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Settler Kaponga 1881–1914 — A Frontier Fragment of the Western World

Kaponga and the World

Kaponga and the World

The settlement of New Zealand coincided with the achievement of almost universal literacy in both homeland and colony. Correspondence and newspapers flowed steadily between the settlers and those they had left in the hearthlands, and in 1876 New Zealand was linked with the Old World by cable. So down the years the colonists' memories of ‘Home’ were nourished and updated by a flood of news reports, letters, journals and books from the Old Country, and their children were given a deeply ‘English’ education. The result was a unified colonial-homeland conscious ness among the settlers, and an eagerness to recreate the best of the Old World in their new land. Kaponga's Watts double wedding is one example of this. The ‘old and magnificent veil’ worn by bride Mabel Watts was doubtless an heirloom evoking memories of many past family weddings whose valued features the double wedding programme endeavoured to recreate. During the 1890s Kaponga awareness of the Old Country was further enriched by a number of ‘trips home’. In 1893 settlers Fred Frethey and Herbert Wilkie paid a visit to ‘the Old Country’, taking in the Chicago World Fair on their way. Farmer John Mackie took a trip in 1895, as also did the wife of Scottish settler George Hemingway and several of her children. Over 1896–97 the whole Hemingway family paid a visit to page 128 Scotland. Kaponga's Methodist minister visited England in 1897 and on his return gave ‘a graphic description’ of his trip.53

An illustration of the interplay between Kaponga and the Old World is provided by a Star item of 6 January 1897 in which H. White of Kaponga was thanked for a newspaper report on the Frome Show, Somerset, and copy of its catalogue. The catalogue listed 49 entries for cheeses from ‘Her Majesty's dominions', among them one from the Hawera Co-operative Dairy Company. Clearly letters had been flowing between H. White and relatives and/or friends in Somerset, leading to his receiving this material, which he rightly decided was of public interest. Hawera's entry at Frome did not win a prize but the Star commented that it must have led some Somerset dairy farmers ‘to look up their geography’.

Besides such nourishing of ‘Home’ bonds the colonial press had a strong ‘global’ impact, in particular keeping its readers well informed on overseas developments of relevance to New Zealand. We will illustrate this by examples of its input into the rise of Kaponga dairying. How well informed were Kaponga's settlers in 1893 when they decided to support the L. & M.'s venture into factory dairying for the distant British market? A perusal of the Star's columns shows that besides informing them of New Zealand developments it carried material on the British dairy markets, the various exporters competing for this market, and the problems New Zealand faced in supplying it.54 The press also told how the London and Manchester firm of Lovell and Christmas had set about developing vital links with the Taranaki dairy industry. In 1891 it sent a representative to survey the prospeets of doing business with New Zealand, and followed this up by sending two representatives to open an office in Hawera in 1892. Our Kaponga settlers will also have wanted the latest overseas thinking on dairying practive. They were fortunate that the Farmer not only dealt extensively with market issues but also combed the world for practical advice on all aspects of dairying. We know that the Farmer was widely read around Kaponga for each issue listed the initials and addresses of sub scriptions received. In 1893 17 Kaponga settlers were subscribers. During the year they would have read dairying material culled from many leading British, American and Australian agricultural journals, including articles on stock breeds, feeding, cheese and butter-making, dairy factory develop ments, care of dairy utensils, and a mass of detailed advice on matters facing the individual dairy farmer.