Biographical entry: Taroaniara, Stephen (c. 1845 - 1871)

c. 1845
20 September 1871


Born about 1845, Stephen Taroaniara was from Tawatana (or Ubana village) on Makira. In the mid-1850s he was one of the first Makiran boys to be taken away by Bishop George Selwyn (q.v.) to St. John's Melanesian Mission School in Auckland. William Didimang (q.v.) had already travelled to Auckland and returned to Makira in 1853, which assured people that other boys would be safe there. Selwyn also befriended a Maata chief named Iri who encouraged several boys to go. Tall and strongly built, Taroaniara travelled to New Zealand along with Sumarua and three others. Taroaniara was certainly in Auckland in 1857 and 1862 since Bishop John Patteson (q.v.) mentions him in letters. The usual pattern was for the Anglican Mission to send boys home after two years at the school, so presumably he had been home to Makira and returned to Auckland. On one trip to Makira he married, although by 1864 he had left his wife and child to return to Auckland. His wife's family refused to allow her to travel with him, though he entreated with them again when he returned home with Sumarua. Patteson visited Taroanira in 1866 and the next year was able to persuade him to leave again, this time to be based at the new Mission headquarters on Norfolk Island. While there he was struck down by typhoid fever, which almost took his life. He was baptised on 19 July 1868 and confirmed on Easter Day 1869, and was the first Solomon Islander to receive the Anglican sacrament.

Taroaniara missed his wife and child and returned home once more to find that his wife had married a man from Marau on Guadalcanal, though his daughter Paraiteku was still there. The Mission encouraged him to remarry, which he did, to Tori from the Christian community at Sa'a, who returned with him to Norfolk with their daughter Rosa. Taroaniara and Rev. Atkin returned to Makira for some months until they were taken aboard the Southern Cross (q.v.) on 25 August 1871 by Bishop Patteson, and toured to Isabel and Nggela. Taroaniara was one of the boats' crew that rowed Bishop Patteson ashore at Nukapu in the Santa Cruz Islands when he was killed on 20 September 1871. Due to be ordained later in 1871, Taroaniara died of multiple arrow wounds from the attack on the 29th, nursed throughout by Joseph Wate (q.v.). Taroaniara is regarded as a martyr and was the first Solomon Islander communicant, and the Melanesian Mission named its headquarters after him. (Montgomery 1904 [1896], ch. 16; Fox 1958, 159-160; 'Stephen Taoaniara, the First Communicant Martyr', SCL 15 July 1898, 1-4)

Related Cultural Artefacts

Published resources


  • Fox, Charles E., Lord of the Southern Isles: Being the Story of the Anglican Mission in Melanesia, 1849-1949, Mowbray, London, 1958. Details
  • Montgomery, Henry H., The Light of Melanesia: A Record of Thirty-Five Years Mission Work in the South Seas, Written after a Personal Visitation made by Request of the Right Rev. John Selwyn, D.D., late Bishop of Melanesia, Originally published: 1896, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1904. Details


  • Southern Cross Log (SCL). Details


Stephen Taroaniara early Anglican convert and martyr