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

Birch Hill — (Run 66)

Birch Hill
(Run 66)

We were told as children that what we call birch trees are really beech trees, and the scientific people are still trying to bring this knowledge home to us, but I like the old name best, and still hear most people use it up country. This incorrect classification should be perpetuated by a number of well established local names. There are three Birch Hill Stations in the Island, a Birchgrove, two Birchwoods, two Birchdales, and a Birch Hollow.

This particular Birch Hill, sometimes spoken of as Birch Hill North to distinguish it from Birch Hill in the Mackenzie Country (the third Birch Hill is in Marlborough), lay on the foot-hills between the Tui Creek and the Garry, and was of seven thousand acres. It was first applied for by John Thomas Brown on 1st January, 1853, but apparently he sold it at once to Charles Obins Torlesse, as there is no record or tradition of Brown having stocked it. Torlesse was the first man to stock it and the station woolbrand is still C. O. T. In 1858 or 1859 Torlesse sold Birch Hill to Mannering and Cunningham, at the same time as Fernside, and, with Fernside and Snowdale, Birch Hill was taken over by George Hart in 1866. In 1874 Hart sold Birch Hill and Snowdale, with 40,000 sheep, to Captain W. N. Millton who had taken up the Okuku country early in the 'fifties, and wanted Birch Hill as a shearing place for it.

Before settling on shore, Millton had commanded the Zingaree, almost the earliest steamer to trade into Lyttelton. His first recorded arrival in New Zealand was in 1842 when he brought a shipload of cattle to Wellington from Australia, and in 1845 he was engaged in transporting troops from Tasmania and Norfolk Island to North Auckland for the Hone Heke page 66War. His first land venture was at Nelson where he bought what is now Anzac Park, but long known as Million's Acre.

The Birch Hill run was included in the Midland Railway area, and was made freehold in 1890. When Captain Million died in 1889 his stations were divided amongst his sons. The homestead part o£ Birch Hill belonged to Lieut-Colonel E. B. Millton, but part of Birch Hill was cut off for J. D. Millton and is now known as the Rakahuri Estate. Colonel Millton died in March, 1942, but the station is still worked by his executors. Birch Hill, besides being used as a stud sheep farm, still fulfills the purpose fills the purpose for which Captain Millton bought it— a shearing place for what is left of the Okuku country. Robert Lawrie was Million's first manager at Birch Hill, and afterwards a man named Gordon. Henry Elderton,* who is still flourishing and a mine of information on the runs in these parts, was Millton's first head shepherd. Reginald Foster and C. L. Wiggins were both cadets with Mannering and Cunningham at Birch Hill.