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The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series

Mt. Possession — (Run 53 N.Z.R., afterwards re-numbered 543)

page 291

Mt. Possession
(Run 53 N.Z.R., afterwards re-numbered 543)

Mt. Possession took in the country between the Rangitata and Ashburton rivers from the western boundaries of Shepherd's Bush and Anama up to about the line of the present road which runs from Hakatere to Mesopotamia. It contained fifty-three thousand acres. It was taken up by Charles Tripp and John Barton Acland, in Tripp's name, on March 31st, 1856. I described Tripp and Acland's partnership when writing of Mt. Peel and Orari Gorge. Apparently the partners thought at first that Mt. Possession lay in a fork of the Rangitata, but on further exploration found that the supposed north branch of the river did not exist.

Tripp and Acland named the station Mt. Possession in February, 1859, when they sent 1579 sheep from Mt. Somers (another of their stations) to 'take possession,' that is, fulfil the stocking conditions of their lease. Their shepherd in charge was James Rawle, who had come to New Zealand from Acland's father's property in Somersetshire, where Rawle's father had been in charge of the wild ponies on Exmoor. James Rawle was afterwards a shepherd at Mt. Peel, where a hut, yards and gully are named after him. He was 'a large yellow man.' I do not know what became of him afterwards.

Acland was in England in 1861, and Tripp, finding himself short of money to carry on their other stations, sold Mt. Possession on June 1st to Robert Tooth for £4000. Tooth had just come down from Melbourne looking for investments, and Thomas Rowley acted as his agent. The Tooths and Rowleys were mixed up in business, and Rowley may have had an interest in Mt. Possession from the first. In a few years it became the property of Thomas and his brother, John Cotton Rowley, who sold it to 1864 to Walker Brothers (W. C. and A. J.), though the lease remained in Tooth's name until 1866, when it was brought under the Canterbury page 292regulations and re-numbered. The Walkers had previously owned Lake Heron.

There was no homestead at Mt. Possession when the Walkers bought it—only a hut and sheep yards at Sandy's Knob, which is named after Sandy Boyd, the shepherd who lived there in Rowley's time. The Walkers built the present house and woolshed. After a time A. J. Walker sold his share of the station to his brother and went home to England, where he started business in London.

About 1890, Miles and Co. took over Mt. Possession from the Hon. W. C. Walker, as he had then become. Walker was better known as a politician than as a squatter. He sat in the old Provincial Council and represented Ashburton in Parliament. He was called to the Legislative Council in 1892 and was Minister for Education in Seddon's Government, and finally became Speaker of the Legislative Council.

I have already given accounts of Tripp and Acland. Thomas Rowley went Home in 1866 after selling his stations, and Cotton Rowley afterwards had Avondale Station in Southland, where he lived for many years. He also had a share in Hamilton Station in Otago. These were the same Rowleys who owned the Sandy Knolls and Alford stations in the 'fifties and 'sixties. I do not know much about Tooth, except that he, and afterwards his nephew, Frederick Tooth, who succeeded him, owned Alford Station, in the Ashburton Forks, and several stations in Australia. They did not live in New Zealand. They belonged, I am told, to the Australian family of brewers. They also owned Clent Hills in partnership with the Rowleys.

When Miles and Co. took over Mt. Possession they sent Donald Cameron, afterwards the owner of Winterslow, to manage it. They sold it in 1892 to the Loan and Mercantile Company, who at that time owned Hakatere, and the two stations were worked together for many years. T. S. Johnstone, the manager of Hakatere, moved down to Mt. Possession, but William Lambie, the head shepherd, lived at Hakatere, where page 293the sheep of both stations were shorn and where most of the other sheep work was done. Johnstone left Mt. Possession in 1904 and went to manage Glenmark. He was succeeded by Lambie, originally his head shepherd, who had in the meantime managed Mt. Torlesse, and Birch Hill (in Marlborough).

In 1906 the company sold both stations to F. J. Savill, who kept Lambie on as manager. The lease of Hakatere ran out in 1911, but Savill went on with Mt. Possession until 1917, when that lease ran out also. The country was divided into several blocks, which were put up for auction. Savill did not bid for any of them, but Lambie took over the freehold and the nearest block of leasehold, which he worked for four or five years, and then sold to W. H. Orbell. Since then the various tenants and owners of the old Mt. Possession Station have combined with others interested to form the Mt. Possession Run Company, so that now the station is again under one management. It is a very good run, but, being mostly College leasehold, has always been over-rented.