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Tales of Banks Peninsula

No. 6.—Duvauchelle's Bay South

page 293

No. 6.—Duvauchelle's Bay South.

Duvauchelle's Bay is not single like the others, but contains two distinct valleys, each having its own watershed, and seperated by a distinct ridge. In this article we propose to treat of that portion nearest Robinson's Bay, all of which (with the exception of a few sections) is known as Piper's Valley Settlement. The name was derived from two brothers who held a couple of sections under the Nanto Bordelaise Company. They never lived in the Bay, and yet it still bears their name. It was never a French settlement at all, and the first that is known of it is that Rauparaha had a big cannibal feast just where the old tramway crossed the main road. When forming the tramway, Messrs. Piper and Hodgson disinterred many old bones and other relics of those terrible festivities. Messrs Narbey, Jandroit, and others were living in the valley later on, sawing timber The first section disposed of by the Canterbury Association was one of 200 acres, which they gave on their collapse to Lord Lyttelton, Lord Cavendish, and Lord Charles Simeon in part payment of money advanced to the Association. Those 200 acres were first held on a nominal lease from Mr Harman, agent for the nobleman in question, by Mr William Augustus Gordon, brother of the great "Chinese Gordon," whose death at Khartoum startled the civilised world. He resided in the Bay many years, working some time for Mr Piper. He eventually went to Invercargill, where he died. The first land bought under the Canterbury Provincial Land Laws was bought by Messrs Cooper, Hodgson, and Wilson It was purchased in 1857, and consisted of fifty acres. They were sawing there for some eighteen months, and then Mr Harry Pipr made his first purchase in the Bay—a thirty acre section where his house now stands. The history of the Bay, as all the Peninsula men know, is intimately connected with the gentleman we have mentioned. He had arrived in Canterbury in July, 1852, having come cut in the "Old Samarang" with Sir John Hall, Mr A. C. Knight, Mr Wright (chief postmaster at Lyttelton some page 294twenty years ago), Mr Brown (a brewer, of Christchurch) and many other settlers. Mr. Piper came down to the Peninsula in November of that year to Mr. T. S. Duncan, the late Crown Solicitor, who was then cockatooing in Decanter Bay. The following year (1853) he went to Mr. John Hay, in Pigeon Bay, and stayed till that gentleman left for Home, at the end of that year. All the Pavitts family were sawing in Pigeon Bay at that time There were seven of them, three pairs sawing and one man cooking. There was a great flood that autumn, and boats could float where the present road now runs. In those days Mr. E. Hay had pigs by the hundreds, which were known by their tails being cut. They were fetched down to feed by blowing a cow horn. Wild pigs were, of course, distinguished by their long appendages. They were very plentiful, and used to come and feed with the tame ones and strange to say the pig dogs (a breed known as McIntosh's, half bull and halt kangarooj, when let loose, never touched a short tailed pig, but always went straight for the wild ones. One day Captain Thomas, of the Red Rover, and old "Skippy" (a whaler) saw a big wild boar running from the dogs up the road, and valiantly tried to Stop him, but he quickly threw both over on their backs, strange to say without inflicting the slightest scratch. The pig was killed by Mr. Tom White ten minutes after. To show how bad these wild pigs were Mr. Turner was stuck up for a long time on the fence at Hay's corner by a big boar, and a man named Joe Scott, coming round from Sinclair's to Hay's, was stuck up on top of an old saw pit for several hours.

After leaving Hay's, Mr. Piper went sawing with Mr Hillier in Pigeon Bay, and after that went boating with old "Skippy," and afterwards sawed with Mr Turner in Pigeon Bay. Mr. James Pawson. of Little Akaloa, came over from Robinson's Bay to flitch for the Pavitts at the sawmill, and Mr. Piper went mates with him, and then went to Henderson's, at the Commercial Hotel, Akaroa (which was on the site now occupied by Messrs T. E. Taylor & Co.'s grocery establish-page 295ment), where an immense business was then doing. Le Bon's was the next place visited, where he joined Messrs Cuddon and Wilson in a small sawmill, the first erected there, but previously worked by the Cuffs. He afterwards sawed for some months with Eugene, the Frenchman, in Radcliffe's Gully, German Bay. Mr. Piper afterwards sawed in Pawson's Valley, In 1859, while residing in this place, Mr. Piper was induced by Messrs Hodgson Cooper ilson and Henderson to join them in erecting a sawmill in Duvauchelle, near his thirty acre section. At first the speculation was a total failure, owing in a great measure to defective engineering. Mr. Henderson then failed, and his fifth was sold to the other four proprietors, to whom the late Robert Heaton Rhodes proved on that occasion a good friend. The first two cargoes of timber were lost, owing to demurrage charges caused by Mr. Henderson's failure. Some three years after that, Messrs Piper and Hodgson bought out Messrs Cooper and Wilson, and became sole proprietors. From this time the mill pro gressed favourably, and in a few years was improved and altered, the firm going to the expense of over a thousand pounds The partners had sown down the logging roads and where the fire had run through the tops with English grass, and the first cocksfoot Mr. Piper bought was from Mr. George Armstrong, who had purchased it in Wellington, and let a bag go as a favour at a shilling a pound (alas, there is no such price nowadays!) It flourished exceedingly, and Mr. Piper sold many tons afterwards at 6d to 6 ½d per lb. Indeed Messrs Hodgson and Piper, and the Messrs Hay were the principal producers of cocksfoot in the days of its introduction. In 1874 Mr Piper bought Mr. Hodgson out, but kept the mill running for about six years after. Altogether some 20,000,000 feet of timber were sawn out of the valley, nine tenths of the timber being totara, and grand totara at that Mr. Piper purchased the rest of the valley after Mr. Hodgson left, and has since remained sole proprietor, but about twenty-two years ago let the property to his sons, Messrs Harry and James Piper, Mr. Piper married in June, 1859, his wife page 296coming out with Mr. John Hay in the old Caroline Agnes. Mr. Piper was one of the old Peninsula boat's crew who held an unbeaten record for seven years against all comers both in Akaroa and Lyttelton. There were three Pawsons and W. Cormick in the Lyttelton crew besides Mr. Piper, and one of the McIntoshes pulled in Akaroa. Mr. John Barwick, the well known and esteemed Clerk of the Akaroa and Wainui Road Board, was another resident in this part of Duvauchelle, beside Messrs. Piper. He lived upon one of the original Duvauchelle sections, of which he had been occupier for many years. Mr. Libeau's pretty home is in the corner of the Bay. When the mill was in full is swing, forty men were always employed. Clearing was very expensive in these days, the first lot of 70 acres being let to some Maoris at £4 an acre, and a bag of sugar and a pound of tobacco for every ten acres. Mr. Piper was associated with the local government bodies since their start. He helped before the Road Boards were established, and has served well and faithfully both in them and the County Council, holding the position of Chairman in both bodies.

The Duvauchelle of to day is a very different place from that of the old times, when the sawmill was first estab lished. Where the mighty totaras once proved a home for thousands of native birds, good succulent grasses nourish stock which brings wealth to their proprietors and revenue to the Colonial Government. Many regret the passing away of the old order of things, and sentimentalise over the loss of those timbered solitudes where supplejacks were thick and the wild pig luxuriated; but we cannot help fancying that to the thinking person the present landscape is far more gratifying. True gloomy Rembrandt like shadows have disappeared, and the tui no longer plumes his jewelled wings on the summit of some forest monarch; but in the stead of the past beauties are smiling slopas of grass, which carry in thousands those gentle friends of man, whose feet are truly said to make golden the soil over which they pass. It must not for a moment be thought that the settlers in Duvauchelle have had no idea of preserving the original loveliness of the valley. A large patch page 297 of bush has been saved near the Summit, and endeavours have been made to encourage all vegetation sheltering the water courses with most satisfactory results. The konini, the tutu, the ribbon wood, and dozens of other aboriginals spread a grateful shade over the waters, and lessen evaporation, while giving intense satisfaction to the artistic taste. Nor is this all, for on all sides rise plantations of trees from other countries. Of these the blue gums have best repaid their growers. In one place on the flat they reach an altitude of at least a hundred feet, rising side by side straight and graceful. The pinus insignis has also done well, and the macrocarpa fairly, but the larch does not seem to thrive with that luxuriance which might have been expected from the soil that contains the remains of so many thousands of its' giant predecessors. The creek is all protected by willows on the bank, and many other forest trees, including oak, silver poplar, sycamores, and Scotch pines. There is a nice garden and orchard, and a tennis court, which we think will fairly challenge comparison with any on the Peninsula. In the future the Bay will be far lovelier than it is now: the old stumps will gradually disappear, and the many old buildings connected with the mill be destroyed, and covered with the sheltering grass whose silent march conquers so many scars on the bosom of old mother earth, Smooth and smiling with a peaceful English look will be the Duvauchelle of our grandchildren. But to those of the present generation, by whom the wilderness was reclaimed, these very stumps have all an interest, "From this tree," your guide will say, "came all the fluming for the mill; from that we cut 2100 feet of 8 by 1 boards from a single length." To them each old stump is a reminiscence of a victory of industry, a symbol of honest profit for hard toil, a part of the old Peninsula life which has, with its many toils and troubles and pleasures, passed away for ever amongst the things that were. This is a valley which formerly supported a few hundred pigeons and a score or two of wild pigs, most of which were unfit for human consumption unless under very trying circumstances.

page 298

The great floods of 1886 did much damage in Duvauchelle, A tremendous slip from the Okain's road covered the rich alluvial flat with clay, and the creek brought down boulders and rubbish till the woolshed was threatened, fences covered to the top rail, and much good pasture ruined for the time. Many of the young gum trees died from the lower portion of their trunks being covered, and it was many years before traces of the disastrous event were obliterated.