The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts]
Kokiri is on the Greymouth-Christchurch line of railway, fourteen miles from Greymouth, and thirty-seven miles from Otira, the terminus of the line; it is also five miles from Stillwater Junction, and the railway station stands at an altitude of 179 feet above sea level. The settlement is on the western bank of the Arnold river, in the Maori Creek riding of the county of Grey, in the electorate of Grey, in the provincial district of Westland. Kokiri is one of the principal seats of the sawmilling industry, and many thousands of feet of timber and white pine sleepers are sent annually to Greymouth for export. The sawmills of Messrs Baxter Brothers and of Messrs Stratford, Blair, and Company give employment to a considerable number of men. There is a railway flag station at the township, a post and telephone office, a State school and an hotel. A few small farms in the vicinity are held by some of the workers at the sawmills. At Maori Gully, close by, there are several good goldmining claims. The bush around the township concists chiefly of silver pine, white and red pine, and beech, commonly called birch. There is game in the neighbourhood, and fishing in the river. At the census of 1901 the population was 103.
The Kokiri Public School has been established for about nine years. It is situated on a rising piece of ground, less than a quarter of a mile from the railway line. The rapid increase of the timber trade necessitated a new school, and the old building is now used for the infant school, and the two together contain two large classrooms with a verandah. There is accommodation for about 100 pupils, and the number on the roll is about sixty-five. There are two teachers, a headmaster and an assistant.
Mr. Albert Henry Seebeck , Headmaster of the Kokiri school, was born at Paroa in the year 1875. He was educated at Kumara, where he served a course of six years as a pupil teacher. Mr. Seebeck then went to Canterbury College for a year. He was afterwards appointed assistant at Kumara, where he served for three years, and, later on, was headmaster at Goldsborough for five years. Mr. Seebeck received his present appointment in July, 1903. He holds a Dl certificate. Mr. Seebeck is married and has three children.
Baxter Brothers (James Baxter. Thomas Baxter and William Baxter), Sawmillers and Timber Merchants, Kokiri, near Greymouth. Bankers, Bank of New South Wales. Messrs Baxter Brothers entered into partnership as sawmillers in the year 1895, and though they had but little capital they have built up a connection second to none in New Zealand. The plant is capable of turning out 40,000 feet of sawn timber per week, independently of several hundred sleepers. It has been stated that for railway sleepers, silver pine has no superior, and of late years very large orders for such sleepers have been placed with millers by the Government. The machinery owned by Messrs Baxter Brothers is of a modern type, and includes a fourteen horse-power portable engine and boiler built by Marshall, of Lincoln, England; twin breakingdown steel saws capable of cutting the largest tree; many minor saws, and breast bench and planing machines, Some years ago, this firm bought Messrs Feary Brothers' mill at Stillwater, with 800 acres of excellent silverpine. This property has been connected—by means of a tramway over two miles in extent—with bush at Kokiri. With few exceptions, the employees of Messrs Baxter Brothers live in their own houses, or in huts on the property, and there are roomy stables with accommodation for twelve horses. The principal trade is done within New Zealand, although large shipments are from time to time forwarded to Melbourne. The timber industry has of late years developed with marvellous rapidity, and amongst those who have been instrumental in facilitating its progress, Messrs Baxter Brothers hold a prominent position. The individual members of the firm are extremely popular with all classes, and were mainly instrumental in organising local sawing and chopping contests, which are attended by competitors from all parts of the district. Visitors to the West Coast, who take an interest in colonial industry, will be amply repaid by inspecting the mills at Kokiri.
Mr. Thomas Baxter was born at Hokitika in 1867 and went to school in his native place. He obtained his first employment at a sawmill. Mr. Baxter takes a real live interest in local affairs. It was he who was the prime promoter of the sawing and chopping competitions, which have done much to improve that class of work. Like his brothers, he has a practical knowledge of the timber trade, and is popular with the firm's employees.
Mr. William Baxter , the Junior Member of the firm, was born in the year 1869 at Hokitika. After leaving school he went to Westport and obtained the contract for the delivery of timber for the Westport harbour works, then under construction. He then worked for Messrs Wilkie Brothers, at Cape Foulwind. In 1896, he entered the employment of Messrs Butler Brothers, as a sawyer, and was afterwards with Messrs Stratford, Blair, and Co., of Greymouth, with whom he remained until he entered into partnership with his brothers. In 1897 Mr. Baxter married a daughter of Mr. Robert Cherrie of Brunnerton.
Butler Brothers (William Butler and Joseph Butler), Sawmillers and Timber Merchants, formerly of Kokiri. This well-known firm, which was one of the largest in Westland, and ranked amongst the leading sawmill businesses in the South Island, was established in the year 1892. The plant was a very complete one, capable of turning out 40,000 feet of timber per week, and the mill was kept working full time, to supply a brisk trade in New Zealand and Australia. In the sister colonies the name of Butler Brothers has long been familiar to all users of New Zealand timbers. The firm's bush in Westland covered an area of 2000 acres, and consisted principally of red, white and silver pine. It shipped white pine in large quantities direct to Melbourne, where it was used in the manufacture of butter boxes. The machinery was of the latest pattern, and had been imported from England and America. Messrs Butler Brothers were the first to introduce into Westland the steam hauler, which results in great economy in hauling heavy logs from the bush. In fact, so powerful is the steam hauler that timber, which at one time had to be left in the bush, is now taken out with but little trouble. Acting on the advice of Mr. Freyberg, the Government expert, the firm at one time exported, with other merchants, large quantities of timber to London, but the results were not encouraging. Between thirty and forty men were constantly employed in connection with the mills of Messrs Butler, who, while in Westland, gained a high reputation for bridge building. Several large bridges in the province bear witness to the substantial character of their work, and reflect great credit upon them as contractors. The brothers were born in Leamington, Warwickshire, England, and first settled in 1871, in North Canterbury, where they undertook several bush contracts. Three years later they went to Southland and engaged in farming for ten years, and then they removed to the West Coast. They now (1906) have a sawmill in the Auckland district, at Naumai, ninety-one miles from the city of Auckland.