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

Chapter XXIX — “Black Tuesday

page 255

Chapter XXIX
Black Tuesday

Te Kooti and His Band Steal Into Matawhero—Shocking Murders in Cold Blood—Some Hair-breadth Escapes—Tutere's Noble Selfsacrifice.

It was not until dusk on Monday, 9 November, 1868, that Te Kooti, with most of his fanatical followers, crept into the outskirts of the settled portion of Poverty Bay. Maata te Owai stated at the trial of Hamiora Pere at Wellington in September, 1869, that they deviated from the old track which led past Repongaere Lake on Dodd and Peppard's run and proceeded along the bank of the Waikakariki Stream to Patutahi pa. The sick men and the women and children had been left at Pukepuke.

Most of the 20 native residents of Patutahi were taken, under escort, to Pukepuke. A guard was placed over the others to prevent any of them from crossing the Waipaoa River to warn Major Biggs or the settlers. Karepa was questioned with reference to the settlers' homes and movements. It was afterwards alleged that he acted as guide to the rebels during the raid, but, as he was not seen by any of the survivors, no charge was laid against him. Captain Harris blamed Petera te Iwiroa for advising Te Kooti to burn down the settlers' homes. Petera, it seems, considered that the Crown forces at Waerenga-a-Hika should not have used the Bishop's residence as a fort.

Some accounts suggest that the raid began on the night of 9 November. However, when the survivors' narratives are examined, it is plain that the raiders did not cross the Waipaoa River and swoop upon Matawhero until just before dawn on the 10th. That morning the sun rose at 4.48 o'clock. None of the survivors claimed to have been warned either by seeing a home in flames or by hearing the cries of neighbours. With the exception of Mrs. Wilson, all saved themselves by flight after hearing the sounds of musketry, or observing armed rebels, or being orally informed. If the settlement had been cordoned by the rebels, the death roll would, assuredly, have been much heavier.

On the previous afternoon, the schooner Success (Captain Trimmer) lay in the Turanganui River taking on board cattle from the Mission station property for delivery to S. T. Clarke at Tauranga. Alongside her was the schooner Tawera (Captain J. Kennedy), which was lifting a cargo of produce for Auckland. Both got stuck on the bar as they attempted to leave the river. Early on the morning of the raid, according to Captain Kennedy, the sky was clear and starlit. A sailor, sent aloft to loosen the page 256 sails on the Tawera, noticed a fire, but it was in the direction of Pipiwhakao Bush (to the south of Matawhero). Nothing was seen to arouse suspicion. Both vessels soon got free and set off.

Just before sailing time, Robert Atkins (head stockman at the Mission station) rode off, to his home at Waerenga-a-Hika. In his account of the tragedy he stated that it was then 1.30 a.m. Less than an hour afterwards, when he passed Major Biggs's home at Matawhero, there were no rebels about. A light which he observed in one of the rooms was probably required in order that the baby might receive attention.

Diverse opinions have also been placed on record as to the route which the rebels took to reach Matawhero from Patutahi. One story suggests that they crossed over the Waipaoa River at the Waerenga-a-Hika ford, and that, as they were passing Tutoko, they saw J. R. Wyllie writing at a table. Te Kooti, it is added, told his followers that he would return after the settlers at Matawhero had been slain and kill Wyllie “inch by inch” for his part in having him exiled. It is certain that Te Kooti did not intend to spare Wyllie and his neighbours. His initial, and main, aim, however, was to surprise and slay Major Biggs, Captain Wilson and the military settlers who lived at Matawhero.

In all the circumstances it is difficult to believe that the raiders risked passing through a locality which (they would have learned at Patutahi) had been watched by the settlers. If they had been observed there, and a messenger had got to Matawhero ahead of them, the raid would, in large measure, have failed. The fresh in the river—vide Hoera Kapuaroa's evidence before the Poverty Bay Crown Grants Commission in 1869—would also have deterred them from attempting a crossing so high up. What is most likely is that they followed the old and more direct native track from Patutahi along the western side of the river down to the lower ford at Matawhero, which was much broader and, invariably, shallower. No Europeans resided along that route, and from that ford the track led right into the heart of the settlement.

A Surprise Attack

Probably only a small party of raiders was sent to Dodd and Peppard's home on Repongaere. What happened there is not difficult to reconstruct. Both partners, it would seem, were abed when they were disturbed, probably by the barking of their dogs. Scantily clad, they went outside to investigate and were shot down by rebels in hiding. Gudgeon (Defenders of New Zealand) says that Rathbone (their cook) made off towards Toanga, where he met Pera te Uatuku, who advised him to hasten, and then shot him in the back.

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Gladstone Road, Gisborne, in the 1890's.

Gladstone Road, Gisborne, in the 1890's.

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Punt on Turanganui River, Gisborne, 1877–86.

Punt on Turanganui River, Gisborne, 1877–86.

page 257

Charlie James (a 17-year-old lad in Major Biggs's employ) said (New Zealand Herald, 14/11/1868) that Biggs was awakened about 3 a.m. by a noise outside the house. Being under the impression that some of his scouts had returned, he went out and inquired: “Who is there?” A shot was fired at him, but he escaped back into the house with only a foot injury. He then called to his wife: “Emily, dear, the Hauhaus are here!” and advised her, the nurse (Jane Farrell) and himself to run for the scrub. The lad went to the front of the house, but found rebels there. Trying the back door, he encountered others. Watching his chance, he slipped beneath a grating which led from the back door to an outbuilding, and soon afterwards rushed into the scrub.

The rebels then forced their way into the house, dragged Biggs outside, and laid him upon the ground. One of the fiends beat his head in with the butt of a gun. Mrs. Biggs struggled to escape from her captors, pleading to be allowed to go to her husband. The nurse was holding the infant, and the lad heard her say that she would stay by her side and live or die with her. Mrs. Biggs, the nurse and child were then attacked and fell close to the spot where Biggs's body was lying. The lad made off to warn neighbours, and, as he passed in front of Captain Wilson's home, he heard the door being battered in and the noise of shooting. Flames afterwards broke out of the windows.

Some hours later; when Robert Atkins called at Biggs's home during his flight from Waerenga-a-Hika to Turanganui, it had not been harmed by fire. He tied his horse up to the fence and, upon making his way to the back door, saw the bodies lying in the yard. Biggs had had time to put on only his trousers, and the women were attired only in their nightdresses. Gudgeon (supra) erroneously says that the bodies of Biggs and his wife were never found. It was, he adds, supposed that they were burnt when the house was destroyed, “as a woman's hand was found among the ashes.” Quite apart from Atkins's and Garland's statements, it is, however, a fact that the bodies were recovered and reverently interred.

An account of the tragedy was given to the Christchurch Star and the Gisborne Times in December, 1928, by J. G. (Jimmy) Wilson (the only survivor of the Wilson family). He says that his parents and the infant slept downstairs and his sister (aged six years), brother (four years) and himself (eight years) upstairs. When the riders appeared, the dogs began to bark furiously and his father got up. There was a gentle knock at the back door. His father asked: “Who is there?” A native replied that he had an important message from Hirini te Kani (a page 258 friendly chief). Told to push it under the door, he said that he wished to speak to his father outside. His father pulled the blind aside and saw, in the dim light, many figures, and knew that the house was surrounded.

First of all, his father called to his manservant (John Moran) to come to him. Moran was a splendid old chap, widely known as “Jacky Pumpkin.” He slept in a whare about 50 yards from the house. If he had so desired, he might easily have escaped into the scrub. Instead, he watched his chance, and rushed to the house. As he was being admitted he was grasped by a rebel, who released him only when his father fired at him. His mother crept upstairs to reassure his sister, brother and himself.

Whilst his father, who held a revolver, stood near the back door, Moran, armed with a rifle, guarded the front entrance. The rebels broke down the back door, but dared not enter. From a distance they fired several volleys into the house. Then some of them crept under the building and set it on fire. His father went upstairs and brought him and the other children down. Soon all were being scorched. In the hope that they and their mother might be saved, his father led them on to the verandah. A native who had often received gifts of food from his mother said to her: “No further harm,” or words to that effect.

They were led away in the direction of Goldsmith's home. His mother carried Jessie (the infant); his sister Alice was on her left; he (Jimmy) was on her right; and his father was on his right. Moran, with Edwin on his back, was on his mother's left. His father took off his greatcoat, put it on him, and then lifted him on his back. They had not gone far when the procession was baited and the party was attacked. The first to fall was Moran, who was bayoneted. His father put him down and rushed to his mother's side; the children clung to their parents. In a soft voice his mother entreated him to escape. By moving sideways he contrived to slip into some scrub and made off. He did not witness the attack upon his parents and the other members of the family.

Saw Nothing Amiss

It is plain that some of the victims met their deaths before the firestick was applied to Captain Wilson's house. John McCulloch could not have seen anything to arouse his suspicions when he went out to get his cows. Surprised by some rebels, he fled towards his home. His wife observed that he was being chased by armed natives and tried to escape, taking with her their infant and also her brother (Sam Tarr, aged eleven years) and a seven-year-old niece (Mary McDonald). Young Tarr (New Zealand Herald, 14/11/1868) said that he ran ahead into some page 259 scrub and begged the others to hurry. A volley rang out and they fell. McCulloch was shot dead whilst he was getting over his stockyard rails. Also unaware of any danger, Maria Goldsmith went out with her young brother to get in their cows. She was shot dead from her horse, and her brother was also slain.

Among the residents who were indoors when the rebels arrived was John Cadle, the local partner in the storekeeping business of Cadle and Blair. A mounted native called out to him and waved what appeared to be a letter. As Cadle stepped out of his home he was shot through the head by one of several natives hiding in some flax bushes. A very amiable man, he had become engaged to be married only a few days earlier. His faithful retriever guarded his body till the burial party reached the spot eight days later.

No authentic details can be traced as to the circumstances in which Lieutenant Walsh, his wife, child and partner (Sergeant Padbury) were slain. Padbury had served as a guard at the Chatham Islands. Colonel Porter was told that the rebels found the door of their home open, walked in and tomahawked them. If the rebels entered Matawhero via the lower river crossing, it is probable that the Walshes and Padbury were their first victims.

The home nearest Gisborne to be attacked was that of Trooper Mann, who had a wife and child. It stood on a sledge amongst some flax close to the site of the present hotel at Makaraka. According to the Hawke's Bay Herald (17/11/1868) Mann, who was unarmed, had a severe struggle with Te Kooti and had nearly strangled the villain when he was shot by another rebel. Te Kooti's name does not appear in connection with any of the other slayings.

When Tom Goldsmith was passing Mann's house he saw some rebels tossing the infant's body up and catching it on their bayonets. As he moved towards them to interfere one of them caught hold of his bridle. He brought down his riding crop on the rebel's head and galloped off, being hotly pursued. It was fortunate for him that none of the rebels had a loaded weapon. As fugitive and pursuers passed through Makaraka they were observed by Mrs. Steele, who called out to her husband: “Look! There's Tom Goldsmith having a race with the Maoris!” Both shouted encouragement to him, not knowing that it was for him a race for life. A friendly native warned them and they fled before the rebels returned.

Good fortune favoured Mrs. James and her eight young children. She lived in a barn near C. G. Goldsmith's home. Her husband was on a carpentering job beyond Kaiteratahi. Aroused by the sounds of musketry, she fled with her family towards the page 260 Waipaoa River. En route they passed the bodies of Maria Goldsmith and her young brother. For more than a mile they crept along the riverbank till they reached a point where the scrub was denser. As they neared Turanganui, they were joined by Sam Tarr.

Mrs. Bloomfield and her family, together with her sister (Miss Steggall, who became Mrs. Hancock, of Auckland) and two guests (Minnie Parker and her infant brother John), were equally fortunate. On his way to warn his mother, Charlie James aroused the cowboy (Tom Finucane), who, in turn, warned the household. At that moment the rebels were operating not more than 20 chains away. The women threw only cloaks and shawls over their nightgowns, and, gathering up the children, made off towards Awapuni and thence along the beach to Turanganui.

Much praise was bestowed upon Minnie Parker, who assisted to carry her little brother over a great part of the perilous journey. When the party was about to leave she had the presence of mind to fill the infant's bottle and take it with her. As a tribute to Charlie James the citizens of Auckland raised a considerable sum, which they invested on his behalf. In turn, the residents of Napier subscribed freely towards the cost of a suitable gift for Minnie Parker. At first it was suggested that she should be awarded a medal for her bravery. Major Heaphy sent her a replica of his V.C. She died of fever on 20 April, 1875.

In the bustle at Mrs. Bloomfield's home prior to the departure of the inmates, Jim Garland, a bullock driver, who lived on the property, was overlooked. When he rose about 5 a.m., he was surprised to find no sign of activity about the homestead. Soon afterwards he saw some mounted natives leave Walsh's house and his suspicions were aroused. Proceeding over to Biggs's home, he saw the painful evidence of the tragedy that had been enacted there. Barefooted, he hurried on through Makaraka (which he found deserted) to Turanganui without being molested.

Two young men—Henry Tarr and Jack Smith—were living in a whare at Matawhero. At daylight Tarr rose and went out and caught a horse named Pu, which belonged to Captain Read. A rebel fired at him, but missed. Tarr, who had not had time to saddle up, jumped on the horse and put it to a fence, which it cleared, and he escaped through Makaraka. Smith did not come out of the whare and the rebels did not inspect it. Watching his chance, he slipped into some scrub and got away.

The Newnhams—“French Bob” and his wife and an adopted child—who lived near King's Road, were not slain until the following morning. In the belief that the rebels would not harm page 261 them, they had refused to leave their home. William Brown, a neighbour, saw the raiders leave their place, and escaped by crossing a muddy stream close to his own property.

The settlers at and around Tutoko (to the north of Matawhero) were saved by a friendly warning instigated by Hoera Kapuaroa. He resided at Patutahi, but, as he had agreed to embrace Hauhauism, Te Kooti had given him his liberty. Hoera told the Poverty Bay Crown Grants Commission (1869) that, early on the morning of the raid, he went down to the river ford near Patutahi. There he met Meri Taiapu, who told him that she also was anxious to warn the settlers. On account of the river being swollen Hoera could not cross it on his horse. Meri, therefore, swam over. She met Constable Firmin, who had heard shots in the direction of Matawhero and had risen to investigate. Although he understood but little of the native language, he gathered that Te Kooti and his band were attacking the settlers' homes at Matawhero.

The settlers who benefited from the warning were: Constable Firmin, his wife and family; Mr. and Mrs. Wyllie and family; Mr. and Mrs. Benson and child; Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson and child; J. Hawthorne and H. Strong. At first, Hawthorne and Strong were overlooked, but Benson went off and warned them. Strong had sent his native lad to Waerenga-a-Hika and, therefore, he was not able to join the other fugitives. When the lad returned he put him up behind him on his horse and they made a circuitous, but safe, journey into Turanganui.

Te Kooti Misled

When the main party from Tutoko reached the Toanga Redoubt it crossed over to the western side of the river. Tutere Konohi (or Kapai), who was lying ill at his kainga at “Waitaria,” advised Wyllie and his companions to fly in the direction of Muriwai. Later in the day Te Kooti and some followers slew Tutere and one of his children because he refused to indicate the route which the fugitives had taken. Te Kooti then threateningly turned to Miriama (Tutere's wife). She proved as faithful as Tutere, but, being more astute, misled him by pointing to another track. Tutere's act of devotion might well have been marked by the erection of a suitable memorial. Miriama, who was granted a pension by the Government, lived to a great age.

It was on account of the fact that shearing was to have commenced that morning on Dodd and Peppard's run that the Europeans on the Mission station property at Waerenga-a-Hika received a timely warning concerning the raid. Sergeant-Major Butters, who was staying with Mr. and Mrs. Atkins, went page 262 across to “Repongaere.” about daylight. Upon reaching the woolshed he sharpened his shears. Then, finding nobody astir, he strolled up to the house, where he discovered the bodies of both partners lying outside their door. In all haste he returned to Waerenga-a-Hika to give the alarm. Spence, another shearer, who had intended to go to “Pukepapa” to assist A. Kempthorne with his shearing, had not left.

On the Whataupoko run, shearing had been completed the day before and the shearers—W. W. Smith, Bob Parkhouse, Dan Munn, Charlie Smale and Peter Moran—had risen early to proceed to “Ruangarehu” to commence work at G. Scott's woolshed. Munn and Moran, who had slept in their own whare some distance away, were surprised to find nobody at W. Parker's home when they got there at 5.30 a.m. A friendly native told them that the rebels had returned. Being sceptical, Munn decided to investigate. According to his own story (Hawke's Bay Herald, 14/11/1868) he met, near Toanga, a rebel who was talking to a friendly native and a lad. The rebel fired and the bullet pierced his shoulder. Munn's horse wheeled round and set off back. A second shot missed. When Munn reached Makaraka, Eruera Brown (a half-caste) gave him a drink, relieved him of his carbine, revolver and sword, and escorted him into Turanganui.

The settlers to the north of Waerenga-a-Hika received news of the raid from Arthur Kempthorne. Writing to his father at Auckland (12/11/1868), he said that, at 7 a.m., he set off on a visit to Turanganui. At Taureka he saw a number of people running about in an excited manner; he thought that they were trying to catch a swarm of bees. A native who had just reached the settlement then ran over to him and said: “You can't go any farther. The Hauhaus have broken into the bay and are killing everybody they can lay their hands upon. You had better get into Turanganui as quickly as you can by going round at the foot of the hills.”

Kempthorne galloped back to “Pukepapa” and he and his native boy went off to G. Scott's place to warn the people there. Scott, three workmen—D. Matthew, L. Farrell and J. Alexander —and two native women linked up with them, and they all went on to “Ngakaroa,” where J. B. Poynter, C. Evans and two carpenters—W. King and J. James—joined the party. Harawera, an old Hauhau chief, who, for some time, had been living very quietly in the locality, advised them to take a track which would lead them over a range into Turanganui. McDonald (Kempthorne's shepherd) was found not far along the road. On ascending the range what first attracted their attention was page 263 Dodd and Peppard's home in flames. It was quite dark when they got over the range and they camped for the night. Turanganui was reached early next morning.

Escape to Mahia

News of the Massacre was speedily conveyed to the settlers who lived south of Matawhero. Tipuna (father of Lady Carroll) and Henare Turangi notified the Harris and Ferguson families at Opou and other loyal natives rushed to warn Captain Westrup, the Dunlops and their neighbours. Some of the settlers paused to secrete money and other valuables. Mrs. W. S. Greene took £20 with her, but lost it. An oak chest, with silver mountings, was buried by Finlay Ferguson in the old orchard at Opou. He was slain on 12 December, 1868, and the secret of the “plant” died with him. Robert Read hid a large sum before he fled, but, as he had a poor memory, he never succeeded in recovering it.

Charles Dunlop (born in 1858), whose parents' home was at Te Arai, told the writer that, when the warning was received, some of the family were still in bed. The settlers—to the number of about a score—assembled just below the site of the bridge which now spans the Te Arai River. Captain Westrup told them that he would make a stand there, and instructed them to begin to dig trenches. Towards noon he changed his mind and told everybody to make for Tamihana's pa at Oweta. By this time the fugitives from Tutoko had arrived. Soon afterwards Captain Alex. Campbell (who traded for John Hervey near the mouth of the Waipaoa River) also turned up. Whilst he had been watching his native neighbours planting kumaras, three mounted natives, who were recognised as rebels, had come into sight. He was hidden in the bottom of a boat under mats and other wrappings.

The natives at Muriwai told the fugitives that they were not in sufficient strength to protect them, and advised them to go on to Mahia. It was arranged that Captain Campbell should take the women and children by boat to “Happy Jack's Landing,” and that Captain Westrup should proceed overland with the men. As the natives declined, upon various pretexts, to place a boat at the disposal of the party, J. W. Johnson sent for his whaleboat and for additional horses. Captain Campbell, who left at 2 p.m., took with him Mrs. Dunlop and her six children, Mrs. Firmin and three children, Mrs. Stevenson and child, and Mrs. Wyllie and family. Constable Firmin was one of the few men whom he called upon to assist in manning the boat. This party reached “Happy Jack's” at 6 p.m. in a famished state. “Happy Jack” (John Greening) at once set to work to regale them with fried page 264 fish and potatoes. As soon as he had cooked one panful he put on another. There was plenty of food for everybody.

The party which went overland took the Whareongaonga track. It was guided by Pimia Aata and comprised: Captain Westrup, Mrs. W. S. Greene, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Harris and child, Miss Isabella Ferguson (Mrs. J. Breingan), Robert Read, Mr. and Mrs. A. F. Hardy and child, Captain Harris and J. E. Bidgood, Wm. Greene, jun., James Dunlop, John, Finlay and Dugald Ferguson, J. W. Johnson, H. Elston, S. Stevenson, James Wyllie, J. Hawthorne and W. Benson. Among the friendly natives who accompanied the party was “Old Sue,” who proved an invaluable help to the women and children.

During the afternoon, the Eagle (Captain Loverock) reached Poverty Bay from Napier under charter to W. S. Greene, who was on board. Prior to sailing for Mahia to search for his wife and son, Greene picked up his sister-in-law (Mrs. F. G. Skipworth), her son, three members of his own family (who had been staying with her at Makaraka), Tom Goldsmith, his wife and child, T. Connor, Alex. Blair and Mrs. Byrne and her five children. The Eagle anchored off “Happy Jack's Landing.” It was decided to send a mounted party with refreshments to meet the fugitives who were en route overland. As the natives asked an exorbitant sum for the use of their horses. Greene went over to Walker's homestead and procured others. The fugitives were met not far from the end of their journey. Captain Read sent the Rover over to Mahia, and that vessel and the Eagle took the refugees on to Napier.

Hanged for Treason

Hamiora Pere, one of the Te Kooti rebels in Poverty Bay, was required to stand his trial for high treason at Wellington in September, 1869. He was captured after the fall of Ngatapa. The chief witness for the Crown was Maata te Owai, who said that she was married at the Chatham Islands to Te Kooti, who had seduced her. She testified that Pere was one of the band which had participated in the Poverty Bay Massacre. He had been a prisoner at the Chatham Islands. It was urged in Pere's defence that the rebels were savages who felt that they had a right to repel a foreign foe which had entered into the occupation of their country. Pere said that, in order to save his own life, he had had to stay with Te Kooti after they had returned from exile.

Following a retirement of only 15 minutes, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty. Mr. Justice Johnston, upon sentencing Pere to death, congratulated him upon the fact that the practice page 265 of drawing and quartering after hanging had been abolished. Sobbing bitterly, Pere had to be assisted to ascend the scaffold on 16 November, 1869. Huskily he attempted to utter a few words. All traces of nervousness then left him. Standing up erect, he repeated, in a loud, clear voice, the prayers that were being said on his behalf.


A widespread belief that some of the settlers took refuge in the church at Matawhero is without foundation.

Apart from Robert Atkins, the only Europeans who are known to have passed through Matawhero within a few hours of the tragedy were Harry Elston and Miss Jeanette Dunlop, who made a journey from Turanganui to Te Arai in a dray late on the previous evening.

John Maynard, who went over to Mahia in the Rover on the day of the Massacre, returned on horseback to Turanganui in the evening. There were then only 17 Europeans at Wilson's Redoubt. It was only by chance that he had been absent from Matawhero on the morning of the tragedy. He had had to go into Turanganui on the previous evening to discuss business matters with Captain Read, and his host had pressed him to stay overnight.


Robert Atkins (born at Howick, near Auckland, in 1848) served in the Waikato Militia before he settled in Poverty Bay in 1866. For some years he followed the occupation of a stockman. In 1880 he acquired “Willow Grove,” at Patutahi.

Samuel Stevenson (born at Wainsborough, England, in 1844) migrated to New Zealand in 1864. He spent some time on the West Coast (South Island) diggings, and, in 1866, came to Gisborne as a gardener for Captain Bloomfield. He had a farm above Toanga at the time of the Massacre. In 1870 he opened a livery stables in Gisborne, and, later, engaged in hotelkeeping. He was a member of Gisborne's first borough council. His death occurred on 4 September, 1898.

John Trimmer left Poverty Bay in charge of the schooner Success early on the morning of the Massacre, but returned when he learned of the tragedy. In 1873 he built the schooner Advance at Tolaga Bay. He obtained the first lease of Tawhiti No. 2 in 1877. Subsequently he kept an hotel at Tolaga Bay, and was, later, a timber merchant at Gisborne. He died on 14 February, 1897.