The farming area known as Eureka was created through the reclamation of part of the vast Piako Swamp. Starting in 1874, 16km of enormous drains were dug by hand to lower the water level sufficiently to farm the land. The Swamp had extended from the edge of Hamilton East to the Piako River, and was part of the land confiscation by Government at the end of the Waikato Land Wars in 1865. A section of the Confiscation Line can still be seen defining the boundary of the east side of Eureka.

The homestead built in 1875 on the Eureka Hill was the first headquarters for the Woodlands Estate, which at one time stretched from Taupiri to Morrinsville.  Legend has it that the name Eureka was formed from the initials of the ladies in a picnic party which chose the site for the homestead.

Significant features of early Eureka were the railway station on Holland Road built around 1884, the school which opened at the crossroads in 1904, and the butter (later cheese) factory, built in 1903.  Since 1914 a hall has provided a meeting place for the community and its activities, with the first structure being replaced in 1968 by the present building.

While the Eureka of today is just a short drive from Hamilton, for much of its history it was a farming-based community, linked to the world by the railway and somewhat swampy roads.  But the sense of community remains, largely through the publication of the 36 year old Eureka Express magazine, providing local news and recording the achievements and comings and goings of its residents.

Typical of the lush Eureka farmland.
Typical of the lush Eureka farmland: the Inglis property shown.

MUCH of the land in the Waikato was cropped for wheat and barley in the late 1800s. By the turn of the century dairying had become the mainstay of farming, especially at Eureka. But today diversification has characterised the area.

The Gordon homestead showing unclaimed swamp in the foreground
The Gordon homestead showing unclaimed swamp in the foreground

JUST east of Eureka a 35 kilometre straight line of fences and hedges can be seen from vantage points on the hills of the Pakaroa Range.

The Gordon Homestead
The Gordon Homestead

Perched atop the Hill, the Eureka homestead has always commanded a panoramic view of the surroundmg district. For more than three decades after its erection the homestead was the focal point for the flourishing little community.

'J' locomotive hauling a mixed train through Eureka
'J' locomotive hauling a mixed train through Eureka bound for Tauranga, December 1949. PHOTOS: Joe Terry

ALL the needs of the district, whether personal or for the farm, came by train and it was a friend indeed, a haven for many a bird-nest or a childish love affair...'1

ALONE tractor putters from Seddon Road, the dust trail following its waning whirr. Dust? From land once likened to an inland sea? All around the lush pastures touch the horizon... the great Piako Swamp, 1984. 
Back in the forties the manuka forest reached for the sky. Hawks nested in the vegetation and rabbits multiplied on the ground. At night the terrain was blanketed in fog. In summer the black peat smouldered, the tiniest ember sparked off large-scale fires.