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Settler Kaponga 1881–1914 — A Frontier Fragment of the Western World

Appendix 2 — Population Estimates for the Kaponga District, 1886–1916

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Appendix 2
Population Estimates for the Kaponga District, 1886–1916

(Note that we have defined the Kaponga District as bounded by the farms along the Mangawhero Road to the west and the Palmer Road to the east, with northern and southern boundaries provided by Mt Egmont and the Te Roti—Opunake railway.)

Not until 1916 did the census assign the population to localities. In earlier census reports the only local figures are those for roads, broken down only by county boundaries. As most of our District's roads also ran far beyond its boundaries, these figures are of very limited use to us. The approach taken here is first to estimate the population at the time of the 23 March 1886 census by building up a person-by-person list of folk known to have settled there by that date; next to endeavour to deduce the population at the 1916 census by manipulating its ‘locality’ figures; and finally to suggest a means of arriving at some estimates between these two dates.

(1) Population in March 1886

By collating information from many sources it has been established that the following are likely to have been residing in the District at the 1886 census:

Bachelors on DP sections: Robert & William Coxhead; W. Dingle; E.J., W.A. & L.C. Ellerm; J. Kearin & brother; Stephen Kissick; John Mackie; G. Sullivan; William & Frederick Swadling; Thomas Tapp; G. Wilson. (Total 15)

Bachelors on cash-sale sections: H.W. Davy; Daniel Fitzgerald; Harry & George Parkes; George Roots; F.W. Wilkie; Thomas Frethey Jnr; John & Frederick Frethey. (Total 9)

Married couples and families on DP sections: Maurice & Julia Fitzgerald; James & Catherine Hayes & family (7); George Hanna McKenzie, wife, two sons & a daughter (5); Charles Tait, wife & six children. (8); William Ure, wife & two children (4). (Total 26)

Married couples and families on cash-sale sections: George & Amelia Barton & two children (4); John & Sarah Emma Melville & clan (10); Joel Prestidge, wife & four children (6); Robert & Elizabeth Smith & two children (4). (Total 24)

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Folk not connected with land purchases. Alfred Muir; Harry Robinson, wife & two children; Oliver L. Robinson, wife & three children. (Total 10)

From a fairly conservative use of a fairly wide-meshed net, this gives a total of 84 people. No bridge-building contracts were under way at the time, nor was it either grass seed harvest or bushfelling season, so there would have been few itinerant workers about. But there could have been some, either house building for settlers, or on small specialised contracts for the Road Board (such as putting in culverts—less specialised work would have been taken by local settlers). Allowing for a few such itinerants and for such possibilities as that we have missed one or two settlers, that some cash buyers may have made arrangements that put men on their land, and that some settlers may have had relatives with them of whom we have no knowledge, it is probably safe to raise our population figure to, say, 95.

(2) Population at census of 15 October 1916

Deducing our District's population involves some manipulating of the figures for outlying localities. Undoubtedly within our defined District are Kaponga town district, 397; Kaponga (vicinity), 304; and Rowan, 98. A family or two of Riverlea's 134 in the Eltham County will have been outside our District, to the west along Eltham Road so we will reduce the figure to 120. All Riverlea's 35 Waimate West folk will have been within the boundaries. Kapuni's figures show 49 in Eltham County and 399 in Waimate West. Many of these will have been on the lower sections of Mangawhero, Rowan and Palmer roads, and on Manaia Road between Kapuni and Kaponga, and so come within the District. (For these folk we treat Kapuni as an outlier of Kaponga, for those on or south of Skeet Road as an outlier of Manaia.) We will take one-third of these figures, i.e. 149, as belonging to Kaponga District. We have a similar situation with Mahoe (22 in Eltham County, 176 in Stratford County). We estimate that half of these would be folk on upper Palmer Road and on Opunake Road west of Mahoe, and so credit our District with 99. This gives a total of 1202.

(3) Filling in the years between 1886 and 1916

After exploring various possibilities, the one viable way of getting some population estimates for dates between 1886 and 1916 has proved to be extrapolating from polling booth returns at general elections. We will not go into all the intricacies involved in checking out this approach, but outline the method as applied to one example.

General Election of 10 December 1914

The returns for the relevant booths were: Kaponga, 330; Riverlea, 114; Rowan, 48; Mahoe, 89; Kapuni, 177. Taking one-third of the Kapuni figures and half of the Mahoe ones as belonging to our District, this gives us 595 page 355 votes. Votes in the Egmont electorate totalled 5618, which represented 47.94 per cent of its 1911 population of 11,718. Treating the Kaponga District as a true sample of the electorate, and for simplicity treating the two small Stratford electorate booths of Rowan and Mahoe as if they were in Egmont, we come up with a population figure of 1241 for our District. This is close enough to our 1202 figure for the 1916 census to suggest that this approach is a reasonable way of getting rough estimates of the population. Similarly, when the approach was applied to the general election of 26 September 1887 it gave a Kaponga District figure of 126. This seems very reasonable in relation to our March 1886 ‘round-up’ estimate of 95, when a further 18 months of immigration and natural growth is taken into account.

An examination of the available information from the various general elections shows that some cannot be used for this purpose. Thus at the election of 25 November 1902 the booth at little Riverlea took 231 votes whereas Kaponga's booth took only 80. Obviously there was some unusual activity at Riverlea that day, though there is nothing in the press to indicate what it was. However, it may well have drawn many voters there from outside our District, so this election must be discarded for our purposes. The information for the 7 December 1911 general election is vitiated by the fact that no records can be traced for the Mahoe and Rowan booths. However, suitable figures for the mid-1890s and 1900s are available so we can roughly track the population at 10-year intervals as follows:

1886 (March) 95
1896 (based on 4 Dec. gen. elect.) 647
1905 (based on 6 Dec. gen. elect.) 975
1916 (based on 15 Oct. census) 1277