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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]


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Mercer is prettily situated on the banks of the Waikato river. In the early days of settlement in the colony it was the shipping port communicating with the Waikato delta, and small steamers, including the “Rangiriri,” “Gundegai,” “Bluenose,” “Gymnotis,” “Delta,” “Waikato,” and others, arrived and departed almost daily. During the war troops used to be shipped at Mercer. The settlement was originally known as Point Russell. For many years Mercer was the terminus of the railway from Auckland, and consequently the starting-place for the Waikato coaches. A large transhipping business was then done, and the period was perhaps the most prosperous in the history of Mercer. After the railway was completed to Waikato, the river trade dropped off considerably, and now (1901) there are only four small steamers plying from Mercer—two trading up the river, and the other two to the heads. Mercer has a creamery, which the dairy farmers supply by rail, by road, and by river communication. In 1900 a sawmill was commenced in the township, and there are several flaxmills within a few miles of the settlement. The Mercer railway station is forty-three miles from Auckland, and 22 feet above sea level. The district is popular for its annual Maori regatta, held on the noble Waikato, which is most suitable in every respect for that purpose.

Maori Burial Caves.

Maori Burial Caves.

The Mercer Township Road Board governs a district bounded on the north and north-east by the Koheroa Road and part of the Maungatawhiri river, on the west by the Waikato, river, on the south and south-east by the Maramarua stream, and on the east by the Koheroa Road and the Maungatangi stream. Members for 1900; Messrs F. Freeman, chairman; M. Gallery, M. Hunter, S. Hunter, and R. Macfarlane; and R. E. Beamish, secretary.

Mr. Frederick Freeman, Chairman of the Mercer Road Board, became a member in 1896, and has been chairman since August, 1897. He was born at Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England, in 1860, and educated at Louth, where he learned the trade of a baker. Mr. Freeman arrived at Port Chalmers by the s.s. “Tongariro,” in 1883, but removed to Auckland and was in business at Kamo for two years. Subsequently he was some time in Auckland, and in February, 1891, he settled in Mercer, where he took charge of the bakery of Messrs M. and S. Hunter's business. As a volunteer, Mr. Freeman served in England for seven years in the First Lincoln Artillery, and he retired with the rank of sergeant. Mr. Freeman was treasurer of the Auckland Operative Bakers' and Pastry Cooks' Society, and a member of the Auckland Trades and Labour Council, of which he became vice-president on the retirement of the Hon. Mr. Jennings, and retained the position until he left Auckland in July, 1890. He was married, in 1887, to a daughter of the late Mr. Edward William Crocker, of Bridgewater, Somersetshire, England.

Hanna, photo.Mr. F. Freeman.

Hanna, photo.
Mr. F. Freeman.

page 702

Mr. Michael Gallery, who has been a Member of the Mercer Road Board since 1883, and has served on the Domain Board for over ten years, was born at sea in 1850, and arrived with his parents in Auckland during the same year. He has been a settler in Mercer since 1883, when he commenced business as a butcher. Mr. Gallery has served in the Pokeno Rifles for about ten years. He was married, in 1882, to a daughter of Mr J. Dean, of Pokeno, and has three daughters.

Mr. Matthew Hunter, who is a Member of the Mercer Township Road Board,has for many years been a member of the Mercer Domain Board, and has been continuously a member of the local school committee, is a native of Derry, Ireland, and the descendant of a well known Derry family. He was born in 1838, educated at the district school, and brought up to mercantile life. In 1870 Mr. Hunter arrived in New Zealand, and after a short stay in Auckland, he went gold mining at the Thames. Three years later he settled at Mercer, where he took a position under Mr. T. Wells, storekeeper. When that gentleman left Mercer, Mr. Hunter purchased the business, in which he has since been interested in conjunction with his brother. Mr. Hunter was married, in 1880, to a daughter of the late Mr. J. Moore, of Cornwallis, Manukau. Mrs Hunter died on the 21st of June, 1900, leaving one son and three daughters.

Mr. Scott Hunter, who is a Member of the Mercer Township Road Board, has for many years been a Member of the Mercer Domain Board, and has for fifteen years occupied a seat on the local school committee, was born in County Derry, Ireland, in 1850, and educated at Queen's College, Belfast. He was brought up as a civil engineer, graduated as a Bachelor of Engineering, and arrived in Auckland in July, 1870, by the barque “Santon.” Mr. Hunter engaged in mining at the Thames for about eight years, and left to join his brother in the firm of M. and S. Hunter, general storekeepers, bakers, and farmers at Mercer. Mr. Hunter was married, in 1876, to a daughter of the late Mr. J. Moore, of Cornwallis, Manukau, and has five sons and one daughter.

Mr. Richard Evanson Beamish, Secretary of the Mercer Township Road Board, was born at Epsom, Auckland, in 1865. For five years he was in the service of Messrs W. McArthur and Co., of Auckland. He has resided in the Mercer district since 1890. Mr. Beamish was married, in 1890, to a daughter of Mr. A. Maxwell, of Mercer, and has two sons and four daughters.

The Mercer Domain Board controls a reserve of sixty acres on the river bank, and the property has been fenced, cleared, and laid down in grass. Committee of management for 1900: Messrs V. Roberts, chairman, M. and S. Hunter, H. Hodge, M. Gallery, R. G. Tregoweth, and F. T. Martin.

The Mercer Post And Telegraph Office, which occupies a portion of the railway station buildings, has been conducted as a separate department since 1862. It is a large distributing office, and there are from three to four mails in and out per day.

Mr. Vernon Roberts, Postmaster and Telegraphist at Mercer, was born in London, England, in 1847. He served for a short time in the British Post and Telegraph Department, and came to Auckland by the ship “Ulcoats,” in 1865, and joined the post and telegraph department about 1873. Mr. Roberts was appointed to Mercer in March, 1890, and has been chairman of the Domain Board since 1898. He has been twice married.

Mr. Henry Hodge, the Officer-in-charge of the Telegraph lines between Huntly and Drury and Drury and Manukau Heads, was born at Dulheath, England, in 1842. When he was ten years of age he arrived in Victoria with his parents, and was afterwards apprenticed to a draper, at Creswick. In 1862 he came to Otago, and was for a time engaged in gold mining at Gabriel's and Weatherstone's. Shortly afterwards he returned to Victoria, but in 1863 came back to the Dunstan “rush,” and was also at Hartley and Riley's “rush,” and on the Arrow river. For two years subsequently Mr. Hodge was in the grocery business in Dunedin on his own account, and afterwards for six months in Have lock, Marlborough. He then removed to Hokitika, and went into business at Waimoa, whence he went two years later to Greymouth, which he left in a few months, with the intention of returning to Victoria, but after arriving at Nelson he changed his mind, and remained mining in that district for seven years. In 1872 Mr. Hodge joined the construction department of the New Zealand Telegraphs, and was engaged for four years on the Warkworth line. He was afterwards for six months at Mercer, whence he was transferred to Auckland. There he remained for four years, when he was reappointed to Mercer in 1886. Mr. Hodge was married, in 1873, to a daughter of the late Mr. Berry, of H. M. Customs, Auckland, and has two sons and one daughter.

The Mercer Railway Station, which was opened about 1872, consists of a long wood and iron building, which contains a large refreshment room and bar, ladies' room, public room, booking office, stationmaster's room, and post and telegraph department. There is also a large engine shed, besides a pump house and coalshed, and there are eight cottages in the immediate vicinity. The station buildings were destroyed by fire in 1900, but have been re-erected. About eleven trains per day pass through Mercer, in addition to specials. The staff consists of the stationmaster, a cadet, and a porter, and there are two engine drivers, two firemen, and two greasers.

Mr. John Seaborn, Stationmaster in charge of the Mercer Railway Station, was born in London, in 1830, and educated in Middlesex. He was for three years at sea, and in 1850 joined the Great Northern Railway. Five years later he went to Ireland as superintendent of the Midland and Great Western Railway, and continued in that employment till 1870, when he came to Auckland. After two years of bush life Mr. Seaborn joined Messrs Brogden and Sons, who were constructing the railway line from Auckland. When the Government took over the line Mr. Seaborn became an officer of the department, and has been stationed at Mercer since 1882, having been for eight years previously in charge of the Drury station. Mr. Seaborn was married, in 1860, to a daughter of the late Mr William Markcroft, of Sprotbors, near Doncaster, England, and has two daughters.

Hanna, photo.Mr. J. Seaborn in 1880.

Hanna, photo.
Mr. J. Seaborn in 1880.

The Mercer Public School, which was established about 1875, is built of wood and shingle, and has one class room and a porch. There is accommodation for eighty scholars, and there are sixty-eight on the roll, with an average attendance of fifty-five. The master in charge is assisted by one pupil teacher. There are ten acres of land attached to the school premises, and besides the playground there is a large garden and orchard. There is a schoolhouse of six rooms on the property.

Mr. Charles Thomas Edwards, Headmaster of the Mercer Public School, who holds a D2 certificate, was born at Ashford, Kent, England, in 1865. He arrived in the colony in 1876 by the ship “Waitangi.” For some time he was assistant teacher at the Wellesley Street school, Auckland, and was afterwards at Avondale. Mr. Edwards was appointed to his present position in 1885. He takes considerable interest in local matters, and has been prominent as one of the secretaries of the Mercer Regatta Committee.

St. James' Roman Catholic Church, Mercer, is built of wood and iron, and stands in a prominent position on an acre of land. It has seat accommodation for eighty-five persons, was erected in 1891, and the priest in charge resides at Pukekohe.

The Mercer Maori Regatta And Aquatic Sports Committee holds the combined regatta with the Northern Rowing Union of Auckland, in the early part of December each year. The event attracts thousands, who take advantage of the cheap excursions from the city. There is a splendid still water course for the regatta on the Waikato page 703 river, and about £200 is distributed in prizes. Committee of management for 1900: Messrs S. Hunter, T. Hallett, M. Gallery, D. Sheffield, F. W. Pyne, J. Keith, H. Hodge, C. T. Edwards, T. Collins, C. Vinson, J. Wilson, J. Brown, and A. Coge. Messrs J. Thompson and A. C. Edwards act as joint secretaries.

The Mercer Magistrate's Court And Police Station is situated on the corner of Miranda Road close to the local railway station. The outbuildings were erected in 1888, and consist of the courthouse, with two cells attached, together with a seven-roomed residence and stable. The stipendiary magistrate holds court once a month, and minor cases are dealt with by the local justices. The district under the control of the local constable extends from Tuakau to within a mile of Rangiriri and from Miranda towards Raglan over the Waikato.

Constable Charles Stanyer, who is in charge of the Mercer Police Station, and acts as Bailiff of the Magistrate's Court and Inspector of Factories, was born at Brighton, England, in 1860. He joined her Majesty's Navy in 1873, at Plymouth, was for some time on the training ship “Lion,” went to sea in H.M.S. “Triumph,” and served with the Channel and Mediterranean squadrons. Subsequently he was transferred to the “Raleigh,” which took out a relief crew for the “Wolverine” on the Australian station. Mr. Stanyer was under Admiral Hornsby at the Dardenelles, at the occupation of Cyprus. He went to Egypt in the “Orion,” was at Ismailia at the occupation of that town, was one of the party of gunners marched through to Cairo, and was present at the battles of Kasasian and Tel-el-Kebir, for which he gained the Egyptian medal with bar and star. Mr. Stanyer was bought off at Malta, but joined the “Superb” on a fresh term of service. On his return to England he left the navy. In 1887 he came to Auckland by the s.s. “Tainui,” joined the permanent artillery, and was stationed at Fort Takapuna. Two years later he was transferred to the police department, under which he was stationed in the King Country, and was appointed to Mercer in 1900. At the time of the wreck of the s.s. “Wairarapa” on the Great Barrier, Constable Stanyer was one of the party of police sent to recover the bodies. Mr. Stanyer was married, in 1891, to a daughter of Mr. G. Healand, Parnell, and has three daughters and one son.

Mercer Creamery (S. R. Cox, manager). This creamery belongs to the New Zealand Dairy Association, and was established in 1896. The building is of wood and iron, and is erected on a site adjoining the road, railway, and river. There were eleven suppliers in 1900, when the machinery consisted of a four-horse power portable engine and an Alexandra separator with a capacity of 300 gallons.

Mr. Samuel Robert Cox, Manager of the Mercer Creamery, was born at Mauku, on the 24th of October, 1879. For seven years he was employed in a saw mill at Hunua. He entered the employment of the New Zealand Dairy Association at Ngaruawahia, in 1899, and became manager at Ararimu in August, 1900, and at Mercer, on the 15th of September of the same year.

Mercer Railway Hotel (James Edward Hallett, proprietor), opposite the railway station, mercer. This well known hotel is a new wooden building, re-erected in 1898. It is two stories in height, and contains twenty-one rooms, including fifteen bedrooms, three sitting rooms, a dining room, with seating capacity for fifty guests, a bathroom, and other offices. The refreshment rooms at the Mercer railway station are conducted by the management of the hotel.

Mr. James Edward Hallett, the Proprietor, who has had the hotel since 1894, and who also farms 600 acres at Churchill, was born in Devonshire, England, in 1857. He had a number of years' experience as a bank clerk, and came out to the colonies as an officer of the Bank of Australasia, in connection with which he was stationed for seven years in New South Wales and Queensland. About 1888 he left the service of the bank, and after spending three years on the Queensland gold diggings, he arrived in Auckland in 1891. For a short time Mr. Hallett had the Park Hotel in Auckland, and settled at Mercer in 1894. He was married, in 1893, to the widow of the late Mr. A. Stewart, of Riverhead.

Hunter, M. and S. (Matthew Hunter and Scott Hunter), General Storekeepers, Bakers, and Farmers, Mercer. This well known business was established about 1870, and has been conducted by the present firm for about a quarter of a century. The building is of wood with a verandah, and contains a large shop with one residence attached. Messrs Hunter own about 1150 acres of land, which they farm in addition to managing their large business. Both partners are referred to elsewhere as members of the Mercer Township Road Board.

Coultas, Thomas Henry, Farmer, Mercer. Mr. Coultas was born at Retford, Lincolnshire, England, in 1868, shortly before his parents left for New Zealand. He was educated in the Mercer district, where he was brought up to country pursuits. Mr. Coultas is considered a good judge of cattle, and takes the active management of his father's estate, which is nearly 600 acres in extent.

Lee, John Henry, Farmer, the Bee Hive, Mercer. Mr. Lee was born in the United States of America, in 1854, and brought up to agriculture. He went to sea for three years, and was for a short time in the South Seas in 1876, when he settled in Australia. Mr. Lee was engaged in farming in the colony of Victoria until 1889, when he came to New Zealand, and has since been a settler in the Mercer district. His holding consists of 219 acres, which he works as a dairy farm. Mr. Lee was married, in 1891, to a daughter of Mr. T. C. McIlroy, of Mercer, and has four sons and one daughter.

Mr. John Coultas, J. P., who is one of the oldest settlers in the Mercer district, was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, in 1826. Mr. Coultas was brought up to the implement trade in Grantham, and became a member of the firm which owned the Perseverance Iron Works. In 1868 he arrived in Wellington by the ship “Asterope,” but removed to Auckland, and about the New Year of 1869 settled in the Mercer district on a portion of the property which he still owns. Mr. Coultas took an active part in the establishment of the Mercer public school, which he actually erected, and also the school at Pokeno, together with the teacher's house. He was married, in 1864, to a daughter of the late Mr. T. Hiley, of Gainsborough. This lady died on the 21st of June, 1894, leaving two daughters and one son.

Mr. G. McAnnalley is one of the oldest settlers in the Mercer district. He was born in County Antrim, Ireland, and went in 1851 to America, where he became a fireman, and afterwards an engine-driver at sugar factories and on steam boats. In 1861 Mr. McAnnalley arrived in Southland, but soon afterwards removed to Auckland, where he found employment for some years in connection with saw milling. In 1896 he joined the Telegraph Department as lineman in Auckland, and served at the Thames and Mercer until 1883, when he retired from service. Mr. McAnnalley has been twice married.