Chapter XVI. Southern stations--Thames--Roto-rua--Tauranga--Mata-Mata
We are now entering upon a new and important era in the records of the New Zealand Mission. Much of our attention has hitherto been directed to the difficulty with which the Missionaries maintained their position in the country itself, and the expenditure of nerve and energy required for the mere breaking up the rocky ground, and preparing the soil to receive the seed from which they were hereafter to reap so rich a harvest. But it is far different with the present portion of our history. Here our gracious God took, as it were, the work of previous preparation specially into His own hands, and by some unknown or unlikely means, by a ransomed slave or a runaway scholar, He led the blood-thirsty warrior to desire peace, and the fierce cannibal to become importunate for instruction. We do not undervalue the part, direct or indirect, that the Missionaries themselves had in this work of preparation; we know that in their visits to places on the coast they had never ceased to proclaim the gospel of salvation; and we know that the uprightness of their dealings, their warm interest in the welfare of the people, and above all their strenuous efforts for the maintenance of peace, had all had their influence on the [185/186] acute minds and susceptible hearts of the Maoris. It was from the Missionaries too that the slaves and school-boys had received their own Christian know ledge. But all these things combined, were wholly insufficient, even according to human judgment, to account for the phenomena; and the only conclusion we can arrive at is, that those among whom the brethren were now called to labour were in an especial manner a people prepared by the Lord.
"Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will."
Rumours had reached the southern tribes, of the white people in the Bay of Islands, and of the tranquillity and increased prosperity of those districts that had listened to the "Karakia" of the Missionaries; and when Mr. Williams and his companions visited the, River Thames and the Bay of Plenty in 1832 and 1883, they were almost everywhere met with earnest entreaties for white men to come and dwell among them, that they also might "learn to sit still." This was too favourable an opening to be neglected; and as the Mission had lately been strengthened by fresh arrivals from England, it was determined that no time should be lost in commencing a new settlement on the Thames. In October, 1833, the Rev. H. Williams, the Rev. A. N. Brown, Mr. Morgan, and Mr. Fairburn, started in a small vessel to seek for a desirable spot, and as they sailed along they could not bat observe how the evidences of war and destruction had increased within the last few years--especially when they entered the once well-peopled estuary of the [186/187] Thames was this most apparent. "It was," says Mr. Williams, "melancholy to look around; all was perfect stillness; there was no bustle of active life; no vessels, boats, or canoes moving, on either hand, over the surface of these waters which spread like magnificent rivers among the numerous islands. Traces of former towns and villages were visible as we sailed along, and wherever we turned; but all the inhabitants had been destroyed, or taken captive, or had fled." On one of these islands they spent a Sunday. "Nought was heard but birds of sweet and varied note, skipping from branch to branch, as though surveying the group of strangers who had intruded on the quiet of their abodes. As we sang the praises of God and our Redeemer, their notes were also distinctly heard with ours. But I felt," continues Mr. Williams, "an indescribable sensation as I viewed the ground on which we sat. For many successive years, this neighbourhood has been the seat of war in its most savage and infernal form." Then, after alluding to some of the horrible deeds of cannibalism that had probably been perpetrated on that very spot, he adds, "But, that the Lord has now here heard the prayers of His people, I consider is an earnest for good; and this place is, as it were, now consecrated to Him."
They pursued their course up the river, occasionally going on shore to reconnoitre, and finding everywhere, even where formerly they had not been suffered to land, the most hearty welcome and urgent entreaties to remain. "We keep the Ita-tapu," was the frequent plea, "but we can do no more till a teacher comes." The most eligible locality they had yet found was Puriri, where the people, delighted to see them, [187/188] crowded round to lead them to the most favourable situation for a future settlement, and did all in their power to make them comfortable. As the day was closing, the Missionaries invited the people to attend the evening worship they were about to hold with their own natives, who had accompanied them; and in a few minutes from a hundred and fifty to two hundred had assembled. The shades of evening were fast closing in, several fires had been kindled, and as the uncertain flames gleamed on the mats of these children of the wilds, and lighted up their fine expressive faces, it formed a most striking scene. Mr. Williams gave out the hymn; and in a moment the whole party burst into a full chorus, with words and tune correctly sung. [A painful contrast to this scene occurred in the course of this same expedition. The party happened to pitch their tents for the night near a raupo hut inhabited by some English flax-dressers. They appeared very friendly and good-natured; hut as the evening drew on, and the young natives of Mr. Williams' party began their usual worship among themselves by singing a hymn, the four Englishmen began to sing likewise, and attempted to drown the praises of God by Bacchanalian songs.] The Missionaries almost doubted their own senses, but, taking no notice, proceeded in their worship. Again their wonder was excited; the loud Amen, the Lord's Prayer repeated in unison, seemed like some dreamy vision. The mystery was soon solved; three lads who had formerly been taken captive in Hongi's wars, and had lived for some time in one of the Mission families, had afterwards either made their escape, or been redeemed; and on their return home, though, as it would seem, without any books, had thus successfully imparted to their countrymen some of the knowledge they had acquired.
 But this solution of the mystery did not lessen the wonder and adoring gratitude of the Missionaries; they did not hesitate to fix on Puriri for the new settlement; raupo houses were begun, and before many weeks had passed Mr. Fairburn and Mr. Preece with their families were settled in their new abode. The station soon assumed an air of comfort and of hope; the schools were well attended; mothers, and even grandmothers, were sometimes seen side by side with their own children learning the first simple lessons of Scripture truth. Before long the temporary chapel was more than filled with orderly and attentive congregations, and many of the people acknowledged their belief in the truth of Christianity, though their superstitious fears kept their hearts still in darkness. Nor was it only in Puriri itself that the ground had been made ready for the sowing; it was no uncommon thing to hear some of the natives several miles distant from the settlement, and quite unconnected with Europeans, repeat portions of the Lord's Prayer, and other short petitions. One day a chief fifteen miles off came to Mr. Fairburn to ask for a slate. "What can you want it for?" was the natural question. "I want to write; I have learnt from a young man in my own village who was once at school in the Bay of Islands."
The state of the surrounding tribes was at this time very melancholy; murders and massacres were continually occurring among themselves; more than one trading vessel was plundered; and notwithstanding this continued anxiety for men of peace to live among them, tranquillity was in 1834 as much a stranger on the banks of the Thames, as it had been in 1814 on the shores of the Bay of Islands. The time and [189/190] strength of the Missionaries were often taxed to prevent hostilities, or to rescue some innocent victim of revenge or caprice; and though frequently with good success, the restless violence of the people round Puriri rendered it necessary, in 1837, to remove the new settlement some miles lower down the river, and Hauriki and Maraetai were chosen for the future stations. Here the Mission took root and prospered; persons came from distances of six or eight miles to receive instruction, and it is a remarkable circumstance that the unsettled state of the country did not seem at all to interfere with the desire of learning. In 1839 the Missionaries calculated that not less than from 800 to 1000 of the Thames natives had learnt to read. In 1840, when this part of our history closes, seventy of the Maraetai natives, and ten from Hauriki, had been baptized, and with one or two exceptions were walking uprightly.
The people near the lake of Roto-rua, much farther still to the south, had been among the earliest and the most importunate of the applicants for a Missionary settlement. They had heard something about spiritual things from Pita and his wife; and as early as 1831 they sent Waretutu, one of their chiefs, to Paihia to request that teachers might be sent to them, assuring Mr. Williams that they were not influenced by an hope of pecuniary advantages, but simply by a wish to "learn how to sit in peace." The messenger seemed so much in earnest, that Mr. H. Williams and Mr. Chapman resolved to visit the district and judge for [190/191] themselves. They set out in October of that same year, and had a most interesting expedition. The natural scenery was far more striking than anything they had yet seen in the Island. The view of the lake itself was very fine as they approached it: on the nearer side a noble wood stretched down to the water's edge; the islands in the lake, the steam of hot springs rising towards the north, and the richly wooded hills of Tarawera in the back-ground, formed a lovely scene. The whole country was full of nature's wonders: here were boiling caldrons of mud, black, blue, grey, green, yellow, and red, giving out their lazy steam; close to these, and as if purposely in contrast, were clear pools of bright azure-coloured boiling water, enclosed in natural walls of sulphurous formation. But the most beautiful objects were the jets: these boiling fountains, thrown out from the top of irregularly shaped cones of a pinkish colour formed from the deposit of the water, rose many feet into the air, descending again in silvery foam, and sparkling in the sunshine. Some of these hot springs are guided by the natives into natural or artificial hollows in the rocks, where their temperature being regulated by a stream of cold water that flows among them, they serve as baths; and when Mr. Williams and Mr. Chapman paid their first visit, the chiefs received them sitting in these novel chairs of state. [See also Bishop of New Zealand's Journal.]
But it will be well believed that these natural objects were not those that chiefly interested the Missionaries; and their desire for better things was equally gratified. They were most heartily welcomed, and the [191/192] desire for instruction surpassed their highest anticipations. Old and young crowded round them to learn their letters; and during the two or three days they remained there, they were never without scholars, sometimes to the number of two hundred, many of whom would remain nearly the whole day endeavouring to master the alphabet. Even after the Missionaries were in the canoe on their way back, some of the children still came round, begging for fresh lessons.
It was with some difficulty the people would allow Mr. Chapman to depart, and not till they had exacted a promise to return as soon as he could. Nothing could be done however immediately, as Roto-rua was too distant from the Bay of Islands to make a residence there safe till an intermediate station could be formed; but as soon as that on the Thames seemed established, the brethren again turned their thoughts towards the further South.
This delay appeared very long to the anxious expectants at Roto-rua; and in June, 1834, Waretutu again appeared at Paihia to urge Mr. Chapman to delay no longer. As the chief still lingered on from day to day, and seemed unwilling to depart, Mr. Chapman asked him when he intended to return? "I am going to wait here," was his reply; "you tell me that when another comes, you and he will come to Roto-rua; so I shall wait, and wait, and wait, the winter, and all the summer, and then the stranger will come, and we will all go back together." The young chief's hopes and expectations were at last fulfilled, and in July, 1835, Mr. Chapman, Mr. Knight, and Mr. Pilley entered on their new work. The people's desire for learning had [192/193] not abated; there were numbers of willing and attentive scholars; and the Missionaries looked forward to the completion of their raupo buildings as the period when they should be able to devote more of their time and energies to their spiritual work. They little expected they should be driven from it so soon!
They were collecting the people for service on the morning of their first Christmas day, when a cry of murder was heard, and the Missionaries hastened out to inquire the cause. They found that Huku, a chief on the borders of the lake, but not one of those with whom the brethren had had intercourse, treacherous as the ground on which his village stood, had murdered Honga, a chief of Mata-mata, a neighbouring tribe, who had come to him on a friendly visit. Huku had received an injury; he could not discover from whom, and, unable to punish the real offender, resolved to wreak his vengeance on the first person, whether friend or foe, that came within his power; and Honga was slain and eaten before the fierce passions of the savage Huku could be quieted.
We shall have occasion hereafter to relate how Mata-mata and its allies flew to arms to demand "utu" for the slaughtered chief; here we shall only say that, after seven or eight months of danger and insecurity, the Mission dwelling was in August, 1836, attacked by the infuriated warriors of Mata-mata. Every article of furniture and clothing was plundered or destroyed, Mr. Knight and Mr. Pilley were stripped, and hardly escaped with their lives; [Mr. Chapman fortunately was absent.] the latter was rescued by the people of Roto-rua, and the former was saved from [193/194] death by a young chief of the enemy's party. The Mission premises were burnt to the ground, and the brethren fled to Paihia.
The Mission at Tauranga, on the eastern coast, was another of the fruits of the visits of Mr. H. Williams and his friends in 1832 and 1833. It was commenced in 1835 by Mr. Wilson, Mr. Wade, and Mr. P. King. The instructions they gave were gradually gaining influence among the people; ninety-five attended for daily teaching; and their congregations, including those in the adjacent villages, often numbered from 400 to 500. But the war between Mata-mata and Roto-rua involved Tauranga likewise; and after endeavouring to maintain, their post for above a year from the time of the breaking out of hostilities, they also were obliged to return to the Bay of Islands.
All this while the inland portion of the Island had not been uncared for. In 1834, Mr. W. Williams, Mr. Brown, and Mr. Morgan travelled on foot through a large portion of the interior; everywhere meeting with hospitality and kindness, and frequently with a cordial welcome, and with entreaties that they would come and settle among them. Many of the chiefs were tired of fighting, and seemed to think that if Missionaries would come and live among them, peace, as by a sort of magic charm, would necessarily follow. "I shall go on fighting," said one fine young chief, "till Missionaries come and break my legs; then I will sit still and learn."--"The Ngapuis," said old Waharoa of Mata-mata, "have left off war because they have Missionaries, but how can I learn? can the trees teach [194/195] me?" while on all sides they were met witl. the reproachful question, "Why did you not come in our fathers' time, then we should have learnt better from our childhood?"
The result of this expedition was the formation of the fresh stations of Mata-mata, and Mangapouri, both of them to the south of Puriri, but north of Roto-rua.
Mr. Hamlin and Mr. Stack were appointed to Mangapouri, but before they had even settled there, a change had come over the mind of the principal chief, Awarahari; and he who had the preceding year been be urgent for their arrival, now used not only threats but violence towards them. Still however they remained, for they were unwilling to desert the one or two hundred persons that assembled for Divine worship, or the sixty men and boys, and thirty girls, who came to them for daily instruction; till, finding their difficulties and dangers increase, in September, 1836, they removed to Manukan or Waikato, on the western coast, where the Rev. R. Maunsell had lately commenced a Mission with good prospects of success.
[It has teen so rare in the course of this history to meet with Europeans who have not been hinderers of the work of God, that we rejoice to mention an English flax-gatherer in the neighbourhood of Mata-mata, who regularly hoisted his flag on Sundays, to remind the natives of the Ratapu; and though he does not seem to have given them instruction, had encouraged them to keep it holy some time before any Missionary had visited the place.]
Mata-mata was undertaken by the Rev. A. N. Brown, Mr. Morgan, and Mr. Matt. They arrived in April, 1835, and, though they found the generality of the [195/196] natives far more troublesome than they had expected, yet Waharoa, the principal chief, was always friendly, and their progress among the people was very encouraging. About two hundred attended Divine worship at the settlement itself, and not less then three hundred more at the different out-stations; while, as early as February, 1836, the numbers attending the schools were a hundred, men and boys, ninety women and girls, and fifty infants.
But the murder at Roto-rua caused a grievous interruption in this promising state of things. The murderered chief was nearly related to Waharoa, and, according to the native custom, it was for him to avenge his death. Prevailing on the people of Tauranga and some others of his neighbours to join him, he declared war against Roto-rua and all connected with it; and though Mr. Brown and Mr. Maunsell spared no pains to dissuade him from his project, all was of no avail, and he continued his hostile course. Soon the whole country was in commotion, and the Missionaries found it necessary to send their families away. They themselves remained behind; and though the plunder of their houses at Mata-mata, and the threats of some of the ill-disposed, forced them to retire to Tauranga, yet from hence they visited their former neighbourhood, and held occasional services in the villages. [We do not know whether it was on this occasion or at the similar occurrence at Itoto-rua, that a portrait of Mr. Marsden was among the spoil. Some of the property was afterwards recovered, but not an article had escaped injury, except this portrait, which had evidently been recognised and preserved with the greatest care.] Thus they continued, moving fearlessly among both the hostile parties, speaking to them of their evil ways, and [196/197] bearing with meekness the insults to which they were exposed, till, the passions of the people becoming more inflamed as the struggle went on, it was, early in 1837, found necessary to withdraw the whole Missionary band from this part of the Island, leaving however a few native teachers at the different settlements.
We must draw a veil over the scenes of cannibalism that took place during this dreadful war. The very air was at times polluted; and the sights and sounds the Missionaries were forced to witness were even more appalling than those we before alluded to in the Bay of Islands. Perhaps the atrocities themselves might not have been more black, but our brethren were here brought into closer contact with them: we shudder when we recall the details; and yet we feel how impossible it is that any description should convey more than a faint idea of what those devoted men were called on to endure.
But neither the dreadful scenes to which they were exposed, nor even the doubt as to their own personal safety, could long keep these servants of God away from what they believed to be their appointed work; and before the year had closed we find them returning to their stations.
Mr. Chapman and Mr. Morgan repaired to Roto-rua, and again began the erection of Mission buildings; not, as before, on the margin of the lake, but on a little island, where they would be less exposed to danger from an enemy. The continuance of hostilities prevented the more rapid progress of the Gospel among this promising people, yet it continued to spread; there was scarcely a village round the lake in which the inhabitants had not, of their own accord, built a raupo [196/197] chapel, and the word of God had reached as far as to the Taupo lake. In 1810 the regular attendants at Divine worship, including those of Taupo, amounted to 2000.
The blessing of God rested also on the undaunted Missionaries at Tauranga. Upon their return to their work they found the desire for instruction stronger even than before; and it was a strange yet welcome sight, to look out upon the shallow creek that divides Tauranga from the nearest village, and see perhaps one or two hundred natives swimming across, that they might be present at the Sunday services.
It had been thought better to concentrate the Missionary strength; and Mr. Brown therefore remained at Tauranga, instead of again taking up his residence at Mata-mata. He frequently however visited this his former station, and had the joy to find that the inquirers after truth had remained stedfast under the native teachers in whose charge they had been left. Indeed they were so much in earnest, that three hundred of them had literally "come out from" the rest, and built a new village for themselves, where they could worship God without interruption. The leader of this movement was Tarapipi, the son of the old chief Waharoa, at whose invitation the Missionaries had originally settled there, but who, alas! had in the mean time died a heathen.
But we must go back a little, and relate some events that had occurred before Mr. Brown and Mr. Morgan had been driven to take refuge at Tauranga. Ngakuku was a nephew of Waharoa, a young man of a most daring and desperate character; but from the time of Mr. Brown's first visit to Mata-mata, he had seemed [198/199] softened; he forsook his evil ways, regularly attended Divine Service, and was constant at the school. By degrees he openly professed his belief in Christianity, and though his apprehension of Divine things was for a long time feeble, yet he was evidently sincere, and anxious for further light. Soon his faith was to be put to a severe test. We need scarcely say that he took no part in the war now raging; but, unoffending as he was, he was destined to suffer from it. Having in company with some other natives undertaken to convey some of the Mata-mata Mission property to Tauranga as a place of greater security, on their return they were benighted, and finding an old deserted raupo hut, resolved to remain there till the morning. Just before day-break, they were awakened by the barking of their dogs, and found themselves attacked by a party of Roto-rua natives, who had been guided to the spot by the light of their fire on the preceding evening. Mr. Matt, the catechist, who was with them, had pitched his tent at a little distance, and happily the assailants were attracted by the hope of European plunder to make their first attack upon this, so that Ngakuku with his companions had time to escape and conceal them selves in the high fern. When the day dawned, all were safe except that Ngakuku's little girl, who in the dim light he thought had accompanied them, was missing. As soon as the spoilers had disappeared, Ngakuku and his company returned to the tents, and found them stripped and empty, save that there lay the body of the murdered child; her heart and the top of her head having been carried away by the murderers as an offering to some evil spirit. Two years before, and Ngakuku would have demanded "utu" for [199/200] a far slighter injury than this; but now he brought the dead body of his beloved child meekly to the settlement; and when Mr. Brown attempted to comfort him, the heart-stricken father answered, "The only reason why my heart is dark is that I do not know whether my child is gone to heaven or to the Reinga. She has heard the Gospel with her ears, and read it with Mata Brown, but I do not know whether she received it into her heart." The next day, October 20th, Mr. Brown writes, "I buried poor Tarore. Those who so narrowly escaped a similar death followed the corpse to the grave; round which were collected various groups of natives. After we had sung a hymn and I had addressed the assembled party, Ngakuku asked me if he might say a few words; and on my assenting, he said, with great solemnity of feeling, 'There lies my child, she has been murdered, as a payment for your bad con-duet. But do not you rise to seek a payment for her; God will do that. Let this be the finishing of the war with Roto-rua; now let peace be made. My heart is not dark for Tarore, but for you. You urged teachers to come to you; they came, and now you are driving them away. You are weeping for my child; I am weeping for you--for myself--for all of us. Perhaps this murder is a sign of God's anger toward us for our sins. Turn to Him; believe, or you will all perish.'" Mr. Brown continues; "Can I doubt rho it is that has given calmness, resignation, and peace to this poor native at a time wyhen we could have expected little else than the wild tumult of unsubdued grief? It vraa not insensibility on the part of Ngakuku, for his feelings are naturally keen; it was not indifference, for he was fondly attached to his child. No! it was the [200/201] manifestation of His power who, amidst the loudest bowlings of the wildest storm, distinctly whispers to His children, 'It is I, be not afraid.'"
A year or two after the return of Mr. Brown to Tauranga, Ngakuku was baptized by the name of William Marsh; and the last mention we can find of this interesting chief is his accompanying Mr. Brown, in 1841, on an embassy from the Prince of Peace to the chief of Taupo, with whom he had formerly been at deadly strife.
We will not close this chapter without more particularly referring to the effect produced by the circulation of portions of Scripture among these people. The desire for knowledge, which had always been so striking a feature in the Maori character, had, since the preaching of the Gospel, received a right direction, and was becoming subservient to their eternal interests. The thirst for reading was extraordinary, and no trouble was thought too great that would open to them the treasures contained in the books now printed in their own tongue. They would spend hours in teaching one another to read, and the demand for books was so great that it was impossible adequately to supply it, and a journey of many miles was thought lightly of, if it resulted in the possession of a book. Mr Maunsell, writing from Waikato, says, "Having promised a New Testament to a congregation about five days' journey from this, as a reward for the care they had taken in the erection of their chapel, one of the party accompanied me the whole way back, and finding the expected supply had not arrived, he proceeded twenty-five miles farther, to Mr. Hamlin's, to obtain it. Thus he will have taken a twelve days' journey for [201/202] this one book!" [This is by no means a solitary instance; and shall we in England suffer "the dusty Bible" to remain unopened on our shelves?] A New Testament, or a Prayer Book, was very frequently preferred to any other payment; and an English trader of the Bay of Islands, on his return from an expedition to the South, told the Missionaries, that if he had but taken books with him, he might have obtained a supply of provisions in almost any quantity, and at his own price. But the following is a still more remarkable instance of the desire of these people for the word of God. On one of Mr. Brown's journeys to the neighbourhood of Taupo, in company with a friend of Missions, Captain Symonds, R. N., and some of his1 friends, they came to a village at the foot of the sacred Tongariro. Captain Symonds and his party were very anxious to ascend it, but the natives would not permit them, as the mountain was tapued, and if the tapu were violated some evil would befall them. "They offered us gold," said the old chief to Mr. Brown, "but that would not tempt us; had they brought us some New Testaments, we might have listened to them. Tell the strangers," continued he, "when you see them again, that if they return in the summer, and bring Testaments with them, the tapu shall be taken off the mountain."
These silent messengers often made their way into remote corners of the land where no foot of a Christian teacher had ever trod; and it was no uncommon occurrence for a Missionary to receive an application from some distant tribe, or, in travelling, to meet with some unvisited village, where the inhabitants had already learned something of the way of salvation from [202/203] the books they had procured. Take the following as an instance.
Mr. Morgan writes in February, 1840: "Yesterday a native from the Uriweri, a large tribe living in the forest some days' journey from hence, came to solicit books, a party there having built a chapel and made a profession of Christianity. This place has not yet been visited by any Missionary or native teacher, yet some of the saving truths of Christ's gospel were already known to them. I asked the men, 'What must you do to be saved?' 'Believe on Jesus Christ.' 'When you come home dirty from work, you go to the river and wash, and are clean; now your heart is very dirty from sin, how can your sins be washed away?' 'By the blood.' 'What blood?' 'The blood of the Lord;' and the rest of the conversation was in the same strain."