Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 12, October 1969


Mr. Armour has already mentioned that the exploitation of ore and its treatment at the various mines necessitated adequate supplies of timber suitable for support of underground workings and to provide fuel for the roasting of the ore. The demand was insatiable but the densely clad hills nearby provided a valuable source of supply. Two of the earlier settlers who participated in timber getting were the Walmsley Bros., Horatio and Sheriff, who leased a block of Crown land at the end of what is now known as Walmsley Road. It lay beyond the Borough Boundary on the North and East banks of Walmsley' s creek.

A tram track was built from Barry Road to the end of the lease approximately three miles and felling commenced in earnest. As the lower slopes were cut out, access to higher levels was obtained by construction of a high level tramway, the formation of which can still be seen about half way up the hill on the right hand side of the hill called Mt. Misery or sometimes "The Grade". The firewood and timber were sent along this track down to lower levels and so to the mine or kilns as required.

Later Patrick Hogan worked the bush on the opposite side of the creek at the back of Bulltown and towards the reservoir. The traces of the tram track are still visible. (Hogan went farming at Te Aroha where his son John and daughter Kath., lived till quite recently.)

When bush felling was in full swing, the East End was densely populated some folk living close to the bush well outside the Borough Boundary, e.g. Jimmy Lucas on a flat along the creek near the old Borough quarry and some of the Quintal family on a flat near the Waihi Co. dam where the water from Mataura Creek emptied into Walmsley Creek to be picked up by the water race again. Thorby lived opposite in an old tin shanty and Jumbo Wilson was just inside the Borough, while Tom Brown lived opposite. Tom Hooker was the last occupant of Wilson's house. Above the water race and practically behind Wilson stood the bush cookhouse, The last occupant was Bill Franklin and family. It was burnt down about 1912 or 1913, making a great sight for the few who witnessed it. No water was available to fight the fire. Later the College family lived near there as did Paddy Murphy in a one room shanty. The Buffeit family were there too, while the Manning Brothers, Bill, Henry, and Bob lived nearby. When the Buffeit family moved away, Bob Manning and family occupied the house. Our family (Robinson) lived in the same area along the banks of Walmsley Creek. The Radford family were next to us, Mr. Radford having a town milk supply. Nearer town lived "Lofty" Gray who died in Waihi hospital as the result of injuries sustained in an accident in No.5 shaft. (The Sykes family later lived in the house and Jacob Beck was practically opposite next door to the Tommy Gibbons family, while opposite again in Gladstone Road lived the Cornes family.

Part of the area worked by Walmsley was leased by Henry Manning who had a common boundary with Mr. Morton, (Norm's father.) Ernie Pearce now farms the place. Joe Slevin had part of Hogan's area, later to be held by Harry Thomas and still later by Clarrie Thorpe. Walmsley's own property was sold to Mick McEnteer who disposed of it to Jim Hughes whose son Ken till recently was farming there. Bill Franklin, onetime occupier of the bush cookhouse had part of Hogan's lease too which he had fenced as a run for his many fine draught horses used in hauling the timber.

The tram line gave access to the Borough quarry. Chas. Butcher, (Freda's father) brought the crushed metal down from the quarry to metal bins built near Barry Road. He had a rake of four trucks pulled by his fine draught horse "Bruce". Many a ride we had on those trucks to school. I think that Alf Sparks and Jim Wotherspoon worked in the quarry. The plant was later acquired by Public Works Department and the rails were lifted and sold when Mr. Cliff was Borough Engineer.

The Waihi Co. secured another block of bush on the opposite side of the range and built a tram to it, passing through "The Willows". Here they built commodious stables for their many horses and two large houses for the bush boss and teamsters. Mr. W. Cornes was bush boss and it was known as "Cornes" bush. A bush camp and cookhouse were built and a cook engaged to cater for the bushmen. One I recall was Bob Moore. Dave Cambie was later bush boss, leaving to go to Mamaku with Waihi Co. and still later with Gammon Brothers. Some who worked there were George Murray of Kauri bush fame, Jacob Beck, Harry Morgan, Fred Carden, Lyell and George Gill. The smaller trees were cut for mining timber while the larger were milled in the Company mill off Barry Road where Mr. Smith was mill manager. The line was so steep in one place that a jig was built whereby a full truck coming down the grade pulled an empty one up. The haulage rope passed over a big drum the speed of which was controlled with an adequate brake. To enable this lowering winch to work, two sets of rails were laid up the incline.

Later Mr. Cornes contracted to supply Waihi Grand Junction Gold Co. with mining timber. The mill stood in Slevin Street and there too Mr. Smith was mill manager. Cornes leased part of Waihi Company bush area with a partner Mr. W. Toy. Part of it was grassed, fenced and stocked but was finally abandoned. The Magnussen Brothers, Bert and Peter later acquired the area but it is now in other hands.

Another old identity who lived up there was Mr. D. Stevenson, more familiarly known as "Pukau Davey". He claimed to have fought with Major Von Ternpsky in the Maori wars. He worked at keeping the water races free of weeds and in good repair. One who came to Waihi after the first war was Mr. Ludwig Leopold who took up an area up the Mataura Creek, his boundary and that of Morton being a common one. He felled the bush, grassed and stocked it but later abandoned it, after which it was secured by Joe Croker and in turn by Alec Coffey and Len Butler.

Prospectors too were active. One Bolger had a claim up Walmsley's creek beyond the Black dam, a wooden structure later destroyed. Then McNaughton held the lease and Bill Hales was the last to prospect there. On the other side of the range in the Junction bush, Kaimai Daly had a claim. These prospectors built their huts in the bush close to the claim. Solitude did not deter them. When bush felling ceased, the stables at the Willows together with the houses were pulled down. The Waihi Greyhound Club secured part of the land for a Plumton course and Hare drives were the order of the day then.

Some years after the Walmsley Creek reservoir was built, the accumulation of debris and stones necessitated that it be cleaned out. Some who worked there on that job were Charlie Mueller (German Charlie), Joe Korner, Harrison Bros. and Dinny Ritchie who drove the borough dray. They all passed our place to and from work. The drays had 4 inches steel tyres and they creaked and rumbled over the rough metalled roads. Logs and debris often came down the creek in time of flood but as the bush regenerated and scrub grew, the flood waters were contained.

There were a few shops handy to cater for our various needs. Mrs. Sam Torrens had a sweet shop where Everett now lives, Phil Radford a boot shop along Barry Road opposite the Refinery and Miss Martin had a sweet shop next to Bill Hick's grocery. A butcher shop, Mrs. Speak's green grocery and Coombes similarly were there while nearer the Central Hotel Jimmy Kennedy had a boot repair shop.

Of the settlers that I can recall among the "originals" only Harry Thomas and Roy Thompson living in Gladstone Road now reside there. To illustrate how the place has changed, I cite the following families who lived between Willows Road and the eastern boundary of the Borough:- Hooker, Robinson, Radford, Buffett, Gray (later Sykes), Ramage, Beck, Gibbons, Burke, Marshall, Purdie Thompson, while on the other side of the road there were:- Cornes, Cornes (Ted), Loveridge, whose house was burned down, McCann who lived near the Junction of Willows Road and Walmsley Road. Down Willows Road there were George Wilcox, the lamp lighter, Bob Urwin (Rabbity Bob) and at "the Willows" the McCarthy family. These former house sites are now farms occupied mainly by Harry Thomas and Ernie Pearce.