District commissioner George Sissons Cooper (1825‒1898) bought 30,000 acres (12,410ha) for the Maraekakaho Block from chief Te Hapuku in 1856.

Donald McLean (1820‒1877) purchased some of this block in 1857, calling it Maraekakaho Station.

By the time of his death, Donald had increased his holding to more 50,000 acres (20,548ha).

Maraekakaho derives its meaning from marae = meeting house courtyard and kakaho = reeds of the toe toe.

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After Sir Donald's (he was knighted in 1874) passing in 1877, his son Douglas farmed Maraekakaho Station and became a very successful breeder of draught horses, as well as Lincoln, Leicester and merino sheep.

Douglas generously built a community hall and church on his land, to form what would be known as Maraekakaho Village.

Pre-empting the Liberal Government's policy of breaking up large estates for settlements, Douglas began to voluntarily sell parts of Maraekakaho Station in 1892. After the sales, the station was reduced to some 12,000 acres (4856ha).

To remember men from the Maraekakaho district who fought during World War I, Douglas gifted land to establish a war memorial. His own son, Algernon (1892‒1923), is listed on the memorial. He survived the war, but with wounds that later led to his death.

Many of the surnames on the Cenotaph have Scottish links, representing men from some of the families the McLeans recruited from the Isle of Tiree to work on Maraekakaho Station.

The war memorial was established in the 1920s. It was damaged in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake, and the repair can be seen half-way up the cross.

After Sir Douglas's death in 1929 (he was knighted in 1927), most of Maraekakaho Station was subdivided. The memorial land was retained in the McLean family, and in 1933 was leased to the council for a nominal amount, on the condition that the council would maintain the site.

Ten men who "made the supreme sacrifice" during World War II from 1939‒1945 are listed by name on the memorial.

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When Maraekakaho resident Hamilton Logan was passing the memorial in the early 1970s, he thought it looked "windswept, sparse and lonely". He and Garry Glazebrook came up with the idea of planting trees to soften the memorial's aspect.

The families of the 10 World War II soldiers contributed funds for the trees and surrounds.

Garry and Hamilton thought that planting 10 trees might lead the soldiers' families to identify a tree for their relative, so nine trees were planted for the 10 men (one has since been removed but will be replaced by a planting on Anzac Day).

In 2017, Sir Douglas's great-granddaughter, Alexandra Fountaine from the United Kingdom, gifted the war memorial land to the Hastings District Council, and it is now listed as a historic reserve.

The children of Maraekakaho School took an active part in the war effort during World War I thanks to the efforts of Miss Daisy McNaughton, the schoolmistress.

The Education Department issued a circular in August 1914 intimating that children in both public and private schools should contribute towards the establishment of field ambulance equipment – to which Daisy sent eight shillings and 2 1/2 pence from the Maraekakaho school children.

At the Hawke's Bay Show in October 1915, the children prepared an exhibit which consisted of an example of each of the different articles and garments needed in hospitals on the war fronts, including socks, mittens, balaclavas, body belts, bandage, pillows, crocheted slippers etc, etc. All of which were made by the pupils. Each item was named and labelled with the correct measurements, so anyone could copy them and make up similar articles when returning home to help the work of the Red Cross.

The 32 children at the school had been taught to knit by Daisy, and each man received a parcel of knitwear upon receiving military training.

Apparently, some of the work was more appreciated for effort, rather than ability. However, the Red Cross valued the children's efforts and were made the first ever Junior Red Cross members in New Zealand.

The school had a school roll of honour which contained the names of 20 ex-pupils who were fighting.

One ex-pupil called Willie Walker had "nobly given his life in the cause, and how we honour him"! Willie was 25 years old upon his death 1916, and was in the 10th Company, 2nd Battalion, Otago Hussars. Sadly, his younger brother James was killed the following year.

The newspaper report stated:

"Again Maraekakaho has suffered a severe loss in the last great push. On October 5th, Private Jas. Walker, 23 years of age, third son of Mr and Mrs James Walker of 'The Valley' was killed in action and quite a gloom was cast over the whole district".

Crosses next to the names of 17 men on the cenotaph indicate they were killed in action during World War I, including brothers Willie and James Walker.

Signed copies of Michael Fowler's Historic Hawke's Bay book are only available from the Hastings Community Art Centre, Russell Street South, Hastings for $65.

Michael Fowler FCA (mfhistory@gmail.com) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.