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The Early Canterbury Runs: Containing the First, Second and Third (new) Series

Hakatere — (Runs 181, 189, 256, 293, 350, 374, and 384)

(Runs 181, 189, 256, 293, 350, 374, and 384)

Hakatere took in the country between the Rangitata and the Ashburton, above Mt. Possession. At one time it went up the Rangitata as far as the Lawrence, and up to the head of the Ashburton.

Part of the country on the Rangitata side was first explored by Tripp and Acland in March, 1856, as I shall explain when I come to Stronechrubie, or Erewhon, as it is now called. The Ashburton side of Hakatere, and the Lake Heron country, was first explored by Thomas Henry Potts, F. G. P. Leach, and Henry Phillips, jun., in April, 1857. I have already given an account of Leach. Phillips was a son of Henry Phillips, of Rockwood.

Potts was born at Brandon, in Suffolk, in 1824, and page 294arrived in Lytlelton on April 24th, 1854. Before coming to New Zealand he had been a principal but sleeping partner in Brander and Potts, the London gunsmiths. He married a daughter of Henry Phillips, sen., of Rockwood, and bought an interest in his father-in-law's run, and lived for some time at Valehead, in the Hororata Valley, opposite the Rockwood homestead. He and Phillips ran their cattle independently. He was a born naturalist and observer, and besides Out in the Open left a very interesting diary, which I have been allowed to quote from. Unfortunately, only the part from April 6th, 1855, to March, 1858, and part of the year 1865, have survived, but what there is gives as graphic an account as I have seen of the life of the early settlers.

For example, a description of a nor'-wester, April 29th, 1855: 'A day not soon to be forgotten. Last night the wind increased with strong gusts, and towards midnight raged with a violence that was per-fectly astounding. Our roof soon felt the effects of the storm, the walls rocked, windows blown out, and we had to pass the whole night in barricading the doors, whilst the rain poured in torrents through the open roof, damaging most of our effects. At dawn we got ready for a start to Rockwood for shelter, as our own dilapidated cottage was untenable. Mr Phillips and Seal came as we were about to start, and we all re-turned with them. Great numbers of trees were up-rooted, our fences very much injured, some rails were blown from the posts to an almost incredible distance. The stable roof blown down, and much other damage we suffered from this terrible tempest. On our arrival at Rockwood, the ravages of the storm were most con-spicuous in the multitudes of fallen trees that were lying in heaps on every side.'

It took a week to make the house habitable. On May 8th: 'We all returned home again from Rockwood. The roof seems very strongly thatched, and the cottage altogether tolerably comfortable again.'

When Phillips decided to break up some land— (July page 29517th, 1855). 'To Rockwood to help plough. Tried two mares and a bullock, worked very badly.' Next day, 'To-day we used two bullocks and one mare, with much greater success than yesterday, although the team is in anything but good working order as yet.'

On October 15th he notes—'Saw …several quail, an unwonted sight now, and when we came they were quite common, but the great fires have probably diminished their numbers so rapidly.' However, he saw a covey of young ones on January 20th, 1856, and shot some on March 9th, 1858. On December 1st, 1856, he saw two rabbits.

By the beginning of 1857 Potts's cattle on Rockwood had increased to 250 head. He had already made several short expeditions up the Rakaia and to the back of Lake Coleridge to find a run to carry them. On April 6th, 1857, Potts and Henry Phillips, the younger, started on a longer expedition. On the 6th they went to Snowdon to pick up Leach. Next day, after calling at the Acheron Station, where Groome, the manager, lent them an extra tether rope and other gear, they followed the ridge between Lake Coleridge and the Rakaia until near sunset, when they came to the gully leading down to the present iron store. They came down to the riverbed and crossed the Wilberforce, and camped on an island in the shelter of some toe toe. They were disappointed to find no wild pigs, though there were plenty of tracks of them. They caught some young ducks, which they ate.

Next day they followed up the Rakaia till they came to the Lake Stream, then followed up the Lake Stream until they came to Lake Heron, and camped, I think, near the mouth of the Cameron, in the shelter of an Irishman. 'Harry went duck-shooting, Leach and T.H.P. cooking. Leach gave an alarm and T.H.P. ran to see what was the matter. The grass was on fire. We endeavoured to put it out, but in vain—the wind was too strong. We untied our horses, threw our swags on them, and ran into the riverbed, saving everything but a waistcoat. We camped in the riverbed but could get page 296no wood to spread our blankets with. The weather looked bad—very bad, but we were so pleased at finding this plain and a new route home by the Ashburton that we were happy enough.'

Next day they explored the country they had seen on their right. They saw 'two or three lakes, one we called Clear Water, as we named the large one we passed yesterday, Heron Lake, from seeing so many white herons gently sailing over its surface, or standing motionless on its stony beach.'

Leach and Potts decided to apply for twenty or thirty thousand acres each. Leach preferred the country about Lake Heron, and Potts preferred the country round Clear Water and that south of the Ashburton.

Next day they went down the Ashburton and camped under Mt. Somers, and from there, passing Brittan's (Buccleugh) station, the first house they had seen, made Blackford, where the Tom Halls entertained them hospitably; and next morning got home. 'Many were the enquiries as to what we had seen and where we came from, to which we gave as judicious answers as we could…. We got home quite pleased with our trip, having been the first who have discovered a route from the Rakaia to the Ashburton by the Westward Hills, and most likely the plain we found will be a valuable discovery for ourselves.'

Leach and Potts both went straight to Christchurch to apply for their runs. Leach applied in his own name and that of his partner Dudley, and paid a deposit. Potts refused to pay a deposit, and in order to prevent anyone jumping his claim, came straight home and mustered all the cattle he could and started off next morning with Harry Phillips to stock his run. They crossed the Rakaia and drove the cattle up the slip below the present Gorge bridge and on to the plains. 'We kept on driving until it was too dark to see Mt. Somers, and then we were guided by the stars. Camped on the northern stream of the Ashburton about 10 p.m. and turned into some high tutu.' (Diary, April 23rd, 1857.)

page 297

On the 24th Potts turned the cattle on to his new country and started straight home, leaving Harry Phillips in a tent to look after them. On the 28th a note came from Miles, Potts's agent, to say he had been just in time to secure the run, 'so I have taken and stocked the most westerly run yet discovered in about the shortest time on record.' The runs Potts secured at this time were Nos. 181 and 189. He took up runs 256, 293, and 350 at intervals during the next three years. Runs 374 (the Jumped-up Downs) and 384, which afterwards became part of Hakatere, were taken up in 1860 by Tripp and Acland and by J. H. Caton respectively.

For many years Potts worked Hakatere as a cattle station, and his original homestead was on the Potts River, where the Mt. Potts homestead is now. He did not live on the station himself, though he was an expert cattle man, and, I have been told, the only man in the Gorge who could use a twenty-foot stockwhip. Harry Phillips was his first manager, and then for many years in the 'sixties and early 'seventies Ferdinand George Cradock was manager. He was the son of a solicitor who did not practise much but spent his time enjoying life at Loughborough and hunting with the Quorn. The Druid mentions him in Silk and Scarlet as a wonderful old sportsman. F. G. Cradock was born at Stamford, Lincolnshire, in 1841. He came to New Zealand in 1860 and went straight to Hakatere as a cadet, and stayed on as manager until he married and bought a farm at Ellesmere where he died in 1893. He was a cousin of the Major Cradock who commanded the second New Zealand contingent in South Africa.

Potts lived for many years at Governor's Bay, where he had a beautiful property and a very fine orchard and garden. He left this and Hakatere about 1883, and afterwards lived in Christchurch, where he died in July, 1885.

About 1870 Hakatere was changed over from cattle to sheep, and about the same time the homestead was page 298moved from the Potts River to its present site on the Ashburton.

The New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Company took Hakatere over from Potts. His last manager, T. S. Johnstone, stayed on with the company for many years, and was eventually succeeded by William Lambie, his head shepherd. The company bought Mt. Possession from Miles and Co. about 1894, and the two stations were worked together by the company, and afterwards by F. J. Savill, until 1911, when the Hakatere leases ran out. The country was then divided into two and put up to ballot.

The Ashburton side of the country to which the homestead and freehold are attached has passed through several hands. F. L. Donkin held it for a time. It is now occupied by the Mt. Possession Run Company.

The Rangitata side of Hakatere, now known as the Mt. Potts Station, belonged to various members of T. S. Johnstone's family from 1911 until 1924, when C. C. Burdon bought it. Burdon sold it to the present owner, Bruce Hay, in 1939.