Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 14, October 1970
By A. FIELDEN THORP
The Anglican community of early Paeroa residents was under an obligation to the Methodists for the use of their Church which was built in the early 1880's and still stands in Normanby Road today. Ministers from KatiKati visited Paeroa at intervals from 1883 to 1893 the first being the Rev. E.J. McFarlane followed from 1886 to 1893 by the Rev. W. Kalterns, who was noted for his flock of Ostriches kept near his home in KatiKati. In these days of tarseal and motor cars it seems wonderful that the early ministers managed to travel by horse transport so far over bad roads. From 1893 to 1896 the Rev. F.G. Evans regularly visited Paeroa from Te Aroha, and was instrumental in encouraging his people to build their own Church, St. Paul's, which was opened in 1895.
This small Church stood on the site of the present brick one but was built mainly of Kahikatea sheathed with Kauri shingles. Added about a year later were a Bell-tower and a Bell of good quality which rang out its melody until 1958. (See Journal 4 for 1909 Picture facing Page 3). During 1895 a Vicarage was also built on land donated by the Thorp estate, about 1¼ miles from the Church, but as these were the days of horse and buggy it was necessary to have several acres of grass as well as a stable with horse-boxes. However this meant several trips back and forth every Sunday as well as the week-day journeys. The first resident vicar was the Rev. W.H. Wilson from 1896 to 1901.
He was succeeded by the Rev. J.P. Cowie a son of Bishop Cowie who conducted the induction, his flowing white beard contrasting with his son's very black one. During the fifteen years of his ministry in Paeroa the Rev. Cowie did a lot of good work. A Church was built at Karangahake in 1904, a Parish Hall in Paeroa in 1905 and a Church at Hikutaia in 1914. When the Rev. Cowie moved to Pukekohe in 1916 he exchanged this Parish with the Rev. F.B. Dobson who swam the Piako River with his horse and gig, there being no bridges in those days. He occupied the Vicarage on Rotokohu Road for only a short time, finding the travelling burdensome so a house situated near the Church and belonging to Mr. W. Forrest was purchased for £900. The old Vicarage was sold to A.F. and H.R. Thorp for £1,000 and this site later proved ideal for my present residence – now 40 years old; Mr. Dobson did much travelling over the bad roads of the Hauraki Plains, to Turua (where he was instrumental in building a Church) Kerepehi, Netherton and Waitakaruru besides going to Wharepoa, Hikutaia, Tirohia and Karangahake. After 10 years work be retired to Manurewa in 1926.
In 1927 the Rev. W.H.G. Weadon was inducted and for 27 years worked in this Parish. He became a Canon and later Archdeacon of Waikato - a new Diocese (separated from Auckland) under Bishop Cherrington (1926). The area of work for the Paeroa Parish was cut down considerably, enabling more concentrated attention to local needs. The old Church had become very badly worm-eaten so in 1938 a new brick Sanctuary costing about £2,000 was added to the east end of it and put on sure concrete foundations so that it might be attached to further new building later. A previous article referred to St. John's Maori Church on Rotokohu Road (1931).
It should be noted: Bishop Holland was in charge of the Waikato Diocese from 1951-1969. Arcdeacon Weadon retired to Kohimaramara [Kohimarama – E] in 1954.
The much loved Rev. A.F. Hall, an Archdeacon from Gisborne took over our Parish until his death in 1956, The Rev. Peter Munton arrived in the Spring of that year and energetically got his people together to raise finance through the Wells scheme to complete the major part of the new Church in brick. The old wooden nave was pulled down to be replaced by the new one with bell-tower, quire and Priests' vestries, the contractors being Lee Bros. of Paeroa. It was completed by December 1958 and Dedicated by Bishop Holland on December 20th 1958. In 1961 the Rev. Munton (now in Hastings) was succeeded by the Rev. Gerald Baker, M.A. (now in Stratford) who served for 4 years, to be followed by the Rev. K. Baigent for 4½ years, before going to Huntly.
The new Vicar of St. Paul's Anglican Church, Archdeacon M.N. Richards was inducted by the new Bishop of Waikato, the Rt. Rev. A.H. Johnson, on 14th May 1970. The impressive service was performed before a capacity congregation and lending further substance to the ever growing interest in Christian fellowship every Church in the town was represented.
The following names are those of laymen of note who have served St. Pauls:
A.J. THORP, a Founder, Vestryman and Synodsman.
R.W. EVANS, Choirmaster for 28 years, Warden and Vestryman.
DR. GILBERT SMITH, Lay Reader for very many years.
CYRIL GWILLIAM, Vestryman for 40 years, Lay Reader and Synodsman.
DR. J.W.BARTRUM, Choirmaster, Warden and Vestryman.