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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]



Opunake is forty-eight miles from New Plymouth and twenty-eight miles west of Hawera, and in a south-westerly direction from Mount Egmont. It has daily communication, by means of mail and passenger coaches, with New Plymouth, Hawera and Eltham. The local post office has all the usual branches, including the agency of the Government Life Insurance Office. Opunake has also its library and reading room, a volunteer fire brigade, a brass band, a harmonic society, a Caledonian Society, and racing and bowling clubs, a public hall, two hotels, and a number of places of business; a branch of the Bank of New Zealand, a biweekly newspaper, a public school, and a Roman Catholic convent school, a police station and a courthouse; and resident clergymen of the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Roman Catholic bodies have their headquarters in the settlement. A railway to connect with the main trunk line at El-tham is now (1906) in contemplation, and local settlers look forward with eagerness to its construction.
The Jetty, Opunkae.

The Jetty, Opunkae.

page 202 The Opunake Wharf Company, Limited, owns a jetty, and small steamers trade to the port. Masonic Lodges meet at Opunake and Rahotu, and there is a Lodge of Oddfellows and a Court of Foresters. The surrounding, country was at one time covered with bush, which has been cleared off, and the land is almost entirely devoted to dairying purposes; and there are several factories and creameries within a short distance of the township, the affairs of which are managed by a Town Board. Opunake is the county town of the county of Egmont, and the County Council meets in the Town Board office. There is a public domain connected with the township, which is in the Opunake survey district of the Taranaki land district, and forms part of the Waimate riding of the county of Hawera.
Furkert, photo.Opunake Beach.

Furkert, photo.
Opunake Beach.

The Opunake Town Board was constituted in the year 1882. Members for 1906: Messrs W. C. Dudley (chairman), J. C. Read, E. O'Mearu, J. Stewart, and C. A. Trotter. Mr. A. O'Brien is clerk. The district under jurisdiction is about one mile square. The total value of all property is £73,245, but rates are levied only on £63,201. The town district rate is ¾d in the pound, and a county rate of the same amount is also levied on the town property. Meetings of the Board are held in the Town Hall, which, although Government property, is maintained out of the rates. A local domain, twenty-five acres in extent, on which has been built a handsome grandstand, is administered by the Domain Board, the members of which are the Town Board commissioners.

Mr. George William Rogers, formerly chairman of the Opunake Town Board, was a member of that body for over ten years, and chairman for seven years. He was born in the year 1862, in Canterbury, where he was educated, and brought up to commercial life. In 1882 he removed to the North Island, and shortly afterwards established himself at Opunake. In all public matters he has always exerted himself to promote the welfare of the district. He was honorary secretary to the Opunake Racing Club for thirteen years, chairman of the school committee, and a prominent director of the Opunake Wharf Company. Mr. Rogers was mainly instrumental in obtaining a grant from the Town Board for the Wharf Company, to make a road to the jetty.

The County Of Egmont was constituted under the Egmont County Act and the Egmont County District Adjustment Act of 1902. It has an area of 254 square miles, with Opunake as the county town. The county is divided into three ridings; namely, Rahotu, with a valuation of £616,087; Oeo, £272,069; and Opunake, £73,245. Meetings of the Council are held at the offices of the county clerk, and the supervision and employment of labour is carried out by three foremen. Members of the Council for 1906: Messrs M. Fleming (chairman), J. Burgess, E. Maxwell, M. J. Brennan, and R. Warner (Rahotu riding); S. Campbell, A. B. Coffin, and J. Conaglen (Oeo, riding); and W. C. Dudley (Opunake riding). Mr. G. W. Rogers is clerk.

Mr. Michael Fleming, Chairman of the Egmont County Council, and one of the members for Rahotu riding, was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, in the year 1854. He was educated at the Galbally National School, and was brought up on his father's farm. In 1874 he came to New Zealand, and landed in Nelson, and was then for three years on the West Coast diggings, principally on the Buller river. Mr. Fleming then went to Canterbury, where he remained for eighteen months, and afterwards removed to Hawke's Bay, where he remained for two years. In 1881, at the time of the Te Whiti troubles, he acquired part of his present farm, and the first fencing he put up was pulled down by the Maoris. Mr. Fleming has been a member of the Egmont County Council since its institution, and was appointed chairman in the year 1904. For over twelve years he was a member of the Parihaka Road Board, and for eight years its chairman. He has also been chairman of the Cape Egmont Dairy Company since its inception in 1896, is chairman of the local school committee, and of the Domain Board, and a trustee of the Public Hall. In 1884 Mr. Fleming married the second daughter of the late Mr. John Kavanagh, of Okato, and has ten children. He is further referred to as a farmer.

Collis, photo.Mr. M. Fleming.

Collis, photo.
Mr. M. Fleming.

Mr. James Burgess, one of the members of the Egmont County Council for Rahotu riding, was born in the year 1847 in Herefordshire, England, and was brought up to farming. After some years spent in farming on his own account he came to New Zealand in 1881, and took up his present farm, Mr. Burgess has been a member of the Egmont County Council since the formation of the county, and, is chairman of the Warea Co-operative Dairy Company, Limited, and of the Cape Egmont Horticultural Society. For some years he was a member of the Parihaka Road Board, and is the Egmont County Council's first representative of the New Plymouth Charitable Aid Board. Mr. Burgess is provincial delegate and secretary of the Warea branch of the Farmers' Union, of which he was formerly president, and is a director of the Egmont Box Company, Limited, and president of the Warea Literary Institute. Mr. Burgess is further referred to as a farmer.

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Mr. Ebenezer Maxwell, one of the members of the Rahotu riding in the Egmont County Council, was born in Kilmore, Victoria, Australia, in the year 1862, and is a son of the late Rev. Andrew Maxwell, and a nephew of the late Mr. Justice Johnston. He came to New Zealand in 1866, and was educated at the Crofton Grammar School, Wellington. Subsequently, he was for three years in the employment of a life insurance company, and later on entered the law office of a relative. He joined the Armed Constabulary at the time of the Parihaka disturbance (1881), remained in the force for seven years, and was engaged in clerical work in the district office at Opunake, and in the Defence Department, Wellington, for most of the time. After resigning from the force he started sheepfarming near Opunake. His first farm, which he sold three years ago, consisted of 440 acres. His present holding is named Marumarunui, after an old Maori fort of refuge on Mount Egmont, visible from the homestead. Mr. Maxwell takes a keen interest in public matters, and is connected with many local bodies and institutions. Since the formation of the county he has been a member of the Egmont County Council, and he was for years a member of the Parihaka Road Board, part of the time as chairman. He is a member of the New Plymouth Harbour Board, to which he was elected in 1894, and of which he was chairman for seven years. Mr. Maxwell has been a director of the Opunake Wharf Company, Limited, since its inception. He is Major of No. 1 Batalion, Wellington Mounted Rifles. He is also vice-president and a member of the executive of the Farmers' Union in the Taranaki Provincial District, and is a director of the Taranaki Farmers' Mutual Insurance Association. Mr. Maxwell takes a great interest in tree culture and in botany, and at the Melbourne Exhibition he gained first award for a collection of New Zealand ferns. He is married, and has two sons and one daughter.

Collis, photo.Mr. E. Maxwell.

Collis, photo.
Mr. E. Maxwell.

Mr. Samuel Campbell was elected a member of the Egmont County Council for the Oeo riding in the year 1905. He was born in County Derry, Ireland, in 1861, and learned farming on his father's farm. In 1882 he came to New Zealand, and settled in the Taranaki district. After some time spent in general and farm work he took up a portion of his present holding, which he has added to from time to time. Mr. Campbell has been a director of the Pihama Dairy Company since its inception; has been a member of the school committee, and is a trustee of the Hall Committee, the Recreation Grounds Committee, and a member of the Oeo Bowling Club. He is married, and has ten children, and is further referred to as a farmer.

Mr. James Conaglen was elected a member of the Egmont County Council for the Oeo riding in the year 1905. He was born in 1856, in County Donegal, Ireland, where he was educated, and learned farming on his father's property. In 1876 Mr. Conaglen came to New Zealand, and landed in Auckland, where he worked for about four years on the kauri fields. He then went to Wanganui, where he was engaged in bush work for several years. In 1883 he removed to Pihama, and took up part of his present holding, in conjunction with his brother and another, whose interests he subsequently acquired. Mr. Conaglen has two farms, separated by the Skeet road. The homestead “Wanvoe” consists of 113 acres, the other farm, “Glencoe,” contains 298 acres. Mr. Conaglen has been a member of the Waimate Road Board; is chairman of the Pihama school committee and of the Hall Committee: is a member of the Oeo Bowling Club; and has been a director of the Pihama Dairy Company since its inception in 1897. Mr. Conaglen is married, and has six children. He is further referred to as a farmer.

Mr. Robert Warner was elected a member of the Egmont County Council for Rahotu riding in the year 1905. He was born in Nelson in 1847, and is a son of one of the early pioneers, who landed in Nelson in 1842, and was one of the few who escaped the Wairau massacre. Mr. Warner was educated in Nelson, and brought up on his father's farm. He was subsequently for many years sheepfarming in the Wanganui district and managing farms, and was then for three years in the Midhurst district, before removing to Opunake in 1889. Mr. Warner's farm consists of 320 acres of good grazing land, on which he conducts dairy farming. For some years Mr. Warner was a member of the Eltham page 204 road school committee; and was for seven consecutive years Chief Ranger in the Ancient Order of Foresters; was a circuit steward for some years in the Wesleyan church; and was choir leader of his local church in the Wanganui district. He is married, and has seven sons and two daughters.

Mr. John Wagstaff Brame, formerly in charge of the Opunake Post Office, is a native of Birmingham, England, and came to New Zealand with his parents when a boy in 1865. He is a son of Mr. John Brame, well known in Auckland as a journalist, and a nephew of Mr. William Brame, one of the Albertland pioneers. After being educated in Auckland at private schools, he entered the service of the Telegraph Department in 1872, as messenger in the Coromandel office, and was appointed to a cadetship in 1878. Since then he has been stationed at various offices. Mr. Brame takes much interest in musical matters. He is also an enthusiastic student of New Zealand ferns, and has one of the best collections in the colony. After leaving Opunake Mr. Brame was for some time at Kumara, whence he was transferred to Balclutha.

The Opunake Police Station adjoins the Courthouse, and consists of a constable's residence of six rooms, a lock-up of two cells, and stables. Mr. Thomas Hickman, constable-in-charge at Opunake, also acts as Clerk of the Court. He entered the Armed Constabulary in the year 1868, and on one occasion his duties compelled him to arrest the Maori prophet, Te Whiti, at Parihaka.

Feaver, photo.Police Station, Courthouse, and Post Office.

Feaver, photo.
Police Station, Courthouse, and Post Office.

The Opunake Public School is conducted in a substantial wooden building, containing two class rooms. The school grounds are of considerable extent, and there is a teacher's residence of three rooms. There are 105 names on the roll, and the average attendance is ninety. The headmaster is assisted by a mistress. Mr. Alfred Gray, who has been headmaster of the Opunake public school since September, 1905, was born at Waikouaiti, in the year 1875. He served as a pupil teacher in Rangiora, and was for some years assistant at the Central School at New Plymouth, before his appointment to Opunake.

Mr. George Charles Heenan, formerly Headmaster of the Opunake School, is a native of Westmeath, Ireland, and was educated at Cheltenham College and King's College, London. He came to New Zealand in 1880, and has since then been engaged in teaching in various public schools. As a cricketer he has distinguished himself; he takes a great interest in athletics generally, and was a member of the Phoenix Cricket Club in Wellington, and an active member of various football clubs. The portrait reproduced with this article represents Mr. Heenan as First Lieutenant of the Wellington Guards, of which he was a member for many years.

The Opunake Times was established in the year 1894 by Mr. M. J. Brennan, who shortly afterwards took into partnership Mr. G. P. Armstrong, who took over the paper in 1905. It is a bi-weekly paper, double news in size, with twenty-eight columns, and a four-page supplement issued with each number, and has a circulation throughout the county of Egmont. The offices, plant, and jobbing plant are situated in Brennan's buildings. The editor has three assistants.

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Mr. George Philip Armstrong, Editor and Proprietor of the Opunake Times, was born in Greytown, New Zealand, in the year 1870. He was brought up as a printer, and worked successively on the Wairarapa Standard and the Wairarapa Observer. For some time subesquently he gained experience on papers in the Wellington, Hawke's Bay, and Auckland districts, before entering into partnership with Mr. Brennan in the year 1895. Mr. Armstrong takes an active interest in the various clubs and societies of Opunake.

The Opunake Courthouse is a handsome wooden building, with rooms for the magistrate, clerk, and witnesses. Monthly sittings are held by the Stipendiary Magistrate; and by the local Justices of the Peace, when necessary.

McDavitt, John, Solicitor, Opunake. Offices, Main Street, Opunake. Mr. McDavitt was born in Bendigo, Australia, in the year 1858, and came to New Zealand at an early age. He was educated in a private school at Greymouth, and afterwards entered the office of Mr. A. R. Guinness, now (1906) Speaker of the House of Representatives. Later, he returned to Australia, but some years after came back to New Zealand, and entered the office of Mr. W. H. Jones, a solicitor, of Greymouth. In 1888 he was admitted a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, and in 1891 began practice in Greymouth. Eighteen months later he removed to Reefton, where he remained for two years. Mr. McDavitt then went to Stratford, where he practised for three years, and thence he went to Waihi. In the year 1897 he settled in Opunake. Mr. McDavitt is solicitor for the Opunake Town Board, and the Oaonui, Pihama, and Opunake Dairy Companies, and is conductor of the Opunake Harmonic Society and Brass Band; is connected with the choir of the Roman Catholic church, a steward of the Opunake Racing Club, and on the committee of the Caledonian Society.

Clarke, Andrew, Tailor and Habitmaker, Main Street, Opunake. Mr. Clarke was born in the year 1868, in Auckland, where he was educated, and at thirteen years of age was apprenticed to the tailoring trade. He subsequently worked as a journeyman in various parts of Auckland, and was for a short time in business on his own account in conjunction with a partner. About 1891 he removed to the Taranaki district, and in 1894 went to Opunake, to manage a business which he shortly after acquired. For about eight years Mr. Clarke has been secretary and delegate of the Opunake Football Club, is a member of the management committee of the Taranaki Rugby Union, the Opunake Racing Club, the Caledonian Society, and the Coursing Club, and secretary of the Des Forges Challenge Cup Union. While in Auckland he was a member of the Amateur Athletic Society, and competed with some success in pedestrian events. Mr. Clarke is married, and has two children.

Newman Brothers (Henry James Newman), General Storekeepers and Provision Merchants, Opunake. Agents for the Northern Fire Insurance Company, Straits Fire and Marine Company, Booth and McDonald's Farm Implements, Reid and Gray's Drags and Agricultural Implements, McDougall's Celebrated Sheep Dip, Yates' weeds, and the Aorere S.S. Company. The business of this firm was established in the year 1880, by the proprietor, in conjunction with his brother, the late Mr. J. H. Newman, and has made wonderful progress, considering the firm's misfortunes. Messrs Newman Brothers were twice burnt out, and then occurred the death of one of the partners. Since then Mr. H. J. Newman has carried on the business alone, and has replaced the burnt-down building with a handsome store, which is thoroughly stocked with all the goods necessary for a first class business.

Mr. H. J. Newman is a son of the late Mr. J. L. Newman, a well-known colonist, and was born in Nelson. The family afterwards removed to New Plymouth, where Mr. Newman was educated. He subsequently entered the office of the Union Steam Ship Company, and remained there until he decided to establish his present business. Mr. Newman takes a great interest in local matters, and warmly supports whatever promises to aid the progress of Opunake. He is a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters, and has held office as treasurer of the local court for many years.

Prosser Brothers (Claude Thomas Prosser and Rowley Tidd Prosser), Watchmakers and Jewellers, Main Street, Opunake. Messrs Prosser Brothers import largely, and undertake repairing of all kinds. They are owners of considerable property in Opunake.

Mr. Claude Thomas Prosser, the Senior Partner and Manager of the firm of Prosser Brothers, was born in Wellington, in the year 1880. He was brought up as a watchmaker and jeweller in Opunake under Mr. C. Rowlands, and has worked at the trade since 1898. In 1903 he took over the business in conjunction with his brother. Mr. Prosser is a member of the Opunake Mounted Rifles, and of the Opunake Coursing Club.

Mr. Rowley Tidd Prosser, Junior Partner in the firm of Prosser Brothers, was born in the year 1881. in Opunake, where he was educated. He subsequently took up farming, and holds a dairy farm of 230 acres in the Opunake district.

Mr. Samuel Prosser, who was an early settler of Opunake, was born in the year 1844, in London, England, where he was educated. He went to Australia in 1802, and in 1864 came to
The Late Mr. S. Prosser.

The Late Mr. S. Prosser.

page 206 New Zealand. Mr. Prosser went to the Wakamarina diggings in company with two brothers, and was very successful. The brothers subsequently went to Wellington, and established a large livery and bait stables. Carriages from these stables were used by the Duke of Edinburgh and suite on the occasion of their visit, and Mr. Samuel Prosser several times drove the royal party. For some time afterwards Mr. Prosser kept the old Crown and Anchor Hotel, and, later, was coach driving on the Hutt and Porirua lines. A coach built to his order in the year 1880 was so large and so noted that it was named Big Ben, and, after having various owners for twenty-six years, it was broken up at Taihape in 1906. It was an interesting sight to see Mr. Prosser, with Big Ben and six spanking greys, going down the Ngahuranga line, or from Wellington to the Hutt races. Mr. Prosser was for some time proprietor of the Victoria Hotel. In 1882 he went to Opunake and opened the Empire Hotel, a very large building. It was destroyed by fire in the year 1885, and Mr. Prosser then took over the Club Hotel, He subsequently sold out and returned to Wellington, but soon went back to Opunake, where he bought land. He sold out his farm in 1889, and opened the building now (1906) known as the Opunake Hotel, in which he remained some time; but retired two years before his death, in 1895. Mr. Prosser was a public spirited man, and was a warm supporter of every movement having for its object the improvement of the town and district. He was for some time a member of the Town Board. He died at the age of fifty-two leaving a widow and five sons and six daughters.