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Echoes from the back blocks - Erewhon

Mespotamia Country Nov. 2009

Evening Post, 22 October 1932, Page 14 BUTLER AS FARMER BEFORE "EREWHON"
Interesting references to Samuel Butler, author of "Erewhon," are made in the writings of a contemporary who met Butler as a sheep farmer in Canterbury to a correspondent of "The Times" writes:—The following extracts are from the Diaries of the late Edward Chudleigh, who sailed to New Zealand in 1861. From the Plains of Canterbury he frequently climbed the gorges to Samuel Butler's mountain stronghold of Mesopotamia, to help Butler with his work, or to keep him company. The diarist, who was the son of a Cornish rector, was just 19 when he landed in the country, and had been educated at an English Public School. His spelling and punctuation are faithfully followed here. The little leather covered books in which his daily doings and impressions are recorded are stained with rain and the mud-waters of flooded rivers, and worn with long miles of travel in a saddle-bag. Except for having "sold Mr. Butler 2 bullocks at 15 a head" at a chance meeting during a cattle-drive across South Canterbury (26th April, 1862), Chudleigh's first recorded meeting with Butler occurred on 3rd December of that year, at Mount Peel, the 100,000 acre run at the foot of the mountains, belonging to Mr. J.B Acland, where Chudleigh was then a "cadet." Butler, 26 years of age, and quite without fame, seems to have made a curious impression on him:—
    "Mr. Butler, the person Pattisson lives with, came here to-day he is one of the cleaverest men in N.Z. he is a little man and nearly as dark as a Mowray (Maori), and is at present very nearly if not quite an infidel, and yet I believe would not do a dishonourable thing to save his life, he admires a man that sticks to his belief no matter what it is.

"Dec. 17. We went on horseback to the out-hut, 20 miles in the hills, Irvine and I went on to Butler's, 5 miles further up the river. Butler's house is surrounded by hills, 6, 8, and 9 thousand ft. the tops covered with snow a very grand sight indeed."
A three-days exploration further into the mountains follows, during which the diarist finds the remains of four moas, and secures three of the gigantic leg-bones, "one for Butler." Then he and Butler ride 80 miles through difficult country, enlisting shearers. Two men are rescued from the swollen rapids of the, Rangitata, which, looks "awfully dreary," and the horses sometimes "lie down with fright" when scrambling down the dizzy cliff-tracks. At the end of January, 1863, all hands are hard at work from 5 a.m. till 7 p.m. bringing in the sheep and shearing them. On Saturday afternoon the diarist "had to set to with the gloves for the edification of the station" with a half-caste Maori of "enormous strength" but beautiful temper," and on Sunday Butler gave me a little book called the Rocky island " to read during hours or rest.

Feb. 5th. An awful storm appears to be brewing, the wind is getting up an inkey-black clouds are gathering
6th. The hurricane that followed came up to the mark. It blew great guns and took a deal of thatch off our house. Butler could look from his bed through the roof, a large peice being taken clean off."
The following Sunday, being "very fine," is spent in a tour round Butler's property, and the following description of the country which inspired "Erewhon" is given: "I saw some most beautiful and grand scenery. I was on a hill about 1500ft above the Rangitata, the snow topped hills rise 8 and 9 thousand feet on my right and left, then lovely valleys covered with bush that you can follow up till they die away in the blue of the distant mountains whose tips shoot up into a sky of spotless blew, at my feet there is fine undulating country spotted with small lakes or lagoons, and then come the Rangitata plains. The river loses its dreariness in distance and looks fit for any picture, here downs come in again, which very gradually rise into endless snow. I cannot describe the grandeur of this place. I wish I could paint it." This was the brighter side of the picture, but Mesopotamia was a place of moods. For four days the weather held up the shearing, and then Chudleigh had to go down the mountain to another job. His horse had been lamed, and then, the night before he left, had departed in search of quieter pastures, so he had to borrow Butler's Sultan, "a very, springey horse," which, however, carried him without stirrups safely through clouds of sand and showers of spray, whipped up from the rivers, and through great black drifts of smoke from "an enormous fire on the Plains, " blotting out every landmark on the track when, darkness overcame him.

Meetings with Butler are recorded fairly frequently during the ensuing months; in the little storm-racked hut up at, Mesopotamia; at Mount Peel; and at Mr. Charles Tripp's stationhouse, where Mrs. Tripp (Bishop Harper's daughter) found his "peculiar nature and wild theories upsetting" and "did not like it when Butler tried to convert the maid to his ideas," as she has left on record. But he played the piano beautifully, and would do so for hours."
The next entry of outstanding interest does not occur until 19th March, 1864, when the two met by chance in Christchurch:—
"Reached town early. Had a long talk with Butler on various subjects, I think he is gone as far as man can go now, he is an ultra-Darwinian, he thinks Darwin in 200 years hence will be looked upon as a most wonderful philosopher, and possibly a prophet, he does not believe the Bible to have been written by men under the influence of divine inspiration, but by good men, he thinks it a book, for all social and moral purposes, full of moral truths, [and a book to be followed. I think he does believe in an almighty something, somewhere; he does not believe there is a colossal etherial being, that pervades all space and matter, whoso person would pass through the densest matter as unconscious of resistance as a feather in a. vacuum, he thinks the time will come when man, a very different being to the present worm, will look back on us much in the same light as we look on the Silurian Epoch, the names of all the great men that influence the world will be forgotten but their influence will be handed down from age to age, modified and infinitely improved, just as we feel the influence of the first invention of the lever, wheel, and pulley. Give the World time, an infinite number of epochs, and according to its past and present system, like the coming tide each epoch will, advance on each, but so slowly that it can barely be traced, man's body becoming finer to bear his finer mind, till man becomes not only an Angel but an Archangel. "Here he said, My dear boy you are quite right to maintain your own opinions, but you cannot blame me for doing, as I do, holding such opinions. I shall not do it (a thing I had been talking to him about) because I do not think it right,- I do right because I think it wrong to do otherwise. 'Right' is that which agrees with the law and interest of man, and I suppose, human instinct is to tell one rights from wrong. This point I do not quite comprehend. I have not used his language but these are some of his views.  

Evening Post, 31 August 1935, Page 15 A Surveyor in New Zealand, 1857-1896 John H. Baker
Butler had been, established at Mesopotamia several months when John Baker, the 19 year old, surveyor who had just completed his cadetship in the profession arrived at the sheep station on the Rangitata, for an expedition into the higher country to the west. This was at Butler's invitation; he had met Baker in Christchurch early in his first year in New Zealand. It was on Christmas Eve, 1860, that Baker rode in and the next day three young pioneers sat down to a Christmas dinner in the homestead hut; the third member of the party was Cook, Butler's station manager.
    Butler's primitive homestead, a low squat 'cob' cottage, with clay compacted walls of rubble stone, was still standing a few years ago and Professor Speight of Canterbury University took an excellent photograph of it, and this was reproduced in the Baker autobiography. That type of dwelling is frequently seen in the backblocks of Canterbury and Otago, where timber was unprocurable in the pioneer days. In the background are the sombre foothills of the Alps. Living there, with but one or two employees, in that place of splendid desolation, butler began his great satirical romance.

Auckland Star, 12 November 1932, Page 2 A PIONEER SURVEYOR.
SOUTH ISLAND EXPERIENCES. Like an old sailor, a veteran surveyor in such a country as New Zealand always has a story to tell. The man whose life, or a considerable part of it, has been spent in exploring, in preparing the way for settlement, in searching out routes for roads and railways, has inevitably had adventures and strange experiences in the unpeopled places. There are innumerable stories of this kind in a book of reminiscences just published, A Surveyor in New-Zealand, 1857—1896: The Recollections of John Holland Baker, edited by Noeline Baker (Whitcombe and Tombs). Mr. Baker, the fourth son of an English country clergyman "with a large family and small means," came out to New Zealand when a lad of fifteen in the ship Maori. His uncle, Archdeacon Mathias, of Christchurch, had written suggesting that one of the boys should be sent out to the colony, and so young Baker had his first lessons in self reliance in a long sea voyage. His taste for the out-of-doors led him to take up the profession of surveying, and for nearly 40 years his life was exploring, cutting up land for settlement, and skirmishing ahead of the farmer and the township builders. He became Chief Surveyor and Commissioner of Crown Lands in Canterbury and later in Wellington, and after his retirement in 1808 he went to England to live. After his death his daughter completed the story of his life which he had begun, founded on his diary. Mr. Baker's colonial career was chiefly in the South Island; he had none of the adventures with the Maoris which fell to men like G. W. Hursthouse and Percy Smith and John Rochfort in the North, but of perils and narrow escapes in the icy torrents and the mountains there were more than enough. He was just the type of man for a pioneer and a pathfinder. He loved travel and the wild country, he was, as his daughter says, endowed with splendid physical health, tireless energy, and magnificent courage; resourceful and able to turn his hand to anything. He explored and mapped much of the back country of Canterbury, Otago, and Southland. Before Baker joined the Survey Department in Southland he tried his luck on the gold diggings at Tuapeka with some mates, and then had a brief experiment in storekeeping on the goldfields. Neither treasure hunting nor commerce, he decided, was in his line, and soon he was back in his chosen profession. His story is a useful contribution to the recorded history of pioneer work in the South Island, and it is enhanced in interest by the numerous notes about the people he met, the first families on the big sheep stations, the social life of those early days, the primitive stages of now populous places. His friendship with the famous Samuel Butler of Mesopotamia sheep run provided interesting reminiscences. As a responsible official in the Lands and Survey Department he gave the colony good service, and when he was Commissioner in Wellington he was particularly active in advancing bona fide settlement and in stamping out the dummyism that was rather prevalent in those days.

Press, 23 August 1884, Page 2
Sale of Station Property— We have also sold Messrs Campbell Bros. 'Mesopotamia' Station-and stock at a price satisfactory alike to vendors and purchaser, the buyer being Mr George McMillan.

Ashburton Guardian, 26 January 1904, Page 3 OBITUARY. Mr George McMillan.
It becomes our painful duty to announce the death of Mr George McMillan, which occurred early this morning at his residence Cracroft, Ruapuna. The deceased gentleman, who returned from the Old Country about three months ago, in company with Mr George McRae, of Greenstreet, became suddenly ill on his arrival in this county, and ever since had been suffering acutely from an internal complaint. Although the fact was not generally recognised, his medical adviser from the first entertained no hops of a permanent recovery, as the complaint from which he was suffering was of a malignant and insidious nature. Mr McMillan had resided in this county for over twenty years, and was for many years a member of the Mount Somers Road Board. The deceased gentleman was a native of Rosshire, Scotland. For several years after his arrival in New Zealand he acted as manager of the Cheviot Hills run, North Canterbury, tor Mr Robinson. Later on the deceased gentleman purchased the Lake Summer run, Huruni Gorge, and subsequently disposing of that estate acquired the Mesopotamia run from Dalgety and Co. Being a thoroughly competent sheep farmer Mr McMillan speedily effected radical changes in the management of his new estate and three years after he had purchased it, he was enabled to depasture practically double the number of sheep. Some eight years ago the deceased bought Cracroft run, which he made his home till the time of his death. Mr McMillan, was a single man and had I attained an age over and above the allotted span of life. He possessed sterling qualifications, was a true and sincere friend, and by his honour and integrity had made for himself a host of friends in this county, who will deeply regret his demise.

Butler's homestead site July 2011

Auckland Star, 17 December 1932, Page 7 "EREWHON" LAND WITH SAMUEL BUTLER AT "MESOPOTAMIA."
Far up the snow-fed Rangitata, growling down in many streams over its two mile-wide bed, is the historic sheep station which its pioneer named Mesopotamia long before the world of letters discovered in him a genius; and rising broken range after range beyond to the ultimate peaks of the Southern Alps is the mighty anteroom of "Erewhon." Samuel" Butler did not come to the Canterbury tussock-land seeking "local colour" for a romance. The wonder, and enchantment of those lonely places, the solitudes, the strange glory of Alpland, became part of him; the landscape, the sights and sounds of the high country, naturally and without strained search, influenced his thoughts and writings. Anything which will add to our knowledge of Butler's early days as a pastoralist and throw light on the sources of his inspiration is a welcome discovery. In a just-published book of New Zealand reminiscences, the life of John H. Baker, pioneer surveyor and a friend of Butler, there is a chapter which narrates some exploring expeditions in which the two adventured into the unknown Alpine regions, and episodes and scenes that clearly helped to shape the story, or at any rate its setting. In this book, "A Surveyor in New Zealand, 1857-1896," edited by Noeline Baker, a diary is drawn on for the incidents of this association which are narrated in tantalisingly brief passages. One feels that there were all the makings of a book in the camp talks, the long horseback journeys, the perils and narrow escapes of those expeditions, rather than just a portion of a chapter. John Baker, who had come out from England in 1857, was introduced to Samuel Butler in Christchurch, and when his cadetship in the surveying profession ended (he was then 19 years old) Butler invited him to join him in an exploring expedition in the Upper Rangitata, a search for new sheep country. Accordingly on December 24, 1860, the young surveyor arrived Mesopotamia, after a two days', ride, and next day three of them sat down to Christmas dinner in the homestead hut, the third member of the party being Cook, Butler's station manager. The description which Butler gave in "Erewhon" of the mountain and gorge and river scenery at the head of the wild Rangitata was mostly founded on the explorations that he and Baker now made together.

Adventures on the Rangitata. The explorers set out on the 20th on horseback, with a packhorse carrying tent and camp gear, and rode up the southern branch of the Rangitata, now known as Havelock. The object of the expedition was to discover new unoccupied land for sheep runs. They found the pass at the head of the branch impracticable as a route to new sheep country, and they returned to Mesopotamia. On the way back to where they had left their horses they had an adventure which might easily have proved fatal. to, both. Crossing the river on-foot, they, were swept off their feet, and were washed down a rapid in the icy torrent. They got out safely, tramped back to camp, put on dry clothes, boiled the billy and slept, on their fern couches as serenely as if such experiences were everyday matters. After returning to Mesopotamia and resting a week, the two explorers set out again for the high country, with their horses and camp equipment. This time they followed the Clyde branch of the Rangitata, but finding no available pass at the head of it they the Lawrence branch as far as there was any feed for the horses, and then camped for the night.

A Camp Picture. Baker quotes Butler's description in "Erewhon" of such a camp; indeed, he says "it may well have been of this very night he was thinking." "When we had done supper it was quite dark. The silence freshness of the occasional sharp cry of the woodhen, the ruddy glow of the fire, the subdued rushing of the river, the sombre forest, and the immediate foreground of our saddles, packs and made a picture worthy of a Salyator Rosa or a Nicholas Poussin. We found as soft a piece of ground as we could—though it was all stony— and, having collected grass and so disposed of ourselves that we had a little hollow for our hip bones, we strapped our blankets around us and went to sleep. Waking in the night, I saw the stars' overhead and the moonlight bright upon the mountains. The river was ever rushing. I heard one of our horses neigh for its companion, and was assured that they were still at hand; I hadno care of mind or body save that I had doubtless many difficulties to overcome; there came upon me a delicious sense of peace, a fullness of contentment which I do-not believe can be felt by any but those who have spent days consecutively on horseback or, at any rate, in the open air." Next day Butler and Baker made up their swags, of blankets and provisions, and carrying the necessary billy and pannikins for tea, started off on foot. About mid-day a storm burst on them.

Bivouac in the Wilds.
They sheltered from the fury of wind and rain in the lee of a great rock, where they lashed one of their blankets to their two "glacier poles" and stuck it up against the boulder to form a sloding side. Under this precarious shelter they spent all that night and next day and night. Butler told his friend stories of his college days, his quarrels with his father, his studies as lay assistant at St. James' in Piccadilly; and his final determination to come out to the colony. At last they were able to resume their exploring expedition. They ascended a snowy gully, and reached the saddle of the pass for which they were making. They found themselves looking down on what was evidently the Rakaia riverbed, and could recognise the hills beyond, so their search ended in nothing tangible. Then across the Rakaia they noticed a quite low pass leading evidently to the West Coast, but to reach it they would have to make an entirely new expedition. Accordingly they returned to Mesopotamia after an arduous journey, and Butler rode back to Christchurch—a two days' trip from Butler's, station. Returning to Mesopotamia a week later. Baker joined Butler for the reconnaissance of the Rakaia head. On the last day of January, 1861, they set out, taking with them as usual a packhorse, in addition to their riding horses. Crossing the swift Rangitata they tailed at the Client Hills station, near Lake Heron, and in two days thereafter fame to the foot of the pass they had seen. This, pass, though discovered by Butler and his friend, was afterwards called the Whitcombe Pass, after the surveyor of that name, who crossed it and was drowned on the West Coast. Next day they reached the summit of the Pass, and went down the other side until they were about 20 miles from the West Coast, but they found the whole valley so densely forested that the chance of finding open country seemed hopeless. Westland (the very, name was unknown, or rather uncoined then) was clearly no place for sheep, so they returned over the pass to the Canterbury side, and after suffering "a thorough ducking" in a head branch of the Rakaia, which was in flood from the melting snow under the midsummer sun, they reached their camp. "We had found about 10,000 acres of inferior country up the Rakaia," Baker wrote, and later applied for this to the Land Board, and secured it, "but as it was never stocked the "claim lapsed." So ended the explanation of the unknown country, a series of expeditions on which Butler based so much of his descriptions in "Erewhon" and "Erewhon Revisited"

Forty Years After.
Young Baker returned to Christchurch and entered upon exploring work in the Mackenzie Country and later around Lake Wanaka. He did not see Butler again for many years. In Easter of 1902, after he had retired from official duty in New Zealand, he and his wife and daughter, on a tour through Europe, were in Rome. One evening in their hotel, his daughter called his attention to an old gentleman sitting near the head of the table who looked, she said, like a philosopher. Baker could not quite place him, but he knew that the old man had been in his life at some time or other. Presently he took a seat next to the "philosopher," whose voice he thought he knew, and he asked him if he had ever been in New Zealand. "Oh, yes," the other said, "about 40 years' ago I was there." "Then, perhaps," said Baker, "you are Sam Butler." "By God!" returned Butler, "you are John Baker." And then the two of them talked till past midnight. Baker and his family were leaving Rome next day, and the friends never met again. Butler was on his way to Sicily to complete a book, and he took ill there and died soon afterwards in England. So ended too soon the reunion of the comrades who had shared camp life and the adventures and dangers of travel in a great lone land in the days of their vigorous youth. The Baker story of the association with Samuel Butler is illustrated with an excellent photograph by Professor Speight (Canterbury University College) of Butler's old homestead at Mesopotamia. It shows a low squat cottage, or rather hut, of a kind often seen in a timberless land, its clay-compacted cob walls covered- with a thick thatch of bundles of tussock, a wide clay chimney at one end; a primitive homestead in the wilderness of tussock, with a background of dark ranges, the foothills of the Alps. Such was the place of splendid desolation where Butler, in intervals of work with his sheep flocks, began his great satirical romance.

Ashburton Guardian, 10 May 1920, Page 3
Interesting accounts of conditions in the back-country were brought back by a party of Ashburton residents comprising Messrs G. Hefford, F. Potter and J. Gallagher, who visited some of the less frequented spots "way back of beyond" for the purpose of securing some sport with the gun. On his return Mr Hefford stated that the district was ideal for holidaymaking. His party experienced perfect weather, fine sunny days with sharp nights following. The shepherds reported that the autumn in the back country had been exceptionally mild and that mustering sheep off the high, ranges had only just commenced. Mt. Possession Station sent out four mules and musterers a few days ago and the contingent expected to be away for three weeks.
    Apart from the shooting, the scenic beauties of the country were particularly fine, said Mr Heftord. Snow now covered most of the tops and the view up the Rangitata and Havelock river gorges was exceptionally striking, a wonderful panorama of Alpine scenery opening up. Although the party camped six miles above Blowing Point, they motored beyond Lake Clearwater as far as Mt. Potts, beyond which a car could not travel. The lakes in the gorges were very low for this time of year.
    Something of the difficulties of transport from furthest Mesopotamia— the "Erewhon" of Samuel Butler was mentioned by Mr Hefford. He witnessed wool being brought down, from that station in half loads as far as the junction of the Rangitata with its tributary, the Havelock. There the wool was dumped while the waggon returned across the river to Mesopotamia Station. From the river junction the roads would enable a full load of wool to be carried to Mt. Somers, where the railway was available. Mails also arrived very slowly in this remote hinterland of the County.
    Mr Hefford examined a post-box in the Gorge on Tuesday and found the papers dated for the previous Friday, the day he left Ashburton. "So we were no further ahead with the news of the world, you see," he concluded.

William Packe painted 'Huts on Mesopotamia at Samuel Butler's homestead' c.1868, a watercolour.
William Packe's c. 1868 watercolour of Butler's homestead. Two sod cottages with a sheep carcass on the gallows. Packe also did a painting of the interior of the second cottage in 1868.

Star 23 June 1904, Page 3 LAND SALE.
Messrs Dalgety and Co. this afternoon offered for sale the freehold and the goodwill of the leasehold of the Mesopotamia and Stranchrubie runs, together with the stock and implements. Mesopotamia contains 2069 acres of freehold and 114,400 acres of leasehold, with an annual rental of £600, and seven years to run, and carries 24,657 merino sheep, 75 head of cattle, and a quantity of implements. It was started at £20,000, and was sold to Mr George Gerard for £26,200.

"Mesopotamia 1884"  by Capt. Temple.  2/3 of the watercolour painting of the former homestead of Samuel Butler's run up the Rangitata Gorge.

Ellesmere Guardian, 20 December 1935, Page 5
Butler's Mesopotamia. The various press references to the centenary of Samuel Butler recall to my mind one of the happiest of my youthful experiences in Canterbury —more years ago than are comfortable to reflect upon now. Going to the Mesopotamia sheep station, originally owned by Samuel Butler, to work at assisting with the wool-classing, I found myself in a delightful wayback retreat up the Ashburton Gorge. The homestead was sunnily set on picturesque surroundings of hills, lakes and swamps, and there one could hear the deep boom of the bittern, chase the flappers of the paradise duck that abounded in great flocks, find the nests of the swamp birds, and roam for miles and miles over hill and dale. Mesopotamia seemed to me in later years, when I read "Erewhon," to have been an ideal environment and scene for the jump off to Erewhon. It is one of those enchanting spots for a youth, which he will never forget or it was so in the old days; goodness knows what this precious civilisation of ours has done for it by this time, and I would rather not try to visualise the probable changes, for it is a pleasant memory to me.

Press, 2 April 1917, Page 9
In Messrs Dalgety and Co.'s land sale room on Saturday the farm offered on behalf of Mr Geo. Gerard two well known stations, Glenrock and Mesopotamia. The acreage of the leasehold part of the Mesopotamia run is 90,900, expiring in 1932, at an annual rent of 1070 together with 2069 acres of freehold. The stock on Mesopotamia includes 18,000 sheep, 160 cattle, and 21 horses Both properties, of course, have the usual buildings, sheep yards, dips, store, etc., and on Mesopotamia there is also a wool scouring plant. There was an attendance of about thirty people at the sale, which was conducted by Mr H. M Cotton. Glenrick, which is situated in the Mt. Hutt district, was the first property put up. The auctioneer stated that Mr Gerard had paid £16,000 for the freehold on the place when he bought it from the former owners. The only drawback to a fine property was its inaccessibility, but there were good prospects of a road, being put through in the near future. The bidding was started by the auctioneer at £20,000, and went up slowly by £1000 bids to £24,000, when competition ceased, and the place was passed in. The well-known Mesopotamia run was then offered, and started at £40,000. Two £1000 bids were but the value did not coincide with the vendor's ideas, and the property was passed.

Ashburton Guardian, 9 April 1918, Page 3  Early Days Stations and Stock
Details of the acreage and stock carried by the various stations in Ashburton County, together with the name of the owners, at or about 1862

Owners and Station 					Acres. Sheep. Cattle. 
Chapman, Acton... 					56,000  8000 
Pitt, Rokeby 						30,000  5000 
Allan, Highbank 					35,000  8000 
Lain, Mount Hutt 					60,000  5000 
Palmer, Double Hill 					60,000  6500 8000
Mallish, L. Heron 					30,000  2000  200 
Walker Bros., Seymore, L. Heron 			22,000  2000 
Tancred, Ashburton 					28,000  5500
Moore, Longbeach 					35,000  4000 
Rolie Bros., Alford. Mt. Possession, & Clent Hills     132,000 18000 1600 
Captain McLean, Buccleuch 				20,000  4000  250 
Tripp, Mt Somers 					22 000  3500  200 
Potts, Hakatere						40,000  1200 
Parkinson, Mesopotamia 					45,000  6000  150 
Dr. Moorhouse, Shepherd's Bush 				40,000  7000  250 
Wilson, Cracroft					40,000  8000  200 
Fitzgerald, Cox, & Draper, Longbeach 			25,000  4000  250 
Studholme, Coldstream 					45,000 14000  300 

Walker Bros, bought Mount Possession from Rolie Bros, in 1864
Captain Scott bought Seymore Lake Heron from Walker Bros. 1865
Polhill bought Lake Heron from Mallish 1863
Palmer took half and bought half of Wesley run in 1863
Cox. bought Mount Somers from Tripp
Carter and Campbell bought Mesopotamia from Parkinson

Ashburton Guardian, 7 January 1919, Page 2
Mesopotamia.—George McRea was shepherd, John Morrison shepherd, Findleson at Forest Crook for Mesopotamia, also Ross. John Mathieson was also on Mesopotamia. Little Jack was bullock driver. Mr and Mr. W. T. Chapman were the married couple. James Bland was shepherd on Mesopotamia in 1868. There was a man named Ted Harrison working on Mesopotamia, who married a girl from Anama. They had only been married a few days, and were on their way to Mesopotamia as Married couple in Cator and Campbell's time. When Mrs Harrison was being assisted into the dray at Taylor's (Hood's), Mount Somers, she fell back dead in the arms of the men assisting her into the dray. I knew the girl well. Harrison is well remembered by some of the late Gorge people. In Cator and Campbell's time, Mr Fitzroy was manager. There were two men who did a lot of contract work in the Ashburton Gorge about this time, named McKenzie and Finlay. These men worked a good deal together.

Mount Peel; I gave the names of most of the hands before, but later men who came to Mount Peel in my time were Peter Keith (uncle of A. J. Keith, Racecourse Road). P. Keith was shepherd at Forest Creek for over 20 years. He was on Mount Peel for about 40 years. James Roll was horseman, Harry Anderson (now of Mayfield) was bullock-driver. There was an Australian, named Harry Hammond, bullock-driver for a time. Hammond was the best roughrider I ever knew. I remember Abner Clough and Hammond riding from Mount Peel to Mesopotamia one Saturday night, for Hammond to ride an outlaw no one could ride. Hammond rode him all right on the Sunday.

Ashburton Guardian, 27 February 1908, Page 2
Real Scotch weather of rain and thick mist enveloped the hills district on Tuesday last, but was in no way able to damp the spirits of the friends and well-wishers who, in the evening, packed the schoolroom at Alford Forest for the purpose of saying good-bye to Mr W. T. Chapman". Mr Chapman's works in the Mount Somers district are to be reckoned, not by the dozen, but by the score and more. For just half a century he has resided in the district, and for a third of a century at his farm, Alford Forest. Mr Chapman took the first flock of sheep up the gorge, and in his whare, opposite the present Mount Somers homestead, was settled for a couple of years. The sheep were part of Messrs Tripp and Acland's Mount Peel flock, and cattle had already been taken up as far as Hakatere, then owned by Mr T. H. Potts. Mr Chapman has in vivid recollection of the day when Mr Samuel Butler, the famous author of Erewhon, passed up the gorge, and stayed for the night at the whare. Mr Butler was on his way to his newly-taken station, which he called Mesopotamia, and his appearance in shiny cap, blue jumper, belt and moleskins fixed itself in Mr Chapman's mind. Several parts of Erewhon were afterwards written in Mr Chapman's whare.

Auckland Star, 29 August 1936, Page 8
Butler of Erewhon, whose works so challenged the logic and shocked the conscience of England in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Though not a New Zealander by birth or even for long a resident in this country, Butler underwent a profound development during his experiences here and achieved that financial independence which enabled him during the rest of his life to write as he pleased; so that thoughts of New Zealand will always be intimately associated with thoughts of Butler. And was it not up our own Rakaia River and over our own Southern Alps that the discoverer of Erewhon set out on his momentous voyage Found Freedom. In the back country of Canterbury the young Butler found the freedom that was essential to the development of his philosophical ideas. Born in 1835, the son of an English rector and grandson of the famous Dr. Butler (head of Shrewsbury School and later Bishop of Norwich), Samuel Butler had been intended for the Church, but he early showed those radical tendencies which were to make him famous. Following continuous quarrels with his father oil this and other subjects, he broke, away and struck out for himself. His decision falling on New Zealand, he came out to Canterbury and purchased the sheep run in the Rakaia Gorge, which he named Mesopotamia.

Poverty Bay Herald, 2 April 1917, Page 5 Big Sheep Station
Christchurch, this day. Two of the largest. and best-known sheep stations in North Canterbury, Mesopotamia, and Glenrock; owned by Mr George Gerard, were offered by auction on Saturday. Glenrock passed in at £24,000, and Mesopotamia passed in at £43,000.

Ashburton Guardian, 28 February 1912, Page 4
THE NEW Subdivisions. On Friday, March 1, 1912, ten runs (grazing) will commence a new lease of 21 years in the Ashburton County. Of these only three will be occupied by the previous lessees, namely, Mrs Gerard (Mesopotamia). Mrs Lascelles (Lake Heron), and Mr Gerald, part of Double Hill. The new lessees are:
Miss Anderson (Fairfield), "Stronchrubie;"
Mr Dunlop (Kirwee), "Hakatere No. 1;"
Mr F. Johnston "Hakatere No 2;"
Mr Feary (Oxford), "Dunbars;"
Mr Robertson (Cave)' "Double Hill No. 1;"
Mr, McLeod (Methven), Double Hill No. 2;"
Mr W. G. Gallagher (Mayfield), "Double Hill No. 3."
The acreage comprised in the runs amounts to 349,200 acres in areas ranging from 22,500 to 58,000 acres, at rentals of £175 per annum to £800 per annum. The carrying capacity of this, area is estimated at 80,000 sheep, but it is anticipated that with cultivation on some of the river flats of the Rangitata and Rakaia that along with surface sowing in suitable localities, that the carrying capacity can be increased. The runs have been subdivided with the intention of giving each holding from 5000 up to 10,000 sheep each, and on the rims which are considered safe country the rentals have been fixed on a basis of 1s per sheep. This is the basis on the sections that were balloted for; those that went to auction in some cases nearly double. A feature of the new leases are the planting clauses, whereby at the end of the lease the Crown will have very valuable plantations on these runs. Many thousands of pounds will be required to fence and subdivide, build and otherwise improve these runs, which will no doubt be for the benefit of the County of Ashburton, in which the runs arc situated. It is also anticipated that a ready market will be found in this County in the future as in the past for the surplus stock from these runs annually. These runs have been in use now 50 years (mostly).

Evening Post, 14 April 1936, Page 16 Literary Relics
Some interesting relics of Samuel Butler were shown at a meeting of the Christchurch committee appointed for New Zealand Authors' Week. These were sheep brands which Butler had used on Mesopotamia Station. It was stated that first editions of Butler's works were to be a feature of the exhibition of New Zealand literature to be opened on April 18.

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