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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]


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Aratapu, on the west bank of the Wairoa river, about ninety-eight miles from Auckland, claims to be the main centre of commerce in the Hobson County, but Dargaville is running it close for this coveted honour. The town is the extended development of a timber milling settlement, founded in the early days by Mr. Bonnar, but now the property of the Kauri Timber Company, under the management of Mr. Curtis Moore. The double mill, with its extensive wharfage accommodation, adds considerably to the traffic on the river. Hobson County Council has its offices at Aratapu, and the town has a post and telephone office, a public school, a hall, Anglican and Wesleyan churches, a branch of the National Bank, a Masonic Lodge, a hotel, several boardinghouses, a skating rink and billiard saloon. The country surrounding the town is flat and fertile, and maintains a number of well-to-do settlers.

Hobson County, which comprises an area of 688 square miles, with a population of about 5000, exclusive of Maoris, extends from the Kaipara Heads—its most southerly point—to Maunganui Bluff. On the west its borders are laved by the Tasman Sea, and the Tangihua Range forms its most easterly extremity. Hitherto in Hobson county sawmilling and gum digging have proved more popular than the settlement of the land. Recently, however, a change has taken place, and land is being so eagerly sought after, and the country is progressing so favourably, that, when the timber and gum have been worked out, it is expected that the land will be well stocked with cattle and sheep, for which the country is well suited. At present (July, 1901) the principal industry is sawmilling, and the county has seven sawmills, which cut up annually about sixty millions of superficial feet of timber, which is mainly exported to Australia and the southern ports of New Zealand. The industry employs a large number of men, supports the various small towns in the county, and keeps in addition to numerous rafting steamers, a fleet of steam and sailing vessels trading in and out of Kaipara harbour. Kauri gum digging supports a large floating population, and is also a source of wealth to the country stores, where the gum is bought from the diggers and shipped to Auckland for export. The Kaipara harbour is the best port on the west coast north of Auckland, and has never less than 30 feet of water on the bar at low tide. A large lighthouse stands on the North Head, and a powerful tug steamer is employed in towing sailing vessels, but the port requires more attention from the authorities, as there are not sufficient buoys to mark the channel, nor beacons to mark the sand banks. The Wairoa river, which flows into the Kaipara harbour, is an extensive sheet of water, navigable for vessels up to 1000 tons for a distance of forty miles, and for smaller craft for ninety miles; while, with a fresh in the river, which often occurs, launches are enabled to reach Mangakahia, a distance of 110 miles from the river's mouth. In the upper reaches of the Wairoa the river is made beautiful by the romantic weeping willows (planted by the early missionaries) overhanging its banks, which are backed by picturesque native bush, and overlooked by the Tangihua Ranges in the background. Along the banks of the lower Wairoa, in addition to the general bush country suitable for grazing, there is a large extent of flat land, of first-class quality, which, when drained, will be eminently suitable for agricultural purposes. Communication between Auckland and Hobson county is regular and frequent, the main route being by train to Helensville, and thence by steamer across the Kaipara harbour and up the winding Wairoa river, calling first at the North Heads (Pouto), which is the southernmost part of the county, and distant from Auckland sixty-five miles. The county is managed solely by the Hobson County Council, into which the Town and Road Boards were merged years ago, so as to reduce the cost of administration. The first meeting of the Council was held on the 21st of February, 1877. Mr. David Balderston was the first chairman, and the other first members were Messrs Thomas S. Webb, Edwin Mitchelson, Thomas N. Wilson, John Kurndall, and George Skelton. At present (July, 1901) the members of the Council are Mr. W. A. Spiers, chairman, and Messrs A. E. Harding, J.P. (lately chairman for eight years), Thomas Bassett, J.P., John Dennin, Edwin Harding, M. N. Downey, J.P., and Samuel Dodd. Mr. Horace Hammond is the county engineer, Mr. M. G. Lambert, the county clerk, and Mr. N. A. McLeod the county solicitor. The Council chambers are situated at Aratapu, but as Dargaville is more central and fast increasing in population, it is intended to remove the offices shortly to Dargaville and make it the county town. With that end in view sketch plans have already been prepared by the county engineer.

Councillor William Archibald Spiers has for many years been a member page 628 of Hobson County Council, of which he is at present (1901) the chairman. His career is more fully referred to on another page.

Councillor Alfred Ernest Harding was Chairman of the Hobson County Council for eight years. Mr. Harding was born at Waipukurau in 1861, and educated first in Napier, afterwards at the Wellington Grammar School and at Mr. W. Bowden's High School. He was on his father's station for two years, after which he moved up to Mangawhare and took charge of a large run of over 14,000 acres. Mr. Harding was one of the first members of the Dargaville School Committee. Three years after his election to the Hobson County Council as representative for Aratapu he was appointed chairman, and till lately retained that position. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1891, and is also a member of the Aoroa School Committee He always takes a keen interest in football and cricket. Mr. Harding is married to a daughter of Mr. W. Astley, of Avondale, and has three sons and one daughter.

Councillor A. E. Harding.

Councillor A. E. Harding.

Mr. A. E. Harding's Residence..

Mr. A. E. Harding's Residence..

Mr. Horace Hammond, C.E., Engineer to the Hobson County Council, resides at Aratapu, was born in London in 1862, and educated in Brisbane and Auckland. His father, Mr W. F. Hammond, is a well-known architect and civil engineer in Auckland. The subject of this sketch acquired his professional training under his father, obtained his diploma as an authorised surveyor in 1884, and in 1889 was appointed to his present position. Mr. Hammond is a member of Lodge St. George, E.C., and being a lover of outdoor sports is always ready to assist in local events, especially aquaties. He married a daughter of Mr. R. Masefield, of Arapohae, and has three sons.

Hanna, photo.Mr. H. Hammond.

Hanna, photo.
Mr. H. Hammond.

Mr. Benjamin Charles New (formerly a member of Hobson County Council), Belle Vue, Mititai, Northern Wairoa, was born at Nottingham in 1856 and educated at Home. He came to New Zealand with his parents on the ship “Victory,” and lived with them at Pahi till about 1887, when he took up 600 acres of land at Arapohue, 300 acres of which was cleared ground and now in good grass. He stocked the farm and has at present about 800 sheep, and over 100 head of cattle. Mr. New is a great lover of good horses, and a successful breeder, having run his own thoroughbreds under his own colours. Among other well-known horses owned by him were “Play-boy,” “Investment,” “Nannie” and “Butcher Boy.” “Play-boy” took twenty-one first prizes at various shows. Mr. New is a member of the Auckland Agricultural Society, and also of the Northern Wairoa Agricultural and Pastoral Association, and aided materially in the formation of the first show held in that district. He was elected member of Hobson County Council for the Okahu riding in 1897. As a Freemason, he belongs to Lodge St. George, Dargaville, and he is also a member of the Dargaville Court of Foresters. He is married to a daughter of the late Dr. James Gelston, of Ireland.

Hanna, photo.Mr. B. C. New.

Hanna, photo.
Mr. B. C. New.

Mr. Thomas Webb, J.P., Coroner, Aratapu, was born and educated in Staffordshire. In 1863 he came to New Zealand by the ship “Gertrude,” and engaged in farming on the Kaipara. His father, Mr. Thomas S. Webb, was coroner before him; he succeeded him in 1889 and was made a Justice of the Peace for the Colony at the same time. He is a member of the licensing bench and school committee. Mr. Webb is interested in the temperance movement, having been district chief ruler of the Auckland Rechabites, and also president of the Aratapu Mutual Improvement Society and Band of Hope. Mr. Webb married a daughter of the late Mr. J. B. Massey, at one time Government engineer, and has two daughters and one son.

Hanna, photo.Mr. T. Webb.

Hanna, photo.
Mr. T. Webb.

The Church Of England, which is represented in North Wairoa by Rev. A. J. Beck, exercises spiritual supervision over a wide and scattered extent of country, page 629 often very difficult of access. The headquarters of the parish are at Te Kopuru.

Rev. Arthur James Beck, Minister of the Church of England and Vicar of Northern Wairoa and districts, was born at Wellington in 1869, educated partly in that city and afterwards completed his studies at St. John's College, Auckland. He was ordained deacon in June, 1895, and priest in September of the following year. His first appointment was as curate at St. Sepulchre's, Auckland, where he remained fifteen months, and was then transferred to his present charge. Mr. Beck's district extends seventy miles from point to point as the crow flies, and includes All Saints' Church at Aratapu and Holy Trinity at Dargaville, where there are also Sunday schools. He is married to a daughter of Capt. Sandin, of Helensville.

Welham, Alfred Robert, Auctioneer, Aratapu. Mr. Welham was born in London in 1858, and educated at St. Paul's School. He was for three years on the London Stock Exchange and in 1882 came to New Zealand in the ship “Akaroa,” landing in Dunedin, where he spent some five years, and then removed to Christchurch. In 1889 he moved north and established himself as an auctioneer at Te Kopuru, holding stock sales monthly and produce sales fortnightly. He takes a keen interest in local affairs, and is also fond of cycling. He has introduced a number of Rambler bicycles in the district, being agent for those machines. Mr. Welham is very fond of music, and was for some time leader of the orchestral society.

Harrison, Edward, Steamboat Owner, Aratapu. Mr. Harrison was born in the Kaipara river district in 1870. As a young man he was rafting and bushfelling for a number of years, for most of the time in partnership with his brother. In 1893 he purchased the “Tangi,” a rafting steamer, plying on the river, and shortly afterwards bought a half interest in the steamer “Pilot,” also used for rafting and passenger traffic. Mr Harrison is a lover of athletic sports, particularly football, and from 1894 to 1897 acted as representative for the district in the New Zealand team, in which he played as a forward. Mr. Harrison is also an exceptionally good oarsman.

Thompson, Erik, Boat-builder, Aratapu, Mr. Thompson was born in Sweden in 1844 and educated in Finland, where he learned his trade and was nine years at sea as ship's carpenter. He came to New Zealand in 1869 by the barque “Haversham” and shortly after his arrival went to the Kaipara, where he has remained ever since. He first engaged in running a flax-mill, but after a twelve months' trial gave it up for his own trade. Mr. Thompson was married to Miss Kidd, of Auckland, and has one son and one daughter.

Bassett, Edward, Farmer, Fernside, Aratapu. Mr. Bassett was born in the North of Ireland in 1826 and brought up to farming. In 1862 he came to New Zealand by the ship “Indian Empire,” and spent some time at the Thames. He afterwards took a place at Mangere and in 1874 removed to his present residence. Mr. Rassett was a member of the county council for nine years and has also been a prominent member of the school and licensing committees. He was married to Miss Leonard and has five daughters and four sons.

Mr. E. Bassett.

Mr. E. Bassett.

Morgan, John, Farmer, Clifton, Aratapu. Mr. Morgan was born in Liverpool in 1842, and as a young man worked in sail-making and rigging lofts. He afterwards led a seafaring life for several years and in 1860 came to Melbourne and was in the intercolonial trade for some time. When the Otago gold “rush” broke out he came across and proceeded to Tuapeka. After that he again went to sea, trading between Australia and New Zealand, and on the North Island coast. Eventually, Mr. Morgan gave up the sea and took up some land at Aratapu, where he also was employed at the sawmills. He bought the property on which he now resides in 1875, and many of the old settlers, who are now his neighbours, were brought up the river by him in the early times. Mr. Morgan married Miss Dodd and has two sons and four daughters.

Mr. J. Morgan.

Mr. J. Morgan.

Mr. Thomas Stirrup Webb, Old Colonist, is one of the oldest settlers in the Aratapu district, and after surmounting all the difficulties of the pioneer days, he is now, at the ripe age of eighty-four, surrounded by descendants to the third generation, and in the enjoyment of peace and plenty. Mr. Webb was born in Leicestershire, England. He was the son of the Rev. Samuel Webb, a Wesleyan minister, and was educated at Kingswood school, Bristol. Mr. Webb afterwards settled at Boston in Staffordshire, where he carried on the business of a chemist, and was one of the township commissioners. He came to Auckland in 1863, and has occupied many honourable positions in the colony. He has been in his time a Justice of the Peace, a coroner, a returning officer, county councillor, and licensing commissioner, but on account of his advancing years, he has not for some time held any public position.