The Old Frontier : Te Awamutu, the story of the Waipa Valley : the missionary, the soldier, the pioneer farmer, early colonization, the war in Waikato, life on the Maori border and later-day settlement
Chapter III — Plough and Flour-Mill.
Plough and Flour-Mill.
An illuminating account of the growth of agricultural enterprise among these Upper Waikato people and the position about 1850 is contained in an unpublished manuscript journal written by the Rev. John Morgan.* The missionary prefaces the narrative of the temporal side of his labours at Te Awamutu with the statement that wheat was introduced among the natives chiefly by the missionaries. The Ven. Archdeacon Williams encouraged its cultivation in his district of Waiapu, East Coast. “It was small in quantity,” said Mr Morgan, “for it was contained in a stocking, but it was sown and re-sown, and at the present time the increase from the little seed contained in a stocking is being sent by the natives to the Auckland market. Much is also ground by the Maoris in steel mills for their own use.
“Shortly after the formation of the Otawhao (Te Awamutu) station,” the missionary's story continued, “in consequence of the difficulty of obtaining supplies of flour from the coast I procured some seed wheat. After the reaping of the first crop I sent Pungarehu, of Rangiaowhia, a few quarts of seed. This he sowed and reaped. The second year he had a good-sized field. Other natives now desired to share in the benefit, and the applications for seed became so numerous that I could not supply them all, and many obtained seed from Kawhia and Aotea (West Coast), where wheat had been introduced either by the Wesleyan missionaries or the settlers,
This water-driven flour-mill, it may be explained here, was built at Pekapeka-rau, the lower part of the swampy valley between Hairini Hill and Rangiaowhia, through which a watercourse flows toward the Mangapiko. Here a dam was constructed, and a lagoon was formed; the water collected here turned the mill-wheel.
Later, another mill was constructed, on the watercourse called Te Rua-o-Tawhiwhi, on the eastern side of Rangiaowhia village.
Mr Morgan, continuing his story of the new flour-mills, wrote:
“The Rangiaowhia mill was not completed before other tribes became jealous and wished for mills. I drew up two more contracts, one for the erection of a mill at Maunga-tautari, and the other at Otawhao, at the cost respectively of £110 and £120, not including page 16 native labour. Both of these mills have been erected. A new difficulty now arose at Rangiaowhia, that of finding a miller to take charge of the mill. In the arrangement I experienced more vexations and difficulty than in the erection of the mills. There was a person ready to take charge, but the natives, not knowing the value of European labour, refused to give him a proper remuneration. One old chief offered one quart of wheat per day! At length, after two months, this knotty point was settled. On the following day the miller commenced work. In the year 1848 the natives of Rangiaowhia took down some flour to Auckland, which they sold for about £70. The neighbouring tribes, seeing the benefit likely to arise from the erection of mills, began earnestly to desire them. One was contracted for at Kawhia, and the sum of about £315 has been paid on account. About 1850 a contract was entered into for the erection at Mohoaonui [near Otorohanga], on the Waipa, of the largest mill yet built, at a cost of £300. The natives of Kawhia are anxious for the erection of a second mill, and the natives at Whatawhata and two other villages on the Waipa, and of Kirikiriroa and Maungapa, on the Waikato, and also Matamata, propose to erect mills; at several of these places the funds are being collected.
“Wheat is very extensively grown in the Waikato district. At Rangiaowhia the wheat fields cover about 450 acres of land. I have also introduced barley and oats at that place. Many of the people at various villages are now forming orchards, and they possess many hundreds of trees budded or grafted by themselves, consisting of peach, apple, pear, plum, quince, and almond; also gooseberry bushes in abundance. For flowers or ornamental trees they have no taste; as they do not bear fruit, it is, in their opinion, loss of time to cultivate them.”
The missionary, concluding his interesting narrative, described a visit paid to the district by Sir George Grey, Governor.
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Such is the story of the very practical missionary work in this district. “Te Mokena” truly tamed the people; old cannibals followed the plough and spent days in discussing the Auckland market prices of wheat and flour. Distant white communities, too, came to depend largely on the Maori farmers of the Upper Waikato for their breadstuffs; and when the great gold rushes began in California and Victoria, in 1849–52, the cargoes of New Zealand produce sent to far-away San Francisco and to Melbourne often contained shipments from Rangiaowhia and other Maori farm-villages.
* The old man Pou-patate Huihi, of Te Kopua, told the writer: “Before we procured European ploughs we made wooden ones, and these were sometimes drawn by men—Ko te tangata te hoiho tuatahi (Man was the first horse).”
Pou-patate also said that when wheat-growing was at its height on the Waipa, before the war, his people received as much as ten or eleven shillings a bushel for the wheat in the Auckland market.