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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


GRACE, Thomas Samuel



A new biography of Grace, Thomas Samuel appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

T. S. Grace was born at Liverpool on 16 February 1815, the eldest son of Thomas Grace, of a family of Huguenot descent, and Sarah, née Cox. After a brief grammar-school education he entered a business firm of which, at the age of 24, he had become manager, having supported his family for some years earlier. For a number of years, however, he had wished to undertake mission work and, accordingly, in 1844 he handed the business over to his brother and brother-in-law preparatory to undergoing training for his chosen vocation. He entered St. Bees College in 1846, from which he was ordained deacon in 1848. In December 1849 he was admitted to priest's orders and sailed for New Zealand three months later under engagement to the Church Missionary Society.

With Sir George Grey's concurrence and encouragement, plans were made for Grace to open a mission station in the Lake Taupo district. On the departure of Archdeacon William Williams on leave for England, Grace was requested to act for him at Turanganui. Grace was on the East Coast from October 1850 until August 1853 and applied himself vigorously to the circuit. While there he encouraged the Maoris to insist on their rights in European trading and advised them against precipitate land sales. But his still limited knowledge of the language and the increasing numbers of Europeans in the district led to his ministry being less successful than might have been expected, despite his active sympathy for the Maori cause.

At the end of 1853 Taupo plans were again to the fore and, after a careful introductory visit to the district, Grace finally decided on the village of Pukawa on the south-eastern side of the lake as the site for the station. This spot, where 70 acres were marked out for the mission, was under the mana of Te Heuheu Iwikau, and the choice which irritated Te Herekiekie, the rival chief of Tokaanu, was skilfully engineered by Grace to effect a reconciliation between the two men. The difficulty of arranging supplies and transporting them inland from the base at Matata delayed effective occupation until April 1855. Fencing, clearing, and cultivation proceeded apace. The loss by fire in May 1856 of the first raupo mission house with most of the family's personal effects saw a most substantial two-storeyed building erected in its place, with mission school, cottages, and other buildings.

At an inter-tribal meeting at Pukawa in November 1856, the proposal to elect a Maori king was canvassed, but Grace advised Te Heuheu against acceptance. He later defended himself against the charge that he had supported the proposal, if not having actually convened the meeting.

Grace encouraged sheep farming by the Tuwharetoa tribe, opened a boarding school in addition to an “industrial” day school, and exercised a decisive influence in discouraging local participation in the Taranaki War. Notable among the local chiefs who assisted in the work of the mission were Te Poihipi Tukairangi, of Tapuaeharuru (Taupo), who later led the sole remaining loyal section around the lake, and Hare Tauteka, of Tokaanu. He was also greatly supported by the Ngati Porou chief Matiaha Pahewa, who had accompanied him. Among the local hapus or sub-tribes his strongest followers were the Ngati Te Rangiita, of Motutere, and Ngati Manunui, of Pukawa. The heavy burden of supplying the station largely from the coast, in conjunction with Grace's ambitious views of what should be done appears, nevertheless, to have considerably taxed the energy and loyalty of these people.

The death of Te Heuheu Iwikau, the protector of the mission, in October 1862, as well as the tragic loss by drowning of four key pupils and the mounting discontent of the surrounding tribes, increased the difficulties of the mission. The outbreak of the Waikato War in July 1863 emphasised its precariously isolated position, and in October Grace and family, with the assistance of close Maori supporters, retreated to Matata and Auckland. The spread of Hauhau doctrine, particularly on the western lake side, made early reoccupation impracticable, although Grace investigated the possibility in January 1865.

In March 1865 Grace accompanied Rev. C. S. Volkner on a reconnaissance of the latter's station, which had shortly before come under Hauhau domination. Both men were seized and Volkner executed on the charge of having acted as a spy and in revenge for the death of Maori women at Rangiaowhia in Waikato. Grace was fortunately able to make his escape on HMS Eclipse.

Until his transfer to Tauranga in 1873 Grace had his headquarters at Auckland. He made a number of later visits to Taupo, more significantly in 1867, 1868, 1870, and 1871.

Grace actively dissociated himself from those of his colleagues who had been involved in land purchases. This attitude accounted in part for a coolness with the Williams family, William Williams being most critical of Grace and of the limited effectiveness of the Taupo enterprise. When, however, its isolation is recalled, in conjunction with the growing tension between Maori and Pakeha from the time of its opening, it must be admitted that Grace was not unsuccessful. He was energetic if somewhat unpractical and not one to belittle his difficulties. When the war was over, however, other areas of greater and more prolonged missionary activity showed less evidence of Christian teaching than did Taupo.

Grace had married Agnes Fearon in 1845. He died at Tauranga on 30 April 1879 and was survived by eight sons and two daughters.

by Austin Graham Bagnall, M.A., A.L.A., Librarian, National Library Centre, Wellington.

  • A Pioneer Missionary Among the Maoris, Grace, T. S. (1928)
  • Tuwharetoa, Grace, J. Te H. (1959).


Austin Graham Bagnall, M.A., A.L.A., Librarian, National Library Centre, Wellington.