The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
Carterton was for some years known as the Three Mile Bush. It was afterwards named after the late Mr. C. R. Carter, who at that time represented the district in the General Assembly and the Provincial Council. The original settlers of Carterton were men whose capital chiefly, if not solely, consisted of stout hearts and strong arms. They were set down on ten-acre plots on one side of the road line in the midst of dense bush, and given work in clearing the line and making the road on towards Masterton. All the land on the other side of the road was taken up by one or two absentees. Thus the incipient town was handicapped from its commencement, and to this day it consists of one very long street—the main road—and one or two cross streets. Its progress was slow and painful. The settlers, and their wives too, worked manfully and cleared their little holdings, erecting small, but more or less comfortable, cottages, planted orchards, got a cow or two, and struggled for independence.page 898
There came a time, however, when despair and terror seized upon the whole community: for a bush fire in a high wind swept the settlement from end to end, destroying houses, orchards and fences, and very nearly some of the people themselves. This apparently overwhelming catastrophe, however, was a blessing in disguise. The “burn” was so thorough that serious danger from a similar cause in the future was impossible, and subscription lists were started throughout the Colony to assist those settlers who were completely ruined and could not assist themselves. Carterton thus quickly rose Phœnix-like from its ashes, and progress again set in with more perceptible results. Several sawmills were planted in the bush surrounding the settlement, and these, while giving steady employment to the settlers, cleared the ground for further occupation. Grazing and dairying followed up the sawmilling period, which the railway line running through the west side of the town very greatly developed, and now the whole district is a network of small farms. There are three prosperous dairy factories in or near the borough, and these have given a wonderful fillip to settlers and settlement, to workers and to traders. Carterton was founded about 1859, and was for many years governed by a local board, consisting of a chairman and five commissioners. The first commissioners were Messrs. W. Booth, H. Callister, C. R. Carter, R. Fairbrother, A. Campbell and Wm. Vickerstaff. The borough was formed in 1887, and since that time the town has been governed by a mayor and councillors. The first members of the borough were Messrs. R. Fairbrother (mayor), Andrew McKenzie, Thomas Moore, William Vickerstaff, James Bayliss, Alfred Booth, and G. W. Deller.
From a struggling, straggling line of small settlers, Carterton has rapidly grown into a place of considerable importance. It is the headquarters of the Wairarapa South County Council, the Wairarapa Licensing Committee, the Electoral District, and the Wairarapa Agricultural Society. It has its Jockey Club, Bowling Club, Cycling Club, and of course its young men are enthusiastic footballers. The principal stock sales of the South Wairarapa are held near the town. Carterton has an excellent public library greatly page 899 enriched by the liberality of the late Mr. Carter, to whose generosity is also due the fact that Carterton is the only town in the Wairarapa that has a town clock.
Sawmilling was one of the first industries in Carterton, and a considerable business is still done in timber. In recent years, however, farming has made great strides in the district, and the dairy factories turn out large quantities of butter and cheese.
The town and surroundings are flat, but the eye is relieved by the lofty Tararua Rauges in the east, and by the Maungaraki Ranges on the west.
The area of the borough is 1880 acres. The streets and roads are formed and metalled, clean and well-kept, and lighted at night with kerosene lamps.
There are four public reserves in the borough. One of these has been laid out and planted with trees. The Recreation Ground, which is used for public sports and gatherings of all kinds, is at the top of Library Street. A new reserve has recently been acquired by the town. The cemetery is about four miles from the town and lies towards the north.
Carterton claims the unique honour of being the only borough in New Zealand that has no public debt.
The spiritual needs of the people are well provided for, there being representatives of four denominations—Church of England, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and Wesleyan; and a first-class State school and two private infant schools provide the rising generation with secular education.
The needs of the travelling public are well catered for, there being three hotels and several boardinghouses.
Carterton has its newspaper, the Wairarapa Observer, which has generally supported the sitting member, and is an up-to-date journal, thoroughly alive to the interests of the borough.
Socially, Carterton is only just beginning to feel leisure for such luxuries as balls, “evenings,” concerts and so on, but in this respect it is rapidly overtaking its neighbours. Politically its people are largely coloured with the Liberal tint, and the Conservative member for the district finds here his doughtiest opponents.
The distance from Wellington by rail is sixty miles, and trains run north and south twice daily. The railway station is not so far from the town as is generally the case in the Wairarapa.
Two mails are received daily from Wellington, and there are two deliveries daily from the post-office. Further particulars about postal matters will be found in the following pages.
There can be no doubt that, with the vigorous, pushing men who watch Carterton's interests, this town has a very prosperous future before it.
As Carterton is the headquarters of the Wairarapa electoral district, a sketch of Mr. W. C. Buchanan, the sitting member for the House of Representatives for that district, is included in the pages devoted to this town.