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

Massacre at Mohaka

Massacre at Mohaka

A thrill of horror spread through the East Coast districts when it was learned that Te Kooti and his band had crept down from Ruatahuna, slipped past a force of Ngati-Pahauwera stationed, under Ihaka Whaanga, close to Lake Waikaremoana, and on Saturday, 10 April, 1869, had swooped down upon Mohaka, a small settlement 20 miles south of Wairoa. On the north side of the river there were two pas—the main one, Hiruharama (Jerusalem) on a terrace, and Te Huiku, a small one, on the edge of a cliff. Captain John Sim's hotel and the homes of the Lavins, Coopers and Riddlers stood on the southern side. Most of the male natives were away with Ihaka Whaanga's force. The raiders slew some of the Europeans and natives at, or near, their homes. They then ransacked the hotel, store and houses. As the defences of the smaller pa were very weak they broke into it. A few of the inmates got away by scaling a wall at the rear. Those who were captured were butchered. The pa was set on fire. Steps were then taken to invest the main pa, but it was nobly defended by some old men, supported by the women.

News of the raid reached Wairoa a few hours after it had begun. Captain Spiller at once assembled a relief force, but Major Withers, who hurriedly returned from Frasertown, cancelled the order that it should march to Mohaka, because he feared that it might be required for the defence of Wairoa. Next day, Ihaka Whaanga's force arrived and proceeded cautiously towards the stricken settlement. It was followed by a small Wairoa contingent. The tragedy became known at Napier on the Sunday and, next day, a relief force, consisting of both foot and mounted troops, was despatched. During Tuesday's march the infantry were halted and the cavalry went on alone under Major Richardson. Meantime, Ihaka Whaanga's force had relieved the main pa. Trooper Rowley (George) Hill's bravery in entering the pa ahead of the friendlies and aiding in its defence earned for him the New Zealand Cross.

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The chief pakeha victims were the members of the Lavin family. When the three children were attacked they were sailing a toy boat in a shallow backwash of the river close to their home. A few yards from the spot searchers came across the body of a four-year-old boy. Just a little nearer to the house lay the body of the six-year-old lad. The body of the eldest boy, who was about eight years old, was found still closer to the home. His hand still clutched the little boat. In a patch of scrub on the hillside lay the bodies of the parents. Lavin had his arm around his wife; he had emptied his revolver. How they had come by their deaths could be only a matter for conjecture. An elderly man in their employ was found slain near the cowbail. Even the cow and a chained-up dog had been killed. Mr. Cooper and between 40 and 50 natives were also slain.