Community Contributed

Mrs Maxwell (Cyril) Bartholomew

Kete Horowhenua2020-03-23T16:49:33+00:00
- an account of the early Bartholomew sawmilling days - railway - community hall - kangaroos - shifting of mill - naming of streets in Weraroa area.


About 1857, together with two brothers, Peter Bland Bartholomew, then aged 18, left Scotland for Australia, where they soon began sawmilling ...(blip in tape)… and building, by bullock wagon. In 1888 Peter Bland Bartholomew came to Levin from Feilding to explore the milling possibilities in this district. He established a mill just north of Levin, about 1½ miles from the present Post Office, on the southern side of what we now call The Avenue, a most beautiful part, and a scenic attraction for many years. The machinery was brought from Feilding to Levin by bullock wagon. A group of Maoris living nearby were afraid of the sparks and steam, and refused to allow the mill to operate. Mr Bartholomew appealed to the government for help, and that well-known Maori warrior Keepa, known by his English name of Major Kemp, came with some of his men and stood guard till the Maoris became accustomed to the machinery, smoke, and noise.

Meanwhile in 1889 Mrs Bartholomew and her family of then five children, had arrived from Feilding, and a big house - big for those times - was built just by the present Roslyn Rd crossing, and is now occupied by Mr Dave Morgan. When he left Levin, Major Kemp asked Mrs Bartholomew that the expected baby, if a girl, might be called after his daughter, and Mrs Sidney Gascoigne, living in Auckland today, has the name Whakahina Eterunga Agnes. But Rina St Weraroa is called after her, and should be spelt Rena not Rina.

By 1890 the Manawatu railway line had been completed and the station was adjacent to the mill. The mail was sent to the mill and was distributed by the mill's book-keeper Mr Peter Bartholomew's brother-in-law Mr Frederick George Roe. Thus the mill became the first post-office in Levin. Mr Bartholomew also ordered groceries in bulk from Wellington, selling them at cost price to the railway workers and mill employees, and so the mill became the first store.

A community hall was roughly built and the first concerts, dances, and religious services were held there. Mrs Bartholomew, together with a farmer's wife Mrs Stuckey who lived in what is known now as Bath St held sewing meetings there, thus forming the nucleus of the present St Mary's Anglican Ladies Guild.

About this time a relative of Mr Bartholomew came from Australia bringing a kangaroo as a gift for the family. Finally there were seven kangaroos which as they grew too old to be played with were put in an enclosure but used to escape and roam the bush. Gradually however they were destroyed either by accident or design, the Maoris calling them "the big rats".

By this time horse teams had taken the place of the bullock wagons, and we have the cowbell which came off the neck of the leader of the last bullock team, and was put on the leader of the horse team.

When most of the timber was cut out, the mill moved south to Weraroa about 1898 and was enlarged, while smaller mills were set up over the Ohau past where Mr Poad's farm is now. And also towards the lake, down near the racecourse. Two brothers Richard and James Prouse had by this time built a large mill on the eastern side of the railway line. So as the business was now in that area, the station was moved to Weraroa, at where the railway tank now stands. This station was burnt down and the new station was built on its present site.

When all the timber suitable for milling was cut out, both the Prouse mill and the Bartholomew mill were demolished. The mill stood in what was known as the Bartholomew Mill paddock, and was bounded by Oxford St., Hokio Beach Rd., Mabel St - named after another daughter Mrs Stuart McKenzie - and Keepa St, named after Major Kemp. This land in 1925 was then divided into small building sections and is now part of the residential area of Weraroa.

Transcription done by Doug Bolitho.