Life in Early Poverty Bay
A Man of Many Parts — The Late Mr. W. F. Crawford — Early Life Of Gisborne's First Mayor. — Bushman, Storeman, Miner, Brewer, Photographer
A Man of Many Parts
The Late Mr. W. F. Crawford
Early Life Of Gisborne's First Mayor.
Bushman, Storeman, Miner, Brewer, Photographer.
In respect of the late Mr. W. F. Crawford, the first Mayor of Gisborne, grey hairs gave a chastened appearance to unbounded mirthfulness. Tall, broad-shouldered, studious and, withal, genial his friends were legion and of enemies he had none. Public spirited to a degree, he found time amid the heavy worries associated with business life in the early days of Gisborne to put his shoulder to any wheel which was intended to be rolled in the direction of progress. If any mooted project were likely, in his opinion, to be helpful, it at once had his enthusiastic backing. His early participation in civic affairs was, therefore, only natural.
A Tipperary lad, on December 17, 1863, at the age of 19, he rode away from his father's home on a smart pony to the Templemore railway station to leave by train for Dublin en route to Auckland, New Zealand. “Wild boys,' he wrote in his memoirs, “ran after the train, whacking it with their sticks for having the audacity to steal away with their young friend. The ‘Statesman,’ of 700 tons, a Dutch-built vessel, but lively and dry as a cork, got away from Gravesend as the Christmas chimes were pealing from many a steeple in the Grand Old City. Our staunch old ship after five months of plugging through it landed us on the Auckland wharf on the 5th May, 1864. The post office was up Princess Street and it was a struggle for us new chums to get up Shortland Crescent for our letters. We were accommodated in an emigration barracks where the late post office was, and were offered various employments—farm hands, bushmen, substitutes for soldiers at the front, for the Maori war was raging at this time. In fact, the news of the Gate Pah disaster arrived about that time in Auckland. Queen Street ran up a gully and was in a fearful mess of mud and scoria cut up by the commissariat carts ploughing through with two horses to a six hundred weight load. The barracks of scoria buildings stood on the hill, now converted into a handsome park, and another similar block erected by Walter Graham on the foreshore were the first buildings of masonry and slate roofs. There were weather page 114 boarded and shingled single-story buildings at any level up and down Queen Street, out of which the ti tree had been often cleared away for fuel.
Try-Out in the Bush.
“The yellow lizard of good luck, although a terror to the Maoris, crept up my leg in the Domain at Auckland, making me think it was a land of reptiles. Was it to be a welcome visit? It became known to a Mr. Robert Cashman, working a kauri bush at Awitu, near the South Manukau Heads, that four young new chums were available, in fact anxious, to attack the glorious primeval forest. We became at once engaged and were placed in charge of Captain Ogden of the ‘Mystery’ lying at the Onehunga wharf. With our bundles on the shoulder no boys could be bolder, and we were off to Onehunga in the morning.
“Mr Bob Cashman, our boss, being a judge of muscle and fine swinging arms, took two of us down a gully with an axe each and introduced us to a lordly kauri about three feet in diameter. My sympathies were all aroused for the quiet, harmless, good-looking tree and I felt a pang in being ordered to put a scarf on one side whilst my mate was set at the other. He left us, and a couple of hours' indiscriminate chopping took place until his return to see how we got on. ‘God bless my soul’ (or words to that effect), he said, ‘it reminds me of a hare biting into a turnip.’ After repeated lessons, emphasised by words of infinite tenderness, we cleared away what he called the matchwood blisters we had raised around the venerable stem of the sturdy and much-to-be-pitied monarch, shedding large tears of kauri gum worth £20 a ton. Towards nightfall we saw symptoms of the tree staggering and managed, by scrambling through the bush to get on the opposite side to that on which he fell with an angry crash that did not surprise us.
“Down the gully he plunged naturally, for we never expected him to go up the hill. But Mr. Cashman did and he commenced family devotions over the event when he came to see the result. We pointed out that if he had determined to go up hill we would have been crushed, as we never foresaw such a thing. He threw his hat on the ground and said, ‘How on earth are we going to get the tree back on to the side-line where the saw pit is ready?’ We said that we could pull it out again. Pull your grandmother out again' was part of what he remarked with a heavenly smile. He referred to new chum duffers in such a polite way we said we would be pleased to resign our positions if desired. He agreed that a return ticket would be provided for us on the return of the ‘Mystery’ and, thanking him for his great consideration, and receiving his cordial blessing, we parted on the shore.
Auckland in the Sixties.
“We were introduced to a lady who knew all our relatives at Home on our return to Auckland. She took us all in as boarders. Her husband was employed in Mark Somerville's stables, about the back of the British Hotel, near or about where Alfred Buckland's saleyards were situated. Through this good man's influence, I was employed by Mark Somerville in the City Mart at the Corner of Short-land Crescent and Queen Street near the Q.C.E. Hotel, popularly known then as ‘The Loafers’ Corner. (The letters of the hotel stood for Quality, Cleanliness and Economy, but, wittily dubbed ‘Questionable Company Encouraged.’) I was employed as second porter there, and amongst my duties had to mix up sugars of grades from black to yellow, and had to truck up from the wharf boxes of butter, crates of fowls and produce as required. We had to crush coffee bleans and maize which we ground and mixed up with chicory before sending them to our troops, then engaged at the front up the Waikato. We had the officers' mess to supply with choice wines, bottled ales and groceries. Well I remember struggling up to the barracks with these commodities on my shoulders. (I have been fond of climbing hills ever since.) Mark Somerville had a contract to supply maize, oats and bran page 115 to the military train and I was promoted to charge of his supply store somewhere about where Edson the chemist's pharmacy stands opposite the hotel kept by Pat Danby and the old jail at the corner opposite the Union Bank which, with its great Corinthian pillars, was then the most imposing edifice in Queen St.
Seized with Gold Fever.
“The outbreak of the West Coast goldfields filled my brain with the golden microbe and I soon got away with two mates in the ‘Armidale’ for this El Dorado. We called in at the Iron Pot, entering Port Ahuriri stern foremost, viewing the unimposing swamps of Napier. Then we saw the Lambton Quay beach of Wellington, the grave-yard overhanging the town and the Maori pah at the back of Willis Street. Then we saw Picton, the French Pass, and went into Blind Bay, Nelson. It was the custom to fire a small cannon on the fore deck to announce the arrival of the mail at every port. We noticed that the steward placed a big charge in the gun and then went to the galley for a red-hot poker to touch her off. All his preparations were made as we came up near the lighthouse, so the filling of the gun in the steward's absence with turnips and potatoes lying handy was the work of a moment. There was a schooner sailing up abreast of us, and we suggested that the steward should give her a surprise by firing blank ammunition at her. The result was a shower of vegetables into the sails of the schooner to our infinite delight. War broke out instantly and the return was a volume of the finest description of expletives I ever, up to that moment, listened to, so that we were able to acquire some of the correct expressions in the language to store up for any oxen conductor that we might have an argument with in after life.
On the West Coast Goldfields.
“Nelson at that time was called ‘Sleepy Hollow.’ Auckland, being the seat of Government and, having the spending of some millions of British gold over the Maori war, held a high hand. Otago had struck rich gold and was springing up rapidly. Wellington was flourishing, but poor Nelson had nothing but her fine climate and rapidly spreading homely industries, so she had to grin and bear it. Our next port was Hokitika, a canvas town, with a shifting bar and the tight little tug ‘Bruce,’ which tendered us ashore for 20s a head. We erected our tent at the back of Revell Street and got an early number of the first paper published on the West Coast. There was a description of the new rush to Ross, then known as Jones' Creek.
Our first impressions of a goldfield were a surprise—fallen bush, piles of gravel, sluice boxes, busy men picking and shovelling, heaving at rude windlasses, pitching tents, erecting shanties, whacking and making holes in all directions. We got at the fringe of this busy crowd, found a level spot on the side of a terrace, strung up our tent, put fern tree stems side by side for our bed, strewed leaves and twigs, laid our blankets and slept as best we could with our boots for pillows and got through the night as weary men can often do, although the roots and leaves under them may be tickling their short ribs. The rain came down and we noticed in the morning that we had camped in the bed of a mountain stream that showed itself responsive to every shower and ran under our punga mattresses. We had to wade out in the morning thankful that we had not been floated down into the creek in our dreams.
“I had brought a spade with me to the amusement of the old hands who always used shovels, short-handed except the Bahandandy boys from Australia, who prided themselves on the long one, to which they gave a scientific twirl over the shoulder when delivering a shovelful. We were nearly starved out and went down to the sea beach, where, cooking the last of our flour in a greasy frying pan into a slap-jack or sort of bloated pancake, we divided it and I tramped away to Hokitika to seek employment. After three days without food or chance of a job, I was walking down Revell Street quite disconsolate, contemplating the spending of my last half-crown (which I clung to as the last extremity) on a loaf of bread. My eye caught a face looking page break page 117 at me over a vise in a blacksmith's window. Without a moment's hesitation, I stepped over and the youth came out and shook me warmly by the hand and said ‘Oh, Mr. C., what brings you here?’ I told him I was down on my luck. He then told me he worked for his uncle and that he knew me because I used to pass his smithy going to school in our native town, Templemore. Asking where I was stopping, I told him I slept under the verandah of the post office! His uncle, Michael Bohan, came out and very kindly invited me in and made a snug doss under the bellows in the shop, which I very gratefully thanked him for. He cooked a sumptuous supper of beefsteak and I rose next morning early trying to conceal my utter destitution by going out without breakfast. The boy came after me and I was obliged to again partake of his generous hospitality. I then bid them a grateful adieu.
“Two very rare events now took place on our field, heralded by wild cheering, clanging of dishes, blowing of horns, a Highland piper and loud cries of ‘Joe! Joe!’ Seated on a horse rode into the creek the first woman on the flat. She was a barmaid for Jim Horries' canvas hotel and restaurant to dispense shilling drinks and half-crown lunches. The other event was a man wearing spectacles, quickly named ‘Old Four Eyes.’ The ground where our tent stood on the sideline being cleared, ‘Old Four Eyes’ sank a shaft of about 5 feet and struck a rich patch of gold. My mate, hearing of this, declared we were sleeping on our pile. About this time the other mate, Bill, came down from Jones' bringing his brother and we had a great celebration down at Billy Rae's store. A powerful man his brother Frank was. ‘Look at him,’ said Bill. ‘Oh! how glad I came-to find him. I knew such a specimen couldn't be lost on any snow-clad Gentle Annie, but it grieves me to find that he does not believe the Bible is any better than the “Arabian Nights.”’ Frank laid a short-handle shovel on the ground, made George (about 12 stone) stand on the blade, caught up the handle in both hands and threw him across the table, landing him fairly on his feet at the other side.
“Tired of Digging Gold.”
“These were the days of our primitive microbes, germs and animaculae. Having put down a shaft 20 feet and found a good prospect, we began a tunnel with rough props, slabs and caps. Our cradle was erected with dipper complete and the whole set in motion. Oh! it was a glorious day in our annals when we found a 15 dwt nugget and in our joy we decided to celebrate the event with a glorious feast of a leg of mutton and a bottle of port wine. This blow-out shed a radiance over the event that still shines this very evening. We had got in about six feet with our tunnel when old Peter and I came to a big boulder in the face. Big stones always sat on a good pocket when they occurred in wash dirt, so we determined to shift it. We were both trying to crack it with heavy blows of our pick heads, when I noticed a flake fall from the roof of the drive. I caught hold of Peter and dragged him to the shaft; he was nervous and I had to shove him up, and we had barely got half-way when the drive fell in and the lower half of the shaft with it. We got on top safely, lit our pipes, went in to our hut and started a game of euchre to cool cur nerves over the shock of our narrow escape.
“We worked the claim for some months before washing up. When we had saved about seven pounds of gold per man we sold the concern to the storekeeper for our account with him for tucker and all cleared out for Hokitika. Thus ended my first experience of alluvial mining, and I agreed with my mate George, who said ‘A man gets tired of even digging gold.’ We found Hokitika a lively place, as most of the lucky strikers were painting the town red, ordering a case of champagne at a time as a shout for all hands, pouring it all into a bucket and serving it round in pannikins; holding sports and races down Revell Street, out of bravado using one pound notes to light their pipes, holding boxing competitions on the plan that the first shedder of blood shouted for drinks all round. Barry, of Thames fame, fought Hogan, of Bendigo, in the back of one of the hotels, 15 rounds, page 118 for a pair of new watertights. The police turned up to stop the mill, but couldn't force their way through the crowd until it was all over, when they declared there must be no more of it or they would be forced to take someone in charge to vindicate the law!
Hearing gold had been discovered at Terawhiti, down the straits, we popped on board, landed at Wellington in time for the New Year sports, won a couple of prizes in the athletic competitions, and, meeting a man wearing a brown plush digger's hat, who said he had been to the Terawhiti rush and found it was a duffer, our company split up and two of us got employed by Tonks next morning on the first reclamation contract in front of the beach at Lambton Quay. I am not quite certain from memory, but I think this was the year 1867.
In a Store at the Thames.
“A rumor having got round the Wairarapa (where I was working in the bush) that Hunt's party had struck gold at the Thames, the golden microbe again got into my brain and, as soon as my place could be filled, I was off. I called at Wanganui as a mere accident and I was able to meet my intended, who promised to wait until I made a pile for her. Most of my visit at Wanganui was spent in cultivating love's young dream. We left Wanganui with the last detachment of the British soldiers in the ‘Rangatira’ to the strains of ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me.’ We were nearly swamped crossing Manukau bar but got through, and I took up my abode with my step-uncle in Auckland and looked out for a billet, being ready for any job bar two—one was driving bullocks, the other milking cows. I finally got employed as storeman to Petschler in Shortland, Thames. I copy some lines in the local paper of the day supposed to be inserted by a Frenchman. ‘I cause myself to arrive by the ‘Enterprise’ making an abutment against Sheehan's landing on the Kai Inanga. I look for the streets; it is no streets: it is much water; it is oyster shells. I am induced to proceed and spring ashore. My boots they fill up and go down. I meet a man of the field and enquire the place for a chop. He says “Butcher, Baker, Grocer.” I say “Damn, I want a bit of sheep done brown.” The footpaths were two or three planks loosely laid on the mud, very treacherous at the ends when they were likely to spring down and squirt mud up your body. Butts' hotel and theatre stood at the corner of the main street called, I think, Pollen St. Most of the houses were either pubs or boarding houses. Petschler's store stood behind Butts' near the Hapu creek. It was acute angle shape to fit the point of the section and contained three rooms and a long wedge shape general store, containing provisions and wearing apparel, spirits, fruit and vegetables, with an assortment of tinware and ironmongery. I was installed second officer and a lad was also engaged to run with parcels and messages. I struck a patch in a claim next the ‘Caledonian’ and invited my intended to join me when I could get a cottage put up and, in due course, we settled down next to Burke's on the Hapu creek, Shortland. I got my employer's permission to make this home but he promptly gave me the sack on the grounds that he must have a man living in the store.
When Ballots Were Not Secret.
“My old Hokitika chum who found his brother on Jones' joined me now and we became sharebrokers and did a thriving business in Bank's buildings opposite Curtis' Hotel, Grahamstown. We opened up the Little Nell, next to the Wild Missouri up the Tararua creek. It was understood that no sharebroker could hope for success unless he swaggered round smoking cigars and playing billiards. We were getting on quite nicely until my partner went in for dairy farming and old Petschler offered me the old billet, which I accepted, and ran the place for him until he failed over a shipload of goods imported from Sydney proving unsuitable for the market, not giving him a chance to realise or get advances on it to meet the bills passed in payment for them. Out of collar again I organised a prospecting party to Ohinemuri, up page 119 the Waitekauri creek. We loaded a boat up with goods, landed at Belmont, bought out Cassel's store and began business in a much-required commodity—a pub that hadn't the sanction of the State. Just about this time John Williamson was standing for election for Superintendent of the Auckland Province and Hugh Coolaghan, one of his supporters, bought up all the axe and pick handles on the Thames to arm the Williamsonites on this day. It was before the secrecy of the ballot.
“The Pretty Jane.”
“At this time I was called to Auckland to the bedside of my poor relative, who was seized by an internal tumour. I stood by him for three months to the end. The poor fellow introduced me to his employers to take his place as clerk in the Albert Brewery and, in 1871, I removed to Auckland and took up the position which I held until the firm decided to start a branch at Gisborne in 1874. Whilst engaged in this office, I saw an opening at Onehunga for a general store, and got an old friend of mine, just arrived from Home to take up the management of it. I removed to Onehunga, got a spring cart, drove in to my office in the morning and brought back supplies at night. I accumulated a few hundreds by this, which gave me a free hand for the removal to Gisborne with my accumulation of worldly goods in the old ‘Pretty Jane’ of those days. She was a pretty model of a boat, with all the masts and sails of a schooner, for they hadn't found out the triple expansion engines and the coal consumption was enormous.
The machinery was crude and liable to a breakdown at any moment. Under adverse circumstances, she was often four to six days on the run either up or down to Auckland. She carried sheep and cattle from Gisborne to Kohimarama, on the Tamaki creek, south of Auckland. The little deck was often covered with sheep and the hold full of cattle and plank ways were laid from the cabin to the cook's galley forward, along which, when one had got sea legs on, one could take an airing full of mutton odour and beef bellowing. The cabin was over the boiler with a small crib partitioned off for ladies.
Hold-Up on Trip to Gisborne.
“On my first trip from Auckland we called in at the Thames for an eight horse-power portable engine for the South Pacific Oil Co. at Waiongaromia, near where the Gisborne Oil Co.'s works were later situated. The steam engine was laid in the hold and we proceeded on our way until we reached the turning point of Coromandel Peninsula, where we were obliged to take shelter and anchor awaiting a favorable breeze. This breeze came on us with a rush in the north-east direction, having a tendency to blow us onto the rocks at the point. Our boat began to rock at her anchor, causing the engine below to fall over and nearly swamp us. An attempt was made to heave the anchor, but it was caught in a rock below. With all hands and the donkey engine we got the anchor free at last and got away into the shelter or Brown's Island, where we found a small cutter laden with trusses or hay. The men in this cutter, one of whom had a wooden leg, came alongside and traded a truss of hay for some provisions that they had run short of. As we had some prize sheep just imported from Home aboard, the exchange came in very timely for us also.
Gisborne's Business People in '74.
“When we reached the river at Gisborne, it struck me that the scene was not much changed from that presented to Captain Cook when he first landed from the ‘Endeavor.’ We had to land at the Boat Harbor We found Sam Stevenson, G. E. Read, G. Lawrence, J. Harvey, Skipworth and W H. Tucker amongst the few first to meet us on arrival. Old Blind Charley, who ran the Turanganui ferry, lived in a hut about the Supreme Court site. Stubbs, the chemist, kept the Post Office. The Albion and the Argyll were the first hotels and the Masonic was in course of erection. Capt. Read and Mr. Horsfall carried on the only stores. page 120 Mr. Horsfall subsequently sold to Kinross and Graham. Mr R. Thelwall had a butcher's shop where Mr. de-Lautour's buildings now stand. Mr. Buchanan had opened a general store where the Poverty Bay Club stands. Mr. Daly was building the ‘Shamrock,’ now the Gisborne Hotel. Sledge houses that had been drawn into the town after the Te Kooti raid stood in every direction. Dr. Nesbitt and his family lived in a cottage at the back of Adair Bros., which was given up to me with the section to Read's Quay, on which we built the new brewery.
A Tramping Expedition.
“I started to explore the country on foot, did the Coast as far as Whangara, then crossed the ferry down the Big River to Wairekaia, up to Kaiteratahi on the way to the oil springs at Waiongaromia, above Whatatutu. Tom Bell had opened the Kaiteratahi Hotel and, stopping there for the night, I ordered an early breakfast, intending to follow the trail of the engine that had just been hauled up by a bullock team a few days before. It was considered to be quite an unheard of thing for a man to go on a tramping excursion in Poverty Bay and Tom volunteered to find a fair of good horses and accompany me to the oil wells just starting. Arthur Cuff had an accommodation house at Whatatutu, where we were kindly treated for the night and plunged up the hill to the works in the morning. When I rode up to the works with Tom Bell (who afterwards settled with his family on Sunday Island) the derrick was being erected and the engine had been pulled up hill to the site of the first well. I think Parsons was the first American expert in charge of the works. The surface indications were very promising. Oil and gas exudes all the way through the hills up to Hikurangi at the East Cape where, in some places, a surface deposit of what is known as dopplerite exists. It is a sort of solidified crude oil saturating the vegetable matter of the surface and petrifying rats, birds, or lizards that have become immersed in it. Petrifying is hardly the correct word for it, but the animals are preserved intact and solid in the oil. We clambered down the greasy slopes of the Waiongaromia, forded the Waipaoa and the Mangatu river and went on through this to the ti tree scrub and I nursed my blisters for a couple of days at Kaiteratahi before crossing the hill to Ormond to catch Bidgood's coach for Gisborne.
In 1875, the year following his arrival in Gisborne to take charge of the local brewery, Mr. Crawford took over the business. Twenty years later a company was formed to take it over and he was appointed manager. Subsequently the business was acquired by another company with Mr. D. J. Barry as managing director. In turn it was taken over two or three years back by N.Z. Breweries Ltd. Mr. Crawford had always taken a keen interest in photography and for a number of years he conducted a studio in Harris Buildings. Some years before the war he paid a visit to his native land and subsequently he went to reside in Auckland with a daughter, who was the wife of Archdeacon Hawkins and passed his last days in the Queen City of the North.page break page break