Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 4, September 1965

[Part One - E] to be continued


It is obvious that a few indomitable prospectors packed their bare necessities and camped in the vicinity of Waihi before the actual opening of its gold-field in 1878. The first settlement commenced that same year when George Compston took up a block of land, followed by the Walmsley Brothers, H. Savage and W. Hollis. So far as business is concerned, it might be true to say that Waihi was then a suburb of Waitekauri, the nearest township, where mining had been commenced about 3 years earlier, and a few enterprising store-keepers and butchers were supplying the needs of both miners and pioneer settlers. But these were the days of the camp-oven, of home-made bread and butter and plain rations generally.

In 1880, our town consisted of J. Phillips & Sons store and the Waihi Hotel, (later the Commercial) then a mere shanty, erected by T. Corbett. The store also housed the Post Office and was managed by Daniel Campbell who later took over the business and ran it in conjunction with Waihi's first coaching service, (horse drawn). He held the first contract for mails between Waihi and Paeroa, and ran a coach between Waihi and Tauranga. He gave up storekeeping in 1893 and devoted his time to the coaching business and livery stables until 1898 when he sold out.

As a result of the formation of the Waihi Gold Mining Company in 1887, the town commenced to prosper and by 1900 miners huts and cottages were spread over an area of three miles each way from the centre. The mine poppet heads became a conspicuous sight. The formation of roads and streets was the responsibility of the Ohinemuri County Council and with the formation of the Waihi Improvement Committee in l897, considerable advance was made, street water supply being established and roads and footpaths improved. This led to many businessmen being attracted to the new town. The Improvement Committee had as its main object the formation of a Borough and this was effected in 1902.

To supply meat the first butcher to commence business in Waihi was Thomas Percival Vuglar who commenced business in 1888 in a small shanty at the side of Tuthills new building at the corner of Main St. and Tauranga Rd. At this time there were only 2 other businesses in Waihi. The business was carried on for only 12 months when it was closed but in 1892 Mr. Vuglar erected a large double fronted shop in Main St. and recommenced business. He came to Waihi from Otahuhu where he had learned his trade with his father.

In 1897 Andersen and Co. commenced another butchery business in Waihi and in January 1900 this was purchased by George Colebrook. The premises were centrally situated in Main St. The slaughterhouse for this business was stated to be at the junction of the Waitekauri and Ohinemuri creek presumably where the bridges cross near the old Waikino railway station site. Mr. Colebrook came to Waihi from Tauranga and was engaged as a carpenter for some time and erected the first poppet heads before taking over the butchers business.

Meat, without vegetables does not make much of a meal and as far as I can ascertain the first to realise this in respect of the new town of Waihi was Archibald Hugh Clark who came here in 1892 and opened a fruit and vegetable business in Main St., near where the dry cleaners now is. As before mentioned his fowl run extended to the corner of Moresby Ave. For some years, prior to coming to Waihi he had followed mining on the West Coast and Thames and had acquired a public house and gum store in Katikati.

The first general store of J. Phillips & Co. was purchased by John Ede Taylor in 1896 when he came to Waihi after having had considerable business experience in various parts of New Zealand.

J. & S. Roberts, of Thames, opened a branch at Waihi in the very early days, managed by J. Chandler and purchased John and Stephen Roberts in 1899. The Waihi branch was managed by Stephen Roberts while his brother managed a branch at Waikino. John Alexander Dick, who came from Gore established his business in Main St. near where the Farmers now is, in 1895. He had learned the trade in Scotland and came to Waihi from Gore. This business was later acquired by G. Lane and later by W.E. Busch.

W. McWatters and Co. of Paeroa, opened a branch in Waihi in 1899 and the business was managed by Robert H. Holmes, who later purchased it and carried on himself at the top of Seddon St. Mr. Holmes later became well known for Holmes Baking Powder which sold at 1/- per tin. A story which I can vouch for regarding this baking powder tells of a lad who was sent to get a tin on his way home from school one day. Another well known character who was attracted to Waihi and is described as a general storekeeper was Charles Harley, who came here in the late 1890's and some may remember the old corrugated iron building opposite the bus depot with the notice "Selling Of" in the windows, scarcely readable through the cobwebs. Mr. Harley was a builder by trade and met with an accident while building the Star Hotel in Auckland. After living in Tauranga for a time, he settled at Athenree then known as Katikati Heads. He had a guest house there as well as a store. His sons caught a seal at Athenree and it was placed in a tank at the rear of the Waihi shop and viewed at a cost of 3d a head. Many parties were escorted from school to view this animal. Ernest Stewart Ryburn, was one of the largest produce merchants in the town, establishing his business in 1896 and was centrally situated in Main St. It is stated that he obtained his produce from the best colonial markets and had a large business. A paddock belonging to this man was the first football field used in Waihi. As far as I have been able to ascertain it was at the back of his shop and from there Rugby went to the paddock on the right hand side of the road, over the Tauranga bridge,

One who was quick to see the necessity for a bakery in the growing town was John Newdick. He established one in Main St. in 1895, coming from Waitekauri where he had been in business for about a year. His first premises were burned out and he erected new premises which are now occupied by the Waikato Savings Bank. Some may remember the bake house situated in the yard at the rear of the premises. William Edward Roberts was the next baker to come to the town. He came from Auckland in 1895 and had horse teams and worked in the bush until 1897 when he commenced business in Kenny St., where he remained for many years. He became very well known as an athlete and active member of the Fire Brigade for many years. In addition to his work in the bake-house Bill (who now lives in Hamilton, aged 90) also drove one of his delivery carts. A well known character Bill Oliphant, drove the other cart.

For the thirsty who did not patronise the hotels in that time, the firm of Menzies & Co., Aerated Water manufacturers of Thames, opened a branch in Waihi in Martin Rd. It was managed by James Calderwood. The business was conducted in an up-to-date wood and iron building with a modern plant consisting of 2 h.p. gasoline engine, an aerator and 2 bottlers. Many bottles were spirited from the yard of this factory as the "bottlies" were good for playing marbles in those days. Crown tops as used today were not known.

Catering for the good health of the people was in the hands of 2 Doctors:

Francis Courtenay Forbes, M.B., who practised in Paeroa until November 1899 when he moved to Waihi. He was born in India and was a graduate of Aberdeen University. Albert Harding Porter, L.R.C.P.; L.R.C.S.; L.F.P.S.; an Australian graduated in Glasgow and Edinburgh and after practising at Tauranga commenced practice in Rosemont Rd., Waihi in October 1898. He was the medical officer for several Friendly Societies. Where we had Doctors issuing prescriptions, it was of course necessary to have qualified Chemists to make them up and the first recorded one I have been able to find was William ROBINS, from Auckland, Chemist and druggist, whose business was established in Main St. Waihi in 1896. Next chemist on record was G. Barron, who commenced business in Main St., 1900 near where Dillimores now is and he was burned out when the block was destroyed by fire. He re-opened in a shop now occupied by W. Kindsford and later purchased the business at the corner of Main St. and Haszard St. from one, Fitzgerald, the business being carried on there by his son until 1955 when they moved to their present premises.

Toothache was apparently a common affliction in those early days and the first Dentist was W. HOBBS, who sold to Ruskin B.CRANWELL in May 1900. He carried on for many years, his premises .being listed at the corner of Kenny St. and Tauranga Road, but I have a recollection of him being in the rooms now occupied by B. Wilson.

Early Waihithens apparently wanted to have photographic references for posterity as in 1899. T.E. Price of Tauranga established a photographer's business in Haszard St. but in May 1900 sold it to George FOY, who came from Thames where he had learned his trade from an uncle.

ESTATE AGENTS: George ALEXANDER (from Te Puke - Main St. 1897) - (Accountant and Sharebroker) Agent for J. Spencer, Wholesale Stationers, Auckland and McKay and Pratt, Auctioneers of Paeroa. Richard GOOCH, Victoria St. 1898, also had several Fire Insurance agencies and was the Official Assignee in Bankruptcy as well as being a Sharebroker. Andrew Young ROSS, Auctioneer, Sharebroker and Estate Agent, Main St., in March 1899. He was Hon. Secretary to the Waihi Literary and Debating Society and the Waihi Progressive League. He came to Waihi from the United States. John ASPINALL, (from Hawkes Bay) established business at the top of Main St., opposite No.5 shaft. He combined his trade as a Carpenter with that of Estate Agency and also represents Bowskill and McNab. He built a considerable number of the first cottages and houses in this district.

The news distribution in the district was looked after by the Waihi Miner which was published bi-weekly. The first issue being published in October 1895. The proprietors were Galbraith and Co., J. Balbraith being the Editor and Jimmy Wrigley the outside representative. A Post Office was built in the 80's at the corner of Tauranga Rd. and Johnson St., where Locketts garage now is. It was a very small shed about 10 ft. x 8 ft. When business expanded a new office was built on the site of the present one. The staff in 1900 was Albert Benner, Post Master, 3 assistants, 2 carriers, 2 messengers. There were 2 mails daily to Paeroa, Thames and Auckland and thrice weekly to Tauranga.

Timber for the buildings in the new town was mostly supplied by the Tamaki Sawmilling Company, which was established in 1895 by J.A. Brown, who in 1899 sold it to the Company. There were mills in KatiKati and Waimata and a large timber yard in Main St., Waihi. The site was near where the Memorial Hall now stands. The Manager was George McGlashan. There were sawing and planing sheds of corrugated iron in the yard. There was also another timber yard, established by Moore about 1900 in Kenny St. near the Museum building.

One of the earliest settlers was S.B.J. Walmsley, who with his brothers had been rearing Ayrshire cattle. When their leasehold property was declared auriferous and they were unable to obtain freehold, they took up bush work out at the east end and supplied timber for the mine, as did one Roycroft. A tramline brought the timber from the bush. Opposite the East School there was a small timber mill (in a triangle where the branch line went to the Junction mine) which cut the building timber. The tram line was left after the bush work ceased and was later used by the Council to bring metal from Walmsley's quarry to hoppers near Barry Road.

[for part two, see journal 5: Early Business In Waihi (Continued) - E]