River trade made the Mangawhai district important to the north significant cargo of kauri gum and logs left for Auckland from this estuary. Shipbuilding began in the 1830s and continued until the 1900s. Other industries of various kinds then developed to support gum diggers, loggers and later, farmers.
The river was a busy highway until the rail reached nearby Kaiwaka around 1913. This collection comprises artefacts gifted from the folk who lived locally during these times. Items from Maori settlement also feature.