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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 25, November 1981

A letter written on 4/4/1916 by Frank Dobson to his Mother in 1916 telling of the Paeroa Anglican Parish to which he had been appointed:-

"There are seven places at which Reverend J. Cowie (former Vicar) held services and five more places where services ought to be held - 12 altogether. From one end to the other a distance of 30 miles. Most of the roads are good fortunately, and Paeroa a fair size at about 2,000 inhabitants - but a lot of almost pioneering work to be done.

The chief places are:-

PAEROA. 2,000 population with gas and water laid on - 400 children at school, a large theatre, a lot of reserves for recreation - one is Primrose Hill from which one has a good view of the town and surrounding country - bowling green, croquet green and tennis courts just opposite where we are living. But sad to say with all these things the church only seats some 120 people and it is never full except last Sunday morning for a church parade when we squeezed in 150 people, 100 of them soldiers in camp for training. The church by the way is built of white pine and nearly falling on our heads on account of the DRY ROT.

KARANGAHAKE. A gold mining town with about 1,000 people and 300 at the school. Two lone? batteries one with the electric light and power plant that cost £130,000 and which I think was never used, and only one battery working now and only working one shift. Whereas in the good old days about ten years ago they had three batteries going night and day - Sundays and week days - so like other places they talk of the good old days. Paeroa does this too but Paeroa sees good ahead on account of the agricultural land opening up on the Hauraki Plains. I am afraid there are no good days ahead for Karangahake. They have been working the mines for 33 years and I fear they are about done. There have been 12 fires which burnt down 16 houses since 5 November 1915 so now the Insurance Companies are cancelling the policies and we have had no fires there for three weeks. People are getting out of it like rats out of a sinking ship - 60 children have left the school since the beginning of the year. If we have 30 people at church we think we have a good congregation.

HIKUTAIA. A farming centre with Sale yards and Hotel (no hotel in Paeroa and Karangahake, they are in Ohinemuri which is a dry district except when there is a "shout" of grog from the outside which seems to happen occasionally. Folk go to Hikutaia (7 miles) and come back with a fair supply). Hikutaia has a school, two churches, one store, a Hall, Blacksmith, 80 children at the school. All the folk have milking or grazing farms. The Church of England was opened about 18 months ago and church life is better than in some other places.

KOMATA REEFS. Another of the has beens - it used to have a population of 1,000 or more - coach 3 times a day, waggons galore, store, hall etc. Now there are 14 families, a school, a hall. No store, no coach, no nothing except the ruins of a battery, water race etc. Yet it is the place where they like coming to church. I have been twice and they are always anxious that I come again.

WHAREPOA. Hall, Store, Creamery? Railway station, school, in the middle of dairy farms. I go once in three months for service. I have been once - a hearty congregation of some 40 people.

KOMATA NORTH. Hall, School, Farms - about 10 farms.

NETHERTON. Wharf on the River, Hall, Store, School - 50 farms. I have been there three times but no Service at all there yet.

TURUA. Where I used to work in the Sawmill (in 1880's). The mill is closed some six months ago. Now Turua has a wharf, store, hall, cheese factory, boarding house, school - 60 or 70 pupils. Mill cottages are mostly occupied - 60 or 70 farms all doing well. They have had one service in the last 20 years - pretty sick isn't it. Fortunately a Presbyterian Home Missionary has gone to live there recently.

KEREPEHI. School and farms. The Presbyterian man goes there for service. This is a new place - the farms only occupied about four years.

NGATEA (or ORCHARD), PIPIROA, WAITAKARURU. At each place a school, a Hail, a store, a wharf, all on the Hauraki Plains, formerly known as the Piako swamp. This district only opened up a few years - 3, 4, or 5 years at the most. No Church of England service ever held at any of these.

So you see I have a fair sized parish in which church life is fairly sick and a number of new settlements in which church life has not yet commenced.

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Added by his daughter A. J. Bull, 27/6/81.

During these years 1916 - 1926 I attended school very happily at Paeroa District High School. I do not remember my father taking services at Komata Reefs and Komata North - evidently population got smaller still. I can remember about one weekend a month his leaving home on Friday, in horse and gig, returning on Monday. As well as services in new parts of Ngatea, Pipiroa and Waitakaruru he also visited Kaihere and Patetonga. The Church at Turua was built while he was Vicar, and before 1926 the parish of Haruaki Plains was formed. All travelling by my father during these ten years was by horse and gig.