A few years ago friends who live in Tikorangi. knowing of the successful published history I wrote of Lepperton and its surrounding areas, asked me to consider writing a Tikorangi History. I had worked on a farm in Tikorangi as a holiday job when a high school student many years ago and got to know several families in the district. Between Huirangi, where I live, and Tikorangi is the historic Bertrand Road Suspension bridge across the Waitara River which had been closed to vehicular traffic for a number of years and several Tikorangi people as well as some from Huirangi formed a trust to raise funds to get the bridge re-built and re-opened.
Working together on this project generated an interest in writing up the history of Tikorangi and so the work began. The school had had a couple of jubilees to mark their 90th and 125th jubilees and some notes and been published at those times. This was a starting point which led to asking a lot of questions about things that had happened in Tikorangi and spending hours searching historical records like Paperspast.
There is a school and a church in what is arguably the centre of Tikorangi, although it was not intended to be the centre in the very early days; there used to be a general purpose store which for all intents had completely disappeared and a dairy factory closed many years ago as well as a cemetery.
Tikorangi is noted for the families who have lived in the area for many generations, some since the first soldier settlers moved into the area in 1865. Living within a confined area with only horse drawn transport in the early days saw a lot of courting and marrying between these families with the result that many of the descendants still living in the area are now related, at least by marriage. With families of seven or eight or even a dozen children being reasonably common in the early days the population of the district soon grew. The descendants of many of these families are still living and farming in the area. Several Maori families lived in the area as well and some of their descendants are still in the area today.
With the district coving several thousand acres and dozens of families where does one start?
Defining the physical boundaries of the district (I used the catchment area of the now zoned school) was not difficult, deciding what and whose stories to tell in a Tikorangi History meant a lot of work talking to various family members still living in the district. Some of the early families had descendants numbering in the thousand but I very quickly decided I would only be including the stories of people who were still living in Tikorangi or had lived most of their lives here and contributed to the story of the area.
Some people have a great memory and or family stories already written out; others had great difficulty remembering. One man I interviewed, a descendant of one of the early families, told me “Now if you were asking for details of my wife’s family there would be plenty of detail and lines of communication, as for my family we were an argumentative lot and after an argument they wouldn’t speak to each other and communication soon broke down so I don’t know much about my early family”. Others produced a family tree and pages of family stories and the task then became deciding what I had to cut out of that story to keep it relevant to a Tikorangi history.
Many, many hours of interviewing and scribbled note taking ( many times I wished I had learned shorthand) going home and writing the notes up on the computer into a readable story them contacting the person again to check that I had written their story correctly, sometimes several times before the details were acceptable to them. Trying to get their family lineage expressed in a form that makes sense to an outside reader was challenging especially when Christian names were repeated in succeeding or alternate generations sometimes two or three generations in a row or when a lady and her daughter-in-law or grand-daughter-in-law had the same Christian name.
Stories that perhaps caused scandal at the time but that had since died a natural death were uncovered like the one, where researching dates of births and marriages I discovered that a revered old lady, the matriarch of several generations, had got married the day before she gave birth to her first child; the family of a certain couple listed their children under their married name “and So & So” who bore her maiden name.
The story of the church, the store, the dairy factories (there was more than one in the early days) and the school, the chequered history of establishing the cemetery and the building of the now world renowned suspension bridge are all part of the Tikorangi History that will be printed for all to read later this year.