Garrett's Story

GARRETT HOPPER CLEARWATER was born in Paramus, Bergen, New Jersey, U.S.A. on 25th May, 1816, third son of Frederick and Hester Clearwater. He was baptised in the Dutch Reform Church on 16th June, 1816 and emigrated to New Zealand in 1838, possibly by whaling boat, one of the many American boats working in New Zealand waters at that time.

The first mention of Garrett Hopper Clearwater in New Zealand is in "New Zealand Biographies" in an extract on the Clearwater family of Otago, which states he settled in Otago in 1838. In the 1840s, he appears as a resident of the Otakou area, mentioned in Octavious Harwood's memoirs (click the photo to see a larger version) and is variously described as a boatbuilder, carpenter, cabinet maker, cooper, ship's carpenter, sawyer and joiner.

There is at least one form in existence which Garrett made for the use of the Methodists when they held services in Weller Brothers or Harwoods buildings under Revs. James Watkin and Charles Creed. It is in the Otago Settlers Museum.

Garrett teamed up with Jim Cullen who also landed on the Peninsula around 1838. The pair were at Bluff ten years later when they heard of the coming of the "Philip Laing" from Scotland, which was bound for Otago. They decided to walk back to Otago and arrived in time to see the passengers disembark - among whom was Isabella Blair Stevenson, the matron, and her two daughters.

It is a tradition of the Cullen and Clearwater families that the two young men eyed the two daughters as they walked down the gangway. One said "that one is mine" and his friend said "I will take the other". It has not been decided who actually had the first pick, but Garrett married Ann Stevenson on 15th December, 1848, at her mother's home. They took up land on the Otago Peninsula, where they had a family of six sons and one daughter. In fact their first two children, a daughter and a son, were twins and possibly the first white twins born in Otago.

Between 1848 and 1855 his name appears several times in Dr Burns' Visitation Book, first as an Episcopalian and unmarried, then with his wife, Ann, and as the years passed, with a growing number of children. Times were hard and the only education some of the family had was six weeks at a night school.

During those years he linked up with two neighbouring settlers, John Styles and James Gwyn, and these three were associated in different activities. A short distance up the gully at Company Bay there is still to be seen the site of their old saw pit. There is a story told of these days when these men were engaged in getting out masts and spars for a ship which had come up the harbour dismantled in a storm. While they were at work the captain of the ship, fearing that his crew would desert, had them locked up in the local jail until his ship was ready to sail. He then marched them aboard under police escort and engaged three local men to help work the ship outside the heads and the three men rowed back. The last they saw of the captain he was standing on the deck with a pistol in each hand ordering his men to work.

These three - Clearwater, Style and Gwyn - were also together when they followed the gold rush to Gabriel's Gully. They were not among the successful ones as miners, and claimed that if they had taken their bush and carpentry tools with them it would have been a more profitable venture.

There is also a story of Clearwater, Williams and some Maoris going out to endeavour to catch some cattle, which had run wild on the flat near Cape Saunders. Before there was adequate fencing and because of the shortage of food day cows were turned into the bush. They often wandered and became wild and escaped human attention by going to Cape Saunders and Sandfly Bay. Anderson, Rowan, Burns and Harwood all had cattle, so Harwood and the group went off to recover his cattle.

John McLay who arrived with his parents in 1849 as a child of eight, wrote the following description of Clearwater as he appeared to a child -"The man that is going to saw timber for Mr Todd's house, his name is Clearwater, he belongs to America, he is a splended bush man, a Great Man with an axe -and at the same time he don't forget to let us know of it and tells my father that the axes and hoes that we have brought from Home are not any good - that an English axe was not a bit good to clear bush or to fall a big tree. The American axe that he worked with was worth a dozen of the ones we had - his Axe was called a Sharp, the very best brand of axes made and that he could lay a spike nail on a stump of a tree and cut it in half and not leave a mark on the axe - and he did cut a spike in half to let my father see what he said was true - it was quite right - and that the best thing he could do with his axes was make them into grub hoes to work bush land with - and they did - and they made splendid hoes for that work as you cut the roots with them like an axe - those axes of the Sharp brand was the axe that was mostly used for years by all bush men - and when I grew up to be a man I always worked with one at bush work."

Garrett was a powerful man and a splendid man in the bush at heavy work such as falling large trees and getting them to the saw pit, which was a hard job. He was of splendid physique and a man qualified in many respects. There are stories of him being called upon to set a broken leg and amputate a finger, both operations being quite successful.

In those days Otago Peninsula was called upon to supply much of the farm produce, milk, butter, potatoes, vegetables, for the Dunedin market. There was also a large demand from the ships at Port Chalmers for fresh foods. The water way from Broad Bay provided comparatively easy way of transport and many settlers owned their own boats, the hills were very steep and the produce had to be carried to beach or jetty. It was some time before tracks could be made and a bullock sledge brought into use. Even then the long trips up and across the harvour, often in the fact of wind and tide, called for the most strenuous work on the part of the crews.

The daughter and sons of Garrett were also above average and all played their part in the early days of Otago. Some of them took part in an interesting incident when the Port Chalmers railway line was ready. The name "Glen Dermott" was given to the Railway Station. This did not suit the young "bloods" and they quietly painted out the name and repainted their own, Sawyers Bay, and Sawyers Bay it remained.

The fact that his descendants were recognised and included among the few guests of honour at the official opening ceremony of the Centennial Memorial Slab at Otakou in 1931 indicates that he was among the arrivals of those years.

Ann died in 1875 and was buried at Broad Bay. In 1878 Garrett and some of his sons began farming at Titipua in Southland. The farm is situated about three miles from Dacre on the Old Dunedin Road and is bounded by the Titipua Stream, Cross Road and Two Creeks farm. The area was 710 acres 2 roods and 31 perches, and now is two farms. It proved unsuitable for the conditions that prevailed at that time, and in 1881 it was taken back by the mortgagees and was sold back to the original owner, Alexander Rennie Hay.

Garrett died in August, 1881, in the Invercargill Hospital, and is buried in the Eastern Cemetery in Invercargill.