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Life in Early Poverty Bay

Settlement Creeps Out Back

Settlement Creeps Out Back

Speaking of the early 70's Mr. Harris told his interviewer that, at that time, settlement was just creeping into the back country. Mr. W. S. Greene took up Okahutia, and was the most outlying settler in that direction. It was not until 1874 or 1875 that Gisborne was linked up with Napier by telegraph and wild rumors got into circulation rather too frequently for the comfort of the then small community. In fact, a very trivial incident was liable to create a very big scare. About that time, Te Kooti was sheltering in the page 162 King Country and, every now and again, it would be bruited abroad that he was about to make another descent on the district. The Johnson Bros. and Major Westrupp had a block of land extending from Te Arai to beyond Muriwai, taking in a large part of the flat and all the front of the hill country. There were no settlers behind them. Years after, William Teat and Duncan McKay took up that land which is now known as the Reay station. In turn, Mr. Parker, with his family, took up the Emerald Hills country, which was, then, practically all bush. Numerous herds of wild cattle at that time roamed that particular country. Messrs. Barker and MacDonald had stations at Kaiti and Pouawa, but there was no settlement behind them. Subsequently they also held the Whataupoko block. On the Coast, settlement was close to the sea and Whangara was held by Mr. Wallace, of Red Lion Castle, England. On his return to Gisborne, Mr. Harris went to Opou station, then held by his uncle, Mr. Henry Harris, and the late John Ferguson. He walked out to the property with the late Dougald Ferguson. En route they called in at the Royal Oak Hotel and this was his first introduction to a public house. The licensee was the late Alick Hird and little did he (Mr. Harris) then dream that he was personally destined to control, later on, one of the most important hotels in Poverty Bay—the Albion Club Hotel—for no less a period than 17 years. Of those who worked on Opou station in those days only two were, to-day, alive—Mr. W. H. Cooper and himself. He reached Opou in the month of October and preparations were being made for shearing which was to commence in the following month. With the rest of the staff, Mr. Harris was put into the yards next day to dag the sheep and his previous notion that station life was Paradise at once faded out. However, he worked on there for twelve years, part of the time for Mr. John Clark, who, later, took over the property.