Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 24, July 1980
By: COURTENAY KENNY (late)
THE KENNY FAMILY
In 1887, not long after the formation of the Ohinemuri County Council Mr. Nepean Kenny a Land Surveyor of Taranaki was appointed County Clerk here and held this position for 21 years. His knowledge proved of great value to the Council and after his retirement he reverted to his profession. Of the family of 8 Tom and Courtenay neither of whom married, joined their father in the firm of "Kenny & Sons". After the death of his brother Tom, (in 1932) Courtenay took over the practice being very closely associated with both the history and progress of the district. He retired to Auckland a few years before his death in 1962 but we are fortunate in having some of his records. (See Journal 8 for further details [see Journal 8: Kenny Family Notes - E]).
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"In 1887 Cassrells Street was the main street of Paeroa and extended, as now, from the Criterion Hotel to Arney Street, and in the approximate prolongation of Cassrells Street is Princess Street. Cassrells Street took its name from Asher Cassrells, a Lutherian [Lutheran – E] Jew, who was known in the Waikato district prior to coming to Paeroa. Mr. Cassrells had a lease of Paeroa Block and built the Criterion Hotel. It was a rambling one storied wooden building standing on the same site as the present hotel of the same name, and as now, had a frontage on both Cassrells Street and Normanby Road.
The street itself had a footpath and metalled roadway along its eastern side and between this roadway and the river bank was a pleasant stretch of grass where an odd horse or cow used to graze, children used to play and the local dogs fight. Most of this area is now cut off by the stopbank. Prior to 1887 and for some years after, this eastern side of Cassrells Street was the only closely built on area; in other areas the building was still somewhat scattered.
Immediately beyond the Criterion Hotel came the Cassrells' private residence. He was a married man with several children. (His eldest son has a factory for knitted woollen goods in Auckland). The next building very close by, was Mrs. James Shaw's, drapers and ladies outfitters establishment. It was an unpretentious building having one long gable, the end of which was on the street frontage and contained a door and a shop window. A few stops further along the street was the original office of the Ohinemuri County Council.
Prior to 1885 this district was a riding of the Thames County. In that year it was separated from the parent body and given the name of Ohinemuri County. This name was evidently taken from the name of the river as there are no original areas of land in this vicinity bearing this name. This building was very similar to the shop occupied by Mrs. Shaw - it had two rooms and served its purpose till several years later a more commodious building was erected in Belmont Road which was outside the bounds of the Paeroa Block.
After passing the original office of the Ohinemuri County Council in Cassrells Street in early 1887, came the bootmaker's shop of Mr. John Bramley. Mr. Bramley made and repaired boots, but did not stock them. He was wicket keeper for a local cricket team and would have fitted excellently into a Dickens book as a village cobbler. Many Paeroa people will remember his youngest son, Bob, who was an official in the Paeroa Post Office from the time he left school till his retirement. Proceeding a little further along Cassrells Street Belmont Hotel was reached. This hotel was run by Mrs. Mahoney the widow of the late J.H. Mahoney, together with her niece Miss Damber. Another of her nieces was the wife of the late George Crosby who was licensee of the Royal Mail Hotel for many years, but that is more modern history. This hotel was built many years later outside the boundaries of the Paeroa Block and the license of the Belmont Hotel shifted to it.
"Almost adjoining the Belmont Hotel was the butcher's shop of James Barrett. He came to this district at an early date and made a considerable sum of money in a mining venture at Owharoa, and apparently, like a wise man, put this money into the butchery business.
A son, Thomas Barrett, many years later was County Chairman for some time and his grandson, also James Barrett, farmed on the Old Te Aroha Road. Next, and almost adjoining Barrett's shop, was the Ohinemuri Hotel, the licensee being M.G. Power, and finally, along the frontage, on the corner of Cassrells and Arney Street came the Commercial Hotel, the licensee being J.M. Coote. All these buildings along Cassrells Street were one storied, somewhat ramshackled, built of wood and have long since disappeared.
Across Arney Street and on the corner of that street and Princess Street was the Paeroa Hotel. This stood by itself on a slight eminence which is still there with a neat little cottage standing on it. It was a better type of building than the other hotels and had more the appearance of a large old-fashioned dwelling house, and was run by the widow of John Nicks, who had earlier held the licence. John Nicks, with two partners, J. Moore and William Nicholls, (not the well-known W.G. Nicholls) had together done a considerable amount of pioneering work on the Martha Reef. Mrs. Nicks was a sister of William Nicholls.
Although Princess Street is almost entirely outside the Paeroa Block it was intimately connected with early Paeroa. In the area between Princess Street and the river the first bakery was established by the late David Snodgrass, together with the outbuildings and his residence, and also the smithy of the late Mr. J.W. Ellis, which was also established at an early date, at the southern end of the street and between the western side of this road and the river bank.
There was also a considerable area of flat land between Princess Street and the Ohinemuri River before the gold-field at Karangahake was opened in 1875. It was here in the prolongation of Arney Street that the first wharf was built.
Normanby Road, now the main street of Paeroa, extends across that block from the south eastern boundary commencing near the Roman Catholic Church in a north westerly direction to the north western boundary where it meets and makes a slight angle with Belmont Rood. In those days (1887) there was a grassy ridge from twelve to fifteen feet in height wandering in a diagonal direction, crossing Normanby Road approximately where the Paeroa Borough Office now stands and fading out just about the end of Hall Street, approximately at the site of the Fire Brigade Station, (Fisher's Hill).
Traces of this ridge can still be seen in a number of places. Several years later a narrow cutting was put through this ridge on Normanby Road and a metalled roadway formed but it was some time before this cutting was widened out to the full width of the street. In addition a footpath meandered over the hill along the eastern side. There were no shops or buildings. The roadside was fenced and beyond this there was a grass paddock which was considerably given over to briers, (blackberries were then unknown). A considerable amount of the material taken from this cutting was used to fill in a low-lying area where the Royal Mail Hotel now stands.