Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 30, September 1986
PUKE ROAD'S MOST HISTORIC SITE Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 30, September 1986
By C W Malcolm
Towards the end of Paeroa's long Puke Road as it nears the bridge across the Waihou River, stands the prominent stone marking the site of Paeroa's first settler, Joshua Thorp, who built there his residence, "Belmont", the first in the district. It stood on the knoll of high ground, behind the stone.
The Maori chief with whom Mr Thorp negotiated the sale of the land was the notorious Taraia. In their endeavours to share out among them the two hundred pounds paid by Mr Thorp, the tribesmen became completely baffled. At last they sought a parley with him asking, instead of the money which they handed back, that he give them his mare and its foal which they would accept in full payment for the land.
This account, fairly well known, I assume, was given to me many years ago by the late Mr W H Taylor, a highly respected citizen of Paeroa, and an authority on its early Maori history.
What I did not know, and what I feel not many today know, was the location of Taraia's pa from which he set out on his warlike raids on other tribes and to which he returned with the grisly human remains from his cannibalistic feasts, even after white settlers were living in the district.
My authority is the same Mr W H Taylor, whose article appears in the Diamond Jubilee publication of the Ohinemuri County. The article is captioned : "Tales of the Early Missionaries
Money or a Mare
Cannibalism and the Church." [see Diamond Jubilee of the Ohinemuri County 1885 - 1945: Tales of the Early Missionaries - E]
The article states that, on the other side of the road from the Memorial Stone, and nearer Paeroa where there is another point of high ground, there was a "formidable strongly-palisaded pa, the headquarters of the notable cannibal chief Taraia." On that piece of high ground, on the left side of Puke Road, as one travels from Paeroa, once lived some of the descendants of Joshua Thorp, notably his grand-daughter, the well-known Miss Leila Thorp, within stonethrow of their pioneer ancestor's first home in the district.
In all my years in Paeroa, with all my interest in, and teaching of its early history, and with all my eagerness to have my pupils visit such historic spots, I was regrettably unaware of this noteworthy site, which I feel might well be recorded in the Journals of our local history.