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



Okato is seventeen miles southwest by coach from New Plymouth, and not far from the sea coast. It is in the Parihaka riding of the county of Taranaki, and forms part of the Cape survey district of the Taranaki land district. Okato is the centre of a dairy-farming district, and has a large dairy factory. The business of the post and telegraph office and telephone bureau is conducted at the local store. There is an accommodation house, three blacksmiths' shops, and a public school, and a hall in the settlement. Okato has also a lacal Lodge of Druids. Good shooting and fishing are obtainable in the neighbourhood, and the roads are fair for cycling. The English meaning of the Maori word Okato is said to be “sweeping of the waves,” and it is stated that the name was given to the place in consequence of a tidal wave page 209 reaching the foot of a neighbouring hill.

The Okato Post Office, Telegraph Office and Telephone Bureau, Okato. The business of these departments is conducted at the store of Mr. James Smith Fox, who is further referred to in another article.

The Okato Public School is conducted in a wooden building, which contains two class rooms, with accommodation for one hundred pupils. There are seventy names on the roll, and the headmaster, Mr. W. J. Boyce, is assisted by a mistress.

The Okato Parochial District Of The Anglican Church includes the country stretching from the Oakura stream in the north, to Okahu in the south. The principal church is situated at Okato, and is known as St. Paul's. It was erected in the year 1897, is well fitted up, and has accommodation for a congregation of 120 persons. There are about three acres of land, on which stands a vicarage containing seven rooms. At Tataraimaka, St. Peter's church has seats for eighty persons, and services are also held in various public halls throughout the district. The Rev. Frederick William Young, B.A., is vicar. He was born at Kaiapoi in 1865. After serving for a number of years as a teacher in Canterbury and Taranaki, Mr. Young graduated B.A. in 1897, took holy orders, and has been stationed at Okato since 1901.

St. Patrick's Church, Okato, occupies a very central position. A fine new building has recently been erected, and the old church (built in 1881), now does duty as a Sunday school. At the comfortable presbytery reside Father Cognet and his assistants, Fathers Soulas and Schaefer. The parish extends from Oakura river to the Oeo road, thus including the thriving township of Opunake, and the districts of Pihama and Te Kiri. Opunake has a fine church and presbytery, with a resident priest. There is also a handsome convent, belonging to the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, and the parish schools are attended by about sixty-four children. The parish numbers about 650 persons, and about 175 Catholic Maoris scattered along the coast are also regularly visited. On the 11th of October, 1903, a new church was opened at Pungarehu, and dedicated to St. Martin.

Interior of St. Patrick's Church.

Interior of St. Patrick's Church.

The Rev. Father Cognet, Priest in charge of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic church, Okato, was born at Lyons, France, and was educated at the College of Valbenoite. He joined the Society of Mary in the year 1880; for four years he was a member of the teaching staff of the Colleges of Tonlon and Montlucon; and in 1885 he was ordained to the priesthood at Lyons. Father Cognet then came to New Zealand, and spent about seven years at Jerusalem, on the Wanganui river. He was subsequently for a year at Otaki, and later was transferred to Paripaki, near Hastings, Hawke's Bay, for one year. Father Cognet then removed to New Plymouth, where for upwards of a year he assisted Father McKenna, and in May, 1896, was placed in charge of Okato.

The Rev. Father Cognet.

The Rev. Father Cognet.

Fox, James Smith, General Storekeeper, Okato. Agent for the South British Fire and Accident Insurance Company. Mr. Fox has two separate shops devoted to his business. In the principal shop, in which the business of the district post office is conducted, full stocks of groceries, ironmongery, boots and shoes, grain, manures, etc., are carried. There is also a bakery in connection with the establishment. The second shop is in charge of a manager, and contains drapery and clothing departments. Mr. Fox employs nine persons, and two delivery carts.

Mr. James Smith Fox was born in the year 1867, in Arbroath, Forfarshire, Scotland, where he was educated. He was subsequently employed by various retail firms, and was afterwards for several years a traveller for commercial houses. In 1891 he came to New Zealand, and was for two years in charge of the dairy factory on a farm, for the National Bank of New Zealand, at Tataraimaka. He was then employed by the Crown Dairy Company for four years, and in 1899 started in business as a storekeeper on his own account at Okato. Mr. Fox is chairman of the Cemetery Trust, and a member of the Okato hall and school committees. As a Freemason he is a member of Lodge Ikaroa, No. 115, New Zealand Consitution, page 210 and is treasurer of the local Lodge of Druids. Mr. Fox is married, and has four children. He is further referred to in connection with the post office at Okato.

Collis, photo.Mr. J. S. Fox.

Collis, photo.
Mr. J. S. Fox.