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

The Others

page 156

The Others

It remains to give a brief roundup of some of the folk who have escaped the net of our main subheadings. We will take the ones we find by asking who made their livings by wayfaring over these years. Among them, but leaving few traces for the historian, will have been a motley collection of hawkers and tinkers. At his farewell on 23 September in discussing his failure to get a rewarding turnover, storekeeper Philip Cullen remarked:

The storekeepers were severely handicapped by travelling hawkers and canvassers going from door to door daily, picking up not only the trade but the ready cash, against which the storekeepers have not the slightest remedy at present.

That some of these itinerants camped by the roadside is evident from notes by the Star's (2/2/98) ‘Travelling Reporter’:

Two travelling pedlars camping on the road left a fire burning (though warned by a settler) with the result that the wind soon fanned it into a blaze … However, it was fortunately discovered, and with the aid of milk carts and cans of water the fire was extinguished.

At the other end of the social scale professional men such as Dr George Harrison of Eltham and Hawera dentist A.C. Atkinson were bowling along the roads to Kaponga by 1897. Harrison had a surgery there, which Atkinson also used each Friday for a time, but later moved to the chemist's premises.45 Also commuting along Eltham Road was J.W. Middleton (Lincoln's Inn, London), who from 1894 on advertised as ‘Barrister and Solicitor, Eltham and Kaponga’. Bushfellers, grass seed harvesters and farm labourers seeking work continued to move through the district, though in decreasing numbers as the dairy industry soaked up labour. Maintaining and improving the roads themselves were the roadmen, stonebreakers and road and bridge contractors—all in short supply once the good years came. And making their livings from their daily grinding over these roads were Kaponga's carriers and carters. Those listed by Wise's during the decade were G.B. Bradford, William Melville, Oliver Robinson and William Vincent. In April 1894 James Hawke bought out Oliver Robinson's ‘turn-out’ and began running a regular express service between Eltham station and Kaponga. By the following month he was calling his vehicle a coach and running the service four days a week, delivering the Star on his way. Passing through Kaponga along Eltham Road there were also the drivers of an increasing schedule of coach services running further to the west. By 1897 there was a daily Eltham-Kaponga-Awatuna coach. In May 1899 this service began to run right through to Opunake.46