Chapter XV. — In the Beginning
In the Beginning.
The bush areas of Hawke's Bay were still untouched except by the hardy Scandinavians penned in their forest settlements.
The better and more accessible countryside thus taken up as freehold, later arrivals in the province had perforce to content themselves with the lands of the interior. Settlers began to push inland, and, where purchase was not permissible, to lease runs from the natives. Amongst other blocks thus taken up were Tutira, Putorino—Waikari as it was then called—and Maungaharuru.
In February of '73 Tutira was leased by forty native owners to T. K. Newton for twenty-one years at £150 per annum. The block was held in common by these natives, but it was provided that the rent—£3, 15s. per man—should be paid to each of them. Like almost every other native title on the east coast, that of Tutira was imperfect. Newton must have been anxious at a very early period in regard to one of the signatures. It is characteristic, indeed, of the tenure of the station that—the run being then in its earliest infancy, a suckling not yet three months old—there should be an entry in the Deeds Office to the effect that “William Morris, sheep farmer, husband of one of the lessors, confirms his wife's action in regard to her signature of the Tutira lease.”
Newton stocked the place with 4000 sheep, and placed his brother-in-law, Craig, in charge of the new venture. Craig's headquarters during his brief residence on Tutira were near the site of the present homestead. The hummock of his clay chimney, just about the centre of my present lawn, remained for many years a monument to his memory. There is still visible the cutting whence he dug his clay. There are also mysterious excavations in the same hillock which we believe to have been his primitive dog - kennels. The 4000 sheep—merino wethers—were saved from a worse fate by the action of the notorious Te Kuiti, who at this date raided the little settlement of Mohaka, murdering impartially Europeans and “friendly” natives. His page 118 anticipated march down the coast cleared every homestead of its inhabitants. The 4000 sheep—or what remained of them—were mustered in hot haste and rushed off the place. Craig, with other outlying settlers, took refuge in Napier, and with his flight the first attempt to work Tutira as a sheep station terminated.
In 1875 the station was sold to Edward Toogood for £5. I understand, however, from Mr J. C. Tylee, who managed the place during Toogood's tenancy, that even this sum was given, not chiefly for the goodwill of the place, but as payment for any claim Newton might have had on his abandoned sheep and their wild progeny. Again the run was stocked with 4000 sheep and 100 head of cattle. Boundaries were kept, the sheep only allowed to roam over what are now called the Natural and Reserve paddocks. The cattle lived about the swamp land round the margin of the lake. Tylee also tells me that two or three bags of grass seed were sown and that a few chains of fencing were erected.
Times were now beginning to mend a little; there were prospects of lasting peace; property was becoming more secure. The energy, moreover, of certain settlers in southern Hawke's Bay was proving that fern-runs could be made to pay, at any rate in good soils and in dry districts. Toogood, like other sheep-farmers, was beginning to “improve,” and doubtless found himself fully occupied with his Tangoio property. Be that as it may, Tutira was sold by him early in '77 to G. J. Merritt for £2500—a few score pounds more than the value of the 4000 sheep delivered with the place. In March of the following year Merritt sold to C. H. Stuart one half-share in Tutira together with 3600 sheep for the sum of £2500; it had been purchased for T. J. Stuart, a younger brother not of age. As Merritt had given that sum for the full share not long before and spent nothing in “improvements,” he must have cleared something by the transaction,—how much, at this distance of time, it is impossible to discover. It would depend on the age, condition, and sex of the stock delivered, and many other eventualities.
Up to this date the station had been owned by men who had not lived on it. Newton was a Napier merchant, Toogood's real interests lay in his Tangoio property, Merritt was a settler in Clive. Each of them had looked upon Tutira as a mere speculation; it had been regarded as a step-child. Its new owner, Mr T. J. Stuart, was a settler of a very different type; from the beginning he cared for the place. It was to be developed by his own labour; it was to become a home made by his own hands.