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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 16, June 1972

By REV. J.K. WATSON

The history of any Church is a commentary on an era and reminds us of the courageous struggles of dedicated men and women willing to make sacrifices for their deepest convictions. Before 1880 Methodism was represented at Thames and Coromandel in the North and Hamilton and Cambridge in the S.W, but as it is now 90 years since it became firmly established in this area we are marking the event by referring to its very early years. We quote from 3 Sources:-

An early record (1881-1916) by the late Mr. J. B. Beech.Paeroa Methodist Church by Rev. R.E. FordyceA Diamond Jubilee Survey of the Church in Waihi (1896-1956).

Te Aroha was proclaimed a Goldfield on 25th November 1880 and a few days later the Rev. J.T. Pinfold, who had just finished his Theological Training was sent there by the Methodist Synod. He travelled all day (16th December) by river steamer from Thames and never forgot the sight of the many candle-lit tents on the mountain. The only "buildings" at that time were O'Halloran's hotel (where no beds being available, the Parson was given the privilege of dossing down under the publican's counter for the night!); and the office of the Warden (Mr. H. Kenrick). It was from the door of this office that he preached his first sermon to about 100 men who stood round in the open air. Within a month of arrival he had preached at Paeroa, Waitoa, Piako and Matamata to which places he usually walked - (until he enjoyed the luxury of a horse!)

The first meeting of a church building committee was held in Te Aroha on 1-7-1881, those present being: Rev. J.T. Pinfold (Chair) Messrs J. Lavery, J.F. Cocks, D.J. Frazer, and H.R. Cox. It was agreed that a Church be built on the site given by Mrs. George Lipsey, the honoured daughter of a Maori Chief of high standing whose baptismal name of Morgan, was Mokena in the Maori tongue. The little unlined Church, opened on 7-8-1881 was the only one in Te Aroha and it served as a centre of worship for the community as well as a day School during the week.

Meanwhile Te Aroha mining declined and other parts of the district were growing rapidly so the Methodist Conference in 1881 decided to form the "Upper Thames Circuit" with Paeroa as its centre. The Rev. Pinfold was appointed to take charge of the scattered area which included Te Aroha, Matamata, Morrinsville, Waitoa, Waihou Farm (later known as Te Aroha West), Paeroa, Owharoa, and Waitekauri. This list was later increased to include Waiorongomai, Mackaytown, Hikutaia and Waihi. (Preaching assistance was not available till 1882 when Mr. Luther Hames (Teacher at Owharoa) was appointed "lay preacher" for his area). Moreover, times were so bad financially that the over-worked Minister wondered if his stipend (₤150) should be reduced!

The choice of the new centre was due to the enthusiasm of Mr. John Phillips (Sen.), the owner of a large general store at Paeroa (on the present M.O.W. site). He had arranged for occasional services to be supplied from Thames and he and his wife had held services in their own home. Their daughter, (who married Mr. Cameron, photographer), was also a keen worker. A site for the Church was a gift made on behalf of the Maori owners Rapatai Te Aratai and Riki Pahi Te Ano, the approval of the Government being officially given on 10-1-1883. Arrangements were made for fencing the four sections having a frontage to Normanby Road of 166 feet and to Thames Road of 99 feet.

The first meeting in connection with the building of a Paeroa Church was held on 12-9-1881. There were present Rev. Pinfold (Chair) and Messrs J. Phillips, Lavery, Thorp, Silcock, Bramley, Moore and Jackson. A fort-night later several designs of church buildings were submitted by Mr. W. Tetley and the sum of £150 was raised within six weeks, Mr. Phillips guaranteeing a loan of £100. Mr. Moore's tender of £381 was accepted and Mr. Tetley was appointed "Overlooker".

The Church was officially opened on 16th June 1882 being the first Protestant place of worship in Paeroa. The original Trustees were Messrs Phillips, (Sen. and Jun.) Tetley, Jackson, Bramley and Kitching. By 1883 they were in financial difficulty owing to the depressed state of the district and there was a suggestion that the building should be sold. Fortunately conditions improved and a portion of the Church property - (25 foot frontage) was leased and later sold to Mr. De Castro, Chemist. The Rev. G.T. Marshall was in charge that year.

In 1884 when the Rev. T.J. Wills was appointed, Te Aroha, (where Tourist attractions and farming had increased) once more became headquarters for the Circuit. Rev. Wills was followed by O. Dean, S. Lawry, W.J. Elliott, and again S. Lawry (1889-1890). It is noted that in 1890 a house of seven rooms and outbuildings with one acre of land was purchased for a Parsonage at Te Aroha. This served for 14 years.

In 1891 the Rev. Law extended the Circuit by taking irregular services in Waihi where the Central School Room was used. Then Mr. Trembath, a keen Methodist, called a public meeting which resulted in the building of a Mission Hall in which different denominations could hold services. It is now known as St. James' Hall (beside the Presbyterian Church). Rev. Law was followed by Rev. Joughin. (1893-1896) and Rev. Griffith (1896-1901). In 1897 Mrs. Chapman of Waihi offered a site in Haszard Street and the Wesley Methodist Church (designed by Mr. Tetley) was built. It was opened on 29-5-98 the day after the arrival of Rev. W. Beckett. A Parsonage was built in 1903.

The original Trustees in Waihi were Messrs R. Trembath, P. Williams, T.J. Roach, T. Leggo, J. Brown and J.C. Allen. Ministers who followed Rev. Beckett were Revs. Weatherall, Eaton, Keall, Harrison, Dukes, Wrigley, Hopper and Fee (1912-13). About 1907 kerosene lamps gave place to Gas and water was laid on. All records pay a tribute to the wives of ministers, and other ladies of the Church for their devoted service and also to the Circuit Stewards and others without whose help the work could not have prospered. Special mention should be made of Miss Margaret Morgan who succeeded Mr. Caley as organist in 1900 and continued until her death 35 years later. She was also a noted accompanist and taught music to many of Waihi's young musicians.

The Karangahake Church, also designed by Mr. Tetley, was opened on 29-5-98, the same day as the Waihi opening, but was under the Paeroa Minister Rev. J.W. Burton, M.A. who later became Dr. Burton, President-General of the Methodist Church of Australasia. It is recorded that the evening congregation numbered 170 at Karangahake where there was then no other Protestant Church. After the mines closed this one was moved in 1925 to Paeroa where it still serves as the Methodist Sunday School and Centennial Hall which is used by various organisations.

In 1900 the Rev. Bramwell-Scott was appointed as a Home Missionary to Waitekauri and a Church was erected soon afterwards. On 22nd April 1903 the Minister himself was married there to Miss Noakes of Waitekauri, but after a few years the Church was moved to the Waikato. Primitive Methodism began in Waihi in 1895 when Miss Sarah Evans held open-air services. Later that year Mr. G.P. Hunt a local preacher held his first service in Robert Connell's blacksmith's shop where the B.N.Z. now stands. Then the Miners Union Hall (now Spearings site) was used until its destruction by fire in 1897 when all the Church property was lost. In 1898 the building fund received a fresh impetus under the Rev. Samuel Barnett and "Zion Hall" was opened - where Mr. Gamble's shop now stands in Rosemont Road.

The Rev. John Olphert who for three years gave outstanding service to the community as well as to the Church (1901-1904) (and 1917-19) was the first ordained minister. Because of large congregations it was sometimes necessary to secure the Academy of Music for services. (Mr. Olphert also served as Chairman of both the Hospital Board and the School Committee). Before his departure he set in motion the disposal of the Rosemont Road site and his successor Rev. John Southern re-opened the Church on its new Kenny Street section. He was followed by Revs. Woolloxal, Armstrong and Thompson (1911-12).

Conditions in Waihi deteriorated after the Strike in 1912 and in 1913 it was decided to amalgamate the two Methodist Circuits, the Kenny Street building to be used as a Schoolroom. The union paved the way for the enlarging of Wesley Church which was re-opened on 10-5-1914, when the second stage of Waihi Methodism began. The Rev. Hunt then at Thames introduced the minister Rev. T .G. Carr as the first Pastor of the Waihi United Methodist Church.

In 1909 at the peak of prosperity for the Goldfields, separated Circuits were created for both Paeroa and Waihi. Thus the Te Aroha Circuit with 28 preaching places, three Ministers, and 1 home Missionary, became 3 Circuits. (Later a further division was made).

The first Quarterly Meeting of the Paeroa Circuit was held on 4-4-1909, Rev. Wrigley being in the Chair. Others present:- Rev. Randerson, M.A., Messrs Kemp, Hill, Gadd, and Blyth, also Mesdames Bramly and Green. At that time the circuit comprised Paeroa, Netherton, Hikutaia, Komata and Karangahake. A Parsonage was erected in 1909.

A feature of the Church at Paeroa throughout the years has been a love of good singing and music. Miss Emily Robson, (Mrs. Vugler), helped several Churches in Paeroa during the early days with her musical ability on the piano and organ. Later organists were: Misses Ruth and Wynn Vugler; Miss Lottie Capill, (Mrs. Menzies), Miss Alice Winter; Miss Lulu Vugler, (Mrs. Hans Morrison); Mr. John Rickard; Mrs. Cook who also played the piano for the Gaiety Theatre; Miss Radford, (Mrs. Dickson); Mr. Len Mitchell; Miss Rita Smith; Mrs. Christina Grant; Mrs. Joan Hill and Mrs. Sonny Shoosmith.

Of the choir conductors, names which can be recalled are:- Messrs J. Reid, A. Law, J. North, E. Morgan, G. Hill, G. Foster and L. Foster. During the leadership of the last two mentioned, the choir attained considerable fame, winning competitions at Hamilton on several occasions.

90th ANNIVERSARY 1882-1972

It would have been impossible to maintain the work and witness of the Church without teamwork between Ministers, lay preachers, Sunday School teachers, choir members, Christian Endeavour and Bible Class leaders, trustees and the Women's Fellowship. This co-operation was acknowledged at the Celebrations held on the weekend - April 29th-30th, 1972. The women of the Church provided a sit-down dinner for over a hundred guests on the Saturday night at the reunion of past and present members and adherents. About 60 visitors from as far away as Palmerston North and Whangarei were welcomed with the local folk by Mr. C.R. Shoosmith and Mrs. Christine Grant.

Speeches at dinner were of a high order. The Mayor, Mr. Graeme Lee, spoke on the challenge of modern trends to moral and spiritual values; Rev. Robert Fordyce reminded us of the life-changing quality of faith in Christ; Mr. Norman Millar referred to people who had made a notable contribution to the life of the Church in Paeroa. A variety of musicians and singers enlivened the proceedings with items to the delight of those present. Rev. J.K. Watson read out greetings from people throughout the country who were with us in spirit at the anniversary.

The three oldest people present were Mrs. Teresa Hall, 93; Mrs. Louisa Innis, 91; and Mrs. Lottie Menzies, 88. The president of the Women's Fellowship, Mrs. Julia Lowe, presented to each of these ladies with a spray of flowers in recognition of her long service. Mrs. Ivy Hutchinson, a former pupil of the Sunday School in Paeroa and now an authoress, sent an inscribed copy of her latest book: "Forbidden Marriage" - the story of a pioneer family on the Thames Coast to be presented to the oldest member present - (Mrs. Hall). Perhaps the part of the proceedings most enjoyed by the visitors was the general conversation following dinner and speeches. Tables were cleared away and old friends met and moved around as they recognized each other.

Next morning at Church, Mr. C.W. Malcolm, a former Headmaster and local preacher in Paeroa, conducted divine worship. The children and young people took part in the service by singing and reciting a psalm. Mr. Malcolm took his message from Revelation, Chapter three, in which the exhortation to the Church at Ephesus is "remember, repent, return".

The anniversary celebrations presented a challenge to church folk concerning the appearance of the 90 year old kauri building. Willing workers painted a new coat on the woodwork and roof, determined to ensure that the Church will continue to serve for some years to come.

Since Paeroa became an independent circuit in 1909 the following ministers have served in the Methodist Church:-

1909 - 10

A.C. RANDERSON.

1911

One Wanted.

1912 - 14

W. LEA.

1915

C.B. JORDAN.

1916 - 18

C. DUNCAN.

1919 - 23

W.J. ENTICOTT

1923 - 24

A.E. JEFFERSON.

1925

A.M. COSTAIN.

1926 - 28

W.B. PICKERING

1929 - 32

F. BATEUP.

1933 - 35

G.R. HARRIS.

1936 - 38

R. RICHARDS.

1939 - 45

J.R. NELSON.

1946

W. LONG.

1947 - 50

J.A. DAGLEISH.

1951 - 54

R.E. FORDYCE.

1955 - 6

R. McGREGOR.

1957 - 9

A.F. ATTWOOD.

1960 - 61

K. KEALL.

1962 - 6

J.H. OSBORNE.

1967 - 70

A.C. WATSON.

1971 -

J.K. WATSON.