Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 15, June 1971
By Annette Tootell
Days when a man could buy a suit of clothes for £5 or a sailing boat complete with sails for £55 belong to the golden age of reminiscence. The last surviving members of the big family of Crapp children, Mr. Gerald Crapp of Omokoroa, and Mrs. Josephine Carter, now of Levin, are two who enjoy talking about the days when they grew up in a paradise of sun, trees and hospitality at Omokoroa Point, near Tauranga. They are the youngest of eight children born to the Maori war veteran and hero Capt. A.A. Crapp and his wife, the only daughter of the Rev. Joseph Gellibrand, who came to New Zealand from Tasmania in 1877.
Gerald Crapp lives within a stone's throw of the site where his grand-father settled nearly a century ago. A retired Anglican minister, Mr. Gellibrand was also a farmer with a keen eye for good stock, a wide purse and lively imagination. Leaving his wife and daughter in Dunedin, he arrived in Tauranga in the SS Wanaka on February 1, 1877.
A meeting with Arthur Crapp was the beginning of a close lifetime association between the two men. Advised by the younger man, Mr. Gellibrand bought land on Omokoroa Point soon after his arrival when 202 acres were bought from the Maori owners for £400 following the lifting by the Government of the entail.
Subsequent purchases were made until the whole peninsula was under the one ownership. A fine site right on the point was selected for a homestead, an architect was engaged at a fee of £30 and an immediate start made on the pitsawn kauri house. Timber was floated down from Mercury Bay and the house was completed at a cost of £1,250. It was spacious, having 10 rooms, a 35-by-20-foot hall panelled entirely in kauri and, on three sides, a 10-foot wide verandah.
The cleared land was planted with rye, cocksfoot, red and white clover and crops. An orchard of apple, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, quince, guava, lemon, lime and nut trees was established and today crops are still harvested from the massive walnut trees.
The trees planted behind the homestead have grown massive with the years; bluegum, plane, elm, magnolia and chestnut flourished and a Moreton Bay fig 100 feet high now spans a quarter-acre of ground. Pohutukawas grow freely on the headland, standing surety for the promise made by Mr. Gellibrand that the trees would never be cut on the two ancestral Maori burial grounds at the point.
The homestead early knew romance and tragedy. Capt. Crapp and Miss Gellibrand married and on the way home from their wedding in Auckland, Mrs. Gellibrand was drowned in Tauranga Harbour. Her husband, who never recovered from the shook, died in 1887.
Capt. Crapp and his wife took over the farm, cultivating a 30-acre orchard and continuing to make a burgundy-type wine from the 20-acre vineyard planted by Mr. Gellibrand. Three thousand gallons were sent to Waihi each year and a considerable quantity to Auckland until the development of vineyards at Henderson. Many of the grapevines found growing on nearby subdivided land were planted "strictly for the birds", the theory being, legend says, that if the birds had all the grapes they wanted the vineyard proper would be left alone.
For many years the sea was the only means of communication. A rough bridle track connected Omokoroa with Tauranga but passengers and goods came by boat. Bulk supplies were brought from Auckland to KatiKati and from there by steam launch to Omokoroa.
The arrival of the boat was one of the main events of life on the Peninsula. Each year powered scows belonging to the Northern Steam Ship Company brought large parties of trippers to Omokoroa Beach for the race day picnic. Capt. Crapp's hospitality inspired an illuminated address which the Mayor and councillors presented to him in appreciation.
The Crapp family was a lively one. The five boys and three girls were all keen riders and their favourite speed was "flat out". Shopkeepers shook their heads when the Crapp children raised the dust in the Strand, then the only street in Tauranga. School meant a long ride to Te Puna which most of the 15 or 20 pupils reached by horseback. The route was determined for the Crapp family by the depth of water in the tidal estuary which they had to cross, a mudbank in the harbour being the yard-stick for safety.
One of the pupils to attend the school was young Holyoake, now Sir Keith, whose family lived at Omokoroa before moving to Pahiatua. Old friend-ships are strong and the Prime Minister never fails to get in touch with his former schoolfellow Gerald Crapp when he visits Tauranga.
A glance at a few of the prices paid in the late eighteen-hundreds might make present-day farmers wish they had been born a century ago:
kauri posts, extra large, 95s. a hundred; a two-roomed cottage lined, finished and varnished could be built for £114; fencing cost 10s a chain with toprail and ditch; cattle sold for an average of £3/11/- a beast. Labour was plentiful at 7s a day. Against that, heavy horses cost around £50 each.
In 1916 the property was divided among members of the family; the home-stead land was farmed for many years. Nineteen years ago the first subdivision went through and the area has developed steadily. Where in 1950 only three houses stood, today there are 300 in Omokoroa County Town.
The old homestead, for many decades a tangible link with the past, was burnt down years ago but the trees on the point still flourish to show that the promise made nearly 100 years ago has been faithfully kept. Now it seems that there is a fair chance that the historic and natural features of this delightful spot will be shared by everyone for all time. The Tauranga County Council has signified that it wishes to discuss with the Crapp family the possibility of making Omokoroa Point a public reserve.
MRS. ANNETTE TOOTELL spent much of her early life in Wellington where she joined the "Dominion" as Asst. Women's Editor and Ed. of Children's Page. After marriage she lived in Napier and Rotorua before returning to Wellington. The major family hobby interest has always been Repertory Theatre. At present Mrs. Tootell is on the Staff of the 'Whakatane Beacon" and we thank her for permission to reprint her article from the Bay of Plenty Times. Her son and daughter are in professional Theatre in London.