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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993

By Eileen Smith (nee Swift)

Maratoto is a picturesque valley about three miles from the small township of Hikutaia. I had heard about Maratoto before I was married and went to live there in 1926. It was noted for timber milling, trout fishing and minerals, having had a silver mine operating for a few years, but this was eventually closed down and the Valley converted into farmlands occupied mostly by young farmers and families.

One of the first farmers to arrive in the Maratoto was my father-in-law, the late Mr M C Smith, who in 1922 purchased some land and built a home where he and Mrs Louisa Smith came to live. Later he purchased another block of land a short distance away. On this land was a large old house which was then owned by a Major Robert Peel who came from England with his wife and three of their five children. At that time Maratoto must have been native bush, as the house was built to face the river which ran below. The river is still known as "Peel's Creek".

I came to Maratoto when I married Harold Smith, the only son of Mr and Mrs M C Smith. We were married in 1926 and came to live in the old house and were told it had quite a history and that Major Peel used to hold tea parties and tennis parties. There was evidence of this by a large portion on flat land near the house. There was also a large magnolia tree and a tulip tree which still remain.

We lived in the house for ten or twelve years, having eight children while there. The house had eight rooms and four fire places, but no outside convenience which meant that washing had to be done and boiled in a copper with a fire underneath and rinsed in two wooden tubs near a water tank at the back of the house - no easy task with a young family to care for. After a few years electricity was installed and we found this a vast improvement.

We lived there until 1934, when Mr M C Smith died. We then went to live at the homestead, as Mrs Smith had then moved to Paeroa where she lived with her youngest daughter Rita, who was a music teacher for some years. When her mother died in 1945 she went to Australia, where at the age of 81 she still lives and corresponds with me.

My family are now married and two sons still live at Maratoto. The eldest, Edwin, married Colleen Andrewartha from Waihi, and they have built a new home on the site where Major Peel's house once stood. The other homestead has also been replaced by a new home and occupied by another son, Bernard and his wife Maureen.

After the two sons had taken over the land at Maratoto, my husband purchased this, my present home at Hikutaia. My family are now living in different parts of the country, three of them overseas, but still visit me when on holiday.

In 1962 my husband died and in recent years I have divided my time visiting members of my family, but mostly up at Maratoto where I had lived for thirtyfive years. It holds many happy memories.