So, Fran and I went on an Easter road trip around the Wairarapa looking for stories. A lot of tramping through cemeteries and lots of fantastic finds. We are set to bring you several stories including ones about Tui Brewery, founding families, and murders and accidental deaths that just boggle the mind.
One of the oldest people we have ever discovered in a cemetery was Te Koro Neho Arona.
Mr Arona was born in 1800, nine years before the first European settlers arrived in Russell in the Bay of Islands, and he lived to the truly impressive age of 111. There is very little information about him, as he was born long before records started in New Zealand.
Although his headstone is much faded it reads that Mr Arona was of Ngāti Kaumoana.
At the age of 16 he was christened by the Reverend Samuel Marsden - the man credited with bringing Christianity to New Zealand.
The changes that happened during Mr Arona's life must have been truly astonishing for him. From the 1830s he may have watched settlers arriving on huge sailing ships, and in the 1840s watched settler towns being established in and around Wellington. To put it in perspective, he would have been about 40 when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, 45 when Hone Heke chopped down the flag staff in Russell, 67 when Maori men were given the right to vote, 70 when the first game of rugby was played in New Zealand, 86 when Mt Tarawera erupted destroying the Pink and White Terraces, 98 when NZ introduced the old age pension (the first county in the world to do so), 99 when New Zealand troops went off to fight in their first overseas conflict - the Second Boer War in South Africa, 101 when Queen Victoria died and 111 when Amundsen reached the South Pole.
He must have seen so much of his world change.
Mr Arona died at Ouwaka, Lansdowne on October 7, 1911.
While Maori had been in the Wairarapa since the 14th century, Masterton was established in 1845 - and Mr Arona is buried in one of the oldest parts of Masterton’s cemetery in Archer St.
We have much more to come.