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Through Ninety Years

“The Exodus from Waerenga-a-hika, 1865

“The Exodus from Waerenga-a-hika, 1865.

“The declaration of war by the Government at Waitara in 1860 excited strong patriotic feeling among the Maoris generally, even among those who did not afterwards take up arms against the Government. Some of the Ngatiporou from the neighbourhood of the East Cape went to the support of the Waikato tribes in 1863, though they were too late to take part in the engagement at Rangiriri. In the same year emissaries from Waikato came to Poverty Bay, and were received with much sympathy, though the people of the district at that time showed no disposition to take sides in the struggle. By the end of 1864 a notion had been very widely spread among the Maoris that they had been deceived by the Missionaries, who, it was said, had come to New Zealand under false pretences, not to benefit the people, but simply to pave the way for the British nation to come and take forcible possession of their lands.

“When the notorious Patara came from Taranaki with a large party of Hauhaus in 1865 through Taupo to the Bay of Plenty, news was brought to Waerenga–a–hika on March 1st that Mr. Grace's house at Taupo, and Mr. Volkner's house at Opotiki had both been plundered by the Hauhaus. Four days later a man came through from Opotiki with the news that Mr. Volkner had been cruelly murdered on March 2nd, that Mr. Grace was a prisoner in the hands of the Hauhaus at Opotiki, and that Patara and his party were coming through to Poverty Bay for the express purpose of putting to death all clergymen, and of driving all other Pakehas out of the country. On the receipt of this report people from all parts of the District assured us that we need not fear, as they would allow no one to do us any harm, and that they would send Patara and his following back again immediately by the way by which they had come.

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“On March 12th it was announced that the Hauhaus were already in the district, and a large number of our local people came at once to Waerenga–a–hika with arms in their hands, to stand by us in case of need. On the following day H.M.S. Eclipse, Capt. Fremantle, arrived bringing Bishop Selwyn as passenger. Capt. Fremantle and the Bishop came up at once to Waerenga–a–hika to ascertain the position of matters. As Mr. Grace was still at Opotiki, the possibility of effecting his rescue was discussed with the result that two chiefs of this district left by the Eclipse, to go to Tauranga, if necessary, to get the assistance of Hori Tupaea in procuring the release of Mr. Grace.

“While Capt. Fremantle and Bishop Selwyn were at Waerenga–a–hika it was announced that Patara and his party had arrived at Taureka, about four miles distant. They were met there on the following day by a number of the influential people of the District, but the strangers were not bidden to return to Opotiki.

“On the 20th another party of Hauhaus arrived at Manutuke, about eight miles from Waerenga–a–hika. This party had come by way of Waikare–moana, and included a number of Waikato people. On the 22nd the two parties met at Patutahi, where, after some preliminary speechifying, they began a great ‘tangi,’ which was announced to be ‘for the people who were reduced to destitution, and for the island already half lost.’ This ‘Tangi’ wrought with powerful effect upon the feelings of the people, and from this time it became evident that the Hauhaus, chiefly through Patara's plausible speeches, were rapidly gaining ground, especially among our nearest neighbours. On the 25th people began openly to join them, and the position was fast becoming critical. Most of the rank and file of those who joined them were hypnotized by a peculiar process, and were therefore completely under the control of the Hauhau leaders, and ready to carry out without hesitation any orders that might be issued to them. Another disquieting element in the position was that several of the most influential men who, at the first, protested so loudly that they could page 201 give no countenance to the murderers of Mr. Volkner. were now either wavering, or openly showing sympathy with the Hauhaus.

“On April 2nd there were rumours in circulation that some serious mischief was in contemplation, and during the following night our staunch friends among the Maoris kept guard round our premises, each having armed himself with something that might serve as a weapon, no fire–arms being procurable.

“The uncertainty of the possibility of frustrating any evil designs which the Hauhau leaders might be harbouring seemed to indicate that it would be well that all who were likely to be obnoxious to Patara and Kereopa should be got out of the way as soon as possible. The Government steamer St. Kilda was then at anchor in the bay, and therefore the Bishop, the Rev. E. B. Clarke, with the various members of our families, to the number of sixteen persons, took passage by her to Napier on April 3rd.

“Several southern chiefs from Wellington, Otaki and Napier including Ti Tako, Matene Te Whiwhi and Wirihana Toatoa, accompanied by the Rev. S. Williams, had arrived on March 31st, their object being to urge the people not to allow themselves to be beguiled by the sophistries of Patara. I remained with them and accompanied them to several of the settlements in which Patara had been especially successful. The urgent appeals of the visitors had little effect upon the new recruits to Hauhauism, but it was probably owing to their presence that Kereopa left the district on April 13th and Patara on the 17th.

“The position was greatly improved by the departure of Patara and Kereopa, and I decided to stay on with the view of keeping our pupils together as far as possible, until the best course to be pursued should be more clearly indicated. There was plenty of important work to be done on the farm, which would serve to keep the young men employed. We had hoped that the people who had been so grievously led astray by Patara might be brought to see that the course to which they were com- page 202 mitting themselves could, if persisted in, end only in disaster, and therefore that it might be possible for the Bishop and all the staff to return before long and resume work at Waerenga–a–hika which had been so sadly interrupted. It soon however became evident that any early resumption of the work in the old place was not to be looked for, and Sir George Grey kindly offered to accommodate our schools at Te Kawau in vacant buildings which he had there; but as the old Mission Station of Paihia in the Bay of Islands seemed to be a more suitable place, they were sent there towards the end of August, the Bishop and the Rev. E. B. Clarke being there ready to receive them. I had accommodation at Turanganui, where I remained to give all the support I could to those who maintained their Christian profession.

“Events on the coast had not tended to improve matters in Poverty Bay. Patara had visited the disaffected people in the Waiapu district in June, but those who were friendly to the Pakeha could not tolerate the presence in the District of the man who was responsible for the murder of the Rev. C. S. Volkner, and took up arms at once to drive him out. The friendly Natives were afterwards assisted by Colonial troops and fighting continued there for four months. Henare Potae also and his people were at war with the Hauhaus at Tokomaru, and, as a result, about 200 of the latter, having been defeated in their own district, came and occupied the pa at Waerenga–a–hika.”

Bishop Williams's son–in–law, Mr. Henry Williams Junior, who lived at Bay of Islands, heard of the tragic events at Opotiki, and being anxious for the safety of the Bishop and his family, took passage by the S.S. Ladybird and arrived at Waerenga–a–hika on March 16th. Rev. Samuel Williams also came the same day, and next day went on to Napier, taking Miss Carter and his children.

During the next fortnight Mr. Henry Williams took part in the various meetings and discussions with the Natives, and the final decision to leave, after which he page 203 ably assisted in the hurried packing and despatch of such effects as could be got away.

On March 27th news was received with thankfulness that Mr. Grace had been able to escape from Opotiki in a small vessel which had called there.

On March 31st Rev. Samuel Williams arrived again with Wi Tako and several Hawke's Bay chiefs and joined in the discussions with the local natives and the Paimarires or Hauhaus.

The writer can recollect that prior to the exodus on April 3rd, 1865, the Bishop's and Archdeacon Williams's families and Rev. E. B. and Mrs. Clarke all slept for several nights at Bishop Williams's house, which was closely guarded by some natives who could be trusted, and that on the last night most of the adults spent their time completing the final packing, and making preparation for leaving next morning. After the midday meal on April 3rd Miss Maria Williams, who was still somewhat of an invalid, and the children were sent off on a sledge drawn by a team of bullocks, followed by the rest of the party on horseback to Turanganui (now the site of Gisborne) some 9 miles off, whence they were sent off in boats to the S.S. St. Kilda for passage to Napier and slept the night on deck. Archdeacon Williams and Mr. Henry Williams and Rev. S. Williams remained behind. The St. Kilda towed to Napier a large boat with another party of refugees.

On arrival next morning the party received hospitality from several members of the community at Napier, from which three days later they embarked on the S.S. Ladybird for Auckland.

On April 8th they called at Poverty Bay and picked up Mr. Henry Williams who conducted them to Auckland and Bay of Islands.

After the exodus Archdeacon W. L. Williams still occupied the Waerenga–a–hika premises with the School natives, and with the assistance of Mr. H. Williams, until he left on April 8th and Rev. Samuel Williams, who remained a fortnight longer, continued packing more of page 204 their household effects, which as they were ready were sent off from time to time to Turanganui for shipment.

Archdeacon Williams supervised and kept the School Natives employed at their usual duties, and also directed the farm work of the establishment, which was kept on with the object of keeping the School together as long as possible, and securing their crops of food supplies which had been already harvested and had further wheat sown in the hope that it might be available for future use.

The Hauhaus persisted in their activities, holding “runangas” at the various local settlements. “Niu” poles as centres of their devotions were erected in several places. These meetings were attended by Rev. S. Williams, Wi Tako and the southern Chiefs who had come with him, and they refuted the wild statements of miraculous powers which the Hauhau leaders claimed to possess. This opposition, though it did not stop the Hauhau propaganda, no doubt led to the withdrawal from the district for a time of Kereopa who left on April 13th and Patara who went four days later. Wi Tako got possession of Kaiwhata's “Taiaha” (decorated weapon) and presented it to Rev. Samuel Williams who with Wi Tako and the party of chiefs returned to Napier by the St. Kilda on April 22nd.

Although Archdeacon Williams endeavoured to maintain the regular Sunday Services at the principal settlements with the natives who remained faithful, they could frequently hear the Hauhau “karakia” going on in the neighbourhood, which kept the district in a state of ferment, and constant reports of laxity or falling away increased the feeling of insecurity.

From “East Coast Records” (W.L.W.): “On May 3rd Captain Luce of H.M.S. Esk paid the District a visit, bringing with him a letter from Bishop Williams addressed to the Rongowhakaata tribe, pointing out to them the extreme folly of the course which they were pursuing, and suggesting that as they were abandoning the neutral position they had maintained in the past, they would be wise now to declare themselves adherents of the Government. I accompanied Captain Luce to Manu- page 205 tuke, where he duly delivered the letter, giving them at the same time a few words of sound advice from himself, but neither the letter nor the Captain's words met with a favourable reception from the majority of those who were present.”

The party of refugees from Waerenga-a-hika who landed in Auckland on April 10th, 1865, consisted of Bishop and Mrs. Williams and four daughters, Mrs. Leonard Williams and seven children, Miss A. Wood, Miss Lettie Spencer, and Rev. E. B. and Mrs. Clarke. The Bishop and Mrs. Williams were the guests of Bishop and Mrs. Selwyn. The others enjoyed the hospitality of friends or found suitable lodgings. Mrs. Leonard Williams with her three sons and Miss Wood were allowed by Rev. R. Maunsell to use his house next door to St. Mary's Church until they went to the Bay of Islands in June. Mr. and Mrs. H. Williams (junior) took Misses Marianne and Emma Williams and Mrs. Leonard Williams's daughters to the Bay of Islands by the schooner Sea Breeze on April 17th.