Joe Gibbs 1879-1969: Field Hut’s builder
Joe Gibbs was born near Murchison on the Buller River. Growing up in this isolated area, he learnt to be an expert bushman in its remote valleys. A horseman and accurate shot, he served in the Boer war. In 1908 he went to the western US and Canada, worked as a sawyer-axeman on the great Californian redwoods, panned gold and worked silver mines.
Back in New Zealand, he handled packhorses and sheep on Molesworth, then worked on the Wellington wharves. He joined the Tararua Tramping Club in 1921, leading a number of packhorse trips to new territory.
Never at home in the city, the Tararua Ranges became Joe’s patch. In 1923 he cut the first Marchant Track, and in 1928, cleared the route from the Tauherenikau to Totara Flats.
But it was in hut building that he made his biggest mark. He helped extend the first Alpha Hut (1923), then built Field Hut (which recently celebrated its 80th) for the Tararua Tramping Club (1924), pit sawing the framing timber onsite. Then came the first Kime Hut (1930), and the first Tauherenikau Hut, where he often stayed. He was the Club’s most experienced bushman, and also a great deerstalker. For these services he was made a Club life member in 1944.