Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 8, October 1967


By Lance Deverell

Opposite the Livery and Bait Stables of Deverell and Crimmins (where Railway Road Services now stands) stood a long low general store which at this time was in a state of decline and remained only as the home of Mr. Charles Harley. This store had a frontage on two streets and was probably constructed about 1890. The position could have been considered a good one at this early period, being a handy first stop for traffic arriving from Paeroa and opposite busy coaching stables where many of the travelling public alighted. Adjacent to this locality the original Commercial Hotel made an impressive picture, a two storeyed building of extremely large proportions with an elevated lengthy verandah in front. A pretty garden of green shrubs sloped to the pavement and was surrounded by a smart white paling fence.

Mr. Harley's store still contained many useful articles. Wandering through one would see gig harness on the wall, a few cross-cut saws and garden tools, and popular galvanised bath tubs, various books, containing engraved pictures of fascinating English scenes, a box of ladies boots and children's shoes, well made to suit the intolerable walking conditions of earlier days. To complete the scene some coloured straw hats and clay pipes took the eye. Mr. and Mrs. Harley were often content to view from their front door the changing era of the first trade motor-cars vying for custom with the ever popular horse-drawn vehicles.

Born in England in 1838 Mr. Harley came to New Zealand as a contractor, and in Tauranga built houses for the Government. He then went to Katikati Heads where he had a store and accommodation house. At one time he did a large business in gum buying, and had three farms at the Heads.