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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 5, May 1966

KOMATA REEFS REUNION

In February of this year the steep grass and scrub covered hills around the site of the once thriving mining town of Komata Reefs again echoed to the sound of happy voices, as ex-residents and descendants of the early community assembled as they did a year ago for an all-day reunion. This was held alongside Keary's Bridge, which was almost in the centre of the old township.

Mrs. B. Wildermoth (nee McCormick) of Auckland had organised the gathering, other members of her family being present; other names heard frequently were:

Nield, Keary, Waite, Ryan, Ruthe, McMicken, Somerville, Benny, Patterson, Watt, Simpson, Williams, Thorburn, Wells, Joyce, Davidson, Dixon, Morrison, Pratt, Kelly, Stephens, Jenkins, Goulton, Gribble, McNeice, Sheriff, Pollock, Donnelly and Jamieson.

The full story of Komata Reefs must be told at a later date but we are publishing two personal letters which tell of early days there.

KOMATA REEFS

By H.M.CHALMERS

In 1902 or thereabouts I lived for a year with the Brown family at Komata Reefs. Mr. Fred Capel Brown was the Superintendent at the mine there. (He used the C. or Capel, because with a name like "Fred Brown" another was needed for identification).

The first time I arrived at the Brown's home I was on foot having travelled to Komata Station by train. I had not realised that they used the Paeroa Station, so finding there was one at Komata I went there expecting to be met. The guard was very kind. He got off and asked me where I was going, and suggested my going on to Thames and returning to Paeroa next day, but I was young and had little money so I decided to walk. Luckily, as it happened, my luggage had been left on the platform at Hamilton, but it was raining heavily, and I underestimated the task I set myself. After a mile on a wet clay road I reached the Paeroa-Thames road, and called at a farmhouse to enquire the way. The people kindly gave me a cup of tea and I plodded on over the miles of very rough road, crossing the creek five times. In each case there was a makeshift slippery bridge, but it had to be looked for.

When I arrived at the "village" the 100 or so steps up to the Brown's house seemed the last straw, coupled with the fact that I could not make anyone hear my knocking. After vainly trying to find another door I was sitting despairingly on the verandah when a boy came up. As he passed me I remembered seeing him sitting in a gig at the Paeroa Station eyeing the alighting passengers, but little did I think then that he might be waiting for me. Actually he had been doing just that. His name was "Tom" and he did the odd jobs about the place, I remember he had lost some fingers from one hand.

However, he did know where the back door was, and soon Mrs. Brown came out to me, her warm welcome making everything worth-while. She was a lively charming person and we soon found we had interests in common. She sang, as seemed needed, either soprano or alto, and I sang too, but neither of us in any trained way, though I had had a few lessons, and managed simple accompaniments. We had many pleasant evenings as people did in those days making their own entertainment. Mrs. Brown's brother and a Mr. Ulrich who played the violin often joined us. Money was always needed for the little school and the young man who taught there arranged very good concerts. I remember we sang a comic quartette and our amateur efforts were always appreciated.

Mr. Brown was a man of few words but he had a fine sense of humour and always spoke quietly and to the point. When the house was first built it was down by the creek and very damp, so Mr. Brown asked the London Directors for permission to have it lifted up bodily. They said it could not be done, but he had a site dug out of the hill and raised it quite satisfactorily. He made what the little girl called a "windering path" down to the creek running between the battery, office and assay room, I remember they crossed the creek there on a little one-handrail bridge. The gig was kept in a shed at the foot of the steps.

About once a fortnight a Methodist Minister came from Paeroa and held a Service in the hall. One Sunday only one man was present. When the offertory time came he did not move so Mrs. Brown seized his hat and went round. Another Sunday Mr. Brown was working in his garden but when Mr. Belton was due he came up to the house and we teased him saying, "Is it right to work but not to be caught?"

"No, he said, "but it would be wrong to hurt Mr. Belton's feelings."

Once when he had dismissed a man he received a threatening anonymous letter demanding his reason. He put this in the store window with a signed note saying:

"If the writer will call I will be pleased to answer this." At home he said, "It was stupid. There is only one reason for dismissing a man." "Unsatisfactory work?" we asked. "Yes, exactly".

The Mine Manager was Mr. Benney, the Battery Manager, Mr. McMicken and the assayer, Mr. Cooper; the last two being married while I was there. They were all fine people and good friends. Mr. Brown had many original ideas in connection with his work. He had devised a method of getting gold from tailings which were usually washed away. He used a kind of tower in which they were swirled round, and men laughingly called it a "bubbly jig", but it paid its way. He had had mining experience in Mexico and later went back to U.S.A. but I remember seeing them when they came back to see Mrs. Brown's people. She was a Miss Kate Kingsford of Cambridge.

KOMATA REEFS : "PATTERSON FAMILY"

By: CATHERINE WATT

Richard Patterson (ex-Police force) left Paeroa in 1903 to reside at Komata Reefs with his Wife, two daughters & two sons. He took up 100 acres of land mostly bush with a 66 yr. lease with right of re-newal. It was previously occupied by a Mr. Rook who had a saw mill & cottage.

At that time Komata Reefs mine was in full swing and there was quite a large population, the village boasting a general Store, two Confectionary and fruit shops, Butcher, Billiard Room, several boarding houses and a Bunk House called the "Pig's Nest" up near the Mine. There was also a large Public Hall where School was at first held and R. Patterson later became Chairman of the School Committee. A new School was built about a quarter of a mile away and it was discussed at a meeting how the huge and very heavy wood heater was to be transferred. As only a track and a narrow bridge across a stream, led to the School the Chairman proposed that they help him get it on his back which they did, and he landed it safely in the new two-roomed School where it stood for years. The three youngest members of the family were educated there including a daughter born in Komata.

The Patterson family owned a house cow and of course there were no fences so the eldest daughter set out one afternoon to hunt for the cow and got lost in the bush on a stormy night with streams all in flood. A Search Party found her and her faithful dog in the early hours of the morning after firing a shot gun several times to be answered by a "Coo-ee".

In those days Mr. Hunter was Mine Manager followed by Mr. J. Benney, the Battery Superintendent being Mr. Brown, followed by Mr. McMicken who on pay day, drove to Paeroa in a buggy with one or more men riding a horse behind as a body guard. There was a formidable looking Club hanging in the Office at the Battery but as far as is known there was never an attempted robbery or crime of any description at Komata Reefs.