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Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.



As already indicated, the little settlement of Kaikoura, like those at Te Awaiti and Port page 383Underwood, grew out of the necessities of the whalers, but there is not in this case the same accurate information as to the precise date at which the first station was established. In all probability it was at least contemporaneous with the beginning of the industry at Cloudy Bay in 1840, while it is certain that in 1847 there were three stations there employing in the aggregate eighty men. These were conducted by Messrs. Ames, Fitzherbert, and Captain Robert Fyffe, of whom the latter appears to have been the most prominent, as he is credited with being the first white settler in the district, and possessing a schooner of his own, the "Fidelle," besides other property, he enjoyed the respect which wealth always commands. His station was situated on the point of the peninsula in the immediate vicinity of the present wharf, and judging from the evidence which came under the notice of subsequent settlers as late as 1858 his operations must have been conducted on rather an extensive scale. This Kaikoura pioneer unfortunately lost his life in 1854 when returning home from Wellington in the "Fidelle." She was caught in a severe gale of wind between Cape Campbell and the Clarence River, and the chance of getting off the lee shore being apparently hopeless, he successfully beached his little craft, but a heavy sea following closely in her wake struck page 384her with such violence that she turned over and Captain Fyffe and his man, the only persons on board, were drowned. He was succeeded in the charge of his whaling station by his nephew, Mr. George Fyffe, who is described as a man of most genial temperament, and hospitable disposition. His house was that now occupied by Mrs. J. Goodall, and it was while excavating for its foundations that he came upon a remarkably fine specimen of a moa's egg*, lying close beside a Maori's skull. Here Mr. Fyffe, with his manager, Mr. White, and his housekeepers Mr. and Mrs. McInnes, received and entertained the few strangers who, towards 1857, began to find their way into the Kaikoura district in search of pastoral country. Amongst the earliest of these were Mr. William McRae, who settled at Waipapa, and Mr. Joseph Ward, whose exploration of the inner Clarence in 1858 induced him to become one of its first European occupiers as the licensee of the Warden run. In close succession to him came the Keene Brothers, who stocked Swyncombe in the same year, and it was by them that the first silver grey rabbits were turned out. A pair

* This egg, which was the first found in New Zealand, was taken to England, and there purchased for one hundred guineas. Its dimensions are a little over nine inches in length and seven inches in breadth.

Mr. McRae died at Waipapa, and was buried in the garden at the station. His successor in the occupation of the run in 1868 was Mr. Walter Gibson, one of Kaikoura's best known and most public spirited pioneers. Mr. Gibson, was at various times the occupier of large areas of country, he represented the district in the Provincial Council, and subsequently was chairman of the County Council.

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Ven. Archdeacon Butt.

Ven. Archdeacon Butt.

John Gibson

John Gibson

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Old Presbyterian Church.First Church in the Waiau.

Old Presbyterian Church.
First Church in the Waiau.

First Wesleyan Church.Grove Road.

First Wesleyan Church.
Grove Road.

page 385of these innocent-looking creatures were presented to Captain Keene by a Mr. Harwood, and for a year or two the glossy pets were protected with the greatest care in the hope that they would one day provide good shooting for the proprietors. It is said that Captain Keene threatened with most rigorous penalties anyone who was guilty of poaching upon his cherished preserves, for rabbit pie was a dish which in those days was considered the exclusive right of the aristocracy. But bye-and-bye there came a time when rabbit pie was no longer a delicacy, but something nauseating to the nostrils of every landowner, for "bunny" soon increased beyond the capacity of the proprietors to shoot or even poison, until there was hardly a station in the province which was not so riddled with their burrows that their destruction was no longer a matter of sport, but a very serious business. The "silver grey" and all his near relations were branded as outlaws, with a price upon their heads, and so far from the killing of a rabbit being suggestive of poaching it became an offence against the law if every reasonable means was not taken to extirpate them from the face of the earth.

In November of 1859 Mr. William Smith, of Ludstone, arrived at Kaikoura, having journeyed over Mount Cookson and the Whale's Back. He was about to make an page 386examination of the Tytler run, a sub-lease of which had been offered to him by Mr. C. F. Watts, who held the country under license from the Nelson Government, but had not as yet stocked it. At that time Mr. Joseph Ward's shepherds were almost the only inhabitants of the Clarence Valley, and having received from Mr. George Fyffe an indication of their whereabouts, Mr. Smith set off with his "billy" and "bluey" to climb Mount Clear, which separated him from the promised land. On descending into the valley he was fortunate in finding Mr. Robert Palmer tending Mr. Ward's sheep near his little grass hut, situated on a spur of the Warden Hills, and as this lonely shepherd had been buried for many months amidst the solitude of the mountains, far, indeed, from the madding crowd, it is almost needless to say that he gave the prospecting pastoralist a hearty welcome. Together they went over the Tytler country to ascertain its carrying capacity, and found it well covered with native grasses; but they also saw by the compressed and flattened state of the vegetation that a great depth of snow must have lain upon the hills and valleys during the previous winter. This fact, together with the knowledge that the whole region for miles around was infested with wild dogs, and that no trees larger than the tumatukuru, or "wild Irishman" of the early page 387settlers were visible as far as the eye could reach, were considerations that weighed very seriously with Mr. Smith, and it was not until February, 1860, that he took possession of the country and 1500 sheep under a five years' lease from Mr. Watts. At the termination of this tenancy Mr. Smith took up the Cleverely run in the Amuri district, and in 1865 he acquired the freehold of the Ludstone farm. In 1859 his neighbours on the north bank of the Clarence River were the Williams Bros., who occupied what was known as Fell's run, which they had stocked simultaneously with Mr. Ward's advent to the Valley, and which was managed for them by Mr. Robert Wilkie. These pioneers, in common with all the early settlers, experienced the greatest difficulties in the matter of transport, for so far from the northern road being, as it is now, one of the finest coach drives in New Zealand, it was only a track, which the Maoris had made barely passable for horses. In one place they had to be forced through a long cave in a rock point, a task not easily effected if the traveller happened to be alone, for the roof of the cave was so low that it was necessary to take the saddles off tall horses, while at the middle of the passage the light from the other end came suddenly into view, causing the frightened animals to throw up their heads violently against the roof of the page 388cave, and then, half stunned, they would back out with a determination that nothing could arrest. In another place the horses had virtually to climb a ladder composed of two long saplings laid against the face of a smooth rock, with crossbars lashed on with supple-jacks, and fortunate was the steed that sustained no injury while performing this compulsory acrobatic feat, which might have done credit to the highly educated equines of the circus ring. Everything for the use of stations had to be packed in this way from the Wairau, and as there was practically no timber in the neighbourhood, the tumatukuru, which frequently grew to a height of ten feet, had to serve for fuel, fencing, and various other purposes, while the poles for roofing the "cob" houses were carried on the settlers' shoulders from every part of the hills and valleys where a stick could be found.

For the first six years in succession from 1859, the Tytler and Warden flocks were driven over the Seaward Kaikoura range to be shorn at the Kaikoura fishery, a charge of 1d per head being made by Mr. Fyffe for the limited accommodation provided. The place at this time bore the appearance of a veritable "bone yard," for everything was bone that the eye could see or the hand could touch. The shearing shed was built of whales' ribs placed in upright rows round the walls, with page 389a thatch of toe-toe, and the sheep yards were made of various shorter bones set in upright positions in the ground; it was positively difficult to get about, so thickly were the crown bones, fin blades and other remains of these leviathans of the deep scattered in the neighbourhood; even the seats in the cottages were sections of the whales' vertebra, so that sitting or standing the frequenters of the fishery were ever in the midst of a wilderness of bone. During shearing operations the sheep were kept on the Peninsula, which was then stocked with goats, and this arrangement was continued until 1865, when the proprietors of the Warden and Tytler runs built a shearing shed on the Reserve, where the flocks were subsequently shorn. From the first the wool was freighted to Wellington in small schooners, whose charges were often £1, and sometimes more, per bale. The first trader to engage in this lucrative business was the "Randolph," sailed by Captain Kempthorne, and Captain Davidson, who owned and commanded the "Ruby," made Kaikoura a regular port of call in 1859. Here he settled in 1867, and became a citizen who bore his share of public burdens, and who on his death in 1898 was sincerely mourned by all who knew him.

In 1861 Mr. Ward began the survey of the town and rural sections of the Kaikoura dis-page 390trict. To him is due the credit of excluding all this fine stretch of agricultural land from Mr. Fyffe's run, and so keeping it available for closer settlement, for when that gentleman was taking up his area of pastoral country from the Nelson Provincial Government, he wished to include what is now known as "the Swamp," but to this Mr. Ward strenuously and successfully objected, with the result that years after the nucleus of a prosperous settlement was established under the Superintendency of Mr. Carter. With the laying off of the township, the old Maori pah, which stood on the site of the present state school was, by arrangement, removed to its new position at Maungamanu. The leading chief at this time was a well known native named Kaikoura Wakatu, a man of immense stature, who was so far a believer in domestic comforts that he still maintained two wives as late as 1866. His relations with the settlers were always of the most friendly nature, and very general regret was felt, in 1869, when he met his death through falling from his horse while riding up a rocky steep at the Amuri Bluff.

Kaikoura soon began to pass through the usual evolutionary stages of a colonial town, and these evidences of progress were largely due to the fact that the first land sales in the riding were held by the Provincial Govern-page 391ment in February of 1864, giving an impetus to settlement in this outlying district, which has now become a centre of much comfort and happiness, amply verifying all Mr. Ward's predictions*.

* The local government of Kaikoura was originally under the Kaikoura Road Board, which met for the first time on December 1st, 1870, with the following gentlemen as its members:—William Smith (Chairman), C. R. Keene, A. W. Inglis, C. Evans, and C. Palmer. The County Council was made a governing body in 1876, and its first meeting was held on January 4th, 1877, when it was constituted as follows:—William Smith (Chairman), G. F. Bullen, A. W. Inglis, G. R. Keene, H. W. Parsons, F. Flint, and A. F. Teuney. The post office was opened on April 1st, 1867, by Mr. S. J. Macilister, and the first church was built in the township in 1868.