The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]
Peel Forest is the name of a prosperous pastoral district in the county of Geraldine. It is off the railway line, but is connected by coach with Rangitata, distant thirteen miles. The local post office has a telephone service, and there is postal communication with Tamaru, thirty-eight miles off, three times a week. There is a population of about 180 persons in the district, which, in respect to scenery, is one of the most beautiful in Canterbury. It is a favorite place for picnickers, and it is no uncommon thing for 300 people to be seen camping out there at Christmas and New Year. Mount Peel, towering up 5,633 feet above the little township nestling at its foot, and clothed with native bush, is in itself no mean attraction. Then there is the fine bracing air, which will in time make the district celebrated as a sanitarium. There are numerous fine waterfalls, one of which, the Lynn, is over eight feet in height, and the sight of which is well worth a scramble up its rugged romantic gorge. To the botanist the district is specially attractive in its variety, ranging from the strange Raoulia or “vegetable sheep,” (Celmisias), and other Alpines, through the resplendent ratas, manukas, and dracophylliums, or grass trees, festooned and carpeted with lycopodium, to the lower lands flora with its tree ferns, orchids, and other botanical treasures. At Mount Peel can still be found the maiden-hair, the rare and singular umbrella fern, and many unique forms of the native leafless brooms. A day's drive from Peel Forest, inland, takes one to that interesting district to the geologist, called Stew Point, which shows indications of being rich in minerals: further on still, are the rarely visited but magnificent Rangitata glaciers.
Barker, W. E., Fruitgrower, Waikonini Orchard, Peel Forest. Mr Barker is a son of the late Dr. Barker, who came out to the colony in the ship “Charlotte Jane,” and settled in Christchurch. He was born in Christchurch in 1858, and received the first part of his education at Christ's College, Christchurch, and finished at Jesus College, Cambridge. On returning to the colony in 1880 Mr. Barker bought his present property of 150 acres, and immediately began to prepare a portion of the land for fruit trees. The first 700 trees were planted in 1883, and 3300 in 1893. The trees were carefully selected and systematically planted in diagonal page 888 rows, 15 feet by 12 feet apart. The orchard covers an area of nine acres and is now in full bearing and free from blight. In 1901 two additional acres were planted with about 300 trees, chiefly Japanese plums, peaches and cherries, which have been espaliered and wired in to protect them from small birds. A large quantity of fruit is annually gathered and finds a market all over the South Island, but the chief portion is sold in Dunedin. Mr. Barker entered into his business with confidence and is a thoroughly successful fruitgrower. He grows a large quantity of red clover in the orchard, where bees find food in summer and sheep and pigs in the winter. Mr. Barker has built a two-storey dwellinghouse, which overlooks the Canterbury Plains, and has planted ornamental and forest trees extensively. He runs sheep and cattle on the balance of the property. Mr. Barker has served on the licensing bench and is chairman of the Mount Peel Floral and Horticultural Association which he instituted, and is also chairman of the local school committee. He was married, in 1880, to Gertrude Ellen Pritchett, daughter of Mr. Pritchett, architect, Darlington, England. Mr. Barker's first wife died in 1884, and he afterwards married Lucy Mary Pritchett, his deceased wife's sister, and has a family of five sons and six daughters.
Mount Peel. This station is the property of the Hon. J. B. A. Acland who is referred to at page 87 of this volume as an ex-member of the Legislative Council. The property consists of 5000 acres of freehold and about 100,000 acres of leasehold land, and carries 45,000 Merino and halfbred sheep. The improvements include a mansion house built in 1864, of bricks burnt on the place, and of stone from Mount Somers, and roofed with slates. There are fine gardens, lawns, and grounds, all laid out with great taste on a naturally beautiful site on the south bank of the Rangitata. The plantations of hard wood are among the most valuable in the colony.
Mr. O. Scott Thomson, who has been Manager of Mount Peel Station since 1894, was born at Papanui and educated at Christ's College. He served two years in a bank, but subsequently relinquished office work for station life. Mr. Thomson was at Hopefield for three years; he was appointed manager of “Glenwye” in 1886, and held the position till 1893. He was married, in 1898, to Miss Lucy Acland, fourth daughter of the Hon. J. B. A. Acland.
Mr. O. S. Thomson.
Thew, Robert, Sheepfarmer, Peel Forest. Mr. Thew was born at Lemington-on-Tyne, Northumberland, England, in 1841. His father was employed at Stephenson's Railway Works, but owing to ill-health, had to give up his occupation. He then engaged in farming two miles out of Newcastle. Mr. Thew was sent to a private school, but owing to the death of his father he went home when thirteen years of age to assist in working the farm, and was thus engaged until he reached the age of seventeen. He was then connected with shipping work for four years at North Shields. In 1861 Mr. Thew came to New Zealand by the “Matoaka,” and landed at Lyttelton. He then went to Timaru, where he stayed for one year on a cattle station. Subsequently Mr. Thew took up contracting, which he followed for sixteen years in the South Canterbury district, and then settled down at Peel Forest, where he still carries on his farm. He was elected a member of the Timaru Harbour Board in 1895. Mr. Thew has been a member of the Mount Peel Road Board for nineteen years, and has been chairman of the school committee several times. He was created a Justice of the Peace in 1897. Mr. Thew married Miss Harris, daughter of an old settler of Timaru, and has a family of five sons and two daughters.
Mr. R. Thew.