We often don’t give a second thought to the stories behind the names of our roads, schools, creeks and more, but delving into the history of Massey I have unearthed some interesting facts and anecdotes.
The suburb itself was named in 1915 after one of New Zealand’s most significant politicians, the then Prime Minister William Ferguson Massey (1856-1925). Prior to that, the sparsely populated area was known as Lawsonville, after settler John Lawson who had an orchard by the creek that also bears his name.
Elizabeth Freeman (nee Gregory), who was born in Lawsonville in 1898, described it as, “wilderness, supporting a few cottages…a windswept, low [manukau] scrub desolate area, the ground being exceptionally poor”. Lawson’s Creek was home to a number of gum diggers who built simple whare on its banks. Read an 1889 New Zealand Herald article reporting the fate that befell one such man.
Ref: J.T. Diamond, Waterfall at head of Lawson’s inlet, December 1962, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, JTD-16E-01855-2.
English settler John Henry Colwill (middle row, second right) who started a typewriting and supplies business in central Auckland in the late 1890s would later make his mark on the area.
Ref: Hemus for the Auckland Weekly News, The Auckland Cricket Club's second eleven, 24 April 1902, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19020424-11-2.
Ref: Henry Winkelmann, Looking west from Shortland Street along Queen Street, 29 May 1918, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1643.
In the early 1900s the successful businessman turned his sights turned towards the west and purchased approximately 1,500 acres in the area that would become Massey. He established Lincoln Park Orchards, offering a home delivery service and the opportunity to sample fresh fruit at his city office, Colwill Chambers, Swanson Street, and built a house on land he named Lincoln Park Estate. Lincoln Road, Henderson, and Lincoln Heights School reference these.
Ref: Auckland Council, Colwill Road, Massey, 4 December 2014, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, MASS-D-2014-0021.
Ref: Auckland Council, Colwill School logo, Massey, 4 December 2014, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraies, MASS-D-2014-0012.
A man from Madeira known as Don Buck (real name Francisco Rodrigues Figueira), ran a gum diggers’ camp on his land near the Swanson Stream at the bottom of what is now Don Buck Road. The camp came to the attention of the authorities following a death in 1912 (read the New Zealand Herald article about it here) and the following year it was inspected by the District Health Officer, as reported here
Ref: Urban subdivision on orchard land at Massey, 1966, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, MASS-P-005.
Ref: Auckland Council, Spargo Road street sign, Massey, 4 December 2014, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, MASS-D-2014-0003.
Ref: Auckland Council, Westgate Drive, Massey, 5 February 2015, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, MASS-D-2015-0018.
Find out more about Massey in these Auckland Libraries’ resources:
- Oral history interviews on the subject of Don Buck. Marianne Simpkins (Interviewer). (1967)
- Massey. [Elizabeth Freeman].
- Massey, West Auckland : a palimpsest : insights into Massey as it was in 1850, 1900, 1950 and 2000. Gillian Ruffles. (2004)
- Massey history: a special interest study by pupils of Colwill School. (1982) held at West Auckland Research Centre, Archives - Accession 2015.1.
- Waitakere street names: a guide to the history of Waitakere street names. compiled by Auckland Libraries