Back Country Musterers - behind Geraldine. NZ.

Ashburton Guardian, 30 August 1918, Page 2 EARLY DAYS.
IN ASHBURTON COUNTY. (BY A. HEWSON.) [Alexander Hewson married Mary E. Smith in 1872]
I have often been asked by a number of people to set down my early experiences of residents of the Ashburton County. Now that I have made up my mind to do so, I find I must bring my wife's family and my own before the public, so that my statements can be vouched for as correct, I will also use the names of some very old hands, that are still alive and have kindly assisted me with dates; etc. I will start with my wile's family's movements up to the early sixties, then I will, take up the running on my own account. The early history of the Smith family was kindly supplied me by my brother-in-law, Mr H.E. Smith, Winchester.
    The Smiths arrived in New Zealand in the Cressy, one of the first four ships. Mr Smith worked at Riccarton and Middleton, near Christchurch, for a few years, but came to Ashburton County in 1857, to Tripp and Acland's, Mount Peel Station. Mr and Mrs Smith, and two sons and two daughters, travelled from Christchurch by bullock dray. The bullock dray got stuck in the Rangitata, and had to be left there all night, Mrs Smith and family having to remain on the dray all night. The two polers were drowned, and in the morning another team of bullocks and another dray were drawn alongside. This took Mrs Smith's family and luggage to land, and then pulled the other dray and the two bullocks backwards out of the river.
    Mount Peel Station was taken up first by Tripp and Acland, in 1855 or 1856; there were about 1000 sheep-on the station in 1857, and these had increased to about 7000 in 1859. The first house was built of cabbage trees stuck upright in the ground, the cracks plastered up with clay, the roof being thatched with snowgrass. The first manager was Harry De Movelin, and the men were Robert Smith, Liverpool Jack, Andy Andy (a Swan River black), and Abner Clough, a half-caste Maori, son of the late Robertson Cough (Jimmie Robertson). In 1858, there was a man named Clark drowned in the Rangitata at the Long Ford, and the body was buried near the woolshed also, about the same time a Mr Findlay was drowned when swimming the river near the woolshed.
    Andy the Black was a good tracker, and would go into the hills to where a mob of sheep had been camped two or three days before. He would circle the place where the sheep had been, and if the mob had scattered, he would start off, and when he had found the first mob he would track the rest until he had put them altogether again. Andy was also a great runner, and could run a newly shorn merino wether down on the hills in less than an hour. Once he was sent to Christchurch from Mount Peel with a letter of importance. Leaving Mount Peel just as the sun rose, he made a beeline for Christchurch, swam all the rivers, delivered his letter, got drunk, and was in the lock-up before dark. Andy was sent back to the Swan River, and hanged there for murdering a man who had shot Andy's mother.
    In the year 1859, the Smith family left Mount Peel and went to Orari Gorge Station, just then taken by Mr Tripp, and let to Mr Smith on terms. There was no house of any kind at Orari Station at that time. Smith built the first house and did the first fencing of posts and rails. The trip from Mount Peel to Orari was quite an experience of travelling in the early days. The bullock dray with tents, bedding, and stores, etc., had to cross the Rangitata opposite Mount Peel, and go down the north side of the river past Shepherd's Bush, then across the river again at Cracroft, where they got stuck in the river for some time, making it late when the dray arrived at Orari. Mrs Smith with five of a family walked from Mount Peel to Orari Gorge Station, a distance of over 10 miles. Mrs Smith was escorted by two bushmen from Peel Forest. The party walked through Peel Forest and round the foot of the hills by Scotsburn; they had to wait till sunset for the bullock dray to arrive with the tents and bedding. The bushmen, in the meantime, cleared away the snow to pitch the tents, and cut fern for a bed. The journey across Jollies Flat was made through several inches of snow.
    There were no sheep on Orari Gorge Station when the Smiths went there, but 2000 sheep were brought from Mount Peel shortly afterwards. There being no woolshed on the place, the shearing was done on a tarpaulin the first season. The terms Smith had Orari Gorge from Mr Tripp was a fixed price per year, with a percentage on the increase of sheep and the wool per sheep. The first house built at Orari Gorge was built of totara slabs, cobbed with clay, and roofed with snowgrass tussock. The first part of the present woolshed (the first woolshed) was built in 1860. The first shearers in the shed were Tom Burgess, Harry Sorby, Jim Kimber, Charley Weddell, James Pithie, and Charlie Rippingale. The first five miles of fencing done on Orari Gorge were posts and four rails; there were no wires or standards to be had in those days. The winter of 1862 was the hardest ever experienced at Orari Gorge Station, the snow around the woolshed being four feet deep. No sheep were seen for six weeks, all, being under snow, but the losses were light on account of the sheep being able to get snowgrass tussocks to eat beneath the snow. The losses on the plains were four or five times heavier than on the hills. The summer of 1864 was the driest ever experienced in the district, no rain falling for nine months. The Orari River was dry as far up as tie Black Birch Creek. Ben Ede went to Orari Gorge in 1863, and burned a kiln of bricks to build a large station house, but the bricks were used to build a shearer's hut and sheep-dip. The big house was built of wood taken from the bush, most of the timber being hand-sawn. When Mr Tripp took the station over from Mr Smith in 1863, the first shepherds were the Grants (Andrew and William) and Andrew Young. The shepherds before the above-mentioned were three runaway sailors — Thomas Crofton, his mate Doig, and Hughie the Welshman. The married couple on the station were Mr and Mrs McLean. Before the Highland shepherds arrived with three dogs, the mustering of 1200 sheep was done by four men, two boys and one dog.
    The Smith family, consisting of Mr and Mrs Smith, their sons, and four daughters, left Orari Gorge Station for Smithfield, Winchester, in 1864. At the time of writing, there still remains alive H. E. Smith, Winchester, with two of his family, and Robert Smith, a grandson of Mr Smith, sen., with two of a family, working a part of Smithfield. The youngest son got killed many years ago by a football accident, leaving two sons (Bernard and George Smith), both of whom were killed in action in France during the present war. All the daughters are still alive, three being married. The eldest, Mrs A. Hewson, has 13 of a family alive; the second girl is unmarried, and the third, Mrs J. Grant, has two daughters. The youngest, Mrs W. Lambie, Mount Possession, has two sons. Undoubtedly, Mr and Mrs Smith Were good pioneers. (To be continued.)

Ashburton Guardian, 7 January 1919, Page 2
EARLY DAYS. IN ASHBURTON COUNTY. SECOND SERIES. No. 2, (By A. Hewson)
    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.

    Mesopotamia.—George McRae 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.


Gil Smith's dogs from left to right are: Bob, Tip, Fly, Don & Day at Mt. Peel.

Trying Ordeal
Musterer's Terrible Experience Broken leg on Mt. Potts.

    Unable to move or assist himself owning to his left leg being broken above the knee Leslie Timpson, aged 32 years, a shepherd, was forced to lie on the slopes of Mt. Potts. near the source of the Rangitata river shortly after 9 o'clock on Tuesday morning throughout the severe cold of Tuesday night, until 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, a total of 27½ hours, before assistance arrived, his only comfort being a pack of faithful dogs, who lay close to him all night, keeping him warm.
    Timpson was mustering on some of the back slopes of the Mt. Potts Station, and as he was crossing a large sliding shingle face about the snow-line, the mass of shingle gave way under his weight, and he was carried down a distance of over 50ft. striking a large boulder half-way, and travelling the remainder of the distance head foremost. During his descent his leg was broken and he was unable to move. It was some time before the unfortunate man was missed, and it was not until 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday that he was discovered by the search party. Then commenced the difficulty task of conveying him over extremely rough country on an improvised stretcher, make from coats and musterer's staffs. It took ten hours to cover thirteen miles.
    Timpson was conveyed from the homestead over the Potts River to the south side in a dray, where Dr. G. J. S. Fisher, of Ashburton, attended to his injuries and the journey was commenced to Ashburton by car, the County Hospital being reached at 6.30 p.m. yesterday morning. From the time the accident occurred it was only three hours short of two days before Timpson reached the hospital.
    Enquiries made at the hospital last evening elicited the information that his condition was fairly good after his _____ experience.

Only problem is we don’t know which Paper it is from. Les was born 17 March 1895 and aged 32 at the time so the article must have been written in c.1926 -1927. Three years before he married.


The photo was taken by Stuart Mac a photographer who was holidaying with the Smith family. Don't remember Stuart's full last name. "The back country musterers" Mt. Peel Station. South Canterbury. 1952. From left to right. John Acland, Frank Joines, Mark Acland, John Gibson and Gil Smith.


The old Mt. Peel sheep yards. There are two sheep trucks in the photo. Almost certain they were from a trucking company.


Above the clouds. Mustered sheep coming out from The Lynn. Mt. Peel Station, South Canterbury. 4 Jan 1952. Gil Smith would muster right over to Lochaber Station, stay the night there and come back, looking for Mt Peel sheep that had strayed. They would have some there that he would take back. Worked both ways.

Information, newspaper clipping and the old b/w photos above courtesy of Stan Smith. Posted  23 March 2011.  Three ATL photos below.

"John Pascoe Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library. Ref: 1/4-000412"
 Phil Johnstone, paddock shepherd at Orari Gorge, and tobacco pipe, photographed by John Dobree Pascoe, 30 May, 1943. Original caption on back of IA file print reads: "Old-timer who could remember the snow-storm of 1895."

EARLY DAYS. Ashburton Guardian,  6 September 1918, Page 2 VII
All my family which arrived here in 1862 have crossed the Great Divide except my youngest, brother (W. Hewson, Timaru) and myself. A few of my shipmates came to Ashburton to reside some years ago, but I don't know if any are still alive. A few that have passed away are John Small, John Stalker, and John Doyle. These were all single men when they arrived in New Zealand, but they were all good pioneers, and they left a. number to mourn their loss.
Among the instances of animals returning to where they were bred, I recall that when Ben. Ede (now living in Hampstead) left Mount Peel, after making and burning the bricks for the present Mount Peel House in 1865, he and Mrs Ede and family were coming from Mount Peel to near Digby's Bridge, the first place Ben Ede settled in Ashburton. They came by bullock dray. When they were having their lunch—they had brought a cat from Mount Peel over the Rangitata they let the cat out of the box while they had lunch. When they looked for pussy she had disappeared. The cat returned to Mount Peel three weeks later. How it crossed the Rangitata no one knows, but we surmised it swam, as there were no bridges over the river then. I know a horse that was ridden from Rangiora to Mount Peel —a two days' journey, fording all the rivers. It was turned out at Mount Peel with the other horses. In the- morning the horse was gone, and in 48 hours after the horse was in Rangiora.
    Very few squatters who were here in the 'sixties, and a number later, but required financing. Miles and Co., Loan and Mercantile, and the National Mortgage did most of the financing to the squatters. Very few of the early squatters made money, the expenses and interest, being high. Of course the man who found the money had to take a big risk when the country was getting settled by farmers. In 1872 Mr Mendelson, of Temuka, opened a general store where Mr Sparrow's shop now stands. Mr Mendelson also bought and sold small parcels of grain and grass seeds. Messrs Friedlander Bros, opened the first grain store in Ashburton in 1874. in West Street. Then the Loan and Mercantile started where Seldon Bros, now is, followed by Miles and Co., Matsons, Cox and Co., and later D. Thomas (now the National Mortgage). All the above were wool stores until a few years ago. Messrs Friedlander Bros, and D. Thomas did most of the financing for stock and grain, and A. Harrison arranged the bulk of the finance for the town. Many a man who has left Ashburton, and a number that are still here, have to thank Mr Bullock for assistance. There are a number of agents here now who are really new men compared with Mr Bullock. The first time I saw Mr Bullock was on the plains north of the Selwyn. He was on horseback driving a mob of cattle. He told me he was taking the cattle to put them on some land he had taken up below where Tinwald now is. This was in the year 1866 or 1867. An instance of how the farmers had to be financed was shown very plainly when Highbank was balloted for at Rakaia. Messrs Friedlander Bros, and D. Thomas were on the scene. These men had found the money in a number of cases for the applicants to pay the deposit, and when the ballot was drawn, if the client of either drew a section, the agents said the first six months' rent and financed the settlers to build a house, seed for the section,, sheep and cattle, and even for food. A great number of those men are now in a big way, and some .of them are the men who talk that they are being bled by the agents; but I consider the agents are necessary, and could not be done without.
    This must conclude my reminiscences for the present, but if anyone would like more information than I have given in my accounts of early days, if they come along to A. Hewson, 37 Cameron Street. West, Ashburton, I will do my best to satisfy them.

Otago Daily Times 20 February 1894, Page 5
A man named Macintosh, who has been a shepherd in the employ of Mr Tripp, Orari Gorge, for 30 years, died suddenly at Four Peaks while out mustering.

Timaru Herald, 27 January 1894, Page 2
The following are further particulars of the death of a shepherd referred to by us yesterday :— Mr Alexander McIntosh, better known as " Black Sandy," died at Four Peaks Station from exhaustion on the 23rd inst. He was mustering on Mr Tripp's run, Orari Gorge, and was taken seriously ill at one of the back huts. He was taken to Four Peaks as being nearest, and died in 24, hours. He had been 30 years off and on with Mr Tripp, and was also for some time head shepherd at Mistake Station, Mackenzie Country. He was buried on January 25th at Woodbury, his funeral being largely attended. [he was 49 years old]

Press, 13 March 1895, Page 6
News was received at Geraldine yesterday that a man named Charles Ramble was found in a dying state near Mr C. G. Tripp's station, Orari Gorge. The man, who was a permanent employee at the station, was removed to the nearest accommodation house where he died at noon yesterday. He leaves a wife and large family. The wife is at present an inmate of we Asylum

Timaru Herald, 30 April 1898, Page 2 DEATH.
MacMillan — At Orari Gorge, on Thursday, 28th April, 1898, Ronald MacMillan; aged 68 years. Deeply regretted.

Poverty Bay Herald, 22 August 1903, Page 2
The President of the Waikato Farmers' Club in referring to a proposal to establish freezing works in Wuikato, pointed out that during the year there had been a decrease of over one and a quarter million in the colony's sheep, and he expressed a fear that dairying was taking the place of sheep-raising.
It is expected that at the Orari Gorge station alone there will be a loss of 5000 head of sheep, owing to the recent severe weather, and a large number of lambs will undoubtedly succumb at lambing time, owing to the weakness of the ewes. Already 200 dead sheep have been taken out of one gully, and smaller numbers from other places.

Ashburton Guardian, 13 February 1914, Page 4
The death occurred at the Christchurch Hospital yesterday (from pneumonia) of Mr Thomas Pickett, who was a well-known identity at Peel Forest for over 40 years, having originally been packman on the Mount Peel Estate in the early days. Latterly he has resided at Mount Peel. He was about 70 years of age.  


Sheep mustering, Orari Gorge Station, 29 May, 1943, photographed by John Dobree Pascoe. Note on back of file print reads "Tommy Stevenson". Original caption reads: "When this country was originally stocked, Merino was the strain. Today the breed is crossed and the wool is coarser, but the difficulties with mustering remain." Sheep mustering, Orari Gorge Station. Pascoe, John Dobree, 1908-1972 :Photographic albums, prints and negatives. Ref: John Pascoe Collection, 1/4-000399-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ.


 Sheep musterers and dogs standing in front of a hut on Orari Gorge Station, Canterbury. The musterers are, from left, Fred Stevenson, Alec McLeod and Dan Scully. The hut had been the home of a boundary rider and was known as the Devonshire Arms. It was originally built of cob with a stone chimney and a thatched roof. Photograph taken in 1943 by John Dobree Pascoe. ATL 1/4-000402-F

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project