Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 53, September 2009
COACHING DAYS. In the late 1890s horses and coaches were prolific in the Paeroa area, which was a "hub" for the wider Thames Valley area. There was coach service between Te Aroha and Thames, three days a week. The five-horse team and its coach left Te Aroha in the morning, tooled by one of the best known whips who were famous in their day—Will and Langley Bradley, Lewis and Era Smardon. What jolly trips these were! Leaving Te Aroha in the morning, going past W. Hetherington's Tui Pa farm, Mrs Dearle's at Mangaiti, round Snakey bend, often axle-deep in mud, through the Rotokohu Gorge with its 15 bridges, which were often-time washed away, necessitating fording the streams, reaching Host Crosby's at Paeroa for a change of horses and a morning pick-me-up. From hence on to Hikutaia for another change of horses, then away to Thames, arrive in time for lunch. (Ohinemuri Gazette, 1932)
TWO LIVES LOST. The Karangahake railway tunnel, which was constructed between 1901 and 1904 claimed two lives, and several men were seriously injured in accidents. Dave Dean was severely injured on Friday, April 8, 1904, when he was crushed by a fall of rock and he died from his injuries the next day. On October 18, 1904, a fall of stone from the roof of the tunnel, 12ft (3.7m) high, at 9.30 a.m. partially buried William Ings and Frederick Shaw. Fellow workmen worked frantically to free the injured men. Ings suffered severe back injuries and a broken leg, and although treated by Dr Craig, the shock was too great and he passed away at 10 a.m. Shaw suffered a severely broken leg, a broken thumb and facial injuries. He was treated by Dr Craig and then loaded onto a ballast train, and taken to Paeroa. There he was transferred to a waiting train and taken to Thames Hospital, where after several weeks, he recovered. An inquest into Ings' death was held later the same day, and the verdict was that the deceased had died from shock and the jury rider called for more care to be taken in the examination of the ground being worked. The two fellow workers, Alfred Sergeant and Henry Thompson, displayed great bravery in rescuing Ings and Shaw and they were awarded the Royal Humane Society's Silver Medal at a special function held in January, 1905. (Ohinemuri Gazette, 1904)
WAIHI GASWORKS. The decision to establish a gasworks was made at a Waihi Borough Council meeting in 1904. An alternative proposal to install an electric lighting plant met with little support. Later an offer from the Paeroa Gasworks Company to continue its supply lines from Karangahake was also rejected. From the start of operations in 1906, and for the next 25 years, the gasworks more or less justified its existence, but by about 1930, the use of electricity had gained so much favour as to make the production of gas in Waihi uneconomical. The works struggled through the depression and the Second World War years, In 1949 the Council sought permission to close the plant down, but the Government considered this unwise, because of the national shortage of electric power at the time. So for three more years, under the direction of Mr Pat Finnel, the worn-out equipment was nursed along, and the gas holder was patched and patched again. By this time the Council was losing money at a rate of nearly £100 ($200) per week and the effect on the borough's finances and general maintenance programme was alarming to say the least. In July, 1952, therefore, after six months' notice was given to the remaining consumers, Mr Albert Harvey, who had grown up with the works, was recalled from retirement and invited to throw the last shovelful of coal into the retorts. (Waihi Borough Diamond Jubilee 1902-1962).
FURIOUS DRIVING. William Toban was convicted and fined £1 and £3/12/- costs ($2 and $7.40) for furious driving between Waihi and Paeroa on August 14, 1896. Toban was in charge of a rented buggy and a pair of horses when he crashed on Buchanan's Flat, just outside Paeroa. Evidence was given that he was travelling at rate of more than 10mph. The horses were not bolting as he was seen whipping the horses. The buggy was smashed and one of the two horses was so badly injured that it was ruined for life. (Ohinemuri Gazette, 1896)
KARANGAHAKE ALMOST A BOROUGH. In 1907 county ratepayers living within two miles of the Karangahake Post Office petitioned the New Zealand Governor Lord Plunkett, asking that a borough be constituted. The petition stated the township had been in existence for 20 years and the Ohinemuri County Council's expenditure in the riding had not been commensurate with the considerable increment from gold revenue, rates and timber royalties. It was stated that the population within the proposed boundaries exceeded 2000 and that insufficient aid had been given to prospectors. The petition was strongly supported, and it is interesting to read the names and occupations of the signatories—but it failed to gain recognition. The Ohinemuri County Council opposed the petition. Perhaps even then it was apparent that the days of the township were already numbered. (Karangahake Jubilee Book 1889-1959)
THRASHED. On the afternoon of August 21, 1905, there was an attempt to derail the Paeroa-Thames train at the Hikutaia Bridge. Stones had been placed on the tracks, but the train crew saw the rocks, and was able to proceed to its destination. On the return trip the train crew spotted a long willow branch had been placed on the track in such away as to derail the train. The crew was able to stop the train, clear the willow branch together with more stones and then proceed on to Paeroa where they informed the local police. Their enquiries reveal that a nine-year-old boy was responsible. When the boy appeared in the Paeroa Magistrate's Court, the Judge ordered the boy's father to take the boy out into the rear yard of the court and giving him a good thrashing. This was carried out by the father. On December 12, 1906, 14-year-old Iden Bushell appeared in the Waihi Court where he was convicting of attempting to wreck a train by placing a fish plate on the railway line at Waikino. The boy was sent to the Burnham Industrial School and his father ordered to pay 4 shillings (40 cents) a week maintenance while the boy was there. The boy had been convicted of a similar offence at Te Aroha, and his punishment was nine strokes with a birch rod. (Ohinemuri Gazette, 1905/1906).
LEGISLATIVE COUNCILLOR. Mr William Grey Nicholls, one of the recently appointed members of the Legislative Council, was born at Coromandel on December 26, 1853. His father, the late Mr Wm. Nicholls, came from Falmouth, Cornwall, England, and arrived in New Zealand as a passenger on the ship Aurora. The Aurora landed her passengers at Petone Beach early in 1840. Mr Nicholls snr. left Wellington and went north to Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, where he settled for a few years as a farmer. He met and married Hiro Te Whataawa, eldest sister of Te Moananui, Chief of the Ngati Terangi Tribe. Mr W. G. Nicholls is thus descended, on his mother's side, from an ancient Maori tribe, whose members trace back their descent to Te Rangihouhiri, who lived in the Bay of Plenty district about ten generations ago. Mr Nicholls was educated at the Rev. Ashwell's school at Taupiri, Waikato. He has followed the occupation of a farmer and Land Purchase agent since 1872. In 1874 he obtained his licence as a Maori Interpreter and he has been connected with Native Land Court work during the last 40 years. When the Ohinemuri County was separately constituted in 1885, Mr Nicholls was one of those returned at the first election to represent the Paeroa Riding on the County Council. Mr Nicholls continued his membership for nine years and for five more years as county chairman. Having now retied from active business, Mr Nicholls resides for most of his time in Paeroa. (Ohinemuri Gazette, 1913).