1885 in Poverty Bay

At this time of year, as we approach New Year’s Eve, our thoughts naturally dwell on the past twelve months and our future prospects.

I wondered – What was occupying the minds of our ancestors in Poverty Bay one hundred and twenty years ago in 1885?

The year 1885 had been notable for the formation of the Cook Hospital and Charitable Aid Board, land in Kaiti had been valued at £11 per acre, and Alan McDonald was elected mayor of Gisborne. A bridge had been erected across the Te Arai River at Manutuke, replacing the punt which had operated since the bridge erected in 1874 had been washed out in 1876. There were 16 solicitors, 18 surveyors and 17 licensed interpreters in practice in Gisborne, and the Cook County Cheese, Butter and Bacon Company had opened a cheese factory at Matawhero (opposite the modern-day saleyards) in January of 1885.

By year’s end, J.A. MacKay in “Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast N.I., N.Z” was reporting a drought on the East Coast with only 7 inches of rain in the 7 months to January 1886, and that the situation in Gisborne was almost as bad.

Local pubs were prominent advertisers in The Poverty Bay Herald of December 31st 1885. Dickson’s Argyll Hotel in Gladstone Road was advertising its bars, dining, reading, sitting and bed rooms, and its plunge and shower baths. The Roseland Hotel at Makaraka was in the hands of E.J. Beresford, the Waerenga-a-hika Hotel was being run by William Cooper and the Turanganui Hotel was being promoted by S. De Costa, proprietress.

Long-time stationer Thomas Adams advertised his wares and the Gisborne Gas Company advised that it was renting gas stoves for 2/6 per month, while William Adair was still advertising Christmas bargains – perhaps the fore-runner of our present-day Boxing Day sales … which last a week.

The P.B. Herald reported that the tender for the last 6 ½ miles of the Gisborne to Wairoa road had been let to Brownlow and Will for section 1 and Corcoran for section 2 and the road was expected to open to wheeled traffic in May the following year.

But the biggest news story was the bush fires down south at Norsewood, Makotuku, Makaretu, and Carterton with significant loss of property and volunteers being conveyed to fight the fires by special trains. Ormondville was threatened according to the paper of New Year’s Eve 1885, and funds were being raised for homeless settlers and their families.

Looking ahead to 1886, the P.B. Herald announced that the postal note system was to be implemented to enable the transfer of funds, and 6d would be charged for telegrams for delivery the same day.

Poverty Bay Turf Club was anticipating its two-day meeting on January 12th and 14th, while two columns-worth of stallions with such exotic names as Emir Bey, Young Pretender, Prince Arthur III and Merrylegs advertised their services for standing at stud.

I suppose the stallions, at least, were looking forward to 1886 with smiles on their dials.

[Thanks to J.A. MacKay and the National Library’s “Papers Past” website for some data]

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