South Canterbury's History
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The Star Saturday December 15 1900 page 12
Canterbury Jubilee issue pages 9 -12 contain the history of the Canterbury districts, voyage accounts of the first four ship and passenger list, history of the churches, education etc.
South Canterbury's history began in the early forties with the whalers from Sydney, who prosecuted the oil fishery, until by the short-sighted policy of destroying the cow whales with their young, the fishery itself failed. It was after whaling became no longer profitable that one Samuel Williams sought employment at Kaituna Station, Banks Peninsula, with the Messrs Rhodes Bros. on one of their sheep stations. He told his employers of the fine sheep country in the Timaru district, and after a visit to the locality the brothers - W.B. Rhodes, R.H. Rhodes and G.H. Rhodes - each applied for 50,000 acres, which were allotted to them, taking in, as was supposed, all the country from the Opihi River on the north to the Pareora on the south, and from the sea to the Te Ngawai on the west. Soon afterwards Mr George Rhodes went down and settled there, commencing in a humble way what has grown into the fine homestead of the Levels Station. The southward movement of the Messrs Rhodes and more the large area they took up, directed the attention of others to South Canterbury and following their example the next comers selected undulating country in preference to plains. Major Hornbrook was the next selector, taking up 30,000 acres between the Opihi and Temuka rivers, including the Waitohi downs and flat -well known as the late Arowhenua Estate. Mr Innes came next, selecting the fine stretch of downs now known as the Pareora Estate, between the Pareora and Otaio Rivers. Mr Harris, who later joined Mr Innes (if, indeed, they were not already partners), took up a run south of the Waihao. Mr F. Jollie selected some high plain and low ranges just south of Mount Peel, and Messrs A. Cox and A. and W. Macdonald occupied most of the country between the Rangitata and Temuka. Messrs Stephenson and A.V. Pyke selected runs between the Waitaki and Waihao. The next selection occassioned a good deal of amusement in the colony. Mr Thomas King discovered that the Messrs Rhodes's licenses did not cover all the country they had been supposed to refer to, and he snapped up the splendid piece of country now known as Kingsdown, on the north side of the Pareora River. Messrs Campion, Burke, Thomson, Studholme were the next comers, and completed the acquisition of all the country having a sea frontage, between the Rangitata and the Waitaki. Later arrivals found as desirable runs inland, and, in a very few years the whole of the country between the front ranges and the sea had been taken up. Of the first fifty purchasers of land from the Crown in South Canterbury, thirty-three, totalling about 1000 acres, were sections in the bush. The purchasers were very modest in their acquisitions, though the price of Crown lands was only 10s per acre until 1854. One of the most profitable purchasers at this figure was the "rural section" bought by the Messrs Rhodes, on which the principal part of the town of Timaru now stands.
For some years the runholders of the district acted in friendly co-operation in getting their wool shipped to Lyttelton, with stores as back-loading, the Maoris of Arowhenua doing most of the boating work with whaleboats to and from small coasters at anchor off the shore. In 1857 a landing and shipping service, by means of small surfboats, was started, with regular visits from coasting vessels, sheep-rowers were relieved from a fruitful source of anxiety. In 1857, also, Lieutenant Woolcombe was appointed Resident Magistrate, with a multiplicity of other offices, and administered the law for twenty years, but in 1858 the census gave to Timaru a population of only sixteen souls. In 1859, the emigrant ship Strathallan arrived with 100 souls. From the arrival of the Strathallan may be dated the commencement of Timaru as a town. The settlement of these immigrants attracted others from north and south, and within a year one hundred had grown to six hundred. The growth of the port town made the Arowhenua Bush a busy place, as there came the timber for the building of the town, and this laid the foundation of the present thriving borough of Temuka. As the bush there gave out - it was not a large one - Waimate became in turn the source of timber supply, and the present borough of Waimate also began its existence as a collection of bushman's huts. Many of the earlier houses of Timaru had walls of cob, and the skill and honesty with which they were put up is testified by the fact that some of them are standing in good order to this day (Dec. 15 1900).
In 1862, another direct shipment of immigrants arrived in the Victory. Communication with Christchurch had now been maintained for a few years by a fortnightly mail service, performed first on horseback, then with a cart, three days being allowed for the cart trip in the summer and four in winter. In 1863 the advent of "Cobb and Co." led to a tri-weekly mail and a comfortable passenger service. In 1864 the district obtained the advantages of a local newspaper, the "Timaru Herald" being first published in June of that year as a small weekly. Timaru was constituted a town district in 1865, and a borough in 1868, Mr S. Hewlings being the first Mayor, and Mr E.H. Lough the first town clerk, and this gentlemen still retains that post. By this time communication by sea had been very much improved. The little steamer Geelong was laid on for two regular trips per month between Lyttelton and Dunedin, calling at Akaroa, Timaru, Oamaru, Moeraki and Waikouaiti each way, and other small steamers were frequent callers, while several sailing coasters piled to and from various ports. Most of the passenger traffic, and practically all the goods traffic, was carried on by sea. In December of 1864, the first wool ship for London direct commenced loading in the roadstead, the first bale being hoisted on board with ceremonies befitting the importance of the event. By this time the whole of the country had been taken up for pastoral purposes, and newcomers must perforce betake themselves to agriculture. Not only was this the case, but the right stamp of men were coming for the work, and within a few years from 1864 a considerable area of land had been brought under the plough, especially in the neighbourhood of Temuka. So rapid was the progress of arable farming that two years later the farmers were at their wits' end to find a market for their produce.
From 1867, however, wheat was sent away in small vessels to New Zealand and Australian ports, but it was not till 1878 that a ship was wholly loaded with wheat at Timaru for London. Since then the progress of the district has been rapid. The opening of the railway through from Christchurch to Dunedin in 1878 gave a great impetus to settlement, and the construction of the breakwater has largely increased the maritime importance of Timaru as a port. Taken as a whole, the present condition of South Canterbury and its future prospects are exceedingly satisfactory. Its producers are prosperous, its towns thriving and growing; and thanks to the Land Settlements Act, the expansive future which has long been prophesied appears to be about to arrive. The population is increasing, both in town and country, and whose business it is to deal with the material results of successful industry are full of cheerful anticipations of a rapid and continued increase of production, which is the foundation of all prosperity.