Title: Octavius Hadfield

Author: Barbara Macmorran

Publication details: 1969, Wellington

Digital publication kindly authorised by: G. H. Macmorran

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Octavius Hadfield


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The beach at Paihia had no jetty. Behind it were scattered the Mission houses, each neatly enclosed by a paling fence. Outside this cultivated strip were clumps of cabbage trees and manuka, reaching up to the hills in the background. At each end of the beach were cliffs covered with pohutukawa trees, crimson with blossom in this month of December.

Across the bay in the distance was Kororareka (Russell), port of call for whaling ships and roving sailormen of the southern seas. Whalers, and sealers also, had been operating in various parts of New Zealand for many years now, and there were a great number of traders plying between Australia and New Zealand, taking cheap loads of timber and flax from this still so new and commercially naive country. A thriving trade was also being carried on in Maori heads, heads which were carefully embalmed and smoked by the people. It had been a common practice of the Maori thus to preserve the heads of those dear to them, but now with the European demand the practice had become business. Sometimes the head of the very European gone to buy these gruesome objects would appear on the market, a grim reminder of the still inherent savagery of these people.

Many of the men from these ships had antagonised the Maori and made the task of missionaries and settlers all the more precarious and difficult. But they had taught some good as well, and had broken the ground for the sowing of civilisation which was to change so completely the life of the Maori. It was on a beach on the north shore of the bay, Rangihoua, that Samuel Marsden, on Christmas Day in 1814, had preached the first Christian service in New Zealand.

So began Octavius Hadfield's long life in New Zealand. Henry Williams was away when the Pelorus arrived at Paihia, visiting Waiapu and Turanga—the latter was later to become Gisborne—to establish six Maoris as native teachers in these places. But Marianne Williams was there with others of the station, and further inland at Waimate were William Williams and his wife, Jane, who had estab- page 11 lished a settlement and a school for the sons of the missionaries. All of Marianne and Henry's eleven children were born when Hadfield arrived in 1838, the eldest being twenty and the youngest eighteen months. It was the eighth child, Catherine, aged seven, who was eventually to become his wife.

Hadfield was ordained a priest by Bishop Broughton on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1839, at Paihia. He was the first priest ordained in New Zealand, as he had been the first deacon ordained in New Zealand or Australia, and in the future was to be the first bishop consecrated without letters patent from the crown. His first post was teaching the sons of the missionaries in the school at Waimate. This was not the work he had hoped to do, and in letters home he deplored the worldly mindedness of some of the missionaries, and expressed his desire to go somewhere by himself to work. He did study the Maori language a little with William Williams, with whom he lived, but working in English all day with the boys his progress was much slower than he would have wished. Williams, aided by another missionary, Robert Maunsell, had for some years been translating the Bible into Maori. In 1830 the Rev. W. Yate brought a small printing press from Sydney, and a few years later William Colenso arrived from England with a press and type with which, after much hard work and often makeshift apparatus, he had printed the whole of the New Testament in Maori by 1837.

Hadfield taught at the Mission school for almost a year. Many years later one of his pupils, a son of Henry Williams, wrote of him at this time—"I was much struck with his youthful and delicate appearance, he was then twenty-four years of age. He was appointed to take charge of the Mission School at Waimate North, where were about thirty boys, sons of missionaries, my brother and I being of the number. The boys had been under the instruction of my uncle, the Rev. W. Williams, afterwards Bishop of Waiapu, who was a much older and more robust man than Mr. Hadfield, and a strict disciplinarian. When the boys saw this frail young man coming to teach them, they thought they could take liberties, but soon found their mistake. I myself was one of the first to fall in. I was then a lad of fourteen, and for what I considered a trivial offence, was ordered to learn the first book of Homer by heart in Greek. I committed about fourteen lines to memory, and was then let off the rest. . . . Although Mr. Hadfield was so frail and delicate, he page 12 was a brave man, and bold as a lion, and respected accordingly by the boys."

The writer, H. Williams, was not correct in saying Hadfield was in charge of the school. In Hadfield's own letters written at the time he stated that he took the school three days of the week and William Williams the other three. Williams continued—"Mr. Hadfield remained in charge of the school until the arrival of Tamihana Te Rauparaha and Matene Te Whiwhi, son and nephew of Te Rauparaha, who had come at the hazard of their lives from Te Rauparaha at Otaki to Paihia, Bay of Islands, to request that a missionary might be sent to establish a mission station amongst themselves at Otaki. There being a difficulty as to who could be spared, Mr. Hadfield offered to go himself. My father was very much struck with his brave offer, and remarked, how was it possible for him to think of going in his delicate state of health: he replied that he could only die once, and would just as soon die in a Maori pa as in a missionary's house."

That was how Octavius Hadfield came to leave the Bay of Islands for an area of the country in which he would spend the rest of his life, sixty-five years. And certainly when he left his health was so poor that very few people expected him to live more than one or two years, let alone sixty-five.

The decision made to go south, the ensuing weeks before departure were taken up with preparations. "Necessaries" for his intended house-keeping had to be procured, which proved a difficult task. He visited Kerikeri to buy stores; he visited Pakaraka and Koro-rareka, at the latter place dining with James Busby. He took on board the Columbine, the mission vessel on which they were to sail, materials "for a future dwelling house." Two horses for his use in the south were sent to Kapiti by another ship, the Atlas.

It was imperative now that he should attempt to master the Maori language as quickly as possible, and he spent most days studying it for a time. He also talked with anyone who could give him information on the area called Kapiti, whither he was bound. And he did learn something of the district, for in a letter home he writes of his impending move—"I shall take one or two Christian Maoris for teachers. I must give you some further idea of the place I am going to. It is about 200 miles further to the south than any of our missionaries have yet been; the name of the place is Kapiti, just by Entry Island in Cook Straits, about 50 miles from the extreme page 13 southern part of the island, and about 150 from Cape Egmont or Taranaki; the distance from the opposite island is about 17 miles. From all accounts there are about 8,000 Maoris in the immediate neighbourhood and large parties of Maoris all along the coast to Cape Egmont where there are about 4,000. There are also about 600 English and Americans in the neighbourhood of Kapiti and many on the southern island within a range of 30 or 40 miles, dwelling in Cloudy Bay and Banks Peninsula. All these I must endeavour occasionally to visit. It is in every respect as important a place as a minister of Christ can be placed in. I should have preferred a more confined sphere of duty, and one more entirely among Maoris, but as I have made it a matter of much prayer, of fervent prayer, of believing prayer that I might be directed by the Lord, I must cheerfully enter upon that path which he has opened to me. You may easily imagine from the outline that I have given that I shall have abundance of employment. My health is not so good as when I left England, but I trust that when I get into my work and have plenty of exercise that it will improve." Entry Island referred to here by Hadfield was so named by Captain Cook. It is now known as Kapiti Island and is a bird sanctuary.

On October 6, Hadfield's twenty-fifth birthday, he records in his diary that he administered Communion for the first time by himself. The Columbine sailed in the evening of October 21, and besides Henry Williams and Hadfield there were on board Mr. Wilson, Mr. Clarke and Mr. Stack, and some Maori teachers and their wives.

At the time Hadfield was waiting at Paihia to sail south William Williams and his family were also there preparatory to leaving for Turanga (Gisborne) to live. In April of that year Hadfield had written in a letter home discussing the need for missionaries at Tauranga and Poverty Bay—"All here are unwilling to go except the two Mr. Williams, both of whom must be detained here necessarily. It is out of the question my having the school myself, and is not contemplated, and therefore Mr. W. W. cannot possibly go."

But the Rev. Richard Taylor arrived from Sydney in March and proved a success in the Waimate school, leaving William Williams free to move to Poverty Bay. Henry Williams in his journal on October 4, 1839, wrote—"My brother arrived at my house with his family by 10 p.m. to remain till he embarked for the East Cape, making with Mr. Taylor's party 34 Europeans in our family, includ- page 14 ing the boarders in the English girls school." Very probably Octavius Hadfield was one of this number, although neither he nor Henry Williams mention where he was staying in their journals.

The journey south in the Columbine was fairly uneventful, though no joy to Hadfield as he was unwell almost the entire time. Henry Williams accompanied him to see him settled into the new post. They anchored in Tauranga harbour on the 23rd of October and stayed there eight days. Excerpts from Hadfield's diary say— "Much prefer the Christian simplicity of proceedings here to those in the northern stations. . . . There is a body of about 1,000 Maoris in this neighbourhood who are set on mischief. . . . Had intended accompanying the Rev. H. Williams and Brown and Mr. Clarke to Maketu where they are gone to endeavour to make peace between the Waikato and Rotorua Maoris, but did not feel well enough. . . . I am gaining information respecting my work. . . . Have been engaged almost all day in preparing prescriptions for medicines."

The Mr. George Clarke on board the Columbine was the father of George Clarke junior who, in 1842 at the very tender age of 19 was appointed Protector of the Maoris, a sort of liaison job between the Maoris, the Courts and the New Zealand Company. Clarke senior had arrived in the Bay of Islands from Tasmania, accompanied by his wife and baby son, in 1824. The family had made their home at Kerikeri, in the oldest European house still standing in New Zealand, built for the Rev. John Butler in 1822 and owned since 1832 by the Kemp family. Writing of his childhood in "Notes on Early Life in New Zealand" in 1893, George Clarke junior described Kerikeri—"It is a circle of low, bare hills, surrounding a beautiful little basin of water, in which a river, some forty yards wide, pours over a ledge of rock in a fall of eight or nine feet into the tidal water. The house stood by the water-side, a few yards from the fall, and stands there still. ... It is built of heart of Kauri. . . . Just at the entrance, on the side of the basin opposite to our house, was Hongi's famous pah Kororipo, surrounded on three sides by water, and guarded on the land side by long stretches of mangrove swamp that no enemy could cross."

Continuing on the journey Hadfield landed at Motu, some miles beyond Opotiki, on November 1, where they left two Christian Maoris and their wives who had been on board the ship. The following day he landed again near Hicks Bay, and here Mr. Clarke and Mr. Stack, both missionaries, were left, and some ballast and page 15 fire-wood procured. Writing in his journal on the 4th Henry Williams noted—"In the afternoon passed Turanga where my brother is about to reside."

William Williams in fact did not arrive in Turanga until mid January. He had reached Tauranga on his journey by ship as Henry approached it at the end of his long walk through the island from Waikanae on his return from the south. On January 9, 1840, on the last day's march from Rotorua to Tauranga, Henry Williams wrote—"While pushing my way through the wet bush I came suddenly upon my brother!! who had arrived at Tauranga three days ago and had set off this morning to meet me, my note having been received last evening. This was a most unexpected pleasure as I had concluded that he with his family and my third son must have proceeded to his station, never anticipating it possible that he would put into Tauranga." There must have been a lot to talk about that night.

The evening of the 4th November after passing Turanga they were off the Mahia Peninsula and sailed close by a rock a few feet under water. "Dangerous," Henry Williams commented in his diary. "Escaped by preserving care of an Almighty Hand." Hadfield attempted to chart it, and "felt thankful to the Lord for guiding me safely through these unsurveyed seas."

The Columbine anchored in Port Nicholson, later to be known as Wellington, on November 7, seventeen days after leaving the Bay of Islands, and after almost missing the narrow entrance into the harbour. Henry Williams wrote—"Went under easy sail and were soon in a most splendid harbour called by the Maoris Poneke, quite a different place to what is laid down by Cook. We came to anchor in a perfectly sheltered place where is room for all the fleets of England."

Some Maori canoes came out to the ship with the news that the Tory had recently been there, buying land for the New Zealand Company, and was now bound for Kapiti. After two days the Columbine also set sail for Kapiti, but the northerly winds in Cook Strait were so strong that the ship could make no headway and worked over to Cloudy Bay in the South Island instead. Here the party went ashore and met the local Maoris, and also a group of Portuguese and English working in a whaling establishment. They attempted to make contact with the Tory which they discovered was back in The Sounds from Kapiti, but found she had just sailed page 16 for Taranaki. Three days later, with the winds still high, they re-crossed the Strait to Wellington, and from there Williams and Hadfield walked overland to Waikanae, taking four days for the journey.

Two of these days were spent on the coast opposite Mana Island, and here they were taken by canoe to the island to see Te Rangihaeata, nephew of Te Rauparaha. Tall and striking in appearance, Te Rangihaeata was always to remain untamed. He would have no part of the Gospel or the teaching of the missionary, although at the time of this first visit of Williams and Hadfield in November, 1839, the people of his pa were holding services, inspired by the spread of Christianity from the north. The journey to Mana Island was a little hazardous. "We were nearly 100 in the canoe and I was somewhat fearful of consequences," Williams wrote. There were sheep and cattle on the island, plus two horses and several Europeans.

Arriving at Waikanae on the evening of November 18 they were welcomed by a crowd of about 1,000 people, with whom they held a short service before sunset. "We sang two hymns, the tunes of which were purely Maori, quite original," Williams wrote. Walking along the beach they had seen the Tory under way near Kapiti; the ship had been becalmed after returning from a second visit to the Marlborough Sounds, and was about to continue sailing north up the coast. So the two on the beach, having missed the Wakefields by five weeks at Port Nicholson and by a few hours at the Sounds, now missed them again by only a mile or two of water. They discovered however that Colonel William Wakefield and his men had been busy in the area attempting to buy land from the various tribes.

Captain Mayhew, an American who had a whaling station on a small island near Kapiti, and who was also well known in the Bay of Islands, had arrived in the Atlas before them, bringing welcome mail from the Bay. He also had on board Hadfield's two horses which a few days later were embarked in a large canoe at Kapiti and taken over to the mainland, followed by the two missionaries in the small boat the Atlas had brought for Hadfield's use.

The day following their arrival Williams and Hadfield were taken over to the small island beside Kapiti where Te Rauparaha lived. This was the home and stronghold of the chief of the Ngatitoa tribe, who some twenty years before had migrated south with his people from Kawhia. Henry Williams wrote of this first meeting— page 17 "He had none of the savage appearance of so celebrated and bloody a warrior and was a very intelligent man. He received us very graciously and entered fully into conversation upon politics and upon the necessity of laying aside his sad evil ways."

Octavius Hadfield in his diary wrote—"He was sitting in state ready to receive us. He certainly looked more like a chief than any man I have yet seen. He listened very attentively to what was said and appeared much interested in the Gospel message. He has been one of the most bloodthirsty men in the land."

Te Rauparaha had come from Kawhia, where his mother had belonged to the Ngatiraukawa tribe and his father to the Ngatitoa. As a young man he had fought in many battles against the Maoris of Waikato. Eventually he had joined some others in a raid on the southern tribes, and seeing Kapiti for the first time had been impressed with its excellent situation as a home and fortress. He had also realised that whalers were setting up bases on Kapiti and other parts of Cook Strait, and the whalers and traders and their ships were the source of the wonderful fire-arms some of the Maoris in die north had been using in their wars of late, with such devastating effect.

Returning to Kawhia Rauparaha had persuaded the Ngatitoa to abandon their ancestral possessions and to migrate to the south. The persuading had taken time and patience, but finally the people had left their lands and followed him on the long, slow journey south. Many fierce battles had been fought on the way, and a visit had been made to Taupo where Rauparaha had used high-powered persuasive tactics to try and induce his kinsfolk there to join him. Te Heuheu and his people had not been enthusiastic, but eventually the Ngatitoa had pushed right down the North Island and established themselves on Kapiti and on the coast, and later, through alliances and masterly diplomacy, Rauparaha had persuaded a section of the Ngatiraukawa to settle in the vicinity, thus strengthening his hand.

There were several tribes in the district when Te Rauparaha arrived; the Muaupoko, the Rangitane, the Ngatiapa. They were mostly either destroyed or driven away by his forces. Those that were allowed to remain were not much better than slaves. It was the Muaupoko tribe who killed several of Rauparaha's children one night, and would have killed him if he hadn't escaped. He had thought they were making friendly overtures and had gone to spend page 18 a night in their pa, only to find that he had been deceived. It wasn't often that Te Rauparaha was on the receiving end of treachery and he never forgave the Muaupoko for that act.

Not content with his conquests at Kapiti he had then crossed Cook Strait, plundering and fighting as he had further north, and had eventually taken possession of a territory called the Wairau, south of Queen Charlotte Sound. From there he had pushed down the east coast of the South Island and at Akaroa, with the connivance of a British sea captain, had hidden himself and his men aboard this ship and in an episode reminiscent of the Trojan Horse had perpetrated a ghastly massacre on the people of this lovely place. The following year he had attacked Kaiapoi in revenge for an old insult.

After this, although there were several attempts to attack his island fortress, Rauparaha, aided by his nephew Rangihaeata, had reigned supreme on the coast until the coming of the missionaries with their new ways and laws, heralding in a changed age. Many years later Hadfield wrote again of this first meeting, in an article in his small booklet "Maoris of By-Gone Days." "I first met Te Rauparaha in 1839. He was then living on a small island within a few fathoms of Kapiti. It seemed strange to see a man who had recently instigated the Ngatiraukawa tribe to attack the Ngatiawa tribe who were at Waikanae about five miles distant from him, living securely with his wife and a few slaves without any fear of being molested. His mana was a sufficient protection. To have injured him would have been to involve the whole of the Maoris on both sides of Cook Strait in war. He was at that time about seventy-five years of age. He was rather below the average height, but strong and active; he had an aquiline nose and rather small eyes. His features plainly indicated intelligence and strength of will, cunning and cruelty, though I subsequently learnt that his cruelty only exhibited itself when serious obstacles stood in his way."

Jerningham Wakefield, who met Te Rauparaha five weeks before Henry Williams and Octavius Hadfield, described him in "Adventure in New Zealand." "His features are aquiline and striking; but an overhanging lip, and a retreating forehead, on which his eyebrows wrinkled back when he lifted his deep-sunken eyelids and penetrating eyes, produced a fatal effect on the good prestige arising from his first appearance. The great chieftain, the man able to lead others, and habituated to wield authority, was page 19 clear at first sight; but the savage ferocity of the tiger, who would not scruple to use any means for the attainment of that power, the destructive ambition of a selfish despot, was plainly discernible on a nearer view."

Te Rauparaha's hooded eyes were remarked on more than once by the people who knew him, and gave rise to a saying—"Ko te uri o Kapu manawa witi. No-one knew his thoughts, whether they were for good or evil."

Five weeks before Williams and Hadfield arrived, in fact on the morning of October 16, 1839, the day the Tory reached Kapiti for the first time, there had been a battle at Waikanae, and they were shown over the battleground. There were three major tribes living along the coast at this time, the Ngatitoa under Te Rau-paraha, who inhabited Mana Island, Porirua and Kapiti; the Nga-tiraukawa under Te Whatanui, who lived at Otaki and were allied to Te Rauparaha through his mother having been of that tribe— they had been persuaded by Te Rauparaha into leaving their ancestral lands around Kawhia and Taupo and following him down to Kapiti. The third tribe, the Ngatiawa, lived at Waikanae under the leadership of Te Reretawhangawhanga, who largely exerted his authority through his son, Te Rangitake. This tribe also controlled the land around Wellington—they had originally migrated down from Taranaki, and still owned land there.

The recent fight, said to have been incited by Te Rauparaha, had been between the Ngatiraukawa and Ngatiawa, and feelings had still been simmering when the two missionaries arrived. The Tory arrived practically as the battle was ending, and Wakefield reported that many of the whalers from Kapiti watched from their boats outside the surf, as did Rauparaha himself for most of die time. Wakefield also recorded in "Adventure in New Zealand" that the Tory sent ashore her three doctors to attend to the wounded. "Our surgeons were all three hard at work for some hours extracting bullets, binding up wounds, and setting" broken limbs. We found the wounds bound up by the Maoris generally with the leaf of the flax, and bark splints on the broken limbs. The patients bore pain with the most perfect stoicism."

This then was Octavius Hadfield's introduction to Waikanae, and to the people with whom he was to live and work. In his diary, the only surviving part of which covers these few weeks, he recorded almost daily illness. He also recorded his faith in God and his willingness to labour as best he could.