Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 9, May 1968
By C. W. MALCOLM
OUR JOURNAL, Vol. 2 No. 1 [see Journal 3 - Marsden's Route to "Towrangha" in 1820 - E] contains an article by C.W. Vennell and an Explanatory Note by (the President) Rev. L. M. Rogers, concerning the historic visit to our District of New Zealand's first missionary pioneer, the Rev. Samuel Marsden. As the task of the HISTORICAL SOCIETY is to preserve our history, to gather it from every available source, to piece it together, to supplement it, until the whole picture is complete, I wish to supply the JOURNAL with a further interesting fact or two about this momentous occasion:
Every New Zealand school child knows (or should know) that Marsden was the first of the missionaries. I always found my Paeroa pupils enthralled by the facts of his visit to our own town for Marsden came to Paeroa. Not only that, but he spent here an historic Sunday, and preached the first Christian message heard in Paeroa! Paeroa's JUNCTION ROAD runs as straight as an arrow on the map, pointing directly to this historic spot - the "Junction" where the Waihou and Ohinemuri Rivers once met. The pa (Raupa) was almost surrounded by the sweeping curve of the Waihou. Marsden's JOURNAL of his Third Journey to New Zealand in the year 1820 records that, proceeding up the river in the launch with a fair wind and tide, they arrived in the evening of June 17th at the pa. They had had a fine day - a lovely day for picnicking on our river - and they were a goodly company including Mr. Hume, the surgeon of the "COROMANDEL", the carpenter, the captain's clerk, as well as two chiefs and fifty of their people in canoes. And Paeroa greeted then with a fine June evening.
The next day was Sunday - Sunday, 18th June, 1820. It was the Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (1815), only five years gone, and also on a Sunday. Marsden spent the "Sabbath" resting in the pa, and records: "I spent part of it conversing with the natives upon the works of creation and the institution of the Christian Sabbath, "Temmarangha" acting as my interpreter on all occasions when I could not make myself understood". Marsden's first sermon in New Zealand at the Bay of Islands on Christmas Day, 1814, was based on the message of the Day itself - "Behold I bring you tidings of great joy" - the message of the angels on the first Christmas Day; now, on that Sunday in Paeroa he taught the meaning of the Christian "Sabbath" - two fine examples, surely, of good practical teaching far better than some abstract discourse of theology. Marsden made the comment that "this settlement would be an eligible situation for a missionary station at some future period". (The story of 'Totara Pa' [this Journal - E] will explain why this did not eventuate.) Ed.
The following morning, Monday, "Mr. Anderson went to examine the spars in the neighbourhood". It was for this purpose - the loading of timber - that the "COROMANDEL" (Captain Downie) was lying at anchor in the Firth of Thames. Meanwhile Marsden, with a canoe and some natives, proceeded up the "left-hand river", the Ohinemuri. He estimates that he travelled ten or twelve miles. This means that he passed right through where Paeroa now stands - past where the railway was, 75 years later, to span the stream; past where steamers were to unload their passengers and cargoes at the end of Wharf Street; past the sites of brewery, and Criterion Hotel, and dairy factory; past the hill that was later to be named "Primrose Hill" where memorials to two wars would be erected; on and on until, night beginning to fall upon another June day, he returned downstream, through Paeroa once more, to the pa at "the Junction". How far had he gone? As Wharf Street was some seven miles upstream from the "Junction" his estimate of "ten or twelve miles" brings us somewhere into the vicinity of the foot of Turners Hill, or maybe Mackaytown. The land on either side was "very rich and here and there adorned with lofty pines; some small farms were cultivated for potatoes, upon which the poor slaves were at work". The river was still tidal; it became "close confined by thick woods on high banks", then "it opened into a plain and became shallow". The "plain" would, of course, be one of the flats just above Paeroa, towards Karangahake.
Thus ended Samuel Marsden's week-end sojourn at, and near, Paeroa. On his return downstream to the "Junction" pa in the evening of Monday, June 19, 1820, he "hired another canoe" and proceeded on down the river where, two hours later he found the launch at anchor and the officers and crew in their tents ashore. Somewhere below Netherton? He joined them for the night.
On June 21st they rejoined the "COROMANDEL" after ten days' absence. From July 17th to July 24th, while the ship was loading spars in the Thames, Marsden made a further trip up the river, passed through the gorge at Karangahake, visited Tauranga, and returned by the same route to the ship, this journey being the one described in our Vol. 2, No. 1. So interesting and attractive did Marsden find Paeroa and its environs that this further journey led to the exploration of greater tracts of our District. Our previous contributors have ably dealt with this, I wished to record the first - Paeroa-visit.