Life in Early Poverty Bay
In Its Infancy — What Patutahi Was Like. — Mr. And Mrs. Hills In Reminiscent Mood
In Its Infancy
What Patutahi Was Like.
Mr. And Mrs. Hills In Reminiscent Mood.
Happy and contented, Mr and Mrs J. E. Hills, the first residents of Patutahi, find much to interest them and occupy their attention. Their family is now more or less scattered, one daughter living as far abroad as Palestine, but, as of yore, their friends are legion and hospitality is never stinted in their snug home. Mr Hills came out to New Zealand in the Waitangi and a shipmate was Mr Coppins, a shepherd on Opou. On her part Mrs Hills journeyed out in the Orari. Her shipmates included the late Mr P. Malone, also Mr Owen Gallagher, Mrs Muldoon and Mr Mitchell, of the firm of Davys, Third and Mitchell, who was then but a child of six years.
Life in a Small Shack.
Prior to taking up a Patutahi township section, in 1878, Mr Hills had been employed by the late Mr Maynard in the butchery trade at Ormond. When surveyed, the township was in heavy rushes and the sections ran, in size, from quarter acres to lots comprising several acres. There was quite a rush for sections, but few went out to live upon their newly acquired properties. As much as £70 was paid at the sale for a quarter acre. Mr Hills, therefore, considered himself lucky in being able to acquire an acre close to where the hotel now stands for £54. At that time, Mr Maynard owned, at Ormond, the first stone house built in Poverty Bay. The builder was Daniel McNair, one of Mr Hills' shipmates, and the stone was obtained from Ormond Valley. Mr and Mrs Hills had been married at Ormond in January 1877, and they were brought over to Patutahi by George (“General”) Jackson in a bullock waggon. At first, they had only a 2-roomed shack, and they are sure they have never been happier since. For ninen onths trey had no chimney and then Mr Hills and his brother-in-law went to where the Patutahi Quarry was, later, opened up, and, from stone obtained there, burned sufficient lime to enable a chimney to be built. It was the first occasion an which the stone had been so used.
Asked as to the state of the Patutahi district in those days, Mr Hills said that in the Lower Patutahi there was to be seen pasture of English grasses that would have been hard to beat anywhere in the world. The whole district was studded with sheep on account of the fact that free grazing was permitted. When scab broke out in 1878, however, a great change came over the scene. It then became necessary for stock page 155 to be kept within fenced areas and the Inspector proved very strict. Dipping with lime and sulphur was carried on continuously at the yards on Opou and many sheep died in the depth of winter after having been treated. Large numbers of sheep were destroyed as the easiest method of dealing with the menace. The land in the Patutahi district was, for the most part, confiscated land.
Neighbors Few and Far Between.
Joining in the conversation, Mrs. Hills mentioned that, at first, their nearest neighbour was Miss MacKenzie, who resided on Lavenham, three-cuarters of a mile away. Some months later a Mr Carron, a ship's carpenter, migrated from the North Auckland district, with his wife and eleven children and settled in the district. They reached the township per medium of a bullock waggon and husband and son quickly built a small wooden place 8ft. × 10ft. with a long sleeping place built of rushes In 1879 Mr Strong put up a store and Mr F. Bee built a house, as also did Mr Bilham and Mr Hatton. The nearest Maoris resided at Waitui. Mr Bilham's old house opposite the station was the oldest building left in the township. It was built by Mr. Pinwiddie.
Mr Hills went on to say the first church services at Patutahi were held on the site opposite that at present occupied by Mr. Monteith s store. Here Mrs Hills interposed to explain the trouble which the few residents then had to get a school. Mr Locke had advised them that it was necessary to secure twelve pupils. But that number could not be obtained and when Mr Locke was so informed his advice was that they should boroow enough to make up the shortage. As Mr Strong did not continue with the store, it was taken over by Mrs Bilham as a school. She had three children of her own of school age at the time. Later on the classes were transferred to a hall about 24 × 12ft. that was built on the fringe of the township. In that building all sorts of meetings and functions were held.
Start of the Road Board.
The first Road Board for the district, it seems, was formed in 1879. To consider the project a meeting was held in Mr Hills' house and the first meeting of the body took place II. August of that year at Mr Bee's house. The members were; Mr L. Sunderland (chairman,) and Messrs Hills. Bee, McKenzie and Burgess. Mr Bilham was the secretary. At that time there were no roads at all in the district. The Board did a lot of excellent work in the way of formation and drainage and a halfpenny rate was all that required to be exacted, when the subsidy was taken into consideration. As showing the state of the rcads in winter, it was mentioned that Mr Carron used to leave Patutahi with his bullock waggon on a Monday morning and he would not get back from Gisborne before the Saturday night. Along what is now the road past the Domain Mr. Bee had a four-wheeler come to grief, with the result that it could not be rescued for four months.