Joseph Bayer (1871 - 1949) and
Katherina Wech (1879 - 1943)
 

Katherina Wech (known as Catherine and daughter of Josef Wech and Dorathea Schott) was born June 20, 1879 in Puhoi. Joseph Bayer (son of Petrus Bayer and Magdelena Lederer) was born January 11, 1871 in Bohemia. He was a farmer.

Joseph and Catherine were married in Puhoi on April 23, 1901 when he was aged 30 and she 21.

Their family

Joseph and Catherine had 11 children (10 surviving) and at least 19 grandchildren:

- Mary Bayer was born August 14, 1902. She married James Brien and they had four children, James Brien, Mary Brien, Michael Brien and Elsie Brien. She died in 1988 aged 86.
- Doreen Bayer (died shortly after birth)
- Anton Joseph Bayer (Tony)
was born May 20, 1905 and died aged 93. He never married but his brother said that he got engaged a lot! He was a "hard case"!
- Theresa Annie Bayer was born Feb 14, 1907. In 1935 she gave birth to a son James Bayer. She later married Lindsay Coles and they had another son, Thomas Coles. She killed herself tragically shortly after Thomas' birth in 1940.
- Christian Peter Bayer was born June 25, 1909 and married Kathleen Barker. They had two boys, Raymond and Donald Bayer. When they later seperated, Donald stayed with his father and Raymond with his mother.
- Edward John Bayer (Ted) was born Sept 25, 1911. He married Ethel Wilson and they had two boys, Mervyn and Desmond Bayer. He died when aged about 80. Ethel had a bad heart and died a year later.
- Catherine Elizabeth Bayer (Katie) was born May 31, 1913 in Upper Waiwera. She married Robert Patrick Simpson April 23, 1938 and they had 3 children, Brian Robert Simpson, Dulcie Simpson and Noleine Simpson.
- Thomas Wenzyl Bayer (Tom) was born June 10, 1915 and married Barbara Holloway (born either 1926 or 1930) in St Matthews Church, Central Auckland in 1947. They had two children, John Bayer and Catherine Bayer.
- Christina Dorothy Bayer was born May 20, 1917. She married James Kelly. They had no children. She died quite young of cancer aged in her 40's.
- Alice Margaret Bayer was born Sept 16, 1919. She married William Adams. They had four boys, Barry Adams, Harold Adams, Colin Adams and Terence Adams. They later divorced. She died aged about 60 from cancer.
- Nora Agnes Bayer was born March 4, 1921. She married Fred MacFarlane. They had no children. Nora died on 15 August 2004 aged 83 from stomach cancer.

      Joseph and Catherine had their farmland homestead in Upper Waiwera built by his brother Fritz, using trees etc from around the property. The tracks they used to cart the trees down the hill are still visible today. The property originally consisted of 600 acres of farmland. When the street to their property was put in it was named Bayer Road (it still carries this name today).

      The children were all born at the Bayer homestead with the assistance of midwives. A midwife would come and stay in the house for 3 days after the birth of each child. The family would avoid calling for a doctor from Warkworth unless absolutely necessary, as they charged 20 (the equivalent of maybe $1000 nowadays). The family lived a hard life working on the farm and providing for themselves. They grew most of their food themselves, buying only the essentials such as flour and sugar in bulk from the store in Puhoi.

      They grew all their own vegetables and fruit. They had "every fruit imaginable" - peaches, apples, nectarines, plums... At harvest time all the crop would be kicked and carefully stored to last as long as possible. Apples would be sliced and dried and stored in sacks (6 sacks the size of large pillows each season). The potatoes were laid out in single layers in a storage shed and the children would be sent in regularly to pick off and sprouts that grew from the potatoes. The potatoes lasted for ages, as did many of the other crops, as the family knew how to care for them.

      The children remembered their parents working long days. Their father was very strict and whipped the boys a lot whenever they didn't do what he asked of them. They very scared of him. Their mother (pictured right) worked hard but adored her children and doted on them particularly when they were sick. Tom was very attached to his mum and remembers when he was about 2 and very ill from Scarlet Fever (his hair went ghostly white!) she carried him around with her for three days. The children were concerned with how hard their mum worked because they loved her so much. They can't remember her every smacking them - presumably that was left to the father!

      The whole family used to go to church on Sundays. The boys hated it! Tom marvelled at how their mother managed to get all the kids cleaned and tidy for it in time! Their father insisted they went every Sunday, no matter what. If the children were sick they still had to go. They were punished if they resisted.

       The 4 boys slept in the upstairs loft. They didn't have many blankets (they were too expensive for the family to afford) so they made blankets out of flour bags etc, torn open and sown together. The roof was simply corrugated iron on a wooden frame - there was no insulation or lining. In summer it was sweltering hot, and in winter it got very cold and the underside of the iron roof would form condensation and would drip onto the children's beds! The boys had to jump out of bed before they were dripped on in the mornings! Their sisters slept in bunks in bedrooms on the main level. Theresa used to sleep walk as a child and would walk up the steep stairs to the boys room - it was a miracle that she never fell down!

      Joseph always set out the daily work for all the family. The boys all got up at 5am to milk the cows and tend to the other animals (even carting the cream 2kms down the road by horse and cart before breakfast). During the summer they'd milk all 25 cows, then during the winter they'd just milk a few in order to supply milk, cream and butter for themselves. The butter was stored in boxes with vents hanging from trees in the shade, and it lasted well there.

      The girls worked inside the house, cleaning, washing, preparing the meals and so on. Clothes were handmade and passed down through the children. Tom joked that when he got the hand-me-downs from Edward the shorts would hang down way below his knees. No-one cared whether the clothes fitted or not - they were just clothes to keep them warm etc.

      The children vividly remembered walking barefoot 3 kms every day to and from Upper Waiwera School - Tom estimated that it would have taken them half an hour. Katie's family believe this is why she developed such a fondness for shoes. The children used to trek across the rough country and through streams. Tom said his feet used to get red from the cold. Later he rode there my horse.

      Tom hated school and dropped out at 14 to work fulltime on the farm with two of his brothers, Ted and Christian. They used to collect mail from Waiwera with a horse and bush cart. The mail came to Waiwera by steamer to the Waiwera wharf (pictured). Carting was hard work as the roadways were pure clay/mud. There were large willow trees along the river in the valley of the Bayer homestead which caused flooding so they had to be removed. The land on the hills of the valley are quite unstable with slippage visible on both sides today.

      Joseph's brother Peter Bayer owned 32 bullocks for pulling logs out of the bush. The logs they pulled out were mostly Kauri (as they were worth the most) but there was also some Rimu and Kahikatea. The logs were very large (1m thick and very long) and could only be pulled out using the full team of bullocks all chained up together in twos and pulling together. Toms recalls the harnesses the bullocks wore being cruel on the animals. Each bullock had a name and its own pen. The logs were pulled down to the stream and into the river. The older boys would jump on the logs and guide them downstream to Waiwera where a barge was waiting to take the logs to Turners and Growers in Auckland. Back in 1925 at the beginning of winter (maybe May), when Tom was about 10 years old, there were big floods all over the district. Lots of logs got lost to sea. Joseph hired a launch to go out and retrieve them, they did manage to find some but many were lost. After the floods, many of the family's animals, who were determined to follow their usual paths that they took each day, got into trouble in the mud and got bogged, horses buried to their necks in the mud! The family only had ropes to pull them out - it was very hard work pulling the larger animals out, but they managed to do it. The district's bridges were wiped out by the floods and it took quite some time for them to be rebuilt, isolating the family for some time. Fortunately the Bayer homestead was situated high enough to escape the tide, but the water level came very close!

      Katie, Chrissy and Nora stayed and worked on the farm until they married. Mary left home when she was 16 (circa 1918).

      Teresa had left home circa 1923 when she was also 16 years old. She had her son James (Jimmy) Bayer in 1935 before marrying a few years later. Her husband (Lindsay Coles) was involved in a jellignite explosion while he was unemployed and assisting with tree felling work. Debris from the explosion hit him in the head and he lost one of his arms. After that he went to town and stayed with the Minoahs who became family friends. He became an alcoholic and got into a fight with another man at a pub a while later. The man hit him in the head, not particularly hard, but it was found that a blood clot in his brain from the earlier accident was dislodged by the blow and it killed him. Shortly after giving birth to their son Thomas in early 1940, Theresa had a mental breakdown and jumped out of the window at St Heliers nursing Home, killing herself. Her two orphaned boys were brought back to the Bayer homestead to live and be cared for by the rest of the Bayer family that were there at the time.

      Christian originally bought a Buick 8-seater which the family used. Tom remembers it using a lot of petrol. They had this car for quite a while until Tom wrote it off by accident when he lost control, tumbling the car down the hill (fortunately neither he nor his brothers, who were thrown from the vehicle, were seriously injured. Fortunately the car was insured. Tom then bought a Model A Ford from a store in Auckland for 90 pounds before the war.

      When Tom was 16/17 he started working on the Weranui Rd, Kaukapakapa farm. Tom remembers shearing 100 sheep in a day (on contract) with the old big shearing scissors for 2s. an hour. His back would seize up and he couldn't straighten up. His hand would swell up badly too. They would get 3p. a pound for the wool. Haymaking was also 2s. an hour, baling the hay up into tall secure stacks for the cattle to feed on over winter. Tom helped build the Weranui Rd house himself (View from Tom's home shown on right). He later inherited this property from his mother after her death). It cost him 1100 to build the house as it was costly to get the materials to the remote site. Tom worked for 3 years driving trucks. This property had originally been purchased by his father for 200. In those days the Government gave citizens 40 acres of uncleared land at the cost of 10s. an acre. Joseph would keep buying an additional 40 acres each year, so that by the end the family owned 800 acres!

      Ted and Tom were draughted into the army just after Christmas in 1939 when Tom was 24 and Ted 27 or 28. Tom was trained with the Army Territorials and was on Home Guard north of Kaitaia at Awanui. Mosquitos were rife there and caused the soldiers much grief, getting any skin that was not covered. They would try and kill them all before they went to bed, but could still hear them in the dark! In 1941 Tom spied a Japanese submarine surfacing out in the harbour! The army personnel all ran to high ground and trained their telescopes on the submarine, and watched it retreat back out to sea! Tom was in the army for 3.5 years until it was detected that he had a spine injury and was released from duty. He returned to the farm and continued to work (never claiming sickness benefit). Ted was shell shocked somehow while on duty (he never said what did it) and lay unconscious for three weeks. He never came right and kept saying he wanted to lay down and die. He managed to live to the ripe old age of 80!

      Christian moved from one home to another to make more money doing odd jobs. He was married at the time the war started and was therefore not draughted. He looked after the farm when Ted and Tom were away at camp. After Christian and his wife seperated, his son Donald Bayer (Don) who was 9 at the time they seperated, came with his father and grew up on the farm (while his brother Raymond stayed with their mother, although he spent a lot of time at the farm too). Don was treated more like a brother than a nephew by Christians siblings. He helped out his uncle Tom on the farm, whose good humour he remembers getting him into trouble one day. After they'd milked about 30 cows by hand it was Don's job to turn the seperator to get up to speed to stop the bell ringing, cream out one side and skim milk out the other for the pigs and calves. As Tom walked past to pour milk into the vat he would put his finger under the cream spout and lick it. Don asked him "What was that for?" to which Tom replied "It puts lead in your pencil" so young Don tried it. When he got to school he started to write quite vigorously with his pencil. They had a very attractive relieving teacher at the time, who asked Don why we was writing so hard. Don replied "Uncle Tom said if you lick the cream it will put lead in your pencil!". She gave Don the strap. Neil McCathy (who was a close neighbour of the family) said to him at playtime "He didn't mean that pencil!" but Don still didn't catch on!

      One of Tom's jobs on the family farm was the repair of the boundary fence between the McCathy's and the home farm. Tom rode his horse to work and after a week his father decided to inspect the progress that Tom was making on the fence. So he followed the horse's well-worn track and ended up at the McCathy house and there was Tom's horse. He knocked on the door and Mrs McCathy came out. "Is Tom here?" he asked. "Yes" she replied "He is playing cards with the girls". So Joseph said "That's OK, I'll speak to him tonight". When he returned home he said to Katherina "Tom hasn't done much work on the fence he has been spending most of his time at the McCathy's". Now Joseph was a little deaf, and he said "Mrs McCathy said he is playing with the girls and the other thing that concerns me is that the horse has been tied up for a long time and the horse manure is so high on one side of the fence that the horse can walk over and graze on the other side!".

      Tony took off from the family farm and bought his own farm to buy and sell cattle (His brother Christian soon joined him). Tony didn't really want to work as a farmer, he would have preferred to be a businessman. He kept talking about jumping off the wharf to kill himself. Tom went and had a look and told him "You'll have to wait till the tide comes back in!". On another occasion Tony threatened to shoot himself while holding an unloaded gun. Tom went and got some cartridges and gave them to him! At one stage Tony trained wild horses and even got them into showjumping events. He fell many times from the horses and ended up with many broken bones (including his shoulder) which did heal but caused him great problems in his later years.

      Alice came back to the farm with her 3 boys in the mid 1940's after her marriage collapsed. Many of the Bayer children's marriages disolved and over the years they returned to the farm with their children. The house was filled with many children and grandchildren who slept up in the large attic room of the house up the long flight of very steep stairs. Christmas Day was celebrated on the farm every year for many years with grandkids etc all coming up for the day.

      In their later years Joseph and Katherina retired to the bottom house next to the school, and Tom and Ted took over the farm. Joseph Bayer received 20 pounds a month pension money. Tom still has the solid old tin box that Joseph used to store his spare cash (Tom is shown here on the left with his niece Noleine holding the box). Joseph developed cancer and was nursed by his daughter Nora at Tom's Weranui Rd home before he died on 22 September 1949 aged 78. Katharina died 6 years before him on 27 July 1943 aged 64.

      In Joseph's will, Christian was left 150 acres. Ted and Tom got the rest including the Kaukapakapa property. The daughters were left nothing, as was the way in those days.


      The original Bayer homestead still stands proud today after a fantastic refurbishment by the new owners who bought the house around 1990. The separate room seen at the far left of the following pictures was a very small lounge room built later as an addition to the rest of the house, also built by Joseph's brother Fritz. The children watched him fall from the ladder one day and laughed at him - so he chased after them with a hammer! This room was reserved by Joseph and Catherine as a haven for themselves - the children were never allowed in! This room opened into the kitchen which looked out from the left side of the house. The stairs inside the house to the upstairs loft are extremely steep and made from solid kauri, as were the rest of the floors.
 


Above - Some of the Bayer family gather at Joseph and Catherine's homestead on Bayer Road in Upper Waiwera in April 1989, just before it was sold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above - Noleine and Tom standing outside the beautifully refurbished house in 2005.