Tuesday 28 August 2018

7 August to 13 August 1867

“Go and get the gold, boys.”

Wednesday, 7 August
The first two Miner’s Rights are issued to Samuel Hamilton and C F Mitchell respectively. Commissioner Mackay has been delaying this until he obtained prospecting rights for the whole area of 10,000 acres.
Samuel Hamilton is one of the government's prospecting party, along with John Williams, late proprietor of the Empire Hotel, Greymouth, W McCartney from the West Coast, Mr Manning of Kanieri, Hokitika and eight other young men.

The government party and those sinking on the flat are energetically at work.  The shafts are necessarily very large, entailing much labour.  As yet, at a depth of 16ft, the water has not been very troublesome, but the large boulders, in some instances weighing over a ton each, take considerable time raising; however when out of the hole the men are gratified to see how much deeper it is. 

At Auckland the Henry arrives this morning with about 20 passengers for the diggings. The Peter Cracroft also arrives with about 25 passengers.  She sails for Cabbage Bay tomorrow – there to load a cargo of timber for the Thames diggings.  Boats are running backwards and forwards to the Thames nearly every day so that news is now received pretty frequently.

Shortly before 10, at Wellington, the steamer Welllington arrives bringing news from Auckland that the Thames gold diggings have produced quite a sensation there. Everyone is talking about gold being found in the province of Auckland.

W Oliver and his mate Yorkey, both West Coast miners, while on their way to the Thames goldfield, have been encouraged by reports from the diggings that the prospect is 2dwt to the shovelful of wash, and that a gentleman has gone to Wellington to purchase all the sluicing tools he can find.  When they arrived at Taranaki the prospect was reported as only ldwt to the load and 3 feet of wash. At Onehunga they are told that all the diggers are satisfied about the gold, but no one has bottomed yet.

When they arrive in Auckland great excitement prevails - one hole is reported bottomed on payable gold, and this prospect can be seen in a certain hotel in Auckland.  They go to the hotel and ask to see the gold from the Thames goldfield. The barman quickly hands over a saucer with some crushed quartz covered with water, and also a large magnifying glass, but Oliver can’t see any gold either with the naked eye or the glass.  Yorkey, after a long look by the aid of a glass, thinks he can see three specks.

They make their way to the wharf  where a blackboard has steamer information chalked in large letters "To the goldfields tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock sharp." They have their swags West Coast fashion, and as they pass along they hear bystanders saying "Here come the diggers  - these are diggers. Go and get the gold, boys. There go the diggers."

"Make me appear a swindler."

There is a backlash against the glowing report of the Thames Goldfields published yesterday in the NZ Herald. It causes much dissatisfaction among the diggers as they are anxious to have a faithful report of what is happening. The miners feel the paper has been grossly misinformed as to the quantity of gold on the diggings.  As yet there has not been a payable prospect.  It is true that a few specks of fine gold may be got in almost every dish, but nothing payable. The report is traced back to the master of the Severn and he is strongly advised not to make his appearance at the Thames again. 

Captain Butt in particular is infuriated with the golden report.  He writes to the Cross of his surprise and annoyance at reading he is supposedly in possession of the finest specimens of anyone, the specimens somehow turning into a quantity of nuggets.   The truth is he had received as a present a small specimen of gold from a miner, which he showed to some three or four people.  He positively refuses, though, to send the specimens to Auckland as he doesn’t consider them sufficient to warrant the belief in a payable goldfield.  He should be very sorry to be in any way connected in creating a rush to the Thames, which at present is totally uncalled for.   The number of miners reported on the goldfield is also wrong.  Out of the whole population there are only about 30 practical miners, and the gold diggings differing somewhat from the Australian goldfields,  even some of them are not prospecting to advantage.   He finishes “trusting you will insert the above and thereby enable me to contradict a statement which I feel would make me appear a swindler.”

Posters have allegedly also been sent down to the West Coast, calculated to excite the diggers and produce a rush.

Of the several stores now erected at Shortland Town the one doing the most business is Mr Oughton’s Bendigo Store. 

Alexander Hogg, a Scotsman who came to New Zealand in 1855, aged 17, also has a small store.  He worked as a shipping clerk for five years before joining the Naval Volunteers.  He took part in the Maori war, earning the NZ Medal and also a grant of land.  He also has some Maoris sluicing for him in the Karaka Creek.  

Mr Mulligan intends erecting a large store in the township; the timber is expected by the next steamer.  Captain Butt has purchased a fine allotment near the landing place, from Chief Taipari, with the skeleton of a large store already up, and several other allotments are about to change hands.

The Enterprise arouses the settlement at Thames with her whistle. This is a surprise – she was not expected back until Monday.  She has a small cargo and 45 passengers, some of who are businessmen.

DSC 7 August 1867

NZH 7 August 1867

Peaches and pork.

Thursday, 8 August
While waiting for their steamer to the Thames W Oliver and Yorkey meet up with an acquaintance from the Grey.  He has been down at the diggings for several days, prospecting along with the government party. He tells them that on the goldfields boundary there are large boards saying "Notice to Diggers: Any one found prospecting over this boundary will be fined £5 for the first offence and £10 for the second.”  He and his mates didn’t let that caution stop them. They went to prospect a forbidden creek, but it was not long before the Maoris came and drove them away. Not daunted by this they made a second attempt. They took a boat this time, and went a good distance up the river, when down came the Maoris and informed them they had not long to live. This drove terror into their hearts. After some difficulty they were allowed to retreat on the following conditions – that they clear out at once, and not be seen within ten miles of Wood’s store by ten o’clock next day. They quickly retreated.

At the Thames diggers stake out their claims and are steadily at work.  Many are new to mining, but there are  several “old hands” from Bendigo and elsewhere. 

George Clarkson, a Scot, is a struggling farmer from Papakura, widowed with two small children.  He saw the announcement of the Government reward for the discovery of a payable goldfield and made for the Thames arriving on the Enterprise on 1 August.  But after just over a week of prospecting mainly up the Karaka Creek and only seeing some loose gold by washing he doesn’t see much hope in getting the reward. Fed up, he books his passage back to Auckland but the steamer is not leaving quite yet.  He strolls up to Messenger’s Butcher shop where he tells young Messenger he’s going back to Auckland.  Tom Long, overhearing him, tells him to wait a few days as more land will soon be opened.  Clarkson returns to the steamer, retrieves his swag and goes back to the Maori whare of Commissioner Mackay at the landing place where he has been staying with other men.

Four applications are made to Mr MacKay this morning for the establishment of a Post Office from Messrs Walters, stationer,  Oughton, store keeper, Somerfield and one other – none of which is accepted. 

Several parties have left the Waikato to come overland to the diggings, but unless they are experienced they are advised to stay where they are.  None but practical miners who can do a good days work are wanted at the Thames.

It is now just a week since the field was thrown open to prospectors and although there are no very great results from any of the claims, the miners are still hopeful of ultimate success.  There are about 25 to 20 shafts sunk to a depth of about 15 to 20 ft, and a bottom is looked for hourly.    The deepest claim on the Karaka is 20 to 22 feet through blue clay, a fact which augurs well. 

Heavy windlasses are over every hole in the flat.  Numbers of diggers are engaged in sinking but tomorrow the operations of sluicing will begin. There are about half-a-dozen sluice boxes on the ground, some have been made on the spot, some have been sent from Auckland.  There is a good supply of water.  Many of the diggers who did not have tents have built whares, and are very comfortable.  There is a moderate supply of wood, and the flat on which the prospectors are working is full of peach trees.  Numbers of wild pigs are to be seen running through the gullies. The Maori are very reasonable in their charges and seem anxious that the ground should be worked.  Provisions are still plentiful and more supplies are expected by the return steamer.  There are now five stores.

Several vessels over the past few days have brought an addition of about 75 diggers. Among the diggers who arrive today is a young man just come up from the Hokitika.  He is very pleased with the appearance of the ground and teams up with three others to commence operations at once. 

A considerable number of Riverhead gumdiggers have left for the new goldfield, a “foolish movement” according to some. There are now about 160 miners and 30 traders on the field.  Of the former 100 are doing well, whilst the others are moving about prospecting.  In the deep sinking’s water and large boulders are very troublesome and entail a large amount of extra labour.

 Mr Eyre is surveying the site of the township.  Business allotments have a frontage of 30ft, for which a rent will have to be paid at the rate of 6s per foot, per annum, the first quarter to be paid in advance.

Catherine for the Thames 1,235ft timber, 5 tons general cargo, 1 ton flour, 15 passengers. Sydney for the Thames with passengers


A cookhouse built of upright ti-tree poles, with ti-tree laid horizontally, bursts into flame tonight, fanned by half a gale of wind.  Fortunately the wind blows away from the adjoining store of Messrs Lewis Bros.  The drama is greatly added to by the bell of the People’s Butcher which is rung with great vigour and to the entire satisfaction of the spectators.

The night  becomes terribly stormy and rainy but no damage is done beyond wet blankets.

A-whistling after the plough.

Friday 9 August
The Severn comes in with the flood tide during the night, mistakes the point and becomes stuck on the mud flats.  It is almost impossible to see the channel as staked off by Mr Mackay in the dark.   The Severn lies  high and dry on the beach, her timber not discharged.  She is lightened but cannot be got off and awaits the return of the spring tides to move her. 

George Clarkson sets out at 6am with his pick and dish for the Kuranui creek determined to try again. He had heard of gold being found by the Maori in a kumara patch there but was nervous of going up the valley as the creek was on the boundary of the area open for gold mining.   This time he succeeds and finds a fine show of gold.   He realises if he wants to continue he must have a mate.  Returning to the whare he sits on the bench alongside William Hunt.  Hunt has recently arrived from the West Coast diggings, arriving on the Enterprise when the goldfield was opened.  He is originally  from Auckland where his father is a licensee of a hotel at Epsom and has spent time in the South Island. William Hunt is a brother of Albert Hunt, a man notorious in the south for causing the Bruce Bay Duffer’s Rush and who was behind the Riverton Hoax.*

Clarkson asks “Have you got a mate?”  To which Hunt replies “Yes – Mr John White.”  Clarkson tells Hunt “I have got a good show of gold today and if you would like to join me I will show you where I got it.”  It is now 9am and Clarkson and Hunt set out for the Kuranui Creek.  Hunt tries a few dishes and gets a grand show.

On returning to Shortland Town they arrange to show Hunt’s mate, John White, the place tomorrow.  But John Ebenezer White already knows where it is.  White is friendly with the Maori, especially a one eyed man named Piniha (or Pineha, also known as Pincher).  White’s father, a missionary at Hokianga, had been instrumental in the rescue of Piniha from a hostile tribe.  Piniha regards John White as a son.   Parties of Maori stand guard over the creeks at the Thames  and Piniha is one of the guardians.  He gives his approval for White and his friends to search the stream.

Shortland Town might today be called Shortland Crescent - there are hawkers, merchants, stationers and all the representatives of all the businesses in Auckland at the Thames. Heavy rope and oil can buckets are needed on the field.   There are now about 260 people here. Commissioner Mackay is getting a whare built at the back of the courthouse.

During this week the weather has been very tempestuous, it blows almost daily a gale of wind from WSW with heavy downfalls of rain.  Shipping has consequently been unusually slack; despite this Auckland’s coasting craft are rather busy, a large number of them actively employed in conveying stores and passengers to the new goldfield at the Thames.

The two main newspapers – the NZ Herald and the Daily Southern Cross - give conflicting reports on the new goldfield, the Herald being more optimistic and the Cross pessimistic.  A letter from a disgusted working man highlights the uncertainty of reliable news getting back to Auckland from the Thames. 
“I am a ravenous reader of newspapers, and strongly love anything that smacks of the sensational.  I have the misfortune of not being an old and experienced digger . . . but I am a man who gets his living by the sweat of his brow when a job offers in a labouring sort of a way.  On Tuesday last, the 6th instant, I was following my usual occupation – a-whistling after the plough - when Bob Sawyers comes round and tells me the glorious news, which appeared in the Auckland Herald, all about the Thames goldfield.  He had a paper with him, which somebody had dropped on the road; and when we sat down under a hedge to read it, there, sure enough I saw with my own eyes the flaming heading, all in big capital letters – “ THE THAMES GOLDFIELD - GOLD FOUND IN LARGE QUANTITIES - MORE LAND LEASED FROM THE NATIVES - THE GOLDFIELD PRONOUNCED PAYABLE - GREAT EXCITEMENT AMONGST  DIGGERS . . ." Can you wonder, Mr Editor, that when I tell you neither Bob Sawyers or myself did anymore work that day?  And on Wednesday we started for Auckland, fully determined to try our luck.  The gum diggers at Ararimu got wind of the news and off they packed also.  We got here late at night; but imagine our disgust and surprise when we rose this morning to find that the same paper had quite changed its tune  - in fact, had gone round to the other side of the compass.  We were told in this morning’s paper that “it would take a month, perhaps, to prove the Kauaeranga gold field a payable diggings; and we must wait patiently for the event; that they had “chronicled no extraordinary find’: and that “the field had yet to be tested by practical mining.”  Which am I to believe?   -  ‘A working man’. 

Sarah to the Thames with sundry merchandise, two passengers. Diamond to the Thames with stores,  25 passengers.

NZH 10 August 1867

A grand sight.

Saturday 10 August
5am  Not wanting to be followed George Clarkson, William Hunt and John White set out for the Kuranui Creek, about two miles away, under the cover of darkness.   John White is impressed with the few dishes he tries.  He suggests they go higher up the creek and after deliberating, they push on through the thick undergrowth.  They do not get much further when White, who is leading, is met by a barrier of stone, perpendicularly over their heads to the height of 12ft, and across the creek to either bank.  Over the stone the water runs in a small fall. 

They have climbed about 60ft. Clarkson climbs to the top of the falls and Hunt and White climb further up.  Clarkson stays put.  When they all  come back down it is  over rock that  is all black and scattered with a little moss here and there.  At the bottom of the falls Clarkson spots a piece of gold about the size of a pin head. Clarkson shouts to White for a pick.  White has injured his right arm but throws a pick to Clarkson. The pick is a coal miner’s one and was brought out from Scotland by one of Clarkson’s brothers.  They begin breaking out the stone from the reef.  It seems to be all gold.  They get out 21lbs –there is great joy among the men.  It is a grand sight. They put the gold into a bag and carefully cover up the place with moss again so that no one might find it. 

The three men head back Shortland Town.  Walking along the beach Hunt suggests they should take a mate.  Clarkson replies “I don’t know anyone else on the field.”   But White does - he suggests “a little fellow named Cobley.”  William Henry Cobley, also known as Little Bill, is a tailor by trade and had been a Waikato military settler at Cambridge. He is straightforward, honourable and plucky.  The men hunt William Cobley up, tell him of the find and he agrees to join their party. At the Warden’s office they speak to Commissioner Mackay in Maori and show him the gold. 

They take out their miner’s rights, numbered 6 to 9.  The claim will be named the Shotover.  Mackay tells them not to speak of their find until he can get the ground opened from Kuranui to Tararu Creek.    Mackay and his clerk Mr Allen head back with the men to see the find.  Mackay breaks open about 30lbs of stone while Clarkson and Hunt peg out six men’s ground which is all Mackay will grant them.  Further inspection satisfies the party that the reef or rock contains as many as four distinct leaders. They then put more moss on the reef to hide it and Mr Mackay again tells them to say not one word until a meeting can be held with the Maoris.   The party pitch a tent on the nearest level ridge of the hill.   Their find is more than half way up the side of a range and is rather picturesque although difficult and dangerous to get to.    

Daniel Tookey has been working his way along the beach with pick and tin dish since the field was declared open.   He has tried prospecting at the hill at the mouth of the Moanataiari and figures if he can get nothing there he will try an area where some rocks jut out.   Daniel is a Pakeha Maori, known as Haniara Tuki and has lived with the Maori for many years. He is married to a princess of the Ngati Maru tribe, Hareta Matahau. He and his family have lived at the Thames since 1857.  He came from England and was once a druggist.   He has been in the Thames Coromandel area for thirteen years, having arrived from Australia with a mate, where they had been reefing together.  Tookey’s mate, who had already been here, had a strong impression that if they could get permission from the Maori, they would find gold on the peninsula of Thames.  They landed at Coromandel but were absolutely forbidden to prospect.  Tookey’s mate was drowned, but Tookey himself, being convinced that there was gold there determined to wait, if necessary for years, until the land was opened.  He has urged the Maori to open up the land, but wars broke out which kept the place closed.  Tookey has been allowed to sluice on the Karaka and the Hape but was not allowed further north.  He sunk several holes at the mouth of the Karaka, but was much hampered by the Maori – who one occasion were about to strip two Europeans who were helping him. Despite the setbacks Daniel has never lost sight of his dream of finding gold.

Now Daniel Tookey has found gold too.  He shows his specimens in triumph but it is declared not gold at all by others. He is unaware of Clarkson, Hunt and White's find. 

Rumour sweeps through the settlement at the Thames – there has been a great find, there is something good, something that will startle everyone in Auckland and make everyone’s fortunes on the Thames - an auriferous reef has been found! 

Inquiries at Mr Mackay’s office if any application has been made to grant mining on quartz reef are answered in the negative.

Despite attempts at secrecy the Kuranui creek is rushed.  By candlelight the bearings of the reef are taken and the ground north east and south west is marked off in chains.  There is a great change in the weather – a storm rises and bursts forth in a fury. Despite this, up to midnight, men are marking out claims and putting in pegs, several prospectors having arrived on the ground at nightfall. It is a fearful night and everyone is wet.

Newspaper correspondents are up late waiting for more information to write reports.   The weather, notes one, is severe.
The cutter Sydney leaves the Thames but owing to the strong gale has to run back to Kauaeranga – she is damaged by the weather and the dinghy which is towing astern is smashed.

The yacht Invictor,  also on her passage from the Thames to Auckland, is totally wrecked in the storm. She goes ashore six miles from Pukorokoro (Miranda) in a heavy gale and soon after goes to pieces.  Passengers and crew manage to get ashore without difficulty.  The passengers are two men who are not much accustomed to a boat; they succeed in reaching land safely, leaving the yacht to its fate.  The men walk over to Pukorokoro and from there to Kawakawa, where they find passage on the Catherine. The men had left Auckland on a cruise with the intention of visiting the gold district.

"For those who persevere."
Sunday 11 August
The rumour gains traction, excitement mounts and there is a general rush to the locality of the new find.  Several specimens are circulated amongst the miners, which to the eye appear to be very rich. A piece of quartz is also taken from a leader on the surface close to Karaka Creek, thickly impregnated with gold.

Daniel Tookey marks out his claim on the land above the mouth of the Moanataiari.  He realises he  may have come close to discovering Clarkson, Hunt and White's reef in the past.    Over time Daniel has acquired the confidence of the Maori – they knew of the existence of Hunt’s reef 15 years ago, but kept the knowledge from the Europeans and even the majority of them were ignorant of it.  Tookey did succeed in getting the confidence of one man who told him that the on the Kuranui there was a reef with gold which could be seen.  Tookey mistook the Moanataiari Creek for the Kuranui Creek and was never allowed to go to the place where gold has now been discovered.

Alfred Newdick is kicking himself.  William Hunt had prevailed upon him to go to the Thames as his mate when the field opened, but Newdick could not settle up his affairs in Auckland soon enough.  He has followed him but despite his efforts could not find him until now.  He feels Hunt is evading him. Alfred is camped at the Karaka Creek, and now, standing at his tent door he sees Hunt pass along the flat.  He coo-ees and calls him but Hunt ignores him.  He gives chase but can’t catch him.  He sees where Hunt goes. Determined not to miss out again Alfred, his brother and four others follow Hunt and party’s track up the creek through the undergrowth where they will peg out the claim next to them, naming it the Long Drive.

Henry French is cynical.  He and his mates arrived at the Thames two or three days after the field opened.  Frustrated by futile attempts to obtain alluvial gold they were waiting on the beach at the mouth of the Kuranui stream for the tide to float their cutter so they could return to Auckland when one of them picked up in the creek bed a piece of stone containing metal that looked liked brass.  They set out for the Commissioner’s office at Shortland and found him standing on the road where they showed him the stone.  Other men were idling about and appeared to overhear Henry French and his mates discussing their discovery with Mr Mackay.  A party of them suddenly disappeared.  Henry French is convinced William Hunt was one of those who overheard him and his mates telling Mr Mackay about their find of gold in stone on the beach and it was this that led to the discovery. 

Clarkson, Hunt, White and Cobley have got out two tons of stone which they have carted to the police tent for protection. 

A dispute begins amongst the diggers as to whether Clarkson, Hunt and White’s find is really gold or just mica. Opinions differ. Hunt supplies some quicksilver. The gold is placed upon it but it floats, refusing to amalgamate. Matthew Barry, known as Patsey, is  a short muscular Irish miner of nine years experience who has earned a name for himself on several West Coast goldfields, and who has pegged out a claim just above that of Clarkson, Hunt, White and Cobley.  He rushes out and returns with a shovel. He places some of the gold upon it and holds both over a fire till the shovel is red hot. The gold is again placed in contact with the quicksilver and it amalgamates.**

DSC 12 August 1867
Monday 12 August
1am The Fairy arrives at Auckland with three passengers, and a parcel of quartz from the Shotover.  There is no means of testing the find at the Thames so it is sent to Auckland to be assayed. There are no two people holding a like opinion to this quartz.  There is some doubt it is gold and experienced Australian miners hesitate in expressing their opinions.  Commissioner Mackay has tested a few specimens by means of quicksilver, which took up a few specks of gold.  This result gives more confidence to opinion that there is some gold in the stone.

A highly anticipated meeting with the Maori was to be held today at Shortland on the question of opening the coveted Waiotahi and the Upper Thames. A large assembly of Maori is expected and it is anticipated a larger portion of land will be thrown open to prospectors.  But the Upper Thames Maori of the Ngati Maru and Ngati Whanaunga tribes are still on their way, the severity of the weather delaying them, and, as the matter rests between the chiefs of those tribes, nothing can be done until their arrival.

Spey to the Thames 4,0687ft timber, 6,000 shingles

Joseph Smallman writes to Mr Rawdon in Auckland on the progress of the British claim. He finishes his letter “we want you to send gads, punches, powder, fuse and hammers, in fact everything that you think is necessary for reefing.  There is no mistake there is something to be done here, which will ultimately turn out well for those who persevere  . . .

Tuesday 13 August
At Shortland there is great excitement and a large bulk of the population has gone over, or is going,  to the Shotover reef.  But many declare the find to be mica or mundic or schist. The result is looked to with great anxiety.  All the claims are taken up as far as it is now possible to take them.  

The weather since Saturday evening has been dreadful.  All the shafts are from 10 to 12 ft in water and some of the claims cannot be bailed out with buckets. Working in the Karaka flat ceases for today in consequence of wet weather.  A shoemaker is needed as well as a blacksmith to point the picks

One of the men up the Kuranui Creek misses his footing and tumbles down the side of a range for 20ft before falling into the creek.  

The eagerly awaited Maori meeting regarding the opening of more land for prospecting is again frustratingly  postponed due to the weather.

DSC 13 August 1867

The Shotover - Clarkson, White, Hunt and Cobley pose with other miners
Sir George Grey Special Collections  AWNS 19321005-P044

Detail of image above

The men of the Shotover - clockwise from bottom George Clarkson, William Hunt, William Cobley, John White

History Mysteries!
Who discovered gold on 10 August? 
This account of the discovery of the Shotover is a blend of several different reports.

George Clarkson gives the most consistent version in several newspaper interviews* over the years which put him at the center of discovering gold on 10 August.

George Clarkson’s son says “There remains no written proof that my father made the actual discovery.  Because of his lack of foresight in letting Hunt get away with lies, yet at the time it was well known, and there were many instances of Hunt being challenged and unable to answer, but he had the cunning which my father lacked.    So in the history of gold mining in New Zealand, it became known as ‘Hunt’s claim’.”

In the Daily Southern Cross, 21 August, 1867, Hunt admits Clarkson found the first payable prospect in the bottom of the Kuranui Creek the day before, but puts the pick that struck gold firmly in his own hands. He also says White wasn't even there, allegedly being sick in bed that day.

William Hunt was less than honest with the truth.

Henry French in later years pointed out that when the field was opened no one was looking for reefs. Walter Williamson had been prospecting the district for alluvial gold prior to the field opening. French felt Hunt, as much as anybody else, would have been intent on finding alluvial gold and it was Hunt’s alleged overhearing of the gold in stone find that led to the Shotover discovery.

Everyone had their own agenda but George Clarkson more than likely was the discoverer of gold on 10 August, 1867.

Some sources give 12 August as the date of the first official discovery of gold at the Thames.  This information may have come from an address made by James Mackay in 1896, 29 years after the fact, in which he mistakenly gives the date as 12 August.   He also says he went in the cutter Cornstalk to the Thames before the field was proclaimed  when shipping notices say it was the Alabama. 

The first documented discovery of gold  at the Thames  was ten years previously  in 1857  by Joseph Cook.   Joseph's discoveries prompted Ngati Maru chiefs to discuss gold mining in Hauraki. The presence of gold in the Kauaeranga region was  by then an open secret.

William?  Albert? 
William Albert Hunt is sometimes named as the discoverer of the Shotover reef but there was no William Albert Hunt. William Hunt’s middle name was Alexander. He had a brother named Albert William and they have become confused throughout history, resulting in a ‘William Albert Hunt’ becoming the alleged discoverer of Thames gold. 

Albert Hunt was a notorious hoaxer who instigated a duffer’s gold rush at Bruce Bay on the West Coast in 1866, where he escaped from a large crowd of angry miners.   A ‘duffer’ rush – where there was no gold to find - was a despicable offence in the world of the diggers and specious claims led to some of the worst outbreaks of violence on the goldfields.

Albert also allegedly discovered the rich Greenstone field near Hokitika in 1864, about which doubts are now raised.

William Hunt, like his brother, has a less than stellar reputation.

It is curious that two brothers both claimed to have discovered gold in 1860s New Zealand.

How did the Shotover get its name?
There are several versions!

George Clarkson says the "Shotover was so named at the suggestion of the minister - the water shooting over the top” but does not elaborate on who the minister was.

Another version is the name came about because the gold lay as if it had been shot over a waterfall.

William Hunt may have had a claim on the Shotover River, Otago, the name of which he applied to the Thames find.   (There are two Miner’s Rights issued on 14 and 17 September 1861 at Tuapeka, Otago in the name of William Hunt.  Tuapeka was the centre of the Central Otago rush in the 1860s)

Hunt was reported as saying that he and half the men on the field had been in such a hurry to surmount the ridge that they had shot over the fortune they trampled underfoot.

R Thorburn said the reef was on land owned by the Maoris and situated near a tree from which mariners that landed in the nearby cove used to shoot pigeons. The pigeons were shot over!


*Some of  George Clarkson’s recollections seem blurred with the passing of  time such as saying he arrived on 1 August, 1868, at 2am, with a hundred diggers from the West Coast after a journey in the Enterprise which took 17 to 18 hours, but the main events he is fairly consistent on.

** It had been difficult to place when this actually happened.  Some sources say it was on the night of the 12th but by then a sample was on its way to Auckland and Commissioner Mackay is reported as having already tested a few specimens by means of quicksilver. Whether he was present at the test of Matthew Barry or independently tested it is unclear.   It seems unlikely it happened the night of the 10th with all the activity going on as well as a fearful storm.  The weather of the 11th was slightly more amenable according to records - occasionally squally and heavy rain.

Papers Past
The goldminers database - http://www.kaelewis.com/
Thames Borough Centenary 1873 - 1973
The Amazing Thames – John Grainger
 History of the River Thames, NZ – A M Isdale
A history of gold mining in New Zealand – J H M Salmon
http://www.thetreasury.org.nz/Shotover/Shotover.htm - the True story of the discovery of the Shotover Mine at Thames in 1867
The colours – the search for payable gold on the West Coast from 1857 to 1864  -  Mark Pickering
Pay dirt the Westland goldfields from the diary of William smart by Hilary Low http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11743735   New book throws into doubt Albert Hunt's place in the West Coast's gold discovery history
A Isdale Ohinemuri  Regional  Journal No 1
A Isdale Ohinemuri Regional Journal No 7
Daniel Tookey http://www.mytrees.com/ancestry-family/un001278-78-83/Daniel-Tookey.

Hauraki Report Volume 1
Thames and the Coromandel Peninsula 2000 years – Zelma and John Williams
Thames the first 100 years – William A Kelly
Racing for Gold – Johnny Williams
George Clarkson Otago Daily Times 25 March 1922 An Eventful Life:
George Clarkson Auckland Star 1 August 1917 – Thames Jubilee – the Shotover Find
George Clarkson Auckland Star 31 July 1909

Translation in English - address of Mr James Mackay to the Ngati Maru tribe of Hauraki. http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Stout74-t6-body-d3.html

© 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 comment:

  1. Awesome read. Interesting no one stated it wasn't alluvial gold or Quartz gold. So many were drawn to the gold dream. Today's world we do our planning and research before effort.