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Polish Settlers at Waihola


Early days of Waihola

Waihola is situated in Bruce County part of the Otago Province. The settlement itself is situated near the eastern shore of Lake Waihola and is now an ideal place for summer vacations. It appears the proper name is Waihora, which in Maori means spreading waters a given name to the lake. Lake Waihola was and still is, a very shallow lake.  It averages only 6′ to 12′ with a channel in the centre of only about 15′ deep and is quite narrow making it only suitable for shallow draught vessels. That meant the jetties could be placed over 6′ to 10′ of water quite safely.  It is unclear how many jetties there were on the lake, but there was one in front of the present township, close to the old Waihola Hotel. At the south end was placed quite a long jetty because the lakebed was very silty. This jetty was used to bring in supplies and building materials for the Phosphate Works buildings and some were off loaded for buildings on the Milburn site of the Lime Kilns. However, the jetty may not have been used for very long.  During Waihola’s earlier settlement years, ships were known to have anchored inside the lake via the Taieri River.

Messrs Webb Pantlin and Co. agents advertise as follows: –

“For the Waihola Lake. The Mid Lothian is now ready to take in cargo for the Waihola Lake, and from her light draught of water is able to discharge goods at the jetty at the head of the lake, freight 30s per ton”. Otago Daily Times, 11 June 1862

As early as June 1849, a rough track from Dunedin was formed and followed the old South Road via Henley to Scrogg’s Creek. The shortage of bullocks and horses, and the state of the road through bush and bad weather made the journey challenging, however, many settlers did make the journey by foot. A more convenient way to travel to Waihola from Dunedin was by a small steamer to Taieri Mouth and then up the river to the head of Lake Waihola.  From then on the usual road had to be followed. At the first of the Gabriel Gully rush, Lake Waihola was the lively scene of a promising shipping trade and promised to be the Liverpool of Otago. However, by the time the gold rush went into decline the treacherous tracks became accessible roads and the hazardous bar at Taieri Mouth doomed the shipping trade in the district to an early disappointment.

“The government township of Waihola already boasts of a large hotel and several stores, butcher’s shops etc, although it is not more than six months since it was first opened for sale. A good jetty has been erected there and runs, I believe, into deep water. “Otago Daily Times, 20 June 1862

The district is of first-class farming land, which is much owed to the settlers who cleared and cultivated it for farming. Early in 1873, a group of Polish immigrants were sent to the area while they were working on Brogden’s contract on the main southern railway line from the Taieri.  The majority of the Poles who settled in Waihola came from what was at the time, West Prussia, ethnically the regions of Kaszubia and Kociewie, in northern Poland.

100th anniversary of the Waihola School, Mr. Hans Hankey recalls coming to New Zealand when he was five;

“He said that at Waihola, roads were non-existent, as were permanent houses. His first recollection of Waihola was living in a tent until his father had built a sod hut. With the completion of the railway, work could not be found, and with no money available, mutton sold as cheap as 1d a pound. The children caught eels in the lake for food.” Otago Daily Times, 18 January 1960

Miss Gregory, a local resident recalled early days of Waihola in her 101st year.

“When the family came to settle at Waihola it was a very desolate place. “Just like a wilderness,” There was nothing but flax bushes, manuka and micky-mick trees. Behind Waihola was Governor’s Bush and until the trees were felled there was no wood for housing, (Alan Halba recalls hearing that there was wood there, but it was ear-marked for sale in Dunedin, which needed all they could get.) The Gregory family, like many others, lived in tents – “one for the bedroom and one for the kitchen” – down at the quarry. “They cut down most of the trees and the bullocks dragged them one by one down to the lake.” “There was a sawmill by the water’s edge. After all the good trees had been taken out they cut the land up into sections.” The land was sold at $40 an acre for cleared ground and $32 an acre for bushland. A group of German settlers were given half an acre of land each by a wealthy fellow countryman, but the other settlers, including a number of Poles, were left to buy their own.” Otago Daily Times, 13 April 1970

Twice a week the wagons would roll out from Dunedin bringing the town much needed supplies and news. Before the railway line was completed, it was a long trek by horse and trap.


The arrival of the railway

“Waihola. (From our own correspondent.)…The railway formation works in this neighborhood are rapidly advancing towards completion. The most of the earth work between the Gorge and the Taieri River is finished, and I observe Brogden’s drays are now engaged bringing metal (for ballast) from the Waihola quarries on to the line…” Bruce Herald, 7 February 1873, p 6

“Waihola (From our own correspondent) We have had an increase to our population lately by the arrival of a number of Brogden’s latest importations of navies, with their wives and families. The men appear to be a strong able-bodied lot, and well suited for the heavy work of railway formation. “ Bruce Herald, 04 March 1873

“A number of Germans at work on the railway near the Waihola Gorge, are spoken of by their employers in terms of high commendation. They are steady and sober, good workmen, walk to and from Waihola, (where they live) and when pay-time comes round do not disappear for a few days to recover. “Bruce Herald, 08 September 1874

“A German soldier who fought in the late Franco-Prussian war, is now at work with Messrs Brogden and Sons, at ballasting operations on the Clutha line. As we observed this powerful fellow smartly wielding his pick and shovel in the ballasting pit at Stoney Creek, we could not help thinking how fine a counterpart illustrative of peace, the painter of to-day might form, to a picture of one of the battlefields of the late war, by a view of this veteran of war, engaged with 30 or 40 other labourers, in this distant Britain of the South, in extending the peaceful march of civilisation, by aiding in the construction of our railway works. Are there no future great artists among our colonial youths, who could work up the idea on canvass in a way similar to the great English Painter, which would doubtless prove the best immigration agent we could employ in securing an increase of population from Europe in these threatening times. “Bruce Herald, 16 March 1875

“The entertainment in aid of the Waihola Regatta Fund comes off at Waihola tonight, and promises to be a great success. The novelty of a train running in connection with it will doubtless increase the attractions. “Bruce Herald, 27 November 1874

“OUR DUNEDIN LETTER. (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT). April 20. Another case of sticking-up took place yesterday, near to Milton, when two fellows, the one with a tomahawk, and the other with a heavy boot, assaulted an inoffensive German, a stonebreaker, who, however, managed to escape with his money about him. Both the fellows were Irishmen. One has since been captured. There is an opinion abroad that when the winter comes on, and work gets slack, these cases of robbery with violence will become pretty numerous. The opinion, however, is of little value, for there is no want of employment in the province at present, nor is there likely to be any even in the winter.  As an instance of the rapid manner in which newly arrived immigrants obtain employment, I may state that out of the six immigration depots in the province, five are quite empty, while the Caversham one only contains three men, three women, and three children —equal to 7½ statute adults. With the winds lately blowing, however, we may expect the arrival of one or two home vessels in a day or two. The railway work is being very successfully carried on, and the contractors are making great progress. The large bridge to span the Waihola will be finished in about eight weeks. It is a pity that the timber for this structure could not be obtained in the colony. It had to be imported from Australia. Notwithstanding the fact that only a few months ago one of the leading journals stated that it would be two years before the tunnel in the Chain Hill was completed, in all probability September next will see it through. Only about three hundred feet remain to be pierced. Equally satisfactory progress is being made on the Tokomairiro and Lawrence line. A distance of ten miles is now ready for the laying down of the rails. On the Dunedin and Moeraki section between a hundred and twenty and a hundred and thirty men are kept constantly employed, while the Deborah Bay Tunnel—whose formation unfortunately has been attended by several fatal accidents—is being pushed ahead, rapidly. During the last month no less than three chains of it have been got through. In fact, the whole of the railway works of the province may be said to be in a very satisfactory state.” New Zealand Times, 24 April 1875, p 3


The Waihola Railway Station


Occupation of land at Waihola

“WASTE LANDS BOARD. Mr. Charles Hilgendorff applied on behalf of the Germans and Danes located on the unsold sections in the Waihola District, that the board would give them possession of their sections on the condition of deferred payments, or allow valuations for improvements when the land comes to be sold. It was resolved that the board having no power to act in the matter, the Executive be requested, under the terms of clause 22 of the act, to temporarily locate the Germans and Danes on the land mentioned. “Bruce Herald, 18 March 1873

“WAIHOLA (From our own correspondent) The population of our township has been again increasing by the arrival of six families of Scandinavians from Greytown, East Taieri, where they had been residing since their arrival in Otago. I hear they intend settling permanently in this district on account of its better situation than Greytown and also as regards wood and water. I have been informed that they are so pleased with the situation that they intend sending for more of their country folk to come and join them. The men are employed at present onto the railway, at piece work, and are making good wages. “Bruce Herald 28 March 1873

“It was agreed to allow German and Danish immigrants to have temporary occupation of unsold sections at Waihola, two or three-quarter acre sections. “Bruce Herald, 28 March 1873

The first Poles to purchase land in the Waihola district were listed in the Bruce Herald on the 15th of July 1873 being as follows:

“R. W. Capstick reports having sold, on Monday, the 14th inst., at noon, on account of the Waste Lands Board, the following township and rural sections; — Township of Waihola. “Block XVI sections 17, 18, 19 at £3 each, Paul Baungardt. Block XX sections 8 & 9 at £3 each, August Plewa. Block XXI sections 10 & 11 at £3 each, August Orlowski. Block XXII sections 8 & 9 at £3 each, Johann Dysarch. Waihola (From our own correspondent) Nearly the whole of the land in the Waihola Hundreds except the bush reserve is now in the hands of private parties. There appears to have been quite of late a mania for land in this district, from rough hilly blocks of two or three thousand acres, to quarter acre township sections, some of the latter fetching very good prices considering their situation.” Bruce Herald, 05 August 1873

On the 27th of August 1874, Carl Hilgendorf applied to the Otago Wastelands Board for land to be granted in Waihola for families recently arrived on the ships Reichstag and Sussex. Hilgendorf’s application was not granted, so he reapplied only to be refused a second time.

“WASTE LANDS BOARD. SETTLEMENT OF GERMAN FAMILIES. A letter was read from Mr. C. Hilgendorf, on behalf of several German families lately arrived per ships “Reichstag” and “Sussex”, apply for settlement of them in the Waihola township. He requested that the Board would grant each family half an acre under the terms of the 20th clause of the Otago Waste Lands Act, 1872. The Board had no power to grant the application. “ Otago Daily Times”, 27 August 1874

Some did eventually take up land yet it is with tragic circumstances that during the week between Hilgendorf’s applications a 20-year-old German women died in Dunedin Hospital as a result of burns from a fire in the wayside tent in which she was living with her husband and 8-month-old daughter.

“The Bruce Herald gives the following account of the accident at Otakia, which we have already mentioned as having resulted fatally in the case of the woman :—” An accident of a most fearful and calamitous nature, and which, it is feared, may yet in one instance prove fatal, occurred at the Taieri on Tuesday night. A number of Germans, and their families, recently from work at the Chain Hills, have encamped in tents in the scrub at the rear of Mr M’Kegg’s White House Hotel, being engaged upon the railway works in the vicinity. The party numbers six men in all—four married and two single—having in each case separate tents. On the night in question they had all retired to bed early, when, about eleven o’clock, one of the single men, hearing loud cries for help, ran out of his tent, and was horrified by seeing that that occupied by one of the married men, with his wife and child, was in flames, and the owner, Gutschlay, was outside it, having apparently only just escaped, for his hair was in absolute flames. The man, who was the first to come to the rescue, rushed to the tent, tore open the end of it, and got out Mrs Gutschlay and her infant. By this time all the rest were awakened, and the unfortunate sufferers were conveyed to another tent, where it was found that Mrs Gutschlay had suffered injuries of a terrible nature about the upper part of her body – her head, neck, and back were frightfully burnt, and on portions of her arms the flesh was merely a charred mass. The infant was badly burned about the head, but the injuries to the husband were not so severe. On Wednesday morning Mr McKeggs kindly took the poor people into the Dunedin Hospital in his spring-cart. The cause of the fire was, it would seem, purely accidental. The Germans have been noted for the quietness of their behaviour and the regularity of their habits. The Gutschlays were in the habit of keeping a can of lighted, charcoal in the tent at night for the purpose of warming it, and though warned of the danger they incurred by doing so, they persisted in this course, and there is no doubt that to it they owe the unfortunate mischance which has befallen them. It may be added that Gutschlay and his wife were both young people, the wife being only 20 years, and of very considerable personal attractions.” Otago Daily Times, 29 August 1874, p 2

“WASTE LANDS BOARD THE GERMAN FAMILIES. Mr. Hilgendorf asked for a re-consideration of his application for authority to be given to some German Families to occupy half an acre each of Waihola township. He elegantly described the capabilities of his clients. Mr. Reid: The land might be declared of special value, and leased. Mr. Clark: These men are fully employed, and in a very few weeks they will be able to buy a section for themselves. After some further discussion, the applications were refused. “Otago Daily Times, 03 September 1874

“WASTE LANDS BOARD. Mr Charles Hilgendorf, on behalf of the undermentioned persons, applied that they should be allowed to purchase the respective areas held by them at Waihola under license from the late Provincial Government, under section 29 of the Land Act, 1872: — Johann Halba, sections 4 and 5, block XIX; Franz Rekowski, sections 10 and 11, block XVI; Paul Banngardt, sections 15 and 16, same block; August Resewski, sections 10 and 11, block XX; Johann Orlowski, sections 16 and 17, block XXI; Johann Hoffman, sections 20 and 21, block XXI; and John Dysarch, sections 10 and 11, block XXII. It was explained that the applicants were Polish immigrants. It was resolved to recommend the Government to allow applicants to purchase at £3 per acre.” Bruce Herald, 9 August 1878, p 6

“TAIERI BEACH. (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.) January 17th. PUBLIC MEETING. A public meeting was held in the schoolhouse at Taieri Beach, on Thursday, the 12th, inst., to consider various matters of public interest. Mr Thomas Hughan was Voted to the chair…A greater piece of personal spleen has never been displayed by any public body than the Board has shown in debarring us from access to the market. Hundreds of pounds have been spent about Waihola for work that could well have waited for years to come. Deep and expensive cuttings have been made to form roads to the small German cottages around the township— and for what purpose? None of these people make use of the roads, for the sufficient reason that none of them have carts. And yet, when we strive to get a passable road to market— our right— the Board tries every shift to stop it…” Otago Witness, 21 January 1882, p 13



The first Waihola school was built in 1858 behind the first Presbyterian Church, and was not officially opened until 1860 owing to problems in obtaining a teacher. The first class consisted of 17 pupils, in one classroom.

“The Waihola School Committee treated the children to a picnic in Mr. Mollison’s grounds on Christmas Day. The usual games were provided for their amusement, and the willingness, which parents and children showed both to amuse and be amused, made the day especially pleasant and agreeable. The contractors for the new schoolhouse are just about to commence operations. This building is to be 33 ft x 18 ft, with a classroom 12 ft x 12 ft attached. On the completion of the school room, before the end of the harvest holidays teachers and scholars will feel the benefit of increased accommodation and improved ventilation, and will doubtless commence their studies with renewed vigour.” Bruce Herald, 30 December 1873

“OPENING OF NEW SHOOL AT WAIHOLA. The new and commodious edifice just erected for the purpose of the instruction of the rising generation in this rapidly advancing district was opened by Mr. Reid, their accomplished and successful teacher, on Monday week, and any witness of the “scaling” of this school would be surprised to discover where so many as the seventy children in attendance came from, which number, too, has been steadily on the increase ever since the advent of the present teacher. We, the other day, observed many of the children walking from the school a distance of several miles, and we noticed three brothers mounted on the one horse, who ride daily over ten miles to school. The new school occupies a most commanding site upon the Township Reserve, and is not only handsome in external appearance but is fitted up internally with every convenience for the successful conduct of a public school. The arrangement of the writing desks is especially worthy of notice by school committees generally, who have not yet introduced the improvement to which we are about to refer, and which, we understand, is now universally adopted in the home country. The ink-bottles are protected by a sliding board the full length of the desk, so that when the pupils are not engaged upon their writing lesson the teacher can effectively prevent the many amusements indulged in by the juveniles of our day in daubing each other and all around with Todd’s best blacking writing fluid. The main school building measures 36 x 18 ft, with a side class-room, with folding doors measuring 12 ft. x 12 ft., which can be thrown into the one room upon similar occasions to that we are now describing, when both departments were well filled by an attentive and appreciative audience. The gradual advance of the Waihola district is to be traced in the various stages of school and church accommodation furnished during the past thirteen years. In 1861, the one building, which is now devoted to the purpose of the teacher’s residence alone, did duty also as a school on week days and a church on Sabbaths. Some eight or nine years ago the church was built, and now we have a separate establishment devoted to educational purposes.” Bruce Herald, 08 May 1874

“Waihola. Lower Division. GENERAL EXCELLENCE lst Class (Boys)— E, Williamson and F. Hilgandorf equal; 2nd, A. Andrews. (Girls) —Ist, Grace M’Gillivray; 2nd, Eliza Crofts. 2nd Class. — Ist, Fred Eagerty; 2nd, Jessie Paterson; 3rd, Karl Radmann; 4th, Thos. Adam 3rd Class —Ist, Walewska Orlowski; 2nd. Barnard Wisnewski; 3rd, John Plewa; 4th, Margery Patterson 4bh Class. — Ist, Henry Williamson and Annie Annis equal; 2nd, Frank Orlowski; 3rd, Adeline Eagerty. ATTENDANCE. John Borthwick and Martha Orlowski. MOST POPULAR BOY AND GIRL. – Fitz Hilgendorf and Grace M’Gillivray. READING, Boys— lst prize, Fitz Hilgendorf. Girls— 1st prize, Ann Kronig. SEWING. 1st prize, Ann McQillivray; 2nd, Ann Robertson; 3rd, Fanny Crofts; 4th, Marian Bonnin and Rose Andrews equal; 5th, Grace M’Gillivray.” Bruce Herald, 24 December 1880, p 3

“The Waihola school committee met on Monday evening. There were present Messrs Bannatyne (in the chair), Smith, Wilson, Williamson, and Borthwick. After confirmation of the minutes, it was agreed that Mr. Williamson be requested to obtain a number of trees to be planted on the school ground. It was decided that the fence around the property should be repaired. The offer of the schoolmaster to supply pens, ink, and paper for examination, at 6d per head, to be paid half-yearly, was accepted. Accounts to the amount of £12 were passed for payment, and the meeting adjourned.“ Bruce Herald, 7 July 1882

“Waihola. There was an unusually good attendance at the annual meeting of householders, and considerable interest taken in the proceedings. Many faces were noticed which are not familiar in the township of an evening, more especially during such damp weather. The secretary read the following report and balance sheet.

Report—Your Committee have much pleasure in bringing their annual report before the householders of the district. There have been twelve meetings held during the year, which were fairly attended. There has been a considerable amount of work done in the way of improvements and repairs to the school, and about the teacher’s residence. A bell has been hung, new gates erected, the trees cleared, and the ground sown with grass. A new culvert has also been constructed at the teacher’s residence, and the new gates put up between it and the church.

The attendance of children for the year has not been very good. The school closed with 105 on the roll, being a slight decrease, and the Committee have had occasion to write to parents requesting them to be more regular in sending their children, as the school might lose the services of Miss Watson, which your committee think, and are quite sure the householders will agree, they could ill afford to do. They have already sustained a loss through the small attendance, viz., a decrease in the Education Board allowance. We always received £10 5s until last quarter; then we only received the amount of £7. We have therefore to respectfully request those who have not been sending their children regularly to do so in the future, and also to impress upon them generally the great importance of education, and the desirability of their taking advantage of the present liberal system to the utmost by sending their children who are of school age regularly and punctually to school, so that both teachers and children taught may attain the highest results. Your committee would also state that the Inspectors Report was very good on the whole, and that the passes averaged 76 percent.

A picnic was held this year, and subscriptions towards the expenses were freely given, the amount of £36 6s having been raised. Unfortunately, we had a wet day, but on the whole a very agreeable one.” Bruce Herald, 1 February 1884, p 3

“WAIHOLA SCHOOL. The annual breaking-up of the Waihola School took place on Wednesday last. A large number of parents and friends were present to witness the proceedings. After the distribution of prizes, aa adjournment was made to the park, where a capital picnic was provided, which was heartily enjoyed by all. Appended is the PRIZE LIST: Infant Department. Div. I.— Each child received a picture book. Div. ll.— Boys: John Annis, 1; Walter Andrews, 2. Girls: Gertrude Wilson, 1. Div. III— Boys: John O’Brien, 1. Girls : Edith Hankey, 1; Fanny Bonnin, 2; Christina Smith, 3. Standard I. —Boys: Henry Williamson, 1. Girls: Annie Annis, 1; Elizabeth Finlay, 2. Standard II. — Boys: Bernard Wisnuski, 1. Girls: Margaret Smith, 1; Edith Hankey, 2. Standard III.— Boys: Carl Redman, 1; John Borthwick, 2. Girls : Elizabeth Smith, 1. Standard IV.— Boys: Albert Andrews, 1; Thomas M’Kay, 2. Girls: Grace M’Gillivray, A , Kate Borrie, 2. Standard V.— Ellen Findlay, 1. SEWING. Standard I.— Fanny Bonnin, 1. Standard II. — Margaret Borthwick, 1; Edith Hankey and Voluska Orluski, 2. Standard III.— lsabella Smith, 1. Standard IV.— Grace M’Gillivray, I; Kate Smith, 2. Standard V.— Ellen Finlay, 1. Knitting. — Ellen Finlay, 1; Mary Smith, 2. Good Conduct in Sewing Class — Mary Jenkins. Good Attendance Prizes— Alex. Dickson and George Crane. Certificates— Ellen Finlay 1; Harriet Crane, 2. Most Popular Boy — Thomas McKay. Most Popular Girl — Mary Jenkins.” Bruce Herald, 30 December 1884, p 3


Following the railway

After the construction of the railway and roads, several Waihola settlers purchased small farms and supplemented their farming income by taking seasonal work at the Waihola flax mills run by J. Cosgrove and William Duff. Flax was gathered from the Taieri Beach region and hauled over the hill by horse and wagon. Other sources of income were working for the Lime and Phosphate Companies at Milburn and Claredon. In winter rabbit skins provided a lucrative income, there being plenty of rabbits in the district. Some families moved to the settlement of Allanton, just north, for farm work or went south to the settlement of Germantown, East Gore, where the construction of the railway was still in operation between Clinton, Waipahi and Gore.

During and after the railway work, many of the Poles found employment on farms throughout the district.  Thomas Adam had one such farm which was directly on the opposite side of the lake.

Between 1874-1876, the Post Office and Store was run by Thomas Douglas and later run by Mr. Bannatyne when the Post Office was moved to the railway station in December 1877. The Belle Vue Hotel was run by Charles Hilgendorf, the Lake Hotel run by Archibald Paterson, the blacksmiths were Daniel McGillivray and Mr. Sparks who opened his business up for service in July 1875, the boot maker was John Williamson, and the school master was Winter Blaythwayte. In January 1876 a police station was established, Constable William Tait being in charge. In the following month a new lockup was erected in connection with the police station:

“A new lockup has just been erected at Waihola, in connection with the Police Station. Nobody has been incarcerated yet, but Mounted Constable Tait considers that his character is at stake, and is therefore determined to arrest someone before the end of the present week.“ Bruce Herald, 20 February 1876.

The local prison was situated behind the schoolhouse, which I believe remained largely empty for most of the time. On Saturday the 3rd of June 1876, the Waihola Telegram Office was opened, Mr. Boyes been appointed telegraphist.

“The pretty little township of Waihola is rapidly increasing in size and importance. Not long ago a local police station was found to be a necessity, and now the inhabitants of the village find they cannot do without a local butcher. Formerly they were dependent upon Greytown, Outram, and Dunedin for supplies of meat, but lately Mr. J. C. Bannatyne has commenced business as a butcher in connection with his other occupations. “Bruce Herald, 06 June 1876

“GOLD FEVER HITS WAIHOLA. An esteemed correspondent at Waihola forwarded to us last night the following interesting item of intelligence: – Gold fever seems to be the epidemic which has, within the last day or two, replaced “Gravel on the brain” of which residents of Waihola have suffered so much lately. This change has been caused by the finding of a beautiful specimen of gold, weighing 6 dwt, 18 qtrs., in Mr. Williamson’s Garden, where the owner was digging a receptacle for ashes on Wednesday. The specimen was found in a coarse wash about four feet below the surface, and it has caused quite a sensation in this usually quiet locality. “Bruce Herald, 09 April 1880

“With reference to a recently reported find of a small nugget of gold at Waihola, we learn that a hoax had been played on our informant. The specimen certainly was found in the locality, together with many others, some years ago, but the present instance the nugget had been placed where it was found for the purpose of deception. We trust our friend will be more on his guard in future.”

“It may not be generally known that a German residing at Waihola has grown some tobacco from which he has manufactured snuff, which for strength and flavour will bear comparison with the imported article” Bruce Herald, 02 June 1876

Some Germans, residing at Waihola, are reported to have grown their own tobacco, and manufactured their own snuff for some time past. The snuff appears to be rather more gritty than the imported article, but snuff-takers report it to be of good quality. The tobacco is grown on a small scale for none consumption, and not for sale. “Bruce Herald, 26 January 1877

“Henley and the telegram station at Waihola will shortly be connected by the telephone.” Bruce Herald, 20 May 1881

“WAIHOLA. The usual monthly meeting was held on Tuesday. Present —Messrs Quartley, Yorston, Gibb, Fairbairn, and Smith. Mr Quartley was elected to the chair. A letter was read from Mr J. Cramond, suggesting that £1 be held as security on Orlowski’s cemetery contract, that the cutting may be kept in repair for six mouths.” Bruce Herald, 14 September 1883, p 3


Spiritual needs

It wasn’t till 1899 that the community of Poles at Waihola saw the opening of it’s very own Catholic Church. Prior to this they worshiped alongside other denominations at the Presbyterian church or travel several miles to Milton in the south or East Taieri to the north. The site of the church, donated by John Phillipowski, was situated at the top of Nore Street, overlooking a spectacular view of Lake Waihola and surrounding area. Access to the church was by a narrow winding lane appropriately named Chapel Lane. St Hyacinth was opened for worship on Sunday the 16th of April 1899, there being 1,000 persons present on that occasion.

August Orlowski, the local carpenter of Waihola, had helped the builder, Mr. J. Agnew, do the major construction work on the church. Later on, August did all the repairs on his own accord. Paul Baumgardt also supported, and voluntarily assisted in the building of the church. Paul presented to the church of “St Hyacinth” the bell. Michael Wisnesky, considered one of the real leaders of Waihola took responsibility in ringing the bell. Its tolling could be heard throughout Waihola calling its parishioners to mass. It is believed that one of the Palmerston immigrants brought out with them from Poland the Picture of the Holy Mary of Perpetual Succour. This was presented and still hangs in the church today. The writing below the picture has the following words:


(Miraculous Picture of the Holy Mary of Perpetual Succour, as it hangs in the Church of St. Alfons in Rome. Made by C.F. Calowa in the artistic studio in Coln.)

This picture could be the oldest of its kind in New Zealand.

It is also noted that August helped build the Waihola Hall and many of the cottages in Waihola and was regarded as a wonderful tradesman of the old class. He was notorious for working with only a few basic tools of the craft and with no modern machinery.


12. Orlowski 13. Orlowski 14. Annis 15. Annis 16. Orlowski 17. Orlowski 18. Empty 19. Wisneski 20. Wisneski 21. Welnoski 22. Welnoski
11. Milton County 10. Klimeck 9. Sinnot 8. Empty 7. Empty 6. Empty 5. Empty 4. Empty 3. Halba 2. Halba 1.       Philiposki

Burials in the Roman Catholic Section, Block 7 at the Waihola Cemetery, courtesy of the Milton Service Centre


Cattle Straying and other offences

“MAGISTERIAL. R.M. COURT, MILTON. (Before J. N. Wood, Esq., E.M.) Tuesday, January 9… ORLOWSKI V. SEDDARS. This was an assault case, simply a neighbors’ quarrel, which the Bench dismissed, with a warning to defendant to keep the peace, in view of future consequences. Mr Reid, who appeared for the accused, remarked that the conduct of the prosecutor in bringing his wife and young children into Court to give evidence ought to be condemned. The children had simply had disputes among themselves, and the mothers had joined in…” Bruce Herald, 12 January 1883, p 3

“Waihola District Road Board—Mr. Smith proposed, Mr. Williamson seconded, and it was carried: – “That notice be given to Germans that no logs will be allowed to be dragged on the road, and that proceedings will be taken if the practice is persisted in.” Bruce Herald, 15 February 1884.

“MAGISTERIAL. R. M. COURT, MILTON. (Before J. K Wood, Esq., R.M.) Tuesday, February 12, 1884. The following persons were fined for permitting their cattle to stray on the public road at Waihola . — James Borthwick, 4 head, 10s, and costs ; John Reid, 1 cow, 2s 6d, and costs ; John Helber, 1 cow, 2s 6d, and costs ; D. M’Gillivray, 4 head, fined 10s, and costs 19s, professional fee, 10s 6d ; John Wallis, 1 cow, 2s 6d, costs, 7s ; James Wilson, 4 head, £1, and costs, 7s. John C. Bannatyne pleaded not guilty to a similar charge, on the ground that the horse was sold some time ago, and the purchaser had not taken pobsession of the animal. The case was dismissed” Bruce Herald, 15 February 1884, p 3.

“R. M. COURT, MILTON. Tuesday, 14th April, 1885. (Before W. H. Revell, Esq., R.M.) Cattle Straying. Information’s laid by the police against persons allowing their cattle to stray on public roads were dealt with and the defendants fined… his Worship remarked that so far, he had inflicted only nominal penalties for cattle straying, but that in future he would inflict far heavier, more especially if accused parties did not put in an appearance and confess; — Baum. 1 cow, fined 1s and costs 7s. Frank Clemmick, 4 head, fined 1s a head, costs 7s, and cautioned that if again charged with a similar offence he would be liable to a penalty of £1 a head. Jas. Borthwick was charged with permitting 2 horses to stray on the public highway at Waihola. Mr Reid appeared for the accused, and the information was dismissed. O. Wiesknie was fined 7s for permitting 7 cows to stray, with 7s costs.” Bruce Herald, 17 April 1885, p 3

“MAGISTERIAL. R. M. COURT, MILTON. Tuesday, 9th June, 1885. (Before W. H. Revell, Esq., R.M.) Civil Cases. Police v. August Orlowski. Defendant, who did not appear, was charged with permitting 2 head of cattle to stray on the railway line at Waihola. Fined 5s, and 9s costs. SAME V. JNO. PHILLOWSKI. Charged with allowing 1 calf to wander at Waihola. Fined 2s, and 7s costs…” Bruce Herald, 12 June 1885, p 3

“MAGISTERIAL. R. M. COURT, MILTON. (Before W. H. Revell, Esq., R.M.) Tuesday, September 8, 1885. Cattle Straying. Fines amounting to 1s per head, with 7s costs, were indicted upon persons charged with permitting their cattle to wander on the public road, as follows:— F. Anderson, Cronan, P. Calvey, M. Casserly, J. Horn, A. Young, D. Bannatyne, J, Orlowski, A. Shaw, J. W. Wilson, J. Palmer, and J. Gregory…” Bruce Herald, 11 September 1885, p 3

“MILTON. Monday, November 18, 1895. (Before Mr R. S. Hawkins, S.M.).  A BATCH OF CASES. John Phillipowski was charged with allowing five cows to wander on the main road at Waihola on 22nd October. Defendant did not appear. After evidence by Constable King, a fine of 5s without costs was imposed. John Halba was charged with allowing three cows to wander on a public road at Waihola on 22nd October. Defendant gave evidence, after which a fine of 3s without costs was imposed. Peter Barra was charged with allowing two horses to wander on a public road at Waihola on 13th October. Constable King gave evidence, after which His Worship imposed a fine of 2s and costs (10s).” Bruce Herald, 19 November 1895, p 7

“Magistrate’s Court. (Before Mr J, Logan Stout, S.M.) CIVIL CASE. Harry Farquharson (County Ranger) proceeded against the following seven defendants for allowing horses or cattle to wander on county roads in the vicinity of Waihola on or about the 3rd of February: John Williamson, John Tomkinson, Cornelius White, Walter Sinclair, Frank Henke, Joseph Bungardt and Annie Wisnesky. All defendants were mulcted in a uniform fine of 5s with 10s court costs.” Bruce Herald, 25 February 1918, p 5

“Magistrate’s Court. (Before Mr E. C. Levvey, S.M.)… This Day. KEEPING APIARIES., Ed. P. Brogan, Inspector of Apiaries v the following fourteen defendants, for failing to register their apiaries and in some cases failure to provide proper hives.  P J McSweeney, Joseph Bungardt, Jas Shanks, and Jas McNeil non-registration and failing to provide proper hives. John Read, Jas France, Jas Hamilton, Mary Scanlan, Jas Paul and John Moore non-registration. His Worship intimated that as sufficient notification had not been given in a paper circulating in the district he did not intend to impose a penalty on this occasion, further than would defray the Inspector’s expenses (13s). Each defendant would be convicted and fined 1s except James Paul who did not realise that he as occupier was responsible for bees kept by his sister on his property. Any future contravention of the Act would be treated differently. The Court was still sitting at time of going to press.” Bruce Herald, 9 December 1920, p 2


Community health

The community was also struck with their fair share of epidemics;

“There are from 20 to 30 cases of scarlet fever in the Waihola township, chiefly among the German families, generally speaking the attacks are of a mild nature, but one child died on Saturday from the malady. A special meeting of the Waihola School Committee was held on the evening of the 22nd inst, when it was resolved to close the school for one month, owing to the prevalence of scarlet fever in the township.” Tues, 26 February 1878.

“Scarlet fever at Waihola is not quite gone yet as after an apparent lull, four or five fresh cases have occurred within the past few days. The other patients under Dr Rogers’ care are progressing favourably.” Bruce Herald, 22 March 1878

“We are pleased to hear that measles have almost disappeared from Waihola. The school has re-assembled, with a satisfactory attendance. “Bruce Herald, 22 July 1881

“Waihola Notes. (From Our Own Correspondent.) The influenza epidemic is raging in a very severe form in Waihola. Scarcely a house but has its patient, and in some instances whole households are down with it at the same time. Notwithstanding this fact, there was a goodly number at the farewell social tendered to Mr and Mrs Finlayson last evening on their removal to Burnside. A very pleasant evening was spent in music, song, and dancing, amongst those who contributed to the evening’s enjoyment especially being Miss Wisnowski, Messrs Finlayson, Cleverly, August and Frank Orlowski, Parsons, Brown, J. H. Smith, Wm. Smith, senr. and junr., and also Mn Finlayson and Miss Pateraon, who acted as efficient accompanists to the many singers. A very enjoyable supper was provided by the ladies, and full justice done to it. Taking advantage of & lull at this stage of the proceedings, Mr Hilgendorf presented the guest of the evening with a very handsome overtumtle, mentioning at the same time some of the admirable qualities to be observed in our worthy stationmaster His successor, with his wife and family, have duly arrived, and Mr Cockburn took up his official responsibilities this morning. We are sorry to hear of the death of the infant son of Mr and Mrs Thos. Welnoski, and sympathise with them in their sorrow.” Bruce Herald, 19 September 1907, p 4


Recreation and Sports

The settlers also participated in sporting events in the district, finding time for recreation and some competitiveness with the local athletic, cricket, rowing and rugby teams.

“The Regatta. So far as can be seen at present the regatta, which is to be held at Waihola tomorrow, bids fair to eclipse either of the last two years’ fixtures. Splendid entries have been received, and the number of crews is expected to nearly double those who competed last year. All the Dunedin and Port Chalmers clubs, with the exception of the Otago Rowing Club, will be represented, in addition to which the Waihola Rowing Club and Taieri Amateur Rowing Club have also entered for several of the events. From a rowing point of view, therefore, there will be no lack of interest. Mr Paterson, of the Lake Hotel, has made ample arrangements for the comfort of all his customers, and so nothing will be wanting on this score. The Staffa has been got into thorough working order for the occasion, and will ply on the Lake all day, following the races. A first class band is coming from Dunedin, which will be a great draw for the music-loving public. It only remains for the weather to be favorable, and of this there appears every prospect at present, to make the regatta an unexampled success. We anticipate seeing a very large crowd of spectators on the shores of the lake on Saturday. The following crews will represent the Waihola Club :— Waihola Plate: T. Adams (stroke), James Sinclair, T, Vilnoski, A, Redman ; John Sinclair (stroke), F. Kroning, F. Henke, James Sinclair; C. Henke (stroke), A Paterson, W. Robertson, John Sinclair; J. Chandler (stroke), R. Annis, J. Philip, F. Bungardt. Maidens:C. Henke (stroke), T. Vilnoski, A. Redman, C. Robertson.” Bruce Herald, 12 April 1895, p 2

Alan Halba recalls his parents telling him that Waihola was running tours (on water) around the district from the township jetty until at least 1938.  These trips went from Waihola, Lake Berwick to the Henley Hotel and return.  Another trip went from Waihola, Titri, to Taieri Mouth.  Occasionally on a Sunday a cruise would leave from Waihola, Titri to Henley and then on as far as the boat could safely travel towards Allanton.  The Allanton Poles would head South by horse and buggy and meet the vessel, both parties would party and picnic the day away.


Waihola township, taken from Adams Farm, Ca. 1900


“Waihola, Otago. Favourite summer resort 26 miles south by rail from Dunedin, situated on the lake of same name, on Taieri Plains. The lake provides excellent duck shooting in the season. Rowing and sailing boats are always to be hired, while a steam launch is available for picnic parties in the summer months. From Dunedin to Waihola, after passing Saddle Hill, the road is quite level and in excellent condition for cycling. There is a good hotel at the railway station, but no private boarding accommodation, although same may be obtained if required. The surrounding district is good farming land and closely settled. There is a flax mill here and a store. Telegraph office and telephone connection with Dunedin. “New Zealand, Index Annual, 1899

“Waihola Notes. (From Our Own Correspondent) When definite news came through of the capitulation of Germany, our first feeling was that of thankfulness that at last the long, bitter struggle and blood” shed was over—that right had once more triumphed. The news was received here, not perhaps with the first wild excitement of the previous week, but nevertheless with great acclamations of joy. The schoolchildren were assembled and marched in line, with banners flying, trumpets blowing, and bells ringing, to the Hall, where the flag was hoisted, Mr Bell making a speech and dismissing the school for the rest of the week as high holiday. Mr Sinclair, of the flax mill, also gave his men a holiday, and the mill whistle at intervals kept reminding us of “the day”—the glorious 12th. In the evening a thanksgiving concert was held in the Hall, when a number of appropriate hymns were sung, patriotic speeches made by Messrs Carvalho, Bell, and other speakers, songs and recitations by the following: Messrs Cairney, J. Smith, Carvalho, C. Huddleston, S, Smith, winding up with the National Anthem; and of course a couple of hours dancing to music supplied by Mr Annis, all making homeward by 1 o’clock, happy with a greater happiness than has been felt in the district for the past four years.” Bruce Herald, 21 November 1918, p 5


Location of Polish settlers in Waihola, courtesy of Google Earth


Polish names associated with early Waihola are: – Annis, Barra, Baumgardt (Bungard), Chajewski (Hieffskie), Chiłkowski (Cherkowski), Dovalowski (Dovoloski), Tysarczyk (Dysarski), Filipowski (Philipowski), Gdaniec (Danitz), Grenca (Grants), Halba, Hoffman, Jankowski (Yankowski), Klimek (Klemick/Klimeck), Kreft, Orłowski, Plewa (Plever), Reikowski (Rekowski), Rydzewski (Regefski), Smoliński (Smolenski), Teike (Tikey), Wełnowski (Welnoski) and Wiśniewski (Wisnesky).




Compiled by Paul Klemick (2022)