Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Harrington Bros Sawmill

We recently had a family history request about the Palmers of Waikouro. Jesse Palmer had been an engine driver at local sawmills. One afternoon, we piled into Peter Gutsell's truck and went on a hikoi around the area searching for the Ferdunlaw School, where Jesse's kids went to school, and the Harrington Bros sawmill where he worked. We found the school situated on private property but not Harrington's mill. If anyone knows where it was, please let us know.

With a little sleuthing in PapersPast, Google Maps and a book on sawmills, we were able to piece together this information. See this Google Map for a work in progress on Sawmills in the Longwoods.

What we learned is that Harrington Bros, like most sawmills moved around a bit as they chopped down various forest areas. These cleared areas were then sold for settlement, and the farming region that epitomises Western Southland expanded.

In 1899, Harrington Bros sold their Fairfax sawmill to McPherson and Co who had a neighbouring sawmill according to the Otago Witness.

Then in 1904, the Otago Witness reported, "Mr James Harper, near Otautau, has sold his 600-acre farm to Harrington Bros, sawmillers at a very satisfactory price." We think this is the mill at Waikouro.

A major fire happened in 1908, destroying the wooden tramlines and threatening the mill itself. A few months later, Harrington Bros sold their sawmill to the Southland Timber Company who had a mill adjacent to theirs.

In 1909, Harrington Bros bought Timpany Bros sawmill in Fairfax. We don't know where this mill was located either.
In 1920, "Harrington Bros, Otautau, applied for a new sawmill area, 255 acres and reserve 1345 acres, over sections 9, 10, 11, 14a, Blocks IV, VII, Aparima Hundred, and C.L. Block XV, Waiau S.D., under section 41 of the regulations. - Recommended for approval," according to the Otautau Standard, 9 Mar 1920.
So a simple family history question opens up more questions about the history of our area. If you have any information on sawmills, please come by and have a chat or drop us a line.
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