Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 19, June 1975
By I.S. (Betty) RUSSELL
In 1842 when Joshua Thorp sailed up the Waihou with a view to building the first European house in Ohinemuri he chose the site "Te Puke", a low hill adjacent to the river, but he named his home "Belmont" after one he had left in England. (See P. 12 Journal 8) [see Journal 8: Thorp Family - Paeroa's First Settlers - E]. These two names have been perpetuated in Paeroa.
At a later date a trading station was set up near Belmont and the primitive wharf known as "Cashell's Landing" catered for would-be prospectors before the birth of the township. Hence a defined "track" stretched upstream in almost a straight line, avoiding the devious bends of the Ohinemuri River. It became known as Belmont Road, but in 1895 it was intersected by the old Railway Yards from which Station Road led to Thames Road. Only the town part of Belmont Road retained its name while the longer part to the river became known as "Puke Road".
After the opening of the goldfields in 1875 shipping continued to ply as far as Paeroa township but in 1896 when a Railway Bridge spanned the river, the junction of Waihou and Ohinemuri became the headquarters of navigation. In 1901, owing to the silting of the river, the Puke Wharf assumed this distinction. Puke Road then became much more important but unfortunately it was a quagmire for many years. Coal was unloaded from scows and stored in large hoppers each holding 600 tons, this being re-loaded into 8 horse-team wagons and conveyed to the mines until the railway to Waihi was opened in 1905. Puke Road holds another distinction = Ultimately it became our gateway to the rich Hauraki Plains and to Auckland.
Leaving Paeroa at its northern end we shall first trace the residential history of Puke Road down its left side. Near the "line" was a recently removed Railway House (Harris) and across the intersection to Railway Street where "Adam's Petrol Station" now stands was the home of the much-loved Infant Mistress, the late Miss Minnie Shaw and her sister, Amy. It was later purchased by the parents of George Pringle, and after many owners was destroyed by fire on 23 July 1955. Part of the adjacent once vacant land is now occupied by the commodious depot and offices of Provincial Transport.
On the rise opposite Hill Street, (now known as Brenan Street) was the large home built by Joe Graves, and until recently, occupied by Phil Fathers. The next section, owned by my sister, Nance Collins, was bought in 1946 by the late Mr. J. A. Reid (World War I Vet.), and the late Mrs. Reid (nee Edith R. Hubbard); that home is now owned and occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Eric Bygrave.
The next property was purchased by the late Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson in 1912 from Mr and Mrs Brunskill (nee Mackay) the daughter of the late James Mackay, who, (prior to his death in 1912), lived for a while in a little cottage at the back of their home, which was destroyed by fire in May 1959. The little cottage now there was bought and shifted in 1959 from Tararu Old People's Home by Mr. Jim Alach.
The area is now "built up" and Mrs. Reg. Wilson, daughter-in-law of the late Mr and Mrs. G.A. Wilson still resides there. Others I. Wilkinson, N. Williams (now H. McCormick), B.N.Z. Residence, Margot Wilson - L. Lewis. Mr. G.A. Wilson acquired a large tract of land at Netherton, (approx 1,000 acres) and about 1920 gave the piece of land now known as Wilson's Road, thus opening up the area for sub-division.
The next farm, now owned by Mrs. Welton, was the property of a 1st World W. Veteran, the late Mr. A. Whitmore (Barney), whose wife was Miss E. Dare, a well-known school teacher. Further along on the next rise was the first "Donburn" the home of the Leila, Muriel and Euni (Mrs. Wilson) re-built nearer the road, The late Leila was well known in Paeroa, residing here until a few years ago, when she went to Auckland, having sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Doran. The last house on the same side belongs to the Wight family and has been let to various people. Beyond it is the M.O.W. depot near the site of the original Puke Wharf. Across the road that leads to Puke Bridge, is the property of the Wight family, originally owned by the first settler Joshua Thorp (1842). When the second Belmont house was destroyed by fire in 1919, this property was taken over by the late Mr. John Wight who built the present home in 1920, the farm being run today by his son Claude and daughter Joan.
Next on the way back to Paeroa was a large wooden dwelling owned by the late Mr. Arthur Wight and occupied by the late Mr. and Mrs. Jim Silcock. It was destroyed by fire on 29th Sept. 1933. A new white house was erected and occupied by the late Mr. and Mrs. A. Bellamy and daughter, Jean (Mrs. G. Gamble) for many years. The property is now owned and occupied by Mr.& Mrs. Jack Dean. The next farm was owned by the late Mr. & Mrs. John Dean, son Gerald and daughter Margaret.
On a large tract of land owned by the late Mr. Claude Kennedy, a house was later built and occupied first by Mr. Perkins but is now owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. A. Bradburn. Recently the farm was cut to make the Opukeke [Opukeko – E] Road to Coronation Street and the saleyards. The next home is our own. It was bought in 1919 by my parents James and Martha Purdie from Mrs. Tom Dean. This house was built for the late Mrs. Craig (nee McAndrew. ) when she was married. The few acres belonging to our property is now a built-up area - (Hucker, Perry, Bennett, Jamieson, Slatter, Wind, Laverick). Our neighbours were the late Mr. and Mrs. J. Rush, five daughters and son Howard who paid the supreme sacrifice in World War II; Miss E. Rush being the present owner.
Next was a large wooden house built by the late Mr. W. Forrest, and occupied by the late Dr. and Mrs Gilbert Smith. Later tenants were the Lowrys and Hutchinsons, (daughters of Mr. Forrest) the Brimblecomes and various others when it was turned into two Flats. It was destroyed by fire on 23 July 1955. The property is now owned and built on by the N.Z. Co-op. Dairy Co. On the next property, owned by the Poland family, stood an old house occupied by various tenants (the late Mrs. Penny Taylor, Hughes, Todd and others). It was pulled down but later the section was built on by Mrs. Tomlinson and Mrs. Hegh. Other homes faced Poland Street.
On the corner Mr. Blythe had a section on which he had hoped to build a small shop which did not eventuate. This section, later bought by Mr. Darley, (built a house for his employees) now owned and occupied by Mrs. Martin. Across Brenan Street to Flora Street was vacant land before a house which was the top storey of the adjacent home now occupied by Todds, but originally owned by the late Mr. James McAndrew, (a well-known Timber Mill owner). This lower storey was bought by a Tauranga man, (tenants Dick Wood, Mr. and Mrs. King and later Mr. and Mrs. W. Woofe, now of Junction Road). The McAndrew grounds were beautifully kept and used for Garden Parties and other functions.
The Paeroa Gas Works was on the site of the present Concrete Works, one of the Managers being Mr. Learmonth. The house owned now by Mr. Frank Hill belonged to the Gas Works, and after it closed various tenants occupied the house, (Chas. Mettam, Carrick, Dr Haslett and others). Across the canal was a small house owned by the late Mrs. J. Handley but it was burnt down on 23 May 1946 when Mrs. Curtis lived there. On the section next was a house in which the Carthys and then Perkinsons lived but it was burnt on 16 March 1943, Mr. Chas. Hoare being tenant at the time. A new home on this site is occupied by Mr. R. Williams.
The last of the old houses on Puke Road was occupied by the late Chas. Rolton but later dismantled after being used by "Pete Signs". Later another house was built between this and the railway line and occupied by Reg. Ganley and then Sel Bridge who moved it to Shaw Avenue. In its place is the home and workshop of D.B Poulter (T.V. Services). Nearer the railway line was the Atlantic Union Oil Depot (removed); in its place is Warburton's Auto Spare Parts Depot.