Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 17, June 1973
By FLO SARJANT
(For previous articles concerning Netherton refer to Journal 3 (April '65), "Old Identities" [see Journal 3: Early Days at Netherton - E] and to Journal 13 (May 1970), "Netherton School History" by C. W. Malcolm [see Journal 13: History of Netherton School - E]. We are always pleased to have further details which help to complete a "history" of people, places and events). Ed.
It was noted by Mr. Malcolm that the name of our district was suggested in the 1880's by one of the first European settlers - Mr. Charlton [Chalton - E], who had lived near the Netherton Iron Works in England prior to his departure for N.Z. The river was already a busy highway, and the Timber Industry preceded farming. The clearing of large tracts of bush, chiefly Kahikatea, was a major undertaking sponsored at first by Fisher Bros. who were large land owners. Tram lines were laid to the river bank and after the logs were hauled out they were towed down stream to Bagnall's Sawmill at Turua.
As the land became fit for grazing cows, settlers made butter which was sold in Paeroa and Thames but with increased production a Creamery was established near the river by Mr. Wesley Spragg. (Early Managers were: Mr. Jack Kay and Mr. Alcock, and at first the cream was sent to the Ngaruawhaia [Ngaruawahia – E] Butter Factory). My father, the late Mr. R.J. Heappy, who had been a Factory Manager in Taranaki, arrived at Netherton towards the end of 1905 to manage the new Creamery. The milk, brought by launch, pulling boat, or horse-drawn cart was separated and the cream conveyed to the Paeroa Butter Factory. My Mother and her three eldest children - Flo (Mrs. Geo. E. Sarjant), Evelyn (Mrs. L.G. Harvey), and Violet (Mrs. T. Woolf) came in 1906 and stayed for a while with Mrs. Adamson whose house was where the present Church is. Seven more members of our family were born in Netherton but I am the only one who remained.
There have been many developments over the years. In 1908 the Netherton Hall Society was formed to provide a building for social gatherings. (Prior to that most dances were held in the loft of cowsheds, which were sometimes used for storing hay). The first hall, built on Mr. Jack Morrison's property was blown off its blocks, and later shifted down to the late Mr. W. Morrison's farm near the river. It was there for some years before being moved to its present site to make way for the Stopbank. Many happy social evenings were held by the pioneers, the women providing excellent home-made suppers.
There were out-door entertainments too. For some years a regatta was held on the river by the Paeroa - Netherton Regatta Club, the joint secretaries being Mr. H.R. Bush and my father Mr. R.H. Heappey. It was a picturesque sight to see the Taniwha and Waimarie coming up the river on alternate days with the beautiful weeping willows on the banks. I well remember Captain Freeman the master with Petty Officer Horn bringing goods to Netherton. Many trips we had to Auckland on these boats, getting on at Fishers Landing.
We had the Netherton Hack Racing Club which continued to function until unregistered Race Meetings were prohibited by law. The Cup Race one New Year's Day was won by Mr. Barney Johnson and a prize of ₤1 was the stake money.
My husband's people were early pioneers, his father having come to Paeroa as a young man well before the turn of the century. He married Annie Lanfear in 1897 and my husband, George, was their eldest son who followed in his father's foot steps and did a great deal of work with horses. Mr. Sarjant (Sen) worked for Mr. Dean on Puke Road from 1900 till 1906 when he moved to Thames Road and then in 1908 to his own farm at Netherton. Other members of the family were: Alice, Lil (Mrs. Williams), late John and Mary, Joe (Netherton), Selina (Mrs. Storey), Edith (Mrs. Jack Gordon), Gilbert (Netherton) and Nancy (Mrs. Wenzlick). (Gilbert established Sarjant's Transport).
When power was introduced to the district in the early twenties, my husband was responsible for hauling the power poles from Carters Corner to Netherton School, ready for distribution. He was also involved in roadmaking in the area. All the metal was brought up the river in scows and unloaded on the bank of Mr. W. Morrison's property and at Fishers Landing. Using a winch and "whip-horse", George Sarjant did this work for a number of years, afterwards carting the metal by horse and dray. He also carted cream from Kerepehi to Paeroa, crossing the river by ferry where the Puke Bridge now stands. It was in 1917 that he made his first trip to Auckland in a 1916 model Buick car, the only route being through Miranda at that time. He was well known as a pig buyer and weigher, and a buyer of calf-skins.
The Netherton Paeroa road was the only one in the early days and years passed before Wilson's road was formed. There was a truck [track? – E] to Turua but it had no metal in places and in my courting days my husband to be who had a motor bike and side car would get stuck in the mud, and have to get out and push (with Flo sitting in the side car). That was over 50 years ago when I was Post Mistress at the store at Netherton and at the separate P.O. built in 1920 where the present Bowser Station [petrol station – E] is now. Later my husband bought one of his father's farms and we have lived there ever since but our son Howard now manages the farm.
The old Netherton Creamery was pulled down when the farmers joined the Thames Valley Co-operative Soc. but a cheese factory was built in its place in 1917. This too became redundant and suppliers are now served by milk-tankers.
OUR CONTRIBUTOR - MRS. FLO SARJANT is the wife of Mr. Geo. Sarjant and they celebrated their Golden Wedding on 2-8-1972. They have been affectionately known throughout the district as the "unofficial Mayor and Mayoress of Netherton". For over 50 years they have served in most district organisations including the Anglican Church and have sponsored over 70 gift evenings or afternoons, chiefly for young couples embarking on matrimony. Last Year, as a mark of appreciation residents and ex-residents filled the Netherton Hall to capacity to express their gratitude. Mrs. Sarjant is a foundation member of the Netherton C.W.I. and has filled all its offices. This applies also to the Oddfellows Lodge, the Bowling Club and the Garden Circle. Mr. Sarjant's services have been legion. They had 3 children; Muriel (Mrs. A. Paul, Netherton), late Colin, and Howard (on home farm) and there are eight grand-children and six great grand-children.