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Early history of Riwaka family online

May 19th, 2014

One of the earliest settlers in the Motueka/Riwaka area, William Ryder, is featured in a detailed and fascinating online memoir as part of the Ryder family history.

John Ryder, a grandson of WAA (Albert) Ryder, has just published extensive memoirs written by Albert on his website, including material about the family's early days in Riwaka and Motueka. He typed them up from Albert's hand-written notes.

William Ryder (Jnr)'s home in Motueka. It was built in 1910 on the corner of High and Tudor streets.

John says WAA (Albert) Ryder (1883-1968) farmed at Riwaka, running sheep, cattle and growing raspberries and currants. He broke in land from bush at the head of the Riwaka Valley and on the Takaka Hill.

He served as Provincial President of Federated Farmers for a time and was a founder member of the Waimea Electric Power Board.

He was instrumental in the establishment of the Riwaka River Source Scenic Reserve, the Brooklyn Domain and the Cook Recreation Grounds (now the home of the Riwaka Rugby Club).

He left the Riwaka farm for Whakarewa Street, Motueka where he grew raspberries on his small farm between Manoy Street and Motueka High School.

He later shifted to Stoke where he lived while writing the Memoirs (and a couple of articles for Jim Henderson's "Open Country" books).

"The memoirs were written without a single spelling mistake in an exercise book - there are a couple of spelling mistakes with the typed edition but they are farming terms, so the typist may be forgiven," John says.

The first of the family, William, arrived in the region in 1854, aged 24. Early parts of the memoir say "He procured a cottage on the east side of Fiddle Alley (now Fiddle Lane, Nelson) where the first child was born on June 25th 1854.

"Shortly after the baby was born, he was employed by Mr Rochfort at a sawmill in the Riwaka Valley, situated across the river from where he took up land, and made his home calling it Fuchsia Hill Farm, on account of the many konini trees around.

"The first home in Riwaka was situated on the east side of a road which was washed away in a big flood in the Motueka River in 1877, but after he had moved to the farm in the Riwaka Valley.

"He decided to develop a butchery business, but also leased from the Dehra Doon property, the land on the north side of the Riwaka River. He cleared the bush 4 from the river, and later took up two sections (79 & 80) on the ridge at the back of the Dehra Doon property."

And a little further on: "Although there was a bridge over the Motueka River from about 1880, produce and timber continued to be shipped from Riwaka chiefly by sailing coasters, and in the last stages by a small steamer named the ‘Elsie’.

"The road down the Riwaka Valley past the hotel then turns right, this portion being known as Stony Road, as it was only an embankment formed by digging a wide ditch on either side. In my school days this road would be covered at high spring tide, except for the two bridges, the Middle Bridge and the White Bridge over the Little Sydney Creek."

People interested in detailed early history of the area will find this account absorbing. A number of early photos are also on the website, at


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