Print
Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 16, June 1972

By WALTER P. WYLDE

(We gratefully acknowledge Mr. Wylde's gift of some old "Gazettes" featuring articles written by him, especially one dated 6-5-1955 which recorded Waitekauri's 80th Jubilee Celebrations. It is noted that the Reunion was organised by the following Committee:- Mr. A.J. Campbell (Chairman) the late Mrs. I.J. Franklin (Secretary), Mesdames McClintoch, McKenzie, Radford, and Cook, Miss E. Mann, and Mr. H. Olney. Ed.)

In the year 1875 hardy pioneers hacked a track up Tarariki Creek, (a mile or so out of Paeroa via Waihi Road) over the hills to the Waitekauri Valley where gold had been found. It was in the days of "gold rushes" and news spread fast. Waitekauri boomed for a period and then waned, to rise again with a population of hundreds. Once more it faded away leaving but a few old prospectors and a handful of landowners who turned to farming which has since prospered.

Men possessing a miner's right were entitled, upon application to the Mining Warden at Paeroa and upon payment of 25/- to cut down any tree for timber for a dwelling. Many fine kauris were pitsawn into thick planks more suitable for farm buildings than for houses. In recent years the old stumps of these trees have been carefully harvested for timber, the price being many times the 25/- paid for the original tree. Huts made of plaited nikau were the first homes of many of the pioneers, especially the early prospectors.

Forced to leave when the mines petered out men had to accept any price they could get for their buildings and in most cases this was anything from £5 to £50. Publicly owned buildings were shifted to neighbouring centres. The Hall went to Waihi as an adjunct to the Catholic Church, and the Churches were moved to Waikino. The Miners' Union Hall became the Baptist Church at Waihi, and Part of the Jubilee Battery became a Paeroa theatre (later destroyed by fire). The Golden Cross hotel still serves its original purpose at Waihi and the Hauraki hotel went to Waikino (later burned down). The Post Office is recognisable as the office of the Ministry of Works at Paeroa, and the School became part of a house in Norwood Road.

During the Reunion descendants of pioneer settlers visited the sites of dwellings where they had been born or had known. At some places a water pipe, a patch of bulbs or an excavation gave a clue though often there was nothing whatever to see. Then "Mrs. Gordon's Boarding-house" was hailed with delight. (It too has since gone). The two-storey building of 30 rooms had been erected by Mr. Thomas Gordon who was one of the first settlers in 1875 when he purchased about 100 acres of land. He was engaged in mining till almost the date of his death in 1898, and for a time held the Waitekauri battery on tribute. But he also established a line of coaches between the settlement and Paeroa, this business being carried on by his sons.

The five sons were: (1) William, (who became Mayor of Matamata in 1930) Children = Mrs. Jean Gardiner (Otahuhu) and Dr. Douglas Gordon (2) John; (3) Jim (who later moved to Te Aroha). Ch. = Dulcie; Tom (of Gordon's Gardens); Eva (Mrs. McLean,(Waitawheta)) and the late Mavis. (4) Alex; (5) Tom, Ch. = Nevis, Margaret (Mrs. Wells, (Waihi)); Ailsa (Mrs. Findlay); Jefferies (England) and Alex.

The daughters were:-

(1) Christina (Mrs. Fielding),

(2) Alexina (Mrs. Campbell) - Children = the late Mrs. Annie Joughan; Mrs. Marjorie Cornes (Waihi Beach); Alan (U.S.A.); Alex, (Waikino - Chairman Ohinemuri County Council); Roland (Pukekohe); Mrs. Lillian McClintock (Waikino); Mrs. Chris Steel (Waihi); Mrs. Elsie Currie (Papatoetoe); Doris (Beachlands); Mrs. Muriel Goodenough (Bucklands Beach).

(3) Annie (Mrs. Butcher) - Ch. = Mrs. Grace Karl (Ohaupo); Mrs. Zena Parker (Paeroa).

(4) Grace (Mrs. Williams) Ch. = Una; the late Tom and Grace; Bartley; Alex; Jim (Nelson).

(5) Margaret (Mrs. Mann) Ch. = late Gordon; Mrs. Molly Casey (Waitakere); Elsie (Paeroa); Jane (Mrs. Brocket, (Towai)); John (Springdale); Walter, (Elstow).

Note. After Mrs. Gordon (Sen.) died in 1930 Mr. & Mrs. Mann returned from the S.I. to live at the Waitekauri Boarding House. Mrs. Mann died in 1933 but the family remained there till 1955 when they moved to Waikino after the farm was sold to Mr. Stubbs. (Mr. W. Parker took over Mr. Fred Butcher's farm). Elsie Mann had charge of the Waitekauri Post Office from 1938 - '46 and after that, was responsible for the Rural Delivery from Waikino till she became Post Mistress there, a position she still holds. She has given great service to the Scout movement in Paeroa and she and her father, now 94 years of age have a beach cottage at Te Mata, Thames Coast where she joins him at week-ends. Ed.

Just below the old Boarding-house was a little shed used as a meeting place and facetiously called the "Town Hall". Originally it had been the "Fire Brigade Station" (1899) and after the removal of the Post Office (1916) it was used for that purpose till 1946. A little further on was an interesting building used as a manure shed, by Mr. W. Parker who then owned it, but it had once been Mr. Gordon's shop. Nearby was a house on the site of the Battery Superintendent's dwelling, one of the occupants having been the late Mr. Ben Gwilliam so well known in the district.

Across the two bridges on the Golden Cross Road was a fine old dwelling built by Mr. E.M. Corbett to replace one destroyed by fire, but the original stables and some of the fruit and nut trees were still there. Mr. Corbett, one of the best known mining engineers on the Hauraki goldfields had been associated with the planning and erection of several important mills and pumping installations at Thames, before superintending the erection of the 40 Stamp Mill at Waitekauri with its famous water wheel, the largest in the southern hemisphere. Later he became superintending engineer for the Waihi Company and planned and erected many big plants. He represented the Waitekauri riding on the Ohinemuri County Council for many years, but met his death in a buggy accident in the Karangahake Gorge in 1898, leaving six sons and four daughters.

The only other old buildings still in the district were those of the Bramble family, Pierce Grace, a one-time County Chairman, Steve Morgan, once a councillor, and George Merlin. At Golden Cross were those of Bilyard, Feather, Scott and Halliwell. "Golden Cross" sprang into existence about 1895 following the discovery in 1892 of an outcrop of gold by the Lowrie Brothers who were digging for gum, and it too had boasted a school, a church, an hotel, and several shops. A track from there to Maratoto was much used in the old days. Very few native birds were seen but an old song about the tui was recalled. It had first been sung at the Waikino School, was popular early in the Century, and was sung with great feeling by those who attended the Jubilee.

"Bird of my native land,

Beautiful stranger,

Perched on a Kauri tree,

Free from all danger.

ۥNeath its green branches,

Waters are flowing

Scent laden breezes,

Softly are blowing.

   

Sing me a native song,

Song of New Zealand,

Sing of our Island Home,

Sing of our free land,

Songs of the ancient days,

The mighty departed

Of lovers so brave,

Of maidens true hearted.

   

Here on the Kauri tree,

By the bright river,

Carol so sweetly,

Worthy the Giver,

Sing on sweet songster,

Sing on forever,

No harm shall come to thee, Never, no never."

* * *

Like many pioneer settlements Waitekauri was noted for its music which was recalled with enthusiasm at the reunion when both vocalists and instrumentalists received warm applause. This was especially so when a little old lady - Mrs. Willie Morgan of Hamilton, walked on to the stage to play on her violin, "Waltz of Vienna" and "The Irish Washerwoman". Her 83 year old fingers had lost little of their flexibility since the days when she had played for dances in the Waitekauri School-room. (She died shortly after the Reunion).