» ITS HISTORY PAST AND PRESENT. THE EARLY HISTORY OF STRATFORD. Thirteen years ago the spot on which the prosperous and progressive town of Stratford now stands was bush. It was on June 11th, 1877, that the Land Board instructed the Chief Commissioner to write to the Government and request the Minister for Crown Lands to direct the Survey Department to lay out a township on the banks of the Patea River, a distance of about thirteen miles from Inglewood, which town had then been in existence about two years. This was done, and a block of land of some three hundred acres was cleared on the north side of the river, and later in the yejr it was burned, and then surveyed and planned off in sections for sale. Previous to the railway being formed there was only a horse track along the Mountain Road, and the rivers were some time before they were bridged. It was, therefore, a somewhat difficult road to travel along, in fact was very seldom used, for the chief traffio to the south of the Provincial District was by the way of Opunake, round the coast The only dwelling near Stratford was a small house kept by Mr Fitzpatrick, where visitors could have their hunger appeased, and, if required, sleeping accommodation of a primitive kind afforded for a very limited number of persons. NAMING THE TOWNSHIP. The land having been surveyed and tho sections planned off, the next important matter was the naming of the township. This was a very serious business in those days, for the public were mighty particular — far more capricious in fact than Shakespeare credits Romeo #ith being. The Government were also careful not to allow a place to have the same name that a town in some other part of the colony bore. When the name of Inglewood was chosen a newspaper controversy of a most exhaustive nature took place — each correspondent proving to his own satis faction the oxact meaning of the word, and tried to explain it. The first name chosen was Milton, but there being a town already called after that English poet, it had to be abandoned. The pioneers also made some attempts at naming that township, and did so in the "Arctic discovery " style of hitting on words that happened to etrike the party. After the preliminary survey of tho block now known as Inglewood, a party of immigrants per ship Waikato were started to fell the bush. They were camped at the north end of the town, and of an evening, seated round a big fire, they would yarn over the dangers and difficulties they had gone through. One of them exclaimed, " Yes, we've com'd all the way from England to live in this yer great forest and among the wild hogs. Who'd a' thought it." And all the rest of them chimed in as if it was a chorus, " Ay, who'd a thou't it." By the name of " who'd a thought it " that part of Inglewood was known for months. The next name suggested was "Now-found-out." Then the " oldest inhabitants " talked the matter over, and it was thought that as the new district was called the Moa block, that the town Bhould bo called after it, "Moatown." However, finally the name of Inglewood was decided on when several prophecied that its name would be significant of the fate of the town — a "fire in the wood." The fixing of the name of the town under notice did not cause much controversy. Failing in getting the first town named after an English poet, the late Mr Crompton suggested that the second should be called "Sttatford-on-Patea." "England," said Mr Crompton, "had a poet born at Stratford-on-Avon, and- might not J New Zealand produce one likewise at Stratford-on-Patea." Therefore the town was named " Stratford-on-Pcitea," and we hope that Mr Crompton's words are prophetic, and that some poet has already been born there who will in the future make hia name as famous as the immortal William has done. THE COUNTRY IN STATE OF NATURE. To give some idea of the work that has been done in clearing the bush, we cannot do better than quote from a description given of General Chute's march through the bush in January, 1866, with a force of 424, and a transport of 67 pack and 24 riding horses. The journey from Ketemarae to New Plymouth occupied eleven days, and towards the end of the journey they got so short of provisions that the horses were killed and eaten. As a general rule the native contingent, with the guards, cleared the way by cutting down underwood, and so clearing a track as they marched along, and the advance guards followed well supplied with tomahawks, billhooks, axes, spades, &c. Ketemarae, where the troops started from, is about a mile north of Normanby, and it took the party nearly tour days to reach the spot where Stratford now stands. General Chute, in his despatches, says, " For a short distance our advance was unchecked, as we were traversing a good dray road leading _ to a village (Ketemarae) and cultivation. From that point our progress ' was slow and laborious in the extreme, and the difficulties against which we had to contend will be better understood when I say that to accomplish a distance of fifty -four miles the force was eight days actually on the move, and never less than ten hours in any one day. . . . There were no less than twenty-one rivers and ninety gullies, the precipitous banks of many of which presented formidable obstructions to our advance, and required great labour to make them passable." Another writer says: — " Few scenes could more faithfully pourtray the inherent pluck and indomit able courage and perseverance of the British officers and soldiers than their labours on the fourth day, and the manner in which, they were performed. Gullies were rapidly filled by the downpouring rain, and aB rapidly bridged over by the working party. It appeared hopeless to make roads under such difficulties, but the example set by the officers, who each worked with might and main, stimulated the men to extraordinary exertion till all difficulties gave way to them. Fifteen gullies and four rivers were crossed, and many of them bridged over that day. Such was the density of the forest and difficulty of the work that by 3.30 in tho afternoon, when they halted, the men had not made quite four miles in a direct line, aiid the General, who had exerted himself all day to bring up tho rear, only arrived with the last horse at 9 p.m." This was the state of the country up till about 1875, when a tiorse track was made and some of the rivers bridged.
STRATFORD IN 1877. Writing in October, 1877, the late Mr -James Hirst says: — "At the Paiea river, which, by-the-by, is crossed by a very •jood truss bridge, I saw a few men at work, and enquired from them where the bad road was, and was told that I had passed the worst of it. I went about a nilo further, and anchored for the night at vlr Fitzpatrick's accommodation house. This was about 6 p.m., making, say, 3£ ■lours from Normanby. I had been told chat the accommodation there was some.liing dreadful, but found it quite the ! reverse. I met with every attention, !riudness, and civilty. Alter my horse tad been well fed and groomed, l sat down o a very excellent tea, to which I did imple justice; and about 8 p.m. was shown mto a very comfortable bedroom, with all the fixluge clean and dry. After a good night 1 * rest, I turned gut *t i a.m., and ■
enquired the charge, which was tho very moderate one of 5s — tea, bed, and as good a feed of oats as I ever placed before a horse." Another writer describes the place as follows: — "Stratford-on-Patea has many advantages which cannot fail to attract purchasers. It stands — or at least let us hope will eventually stand, it mostly reclines at present — on tho Patea river — a rapid mountain stream here, but with a refreshing, healthy look about it. At this part of the Mountain Road the soil again becomes thoroughly promising in appearance. The clearing of 300 acres now (December, 1877), down seems as level as possible, is apparently without any swampy parts, and but sligutly intersected with creeks. Abundance of building material lies on every hand, but tho bush is not so massed with heavy trees as around Inglewood and in patches along the Mountain Road." It was about this time that a good sized tent might have been seen somewhere near where Messrs Curtis' store now stands, and the cheery and friendly brothers were there, always ready to welcome a friend and give him a shake down for the night if he required it. SALE OF THE TOWNSHIP. After the surveys had been completed, tho Waste Lands Board, on Monday, May 20th, 1878, authorised the Chief Commissioner to advertise the sale of this important township, and as the advertisement which first uppoared may bo of interest at the present time, we copj r it. NOTICE OF LAND SALE.
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STRATFORD-on-PATEA., Taranaki Herald, Volume XXXIX, Issue 8887, 22 September 1890
STRATFORD-on-PATEA. Taranaki Herald, Volume XXXIX, Issue 8887, 22 September 1890
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