Alexander Bell (seated, centre) was the first Pākehā permitted to settle in Te Rohe Pōtae (the King Country) after it was closed to Europeans in the 1860s. This came about through his marriage to Katarina Te Waihanea, who was born in Taumarunui in the early 1850s. She was taken to Wairoa in Hawke's Bay when she was a baby by her adoptive aunt, Mihireia, and uncle, Rangimaihi, and this is where she met Bell. On hearing the news of their first-born child, Katarina's father, Te Awhitu, sent a message to Wairoa asking that the family come to Taumarunui, which they did in 1874. At first Bell was not allowed to cross into Te Rohe Pōtae. Katarina, Mihireia and Rangimaihi left him at Tokaanu, near Lake Taupō, and travelled on to Taumarunui, where they sought permission for him to enter. Rangimaihi returned to Tokaanu 10 days later to bring Bell to Taumarunui.
The couple spent some years in the Whanganui region before returning to Taumarunui for good in 1883. They had 21 children, eight of whom died as babies. This photograph of Alexander Bell and some of his children and grandchildren was taken during the funeral of Katarina, who died on 27 July 1910. Bell lived in Taumarunui until he died in 1932, aged 93. Streets in Taumarunui are named after the couple.
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Abundant Past, Tommy Lee Collection
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