The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
Meanee is situated on the Tutaekuri river, one and a half miles from the coast, and five miles from Napier, with which it is connected by coach. The township has a post office, one hotel, public and private schools, a Roman Catholic Church, and a dairy factory Meanee is the head-quarters of the Roman Catholic Mission and Seminary, in the grounds of which vine culture and wine making are carried on. The surrounding districts are very rich in grazing lands, and at one time were subject to occasional floods, but large sums of money have been spent in raising the banks of the river, and now, this danger has been reduced to a minimum. There is splendid artesian water in the district that will rise to thirty feet above the surface of the ground in pipes, good cycling roads, and the drive from Napier is a very enjoyable one. Dairy farming, market gardening, and fruit growing are the chief industries.
The Meanee Public School is a large wooden building, divided into two class rooms. The annual examination, which is held in August, has always been most satisfactory in its results, and several of the scholars have taken advantage of secondary education by passing standard VI. before reaching a certain age, which has entitled them to two years' free schooling at the Napier High School. There are sixty-eight scholars on the roll, with an average attendance of fifty-six. Mr. Edward Bissell, junior, is head-master, and is assisted by Miss Agnes Christy.
Mr. Edward Bissell, junior, was born at Pokowhai, Clive, in the year 1875, and received his education and studied as a pupil teacher in his native town. Subsequently he acted as relieving teacher under the Hawke's Bay Education Board, studied at the Training School in Napier, and was later appointed head-master at Puketitiri, where he remained for thirteen months. Mr. Bissell, who holds a D2 certificate, entered upon his present duties in 1902. In athletics he has taken a prominent part; he was captain of the Hawke's Bay representative football team for five seasons, and played at different times for the Clive, Ahuriri, and Suburbs football clubs. He is a member of the Scinde Cricket Club, coach of the Huia Hockey Team (Meanee), a member of the Greenmeadows Bowling Club, and was a member of the Napier Guards. He is a member of the Court Redcliffe Lodge of Foresters, Taradale. Mr. Bissell married a daughter of the late Mr. R. M. Nicoll, of Meanee, in 1902.
Meanee Mission and Seminary . The Roman Catholic Mission at Meanee was founded in the year 1858, by the Very Rev. Father Regnier, S.M. Eight years previously he had with the assistance of the Rev. Father Lampila, S.M., and two lay brothers, Basil and Florentin, established the first Catholic mission in the Ahuriri Plains, at Poukawa, on the banks of the river Ngaruroro. The Maori chief of the district gave them a few acres of land, which the two lay brothers cultivated, and on which they built a hut or whare, and afterwards a somewhat more comfortable dwelling, in a position less exposed to the inundations of the river. In 1851 Father Lampila left Poukawa to establish a mission on the banks of the Upper Wanganui, and Father Regnier page 439 remained alone to carry on the work of the mission in a vast district which extended beyond the limits of the present province of Hawke's Bay. He had to travel long distances on foot, across rough country, without roads or bridges, with no other food but coarse Maori fare, and with no place of rest but a wretched whare. Nothing daunted, Father Regnier persevered in his good work for forty years, spreading the light of faith among the natives, and bringing the consolations of religion to the early settlers. In 1856 the missionaries, finding that—on account of hostilities between their friend Powore and another chief—their position at Poukawa had become very precarious, purchased from the Government a large tract of land at Meanee, on the left bank of the Tutackuri river, and on the 11th of May, 1858, after the death of Powore in a battle with Karaitiana, they transferred thither the mission and all its belongings, including the cottage, which continued to be the residence of the missionaries for more than twenty-five years. While the lay brothers were converting a wilderness into productive land. Father Regnier laboured for the spiritual welfare of the natives, and also of the Europeans, whose numbers were then fast increasing. Through his exertions land was bought and churches were built, at Napier in 1859, at Waipawa in 1874, at Hastings in 1881, and at Wairoa in 1882. These churches soon became centres of missionary districts, with resident priests, and all claim Father Regnier as their founder. At Meanee divine service was held for some years in the mission house, until in 1863 a small church was built, to which a transept was added in 1874. As the Catholic population gradually increased, it was found necessary, in 1892, when it reached the number of 500, to enlarge the church to its present form. Father Regnier also erected a school in Napier, in 1869, for native and half-caste girls, and another for Maori children at Meanee, in 1872. Owing to the difficulty, however, of recruiting Maori boys, the Meanee school became eventually the parish school, and since 1886 it has been under the direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The average attendance of day pupils is ninety, and the building, which now bears the name of St. Mary's College, has, besides, accommodation for about thirty boarders. Among the many improvements made by the lay brothers in the mission estate, is the cultivation of grape vines. Some samples of the Meanee Mission wine were sent, at the request of the French Consul, Comte D'Abbans, to the Paris Exposition in 1892, and were awarded a silver medal for excellence and purity. The local medical faculty frequently recommend the mission wine to their patients, and it is owing to its success that a considerable number of vineyards have been planted by other settlers in various parts of the district. In the year 1880 a large and commodious building was erected, which was intended to serve as a residence for the members of the mission, and as a retreat for members of the Society of Mary, who are incapacitated by age or infirmities. Here Father Regnier ended his days on the 29th of October, 1888. His remains rest in the cemetery at Taradale, under a monumental cross erected by his numerous friends of every denomination. Brother Basil, who had been the faithful companion of Father Regnier, and his principal co-operator in the foundation of the Meanee Mission and the promotion of its material prosperity, and who spent fifty-seven years laboring on the mission field in New Zealand, died on the 2nd of April, 1898, at the age of eightyfour. Mention must also be made of Father Michel, S.M., who had been a missionary in Fiji, and who worked for nearly twenty years as curate at Meanee, till his death in October, 1887. In 1884 the property of the mission was sold, with the exception of the buildings; about sixty acres of land was reserved for the wants of the establishment, and in 1890 the old mission house was destroyed, and in its place a large house was erected for the lay brothers.
The Seminary, In 1889 the districts entrusted to the Marist Fathers in New Zealand were canonically erected into a religious province, and the house of Meanee was made the Novitiate and Scholasticate; that is, a house of probation for those who wish to join the society, and of study for aspirants to the priesthood who have already completed their classical course of studies. The Very Rev. Dr. Pestre, S.M., who had been for many years professor of Theology in France, Ireland, and America, was appointed first Superior and Master of Novices. The classes opened in February, 1890, with three or four students, but the number gradually increased to fifteen or sixteen, and additions were made to the building in 1892 and 1896. The completed house presents an imposing appearance, and is a fine two-storeyed building with two long wings. On one side, on the ground floor, are situated the parlour, dining room, and kitchen, with other necessary offices; above these are bed-rooms, a small oratory, a dormitory, and bathrooms. On the ground floor of the left wing, and surrounded by a beautiful verandah, are the study and recreation halls, and above these are a large oratory, and another dormitory. The centre of the building is occupied by the professors' rooms. In front is a beautifully-laid-out flower garden, while on each side and behind are an orchard, a vegetable garden, and vineyard. The average number of students is fourteen or fifteen, and since the foundation of the institution, in 1890, twenty-six priests have been educated and ordained within its walls. page 440 Most of these are young New Zealanders, who received their classical training in St. Patrick's College, Wellington, and who are now engaged either as professors in their old Alma Mater, or assistant priests in various parishes of the Colony. Some French students, who have also been trained and ordained there, are now labouring as missionaries amongst the natives of the South Sea Islands. The course of studies comprises the usual subjects of a Catholic seminary, viz., Dogmatic and Moral Theology, Holy Scripture, Philosophy, Canon Law, Sacred Liturgy, Church History, Ecclesiastical Chant, and Sacred Eloquence; and other classes have been added in which the students continue the study of classics and the natural sciences. The present staff consists of the Rev. Dr. Kennedy, S.M., D.D., B.A., B.C.L., Superior and Manager, Professor of Holy Scripture, Sacred Eloquence, Plain Chant, and Natural Sciences; the Rev. L. Lezer, vice-Superior, Professor of Moral Theology, and Sacred Liturgy; the Rev. J. Martin, S.M., D.D., Professor of Dogmatic Theology and Canon Law; and the Rev. P. W. Tymons, S.M., Professor of Phillosophy and Church History.
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, Meanee, was founded by Father Regnier, and was originally built in 1863, the present fine structure taking its place in 1893. The church, which was built at a cost of £1,300, is of Gothic style, and is capable of seating 300 worshippers. Adjacent is the Convent of St. Joseph, originally intended for the education of Maori children, but afterwards changed into an establishment for the education of European children. It is presided over by the Rev. Mother Aloysius, and three sisters of the Order of St. Joseph, from Sydney. There is an attendance of 112 pupils, who can also receive instruction in the higher branches of education. The school is annually inspected by the Government inspector, whose reports are of a satisfactory character.
The Very Rev. Dean John Nicholas Binsfeld, sometime of St. Mary's Church, Meanee, is a native of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, studied at the Royal Grand Ducal Gymnasium, in that city, and was ordained at Treves in 1859. After ministering in France, England, Ireland, and America, he came to New Zealand in 1869, where he has laboured in several parts of the Colony. He took over the charge of St. Mary's in 1895, but subsequently retired, and has since resided in Napier.