Harvesting the turnips 88 years ago

Photo of Peat farmer

Splendid things all round

“A splendid crop of turnips grown on peat land at Mr A W Chapman’s farm on Piako Rd, Gordonton.”

This splendid photograph was taken by F G Watson, and featured in the New Zealand Herald on April 12 1927 under the heading Productivity of the Peat Lands of the Waikato.

Thanks to Kate Monahan Riddell for sending this link through.

And from 1909, we have this rustic image courtesy of Hamilton Libraries Perry Rice.  It seems it was taken on the same Chapman farm:

Historic photo Waikato farmer
Happy in his work… and having his pic taken
Olde time photographer

This photo of a farmer/farmer worker was taken by the intrepid photographer SC Smith, near Piako Rd, says Perry in an earlier column for Number 8 Network.

SC Smith did a wonderful series of photos in and around Cambridge.  Smith, who lived in Wellington, travelled the country with large pieces of equipment, over rough roads on horseback, in carts and occasionally he would have travelled by train.

On this occasion he could have got off an eastbound train at Eureka and trekked along the rudimentary road that traversed the Piako swamp. The records accompanying this photo, scant though they are, suggest this chap on the cart may have belonged to or worked for the Fow family. I would have doubts that this would be land owned by Fows but, as JR Fow, the patriarch of the Waikato Fows was a blacksmith about this time, could this chap be associated in that realm?

Yet, on another record another person sometime in the past has noted ‘Chapman flax farms’. Could Chapmans have owned the land?

It becomes apparent after a short time that photos such as this ask more questions than they give answers. At any rate, the information we have says the location is Gordonton so it’s right in Number 8 Network territory.

The cart is interesting to say the least. It is a ‘log-wheel’ cart. You do have to look carefully but it most certainly appears that the log behind the chap’s boots is the wheel – more a roller.

I recall seeing something like this in my very young days but not as big and not as crude. It was used by men in the locality to flatten out ground to prepare for laying lawns. After flattening some of the humps and bumps two of the larger men (my father was one and a neighbour across the street – both built like bison) would then drag a large plank with a several children standing on it to level the land. I have to think this cart and its peculiar wheel may have had something to do with land clearing.

Another thought is that as the area was substantially swamp, was the log wheel an anti-sinking device? Either way it was built for neither speed nor comfort.

The chap posing with a broad grin is wearing sturdy boots and gaiters. Was he happy in his work or happy to be having his photo taken? The gaiters have a look of leather and the boots appear to have been made by the very skilled cobblers that would have been found in and around Hamilton in the day. The yoke about the oxen’s necks is not a type I’ve seen before – would it be home-made?

Any comments as to the identity of the chap or the location of the photo would be most welcome. Oh, it looks like wet weather so just what would he have been up to?

Perry Rice, Hamilton Central Libraries

Email Perry the wonderful by clicking here.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

One thought on “Harvesting the turnips 88 years ago

  • July 7, 2015 at 11:39 am

    That hat intrigues me, Perry. Is it an army lemon squeezer perhaps, though the position of the dents in the crown suggest it’s more likely a Scout hat. The wide brim, furthermore, suggests it could be a Scout Leader’s hat. Was that happy chappie a Scout Leader – or has a Scout Leader had his potai stolen?


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