8Elizabeth Rhodes was one of the first European women to settle in South Canterbury. In 1954 she rode down as part of a group that included her husband, George Rhodes. It took seven days, through trackless tussock and across unbridged rivers. A courageous journey for a young, newly married English girl and an adventure, to ride along a route that no European woman had travelled before.
George and Elizabeth moved into a small cottage that sat on Timaru’s shoreline, nowadays the site of our Landing Service Building. After a short time here they moved to The Levels Station where they spent many happy years raising their family and living a pioneering life in a fairly basic slab hut.
George died in 1864 at the young age of 47. The Levels was sold but, determined not to leave the region she had such happy memories of, Elizabeth purchased Linwood House which stood behind the present Council chambers.
In 1867 Elizabeth married Arthur Perry, a charming young barrister from Tasmania who had commenced a law practice in Timaru. They remained at Linwood until 1873 when they purchased Beverley from Henry Le Cren. A large house on 8 hectares of land at the junction of Wai-iti Rd and the Great North Road, now Highway 1. It was to become a garden of note in the district.
There were no plant nurseries to purchase trees from in those days, the early settlers bought seed with them from England and Elizabeth was no exception. She sowed many seeds over the years and one of her great pleasures was to see the trees they grew into.
She decided to move one of these trees, a young Wellingtonia Gigantica she had nurtured from seed that her first husband, George Rhodes, had given her some years before. Her brother in law, Major Wright, laughed in a friendly way, at her plan to move the tree from Linwood to Beverley and said “That tree is far too big to be moved, Lizzie, I will bet you a case of champagne that is does not grow”
The young tree arrived at Beverly in a wheelbarrow, I don’t think history records who pushed the barrow but the tree grew and continues to do so today. Wright lost the champagne, Elizabeth won her bet and we have our Timaru Christmas tree.
Almost all the other trees and shrubs from Beverley have long gone and this remains one of our oldest and tallest trees at more than 34 metres high, it’s has lost its top, gained a star and is well cared for these days by the current property owners here in Timaru.
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