By Mangawhai Museum History Group
An extract from a Daily Southern Cross item dated May 9, 1862
Having recently paid a visit to these districts, some account may prove acceptable. We left Auckland in the ‘Mary Ira,’ Capt. Seymour a constant trader to this port; the wind being light’ and Baffling, it took some thirty five hours to reach Snapper’s Bay, near the Mangawai (sic) Heads, where we were obliged to remain awaiting turn of tide; so soon as it served, we up anchor, and on entering the Heads the cause of detention was made plain, for, distant some few hundred yards from the right head land, a giant rock up rears its lofty crest; between the headland and this, a passage is formed, causing a strong current.
The first signs we have of civilization appears on the sea face of the right Bank. Here a patch has been cleared by a Mr Hazell, a cooper from Auckland, who, we believe, intends to convert its woods into provision casks; thus adding another branch to our colonial manufactures.
Taking advantage of a light breeze, our vessel sailed by the south side of Bugbear Rock, over the bar into smooth water; it may be myth water, for as yet there is no appearance of a river; still, almost imperceptibly gliding on, a turn of the river catches the eye, and, in the distance is a fenced and cultivated farm, the property of Mr Smith.
The Messrs McKenzie and McNinnis have also a ship building yard on the river bank, and a fine vessel of some sixty tons on the stocks, which for timber, strength of build, and workmanship, we venture to affirm will be second to none built in NZ. Passing these locations, we are fairly in the river, which is here of great width; to the left we have a low sandy shore with mangroves; on the right, in contrast, high banks – the land laid out by government for a village settlement. Proceeding onwards about three miles from the Heads we came to a branch of the river; situate of this junction is Mr Mooney’s store and country inn. Here we landed; on the banks overhang the symmetrical pohutukawa (sic), with its profusion of lovely crimson flowers. The boat had been seen coming in, and we found an excellent repast, consisting of fresh eggs, milk, wild pork, excellent butter, and good tea, served by an obliging landlady. That here they (citizens) would meet with wholesome fare, with clean and comfortable rooms at reasonable rates, and if fond of fishing or boating, the landlord with his punt would take them up any of the branches of the river.
A short distance from Mooney’s is another store and the post office, kept by Mr Dennison. Taking the punt, we cross over from here to Bentley’s Point, leading to the southward and West Mangawai and the back settlements of the Hakora, Ikeranganui, Kaiwaka and Pukekaroro. From Bentley’s point we proceed along a tolerably good and well beaten road; on either hand we have the river which to the westward runs several navigable streams, or narrow branches of the river, studded with raupo huts; this location is termed the village of Mangawai, and as far as concentration is concerned, deserves the same; the settlers in this locality attend but little to farming – they have cows and their potato plots; but their time is principally occupied by other pursuits, one ploughs the seas, another saws timber – and so on.