The first wheeled vehicle to traverse the Rimutaka Ranges from Wellington to the Wairarapa was a wheelbarrow pushed by Samuel Oates some three months before the track was opened to carts in June 1856, ‘twenty miles of the distance being then unmade road, and six miles of it a difficult and dangerous steep mountain path, suitable only for pack bullocks’. Amongst his load of goods he was taking to his new farm at Parkvale near Carterton, was a dozen gum tree seedlings to be planted on C.R Carter’s adjacent land. Whilst Samuel and his companion, known only as Fairweather, were resting at the Rising Sun Hotel in Greytown, three of the seedlings were removed from the wheelbarrow. Samuel continued on his way arriving at Parkvale at the end of a 62-mile journey. Having planted the gum trees as instructed, discovering that three were missing, he set about building a farm and home for his family who landed in Wellington in December 1856.
Samuel Oates died in August 1892, at Alfredton, and was buried next to his wife Jane in the family cemetery overlooking the old Peach Grove homestead.
As for the gum trees, those that Samuel planted on Carter’s land were cut down when Carter’s Line was widened. The three missing trees eventually came to light planted around Greytown. The largest on West Street was cut down in February 1939, the smallest on East Street in the 1960’s. Meanwhile, the sole survivor of that epic journey, planted at St.Luke’s Anglican Church, continues to flourish.