Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 12, October 1969
By JAMES SILCOCK
(Early this year Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Silcock who were born in Paeroa over 80 years ago, acted as guides when 38 members of the Historical Society made a bus tour to view points of early importance. We again accord them our greatest thanks f or a wonderfully interesting morning. Ed.)
Leaving the Post Office on the Princes Street side, near Mr. Claude Kennedy's old home (now Dr. Hall's Surgery) our bus slowly travelled along short but historic Wharf Street which had once been the hub of Paeroa. Among old landmarks are the Royal Mail Hotel, and the "Civic Theatre" of other days - now used by the Old Boys Football Club.
We noted "Sunny Corner", the childhood home of Mrs. Silcock (nee Edwards), built in 1885 and still in good repair. Obliterated by the Stopbank is the site where Mr. Edwards, Sen. established a Printing Press in 1891 and there the original Ohinemuri Gazette was published.
Mounting the Stopbank we discussed the busy Wharf which was for years the terminal for the many boats which plied on the river before the turn of the century. In the late 70's [1870's] it had replaced an even earlier Wharf situated near the end of Arney Street when the Esplanade (parallel with the river) was planned as the main street. After the construction of the Te Aroha - Paeroa Railway line (1895) necessitating a bridge across the river which was becoming silted with battery tailings, shipping no longer found it convenient to come right up to the town, so a new wharf was built at a landing near the junction of the Waihou and the Ohinemuri Rivers.
Hence our bus proceeded along the Stopbank through the subway to Junction Road parallel with which there had once been wooden tramrails to facilitate a horse-drawn goods service between wharf and town. The mud on this low-lying and then undrained locality was a perpetual hindrance to traffic. The contrast now is amazing and the area is fast becoming an important industrial scene. Mr. Bob Hughes here pointed out that the property originally owned by the late Rihitoto Mataia, a relative of the Nicholls' family, had now been taken over by the Te Aroha T.V. Dairy Co. Extensive subdivision plans were under way and already five houses have been shifted here from other Dairy Co. property.
Because of the proximity of the Junction Wharf some large and important homes were built fairly near the river. Although most of them are now gone (e.g. that of the Kenny Family) we noted the one now owned by Mr. E. Fathers for it was originally the "School House" built in 1883 and occupied by the Headmaster Mr. Sullivan. Mr. and Mrs. J. Poland live in the late Ted Shaw's house near the site of the Nicks-Shaw homestead which was a large two-storey house near the Junction Wharf, which served the district from 1896 – 1901. We were not able to take the bus to this area but moved along the Stopbank towards the property of Mr. and Mrs. Jim Edwards (once the home of Mr. Moore who was a builder and I recollect that he contracted to build one of our homes for the sum of £23). We particularly wished to see the near-by location of Paeroa's famous Soda-Water Springs which warrant a special article. Then we turned at the Borough Pumping Station the outfall of the main drainage system for the Borough. Mr. Hughes explained that when the river rose, flood gates were closed and flood waters were pumped over the stopbank. A massive diesel driven pump had been installed to cope with 1,000,000 gallons per hour.
Retracing part of its route our bus proceeded via Opatito St., Puke Rd., Brenan Street and Coronation Street and via Opukeko Rd to Puke Road. We noted the large residence which was once the home of the late Mr. Hugh Poland, M.P. Mr. McAndrew who in the early days owned a large timber business lived in a two-storey house which later had its top section removed to become the home of Mr. Woolf, while the Todd family live in the lower portion. During some of the years when I was Manager of the Northern Steamship Coy., we lived in a house built on Puke Road by Mr. Wight and we suffered great loss when this was destroyed by fire. Finally our party was on even more historic ground for our road led us to the site of "Belmont" where Mr. Joshua Thorp settled in 1842. (Now the home of Mr. C. and Miss J. Wight). His son John built a home on the opposite side of the road and nearer the river than the house recently sold by Miss Leila Thorp, a grand-daughter of the first European settler.
We could not visit the site of the old Puke Landing as it is now so over-grown. It was located up-stream from the original Puke Bridge which was opened in 1912. Later the Ngahina Wharf below the bridge became the last focal point for shipping services which continued in a diminishing degree till 1946 when rail and road completely superseded them.
Our bus turned here below the fine new Puke Bridge and proceeding to Paeroa crossed the Criterion Bridge to the vicinity of "Pai-o-Hauraki" the Maori Meeting House which also has a history. In 1864 it was built at Colville with the purpose of preserving and encouraging old Maori customs, arts and crafts, and later was removed to Waiaro and then in 1892 to Paeroa. Just beyond this spot, where the bend of the river is very near to the road we pointed out the site of the flour mill which the Maoris used for grinding their wheat in the 80's.
Turning from Te Aroha Road into Mill Road we stopped to remark on the old two-storey house which was once the home of Mr. W. Tetley, Paeroa' s first County Engineer who had been trained as an Architect. Further down we could see the remains of the Paeroa-Waihi Gold Extraction Works. (See our last Journal), and we discussed the Timber Mill and the Flax Mill which had functioned near the lower end of Mill Road. Our bus once more turned at the entrance of Mr. Gerrand's farm, once the site of "Raupa" a very large Maori Pa referred to by Rev. Samuel Marsden in 1820.
From Te Aroha Road we turned right, into Rotokohu Road - the original route to Te Aroha, and at the invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Fielden Thorp we called at their home "Seven Oaks" to relax and have our lunch in the beautiful historic grounds.
NOTE. On the day of our Outing Mr. Thorp recounted the history of his homestead with special reference to an early Vicarage and Mission work in the vicinity. In our next Journal we hope to record this story and mean-while sincerely thank Mr. and Mrs. Thorp for their most welcome hospitality. After leaving "Seven Oaks" we proceeded up Rotokohu Road as far as the "Woolshed" (once the Anglican Church at Karangahake). On a previous occasion we went up to the "Airstrip" in private cars but the bus being too big to negotiate the steep bends further up we returned to Paeroa and visited the recently opened Catholic Church which was new and interesting to our party. Ed.