Page 1: Biography
Goldminer, farmer, surveyor, market gardener
This biography, written by Florinda Lambert, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Frederick Earp was born on 27 October 1841 at Kidderminster, Worcestershire, England, the youngest child of Edward Earp, a labourer, and his wife, Mary Kirby. Fred's parents died when he was young, and he was brought up by his sister, Matilda Jane. At the age of nine Fred Earp left school to work, eventually being employed as a whitesmith at Kidderminster smelting works. In 1862 he emigrated to South Africa where for several years he was employed in various occupations in British Kaffraria.
Arriving in New Zealand in 1864 Earp spent a brief period on the Otago goldfields. Then, enlisting in Captain Edward Carthew's Taranaki Militia, he carried out blockhouse duties during the war in Taranaki. Later as a military settler he was granted a section of land in the Okato district in north Taranaki.
In 1872 Earp purchased a section of bushland, Punga, on the Egmont Road, Hillsborough, which he proceeded to clear and cultivate, later extending the area to 222 acres. In 1877 he leased the farm out for the next 14 years and worked for the government as an assistant surveyor and works' overseer. He was involved in the formation of the Mountain Road, and the building of the railway line from Sentry Hill to Stratford. He also helped instruct the Moa block 'new-chum' immigrants in the construction of ponga whare and in bushfelling when the site for Inglewood was cleared in 1874–75. Earp was for a short time foreman of the Stratford–Inglewood district of Taranaki county and for six months in 1875 was postmaster at Inglewood before the establishment of the town's first post office. Because of his involvement in the formation of that township he has been referred to as the 'Father of Inglewood'.
In 1881 Fred Earp purchased land at Waitara on which he established a successful market garden. However, he returned to his Egmont Road property in 1886. On 14 January 1889 at Inglewood he married Mary Ann Willing, a daughter of William Willing, a neighbour on Egmont Road. There were four daughters of the marriage: Alice, Kathleen, Ella and Ivy.
Although Earp had very little education, he corresponded throughout his years in Taranaki with his sister, Jane, in Kidderminster. In the course of this time he improved his spelling, grammar and powers of description to such an extent that his letters describing pioneer farm life with its many trials and pleasures make enjoyable reading. One letter tells of the great bushfire of 1890, when Fred and Mary saved their house from the engulfing flames with five buckets of water and the milk in the dairy; prepared, in the event of final disaster, to snatch the baby and crouch in the middle of a ploughed field until the fire had passed.
Fred Earp died on 8 August 1928 while at Auckland, about two years after he had retired from the Egmont Road farm. He was buried at Te Henui cemetery, New Plymouth. His wife, Mary, died at Waitara on 27 June 1950 and is also buried in the double plot at Te Henui.
Fred Earp was a slender man of medium height, with brown eyes, a moustache and a neatly trimmed beard. He suffered periods of ill health throughout his life having been stricken with malaria in South Africa, and was never without a bottle of quinine beside his bed. A quiet, unassuming person he was regarded locally as an outstanding pioneer settler. Not only did he assist in laying the foundations of Inglewood but he was always prepared to work for the betterment of the community.
On 26 September 1989 Earp's daughter, Ella Hinz, presented a framed portrait of her father to the Inglewood District Council. It was hung in the boardroom.