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Life in Early Poverty Bay

Stories of the Past — Mrs. W. W. Smith in Reminiscent Mood — Branding of Smuggler in Bay. — Natives Get Big Fright at Circus

page 103

Stories of the Past
Mrs. W. W. Smith in Reminiscent Mood
Branding of Smuggler in Bay.
Natives Get Big Fright at Circus.

Wonderfully well-informed, bright, and interesting, and one of the most esteemed residents of Bushmere, is Mrs W. W. Smith, whose husband became a model farmer and one of the best known amongst the early settlers in this district.

Mrs. W. W. Smith (Bushmere)

Mrs. W. W. Smith (Bushmere)

Mrs Smith, who was a daughter of Mr Wm. Griffin, of Auckland, decided to pay a visit to Poverty Bay to see her cousin, Mrs W. King, who lived at Makauri. She returned here two years later and, in 1871, she was marrieGd to Mr Smith, the ceremony taking place in the Argyll Hotel. In 1913, Mrs Smith had the great misfortune to be bereft of her husband.

Speaking of their early experiences in this district, Mrs Smith said that Gisborne, at the time of her arrival, was still under martial law and she was the first white woman to take up residence at Patutahi after the Massacre. Her husband had landed at Auckland in 1862, proceeding to Hawke's Bay, where he had engaged in cattle raising. After a brief spell at the Gabriel's Gully gold fields, he had returned to Hawke's Bay, but in 1864 he came up and settled in Poverty Bay.

Mr. Smith in Tight Corner.

As the Hauhau rebellion broke out in the following year, Mr Smith's plans naturally became upset, for he at once joined the volunteers. He first of all saw service at Waerenga-a-hika under Capt. Wilson. During the engagement Mr Smith had a very narrow escape. With others he was engaged in trying to prevent the rebels from obtaining their water supplies, when a reinforcement of 200 strong from Opotiki for the rebels turned up and the party had literally to cut their way out through them, only half a dozen escaping. The deportation of Te Kooti and a large number of rebels to the Chathams had followed the quashing of the rebellion.

When Te Kooti and his party returned to Whareongaonga, Mr Smith, together with Mr Thelwall and others, joined the party sent to intercept them. This proved an ill-fated mission and the rebels, after more than holding their own at Paparatu, got away inland. Returning to his farm on the Flats, Mr. Smith worked on industriously and successfully till the fateful November 10, 1868 when the awful Massacre occurred. On that page 104 night, he happened to be at Mr Parker's, assisting with the shearing and on hearing the firing the whole household left the premises, taking cover in the scrub till daylight, when they came on to Gisborne, Mr Smith having to carry Mr Fred Parker (then a mere boy) most of the way. Again Mr Smith took the field, remaining with the forces till 1870.

The Bride's Choice.

In 1871 Mr and Mrs Smith, then newly married, went out to live at Waitaria, Patutahi, which her husband had taken up. Those were not by any means days of luxuries, according to Mrs Smith. There were no jewellery shops in Gisborne then and when a young woman got married her choice of a present was either a side saddle or a sewing machine. Before the Massacre, Captain Read had been the only draper. He was reputed to have kept everything except coffins. He used to get in a large consignment of drapery every now and again and one lady who had eight daughters usually got the first pick. After that Mr Horsfall started a store, but he sold out to Kinross and Graham.

Touching upon financial matters, Mrs Smith said that when she came here there was no bank. Capt. Read was the great money king and used his own bank notes, a facsimile of which, thanks to the courtesy of Mrs Smith, appears in this issue. The Bank of N.Z. was the first to open and its banking chamber was in a corrugated iron store owned by Capt. Read. Mr Kirkton was the manager. Next came the Union Bank and its premises were on the present site, Mr Von Daldelzen, being the first manager. The Bank of N.S.W. started in the old Courthouse when it was at Adair Bros.' corner. For a long time, there were only these three banks. Nobody could cash Capt. Read's notes but himself, but they passed round freely. When the Union Bank started, Johnson Bros, Major Westrupp and Mr Smith were reported to be the only ones not under an obligation to Capt. Read in some form or another.

Late Mr. W. W. Smith (Waitaria).

Late Mr. W. W. Smith (Waitaria).

Penalty for Non-Dancers.

As to the amusements provided in the early days, Mrs Smith said that she always laughed when she recalled a visit paid by a circus. It was arranged for the occasion that the pakehas should sit on one side and the Maoris on the other. In the course of the performance two clowns came out on stilts and before one could say “Jack Robinson,” the Maori side of the enclosure was empty! Perhaps the most enjoyable dances were those held in the old Court-house. The music was supphed by a hurdy-gurdy and those who could not dance had to take turns in producing the music.

One day Mrs Smith, amongst others, witnessed a rare incident in the Bay. Mr King called Mrs King and herself out and said “Have a look here. You will see something you may never see again.” They saw a boat coming in and a cutter going out. When they came together a man on the cutter painted on the larger boat a broad arrow three times on either side. The cutter was a page 105 revenue cutter and the large boat the “Ringleader.” She was said to have had liquor aboard and Capt. Read, her owner, was fined £500 at Auckland and lost his vessel.

“All Killed There.”

Questioned as to Mr Smith's narrow escape on the night of the Massacre, Mrs Smith said that the previous day her husband had been mustering sheep on the Parker's property. That night a Maori came along and said: “All killed there” (pointing to Makaraka and Matawhero). “Kooti down and killed them.” Dan Munn had an injured shoulder and had told him he had been shot. Mrs Parker said they should all get away, but Mr Parker reproved her for being an alarmist. Mr Smith joined in with: “Well. I am going, at any rate.' They had hardly got over the river when the rebels arrived, calling out to them: “Come into the river. Komati, Komati.”

As to the Massacre, Mrs Smith said she had been told that, on the Sunday, Mr Blair, a storekeeper, had come into the church and told the men to be ready to go out as Te Kooti had landed at Whareongaonga. She understood Te Kooti had gone away with very bitter feelings against the settlers on the Flats, particularly Messrs Goldsmith and Wyllie, and that he had come back determined to slay them. On the night of the Massacre, a Maori saw Te Kooti on Mr Wyllie's verandah at his home at Torua. She told them all to clear out and they crossed the river to Patutahi. The 100 acres granted to Jimmy Wilson on account of the loss of his parents was, later, sold by him to Mr Smith.

Colonial Military and Imperial Officers at Napier in 1869, the Bulk of whom Served in Poverty Bay.

Colonial Military and Imperial Officers at Napier in 1869, the Bulk of whom Served in Poverty Bay.

Back Row: Major W. A. Richardson, Capt. Handley, Dr. J. M. Gibbes, Col. Gudgeon, Lieut.-Col. Herrick, Capt. Harvey, Spiller, Lieut. Milner (18th Royal Irish).

Front Row: Lieut. J. W. Witty, Lieut. Ferguson, Capt. Northcroft, Major Scannell, Capt. M. N. Bower, Capt. A. D. Corfield. Major Ed. Withers.

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Copy of Capt. Read's Famous Pound Note.

Copy of Capt. Read's Famous Pound Note.