Topic: Foxton 1888-1988 - The Setting by T Hunt

topic type:

"I have returned to my friends and wish to live with you here at Te Awahou" So spoke Reverend James Duncan ...

 

The Setting

 

“I have returned to my friends and wish to live with you here at Te Awahou." So spoke the Reverend James Duncan, the first mis­sionary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in New Zealand. The occasion - his return to the Manawatu in 1848; the place - the kainga of Te Awahou on the banks of the Manawatu River ... "do further proclaim and declare that the name shall be the Borough of Foxton, that the boundaries thereof shall be those described in the Schedule here to, and that the council of the said Borough shall consist of six councilors …”(1)

These two statements illustrate the beginnings of the settlement that was the focus of the first European development in the Manawatu (named Foxton in 1866) and declared a Borough in 1888. Why did the site of a one man mission develop into the "Gateway to the Manawatu"? During the 1840s and 5Os there were several sites chosen by Europeans as their homes (e.g. Piaka, Te Wharangi, Herrington), so there must have been some reason why Te Awahou became pre-eminent. Its flood-­free site would have been superior to other riverside locations such as Piaka, the mouth of the Te Awahou stream probably created a deeper channel nearer the bank than elsewhere, and being some distance from the sea the location gave some shelter from the westerlies. Apart from the physical advantages, the fact that at the time of Duncan's return to the Manawatu in 1848 Te Awahou was the home of Ihakara Tukumaru, leader of the Ngati Ngaroro and Ngati Takihiku hapu of the Ngati Raukawa, must have also been an important factor. In addition, from 1854-55 Thomas Upperdine Cook, who might be regarded as the "Com­mercial Father" of the area, was trading and running a hotel on the site. The attraction of an established commercial function would surely have been influential in focussing settlement on the Te Awahou site. Thus it was to Te Awahou that the settlers from Piaka looked when the earth­quake of 1855 devastated their home.

Whatever the reasons for its development the site of Te Awahou was chosen as the location for a township to be set up once the Manawatu purchase had been completed.(2) During the years between the purchase of the Te Awahou Block and the sale of sections in the township of Foxton in 1866, the tiny hamlet was steadily transformed into an orga­nised settlement. While its early function as a port and trading centre was the basis of this growth it was not until 1869 that the activity that was to prove to be the town's saviour, the flax industry, made its appearance. The aspiring township did not remain long as the main centre of the Manawatu for in 1871 the settlement of the upper Man­awatu began in earnest. The township based on the clearing of Papaeoia, now known as Palmerston North, was soon to take the pre­mier position. Within a few years Palmerston North had outgrown Fox­ton as the new settlers built their homes and began to clear the bush. The increasing demand for goods and services created by this new town led to the building of a tramway from Foxton to Palmerston North in 1873 which was later, in 1876, converted into a railway. The Govern­ment had taken over control of the port in 1871 and by the end of the decade it had become clear that the redevelopment of both rail and port facilities was necessary. A major reclamation project was carried out at the wharf area and the newly created land became the site of the wharf and railway yards.

Control of Foxton's growth was first formalised when in 1868 the Manawatu's first local body, the Foxton Highway Board, was elected. In 1875 the first Local Board was elected, but the progress of this was overtaken by the establishment of the Manawatu County in 1876. The new council met in 1877 and elected Ernest T. Thynne of the Awahou Riding as its first chairman. The original county stretched from Waika­nae to the Rangitikei River but progressively it has been broken down into new counties and boroughs. Foxton was the first home of its offices but by 1887 Sanson had become the geographic centre of what remained of the county and the records were moved there. In Foxton the citizens had developed an independent frame of mind for "In 1880 a building boom commenced in the township and as the years passed along, the hemp industry became more widely established. The progressive spirits of the community felt the urge to shake off the repressive influence of the County in local affairs and made due representation to the author­ities to take over the full responsibilities of the borough." (3)

 

Foxton is located on the edge of the flood plain of the Manawatu River, among the consolidated sand dunes that stretch inland from the coast. The large meander of the river, before it empties to the sea, lies to the western side of the town. (See map opposite). The location on the western coast of New Zealand means that the climate is one of constant variation with a prevailing west to northwest wind. Rainfall averages about 800 millimeters per annum and annual sunshine hours of over 2000 hours. This gives the town one of the milder and sunnier climates of this part of the North Island. But all environments are utilised by man in a way in which his culture and technology dictates. Therefore the features of the Te Awahou area that attracted the people of the Maori culture were not necessarily those which led to the European settlement of Te Awahou and its growth into the Borough of Foxton.

The major physical features of the Te Awahou area were, and still are, the sand dune complex, the Manawatu River, and the swampy flood plain. Studies of the sand dunes have revealed three distinct belts of dunes, the oldest reaching into the swamps at Moutoa, the youngest still forming along the Tasman coast. While those on the coast run an appro­ximately north-south direction further inland the dunes run parallel to one another in a N.W.-S.E. direction, with varying landforms in be­tween. These inter-dune areas are principally sand plains and swamps. The natural vegetation utilised by the first human inhabitants reflected both the landforms and the temperate climate. On the stable sand dunes the vegetation was basically a shrubland of manuka, toetoe, flax, brack­en fern and cabbage tree. On the sand plains was a forest dominated by kahikatea, pukatea with sedges and rushes in the open patches. On the flood plain tawa, matai and kahikatea were the main species on the lower areas with mapou, hinau, pigeonwood and totara the most com­mon on the higher spots. This vegetation along with the fauna it sup­ported were a vital part of the land resource for early man.

 

The earliest human habitation analysed from the Lower Manawatu area have indicated settlement from at least 1400 A.D. Analysis of the remains of a moa hunters camp from that time reveals an environment in which the waters yielded tuatua, mudsnail, cockle, pipi, toheroa, snapper, seal, shark, and the land, kaka, kereru, kakapo, parakeet, duck, takahe, pukeko and moa. The same study discovered that these early inhabitants also made use of the products of the soil. Fern roots and puha from the open spaces and hinau, tawa and mamaku berries from the bush were part of their diet. They were not sedentary people but moved location with the seasons, and as food availability varied, from year to year. There were some favourable sites that were suitable for more permanent settlement and many of these had been occupied by the time the Pakeha arrived.

The Manawatu River itself is, of course, a major resource. Along with the many established tracks through the bush it was a means of com­munication. From its waters came several species of fish, many of which are still utilised by the locals (e.g. eels, whitebait, flounder) and in the estuary were abundant supplies of shellfish (e.g. cockles, pipi). Along the river banks were found many species of birds that the Maori did, and still do, use as a food source. The swamps formed in the river basin were also a source of many resources. As well as the eels for food they supported flax and raupo, both vital ingredients of Maori clothing and building.

 

Thus the site which was to grow into Foxton provided the needs of the tangata whenua who, even if not residing there permanently, visited regularly. No site can, however, be considered in isolation for all are part of a region. The coast and beach to the west were an integral part of the environment and influenced the type of settlement that evolved at Foxton. From earliest times the beach was a transport route used by both the locals and invaders. The Manawatu has been the home of many different groups of tangata whenua who have seen in its resources the basis for a rewarding life. Those of greatest importance when the Pakeha began to arrive in New Zealand were the Rangitane who had moved in from the Hawkes Bay. The Rangitane settled along the Man­awatu River, generally in peaceful co-existence with the people they displaced, the Ngati Mamoe. A branch of the Rangitane, the Muaupoko, settled the area around Lake Horowhenua. For several centuries these people had had a relatively peaceful possession of the land and lived free of major turmoil. But in the 1820s the coast was to provide the means of progress of the tribal group that was in control of the area when the Pakeha arrived, the Ngati Raukawa of the Waikato.

1. Huntley, E.W. "The Borough of Foxton - Fiftieth Jubilee", P. 10-ll.

2. Buick, T.L. "Old Manawatu", P. 164-238.

3. Huntley, E.W. P. 9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Foreword

History may seem to be just a chronicle of past events and so there is a natural tendency to look upon those events as something which just 'happened'!

How wrong! Apart from natural disasters, it is PEOPLE who make things happen and the editor of this First 100 Years of Foxton Borough, Mr Tony Hunt, has done a commendable job of associating 'happenings' with the people who brought it all about, making this book alive in its warmth of appreciation for readers.

The historian is firstly reliant on the surviving records of the day which tend to deal largely with the famous or the infamous and to ignore many of the lesser lights of bygone days who in their own way were equally, if not more, important in their contribution to what is now our heritage. Only countless hours of dedicated sifting, digging, ques­tioning, brings to light the human touch in anecdotes or recollections by children and grandchildren which give a real insight into the lives and times of those who have gone before us and so, the writing of this past 100 years has been a daunting task by any standards. A labour of love, well done. 

To those whose early roots lay in Foxton, the experience will be one of pride in the reading of this contribution to our knowledge which not only records the past, but more importantly recognises those who, in their own way, made it all happen at all levels of the society they served, in the days of their lives.

May we never forget the debt of gratitude we owe to our forbears and ever be stimulated by their example.

Robert Fraser MAYOR 1988.

 

 

 Editorial

CliCA_Pic2 

Although the Borough of Foxton does not appear to have capitalised on its status as the first European settlement in the Manawatu it nevertheless has a history full of interest. In many ways the town that has developed is different from other small towns in New Zealand in that it is dependent on secondary industry rather than on providing services to a surrounding rural population. Foxton with its beginnings as a mission station, its development as a port and railway terminus, its growth as the sole manufacturer of flax (harakeke; phormium tenax) products, and its future as a centre for the production of woollen carpets, provides much of interest to those seeking to learn more about the development of the New Zealand landscape.

To record the history of the town the Foxton Borough Council in anticipation of its Centennial in 1988, considered various methods of gathering the relevant information. The Council accepted the sugges­tion that a group of interested locals and historians be involved in the production. The result was the group who have been responsible for this publication. The contributors who volunteered were all present or past members of the Foxton Historical Society, some of whom had already been involved with publishing of historical records, while others were making their first foray into this field. The resulting pub­lication shows the variation in approach and presentation that resulted from this editorial policy. We have not attempted to produce a scholarly history of analysis and comment, but rather one that will inform Foxto­nians of the rich history of their town.

No doubt there will be those who discover errors, omissions, and repetition, but as editor I will not feel any sense of remorse, although there will be some regret. The regret will be because the editorial group, a collection of ordinary citizens, did not have the resources and time to ensure total accuracy and inclusion. The lack of remorse stems from my disappointment with the lack of records of, and at times interest in, the past. As a group of historians, we see the production of this publication as not only the chance to record a history of import­ance, but also to arouse the interest of our fellow citizens. If we are successful in enabling readers to see how they are part of the history, and then begin to take an active part in recording it, then our labours will be many times rewarded. They can do this by getting their memor­ies recorded and by checking that the records of the clubs and societies they belong to are in safe keeping. Many people proved to be only too keen to help our group by providing information, access to records and encouragement and on their behalf I thank them.

 

As one reads, many examples of repetition will be noticed, but these have been found necessary as some events are an integral part of several of the subject areas into which the Borough's life was divided among the writers. This only serves to emphasise the inter-relationship between all aspects of life in the Borough, a Borough whose very existence is under threat. The Local Body Commission is looking hard at the desirability of small administrative units and Foxton has come under their stare. Whatever the future, the rich tapestry of the past requires recording and the Editorial Committee of this Centennial pub­lication hopes that they have provided an impetus for this to begin. The citizens, past and present, can be proud of the town they have helped develop and as editor I have derived much pleasure in bringing this

historical record to fruition.

A.N. (Tony) Hunt;
M.A., Dip-Ed., Dip.Tchg.
Editor.

NOTE: In this publication all measurements have been left in the units pertaining at the time of occurrence. When reference is made-to the Herald this indicates the Manawatu Herald. °:

 

 

 

The Setting

 

“I have returned to my friends and wish to live with you here at Te Awahou." So spoke the Reverend James Duncan, the first mis­sionary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in New Zealand. The occasion - his return to the Manawatu in 1848; the place - the kainga of Te Awahou on the banks of the Manawatu River ... "do further proclaim and declare that the name shall be the Borough of Foxton, that the boundaries thereof shall be those described in the Schedule here to, and that the council of the said Borough shall consist of six councilors …” 

These two statements illustrate the beginnings of the settlement that was the focus of the first European development in the Manawatu (named Foxton in 1866) and declared a Borough in 1888. Why did the site of a one man mission develop into the "Gateway to the Manawatu"? During the 1840s and 5Os there were several sites chosen by Europeans as their homes (e.g. Piaka, Te Wharangi, Herrington), so there must have been some reason why Te Awahou became pre-eminent. Its flood-­free site would have been superior to other riverside locations such as Piaka, the mouth of the Te Awahou stream probably created a deeper channel nearer the bank than elsewhere, and being some distance from the sea the location gave some shelter from the westerlies. Apart from the physical advantages, the fact that at the time of Duncan's return to the Manawatu in 1848 Te Awahou was the home of Ihakara Tukumaru, leader of the Ngati Ngaroro and Ngati Takihiku hapu of the Ngati Raukawa, must have also been an important factor. In addition, from 1854-55 Thomas Upperdine Cook, who might be regarded as the "Com­mercial Father" of the area, was trading and running a hotel on the site. The attraction of an established commercial function would surely have been influential in focussing settlement on the Te Awahou site. Thus it was to Te Awahou that the settlers from Piaka looked when the earth­quake of 1855 devastated their home.

Whatever the reasons for its development the site of Te Awahou was chosen as the location for a township to be set up once the Manawatu purchase had been completed. During the years between the purchase of the Te Awahou Block and the sale of sections in the township of Foxton in 1866, the tiny hamlet was steadily transformed into an orga­nised settlement. While its early function as a port and trading centre was the basis of this growth it was not until 1869 that the activity that was to prove to be the town's saviour, the flax industry, made its appearance. The aspiring township did not remain long as the main centre of the Manawatu for in 1871 the settlement of the upper Man­awatu began in earnest. The township based on the clearing of Papaeoia, now known as Palmerston North, was soon to take the pre­mier position. Within a few years Palmerston North had outgrown Fox­ton as the new settlers built their homes and began to clear the bush. The increasing demand for goods and services created by this new town led to the building of a tramway from Foxton to Palmerston North in 1873 which was later, in 1876, converted into a railway. The Govern­ment had taken over control of the port in 1871 and by the end of the decade it had become clear that the redevelopment of both rail and port facilities was necessary. A major reclamation project was carried out at the wharf area and the newly created land became the site of the wharf and railway yards. 

 

Control of Foxton's growth was first formalised when in 1868 the Manawatu's first local body, the Foxton Highway Board, was elected. In 1875 the first Local Board was elected, but the progress of this was overtaken by the establishment of the Manawatu County in 1876. The new council met in 1877 and elected Ernest T. Thynne of the Awahou Riding as its first chairman. The original county stretched from Waika­nae to the Rangitikei River but progressively it has been broken down into new counties and boroughs. Foxton was the first home of its offices but by 1887 Sanson had become the geographic centre of what remained of the county and the records were moved there. In Foxton the citizens had developed an independent frame of mind for "In 1880 a building boom commenced in the township and as the years passed along, the hemp industry became more widely established. The progressive spirits of the community felt the urge to shake off the repressive influence of the County in local affairs and made due representation to the author­ities to take over the full responsibilities of the borough."

 

Foxton is located on the edge of the flood plain of the Manawatu River, among the consolidated sand dunes that stretch inland from the coast. The large meander of the river, before it empties to the sea, lies to the western side of the town. (See map opposite). The location on the western coast of New Zealand means that the climate is one of constant variation with a prevailing west to northwest wind. Rainfall averages about 800 millimeters per annum and annual sunshine hours of over 2000 hours. This gives the town one of the milder and sunnier climates of this part of the North Island. But all environments are utilised by man in a way in which his culture and technology dictates. Therefore the features of the Te Awahou area that attracted the people of the Maori culture were not necessarily those which led to the European settlement of Te Awahou and its growth into the Borough of Foxton.

 

 

The major physical features of the Te Awahou area were, and still are, the sand dune complex, the Manawatu River, and the swampy flood plain. Studies of the sand dunes have revealed three distinct belts of dunes, the oldest reaching into the swamps at Moutoa, the youngest still forming along the Tasman coast. While those on the coast run an appro­ximately north-south direction further inland the dunes run parallel to one another in a N.W.-S.E. direction, with varying landforms in be­tween. These inter-dune areas are principally sand plains and swamps. The natural vegetation utilised by the first human inhabitants reflected both the landforms and the temperate climate. On the stable sand dunes the vegetation was basically a shrubland of manuka, toetoe, flax, brack­en fern and cabbage tree. On the sand plains was a forest dominated by kahikatea, pukatea with sedges and rushes in the open patches. On the flood plain tawa, matai and kahikatea were the main species on the lower areas with mapou, hinau, pigeonwood and totara the most com­mon on the higher spots. This vegetation along with the fauna it sup­ported were a vital part of the land resource for early man.

 

The earliest human habitation analysed from the Lower Manawatu area have indicated settlement from at least 1400 A.D. Analysis of the remains of a moa hunters camp from that time reveals an environment in which the waters yielded tuatua, mudsnail, cockle, pipi, toheroa, snapper, seal, shark, and the land, kaka, kereru, kakapo, parakeet, duck, takahe, pukeko and moa. The same study discovered that these early inhabitants also made use of the products of the soil. Fern roots and puha from the open spaces and hinau, tawa and mamaku berries from the bush were part of their diet. They were not sedentary people but moved location with the seasons, and as food availability varied, from year to year. There were some favourable sites that were suitable for more permanent settlement and many of these had been occupied by the time the Pakeha arrived.

The Manawatu River itself is, of course, a major resource. Along with the many established tracks through the bush it was a means of com­munication. From its waters came several species of fish, many of which are still utilised by the locals (e.g. eels, whitebait, flounder) and in the estuary were abundant supplies of shellfish (e.g. cockles, pipi). Along the river banks were found many species of birds that the Maori did, and still do, use as a food source. The swamps formed in the river basin were also a source of many resources. As well as the eels for food they supported flax and raupo, both vital ingredients of Maori clothing and building.

 

Thus the site which was to grow into Foxton provided the needs of the tangata whenua who, even if not residing there permanently, visited regularly. No site can, however, be considered in isolation for all are part of a region. The coast and beach to the west were an integral part of the environment and influenced the type of settlement that evolved at Foxton. From earliest times the beach was a transport route used by both the locals and invaders. The Manawatu has been the home of many different groups of tangata whenua who have seen in its resources the basis for a rewarding life. Those of greatest importance when the Pakeha began to arrive in New Zealand were the Rangitane who had moved in from the Hawkes Bay. The Rangitane settled along the Man­awatu River, generally in peaceful co-existence with the people they displaced, the Ngati Mamoe. A branch of the Rangitane, the Muaupoko, settled the area around Lake Horowhenua. For several centuries these people had had a relatively peaceful possession of the land and lived free of major turmoil. But in the 1820s the coast was to provide the means of progress of the tribal group that was in control of the area when the Pakeha arrived, the Ngati Raukawa of the Waikato. 

1. Huntley, E.W. "The Borough of Foxton - Fiftieth Jubilee", P. 10-ll. 2. Buick, T.L. "Old Manawatu", P. 164-238. 3. Huntley, E.W. P. 9.

 

 

 

 

 

There are 1 comments in this discussion.

Read and

join this discussion

Tags

Other Resources

Results via DigitalNZ

Powered by
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License
Foxton 1888-1988 - The Setting by T Hunt by sandra is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License