The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]
Dannevirke, a thriving town in southern Hawke's Bay, and the centre of a large saw-milling district in the Forty-mile Bush, is situated on the Napier-Wellington railway, seventy-nine miles south from Napier, in the county of Waipawa. About the year 1870 a movement was made by the Government of New Zealand to induce immigration from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Special land was set apart for such settlers, and on the 16th of September, 1872, the first immigrants arrived at Napier, in the ships “Hoveling,” and “Ballarat.” They consisted of twenty-two families—fourteen Danish, and eight Norwegian and Swedish families,—and they proceeded, to Dannevirke, named after the old fortification at Schleswig, which the Danes lost to Germany in 1864. Sections of forty acres, at £1 per acre, had been surveyed, and for years these settlers endured many hardships and privations. For a time the Government provided work at road-making at about five shillings a day, and the first piece of road so made extended from the Tapuata, stream towards the Tahoraite clerring, and then back towards Piripiri and Matamau. Subsequently the settlers were employed at splitting railway sleepers for the Government at £⅓ per sleeper, less 3d royalty. During this time rows of sleepers, two miles long, and from ten to twelve feet high, were to be seen on the roadside, from which fact the settlement came to be known as “Sleepertown.” About the year 1886, the first saw-mills in the district, those of Messrs H. McKenzie, Henderson, and Wratt were started, and houses of pit-sawn timber began to replace the log and slab huts with which the pioneer settlers had had to be content. The great forests, of which Dannevirke was the centre, were composed of the finest milling bush, and in a few years over twenty mills were at work within a few miles of the township. This industry went ahead with great rapidity, communication with the outside world was facilitated ty the formation of metalled roads and the construction of the railway, and Dannevirke gradually developed into a town of considerable importance. Although dairy-farming and sheep and cattle grazing have largely taken the place of saw-milling, some of the mills are still working, and give employment to a great number of men. The land is of excellent quality, the roads are good, and trout fishing can be obtained in the neighbourhood. Dannevirke has a large dairy factory, an aerated water and cordial factory, a sash and door factory, brick and tile works, a coach-building establishment, and various other industries., The Government departments in the town consist of the post and telegraph office, a money order office, and telephone bureau, the courthouse, and the police-station, and there are also three banks—the Bank of New Zealand, the Bank of New South Wales, and the Union Bank of Australia. There are two newspapers, the “Advocate,” and the “Press,” and five churches, including a Lutheran church; there is also a Salvation Army barracks. Dannevirke has two large public schools, a high school, and a technical school, an efficient fire brigade, and two public halls. The various trades and callings are fully represented, and a large business is done in the wholesale as well as in the retail houses. The borough has five hotels, a public hospital, and a fine railway station.