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Early Years of the Young Qualtroughs from the book "A Quota of Qualtrough" 41-47


Perhaps the rumblings of war were behind the decision of James to change his land. We can only speculate on the reasons. Perhaps the distance from church and school played a big part, for James was a deeply religious man, well-educated and keen for his children to be educated.

Perhaps he realised that to turn virgin forest into farmland would take more years of prime-of-life than he felt he had left to him. Perhaps the isolation was too much for Catherine and the girls.

Documents show that James Qualtrough, farmer, of Papakura, purchased land at Pakuranga from Alfred Buckland, stock and station agent, on 4 December, 1860. He bought 118 acres 32 perches (47 hectares) on the main Panmure-Howick highway for which he paid £1,180 (sterling).


An early picture of the farm of James and Catherine QUALTROUGH at Pakuranga – the girl against the tree was never identified, 
but it is presumably one of the Qualtrough daughters.

East Tamaki, Howick and Pakuranga were already well settled. The populace included retired soldiers, men of the Royal New Zealand Fencibles who, on leaving military service, were given a cottage and an acre of land.

Thousands of immigrants were to arrive in the Auckland areas in the 1860's and Tamaki-Pakuranga land was favoured for its relatively easy access by water or across country>to the port of Auckland, about 23 kilometers away.

The area was good land for wheat and vegetable growing, with ready markets at Howick where troops were stationed, and in Auckland itself. Wheat was transported in sacks to Partington's Mill -known as the Victoria Flour Mills - and butter and eggs were sold.

For 15 years (1850-1865) access to Auckland across the Tamaki River depended upon a punt operated by a Joseph Williams. According to records this was a pretty uncomfortable, dangerous experience for those forced to use it. The punt was often holed, or its guiding chain broken; and the transport of stock by punt could mean delays of an hour or more. There was a strong current at the point of crossing and mishaps were common.

In his book OLD MANUKAU, historian A.E. Tonson writes:

"…. The traffic crossing in 1862 was quite considerable and the daily average was about 180 settlers and children, 58 horses, 23 carts and 100 cows and sheep."

Prompted by dissatisfaction from the settlers, the Tamaki Bridge Act was passed in 1864 and a bridge was put across the river in 1866. A.E. Tonson writes:

"…. The settlers were able to cross on a new 19 span bridge built of materials brought over from Australia. Costing 17,025 pounds sterling, the bridge was 576 feet in length and with a width of 21 feet and at the Pakuranga end was a swivel apparatus which opened to provide a passage of 40 feet for large vessels."

"…. In 1916 a new 800 foot concrete bridge was opened and this remained until demolished in 1963 after being replaced in 1959 by the present bridge."

A.E. Tonson draws a graphic picture of the bridge in use in early days. viz:

Traveling to town from Pakuranga was quite an event in the early years and on Fridays, dressed in their best, the various families with horse and trap would head for the city market. The toll to cross the bridge was sixpence for a horse and cart. As cutters used the river, it was often a race to reach the bridge before the gates were closed and the keeper cranked the span around."

Not all town goers went in style. It was quite common for the young and sturdy to walk the distance there and back, sometimes carrying a 25-kilo. sack of flour on their shoulders on the return journey.

A school was not officially established in the locality until 1869 - weekly fees 9d for seniors, 6d for juniors - but James had his younger children taught privately, paying one shilling per week per pupil. The schoolroom was set up in the teacher's home.

James was a prime mover in having the Methodist Church at Howick, then a predominantly Catholic population, moved to Pakuranga for the use of faithful Wesleyans. (See chapter on the history of the church.)

James and Catherine died in the same year - 1881 - and both are interred in the graveyard on the site of the church before it was moved to the Howick Historic Village.
(See Jame's Death Certificate)
(See Catherine's Death Certificate)

Jame's will in pdf format

We don't know too much about life at Pakuranga between 1860 and 1881. Certainly it was not a land flowing with milk and honey if James and Catherine had expected such, which is most unlikely.

Although the land was fertile there were two exceptionally bad winters between 1860 and '63 and the latter year also saw the outbreak of the Waikato Wars which disrupted the lives of all families. Within three months of war being declared, on July 12, all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 55 were on active service. Youths under 16 and men turned down for active service trained for the Home Guard.

Although Pakuranga was not actually attacked, Maori raiders killed isolated settlers and looted their homes as close to the settlement of Howick - where the Militia was stationed - as Whitford and Maraetai. A family named Trust (how ironic.) were massacred only a couple of miles from Howick in a particularly brutal and unjustified killing.

The Waikato Wars ended officially in 1864 and Auckland areas at least settled into peace. But the year of fear had imprinted itself into the minds of the young Qualtrough children for both Thomas and Emily, though aged only 12 and 8 respectively at the time, told tales of burying valued possessions in the front garden of their house in case the family had to flee to safety. Tommy, though so very young had duties with the Home Guardsmen should the area be attacked, fetching and carrying guns and water - so he said. Memories of his help being much appreciated might have been a little dramatized in true 'boy' fashion.

The farm was still financially encumbered upon James' demise. James Jnr. took it on although he himself had a small piece of land at Karaka. By this time Willy, Richy and Tommy had gone off to seek their fortunes in the Waikato, which was forging ahead as the Golden South of the 60's and 70's.

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