"He kai kei aku ringa".
There is abundance with my hands.
One can gain a living by means of hard work.
(Reed's Maori Proverbs).
Because of major sales of land in the sub-division of J. B. Whyte's large holdings were in this area, it is a good time to mention something of his career. John Blair Whyte was born in 1840 into a family that had interests in the stock and station industry in Britain. He farmed in the Waikato for many years from 1868, and had a reputation for doing things well. He was described as a genial man, tall and good looking with a big beard. He suffered from gout. In 1874 he married Miss Annie M. Hay.
As well as his Tauwhare land, he owned a farm near Hamilton where the Waikato Diocesan Girls' School is today, and 4000 acres at Tuhikaramea. Realising early that too much unproductive land was an encumbrance, he began to sub-divide and sell it as soon as he could, and in this he was more successful than other speculators who came later. He was fortunate, or far-sighted, in that he began dealing in land early, while there was still some impetus from the Vogel boom of the 1870's, and he had sold most before the big depression of the later 1880's. By May 1880 he had sold 5,256 acres of his Tauwhare land for Nine thousand nine hundred and sixty one pounds. He sub-divided much of his River Road farm, where he lived, into 10 and 20 acre blocks, and in August 1882 sold the last of his Tuhikaramea land.
Whyte was a member of the first Waikato County Council 1877, the second Mayor of Hamilton in 1879 and Member of Parliament for Waikato 1879-90. When he was elected, he claimed to be independent of any clique and would support the liberal policy of the then Government led by Sir George Grey. This Government was defeated at the same election.
In March 1883, Whyte became a Director of the New Zealand Native Land Settlement Company, one of the Hon. Thomas Russell's speculative companies, which was wound up by Court Order in 1889. Russell had been Minister of Defence during the 1863-64 war and had held the mortgage on Part Tahuroa number one block held by Whyte. After serving as member for Waikato, Hon. J. B. Whyte served on the Legislative Council 1891-97- hence the title Honourable. After his retirement from politics he advised the Bank of New Zealand on land values. Later he returned to England where he died in 1914.
In 1879 Whyte sold 451 acres with access to Tahuroa Road, to F. W. Browning of Piako, for Two pounds an acre. Browning sold to Hintz in 1914. Dunn owned it 1924-25. R. J. Nicholls, father of Dick Nicholls and Mrs Win Morrison bought the farm in 1925. Richard Nicholls is now the third generation to farm the block.
On the 15th March 1880, Whyte sold 2,565 acres for Three thousand and eighty pounds to Henry Byron, an agent of Auckland. This land bounded the Tahuroa Number 2 block on the east, adjoining land now farmed by B. Robertson. On the south the block was bounded by the present farms of Coxon, Ranstead, Silvester Brothers and Kennedy.
Without a further search of titles, the number of subsequent owners is unknown until the 16th October 1909, when Moroney, a runholder of Hamilton, and Darby, an agent of Auckland, sold 3,191 acres to David Jones of Weedons and Frederick Obed Clothier of Hawarden North Canterbury, for Twelve thousand seven hundred and sixty four pounds, or four pounds per acre. This price, when compared with the price paid for land in the Scotsmans Valley area in 1880, three pounds per acre, would indicate that little or no improvements had been made in the intervening 29 years. The area included the block transferred from Whyte to Byron in 1880.
In 1911 Clothier bought Jones half share and sold 550 acres to Fullerton Brothers. This portion was south of Tahuroa Road between Nicholls and Hunters. Fullertons sold 160 acres to C. D. Bryant and in 1934 Ron and Doug Morrison bought the rest. Ron Morrison married Win Nicholls and in 1938 they moved away to Maxwell, leaving Doug with the whole block. His son Malcolm took over the upper part in 1960 and built the house where Morrison Johns now lives. The lower part was bought by Prestidge in 1965 and by David and Shirley Jamieson in 1970. The upper portion has been sub-divided into three, one part remaining with Morrison Johns, a second part going to Dimock and now Van der Oord, and the third part being added to the Jamieson block. It is interesting that Shirley and David Jamieson's son-in-law, Martin Clothier, has now come on to a block of land once owned by his great grandfather.
Thus in 1911, Clothier was left with Tahuroa numbers 3 and 4 blocks, now farmed by Woodcocks and Boyds plus that part of number one block including Hunters, Hansens and part of Robertsons. In 1913 Clothier sold his land to Griffin Brothers and retired to Hamilton. Griffin Brothers dissolved their partnership and divided the land in 1917. In 1921 Edwin Griffin sold his farm (the lower portion of the original holdings) to Madill and Holmes. Then Tipping Brothers bought the piece bounded on the west by the Confiscation Line. This block passed to D. V. Bryant in 1935, and to Grassey Downs Ltd., the present owners, in 1960. About 1927, C. D. Bryant, son of D. V. Bryant, had bought the 160 acre block mentioned above (now owned by Neville Woodcock) and the block next to Tippings. This has since passed to Mellars, Carter, and now Mr and Mrs Neville Boyd.
The Hansen family came to Tahuroa Road in 1931 and are still farming the same land.
Reminiscences of Mr Leo Griffin
In 1907 Griffins owned a large sheep farm at Tangowahine, near Dargaville. Two brothers E. P. (Ted) and R. G. (Bob) arrived at Tauwhare at the beginning of 1913, having bought land at Tahuroa Road from Obed Clothier, the property being known as Fernleigh Downs.
In a letter to his fiancee written from Fernleigh Downs on the 14th January 1913, Ted Griffin said that he and his brother had moved into the homestead (now Boyd's) which he described as comfortable with hot water available from the coal range. They had not met any neighbours, apart from two bachelor brothers, Horrie and David Fullerton. (Later the Fullerton brothers married two daughters of Mr and Mrs Curle who farmed the Spencer and McHardie farms).
Ted was married in April 1913. He and Bob continued to farm in partnership, adding the present Hunter and Robertson farms to their holdings. In 1917 when Bob Griffin was about to be married, the partnership was dissolved. Ted took the improved lower part, now Woodcock's and Boyd's farms, together with the homestead on Boyd's, the woolshed and other buildings. He used to cart fertiliser, seed and fencing material from Eureka Station in wagons. It is interesting that part of Fernleigh Downs, cleared of fern, has now become known as Grassy Downs.
The E. P. Griffins had three children. Leo was born at Onehunga in 1914. Later, two daughters were born, now Mrs G. Ingram of Taupiri and Mrs P. Mayes of Auckland.
Ted Griffin sold his property in 1921 to Madill and Holmes of Hamilton and Te Rapa. Although only seven years of age when the family left Tauwhare to live in Claudelands, Leo Griffin can still remember the hordes of rabbits that infested the place. His father employed rabbiters to trap, poison and fumigate the burrows. Four to five thousand skins a week were hung on fences to dry, until the rabbit problem was overcome. Dozens of rabbits with fur on fire would dash from scrub fires, and men and dogs would have to kill them. The rabbits were also a problem on the lighter land in Scotsman's Valley.
At one time Mrs Ted Griffin, with help, cooked for fourteen men including teamsters, shepherds, scrub cutters, a cowman and rabbiters.
While on the subject of rabbits, many older farmers will recall Bill Glasscock and his team of dogs, who from 1933 until his retirement in 1958, worked for the Kiwitahi Rabbit Board. He did an excellent job, and always remembered where to return if, on an earlier visit, a rabbit had eluded him. A later rabiter was Hugh Munro, a cultured Scot.
Reminiscences of Mrs R. G. (Nina) Griffin
Mrs Griffin, now 90 and living at Ngongotaha, recalls the first three months of married life being spent in the chaff room on Griffin Brothers farm while waiting for their house to be built across the road. This was in 1917 when Griffin Brothers dissolved the partnership and began farming separately. The chaff room was on the 865 acres sold by R. G. Griffin to F. C. Hansen in 1931. The latter's son Fred remembers it as being built of corrugated iron with holes in it, and draughty. However, the young couple's house was finished by June, so a cold winter was avoided. The builders were Watts and Brayshaw of Morrinsville and they came after finishing a house in Tauwhare for Mr Andy Ramsay. This is the house now occupied by Mr and Mrs Alan Bullick. Griffin's house is now occupied by Mr and Mrs James Hunter.
Much hard work lay ahead of the young Griffins developing their large farm. The details are included in the reminiscences of Mr Totman.
Remlniscences of Mr Cyril (Snow) Totman
Mr Totman, now 78 years of age, worked for Mr R. G. (Bob) Griffin from 1927 until the farm was sold to Mr D. V. Bryant in 1943, and then continued to work for Mr Bryant for a further five and a half years.
When Griffin Brothers dissolved partnership in 1917, R. G. Griffin took over the 865 acres now farmed by F. H. Hansen and Sons, plus 1,072 acres of the present Hunter and Robertson farms. Later, another 130 acres along the north east boundary were purchased from a Mr Evett. This smaller area was a mass of ragwort when purchased, but sheep controlled that. The total area was thus just over 2,000 acres prior to 1931 when the Hansens bought their block.
The larger block grew fern and ti-tree, and clearing this without tractors was a major task not appreciated by those used to modern labour saving machinery. The scrub would be burned and any still standing that was too dense for the team to push through, would be cut by hand, heaped up and burned.
All draught horses were hard-fed, i.e. fed on oats and chaff, every day of the year, plus of course grass when they were not working. This gave them the stamina needed to work through the long day. Four horses pulled the double-furrowed ploughs on the easier country, and Mr Totman's job was to plough the steeper sidelings using a reversible hillside plough pulled by two horses. To work the ploughed ground to a suitable tilth for whatever crops were required, six horses abreast pulled nine-a-side disc harrows followed by chain harrows. Five horses pulled the drill which had a heavy beam across it to accommodate the horses. Swede turnips were drilled for the winter. Rape followed to fatten lambs in the summer and autumn, and then grass would be sown. They had up to 200 acres under the plough annually during the breaking in period.
Fertiliser used was guano, superphosphate and bonedust. It was Mr Totman's job to mix and sow the 160 tons (approximately) used annually, using a box top dresser pulled by horses. Sometimes black slag was used - not a popular manure for the sower, or his wife who had to wash his clothes.
There was a shorthorn dairy herd milked on the Hansen block, and Bob Griffin paid the sharemilkers one pound a head to rear as many calves as possible - sometimes 200 a year. Five brood mares were kept and it was Snow Totman's job to break the horses in to work.
He describes his employer as a big man, six feet three or four inches in height, and a good man to work for, leaving the work to be done without continual interference. Seventeen years working for the same boss would be proof of that. For the first few years when he was single, he received Two pounds per week, and he was glad to get it, especially during the years of the depression in the early thirties, when wages, if one had a job, were often only ten shillings per week. Things weren't easy financially for the boss either, during this period. The horror of the big facial eczema epidemic in the autumn of 1938, remains in Snow Totman's memory. They killed and skinned many of their 1,500 affected sheep.
Three hands were employed on the farm at most times. Towards the end, 3,000 ewes plus replacements were carried, and 500 bullocks were fattened. Bob Griffin did not believe in over-stocking and the story of the development of this large block is a tribute to his tenacity and courage, despite a heart condition which eventually caused his death after he had retired to Hamilton East.