When the Small Farms Association settlement of Masterton was established in 1854, members were each apportioned a 40-acre rural block (about 16 hectares) and a one-acre (0.4 hectare) section in the village settlement.

One of the first settling families was that of Charles and Mary Dixon. Although the parents were not among the first settling party in May 1854 -- Mary was about to give birth in Wellington -- their son David brought cattle up for them in the party.

The opening of Settlers Reserve in Masterton in 1996, with Masterton mayor Bob Francis addressing a gathering of the Dixon family plus members of the Founders Society. PHOTO/FILE
The opening of Settlers Reserve in Masterton in 1996, with Masterton mayor Bob Francis addressing a gathering of the Dixon family plus members of the Founders Society. PHOTO/FILE

The Dixons named their farm "Worksop Farm", after their home village back in Nottinghamshire. When Mary and Charles died, their land was subdivided and many of the streets took names from association with the family -- Dixon, Worksop, Kirton and Hessey, among others.

The Dixon children married into many other Methodist families in Masterton -- the Williams, Jones and Perry families for example. Sarah Dixon married Masterton butcher and farmer Walter Perry, and one of their grandchildren, Alma Perry, sold the section on the corner of Worksop Rd and Dixon St to the Masterton Borough Council in 1954.

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The Dixon family and the local branch of the New Zealand Founders Society combined with the council to rejuvenate the land in 1996, following a Dixon family reunion. The reserve was replanted, seats were added and period lighting was installed.

Because the land was near to the site where the first settling party arrived in May 1854, it was decided to called the small park "Settlers Reserve".