Mangatangi 1916. LA Miller
The first time that I visited Mangatangi was as a school boy in 1916, and again in 1918, when I spent the Christmas holidays on my uncle’s farm, more recently owned by Montana Ltd. This farm was originally owned by one of the pioneer settlers, Mr. Richard Bentley.
Our residence at the time was Mr. Stan Hutchinson’s weekend bach. He was an Auckland grocer. The bach later became the first Mangatangi School. The building at that time stood adjacent to the Bentley homestead which was destroyed by fire in December 1958. The old school building was later moved up to the road where it became the nucleus of the Montana cottage.
Little did I think at the time that I would be returning in 1924 and spending most of my life in this new district.
The celebrations of the Golden Jubilee would not be complete without a reference to earlier history of the district. We must remember however, that we are only youngsters compared with our neighbours who have in the last few years celebrated their centenaries.
The first mention of our near area is Pukorokoro, now Miranda, when in 1832 one Charles Marshall, a trader, walked the seashore from Pipiroa on the Hauraki Plains. 1869 saw the first white settlers arrive at Miranda where a store and telegraph repeater office were established in 1873.
All communication was by water at this time although a rough bush track led to Pokeno, 22 miles westward. Even as late as the 1920’s much of the inward and outward goods for the district were handled by water, the, SS Hirere, skippered by Captain Couldry making regular calls at the Kaiaua and Miranda jetties, enroute to Thames.
The first farming venture in Mangatangi itself was when a Captain Porter took up the Mangatangi block, a portion of which has been owned by the Vining family since 1871. Another old property, the Poupipi Block adjoining the Vining property is now owned by Mr. W. Bridgeman and was bought from Maori owners in about 1868.
We have all read in various other histories the story of the Waikato Wars of the 1860’s, so I quote only briefly the Battle of Rangiriri was virtually the end of the war. In November 1863 General Cameron landed an expedition of nearly 1000 men at Pukorokoro, now Miranda. The three Redoubts, Miranda, Esk and Surrey completed the chain of fortifications to stop the Maori infiltrating behind the British Lines. These Redoubts are today in remarkably good condition, clothed however on ryegrass and clover instead of the original fern and tea tree, but in places the original roads and tracks can still be seen. Research does not show any fighting in the Mangatangi area.
Pre European occupation of our district by the Maori was extensive although sporadic, as far as we can ascertain, but there are some very well preserved Pa around about. Notably, Tui Pa on Mr. Harry Barton’s farm. Pa are also on Messrs. Vollebregt, Vining’s and Taylor’s farms. On the so called Porcupine Hill on Mr. Edgar Smith’s property are excellent store pits, almost as good as the day they were dug and on the forward slope of the hill are the remains of fighting trenches or pits., Whatarua is the name of this hill as marked on my map. A Maori friend of mine tells me that the literal translation of Whatarua is a storehouse on legs or Food Basket? Could we not do something to protect these ancient works?
On yet another property are the remains of Maori ovens, the smooth warn stones being cracked by the heat of ancient fires. Artifacts from the swamps are numerous, usually being uncovered by the dragline, but if not treated quickly, deteriorate when exposed to the air. Stone axes or adze heads were also fairly common a few years ago.
The Plan of Rural sections in the Parish of Koheroa of l89l was evidently the first subdivision of this confiscated land and the attempted settlement of it.
Mr. L A Miller l969.