Te Paea was born in Kororareka (Russell), the daughter of Hinerangi Kotiro of Ngāti Ruanui (Taranaki) and Alexander Grey. Te Paea’s mother had been taken captive by a Ngapuhi war party; she was educated in the mission school of Kororareka and subsequently married Alexander Grey. Te Paea was baptized by missionaries into the Protestant faith. She married two times: her first husband was Koroneho and her second husband was Taiawhio, son of Hotere and Pareaurae. Te Paea lived near Lake Tarawera at the time of the Tarawera eruption and had a pivotal role in saving the lives of 62 people. From 1886 she resided at Whakarewarewa and became a leading guide for many years; she was known as Guide Sophia. When E. I. Massy heard her recount the "thrilling story of the awful catastrophe of the 10 June, 1886," he wrote, "the idea came to me of recording this fine old woman’s terrible experience on that night of horror." Massy adds that in his booklet he has reproduced her story but confesses that he could "never reproduce her striking language and dramatic gestures, or paint the fire that flashed from her eyes when she told me how she restrained those sixty-two people from rushing out of her whare (House) to certain destruction." Massy concludes: "To the story of the eruption I have added a few of my own experiences of this delightful part of New Zealand, and some Māori legends which Sophia related to me on my last visit to her whare".
- Correspondence from Tuariki John Delamere, 30 July 1998 and 22 July 2004.
- Reid, Mary. "Lord, Lucy Takiora 1842?-1893." The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Vol. 1. 1769-1869. Wellington, N.Z.: Allen & Unwin
- Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1990. 241-242.
- Massy, E. I. The Tarawera Eruption 1886 and Some Māori Legends. 2nd ed. Rpt. from The Empire Review. London: William Clowes and Sons, n.d.
- Massy, E. I. "The Tarawera Eruption 1886: Sophia’s Story." The Tarawera Eruption 1886 and Some Māori Legends. 2nd ed. Rpt. from The Empire Review. London: William Clowes and Sons, n.d. 13-27.
- Te Paea provides a detailed account of the events leading up to the Tarawera eruption of the 10 June 1886, including the mysterious sighting of a waka taua with thirteen men paddling it. She describes how 62 people sheltered in her whare during the night of the eruption. Other stories recounted by Te Paea include the burning of the taniwha Matarewhawha at Tarawera Lake prior to the eruption, tapu violations and an account of legends surrounding Tarawera. Apart from Massy’s chapter "The Great Waimangu Geyser" and part of the chapter entitled "Māori Characteristics", the larger part of this publication is composed of accounts by Te Paea.
- Papakura, Maggie. "The Eruption of 1886 (Told by Sophia and Other Survivors)." Guide to the Hot Lakes District and some Māori Legends. Auckland, N.Z.: The Brett Printing and Publishing Company, 1905. 84.
- A brief account of the climatic events leading up to the Tarawera eruption and the devastation of the eruption.