Project Canterbury

A Maori Settlement

[Bishop William Garden Cowie]

From Mission Life, Vol. III (part 2) (new series) (1872), pages 527-530.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006



[Bishop William Garden Cowie]

MANGAKAHIA* [Footnote: * For further particulars and illustrations of this district, the reader is directed to an article in Mission Life volume for 1871 (p. 646), entitled "Maories Revisited."] is a Maori settlement on the left bank of a river of the same name--so called from its many tributaries--32 miles south of Waimate, between the Bay of Islands and Whangarei. Here was built the first of the two churches which Reihana erected on his return from England, in fulfilment of his promise to Miss Weale--that he would provide houses of prayer for his people. The other church, at Ohaeawae, is more accessible from the Bay of Islands, and was consecrated last year when I was in the northern archdeaconry of the diocese.

I was to have travelled to Mangakahia from Whangarei, the latter place being about 60 miles from Auckland by sea, in the north-east of the island; but when the time for setting out drew near I was advised to take the Waimate route, as by the former I should have had to cross some dangerous fords in the then swollen state of the rivers.

I accordingly left Waimate, the first home of Bishop Selwyn in New Zealand, on Wednesday morning April, 17 (1872), accompanied by Archdeacon Clarke and his brother, Mr. Marsden Clarke (of the Government Survey), and four Maories, one of whom was John Betts, a handsome and very intelligent man, elaborately tattooed. We passed though Ohaeawae about 8 a.m., and saw the blue-peter flying in front of the "House of Meeting" of the settlement, in honour of our expected arrival.

At 9 a.m. we reached Kaikohe--the head-quarters of the late Rev. R. Davis of the C.M.S.--where the Archdeacon and I left our Waimate ponies, and hired for the rest of the journey two rough but strong bush horses, the property of the Maori Lay Reader of the settlement.

From Kaikohe our route took us through broken though not difficult country, comprising tracts of good land, but without inhabitants, to the margin of the great Mangakahia forest. There we arrived about one o'clock and rested for an hour, sheltered from the rain--which began to fall at midday--by a small thatch, made of the nikau palm and supported [by] four short sticks.

During this halt we ate our dinner, which we had brought with us; our Maori companions having lit a fire and boiled the water for our tea. We set out again at 2 p.m.

The great feat of the day was the walk though the Mangakahia bush, [527/528] by a new track cut by the Maories last year, extremely rough, with many very steep ascents and descents, over a continuous network of roots--rendered unpleasantly slippery by the late heavy rain, and occasionally obstructed by large trees blown down in a recent gale. At almost every step for some miles I had to plant my foot cautiously on a slippery root, or boldly plunge it into deep mud or water on either side. Riding was in many places impossible, and in all undesirable. Even the Maories (who are very venturesome, not to say cruel, horsemen) thought it prudent to lead their horses most of the distance, or let them pick their way, unencumbered by anything but saddles and other light baggage.

Notwithstanding all my caution I fell twice at full length on my back, besides several less serious tumbles. These details may enable you to form an idea of the tracks by which we sometimes have to travel to visit our Maori friends, and to understand how it is that settlements like Mangakahia are not frequently visited by any of our small staff of European missionaries.

We emerged from the bush at about 5 p.m., just above a small unfinished wooden house which Reihana built for himself a short time before he died. After his death in 1869, the house, though it had never been occupied by Reihana, was tapu'd by the Maories, and no one until quite recently was allowed to enter it. Even now they do not allow the building to be used by ordinary visitors, "those not belonging (as they say) to the priesthood." We were, however, welcomed to the house by the Maories in charge, and were very glad after our ten hours' journey, including three hours' toil through the bush, to obtain a night's lodging in it.

The furniture consisted of two small tables and a bedstead, the latter being placed in the room set apart for my use; there was no fireplace, so that we were unable to dry our boots and socks and other clothes. There were not many Maories living near the house (which is about four miles distant from the settlement and church), but we got together such of them as we could at 7.30 p.m., and had prayers with them before going to bed.

On the following morning, Thursday, April 18, we left Reihana's house at 9 a.m. for the church, where we arrived at 10:30, after an unpleasant ride through the mud, by a route that took us four times through the unbridged Mangakahia river and out of its tributaries, the banks of which were steep and slippery. We found a good many of the people assembled at the new buihui whare--"house of meeting"--dressed in European clothes, and waiting to receive us.

After shaking hands all round, we entered the whare, a long wooden shed, neat and clean, and sat down on a piece of new matting that had been spread for us on the floor. Whilst the rest of the population were assembling, the Archdeacon and the lay reader of the settlement--Bethuel [528/529] Rauriki (Onion-leaf) decided on the names to be given to the children whom I was to baptize. To vary the Christian names of the community, Bethuel turned to the Book of Ezra, and suggested some of those which are found in the second chapter, but without showing any preference for one over another.

Soon after eleven we walked to the church, a few hundred yards distant, and the bell was rung for service, which began before noon, and was attended by all the Maories of the neighbourhood who were able to come. I said the special prayers usual at a consecration, and the Archdeacon took the rest of the service. The second lesson selected was John x. to the end of verse 18, describing the work and office of the "Good Shepherd," to whom the church is dedicated.

In my address to the congregation I announced the sums that I had received through Miss Weale, Miss Barber, and Miss Mackenzie, towards the fund for the maintenance of a resident Maori minister, and urged them to exert themselves to make up the sum required as soon as possible. The last remittance from England of which I had to tell them was £4 5s. from Miss Weale, being the amount of Advent offertories at Whitechurch Canonicorum and other offerings from that parish. The offertory at the consecration was given to this fund, and amounted to £6 10s. 4d., including a sum handed to the Archdeacon after the service.

I baptised three adults and three infants on this occasion. Of the latter one was the daughter of an Englishwoman, whose husband, Wiremu Pou, a Maori who met her in England in 1860, died in March last. I also confirmed seventeen adults.

The church is an ecclesiastical-looking building, neat, sufficiently large, and conveniently situated, built after the same plan as that of Ohaeawae. It cost £300--the proceeds mainly of the labour of Reihana's people in digging up the gum of the Kauri pine, of which there are still forests on the hills surrounding the settlement. The interior of the church is somewhat disfigured by the three great pen-like pews, two at the west end and one near the chancel rails opposite the prayer-desk, copied, no doubt, by Reihana and his friends who visited England with him from the unsightly structures in which they saw some village magnates shut off from the rest of the congregation at the time of Divine service.

The church has a very beautifully-worked altar-cloth, the gift (I was told) of Miss Weale and some of her friends, and said to have been made at Jerusalem.

Reihana's grave, enclosed by an iron railing, is just outside the church at the south-west corner, in ground forming part of five acres, which the people purpose fencing in for a cemetery and the site of a parsonage house as soon as the necessary funds are obtained. Archdeacon Clarke [529/530] has already received from them the sum of £10--collected chiefly by means of the weekly offertory towards the cost of enclosing the land.

The behaviour of the congregation at the service was reverent; but there were unmistakable signs in the church and settlement of the need of a resident minister.

At two o'clock we returned to the "house of meeting," where we talked with the principal people of the settlement until three, when a repast of very fat pork with potatoes and kumaras was provided for all the assemblage. After this meal, and bidding adieu to the people, we returned to Reihana's house, where we slept on Thursday night.

Next day, after a night of very heavy rain, by which the track was rendered worse if possible than it was when we came, we returned to Waimate, much gratified by our visit to Reihana's people at Mangakahia, and with the services in which we had taken part in the church "of the Good Shepherd".

Project Canterbury