Saturday 25 August 2018

28 August to 3 September 1867

Tools, tucker and timber

Wednesday, 28 August
Mr Mackay is away today to the north again marking boundaries. He daily addresses the Maori; his lungs are thought to be as wonderful as his perseverance.

The body of William Paka is taken up to Ohinemuri accompanied by Te Moananui and his tribe to be mourned over by his disconsolate wife and friends.  William is to be buried on the land of his late grandfather.  

The death of William has cast a gloom over the Maori at the Thames and is a great loss to the district.  In the course of the speeches Tamaki says that all selling of land to Europeans is to cease and all leases to be ended. He is far from peaceable and is most active in fanning a rebellious spirit among several tribes. This is lamentable as William Paka was able to calm many of the more aggressive Maori.

Commissioner Mackay will await the return of Te Moananui's party to complete the leasing of the land northward for gold mining.

Despite almost two months of rain and the slow progress a feeling of satisfaction at times prevails on the diggings.   A number of miners are coming and going and the same may be said of small coasting craft. 

There are now between 400 and 500 men on the ground but it is believed men from the West Coast are needed before any results will be seen.

The schooner Mary Jane arrives from the Buller in Auckland this morning with 14 diggers for the Thames goldfields, after a fine passage of five days.

Noon The joint committees of Diggers, and Storekeepers and Traders meet – the chairman of the Digger’s committee states that it has been arranged to sink two shafts in such a way that a drive will  connect both and thus the nature of the ground will be tested. The Storekeepers committee have raised £30.

This evening the Storekeepers committee again meet at the Shortland Hotel and settle the preliminaries  of how to spend the funds collected.  Twelve men are to be put on each shaft.  Their  expenses for tools, timber and tucker will be considerable; however, the object is of great value to the province of Auckland. 

Daily Southern Cross 28 August 1867

Knock Hunt's claim into a cocked hat

Thursday, 29 August
“It is raining as hard as it can pour,”  records the dejected NZ Herald correspondent at the Thames.

Matthew Barry and party, holding a claim above the Shotover, strike a main reef there.  The quartz is solid and the gold apparently of a better quality than the Shotover’s. It is said that this quartz will, to use the style of speaking used by the best of society, “knock Hunt’s claim into a cocked hat.”

Between the Kuranui and the Moanataiari creeks there are about a dozen claims now in operation.  From Moanataiari to the Karaka the country is reserved.

There is panic at the Shotover claim.  The reef, being on the very boundary of the field proclaimed, has been of great interest to the Maori.  Hearing of the richness of the stone they suddenly state that the Shotover party marked off beyond the proclaimed goldfield. The party are fearful of losing the claim and a dozen men are hastily got together to save what gold they can.  The reef, as yet, is unworked.  Up the face of the rock the leaders can be seen to a height of 12ft and the breadth about 2in, each running parallel about two feet apart.  The men set to work at the face of the rock using what tools they have, picking out an adit some 30 inches wide so as to take both leaders and the non auriferous stone between the two.  The Maori eventually abandon their demands and leave the diggers in undisturbed possession. 

Harvest Home for the Thames with 10 passengers. 
Snowflake for the Thames with 4,000 ft timber, ½ ton flour, 2 gallons rum, 2 pkgs drapery, 2 bags sugar, sundries, 6 passengers.

John Beale, arriving at the landing place, makes his way through scores of bell tents to Captain Butt’s hotel.  He is lucky in obtaining the only vacant stretcher in the attic, which is reached by a ladder. He finds about a dozen diggers, fast asleep. Most of them are snoring heavily.  He falls asleep during a temporary lull in the noise but is manhandled awake by a rough inebriated digger who claims the stretcher as his own.  John Butt soon puts him to rights.   The bar below is as usual thronged with diggers – the universal and popular beverage being porter and sugar.   Change is generally generously returned to the serving barmaid.

DSC 29 August 1867

Friday, 30 August
The Enterprise arrives at Auckland bringing the first installment, 16 bags of quartz, from the Shotover.  The stone was not taken carefully from the reef, the leaders and casings being knocked down hurriedly and mixed together. Much of the stone contained in the bags is not auriferous at all.  This sample will be crushed and its value tested.  The bags containing the specimens are lodged tonight for safety at the Police Office. 

Dee for the Thames with 2,000ft timber, 12,000 shingles, 6 sash frames, 3 doors, 12 casks rum, 3 kegs spirits, 1 hhd ale, 1 case moselle, 1 case sundries, 2 kegs nails, 2 passengers. 
Cornstalk for the Thames with sundries and 15 passengers.

William Coppell and William Sutton, prospectors from the British Claim, arrive in Auckland and place advertisements in the Daily Southern Cross and New Zealand Herald to raise funds to help bottom the shaft.

DSC 1 September 1867

Support for the British claim

Saturday, 31 August
Support begins to grow for the beleaguered British Claim.  J Gibbons, sawmiller, sends  a note to the Daily Southern Cross office promising to deliver to the men of the claim  250ft of sawn timber towards the slabbing.

George Holland, manager of the British Claim, and Walter Deans, assistant manager, report to the Auckland subscribers of the claim that there are 14 men employed, a cookhouse 18 x 14 has been erected, timber has been cut for logging up the shaft, a race has been cut into the creek to carry away water and a shaft named ‘Nonesuch’ has been sunk to a depth of 5ft. 

Captain Butt has supplied 483 feet timber for slabbing and 24 claims have been pegged off according to the instructions of Mr Mackay.  Two prospecting claims are held over to be pegged off at a future time.

Rangatira for the Thames with 1,500 bricks, 9 bushels lime, 4 cases spirits, 4 passengers.

By now, at Shortland Town,  56 business allotments have been taken up and 129 miner’s rights issued.  The near incessant rain has left the roads muddy bogs laid with ti tree and fern. Shortland Town can boast of about 20 weather-boarded houses.

Men known in the southern goldfields as the 'right sort' have begun to arrive.  They don’t remain in the township looking around them, but start right away to prospect with the intention of settling in and giving the ground a trial.  Diggers are also leaving Coromandel for the Thames to try their luck.

On the Karaka and creeks to the north work is progressing steadily.  There are four claims now on the block of high land situated between Kuranui and Moanataiari creeks, producing gold in the stone.  It is hoped that this  portion of the Karaka field alone, when gold is found in payable quantity and the extent of leaders known, will give employment to more men than it was estimated would find wages at the outset of the rush.  At present there are about 75 men quartz reefing. 

The gods will be angry with them

Sunday, 1 September
Divine service is held at the Thames – Reverend Mr Grace officiates.

At Ohinemuri there is a Maori meeting to discuss opening more land for mining which Taipari, from the Thames, and  Te Moananui attend. Te Moananui and his people  bring some 2 ½ tons flour, 1 ton biscuit, ½ ton sugar and around 100 pigs for the two day gathering.   

The decision is reached that the Upper Thames auriferous lands should not be opened to the diggers, and that Hikutaia should not be the boundary.  If diggers are found prospecting on these native lands there are to be sent quietly back to Hauraki or the Ngati Maru lands.  

Te Moananui agrees to this district being shut up from the pakehas and he also hands over all his lands contained in the prohibited area to Te Hira, for him to do what he thinks fit with.  

Te Hira is a chief in the Ngati Tamatera tribe, of the Upper Waihou and Ohinemuri country. A large portion of the Ngati Tametera are friendly,  but there is a substantial section that are ferociously antagonistic to the threatened European inundation.  Te Hira himself is difficult and stubborn.

Te Hira says the reason they cannot give their consent to the Upper Ohinemuri lands being opened to diggers is that Te Witi and John, two Taranaki prophets, have written to the Maori King to put a stop to selling or leasing the lands, for if the Maori do so the gods will be angry with them, and will cause wrong to spring up amongst them.  Ropata says that the talk about the gold being opened up to Europeans is not a new talk.   What is the use of their remaining poor while they have such gold bearing land to lease to the Europeans?  Taipari says he will try and open the district to diggers.

DSC 2 September 1867

Monday, 2 September
Black Prince, a magnificent prize bullock, is put on exhibition at Buckland’s Bazaar, Auckland, by Mr Messenger, the People’s Butcher. The admission fee of sixpence collected over the next few days is promised to go towards the expenses of the British claim.  The beast is to be slaughtered on Friday.

Pessimism over the Thames goldfield continues.  The Auckland Stock and Sharemarket monthly report notes that in gold mining shares there is nothing doing.  The discoveries at the Thames have created no demand.  No new companies have been formed.  The Thames appears to offer no inducements of a more favourable character than Coromandel.  Trade is extremely dull in Auckland.  The weather has been very severe and the arrangements with the Maori for opening more ground at the Thames have been complicated and tedious. Shipping, though, has exhibited a considerable amount of briskness.  The Enterprise has made constant trips to the Thames goldfield, conveying a large number of passengers to and fro and taking down cargo.  About 15 small vessels have likewise found constant employment between Auckland and the Thames. Small craft return to Auckland, some in ballast, but many with passengers, gum, firewood, pork and produce.

Diamond for the Thames with stores and 500ft sawn timber
Severn for the Thames with 3,000ft timber, 12 passengers


Dudley Eyre, surveyor, is at work this afternoon near the beach at the landing place, Shortland Town.  He hears a great disturbance and goes to see what it is about.  He sees two Maori men holding a Maori woman and one of them is hitting her.   Europeans gather round crying “Shame!”

While the Maoris beat her, a blacksmith named Louis Lewis is pushed away several times.  Wirmeu Heremia is standing keeping off the Europeans.

Thomas Sandes,  assistant surveyor, has also been on the beach and is now standing close to Lewis. He sees Wiremu punch Lewis twice but Lewis does not react, he stands with his hands in his pockets. 

The woman is taken away in a canoe.

Minutes later Lewis approaches Wiremu saying if he put his hands on him again he’ll hit him.  Wiremu replies “You like to fight?”

Constable John Wallace, who has witnessed a great deal of the disturbance, sees Wiremu in the act of pulling off his shirt.  Constable Wallace runs forward to prevent this just as Lewis takes off his waistcoat, rushes past Constable Wallace and strikes Wiremu in the face.

Meke Heremia then rushes at Lewis, catches him by the hair and hits him two or three times. 

Almost all the Europeans and Maori present now get into the melee and several of them roll into the water. Meke has hold of Lewis and drags him towards the water as the Europeans try to rescue him.

Wiremu and Meke seize Lewis by the legs and drag him into the creek where they pull him under two or three times.  A Maori boy of about 14 jumps in, catches Lewis by the hair and holds his head under water.

James Mackay, in the raupo whare which serves as the courthouse, lock up and temporary sleeping quarters for tentless miners,  is busy writing when a policeman rushes in exclaiming "Mr Mackay, come quickly, the Maoris have got a white man in the creek and are drowning him!"  Mackay runs to the creek and sees Wiremu and Meke mercilessly ducking Lewis under each time he manages to raise his head above the surface.  Lewis is very much exhausted. 

Mackay calls out to Wiremu and Meke and they release Lewis who, with difficulty, swims ashore.

He orders the two Maoris to come also, but they swim to the mangroves on the opposite side of the creek and start jeering at Mackay and the two  policemen. 

Mackay climbs into a canoe and starts paddling towards them.  They call out "All right Mackay  - we come." 

Mackay hands Lewis to the police and on Wiremu and Meke coming out of the water, he collars them and they all march up to the courthouse whare. 

Wiremu and Meke  are attached to a chain stapled round the center post of the whare - one end of a handcuff is attached to a wrist and the other to a ring at the end of the chain.  This is how all prisoners are restrained in the courthouse whare "lock up."  Wiremu and Meke lay down and spend the night surrounded by miners.

This scuffle will have a significant effect on the Thames goldfields.

A meeting of 33 carpenters is held this evening at the Shortland Hotel where they demand 10 shillings a day, in consequence of a contract being given to finish the roof of the house being built for Mr Mulligan, which would have given wages at 8s per day.  There are more carpenters at the Thames now than can find employment.

Tuesday, 3 September
Charles Mitchell and Mr Boyd are infuriated by William Coppell and William Sutton of the British claim placing advertisements soliciting for funds in the newspapers.  They run an advertisement of their own warning the public not to give money or goods to Coppell or Sutton as they have no authority to collect them.  The Daily Southern Cross adds its disapproval saying “it is to be regretted that they have deceived the public, as a really serviceable undertaking may suffer in consequence.” 

The NZ Herald fumes “if Messrs Sutton and Coppell have obtained one shilling’s worth of goods as the representatives of the joint committee . . . then they are doing something excessively like a swindle and they are guilty of obtaining money under false pretences.  Let it be plainly understood that these men have no right whatever to do what they have done.”

NZH 3 September 1867

Captain Frederick Hutton, an English scientist with an academic career in geology and biology, has arrived at the Thames.  He is to prepare a report on the goldfield for Dr James Hector, Colonial Geologist.

Sydney for the Thames with timber and passengers. 
Willie Winkie for the Thames with sundries and passengers.

"Let me have Waiotahi"

At the Resident Magistrates Court, Shortland, before James Mackay, Allan Baillie and Chief Taipari, Louis Lewis, a blacksmith, and Meke and Wiremu Heremia, are all charged with the previous day having disturbed the public peace.   Lewis and Meke plead not guilty.  Wiremu pleads guilty and is taken in charge of a Maori constable.

Evidence is heard from Constable Wallace, Dudley Eyre, Thomas Sandes,  Louis Lewis and Meke Heremia.  Meke says Lewis had first struck him in the face and the mark of the blow was still there.  Lewis had also pulled a handkerchief from Wiremu’s neck and had struck Meke in the face - he had wanted to ward off the blow, but Lewis made a second blow and hit him in the chest.  All the Europeans laid hold of Meke and he fell in the water. 

The court is cleared, the Bench deliberates and then the doors are thrown open. Mr Mackay says the court has very carefully considered the case and has come to the conclusion that all three parties are guilty of common assault. It is quite clear that Lewis had allowed from three to ten minutes to elapse between the time the woman was being beaten and the commencement of the fight.  It did not appear that Lewis was acting in defence of the woman.  It is quite clear also that Lewis had struck Wiremu before Meke struck him and dragged him into the water. 

Wiremu is fined £3 or in default, one month’s imprisonment with hard labour.  Lewis receives the same sentence and Meke is fined £5, or in default two month’s imprisonment with hard labour.   Lewis' fine is promptly paid. 

Mr Mackay cautions all European’s not to interfere in Maori quarrels.  Had a tomahawk been used, a life might have been lost and the footing the Europeans have now obtained would be cancelled.  He tells the Maori that if the woman who was so roughly treated would like to make a complaint he will punish those who had attacked her.

Wiremu and Meke Heremia have no money and cannot pay the fines. They are the son and nephew of Chief  Aperahama te Reiroa, who comes begging to solicit their release.  This is refused unless the fines are paid.

Aperahama then offers to give up Waiohanga (known as Stoney Point) north of Paeroa, for goldmining.

It suddenly occurs to Mackay the Aperahama te Reiroa is the principal obstructive in allowing miners to go on the land between Waio-karaka and the Moanataiari stream - the forbidden Waiotahi.

Mackay says "Let me have Waiotahi.  I will give you £10 on account of miners rights fees and you can hand it to Constable Wallace who will release the prisoners."

The old chief bursts out in a profuse perspiration and mops his face for some time with a handkerchief.  He then says "Mackay, you are a very hard man.  Let them go, never mind Waiotahi."

Mackay shows him the warrants that have been made out and Aperahama gives his reluctant consent. Mackay takes Aperahama's receipt for £10 on account of the miners rights fee.  Aperahama hands the cash to the constable and the young men are set free. 

The Maoris all set off in haste towards their settlement and as Mackay expects that Riwai and other opponents to giving the land for mining will soon make an appearance, he starts one surveyor at the Karaka stream and another at Moanataiari to cut the line along the base of the hills, that being the boundary set by himself and Aperahama.  The line marks an area to be left as a cultivation reserve for the Maori. 

Although it is pouring with rain, within half an hour Mr Mackay has the surveyors marking out the ground which is pegged out as they go.

The miners have been warned to be in readiness.

The forbidden land of the Waiotahi, known to be of considerable value and constantly trespassed on by European’s, is now open for gold mining. It is rushed by miners.   About 150 claims are marked out.  The extent of the land negotiated for is at least 400 square miles, but the field actually opened for mining is about ten miles in length with an average width of about 60 square miles.

About 40 Maori arrive and find the miners already in possession.  Protest is futile.

The Enterprise arrives at the Thames tonight in a most unusual style – she comes up to the landing place without once sticking in the mud. She also has a new captain – Thomas Seon.  He is well known for his punctuality and ability and there is no doubt he will become a general favourite on the line.


Eyre Street and Sandes Street, Thames,  are probably named after Dudley Eyre and Thomas Sandes, surveyors.
Robert Dudley Eyre arrived in NZ on the ship Empress in May 1865 and was the first government surveyor on the Thames goldfield.  

Thomas Goodman Sandes  was born in Country Cork, Ireland,  and trained as an engineer and surveyor.  He came to NZ in 1863 and served during the Waikato campaign.  When the regiment disbanded he came to the Thames goldfield.

Of the controversial circumstances regarding the opening of the Waiotahi - James Mackay later said “ I have been circumspect in reporting this proceeding as there were many misrepresentations about it at the time.”  These days it is seen as highly coercive.

Thirty four years after the event James Mackay disingenuously stated the cause of the disturbance was that Lewis had bought a dog from one of the Maori and two others claimed it and tried to take it from him, so he assaulted them.


Papers Past 

The Hauraki Report Volume One
The Crown, the Treaty and the Hauraki tribes 1800 -1885 – Hauraki Maori Trust Board
This is my place – Hauraki contested – Paul Monin
The pioneer land surveyors of NZ - C A Lawn- F.N.Z.I.S.
Charles Royal and Jenny Kaka-Scott, 'Māori foods – kai Māori', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 August 2017)

© 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.


  1. Megan this blog is so well written and interesting! The section on Waiotahi; did the details come from court records?

    1. Thank you - it was quite a mission to write! Yes, the Waiotahi details came from the Thames Resident Magistrate court reports published in the Daily Southern Cross.