Diamond Jubilee of the Ohinemuri County 1885 - 1945
A Brief History
It is opportune at such a time to refer to the part played by religious organisations in the progress and development of the spiritual, social, and cultural life of the community over a period of 60 years — more or less.
Priority in point of time must be given here to
The Catholic Church
Ecclesiastically, the Roman Catholics were first in the field, with their church — St. Mary's — opened in Paeroa on June 26th, 1881. At Thames the Catholic Church has functioned for an even longer period — since 1868 — and as Ohinemuri was until 1885 part of the Thames parish, it is reasonable to suppose that whenever the need arose Monsignor O'Reilly visited Paeroa, and the building of St. Mary's is largely attributable to his initiative. The baptismal register indicates that the next priest to minister to the district was Father Mahoney. With the separation, in 1885, of the Te Aroha and Ohinemuri parishes, came the appointment of the Rev. Father Kehoe to labour in the new area, his ministrations continuing until 1894. The first priest to be appointed specifically to the parish of Ohinemuri was the Rev. Father McCormick, who was also the first occupant of the presbytery. Early in 1893 the Rev. Father Hackett began an incumbency of 23 years, which period saw the building of the Convent School, and also of churches at Karangahake, Waitekauri, and Waihi. Subsequently the Waitekauri church was moved to Waikino. In a succession of parish priests following Father Hackett came Fathers Dunphy, Taylor, Doherty, Hunt and W. O'Meara (the present occupant of the presbytery, who has laboured in the parish for nearly ten years). The golden jubilee of the Catholic Church was celebrated with great eclat on Sunday, June 29th, 1931, Bishop Liston, D. D., Auckland, being the guest of honour and special speaker. Four years ago, in 1941, the Diamond Jubilee commemoration was fittingly observed.
The Methodist Church
Next after the Catholics to occupy the area religiously were the Wesleyan Methodists — now part of a united Methodist Church embracing the two former Wesleyan and Primitive branches of Methodism. The Paeroa Wesleyans opened their first church on June 4th; 1882, on its present site on the corner of Normanby and Thames Roads. The building, which cost a little over £380 to erect, was largely due to the initiative and energy of the late Rev. J. T. Pinfold, afterwards Dr. Pinfold, and the first trustees of the church included Messrs. J. Phillips sen., W. Tetley (an early County foreman of works), T. Jackson, J. Bramley, T. Kitching and J. Phillips, jr. Ministers who have been associated with the circuit during the 63 years of its existence include, besides Dr. Pinfold, the Revs. S. Griffith, W. Greenslade, E. D. Patchett, C. B. Jordan, W. J. Enticott, A. E. Jefferson, W. B. Pickering, A. M. Costain, F. Bateup, G. R. Harris, R. Richards, C. M. Roberts, W. Rowe, J. Belton, and J. R. Nelson (the present superintendent).
In the "palmy days" of its history as a gold-mining community, Karangahake, had its own Methodist church, constituting the second Methodist Church in the Paeroa circuit. In later and less prosperous years of that industrial centre, the church was moved to Paeroa, and transformed into a Sunday-school hall, to be known henceforth as the Centenary Hall, commemorative of the centenary of New Zealand Methodism. The Paeroa Methodist church successfully celebrated its Diamond Jubilee rather more than three years ago — in June, 1942.
The Anglican Church
As two months have barely elapsed since the enthusiastic observance by the Paeroa Anglican community of the golden jubilee of their church, events in the progress of Anglicanism in the area during the past fifty years will be fairly easily recalled. A booklet recently compiled by the present Vicar, the Ven. Archdeacon W. G. H. Weadon, reveals that in the early years of their history the Anglicans were indebted to the Methodists for the use of the latter's communion building for worship. In the year 1883 the late Rev. E. J. McFarland was stationed for one year in Katikati, and visited Paeroa and Waihi to administer the services and sacraments of the Anglican church to settlers in those areas. Happenings during the next few years are somewhat obscure, but from 1886 to 1893 the services were maintained by the Rev. W. Katterus [Katterns - E], B. A., Vicar of Katikati. From 1893 to 1896 the Rev. F. G. Evans, L.Th., was responsible for the Paeroa services with his centre either at Thames or Te Aroha. During the year 1895 a church was built in Paeroa by Messrs. Moore and McKenzie. The building at that time was unlined, and had neither bell nor bell-tower. When, in 1937, the church was extended, with a new chancel and sanctuary built in brick, the nave of the original church was retained, and worshippers still use it. The first resident Vicar of Paeroa was the Rev. W. H. Wilson, formerly a missionary to Samoa under the London Missionary Society. Other incumbents have included the Revs. J. P. Cowie (son of the late Bishop Cowie), F. B. Dobson, and the present Vicar, Ven. Archdeacon W. G. H. Weadon, whose ministry in the parish covers a period of more than 18 years. Early lay workers included Dr. G. T. Smith, Messrs. F. Cock, A. J. Thorp and R. W. Evans.
The Presbyterian Church
In 1881 the Presbyterian General Assembly, recognising the need for Church extension work in Ohinemuri, appointed Mr. T. A. Norrie, a divinity student, to act as a missioner for the Te Aroha charge, which included Paeroa and Waihi. He was afterwards inducted as minister, and continued in the position till 1897. The first services in Paeroa were held in a hall opposite the Criterion Hotel, and were undenominational in character, Anglicans and Wesleyan Methodists using the same building. When these latter denominations acquired their own buildings, the Presbyterian services were transferred to the school, and subsequently to the Wharf Street Hall. In 1897 the district was divided into three charges, and the Rev. I. E. Bertram, M.A., was appointed to labour in the Paeroa and Karangahake charge. He was followed by the Rev. F. Rule (1899-1901), Dr. G. E. Kemp (1901-2), Rev. J. Fussell (1902), Rev. J. McArthur (1902-3), Rev. H. J. Lewis (1903-8), Rev. A. Gow (1908-10), Rev. J. Lowery (1910-14), Rev. F. W. Robertson (1914-18), Rev. F. McDonald (1919-22), Rev. R. Morgan (1922-25), Rev. J. Lowden (1926-31), Rev. R. J. Griffiths (1932-37), Rev. J. F. McEwan (1938-42). In the interim the charge has been supplied by Messrs. Porter, T. H. Jamieson and G. W. Moore (the present minister). Early in the present year the Church at Karangahake was removed to Paeroa, where it now serves the purpose of a church hall adjacent to the church building. A church at Netherton still functions as part of the Paeroa Presbyterian charge.
It was on December 1, 1896, that the Salvation Army commenced operations under the leadership of Captain (now Colonel) McCauley. In the intervening years the following have been among the later officers stationed in Paeroa:— Captains Inglis (1916), Watkin (1919), Hoare (1923), Smith (1937), Ojala (1938), Major Moore (1940), and Major A. Armstrong (the officer now in charge). The hall in Corbett Street was opened in 1915 by Commissioner Hodder (the then leader of the Salvation Army in New Zealand). Over a period of the past 20 years numbers of young people have gone out from Paeroa to be trained as officers. The first person to join the Army ranks in Paeroa was Mr. F. Le Manquais, who was enrolled on the opening day, December 1, 1896. Outstanding members in the earlier years of the corps were (the late) Mr. D. Underwood, Mr. C. Malcolm, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Brock. Next year, 1946, the corps celebrates its golden jubilee.
Maori Anglican Church
The first complete Maori Anglican Church to be erected in the Diocese of Waikato was consecrated at Paeroa by the Bishops of Aotearoa (Bishop Bennett) and Waikato (Bishop Cherrington) on June 2, 1932. Built of wood on land donated, and with substantial financial help provided by the late Mrs. W. G. Nicholls, it was called St. Johns', in memory of Tamatera, a memorable ceremony attended by a large number of Maori and pakeha clergy and laiety.