Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 1, June 1964
By J. Kinsella
Let us give a thought to that splendid band of people who were at the birth of Waitekauri, the Pioneers, both men and women, who worked and slaved, mostly in primitive conditions, for the betterment of the little settlement known at the beginning as the "Tent Town" of Waitekauri. Let us travel down "Memories’ Lane" from the cross roads on the hill, the gateway to the new township.
One road led to Earl’s Hill, and to the Waikino village past the Victoria Hall, another to the vicinity of the Waikino Railway Station, the third to Chappel’s Crossing, a ford which is still in use. A traffic bridge was built across the Waitekauri River here in the late eighties, this then being the main route from Waitekauri to Waihi. The bridge was washed away in the nineties as was a later one, but a new swing bridge remained in use for many years. The fourth road led to Waitekauri, and over it all the heavy machinery for the workings was transported. It was roughly metalled and corded with timber for the easier footage of stage coach and horse drawn wagons that daily used it.
We come now to the first settler, Mathew Kinsella, who about 1876 took up land, (five 50-acre blocks), felled and pit-sawed kauri, made bricks and hand-made nails and ultimately built an 8 roomed wide halled house. (To-day the flourishing farms of Luther and Cochrane mark the spot). He also built a slaughter house on the farm and established the first butchery business, supplying meat as far as Waihi. He died in 1896 but his family carried on with the help of R. Cotter. Later they sent cream to the Paeroa Butter Factory. Further on, William Powell turned a tract of scrub and bush land into a small farm. Wm. Marwick was a painter and paperhanger, and members of his family were builders.
Again, Wm. Morgan, Senr, like many other settlers combined his daily work at the mines with farming, his son, Wm. later doing likewise. Mrs. Morgan, Jun. was noted for her skill with the violin and was much in demand at social functions, which interest she kept up to a very ripe age.
Joining the Morgan property, was that of Mr. and Mrs. Grace; then,
(Bob Watson; R. and N. Toomey
Pit-sawers: (Greenway: Sorensen and Son Olie.
Crossing the road we come to the farm of Harry Bolton, who had a herd of cows and delivered milk to the people of the township. On the Jubilee Road leading to the mine of that name and to the Waitekauri Mine, lived J. G. Ralph, who had a leading interest in mining but also owned and trained race-horses, which were very successful on many courses.
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hollis lived on the high side of the road and took a great interest in all local activities.
Near the junction of the Jubilee and Waitekauri Roads lived the well-known William Nicholl in his prospecting days.
Further up were the Stones and later the Brambles.
Now we have come to probably the best known and much respected Gordon Family, who, besides having land, established the first daily coach service to Paeroa and erected a fine Boarding House which merited its good reputation. It occupied a prominent position in the township and contained 30 rooms of which 3 were sitting rooms. The Dining Room catered for 30 to 40 persons. Mr. Gordon was one of the first settlers, having arrived in 1876. He held many important positions, but unfortunately lost his life in an accident in 1898, leaving his wife with five sons and five daughters. Mrs. Gordon was noted for her hospitality and the Boarding House, long since empty was one of the last of Waitekauri’s land marks.
Ryan’s Hotel was the first in Waitekauri.
The Hauraki Hotel (Samuel Draffin, proprietor) was established in 1896 by Mr. Rea followed by Martin Coulson. It was a two storey wooden building with a veranda and balcony and contained 43 rooms. (30 bedrooms, 3 sitting rooms and a Commercial room).
The Waitekauri Post Office was erected in 1897, prior to which the postal business was conducted in local stores. The building contained a public vestibule with 42 private boxes in the lobby, the Postmaster’s room, an operating and postal room and the Postmaster’s Residence. Two mails were daily received and despatched to Paeroa and one to Golden Cross. The Postmaster was assisted by a cadet and a messenger and telegrams were delivered but there was no house-to-house delivery of letters. (The building was moved to Paeroa for the use of the Ministry of Works).
Churches – There were three Churches in Waitekauri. The Church of England for which Mr. Horace Markwick made a big wooden cross, was later moved to Waikino and so was the Roman Catholic Church were it still remains a land mark on the hill. The Methodist Church was moved to Waihi.
Dr. George Craig was the resident Dr. in the early days and his daughter, now Mrs. Alison Drummond of Hamilton was born in Waitekauri.
The Waitekauri Public School occupied a high position facing Corbett Street. The original building erected about 1880 later formed a portion of the enlarged premises. In 1900 there were two class rooms and a porch and accommodation for 106 children – but there were 140 on the roll. The Headmaster at that time was Mr. W. Simmonds (who followed Mr. Oldham), was supported by one certificated assistant and two pupil Teachers.
(Teachers: Misses Stevens, Dunstan, Fawcett, Benner and Mr. Banks).
The Waitekauri Fire Brigade, established in 1899 began with 12 members with C.J. Collings (Captain), J. Gordon (Lieutenant) and W.C. Kennedy (Secretary). Captain Collings was well known as an architect and builder. He had worked at boat building in Auckland and came to Waitekauri in 1894. He gained a first-class certificate at the Auckland Exhibition of 1898-99 for the design of a yacht and also as the designer and builder of the one-rater yacht "Waitekauri", which raced at Auckland for the one-rater championship.
A group of shops supplied all the needs of the miners and settlers and the following are some of the names of business people of the early days:
STORES: J. Phillips & Son; John Darrow; W.J. McWatters; W. Rowe & Co with J.E. Johnston as manager; Marshall; Goldfield Co-op. Stores – Rogers, Simpson, Elliott.
BUTCHERS: Collings; Kinsella Cotter Mace; Wight
BAKERS: J. Newdick; C. Johnston
BUILDER: T.W. Hunt
STATIONER: R.G. Farrely
CHEMISTS: C.F. Tennent, J. Faulder
TAILORS: McCarthy & Sutton
SADDLER: A.H. Norris
Other residents near the town were: Peter Prudence, (American Negro) George Waite, Charlie Bunting, Harry Pocock, Harry Dance, John Bray, Harry Skeen, George Birnie, G. Goodwin, P. Graydon, Sheehy, Mason and Hines.
Newspaper – "The Golden Age" (H.L. Snow, Proprietor) established 1897. This was printed on a demy sheet, had four pages of seven columns and was issued twice a week.
Another amenity was the Public Hall in which many travelling troupes performed and which served the local community well. (It is still in use as it is now the R.C. [Roman Catholic? - E] Hall in Waihi.)
The Waitekauri and Gold Cross Lodge I.O.O.F. (1899). Messrs. Mace, Rocell, Simmonds and 125 members.
The Court Pride of Waitekauri A.O.F. [Foresters - E] (1899). Messrs. Sutton, Johnston, Corbett, Cotter, Walker, Hunt, Elliott, Morrin and 50 members.
Waitekauri Jockey Club – The Officers for 1900 were – R. Walker (Chairman) W.S. Morrin (Sec.) The annual meeting of the club was held in February of each year at the Race Course on Kinsella’s farm which had a circle of 66 Chains. The ground had been ploughed and laid down in grass.
Leaving the township we now cross the river to the Gold Cross Road. The first settler here was Mr. E.M. Corbett who did much to promote the growth of the mining district. He was a member of the Ohinemuri County Council as early as 1885, representing Waitekauri, whose needs were many. He was also one of the best known mining Engineers.
Golden Cross was a mining camp on the site of the Golden Cross section of the Waitekauri Company’s mine. It sprang into existence as a township about 1896, and was connected by about 5 miles of road with Waitekauri. The Golden Cross Hotel (later moved to Waihi) was built in 1899 – a two storey wooden building of 17 rooms; the Dining Room having accommodation for 50 guests. There was also a store, a Draper’s shop, a Bakery, two Butcheries, a Billiard Saloon and a Public Hall.
The Golden Cross School had only one class room and a porch but was said to have accommodation for 60 children. It was fortunate in being adjacent to the recreation reserve. In 1900 Mr. David McNaughton was the master. (Later, Mr Verry and Miss Benner.)