Sunday 26 August 2018

21 August to 27 August 1867

A damper upon the diggings

Wednesday, 21 August
It is becoming clear that the Thames goldfield may not be alluvial and the majority of miners now on the field are prospecting on the ranges for auriferous quartz reefs every piece of stone cropping out of the surface is chipped and in more than one instance gold is seen.

 The government prospectors have practically abandoned their sluicing claim, over which a race was cut and where they were stripping the banks, leaving it to some friends. 

Along the whole line of the Karaka Creek there is only one claim – the British – really at work, and as they have no night shift, they lose a couple of hours of the best of the day each morning in bailing out the accumulation of water during the night. In other claims there is some 20 to 25 feet of water.  This is almost entirely owing to the men going after every new rush and being constantly in the township looking for news.

There are various rumours afloat of well-defined reefs having been discovered in equal richness to the Shotover.   Samples of quartz are shown in town different from that already known to exist, but as they have been taken out of the locality to the north of the present boundary they are be kept secret until Mr MacKay declares the extension of the line drawn around the Karaka goldfield.

 Quartz reefing is not able to be done to any great extent without machinery.  There are now about 400 men on the diggings, of which about 50 are experienced miners.

Shortland Town is advancing, almost every trade is represented, and two substantial buildings are on the ground to  which publican’s licenses will be given.  There is also a restaurant close to the landing place.  Stores are plentiful; and were there a little more money about, and more work done on the creeks, there would be no grumbling.

The Enterprise and the Clyde for the Thames with full cargoes of sawn timber, tools and stores and about 70 passengers.

Kasper for the Thames with sundry merchandise and several passengers.

Grey River Argus, 22 August 1867

Whares on fire

Thursday, 22 August
The Enterprise, which arrived late last night, steams for Auckland this morning but touches the sandflat at the south side of the river and is stuck fast.

The Maori village at Kauaeranga is fast disappearing as the town advances.  Whares are set on fire.  Every allotment in the township is now secured and this morning Dudley Eyre, the government surveyor, extends a street across the Hape Creek towards the Mission House.  Allotments have been in great demand since the discovery of Murphy’s reef.

“Talk of going home to learn the news!” writes the NZ Herald correspondent from Shortland Town after reading rival papers.  ”Why you quite startle us here with the news you are sending down of wonderful reefs and great discoveries . . .”

Severn for the Thames – 20 passengers, Forth – 5 passengers, Diamond – 18 passengers, Helen – 18 passengers, Cornstalk – 9 passengers, Rangatira - 15 passengers, Avon – 10 passengers.

Around noon the fine morning gives way to torrents of rain, again.

This evening the Enterprise gets free of the sand flat.

7pm  At the Maori hostelry in Mechanics Bay, Auckland, a young  chief Wi (William) Paka, grandson of Taraia, dies. William is much respected by both European and Maori. He possessed much intelligence and sense and his death is a serious loss to the district.  His influence and good counsel have kept in check many of the violent and badly disposed Maori.   He has been suffering for several days from severe constant bleeding of the nose and succumbs to exhaustion caused by loss of blood. His remains are placed in a coffin and are taken to the cutter Cornstalk for return to the Thames.

Looking east from Constitution Hill across Mechanics Bay, showing the Maori Hostelry (right foreground), Stanley Street (centre to right), Swan Hotel (centre), The Strand (Gittos Street, now Parnell Rise), and Parnell Road (left to right background)
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 3-Album-45-6' 

DSC 23 August 1867

Friday, 23 August
Commissioner Mackay, accompanied by Te Moananui, Kitahi and other Maori, goes to  the northern boundary of the land granted to the European’s for the purpose of prospecting for gold.  Starting from the Hape Creek along the shore of the gulf, the first block of land through which the Waiotahi runs is left to be disposed of when Mr Mackay returns. Another small lot to the north of Kuranui is also reserved.  These two pieces of land will be given over in a few days.  Further up the coast about 160 acres are reserved for Maori cultivation.  From Tararu to Point extending four miles along the shore is not disputed.  Between Apiki and the Otahe stream, two miles in advance, the Maori have some discussion which ends in Mr MacKay stating that he will demand his right to this part of the country.  From Otake to the Puru the land is open -  it has been tapu.  The southern boundary will be proclaimed in a few days.

Dissatisfaction and uneasiness over the goldfield simmers.  A group of some 50 men talk among themselves tonight and it is proposed to call a proper meeting of diggers to address the subject of the Kauaeranga district not being payable.

Forth for the Thames – 10 gallons rum, 5 gallons whiskey, 2 cases gin, 2 cases wine, 10 casks beer, 3 dozen cordials, ½ ton hay, 2 bars iron, 2,000 ft timber, 20 pkgs stores. Severn for the Thames – 100 ft timber, 20 passengers. Rangatira – 2,000 bricks, 1 ton flour, 3 bags potatoes, 5 gallons yeast, 5 passengers.

A false impression has gone abroad

Saturday, 24 August
 A number of men assemble having heard that Samuel Alexander is to address them on the subject of the field being a duffer.  Certain names connected with the earlier prospecting party are mentioned as having induced the men to come to the Thames by exaggeration.  The audience listens to Mr Alexander, but his claims are rejected by Mr Mitchell.   There is a danger of men forming the wrong opinion of the place and going away without giving it a fair trial.  Mr Alexander is very argumentative and later in the day denies all participation in the meeting although he was the principal speaker.   A false impression seems to have gone abroad that someone or other means to put a damper upon the Thames diggings for a sinister purpose.

The Grey River Argus strikes out at a section of the Auckland press for attempting to get up a rush to the ‘alleged’ new goldfield at the Thames.  It points to the history of the Coromandel diggings –  a tremendous hubbub was made in Auckland about the Coromandel diggings, which were then rushed for a second time.  Hundreds of deluded men left Otago and elsewhere on the strength of the accounts published in Auckland papers.  Companies were formed and a large amount of capital invested in them, a township was sold at fabulous prices and what was the result?  No payable goldfield could be established, the miners left, the companies nearly all of them collapsed most disastrously, and all that remains is a score or two of wages men, working for the only company that managed to keep afloat.  “We can understand the anxiety of the papers to induce a revival of the commercial prosperity of Auckland but we protest most emphatically against the attempts that are being made to victimise unsuspecting diggers.”

Daniel Tookey discovers a quartz leader,  containing gold of a brighter colour than that in the Shotover stone,  on his claim at the foot of the Moanataiari reef.   It is to the left or northern side of the Moanataiari Creek and may possibly be a continuation of the Kuranui Reef.  

The Enterprise steams in this evening, straight onto a mud flat where she remains stuck.  The light which should be displayed on the outer buoy has not been placed there. 

Sunday, August 25
Passengers from the Enterprise scramble up to their waists in water to get ashore. There is great annoyance that these misadventures occur so often.    Often the method of landing is ship’s boats which also get stuck in the mud; passengers having to get out and push.  The process of landing can sometimes take an hour.  On getting ashore at the mouth of the Kauaeranga creek mud and slush up to the ankles has to be negotiated.

NZH 26 August 1867

DSC 26 August 1867

North towards Coromandel is thrown open

Monday, 26 August
A very large extent of the country is thrown open to the miners.  The whole country north towards Coromandel is open, but until Thursday is not actually in possession of the miners.  A good number of men leave the Thames to prospect there. 

The available land is intersected by numerous streams which are similar to the Karaka, having reef gold distribution through the banks.  They do not run so precipitous as the Karaka, and for a considerable distance inland the banks are level.  There is a landing place at the Puru for boats drawing three feet of water but only at high tide.  Until the passage is known, intending prospectors for the new ground are advised to land at Kauaeranga.   The streams are fordable and the points at high water are avoided by Maori tracks a short way inland.  All along the coast there are many places met with geological interest.  There is a tapu which must not be infringed on.

The Shortland Hotel, kept by Captain Butt opens today.   It is a very excellent weatherboard building situated upon the corner of the main street, and was originally intended as a house for  Chief  Taipari (Willoughby Shortland),   hence the name of the hotel.  It will afford comfortable quarters to visitors from Auckland.  Outside the hotel is a ‘lamp post’ - a colossal Maori image taken from an old fighting pa.    

Two more licences are applied for – one for Diggers Rest Hotel to be kept by Mr Mulligan, who has a number of carpenters building a commodious house,   and the other by William Nicholls who has converted his store close to the landing place  into the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel.

Sydney for the Thames with stores and 10 passengers.

Buildings are going up every day and the sound of hammering is heard until a late hour in the night.  The sounds of blacksmiths tools and anvils ring out across the settlement.

The Clyde brings nine passengers back to Auckland  most of whom state that they have returned because they see no prospect of doing well at the Thames.  The men are not of the 'loafing' class and have returned disappointed.

Men are now cautioned against leaving constant or partial employment for the Thames.  There have been specimens enough seen from there but in reality little or no gold has been seen.  None of the holes have been bottomed.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of alluvial digging in the vicinity.  The Shotover party discovered very rich quartz leaders but nothing has been done towards working the claim. 

 There is a scarcity of the genuine miner at the Thames.  As yet, there are still not more than 50 experienced miners on the ground.   Amateur miners consist of lawyers, surveyors, navy and army officers and bank and warehouse employees excitedly  washing dirt in tin dishes.

The NZ Herald is shown some very fine views of the Thames goldfield, photographed by Mr R H Bartlett, who has been at the diggings for some weeks.  They comprise views of the Shotover reef, Karaka Flat, the Kauaeranga township and several of the claims.  The photos are very beautifully executed; the groups of men engaged in mining, sluicing etc are very distinctly brought out.  The views are exhibited in Mr Bartlett’s establishment today.
  Bottoming the British

Tuesday 27 August
Joe Smallman and Walter Deans have been bailing the shaft of the British Claim all night long and just as the day shift of Abel Fletcher, Sutton and others come on a boulder falls from the side and it begins to cave in.  The rattled men make a careful examination.  The shaft is down 37ft but unless it can be slabbed (timbered) it is impossible to work it any further.  Some of the men head into Shortland Town to get assistance, but are unsuccessful.  On their return they toss the stuff back down the shaft in despair.   But some traders in the township put their heads together as to what is to be done and decide to call a public meeting this evening at the new Shortland Hotel.

The quartz from Tookey’s claim on the Moanataiari is inspected by men in Shortland Town - gold is studded through it and it looks promising, but there are many new arrivals dissatisfied with the country.  These grumblers are looked upon with disdain - they have not gone to work in the way that will produce wages.  A tin dish cannot test what the ground is made of.

Bessy for the Thames with 2,000ft timber, 13 passengers. Severn for the Thames with timber, sundries, 20 passengers.

This evening the crier is sent round with the bell of the People’s Butcher summoning all and sundry to the public meeting at the Shortland Hotel.

8pm There is a very crowded attendance of diggers and storekeeper’s filling the two largest rooms in the hotel and there are also men gathered outside straining to hear.  Captain Butt is appointed chairman.  It is acknowledged that the men of the British claim have done their utmost to bottom their shaft, but they cannot go on with safety unless the sides are timbered. The meeting is to ascertain what assistance is required towards sinking two new shafts on the Karaka Flat, one at the spur of Murphy’s Reef, and slabbing the British claim.   Although the British claim is now nearly 40 feet down, with no indication of bedrock, even if it were bottomed and proved a duffer, that is no reason to think that there is no alluvial gold in other parts of the flat.  Fine gold  can be found at this depth  -  were it not for this, and the prestige of being the only party on the field endeavouring to get to the bottom, the men of the British  would not be blamed were they to give up as several others have done.

There are loud cries that the men outside cannot hear and the meeting is adjourned to the open air – where Captain Butt climbs his ‘lamp post’ to continue addressing the meeting.

During this day Mr Mackay, Mr Baillie, Chief Taipari, Mr Eyre and others have promised to contribute towards a fund for pushing the work and it is decided that the best way would be at once to appoint a committee.  Two committee’s are actually selected – one for storekeepers and traders, numbering seven, and the other for diggers, numbering 12.  The meeting separates and the committee’s confer.    The Diggers Committee, headed by Mr J C Boyd, an experienced Australian miner, will proceed to view the ground tomorrow morning then both committees will meet at noon.  The Storekeepers and Trader’s Committee, headed by Charles Mitchell, will in the meantime solicit funds to carry on the work.   George Holland and Walter Deans are appointed to manage the working of the troubled British Claim on which so many hopes rest. 


Papers Past
Hauraki Report Volume 1

© 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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