CAREY, ELIZABETH nee COOK
Elizabeth and Matthew Carey arrived in New Plymouth, early in 1864 from Melbourne, Australia. Matthew helped build blockhouses and redoubts in various parts of northern Taranaki. Two years later, the family left for Patea, where they camped in tents for a time, eventually moving to Manutahi, where they took up land under the military settlers' scheme.
The Maori pa was about half a mile from the camp, and natives frequently visited. The wife of the chief, who was called Brown, became very ill, and Elizabeth often visited her, taking her broth and dainties. She eventually died, but Brown never forgot Elizabeth's kindness, and protected her and her family. He advised Matthew to move to a place of greater safety, but his friendly warning was not heeded, until news came in July 1868, that the Maoris had attacked the Turuturu Mokai redoubt near Hawera. Then the family packed all their belongings into two drays, and set out for Patea. One dray broke down, and progress became terribly slow. About a mile away from their home, they looked back, and saw that it was going up in smoke. There is no doubt that the natives had been there all the time, but had been held in check by Brown until Elizabeth had got safely away.
They arrived in Patea at a late hour, but Elizabeth cooked a meal for all five children, and as they were dead tired, they soon fell fast asleep. At midnight a picket came from the Redoubt to say that the Maoris were upon them. They scrambled up in a hurry; you can imagine children trying to gather up their belongings when they were not allowed to strike a match or make a noise. The Maori disturbances increased and the European women and children were eventually sent by steamer to Wanganui. The Carey family returned to Patea in 1869, and there was very little serious trouble with the natives after that date.
However, one day Elizabeth had a great fright. A big tattooed Maori came to the door selling potatoes, and caught sight of Matthew's gun hanging over the fireplace. He came in and shut the door. Elizabeth opened it. He closed it again. She then opened the front door which he also closed firmly. Elizabeth could see his tomahawk under his mat, and was terrified, for the Maori would do anything to gain possession of a gun. Then Brown appeared in the doorway; he was furiously angry and ordered the other away. Had he not arrived, I am sure that they would have all been murdered.
For years afterwards, whenever Brown met Elizabeth in the streets of Patea, he would shake her hand, and weep like a child. He never forgot her kindness to his wife, and she and her family never forgot that they owed their lives to his gratitude. Elizabeth and Matthew Carey eventually left Patea, and returned to Australia. Their son Matthew, who married Jane Elizabeth Carey nee O'Neill stayed in Patea.
Tales of Pioneer Women published by Country Women's Institute (1940). Story by Laurel Carey