The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series
Snowdale — (Runs 234A, 235 and 346)
(Runs 234A, 235 and 346)
Snowdale ran from the Whistler across the Kingsdown Range and back to Mt. White, and Lochinvar, page 246and it took in Oxford Hill above the Harewood Forest. It joined Woodstock at the end of the Puketeraki Range.
Runs 234a and 235, of about twenty-five thousand acres altogether, were taken up in January and August, 1858, but I do not know by whom. In 1859 Mannering and Cunningham put the first stock on them, and as they built the first hut there and Mrs Mannering named the station, they were probably the original owners.
Run 346, next the Devil's Den, was taken up by Bartrum and Caton in March, 1860. I do not know who Bartrum was, but I suppose Caton was the same who took up part of Mesopotamia and quarrelled with Samuel Butler. Bartrum and Caton abandoned their country in 1866, and it was afterwards stocked by the Snowdale people.
I wrote about Mannering and Cunningham when I described their other stations, but since then I have seen a most interesting journal of Mannering's, which he left for his children. His ups and downs were typical of the struggles of the early settlers.
Mannering was born in London in 1836. As he was a very delicate boy he was partly educated in Switzerland, and when he was sixteen his father sent him out to South Australia with a friend called Young, who intended to settle there with his wife and family.
Young, after refusing to give £3000 for a cattle station in New South Wales, which was sold two years afterwards for £50,000, met Captain Dashwood, who had done a good deal of exploring in Nelson in the earliest days of the province, and bought a run in New Zealand from him. This run was of two hundred and fifty thousand acres and took in the whole country between the Waiau and Hurunui that lies above Cheviot; the better half of the Amuri.
Young and his party came across to Nelson in a ninety-ton schooner called the Comet. There were several other passengers and 28 horses, all packed like sardines, but they had fine weather and a good pas-page 247sage, which took twelve days. Only one of the horses died, and when they got to Nelson they slung the others overboard and let them swim ashore. The horses had cost three or four pounds a head in Australia, and were worth twenty-five to thirty a head at Nelson. Young had brought his money, 3000 sovereigns, in two boxes, which he and Mannering shouldered and carried up to the bank. The Nelson people were poor but hospitable, and were delighted to see so much money brought into their town.
Young bought 1500 sheep and sent Mannering overland with them to his run. He had two Scotch shepherds, a 'capital bushman,' three packhorses, and four or five dogs. Young went round to Lyttelton by sea.
It took Mannering and the sheep eight weeks to do their journey of two hundred and forty miles. They came by Jollie's Pass and the Hanmer Plains. The springs there had not yet been discovered. This was one of the first mobs to travel that way and one of the shepherds often had to go ahead to find openings in the scrub and crossings over rivers.
When they got to the run, the shepherds went back to Nelson, taking most of the tucker and two horses. Young did not meet Mannering and his mate with their stores, but Mannering found Mason living at Horsley Down looking after his own run and Sidey's, and Mason gave him enough to carry on with.
As Young did not turn up, after about a month Mannering made his way to Christchurch. There was no track for the first forty miles, but at last he struck Mt. Grey, where Mrs O'Connell treated him kindly and pointed out the Rangiora Bush to him. The only house at Rangiora in those days was Charles Torlesse's. He crossed the Waimakariri in a Maori canoe and swam his horse behind it. When he came to the Styx (then of course called the Sticks, from the sticks set up to mark the ford) he found a road to Christchurch formed, but not shingled.
This was in 1852 when a few wooden buildings (mostly in Colombo Street) were all there was of page 248Christchurch, except survey pegs. There was still no sign of Young, so Mannering got another horse, a packsaddle, and what stores he wanted, on credit from Isaac Cookson, the leading Christchurch merchant of those days, and went back to his job. This was a good performance for a boy of seventeen.
Young did not get to the station till fifteen months afterwards, when he promptly let it with the sheep. He could not fulfil the stocking conditions of his lease, and had to surrender St. Leonard's to Duppa, and other parts of his run to other people.
In the meantime, Mannering went on looking after the station, learning as he went. He and his mate lived the first six months in a tent, where the Culverden homestead is now; then they built themselves a cob hut. They had a lot of trouble with wild dogs, and often lost their sheep altogether. 'Fortunately merinos are very gregarious. When you find one, you find the lot.' They lived on tea, mutton, and damper, and kept count of the time by using one tin plate a day and washing the whole six on Sunday. They only lost count once or twice during the fifteen months they stayed there. Their only visitors were neighbours looking for stray horses or cattle.
They had to dip the sheep in tobacco water for scab.
When Young let the run, Mannering spent a year or more in Nelson and then, at the age of nineteen, went home to England. He married and came back to New Zealand in 1857. Young had suggested his renting what was left of the run (which was afterwards called Culverden), but before Mannering got to New Zealand, decided to sell it altogether. After looking round for about a year, Mannering joined Cunningham, and they bought Birch Hill and Fernside stations and either bought or took up Snowdale. Cunningham looked after Fernside and Mannering lived at Birch Hill, from which he worked Snowdale as a wether station.
He cut a bush track on the line of an old Maori one, to take sheep in and out by. This track crossed Blow-page 249hard, a hill which most people think was named after the winds there. It wasn't. It was named because an old shepherd pointed to it and said, 'My word, that hill makes you blow hard.'
There were some very bad bush fires and autumn tussock fires at Snowdale in the old days.
When the West Coast diggings started, Mannering took several drafts of fat wethers there from Snowdale, going by Browning's Pass. The first two or three drafts paid well, but the fourth got snowed in on the Pass, and those that reached the Coast were so poor when they got there that the owners lost a lot of money. On the journey, they used to leave their horses at the foot of the Pass and do the last two or three days on foot. Returning from his last trip, Mannering rode his horse from Browning's Pass to Birch Hill-eighty-four miles-in fourteen hours, swimming the Waimakariri on the way.
In 1866 Mannering and Cunningham were ruined by scab and other misfortunes, and George Hart, of Winchmore, who was their mortgagee, took over all their stations. Hart kept Snowdale and Birch Hill until 1874, when he sold them, with about 18,000 sheep to Captain Millton.
On Million's death his stations were divided amongst his sons, and Snowdale came to J. D. Millton, who sold it to Ensor Brothers, of Mt. Grey, in 1903. C. H. Ensor, who had bought his brother's interests in Snowdale, sold it in 1915 to R. O. Duncan. The lease ran out in 1917, but as times were uncertain, the Government as an act of grace, extended Duncan's lease till 1919, so that instead of selling his sheep in 1917 he lost a great many of them in the 1918 snowstorm—one of the worst on record.
In 1919 the Government, resumed Snowdale and subdivided it. The only homestead was a hut and yards.
The homestead block now belongs to A. C. Witty, a son of the Hon. George Witty. After losing his runs, I think Cunningham lived at his sons' station, Loburn. Hart let the homestead at Fernside back on easy terms page 250to Mannering, who made another start, this time going in for mixed farming. Weathering the '68 flood (he happened to be in Christchurch and rowed a boat right into the Clarendon Hotel), hailstorms, droughts, and low prices, he did well, and bought a good deal of land very advantageously, and lived to be seventy-five.
I gave some account of Hart and Captain Millton when I wrote about Winchmore and Birch Hill.