Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993

EDITORS NOTE: The following was written on 18th March 1879 reporting on the driving of the first pile for the first bridge on the Te Aroha Road. This bridge, later replaced, is now commonly known as the Criterion Bridge. The report is reproduced here in its original form, including outdated terminology.

It was arranged that at half-past three o'clock the ceremony of driving the first pile of the Te Aroha Bridge should take place. At this time there was a large muster of natives, male and female, and amongst the number was the chief Tukukino. The object of the ceremony was explained to Tukukino by Mr C F Mitchell, and the chief was invited to attend and take part in the ceremony. He declined to do so, but he did it in a most kind and polite way, and it was fully understood that, while he did not wish to participate in the proceedings he yet would not offer any obstruction to the bridge. Councillor Porter was amongst those present.

Mr C F Mitchell said as his wife had been requested to perform the ceremony of declaring the first pile well and truly driven, he would ask their consideration, Mrs Mitchell being still too much of an invalid to allow of her taking part in the day's proceedings. It had been said there was great opposition to this bridge; but that was really not so. The land upon which the bridge was being erected was held under Crown grant, and they all knew that behind a Crown grant was all the power of the Crown and all the power of the Empire (great cheering led off by the natives). Tukukino had always been a friend to the Europeans; and he was perfectly in the right so long as he confined himself to the Komata. But although Tukukino had been long, for fully eight years now his (Mr Mitchell's) friend that would not warrant him in interfering in a matter where the land was held as a freehold. (Great cheering by the natives) It had been said also that there was some difference between the pakehas; but that was not so; they were all of one mind; they were now to open communication with the Waikato and the King Country; this was the first step, the railway would be the next. It was but just to say that they were indebted to Sir George Grey and Mr Sheehan for the money granted for the erection of the bridge; but there could be no doubt that Mr Sheehan was the last person who would approve of any opposition being offered to a work of this sort. As they were stopping the races, and the people had to return by the steamer, he would now, in his capacity as proxy proceed to drive the first pile.

All being ready, the first pile was then driven home by Messrs. H D Johnson, James Maguire, James Shaw, John Quinn (of Rotokuhu), John H Mahoney, and Robert Noble (of Karangahake): Mr Adams, the contractor, holding the trigger. As the monkey struck the first blow Mr Mitchell broke a bottle of champagne on the pile, and amid great cheering, declared it well and truly fixed.

A short time after the pile was driven one of the principal chiefs of the Ngatikoi (Timiuha Taiwhakaea) came with Mr Mitchell and worked the winch in driving the pile home. During the time the pile was being driven, luncheon was provided for the guests, Messrs Cassrels and Bennett of the Criterion Hotel being the caterers. Everything went off with the greatest eclat, and the natives seemed even more gratified than the pakeha.