Establishment of Waipukurau
In 1851, a gentleman named Donald McLean purchased an area known as Waipukurau. Waipukurau included the land between the Tukituki and Waipukurau rivers. There was 70,000 acres of the neighbouring Ruataniwha plains that were granted to George Rich to farm and split into four stations after he gave up on the venture. The four stations were Springhill, Mt Vernon, Forest Gate and Fairfield. The stations would later become the Ongaonga village and surrounding area
In 1865 Mr Henry Hamilton Bridge immigrated to New Zealand. Mr Bridge brought Fairfield Farm from Mr William Fannin and drew up the original plans for the village. He grew 700 acres of wheat on the farm and would later build a Flour Mill to provide work for the villagers.
In 1869 Mr Bridge built a public room that later opened as the first school and held church services from time to time. This building is now the old school building and belongs to the Ongaonga Museum. In the same year, a man named James Newman built the first store that stood on the corner of Bridge Street and State Highway 50.
In the early 1870s, James Newman built the first hotel that would burn down many times.
In 1872 Mr Bridge subdivided his land so that plots could be sold for houses and shops.
The first house was built on the land in 1874.
The first school in Ongaonga opened in 1875 by Colonel J. L. Herrick with a roll of approximately 12 students. The first teacher at the school was Mr McKay. Colonel J. L. Herrick was also the first chairman of the Hawkes Bay Education Board.
In 1877 Mr Bridge sent for a contractor from England to gain interest in the area. His friend Edward Purkis Coles would then immigrate with his wife and 12 children. Mr Coles established the Coles building and joinery in 1878. At the time of opening the Coles firm had 17 employees. The Coles building included trades of carpentry, surveying, blacksmith, electrical and plumbing. An undertaker also worked from the building. The building still stands in its original location.
In the 1880s Ongaonga was thriving and had outgrown the small schoolhouse. During 1886 a larger building was built to accommodate the growing village. After moving to the bigger school, the old schoolhouse had many uses. It became a roads board, linesmen’s office and a country girls' club before becoming the old school museum in 1966. During this time there was one road between Ongaonga and Waipawa. Thus another road was built that followed the Waipawa river on the south side and over the Waipawa Road Bridge. Horse-drawn carriages and later motorised vehicles would use this road.
Flood Risk and Transport
In 1893 floods in Ongaonga proved that the Ongaonga stream was a flood risk. The flooding of the Ongaonga stream changed its course and risked joining the Mate stream. Stock banks built of wooden palisades would prevent a repeat of the event. The Ongaonga stream now prevented further development of Newman Street and Mill Street.
Then in 1899 a horse-drawn carriage ran twice daily between Ongaonga and Waipawa.
Turn of the Century
In 1900 the construction of the Old Jail containing a cell and office is built. This building has since moved to the site of the Ongaonga museum. During the same year, the Town Hall was opened. This building still stands and is managed by the Central Hawkes Bay Council. The Town Hall had many uses, including housing the local brass band.
In 1901 Forest Gate belonged to the government and part of the land became a cemetery. The remaining land became the Forest Gate reserve. During 1901 Sale Yards were built and used until its closure in 1959. The yard reopened in the 1970s as a lucerne treatment processing plant for a time. The buildings that remain have since been converted into a house.
1904 the first multidenominational church opened, built by Mr Bridge.
1906 the remaining Fairfield Estate was auctioned off as Mr Bridge moved back to England.
1908 a Roman Catholic Church opened, built by the Coles Brothers Firm.
In 1910 a country telephone system for improving communication was introduced. That same year a bridge over the Ongaonga stream opened.
In 1912 the Butcher’s shop opened and has since moved to the Ongaonga Museum site.
In 1914 the beginning of the WWI had started and Ongaonga had a major drought. Due to WWI Ongaonga saw a decline in their 17 business's, as men had to go away and fight the cause.
In 1916 the first horticultural show was held in the Town Hall this continued every year until 1956.
During 1917 the Presbyterian Church opened, this was built by the Coles Brothers Firm. The church still stands today and can be seen on a walking tour of the village.
During the year 1919 a flu epidemic plagued the area and in that same year Ongaonga experienced their heaviest recorded snowfall on 26th of June, which impacted many families.
An estimated 12 inches of snow fell and brought down power lines, caused damage to homes and closed roads.
On September 28th, 1925 electricity became available thanks to the opening of the power substation in the area.
Earthquake and War.
On the 3rd of February 1931, a major earthquake struck Napier and affected the whole of the Hawkes Bay area. Reportedly, the only thing left standing in Ongaonga was the old schoolhouse chimney.
The first mile of sealed road through the village was introduced 1937.
In 1939 - 1944 WW2 broke out and men joined the army, taking away much of Ongaonga’s population and the area declined.
In 1955 the Jail and police station is shut down.
Then in 1959 the Ongaonga Sale's Yard holds their last sale and closes down.
Approximately 1960 the Coles Firm shuts down.
1965 The old school building was under threat as it was no longer in use. Thus, the Ongaonga historical society formed to save the Old School building. Local Mr E.S. Bibby, whose family helped shape Ongaonga became the first chairman.
1966 the Ongaonga historical society opens the Ongaonga museum.
The historic village
In May 1982 the military hut moved to the Ongaonga museum. Then in 1983 Ongaonga became a Historical Village.
During this time plans to preserve the Coles building are made, but are never carried out. In 2018 the Ongaonga Historic Society has started further critical restoration of the Coles building . This project relies on donations if you would like to contribute head to ongaongamuseum.org.nz/coles-building to find out more.
IIn 1990 Pendle Hill Homestead moved to the Ongaonga museum.
In 1995 Broome Shed moved from the Ruahine’s to the Ongaonga museum.
Finally in 1996 the Woolshed moved from Hinerua, Whakarara to the Ongaonga museum.
Ongaonga is a small, quiet village and preserves their history through the preservation of the many historical buildings. Some of which can be seen on the village walking tour and on the museum grounds.
The museum holds 13 buildings from around Hawkes Bay. The historical society handles the upkeep of these buildings and relies on the kind donations from visitors and other benefactors.
In 2014 the Coles building was gifted and transferred to the Ongaonga Historical Society by the Frater family. A maintenance conservation plan was written and is being used for the restoration and preservation of the building under the guidance of Heritage New Zealand. With the support of volunteers alongside our partners carrying out the work.