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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]

[Tai Tapu]

Tai Tapu, in the county of Selwyn, has a population of about 300 persons. It is on the Halswell river, and at the foot of the Port Lyttelton Hills, and within about four miles of Lake Ellesmere. The land in the district is noted for its fertility, and grows fine crops of all kinds of farm produce. The swamp lands especially yield wonderful crops of potatoes. Well kept farms and handsome residences testify to the prosperity of the settlers. The roads are particularly good for cyclists, and a run from Halswell, past Lansdowne, to Little River, or to Governor's Bay, via Gebbie's Valley, proves a pleasant trip. A coach runs several times during the day, and connects with the Christchurch tram, a short distance from Halswell. The township of Tai Tapu was originally named Hepworth by Messrs R. H. Rhodes and W. B. Rhodes when first surveyed and laid out in building sites under their instructions, and sold by auction in Christchurch on the 4th of February, 1875. It now consists of two general stores with bakehouse; a post and telegraph office, with a telephone to Christchurch; two churches—Church of England and Wesleyan—the latter with the more numerous congregation; a public school, with an average attendance of seventy-eight scholars; a public library; a cooperative dairy factory with a creamery at Greenpark; a butcher's shambles; a forge or farrier's shop, where most of the horses for miles around are shod and treated; and, lastly, a hotel, with a fair business. As yet there is no town hall, which is much needed. Subscriptions were once canvassed for it, but for some reason the effort fell through, although Mr. Robert Heaton Rhodes, whose fine country seat stands at the foot of the Peninsula Hills a mile and a half from the township, offered £100 towards the building. The Halswell river takes its serpentine sluggish course through the district, and was named by the Maoris Tai Tapu, which means sacred or solemn water. Picnic parties from town frequently visit the neighbourhood, as the drive from Christchurch, twelve miles, is considered picturesque and pleasant. Rabbit Island, named Waihora Park, four miles south, near Lake Ellesmere, is a favourite resort for sports and picnics, and is reached by rail on the way to Little River. The dairy factory at Tai Tapu has 205 shareholders, and it is now (1903) in the fifteenth year of its existence.

Forbes, Robert A., Contractor, Tai Tapu. Mr. Forbes was born of Scottish parents at Birmingham, England, in 1842. He was educated at the public schools in his native land, and at the age of thirteen, on his father's death, accompanied his mother and sister to Victoria. In 1856 he removed to Tasmania, where he was apprenticed to the building trade, on the advice of his brother-in-law, the late Captain Reid, Staff-Officer of Imperial Pensioners. Mr. Forbes came to New Zealand in 1864, and at Intercargill page 670 he erected a store which still (1903) stands, on another site. He was one of a party of seventy settlers and others, who left in the brig “Australia” for the Wakamarina goldfields, but, encountering a heavy gale, the vessel sprang a leak, and was driven on to the beach at Akaroa. Mr. Forbes then engaged with the late Mr. R. H. Rhodes to cut timber in the Ahuriri bush and erect a house at Gebbie's Valley. After that he went to Hokitika, where he was successfully employed for six months on contracts in building. On returning to Christchurch, he was soon engaged in large and remunerative contracts in the Little River district, for the Education Board and the settlers. In 1872 he settled at Tai Tapu, where for fifteen years he carried on the business of a general storekeeper, in conjunction with that of an auctioneer. He still carries on large operations in connection with the building of private houses, bridges, etc. Mr. Forbes was a member and for some time chairman of the Little River Road Board, and took an active part in having Tai Tapu formed into a separate road district. From the first he has been continuously a member of the Tai Tapu Road Board, and occasionally its chairman. He was instrumental in getting the Tai Tapu school on its present site, and was chairman of the committee when the vote was struck for new buildings. Mr. Forbes also took an energetic part in the institution of the public library. Although, through early training, a member of the Presbyterian Church, he has attached himself to the Wesleyan Church, and has for years been an active worker in its cause. Mr. Forbes was one of the first promoters and directors of the Tai Tapu Dairying Company, and was at one time its chairman. He is chairman of the Waihora Domain Board, and is a member of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association, For the greater part of his life he has been a total abstainer from the use of alcoholic drinks. Mr. Forbes was married, in 1866, to Miss C. Munro, of Ross-shire, Scotland, and of a family of thirteen children, six sons and six daughters are now living.

Tai Tapu Dairy Factory. This factory was established in 1889. It is housed in a substantial building of brick and iron, and the motive power consists of a Tangye engine with a boiler by Scott Bros., of Christchurch. Four of Burmstey and Wyner's separators put 4500 gallons of milk through daily during the height of the season. The milk is supplied from within a radius of four miles, and the cows are grade Shorthorns. There is a cool chamber with a Hill's No. 5 freezer in the factory, which was built by the farmers on the co-operative system.

Mr. James Johnston, Manager, was born at Kirknewtown, within ten miles of Edinburgh, in 1838, and emigrated to Australia with his parents in 1845. His father was appointed in 1849 to come to Lyttelton with twenty carpenters, to erect the buildings needed for the accommodation of the Canterbury pilgrims, who arrived in due course. Young Johnston landed in Lyttelton on the 7th of January, 1850, and then accompanied his father to Christchurch when his father removed thither to build the old land office. The son took to farming and dairying, and subsequently removed to Otago, where he organised the Taieri and Peninsula factories, which he worked in succession for a few years. Mr. Johnston then settled in Tinwald, where he opened the local dairy factory, and worked it for two years, when he was appointed to his present position. Mr. Johnston was married, in 1864, to Miss Blackie, daughter of Captain Blackie, and has two sons and three daughters.

Tai Tapu Hotel (John McKenzie, preprietor), Tai Tapu. This hotel was established in 1858, and is situated twelve miles from Christchurch on the road to Little River. The house contains sixteen rooms, ten of which are well furnished bedrooms; there are also four comfortable sitting-rooms and a large, well-ventilated dining-room, capable of seating sixty persons. Country settlers, commercial travellers, tourists, and sportsmen who visit Lake Ellesmere, all patronise the hotel, and special provision is made for sportsmen. The eight-stall stables, four loose boxes, and the secure paddocks adjoining the hotel, are most convenient to travellers. A coach leaves the hotel daily for Christchurch, and returns the same evening.

Mr. John McKenzie, Proprietor, was born in 1852, in the Orkney Islands, and came to New Zealand, in the ship “St. Lawrence,” in 1874. He took a lease of the hotel in 1883, and was married during the same year to Miss Beath. Mr. and Mrs McKenzie have two sons and one daughter.