Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 5, May 1966


[Part Two. For part one, see Journal 4: Early Business in Waihi - E]


In continuing this story of the business conducted in Waihi prior to 1902 when the Borough was formed, I would like to state that for a considerable amount of data I am indebted to the Cyclopedia of New Zealand which was published at that time. My thanks are due also to older residents who have been most helpful. If there are any omissions or mistakes they are certainly not intentional.

The definite discovery of Gold in Waihi in 1878 brought a succession of outstanding men representing many professions. For example, among the early surveyors were the Haszards who were responsible for much of the subdivision of the goldfields, and particularly of Waihi, there being records of their work here dating from 1896. The legal business of the town was first looked after locally by Hamilton McDowell Haslett who came in 1899 and commenced practice in Main Street.

Most of the early houses were unpainted shacks but in the 90's many better class homes were built and these were painted and decorated, "Edwards and Towers" of Paeroa being the firm that did a great deal of this work. In 1894 they appointed John Dunedin Wells as Manager, and a brother of Mr. W. Hammond of Thames also worked for them.

Clothing needs of Waihi Public were first catered for by the firm of Cullen & Co., who were a large Auckland firm with branches at all the goldfields towns and they opened a branch in Main St. in 1898. There was a workroom behind the shop and it is stated that the firm did a considerable business from their well stocked shop. The Manager was Walter Shotbolt who had managed many of the firm's shops before being stationed at Waihi.

Tailoring trade was established in the first instance by Thomas McCarthy, who came from Tasmania in 1897, commencing in partnership with Alfred Sutton, who conducted a branch at Waitekauri. He was secretary of the Waihi Fire Brigade at its inception. Even [Evan? – E] Morgan, my father, established his business in Waihi in 1898. Another who commenced business about this time was William Hugh Ross father of Mrs. Wheeler. He came to Waihi about 1895 and after working for a short period for one Lysaght he commenced on his own behalf, having a shop on the corner where Wong's shop now is.

The care of the feet of the citizens of the new town was the privilege of E.A. McLeay, who came in 1894 from Thames where he had learnt his trade. He first established himself in a shop near where Dillimores shop now is but was burnt out there when the whole block was destroyed by fire. He recommenced business near where Barron's Chemist shop is now but was again burnt out there, so reopened in the shop now occupied by Purvis and when the H B. Clothing Coy. went out of business in Waihi he purchased the premises from them and his son at present carries on the business there. It has the distinction of being the oldest business in the town.

The Hardware needs were first catered for by Walter Phillips, who erected premises at the corner of Main St. and what is now Moresby Avenue in 1899. This section was then a fowl run belonging to Archibald Clark, who had a fruiterer's business nearby. The hardware shop is described as being a large one of 2 storeys double windows and a verandah "right across the footpath". The business was managed by Thomas Sheen, who had been their Manager in Karangahake. He was a keen member of the first Rugby Union and the Fire Brigade. In connection with hardware, the well remembered name of Hague Smith first appeared in Waihi in July 1899, when a branch of the firm, whose headquarters was at Thames, was opened in Waihi. The Manager was F.J. Saunders, who was transferred from the Paeroa branch. This is described a fine shop, with a special show window, and a large shed at the rear, 60 ft. x 16 ft. for storage. Earliest plumbing needs were looked after by the firm of E. Adams & Co., manager Edward Adams who came from Thames in l893 and erected in Main St. premises described as a large shop with machines for making baths and tanks.

In these early days the public did not have the railway and the only means of travel were the coaching companies. Ohinemuri Coaching Co. opened a branch in Waihi in 1899, having 2 stables, both wooden buildings with 12 stalls in each. Buggies and other conveyances were kept for hire. There were 3 trips daily between Waihi and Paeroa and 3 trips per week between Waihi and Tauranga. The Manager was George Johnstone, who had actually started the business in partnership with Alfred Rowe in 1896 and who had been the sole owner for 2 years. The driver of the Royal Mail coach at this time was George Smith who had coach-driving in his blood. His father drove the first coach from Te Aroha and Paeroa and George claimed that he drove the last coach over the same route.

On 2nd April 1900 another coach line was established by A. Thomson & Co. with depots at the Sterling Hotel at Waihi and the Commercial Hotel at Paeroa. The plant consisted of 2 coaches and 14 horses. Trips left Waihi at 8 a.m. and 2.30 pm and Paeroa at 10.30 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. Prior to starting the coaching business Mr. Thomson had a wagon plant in Waihi.

A sign of the times that it was not apparently the practice to have bathrooms in the house was that Joseph Slevin had public baths situated in Kenny St. There were six private bathrooms and the water was supplied from a 200 gallon tank for hot water and a 600 gallon tank for cold water. The bathrooms are described as being furnished with a modern bath and shower and very comfortable. The baths were opened in 1900. The proprietor, one of the old well remembered residents of Waihi came here in 1891 from Kati Kati and took up property at Bulltown. He also had property in Kenny St. on which he had 5 shops and a dwelling place.

The hotels in Waihi at this early stage were the Waihi Hotel later the Commercial. The original was built by T. Corbett on the site still occupied by the hotel of that name. The early Licensees, were Meyers and later Tanner. The old two-storied hotel, was destroyed by fire and replaced by the present building.

The Rob Roy which still stands, was built in 1896 and the Licensee was John Flett and later John Kelly. When built it contained 60 rooms, with 40 bedrooms, 4 sitting rooms on each floor and 100 guests could be seated in the dining room. There was stabling for 12 horses. The Sterling Hotel (corner of Main St. and Mueller St. Licensee was Pillinger) was burnt down and replaced by the present building after the restoration of the Licenses.

While the matter of the hotels is under review it may be timely to mention that there were several stories circulated as to the reason for the loss of Licenses in the Ohinemuri electorate. One to which a great deal of weight was attached was that John Kelly, who had the License for the Rob Roy Hotel increased the price of the handle, in spite of opposition from the Miners, and in retaliation they voted "No License". The other was related by the late H.T. Gibson, well remembered as headmaster of the South and Central schools in Waihi, replying to his toast at the South School re-union, stated that his wife used to remark that his reputation must have preceded him, for there was no-licence when he was transferred to Waihi in 1909 and it was restored as he left in l923.

However, to revert to early business, it would appear that after the turn of the century the town became really prosperous and a study of the business directory for 1902 shows the following well known names of persons in business in Waihi at that time.

Adams Bros., Drapers; W. Banks, known as Porky and famous for his pork pies and savoury ducks; W. Broderick, milk vendor; A. Caley, saddler; N.Z.Clothing Company, later H.B. Clothing Co., managed by G.A. Lakeman; John Livesey, Stationer and Newsagent, whose premises were the shop now occupied by Gambles; P.G. Manning, hairdresser. Many will remember Percy who always wore shirts with very stiff cuffs and when he was cutting and brushing hair there was a real rattle right alongside the ears. He also had baths which were situated opposite the old fire station in Haszard St.; R.S. Ready, Draper; C.J. Saunders, Stationer and newsagent, D.G. Saunders Cabinetmaker and Undertaker, premises in Mueller St; youngest son now Manager of N.B.N.Z,: Say Brothers and S. Tanner, Buthers [Butchers? – E] ; Duncan McLean, Billiard Room and numerous Boarding houses, one well known one, conducted by Misses McMillan, on the corner where the Power Board offices were.

To conclude this very early period., reference should be made to the Churches in the district, although one is hesitant in referring to them as business, but they are of historical interest. First in the field was the Anglican Church, built in Main St. in 1894 and enlarged in 1897 to seat 200 worshippers. The services were conducted by the Rev. Wilson from Paeroa.

Also in 1894 the Salvation Army formed a corps in Waihi and. built their first hall in Main St. in 1897 with seating for 250. The first full time Officer was John Marcus Jansen.

The Primitive Methodist Church was established in 1895 and erected a church in Rosemont Rd. opposite the Post Office in 1898 and had seating for 200. The Minister was the Rev. Featherstone. This denomination had a church later in Kenny St., near Mueller St. and on the amalgamation with the Wesleyan Church, the Church was removed to Haszard St. where it now stands.

The first Catholic Church was built in Main St. at the corner of Devon St. and many will remember its derelict appearance in the latter part of its existence. It had seating for 150. Later the present property was procured, and the present buildings erected. The first services were conducted by the Very Rev. Hackett of Paeroa.

In 1896 the first Presbyterian Church was built in Moresby Ave., now the hall, and it had seating for 150 worshippers. The Minister was the Rev. John Bates.

The Wesleyan Church was erected, in Haszard St. in 1898 and had seating for 250. The first permanent preacher was the Rev. Weatherell. This Church was later amalgamated with the Primitive Methodists and became known as the Methodist Church.

(The final instalment will deal with Waihi Business between 1903 - 1912).

[for part three, the final instalment, see Journal 6: Early Business in Waihi (continued) - E]