Friday 24 August 2018

4 September to 10 September 1867

View of the diggings at Shortland,1868 - William Eastwood
Sir George Grey Special Collections 3-698-62b

"Sir, we have not done these things."

Wednesday, 4 September
Hunt and Clarkson have been unable to get their quartz crushed in Auckland.  Masefield and Co, engineers of Albert Street, have now contracted to make a Berdan mill by Saturday and the quartz will be crushed on Monday. The test will then be pretty accurate as to the value of the leaders in the claim.  It is considered unfortunate that they did not take their stuff to Coromandel where it might have been crushed at once.*

At the Thames Daniel Tookey is working another spur lower down his claim, on the side of the hill, and Rogers’s party have tunneled about 70ft.  The prospecting party are doing steady work.

Southland papers ponder on the news from the Thames diggings.  Of all the provinces of New Zealand,  Auckland has felt most disastrously the effects of war and debt and depression of trade.  It is with great interest that the South awaits the results obtained from the trial of the new goldfields.  It is difficult to form an estimate on the true value of these diggings from the reports they are getting.    One Auckland paper states that a reef has been found which yields the astounding quantity of 1260ozs to the ton, and then there are other reports that a meeting was got up on the goldfield with the object of denouncing the whole thing as a 'duffer.'

The NZ Herald publishes an enraged letter from William Coppell and William Sutton regarding the British claim funding - “your special correspondent at Shortland Town, although himself anonymous, hesitates not to make free in the most gross and calumnious manner with the names of other individuals.  He states  . . . we are guilty of doing something excessively like a swindle and are guilty of obtaining money under false pretences.  But, sir, we have not done these things.  The only sums received by us in connection with the Thames diggings have been collected by William Sutton on account of the British claim alone, and unconnected with any other party or parties.  This is a direct charge which may require to be dealt with in another manner.  Our present object is simply to refute and repel the base and calumnious insinuations which have been made against us and have no foundation whatever.”

The demands of the Thames carpenters for 10 shillings a day has caused great annoyance. Three years ago money was abundant, labour scarce and in great demand.  No one was out of employment and carpenters were paid 10 shillings a day for their labour.  That time, when allotments were greedily sought after, and bought at high prices, when houses rose in every paddock around the town, has passed.  Now houses and land are all but unsalable at any price and rents are very largely reduced.

There are stories, constantly told, of men in distress, unable to find employment, men who, to gain a scanty living will go stone breaking, flax dressing -  to any work at all.  Pictures are drawn of great destitution and yet with all this cry for work for the unemployed, no sooner is a little work to be obtained by the very class of men for whom there was exceedingly little in Auckland, than the men meet and decide not to work under 10 shillings a day. 

The present price of house property in Auckland is a grim monster, warning the carpenters not to commit any such folly.  There are houses now to be sold that would not fetch for cash much more than was paid in wages for their construction.  What special circumstances are there at Shortland to warrant such large wages being required? 

If the goldfields yielded large returns instead of mere specimens, if there were  a crowded population making money and carpenters very scarce and work very pressing, then things would be very different.

                            Rangatira for the Thames  - 1 ton flour, 1 pump, 1 passenger

NZH 4 September 1867

"My character has been so vilely assailed."

Thursday, 5 September
In all claims there is steady work but battery stampers and the proper amalgamating apparatus are needed on the field otherwise little more can be done than has already been achieved.  There is an excellent quartz crushing apparatus in the hands of the Bank of New Zealand at Auckland and it is hoped steps will be taken to place it on the Thames field.

On the newly opened ground at the Waiotahi Creek there is the greatest activity.

All claims not properly protected by being worked or registered pass with great difficulty from their original owners.  A miner, who was amongst the first of the rush to the new ground this week, neglects his claim for just 24 hours and now finds eight men in possession of what was going to make his pile.  He has had to give it up.

Another claim holder goes to Auckland for blasting powder, obtains a permit for it and puts it on board the steamer. On landing the powder at the Thames this morning it is seized by Mr Wallace, who is acting customs officer.  All powder must be lodged in the camp; only one pound at a time is allowed to be taken out of store.  The men cannot do without powder in the claims and this restriction needs to be removed.  

A post office is now established at the Thames, all persons can address their letters through it.  The proper address is ‘Shortland, Kauaeranga.’

John Read has opened a timber yard.

The Daily Southern Cross publishes a letter from William Coppell, still trying to clear his name. He feels he has held a respectable position in Auckland for the past seven years and has now, through the columns of the NZ Herald, been most infamously vilified. “In conjunction with my mates I worked on the British claim for upwards of a month, and out of my own pocket advanced £15 for provisions, not one penny of which  . . .  has up to the present been returned . . .  William Sutton, one of the present claim holders, informed me that he was empowered to collect subscriptions for the slabbing of the shaft . . . and believing as I did that my name, added to his own, in the advertisement . . .  would have a certain weight in obtaining increased subscriptions. I consented to its being added.  Sir, out of the whole moneys so collected not one farthing passed through my hands, my sole reason for appending my name to that advertisement being a belief . . . that I was benefiting the other claim holders  As my character has been so vilely assailed by the correspondent of the Herald, I have made arrangements, in the event of  his not making an ample apology through you and your contemporary’s columns, to bring an action for libel against him.   In the meantime I leave you and your readers to decide whether I have not met with most cruel treatment for merely endeavouring to carry out the views of all those who are sincerely desirous that the goldfields at the Thames should be fully developed.”

Willie Winkie for the Thames and Opotiki with a full cargo of 10 tons potatoes. 
Bessy for the Thames with stores. 
Rapid for the Thames with stores.

NZH 5 September 1867

NZH 5 September 1867

A large amount of trash.
Friday 6 September
Gold has been struck and there is a heavy rush for the head of the Karaka creek. 

Allan Baillie, Esq, JP, is appointed as Warden of the Thames goldfield. His Coromandel experience and personal acquaintance with the Maori will be of much advantage in any dispute that may be brought before him, in mining and other local cases.

The Police Court, Resident Magistrates Court and Warden’s Court are all held in the same whare at Shortland, often one after the other – with the rising of one court, the next one will sit. 

Commissioner Mackay visits Manaia to commence negotiations for the blocks between Kereta and Coromandel, some 400 square miles.  He feels the opening up for mining of this area will take some time to complete, as the arranging of cultivation and other reserves, and the settling of inter tribal and individual boundaries will be a work of considerable difficulty, requiring much care and patient consideration.

Noon Turrell and Tonks sell at their auction mart one year’s lease of eight business allotments situated close to the landing place, Shortland Town.

Mr Messenger junior brings down to the Thames the funds collected by the besieged Sutton and Coppell, which is forwarded to Captain Butt.   The NZ Herald correspondent who besmirched their names protests “I see that I am threatened with an action for libel!” before offering this apology . . . “I can now compliment these gentlemen on their public spirit, and say how sorry I am that ever for a moment there should have been a shadow of difference between us to interrupt that high respect and kindly regard which we have ever had for each other.”

Severn for the Thames with 2 tons stores, 12 passengers.  
Cornstalk and Henry for the Thames with passengers.

Saturday, 7 September
The weather is very fine.  A quantity of alluvial gold is now coming in from the newly opened ground at the Waiotahi.

Two ingots of gold - 10oz and 12dwts in weight – are displayed in Mr Beck the jewelers window at Auckland.  The gold has been extracted from the picked specimens of quartz sent up from the Shotover claim on Friday.  The bag contained not more than 60lbs of quartz.  Two thirds of the quantity was crushed by hand in a pestle and mortar, and the result was nearly 1lb weight of gold.  The other 15 bags of quartz are of just average quality which was not too carefully taken from the reef. 

While there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the Thames goldfields there is optimism around the fact that there has been no rush back from it.  This is more than can be said of any diggings yet opened.  In Victoria, in Otago, in Westland the rush was followed by a large exodus of unsuccessful and mumbling malcontents.  The Thames, though it has sent little gold to prove its worth, can at least boast that those who have rushed to it, remain there and are satisfied, and this too at the most adverse season of the year.

Diamond for the Thames with stores.

The NZ Herald is a champion of the Thames goldfields.  It notes the Westland diggers at the Thames writing to their mates at the West Coast goldfields encouraging them to leave their claims and come up.  The Herald pours scorn on the Daily Southern Cross, whose reports are reserved and pessimistic, for republishing a “large amount of trash” from the Grey River Argus evidently written to prevent the miners from leaving Westland.  “We don’t blame our Westland contemporaries; doubtless they would be sorry to see the West Coast completely deserted for the Thames but we blame our contemporary for republishing such trash without a word of comment.”

Mr Holland, manager of the claims now  sunk on the Karaka Flat, proceeds to Auckland to expedite the working.  Tools and timber which cannot be got in Shortland are necessary to carry out the work.

The Perseverance Claim has gone down 49ft and now strikes rock bottom.  There is no workable gold.  A slow realisation begins to dawn that the Thames is not an alluvial goldfield.  The gold is auriferous – locked in the reefs.

As with all Saturdays, after noon work stops on the diggings.

DSC 7 September 1867

   A watchful eye on Hikutaia.

Sunday 8 September
C de Thierry has been quietly prospecting in the area up to Hikutaia after some leading Maori chiefs gave him permission. He and his Maori guide have traveled over a considerable tract of country. He finds the back-land in the vicinity of Hikutaia a far more inviting aspect than the land lower down the Thames. 

Extensive swamps intervene between the chain of hills and the river Waihou, reminding him of those along the bleak shores of the Piako. The Maori have a traditional story that the whole of these swamps once formed the bed of the sea and he finds shells on the slopes of the hills, of the same species as those existing on the shores of the lower Thames.

Between Shortland Town and Hikutaia are a series of hills, rising tier above tier, topped with scrub and fern of short growth. But, of all this range of hills, few places offer a more imposing appearance than Mount Horehore.  

In the valley below he sees evidence of volcanic eruption in many places and a sort of burnt quartz embedded in the terrace which forms the base of the hills. Numerous streams of water wind their way through the valleys, and traverse the flat land into the swamps below. 

The Omahu Creek is the largest in the neighbourhood of Mount Horehore. Omahu Creek comes from a considerable distance in the interior, and runs into the big swamp called Te Eoto Kauri. The swamp is covered with hummocks of raupo and toitoi, obstructing the channel of the Omahu Creek. The upper part of this creek is broad and shallow, but in the rainy season it is filled with rain-water and driftwood from the hills. The bed is formed of masses of large stones and quartz and partly embedded in its banks are to be seen a mixture of fine red and white quartz. It is very difficult to travel through this part of the country in the wintertime, owing to the immense quantity of marshy land, and to the flooded state of the numerous streams.

During his rambles through the valley at the base of Mount Horehore  de Theirry discovers a large hole, dug several feet in the ground.  He examines a quantity of stone and quartz which is scattered on the ground but sees no appearance of alluvial gold.

De Thierry’s guide tells him he remembers hearing of two people - one a white man and the other a Maori -  who were caught in the act of digging for gold near the foot of Mount Horehore, by a party  belonging to the Ngati Tamateras, travelling over from Tairua.  From the top of the hills they observed the movements of the white man and the Maori and then sneaked down from the ranges to the place where the men were at work and turned them both off the land, but not before they had time to secure and carry off the gold they had taken out of the hole. This happened some ten or twelve years ago and since then it is said the Maori owners of the land have spent much time in keeping a watchful eye on the place.

The weather is very unsettled and De Thierry doesn’t have sufficient food or prospecting tools so he cannot give the place a fair trial.

Sailing vessels and steamer in the distance, Thames, 1868 - William Eastwood
 Sir George Grey Special Collections 3-698-64

The brandy bottle.

Monday, 9 September  
Wiremu and Meke Heremia are in trouble again.  This morning they are at the Police Court saying Captain Butt of the Shortland Hotel has sold grog to them – it is an offence to sell spirituous liquors to the Maori.

Wiremu says that on 6 September, at 11am, he and Meke went to the public house of John Butt and called William Hopkins,  the servant, for two glasses of brandy.  He paid a shilling, then ordered another two glasses and paid another shilling.  They were in a small room behind the house on the east side of the store.  Meke gave William the money.  Meke says it was his own money, he got it nowhere, he got it long ago for some things of his own.  

The brandy bottle is produced in court and identified.  Captain Butt says he feels the information fails as the liquor was sold by William Hopkins, who was not summoned.  He asks for an adjournment until tomorrow which is granted.

Other cases of breaching the liquor act are heard. The Resident Magistrate is just about to deliver judgement in the case of a person selling liquor without a licence, when “Go ahead!” is shouted by the captain of the Enterprise.  This takes everybody by surprise and there is a sudden, swift, silent exodus from the room.

The lead is taken by a well-known barrister and his bag, alongside an ex-chairman of the City Board.  The NZ Herald correspondent makes a good second and finally wins by about a length.  He gets his dispatches on board and hears “three cheers for Mr Joy”, the Auckland lawyer who had been retained in the cases of breaches of the Licensing Act.  Mr Joy raises his hat and looks as if he has been running at a pace that has been killing.  The steamer goes off and the correspondent returns to his duties at court.

The Success brings nine diggers to Auckland from Napier for the Thames goldfields.
The Severn arrives at Auckland after a smart run and reports that the Enterprise has run aground and is lying high and dry.

Tay for the Thames with 5,000ft timber and 6 passengers.

Tonight the wind picks up and several tents come to grief, but no other damage is done.

An ingenious appliance.

Tuesday, 10 September
10am   At the Police Court the adjourned hearing of Captain Butt serving liquor to Maori is resumed.  Butt protests that the two men were in court during the time each had given his evidence and it was easy for one to corroborate the evidence of the other one.  The Bench snaps this is his own fault – Butt could have asked the court to order them out.  Butt also pleads that the summons was issued in the name John Butt whereas the Maoris have sworn they were served by William Hopkins, servant. 

Charles Eaton, carpenter, who was employed by Captain Butt, says he was in the dividing room between the store and the front from 6am till 12pm when he went to the kitchen.   No other room adjoins the store except Captain Butt’s private room and there was no access to that except through the room Eaton was working in.  Eaton finished at 6pm and had been all day in the room dividing the store and the bar.  He saw no Maori served with liquor.

Wiremu and Meke are brought into court and Eaton swears he did not see them in the hotel on 6 September.  The case is dismissed.  The decision is hailed with much satisfaction. 

The case appears to have been driven by malice after Wiremu and Heke were fined for breach of peace a few days earlier.  Captain Butt was selected as the victim to enable them to recover the amount for the fine.   The Shortland Hotel is orderly and respectable.  In future no Maori will be permitted to enter the public department.

Warden Baillie is at the newly opened ground on the Waiotahi to hear a case of alleged jumping.  One of the first men at the Waiotahi rush has marked out a claim by putting in two pegs, four pegs, two feet above the ground being the regulation allowance.  Some of the men who were fossicking about found the lead of gold and jumped it.  In such a case a very slight commission may mean the loss of some thousands of pounds. The NZ Herald correspondent later blithely  explains 'jumping' as “this amusement for the uninitiated consists in taking something that doesn’t belong to you and then endeavour to persuade your victim that you are doing him a favour.”  

An ingenious appliance has been fitted up on the premises adjoining the Governor Brown Hotel, Hobson Street, Auckland, to crush the quartz of the Shotover claim.   The machine is what is known as a Victorian stamper, resembling a large pestle and mortar, and  by its aid one man can crush 5cwt of quartz per day.  The machine is now in working order and will be in full operation today.  After the quartz is crushed the machine will be taken down to the Shotover reef at the Thames.

Captain Hutton, Provincial Geologist, is out on the creeks at the Thames, examining the rock laid bare by the action of water and the outcrops on the ranges, also the headlands and other portions of the coast between the Thames and the northern boundary of the proclaimed goldfields washed by the waters of the Firth.

Some six tons of auriferous quartz from Tookey’s reef waits for shipment by the cutter Fly to Coromandel.  The machines there can crush that amount in half a day which is thought a better alternative than waiting and waiting until machinery is brought to the Thames.  The stone found in Tookey’s reef is very rich. 

Bell tents begin to appear on the Kuranui stream and the area becomes known as Tookey’s Flat.  Tookey’s Flat is separated from Shortland by a desolate area, part of which is a Maori burial place, studded thickly with carved posts.  It is quite frightening to cross this lonely region from the Flat to Shortland Town after dark.

A new reef has been discovered at the Waiotahi by a man named Townley and another at the Karaka, the stone from which is also very rich. With the finer weather the diggers on the alluvial ground are beginning to obtain gold.

A  miner writes to a mate - “This place will turn out well.  They are finding reefs in all the hills here and they are the richest that have been found in any part of the world.  There is little doubt but that there will be one of the largest rushes before long to the Thames that has ever taken place in New Zealand.  The ranges are full of reefs for miles and were it not for the wet weather, alluvial diggings would have been opened up . . . The diggers are writing  for their mates to come up from Hokitika and the Buller . . .  I see  the Daily Southern Cross are trying to pooh-pooh the Thames goldfield, but the gold will speak for itself.”

Dudley Eyre, surveyor, and his assistant, Thomas Sandes, are again caught up in a skirmish while carrying out their work.   They are marking out the boundaries of the Shotover and Barry’s claims near the Kuranui creek and are stopped near the top of the hill by James Rodgers.  Rodgers, an Italian, refuses to allow them to continue saying they are trespassing on his property.  He has held the ground for nearly a month, marking it out on 19 August, and has cut a sizeable track to it.  He draws a large sheath knife and says if his boundary is crossed he will cut the tape. He tells the surveyors  twenty times to come no further.  Eyre asks where the boundary is and Rodgers marks it on the ground with his finger.  Eyre puts in a peg but Rodgers flourishes the knife and cuts the tape.  Eyre and Sandes give up their work and go for the police. 

*In his reminisces George Clarkson says they stored their quartz at a Hobson Street boarding house and they got ‘George Frazer’ to build them the Berdan but it appears that, although they may have asked Fraser and Tinne to do this, they were unable to so.  

Masefield and Co built the Berdan; Fraser and Tinne later built the Shotover Battery. 

Clarkson says they took samples to Auckland to have treated at a place at the top of Grey Street.

George Clarkson also says he was sure between 100 – 150oz of gold must have run down the drain of the boarding house which appears to have adjoined the Governor Brown Hotel in Hobson Street.

Clarkson also states that in August 1867 he stayed at Mrs Jean McKay's boarding house at Thames where they extracted their first lot of gold from the ore. They got 60 ounces but George reckoned they lost another 100 ounces down the drain. Mrs McKay had a ring made from that first lot of gold.  These memories seem to be flawed and confused.

Papers Past
The true discovery of the Shotover mine in Thames in 1867 as told to David Henry Clarkson by his father George Clarkson –
Coromandel Life – Read Bros – Five generations – 1 store – 150 years (late Autumn/Winter 2017 issue)

© 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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