Among the early settlers was Baker Polhill, who arrived in 1841 as a paying passenger on the Oriental, bound for New Plymouth. When the ship stopped off at Port Nicholson, several of the passengers decided to disembark - including Baker Polhill and a large family of assisted migrants.
Polhill promptly married one of this family, Jane Watts, and set about establishing a business in Wordsworth Street (now lower Aro Street). From there he offered “fire-wood, any quantity—from ten to five hundred loads; also spars, poles, rafters and knees for ship-building”.1
There is no evidence that Polhill owned the land from which he harvested all this timber, but even so, the area became known as “Polhill’s Gully” (or Polhill Gully). This name seems to have included the hills and valleys of present-day Epuni Street, Adams Terrace, Norway Street and Holloway Road. Polhill himself moved to Lyttelton with his family in 1849.
At about the same time, colonist Henry Mitchell bought two large blocks of land on the western side of Polhill’s Gully, harvesting the trees and running sheep and cattle on the cleared land. But the timber was running out and in 1860 a huge bush fire that swept across from Rata Valley (between Appleton Park and Wilton) destroyed the last remnants of the original forests.
The Wellington City Corporation acquired some of Mitchell’s land in 1872 to build a “distributing basin” for the first municipal water supply. After unsuccessfully attempting to sell off the rest of his farm, Mitchell subdivided it into small housing sections, and in 1877 named the working-class suburb "Mitchelltown".2