Print
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 16, June 1972

By NELL CLIMIE

For 100 years Paeroa has received and despatched Mail. On 1st January 1872 the small settlement known as Ohinemuri, Upper Thames, was given the service of a Post Office which opened in a small room of a hotel on the Esplanade facing the river near Wharf Street. In spite of protests it functioned there for nearly 10 years before being transferred for a short period to Phillip's store on the site since occupied by the Ministry of Works. Money order and Savings Bank facilities were added on 16th October of that year (1882) which also saw the installation of a Telephone Office.

We are indebted to Mr. Schaab (P.M.) for records such as the following:-

PAEROA Early mail services (extracts from Guide, etc.)

Thames Postal District 1872; Contract No. III Thames to Paeroa:

One office; 40 miles steamer; + frequency uncertain.

Expenditure £10-0-0; revenue £9-11-0.

1,094. letters; 456 newspapers and books.

Guide 1874. January - Paeroa-Thames: Mails close "as opportunity offers".

Guide 1874 October - Mails due to close at Thames for Paeroa on Mondays and Thursdays 5 p.m., arrive Paeroa Tuesdays and Friday "with the tide". Mails for Thames close Wednesday and Saturday with the tide, and due to arrive in Thames Wednesday and Saturday (sic) with the tide.

1875 and 1876 - Promise of limited service "as opportunity offers".

1877 - Promise of timetable withdrawn - "service by steamer as opportunity offers". + The Chief Postmaster, Thames, is quoted in Post Office records (30/298) filed in 1926 as authority for the statement that the first steamer services between Paeroa and Auckland were established in 1888.

Early in 1884 a move was made to a new Post Office building on the corner of Willoughby and Victoria Street - adjacent to the Police Station. (See Illustration Journal 6). A few more years saw the beginning of the mining "boom" in Ohinemuri and Paeroa prospered as a base for trade and traffic. The Post Office was altered and expanded but its distinctive appearance was maintained for over 40 years.

The 1900 Cyclopedia states:-

The Paeroa Post Office has a vestibule with 30 private boxes, a public lobby, an operating room, mail room and Post Master's Office with a six roomed Residence behind. About 30 bags of mail pass daily through the office which is the distributing centre for the Upper Thames District. The Post Master, Mr. John Brown is assisted by 3 cadets, a letter carrier and two messengers.

Shortly after this the late Mr. Fred Hubbard, who later trained as a telegraphist and for a time left the district, became a message boy at the Paeroa Office and then the late Mr. Claude Kennedy was employed in the same capacity. Very few people had telephones, and telegrams were delivered by hand, there being a charge if the delivery was over a long distance. (Mr. Joe White was a letter carrier for many years - in fact for most of his life. He had a farmlet in the Shaw Road area and he and his horse were known throughout the district).

Although it was near the Police Station, the School and the B.N.Z. the Paeroa P.O. was certainly not in a central position. An Editorial in the Ohinemuri Gazette 26.9.96 states:- "A petition was recently forwarded to the Post Office and Telegraph Department, Wellington signed by the residents of the Ohinemuri township asking for the establishing of a Telephone Office for the receipt and forwarding of telegrams at Mr. C.B. Centil's [Gentil ? - E] shop opposite the Royal Mail Hotel. This site was selected as being the busiest spot in the whole town where all passengers by train, steamers and coaches pass, and from whence all the coaches for Waihi, Thames, Te Aroha, Karangahake and Waitekauri start."

The very great convenience of this was pointed out in the petition which reached Wellington on the 19th inst., and on the 23rd the following telegram was received from the Hon. A.J. Cadman:- "The Chief P.M. Auckland recommends that the receiving office be placed on the Railway Station so that it may be in charge of a Govt. Officer, but the matter not definitely decided". In reply it was pointed out that this would not meet requirements as it would be almost the same distance to go to the G.P.O. as to the Railway Station, etc.

The matter remained unsettled until the first Telephone Exchange was opened at the Post Office in 1901 when there were 16 subscribers. (In 1970 there were 1534). Two local girls who gave yeoman service in this department during the 1st W. War were the late Miss Eunice Vincent (Mrs. Wilfred Jones) and Miss Nance Purdie, (Mrs. R.G. Collins, Opotiki) who served for 10 years. For a time they were the only ones on duty and worked shifts till 10 p.m.

Some of the early mail was carried by River Steamers but some depended on road service. Livery and bait stables were a feature of the town and in the 90's as many as 16 coaches were moving to and from the surrounding district, some of these carrying mail, e.g. Crosbys "Royal Mail". Mr. Medhurst was a mail contractor for many years. Then there was the advent of trains. On 20.12.1895 the Minister of Railways Mr. A.J. Cadman opened the Te Aroha to Paeroa link of the Auckland line and three years later on 19.12.'98, the extension from Paeroa to Thames. The Waihi branch line was opened in 1905 by the Prime Minister, Mr. R.J. Seddon, and eventually most mails were carried by rail. For an extra stamp, letters could be posted on mail trains.

The great postal occasion for Paeroa was the opening on 27.5.1926 by the then Prime Minister Mr. J.G. Coates, of the Post Office which still serves on its very central site once part of Fishers Hill which was levelled. The contractors for the building were Robinson and Beagley of Hamilton and the contract rice was £11,829.

The old Post Office building had not outlived its usefulness in 1926. The residential part was purchased by Mr. W. Marshall (Mayor) and was moved to Thames Road to become a house for the Borough Foreman Mr. Knapp. The Post Office itself remained but was converted into a house for Constable Bagg. From 1954 - 1959 it was occupied by Constable Ross and later by Constable G. Brown. In 1964 when it was 80 years old it was moved bodily - with considerable difficulty - to a farm property on Wilson's Road, travelling via the Criterion Bridge, Tirohia and Awaiti. It is still used as an extra residence on the farm of Mr. & Mrs. Colin Foster.

POSTMASTERS AT PAEROA

Peter Austin

1 January

1872.

F. Lipsey

1 January

1876.

J. Phillips

1 December

1881.

H. Greatbatch

1 July

1882.

J.W. Salmon

1 October

1882.

J.H. Nicholls

1 July

1883.

J. Brown

24. December

1892.

J.A. Algie

1 June

1903.

W.H. Dempsey

13 July

1907.

G.W. Woods

14 September

1910.

J.G. Poynter

5 June

1915.

J.G. MacDougall

11 March

1916.

W.E. Ward

1 May

1925.

A. Pellow

8 February

1928.

F.L. Cunnold

14 April

1930.

F.K. Hyde

22 April

1931.

W.B. Robertson (acting)

1 April

1932.

J.M. Craig

6 June

1932.

R.A. Mace

9 March

1937.

W.J. Cummins

26 November

1943.

W. Aston (acting)

11 October

1945.

C.W. Williams

1 December

1945.

A.S. Brown (acting)

1 July

1953.

C.B. Purcell

21 August

1953.

W.J. Taylor

21 April

1955.

W.G. Weston

26 March

1956.

N.W. Boyle

29 August

1958.

A.E. Davis

20 October

1960.

J.C.P. Leathem

20 July

1965.

C. Edgar

6 March

1967.

G.S.F. Connelly

5 June

1969.

R.M. Schaab

11 May

1970.

W.D. Warrilow

11 November

1971.

We have pleasure in specially mentioning Mr. John Craig who held the Office of P.M. from 1932 - 1937 and who lives in retirement in Arney Street. Although a nonoganerian [nonagenarian – E] he is still a very valued member of the Paeroa community and a familiar figure about town. The Historical Society is proud of him and extends warm greetings to him and to Mrs. Craig.

Mr. J.A. Algie (1903 - 1910) was the father of the Hon. R.M. Algie who began his teaching career at the Paeroa School and the late Mr. W.J. Cummins was a Waihi boy who married Thelma Conway of Karangahake.

The following are the names of people who gave long service to the P.O.-

Joe White (44 years), Bob Bramley (1910-1950), Ted Lipsham (1921-'62), Percy Jasper, Ted Wigmore (1916-49), Cyril Brook [or Brock – E] (1916-24), Tom Wildermoth (1929-36), Ted Tibbetts (1953-72) and at the Telephone Exchange, Fred Baker (1946-72) and the late Ray Brenan who began his career as a message boy in 1936 and died in 1971.

A great deal of renovation and painting of the buildings was done in 1971 and Paeroa now has a very up to date Office with a Staff of 74 including those in the Exchange. Mr. Schaab (Post Master 1970-71) presented our Society with an historical wooden "Mail Notice Board" on which the caption STEAMER figures prominently.