The “Father of Taumarunui.”
Mr. Bell's neat home, with its little store of goods for the Maori trade, stood
in its grove of fruit trees. The old-timer lives in Taumarunui still, a lone relic of the past; he has lived continuously in Taumarunui since 1874. A man of many adventures and strange memories. He took a chief's daughter to wife, a very handsome girl, of the ancient fair-haired type that is called urukehu
. That was in 1870. He was adopted into the local tribe and became their white trader, their pet pakeha
, and this friendship saved
“Beauty breaks in everywhere.”—Emerson.
(Rly. Publicity Photo.)
The picturesque upper reaches of the Wanganui River, North Island, New Zealand.
him from such a fate as that which befell William Moffatt, the powder-maker and prospector, who was killed here by the Maoris in 1880, for trespassing in forbidden country. A long story, and curious, the tale of Moffatt's life and tragic end, too long to detail here.
The “Father of Taumarunui,” as Mr. Bell has been called, proudly wore his New Zealand War medal on the day when last I saw him; we had met again to discuss certain passages in the story of the bush-campaigning era. We mutually regretted some of the changes, the inevitable passing of the ages-old charm of seclusion, the forest freedom that once was Taumarunui's. Necessary as was the coming of the rail, a day too long delayed, and the making of a commercial town, there were features of the past that pleased the old-timer best. “Ah,” he said, “I don't like all this hurry and bustle, all this haste to get somewhere, all this noise. I often think of the days when I could go out in the morning, just up the hill yonder, with my double-barrel gun and come back with a kitful of fat pigeons. What shooting we did in those days never seemed to make the pigeons any scarcer. But the coming of all the crowds and the bush-felling and the burning have destroyed the birds that were everywhere in my early days here.” And the veteran lamented, too, the passing of the tui, which used to usher in the morning in all the bush around the valley, and on this Taumarunui flat itself. “I'd far sooner hear the tui sing than those motor cars hoot through the town.”
Was it not the Black Douglas—as we read in the old chronicles—who declared that he would sooner hear the cricket sing than the mouse squeak. The Douglas
meant the prison when he spoke of the mouse's squeak.
I am sure that if time could roll backward in its flight, and Alexander Bell found himself all at once a young man again and a town like this choking off his breath, he would roll his swag and take his gun and get quickly hence by some dim bush trail. But the frontiers-man is alone in a changed world. Taumarunui of to-day prides itself, with good reason, on its spirit of progress, its
In The Heart Of The North Island Bush Country.
(Rly. Publicity photo.)
The Manganui-o-te-ao Viaduct (height 112ft., length 290ft.) on the North Island Main Trunk Line, New Zealand.
good communications, its comfort and briskness, and all its fittings and furnishings that bring it well forward as a live provincial town. It is one of those places that will keep on going forward, with so much country still to be drawn up for production and wealth.