Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 28, September 1984
By Irene Hughes
On September 5th demolition started. Bit by bit, the windows, the doors, wall-boards, the roof - it seemed that like the old soldier, it was to slowly fade away.
But, No! The Fire Brigade arrived, and there before our eyes, the remains went up in smoke. A funereal pyre was a dignified end to the little house which has been in full view from our living room window for over 50 years. All former owners would be proud to know their old home was made use of to the end. Those "spare parts" went to repair another home, and the house was burnt during a controlled fire for the purpose of training young firemen in the use of equipment. The chimney bricks were collected for re-use, and the ashes and rubble were bulldozed flat, and there now arises a new home for another generation.
I am referring to "Black Rock" Cottage, formerly on Thames Road, two miles from Paeroa - the farm so named because it backs on to an outcrop of rock, a prominent feature of the landscape. The 20-acre farm was once part of the property of Mr Sam Craig, who then occupied the neighbouring farm, later bought by Mr Archie White and then by Mr Jack Morrison, grandfather of the present owner, Mr Ken Morrison.
The house was built of kauri and, typical of the era, four main rooms, passage down the centre, verandah across the front, lean-to across the back, gable roof, coal range and open fireplace, foot high and one-inch deep wooden skirting boards, and nine-inch wide door and window frames. These fittings, now much in demand by builders seeking to restore fine old houses to their former style.
In 1910, "Black Rock" farm was bought from a Mr Houlihan by Mr Joseph Nathan, a business man of Paeroa. He had established a Stationery and Tobacco Shop in 1895, next to the old Criterion Theatre in Normanby Road. One of the Nathan family, Mrs Winifred Hughes, wrote an article in the June 1974 issue of the "Ohinemuri Regional History Journal" [see Journal 18: Joseph Nathan's Paeroa Business - E] about the family's ownership of the farm and from which I have gleaned some of this information. The family planted about 800 fruit trees including an apple orchard of 150 trees of 50 varieties. This was planted and maintained under Government supervision as an experimental orchard.
Unfortunately Mr Nathan died suddenly in 1915 leaving Mrs Nathan and her young family to carry on as best they could. In 1926 the farm was sold to Mr and Mrs Jack Mitchell and it is to their occupancy to which my memory returns.
My earliest recollection was the sound of a powerful voice practising scales - a voice which even penetrated the milking shed. It competed with the slosh of milk in a bucket, the mooing of cows, the bleat of calves and the bark of a dog. A little boy, Gordon, used to come across the paddock to "help" and thus a friendship was nurtured.
Mrs Mitchell was a handsome woman with a beautiful voice, a member of the Methodist Church Choir who gave readily of her talents. She kept open house to all. As teenagers, my sister and I were frequent visitors to her door. She would so often be taking a tray full of scones from the oven, or coconut macaroons. How we enjoyed those macaroons! Ethel Mitchell always had time for young people. She would walk with us to the apricot trees, or the pear, plum or apple trees - or the mulberries or the lillies - climb up into the loft of the barn where there was a really good dance floor and an old gramophone with a large horn, let us have a practise on her piano or violin - many people would remember. During the Depression of the '30's, that little home was almost over-flowing as friends and relatives were given a roof over their heads.
The young family of Irene and Reg Hughes followed in their Mother's footsteps - for years it was a case of, "Can we go over to Mitchells?", Ethel even wrote poems about her little visitors. By now the first Television set along this stretch of road, and a typewriter were added attractions.
Jack, who had regular employment as a Dairy Factory worker, converted the orchard property to dairying - two fully grown Delicious apple trees were successfully transplanted into my Mother's orchard. He and his wife milked about 10 cows by hand, at first, and then with the aid of a one-cow milking plant.
Gordon, the only child, was killed in the Second World War; Jack died in 1970. Ethel sold the farm when she re-married in 1973, and left Black Rock forever. She, too, has now passed on.
The property is part of the Fairview Land Co. owned by the Kelly family and that new home is to welcome the bride of Peter Kelly.
His round blue eyes glowed bright with pride
His curly hair was fiery red,
His freckles brown, his sweet smile wide.
His fingers gripping tight, he said,
"My Mummy says I mustn't stay
We have to go to town today."
The gift which he so tightly holds?
A bunch of lovely marigolds.
Non-de-plume of Ethel Mitchell
Postscript concerning the Mitchell Family
Jack Mitchell, a Canadian by birth, served in the 1914-18 War as a member of the Australian Imperial Forces before taking up residence in New Zealand.
He married Ethel Mitchell, daughter of Thomas Mitchell. At that time he was employed by the New Zealand Co-op. Dairy Coy as Tally Clerk on the unloading stage.
Jack was well known for his diplomacy and tact, and his sheer ability as a peacemaker to his workmates, family and friends, as well as being a practical helper to those who suffered bereavement and to those who were in ill health. He was loved and respected by all those who were fortunate enough to know him.
His wife, Ethel, was the youngest member of the English-born Thomas Mitchell family, who lived at Tirohia for many years. Other members of the family were: Sarah (Mrs Frank Ryde), Joe, Ada (Mrs Frank Barratt), and Harold. Later, a cousin, Albert Morran, came from England and joined the family. His widow, Grace Morran, still lives at Mackaytown. There are many Mitchell descendants, those living in Paeroa being: Pearl Manktelow (nee Barratt), and Janice Snodgrass (nee Ryde).
Jack and Ethel Mitchell of "Black Rock", Thames Road, will always be remembered for their caring attitude, their kindness and their warm hospitality.