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Benjamin Ede looks back - Ashburton 1864-1921

Journal by ngairedith

Benjamin Ede (1833-1925) married Amy Brewer (1831-1912) 24 April 1853 in Reigate, Surrey. (journal in progress for Ben & Amy and their 11 children -

Mr BEN EDE's EXPERIENCES
...(taken from Papers Past)
Ashburton Guardian, 25 May 1921 - LIFE'S LONG SPAN


ASHBURTON IN THE 'SIXTIES
...To few people is it given to be able to look back over a life extending to 88 years and still be able to remember clearly and discourse interestingly of the varied experiences that go to make up that lengthy span.
This is found, however, in the case of Mr Ben Ede, of Wellington Street, Hampstead, who chatted to a "Guardian" reporter yesterday. Cheery and contented, the old man was a mine of reminiscences, and he related a great deal of the history of Ashburton from its early days. He saw Ashburton first in 1862, and has lived here since 1864, a stretch of 57 years.
"Out of my lifetime of 88 years I have been working for 80 years," said Mr Ede with pardonable pride, "and I can say I have done plenty for the country but not much for myself. As for New Zealand, I have helped to people it. I am the father of 11 children, and have 92 grandchildren and over 100 great-grandchildren."

BORN IN SURREY
...Born in Surrey in 1833, Mr Ede commenced life's long labours at the early age of eight years. His first job was keeping birds off the crops, at the munificent wage of fourpence a day and "find" himself. It was not long before the 'young shaver' was promoted to a job driving horses. The horses were then harnessed in front of each other, so that the three in a team could walk in the furrow with a boy to drive them.
...Mr Ede spoke with scorn of the rising generation whom it was proposed to keep at school till they were 16 beacuse they could not stand work. "Look at me, at 88 years. I have been working for 80 years, and am none the worse for it," he exclaimed. "Children were not pampered with fine food in my young days, either. I never saw a leg of mutton in my father's house. Threepennyworth of 'pieces' was all we saw of meat, and that only twice a week. I believe a lot of the ills among the rising generation are due to 'fine' feeding. We were more contented and happy in those days than the great majority today."
...The early Victorian days are well remembered by Mr Ede. He touched interestingly on Queen Victoria's marriage and the celebrations at that time, which included a 'treat' in the park near his home town. There were few railways in those days, and Mr Ede recounts the story of how Queen Victoria made a triumphal progress from London to Brighton in her carriage. Very shortly afterwards the railway was opened between these two places

ARRIVAL IN DOMINION
...When as a young man Mr Ede left the Homeland, Australia was his goal. He came out on the Arabian, with his wife and two infant boys, to Geelong, where he settled for some time. While in Australia his family was increased by the addition of three girls. From Australia the family set sail to Dunedin on a ship packed with men eager to get to the gold diggings at Gabriel's Gully. Of the 300 men on the ship not one was over 30 years old, said Mr Ede. Included in the cargo were 30 stowaways, the two first Cobb's coaches, and the first inspector of police in Otago. Mr Robert Alcorn, once a well-known resident of Ashburton, was among the passengers. "Food was scarce on the boat," said Mr Ede, "although I was not consuming much of it, and when the steward appeared with the meals there was a rush for the viands. I remember the steward appearing once at the head of the companion way and, evidently in disgust at the rush of people who surrounded him, tipped the contents of the dish on the deck and let the passengers scramble for it like dogs. I think it was the exceptional number of stowaways which caused the shortage of provisions."
...It was in 1862 that Mr Ede first came to Canterbury, and was engaged by Mr Acland to go to Mount Peel and engage in making bricks for the homestead there. Mr Acland lent Mr Ede a Sydney tip-dray (the size used for carting a yard of shingle) and a single horse to transport his wife and five children with all their belongings to Mount Peel. The dray's load was increased by the addition of another man, his wife, and two children. "You can guess how much of the world's goods were in our possession when so small a dray accommodated so large a party," said Mr Ede.

FIRST GLIMPSE OF ASHBURTON
...It was on this journey that Mr Ede had his first glimpse of Ashburton, destined to be his home for so many years. There was not much to see in those days - tussock and 'wild Irishman' everywhere, with a good deal of flax where the railway line now runs. The bed of the river, according to Mr Ede, is four or five feet higher to-day than in those days, owing to the constant accumulation of shingle from the hills.
...Turton's accommodation house stood near the river, but the ford was two or three miles up, just above the intake of the present Wakanui Creek. It was called the Timaru crossing, and the regular bullock track to it over the plains left out Ashburton, breaking off from Dromore. There was an accommodation house at Dromore later, and no doubt its position as a break on the main road caused the cutting up into town sections of an acre at Dromore. Many people never considered the site of Ashburton as the coming centre, and Mr Ede, like Mr Andrew McFarlane, was among the number, and neglected the opportunity to buy cheaply the town sections made available by Mr Park's survey at a later date.
...Before finally settling in Ashburton in 1864 Mr Ede spent some time at Mount Peel, and later on Longbeach. Here he was again engaged in brick-making for Mr John Grigg. The first load moved was a crop of rye which Mr Grigg took off the southern terrace of the Ashburton River near the spot now named Wheatstone. Even after the railway came through, Mr Ede carted grain to Christchurch for Mr Grigg at the same price as the railway freight. It was not that freights were so high, but that labour was cheap. Mr Ede got 1s a mile each way for this work, loading on both outward and return journeys

THE GREAT FLOOD OF 1868
...The great flood of 1868 was the interesting subject raised by Mr Ben Ede in speaking of his recollections of Ashburton during the past three score years. He was living just below Digby's Bridge at the time, and he gives a graphic account of the heavy two days' rain that preceded the deluge. This had the effect of melting the record snow that preceded the downpour, and the two sources combined to let three separate torrents loose upon Ashburton.
...
Mr Ede tells how his wife and himself watched the rapid rise in the waters of the Ashburton River. Higher and higher rose the flood, bearing on it turgid waters "any quantity of sheep" from the up-country stations. Presently Mr and Mrs Ede saw a bed floating past, which Mrs Ede recognised as belonging to Mrs Williamson, living higher up the river. It transpired later that the Williamson's sod house was completely washed away by the flood, and Mrs Williamson almost accompanied it. With great presence of mind she tied herself to a post in the sheepyards until rescued and taken to higher ground.

THE ACCOMMODATION HOUSE
...The serious nature of the rise of the river was borne home on Mr Ede, and he mounted his horse to go into Ashburton to discover what was happening at Turton's accommodation house. When he came to the Mill Creek he found that the river had here burst its banks, and was rolling along an old course towards the town. It may be stated here that this branch of the flood waters found its way through the Domain ponds and across the present site of the post office, landing up at the rear of the High School grounds before pushing through the Netherby of to-day to join the old Wakanui Creek. Still another torrent broke through at Winchmore and flowed down the plains, passing Ashburton beyond the present cemetery.
...When Mr Ede reached Ashburton he found Turton's house was fairly safe. Certainly a little water was getting in, but it was perched on a little knob near the present bridge which may be seen to this day. The stables were on lower ground, and the horses were standing in water trace-high. The main flood reached to the present site of Robertson's mill, and extended over hundreds of acres at Tinwald. There was not a thing to be seen above the roaring flood, and yet there was flax and other growth 9ft high thereabouts.
..."It would be a bad job if we had another flood like that to-day," Mr Ede pertinently remarked. "The riverbed itself is three or four feet shallower than in those days owing to its own action in bringing down shingle; also, its course is choked with willows, gorse, and other growth, and about Ashburton its bed has been narrowed and its course obstructed by the rubbish dumps of 50 years."

THE HEN'S EXPERIENCES
...An amusing incident in connection with the flood was related by Mr Ede. The waters swept the homestead of a Mr C. Reid on the river terrace at Westerfield, and, of course, did great damage. Among other flotsam which the deluge bore away on its bosom was a small haystack, which was later found miraculously intact where it had grounded a mile away. A hen had been sitting on this new style of Noah's Ark, and it was the only fowl remaining to Mr Reid after the flood. The story ends triumphantly by the hen hatching out a full brood of chickens from the eggs, which, like her, had defied the fury of the elements. Talk about the luck of the wet hen!
...Stories such as the foregoing naturally led to an enquiry as to what other 'amusements' the pioneers had. Mr Ede could not think of any off-hand, but brightened up when horse-racing was suggested. Yes, there was some very comical horse-racing in those days, and he could remember a kind of super-steeplechase which lasted about an hour. There was one 'old grey nag' which on one occasion "jibbed and would not start for a long time," but when at length he was got going he went so fast that he was still in time to win the race.
...Pig-hunting was another sport which Mr Ede recalled with great pleasure. There were "any amount" of wild pigs between Ashburton and Digby's Bridge in those days and great were the hunts to bring these fellows down. Even the golden glamour that falls upon events long past could not induce Mr Ede to speak appreciatively of the eating qualities of wild pig, especially the old ones; "and we were well used to hard tack in those day," he added.

WEATHER LESS SEVERE NOW
...The weather in Canterbury has sobered down since former days, in the opinion of Mr Ede. This was especially the case with the prevailing winds, both nor'-west and sou'-west. The latter used to blow with great violence and piercingly cold for three days at a time, rain being continuous. As for the nor'-westers, it was hard to believe to-day the ravages which they wrought 30 and 40 years ago. They would literally lift the whole surface soil off land prepared for sowing and deposit it lower down. Gorse hedges three feet in height were obliterated from the landscape in these big blows, and one could ride for miles without knowing that any such obstruction existed. Mr Ede recalled that on one occasion he and his son were ploughing land for cropping near Methven, and Mr Andrew McFarlane, riding across from Alford Forest, stopped to speak to them. He asked what had become of the hedges; but, of course, he knew they had acted as dams to collect the flying soil and were themselves 'snowed under' in the process. Mr Ede believed that tree-planting had been mainly responsible for the lessened violence of nor'-westers in recent years.

COMIC OPERA JUSTICE
...The majesty of the law was little regarded in the early days of Ashburton's history, as Mr B. Ede's account of judicial procedure will show. In fact, the justice had more of that rough and ready style which nowadays is associated with the court-rooms of the Western States of America. Mr Ede says for the matter of that the charges were seldom any more serious than the procedure, drunkenness being the staple on which the magistrates had to adjudicate.
...The first policeman in Ashburton was Constable Horniman, and his equipment was so scanty that he had not even a lock-up, says Mr Ede. A small lean-to was the make-shift for this inseparable adjunct of the law, and the intrepid Horniman was not long before he secured a lodger. Drunkenness was the cause of the arrest and the prisoner was an old man from the bush who had previously followed the more exciting pastime of a whalers in the Southern Seas. The magistrate in those days was Mr Moorhouse, of Greenstreet and Shepherd's Bush, and he was duly sent for to try the old man.

MERCY FOR MALEFACTOR
..."Now, Mr Moorhouse was a thorough sport," said Mr Ede, kindled to enthusiasm by the memory, "and when he arrived at the 'gaol' the prisoner was lying on the broad of his back, snoring. Horniman went to awaken him, but Mr Moorhouse protested against this treatment of the offender. 'Let him lie,' he said, 'But what will I do with him?' asked the perplexed Horniman, baulked of the glories of giving evidence at the trial. From Mr Moorhouse came the generous reply: 'Let the old fellow alone till he wakes, then give him a pint of beer and send him home.'" Evidently the quality of mercy was not strained in those days, even if justice was not held too rigidly.
...Later on the lock-up attained a new dignity, continued Mr Ede, offenders against the law being accommodated in some stables. The stables were anything but gaol-bird proof, and the policeman was obliged to chain up his charges. On one occasion when the narrator was in the tap-room at Turton's accommodation house, a drunk managed to break his chains to come over to the house for a mug of beer. Having received this solace, the disciple of Bacchus returned of his own accord to 'durance vile' to await his sentence in the morning. With regard to Mr Andrew McFarlane's escapade in appearing as proxy for an escaped drunk, Mr Ede remembered the occasion and chuckled over it with great good humour.

SOME STERN REALITIES
...Turning from the comic opera of justice, Mr Ede related some of the stern realities of life when he first settled at Ashburton in 1864. For the first three months his diet made up of wild pig which, as Mr Ede stated previously, was not an attractive diet at the best of times. His first house he built of sods with his own hands just below the present site of Digby's Bridge. He stated that the excavation made to obtain the sods may still be found near the Timaru crossing of the Ashburton River.
...This modest little roof-tree, the first home of this pioneer in his adopted country, consisted of two rooms, no chimney, no windows and no doors, except such as were covered with sacking. To this house he brought his wife and seven children, and was troubled no more by the "housing problem." To the kind-hearted as expression of pity for this humble home circle naturally springs to the lips, but Mr Ede banishes any such sentiment by his sturdy declaration that he and his were quite as happy in their two rooms of sod as any of the young people in bungalows to-day with chimneys, doors, windows and electric light, all complete.
...Having settled his family in this "Englishman's Castle," Mr Ede went off to Orari to work for Mr Tripp. The Rangitata Crossing was then about two miles above the present railway bridge and people were punted across. The bullock teams, often with their wagons hitched on behind, were let go to swim across as best they might. Mr Ede remembers the spectacle of their swim across as an exciting event and often very amusing, especially when the leaders struck ground and stupidly halted while the tail of the team were still in the swirl of the current.
...While Mr Ede was away at Orari, his wife had the charge of a household of seven little ones at the two-roomed sod house near Digby's. In addition to these cares she walked the three miles to Turton's to do a day's washing, carrying a three-months' old baby with her. (The infant is still alive and working in Ashburton.) This she did several days in the week. Like Mr McFarlane, Mr Ede asked what the women of now-a-days would do in like circumstances.

FOUNDING OF ASHBURTON
...Of the founding of Hampstead, Mr Ede could say very little, except that the Chalmers' family was settled there very early. The first two farmers at Ashburton were Mr Hunt and himself. Mr Ede's first crops were oats and potatoes, and later, wheat. His first crop of wheat he carted all the way to Geraldine to have it ground. Geraldine then was called Rakapuki from the name of the bush in the neighbourhood.
...Settlement was slower on the plains than up towards the hills, although the latter was then, as now, only the lightest grazing country, said Mr Ede. The reason why all the big families seemed to gravitate at that time towards the hills was that the timber was there to provide buildings. Ashburton did not really begin to grow until the railway came through and "from then on, as you know, its extension has been steady and its days prosperous," concluded Mr Ede


NOTES
from NZETC written 1903, with early photos: ASHBURTON was first surveyed and partly pegged out in 1863, by Mr. Robert Park
... The first settlers of the Ashburton district went there in the early fifties as squatters and flockowners. Mr. Thomas Moorhouse took up a large run near the present town, and Mr. Moore, of Glenmark, settled similarly at Wakanui. Other settlers arrived gradually, and it was those sturdy, persevering pioneers who began the efforts, which, having been worthily continued by their successors, have transformed the wilderness into a veritable agricultural paradise.
* Mr. William Turton acted as fordsman on the river
* Mr. Louis Berliner established the first store
* John Grigg took up the (later famous) Longbeach run in 1865
* Mr Fooks constructed a water-race 6 miles long on Mr Reid's farm in 1869
* Mr Mainwaring was appointed clerk to the Council in 1877
* Mr Thomas Bullock was the first mayor
Others later were: Hugo Friedlander, Donald Williamson, Rudolph Friedlander, Thomas Sealy, Joseph Sealy, Alfred Harrison. David Thomas, John Orr, Charles Reid and William Henry Collins
* the first Ashburton Borough Council met in 1878. The first councillors were:
Donald Williamson, Weymouth Roberts, Robert Shearman, James Campbell, Andrew Orr, George Parkin, Edward Saunders, Rudolph Friedlander and Joseph Ivess

* The first building in Ashburton was an accommodation house built on a ferry reserve on the northern bank of the Ashburton River in 1858 by William Turton. William Turton also ran a ferry service and was the Postmaster

* Benjamin Ede was the first farmer in the county of Ashburton

* Benjamin Ede had 16 grandsons serving in WWI

The following text (and photo) was taken from the very interesting story on early Ashburton which was originally written in the Ashburton Guardian 30 August 1918 from the reminiscences of Alexander Hewson and mentions many of the names and facts as has Benjamin Ede's reminiscences above
See the link for the full story and more photos at:
Back Country Musterers - behind Geraldine
* ... There were no sheep on Orari Gorge Station when the Smiths went there, but 2000 sheep were brought from Mount Peel shortly afterwards. There being no woolshed on the place, the shearing was done on a tarpaulin the first season. The terms Smith had Orari Gorge from Mr Tripp was a fixed price per year, with a percentage on the increase of sheep and the wool per sheep. The first house built at Orari Gorge was built of totara slabs, cobbed with clay, and roofed with snowgrass tussock. The first part of the present woolshed (the first woolshed) was built in 1860. The first shearers in the shed were Tom Burgess, Harry Sorby, Jim Kimber, Charley Weddell, James Pithie, and Charlie Rippingale. The first five miles of fencing done on Orari Gorge were posts and four rails; there were no wires or standards to be had in those days. The winter of 1862 was the hardest ever experienced at Orari Gorge Station, the snow around the woolshed being four feet deep. No sheep were seen for six weeks, all, being under snow, but the losses were light on account of the sheep being able to get snowgrass tussocks to eat beneath the snow. The losses on the plains were four or five times heavier than on the hills. The summer of 1864 was the driest ever experienced in the district, no rain falling for nine months. The Orari River was dry as far up as tie Black Birch Creek. Ben Ede went to Orari Gorge in 1863, and burned a kiln of bricks to build a large station house, but the bricks were used to build a shearer's hut and sheep-dip. The big house was built of wood taken from the bush, most of the timber being hand-sawn...
* ... Among the instances of animals returning to where they were bred, I recall that when Ben Ede (now living in Hampstead) left Mount Peel, after making and burning the bricks for the present Mount Peel House in 1865, he and Mrs Ede and family were coming from Mount Peel to near Digby's Bridge, the first place Ben Ede settled in Ashburton. They came by bullock dray. When they were having their lunch they had brought a cat from Mount Peel over the Rangitata, they let the cat out of the box while they had lunch. When they looked for pussy she had disappeared. The cat returned to Mount Peel three weeks later. How it crossed the Rangitata no one knows, but we surmised it swam, as there were no bridges over the river then. I know a horse that was ridden from Rangiora to Mount Peel a two days' journey, fording all the rivers. It was turned out at Mount Peel with the other horses. In the morning the horse was gone, and 48 hours after the horse was in Rangiora...

* WILLOWBY, is a farming locality 11km south west of Ashburton.
Early settler, Ben Ede, obtained willow cuttings from the banks of the River Avon in Christchurch and planted them by the stream that passed close to his homestead. From these tress the district got its name

PHOTO
ORARI GORGE STATION, Canterbury
where Ben worked for a time for Mr Tripp

This is a similar hut as the first home of Ben & Amy where they lived and raised 7 of their 11 children. Theirs had no windows or doors and was made of sod.

Photograph taken in 1943 by John Dobree Pascoe
Sheep musterers and dogs standing in front of a hut on Orari Gorge Station, Canterbury. The musterers are, from left:
Fred Stevenson, Alec McLeod and Dan Scully.
The hut had been the home of a boundary rider and was known as the Devonshire Arms. It was originally built of cob with a stone chimney and a thatched roof.

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