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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Settlers on the Plains

Settlers on the Plains.

The country settlors came by way of the Wairarapa. In 1849 Mr H. S. Tiffen arrived in Hawke's Hay and in the same year Mr F. J. Tifien (1849). with the assistance of Air North wood and others, including half a dozen Maoris, drove 3000 sheep by way of the East Coast to Poureroro, a run of 25,000 acres which Mr North wood, assisted by Mr Charles Nairn, had scoured from the native owners. This journey of 140 miles occupied four weeks and only two runs, the Pahau and the Castlepoint stations, were passed on the way. It being decided to take 2000 of the sheep some miles inland to the Omakari portion of the run. Mr Tiffen took up his residence at that point, and for nearly three years lived there almost alone, his nearest European neighbor, being the Rev. W. Colenso, of the Waitangi mission station, twenty-five miles distant. Five miles still further on, at the Western Spit. Lived Messrs Alexander and Anketel, traders, but to the southward the nearest Europeans were at Castlepoint, 70 miles away. When Mr Tiffen was called to Wellington to give evidence at the trial of Good for murder, he had to walk 840 miles and carry both food and blankets with him. Yet this hardship he eagerly page 42 undertook as a welcome change, having seen no European men and no women for nearly two years. In 1852 a petition to the House of Commons by the settlers of Ahuriri was signed by Messrs E. S. Curling, A. Chapman, F. Chapman. G. Rich A. Alexander, D. Gollan. J. W. Harris. W. Villers. J. B. McKain. p. S. Ahbott, J. 1). Canning. C. H. L. Pelichet and C. Canning. These must he reckoned as the earliest settlers ("Herald." December 26th, 1857). In 1868 the settlers had become so numerous that the Government purchased from the native owners large blocks of hind in the district for settlement purposes.

An interesting description of an early visit to Ahuriri I take from the "Hawke's Bay Herald" (June 13th, 1868). The writer says: It was about 1850 that reports first reached Wellington of the tine tract of country open for settlement at "Hourede," as Ahuriri was called in those days. There were said to be miles of plain covered with luxuriant grass. He quotes from an account given by an old settler of his first acquaintance with this district in 1851-2, who says:—"I remember, on meeting a gentleman who had been round the East Coast in a small vessel, asking him if he knew anything of the 'Hourede.' 'Oh, yes' he replied, I called in there in "the schooner. We sailed into a big swamp and landed in the bottom of a little gully. On climbing up an immense hill, and looking over the surrounding expanse, we paw nothing but a long sandspit, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and an everlasting swamp backed by snowy mountains on the other.' 'Hut,' I said, 'surely there must be fine country somewhere about there.' 'No such thing; the dry land is all sand and ticas, and fleas water all salt or stinking bog water.' He modified this afterwards page 43 by saying that there were some clay cliffs, but Captain Rhodes had bought them for a bale of blankets and a few muskets, to settle a whaling station on. This report was not encouraging; but as brighter accounts came to hand from time to time, I finally determined to go and judge for myself. Accordingly, after mature deliberations as to the best way of travelling, the method most likely to yield the greatest information was affirmed to be walking. With a pack containing blankets, changes of linen, and weighing some 351bs on each of our backs, my cousin and I started on our tour. Without describing all the difficulties and discomforts met, suffice it to say that we reached Waipukurau and got a glimpse at the heart of the famous district, and then pushed on to the port where we found that all was nor barren. Other Waipukurau settlers had preceded us. Air Northwood had taken up the Pourorere station on the coast; Messrs Tiffen. Gordan, Alexander and Russell had seen enough to convince them of what the future would bring forth, and determined to lose no time in establishing themselves. After examining the country, and and making a selection, we started back still walking for Waipukurau. Hearing that the distance might be shortened by going through the 40, 70 or 90-mile bush, as it was variously called, we decided on taking that route. An old settler at the time carrying on business as a storekeeper, and who had just started a sheep station at Waipukurau joined us and we three unhappy wights carrying provisions for three or four days, determined to make tracks for the entrance of the forest. The night before we left, a whare wherein we had received hospitable entertainment was burned owing to the ingenuity of the person page 44 who had built the chimney; ho had cut the soda of which it was composed with the long grass growing to them; the roof was of thatch, the walls of reeds, and the result what might have been predicted. Fortunately we saved our swap: and a tin of arsenic. Bidding good bye to our kind, and now homeless entertainer, we started on our journey. Weary and hungry were the travellers when Takapau was reached. Wet and disgusted were they when after crossing the Manawatu sixteen times in a distance of ten miles we found ourselves at a native settlement, three days out and our supplies at an end. Dismal was the story our hosts told of the hard task before us, and courage was low in our hearts when we resumed our journey. Narrow the escape we liad from a Hood in the Ruamahunga. Many were the fleas that assailed us when we sought refuge in the pa at Kaikikirikiri, and great the imposition of the Alaoris who demanded a pound for a few potatoes and the shelter of their smoky whares. We had been three days nearly without food, during which time rain fell incessantly. Our feelings of thankfulness may therefore be imagined when alter getting away from these aboriginal leeches who thought of forcibly detaining us to ensure compliance with their demand, we reached the hospitable roof of an old settler in the Wairampa valley.