The genesis of the Tararua Tramping Club founded by Willie Field and Fred Vosseler
The TTC was formed by two remarkable men, a parliamentarian and a businessman, both keen trampers, on the 3rd July 1919.
Following the end of the Land Wars and the advent of a Liberal government keen on tourism, there were recreational trampers in New Zealand from the 1890s on. Here are some photos of trampers on the Milford Track; note the choice of clothing.
William Hughes Field
William Hughes Field was one of those keen to promote the Southern Crossing as a tourist tramp to rival the Milford Track. He was a Wellington lawyer, MP for Otaki (first Liberal, later Reform), and a keen tramper. Below you can see his formal portrait, also one of him in the back row of the House of Representatives 6th from the left, and also posed with his sister-in-law, the celebrated painter Frances Hodgkins.
And here is the Hodgkins family at Cranmer Lodge in Dunedin. Field (centre) was married to Frances' sister Isabel, standing at the back of the family group with a parasol; Isabel too was an accomplished painter. In the other photo, Isabel and Field are en familie with Isabel's mother Rachel Hodgkins.
The Southern Crossing
Variants of the Southern Crossing route had been used for many years. The Maori called Mt. Hector Pukemoumou and from ancient times followed the trail from Otaki Forks over Hector and Reeves to Woodside, or down Quoin Ridge to the Hutt Forks. Following the success of the Milford Track, 1895 saw the formation of track committees in both Otaki and Greytown, with the intention of better establishing this transalpine route across the Tararua Range. They approached the government of the day for funds, without success.
Although he was a Wellington resident, as MP for Kapiti Field was a strong and persistent advocate for Kapiti concerns. For example, he pushed for many years for the coastal highway to bypass the Paekakariki hill road and save travellers much time. He also took up the cause of the Southern Crossing, writing to Richard Seddon in 1906 and again in 1907, and in 1909 escorting James Cowan of the Department of Tourist and Health Resorts to the summit of Mount Hector. In 1910 this Department granted £50 to fund the track from Otaki Forks to Mt. Hector. Encouraged by this Field, together with Walter Buchanan the MP for Wairarapa, asked the Prime Minister for more money; £200 was made available to build the track from Woodside to Mt. Hector.
William Hughes Field (Te Ara)
Foot Tracks in New Zealand by Pete McDonald
A Chronology of the Tararua and Remutaka Ranges
It looks as if Field was directly involved with the construction of the track. In one of these photos he is with a survey party, and that looks like Field too with the hat, together with the workman who built the track to Alpha.
The Southern Crossing track was completed in 1912, and Field and three friends made the crossing, taking two days.
Somewhere in all of this he met Frederick William Vosseler (1878-1959), a Wellington business man, Rotarian and accomplished athlete, and keen tramper. Fred's father George was a well-known German baker in early Wellington; Fred himself was notably the owner of Billiards Inc.
Vosseler visualised an organisation that would encourage tramping in the Tararua mountains, a club that would “foster and popularise the love of our flora and fauna and the great outdoors”.
Fred Vosseler's father George Vosseler had emigrated from Germany and set up his Deutsche Baekerei (German Bakery) in Upper Willis Street in December 1877 (above).
To promote the Southern Crossing, Field and Vosseler decided to gather the support of Wellingtonians.
Here is their advert near the bottom of page 2 of the Evening Post from 2 July 1919.
The first meeting was attended by 21 professional and business men.
Amid speeches, the club committee was formed and the next meeting set.
The Tararua Tramping Club was now a going concern.
Crossing the Tararuas
Last night, at the Dominion Farmers' Institute, about 100 members of the Tararua Tramping Club (there were nearly as many women as men) assembled for their first annual "social."
Mr. W. H. Field, M.P., the first and present president of the club, presided, and gave a lengthly and interesting account of the opening up to private endeavour of the stretch of beautiful, though sometimes difficult, Alpine country that constitutes tbe dividing line between Manawatu and Otaki. The Tararua track and its development is one of Mr. Field's hobbies, and he gave a most interesting account of the way in which it has been gradually though surely brought under the notice of those who enjoy something more than a mere ramble, "adown the primrose paths of dalliance." Mr. Field related in detail the history of those who have attempted to cross or succeeded in crossing the range, and incidentally remarked that Miss Knox (see below), of Otaki Forks, was the first lady to succeed. Now, he concluded, the war was over, and the Government was going to give the club £600 or £700. That would be spent early in the summer, and they hoped soon to have a well-equipped track, a bridge over the Tauherenikau, huts at both sides of the range, and that the track would be so improved that people would be able to traverse it in safety, even in thick weather. It was a wonder that such beautiful Alpine scenery had been for so many years neglected. The people of Wellington should have recognised that there was just as beautiful Alpine scenery, in its degree, at their doors as could be found in the Southern Alps. It was a pity that so much of the bush had been felled, and that with it the birds had practically disappeared, but they had to make the best of things, and as the club grew it would have the effect of stimulating public opinion and preventing further vandalism. (Applause.)
Several members spoke on the practical aspect of that feature of mountaineering which is involved in the passing of the Tararuas, and a very pleasant evening was spent."
The Southern Crossing was really too gnarley to make it as a tourist trek after the manner of the Milford Track, (indeed the first official Tararua Tramping Club Southern Crossing in late 1919 had a fatality), but the TTC was a great success, many men and women joined, and club expeditions went to more distant areas also. Here are some club members on Belmont Trig,
Members of Tararua Tramping Club and Hutt Valley Tramping Club,
led by Bill Wilson, at Belmont Trig.
Powell, Ian :Hutt Valley Tramping Club photographs.
Ref: PA1-o-650-01-2. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
and at Malte Brun Hut in the central Southern Alps.
Tararua Tramping Club, Arch Smith Collection
Photograph by Arch Smith
Here is Vosseler in a relaxed pose with his wife May.
They had no children, so in many ways the Tararua Tramping Club became their family.
When Vosseler passed away in 1959 he left the club with enough money to fund the purchase of the old Seventh Day Adventist church in Moncrieff St., the TTC's present-day headquarters.
Mt. Victoria Historical Society Newsletter 33 - Running Mountain Racing on Mt. Victoria by By David Colquhoun
Field and Vosseler's association continued. Here they are on the Waiopehu Track.
Field is second from the left, in waistcoat and tie, holding his Homburg hat,
and Vosseler is on the right with his cloth cap and pipe.
Group on the Waiopehu Track. Adkin, George Leslie, 1888-1964 :
Photographs of New Zealand geology, geography, and the Maori history of Horowhenua.
Ref: PA1-f-006-319. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Here on this page of a promotional book "Across the Tararuas and Beautiful Otaki",
you can make out their distinctive profiles in the top left photo.
Field and Vosseler are remembered in the names of geographical features and huts on or near the Southern Crossing.
Field Hut was built by the TTC and is much used to this day.
Over the years many huts have been built near Hut Mound.
Kime Hut No.1 was built to the south by the TTC in 1930 partly funded by a donation from the family of E J Kime
who had died of exposure on the Southern Crossing.
The NZ Forest Service built Vosseler Hut in 1964 because Kime Hut No. 1 had fallen into disrepair.
After Kime Hut No.2 was built by TTC in 1978 the Forest Service removed Vosseler Hut in 1979,
but the site is apparent in this Google Earth photo. The turn-off to Maungahuka Hut is in the top of the frame, and Kime Hut No. 3 is out of shot below.
Fred Vosseler is also remembered in the Vosseler Shield race,
a tough mountain race held yearly on the slopes of Mt. Victoria, Wellington.
Hutt Valley Harriers
Trampers still enjoy the challenges and rewards of the Southern Crossing, one of New Zealand's iconic walks.