Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:
The probable date of the second great epidemic amongst the Maoris. This date seems probable from the following:—In the “Missionary Register,” for 1817, page 71, is given a brief account of the life of a Nga-Puhi Maori named Maui, edited by the Rev. Basil Woodd, and written by Maui himself, who could both speak and write English well. Maui was born about 1796, and was a relative of Tara’s, of Kororareka. About 1806 a native visited New South Wales, and on his return related the wonders he had seen, which so fired Maui’s ambition that he took the first opportunity of making a voyage to see other lands. This he managed soon after, when two whalers arrived at the Bay. In one of these Maui embarked. This was the last time Maui saw his parents, for shortly after a fatal epidemic was brought from a distant part of the island, and great numbers of the Maoris perished, amongst them Maui’s parents. From the Bay the vessels went to Norfolk Island, where Maui was taken in charge by a Mr. Drummond, who gave him a year at school. Shortly after this, Mr. Drummond and family removed to Port Jackson, taking Maui with them. This was in February, 1812. Maui was afterwards with the Rev. S. Marsden, where he met Mr. Kendall (who reached Sydney 31st May, 1813). Maui came to New Zealand with Marsden in November, 1814, and remained for a time at his home, Kawakawa, but subsequently left in the whaler page 59 “Jefferson,” and arrived in England in May, 1816. He died there 28th December, 1816. Calculating back from February, 1812, the date of this epidemic would be about 1810. This was not, however, the great epidemic known as “Te-upoko-o-te-rewharewha,” which occurred earlier—it is said in 1790. One of the Nga-Puhi accounts of their expedition to the South, under Patu-one and Tuwhare, says that they learnt from their prisoners that they were attacked by the epidemic at the same time that the ship of Rongo-tute was wrecked at Wairarapa, when they killed and ate the crew.
The mystery which surrounds this ship commanded, as the native traditions say, by Rongo-tute, has never been cleared up. There is more than one tradition about it, the main facts of which are—that the vessel was wrecked, and all the crew killed and eaten. The locality of this catastrophe is sometimes given as Queen Charlotte Sound, at the north end of the South Island, sometimes at Palliser Bay, Wairarapa. The following quotations from the voyage of the “Coquille,” vol. iv., p. 64, may perhaps throw some light on the story:—“It is said that a Scotch gentleman, who was inflamed with the idea of civilising New Zealanders, embarked in 1782, with sixty people, and all kinds of indispensable articles for cultivating the soil; his project being to establish himself on the banks of the River Thames, or in Mercury Bay, and to teach the natives the art of cultivation, but no news has page 60 ever been heard of him since he sailed.” This was written in 1825.
I know not on what authority the date of the great epidemic is fixed at 1790; but it seems to me it might be any date within ten years of that time, and quite possibly as early as 1782 or 1783.