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Roberton family

Arrived: 1839
Country of origin: Roxburgh, Scotland
Area in New Zealand: Bay of Islands
Source: Various websites, Dictionary of NZ Biography

Details: In September 1839, John Roberton, a former whaling ship Captain purchased Motuarohia from Ngapuhi chiefs Wareahi, Moko and Rewa and built a small house between the lagoon and the hills west of the lagoon.  He drowned the following year, but his wife Elizabeth struggled on with her son and daughter.

Maketu, also known as Maketu Wharetotara, the son of Nga Puhi chief Ruhe, was born in the hinterland of the Bay of Islands. In 1841, when he was about 16 years of age, he was employed to do farm work on Motuarohia, in the Bay of Islands.  His employer was Elizabeth Roberton, a widow.

Her household comprised her eight year old son, Gordon, her two year old daughter, Askena, a servant, Thomas Bull and Isabella Brind, the grand daughter of Nga Puhi leader Rewa. Isabella's parents were William Darby Brind, a whaling Captain and Moewaka, Rewa's daughter.

Thomas Bull had a reputation for strength and brutality. He seemed at all times to have made a set at Maketu and had on several occasions struck and maltreated him.

Maketu murdered Thomas Bull in the night with an axe, he then brutally murdered Mrs Roberton who was shouting abuse at him and then went on to murder the two little girls (ransacking the house and then burning Mrs Roberton and the two children within it). Young Gordon ran up Pa Hill, where Maketu chased him and threw him off the 200ft cliff.

He was sentenced to death by an all-white jury (his defence had wanted a half-white, half Maori jury) in an Auckland court and executed in March 1842.

John Roberton, born 24th Dec 1806 Roxburgh, Scotland, drowned at Paroa Bay, Bay of Islands in 1840.

Elizabeth, Gordon and Askena died 20th November 1841.