Gebbies Valley and Pass were known during the 1830’s as ‘Maori Valley” by the Rhodes brothers of Purau as it was a busy trail that the Maori used when heading south. The Maori called it Kawa Taua.
Captain Fredrick Tuckett used the trail on the 4th June 1844. He was inspecting the Peninsula and the Port Cooper (Canterbury) Plains for a future settlement for Scotland. In charge of the half of the survey party that was to head to the Deans’ farm from Ellesmere, they got lost and spent the night being eaten alive by the insects in the swamps. The other half of the party had a more enjoyable experience, viewing the Plains while canoeing down the Heathcote and Avon Rivers and spending the night at Riccarton. The grumpy party continued south and chose Otago for the Scottish settlement.
The first road opened on the 18th August 1857. Nothing more than a bullock trail, it only went for 20 km. In 1864, the government splashed out and paid £196 for road improvements. Labour from the Lyttelton Gaol was used.
John and Mary Gebbie arrived in Port Nicholson (Wellington) in February 1840 in the company and employment of William Deans. John was a very good farmer and stock-man so he was a vital employee to William. Mary (pictured), who was actually pregnant at the time, was to be a housekeeper. Mary gave birth on the beach at Petone, Wellington; the family’s only home at that time was a tent.
William Deans and the Gebbies lived for 3 years in Wellington before the move down to Canterbury. Along with William, John cut survey lines in dense bush in the Wellington region, putting in hard hours; six in the morning to six at night. In 1843, the party moved down to Canterbury on ‘The Richmond’ along with the Hay and Manson families. As the first buildings were being erected at what would be come Riccarton, John remained in Port Levy to watch over the women and children of the party.
In 1845, the Gebbie and Manson families left the employment of the Deans and moved out to Banks Peninsula. The area where they farmed is now known as Teddington.
Sadly, John died of chest problems in 1851, leaving Mary with a farm and six children. The Deans brothers watched over the family as they were trustees in the estate. They encouraged Mary to get her land in freehold as soon as possible and while John was in Scotland marrying Jane, he brought Mary clothing and a cheese press.
When John Deans I died in 1854, Mary was present in his final moments, taking charge of little John Deans II. Mary visited Riccarton a lot during these dark times for Jane, being a great source of comfort. Jane too, was a visitor to Teddington many times, walking the Bridle Path to do so.
Within the life-time of Mary Gebbie, the farm was 7700 acres and had 6000 sheep. Part of the original farm known as “Burnt Hallow'” only ceased its dairy works in 2005.
John and Mary Gebbie are buried in the closed cemeteries of Lyttelton. Althought the earthquakes have not been kind, I am hopeful of finding their graves in the near future.