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INTERESTING REMINISCENCES

tO TITS EDITOK. , Sir, — The death of an old colonist, Mr. Nees, recalls an interesting event that occurred many yeaTs ago, that, in these fast-moving days, bids fair to be forgotten. Mr. Nees as far back as fortyfive years ago, owned a sawmill, which stood where .the town of Weetport now stands. It is strange to recall that the site of the old town of We&tpor-t, in which the late Mr. Nees and the present writer then lived, is now resting under the sea, many fathoms dAp — the result of a catastrophe that brought about ruin financially to many. It is a strange story, belonging to those days when the Dominion of New Zealand was only twenty-seven years old, and remembered by a lessening few. Briefly, this is the story. In those days the old town of Westport was a flourishing municipality. It owned banks, a Magistrate's Court, a theatre, music and dancing halls, schools, a brewery, and all the externals of a thriving goldfields town and seaport. There were ■ also wharves. One lovely afternoon the late Mr. Beauchamp (father of the ex-chairman of the Bank of New Zealand), myself, and others were standing on Dryer's wharf, which was situated, like the town, about a mile distant from the Buller bar. The wind had dropped, and everything was very still, when, looking out westward, we saw the sea and the horizon ap« parently meeting, and moving towards the laud. Then came a great rushing sound of water, and a huge bank of water, about 40 feet high, struck the shore, and rushed up the river, raising its level many feet. It then receded, leaving the sea beach quite dry for a long distance seaward, and the Buller River ran out' to Bea so swiftly that it nearly ran dry. The next tide flooded the brewery, the Maori pa, all buildings along the river side, and the South Spit.But tho worst was to come. The river Buddenly changed its outlet, and carried away Dryer's wharf, Beauchamp's wharf, and its wharf stores, m its course. The slaughter-yards, a muo below the town, went next, then Mie large public cemetery began to go, until the river was strewn with • cotiitis. These were afterwards collected, and placed in the new cemetery, formed about three miles distant from the old site. The river continued to bore to the north, and the houses on the esplanade fronting the river found the street in front of them washing out to sea. Then followed a busy time, for hoimes, hotels, and buildings of every descrip tion were taken down to be re-erected on the situ of the present town. Tho destruction by the river went steadily on. Then a great fire occurred, ac stroying the most valuable business, pottioiiß of Gladstone, Freeman, and Palmor-ston-streets. Nor were there any insurances on either buildings or stock's, so that the owners not only lost these, but the laud as well, for it was not very long before that too had disappeared under the inroads of the encroaching waters. But there was a comic side to the catastrophe. Prophets were not wanting, and a leaflet was issued from Canterbury, warning the West Coast people that in a month's time a second tidal wave, 20ft higher than the last, would come, and submerge Hokitika, Okariti, and Westport. , The general alarm was great, and some people in Hokitika went so far as to buy tents and camp out on the hills. Tidings or these preparations reached Westport, and there was more alarm. It was at this point that Messrs. Nees and Rollins hit upon a device for the safety of the townspeople. Mr. Nees had a sawmill, and on his property some very large and tall trees, and my friend, Mr. Richard Rollins, a sail and tentmaker, owned largo quantities of rope, from ratline rope to hempen cables, and together they built platforms in the huge trees, made accessible by rope ladders. Needless ,to say the platforms wore never requisitioned. In later days another prophet arose in Wellington. He stated that New Zealand was rising along the East Coast, and sinking along the West Coast, and that the end would be total extinction. He induced many Wellington people, and Australians, to go with him to South Africa, at a heavy financial loss. There he vanished, taking with him, needless to say, the money entrusted to him. As Mark Twain sayh, there is safety in prophecy — only after the event. — I am, etc., JAMES M'DOWELL.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19120812.2.15

Bibliographic details

INTERESTING REMINISCENCES, Evening Post, Volume LXXXIV, Issue 37, 12 August 1912

Word Count
752

INTERESTING REMINISCENCES Evening Post, Volume LXXXIV, Issue 37, 12 August 1912

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