The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
The town of Masterton is by far the largest and most important centre in the eastern districts of the Wellington province, and it is so situated that it must continue to expand and improve. The distance from Wellington is about sixty-six miles, and the journey by rail occupies a little over four hours, including stoppages at about twenty stations. Eketahuna is twenty-two miles further on the line. Masterton may fairly claim to be the central town of the eastern districts, and this fact will be more apparent when the line to Woodville is completed. In some industries it even now commands all the trade north of the Rimutaka Ranges. Masterton, however, need not depend upon the surrounding towns for support. It has all to itself by far the best agricultural district, and a very large area of pastoral country.
Masterton, with some of the other Wairarapa towns—such as Greytown and Carterton—is one of the creations of the Wairarapa Small Farms Association—an institution formed in Wellington in 1853 by some of the enterprising pioneers of settlement. The committee of this Association—Messrs. Allen, Carter, Jackson, Masters, and Renall—may be said to have been the fathers of settlement in the district. They planned the townships and the rural land beyond, and it is due to their forethought that the various centres of population have been blessed with valuable endowments. Among the original settlers who climbed the Rimutakas, faced the unbridged rivers, and braved the bush, eventually carving out homes in Masterton, may be mentioned Messrs. W. H. Donald, A. W. Renall, Chas. Dixon, W. Adams, J. Bentley, J. Masters, J. V. Smith, J. Wrigley, James Russell, Walter Perry, and G. W. Woodroofe. Although time with his remorseless scythe has been thinning out the builders of the Colony, the majority of these Masterton pioneers survive, and some are still active citizens.
The climate of Masterton is good. It is colder in winter and warmer in summer than that of the capital city; but it is still far from distressing at any time. The altitude is 377 feet above sea level; and the proximity of the Tararua Ranges with their snow-clad peaks in winter gives to the air a keenness seldom felt in Wellington. High winds are much less common in Masterton than in many other parts of the Wairarapa. The variation in this respect is probably the most noticeable climatic feature of the valley. It is not unusual for Masterton to enjoy comparatively calm weather when ten or a dozen miles away half a gale is being experienced.
The area of the borough of Masterton is about 4300 acres, and the country round about in all directions for several miles is flat. There are, however, a few eminences from which views of the town may be had. The streets are flat, straight, wide, and, in the centre of the town, rectangular. Queen Street, which is the principal business thoroughfare, is well filled with fine shops, hotels, and other buildings, which present a really good appearance. Many of the shops are quite equal to the average of Wellington business premises. The hotels in Masterton are particularly good, as a reference to the articles describing them will prove.
The recreation ground, or public park, occupies a reserve of about twenty-eight acres, and is well patronised. The grounds are very pretty and so close to the town as to be a really useful breathing space. The gardens are not more than three minutes walk from the Post-office, and yet they are well out of the way of business traffic. A few acres of the recreation reserve are cut off for the cemetery, which is also very pretty. A feature of the Masterton cemetery are the flower beds which adorn some of the principal paths. In the springtime the effect is most pleasing. There are many handsome monuments bearing the names of early settlers who have passed their lives in the district, prominent among them being that of Mr. Joseph Masters, described as “one of the founders of Masterton, after whom the town was named.” Mr. Masters died on the last day of 1874 at the ripe old age of seventy-three.
The population of the borough of Masterton, as shown by the census of 1896, is 3493. In 1891 it was 3114.
It must be admitted that the cab service of Masterton is more than efficient. There are too many cabs to meet all the trains, and visitors are besieged by an army of importunate drivers and their assistants. Some of the cabs are as stylish in appearance as the best in the capital city.
The public bodies of Masterton take a great interest in the town and work hard for its advancement. The principal town in the Wairarapa has reached a stage in its existence when it can no longer with impunity delay such important matters as water supply and drainage. At present the town is dependent upon wells for water for all purposes. The water so gained is really good, but the absence of a supply from a source of some altitude is greatly felt. Masterton occupies a site which is practically an old river bed. It lies between the Waingawa and Waipoua Rivers, whose waters permeate the intervening ground. There is, therefore, a certainty of obtaining excellent water in any part of the town at a depth varying from twelve to twenty feet.
For fire extinction purposes there are wells throughout the town, with large pipes to which the hose may be attached, and there are several streams which are drawn upon when the fire is within reach of them. There are three brigades—two under the control of the borough, one of which is equipped with steam engines and fittings, imported at a cost of nearly a thousand pounds. The smaller municipal brigade is located at Kuripuni, the southern end of the town, and equipped with an ordinary page 928 manual engine. The third is a volunteer brigade, and, like the second, has no steam appliances.
Some three or four years ago Mr. Pownall, then Mayor of Masterton, introduced a combined water supply and drainage scheme, involving the raising of a loan of £30,000, a little over two-thirds for immediate expenditure, and the balance for extension purposes. Mr. Pownall's scheme met with the approval of his Council, but the necessary sanction of the ratepayers for the raising of the loan was not gained, mainly because, while the needful interest would be secured by a rate over the whole borough, the benefits of the scheme would be mainly derived by a more limited area. The present Council is moving now in the same direction, with the exception that power is being obtained to tax only the portions of the borough benefited by the scheme. There is every probability, therefore, that both good drainage and water supply are within measurable distance. This is a “consummation devoutly to be wished.” as there is no doubt that a continuance of the present system of “no system” must soon be fraught with great danger.
The Borough Council supplies the town with gas of excellent quality, at a net cost to the consumer of ten shillings per thousand cubic feet for lighting, and eight shillings for heating purposes. To obtain this important advantage a loan of £10,000 was raised, the interest thereon being secured by a fivepenny rate; this rate, however, is not now collected, as the gasworks are self-supporting. More particular mention of this interesting department will be found under “Borough Council of Masterton.”
The rates, therefore, though nominally eighteenpence in the pound, really amount to only thirteenpence, namely, a general rate of a shilling, and a library rate of a penny. The annual rateable value is bordering on £30,000. The income of the Council is slightly augmented by the rents from a borough reserve in the Mangaone Valley, some forty miles further north.
The purposes for which these trust lands might be used were limited to a public library, education, and other works of public utility. The trustees have so managed their trust that there is a rent roll of nearly £800 per annum, and this will soon be considerably increased by the expiry of some of the earlier leases. With this income the trustees are able to give very useful assistance to the borough in a variety of ways.
A town hall has been recently decided upon and will be erected almost immediately, at a cost of about £3000. The whole work is being undertaken by the Lands Trust.
Technical classes have already been inaugurated with the view of providing the youth of the town with opportunities for not only continuing their scholastic studies, but also for studying the particular branches required in various trades. This excellent work is also being carried out by the Town Lands Trust, assisted by a few enthusiastic friends, including Mr. W. H. Jackson, the headmaster of the public school. The chairman of the Trust, Mr. C. E. Daniell, has taken surpassing interest in the technical classes, and certainly deserves special mention for the energy and tact with which he set about to inaugurate them.
The fine reading-room and public library has been an institution for the last eighteen years, and cost over one thousand pounds.
Swimming baths will probably be the next convenience which the town will have provided for it by the Town Lands Trust. Already a movement is on foot with this object.
The member for the electoral district, Mr. A. W. Hogg, is a resident of Masterton, which town is the headquarters of the Wairarapa North Liberal Association. The conveniences for the holding of public meetings are good, there being, besides the theatre, a temperance hall and a very fine drillshed.
The Wairarapa North County Council has control of all county matters. Particulars of this important body, with pictures and short biographical sketches of its members, appear in the following pages.
Masterton possesses a hospital acknowledged to be one of the most complete and best managed country hospitals in New Zealand.
Adjacent, to the town, on a site watered by some of the springs referred to, are the fish ponds and hatcheries of the Wellington Acclimatisation Society. The curator, Mr. Ayson, besides stocking with trout every river and stream in the district, has already distributed millions of fry and ova throughout this and the Australian colonies. The ponds of the Society are one of the great attractions of the place, and are frequented by visitors from all parts of the Colony.
The Churches in Masterton are represented by the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, and one or two minor sects, besides a strong detachment of the Salvation Army. Many of the buildings are very fine, and the grounds attached to them are exceedingly pretty.
Besides the State Schools there is a Catholic School and several private seminaries.
Commercially, Masterton is sound and substantial. Its commerce is represented by three banks, three auctioneering firms, the Farmers' Co-operative Association, and a considerable number of general stores, factories, and establishments common to commercial life. Among commercial travellers, whose wide experience makes their opinions valuable, Masterton bears an excellent character as a steady, reliable, progressive centre. As will be seen by reference to the business notices in the following pages, the Bank of New South Wales is a very popular institution in Masterton. There are two newspapers—the Wairarapa Daily Times and the Wairarapa Star. Both are published daily in the early part of the afternoon, and both issue a weekly summary for the outlying districts.
Wednesday is the market day, when the influx of settlers from all parts of the Wairarapa Valley gives to the town a very business-like and lively appearance. The weekly half-holiday is held on Thursday, on which day, of course, Masterton is quiet, the contrast from market day being very noticeable.
Maoris are fairly plentiful in and about Masterton, and quite a number of them have contracted European habits and conditions. At the Native settlement of Te Ore Ore—about three miles on the way to Tinui, and just beyond the Ruamahunga bridge—all the houses are of European architecture, and a few of them are stylish villa residences, tastefully furnished and decorated, and particularly clean and tidy. In some cases the wives are half-castes; others are Europeans, while a few of the dusky ladies have page 933 European husbands. They own their own land, keep horses and cows, cultivate both fruits and flowers, and in most respects comport themselves after the manner of the middle classes of colonials. For photographs and other pictures they have a great liking, and occasionally the walls are adorned with paintings and drawings executed by the Maoris themselves. They are, of course, very fond of music, and, like their white brethren, they do not consider their houses properly furnished without a good quality piano. Considering the number of children always met with at these native villages, it is hard to believe that the Maoris are gradually yet surely decreasing. There is no hotel at Te Ore Ore. The Roman Catholics have a church there, at which Father McKenna holds weekly services.
The private houses of the Masterton resident embrace all classes, from the old-fashioned two-room cottage to the very handsome town houses of the squatters and villa residences of the merchants, professional men, and leading tradesmen. Several of them are palatial in appearance and dimensions—twenty to thirty rooms, with spacious hall and roomy accessories, being by no means uncommon. There are on every hand signs of accumulated and accumulating wealth, and there is every probability that the town and district of Masterton will long continue to hold a leading position in the Wellington provincial district.
The district and town of Masterton are of rapidly growing importance, and there is every ground for the hope so firmly held by the residents that Masterton and its surroundings will ever be one of the most interesting and progressive districts in this fair Colony.