Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970
by NELLIE BAIN
From my home I look down on to the Waihou river, now almost like one of the man made canals that flow through the Hauraki Plains. All the trees and its beauty have gone. The willows that used to hang down on to the flowing waters, the Kowhai with its golden bloom in the spring, the tall Kaikatea [Kahikatea – E] trees and the beautiful green Karaka are no more to be seen on the banks of the river at Tirohia. But the Cabbage trees and Flax when in flower give the most beautiful perfume for miles around.
The few Maoris who used to live in their native whares along the river banks have gone too and all we see now are grass paddocks. Tirohia first was a small railway station and siding, a Maori Pa and a few Maori homes. The Railway line from Paeroa to Te Aroha and so on to Hamilton was completed in 1895, but my people came here when I was a small child in 1913. During that time a survey track was cut through from Paeroa to Te Aroha, now the main highway. High manuka, flax and scrub grew everywhere. There were white people near where we lived by the Waihou river.
A Mr. Wiggins had bought land from the Maoris and started farming on the opposite side of the river. He had his cattle brought by train to Tirohia and taken across the river by a ferry worked by men. The ferry used to be near where the old bridge was built, but Mr. Wiggins crossed the river by row-boat to get the train. Cargo mostly came by steamers. I knew the Rotokohu and Patiki that were steamers and the Kopu was a paddle-boat. They pulled barges of all kind of cargo from Puke wharf Paeroa, to Te Aroha. Children used to run to the river edge to watch the boats making their way up and down the river.
About 1916-1917 the road was formed and in use. There were only horse drawn carts and waggons then. In the winter the clay road was just terrible mud and slush, and waggons got bogged up to the axles. As the years went on the road was metalled. So came the day when a few motor vehicles came through and there was such excitement - the children used to cheer each vehicle. During this time land had been bought from the Maoris and farming began. Scrub was cleared and swamps drained, grass paddocks grew year by year and so on. More land was sold by Maoris and homes were built. Children of whom I was one, went to School at Paeroa Central. Some travelled by train, some walked, some rode horses. In all weathers they got to School as best they could.
By this time quite a number of people had come to live about Tirohia, and new Maoris had settled by the river. The men folk worked at the Tirohia Quarry which had been in operation for a few years getting out metal for road development. It was carted from the Quarry to the railway station on little trucks pulled by horses. For years the metal was taken from the quarry this way.
In 1920-1921 the land for the School was bought by the people of Tirohia from an old Maori woman Mrs Clark (or Karaka). In 1922 the children of Tirohia had their little one room School to go to and I was a first day pupil there. The ground around the School was rough but the children had some happy times, and all played together like one big family.
OUR CONTRIBUTER: MRS. NELLIE BAIN (nee Hennah) may not be one of the oldest settlers but she has certainly qualified as a real country pioneer. Not only has she contended with hard work but also with periods of serious illness, and is the mother of 14 children - 8 girls and 6 boys; the youngest child is now helping on the farm. There are 33 grandchildren.
EARLY TIROHIA (B)
By ISOBEL S. VEALE.
The earliest recollections I have of Tirohia are from stories told me by my parents who went to reside there in 1909. When they purchased the farm it was all in tea-tree [ti-tree, manuka and kanuka – E] except for a small area of grass where the homestead now stands. The road from Paeroa was not formed and it was easier to walk or ride a horse along the railway line than to travel on the rough track across the swamp. The main road from Paeroa to Te Aroha at that time was the old Rotokohu road.
In 1909 Mr. and Mrs. Oram lived in a small house where the homestead owned by Mr. W.J. Noble now stands. This property was later taken over by Mr. K. Buchanan and in 1914 by Mr. A. Noble. Mr. Handley, Snr., father of the late Mr. Frank Handley, owned the property now farmed by Handley Bros. in Cadman Road. I have often heard about the beautiful fruit early settlers could gather from an old orchard on this property.
Negotiations to have a School built in the district were started in 1919. The early settlers associated with this venture were: Messrs J. Kenny, H.P. Gillard, W.C. Alexander, B.E. Veale., H.G. Durbin, C.C. Dahl, R.H. Wiggins, G. Hunt, W. Henton, M.& J. Herewani, H. Sarsfield, G. Wilkinson, A. Noble, J. Endean, A. Warman, P. Penny, Hennah and Mita. The School was opened in 1922. The first teacher was Mr. W.E. Donnely followed by Miss Whitten. The first permanent Headmaster, Mr. A. S. Pendergrast was appointed in 1923 and the first Assistant, Miss E.C .Fleury came in February, 1924. For many years the School was only a one room building, a curtain being used to divide it in two. Both teachers and all classes from primmer 1 to standard 6 occupying the one room. The opening of the School was the beginning of social life in the district. All functions were held in the School, by lighting from a kerosene lamp, the music for dances being supplied by the local Maoris who also used to give items of Hakas and songs. At that time there was a large Maori population in the district and probably at least half the school children were Maoris. Church services were held in the School and a Sunday School was started.
The Tirohia Quarry Co. owned by Mr. Peter Baine of Te Aroha supplied metal for roading. A tram line ran from the quarry to the Tirohia railway station and horse drawn trucks used to carry metal to the station. In the early days all goods were delivered by rail or boat. The boat then came up the Waihou river and there was a landing at Tirohia. This remained in use until about 1930.
The road between Paeroa and Te Aroha used to be subjected to flooding. In big floods both road and rail communications would be disrupted. It was not until the late 1950's that the road from Paeroa to Tirohia was raised above flood level. Over the years much of the land in the district has been subdivided into smaller holdings.