Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 46, September 2002
By Gray Vuglar (June 2002)
I reluctantly agreed to produce this article but now must agree that I enjoyed my journey down "Memory Lane" and it gives me the opportunity to give recognition and praise to the families who farmed this area when it was subject to persistent and severe flooding. They were indeed courageous Family Units determined to Survive and Succeed. They were all a caring group and were quick to help one another in time of adversity.
WAIHI-PAEROA GOLD MINING COMPANY
[Waihi Paeroa Gold Extraction Company Limited - E] This was an ambitious operation but it did survive for a period of five years, 1913-1918. It employed fifty to sixty men. One million tons of tailings that had already been treated at the various mines in Karangahake and Waikino were recovered from the river and re-treated. Receipts amounted to £276,211, being a return of six shillings per ton.
FLOOD PROTECTION WAIHOU VALLEY SCHEME
The Flood Protection Scheme was commenced in 1977 with the construction of a Six-Barrel Flood-Gate into the Waihou River at the end of Mill Road. Reconstruction of the stop bank on the Ohinemuri River from Paeroa to Mill Road was also commenced. The first set of Flood-Pumps were installed in 1979 and brought immediate relief. The second Pumps, of twice the capacity of the first, were installed in 1992. With adequate pumping facilities now in place, the major problem facing all was how to keep the water contained in the Rotokohu Stream until it was pumped out.
The Board failed to come up with a workable solution so the farmers sought advice and help from Basil Morrison, the District Council Mayor and Council Engineer, Langley Cavers. Langley re-checked the depth of the canal and was sure that the problem could be solved by increasing the depth of the canal, in parts. The cost of the reconstruction was only $20,000 and the results were outstanding. Local farmers are now convinced that Basil and Langley have the ability to "walk on water".
Bill and Theresa HALL
A very fine couple of English descent, farmed on Mill Road from 1920. Their Town Supply farm milked about 25-30 cows. Harry Wilton worked for them. They retired to Nahum Street, Paeroa, about 1943 to enjoy a long retirement.
Rudolph and Lillian, of Danish descent, farmed in Mill Road from the early 1920s. They had two sons, Alex and Dolph.
A man of many skills, he trained his sons accordingly. They were devastated to lose their youngest son, Dolph, and Mill Road shared their grief, as he was very popular. He and his wife, Doreen, farmed the Gerrand Road property and they had one son and three daughters. His son, Dolph, lives on Mill Road and is a successful Earth Moving Contractor.
Alex married Karen, who was born in Denmark and they had three children, Karl, Paul and Helen. Alex passed away in 1986. Karl and Paul were well trained to take over the running of the extensive farming operation. Karen still lives in the homestead in Mill Road. She always has had a big input in the running of the farm, haymaking, milking and calf rearing, which she still supervises.
Bert and Nora DAY
Moved to Mill Road in approximately 1922. They had two boys and two girls. Bert did a lot of casual work for his neighbour, Rudolph Rasmussen so Ken, Reg and Doris were well trained in hand milking cows. Bert was paid one shilling and sixpence per chain for digging drains and was pleased to get the work. A fine hard-working man, I can remember him leaving his farm each morning, after milking, and riding his horse out to Karangahake to work on his run-off. He retired in Paeroa and enjoyed a well-deserved long retirement. Both of his boys, Ken and Reg, are deceased. Doris (Fitch) still resides in Paeroa and her sister, Margaret, lives in Auckland.
A well-respected Maori, who moved back to Paeroa in the late 1930s. He will always be remembered for his efforts to convince the Government to settle the Goldfields Claim. He led this Campaign for some fifteen years. Dick Carden, Solicitor in Paeroa, prepared his claims free of charge. During the mining years in Thames, land that was mined was taken by the Government of the day and classified as Miner's Rights Lands. It was to be returned to the legal owners when mining ceased. This never happened, in fact most of the land has been sold. The present Waitangi Claim Tribunal will, I am sure, at long last settle this injustice.
THE NEW ZEALAND FINANCE COMPANY
This Company owned the farm opposite our farm. Alan Schaare managed the property when we arrived. Now deceased, he would be remembered as the owner and breeder of some very good racehorses. Clarrie Robinson trained "Battle Eve" to win many good races and Jim Gibbs also trained Avondale and Auckland Cup winners.
Tom and Cynthia DALLY
A good farmer - both were community minded. They had two youths working for them, Bob Southward and a young Australian called "Aussie Ike". Bob was killed in Italy in 1942 at the age of twenty-two. "Aussie Ike" was killed in the Pacific whilst serving with the Australian Forces.
Jack and Margaret RICHARDSON
Moved to Mill Road in approximately 1922. They lived in very spartan conditions until their new house was built in 1941. They had three boys and a girl. He was a hard-working man of Scottish descent. Margaret, the daughter, married Arthur Thompson. Her parents retired in Lee Avenue, Paeroa. Arthur was a good citizen who did a lot of voluntary work, especially with the youth of the area. Arthur could not cope with the flooding so he sold the farm and moved to a rolling country farm in Morrinsville. He suffered from Diabetes and would go into Waikato Hospital at night, after milking, to receive his treatment on the Dialysis Machine. Unfortunately the machine malfunctioned and Arthur passed away.
THE YOUNG FAMILY
Viv, father of Samuel, Outram and Margaret, owned this property on Mill Road in approximately 1920. It was farmed by managers when the children were young. Sam farmed the property for a short period but, after experiencing a number of severe floods, decided to purchase non-flooding land in Hikutaia.
After his marriage to Alison Rapley, Outram moved onto the farm. They had a family of three, two girls and a boy. Outram was an outstanding horseman. He was, I think, the first amateur jockey to successfully compete against professional jockeys. He won his first steeplechase on a horse called "New Battle", owned by his father but also trained by Outram. Regrettably, Outram died at the age of thirty-nine. I am sure that he would have reached great heights as a horse trainer. Alison still lives on the farm.
THE SPEECHLAY FAMILY
Percy and Doris had two sons, Keith and Cliff. They purchased the NZ Finance Farm about 1940. Percy had lost his leg in an accident in early life but this did not deter him from taking an active part in the farming of his property. He would spend long hours on his tractor improving his farm, a very determined and hard-working man. I can well recall the tragic death of Percy's thoroughbred colt. He engaged Henry Te Whero to geld his colt. Henry was an expert in this field and the price of this operation were two bottles of whisky. The colt was brought into the yard, and at this stage, they all agreed to have a small whisky to prepare them for their task. The "nips" continued until both bottles were emptied. The operation was wisely postponed for another day. It was completed a fortnight later. No whisky! The colt bled during the night and died.
Cliff farmed this property for many years, finally selling it to Greg and Owen Hodge. He retained the house and twenty-five acres. Cliff died twelve months ago. His widow, Vivien, still resides in Mill Road. Cliff will be remembered for his sporting skills. He excelled in rugby, cricket and golf.
Jim and Nora HANDLEY
They had three boys and one girl. They farmed at the end of Mill Road from approximately 1918. Their transport to town in the early days was by horse and gig. I can well remember being transported into town with them. They sold the property in the early 1940s.
Robert and Winifred GERRAND
They had a family of eight, five girls and three boys. They moved to this property at the end of Gerrand Road in 1916. Farming this property was an incredible feat in survival. Access to the farm from Mill Road was not possible during the winter months as Gerrand Road, at this time, was a dirt track. The only access to the farm was by boat across the Waihou River. All house and farm supplies were brought in by boat. The children crossed the river to go to school but this also meant that they had to walk through rough, sodden paddocks to get to the river, a distance of at least a mile. Their home was built one point five metres above the ground to avoid flooding. The house was unlined inside. They milked fifty cows in a dirt floor cow shed. They made fascines using cabbage trees so that the cows were at least out of the mud whilst they were milked.
James Thorn, Labour Member of Parliament for Thames, called and witnessed their plight and arranged finance so that a new house and cow shed could be built. This was completed in 1939-40.
Gerrand Road was metalled about this time and power was connected to the house. To supplement his farm income, Bob obtained a contract from the Dairy Board to collect cream, using a horse and dray, from the Mill Road farmers. In 1940 he was contracted by the Education Board to operate the School Bus run for the Mill Road area.
His eldest son, Keith, purchased the farm in the late 1950s and he, in turn, sold it to his son, Bruce, in approximately 1986. Bruce then sold the farm to Karl and Paul Rasmussen. The Gerrand girls are all still alive. They had good work records and are happily married.
The family was indeed very courageous and a determined family unit. Ivan Gerrand is the sole male survivor of this family and lives in Station Road, Paeroa. I was so moved by this family's struggle to survive and succeed against appalling odds and conditions that I visited their well-kept grave site at Paeroa and left flowers and a note which read:
"ROBERT and WINIFRED GERRAND
Respected Pioneer Farmers
Mill Road 1915-1960
Your Courage and Determination to Succeed
is an example to all those who till the land."
LANDS and SURVEY BLOCK
The Lands and Survey opened two dairy farms in Gerrand Road in the early 1940s. Frank BARRETT farmed one of the units for many years. Hec McCULLAN farmed the other unit for many years. These blocks were sold and Roy FOSTER purchased one property and Eric and Muriel OLSEN, the other. The Olsen's had a family of two. They farmed their block until they sold it to the TE AROHA DAIRY COMPANY in the late 1970s. They retired to Morrinsville. They were fine citizens.
Val and Kathleen VUGLAR
They had three boys, Murray, Rodney and Gray and one girl, Valerie. They moved to Mill Road in 1933.
As young children we were excited by the floods. We made rafts and paddled around the flooded paddocks and swam out to our ponies in the flooded areas. At school we read about The Depression when I was about ten years old. We had no money but that was unimportant at our young age. We had three acres of garden growing potatoes, kumera and pumpkins and rows of beans, three chains long. We had a wonderful mother who was a great cook. We milked twenty cows by hand. Power was not installed until 1940. By the time I was eight I could milk cows as quickly as my brothers, Murray and Rodney. At age ten I could dig fescue as well as my brothers.
Before we could swim, we borrowed Maori canoes and paddled the river. We certainly couldn't afford to buy ponies, but always had a lot on hand. Myrtle Sloan, who later in life was a very successful Horse Trainer in Hamilton, gave us ponies to break in. We kept them for two months and at the end of that time they would be well-schooled on the flat and over hurdles. We received £5 for each pony we handled. We rode ponies until the school bus service commenced in 1940. We moved to thoroughbreds and Point-to-Point racing as we reached teenage years and met with much success. Rod and Murray were both top riders with lots of courage. We would walk the horses to race at Kerepehi, Te Aroha and Morrinsville. We raced a mare called Reheke and won three races in one day at Kerepehi Sports Day. Earl Bailey rode her in the races for lady riders. Her brother, Brian Wiggins now lives in Norwood Road, Paeroa. Brian was himself a good horseman.
Our exciting lifestyle had come to an end. Rodney had left home and stayed with Myles Bailey at Tirohia. 1941 saw Murray enter the army and in 1945 I entered the Public Service. Rodney married Del Clarke in 1950. They lost two babies at birth and adopted a boy, Rowan, in 1953. Rodney sadly died in 1954, aged 29. He was an outstanding citizen and had much to offer society.
Murray married Marie Shaw. He had seven children, six girls and a boy. He still has his farm at Ngatea, but has retired to Waihi Beach.
Valerie married in 1952 and had three children, two girls and a boy. Her marriage to Brian Burton failed. She died on 2 April 1984 at the age of fifty-three. She was a lovely lady.
Gray married Elspeth Gray in 1953. They had one son, Rodney and two daughters, Jennifer and Sheryl.
Rodney and Penny VUGLAR
Rodney married Penny Chubb in 1981 and moved into the Vuglar Homestead in Mill Road. They actually milked on the Te Aroha Road farm that he had taken over just prior to marriage. They had two boys, Daniel and Christopher.
They established a pedigree Friesian Stud, "Montrave", and in a short period of time developed it into a top-producing herd. Rodney and Penny were a great team. They made decisions together and both worked very hard. Rodney died on 10 December 1991, at the age of thirty-four years, after a long battle with cancer . . .
Dreams and aspirations unfulfilled, his ashes are buried in Mill Road on the land he loved so much. "Montrave" is in good hands. Penny continues to farm the property.
Mr and Mrs MING
This Maori family lived on the corner of Mill Road and Gerrand Road. The house was well back in the paddock, near the Ohinemuri River. Mrs Ming had a great knowledge of herbal medicine and so we called on her frequently when we had problems with our ponies. She enjoyed helping us as she had a great love of horses. She would bathe the wounds or cuts on the horse with boiled young tutu leaves and then plug the cut with a spider's web. If the cut could be bandaged, she would cover the spider's web with mature tutu leaves. We enjoyed her company.
When my family moved to Mill Road in 1933, twelve families farmed on the road. Today the area is owned and operated by three families:
Karl and Raewyn RASMUSSEN
Paul and Doris RASMUSSEN
Mill Road is in safe hands - they are all capable, progressive farmers.