Story: Jury, Te Aitu-o-te-rangi

Page 1 - Biography

Jury, Te Aitu-o-te-rangi

?–1854

Ngati Kahungunu founding mother, landowner, farmer

This biography was written by M. J. Parsons and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 1, 1990

Te Aitu-o-te-rangi, the daughter of Te Whatahoronui and his first wife, Aromea, was born about 1820. She belonged to Ngati Moe at Papawai, in Wairarapa, a hapu of Rangitane and of Ngati Kahungunu in Wairarapa. Her parents and her grandfather, Muretu, lived at Te Ureta, Waka-a-paua and Wharehanga, on the western side of the Ruamahanga River, near present day Martinborough.

Te Aitu's childhood was disturbed by warfare as northern tribes invaded Wairarapa in the 1820s; resistance was led by her uncle, Nuku-pewapewa, and her first cousin, Pehi Tu-te-pakihi-rangi. Her father, Te Whatahoronui, and many of his people were massacred by a group of Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga and Te Ati Awa on the Wharehanga peninsula about 1834. Te Aitu and a cousin, Wi Kingi Tu-te-pakihi-rangi, were captured and held (possibly on Kapiti Island). With the introduction of Christianity to Porirua and Kapiti in 1839, captives were released. Many returned home but Te Aitu, reputedly a very beautiful woman, had met John Milsome Jury, from Wapping, London, England, a whaler and coastal trader. The couple left the Kapiti area and went to Nukutaurua, on the Mahia peninsula, where Te Aitu's surviving relations had been living since 1834, under the protection of Te Wera Hauraki, a Nga Puhi leader. It is said that Te Aitu and John were married by the CMS missionary William Williams, at Rakaukaka, Poverty Bay, on 26 October 1840. Te Aitu was probably baptised at the same time, taking the name Huhana (Susan/Susanna), by which she was sometimes known. They settled near Manutuke; John is said to have worked for Williams as a carpenter, building the mission house and church.

The exodus to Nukutaurua, known as Te Heke Rangatira ki Nukutaurua, came to an end around 1840 as peace was made and the exiles began to return to Wairarapa. In March 1842 Pehi Tu-te-pakihi-rangi led some 400 people, including John, Te Aitu and their son, born the previous year, to live at Te Kopi-a-Uenuku, Palliser Bay. In 1845, after the first European sheep stations were established in Wairarapa, John and Te Aitu moved inland, up the Ruamahanga River, to land called Waka-a-paua, later the Waka-a-paua block. Te Aitu claimed Waka-a-paua as her home when she recovered the spade-shaped piece of greenstone, Kau-ora-rangi, which had been hidden there earlier. She and her husband built their first home in a clearing, Ngaki-a-totara, on an island called Te Ureta (Jury's Island). They cultivated the land, planting wheat and oats; they also had cows, goats, horses and 200 head of cattle.

In the 1840s and 1850s John Jury sometimes helped other farmers in the district with their shearing and fencing. While he was away at the Californian goldrush from 1850 to 1851, Te Aitu worked for her neighbours, Catherine and Charles Bidwill, helping with their young family and in the laundry.

Te Aitu and John Jury had four children. The first was Hoani Te Whatahoro, who recorded many tribal traditions, laments and songs. A daughter, Annie Eliza Te Haereaute, who married Joseph Oates, was born in 1846, and another son, Charles Joseph Te Rongotumamao, in 1850. A male child, born in 1854, did not survive.

Te Aitu died in the 1850s, probably in 1854. There are several different accounts of her death. The most likely one suggests that she caught measles during the epidemic which swept through the east coast districts of the North Island towards the end of April 1854. Charles Bidwill made her coffin and she was buried either at Ngapuke or Waitapu, old villages near Martinborough.

John Jury continued to farm Waka-a-paua by right of his wife's claim to her ancestral land, as he later made clear at a Native Land Court hearing: when he was milling timber on the land in the 1840s no one had challenged his right to do so. Te Aitu's cousin, Wi Kingi Tu-te-pakihi-rangi, supported the claim: the island and the land around it had belonged to Muretu, Te Aitu's grandfather, but according to Native Land Court records 'the old man' (possibly Pehi Tu-te-pakihi-rangi) had given it to Te Aitu, 'seeing that she had children'.

In 1868 a certificate of title for Jury's Island was issued to Te Aitu's children by the Native Land Court at Greytown. John Jury died on 6 August 1902 at his daughter's house at Taumata.