Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 36, September 1992

By Vic Boggis

When Vic Boggis of Taupo commenced researching his family history and ancestors he unearthed interesting information on the history of the Paeroa mineral springs. Mr Boggis provided the Paeroa Gazette with an article plus supporting evidence to back his claims that the recorded history on the bronze plaques at the famous Lemon and Paeroa bottle is incorrect. The Gazette has given permission for the article to be reproduced in the Journal.

My maternal grandfather, Robert John Fewell, told me in the 1950's and early 1960's that he had dealings with Grey and Menzies, to whom he supplied bottles of mineral water from his Paeroa spring via the river steamers Taniwha and Waimarie to the Auckland factory at Eden Crescent. He also mentioned a sawmill with a little river steamer, his third sawmill, the previous two being sold as going concerns to his respective foremen.

Thus I resolved, after Robert's death on 8 April, 1964 at Auckland, aged 90 years, to find out more about this interesting man and his life, and to have his name recorded in the history of the area as it should be. Robert mentioned that he started the Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company but nowhere in local history was there a mention of my grandfather's name.

Arthur Stanley Wohlman, OBE, MD, BS(London) was born in England and obtained his qualifications there. He applied for the advertised position of Government Balneologist, was accepted and came to New Zealand. He was instrumental in analysing many springs and spas and travelled widely in New Zealand over many years in the course of his work. He encouraged the government of the day to develop, and in some cases, to buy many properties with a view to benefiting people with arthritis, rheumatics, skin disorders and such like illnesses, and to promote tourism.

Mr Wohlman wrote a book entitled "The Mineral Water and Health Resorts of New Zealand", which was published in 1907. In 1914 he published a second book entitled "Mineral Waters and Spas of New Zealand", with some duplication of text. Then in 1921 he published his third book, "The Hot Springs of New Zealand", which was essentially a combination of his first two books. This third book was written under the name of Arthur Stanley Herbert, Herbert being the maiden name of his mother. He considered this necessary because of unpleasantness experienced due to his German sounding name around the time of the First World War.

From these books and from his report to the superintendent of the Department of Tourism and Health Resorts dated 24 January 1905 (file 1901/18), we ascertain his findings thus: "The Paeroa spring is a large warm effervescing spring of similar nature to the Te Aroha spring, but containing 73 grains of magnesium bicarbonate to the gallon. It is good for dyspepsia and pleasant to drink and in older times had a reputation among the goldminers of the district as a Sunday morning drink after a Saturday night "burst". It can be beneficial for constipation. There are several magnesia springs of almost identical composition in adjacent property." He saw Paeroa spring water as a mild alkaline chalybeate water, valuable for medicinal purposes. He saw it as a table water but was not sure anyone would go to the expense of bottling it, especially with the large amount of tea which was drunk in the colony. The water had less mineralisation than the Te Aroha spring and other springs, which contained rather more iron than consistent with an ideal mineral water.

From this we know that prior to November 1904 the Paeroa spring water had not been commercially bottled as previous publications have stated. The incorrect statements that continually appeared are as follows:

(1) Prior to the turn of the century the Paeroa Mineral Water Company first bottled the water from the Paeroa spring and sold it to the people of the district.

(2) In 1907 Menzies and Company acquired the spring property.

(3) The Paeroa spring had been commercialised in the 1890's by the Paeroa Water Company but it was only after 1907 with the second owner, Menzies and Company, that the water became famous and lemon was added.

Correct facts are: I obtained leaflets from Oasis Industries in Auckland which confirmed my earliest findings that Menzies and Co had merged with John Grey and Sons of Eden Crescent in 1902 and not in 1907 as previous publications had stated. Also, in the book Aerated Water Manufacturers of Eden Crescent 1845 - 1964 by K G Rusden, the date was also mentioned as 1902 and the Grey and Menzies bottles were manufactured from 1902, and made and used as recently as 1964. These bottles were also, from my own observation, in occasional use in the early 1970's.

Three interesting news items appeared in the Ohinemuri Gazette. The first, on Wednesday, 8 August, 1898, which stated that Mr R Menzies was burnt on his hands and one leg when putting out a fire at his aerated water and cordial factory at Thames on Monday morning, 6 August. The Gazette of 17 November, 1900, states that a son of Mr R R Menzies of Thames was treated at hospital for tendon cuts caused by a burst bottle at the aerated water factory.

The Gazette, 19 June, 1902, states that a two storey boarding house of 15 rooms in Eden Crescent, Auckland, belonging to Messrs Grey and Sons, cordial manufacturers, was seriously damaged by fire on the evening of 27 May. It was occupied by a Mrs Higgins. The boarders were mainly government officials and they lost everything. The building was insured, amount unknown, and the furniture was insured for £300 with Commercial Union. From this we can observe that the merger of John Grey and Sons with Menzies and Company was after 27 May, 1902.

In the Gazette of Friday, 26 August, 1904,1 found a report of the annual general meeting of Grey and Menzies Limited, held at Auckland on the afternoon of Thursday, 25 August, 1905, in which is stated, a dividend at the rate of 7% for the year was declared, and Mr R Menzies and Mr Clay were re-elected as directors.

We can now observe that Grey and Menzies Ltd were in existence at least by August 1903. From the Registrar of Companies in Auckland, I have received the date of 30 October, 1902, as the date of incorporation of Grey and Menzies Ltd. Therefore, Menzies and Company did not exist in 1907. I bought a copy of New Zealand New Zealand by Stephen Barnett and Richard Wolfe. On page 112 in the fourth paragraph I found reference to my grandfather's company: "Then inevitably big business got in on the act and The Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company began a bottling operation".

So far I had confirmation of Robert Fewell's company but as yet no mention of his name.

I bought a collection of the back numbers of the local Ohinemuri Historical Journal and there it was! In Journal No 22 on page 38 [see Journal 22: Paeroa Recollections - E] Mr Louis Ott mentioned in the third paragraph: "A favourite Sunday walk was to the soda spring near Puke Wharf (meaning the junction). The spring filled a small grassy well, the overflow going into the river. The usual thing was to have a drink there and take a bottle home. The property was taken over by a Mr Flavell, who started bottling. This was the start of Lemon and Paeroa." This was it, Mr Ott, from memory, had quoted a name so similar to that of my grandfather, and the year would have been about right, 1906/1907/1908.

In the Ohinemuri Gazette of Wednesday, 23 December 1908, on page two, I read: "Messrs Fewell and Brinkler have purchased Messrs Forrest and Clark's sawmill and soda water spring at Paeroa and they propose to develop the spring and place the soda water on the market. This morning they commenced operations at the spring and the work will be actively continued. ." The soda spring ownership was all that piece of land being Part of Huepakari No.l, being part of the land comprised in Certificate of Title registered in Volume 90 Folio 227 of the Register Book of Auckland. Under the Native Land Act of 1873, a warrant, No. 496, was issued on 13 April 1887, to James Might Coote, hotelkeeper, and Alexander Hogg, storekeeper, both of Paeroa. They were the first owners of Huepakari No. 1 which consisted of 17 acres, 3 roods, 33 perches.

On 18 August 1887, the property was divided into two unequal parts. The portion nearest the Hape Stream, which included the spring, 13 acres 3 roods, was transferred to John Logan Campbell of Auckland, later Sir John Logan Campbell, "The Father of Auckland". The smaller part, 4 acres 33 perches, was transferred on the same date to Phillip Bennett and Asher Cassrels, hotelkeepers of Paeroa. This small portion we shall not pursue further. The spring property then passed to James McCandrew on 23 December 1896.

Mr James McCandrew was born at Turiff, Aberdeenshire, in 1839 and worked for his builder father. He came to New Zealand on the "Annie Wilson" in 1863 to Auckland. In 1867 he was mining at Thames, and in 1870 started as a builder until 1893. He served two terms of three years on the council and was Mayor 1889 and 1890. He was also chairman of the harbour board.

In 1893 he started as a timber merchant in Paeroa on the Esplanade and continued until his death on 22 May, 1902. He owned the spring property from 23 December, 1896, and operated a sawmill a short distance up the Hape Creek.

Mr and Mrs McCandrew attended the Presbyterian Church at Bradley Street and were well known in the area. On Tuesday, 19 May, 1903, the widowed Mrs McCandrew held an evening at which the Rev A D Thomson of Thames was presented on the occasion of his leaving the district after two years as moderator of the Presbyterian Church.

Mr William Forrest was born in Argyleshire, Scotland. His wife Jessie was the youngest daughter of Mr P Gibson of Lanarkshire. He came to New Zealand in January 1883 on the first direct steamer "British King" and was a builder in Auckland. In 1890 he moved to Palmerston North and in 1895 went to West Australia. He did not like the climate and returned in the same year. In 1896 he started a timber merchant business in Paeroa and built a large house on Puke Road, afterwards damaged by fire. In 1902 he resided in Mill Road. He was a Justice of the Peace, was District Coroner, and on occasions acted as Magistrate. He had three daughters and two sons, one of whom was named Jack. (A son of Jack was also named William.)

William Forrest operated a timber yard and sash and door factory at the river's edge near the railway station, also a branch at Waihi. He also built a Wharf known as Railway Wharf. Yearly Presbyterian Church Sunday School picnics commenced with a boat trip on the river from this wharf to places such as Netherton, often returning in the evening. The Ohinemuri Gazette reported events such as these.

On 2 December 1901 he took Mr R O Clark into partnership and the new firm of Forrest and Clark purchased the McCandrew sawmill and spring property. By 5 March 1902, they were officially the fourth owners. Forrest and Clark were also coal merchants, and sold cement, lime and pipes.

During May 1903 they bought a small river steamer to tow logs to the mill. As required, timber was moved to the railway timber yard for resizing and sale. On 22 January 1905 Mr R O Clark passed away and his widow, Mary Cater Clark, assumed all his assets as beneficiary. Robert John Fewell operated the mill with its little steamer and developed the spring in December 1908, and by 5 March 1909, he was officially the fifth owner. He bought logs which he milled into timber and placed the soda water on the market. He was helped by his young brother-in-law Frank Brinkler, who wasMrs Fewell's youngest brother.

Robert John Fewell was born on 30 August 1873 in Croydon, Surrey, England, the youngest of 10 children. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1900 with his wife and young daughter. On arrival in New Zealand they were diagnosed as having typhoid and were admitted to Auckland Hospital.

The first mention of the Fewell family in Paeroa was in the Ohinemuri Gazette of Wednesday, 2 April 1902, where they were part of the Methodist Church social held on 27 March, at which they sang solos, duets and participated in a trio. Since that date the Fewell name was mentioned on at least 29 occasions in 28 issues of the Gazette up to 17 April 1905, mainly in church matters and especially things musical. They are also mentioned in November 1910 as well in several advertisements for logs wanted by the Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company. The Fewell family lived in Puke Road and from December 1908 Robert carried on business as a sawmill and as a cordial manufacturer. Prior to 1905 he was employed as a clerk.

Wise's Post Office Directories over the years list him firstly as a clerk, then a sawmiller, a manufacturer, a cordial manufacturer. After Paeroa days he was variously listed as a farmer and firewood merchant, and a storekeeper. From a list of Robert's financial statements from December 1908 to 20 January 1910 we ascertain that trade was good and he had clients spread over a wide area, including Auckland, and that he supplied cases of bottled waters which were corked, wired, with a foil top and printed label. He also supplied barrels of mineral water which he consigned via the Northern Steamship Company's river steamers Taniwha and Waimarie to Auckland. He also continued to operate the sawmill.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION - The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, published in 1900, states "Menzies and Co, Cordial Manufacturers, Francis Street, Paeroa. Branches Te Aroha, Waihi and Hamilton. Head Office, Thames. The Paeroa branch of this firm's business was established in 1895, and is conducted in a wooden building, opposite the railway station. The plant consists of a five horse-power marine engine, and a boiler and a full supply of aerated water and bottling machinery. The firm supplies the districts of Karangahake, Hikutaia, etc. Mr E C Morgan is the manager at Paeroa.