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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, September 1977

Early Waimea Settlers

Early Waimea Settlers

John Kerr, a Scotsman and practical farmer had emigrated with his wife and six "sturdy sons". He had the honour of putting the first plough into Nelson soil on May 25th, 1842, in a town section in Hardy Street, adjoining the site of the Union Bank (now the A.N.Z. Bank), it was generally agreed that the ground "turned up beautifully". Captain Wakefield was most anxious to have some land ready for spring sowing, and to establish an experienced farmer as a model for the "amateur gentleman farmers". He chose John Kerr who was given a lease of a Company section (No. 129) which had been burnt off by the surveyors and so was ready for ploughing. In July 1842 John Kerr, his sons and his neighbours the Tytlers, emigrated to Waimea West. As fast they could they broke up the land with their light ploughs, the Waimea soil, however, really needed heavier ploughs and bullocks rather than horses. The first harvest was somewhat disappointing as they had not realised that the fern roots needed to be removed, not just broken up. Other settlers followed and before long there was a page break page break page 24farming community known as the "Village". In fact in November 1842 the first Bachelors' Ball was "held in Mr Kerr's barn which was beautifully decorated for the occasion", and before long Church services were also being held there. John Kerr Senior died in 1863 at the age of 68 and was buried in St. Michael's Churchyard.

John Palmer was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England in 1816, educated in England and came to Nelson in the ship "Phoebe" in 1843. He settled near the Wai-iti River and established the "Volunteer Arms Inn", which had a Bush License as stated in the Provincial Council Records of 1857: "Mr John Palmer, license from June 30, 1856, 14 miles (19 km) from Nelson, fee £20 ($40) per year two bedrooms for travellers and stablery for 2 horses". The two-storey building of mud brick, with an adjoining hop garden, served travellers plus those who crossed on Avis's Ferry and was facing the river where the hop kilns are on Palmers Road today.

Later, in 1863, The Gables was built for Mr Palmer as a general store, using 60,000 sun-dried bricks made from clay nearby in its double walls. The Bush License was transferred and a shop opened—it is still there today, as it was in those days, facing the Waimea West Road, complete with shelves and counters. Mr Osborne built the Gables, Mr Tomlinson was the carpenter and Mr Thomas the plasterer. Settlers with pack horses would come down Eves Valley from Dovedale to buy groceries, they often stayed the night, and were able to have a drink of ale if goods were purchased. Mr Palmer carried on business until within a few days of his death in 1898. He was loved and respected by all who knew him. Until recently his grand-daughter, the late Miss Marian Palmer, lived in the Gables.

Thomas Price established a business as blacksmith and farrier in 1884.

In 1905 the business was being carried on by his son Joseph, who did considerable business as a farrier and repairer of farm implements.

[Dr (later Sir) David Monro first emigrated to Australia in 1841. He visited his brother but did not desire to settle there and came on to New Zealand, where he had bought land from the New Zealand Company. He returned to Australia in June 1842, to collect his "traps", including his dog, Oscar, 300 sheep and some cattle. In January 1843 he returned and almost at once set out for the Waimeas. He built his home Bearcroft, on section 61, and set about planting an attractive garden and many trees. He did not practice medicine except to help his friends and neighbours.—Ed.]

John Livingston, whom he employed as gardener planted the group of English trees near the corner of the Waimea West—Redwoods Valley roads, and also Livingston's Bush. Dr Monro's wedding in May 1845 was the second to take place in St. Michael's Church. (later owners of his property, Bearcroft, 1943: Mr Walter Russ. Mr B. Russ 1976)

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[Dr Monro took a leading part in public affairs in Nelson, became a member of the Provincial Council, a member of the New Zealand Parliament, and later Speaker. He died in 1877 and was buried in the Nelson Cemetry.—Ed.] Mr Walker—Constable. His home was situated on or near the property of Mr John Palmer, near the Volunteer Arms Inn. Like many other houses at this time it faced the River Road. Sawmill—Mr Schwass. This was sited on the northern side of the Gables at a later date, to make timber from the many white pine trees, (kahikatea) in that area. Hon. C. A. Dillon (1976 Occupier Mr N. Chillies). [He arrived in December 1842 in the "George Fyfe" which also brought the Redwood and Ward families and Costers who all proceeded to Waimea West (Dillon to Section 68.—Ed.]. His property was named "Ditchley", now "Enstone". He soon enclosed one section and had 15 acres (6 ha) in crops of corn and potatoes. [He "began vigorously to cultivate" within a few days of his arrival.—Ed.]

He had a considerable herd of cattle, both for stock and dairy purposes, teams of bullocks, a horse, pigs, poultry etc. His was the first prefabricated house in the Waimea, it was brought out on the George Fyfe, the sections were transported by boat to the bottom of the Waimea and taken off, probably at Cottrell's Landing, near the present boatsheds. They were then dragged from the Landing to the nearest part of Dillon's section. Here they were left in a clear piece of ground surrounded by scrub and lost! The owner is reputed to have located the missing parts by climbing a nearby hill where he had a better view of the surroundings. The durability of the timber is indicated by the fact that part of the original house is still in use. Later, in 1844, when he had obtained implements, Dillon had 50 acres (20 Ha) ploughed and in crop, 12 working bullocks and 9 cows in milk. He was expecting 500 sheep from Australia. He was very fond of shooting and his letters reveal that he had come to a sportsman's paradise teeming with native duck, quail and other game.

"The Dillons, of course were hardly representative of the settlers living in or near The Village in those early days. They had more capital than most, kept a retinue of servants and maintained most of the obligations customary in the social station to which they had been accustomed. However, they did much to advance the interests of the young community without any suggestion of snobbery. Besides his services locally Dillon became a magistrate and a good friend of Captain Arthur Wakefield. His career came to a tragic end in 1853 when he was drowned while crossing the Wairau near Manuka Island. His son riding a pony, and two friends were with him at the time of the accident. Today the vault stands in the churchyard of St. Michael's with laurel overhanging it, and bearing the inscription:

Sacred to the Memory of The Hon. Constantine A. Dillon."

[Henry Redwood Sen., was a Staffordshire farmer—his family had long been tenants on the Clifford Estate (Charles page 26Clifford was also a passenger on the "George Fyfe"). He was accompanied by his wife and eight children. He immediately erected a huge tent about 60 ft (about 55 m) long and divided into compartments by board partitions. This was occupied by his family and his son-in-law, Joseph Ward. Francis, the future Archbishop was aged three. The Redwoods soon built a two-storied mud home, the first Stafford Place, while Ward built a wooden "castle" nearby. Both bought cattle at once. For two hundred pounds ($400) Redwood bought a cart, plough, harrows, cows and a bullock team of six. By December 1843 they were selling 50 pounds of butter a week (about 20 kg).—Ed.]

Other Early Settlers included:

[Lieutenant R. K. Newcombe, John and Henry Cooke, Wallace (perhaps the blacksmith), probably a Mr Appleby—Ed.] and many men from road parties who took up small plots or leased land, including one who was able to buy twelve acres (nearly 5 ha) near Cottrell's Landing for five pounds ten shillings an acre (Approx. S27.50 a ha). It was estimated that, by the end of 1842 there were about 50 sawyers, surveyors and squatters. A pioneer of Appleby, Charles Best, had saved enough from wages paid by the Company to rent and later buy a section.

Later Settlers included Robert Disher who came to Nelson in 1855 and became a successful farmer and member of the Waimea West Road Board and chairman of the School Committee. Frederick William Tomlinson, a native of Waimea, was, by 1905, the only resident engineer in the district. He invented the automatic balance tilt-over straw stacking apparatus for steam threshing machines. His shop was in Livingston Road on the Waimea West side of the present day hop kiln owned by Mr J. Hill.

Aldourie Homestead. This land was originally the home of George and J. S. Tytler. They had fifty acres (20 Ha) with thirty (12 Ha) in com and potatoes, and also ran cows and pigs. The original home was at the end of Palmers Road, next to Mr A. Palmer's house.

Brewery. This building stood at the end of Eves Valley Road and used the water from a well which is still in the middle of the paddock. Mr Satherley, the brewer, had a large two-storeyed building with four boilers in the top storey. It is said the beer was not of a high quality due to the type of the water.

Sunday School. For many years there was a small building opposite the home of Mrs C. Greig and under the trig station the "Village". It was built by public subscription and was used for many years by various churches for Sunday School and Church Services.

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Public Cemetery. This area of land is near the property of Mr T. A. Russell, it was used over a long period.

Captain Blundell's Home (Mr Dickers). This was the site of a very early home, the original was said to have been a wooden pre-fabricated building brought out by an early ship. Part still remains as a fowl house. The next building was two-storeyed and has been shifted by traction engine to a new site where three new rooms were added.

St. Michael's Church. The first services were held in Mr Kerr's barn on December fourth, 1842, and thereafter monthly. Saxton gave an acre of his land for a church and Tytler a further acre for a vicarage. The first building was used on December 24th, 1843. Many residents had given generously to the building fund. Set among the cultivated fields the little church "helped to create the illusion of an English Village".

Waimea West Post Office. This was at one time sited in the old school building at the tennis courts. In 1857 the postmaster received twelve pounds a month ($24), while the mail carrier was paid eighty six pounds ($172) a year to convey mail between Richmond, Spring Grove, Waimea West and Wakefield. Mr Lawrence Dron was the mail carrier.