The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series
Cracroft took in the country between the Hinds and Rangitata above Maronan. On the west it was bounded by Shepherd's Bush. Shepherd's Bush, Valetta, Anama and Cracroft all met at a point near Mayfield.
Run 499 contained fifty-four thousand acres and was the second largest single run in Canterbury. It was taken up by St. G. M. Nugent, who applied for it before 1st November, 1854. Nugent selected the run for himself and J. C. (afterwards Sir Cracroft) Wilson.
At first Nugent managed Rosebank as the station was then called. He had only a small share in it. In 1856 Wilson bought out Nugent and a son of Wilson took over the management. Young Wilson was drowned in the Rakaia with several of his stockmen a year or two later. Other early managers were Bethune, who was drowned in the Rangitata, then G. Wright, and then W. J. Moffat. Later, McAlpine, afterwards page 125owner of Broadfields, and lastly a man named McColl.
Sir Cracroft died in 1881 and in 1886 his executors sold the station to E. M. Goodwin. During Goodwin's time the last of the leasehold was bought up. He sold off some of the freehold in large farms, and finally in 1896 sold the homestead and five thousand four hundred acres to George McMillan of Mesopotamia for £12/7/6 an acre. In 1897 McMillan offered it to me— I had been his cadet—for £16,000 with 4000 sheep as a going concern. In 1904, after McMillan's death, his executors cut the station up into farms, and with the stock it realised £50,000.
In 1896 most of the land was still in tussock, but McMillan ploughed almost all of it and raised the carrying capacity from 4000 sheep to 8000, besides turning off all the surplus sheep and lambs fat.
When Cracroft was cut up in 1904, the homestead with twelve or fifteen hundred acres was bought by John Grigg of Longbeach, whose son sold it about 1927 to Donaldson Brothers, the present owners.
I have given an account of Sir Cracroft Wilson in my note on Broadlands. I know nothing about Nugent, Wright or McColl except their names and their connection with Cracroft.
In Goodwin's time, in the early 'nineties before the roads through Cracroft were fenced, a funny thing happened to a friend of mine there. He was bringing a mob of sheep from the south for a Christchurch dealer. He paddocked the sheep one night at the Rangitata Bridge, but went himself to spend the night with some friends who lived ten or twelve miles off. The weather was very hot so he got up at daylight next morning to get an early start, meaning to have breakfast at the hotel where his sheep were paddocked. When he got to the hotel everyone was still in bed and there was no chance of breakfast for hours, but the publican offered to make him some ' Russion tea' and bread and butter in no time. ' Russian tea' turned out to be ordinary tea well laced with rum, and my friend and the publican had page 126several cups of it together and then my friend crossed the bridge with his sheep. It was already hot when the sheep were across and my friend sat on a tussock in the shade of his horse to watch them graze up the terrace. He said it only seemed a minute or two before he woke up to find his horse and dogs by him, but not a sheep in sight. He galloped a mile across the open plain before he came on any of them. Then he found they had made themselves at home with the Cracroft sheep—they were thoroughly 'boxed' (mixed together), and his employer had to pay for them to be mustered and drafted, besides grazing charges.