Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 5, May 1966
By: WALTER WYLDE
The birthplace of white settlement in Thames Valley was pointed out to members of the Paeroa and District Historical Society when they travelled down the Puriri Road to the site of the mission station established there in 1833 on the hill to the left of the road and overlooking the railway station.
There being no water, the missionaries moved to a site visible in the distance, but only reached by travelling towards Thames and thence through Mr. Crawford's farm.
Under the direction of Messrs F. McKenzie and C.G. Murdoch of Hikutaia, they there located what was probably the actual site of the mission station on the bank of the Puriri Stream amid old acacia and poplar trees. No trace could now be found of an old wharf, or a flour mill driven by a big over shot water-wheel, fed by a water race which ran from the stream above the present township.
Neither was there any trace of the numerous peach trees planted by the Maoris under the direction of the missionaries and from which Mr. McKenzie recalled having seen waggon loads of excellent peaches collected by merely driving beneath the trees and shaking the branches.
Amid the tangled growth of recent years, cattle had made tracks which obliterated the drains which formerly marked old-time gardens and it was difficult to visualise that fields of wheat stretched as far as could be seen.
Returning, the party turned up the Neavesville Road to a site where formerly lived very many hundred Maoris. It was explained that the settlement up in the hills probably got its name from Neave's Hill, where there was a mine.
After proceeding to the home of Mr. C.C. Murdoch to inspect his extensive museum of Maori artifacts and to have lunch, the party proceeded up the Maratoto Road to the old battery, where Mr. Harold Sparke is still winning gold with pieces of old machinery now driven by petrol engines instead of the old pelton wheels. Having read much in the Historical Society's journals of the man and the district, members plied him with questions and had points of interest pointed out.
(The history of the C.M.S. Mission at Puriri is a relatively short one, for the station, founded in 1833 was removed to Kauaeranga in 1837 because the low-lying site proved unhealthy, especially for the younger members. The principal Missionaries: James Preece, John Morgan assisted by John Wilson and William Fairburn had come from Waimate and built both a Chapel and a School while at Puriri. They did considerable work among the Maoris.)