Friday, April 28, 2017

Wattie's run at Wangapeka: Nelson's little-known link with a Kiwi canning legend.

 "It must be Wattie's"
Sir James Wattie

Known as Bill, William John Wattie (1868-1936) was born in North Canterbury, New Zealand. (1) He came from a family of six, being the second son and fourth child of James and Delilah Wattie, both born in the vicinity of the village of Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. They had married at Dyce, Aberdeenshire, on 12 December 1853 and emigrated to New Zealand in 1858 with their three oldest children. On June 23 1858 they departed Glasgow on the clipper "Jura", carrying 375 Scottish passengers and under the command of Captain R, Chambers. Travelling steerage, they arrived at Port Chalmers, Dunedin, on 23 September 1858, after a relatively swift passage of 92 days duration. (2) When the "Jura" sailed on to Port Lyttelton, Christchurch, in December, the Watties travelled there with her, following a rough start - while anchored in the Heads waiting for a fair wind, the ship instead copped a heavy gale which drove her onto a sand spit. It took a couple of days to lighten her ballast and get her clear before she could finally proceed north.

The Wangapeka Valley as seen from Tadmor Hill [1886]
The central line of trees mark the path of the Sherry River.
Artist : John Gully (1819-1888)

 A farmer's son, James Wattie soon bought a block of land in the North Canterbury District of South Sefton, and from 1864 ran a farm and the Brown's Bridge accommodation house, built in 1862 by John Leggett on the main north road, in the area later known as Amberley. James Wattie  died suddenly aged 83 at the home of his daughter Ann and her husband Michael Cook.They lived at the 10,000 acre Tipapa Station established in 1888 by lawyer and financier William Acton Adams, previously associated with the Lake (Rotoiti) and Tarndale Stations in back country Nelson. James Wattie was buried with his wife, who had died four years earlier, at Balcairn Cemetery, Leithfield.  

His son William took up work as a shepherd. Experienced, hardy shepherds  formed the backbone of the early South island sheep runs and were in great demand. Many of them came from a Scottish or northern English background. A hard-working Presbyterian family, the Watties preserved traditions and customs from their homeland  - although born in New Zealand, William grew up very conscious of his Scottish heritage.

On 27 January 1894, William Wattie married Annie Elizabeth Gifkins (1874-1962), whose surname was variously spelt Jifkins/Jefkins. The ceremony took place at the bride's home in Waikari and was conducted by the Rev. J. Orchard. (3) Born in Oxford, North Canterbury, Annie was the oldest of four children and the only daughter of James Gifkens and his wife Sarah nee Crowday, who married at Lewknor, Oxfordshire, England on 23 January 1869. They emigrated to New Zealand the following year, departing London 27 May 1870 on the ship "Monarch", and reaching their destination, Lyttelton, Christchurch, on 6 September 1870. (4) They moved to the Ashley Gorge area soon after their arrival, shifting later to the Manawatu in the early.1900s.

After their wedding, William and Annie Wattie settled at Hawarden, North Canterbury, where  four of their five sons were born - Angus John (1895-1965); William Archibald, known as Archie, (1898-1941); James, known as both Jim and Jimmy, (1902-1974) and Ronald Eric (1905-1969). The fifth, Norman Bruce (1912-1964), was born later in Marlborough.

Jonsen's split slab hut near
 Rolling River.

One of Wangapeka's staunchly  
independent old diggers,
 Jonsen, a runaway Norwegian sailor, 
 spent 25 years working the goldfield.
The Wangapeka Valley is best known as one of the Nelson region's early goldfields. Finds were first made around 1859, following on from the discovery of gold in the nearby Baton Valley about 1856. "The Handbook of New Zealand Mines" published by the Government Printer in 1887 had this to say: "Amongst the earliest discoveries in New Zealand was that of the Wangapeka Goldfield, which comprises the valleys drained by the Wangapeka and its tributaries, the Rolling River and Sherry and the Tadmor and Baton Valleys, lying on either side of the Wangapeka River". It even gave its name to the chorus of a popular goldfields' ditty (sung to the tune of "Hot Cross Buns"), which was a play on the word "peck", a unit of measurement used to weigh gold dust.

Gold, gold, gold, bright, fine gold
Wangapeka, Tuapeka, Gold, gold, gold.

The Tuapeka River was the centre of the Otago goldrush of the 1860s. and in his 1867 book "The Geology of New Zealand", German geologist Dr Ferdinard von Hochstetter described how, when the Tuapeka district in Otago was declared a goldfield on June 28 1861,"the Nelson goldfields were deserted in consequence of it; everyone rushed to Otago". (5)

Map of the Wangapeka Diggings
However, it was the Wangapeka's potential as sheep country that was its first attraction. Scottish immigrant Edward (later Sir Edward) Stafford, early pastoralist, first Superintendent of the Nelson Province and later Premier of New Zealand, included land on the Wangapeka plain that he was already using for grazing when he applied for a depasturage licence for the Upper Motueka Valley in 1848.  In his application he described the Wangapeka as "an isolated valley about six miles from the Motueka Valley, surrounded on all sides by wooded hills and mountains, which formed its boundaries, and containing about 800 acres of open land capable of carrying from 400-500 sheep", adding, "I have had a wether flock there for the past two years." Like many pastoralists ,Stafford never lived on his sheep station, and from 1856 till 1860 his run was left in the hands of Yorkshireman Thomas Fawcet, a shepherd who arrived at Lyttelton in 1850 on the ship "Charlotte Jane", along with his wife Mary and the tools of his trade - his sheepdogs. By 1863 he was running a store and accommodation house on the eastern side of the Tadmor River, sited to catch diggers heading for the Baton and Wangapeka goldfields. Stafford's run, known as the "Wangapeka Station", changed hands several times and increased in size -- at its largest the run consisted of 7500 acres and extended from the Sherry River northwards to the Baton Saddle, including land on both sides of the Wangapeka River. (6)

John Tinline
 A Scottish settler of
energy and enterprise
The Wangapeka run had been owned for some time by Roderick McRaean absentee landowner who lived primarily in Richmond, when it was bought in 1898 by notable Nelson pioneer John TinlineBorn in Jedburgh, Scotland, Tinline arrived in Nelson in 1842, having already spent some time in Australia and Wellington.  Nicknamed "Old Fizzlebilly" for his frizzy beard, he was a man of many parts - would-be merchant, Court official, explorer and pastoralist. Before buying the Wangapeka Station, Tinline had run a number of sheep stations in the Wairau with conspicious success. He obtained an interest in the Lyndon Station in the Amuri in 1859,  which earned him  a place among the "wool kings of the Amuri", and was consequently an equally well-known figure in North Canterbury. A co-founder of the Belfast meatworks in Canterbury, he was keen to see a freezing works established in Nelson, though this didn't happen until 1909, after his death. Tinline also had a hand in getting a rail connection established at Culverden in 1886. (7) This was a real boon for the drovers based around the Nelson district who took mobs of sheep over Tophouse and down through Hamner and Culverden for sale in Christchurch, amongst them Ern Robinson and his partners, John E. Salisbury and "Greenhill Tom" Grooby, from Ngatimoti. (8) These drovers, who no doubt knew Tinline, could now load their flocks onto wagons at Culverden for the last part of their journey south instead of having to drive them all the way to the Addington Saleyards.

Tinline leased out the Wangapeka run from 1899. A year before his death on 26 February 1907, he was approached by the Land Purchase Board to see if he might be amenable to selling his Wangapeka estate of 6167 acres to the NZ Government for subdivision into Crown land lots. On 29 December 1906 the "Colonist" noted that the Nelson Lands & Survey Department had been instructed "to proceed with a survey of the Wangapeka run, recently purchased from Mr Tinline for closer settlement purposes."

By the end of the 19th century, the Government was coming under growing pressure to find land for a population increased by immigration and the number of earlier settlers' children and grandchildren now wanting farms of their own. Large sheep runs in Marlborough (like the Starborough Station, which became Seddon) and the Amuri (like Culverden), were broken up for resettlement, sometimes without their owners' consent, thanks to an 1894 amendment of the 1892 Lands for Settlement Act. The opening of the Nelson railway from Belgrove to Motupiko (now Kohatu) in 1899,  followed by its advance to Tadmor by 1906, was a direct response to demands that the back blocks of the Upper Motueka Valley and the Buller be opened up for farming. The Tadmor railway station was handily sited near the junction with the road which led to the  Wangapeka and Sherry Rivers, a natural place for farmers to congregate and pick up supplies, send off their produce and use the local stockyards.(9) The timing was perfect and Tinline's agreement to sell would have been welcomed with open arms.

The sitting tenant, E.J. Robinson, moved on after auctioning his stock in March 1907 and the Wangapeka run was cut up into seven subdivisions , "comprising some 16 sections suitable for agricultural and grazing purposes". The upcoming ballot for what was billed the "Wangapeka Settlement" but would later become known as "Matariki", was widely advertised throughout the country, but it is possible that the Nelson-North Canterbury grapevine had been at work making sure that friends and acquaintances knew well in advance, if the large number of applicants from Canterbury was anything to go by.

On the the morning of 28 June 1907, the ballot for the Wangapeka Settlement sections was held at the Nelson Land Office, with 40-50 interested people in attendance. Mr F.W. Flanagan, Commissioner of Lands, conducted the ballot, first explaining the conditions upon which the lands were being open for selection (Crown lease, with the tenure type being lease-in-perpetuity (L.I.P.) (10) and stressing, to cheers from those present, that the Land Board's emphasis was on encouraging settlers, not land speculators. Messrs Fergusson and Adams were elected as scrutineers, and the numbers were drawn by applicant Mrs Bessie Cameron, the only lady present and winner of Sections 21 & 29, Block XV (15). There were 10 applicants  for Subdivision No. 3: Section 19, Block XI (11), of 344 acres, Wangapeka Survey District (Wangapeka Settlement), which had a frontage onto the main Wangapeka Road, the winner being William John Wattie of Hawarden, Canterbury. (11) (Note: this section is afterwards always described as being of 346 acres in size)

"Wattie's Run" (outlined in red)
Section 19, Block XI, Wangapeka Survey District

The centre of the Wangapeka Settlement (later known as Matariki),
 with school, post office and Wangapeka Domain, circled in red.

The opening of the Wangapeka Settlement saw the Nelson Land Board on a roll - in September 1907, a 7565 acre block of unsurveyed land on the Dart River in the Tadmor and Wangapeka Survey Districts was opened up for selection, and in September 1908 a further 1917 acres of second-class land was made available for settlement at Wangapeka. However, despite initial elation and optimism, making a living from farming at the Wangapeka Settlement turned out to be a tough proposition, and a number of those original happy June 1907 ballot winners would move on after a few years of struggling against the odds.

Territorials on parade during the April 1914
camp at George MacMahon's Tapawera farm.
This was the last camp to be held before
the outbreak of WWI.
The area was soon buzzing. The railways reported a noticeable jump in trade in passengers and goods on the Nelson-Tadmor line, attributed to the new settlement, (12) and Frank Currin's sawmill on the Sherry River was kept busy supplying timber for the new homes and farm buildings going up. 

Mr Frederick W. Flanagan, Commissioner of Crown Lands, paid a visit in October 1907. He  was "exceedingly pleased" to find that the settlers had already done considerable work on clearing and cultivating their holdings and were in good spirits. He was also impressed to find that 14 of the Settlement's school-aged children were already attending classes being held by Mrs MacPherson, wife of one of the new settlers. The Commissioner optimistically declared that "Wangapeka will be one of the most successful settlements of its kind in the Dominion" .

A community spirit soon built up among neighbours all making a fresh start, and the new settlers were welcomed by already established Wangapeka and Sherry Valley residents, several of them, like Chandler, Rollet, Pahl and Phillips, with names dating back to the old goldrush days. James Chandler, formerly a digger at the Victorian and Otago goldrushes, established a store and hotel in 1869 at the junction of the Wangapeka and Dart Rivers, which also served as the Wangapeka post office from 1896. The new settlers enjoyed cricket games held on land drawn at ballot by Charles Grey, and horse races at George MacMahon's "Maniaroa" farm near the Tapawera township, where military exercises were also held, first for the local volunteer militia and then the Territorials. Although sheep-farming was the main preoccupation, a number of settlers took up dairying and started a factory near the cross roads by the Matariki bridge.The milk was taken to the factory to be separated and the cream was then carted to the Tadmor railway station and railed to the butter factory at Richmond. The factory was eventually closed down after home separation became the norm. (13)

Dapp family home at Skeet River, Baton Valley.
Typical of Wangapeka settlers' dwellings. Original
split slab thatched hut sits behind a newer house.
The landscape underwent a dramatic change as it was progressively cleared. W.H. (Harry) Phillips was another old digger, whose store and accommodation house on the western side of the Tadmor River opposite Fawcet's, became the Sherry River post office in 1874 (this post office shifted to the Sherry River school in 1894). His son Jack recalled with regret in the 1960s, "I remember the Sherry Valley with its lovely wooded hills in the '80s and '90s of the last century. To see those hills now as barren granite rock, one realises that it was a sin that they were ever sold and the bush felled - a national loss and no-one's gain". (14) It was this brown granite rock that gave the Sherry River the distinctive sherry-brown tinge from which it took its name.

The Wangapeka goldrush was well over by this time and the once-bustling Rolling River gold boom township at the junction of the Nuggety, Blue and Granity Creeks lay in mouldering ruins, but local residents still fossicked for gold in their spare time and no doubt several of the new settlers also chanced their arms. A number of sluicing claims were worked and it was still possible to find gold-bearing strata on the terraces around the Sherry and Wangapeka Rivers. Over the years various enterprises came and went in fits and starts, including the unsuccessful Belle Mine set up by Roderick McRae in 1896. Although coal deposits were identified in the area early on, as evidenced by the names Coal Creek and Coal Saddle, it seems there was little interest in mining it. At the start of 1901 a syndicate titled the Wangapeka Gold Dredging Company Ltd. was floated with the aim of dredging for gold at the junction of the Wangapeka and Sherry Rivers. It took a quite a while to get dredging equipment on site, with the operation finally underway by 1903, but only a short time to discover that it was a bust. In 1905 the company went into liquidation, much to the disappointment of several local men who had been making good wages working on site.  The machinery was sold in 1906 to Sligo Brothers of Dunedin, to be used in the Philippines for tin-dredging. It was dismantled and waggoned out  to the Tadmor railway station. Tailings left over from the operation were gradually eroded by the river, but still visible for many years. (15)

Building the Wangapeka gold dredge, 1902

By August 1907 the new members of the Wangapeka Settlement were getting to grips with priorities and schooling for their children was high on the list. A meeting was held to discuss pertinent concerns like the formation of a Wangapeka Domain Board and the establishment of a Farmers' Co-operative and saleyards. A proposal was put forward for a centrally situated public school to be set up. William Wattie seconded this proposal for a central school as he had at that time three school-aged sons to think of -  Angus (12), Archie (9) and 5-year-old Jimmy, who had only just started school at Hawarden before the family moved to Nelson.(16) 

An earlier petition, presented to the Nelson Education Board's monthly meeting in July 1907, had mentioned a potential 24 children of school age at the new settlement and resulted in authorization for Michael Corrigan, one of the new settlers, "to expend 5 pounds in preparing a room for an aided school". By the time of the August meeting there were already 17 pupils being taught by Mrs MacPherson. These first classes were held in a ground floor room at the former Wangapeka Run Stables, which was on Corrigan's land. Being the only pre-existing building of any size in the area, this was also used by the settlers for public meetings and social occasions. James Wattie is quoted as recalling that this setting meant "everyone got fleas"! An official roll was begun in September 1907. 

First site of the Wangapeka/Matariki School
The original Wangapeka Run Stables, built around 1860
and restored in recent times by the Lukey family.
"Everyone got fleas", recalled James Wattie.

The Corrigans had Section 22, Block XI, which shared a boundary with Wattie's property. Michael Joseph Corrigan, an Irishman by birth, and his wife Elizabeth Mary nee Conners had come from Waimate in Canterbury and had four children of their own. Corrigan was an early supporter of the proposed Nelson Freezing Works, but he didn't remain in the area, having returned with his family to Canterbury in 1910 to take over the management of his late father-in-law's dairy farm at the Greenpark settlement in the Selwyn District,

Sherry Valley residents were adamant that they didn't want their school moved to fit the bill and during their monthly meeting in December that year, the Nelson Education Board concurred, citing an influx of settlers to the lower Sherry area also needing schooling for their children, and putting forward various other options in response to the settlers' request. It was noted that both William Wattie and Angus MacPherson, who with his brother Norman farmed on adjoining Section 18, Block XI, of 347 acres, had each offered to give two acres of land for a school if required, but neither offer was taken up. (17) 

Matariki School
The opening date, 1909,
was marked on the gable end.
Later used as a local hall.

A plaque inside commemorates
 the Wattie connection.

The Wangapeka Aided School kept running at the old Wangapeka Run Stables, though agitation for a dedicated school continued. In July 1908 the Nelson Education Board successfully concluded a deal with Michael Corrigan for two acres from his homestead section (Section 22) to be set aside for a purpose-built schoolhouse. However It wasn't until April 1909 that the Nelson Education Board instructed its architect, Arthur R. Griffin, to design and put work in place for a new school at the Wangapeka Settlement, to be completed on the former Corrigan land as soon as possible.The building seems to have been finished around July 1909. The number "1909" in wooden numerals was attached to the gable end to commemorate the date of the build and can still be seen today. One of 12 little schools in the Upper Motueka Valley which closed on or before the formation in 1942 of the Tapawera Consolidated School (now the Tapawera Area School), this new school at first continued to be known as the Wangapeka School but was renamed Matariki School around 1912. After it ceased to be used for a schoolhouse, It continued to serve the community as a public hall for years.

The first Wangapeka School had been established in 1890 near the Rolling River Junction, close to the current DOC information shelter at the start of the Wangapeka Track, but had closed by 1904. The Wangapeka/Matariki School was seen as its direct successor, however a third school known as the Upper Wangapeka School was also established in 1909 and ran until 1936. This was situated between the Dart River crossing and the homestead site owned by James (Jim) Chandler Jnr., whose wife Caroline (nee Wray)  taught at both the old Wangapeka School and the Upper Wangapeka School. 

Perce Roeske (lt) & his uncle Jim Flanagan (rt), 
taking down the first Wangapeka School, 
built in 1890  near the Rolling River junction.
The recycled timber was used in 1934 to construct an 
extra classroom at the Upper Wangapeka School
 to accommodate Depression-era goldminers' children.
A Government-subsidised goldfields scheme during the Depression brought around 120 unemployed men to the Wangapeka to work as diggers, along with their families. To cope with the sudden influx of pupils, in 1934 the sturdy old Rolling River schoolhouse, used over the years following its closure for various purposes including a mine manager's home and a deerstalkers' hut, was taken down. The recycled timber was then used to construct an extra classroom, with its own teacher in charge, at the Upper Wangapeka School. After this classroom was closed in 1938, it was shifted to the old Chandler homestead site behind, later occupied by Peter & Valerie Bell, and became a cowshed. 

Angus McPherson's wife Rebecca (known as "Beck"), a qualified teacher who had been taking classes for children at the Wangapeka Settlement ever since they first began in the old Wangapeka Run barn, was confirmed as the schoolmistress of the new Wangapeka School, later renamed Matariki. She had a connection with the Tasman district, having been born in the Waimea to John and Mary (nee Young) McBeth from Donegal, ireland. Her family later moved to Geraldine, South Canterbury, where she married Angus MacPherson on 22 June 1898. When Mrs MacPherson retired in 1915, the community held a lively social evening to mark the occasion at the school, where she was presented with a suitably inscribed silver salad bowl in recognition and appreciation of her service in the district.

Chandler's Hotel at Wangapeka,
close to the Dart River crossing.
Early social centre and later post office
James & Fanny (nee Biggs) Chandler 

top row far left, with their family.
Later used as a barn by the Bells then
 intentionlly burnt down when too decrepit. 

The well-attended annual school picnic and prizegiving took place at the new school on 22 December 1909. Races were held for the children, with prizes presented by William Wattie, Chairman of the School Committee. The children gave a concert at the schoolroom in the evening, followed by a feast prepared by the ladies of the district and a dance. The entertainment included songs performed by several visitors and a spirited Highland Fling from William Wattie's oldest son Angus, a past pupil. He was a talented exponent of Scottish dance and his exhibition of step-dancing had also delighted Wangapeka residents during a gathering held on 21 December 1907 to celebrate the opening of a new  footbridge over the Dart River near Chandler's Hotel.

The Wangapeka Settlement got its own post office in 1911, with James Chandler Snr adding it to his weekly mail run from the hotel, seven miles each way by horseback to and from the collection point at the Sherry River post office. (Three of Chandler's children later took over this run in succession from 1915  - William, Eleanor (Nell) and Alice Thomas nee Chandler). To avoid confusion with the already existing Wangapeka post office at Chandler's Hotel, the new post office was given the name "Matariki" in 1911. The former Wangapeka Settlement was then renamed "Matariki", and the Wangapeka School became the Matariki School. (18) 

William and Annie Wattie's oldest son, Angus, won various prizes while at school and was awarded a Junior National Scholarship, which enabled him to attend Nelson College from 1909 -1911. He then entered the Civil Service, later becoming  Chief Surveyor at the Lands & Survey Department in Napier. He may have inherited his talent from his father, William Wattie, who was a keen player of the bagpipes and Scottish dancer. William regularly took part in Nelson Scottish Society events - often in friendly competition against his  Scottish neighbour, Angus MacPherson. 
Local Heroes.
Off to the War, 16 August 1914
The Tapawera Mounted contingent in camp at Nelson
after enlisting with the NZ Expeditionary Force.

L-R  Back row: Bob Bracefield, Jack Clougher, Rory Arnold, Bob Mead, 
Bert Pearless, Jack Hannen, Frank Kidson.
Front row (kneeling): Jack Tomlinson, Norm McPherson (sic), Joe Thomas, Len Kinzett, Jack Crimp.
[Not in photo] Stan Berryman, Vince Davey.

Born at Sleat on the Isle of Skye, Angus MacPherson had arrived as a 6 year-old on 1 September 1874 in Lyttleton, New Zealand, from Glasgow, Scotland, on the ship "Canterbury" with his parents Norman and Jessie MacPherson, his younger siblings Donald and Mary and aunt Effie MacPherson (later Mrs Angus Fraser of Kaiapoi). They settled around Woodbury in Fairlie, South Canterbury, where 7 more children were added to the family. The  MacPhersons were associated with the historic Canterbury high country sheep station Mt Four Peaks, where Angus was employed before he moved to Wangapeka. His brother Normanwho had joined him at Wangapeka, served during WWI as a Squadron Sergeant-Major (serial no 7/229) with the NZ Mounted Rifles. He had previously fought in South Africa during the Boer War with the 10th Contingent of the NZ Rough Riders (serial no SA 7/229), and after moving to Wangapeka trained with first the Wakatu Mounted Rifles, then the Territorials at Tapawera. When war broke out he enlisted with the 10th (Nelson) Squadron of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles and sailed on 16 October 1914 from Wellington to Egypt on the troopship "Athenic", with the Main Body of the NZ Expeditionary Force. Norman served out the duration of the war in the Middle East without a scratch, but did suffer complications resulting from a serious bout of trench fever which kept him out of action for six weeks.  His younger brother Lance-Corporal Allan MacPherson (Seventh Reinforcements (serial no 7/1641), who joined up in Canterbury, was less fortunate. He succumbed to malaria, dying in a Cairo hospital on the 20th of October, 1918, while serving with the NZ Engineers, Field Troop. During the Sinai-Palestine campaign, more than 90% of the 550,000 casualties suffered by Britain and her allies were not battle losses but due to disease, heat and other secondary causes. 

Angus MacPherson, who became closely involved with the popular Tapawera dog trials instituted in 1910, moved to Auckland with his wife in the late 1920s and died there in 1939. Norman married in 1923 to Margaret Quayle, daughter of William Quayle and Mary nee McPhail. Although she was born in Invercargill and raised in the Manawatu, Margaret's father was a native of the Isle of Man and likely related to the Manx Quayle family who were early Motueka settlers. Norman returned to farming at  Matariki after the war, later retiring to Tahunanui, Nelson, where he died in 1952.

Adding to the MacPherson presence in the area, in 1913 Angus and Norman's sister Sarah MacPherson married Henry Oswald Kite, only son of nearby Tadmor farmer George Kite and his wife Elizabeth Ellen (nee Sutton). Henry had taken over the family farm after his father's death in 1907. Sadly, their only child, Phyllis ("Sadie") Kite, was killed at the age of 19 in an accident on Xmas Day 1934, when the Spiers' service car in which she was travelling to Murchison rolled on the Hope Saddle. 

Angus John Wattie
Angus Wattie also competed successfully in Scottish dance at Scottish Society meetings and became both a player and well-known teacher of the bagpipes. He later served during WWI as a Sapper with the NZ Engineers (Divisional Signallers Company), serial number 2051, 14th Reinforcements, NZEF, (19) and in December 1917 was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field. While on leave in the UK in March 1918, he took the chance to visit ancestral haunts in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Although gone by the time Europeans ventured into the Wangapeka Valley, there were plentiful signs of former occupation by Maori, who are thought to have fled the area in advance of an invading war party (probably Te Rauparaha's shock troops), setting fires behind them to mask their escape. They left as their legacy numerous black pigs which had gone wild and flourished in the bush. These provided a reliable source of food for the early diggers and over the years locals had become used to freely roaming the old Wangapeka Run in search of game. Wattie was obliged to post a trepass notice threatening to prosecute "all persons with dogs and guns" found hunting on his land. Periodic flooding from the Bush End Creek was another nuisance and William Wattie petitioned the Waimea County Council for help with drainage, but the damage was nothing compared to that caused by the big dry. Severe drought in January 1908 affected the entire Nelson region, leaving local rivers at an all-time low. It was accompanied by widespread fires which raged unchecked for several weeks, bringing about extensive destruction to Wangapeka properties. Many settlers' houses were destroyed and the MacPhersons' home was only saved from the flames after a heroic effort put in by fifteen neighbours over several hours.
Matariki, formerly
 the Wangapeka Settlement

(underlined in red), in relation to
other small settlements in 

the Upper Motueka Valley.

 In an eye-witness account, Jack Phillips describes how his brother Will's farm at Orchard Creek in the Sherry Valley, built up by back-breaking labour over four years, went up in a puff of smoke overnight. Like many settlers, Will Phillips had felled the heavy bush, mostly on his own, and lived at first in a slab timber  "whare" or hut before putting up a cottage. 

"Fire spread on to Will's place from the hill at the back.The wind brought it down into the dry bush clearings and a small team of us fought the blaze for days, carrying buckets of water from the creek. Then the wind changed and sparks flew past us and started fires behind us and the smoke drove us out. In fact we were lucky to get out and the place was left to its fate. Next morning we went back and even the handle of the pitchfork left sticking the dry ground of the garden was burnt out. The cottage was gone. A great many sheep were burnt and the grass was killed. It was a sad loss." (20)

Acres of bush and pasture were left blackened and shrivelled and mobs of sheep were driven down to Tadmor to be sold at a great loss to their owners, no grazing being left for them on the runs. (21) William Wattie lost much of his pasture and although he was still carrying 200 sheep on his block after the fires, this may have led him to have second thoughts about staying at Wangapeka. In April 1908 he applied to the Nelson Land Board for permission to transfer his lease for Section 19, Block XI in the Wangapeka Settlement to a Hawarden acquaintance and neighbour, Henry Samuel Gainsford, but was turned down. (22) 

Walter Allan Gainsford.
Accidentally killed at
his Wangapeka farm
12 December 1909.
Henry Gainsford farmed with his brother Walter Allan Gainsford on Section 20, Block XV of 477 acres, which adjoined Wattie's property. They were sons of Robert H. Gainsford, Clerk, Surveyor and Treasurer of the Oxford Road Board. Walter was one of three Hawarden ex-pats who won land in the 1907 Wangapeka Settlement ballot - the other two being William Wattie and Charles Grey (Section 30, Block XV). Walter died as the result of a gunshot wound on 12 December 1909, at the age of 27. He'd been drafting sheep with his brother Henry and Alfred Charles Biggs, a local farm labourer, and was carrying a loaded rifle with him as he went off to muster stragglers. A shot was heard and when he didn't return the others became concerned. They went looking and found he'd been shot dead, presumably after accidentally discharging his own rifle. During the following inquest, William Wattie served as foreman on the jury, which returned a verdict of accidental death. (23) 

Henry, who became well-known as a long-serving secretary of the Matariki Farmers' Union, and served as a member of the Wangapeka Domain Board, stayed on at the Wangapeka farm till 1917, when he moved, first to Hiwipango, then back to Canterbury. His brother Walter Gainsford left a widow and one-year-old son. He had married Hawarden girl Catherine Isabella (Isobel) Jones in November 1907 and they had a son, Allan, a year later. Catherine returned to North Canterbury and in October 1910 transferred the lease of Section 20, Block XV at Wangapeka to her sister-in-law, Henry's wife Mary. Catherine remarried in 1911 to Walter's younger brother Thomas Gainsford, a builder living in the East Oxford area.

Tea-break during grain harvesting, Hastings, c. 1930
William Wattie far right (wearing braces),
 his youngest son Norman (with hand on hip)
next to him.
In August 1910 William Wattie had another go at shifting his property and this time was given approval by the Nelson Land Board to tranfer the lease-in-perpetuity for Section 19, Block XI, Wangapeka Survey District, to Thomas. J. Reaney, a farmer formerly living at Mayfield, near Ashburton in Canterbury. (24) Once the formaltities were dealt with, Wattie and his family removed to Marlborough, where William again took up work as a shepherd on various properties, and a fifth son, Norman, was added to the family in 1912. William was working at the Hillersden Station in the Wairau Valley south of Blenheim, a run carrying over 40,000 sheep, when the Hillersden estate was broken up for settlement in 1914. He had entered and already won the ballot for a Hillersden section when he changed his mind, moving instead to Hawkes Bay. There he took up a small block of land at Mahora, a new dairying and fruit-growing subdivision of the Frimley Estate straddling the northern boundary of Hastings, thereby setting in motion the future of his third son, James (Jim) Wattie, as a canning magnate.

James Wattie, who had added primary education at rural schools in Tuamarina, Blenheim and Wairau Valley to his curriculum following nearly four years at Wangapeka School, spent his Standard Six year (1915) at Mahora South School and passed his proficiency examination. (Hawkes' Bay legend has it that while still at school the budding entrepreneur started bottling fruit in his parents' wash-house, then selling it to neighbours and from a fruit stall.) A bright child and always a hard worker - when at Blenheim he had earned five shillings a week by doing a twice daily milk delivery - he didn't go to high school, instead taking on a variety of jobs. including working in a packing shed  At the age of 14 he took a job as a junior clerk at the Whakatu Meat Works while studying at night to become an accountant.  In 1928 he became manager of Hawkes' Bay Fruitgrowers (25) and in 1934 opened a small factory at an old cottage in King Street, Hastings, at first producing jam pulp, then canning pears and peaches. This marked the start of meteoric career in the fruit and vegetable canning industry which saw "Wattie's" become the iconic household name it still remains today. By 1971, Wattie Industries Ltd., with its catchy promotional slogan cum advertising jingle, "It must be Wattie's", was at the forefront of the food industry in New Zealand. (26) James Wattie was knighted in 1966. He died 8 June 1974 of a heart attack at his grand old Maungateretere homestead, "Maungapapa" (currently run as a luxury hotel). Political and community leaders and employees were among the estimated 2000 people who attended his funeral. He is commemorated at the Hastings Cemetery, where his ashes were deposited on 11 June 1974.

A high point for James Wattie (rt)
Queen Elizabeth II visits Wattie's cannery in Hastings
during the 1954 Royal Tour of New Zealand.

 William Wattie had a farm at Mahora, where he ran about 200 sheep, and in 1918 was described as a drover when he took to court a Hastings motorist who accidentally struck and killed one of the sheepdogs helping him drive a mob of sheep to the Whakatu Freezing Works, a case he won. (27) He supplemented his income by taking on agricultural work around the Hastings area. William and his wife Annie both died in Hastings, Hawke's Bay  - William on 29 April 1936 at the age of 68, and his wife Annie on 18 April 1962, aged 87. They lie together beneath a headstone at the Hastings Cemetery. 

Acknowledgement : Mr Edward Stevens, Ngatimoti.


1) The surname "Wattie" is paricularly associated with Aberdeenshire and is attached to Clan Watson.

2) Passenger manifest,"Jura" Glasgow-Port Chalmers, Dunedin, 1858
James Wattie, wife and 3 children
Note: Surname incorrectly transcribed as "Wait".
NZ Yesteryears website

"Star,"  29 January, 1894, pg 2

4) Passenger manifest, "Monarch", London - Lyttelton, Christchurc, 1870
James Gifkens, ploughman, and wife
NZ Yesteryears website

5) Newport, J.W.N.(1962) "Footprints: The story of the settlement and development of the Nelson back country districts" Christchurch, NZ: Whitcombe & Tombes. Ch. XIX Wangapeka Valley, pp 215-217

6) Ibid Ch. XXII  Wangapeka Station and Matariki pp 255-256

7) Lash, Max D. (1992) "Nelson Notables". Nelson, NZ: Nelson Historical Society Inc.
Tinline, John (1820-1907)

8) Newport, "Footprints" Ch. XI Sheep Trade with Canterbury, pp 127-138.

9) Voller, Lois (1991) "Rails to Nowhere: The History of the Nelson Railway". Nelson, NZ: Nikau Press. Ch.18 Change Comes to the Tadmor Valley, pg 208.

The Crown Lands of New Zealand- How to Obtain Them
The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout, Vol 78 ( NZETC)

11) Wangapeka Settlement ballot results - a full list of the 16 successful applicants.
"Nelson Evening Mail" 28 June 1907, pg 3

"Nelson Evening Mail" 9 August 1907, pg 2

13) Newport, "Footprints", Ch. XXII, Wangapeka Station, pg 256

14) Newport,  J.N.W. (1978) "Footprints Too: Further glimpses into the History of Nelson Province", Pub J. N.W. Newport, printed Blenheim, NZ: Express Printing Works. Ch.25 John (Jack) Phillips' Memories of Sherry River, pg 163

15) Newport "Footprints", Ch XX11, pp 257-261

"Nelson Evening Mail", 28 August 1907, pg 2

"Colonist", 17 December 1907, pg 2

18) Newport "Footprints", Ch XXI, pg 257
See also Startup, R.M. (1975) "Through Gorge and Valley: A history of the Postal District of Nelson from 1849". Motupiko-Kohatu-Tadmor-Sherry River, pg 39; List of Post and Telephone Office- Matariki, pg 64. 
Masterton, NZ: R.M. Startup for the Postal History Society of New Zealand.

19) Sapper Angus John Wattie, serial no 2015,
Online Cenotaph Database, Auckland War Memorial Museum
See also:
Extract from a letter sent by Angus Wattie to his parents detailing the action resulting in his award. "Hastings Standard," 21 February 1918, pg 4

20) Newport, "Footprints Too",Ch. 25, pg 167

"Colonist", 29 January 1908, pg 2

22) Nelson Land Board - request to transfer lease of Section 19, Block XI, Wangapeka Survey District to H.S. Gainsford denied.
"Colonist", 13 April 1908, pg 4

"Colonist" 15 December 1909, pg 2

24) Nelson Land Board - transfer of lease for Section 19, Block XI, Wangapeka Survey District to T.J. Reaney approved.
"Nelson Evening Mail" 12 August 1910, pg 3

25)  Mary Boyd, "Wattie, James", from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara-  the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

26) Hastings Disrict Council - Hastings Heritage Trail
No 22, pp 12-13, J. Wattie Canneries Ltd.,

27) Hastings Magistrate's Court : A Sheep Dog Case
"Hastings Standard", 23 January 1918, pg 4



Gardner, W. J. (1983, 2nd rev.ed.) "The Amuri: A County History.". Culverden, NZ: The Amuri County Council.

Lash, Max D. (1992) "Nelson Notables". Nelson, NZ: Nelson Historical Society Inc.

McAloon, Jim (1997) "Nelson: A Regional History"Watamango Bay, Quuen Charlotte Sound, NZ: Cape Catley  Ltd. in asscociation with the Nelson City Council.

Marshall, Graeme (1981) "School Days.... School Days! 100 yrs of Education - Tapawera and Districts". Motueka, NZ: Cherry Printers & Stationers.Ltd.

Newport, J.W.N.(1962) "Footprints: The story of the settlement and development of the Nelson back country districts" Christchurch, NZ: Whitcombe & Tombes.

Newport,  J.N.W. (1978) "Footprints Too: Further glimpses into the History of Nelson Province", Pub J. N.W. Newport, printed Blenheim, NZ: Express Printing Works.

Newport, J.W.N.(1987) "More Footprints: Still further glimpses into the History of Nelson Province", Pub. J.N.W. Newport, printed Neson NZ: General Printing Services.

Voller, Lois (1991) "Rails to Nowhere: The History of the Nelson Railway". Nelson, NZ: Nikau Press.


Plan of the Town of Wangapeka (also referred to as the Rolling River or Courthouse Flat Township) 
This town never got past the planning stage. Plan drawn up by Robert Preston Bain in 1880 during a period of burgeoning interest in quartz-mining, and published by the General Survey Office, Wellington. This is digital image which can (with care!) be manipulated. The main thoroughfares, Doran Street and Chandler Street, were named after goldfield pioneers Irishman Paul Doran, who set up the first quartz reef stamper battery at Nuggesty Creek, and James Chandler, who had a hotel on the Dart River and was also the local postmaster.


Newport Jeff, Wangapeka
Nelson Historical Society Journal, (May 1957) Vol 1, issue 2. Pub. Nelson Historical Society, Inc

Boyd, Mary, "Wattie James"
Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

"Hastings Mail", 26 February 2011 (via Press Reader)

Papers Past

Lecture by Dr Ferdinand Hochstetter and Presentation by the Inhabitants of Nelson
"Colonist", 30 September 1859, pg 2

"Nelson Examiner and NZ Chronicle",10 June 1863, pg 3.

Part of a series titled "Through the Wangapeka with a Geologist".
"Colonist", 20 March 1888, pg 3


Sir James Wattie (1902-1974) in 1970
"Evening Post" portraits, 1970 Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. no. PAColl-8557-57

"The Wangapeka Valley" [1886] . Artist: John Gully (1819-1888)
Suter Art Gallery/Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, object number 117
NZ Museums website

Wangapeka Diggings- advertisement for William Henry (Harry) Phillips' store and accommodation house in the Sherry Valley, at the foot of Tadmor Hill. It's easy to see which commodity was most in demand!
"Nelson Examiner & NZ Chronicle", 31 December, 1864, pg 4

Jonsen's split slab hut at Rolling River, Wangapeka goldfield
Ex Newport, "Footprints", pg 256.

Goldfields map of the Wangapeka Diggings, pre 1870 (The term 'Wangapeka Diggings" included the Wangapeka River and all its tributaries -  the Baton, Sherry, Tadmor etc )
Archives NZ
Ex Newport, "Footprints", pg 141

John Tinline (1820-1907)
Nelson Provincial Museum Collection, photo ref. 67719

Government Notice :Wangapeka Settlement Ballot
"The Press", 15 June 1907, pg 12

"Wattie's Run", Section 19, Block XI, Wangapeka Survey District, drawn at ballot by William Wattie on 28 June 1907.
Map, dated ca 1920, courtesy Mr E. Stevens.

Territorials at George MacMahon's "Maniaroa" fram, Tapawera.
Nelson Provincial Museum
Ex Newport, "More Footprints", pg 51

Dapp's homestead at Skeet Stream, in the Baton Valley. William Dapp was for some years the mail carrier for the Baton and used to pick up and drop off the Baton mail at the Phillips' house in the Sherry Valley.
Nelson Provincial Museum Collection, photo ref. 179311

Building the Wangapeka gold dredge, 1902
Ex Newport, "Footprints", pg 352 

The original Wangapeka Run Stables, built around 1860 and restored in recent times by the Lukey family. 
Used as the site for Wangapeka/Matariki School classes until a new schoolhouse was constructed in 1909.
Courtesy Susan Fenemor.

Matariki School, built and opened in 1909, now used as the local hall.
Photographer: Graham Martin, published 23 December 2007 via PanoramioGeoview Info 

Taking down the old Wangapeka School building in 1934- materials reused to construct an extra classroom
at the Upper Wangapeka School site near te Dart accommodate Depression era goldminers' children.
Photo courtesy the late Ethel nee Sharp, Mrs Percy Roeske.. Ex Marshall, Graeme (1981) "School Days.... School Days! 100 yrs of Education - Tapawera and Districts," pg 40

Chandler's Wangapeka Hotel on the Dart River, originally built to service the short-lived Rolling River township when hopes of a goldrush were high. In later years used by the Bell family as a barn before being burnt down.
Tyree Studio collection, Nelson Provincial Museum, photo ref. 51851

Off to the War, 16 August 1914. The Tapawera Mounted contingent in camp at Nelson after enlisting with the
New Zealand Expeditionary Force and awaiting transport to Chridtchurch for training.
L-R  Back row: Robert Bracefield, Jack Clougher, Rory Arnold, Bob Mead, Bert Pearless, Jack Hannen, 
Frank Kidson. Front row (kneeling): Jack Tomlinson, Norm McPherson, Joe Thomas, Len Kinzett, Jack Crimp.
[Not in photo] Stan Berryman, Vince Davey.
Nelson Provincial Museum Collection, photo ref 326761

Sapper A.J. Wattie (1895-1965) serial 2051, NZ Engineers (Divisional Signallers Coy.),
14th Reinforcements, N.Z.E.F.
Archives NZ F897
Can be seen in Beattie & Pomeroy (2013- ongoing) "Onward: Portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Vol 2, pg  431. Auckland, NZ: Fair Dinkum Press.

Map showing settlements in the Upper Motueka Valley.
Newport, "More Footprints", pg 4

Walter Allan Gainsford (1882-1909). Photograph thought to have been taken on the occasion of his wedding

Tea-break during grain harvesting at Hastings ca. 1930. Photographer Henry Norford Whitehead.
Alexander Turnbull Library, ref 1/1-004567-G

Accompanied by James Wattie, Queen Elizabeth II visits Wattie's cannery in Hastings (1954)
Hawkes' Bay Knowledge Bank, Hastings District Council
Accession no: 72/73/16914


  1. That's a lot of good work. As a kid in Napier we were told James Wattie, started with bottling as a child in his parents wash-house, selling to neighbours and from a street stall.

    I noticed a couple of typos, there's a g missing in one of the Wangapeka's and the excerpt below. Hope you don't mind.
    "Walter died as the result of a gunshot wound on 12 December 1909 at the age of 2. He'd "

    1. Thanks, Graeme and no, always happy for a heads-up relating to typos and/or errors of any other sort :)