Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959
Karangahake records would be incomplete without the story of J. B. Morris, whom many will remember as a spare, bent man of prodigious energy and drive. Coming here early in 1900, with a frail wife and three young children, he weathered almost every phase of its rise and fall.
Mr Morris had been left an orphan at an early age, had worked in the Northern Kauri Forest before he was 14, and than went to sea for some years. His first contact with mining was in Australia during the Palmer Diggings goldrush but on returning to New Zealand, he married and went back to bush work in Taranaki until the gold lure brought him here.
He built a house up the Rahu Road and his wife died when their youngest child, Charlie, was born there. His bent for individual projects led him to bush work again and the establishment of a sawmill. There was timber in plenty and it was urgently needed, both for building and for the mines. A team consisting of at least 20 bullocks was acquired to haul the logs to the mill. But anyone who knows the contour of the country will realise the difficulty of negotiating the steep bush tracks from which both logs and bullocks were liable to disappear.
Later Mr Morris's second wife mothered the children, who so much needed and appreciated her. There were Ben (already a young bushranger), Alma (late Mrs Laurie Turnbull) and Harry, who was later drowned in the Ohinemuri River, while searching for the body of our tragically lost little Dot Pool. (Mrs Meagher had adopted Charlie from birth).
There is a Cinnabar deposit up the Rahu and when Henry Flavill first had some samples assayed, Mr Morris became very interested. Finally they had to abandon it for lack of capital, although small samples of the ore had proved rich in mercury which is used in various explosives. During a further mining venture he was "winding" for the Crown and later for the Talisman until the main work ceased about 1919. He then opened a large stone quarry near the Crown Battery, thus providing needed work for many men. But expenses became prohibitive and Mr Morris with others turned to prospecting, resulting in the re-opening of the Dubbo mine, which yielded considerable gold. Then this stout-hearted man opened his own battery in Karangahake, crushing from various workings till at the age of 80 he retired to Waihi in 1942.
During all this time Mr Morris was very interested in local affairs, serving for many years on the County Council and the School Committee (of which he was often Chairman) and on the Domain Board and the Church of England Vestry. He was also a J.P. for many years, a member of the Odd-fellows Lodge, and when he passed away in 1946 was the oldest Masonic member in the district. He was a music lover and played his old violin with great gusto. Both Mr and Mrs. Morris were keen gardeners and their last home in Waihi was always a picture, the fruits of their labour helping many a needy cause and family. Mrs Morris died in 1950, aged 89 years. It could truly be said of them that they lived to serve others.
Ben, who now lives at Whangamata, is the only surviving member of the family and he suffers very indifferent health, mainly as a result of being an "Old Soldier" — First World War. But when he is well enough he enjoys going out in his boat to do a little fishing. In the 1920's he and his wife (once Nessie McLeod) lived in Mackaytown and Ben was foreman for McLoughlin, who had the contract for dismantling the Crown Plant.