Kaipara – Wairoa River (Mangawhare and Tokatoka)

Wairoa River (Longwater – wai; water, roa; long)

Wairoa River, New Zealand’s longest river, runs for 150 kilometres through the northern part of the North Auckland Peninsula. In the upper reaches, the river is formed from two separate rivers, the Manganui River and – confusingly – the Wairua River. The two streams meet to the northeast of Dargaville, becoming the Wairoa. It is the longest river in the Northland Region.

The river flows from here firstly southwest (as far as Dargaville) and then southeast for 40 kilometres in a wide navigable estuary which flows into the northern end of the Kaipara Harbour. The river is sometimes referred to as “The Northern Wairoa River”.

Kaipara Harbour Sir George Grey 1852

Kaipara Harbour showing the Wairoa River. 1852 – Sir George Grey Special Collection.

The Northern Wairoa’s greatest asset in the late 1800s and early 1900s was undoubtedly the river. It is the longest navigable river in the country being accessible for ships ranging from 100 to 4000 tons. In its time the river and the Kaipara Harbour to the south were once the country’s busiest waterways. However, with the closing of the Kaipara Heads for commercial use the harbour and river are now only used for scenic cruises and recreational boating.

Communication with Auckland was, in the early days, by river to the Kaipara then by sea to Kaukapakapa, overland to Riverhead, and by sea down the Waitemata.


From the book Early Northern Wairoa by John Stallworthy written in 1916, we find that in about 1836 the first Missionaries from the Wesleyan Mission were the first settlers to establish themselves in the Northern Wairoa. Rev. Wallis set up his mission station at Tangiteroria. He engaged some help from two sawyers already in the district to construct the mission.

In 1852, a great epidemic of sickness broke out amongst the Maoris and hundreds died. They were so alarmed that left their crops and homes and fled the district to Pakiri and the Little Barrier, and never returned. From pages 26, 27 & 28 we read;

The timber industry of the Northern Wairoa began as early as the year 1840, there being no other industry in the district……

The old method of pit-sawing was the most approved system of cutting logs to boards. The missionary to the district was followed closely by the pit-sawyers. They came from Hokianga, where wooden buildings and vessels had been constructed some years before……

These men had been employed in the ship building yards of Hokianga, and they realised the demand that would arise for sawn timber soon after the beginning of the Mission work. They constructed saw-pits of considerable magnitude, and set about the felling of trees upon which to exercise their industry. Only sawyers and carpenters were wanted in those days, but employment for these was brisk. Saw-pits could not turn out timber ready for house building at a very rapid rate, and the erection of each building meant a lot of work at the saw pits.

As a result, Tangiteroria became a busy settlement in the early stages of Northern Wairoa’s growth and the centre of Kaipara’s timber export trade.

The Mission Station at Tangiteroria - Alexander Turnbull Collection

The Mission Station at Tangiteroria – Alexander Turnbull Collection

It is in this period we find the next stage of John’s life;

The next step in the extension of the industry was taken about the year 1850, when Mr Atkins, with whom came Mr M Marriner, arrived at Mangawhare and formed a timber exporting centre. His principal object was to secure spars for shipment to England. He soon got in touch with the Maoris, and started them in the collecting of spars, and the preparation of them for shipment.

The work was given out on the contract system, and was wholly in the hands of the Maoris. The spars were to be long and tapered, and delivered to Mangawhare. They were paid for in tonga (that is, in goods). The tonga consisted of axes, tobacco, pipes, clothing, blankets etc. Many of the spars were felled at Tangiteroria.

Mr Atkins having collected together a sufficient quantity of spars for a shipment, chartered the first ship. It was a vessel of about one thousand tons register, and her captain was Captain Dacre … on his first trip to the Kaipara, did not deem it prudent to take his vessel up the river, and it remained at Okara (Ru Point). There she loaded, the spars being rafted down from Mangawhare.

The second vessel to load was about the same size as the first. But before her arrival, Tokatoka had been made a Pilot Station, and Captain Stanaway located there as the Pilot. From his station he could see down to the Heads, and learn of the arrival of ships within the Harbour. The second vessel was piloted by him to Mangawhare, and her loading was done there, thus saving the work of rafting. Other vessels followed, one of them being the “Mersey”, afterwards a training ship in England.

A further step in the timber industry was made when Mr Atkins purchased the barque “Cygnet”, and placed her in the timber carrying trade between Kaipara and England, thus bringing more of the profits of the industry to Northern Wairoa. The “Cygnet” was a very suitable vessel for the work, and made several trips to England and back. Her departures and arrivals were occasions of great local interest.

The timber industry was confined to the contractors for spars and to the sawpit workers untill the first sawmill was erected in 1865. Up to that time, there had been very little timber, other than spars, sent out of the district, and this work had been in the hands of the Maoris. Pit-sawyers had been kept busy with local building requirements, but a small lot of swan timber was sent to Waingaroa in 1840, and in the year 1849, the “Kiwi”, a locally-built vessel, took a quantity to Auckland, where the demand was very keen.

We now have John living on the banks of the Northern Wairoa River in the Kaipara, sometime about 1852-54 (some publications state that he was in the Kaipara as early as the 1840’s).

We first assume that he would have located himself and his family close to where he was working. We have established that he was working for Mr Atkins so it would be logical that John most likely, would have settled in Mangawhare, where Mr Atkins had set up a trading business a number of years earlier, and where, a Mr Matthew Marriner relocates himself from Hokianga, managing the trading station for Mr Atkins.


Mangawhare was the oldest trading centre in the Northern Wairoa. The land was purchased from the chief, Parore Te Awha, about 1840, by Mr Atkins. He placed a manager in charge of this trading post, Mr Forsaith, who later moved to Auckland and was replaced in 1849 by Mr Matthew Marriner and his family who had to this time been in the Hokianga. Mr Marriner’s son, William, would after a short period away from Mangawhare, eventually take over the management of the store for Mr Atkins.

Mr Atkins did not reside in Mangawhare but made regular visits. In 1856 he decided to return to Ireland, taking with him Miss Ada Marriner whom he had adopted and did not return. By 1862 Mr Atkins had wound up his business interests in New Zealand and had presented the Mangawhare Block and business to Mr John Campbell who incorporated this into the holdings of Brown Campbell and Co. who continued running and expanding the business with Mr A (William) Marriner remaining as Manager.

A notice in the Daily Southern Cross dated 9 January 1855 (this same article appears throughout the January and February issues of the Daily Southern Cross news paper), list J Stanaway as one of many men who nominate William Brown, Esq – from Brown Campbell & Co. – to run for Office of Superintendent of the Auckland Province (side note – John Anderson also appears on this same list – William Henry Stanaway’s father-in-law).

Unofficial Pilot

On 5 March 1855, in the Daily Southern Cross a Stanaway appears on the passenger list of “William Denny”, ss, 400 ton Mailer for Sydney. – we know this is John. The reason for him being on this trip to Sydney was to provide his account on the loss of “The Star of the East”.

Back in January 1855, John was on board The Star of the East which had stopped in the Kaipara to load up with timber (Daily Southern Cross 26 Jan 1855) bound for Sydney. Captain Ashmore had waited for almost a full month anchored off Pouto Point for favourable winds and tide to leave the Kaipara Harbour. He had tried three times to make his exit. In Captain Ashmore’s report he states;

I now mention to you that I had on board as passenger (I giving him a cabin passage for the safe pilotage of the ship) the most experienced pilot of the place. He had been for some years in the employ of Mr Atkins, and eighteen months had charge of a schooner for him trading in and out of Kaipara, a Mr. J Stanaway, from whom also you will receive an account of the loss. He is acknowledged to have a thorough knowledge of the Heads. Last year he took four ships to sea at this time, and took the masters in his vessel eleven times in and out.

Having set out early in the morning the vessel was halfway out the opening when the wind dropped. John suggest they make for Fanny Channel but it was no use and she drifted into the breakers and was broken up. John along with the 21 man crew and Captain were lucky to survive the ordeal, they headed back to Mangawhare then to Auckland where they boarded William Denny for Sydney. (Captain Ashmore’s full report is attached in the appendix).

From this same article, we have confirmation that John had been working for Mr Atkins and was in charge of a schooner owned by Mr Atkins, tasked with coastal trade – we can safely assume between Auckland (Onehunga), Kaipara, Hokianga and maybe even The Bay of Islands for “some years”.

It appears he was also the unofficial pilot (the reference to previous year, 1854 at that same time (January) piloting 4 ships through the entrance and was also passing on his knowledge of the entry to the masters (Captains) in the schooner “eleven times in and out”.

The Kaipara Bar

The bar at entrance of Kaipara Harbour on the North Island’s west coast was especially feared. One of the sand bars at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour is known as the Graveyard. It has been the site of at least 43 shipwrecks, and some say as many as 110.

The colonial trader Samuel Polack described in his book J. S. Polack, New Zealand. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley, 1838, his encounter with the harbour mouth in 1831:

 “The breakers were dashing on several sand bars in an awful manner, about three miles from the land. The late westerly gale caused the fearful commotion of the rolling waves to bound on these sea sand spits, dashing the surf to an unusual height. No vessel, of any size or shape, could at this time have entered the Kaipara; instant shipwreck, into a thousand pieces, would have been the result.”

E.K. Bradley states in his book “The Great Northern Wairoa” that John had been assisting shipping across the bar as early as 1840. We know from accounts that as early as 1843 Captains only had instructions as to how to enter the harbour. An article from the Kaipara Life-styler 3 July 2012 reads as follows;

“Imagine the thoughts of a skipper approaching the Heads in 1843. His instructions read, Ships must place themselves to the southward of the entrance, observing a black patch on South Head (which is a body of sand), bear east six or eight miles at which time you will be in the middle of three black patches on North Head. In this position you will be at the entrance of the middle channel. They could have added …………. “and good luck.”

In the book Early Northern Wairoa by John Stallworthy on page 109 we read;

The navigation of the Northern Wairoa waters, in the earliest days of settlement, was undertaken at some risk, as it was based on purely local and individual knowledge. About the year 1850, the accepted pilot of the river was Captain James Stanaway, who resided at Tokatoka, from which place a view of the lower waters of the river could be obtained. It is uncertain whether he was appointed by any Government, local or general, but he kept his position for many years. The Customs House was also at Tokatoka, and Mr Fenton, afterwards a Judge, was at one time the Customs officer there.

Another source has John in the Kaipara Harbour as early as 1840, piloting ships through the heads – from the book “A White Tohunga” by P&G Kullberg – Page 40

“Being a master mariner, John Stanaway, widely known as J.J., unofficially held the office of pilot from 1840 to 1855 and officially from 1855 to 1860, the year Charles (Nelson) settled in the Kaipara Harbour.”

From the Book Tall Spars, Steamers and Gum by Wayne Ryburn. Page 23 we read;

“Until September 1855, Captain James Stanaway had been acting as pilot, but his role now became official.”

Again on page 43 we read;

“In February 1854 the Kaipara was proclaimed as a port of entry due to the increasing timber trade. Pressure had been brought to bear on the new Auckland Provincial Government to provide port facilities following the sinking of three ships. Mr James Stanaway was appointed the first pilot and harbour master, a position he held for 10 years. The pilot station and custom house was initially maintained at Tokatoka.”

It is known that there were pilots and harbour masters already up and down the country (Hokianga had a pilot since the early 1830’s, the Auckland and Manukau also had pilots and crew before John, and were paid employees of the province (Daily Southern Cross news paper 6 December 1853).

In 1855, John is listed as to contributing to the Patriotic Fund to the sum of two pounds and two shillings – being published in the Daily Southern Cross on 3 November.

DSC 1855 11 06 JJ Stanaway Fund Part 1DSC 1855 11 06 JJ Stanaway Fund Part 2In February 1855, all British colonies throughout the world, were asked to contribute to the Patriotic Fund for the support of widows and orphans of soldiers, sailors, or marines killed while in active service in the war against Russia – the Crimean War.

We have, from the book Unknown Kaipara, found that in this same year, 1855, that John was recommended by William Brown, and backed by Fenton, Atkins and Campell “as a fit and proper person to be Pilot for the Kaipara”.

I believe it is no coincidence that John is recommended by these men. They have all known John for some time and he has been employed by some of them and entrusted by the others with their property, goods and probably at some stage, all of their lives as they crossed the bar with John as the unofficial acting pilot.

We know he backed these men also. These were very influencial and powerful men to have on his side, and to have their confidence and trust meant that John must have been highly respected in the Kaipara.

Pilot for the Port of Kaipara

On 29 September 1855, he is appointed the Pilot for the Port of Kaipara – from the book The Unknown Kaipara (It would be another year before he is officially made the Pilot).

Captain John James Stanaway about the time of him being mad Pilot and Harbour Master of the Kaipara - Allen Family Tree.

Captain John James Stanaway about the time of him being made Pilot and Harbour Master of the Kaipara – Allen Family Tree.

There is a period of 8 months from John’s apointment as pilot where he is still based at Mangawhare as the Government were still looking for a suitable place for the Pilot Station. The natural location would have been somewhere on the North Head, however they had difficuilty finding a suitable location. A letter Mr Atkins wrote describes what John would have to in this 8 month period;

Although Pilot appointed and sum approved for erection of house the Government has not acquired land. There being no residence for the Pilot nearer the Heads than my station (30 miles) he is for the present obliged to shelter there, which is convenient as it being the loading anchorage, he is at hand to move and moor.”

During this period John would be advised by Agents (Brown & Campbell) of large vessel due to enter the harbour and would proceed to the Heads, sometimes remaining for weeks awaiting the ship’s arrival with only his boat’s sail to protect him.

It was finaly decided that the soon to be vacated house of Mr Fenton at Tokatoka be optained and re-occupied as the pilot station. Mr Fenton had been the resident magistrate from February 1854 until March 1856 when he left to become Native Secretary.

Pilot Licence

Official Pilot Licence – Tides of Time.

So, in March-April 1856, John moves to Tokatoka, into Judge Fenton’s old home, more by default rather than design – the location was totally unsuited – being 25 miles from the harbour entrance and which later provoked much criticism from the shipping community unfairly directed at John. However the merits of living in comfort in Fenton’s former house outweighed the alternative of North Head.


At the base of Tokatoka (meaning “rocks upon rocks”) is a great cone-shaped volcanic plug which stands guard on the banks of the Northern Wairoa River as it approaches Dargaville.

Maori legend states how Tokatoka came to sit where it does. It seems the peak was among a group of small mountains that arrived in the area from Hawaiiki looking for a new home. The biggest of these, Manaia, strode far ahead and soon came to rest at the head of Whangarei Harbour. The others hung back, worrying about whether it was safe to cross the Wairoa River, and when they did take the plunge one was drowned.

As a result the remaining mountains, including Maungaraho and Tokatoka, decided to stay put and are still there today.

The great Ngati Whatua war chief Taoho was said to have had his home near the top of the great rock with a Pa on the lower slopes.

Kauri On Kaipara

Kauri forest on the Wairoa River, Kaipara, by Charles Heaphy, 1840 – this shows a row-boat, with Colonel William Wakefield in top hat seated in the stern, trailing an oar – Alexander Turnbull Library.

Colonel William Wakefield once described the forest in this area as follows;

“both sides (of the river) presented magnificent forest – some entirely of Kauri in a state of the greatest profusion”

From the Book Tall Spars, Steamers and Gum by Wayne Ryburn on page 12 we read;

“In 1854, Francis Fenton, resident magistrate for the Kaipara, recommended that owing to the 1830’s conflict between the Ngati Whatua and the Ngapuhi, the Tokatoka block should be purchased by the Crown to create a buffer between them. A more pragmatic reason was to procure a landing place and site for a customs house to serve the recently opened Port of Kaipara. By 1855, an area of 3,000 acres had been surveyed and purchased.”

Francis Dart Fenton about 1870 - Alexander Turnbull Library

Judge Francis Dart Fenton about 1870 – Alexander Turnbull Library

And continued on page 23

“Tokatoka became the main settlement and by 1854 was an important port for the Kaipara. The customs house was located here, with Mr Fenton – later Judge – as customs officer.”

The Māori Pa had long been abandoned by the time John arrived. The move would have been a great start as Mr Fenton had left his house ready for John to move into. No doubt he continues working for Mr Atkins as well as his new role as pilot.

As the land at Tokatoka had originally been purchased by the government as a buffer between two of the local tribes, and the house was given to him for use later when John tries to register to vote in the elections, he is turned down as he is not living in his own home on his own land (some of the conditions, along with being a man under the old election voting rules. It is not until much later that he purchases his own sections).

The living arrangements seem quite strange and difficult to compile. From the Northland Times article about the reunion held in the mid 1980’s, it was said that Henipapa lived in the Kaipara area until her death in 1905 in Dargaville, Northern Wairoa. However, it seems that she did not live with John, proof of this is the story of Isabella and Henare.

Two of his children (Isabella and Henare) reportedly left their mother, who lived in the Māori Pa on one side of the Wairoa River. They swam across the river to live with their father, who lived at Tokatoka on the other side, no small feat for two young children. At some stage, William starts assisting his father, whether he lived with his mother or father we do not know, William’s younger brother, Ngaere, by this stage is living with relatives down is the Gisborne area, where he spends most of his life.

We have uncovered articles signed on 10 June 1856; a series of Notices which were placed in the Sydney Herald 17 July 1856 they read;


The positions of and bearings from the two large buoys, laid down on the 5th June in the main channel to this harbour are — The buoy on the inner point of the outer spit to the northward of the main channel, may be seen in clear weather at a distance of 3 miles from sea; it is painted red, but without a globe beacon at top. The triangular tuft on the South Head bears by compass from it S.E, and East ¼ East, distant five miles; and the centre green patch on the North Head N.N.E., ¼ E., distant 6 miles. It is laid down in five fathoms water, the width of the channel on the N.E. being about ¾ of a mile. Vessels should pass on the northeast side if possible, but if obliged to do so on the south-west, not further than half a ship’s length from the buoy. The Tory shoal buoy is visible on rounding the outer buoy at a distance of two miles, to which the course given in Captain Drury’s directions will lead: it is in 7 fathoms, and should be rounded only on the south-west side, where the fairway is at least a mile in width. From this buoy the bearing by compass of the triangular tuft on South Head is S.E. ¼ E., and of the centre green patch on the North Head at N.E. by E. This buoy is also red, but with a globe beacon on the top, (Signed) J. J. Stanaway, Pilot. Kaipara, June 10th, 1856.

From this we see that John has been involved in the setting out of the bouys to the entrance of the Kaipara Harbour. Note that he has written this on 10 June, a month before he is officially made the Pilot – and that he is already referred to as the Pilot, and can infact place a notice in the Sydney Herald stating so. This gives weight to the likelyhood that he had already been acting as the Pilot for the Kaipara for some time.

Harbour Master

On 4 July 1856, John James Stanaway is officially appointed the Pilot and Harbour Master of Kaipara.

Taken from the book “The Great Northern Wairoa” by E.K Bradley – Page 13

“…Captain Stanaway was appointed, the first official pilot to be registered in New Zealand, 1856. It was not his duty to go outside although he did on many occasions. He lived at Tokatoka and as there was no telephone a lookout was kept from the Bluff.”

“The Customs House at Tokatoka was in the charge of Mr Fenton.”

And Pages 23-24

“Harbour Masters – Captain John James Stanaway – Captain Stanaway was the first officially commissioned Pilot in New Zealand and was appointed to the Kaipara Harbour. In those days the Harbour or Bar entrances were not marked and as early as 1840 he used to escort ships over the bar in a life boat with a well-trained crew. He earned such an excellent reputation for himself that his appointment was automatic.

From this we gather that he was good at what he did and had developed extensive knowledge of the Kaipara Harbour, its headlands, bars and currents. The sand bars which still exist today made the Kaipara Harbour difficult to enter. The tidal currents are very strong, particularly on an ebb (outgoing) tide, and entry was preferred to be attempted at slack water or flood (incoming) tides.

John received payment for his work, a letter (14 July 1856) is sent to the Provisional Treasurer authorising payment of £14 per month as allowance for the Pilot establishment at Kaipara. It reads as follows;

Letter from the Provisional Treasurer 4 july 1856 - Tides of Time.

Letter from the Provisional Treasurer – 4 July 1856 – Tides of Time.

“To the Provisional Treasurer – You are hereby authorized to pay to Mr. JJ Stanaway the pilot at Kaipara the sum of fourteen pounds per month out of the sum appropriated in the last report of the Provisional Council as allowance for boat and boat’s crew for the Pilot Establishment Kaipara”.

On 8 July 1856, a year after being appointed the Pilot, John is appointed the Harbour Master. The Daily Southern Cross published the following;

“A Gazette, published last evening, announced that the Secretary of State had signified his approval of the appointment of ….. Mr J.J Stanaway, the pilot of Kaipara, to be Harbour Master at that port.”

It is understood that the ships would generally sail down the west coast from the north and when they spotted Tokatoka Peak they would fire their cannon to let John know they were approaching the entrance. He would then race to the peak and return signal and make his way with his crew to the harbour mouth.

John used a boat called a skiff – a skiff is described as any small, open boat, rowed and often fitted with a small sail, usually a spritsail, and sometimes a jib. Skiffs were usually further described by use, such as oyster skiff, pole skiff or sail skiff. We know that John’s skiff included a sail as he often used the sails to protect himself from the weather when he was waiting for better conditions at the Kaipara Heads – sometimes this could be for days.

On 20 August 1856 the following is published in the Government Gazette and also in the Sydney papers;


Superintendent’s Office, Auckland, August 20th, 1856.

Sir,— In reference to the notice published in the Government Gazette of June 20th, 1856, to masters of vessels frequenting the Port of Kaipara, giving the bearings of the two buoys laid down in the main channel entrance to the harbour, I have the honour to inform you that the drifting of those buoys, luring a severe gale about three weeks’ since has been reported to me by the pilot ; and also to request that notice of the fact should be made in the Government Gazette, as it will not be possible to relay them until the fine weather sets in. One of these buoys has parted the chain, but has been recovered; the other has shifted into shoal water off a low sand point inside the South Head, about three miles from the position it was placed in.

Logan Campbell, Superintendent, Government Gazette, September 10.

From this we see that the recently installed buoys had been moved by gales, a problem that never went away.

Published in the Daily Southern Cross paper on 26 June 1857, John is required to bring into the harbour the barque “Signet” (this spelling we believe should have been “Cygnet”) into the harbour after it had left the week earlier but returned for repairs.

By October 1858, we have a record which has his son Henry now part of his crew along with A Martin.

In October 1859, a letter from Brown & Campbell to Atkins after chartering the “Mary Ann” states;

Pray have Stanaway on the lookout for this ship as the only pilots to be had here (Auckland) are drunken swabs and the Captain is a stranger.

Captain Ashby of the “Mary Ann” was evidently impressed and asked that John be permitted;

to pilot her out to sea from the Kaipara and bring her round to Auckland.

Marriage # 4

On 9 June 1861 at Otamatea, John James marries Sarah Ann Clark (marriage certificate number 1861/1759) at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kaipara. She was the eldest daughter of John’s close neighbour and we gather good friend, Charles Clark and Dinah Jowett. John was 46 years and Sarah was only 20.

At this time, there were very few Europeans living in the Kaipara area. From an article printed 20 February 1913 entitled “The Land of Few White-Skins”, a Mr S Percy Smith, ex-Surveyor-General goes on to list them as Revs. Buller and Gittos, Charles .E. Nelson, George Rix, Captain Stanaway and Mr Marriner who had a few Europeans engaged under him.

He goes on to say that the local Ngati Whatua were;

“strictly honest and honourable in all their dealings, hospitable to a fault and appeared to me to follow the teachings of the missionaries in a true spirit of Christianity.”

In 1863 there was potential trouble coming to the Kaipara area. Some rebel Waikato Māori who had been captured at the battle of Rangiriri and then escaped from Kawau Island prison passed through the Albertland district and there was talk of some of the Ngati Whatua joining them and turning “Kingites” (Māori King Movement). However Ngati Whatua remained loyal to the government.

On 17 March 1862 Sarah Ann Stanaway is born. (Note – almost exactly 9 months from the wedding).

In April 1862, we have a record which is interesting, it is for John to retrieve a letter which he has sent and it has been returned – the address he has sent it to was Dartford. It is possible that this letter was perhaps to his parents/family – which may indicate that he had some contact with family back in England.

John appears on the list of persons claiming to have their names inserted on the list of voters for the electoral district of Marsden 1863;

“STANAWAY John James, Tokatoka, household, dwelling at Tokatoka, Kaipara River, attested by D. McGregor.”

An objection is submitted on the grounds that he is occupying a house owned by the government (Mr Fenton’s old house). We have no record of the outcome but, we assume the objection would have been upheld as he did not purchase any property until July 1865.

Triple Wedding

In January 1864, John’s eldest daughter, Mary Ann marries Thomas Russell in a triple wedding with Sarah’s brother William and sister Hannah. From the book, “Women of Northern Wairoa” by Jane Wordsworth on page 113 in the chapter on “Wilhelmina Clark (nee Paton) 1845-1906” we read;

“The week soon passed and Mrs Clark invited a few friends over on Christmas Day, they included James Russell and the Stanaway family. James Russell was engaged to one of the Miss Stanaway’s. Captain Stanaway was a fine jolly man full of fun. We had a good Christmas dinner.

My brother John, was engaged to Miss Clark and that with Mr Russell’s engagement, there was to be a double wedding in January. So Captain Stanaway, out of fun, went to Will (William) Clark and said to him, “You are not game to ask Miss Paton to be your wife and make a triple wedding of it”.

Some versions say that there was a wager involved but the end result was a triple wedding on 16 January 1864, at Mrs Clark’s home in Whakahara.

Wilhelmina Paton in later life while retelling the above Christmas dinner, described John Stanaway as “a fine jolly man, full of fun. He kept things merry when he was about.”


John appears in a letter to the editor of the Daily Southern Cross dated 2 April 1864. The letter generally airs dissatisfaction with the amount of development the Provisional Council is not putting into the Kaipara Harbour, the location of the pilot station, lack of a light house, and the loss of the buoys. (Two buoys had been set down in the main channel in 1856 but were blown away). The letter reads as follows;

“It does appear rather remarkable that the pilot and harbour master for the Kaipara, should live nineteen or twenty miles from the entrance to the harbour, where his services are required, if they are required at all.

We recently had an opportunity of satisfying ourselves of the abuse of public money which the payment of a harbour master and pilot for the Kaipara is, under present circumstances; and we feel it our bounden duty to expose that abuse. In doing so, we do not mean to prefer any charge against Mr. Stanaway, the gentleman who now enjoys the snug little sinecure of £130 a year, with as much of the dues as he finds it convenient to collect.

Doubtless any sensible man, placed in similar circumstances, would act as he does; and seeing that his place of residence is a matter of choice, he displays, a good deal of taste and discretion to locate himself rent free on a Government reserve, under the shelter of romantic Tokatoka, turning his back upon the lower and exposed reaches and shifting sandbanks of the Wairoa.

The Provisional Government, in its wisdom, and with a view doubtless to improving the navigation of the Kaipara, refused to allow a boat and crew to the pilot, but instead raised his salary………..

…………The two buoys cost £400 freight, and several thousand pounds were paid to the manufacturers; and they were sent adrift because the very efficient pilot, resident at Tokatoka, believed one-half the chain cable attached to each would be quite sufficient. He cut the chains, moored the buoys with the shortened cables, and the first heavy sea drove them ashore. We suppose this mishap was taken as proof of the dangers of the harbour, and not of the ignorance of the pilot.”

The 1867 Government plan for the Township of Tokatoka – A correspondent once noted “the surveyor who planned the township must have been a “genius” as no one on looking at the plan would have supposed that a lofty mountain rears its head in the very centre, yet there it is, with allotments on its sides that would serve well to browse two or three alpine goats upon it and for little else.”

The 1867 Government plan for the Township of Tokatoka – A correspondent once noted “the surveyor who planned the township must have been a “genius” as no one on looking at the plan would have supposed that a lofty mountain rears its head in the very centre, yet there it is, with allotments on its sides that would serve well to browse two or three alpine goats upon it and for little else.”

The comments have come from, it seems, an ill informed writer. Had they perhaps been a resident in the area or had some local knowledge, they would have understood why the Pilot Station was where it was located, and the extream conditions that John would endure at the entrance while waiting for vessels to arrive.

Land Ownership

In July of 1864 John purchases three sections at Tokatoka, section number 7, 50 & 51.. The government had finally surveyed and set out the beginnings of a new town. It has taken John over 25 years to final own land – it could be argued that he had no reason to purchase land while he held the post of Pilot and Harbour Master – for the previous 9 years he had use of Judge Fenton’s original homestead.

It is not clear if one of these sections was the site of Judge Fenton’s homestead and that way John simply stayed in the house or if it meant he would have to build a new home for his growing family.

Re-appointed then Demoted

On 9 October 1864 Charles George Stanaway is born.

On 14 October 1864, John is reappointed as the Chief Pilot and Harbour Master, for another year, the New Zealand Herald states;

“On the reassembling of the Council the following return was laid on the table…..John James (vice JJ Stanaway, removed up the river), Harbour Master and Chief Pilot, Kaipara, $250.”

It appears that from his reappointment in October till a month later in November an incident happens whereby John is demoted to the assistant Pilot, and Captain J. James takes his place (Captain James is the pilot from 1864-1870).

John officially holds his position as Harbour Master and Chief Pilot position for a total of 10 years, and is made the assistant pilot from 1864 which he holds for another 4 years.

In the Daily Southern Cross on 14 November 1864 there was published a letter to the editor, a complaint about the demotion from Chief Pilot and Harbour Master to assistant pilot, it reads as follows;

“Sir, Could you oblige me by giving the following insertion in your valuable journal. I have been very much surprised, in looking over the returns made to the Provisional Council, on the motion of Mr. Foley, of the appointments made by the Provisional Government since the last session, to see amongst other items the following – J James, Chief Pilot and Harbour Master, Kaipara, vice JJ Stanaway, removed up the river, £250”. This appears to me quite incomprehensible. I think that it should have been worded thus – Vice JJ Stanaway, superseded to gratify the spleen of a few individuals, and to make room for a friend on the late Provisional Treasurer.

The truth of the matter is this – the pilot was wanted by the charterer to take a vessel where the captain would not allow her to go, which so enraged the charterer that he made some grievous charges against the pilot for neglect of duty, and the Superintendent, acting upon these representations, immediately wrote to the pilot, telling him that after three months from that date his services would not be required.

The pilot, hearing these matters privately, immediately proceeded to Auckland and had an interview with the Superintendent, and so far confuted the false accusations made against him that he did, I believe, receive his reappointment before he received his discharge which was sent in the usual course through the post.

I think, and so does everyone who knows anything of the subject, that the appointment of Captain James over Mr Stanaway’s head is a piece of great injustice to an old Government servant.

Mr Stanaway was appointed pilot during the administration of Dr Campbell, and has continued to hold the same up to the present time, at a salary of £100 per annum. For some years back he has had neither house, boat, nor boat’s crew, but has been obliged in attending to his duties as pilot to go about in a small boat of his own (a waterman’s skiff), by himself, lying for weeks together in the winter time on the beach at the heads, with no other shelter except such as was afforded him by his boats sail or a small tent.

I have not heard of any complaints against him from the masters of any of the ships that have visited this port, either as to his abilities as pilot or for inattention, and I think that if there was to be an increase of salary Mr Stanaway was entitled to it, and that a man who is comparatively speaking a total stranger to this district should not be put over his head at a salary nearly treble his own, and likewise to have houses, boats, boat’s crew, and every other requisite supplied to him.

If this is the way our Provisional Executive reward their old servants, how can they expect to have men worthy of being called men in their employ? I fancy myself that the Government wish to make Mr Stanaway resign, to make room for a man for whom they wish to find a billet. Should he not do so, there is not a person here who can take a ship of any size up or down any of the rivers within Kaipara Harbour.

Hoping you will excuse my trespassing so long on your valuable time, I am, &c, An old resident in the Kaipara District. Kaipara, October 28, 1864.”

This would have been a huge blow to John, probably insulting and would have been well understood had he resigned, he chose to stay on as the assistant Pilot.

The pilot station at the same time is moved from Tokatoka to the South Head.

John is next mentioned in an article in the New Zealand Herald on 7 December 1865, reporting on the arrival of the cutter Marwell. This vessel had a difficult passage from Hokianga to Manukau when a storm hit forcing the Captain to stop in at Kaipara Harbour and upon entering they sustained damage and required several days repaired before making for Manukau Harbour. While in Kaipara …….

“Captain reports that on the night of the 30th November, guns at sea were heard at Kaipara by Mr. Stanaway, the pilot. A party of natives were at once sent along the coast, but returned without finding traces of any vessel.”

The same Captain then reported seeing a sail twenty miles off Manukau bar, this vessel was never identified.

In 1865 the first saw mill was established we read on pages 28-29 the following from the Book Early Northern Wairoa by John Stallworthy;

Mr Morgan was then engaged in running a cutter between Auckland and Kaipara, and he states that, on one of his outward bound trips, he noticed a large vessel in the offing, but did not get near enough to identify her.

On his return trip, while waiting outside the bar for the tide to flow, the barque bore down upon him, and made enquiries as to the channel. Arrangements were made by which Mr Morgan was to pilot the vessel into port, a seaman from the barque taking his place on the cutter. Captain Smith appeared very wroth at having been sent to a port where there was no pilot to show the way in. He had been outside the Heads for some weeks.

The bar had evidently been given a bad name on the vessel, and the crew showed signs of dread until it had been safely passed. Mr Morgan piloted the vessel inside the North Head, then, handed her over to Captain Stanaway, who was the official pilot, but it was not his duty to go outside the Heads. Mr Stanaway took the vessel up the river, and berthed her up the Aratapu Creek, alongside the mill wharf.

It is worth noting that by now being only the assistant pilot, John’s duties are reduced to being a river pilot, and not piloting vessels in and out the harbour. Where Captain James, the Pilot, was in this story is not known.

From the Daily Southern Cross on March 5, 1866, goods have been sent to Kaipara on the “Sylph” for John, interesting the other names for these goods are other well-known settler families on the Kaipara – M. Marriner, J. McLeod (John McLeod the founder of Helensville – South Kaipara, in 1862), and C. Heath (Charles Heath).

On 22 October 1866 Phoebe Maria Stanaway is born.

Northern Wairoa Expanding

By 1866, we have an idea of who was living in the area from Ada Clark’s family records chapter ten entitled “EDUCATION, LAND MONKEYS AND SILKWORMS” we have the following account of the Northern Wairoa River;

“In 1866 the Rev. Gould visits the Northern Wairoa and gives the following list of settlers on the river. West side travelling north: Topp, Cobbald, Andrews, Walton, Bonar, Stokes, Hay, Marriner, Douglas Ruff East side travelling north: Stanaway, Jones, Bush, Wm. Clark, Charles Clark, Butterworth, Dreadon, Paton, Sills, Dodd, McGregor, Walker, Sutton, Bradley, Jones, McCraith, McGregor, Walton, Tirarau, Wilson, Watson.

The services were held in some settler’s house, a store, a sawmill, or under a tree. The first baptism registered was that of a child of Mr Jones, Whakahara, October 21st 1866. Sunday services were held at Whakahara, Te Kopuru, Mititai, Aratapu, Mangawhare, Tokatoka and Wilson’s.”

 From Tall Spars, Steamers and Gum by Wayne Ryburn page 212 which reads;

“According to the 1866 census, undertaken by John Rogan for the Kaipara district, the population included about 600 to 700 Maori, along with 150 Europeans.”

A Weekly News correspondent reported in 1867, that the only occupants of the town of Tokatoka were Mr Stanaway and two or three other settlers’ homesteads. This report ties in with a marked copy of the plan for the township indicating the plots of Stanaway, Heath, Rogers, the Church of England and the Burial Place.

Picture 021

Marked up Street map if Tokatoka about 1867 by G Rogers. – George Grey Special Collections.

On 19 June 1867, a petition is put before the Provisional Council for no receipt of payment, published in the Daily Southern Cross, it reads;

“Mr Walton presented the petition of John James Stanaway, assistant pilot, Port Kaipara, which set forth that he had been engaged for the last fourteen years as pilot for that harbour, and that he had received no pay since 31st March, 1866, although he had continued to perform his duties regularly. He prayed for such relief as the Council should consider he was entitled to receive.”

The New Zealand Herald on 3 August 1867, lists goods for John coming from Otahuhu on “Prince Albert” – goods included 6 bags of flour, 6 packets of groceries, 1 box, and 1 case of kerosene.

On 11 January 1868, another petition was sort again in the Daily Southern Cross;

“Mr Davy presented a petition from John James Stanaway, assistant pilot, Kaipara, praying for remuneration for services performed. The speaker said the petition prayed for a direct grant of money, which was contrary to the rules of the Council. The petition had better be taken back, and it could be altered by the petitioner.”

It is not clear if John receives his remuneration for the period he worked from late March 1866, until January 1868, but it is at this point John appears to cease working in any capacity as a pilot on the Kaipara. So John looks to other sources of income.

Store Keeper & Postmaster

By the end of 1868, he has opened and runs from his store the Tokatoka Post Office, from the book “Memories of Ruawai, Tokatoka & Rehia” by Violet McLeod – Page 123

“The first Post Office in the area was at Tokatoka, and the first Postmaster was Captain Stanaway, who was also the Harbour Master. The opening took place on the 1st July 1868. On the 31st May 1883 the post office closed and open at Rehia on the 1st May 1888, but the place was then known as Tokatoka No. 2 Post Office.”

Also from the book “The Great Northern Wairoa” by E.K Bradley – Page 125

“The Post Office was in the store but was later moved down to the wharf.”

In June 1968, John was issued with a “Bush Licence” – Certificate number 53-1868, which cost him fifteen pounds. This gave him permission to sell alcohol to the local population. The term “Bush Licence” was used for a type of country liquor licence in the 1860s.

On 1 February 1869 Laura Stanaway is born.


John’s business is expanding and so he also builds and runs the Tokatoka Hotel, by 7 June 1869, we have local farmers using John and the hotel as the centre of the community as the following notice on the Daily Southern Cross reads;

“Wanted, on a Bush Farm, a labourer, who understands the use of the Pit-saw, and who can make himself generally useful. Apply, by letter to T.R., care of Mr. Stanaway, Tokatoka Hotel, Wairoa, Kaipara.”

It can only be assumed he started to sell liquor out of his general store, as the planning and building had not yet started for the first Tokatoka Hotel.

We only have one photograph of the original hotel, which I believe was taken shortly after it was constructed sometime between 1869 and 1870.

The first Tokatoka Hotel

The first Tokatoka Hotel – built by JJ Stanaway about 1869-1870. This is before JJ builds some extensions and improvements. I received this photograph from Cecilia Hill, it was a copy taken by her mother when she was doing some family research. This picture was taken at the Tokatoka Tavern.

From a close study of this picture (and this is only a guess) – I believe the gentleman in the centre right, who appears to be looking through a sailors telescope is Captain John James Stanaway himself, the child (a girl) to the left is Phoebe (B 1866) then continuing left is Charles (B 1864), then Laura (B 1869) standing on chair who appears to be about 1 and a half, then Sarah Ann (B 1862), (then a man playing a fiddle – Mr Tom Ringrose – refer page 232 of Memories of Ruawai, Tokatoka & Rehia) then Elizabeth Heath Clarke (B 1858). His wife Sarah maybe standing in the doorway with Helena (Lena) (B 1870) whom would have just been born.

An Active Settler

A settlers meeting held on 27 August 1869, was reported in the Daily Southern Cross on 4 September 1869. I feel it is worth including the article in its entirety as it shows the reader what was happening in the district at the time. John is mentioned and recorded a number of times.

An important meeting of the settlers on the Wairoa River was held at Bonar’s (Messrs. Brown, Campbell, and Co.’s) mill, Aratapu, on Friday, the 27th August, at 2 p.m. to take into consideration the following subjects relative to the improvement of the district.

  1. To co-operate with the settlers in the Kaipara, district in memorialising the Government with regard to opening up the overland communication between Riverhead and Helensville.
  2.  To co-operate with the settlers in the Kaipara in memorialising the Government to subsidise a small steamer to convey her Majesty’s mails within the Kaipara waters.
  3.  To petition His Honour the Superintendent to represent to the General Government the urgent necessity of placing proper beacons and buoys at the entrance of the Kaipara harbour, to render the navigation safer to the shipping frequenting the port.

 And fourthly, to endeavour to ascertain what number of shares would be taken up by the settlers in the district to enable them to hire or purchase a small steamer for the Kaipara waters.

There were nearly a hundred setters present from the banks of the Wairoa and neighbourhood. This was a large number, considering the distance of the several settlements. The weather for nearly a week previously had been remarkably fine, and this had doubtless caused many to leave home who could not have well attended under other circumstances. There was manifested throughout the greatest interest in the proceedings, the subjects for consideration being of so much importance to the settlers.

Amongst those present were the following gentlemen:

Messrs. White, Clarke, W. Clarke, G. Clarke, Heath, Carver, Sills, Smith, Jones, Jenkins, of Whakahara;

Messrs. Stanaway, Johns, Rogers, of Tokatoka;

Messrs. Dodd, sen., Dodd, jun., Macefield, Bradley, Sutton, sen., Sutton, jun., Douglas, sen., Douglas, jun., of Oamaru;

Messrs. Webb, sen., Webb, jun., Shepherd, the chief Tirarau and six other natives, Hobson district

Messrs Beard, Bush, Smith, Lindsey, Manley, Top, W. Waters, sen., W. Waters, jun., Ruskell, sen., Ruskell, jun., W. King, T.Wilkes, J Cain, Stewart, John Morgan, H. Manning, B. Wayland, Andrews, H. Friher, Caspar Westphalia, James, W. Gear, G. Haynes, H, Sprague and several others with whose names we are not familiar.

On the motion of Mr. Stanaway seconded by Mr. Macefield, the chair was taken by Mr. Heath, of Whakahara

A comment on the last line, remembering the earlier comments that JJ liked to keep things jovial wherever he went – I can imagine it was in his nature to quickly nominate Mr Heath as chairperson, having already conspired with Mr Macefield to second his nomination – I suspect Mr Heath most likely didn’t have time to take his seat at the meeting, before finding himself nominated to the chair (It is something I would do, a way of avoiding the position being appointed to oneself). We continue….


The Chairman said the meeting had been convened in the first place for the purpose of considering the advisability of applying to the Superintendent for assistance to repairing the portage from Riverhead to Helensville. At present it was impassable for the carriage of goods. He (the Chairman) had had goods on the road for the last seven weeks. A state of things like this was very injurious to the district.

Mr. Stanaway said some goods of his had been eleven weeks on the road.

The Chairman added that twelve bullocks employed by Mr, McLeod, of Helensville, could not take a ton of goods across the portage.

Mr. Carver, of the firm of Sills and Carver, said it had taken their firm nine days to get a quantity of flax machinery from Riverhead to Whakahara, and advocated strongly the necessity of some means being adopted for remedying the existing state of affairs.

Mr. Bradley said no one present could do other than feel the urgent necessity that there was for something being done towards opening up the line of road in question. He had walked over it several times, and, as it was impossible the settlers could do what was requisite themselves, they should use every effort, and co-operate with the other parts of the district in endeavouring to make the portage passable.

The Chairman said the question of co-operation with the other portions of the district would also I come under consideration.

Mr. Douglas said he feared the Government would not consent to render the required assistance, although it was the duty of the Provincial Government to place the road in repair, as it was a continuation of the Great North Road. If it depended on the settlers in the vicinity of the road doing anything nothing would be done, as the road board could not raise more than some £50 at the most, and that was by a tax of some sixpence an acre.

Mr. Manley said that some time ago the Provincial Government had it in contemplation to open up a better communication with the district. He was himself then engaged in surveying for a line of tramway between Riverhead and the Waitemata. Mr. Weaver, the then Provincial Engineer, was, however, in favour of a canal from the Waitemata River to the Kaipara, which would have been preferable to a tramway, as the transhipment of goods in that case would not have been necessary. That scheme was not carried out on account of the want of funds for completing so great an undertaking.

Mr, Clarke thought the Government only wanted stirring up to induce them to do something.

The Chairman wished to know whether Mr. Manley could state the estimated cost of a tramway.

Mr. Manley replied he could not recollect, but the estimates of both projects were published in the Auckland papers at the time.

Mr. White said he had conversed with Mr. Hogan on the subject, and that gentleman and Mr. Nelson had made some calculations as to the cost of repairing the portage with metal, and had discussed the advisability of forming a company for carrying it out. They estimated the expense at £5,000 to fit the road for transit of goods. His own, (Mr. White’s) conviction was that it would sooner cost £10,000 to make it what was desired. It was evident nothing could be done without the assistance of the Government.

Mr. Carver believed that if the settlers would raise any amount the Government would be willing to supplement it with a like sum. If a company were formed the Government would have to secure their rights for a specified term.

Mr. Stanaway said, supposing a company were raised, with capital of £5,000, did Mr. White suppose the Government would supplement that sum with another £5,000?

Mr. White did not suppose they would.

Mr. Bradley then proposed the following resolution – That the chairman of the meeting be requested to place himself in communication with the Superintendent of the province, calling the attention of the Government to the state of the portage between Riverhead and Helensville, and urging the repair of the same, or the formation of a tramway and on his having ascertained the intention of the Government on the subject, to report the same to a further meeting to be convened for that purpose.

Mr. Joseph Rogers seconded the proposition, which was carried unanimously.


The Chairman next introduced the question of applying to the Provincial Government for the grant of a subsidy towards maintaining a small steamer on the Kaipara waters.

Mr. Carver advocated the advisability of making the application, and said he had conversed with several owners of vessels in Auckland, and he believed there were some who would be willing to run a steamer if a subsidy could be secured. A steamer, if started, could not pay its way the first year, that was certain, but if the assistance of the Government could be obtained it might pay after the first year or two.

Mr. Rogers thought, if they secured the repair of the portage, that would be as much as the Government could at present be expected to do; the delay in obtaining supplies from Auckland did not arise I from the want of river communication. They might ask too much, and get nothing.

Mr. Douglas expressed a similar opinion.

The Chairman said the Provincial Secretary had promised the assistance of Government in subsidising a small steamer. At present there were three vessels engaged in the conveyance of the mails. A steamer would be enabled to compete advantageously with these.

Mr. Rogers said that altered the complexion of the affair altogether.

Mr. C. Clarke proposed, “That the chairman be requested to communicate with the Superintendent on the subject of a subsidy promised to the settlers in this district, for a small steamer to convey her Majesty’s mails and passengers from Helensville to the different settlements on the Kaipara waters – the settlers having it in contemplation to secure the services of a suitable steamer providing they can rely on the support of the Government.”

Mr. James Sutton seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously.


The Chairman calling attention to this subject, and said that of the buoys and beacons provided some years ago only one existed at the present time in the Kaipara channel. This ought not to be, and it would be well to request the Superintendent to represent to the General Government the urgency of the case, and to point, out the necessary positions in the waters where buoys were required to ensure the safety of vessels navigating the harbour. There were some landmarks, but they never were very plain; they were blind guides some years ago, and now they were almost obliterated. A sum of money was voted by the Provincial Government for supplying buoys, but they were never placed owing to stress of weather, and they had since disappeared so nebow.

Mr. Stanaway said every ship that entered the harbour above 50 tons was compelled to pay pilotage dues and the insurance was doubled on account of the insecurity of navigation. This made the freightage of goods so much heavier, and it was very prejudicial to the prosperity of the district.

Several other gentlemen having spoken on the subject.

Mr. Carver moved, “That the chairman be solicited to draw the attention of the Superintendent to the present dangerous state of the entrance to the Kaipara estuary through the absence of proper buoys and beacons, and the shifting of the sand- banks, and to request that his Honour would be pleased to urge upon the General Government the necessity of immediately taking some steps to remedy the evils complained of in the way they may deem best.

Mr. Stanaway seconded the motion, and remarked that if the Government complied with, the request the rates of insurance would be greatly reduced.

The resolution was agreed to.


Mr. Rogers proposed, “That the chairman be requested to invite the co-operation of the settlers of the Matakohe, Paparoa, Oruawhare, Helensville, and other districts for the purpose of giving weight to and for carrying out the foregoing resolution.”

Mr. Manley seconded the proposition, which was carried unanimously.

Mr. Carver laid before the meeting a copy of a petition suitable for presentation to the Superintendent from the residents of the locality. The petition, which is subjoined, was adopted, and the chairman was requested to forward copies for signature to Mr. Coates and other gentlemen who would take an interest in the matter:-

“To his Honour the Superintendent of the Province of Auckland.

The petition of the undersigned landowners and settlers in the province of Auckland respectfully showeth,

That for some years past the over land communication between Auckland and the Kaipara has been, during the winter months, virtually closed to your petitioners who reside in the district – that portion of the main-trunk line of the Great North Road lying between the Waitemata and the Kaipara having become almost impassable for traffic.

That, this portion of the road being a continuation of the main trunk line, the burden of its repair should fairly be a charge upon the province at large, and not upon the highway road board of the district through which it passes the total amount of rates collected in that district being utterly inadequate to provide even ordinary repairs.

“That your petitioners in the district have long been promised assistance from the Government to subsidise a small steamer to convey her Majesty’s mails and passengers to the different settlements on these waters, on the ground that the navigation from Kaipara to the head of the Wairoa formed a portion of the main trunk line of road.

 “That your petitioners have now in contemplation securing the services of a suitable steamer for this purpose, providing they may rely on this assistance.

 That the entrance to the port of Kaipara has, by loss of buoys, shifting of banks, and the absence of proper beacons, become exceedingly hazardous to vessels entering the waters, and that the shipping interests of the port have suffered very considerably thereby.

That taking into consideration the amount of revenue collected in this district, the very large export trade carried on for years past, and, from its natural productions, the probable increase in future years, your petitioners have a fair claim to the assistance of Government to enable them to provide facilities for its permanent settlement.

Your petitioners would, therefore, humbly pray that your Honour will be pleased to take such steps as you may deem advisable to establish a more permanent overland communication with Auckland and this district that you will be pleased to recommend and support, therefore, a subsidy for a suitable steamer to convey Her Majesty’s mails and passengers to the different settlements on these waters.

“That you will pleased to urge upon the attention of the General Government the insecurity of the entrance to this port for shipping, with a view to their providing such buoys end beacons as they may deem requisite for the guidance of shipmasters frequenting the port of Kaipara.

“And your petitioners, &c.’

Mr. Bradley called for the thanks of the meeting to the chairman for the manner in which he had conducted the business.

Mr. Rogers said, in seconding the proposition, he wished to remark that, in considering the wants of the district, the settlers had overlooked a most important matter, and that was relative to the erection of some place of worship, and a place of burial. For so large and so fine a district to be destitute of a church was not creditable. He hoped the subject would receive the attention it deserved.

The Chairman remarked there was a reserve of 10 acres for a cemetery at Kopu, and reserves for building purposes and having acknowledged the vote of thanks the meeting separated.

John is also now involved in the Gum Trade – from the Daily Southern Cross on 12 November 1869 we read;

Most of the natives have resumed their gum digging after the winter “recess”. Mr Stanaway, of Tokatoka, I see, has already purchased several tons.

Gum Trader

With John running the local trading station, post office and more recently a hotel, it was therefore natural for him to be involved in the trading of kauri gum from the local diggers. This gum he would then ship to the Auckland based gum traders, who then graded and exported large amounts around the world. From 1850 until 1900 the Kauri gum trade was Auckland’s main export.Gum diggers

The gum was predominately dug by Dalmatians, Maori and British settlers, conditions were tough, and I expect that a high percentage of John’s day to day trade was with this work force. Perhaps even the gum was used to barter for goods between John and the diggers. At its peak there were over 2,000 gum diggers working in the area east of Tokatoka.

We have recorded elsewhere on this site, where one or two of John’s children and grandchildren got into trouble “borrowing” gum, such was its value.

Election Official

On 26 November 1869, the district held their Superintendent election. The election was between to gentlemen, Mr. Williamson and Mr. Gillies. The result was Mr Gillies won 13 to 7. John was involved in this election – the Daily Southern Cross had the following article;

“The interests of Mr. Williamson were looked after by Mr. J.J. Stanaway, who, from his long residence, and knowing everybody in the district, was deemed by Mr. Williamson’s committee to be the fittest person to detect ant attempt at personations, and prevent those mal-practices which are known to prevail at our provincial elections.”

On 25 March 1870 we have a mention of John in the New Zealand Herald, in an article about Reverend Gould’s visit to the area.

“…..where on three occasions church services were held at Tokatoka, where a good sized room, formerly occupied as a dwelling by the river pilot, has been set apart for that purpose by Mr. Stanaway….”

On 17 June 1870 a settlers meeting was held at Mr. C Clarke’s home to consider the question of erecting a Chapel with a burial ground attached and securing the services of a school master for the district. John was appointed to the committee to obtain information and costs that would be incurred, and the prospects of obtaining the services of a competent schoolmaster.

We have a record from 11 October 1870 from the Auckland Star where the ss St. Kilda was to deliver 21 packages of goods to J. Stanaway in the Kaipara.

We have from the New Zealand Herald 14 November 1870, a delivery for John on the ship St. Kilda, for Kaipara, 16 casks beer, 16 cases sundries, no doubt stock for the hotel.

On 27 December 1870 Helena (Lena) Stanaway is born.

School Committee

On 23 January 1871, a meeting of the Wairoa School Committee was held at Mr. Clarke’s, Whakahara. The New Zealand Herald on 1 February 1871, stated that the meeting had been convened in consequence of a letter having been received from Rev. F. Gould, in which he stated they had gained the Services of Mr. Winstone as teacher and the Board of Education had granted £60 for 12 months towards costs. John was appointed Chair, and appointed to a working committee, he was also authorised to procure a boat for the exclusive use of the teacher in visiting the different stations.

On 13 February 1871, a meeting of the committee elected previously for obtaining the services of a schoolmaster was held. Rev. F Gould was successful in obtaining a grant from the Central Board of Education. The meeting was held in Mr. Clarke’s gum store, Whakahara, with John in attendance. John was appointed to a working committee and was authorised to take the necessary steps to purchase a punt for the use by the teacher. The teacher Mr. Winstone, would commence on the 6th at Tokatoka, then proceed to five other stations where, at each, he would spend a period of time teaching the children before proceeding to the next station.

A further committee meeting was held on 22 March 1871, at Mr. Clarke’s barn, Whakahara. It was ordered that the sum of £6 be voted for the purchase of a punt for the teachers use. Immediatel after the committee meeting, forty or fifty persons sat down to a plentiful and well-varied spread. On removal of the cloth a public meeting was held, Mr. Stanaway being voted to the chair, welcome to Mr. Winstone was made and thanks to those involved was stated.

“After tea, Mr. Stanaway was called to preside at the meeting of the settlement. He paid a high compilment to the efforts made by Mr. Gould to secure educational advantages. The system adopted, he said, was somewhat of a novelty. It was the same which had been adopted in America, when it was a British colony, and was found to answer. That it had answered in that neighbourhood was proved by the report.

Mr. Stanaway said the settlers of the other side of the river would be welcome to participate in the educational advantages which had been obtained.”

At the conclusion of the meeting the room was cleared, and dancing, and vocal and instrumental music, which were kept up until the small hours, was reported in the Daily Southern Cross and the New Zealand Herald newspapers on 28 March 1871.

Business Expanding

In 1871, the Tokatoka Hotel had been extended and completely refurbished throughout, probably after an incident the same year when the population of the area increased with the amount of work and what sounds like a riot broke out inside the hotel causing extensive damage that John had to close the hotel for his and his family’s safety. From the Daily Southern Cross paper 24 April 1871, an article from the local correspondent reads as follows;

“There is now plenty of employment in this district for all its residents who are able and willing to work. It is estimated that there are over 150 gum-diggers at work on the east side of the river at the back of Tokatoka and Whakahara; and, whilst there are amongst them many steady, industrious men, who are evidently knocking out good quarters, and also providing against the rainy day, there has been, I am sorry to say, an influx of a number of the greatest rowdies and thieves this side of Mount Eden, and a long way beyond. These worthies have, I hear, in their foraging expeditions almost depopulated Mr. Stanaway’s hen and turkey roosts, and also carried on to such an extent at the Tokatoka Hotel – smashing windows, crockery, and furniture; fighting, driving out the inmates, and taking illegal possession – that Mr. Stanaway has been under the necessity of closing the house, in order to ensure the safety of himself and family, until he can procure assistance from Auckland. A couple of Police here just now would find their office no sinecure, and, in their absence, Lynch law would be highly desirable.”

None of the above would have been insured and to make matters harder was that there was no Law in the Kaipara region at all, the first constable for the Northern Wairoa was not appointed until 1875.

Opposition & Support

From the Daily Southern Cross newspaper 6 May 1872, an article from the local correspondent reads as follows;

“Much surprise and dissatisfaction are felt here at the decision of the Auckland Bench in refusing to grant a renewal of Mr. JJ Stanaway’s license for the Tokatoka Hotel. Mr Stanaway has at considerable expense had every room in the house completely overhauled and painted, papered, &c.; and so great is the improvement made that the visitor after a few months abscise would scarcely recognise the interior of the old house. In addition to the hotel, which contains I believe twelve rooms, Mr. Stanaway has built two wings at right angles with the large building – one containing bar, taproom, and bedrooms; the other a store, bedrooms, &c. I hear a petition is being got up, and unless both a public and a private injustice is determined upon the magistrates will, I think, reconsider their decision.”

Then again on the 10 May 1872, in the same paper was a letter to the editor which stated;

“Sir, I see that at the annual licensing meeting at Auckland Mr. Stanaway’s application was refused – reason given, not required. So far, so good; close the public-houses by all means. I am always glad to hear of any step being taken in the way of abolishing the liquor traffic; but let it be done in a spirit of justice. This I fear has not been done in the present instance, for, while Mr. Stanaway’s house has been closed (a place containing bedrooms and other accommodation for travellers), I find a retail grog shop has been opened about ten miles up the river from Tokatoka, far away from settlers, saw mills, &c., and containing no accommodation whatever, except a dead-house; which means, I presume, a place in which men can lie and sleep on the floor when dead-drunk. Surely the opening of one has nothing to do with the closing of the other, surley no backstairs influence has been used to bring about this iniquitous end! Oh, no! The proprietor of the present public-house would never use his influence in such a manner, and the magistrates would never be swayed by such unworthy considerations. The refusal to grant the license must come very hard on Mr. Stanaway, who has, I hear, been at great expense in enlarging and improving his hotel, and I sincerely trust the public will take the proper course in the matter.”

From the Weekly News report on 11 May 1872 a report read;

JJ was a jovial man renowned for his witticisms and amusing stories. He was a popular host. Completed redecoration – in addition to the Hotel which contains 12 rooms he has built 2 wings at right angles to the large building – one containing bar, taproom and bedrooms, the other a store, bedrooms etc.

Following the above article, the Auckland Stair on 17 April 1872, issued a notice in is paper as to the reason for the refusal of the Bush License, it reads:

Renewals of licenses were granted with the following exceptions, which were refused as follows:- Ellen Lawless, Newton hotel, for alleged insufficient accommodation, and in consequence of a conviction for Sunday trading: Dennis Markham, Naval hotel, for a similar conviction; J.J. Stanaway, Tokatoka hotel.

Part Original Hotel Part New Hotel

We know that the Tokatoka Hotel is extended. A new addition to the front more than doubled the size of the hotel. This larger extension having two storeys and wrap around verandas on each level. Perhaps it was the time of the above events that sees the Tokatoka Hotel expand.

From the few photographs of the Tokatoka Hotel we can still make out the original hotel sitting behind the new front extension. The bigger hotel was known as the second Tokatoka Hotel.

That every room in the house had been completely overhauled, painted and papered, the hotel contained 12 rooms a bar, taproom and storage rooms, we can only assume that this hotel would have been one of the largest and highly decorated in all of Kaipara if not Northland and may have rivalled most hotels in Auckland.

We must remember that all the hardware, paper, and paint would have been purchased probably in Auckland and shipped north. Not forgetting all the furnishings for the number of rooms, the amount spent would have been considerable for that time.

My only concern would be that the majority of the clientele (Gum diggers) may have been of a lower standard to have been put into such a highly decorated hotel.


In May 1871, three people were drowned, when the punt they were in, swamped with water then sank. The inquest found that the punt had been overloaded with kauri gum – which resulted in the drownings of two men and a young boy named Francis Norwood. The bodies of the two men Henry Tullock and James Arthur were recovered. The body of Francis was not recovered until September of the same year. The Tokatoka Hotel was used for the inquest and both John and his son Henry were involved in the recovery of the punt and bodies.

NORTHERN WAIROA – SAD ACCIDENT.—TWO LIVES LOST. One of those sad accidents which cast a gloom over a neighbourhood, cause sorrow in families, and fill some hearts with anguish, occurred at Tokatoka on the 9th instant. A youth named Frank William Northwood, and a man named Henry Tullock, were drowned by the upsetting of a boat.

The youth was related to Mr .J. Fitness, of Tokatoka, (through his wife) and employed by him in the stores of Messrs. Must and Co. During Mr. Fitness’s absence in Auckland, the care of the store was left in the deceased Tullock’s charge. He appears to have been very anxious to do all he could during his absence, and made a voyage to Kaihu on Monday with two tons of gum, and returned to Tokatoka about three o’clock in the morning of Tuesday.

He loaded again, and started with two tons and 13 cwt. more gum, Frank North-wood, Mr. Fitness’s brother-in-law, being with him in the boat, at the helm. When abreast of Mr. Jenkins’, it came on to blow very hard, and whilst Tullock was endeavouring to take in a reef, the boat gave a heavy lurch, took in water, then righted again, and eventually sank.

Captain (Henry) Stanaway, of the Clyde ; Mr. Manning, of the Packet; Mr. (J.J.) Stanaway, of Tokatoka, and several of the settlers on the banks of the Wairoa, spent considerable time in endeavouring to raise the boat and to find the bodies. The boat came to pieces with the efforts made, and, I regret to say, the bodies have not been found.

The elder deceased was a married man, and leaves a family, now residing at Melbourne.- Auckland Star 22 May 1871

GREAT NORTHERN WAIROA: CORONER’S INQUEST.- On Saturday, the 20th May, an inquest was held at the Tokatoka Hotel, before Thomas Stirrup Webb, Esq., Coroner, and a jury of settlers, upon the bodies of Henry Tullock and James Arthur Brown, who were drowned while conveying gum up the river. Joseph Fitness, George Smith, and James Kelly were examined.

The jury returned verdicts to the effect that both persons came to their deaths by drowning, owing to the upsetting of a punt loaded with kauri gum, on the Mangonui River, and they expressed their opinion that the punt was overloaded, and wished to express their disapprobation of the practice of overloading boats.

It appears Tullock has been a captain of a ship in the other colonies. He leaves a wife and several children to lament their loss, at Melbourne. The body of the little boy, who was drowned at the same time, has not yet been found. Both the bodies were buried side by side on Sunday last, May 21, when a number of relatives and friends attended.

The funeral service was conducted in a very solemn and impressive manner by the Rev. Moses Breach, who used a revised form of the Church of England. – The Daily Southern Cross 29 May 1871

GREAT NORTHERN WAIROA: INQUEST. – On Monday evening, September 18, a coroner’s inquest was held at the Tokatoka Hotel, before Thomas S. Webb, Esq., Coroner, on the skeleton of a little boy, found on Sunday, the 17th instant, at high water mark near Tokatoka by Mr. William Paton.

The remains of the corpse were identified as those of Francis Northwood, who was drowned on the 9th of May last in company with Henry Tullock, by the swamping of a boat too heavily laden with kauri gum. With the bones were found a boot, sock, the buckles of a belt, parts of a coat, pants, and shirt, which Mr. Fitness and his brother could swear belonged to and were worn by the ‘ boy Northwood at the time of his being drowned.

The jury unanimously agreed in the verdict of Accidental death by drowning. As soon as the decision was given, and the warrant issued for interment, the grave was dug by moon and lantern light between those of two others who met with their deaths in the same way a few months ago.

The burial service was read by the Rev. Mr. Breach, whose voice sounded forth the Christians’ hope, amid the hills above and dales below, as literally — ” We buried him dark at the dead of night, The sods with our shovels turning, By the struggling moon beam’s misty light, And our lanterns dimly burning.” – Daily Southern Cross 25 September 1871

On 28 November 1872 James John Stanaway is born.

Abraham Taonui

Letter 27 May 1873 from Abraham Taonui. - Colleen Stanaway Collection.

Letter 27 May 1873 from Abraham Taonui. – Colleen Stanaway Collection.

We have a letter dated 27 May 1873, written by the Native Assessor, Mr Abraham Taonui, to the Superintendent of Auckland, John Williamson, stating;

Sir – I the undersigned do consider Mr JJ Stanaway a fit and proper person to hold a licence for the Tokatoka Hotel.

It may be coincidence but it happens that Abraham Taonui (Aperahama Taonui) is the Uncle of John’s eldest son, William’s wife Susan Anderson – on her mother’s side.

From the Tera website we read the following about Abraham;

But in 1869 Aperahama left Hokianga and its intense disputes. Some thought him too deeply Christian and too sympathetic to the government. He went to live on the Wairoa River in northern Kaipara. Kinsmen from Ngati Whatua who had formerly been sheltered at Utakura by his relative, Muriwai, offered him sanctuary; subsequently, in February 1873, they gifted him 100 acres at Okapakapa and 2,061 acres at Oturei, south of Dargaville, in recognition of his role as prophet and healer. Therefore Aperahama moved from Aoroa to Oturei. He was appointed an assessor for Kaipara in 1873, but earned his living from gum-digging.

It would appear then that John would have had dealings with Abraham through gum digging also, and the Stanaway family through William’s line will go on and have more association with Abraham such as – William and Susan use the name Abraham for two of their sons, while three of their sons will be buried in the Oturei Native Cemetery.

On 17 March 1874 Frederick Stanaway is born.

The New Zealand Herald on 6 April 1874, states more goods for John, interestingly this shipment includes goods for another Stanaway. We can only assume this maybe for either William or Henry.

William Arthur Marriner

On April 7, 1874 John’s neighbour, A Marriner who was running the store in Mangawhare at that time for Brown Campbell & Co.

Mariner's Letter 1874

Mariner’s Letter 1874

William Arthur Marriner – John would have known William from when he was a baby. William was born in Hokianga at about the time John arrived in New Zealand. William’s father and John both worked for Mr Adkins. John followed the Marriner’s when they moved from Hokianga to Kaipara in 1849.

Arthur writes him a letter, it reads;

Captain JJ Stanaway

My dear Sir

I shall feel greatly obliged if you would lend me 3 or 4 cases of gin I have been disappointed in the vessel with our goods is not arriving and have about 150 natives here and have not enough of the above for them, and by doing the above you will oblige.

Yours Mr A Marriner.


John had numerous Bush Licence’s, right up until his death in 1874. Each year he had to re-apply for a new licence. In 1872 he was refused a license which caused some uproar and letters to the editor were written supporting John even though they opposed the sale of alcohol.

John died on 17 August 1874, he was sixty one years old and had been suffering from Enteritis. (Death Certificate number 1874/10582).

John's Grave Site in the Tokatoka Cemetery

John’s Grave Site in the Tokatoka Cemetery

Enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine, usually caused by eating or drinking substances that are contaminated with bacteria or viruses. The germs settle in the small intestine and cause inflammation and swelling.

John's Grave - Colleen Stanaway Collection.

John’s Grave – Colleen Stanaway Collection.

He was buried on 20 August 1874 in the local Tokatoka Cemetery on the bluff overlooking the Wairoa River. (Plot number 4 according to the cemetery records – a Stanaway infant is buried next to him in plot number 5 we believe this to be his grandson Thomas Anderson Stanaway aged 8 months buried in 1880).

We have a copy of John James Stanaway Probate (click here).

From the last Will and Testament of John James Stanaway, we know that his estate was worth about £700. He owned the Tokatoka Hotel and three sections in the Township of Tokatoka (sections 7, 50 and 51).

Sarah Continues

The running of the second Tokatoka Hotel was continued by his wife Sarah, she puts a manager in place to run the day to day operation and within two years of John’s death she marries the manager – Mr. Saunders. Together they run the Hotel until 1892.

Tokatoka c1896 - Kauri Museum

Tokatoka c1896 – Kauri Museum

Tokatoka Declines

Over time Tokatoka lost its importance and the people drifted away. The township of Tokatoka never became the town that was initially planned. It probably hit its peak around 1900. With the gum fields soon emptied and the draining of the Ruawai Flats (Tokatoka swamp) and the establishment of the town of the same name, the establishment of Dargaville, the mill towns of Te Kopuru and Aoroa, meant that people settled elsewhere and as such the Church of England plot remained empty the Chapel never went ahead, the Post Office and Customs House were moved to other centres.

Nowadays the only existing evidence of a settlement pre 1900 is the Cemetery. The Tokatoka Tavern was established in the 1920’s and contains some historical information and pictures of the towns past.

Taken from the book “The Great Northern Wairoa” by E.K Bradley – Page 125

“Tokatoka – this small township with the hotel nestled back in the rock and with the shops and houses extending down to the water’s edge, was a very picturesque place. The first Pilot, Captain James Stanaway, lived here as well as a Mr Fenton, later Judge Fenton. There was a good wharf which could accommodate passenger boats and small ships which called regularly. The Post Office was in the store but was later moved down to the wharf. There was a good hall and always plenty of entertainment, as well as Church services and Sunday Schools. The hotel was burnt down and today there is a modern tavern on the main road which was built by Rope Brothers.”

Taken from the book “Memories of Ruawai, Tokatoka & Rehia” by Violet McLeod – Page 231-232 – Tokatoka and its History

Travellers on the main highway north of Ruawai look up at the distinctive Tokatoka Peak, but today there is no clue to the fact that the stretch of land between the peaks and the river was once the site of a busy little township. An old map shows the streets and sections marked out, but now there is nothing except the tavern, one house and the old cemetery.

Tokatoka township owed its growth to its position as a port of call on the river, and to the bush contractors and timber fellers who came to work the area, and particularly to the large influx of gum-diggers in the 1880’s and 90’s. It was estimated that at this period there were up to 2,000 men working on the local gum-fields, many of whom were Dalmations attracted here by advertisements in the newspapers of their country.

The township consisted of a number of private houses, a boarding-house, a two storeyed hotel, a gum-shed, a bulk grain and feed store, post office, hall, morgue, cemetery, general store, saddler’s shop, photographer and Dr. Symond’s consulting rooms, (on the left side of the peak, where the earlier post office was situated, and near where Gordon Ringrose’s house is today).

Tokatoka Village c1900

The “Second” Tokatoka Hotel, centre two storey building – rebuilt by Sarah Stanaway, this photograph is of Tokatoka in about 1900.

The hotel was up on the hill too, nearer the peak, and along with the post office was built down by the river when the main road was formed alongside the river.

The Kaipara pilot, Captain Stanaway, was first stationed at Tokatoka where there was a wharf to accommodate the river traffic. (This wharf was removed in 1947).

The first meeting of the Hobson County Council was held at Tokatoka in 1877, but this little town never grew into what could be called a centre of the Northern Wairoa region. No church was ever built there, Sunday school was held, and the Anglicans and Catholics owned sections, Bishop Pompallier purchased a section for the Catholic Church in 1867.

Page 272 – Schools

Tokatoka School was built sometime between 1877 and 1885. The earliest record is dated 1893, with Mr Tidmash as the teacher, and an attendance of 48 children. The building was enlarged to a two teacher school from 1893 to 1897 an all-time record of 80 pupils was registered.

Tokatoka c.1900 on the banks of the Northern Wairoa River, Kaipara.

Tokatoka c.1900 on the banks of the Northern Wairoa River, Kaipara.

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