Backbone of the Borough
(From The News and Theatre Courier' 12 August 1936)
'In 1864 Cambridge was but a military settlement consisting of a handful of weatherboard buildings, a store or two, and that is all; the district beyond the settlement in its virgin state of tea-tree and wild scrub with the bush-clad hills beyond. No roads, no farms, no smiling countryside - the Waikato River providing the principal outlet. Today residents are justly proud of their town and borough with all its commercial and residential facilities. Yes the borough has progressed and that progression has been made solely possible by the development of the districts that surround it.'
The farming districts around Cambridge have always been very important to the development of the town. Initially the 50 acre soldier allotments of 1864 were to be a barrier between the Maori King Country and the city of Auckland.
The districts of Pukerimu, Pukeroro and Pukekura were elevated ('puke' means hill) and these farms were quickly brought into production by the new settlers. 'Bruntwood' was the name of the homestead of William Muir Douglas and it was farmed successfully with wheat crops and fat cattle for the Auckland market.
Fen Court was the estate of T Every Maclean who, with the backing of the Bank of New Zealand, drained and farmed many acres of swamp. His land holdings also covered Whitehall and Horahora.
Robert Fergusson's 'Gorton Estate' covered most of Karapiro. Richard Parker started to drain Roto-o-rangi and E B Walker drained the Moana Tua Tua swamp at Monavale.
When the depression hit at the end of the 1800s the banks called in their loans. They then cut these estates into small farms and, with dairy farming becoming viable, the districts boomed. One estate now accommodated about 30 families and more schools were established. Each district also built a creamery where cream was taken to be made into butter and cheese. The Cambridge Dairy Co-op's factory at Hautapu has grown from this very lucrative industry.
If you have any further information that can be added to this record please contact Eris Parker at the Cambridge Museum.
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