a poem by Dale Grant Stephens
Yes, I am a simple country town in need of a coat of paint
A little tired, my buildings are out-of-date - weathered, aged and weary.
Among my inhabitants, some are eccentric, others contrary
The product of changing fortunes and dreams on hold
Others who see the beauty in simplicity and quality of life
Where children can be nurtured by husband and wife
So don't judge my townsfolk until their stories are told
I have seen family's come and go
Old folk die and young folk grow
Heard their laughter and tears
Listened to their hopes and fears
I am rich in history and mellowed by time
I remain a symbol of old-fashioned values and times gone by
When folk listened to the wind and forecast the weather from the sky
So much has happened and my children are spread near and far
In capital cities and in foreign land, they owe this town for who they are.
Some have chosen to stay at home, others rule in commerce with money to boot.
In the twilight years some will come back to their roots,
Yet, most will pause at some point in life and think fondly of me
When they reflect on upbringing I am the root of their family tree
The coal still lies beneath my feet and they are drilling for gas and oil
So life goes on with new hope while most townsfolk still toil
I hear the voices of a new generation of children at play
Perhaps this generation will find work here and some will stay.
Whatever - I'm rich in the memories of yesterday.
Is a pretty colonial township, nestled in a green valley beneath the Takitimu mountains.
This is an area seldom given much distinction, this remote area is pastural and coal mining country and is bursting with history. In an area still wild and rugged with pioneering youth, this small town strikes a contrast. There is charm in its quiet valleys, wide streets and the Wairio stream bubbling over a bed of black coal on its way to the sea.
In sheltered valleys and on wind swept
ridges,wooden cottages and modern farmsteads cling to the land behind
ancient gorse hedgerows and macrocarpa trees.
More information towards the bottom of the page.
What to do in Nightcaps:
- McGregor Park (center the map)
- Nightcaps Golf and Bowling Club (center the map)
- Nightcaps Coal Company (center the map)
- Sinclair Miners Cottage (center the map)
- Steam Driven Mill (center the map)
- Tinkertown (center the map)
- Nightcaps Community Museum (center the map)
Groups and Organisations in Nightcaps:
- St Patricks School (center the map)
- Nightcaps Playcentre (center the map)
Businesses in Nightcaps:
- Donald Sinclair & Sons. (center the map)
- Transport Services Southland Ltd (center the map)
- Jason Ahern - Painter and Decorator (center the map)
- Nightcaps Trading Post (center the map)
- Rural Sawmill Ltd (center the map)
A most interesting book on the history of Nightcaps is 'Pasture, Coal Seam and Settlement' A Centennial History of Nightcaps and District 1880 - 1980. by John S Thomson.
The history of the railway systems in the area is 'Coalfields Enterprise' by GW Emerson, JA Dangerfield and AC Bellamy
Ohai Nightcaps Lions Club
The Takitimu Heritage Trail brochure is available from the Information Centre
The Information Centre is open six days a week on Johnston Road and has an internet service. It is closed on Fridays.
There is no other town in the world named Nightcaps. This unique name
actually comes from the weather! From the main street, looking towards
the Takitimu mountains, you will see two distinctive peaks. With snow
covering the tops, early settlers remarked that it looked like they had
their nightcaps on. The name stuck.
One of the first European settlers to the area was Captain John Howell, a sea captain and whaler from Riverton. In 1838 he married the Maori princess Kohi Kohi Patu and received a gift of 50,000 acres of land. Using walking tracks made by their Maori ancestors, they followed the rivers inland to reach this tussock and swamp country.
Alongside the Wairio stream they erected a camp, at the area now known as McGregor Park. The Maori then introduced the settlers to a black rock they used for fires. It was coal. An iron whaling pot was placed beside the
stream for the use of all travellers; this enormous pot now resides in the local museum.
The Nightcaps Coal Company was created in 1880, mining coal from
McGregor Park. The company then went on to purchase land from a local
farmer as a place for immigrant miners and their families to settle.
A community of sod huts and tents resulted.
Two years later the Nightcaps Coal company constructed its own private railway to connect to the Government railway that terminated at Wairio to the many smaller mines operating in the area. Nightcaps township grew quickly from the first few hastily built wooden houses built by the mine owners. During the early part of the 20th century, over 108 men were employed in open cast an underground mines in the area.
Local mines were small, and the work done by hand.Traders opened business to serve the growing community of farmers and miners.
The coal seams gradually worked out and 1923 saw the end of production at the Nightcaps Coal Company. The Great Depression of the 1930's followed, then World War II seeing many local men going overseas to fight. The area fell in to decline and many families moved away.
Many decades have passed and today there is little to show they ever existed. However, farming and mining in Ohai ensured Nightcaps survival. Humble miners cottages and colonial buildings sit beside glorious Edwardian, Georgian, Art Deco and post-war dwellings to create a variety of architecture spanning the decades of town growth.
It is still a coal and pastural area. They still grow vegetables in their gardens and graze stock in green fields. The wooden church is a centurian and still opens its doors each week to the community.
People still walk their dogs beside the stream, native birds still fill the skies and horses still train at the track beside McGregor Park.
Nightcaps is a pretty town, hidden in the hills beneath the Takitimu
mountains. Dariy farming has recently joined sheep farming,bringing with it many young families in to the area, filling the local schools. Mining and cottage industries thrive as people enjoy the richness of living in a rural town.
In 1950, a fire destroyed a number of buildings in the centre of town, including the Coronation Hall. When the hall was replaced by the attractive Memorial hall a new movie projector with Cinemascope facilities was installed. At that time such facilities were installed in three major North Island cities only.
With the closure of the secondary school, the Post Office and a number of businesses and churches, and the change from underground mining to open-cast mining, the population slowly declined until today a small but stable number of people live in the town.