Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 23, June 1979

Less than a year after Katikati's first settlers arrived in the district in 1875 they met to form a school board and to make a start on building the three schools they decided they needed to accommodate the 80 or 90 children in the settlement.

In June, 1876, they wrote to the Minister of Public Works asking if the Government was prepared to erect bridges over the Aongatete, Waitekohe, Te Mania, Te Rereatukahia, Uretara and Tahawai streams as "we are about to put up three school houses upon our block which will be practically useless unless the children have the means of reaching them."

By the time the second party of settlers had arrived in Katikati in 1878 only the Number 1 school was built, with the Number 2 and Number 3 schools built in the immediately ensuing years. The first Number 1 school was situated close to the junction of the present Kauri Point and Ongari Point [Ongare Point – E] Roads.

Many years later Mervyn Stewart, the son of Captain Hugh Stewart, of Athenree, recalled to Miss Violet Macmillan how in 1881 he began to ride seven miles each way to school each day. The Tuapiro River had by then been bridged, but it was still a long trip for a nine-year-old boy. Later Mervyn Stewart walked one way each alternate day and slept the night at Martray, the home of his grandparents, only a mile or so from the school.

"The mistress was Miss Rosina Bowen, very kind and competent," he wrote. "There were, I suppose, about 25 of us; many surprisingly cruel and unkind even for children. The school was burned down (perhaps 10 years later) and a new No. 1 began under the Pyramid by Mr George Newell Phillips, with many Maoris from Bowentown."

The Pyramid was a hill not far from Athenree, toward Katikati. General Stoddard settled on the land close to it and named his farm "Pyramid Farm".

A more accurate date can be set on the burning down of the Kauri Point School, for Miss Violet Macmillan recalls her aunt, Miss Lily Macmillan, remembered walking to school the day after the fire and seeing the charred and blackened remains. It was only when she got closer she realised there was no school to go to that day. Miss Lily Macmillan was born in 1884, so the fire was probably in 1889 or soon after.

The Pyramid school was replaced by what Mervyn Stewart described as "a better school", which still stands today beside Tanners Point Road, in view of State Highway 2.

Mrs Adela Stewart, in her book, "My Simple Life in Early New Zealand" refers to attending afternoon church services at the school in July 1902, when her God-daughter, Violet Macmillan, was christened.

Later Miss Macmillan attended the school herself, walking along the banks of the Tuapiro River, from her home about a mile up stream with her older sister, Rae, along a track through the scrub. Their teacher was Miss M. Gledstanes, later to become Mrs Atkinson.

She was being courted at this time and Miss Macmillan recalls being sent out with a letter to be given to the driver of the coach that went along the main road each day. She has a vivid recollection of standing beside a huge front wheel close to the horses, handing up the letter.

The school remained open till 1930, soon after the railway line was opened. Then its pupils were able to go by train to the central school in Katikati, a practice which continued till about 1941. Since then school buses have transported the Athenree and Tuapiro children to school.

After the school closed the schoolhouse was used as a meeting place and hall. Church services were held there for both Anglicans and Presbyterians.

In the l950s the education board which controlled the building advised the owner of the land on which it stood, Mr Hector Johnston, it intended moving the building. Mr Johnston said they could not remove it and because of some legal technicality - perhaps relating to the fact it is built on piles - he was within his lawful right.

However the Tauranga County Council took over the land and building, and, despite its apparently sound condition closed it, a year or two back. It is not impossible, because of the much closer settlement of the district caused by the Kiwi Fruit boom, that a school could be considered by the Education Authorities to serve the same area once served by the original Katikati No. 1 School.