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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.




Pioneer Wesleyan missionary.

A new biography of Whiteley, John appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

John Whiteley was born at Eddingley, Nottinghamshire, on 20 July 1806. He was ordained on 27 September 1832 and arrived in New Zealand on 21 May 1833. Stationed first at Kawhia and later at Pakanae, Whiteley undertook many missionary journeys, and was influential in persuading the Waikatos to set free their Ngati Awa slaves. He was president of the Auckland Methodist District in 1855, and in 1856 moved to Taranaki where, besides his mission work, he did much to smooth ruffled feelings between Maori and Pakeha. Whiteley had charge of the Grey Educational Institution at Ngamotu, built a native chapel at Kawau pa (New Plymouth), and baptised Te Ua, the Hauhau prophet. He was an unsalaried Native Land Commissioner, and through his fluency in Maori acquired great mana among the tribes. On 13 February 1869 Whiteley rode to visit the military settlers at White Cliffs (near Waitara), but, ignorant that they had been massacred earlier in the day by Hone Wetere's (John Wesley) war party, he was ambushed and killed. His murderers were never brought to trial. In October the Government granted an annual pension of £100 to his widow. Whiteley's murder incensed both Maoris and settlers, and the latter petitioned Queen Victoria to retain Imperial troops in Taranaki.

John Whiteley is commemorated by the Whiteley Memorial Church in New Plymouth (opened 1898) and by a cairn near where he fell (unveiled February 1923).

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Sowing the Seed in Pioneer New Zealand, Elliott, G. (1959)
  • Proc. Wesley Hist. Soc. (N.Z. Branch), Vol. 1, pt. 4 (1931)
  • Taranaki Daily News, 20 Feb, 11 Mar 1869.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.