) told the court that the pair had quarrelled over a plantation. Tamatoi, he added, was executed by being shot.

It is stated in Colonel Porter's account that rivalry for the hand of the village beauty led to the fatal quarrel. When the culprit's relatives tried to rescue him they were repulsed with a volley of stones fired from an old cannon—a relic of a whaler wrecked in the 1830's. A native council sentenced the murderer to be crucified. Tamatoi—Porter gives the name as “Matohi”—was impaled on a cross and a firing party, in which even his own relatives joined, hastened his end. The cannon was presented by Ropata to Porter, who, in turn, gave it to the Napier Soldiers' Club.

According to a letter which W. Williams sent to the British Colonial Society (quoted by Thomson in Story of New Zealand, vol. 2, p. 176), a native woman was hanged near Gisborne in 1855 by order of a native council. It seems that a half-crazy woman named Ana destroyed some baskets of seed potatoes belonging to a neighbour, and made off with one of his pots. Enraged, the neighbour's wife chased her, threw her into a creek, and drowned her. The slow manner in which the murderess page 197 was hanged is described as “a savage imitation of the English civil method of execution.”

The first East Coast native—the Wellington newspapers supposed that he had come from Poverty Bay—to be lawfully hanged was Mairoa (or Maroro), who, in 1846, murdered a settler named Branks and his two children at Johnsonville. Entering Branks's whare, he asked for a light for his pipe. As Branks stooped to get an ember from his fire, Mairoa slew him with a hatchet which he had kept concealed. The children began to cry in terror and he slew them also. Thomson (The Story of New Zealand) says that Mairoa gave the signal to the hangman to release the lever “with the apathy of a Hindoo!”

Believing that a member of a hapu at Reporua had threatened to exercise witchcraft upon one of his relatives, Paratene Turangi, in 1843, set off from Poverty Bay with a punitive expedition. One of his flotilla of three large war canoes was Toki-a-Tapiri (now in the Auckland Museum). Aboard her were the chiefs Perohuka and Rahurahi. In Te Ahiatupari the leading chief was Te Rangituawaru. The leaders on the principal craft, Te-a-o-Mate, were Paratene and Hori Karaka. When the expedition landed at Purehua a native preacher (Eruera Pakura) intervened. There was no fighting; Paratene composed a song; and the expedition departed after having been feasted.

The best known case in which a wizard was slain in this portion of New Zealand occurred at Wairoa in 1864. There were, at that time, five exponents of black magic in that district. Porohiwi, in particular, bore a very evil reputation; he had threatened to bewitch everybody belonging to the hapu. He was shot by two of his own relatives, who had been selected to commit the deed. The murderers were brought before Mr. McLean, who released them after they had taken an oath that they would not shoot anybody else.

The East Coast natives were firm believers in ghosts as well as in witchcraft. During the hearing of the Waipiro block case in May, 1885, Major Ropata said that there was a sheet of water at Otamakorapa which had the property of bewitching and killing people. It had received its name because spirits of people flying about were caught in the water and held under until they died! The ghost of Te Mutu (who, with others, had been slain at Te Puia) had come to them on the night of his death. A woman cried out: “There is Te Mutu!” Te Mamouangi chased the ghost away with a firestick.

When a Maori boy died near Tuparoa in May, 1874, Pohipi, an old man, was accused of having bewitched him. Wi Haereroa and Hapi walked into his whare, and each put a bullet into his page 198 body. They buried it where it fell and then returned to their friends, fully satisfied that they had merely done their duty. No action was taken by the authorities.

A native council, which was attended by a native clergyman, met at Repongaere in August, 1879, to try Henare te Kotiti on a charge that he had brought about a death by the exercise of occult powers. His whare was burned down, but he escaped to W. K. Chambers's home. Mr. Chambers sent to Ormond for a constable. Kotiti was taken to Napier and then sent on to Taupo for safety.

Upon the death of Wi Kaipuke at Muriwai in March, 1886, a native named Rapaea fled to the bush when he was threatened with death for having, allegedly, used witchcraft. Fortunately for him, Kaipuke's son attributed his father's death to bad liquor. Rapaea was then permitted to return home. Even as late as 1890 a Te Arai native was bound over to keep the peace for threatening to slay a neighbour suspected of practising witchcraft.

A Sensational Trial

The most sensational case in Poverty Bay in which witchcraft was alleged to have figured resulted in the trial, in June, 1887, of three young natives, Aporo Paerata, Te Hau Porourangi and Te Uri Maerenga, and also of Erena Parewhai, for a double murder. They were charged with having, at Puhatikotiko, on 29 January, 1887, shot Jeremiah Nuku (aged sixty years) and his wife Hiria (an aunt of Wi Pere), who, the tribe believed, had fatally bewitched one Pareka (aged seventy years). Erena was acquitted, but the others were found guilty and sentenced to death. Te Hau was adjudged to have been an accessory before the fact.

Petitions poured in to the Government from natives in all parts of New Zealand, urging that the prisoners should be released on the following grounds: (1) That they had acted only in accordance with the laws of their forefathers; (2) that, if the responsibility rested anywhere, it rested on the tribe as a whole; and (3) that no proof had been adduced as to who was the actual murderer. The sentences were commuted into life sentences. In a dispatch to the Home authorities, the Governor (Sir W. F. D. Jervois) stated that there was no reason to doubt that the prisoners were guilty, but if the death sentence had been carried out it would have been regarded by the natives “as an act of excessive severity and of injustice.” The prisoners behaved in an exemplary manner in gaol and were released after serving only five years of their sentence.

During a meeting at Marahea in August, 1885, a tohunga claimed that he could recognise the odour of a liniment that was page 199 in general use for all kinds of pains. Everybody present denied that he or she had lately used the potent fluid. He then hinted that a malign spirit which had used it must have made it its business to put in an appearance. During the stampede that followed, the door was broken down and several natives were injured.

For some years Heta te Kani (successor to Hirini te Kani) was afraid to travel from Gisborne beyond Whangara. Te Kooti, it seems, had predicted that Heta would die if he proceeded farther up the coast. However, another tohunga, who claimed to have greater powers than Te Kooti, advised him to the contrary. Early in 1903, Heta, with a large mounted party, went to Tolaga Bay and returned unharmed. In the following September, when he succumbed to tuberculosis, many natives held that the prophecies of both tohungas had been fulfilled. Heta had been treated by a tohunga named Matenga Kaipau, who threw bucketsful of cold water over him. Inquiries by the police failed to secure sufficient evidence against him. Up till then only one tohunga had been convicted in Poverty Bay. In April, 1901, Harata Paretiti, an elderly woman, of Muriwai, who had “treated” Tami Rawhi for typhoid by dipping him in the sea and prescribing quite unsuitable food, was sent to prison for twelve months.

First Court Sitting in Poverty Bay

Merely by chance a court sitting was held in Poverty Bay as early as 21 February, 1851. Mr. McLean, who was visiting the district, received, in his capacity of a Justice of the Peace, a petition (signed by J. W. Harris, T. U'Ren, senior, R. Espie, J. H. King and J. Dunlop) complaining that gunpowder was being sold by certain residents to the natives, and that, only on the previous day, there had been a transaction involving 15 lbs. Such sales, it was urged, should be stopped, “as they are not only a violation of the law, but may be the means of seriously endangering the lives and property of the Europeans.”

Upon Espie swearing to the truth of an information charging Thomas Halbert with selling gunpowder to a native named Paraone te Wae, Mr. McLean issued a summons requiring the accused to appear before him. He swore in U'Ren as a special constable and provided him with a search warrant authorising him “to seize any munitions of war he might find about the premises of the said Thomas Halbert.” A fine of £20 was imposed. Mr. McLean made it known that a reward of £5 would be paid to any native who furnished information concerning any future sale of powder.

Describing the sitting, Mr. McLean says that the attendance page 200 both of natives and Europeans was large; that the natives gave their evidence with directness; and that the respectful silence and the attention paid to the authorities was very noticeable. In a further entry (25/2/1851) he noted that he had learned that his decision had had a magical effect upon the natives. Many of them had since paid debts which had been given up for lost and were demanding from the traders what was due to them. However, on 22 March, Captain Harris (who, together with G. Rich and J. Dunlop, had been appointed as arbitrators to settle differences between Europeans and natives) complained to him that “some of the natives appear to suppose that your court was instituted for their benefit alone.”

According to W. L. Williams, H. S. Wardell was appointed first resident magistrate in 1855 at the express wish of a few chiefs who desired that steps should be taken to prevent the importation of spirits. His district extended from Mohaka to East Cape. In general, the natives did not welcome his presence. Whilst Mr. Wardell was talking the matter over with Lazarus he pointed out to him that the presence of a magistrate would be just as much in the interests of the natives as in those of the pakehas. Lazarus, after deep contemplation, replied: “There are two sorts of pigs—the tame kind and the wild kind,” meaning that Mr. Wardell would find that the pakehas would be much more amenable than the natives to a magistrate's influence. Mr. Wardell found that the Poverty Bay natives yielded obedience to the law, or defied it, just as it suited their purpose. On the other hand, the Waiapu natives desired the regular administration of the law in their midst.

In November, 1858, Mr. Wardell found it necessary to visit Puatai to enquire into a report that a pakeha named Fox, whilst suffering from delirium tremens, had murdered his pakeha mate. He interviewed four sawyers working in Pipiwhakao Bush and selected two to accompany him. It was then found that they worked for different employers and that the other two would have to remain idle until their mates returned. On that account he engaged all of the men. The prisoner was sent to Auckland.

How helpless Mr. Wardell was to enforce law and order may be gathered from some anecdotes reported in the Hawke's Bay Herald on 27 November, 1858. The case is cited of a pakeha who had refused to pay a fine of £10 for supplying spirits to a native. It was ordered that some cattle, which it was erroneously believed belonged to defendant, should be distrained. The real owners went to the “Government Paddock,” broke down the fences, and removed some cattle belonging to Mr. Wardell and others. In another case some natives, who had stolen goods to page 201 the value of £50, were fined £150, because it would have been too costly to send them to Auckland to serve a prison sentence. Nothing would induce them to pay the fine.

Strange Scenes in Courthouse

An attempt at abduction took place in the courthouse in the presence of Mr. Wardell. A native couple who wished to be married were followed by a man who was determined that the woman should become his wife. The woman clung to Mr. Wardell in terror, imploring him to protect her. According to the Hawke's Bay Herald, “the scene that ensued was magnificent, for the magistrate (notwithstanding that his clerk went to his aid), the would-be bride and bridegroom, the intending abductor and one-or two others all ended up rolling on the floor together.”

On another occasion Mr. Wardell was called upon by a pakeha and a fine-looking half-caste girl from the Coast who wished to be married. Among those who witnessed the ceremony was a police-sergeant from an outside district. As it was proceeding he recognised the bridegroom as a military deserter and contrived to handcuff him. The other witnesses began to laugh boisterously. When the position was explained to the bride after the ceremony she sprang on her horse, and, gaily bidding her lover farewell, galloped off back to her home.

The trial of cases by the natives at their own tribunals proved a great handicap to magistrates in some districts. Towards the close of 1856 the Government appointed native assessors to sit with them when cases affecting a native, or natives, were set down. To assist Mr. Wardell, Paratene, Kahutia and Rawiri were selected. However, the natives still regarded his court as a “pakeha” court. A system of native local government was introduced in 1862. In each district there was to be a European magistrate as Native Commissioner, together with a native council of twelve members, native assessors and native police. Some delay occurred in replacing Mr. Wardell, who had been transferred to Wellington. W. B. Baker (postmaster at Rangitukia) became Native Commissioner for Waiapu.

Much of the crime in Poverty Bay in the early 1870's was investigated by members of the Armed Constabulary, of whom thirty, under Major Pitt, were stationed at Ormond. Frequently it became necessary for some of them to do duty in Gisborne. Armed with pistol and sword, they revelled in the task of maintaining order. There was a spirited protest in April, 1873, when the police strength at Gisborne was reduced to a single policeman In the following month the roll was again increased to a sergeant and three constables. [The new sergeant was Edmund Pattricks page 202 Joyce, who remained in the position until 1876. Three years later he built the original British Empire Hotel. He became prominent in local politics.]

Early Gisborne's lock-up (the blockhouse) had no terrors for its inmates. Some prisoners were allowed to sleep in the constables' rooms. As there was no fence, prisoners made a practice, in summer, of sauntering down to the beach for a swim during exercise periods. In 1874 the supplier of meals went on strike, because payment to him was so much in arrears. Prisoners were then given only bread (1½ lbs. daily), together with water ad lib. Following upon a public meeting of protest, a cookhouse and conveniences were provided and the blockhouse was fenced. The practice of permitting prisoners to sleep in the constables' rooms was then required to be discontinued.

Grave Crimes

At Waiapu in October, 1872, Wi Keiha killed some pigs (including one belonging to Paora Puku) which were disturbing his sheep. He notified Paora that he could either take it away or he would be paid for it. Paora replied that he would take payment at the mouth of a gun. His party had shot about 100 of Wi Keiha's sheep by the time Wi and his friends reached the scene. As Paora's band fled, Wi ordered his side to fire, and Taraka (one of the fugitives) was killed. Upon Mr. McLean's arrival a conference was held. Wi's gun went off as he got up to speak. Fortunately the bullet sped through the roof of the meeting-house. By way of “payment” for having occasioned alarm he surrendered the gun and two horses. His attack upon Paora was upheld by the other chiefs on the ground that he had merely followed native custom. The parties agreed to live at peace, but were compelled to give up their guns, which they had received from the Government for defence purposes.

What became known as the “Ruangarehu murder” caused a sensation in Poverty Bay in May, 1886. Edward Neave, who had a firewood contract, took in as a partner a half-caste named William Rowland. One morning, whilst Neave was preparing the breakfast, Rowland (according to Neave's dying testimony) fired a shot at him and then attacked him with an axe. Neave added that he forgave him. Rowland said that Neave had become worried over the contract; that he had attempted to use an axe on him; and that he had shot himself. On a second trial Rowland was found guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy. The death sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life. Rowland was released in 1897 as an act of clemency on the occasion of the diamond jubilee in connection with Queen Victoria's reign.

A shocking crime occurred at Mataahu (E.C.) on 5 December, 1888. Frank Pook, a storekeeper, and his wife Jane were found murdered, and their child Bertie (aged four months) gravely injured. The adults' throats had been cut and the child's head battered. The infant was brought to Gisborne, but succumbed. Information given to the police by native neighbours led to the arrest of Haira te Piri and his brother, Hohepa te Piri. During the lower court proceedings Hohepa was discharged. Haira was convicted at the Supreme Court in Gisborne, and the sentence of death was carried out at Napier. Robbery was the motive for the crime. Major Ropata told Colonel Porter that Haira was a descendant of Tamatoi (supra).

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In July, 1888, William Turei slew his wife Mere at Tikitiki. Under Tuta Nihoniho over 100 Ngati-Porou assisted the police in the search for the husband. It was found that he had suicided.

When Robert Streeter was found to be missing from Te Hau-o-te-Atua station in June, 1890, his disappearance created not a little concern, even although his workmate, William Black, said that he supposed that he had gone off on a holiday. Some days later Rutene (a native employee) was puzzled when he came to a spot where a post hole had been dug along a new fence line and filled in again. A fire had been set alongside, apparently to enable a “billy” to be heated. He probed the disturbed earth with a stick and was shocked to find that Streeter's body had been inserted head first in the hole. Black, who was charged with murder, tried at Auckland, and defended by W. L. Rees, was acquitted.

On 19 December, 1894, Eria Mohawhau murdered his wife at Taiwha (twelve miles from Tolaga Bay) and then shot himself.

A brutal murder occurred near Motu on 21 July, 1898. The victim was James Kennedy Scott, a single man, who had migrated from Ireland and had taken up a block of 1,000 acres. On the day he was murdered he went to inspect some cattle which he had placed on a vacant property held by a Mr. McCullough. As he did not return that night, his nephew (Charles Jackson) came to the conclusion that he had decided to stay with Joseph Smith, who lived about a mile nearer McCullough's property. Next morning he found the body of his uncle, who had been shot in the face. Smith, whom he informed of the tragedy, went to Ormond to fetch the police. At the inquest Smith admitted that Scott had been on his property on the day of the crime and that they had discussed his right to run cattle on McCullough's property. A few days later the police found that Smith had suicided by taking poison. On the table in his whare lay a note stating: “I am innocent of J. K. Scott's murder. J. SMITH.”

There was a double tragedy at Tolaga Bay on 12 October, 1911. Ada Maud Reid, the laundress at the hotel, was found dead with a throat wound. Her husband, Walter Garland Reid, the stableman, committed suicide. Their child, aged two years, was in the bedroom in which the mother was found dead. In the case of the woman's death the jury found that there was no direct evidence to show by whom the wound had been inflicted.

On 10 June, 1917, a shocking domestic tragedy occurred in Fox Street, Gisborne. Abraham te Whero (formerly of Porangahau, H.B.) struck his wife on the head with an axe. J. S. Wauchop, a neighbour, went off for Dr. C. F. Scott. The injured woman died an hour later. Te Whero was arrested in a woolshed on Waikanae on the following afternoon. Just prior to the arrival of the police he had drunk from a bottle which he believed contained water, but which contained an irritant poison. That evening he died in hospital. As a part-owner of Waimarama (H.B.) he had received £13,000 upon the sale of the property to the Crown, but had lost the money in business ventures.

The residents of the East Coast were deeply stirred when it became known on 22 July, 1917, that two workers, Olaf Anderson and Harvey Bradley had been found dead from bullet wounds at a bush camp about twelve miles from Wairongomai station. It was at first believed that the men had quarrelled and that one had shot his mate and had then suicided. Prior to the arrival of a doctor the bodies had been removed to the station. There were four wounds—all inflicted from behind—in Anderson's body. Bradley, too, had been shot from behind; he had a wound in the head and another just below the heart. Photographs were found tightly clutched in Bradley's hand, and in Anderson's hand was a firmly- page 204 gripped towel. The breech of the camp rifle was found open, and in it was a cartridge which had not been pushed fully into position. Frank Inkster, alias Clayton, a youth who worked at the camp, disappeared on the day before the inquest. He was found in a cowshed on Pakihiroa station and charged with the murders. At his trial he was defended by L. T. Burnard and was acquitted.

An Assyrian hawker, Paul Zambucca, disappeared in the vicinity of the mouth of the Motu River in November, 1921. When his saddled horse was found wandering about the riverbed a further search was made, and his pack-horses were discovered with the packs intact. The body, which had been covered with scrub and driftwood, lay not far from a point on the track where there were traces of blood. Zambucca had been shot in the face at close quarters and robbed of some money. Rutene Topi was tried for the murder at Gisborne in March, 1922. Evidence was given that Zambucca had stayed at Maraenui with Topi's father for a few days and had done some business in the locality. Just before he had left to resume his beat, accused had gone with a gun in the direction of the river. The case against the accused was described for the Crown as “a long chain of small facts.” Topi's counsel (L. T. Burnard) submitted that the evidence failed to link accused with the murder; that no proceeds of the robbery had been found in his possession; and that he had not even been seen in the locality of the crime. A verdict of acquittal was returned.

When a little girl, Gwen Murray, failed to return to her home at Makaraka one night in January, 1924, a search revealed that she had been waylaid and murdered. A young man, Robert Henry Scott, was traced to Matawai and arrested. Upon being tried on 18 March, 1924, he was found guilty. He paid the supreme penalty at Auckland.

During a drinking bout at Torere on 1 December, 1926, John Sullivan (whose real name was James O'Keefe) struck and killed a camp mate named Jeremiah Williamson. Sullivan was tried at Gisborne on 9 March, 1927, on a charge of murder, but the jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter. A sentence of seven years' imprisonment was imposed.

On 18 May, 1944, Mrs. Lois Rosamund Mill, wife of George Mill, was murdered at her home, “Bexhaven” station, about twenty-five miles from Tokomaru Bay. A lad named John Lawson informed Mr. Mill that a Maori boy, Taia Matu (aged fifteen years), who was also employed on the station, had confessed to him that he had grasped Mrs. Mill by the throat and asked her for some cartridges. Although she had told him where they were kept, he had strangled her. No mention was made by Matu that he had also inflicted head injuries, but he had said that, if the children had been about, he would have slain them also. Two days later a shot was heard in a bushclad gully about 300 yards from the homestead, and searchers found that Matu had also taken his own life.

Sensational Robberies, Etc.

A sensational case of breaking and entering occurred at Gisborne in June, 1914, when jewellery to the value of £2,000 was stolen from the premises of H. J. Grieve. Charles Henry Newton, alias Murray, was found guilty of the offence, sentenced to two years' hard labour and declared an habitual criminal. Two men who had seen him plant some of the stolen goods under an empty house helped themselves to a portion. They were placed on probation for two years. The rest of the goods were found buried in a tin on Awapuni golf links.

Intruders daringly entered the Matawhero Hotel on the night of 27 December, 1947, and stole a safe valued at £95, cheques and money to the value of £832, and some tobacco, the property of Wattie Wilson (the page 205 landlord) and others. Mr. Wilson heard a noise, and, from his balcony, saw a car drive away. The safe was taken to a gun emplacement on Kaiti Hill and blown open. Next day a car was found abandoned near the Oweka Stream. Douglas Wright, labourer, of Auckland, who was arrested at Te Kaha on 5 January, 1948, was sentenced to three years' hard labour, declared an habitual criminal, and deprived of the right to obtain a motor driver's license for ten years. The Judge considered that he had had the help of some other person or persons. A large sum, which had been hidden in the bank of a stream, was found by some native children and returned to Mr. Wilson.

For over five years Hare Matenga, known as “The Maori Outlaw,” avoided a police net set for him in the East Coast districts. In September, 1902, he stole a horse, and, when he was bailed up by the police, slipped into the bush at Pakihiroa. Thefts from stations on the Coast, around Motu and in the Ruakituri district were reported from time to time. During the winter of 1905 Detective Broberg, of Wellington (who, in 1904, had, at Duff's Flat, captured Ellis, the murderer of Leonard Collinson, of Martinborough) led a search party. Tracks were found in the high country at the back of Tolaga Bay, but the fugitive was never sighted. In December, 1907, the detective and another party found Matenga at Erepeti pa, near Ruakituri, and he submitted quietly to arrest.

A fatality marked by unusual features engaged the attention of the Gisborne police in May, 1929. The body of Samuel McAleese, a road worker, was found on the side of the road on Papamoa Hill. He had died as a result of a bullet piercing his heart. It had been discharged from a pearifle which was in a sugar bag but had been taken apart. There were also facial injuries. Two motorists testified at the inquest that he was alive when they passed the spot. The jury found that he met his death from a bullet fired from his own rifle; that the weapon was accidentally discharged; that the other injuries were received after death; and that the body had been moved, but how or by whom there was no evidence to show. It was believed that he was struck by a passing vehicle and that, when the bag fell, the rifle went off.

The sad fate of Harry Boyd Foote, a five-year-old boy, who wandered away from the Gisborne showground on “People's Day,” 23 October, 1929, was not revealed until over twelve months afterwards. He was a son of Mr. and Mrs. H. Foote, of Gisborne, and had received permission to go over to a refreshment stall to obtain an ice cream. An extensive search was made by the Boy Scouts, as well as by the police, and the fire brigade pumped the water out of a pond on the grounds, but these efforts proved unavailing. It was then conjectured that he might have been kidnapped, and the scope of the inquiries was extended to include even those towns in Australia which were on the rounds covered by the sideshow men who had visited Gisborne. In November, 1930, the painful mystery was solved when E. Harden found a child's skeleton near a tidal waterway alongside Awapuni Lagoon.


Herbert Samuel Wardell (born in London in 1830) deserted civil engineering to take up the study of art. Sculpture was exhibited by him at the London Exhibition in 1851 and at the Royal Academy. He was magistrate at Poverty Bay from 1855 till 1860, at Wellington (1860–3), in the Wairarapa (1863–84), and in Wellington again (1884–8), and served on the Police Commission (1898) and the North Island Representation Committee (1908). He was the founder of, and the first president of, the Home for the Aged and Needy at Wellington, and president of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. He died on 6 May, 1912.

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Pending the appointment of Reginald Newton Biggs as R.M. and O.C. the district in February, 1867, Samuel Locke carried out the duties of magistrate.

William Smith Atkinson, who became R.M. on 21 January, 1869, was transferred back to New Plymouth in 1870.

Dr. William Kerr Nesbitt (born in County Cavan in 1818) practised at Rostrevor (Dublin) for fifteen years. He served as R.M. at Maketu for seven years prior to being sent to Gisborne in 1870. “It was,” says W. L. Williams, “a boon to the small community to have in Poverty Bay a medical man who, though largely occupied with magisterial work, was not unwilling to give professional help in cases of serious sickness.” He died on 25 July, 1877. His mother, with whom he had lived, was in her ninety-seventh year when she died on 20 June, 1888.

Brief terms as R.M. were then served by Henry Henricks (previously of Greymouth) and Caleb Whiteford.

Matthew Price had been in the Indian Army and, subsequently, had become one of the leaders of the “Beau monde” at Home. He then accepted a magistracy in Victoria. On the West Coast (S.I.) he was the first R.M. and Warden. He was transferred to Gisborne in 1880 and died on 26 July, 1883.

James Booth was born at Westmorland, England, and, in 1852, came out to Wanganui as a catechist to assist the Rev. R. Taylor. With his wife and family he was taken prisoner by the Hauhaus at Pipiriki in 1864. He became R.M. at Wanganui in 1865, a Judge of the Native Land Court in 1866, and a Native Land Purchase Officer in 1876. He served as R.M. at Gisborne from 1883 till his death on 14 May, 1900.

William Alfred Barton (born in Birmingham in 1851) arrived with his parents at Hokitika in 1861 from Australia. In 1867 he became a cadet in the Justice Department at Hokitika, where he rose to the position of mining warden and receiver of gold revenue. He was appointed clerk of the court at Kumara in 1879, at Greymouth in 1881, and at Gisborne in 1891. Although he had not qualified in law, he was appointed magistrate at Gisborne in 1900, retiring in 1916. During the first fifteen years of his magistracy he did not receive any assistance in covering his district, which extended from Port Awanui to Wairoa. Rough journeys were not an infrequent experience for him, but, mounted on his sturdy mare “Dolly,” he made every effort to be punctual for his engagements. On a trip to Wairoa in 1908 he was caught in a snowstorm on Parikanapa, and had to take refuge for the night at F. J. Lysnar's homestead. Next morning Mr. Lysnar guided him to Tiniroto. Whilst he was travelling on the East Coast he had a number of unpleasant experiences. During a trip in May, 1911, he came to grief in a swollen stream above Tokomaru Bay, got soaked, and had to camp out all night. Mr. Barton was in his ninety-fifth year when he died on 23 November, 1946.

Subsequent holders of the magistracy: R. Stone Florance, J. S. Barton, E. C. Levvey, P. H. Harper and E. L. Walton.

James Wrey Nolan (born at Bathurst, New South Wales, in 1855) was a son of David Nolan, who migrated from Londonderry to Australia in 1851 and moved to Auckland in 1866. He was admitted to the Bar in 1879, just prior to settling in Gisborne. In 1882 he became District Crown Solicitor and held that office until 1920, when he was succeeded by a son (Frank Wrey Nolan), who still (1949) occupies the position. Mr. Nolan, senior, was, for a number of years, chairman of the Hospital Trustees, a governor (and chairman) of the High School, a member of the Borough Council, president of the District Law Society, and also held office in a number of other institutions. For some years he was chairman of directors of the Gisborne S.F.M. and M. Co. Ltd. As a page 207 member of the first Auckland Rugby team to tour New Zealand he played in the contest at Dunedin on 22 September, 1875, which is regarded as the first “interpro.” match that was held in the Dominion. He was chosen captain of the Poverty Bay XV in 1879. In Auckland he was also a keen cricketer, and he did a great deal to popularise that game in Poverty Bay. He was prominently associated with the administration of racing in Poverty Bay, occupying the position of president and, later, of patron of the Poverty Bay Turf Club. He died in February, 1938.

George Elliott Barton (born in Tipperary in 1820) had just taken his B.A. degree at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1848 when he became implicated with other young Orange students in a revolt and was expelled. After conducting a law practice in Dublin for some years, he went out to the Victorian diggings and gained a seat in the Legislative Assembly. In 1862 he moved to Dunedin. Whilst he was practising in Wellington in 1878, Mr. Justice Richmond sent him to prison for contempt. During his gaol term he stood for Parliament and was elected. He resided in Gisborne in the 1890's. His death occurred whilst he was on a visit to Paris in 1903.

Joshua Cuff, who had been captain of F Battery at Napier, moved to Poverty Bay in 1869. He was one of the district's earliest solicitors. In 1883 he went to Thames, where he died in 1912. Mrs. Cuff was 99 years old when she died in October, 1944.

Brooke Taylor (born at Norfolk in 1811) came out to Auckland in 1858 to practice as a solicitor. He went on to Napier in 1860, and, in 1871, moved to Gisborne. Mrs. Taylor opened a private school for boys and girls in 1872, the year in which the first public school in Gisborne was built. Her piano was, then, the only instrument of its kind in Gisborne, and, for some years, it was greatly in request for entertainments, dances, etc. She was the first organist at Holy Trinity Church. Mr. Taylor died on 24 September, 1886, and Mrs. Taylor on 6 July, 1906. Two of their sons, Walter and Alexander, lived to be nonagenarians.

Wyvern Wilson (born in Gisborne in 1877) was a son of Judge J. A. Wilson, of the Native Land Court. After practising as a solicitor in various centres he was appointed to the magistracy in 1911, and became senior magistrate at Auckland. He died on 18 March, 1941.


A half-caste named McQuarrie shot Robert Gollan at Table Cape (Mahia) in April, 1889. He placed the body in a whare and set the building on fire. The death sentence was carried out at Napier.