T.W. Adams (1842 – 1919)

Alfred Albert Thomas William Adams – known simply as T.W. Adams – had a lot to daydream about as he steered his employer’s dray and horses over the tussocks of the Canterbury plains heading to Springfield to pick up a delivery of timber.

He not only had a great job with Lincoln farmer Thomas Pannett but he was also in love with one of Thomas’ daughters Lucy and had plans to marry her.

As T.W. made his way across the tough terrain, he spied the land that was to become his future. Maybe he pulled the dray to a stop so he could stand up and gaze over the area that would become Greendale.

T.W Adams was born in Cambridge, England on the 24th June 1842. When he was 20 years old, he sailed for Auckland in the company of his cousin, George Giddings. For an unrecorded reason, the cousins soon relocated to Canterbury where T.W. found work with Thomas Pannett.

It was 1865 by time T.W. managed to purchase his first 100 acres of Greendale. He was the first farmer to settle in the area. Bringing his own straw with him; he built a sod hut.
In what is still considered an incredible feat, he also erected a sod fence around his crop fields – alone.

As he worked his land; he came across a lot of Maori relics, showing that once a great Maori population made their living at Greendale.

Pictured here are the remains of T.W.’s sod hut.

Wedding bells rang in Lincoln when T.W. Adams and Lucy Pannett finally married in 1867. Their first born – a daughter – arrived the following year. Tragically, Lucy would lose her life in 1869 when she fell down the family well while collecting water. She is buried at Barbadoes Street Cemetery in Christchurch.

In what seemed to be a common practice in those days, T.W. married Lucy’s sister Harriet in 1872. They had they their wedding in Wellington. Their marriage would result in the birth of 5 sons and 3 daughters.

As a point of interest, Harriet’s birth certificate lists her as being born at the New Begins Farm at Riccarton in 1852.

As a small farming community began to form, T.W. took delight in bringing some of what he loved and was passionate about to the area. A true Baptist, he taught in the Sunday school. As most of the children of the church couldn’t read, he found himself also teaching basic reading and writing skills as well. This led to him taking a leading role in the opening of Greendale School in 1872.

Another great love of his was trees. As his sons grew up and took over on the farm, T.W. turned his attention to tree planting. He planted his first tree in 1866 and by 1877; he had two large plantations laid out at Greendale. He imported seeds from overseas and made records of how each species did in the Canterbury climate. He would also hand out seedlings and supervised other farmers in their plantings. The Selwyn Plantation Board has T.W. Adams to thank for their foundation seedlings.

In 1897, T.W. became the Governor of the Canterbury College, now known to us as the Canterbury University. He held this position until his death in 1919. In his will, he left the University £2000 and 98 acres so the University could open a Forestry School – which opened in 1924. Even today the T.W. Adams Scholarship in Forestry is available at the University.

By 1910, T.W. was responsible for the planting of 150 acres of trees, of all species. He became a member of the Royal Commission of Forestry (1913) and the New Zealand Forestry League (1918).

T.W. and Harriet Adams are buried at the Greendale Cemetery. A little memorial also stands on this grave in memory of Lucy Adams – T.W. Adams’ first wife and Harriet’s sister.

A few grave stones away, lies George Giddings – T.W.’s cousin.

Adams Road in Greendale stretches across this still rugged looking area. Dotted along the Adams Road are a few houses that the Adams family called home from quite a few different eras – from the remains of the sod hut, to the gorgeous ‘Adams Homestead’, beautifully kept up by retired Greendale couple, the Sandridges.

Family have put up plaques acknowledging T.W. Adams and his achievements including his Arboretum, a small surviving collection on his beloved trees.

*All photos taken by Annette Bulovic*

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