Monday 27 August 2018

14 August to 20 August 1867

Looking north from below the Long Drive Claim, showing a miners camp at the mouth of the Kuranui Creek (centre), the path from Thames (Shortland) (left) along Kuranui Bay (left), the bluff leading up to Pukehinau Ridge (right), and Tararu Flat (left centre, distance). The Shotover  claim is approximately 150 metres to the right of the camp.

'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 589-317
Ears cropped and face smashed

Wednesday 14 August
4am The Enterprise comes into Kauaeranga and  gets stuck on a mudbank, but as the mud is very soft, no harm is done.   Passengers breakfast on slices of salt beef and glasses of beer before  wading and paddling across the mud flats into Shortland Town.

Thomas Grundy, who has come to the Thames this week, makes one of his first outings a visit to the Shotover claim, but the men there are making sure any person passing gives the workings a wide berth and they have to walk round the cliff at the back of the find.  William Hunt is walking backwards and forwards displaying a revolver.

A registration of absence is granted for the Shotover giving  the claim  protection of 14 days to give the party time to obtain tools and appliances from Auckland. 

Work again commences on the flat.  At an old hole sunk by Walter Williamson and Joseph Smallman two years ago a race has been constructed and the rubble sent up to the surface is put  through a sluice box.  Walter also works out a reef on the Waiotahi and marks their claims on it. 

On the Karaka Creek alluvial miners are hard at work.  At the lower end the British claim has sunk a shaft.  From there upwards the creek is occupied by sluicers, some taking their stuff from the surface, some from the bed of the creek itself.  

Above them is  a party  of Maoris, said to be getting 1 dwt to the load, and next to them is the ground worked some time since by the original government prospectors and also by the men on the ground two years ago.  

Further up is the claim Messers Spencer, Carver and Keetley.  They are not experienced miners yet judging  from their prospecting dish, which contains the results of some hours of labour -  specks of gold which can picked out on the point of a knife.  

The last party up the creek, numbering six, work in a much more competent manner than those below them. They have a very good sluice box, and are making tucker. 

The weather turns into a whole day of furious wind and rain.  Tents are blown down but none carried away.  The Maori meeting regarding the opening of more land for prospecting is again postponed.  The boisterous weather causes an almost total suspension of shipping.   

Shortland Town is going ahead with great rapidity and wooden buildings are now the order of the day today – while yesterday canvas was quite good enough.  Blasting powder, driving tools and licence fees are in demand.  

Loafers though are outnumbering workers.  Many who have come down cannot, or will not, dig.  They walk about in two’s or three’s, and often singly.   As they do not see gold flashed about in large quantities they declare with much indignation that they have been deceived, and are loud in their praises of their own capabilities and of what they have done.  One individual, dressed as a digger in a costume picturesque in the extreme, denounces the whole place, yet not half a mile from him other men are to be found quite satisfied.  This is essentially a diggings on which a hard working man out of employment elsewhere can obtain a livelihood.

But there is frustration and discontent brewing on the diggings.  A meeting is held to declare the field a duffer and not a payable goldfield.   The NZ Herald correspondent protests that for the first time in his life, after 15 years on goldfields, he is threatened with having his “ears cropped” or his “face smashed.”     The resolution is not passed – in fact, it was not really proposed, for no one would admit to  the field being a duffer  when it came to the pinch.  The meeting disperses and does not come to any conclusion. 

The NZ Herald correspondent writes “I do not think this meeting was fairly called and the person calling it ought to have come prepared to state why he had called it . . . My reply to the threat was a very plain one.  Any single man I will take my chance with.  If more than one – for they threatened to “double bank” me – why, then I shall try to put a hole in some of them that a tailor wont mend.” 

There is great pessimism because alluvial diggings have not been discovered.   The weather has been wet, usually wet even for the winter months.   There have never been more than 50 practical miners on the ground since the time it first opened.  Only one or two claims at most are being systematically worked upon.  Just getting to the goldfield is fraught.  Vessels leaving from the other colonies and provinces will need to come either direct to Auckland or to Manukau.  They will not go direct to the Thames for they would find themselves in almost as bad a plight with the nor-easter blowing as if they were on the Hokitika bar.  Large vessels cannot come within some distance of the Kauaeranga and if caught in the Firth by a north or north easterly wind will  be blown high and dry on the mud banks among which the channel winds.  

At Auckland the NZ Herald has received its correspondent’s report along with 3 ½ lbs of broken quartz from the Shotover.  The correspondent writes in a state of great uncertainty as to whether the quartz discovered is auriferous. The staff at the NZ Herald are doubtful - the gold has a very brassy appearance.  They decide to have it assayed by Mr Beck, jeweller, but before it gets to him several people ask for specimens and the sample is reduced to exactly 2 lbs.  Once assayed the result is a button of gold weighing 5dwts 10 grains.  The result is considered a fair average.  The button is on view at the Herald office today from 2pm to nearly 8pm and is seen by hundreds of people.  Mr Beck then takes it home for further testing.  He is of the opinion that it is 15 carat gold.

First case tried upon the goldfield 

Thursday 15 August - Early morning
 Honi Mahurangi has come from Kirikiri to gather fish at the Karaka Creek.  He hears a dog worrying a pig and with some friends heads towards the creek where they see two white men – one is holding a pig and the other is striking it with an axe.  Honi accosts the men at their tent and accuses them of stealing the pig and asks for £2 compensation. The men deny it touching the pig.  The pig belongs to Hamoana and Pateona and is a pregnant tame sow, one of the several domesticated pigs the Maori have running on the Karaka. Constable Bond of the Armed Police Force examines the tent of Young and Craig’s party and finds  a small axe hanging up with blood on it.

The matter is dealt with promptly at the Resident Magistrates Court whare before James Mackay, where David Young and Charles Craig are charged with stealing and taking away one sow pig, the property of the Maori.  There is a crowded attendance at this first case tried upon the goldfield.  There is some trouble and delay in finding an interpreter – many are unwilling to take any part in the affair of convicting a fellow digger. Eventually William Perrier is sworn as interpreter.

 Young and Craig are two respectable looking men and much anxiety is felt for their fate.  The pig is brought into court and examined by Honi who recognises it by the mark on its ears.  Miners testify for Young and Craig.  Peter Anderson had gone with Young that morning for firewood between 7 and 8am.  Young had not gone out before then and he saw no axe with him when he did go out.  He saw no Maoris either as he came and went with firewood.  After breakfast he saw the Maoris come to the tent and accuse Craig of killing the pig.  He was not with Young the whole time.  

William Bendel is a carpenter, working on the same claim as Young and Craig.  He did not see either of them take an axe out that morning.  Young brought back some dry firewood when he returned after about 20 minutes.   He said he had used the axe to chop up some meat.   Court is adjourned.

Several specimens of quartz obtained from the Kuranui Reef are left at the Daily Southern Cross office in Auckland.  They are examined with great interest by a considerable number of people.   The samples are from the claim of Matthew Barry, who has pegged out next to the Shotover.  Barry is well satisfied with the appearance of the ground he has chosen.  Some of the specimen’s he brings up have been tested by fire at Karaka, while others are as taken from the reef.

The Daily Southern Cross office, Auckland
Sir George Grey Special Collections 4-351 

Severn for the Thames 1 case brandy, 400ft timber, 20 passengers

Sydney for the Thames cargo and passengers

Pet for the Thames cargo and 12 passengers

Spey for the Thames cargo and 14 passengers

A small boat, belonging to Mr Rawdon, leaves Freeman’s Bay, Auckland, with stores, tools and passengers.

Charles Mitchell starts a business of a general store at the port of entry at Shortland Town.  He notifies that any letters addressed to parties on the diggings, entrusted to him, will be carefully delivered.  This is a great advantage to the diggers until a regular post office is established.

Young and Craig are sentenced to one month’s imprisonment each with hard labour.  Opinion is divided – some feel great sympathy for the men, but others feel they have been very properly sentenced - no man could have mistaken the tame pig for a wild one.   There should be no sympathy for such men.  There is an element of rowdyism on the goldfield. Maoris and chiefs walking up to miners and making civil inquiries have been met with curses and abuse.  The Maori bitterly complain of such treatment, received upon their own land.  The perpetrators are thought, however, to not be actual miners, but the loafers who follow the miners.

The pig stealing case has occupied the whole day and postpones again the anxiously awaited  Maori meeting regarding the opening of more land for prospecting.

NZH 16 August 1867

Friday 16 August
The Enterprise arrives in Auckland bringing John White of the Shotover and more samples from the Kuranui Reef. There is between 8lb and 9lb of the quartz, nearly 6lb of which is left on exhibit at the NZ Herald office. It is even richer in gold than the 2lbs smelted by Mr Beck from the same reef on Wednesday. The news is received with intense satisfaction.

The Shotover has been visited by nearly every miner on the ground over the last few days and the party are generous with letting the men take away samples. Their land has to be cleared of heavy bush and timber, work which has been delayed by the weather. In order to tunnel into the body of stone, they decide to divert the stream from its present course. 

The Maori meeting is finally held at Shortland - representatives from the Ngatitematera, Ngatiwhanaunga, Ngatimaru and Ngatinanuau tribes are  present.  The first two named tribes are unanimous in permitting their land to be worked for gold.  The others are divided. 

Te Moananui opens the runanga in a very forcible style stating the advantages the Maori would derive from the presence of the European’s amongst them.  Riwai rebutts – gesticulating and urging the wrongs which would ensue on the introduction of the pakeha.  

 Mr Mackay rises and speaks to Riwai. After some sparring between them, Riwai gives in to Mr Mackay. The subject of the discussion does not refer directly to the Waiotahi Creek, but to the Thames district in general.  Karauria Whakairi speaks next to the effect that he is willing to receive Europeans on the Wai-whakak-urunga, a river draining about 40 miles of country, extending nearly over to the East Coast.  Later in the day, Hikutaia is acceded.  This stream enters the Thames River about 20 miles distant from Kauaeranga.  In one day’s discussion with the Maoris Mr MacKay acquires much more than was expected.  The meeting is to resume next week.

Mr Stevenson, from  Riverhead, has been at the Thames for a few days, taking stock of the prospects of the goldfield.  He has been deputed by the gum diggers to report the actual state of the field.  His experience of other goldfields is extensive, but the peculiar formations at the Thames are a puzzle to him.

A cattle dealer is anxious to introduce some milch cows on the diggings. Butchers or dairymen are advised to consult Commissioner Mackay before doing so.  The Maori are not likely to allow their land to be depasturisied without receiving compensation.  Most of the grass land at the Thames is over-run with a weed which is obnoxious.  

Storekeepers are laying in stores at Shortland and miner’s are purchasing at Auckland prices.

During the last week an addition of about 60 men has been made to the population, which now numbers close to 300.

Enterprise for the Thames general cargo and 20 passengers

Severn for the Thames cargo and passengers

Alabama for the Thames stores and passengers

Fly for the Thames 1 pkg blacksmiths tools, 1 forge, 11 passengers

Diamond for the Thames 1 ¼ cask brandy, 1 bale, 4 cwt coal, 3 passengers

Ariel for the Thames sundry goods and 15 passengers

The farce-like Thames Goldfield

Saturday 17 August
‘Reef Fever’ has infected the Thames, the Kuranui Reef being the great attraction, but until the proper appliances to work them are brought from Auckland nothing much can be done.  Several men have traveled to Auckland, many of them returning with quartz reefing tools.  

The unusually wet and tempestuous weather that has been experienced since the opening of the gold field has put systematic prospecting out of the question.  Those who have seen the Karaka goldfield and are familiar with mining in California are of the opinion that a very similar system of mining must be adopted here.

At Auckland hundreds of people visit the NZ Herald office to inspect the half dozen pounds of quartz brought up from the Kuranui Reef by John White of the Shotover.  The goldfields are the only topic of conversation.

Oliver and Yorkey, from the West Coast have had enough. They have been very much amused at the farce-like Thames goldfield. In Auckland shop windows they have seen all kinds of tools chalked upon as being wanted at the diggings. Upon tin dishes could be seen written ‘3dwt to the dish,’ and upon shovels the same. There was a 'Notice to diggers, a first-class cradle for 30s, and a lesson how to use it.'  In a jeweler’s window they saw a piece of the Shotover quartz exhibited in a glass tumbler, covered with water to make it shine. They don’t know if it is gold, silver, or mundic, but a small portion was assayed and suggests that it is about 15 carat gold. Above the glass that contains the specimen is a card marked ‘285 ounces to the ton’ and ‘Gold bought here.’ They estimate there are about 300 men on the ground, with businessmen aplenty - about ten to one digger. When the steamer arrives in Auckland it brings 18 passengers from the diggings including two diggers from the Blue Spur, near Hokitika. Yorkey knows them well, and they assure Oliver and Yorkey there has never been an ounce of gold found on the Thames goldfield.

Another disgruntled West Coast miner is T Foxcroft from Greymouth.  What little prospects have been got are not of an alluvial character at all, but a light reefy nature. The ground proclaimed a goldfield is only about two miles long, and then it is another two miles to the source of the creek which is the boundary line, beyond which no one is allowed to prospect under a penalty of £5 or £10. When he and his party attempted to prospect in the forbidden Waiotahi creek about 150 Maori came down and ordered them off.  

NZH 17 August 1867

Sunday 18 August
At daybreak the steam whistle of the Enterprise shrills as she enters the river bringing with her the Deputy Superintendent Dr Pollen and a good number of visitors.  The passengers are landed without delay, Dr Pollen proceeds with Chief Taipari to the whare of Mr Mackay, the other passengers distribute themselves amongst their friends. 

 After breakfast  a general movement is made for Kuranui Reef where the Shotover party receive the visitors and hand out sample.   There is speculation as to what the visitors think – to those unacquainted with gold mining there is a general feeling of disappointment on first visiting a goldfield.  The newcomer thinks that he should find gold at once; but when he finds that the work is hard and continuous he thinks twice before approving of it – and a great many think more than twice before going to work.  The visitors today are satisfied but wet weather, living under canvas and walking over ranges is a very different thing to looking at one’s bank account after the gold has been made. 

The Enterprise is to be regularly run on the Auckland - Thames line.   Her light draught of water renders her the best on the coast for this trade.

Captain Burgess, the postmaster and chief pilot are buoying the entrance and channel of the Kauaeranga River. Three buoys have been fixed and Dr Pollen authorises the putting down of larger stakes than those put down by Mr Mackay.  The channel is now practicable for all vessels drawing up to nine feet at any time of flood tide, day or night.  Shortland Town is now a port of entry and Mr Wallace is appointed tide waiter for this port.  All bonded goods not cleared for this place will be seized.  Persons are not allowed to land any goods at Point Tararu.

The sluice boxes on the flat area are of course silent, it being Sunday.

Monday 19 August 
1am  Several men leave Shortland in the early hours for a new reef in which has been discovered.  The highly auriferous reef has been found by Lawrence (Laurence) Murphy, an old quartz miner from Coromandel, who is regarded as knowing what he is about.   The reef is on his claim on the Hape.  The reef is nothing like the Shotover, the quartz being of a more solid character with gold visible in it.  

The Kuranui stone, 5 ½ lb in weight, is handed over today to Mr Beck, jeweller, of Queen Street.  It is pounded up and the gold extracted by means of quicksilver.  The result is a bar of gold weighing 3 oz.  He exhibits it in his window. The yield is something astounding. These pieces were not picked, but taken from the leader just as they came.   Mr Beck is widely praised – the quantity crushed was no slight undertaking - the work of amalgamation being performed in an ordinary pestle and mortar.  

There is something of a rush from Auckland to the Thames – a large number of people go down to the goldfields today.

Cornstalk, Blue Bell, Sydney and Harvest Home for the Thames.

Severn for the Thames with stores and 35 passengers.

Avon for the Thames with stores and 20 passengers

Enterprise for the Thames with stores and 60 passengers

Ann for the Thames with sundries and 18 passengers

Bessy for the Thames with 4,000ft timber, 4,000 bricks, 20 bags lime, 1 baking stove, 10 passengers.

At the British claim, on the flat at the mouth of the Karaka, the men have sunk a shaft to a depth of 32 feet and are contending with very heavy boulders.  The men are determined to bottom the shaft and send up to Auckland a sample that they hope will convince the people of Auckland that they are not being overly optimistic.

Walter Deans of the British claim writes to Mr Sceats of the British Hotel  in Auckland -– “Dear Sceats – we feel extremely obliged to you for sending us the tent.  Fletcher and Sutton are in town, but coming back tomorrow.  Have gone to obtain proper tools for sluicing.  We have got our sluice boxes in only yesterday.  We are only 32ft deep.  I will send you some specimens as soon as we begin to sluice.  At present the weather is so bad that nothing can be done.  As soon as the hole is bailed out the surface water fills it up again; that is the reason no gold can be got, as no person can work,  The Auckland public don’t take this into consideration but expect to get it wet or dry.  I will write and let you know as soon as we get bottom, and if right, you shall have a bottle of champagne at my expense. – Walter Deans.”

NZH 20 August 1867

                           Riwai fights to the last

Tuesday 20 August
The Maori meeting  resumes and it is evident to all that the Ngatimaru have decided to give  way to the Commissioner.  Riwai, though, fights to the last urging the Upper Thames Maori  to retain their hereditary rights to the soil.  Traditional songs are chanted, in memory of old times, and all the lore of tribal prestige is brought to bear on the question of keeping the land from the advance of the Europeans.  As a last effort Riwai speaks to the effect of having Kauaeranga made the southern boundary arguing that if the European went further up the Thames, the Hauhaus would stop them and blood might be shed.  Mr Mackay rises and addresses Riwai individually stating that the protection from the Europeans from the Hauhaus has been guaranteed as far as the Hikutaia River by Karaitiana.  Should the pakeha go beyond the line there was a law which Commissioner Mackay could enforce.  

Commissioner MacKay proposes that five representatives from the different tribes should meet with him when he returns from Auckland, to settle the boundary.  Any Maori holding a small section of land who are adverse to Europeans going on it for gold will be protected, also cultivation areas will be guaranteed to the Maori.

A great rush to Murphy’s claim has left Shortland Town almost deserted.  The ground is pegged out left and right. Reports are that it is richer and more extensive than the Shotover. There can be no obstruction to work as it is situated on Taipari’s land and close to the Hape Creek.

There is nothing being done on the Kuranui beyond clearing the bush.

6.30pm Among the passengers arriving in Auckland on the Enterprise are Mr Mackay whose official duties have called him back, and Mr Mulligan who has come to town to purchase timber for the erection of a hotel at Shortland Town.  Also arriving is an irritable William Hunt who intends making a statement to the Daily Southern Cross regarding the discovery of the Shotover.   A recent report in the NZ Herald stated that John White led the party up the creek and discovered the reef.  He did not, harrumphs Mr Hunt, John White was in bed at the time, sick.* Hunt acknowledges Clarkson found the first payable prospect in the bottom of the creek, but puts himself in charge of the pick, which on the second drive into the reef, brought out gold.  “This, we are assured, is the truth regarding the discovery of the Kuranui reef, and from our knowledge of Mr Hunt; we do not question his statement in the least,” the Daily Southern Cross decides.  Others are not so sure.  William Hunt has a reputation for deception.

*John White may have had injured arm but doesn’t seem to have been bedridden!

Papers Past

© Meghan Hawkes / First year on the Thames Goldfield 2017

Please credit Meghan Hawkes/ First year on the Thames Goldfield 2017 when re-using information from this blog.

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