Annie and Henry Chaffey – pictured here in 1945 – lived in huts around the upper Tākaka River valley from 1913, and after some years of moving about settled into Asbestos Cottage, which had been built in the 1890s by prospectors looking for asbestos. The pair lived a reclusive life. Henry was a prospector, and wrote letters trying to get the nearby asbestos deposits mined. They were worked on a small scale in the 1940s and 1950s, but were too low-grade and the country too rugged to make the cost of mining worthwhile. In 1951 Henry died in the snow with his boots on, aged 83, humping in supplies. In her grief, Annie tried to burn the down cottage herself included. Made to live with relatives in Timaru, she became deeply unhappy and after a couple of years took an overdose of sleeping pills.
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Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.