THE depression years of the thirties were a grim time for many Eureka folk. However, the relief work schemes started by the Waikato County Council set in train the development of much of the country. Drains were dug and roads were metalled and by the end of the depression Eureka emerged with a good network of roads and amenities.
But the development of these facilities is still essentially a story of the determination and tenacity of the settlers. While outsiders may have helped to some degree, most of the ground work was still carried out by locals.
Roads in Eureka began with coach tracks through the Woodlands Estate in the 1800s. By the turn of the century, sand roads and dirt tracks were slowly being formed at Eureka.
When it was wet the roads were terrible. Mr Dick Casey recalls a particularly bad stretch near Motumaoho. Most travellers' horses became bogged there. One canny local sat by the side of the road and charged people a pound for pulling them out and with the proceeds he managed to buy a farm!
The roads in existence before 1910 were Factory Road, Station Road and Eureka Avenue. The Avenue, which now forms part of State Highway 26 as it leads into Eureka today, used to be lined with pines-hence the tag. It ended at the crossroads and from there a dirt track was the main access to Friedlander Road. The main highway then used to follow Factory Road to the Cambridge-Morrinsville Road.
Many of Eureka's locals sat on the road boards of the area commissioning road development. Others tendered for the contracts to form the routes.
The Tamahere Road Board and the Kirikiriroa Road Board were responsible for the formation of roads at Eureka. The boards' minute books from the early 1900s chart the progress of roading in the locality.
By September 1903 the Kirikiriroa Road Board had decided to send 300 yards of gravel to Eureka Staiiton for use on the roads in the area. Work had advanded by 1907 to the point where a surfaceman was appointed to make repairs in the area.
Eureka pioneer Mr James McClennan was given the contract for sanding Station Road.1 He had a team of 50 draught horses for the job. Pits were dug and sand was tossed onto the road. With his horses and drays he took on roading contracts in many of the nearby districts.
Mr Pat Clarkin and Mr George Hinton were also contractors.2 Using a waggon and drays, they carted sand from a pit on a neighbour's farm and tipped the load on the road. They had two men working for them in the pit and they did the carting and spreading work. Most of the work in those early days was back-breaking as it was all done by hand.
The sand roads were inadequate even for the horse traffic of early times. A clerk reporting to the Kirikiriroa Road Board meeting in November 1907 complained that a Mr Clarkin had been carrying "excessive loads between the factory and Eureka Station". The board threatened to claim damages from the offender for carrying a load of two to three tons with a team of six horses!
In 1912 the Tamahere Road Board accepted the tender of Field and Clarkin of one shilling and sixpence a yard for putting gravel on nearly two kilometres of Eureka Avenue. By 1915 it was planning to widen the road. And by 1922 the board discussed sealing and completing it, but work did not begin until late in 1926 as there were several delays. 3
By 1926 Eureka residents were able to experience the thrill of travelling on tarseal. Mr John Hooper said the first piece of tarseal was put down near Newstead. At that time Eureka's roads were still sand or metal.
" Dad and Sammy Lye (of Newstead) got on the Tamahere Road Board. They fought to get the tarsealing going. They wanted a roller and they bought an eleven-ton steam roller for rolling the metal in. People reckoned it would not work.
"They put this piece of metal down in front of Lye's place, about one-and-a-half miles from the Newstead railway line, heading towards Morrinsville. That lasted for years through putting in a good foundation and using a heavy roller. Sealing carried on from there," he said.
"I can remember when I was first going to school about 1935," recalled Mr Robt Stokes, "the only tarseal was a strip from Woodside Road to Marshmeadow Road. The old bus would scream along-we all thought that was wonderful then."
While Mr Hooper was on the board he also managed to have Hooper Road metalled. "Hooper Road was in grass then,'' said Mr Hooper. ''Dad got onto the county to metal it. He and Les Rowe (a neighbour) got the contract to sand it. I got about 18 pence a yard for carting the sand and spreading it. I used to drive the drays and tip and spread it, they filled the drays." The Waikato County Council minute books continue the story of road development at Eureka in the twenties when new roads were dedicated and named.
On June 10, 1924 the council accepted the dedication of an extension of Schollum Road as a public road from Arthur Friedlander, a farmer who owned a large property bordering the road.
Work on Telephone Road was also underway then. In 1925 the council called for tenders for the claying of about 90 chains of the northern end of the road. And by 1927 it offered to subsidise any work undertaken by ratepayers pound for pound. By this time the road was being graded and scarified.
Work to improve the main highway to Morrinsville (still part of Factory Road then) took on new impetus in the late twenties. The volume of traffic had greatly increased and created the need for improved roads.
An engineer's report to the council in July 1927 stated:
"The sand portions of this road (the main highway) have again become rough in places and are now being regraded with a motor grader. The metalled portions along Eureka Avenue have been given a coat of chips from Tauwhare quarry and also a portion near Newstead. The maintenance of the metalled portions of this highway are much more difficult and costly than the sanded portions."
By September 1928 the council resolved to take land for a road deviation from Mr W. Schollum's property. He was to be offered 50 pounds compensation an acre. However, he refused and the council and the owner haggled over the matter. By March 1931 the council heard that the Schollum Road matter was ready for settlement.
Unemployment began to loom as the depression of the thirties set in. The council began relief work schemes and relief committees were formed to deal with the problems.
Many of the unemployed were sent to Waverley Islands for drainage work and to Eureka for roading work.
Mr Tom Muir said of those days: "Before the depression the farmers used to get two shillings and sixpence a pound for their butter. From 1927 on everything dropped and went on like that through the thirties. There was one family of five boys and one girl who, through the depression, sent only three of the boys to school on any one day because they had only three sets of clothes. No one ever wore shoes to school."
Mrs Muriel Clarkin recalled living on milk puddings, potatoes and pumpkins. Mr Harry Clarkin said the depression brought back tales his Irish grandmother had told him. Back in Ireland they had survived on potatoes and 'point'. Most families in Ireland had two-room houses with open fires and the hams they cured hung above the fireplace.
As the hams gew older the smell grew stronger. When they ate their potatoes they put them on a fork and pointed them at the ceiling. She swore you could smell the bacon on the potatoes," he said.
The people on the work schemes came from all walks of life-lawyers, accountants and labourers. The foreman for the road work at Eureka was Dick Turpin and his brother-inlaw Jack Tunnel was his sidekick. They had one chain-driven truck and all the rest of the work was done with picks, shqvels and scoops, said Mr Clarkin.
The work on those schemes was unrewarding and the men could not wait for the day to end. Brawling over petty matters was frequent. Mr Clarkin recalled that his mother used to patch up someone about three times a week.
Some of the youths of Eureka trapped rabbits which paid quite well for those times. Mr Ivan Lovelock, whose father lost his farm during the depression, used to sell his rabbits to Waikato Hospital. He later bought a bulldozer from the proceeds and took on contract work. He ended up a successful contractor.
During the depression the road that is now State Highway 26 was formed through Mr Pat Clarkin's farm. Hooper Road was extended in 1932.
Work on Holland Road began in the forties. In 1953 the council decided to try for government funding for extending the Holland Road formation and claying. By 1957 it undertook to complete and dedicate, as soon as possible, the extension of Seddon Road to Waverley Islands.
Waverley Road was officially named at a meeting in August 1967 and surveying work on the road immediately commenced. By 1970 the Council decided to construct the road that year. Mr Maber of Maber Lands contributed 1400 pounds towards the cost ofthe formation of the road. In 1980 Factory Road was re-named Hunter Road.
The first telephone at Eureka, at the post office, was probably on a party line. By 1907 a telephone office had also been opened at the railway station but shut down in 1920.4 Presumably by then other houses in the area had telephones and the station telephone was no longer a necessity.
Rural mail delivery also began around the thirties. Mr Graeme Gatchell took over the contract in 1952 and delivered mail to 280 homes in the RD4 area for 21 years.
He covered Ruakura, Newstead, Eureka, Tauwhare, Matangi and a small part of Hamilton in the mornings and in the afternoons delivered mail to the Tamahere locality.
Mr Gatchell was a familiar figure at Eureka as he dropped off the mail bag at the store every day. He picked up the settlers' letters from the postmaster, Mr Noel Campbell.
He always had time for a chat with the residents or the children who sauntered up to greet him. In return he remembers with pleasure the Christmas turkey, cream and beers he received from the local folk.
Candles and kerosene lamps were gladly put away by the locals when the lights came on at Eureka from 1921 onwards. In the days before electricity, reading had to be done by the light of a lamp. Children were used to doing their homework in semi-darkness, taking a candle with them when they went to bed.
The first step in power generation was taken by the Waihi Gold Mining Company between 1910 and 1913.5 It set up a generating station at Hora Hora. The station was taken over by the Government in 1919 and fed into the national grid until it was submerged on the completion of Lake Karapiro station in 1947. Eureka received its first power from Hora Hora.
Mr Tom Hinton was the Central Electric Power Board's first chairman when it was constituted in 1920. At that time the board's area was wholly rural, consisting of some 906 square kilometres. 6 The Board's first consumer was the Glaxo dried milk factory at Matangi and the surrounding dairy farms supplying the factory were connect d next.
At Eureka those living on Eureka A venue were the first to receive power.
In 1921 Tom Hinton, James McClennan, Thomas Luxton and Robert Townsend were able to switch on their lights.7 The following year the lights came on at Eureka's hall and in several other homes. By 1924 the cheese factory, the manager's home and the men's quarters also had power and by 1926 the store had also been connected.
Through all the stages of Eureka's settlement drainage was the key to progress. The country had to be dried out to grow crops and to support the weight of animals and vehicles. As with roading, much of the drainage work was undertaken by Eureka locals.
Today Eureka's drains are administered by the Eureka Drainage Board and a small area is also administered by the Taupiri River and Drainage Board.
The Eureka Board has its roots at the settlement where it held its first meeting on July 25, 1903. 8 Held at the Gordon Homestead, Mr Gordon was elected chairman by several of the local community who attended the meeting.
During its formative years the board continued to meet at the homestead although the butter factory was used as an alternative venue.
Its area today includes part of Eureka, Tauwhare, Newstead and extends to Matangi.
The drains at Eureka in early days were used for watering stock and for drainage. By September 1928 the board was responsible for some 21 kilometres of public drains and its work often involved taking local residents to task for sandbagging drains. This way farmers would force the water back onto their property so that stock could drink from it. There were also legal drinking places for stock at certain points along the drains. The spoil from the drains often formed the nucleus of roadways in the area.
The first drains dating back to the turn of the century were colossal and during the rainy periods filled up very quickly causing flooding in the are near the crossroads.9 Some of those drains which were of such tremendous importance to the development of Eureka's farmland still exist-the Plumtree drain, Homestead drain, Woolshed, Blackwater and Sandy drains. Their names still have connections with those early days when the pioneers with their bare hands put the community together.
The changed pattern of farming in the district was partly caused by the incliease in ten-acre sections (4 hectares). Also, the smaller subdivisions became popular as more people who worked in town preferred living in the country.
Former Ruakura Riding member, Mr David McGuire, said that the increase in the number of horticultural blocks has been the greatest change he had witnessed over the years. He was riding member for the area for twelve years until l97l.
With the growing trend towards horticulture he predicts that water reticulation of the area is not too far away. The water in the area is not suitable for irrigation because of its high iron content.
In the last 12 years he has also noted a great deal of upgrading in the area-fences, buildings, improved access to farms and road hedges. Aesthetic improvements were quite marked. Rural housing loans made available to ratepayers in the county have been significant in contributing towards the change, he noted.
Until the ten-acre sections became productive their occupants would probably commute to Hamilton for work, he said. Because of this, Eureka has to some degree become a satellite suburb of Hamilton, but this trend would change as the farms become productive and commuting to the district for seasonal work would increase.
Horse breeding at Eureka would also gain popularity, he said. Its two sister settlements, Matangi and Cambridge, were already well-known areas for horse breeding.
Since the 1900s Eureka has grown from a mainly dairying settlement to a mixed farming locality. It has been hewn from land once sold for five shillings an acre, covered in scrub and manuka. A local farmer estimated its verdant pastures today could fetch $5000 an acre.
Some of the early pioneers' descendants who still live in Eureka are now reaping a fitting reward or their toils. And still new pioneers continue to try out different types of farming, their return uncertaia.
As Mr McGuire put it: "This is the way farming has always developed and sometimes at great cost to the developers. You can't help but have a high regard for their efforts. Some will fall by the wayside but as quick as they others will be there place."