Coles of Mangapai

From Auckland Maritime Museum computer records arrivals to New Zealand - David Cole, "Caduceus" Auckland 19 May 1859.

David Martin Cole arrived with some of the first settlers of Mangapai in 1859. They landed via Totara Creek, two chains inland from where the Whangarei - Auckland road crosses it. "Cole's store was burnt down and not rebuilt and the Mangapai Wharf became less seems the two roads from Cole's Hill over the high ranges to Crutcher Road and Ivan King's corner were never further developed....."

The first stores at Mangapai were Harrison's and Cole's and another store by the Mangapai Hall had many different owners including Coles (sic.) David Cole and Jim Palmer had an early butchery business in Mangapai.  (Which David?)

My Grandfather, Robert Bell Cole arrived at Waipu from the Chatham Islands after having worked four years there for his mother's cousin, Thomas Ritchie. He came over to the Mainland on a whaling ship. After spending some time at Waipu he went into a brief partnership with his brother, David Graeme Cole. Their uncle, David Martin Cole, had been killed when he was crushed between his wagon wheel and a gate post. The story goes that he used to have a two-bullock wagon but one of the bullocks died. He then trained a draft horse to work alongside the remaining bullock and the unlikely combination was a source of some wonderment in the district. They were accustomed to moving off when they sensed David climbing onto the wagon. On the fateful day, they must have moved off a fraction too soon.

I had always assumed that the original store on Cole's hill was the one that burnt down. It seems however, more likely that it was the later one that was destroyed with the Mangapai Hall in 1900. (see newpaper clipping below which confirms this theory) Dr David Cole says that his father, James, was about eight at the time and clearly remembered the house burning down. Some household effects were saved and he recalled his little two-year-old brother being wrapped in a blanket and tucked into a lounge chair outside on the other side of the road as they witnessed the conflagration. The Mangapai Hall was immediately rebuilt exactly as it was and is still in an excellent state of repair today.

I remember a story to the effect that when the store burnt down (which ever one), the local Dalmatian gum diggers grouped together and offered financial assistance to help him re-establish, which indicates their respect. Murray Whittle, the present owner of the property, says that his Grandmother (?) remembered the closing sale at Cole's Hill occurring when she was fourteen years old which would indicate it wasn't destroyed by fire and in fact the materials were used to build another house somewhere else in the district..

David Graeme Cole had been sent over from his home in Northern Ireland to help Catherine (David Martin Cole's widow) run the store. He eventually took over the business. At some stage he went into partnership with Jim Palmer in a butchery business in the shop next to the Mangapai Hall (or was it in a later premises?) It is possible Robert worked there for a time and gained the butchery skills that he certainly had.

I am sure there has been confusion in our family stories between the two David Coles that needs sorting out.

David Martin Cole is on the "List of Persons Qualified to Vote at the House of Representatives for the Electoral District of Marsden." 1865 - 1866, as follows: No. 100 / Cole, David / Mangapai / Freehold / Nos 17 & 18, Elysian View, Mangapai. A map of the parish dated 1907 shows Lots 17 & 18 with an area of 121 . 2 . 0 acres.

David obviously named his property Elysian View, but the hill it occupied was generally known as Cole's Hill and is shown as such on sketch maps in the two reference books mentioned above. Cole's Hill is situated about two miles south of Mangapai beyond McAlister Road that used to run through to David's store and on to Whittle Road. There is no longer a connecting road. It is near the top of what is now Monk's Road. It seems clear that David's store was located in a very strategic place at the time. Harrison had a store at Mangapai itself. I am unsure of the exact relationship of Catherine to the Harrisons. The map in Dulcie Spehr's book, " The Mangapai River, Mangapai Wharf and Maungakaramea Wharf" indicates a dwelling on the ridge below the store labelled DG Cole. However, Murray Whittle said that his Grandfather reckoned it was the site of the stables.

There is a headstone placed by DG Cole in the Mangapai Cemetery and inscribed with the names David Cole, his wife Catherine and sister Ann Martin.

David Graeme Cole's son, David Coates Cole was one of four young Mangapai men who were killed during the Second World War. He died in France 4/10/17 aged 21.

Through the Waipu Hall of Memories, I had contact with a Mr Mike Andrews of Dargaville who wrote and told me that his wife had a Great Grandmother who, with her sister, was looked after by David Martin Cole. Their parents had been sponsored from Australia to Auckland to work for L D Nathan. They both died within a very short time of each other from unrelated sicknesses soon after their arrival. Nothing is known about the fate of the two little girls for a couple of years until they turned up at the Coles in Mangapai. Their names were Lucy Catherine Johnson (b 1851) and Mary Maria Johnson (b 1854). Lucy eventually married Robert Cassey Pigeon and Mary married Henry John Walker.


- From "Early Northland. Waikeikei Pioneers. 1860 - 1900. And Their Descendants." by J.T. Stephen. Chapter 11, pages 35 - 40.

- "The Carters of Springfield" by MG Palmer 1959

- The Mangapai River, Mangapai Wharf and Maungakaramea Wharf by Dulcie Spehr, 1988


A fire took place at Mangapai at two o'clock on Tuesday morning last. The fire originated in Mr. Cole's store, and soon the whole building was ablaze. The fire appeared to have commenced in the store and gradually crept backwards. Fortunately, the family were early awake, and with the help of the neighbours were able to save nearly all the furniture, etc. The hall and contents went next, and then the saddler's shop. Luckily all the furniture and goods were removed by willing hands from Mack's shop.
New Zealand Herald, Volume XXXVII, Issue 11517, 31 October 1900

Mr D. G. Cole, storekeeper, of Mangapai, had a large new store destroyed by fire on Tuesday morning. He resided on the premises with his family. All got out safely and were housed by the neighbours. No stock was saved. A little furniture was, however, rescued from the flames. The adjoining hall and the premises occupied by Mr Mack, saddler, were also totally destroyed. Mr Mack's stock was saved.
Auckland Star, Volume XXXI, Issue 160, 1 November 1900


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