1982 - Bodell, J. A Soldier's View of Empire [New Zealand sections to 1883] - VI. A Tauranga Settler, 1866-83, p 167-181

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  1982 - Bodell, J. A Soldier's View of Empire [New Zealand sections to 1883] - VI. A Tauranga Settler, 1866-83, p 167-181
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VI. A Tauranga Settler, 1866-83

[Page 167]


A Tauranga Settler, 1866-83

[Introduction omitted as it is in copyright]

[Page 168]

[Page 169]

After Peace was settled I considered it was time I looked about for a business and as I got a lot of land on the main road from Tauranga to the country I built a House of 5 Rooms and intended to commence business in a small way at first by selling refreshments, being a Cordial Maker and a good deal of traffic passing my door I considered I might do some business. I had not finished my Residence many weeks before I could see I had made a mistake and to do Business I must be in the commercial Part of the Town near the shipping. I began to look about me for a good business site. This were all taken up but I induced one man to divide his lot with me he retaining the corner and I took the other Part for 7 years lease. In a week I had a Building 10 x 14 feet for a shop only and commenced business my Wife 1 taking charge and I rented a workshop close by. For the next 12 months we walked night and morning from the House to the Shop 1 mile each way. When I commenced this undertaking I was short of cash having spent all to erect my dwelling house. However by Perseverance I found in a few months [I] was making headway.

In September 1868 rumours of Gold in the Katikati ranges were circulated about 30 miles away when I joined two others and off we

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went to prospect for Gold. 2 The Thames Gold field had commenced in July 1867 and being only about 80 miles away 50 north of Katikati ranges, and a continuation of the same range it was considered Katikati was a good Place to prospect for Gold and elderly Natives stated they had seen Gold half the Size of their thumb. A Pakeha Maori (a European living with Maori Woman) declared to me it was correct, and it was agreed that 6 of us should meet at 3 o'clock a.m. next morning at the Tauranga Hotel and proceed in a boat to Katikati a Part of the Range where a Chief had seen Gold. This little Party was organized very quietly so as not to make a large rush until we were sure that good payable Gold was there. Every business man in Town sent their Contributions. A Publican sent Brandy, Baker Bread a Grocer Groceries & so on. Myself I remained in the Hotel Parlour so as to have all ready by 3 a.m. About 4 next morning off we went to make our fortunes.

About 5 miles on our way we had to call at a native Village to get the Chief and another Native to guide us to the Eldorado. The Pakeha Maori also came with us and during our stay at this Village he had made himself a jolly good fellow by giving several Natives Grog. The Contents of 2 Bottles soon disappeared and we expected to be absent several days so I remonstrated and took the Provision under my charge. By 11 a.m. we arrived within 3 miles of the Golden Ranges being a good landing Place belonging to our Chief and a Camp of Potatoes. Here we stopped and had Dinner. As we were preparing to go on a boat came in sight loaded with Tauranga People and then another boat load arrived. Such exaggerations about the large quantity of Gold to be got sent half the Population of Tauranga half mad hence the other two boat loads, they chaffing us about giving them the slip etc.

Now we mustered 19 strong and we took it in good Part and off we went a few miles up a narrow stream and about 5 p.m. we could get no farther with the boats. We put all gear ashore erected Tents and remained for the night. We had to clear fern away 10 feet high to pitch our tents. During the evening we sampled a Bottle of 3 Star

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P. B. and next morning after a early Breakfast we started to prospect the Ranges near us the Place as the native said Gold was to be got as big as your Thumb. In about 1 1/2 miles we came to a Junction of the Stoney River and we distributed into various small Parties going in various directions with the understanding all to meet at night at the camp. One hour satisfied me no Gold had never been got here. After labouring about for several Hours and not any indications of the Colour only land slips of Iron Sand and Red Clay in Places. These land slips appeared like an old Gold Digging where heavy rains had carried the clay down the Creek. At night we all met at Camp and all told the same tale, no Gold to be got.

Being so many of us and the other two Boats brought no extra Provisions our Supplies were getting short. Next morning we went back up the River to a Place called Bowen Town with a few Settlers, and after breakfast I suggested that 3 or 4 men should volunteer to remain and proceed to the ranges, about half the distance from Tauranga than the Place where we had prospected the day before. This was agreed to and myself and two others consented to remain, the others to return to Tauranga. By mid day all had left us except the 2 Natives and during the afternoon we agreed to visit a native Settlement about 10 miles nearer Tauranga than Bowen Town and interview the Chief and get his Permission to prospect partly in native Territory. The Chief Te Moananui 3 gave his consent at once and offered to send one of his Sons with us as a guide. After chaffing our two Natives about lumps of Gold as big as their thumb that we expected to get on our first inspection they departed for Home and the three of us with our young Chief started next day, the boat having arrived from Tauranga with Provisions and a Pakeha Maori came with it by name Fairfax Johnson to be our interpreter.

During the afternoon we started across the Harbour and tramped about 4 miles to the Ranges. Here we found good looking quartz in plenty. We made a Miamia 4 (a small house) composed of sticks tied together and the leaves of the Nikau Tree. The leaves of this tree are from 12 to 22 feet long and if properly put together will

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keep rain out, and [we had] mangemange 5 for a bed with a good fire opposite the door. We made ourselves very comfortable, soon had the billy boiling and took our Supper. During the night it rained, put our fire out which had set fire to the roots of the trees and by morning disappeared into a hole caused by the roots being burnt.

Next day we commenced our work in earnest and came across several good looking quartz Leaders. In a few days we shifted quarters higher up the Creek and built a good Miamia and remained about two weeks. We got some fair quartz showing very small specks of Gold, and as our Provisions were getting short we returned to the boat and Tauranga. Next day after getting Provisions we started again but this time to another Place nearer Tauranga. Our Resident Magistrate sent for me and told me he had some years since seen Gold brought in by Natives from Kaimai not above 20 miles by land from Tauranga but we had to go by boat to give several native Villages the slip as our R. M. said the Natives would not let anyone go if they knew it so we sent to a Frenchman['s] Place (having a half caste family by a native Woman) and he consented to let two of his sons accompany us as Guide[s] and interpreters. At 12 o'clock midnight off we started, one half-caste taking a pack horse by land to meet us on the Te Puna River about 5 miles away. About 1 a.m. we met at Place agreed upon. By doing this we had passed the native settlements. Just as we had the pack horse loaded he commenced to kick and plunge and in a second I could see the Pannikins billies, a[nd] small rations Box flying in the Air and one man got kicked in the knee. We knew of a small empty House a Settler had built about 1 1/2 miles away and to this we carried our swags Provisions etc. We broke the door open made a fire and made ourselves comfortable. The half-caste took the horse back and the man with the Kick returned Home. Before dinner another horse arrived and we loaded it and started again. We travelled about 5 miles and got into the bush, pitched our tent and remained all night. The Guide took the Horse home and we agreed to go so far through the bush and remain till he came. We left the Tent with Provisions in the Box to fall back upon if we ran short of rations. We travelled to spot agreed upon and remained there for the night.

By 9 a. m. next morning our Guide arrived telling us Mr Butts's

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knee was very bad. After he took some breakfast we all started along as rough a road as any one could get along with a 60 lb swag on his back, down ravines very deep and up sides of Gullies that only for the roots of Trees we could not have got along. By these we pulled ourselves along and to our surprise horse dung was seen in several Places. However any horse could get along such a Place was a mystery. By midday we came on to about two acres of a fern spur overlooking the upper Thames delta and the Waikato country. One of the best Views conceivable was obtained from this Spur 1800 feet above the upper Thames River which lay at our feet like a huge snake. I became familiar with the Country at once. In front nearly at our feet but 8 miles away at Matamata Firths Station [was] the Residence and Burial Place of the Great Thompson the Maori King Maker. 6 On our left front Mount Maungatautari, to the right of that Mount Pirongia near Alexandra 7 and to our right front was the Trig Station over the Waipa River at Ngaruawahia and on right again Mount Taupiri [and] the Waikato Coal mines and on our extreme right was the Piako river and Mount Te Aroha and on our extreme left as far as the eye could reach the Great Patatere Plains, a most magnificent View.

Here we met some Natives 1 Man 1 Woman 1 boy with 5 horses bound from Maungaturoto (Cambridge Waikato) to Tauranga. Within 500 yards on our right was the grand Water Falls called Wairere. After resting a short time our Native friends departed towards Tauranga and we commenced the descent. Many Places you had to go ahead the Path being about four feet below the ordinary surface of the Ground through the action of Rain Water and traffic, and was very steep, only for gripping the bank as we descended we must have gone by the run. The heavy swag on your back felt very troublesome and assisted to propel you forward. I was glad when we reached the bottom. Here we lit a fire and had our dinner. Alongside of us was the Waihou or Thames River and the Water from the Wairere Falls came tumbling along amongst large boulders. Whilst the Billy was boiling myself and Burrows

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(Captain now) went to see the Water Falls and we had a magnificent View of them. A large Sheet of water 30 feet wide and several feet deep fell perpendicular for about 400 feet and then a Succession of rapids to the Waihou River. What with the grand View from the fern Spur and these falls I was well repaid for the hard toil of getting here. All through the bush we never seen any indications of quartz or Gold.

After dinner we proceeded toward Mount Te Aroha, 'Mountain of Love' of the Natives. For years Gold was seen in this locality. At present 1886 it is the centre of a large Gold field. We started to go and inspect Kaimai south of Wairere falls but as we seen no indications on our road through the bush near that Place we concluded it was not a likely Country so made north to Te Aroha. That night we encamped about 6 miles from Wairere in a gorge and for the first time our half caste friends made us a comfortable Mai Mai made of a few Sticks and plenty of raw flax. We gathered the material and they done the covering and we made a large fire near the opening and became very snug. During the early morning it began to rain and as we was in a gorge the water began to run close to us and we had to make an early start to more high land. We found some quartz and as we proceeded it rained hard and we pushed ahead to get shelter for the night. This day we met two native Women carrying a few Potatoes in Kits. These Potatoes had commenced to grow having been left in the Ground since previous season. The Natives about here, the once powerful Thompson King Maker's Tribe, the 'Ngatihauas' were very short of food. The poor women had scarce sufficient clothing on to cover their nakedness. Both them and ourselves were completely wet through. We talked to them a few minutes, gave them a little Tobacco and biscuits and proceeded on our way.

We went through numerous swamps, the Land at base of the Ranges lay low and became half swamps for miles. About 3. 30 p. m. we seen a native on horse back and he waved Blanket or Shawl as we supposed indicating to proceed towards him. As we advanced he galloped ahead. At last we lost sight of him. At this time our half caste guides and interpreter appeared to be much frightened and wanted to hide in a flax swamp but I insisted going ahead and get[ting] some Place of shelter. At last we came to a small clearing about five acres the Maize just coming out of the Ground and at the farther end I noticed two partly built huts. Into the best

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of these I went and off with my swag as wet all over as if I had just taken a header in a river. The natives had certainly been here the last few hours as the remains of a fire were burning. I soon made this larger and my mates Burrows & Morrison soon followed suit and our half caste friends after a little delay did likewise and when we got fairly comfortable the billy on the fire one native talking a little English made his appearance [and] shook hands all round. In a few minutes 4 or 5 more came and then more including a big burly chief. This fellow would not come under shelter but sat out in the rain. By this time the Billy boiled and in a few minutes the Natives used the lot besides taking our rations. This was too much and I told our guide to get more water and boil the Kettle again letting the Natives know we were hungry having had nothing to eat since early morning. During the boiling of the second billy I took my coat off so as to dry my shirt about my waist. To do this I turned my back towards the fire and in a short time I noticed by the noise they were making I became aware I was the object of their special notice and asking our interpreter what they were talking about he told me the Natives were saying what a fine 'copper Maori' I would make, that is what a fine roasted Pakeha (or White Man) I would make for them to feed upon. On this announcement they all including my mates guide and interpreter (very consoling for me) burst into a loud Laugh.

We were told that the Chief intended to send us down the Waikato River to Auckland as Prisoners as we had no business in their territory looking for Gold. This was true. A short time previously the Superintendent of the Province had published Gazette Notices forbidding Europeans prospecting on native Territory and the Natives knew this. At this time these Natives belonged to one of the most influential and powerful Tribe in New Zealand the Ngatihaua. On opening our Swag to get some more Tea & Sugar Biscuits etc to have the second billy of tea the Chief noticed two new Tomahawks and asked for one. Our interpreter told me this and I said give him one Yes so as he don't take us Prisoners. On getting this Tomahawk he came into the Shed and had a Pannikin of tea. In a few minutes I began talking to him and got the interpreter to assist but I found the Chief Riki one of the fighting native Generals under Thompson at the great Fight at Rangiriri Waikato 20th Novr 1863. We got into a brisk conversation about Rangiriri he putting out his naked foot showing he had two

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toes shot off at the Battle and the attitudes he put himself into during the fight and how he shot 4 English officers. A Native telling of his Valour gets very excited and Riki became very much so, the Natives paying great attention to what he said. In the long run we became great friends and we invited Riki to pay Tauranga a Visit and we would welcome him. After all this talk night was close upon us and nearly all our Provisions were consumed. Through talking so much with Riki I was not aware the Natives had been taking too free a liberty with our rations. I told him this and he promised us a Supply of Kumaras or Sweet Potatoes. At last they told us if we promised to leave at daylight next morning and go over the Ranges they would let us go. We promised and the Natives departed, one returning with a small Kit about 10 lb of Kumaras and this with a little wet Biscuits Sugar tea and Bacon fat all mixed together was all the rations we had. We were very glad when the Natives left.

We consulted what step to take next. It was agreed to take to the Ranges at daylight next morning and get to the east Side of the Ranges. Our rations all gone and two days travel from home and about equal distance from the Tent with the rations we left behind. We turned into our Blankets and at daylight we started across the ranges, raining heavily all night and all this day. After two hours toil we came across the Creek the Natives said gold had been got some years before. We certainly found good looking Quartz and a small speck of Gold. (The last five years Gold has been found here and a small Town formed called Wairongomai of about 1000 Population principally Diggers [with] good payable gold.) We had great difficulty to light a fire [as it was] raining hard. At last we managed to get a hot pannikin each of what I called Boilly Soup a Mixture of Tea Sugar Biscuit and Pork fat, anything better than hunger. After this we started and the next 6 hours we toiled about those Hills to no Purpose. About 3 p.m. we came in full View of the Place we left in early morning, we had been travelling around these Hills raining all the time. The Bush Lawyer or Supple Jack was very thick amongst the trees [and] the trees also were covered in their lower branches with bunches of Moss. This collected Water and we were all so wet the same as if we had been ducked in a river. As we toiled up the Hills the Supple Jack would catch your swag and pull you back. I lost one side of my coat and part of my cap. At 3 p.m. on coming near the spot we left in the morning I [was] very

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much vexed as my mates would not go by the Compass I carried. I begged of them to let us be guided by the Compass one hour. They consented. In less than an hour we found a little creek running east. This we followed and in one hour it got much larger and wider. We recognised it as the Creek we had prospected before and built two Miamias or huts. Water on account of the heavy rains was rushing down and in Places we were up to our Middles. On we went and at last we came to the Water fall. About 10 p.m. we came to our hut [and] a large tree close to we had fell[ed] on our previous Visit came in handy. We soon had a large fire. The rain had ceased the last two hours. We all stripped naked put stakes and rails around the three sides of fire [and] put our clothes to dry. We must have cut a figure all naked [and] nothing to eat. [We each] got a wet Blanket and lay down, soon asleep. Next morning our clothes [were] nearly dry. I started to find a Nikau Tree. The top Pith about 30 inch long is like eating a cabbage. I found one of these trees and got the Pith and put a remnant of our Grease Mixture and boiled it all together and had each a Pannikin of this and started homewards. We had 30 miles across Country to get to the Frenchman Farm. About mid day we had to swim a river. We managed this way. We sent one of the half Castes across the river with a long flax rope and then sent our largest tin dish across and so back and forwards. When all things were across we swam across also. I managed to throw my boots across but Mr Burrows was trying also when his finger caught in the boot and sent it down the river and sank in 9 feet of Water. The guide dived and recovered it and we started again. After this the tide being low and we had several Rivers to cross we took [to] the Beach for it and at 12 o'clock Midnight we arrived at our head quarters very tired. A strange coincidence the Ration Boat had been stuck all day on a Sand Bank and only arrived with Provisions about one hour before us. We had a good Supper and turned in. Next morning we were very tired and stiff. We concluded to leave the tent where we had left it for the Present. The Natives would not believe us that we had been to the Wairere Falls and Ohineroa. When they became convinced they want[ed] Utu or Money for us going there and even followed us into Tauranga thinking they would frighten us into giving them something. We were not to be done like that.

The quartz we brought in was analysed and a few specks of Gold found. I came to the conclusion it would take £5 to get one ounce of

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Gold worth £3. 1 os. To satisfy myself [I decided] to give a certain Place a two Weeks' trial. 4 of us started out again and after two weeks came to the conclusion it required more capital than we had to prospect the Ranges properly. I had destroyed nearly all the clothing I had and I must try business again. Several Parties have prospected same locality on various occasions since and found indications of Gold but not in paying quantities. So now I turn[ed] my attention to business which at this time was very slack in Tauranga.

The day after my return to my great surprise I was warned for a month's Militia duty. I thought I was done with soldiering but as the authorities had let me alone so long I could not complain to do a months duty at 4/- per day and I had to tackle to. Every night a Chain of Sentries were posted all round the Town. The north end of the Town of Tauranga ended in a fork or spit of land the waters of the Harbour washing it on three sides. Across the western Estuary was only about 100 yards and this Point was considered a very dangerous Point for the ingress of rebel Natives as it was a main thoroughfare to many native Settlements. Inland of this Point three Sentries were posted one to guard the eastern side of the spit and that side of the Harbour, one at centre of spit, this being about 400 yards wide and one Sentry at the western or Judea Estuary side and these 3 Sentries could on emergency communicate with each other. On the eastern side of the base of this spit was the Cemetery the last resting Place of all those killed at the fights of Gate Pah, Te Ranga and other Engagements and the dead of the civil Portion of the community. This Cemetery was on a hill about 100 feet above the waters of the Harbour and from the north east Corner you had a full command of the western Ford before mentioned and all round the Spit. This last spot was my Post every night during the month for 3 hours. One night I was left on Sentry from 8 p.m. till 3 next morning. One morning about 2 o'clock an unusual noise was heard about the narrowest Part of the western Crossing Place. It sounded like several hundreds of Rebels moving about the Sand. I communicated with next Sentry No 2 and he also with No 3. It being a cloudy morning we could not see above 100 yards and this Crossing was 500 yards north west from my Post. My elevated Position gave me a good View far better than my Comrades. We were in great suspense for some time then I heard a horse snorting and swimming across. Presently I heard another and several more, heard

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them quite distinctly get out of the water, and shake themselves. I listened very attentively to see if I could hear anything like men walking about but could not. Presently the Horses commenced to feed on a little rough herbage. I goes to the next Sentry and we went towards where the horses were and when we got within 150 yards we lay down and listened and were satisfied that all this alarm was nothing more than several Horses belonging to Natives swimming the ford for a good feed. One night alarm was given when all Women and Children was roused out of Bed and run for the Redoubt and remained all night. At this time the Natives were in thousands all round us. I should say there were 6 then to 1 now.

My month expired without any particular incident except a little bother about a pet Pig of mine. I had a very small pet Pig. One day it came home with a fresh made Brand on its hind quarter and I recognized the Brand as being the initials of a man who was suspected of branding several Cattle belonging to another settler. I goes to this man and in his workshop I seen the iron brand corresponding with the Brand on my pet Pig. I accused him of branding my Pig. He denied it. As I had to go on duty I could not stop to say more to him. Then on going home [later] to dinner my Wife told me Harley had been and abused her and said if I did not let the Pig go he would have me put in Gaol. This was too much so I went and laid an information against him and had him arrested for branding my Pig and claiming it as his Property. For his bounce he got 6 Weeks in Gaol. I did not Value the animal at 5/- but the abuse to my Wife and threatening me I could not stand. This same man was tried for branding several Cattle not belonging to him and during the next year he was tried at Supreme Court Auckland for selling Ball Cartridges and caps to the Natives and got 8 years in Gaol.

A few months after this I paid the Penalty of prospecting for Gold. Through being so much wet I took the Rheumatic fever and was nearly going off this mortal coil. I lay delirious for several Weeks, our only Doctor could not relieve me and during my illness he left the District and there I lay for 17 Weeks before I got off my bed and then I used Holloways Pills freely and got several Pots of Jamaica Sarsaparilla Paste and dissolved it with hot water. When [it was] cold [I] added a small Portion of Iodide of Potassium. A strong constitution and plenty of this Medicine pulled me through. I was badly in need of some funds so I sold my 4 roomed House and

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land with 50 acres of a country Farm for £52, £18 down, balance within 3 months. I done this lying on my bed. To make matters worse my four children took the Whooping Cough. I had never seen this cough before and I thought it was a most extraordinary sickness. I was certain some of them would choke. The eldest Jim suffered most, Peter the youngest stood it like a Briton. In a few weeks they got over it and the first thing I did when able to walk I went and bought a Piece of building Land close to my shop and this proved a good speculation. This was purchased from the Proceeds of the Sale of my Residence and 50 acres.

At last after 6 months idleness through Sickness I commenced business. I undertook the duties of Town Barber, Undertaker and Builder, Cordial and Ginger beer Hop beer & Cider Maker. With my several businesses I did well. My Wife took charge of the shop and in 12 months I enlarged my Premises. The next 12 months I built a 6 roomed House for myself on the lot of land I had bought. The next year I turned Photographer having bought from a Photographer all his appliances and he agreed to stop with me 14 days to learn me the Photo Art. I built a Studio and succeeded very well. Had several engagements to photo dead Maori Chiefs and Natives in groups. These Jobs always paid me well. The following year I bought the lease of the whole of the Land my shop stood on and erected a large Store. The Studio I shifted to the line of Streets next to my new Store and made additions to the Studio as to make it a shop 30 feet X 18. This I let for 20/- per week and sold my photo apparatus and gave my attention to merchandise. In another year I have five shops built in my corner lot of Land besides my own large store. These shops brought me in a weekly rent of 60/- each week. Two years after I purchased 5 Lots of Land about 300 yards away with a House of 6 Rooms in a good Position for £600. In fact from 1870 to 1878 I invested in various Properties and I became worth fully £4000 and through Perseverance and attending to business the next five years I increased my Possessions to fully £6000 and in June 1883 I took a trip to old England after an absence of 35 years and 9 months. I visited my Parents and five Sisters in Leicester, 3 of my Sisters being born during my absence, all my Sisters being married with Families and found all in very comfortable Circumstances. In 1847 when I left Leicester I was a young man 9 1/2 stone and return[ed] 18 stone weight. I weighed myself in October fair during my Visit to Leicester and I turned the Scale at 18 stone 8

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lbs. I enjoyed myself very much during my Visit and returned to New Zealand by the Orient S S Liguria. Left Plymouth on 21 Octr 1883 arrived in Melbourne 29 Novr and via Sydney to New Zealand arrived in Auckland 13 Decr 1883.

1   Bodell had married a widow, Jane Munro, in Hamilton on 19 January 1866. It is not known what happened to his first wife, but in his marriage entry Bodell is described as a widower.

Mrs Munro had four children, James, Jane, Duncan and Peter. Only two of these, Peter and Jane, are mentioned in Bodell's will. James was alive in 1889 and was reported speaking at a political meeting. In the wedding entry Bodell is listed as a carpenter and Jane Munro as a 'tracer'. Perhaps she traced patterns for embroidery.
2   Traces of gold were found near Katikati and in the Kaimai range, near Tauranga, in 1867-8. Later gold was mined at Katikati. There were very large gold fields a few miles north of Tauranga, at Waihi and Thames. See Evelyn Stokes, A History of Tauranga County, Palmerston North, 1980, pp. 275-81.
3   Moananui was a chief of the Ngaiterangi tribe.
4   An Australian aboriginal word for a shelter, corrupted in modern New Zealand English to mai-mai (pronounced my-my), a duck-shooter's hiding place.
5   The nikau palm has leaves up to three metres long. Mangemange is a springy shrub.
6   J. C. Firth was a wealthy businessman and landowner, and a friend of Wiremu Tamehana (Tarapipipi), a very remarkable man, who was called the 'Maori King maker'. He took a leading part in securing the acceptance of Potatau as the first Maori King.
7   Now Pirongia.

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