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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 1, Issue 4, December 1959

Recollections of Earlier Days in Motueka

Recollections of Earlier Days in Motueka

page Six

Part Two

The early settlers gained their living by farming the land and grew mostly grain and potatoes, sometimes receiving £10 a ton for the latter. A trading vessel 300 or 400 tons would stand outside the sand bank and small boats would take the potatoes out to her until they were all loaded. The boat would take the cargo of potatoes to Melbourne where they sold well. The shops selling them would display a placard on which was printed Potatoes from Motueka, New Zealand.

Timber was milled in Thorp's and Fearon's bushes and sent away by boats which sailed up the stream from where the present wharf now is to Thorp's Bush. This was before Edmund Parker can remember.

The growth along the beach was principally manuka scrub and bracken.

The first Post Office Edmund can remember was kept either by Mr Giblin at his store or by Mr Sutcliffe at his store, and later by Mr McDonald at his store which was beyond where the Misses Jordan live. Mr Bucholtry whose store was where Manoy's grocery now is, was the next. Postmaster. Then the Government built the first permanent Post Office on the site of the present one. Charles Parker who was working in his hop garden along High Street sent the first telegram over the wire the day the office was opened. A Parliamentary by-election was being held in Nelson that day and the telegram was sent to one of the candidates, Mr Luckie, wishing him success.

No proper Court House was built for many years, and cases were conducted in the old Institute Hall which stood on the site of the present one. The first Court House was built when Edmund Parker was a school child. A Stipendary Magistrate came from Nelson monthly to hold Court and in between his visits, cases were heard before Justices of the Peace, one of whom at one time was Charles Parker.

Schools. The Public School at which Edmund Parker and his brothers and sisters received part of their education was built on the site of the present school by his father when he was 12 or 13 years of age. The first school they attended was built on an acre of ground on the corner of High and Greenwood Streets given to the public by Dr Greenwood for educational purposes. This area was later acquired by the Anglican Church and used as a Church School.

In those days from 40 to 60 pupils atended school and they had classes from 1 to 6. Education then was not compulsory but each householder was compelled by Provincial Council to pay £1 per annum for education.

Corporal punishment was very readily inflicted on the pupils by the teachers in those days. The staff consisted generally of the headmaster and a woman teacher. The school hours were from 9 a.m. until 12 midday with a recess half way through the morning and from 2 until 4 in the afternoon and a five-day week. Once a year an Inspector visited the school for the purpose of conducting an examination.

Edmund Parker attended school until he was fifteen years of age.

The old building owned by Manoys and later occupied by Mr Spencer Smith as a solicitor's office now being pulled down to make room for a car parking area, was built by Joseph Parker, brother of Charles Parker, first as a private house and later used as an hotel which he called "The Star Hotel". It was later occupied as a private home by Mr and Mrs Pownall. The first business of the Bank of New Zealand was carried on in a building next to the old Post page SevenOffice Hotel and later occupied by Mr John Hunt as a bootmaking establishment. The first Bank Manager was a Mr Gibbs. Later the old building now being pulled down became the Bank of New Zealand premises first occupied by Mr Gibbs and later by Mr Symes as manager until the present building was erected.

Before the Motueka bridge was built foot passengers were conveyed across the river by means of a ferry boat operated by Edgar Dodson, proprietor of the hotel which then stood on the Budden property on the corner of the Main Road and Lodders Lane. A large bell was hung on the Motueka side of the river on the Staples property. People needing to cross the river to Riwaka would ring this bell for the ferry. The charge made for conveyance was either 6d. or 1/-. Two people were drowned by attempting to ford the river on foot, a man named Jones and a Maori named Waipiti. The river could usually be forded on horseback or by means of a vehicle.

The first Motueka Bridge was built in the year 1878. The Government granted a sum of money for the purpose during the last year of Charles Parker's term (5 years then) as member of Parliament for Motueka. The site was surveyed and some piles were driven in the river there to test the bottom. A short time later, i.e. after the test piles had been sunk the big flood came in 1877 and when the waters had subsided the piles were still there. The bridge was built a year or two later. Several square shelter recesses were built into each side of the bridge to enable people on foot to take refuge if cattle came along.

At the time of the Maori Wars in the North Island when Edmund Parker was 10 or 12 years old, a company called the Militia was formed for defensive purposes. All able bodied men were compelled to join and were drilled regularly but were not provided with arms. Sticks were used for drilling purposes. The parades were held on the property now owned by Edmund Parker.

The officers were Captain Horniman, formerly of some London Regiment and Lieutenant Pocock, father of the gentlemen who visited Motueka a few years ago. Lieutenant Pocock was formerly a naval officer. Lieutenant Pocock on one occasion was drilling his squad in the lower paddock where the hop garden now is. His horse broke loose whilst the men were marching and he rushed off to recapture it without giving the order to halt. The company full of devilment, kept on marching right up to the fence and proceeded to march on by climbing over it, but Captain Horniman rushed up and gave the order to halt.

Numbers of Maoris would assemble to watch the Militia drill and thought it a great joke. When the parade was dismissed they would go home imitating the soldiers.

When the Maori Wars ceased the Militia was disbanded. A few years later a Volunteer Company was formed but lasted only a few years owing to lack of interest of its members.

When Edmund was about 17 a Cadet Corps was formed which he joined. Captain Sockett, an ex Indian Army Officer, was drill instructor and used the language of a Sergeant Major. His son was a Lietenant Captain. Burrell Captain and Eric Thorp Ensign. Burrell and Thorp did not know their work very well and after Captain Sockett left had to take the senior positions. The men would laugh at them on parades and one day were lectured for doing so by Major Horniman. The two officers as a result of being laughed at became discharged and resigned their positions. Edmund Parker as a result of the Socketts leaving, became an Ensign and later when the other officers resigned became Lieutenant and then Captain of the Company.

Major Horniman sent to England for a medal for a shooting competition among the Company. However, before the medal arrived, he died and the Cadet Corps was disbanded. Major Horniman's son-in-law, William Knyvett, took charge of the medal and asked Edmund Parker if he could get a shooting party of the former Company together to compete for the page Eightmedal. He managed to get 20 men together and the medal was won by his brother, Arthur William Parker.

The Big Flood

In February, 1877, a big flood swept the whole district. The cause as told to Edmund Parker by two diggers was this: rain fell from Friday until Monday and as a result a high hill one side of the Baton river fell across it and buried a bush-covered terrace 50ft. high the other side, forming a wall which dammed up the Baton river for three days. The water then overflowed into the Motueka river and came down the Pangato-tara Valley in a wall 20ft. high, which after leaving the valley spread out over the whole district. Many people were nearly ruined as a result of the damage done by the flood. Fortunately, the wall of water came down the valley in the morning instead of the night and people seeing it coming could leave their homes and seek refuge on the hills or wherever they could find safety.

Most of Motueka was flooded, water coming from Whakarewa and the bridge. Most buildings in High Street had water through them and many in other parts of the district fared as badly, no doubt. The Mason, Cook and Parker homes were not flooded although surrounded by water. The Staples home opposite Cooks must have been flooded as Mrs Staples took refuge in the Parker home.

Mr and Mrs William Auty lived well back from the road on the property owned by the family of the late Albert Goodman and were in grave danger from the flood waters. Henry Staples Jnr., Edmund and Arthur Parker walked and swam across Auty's paddocks until they reached the river bank. From there they walked around until able to get to the back of the house, went inside and helped Mr and Mrs Auty to put their furniture on to the table and then left to return home. The house was two storied so Mr and Mrs Auty decided that they would be quite safe to stay there. The three young men on their return had to swim through some of the gullies. On attempting to jump across one, Arthur landed in the water and was carried away by the current. Henry and Edmund had to run along the bank, catch hold of some fern and grasp Arthur as he was swept along. They then reached Henry Staples barn which stood across the gully where the gum trees now are. They found the two cows in the yard almost afloat and turned them out on the road to take their chance. The four pigs floating about in the sty they took into the barn and placed on some sheaves of wheat which could not be included in the stack at harvest time.

The three men had to remain where they were until a canoe was brought from Wilkies swamp by Fred Parker. By this time about 20 men had collected on the bank this side of the gully and someone said Mr and Mrs Auty should be brought out. Fred and Edmund Parker volunteered to go, and set off in the canoe, reaching the house safely finding four feet of water inside.

They persuaded the couple to leave although Mr Auty was not very willing to do so. Returning proved much more difficult than the going as it meant paddling against the stream. The current proved too strong and swept the canoe broadside on to a bunch of gorse growing against a steep hole. The canoe filled with water and Fred jumped out into the bunch of gorse. The canoe sank from under Mr and Mrs Auty and Edmund and they floated toward the willow trees, the two men supporting Mrs Auty until they reached there. Mr Auty got into the first tree and Mrs Auty and Edmund reached the second. Great difficulty was experienced in getting Mrs Auty on to a branch of the tree as she had clothed herself in several extra frocks before leaving the house. Mr Auty called out something which Edmund could not at the time hear. Later he learned that it was "Rip those dammed rags off her". Needless to say all his energies were devoted to the task of getting her safely on to a branch of the tree which he eventually succeeded in doing, and there they had to wait for an hour until rescued by some of the men on the bank.

page Nine

Fred was seen first and thrown a rope by which means he was pulled to safety. Edmund and Mrs Auty could not be seen by the rescuers until Fred pointed them out. A ladder had to be obtained and was put across to Mr Auty's tree and he was duly rescued. After that Mrs Auty and Edmund were brought to safety. Mr and Mrs Auty were then taken to the Motueka Hotel.

With some other men who had rescued people from the flood waters, Edmund was presented with the Caledonian Society's Medal.