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Hone Werahiko: the discoverer of gold at Te Aroha

Originally Hone Kahukahu, when he was living at Ohinemutu in the 1860s he became known as Hone Werahiko, an Arawa name he retained for the rest of his life. His father, a member of Ngati Kahungungu, had been captured by Arawa; his mother was a Waikato. A widow living at Maketu chose him as her second husband because he was ‘a good looking fellow & understood English’. In the late 1860s and much of the 1870s, he prospected in Hauraki and even in the King Country, and worked underground in a Thames mine, the only Maori known to have done so. But in the early 1870s he gave up mining to be a pioneer publican and storekeeper at Ohinemutu, at Rotorua. He acquired land and property there, but after his wife died he returned to prospecting full-time. Werahiko’s first investigation of Te Aroha was in 1877, when he was ordered off by the local hapu. He returned in 1880 as the head of a prospecting party subsidized by the government. After finding gold, he was granted the Prospectors’ Claim and, in due course, a reward, and for a time supervised its development. Investing in other claims, he traded in shares. When his discovery turned out to be a duffer, he explored other parts of the mountain, first having high hopes for the Tui portion but then, after four months of exploring over winter with the support of three other Maori, he announced the discovery of his New Find at Waiorongomai. Once again he acquired partners, mostly Paheka, and traded in shares, and for some time supervised the opening up of his new find. Later, he was invited to prospect the King Country, but this did not eventuate. His last involvement in mining was at Karangahake. Because of the hardships of his prospecting at Te Aroha, he died at an early age, leaving a young second wife. His memory lived on, amongst Pakeha miners in particular, because he had the rare distinction for a prospector of being regarded as totally honest, and he was admired for succeeding when so many others had failed. [Note: Especially when he first came to public attention, many Pakeha struggled with Hone Werahiko’s name, which was recorded in a variety of incorrect forms, the worst example being Hoani Whaekareka. Even the warden at first gave his name as Hone Wharekino. Many Pakeha found it simpler to refer to him as ‘Johnny the Maori’. In this paper, his name is given correctly throughout.]
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). Hone Werahiko: the discoverer of gold at Te Aroha. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 61). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart

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