Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 8, October 1967


(The early days of Katikati, pioneer privations and successes, were recalled by Mr. Middlebrook of Waihi Beach in an address to the Waihi Historical Society. This was reported as follows, by Miss Jean Clark, then Secretary of W.H.S.) Ed.

Mr. Middlebrook began by showing a portrait of his father as a youth of 18 in the uniform of the Tauranga Armed Constabulary. This lad had run away from home and had come to Tauranga where he joined the Survey Department. He worked on surveys in the Tauranga, Katikati and Taupo districts, andit was while he was working in the Tauranga district that he met Mr. Vesey Stewart, who for some time had been investigating various places in New Zealand with a view to establishing a settlement for immigrants from Ireland.

Mr. Sam Middlebrook conducted Mr. Stewart to Katikati and as far as Tuapiro Bridge on the way to Athenree. This was in 1874 and in June, 1875, two sailing vessels, the Dover Castle and the Carisbrooke Castle, set sail from Ireland and arrived in Auckland the following December. Smaller vessels brought the immigrants to the Tauranga Harbour and they transhipped from there to still smaller boats which brought them to Katikati, landing them near the areas they had been allotted.


Allotments varied according to the size of the family and the original purchase of 10,000 acres by Mr. Stewart provedto be insufficient. The settlers camped in Nikau whares for as long as 12 months until their houses could be built. For a while they had no income but they mostly had some capital to keep them going. They needed it for the servants brought out had to be paid and land was brought in under the greatest difficulty.

There was no fencing wire, so at first ditch and bank fences were constructed. Later miles of post and rail fences were erected. The land was cleared, burnt off, surface sown, fenced and then stock was obtained and crops were sown - grass, and oats and chaff for the horses.

The hand-made butter and cheese were conveyed by horses and drays to the river boats which took it to Tauranga.

When the Waihi gold mine opened up in 1886, a road was constructed through the Athenree Gorge. Two horses and a dray would take a day to reach Waihi, but it proved to be a good market and was the salvation of the Katikati farmers. Blakeney, Wilson and Pritt were men whose wagons regularly made the journey along this rough unmetalled road.

Then in 1902 the Waitekohe butter factory opened and settlers could send their cream to it. The factory-made butter was a great improvement on hand-made butter and kept much better. The opening of the butter factory was made the occasion for a jolly picnic.

The 36 huts built in 1875-6 on the banks of the Tuapiro, Uritara [Uretara - E] and Aongatete Rivers were soon replaced by good homes, in some cases much larger and better ones, according to the circumstances of the owner.

Mr. Lockington was installed as the manager of one of the holdings for an absentee owner and later he bought the property. The first hotel was just over the bridge on the left hand side and was owned by Barney McDonald. Afterwards it became a store owned by Dalziell and later it was removed to Waihi and occupied the site where Dr. Hetherington now lives.

For a long time there was only one store run by a Mr. Johnston. The flour mill at Waterford was originally a store run by a Mr. Gilbert. Later Mr. W. J. Gray converted it to a flour mill which ground wheat and maize. A great deal of wheat was grown in the district. Part of the Old Mill Store is still standing.


Two timber mills operated in the district. One, owned in turn by Bond Brothers and Judd, and then by Cashmore Brothers only, had a tram-line from the bush to Diggleman's Point. The timber was conveyed from there by boat to Auckland and on the way the boatmen used to call in at the little island of Tutaituku and collect oysters for sale in Auckland. The boats returned by way of the Bowentown Bar bringing manure and goods.

The other mill owned in turn by Knight and McGlashen used to mill timber near the Waitengawai, [Waitengaue – E] Kukupu and Wairoa Rivers, tributaries of the Tuapiro. Big dams were put up on the rivers and at flood time the dams were tripped and the logs carried down to the mills, where booms caught them.

A tram-line went across Stamford Flat, halfway between Athenree and Katikati and scows called there to collect the timber. Otherwiseit was conveyed by tram line to Waihi to the site where the present dairy factory is situated. The rails were wooden and the trams horse-drawn. The Waihi timber yard was a big one for there was a great demand for timber.


Kauri gum was also obtained in the Katikati district. Mr. Bert Middlebrook was employed as a youth by the local storeman at ten shillings a week to take supplies by pack horse to the Maori and Dalmation gum-diggers in the bush. Then he would bring back the gum. Rain and floods meant stopping overnight in the bush. Similarly food stuffs were packed to the timber camps and on these journeys the sleepers on the tram lines were a constant hazard for the horses.

A second batch of settlers came out in 1878 with Captain Hugh Stewart, who settled in Athenree. He stayed till 1906 and then returned to Ireland. Later parties of immigrants settled in Te Puke.

Recreation in those early days consisted of fishing, shooting, football, riding, dances, concerts and picnics. Nearly every child owned a horse and in that respect was fortunate.


The Katikati settlers also had a gold mine, the Eliza, for which they entertained great hopes. Most settlers had shares and put in 2 shillings a week to provide a working capital of ten pounds. There was some really good stuff but no great quantity and eventually a big log gate was erected to close the mine. Once some outsiders tried to jump the claim so Mr. Bert Middlebrook was called upon to work at the mine to prevent this. A letter was addressed to him as mine manager at this time.

The speaker recalled many amusing anecdotes relating to boyhood escapades, dances, picnics and experiences with the first motor cars. On the occasion of his wedding he hired an Oldsmobile, owned by Mr. Maurice Crimmins. As the wedding breakfast continued, Mr. Crimmins reminded the bridegroom that there was only an hour left in which to make the 16-mile journey to the railway station.

But the most amusing experience for Mr. Middlebrook's audience was to see him with the aid of Mr. Hollis as patient and his grandson, Daryl Hayward, as assistant, impersonate his father in the role of dentist. Moko Murray, a local Maori, who had two bad teeth, came to Mr. Middlebrook's home to have them extracted.

The amateur dentist had obtained some simple dental equipment to cater for the local settlers' needs and by this time was experienced in extractions which had to be carried out without the help of anaesthetics. Hence an assistant to hold the patient's head firmly was needed. The loud yells of the mock patient as a bullock's tooth was extracted and proudly displayed to the audience, brought down the house.