Monday 20 August 2018

2 October to 8 October, 1867

The gold is there but the men are not.

Great trees ferns and whares,  Thames goldfield 

Auckland Museum, D L Mundy Ref PH- ALB-86

Wednesday, 2 October
The weather is still bad.
 A rumour has been afloat for the last few days that a deposit of alluvial gold has been discovered.  The Daily Southern Cross correspondent writes “I am on the qui vive (alert) to learn the whereabouts, if there is any truth in it.”  He thinks the locality must be outside the boundary, not far from the Kauaeranga River.

Shortland is the headquarters of the miners and most of the prospectors starting from there go no further back than they can reach and return by sundown, the country being rugged and covered with dense bush and undergrowth.   

The need for machinery on the Thames is becoming pressing.  In some quarters there are suggestions that the Shotover, Barry’s and Tookey’s claims are not by any means of so exceptional a character as some might suppose.

The Shotover and Barry’s have small machines with which the richer stone can be crushed and Daniel Tookey has a cutter of his own by which he can convey stone from his claim at the Thames to Coromandel and being an old trader at the latter place, he naturally takes advantage of this.

There are those who are getting ready to send their quartz to Coromandel and some talk of taking theirs to Melbourne.  There is strong prejudice amongst the miners against sending quartz away to be crushed.  Fraser and Tinne’s five head of stampers are not thought likely to meet the requirements of the district.  Large quantities of stone are piled up ready for the time when machinery will be erected.

Numbers of men with rich claims are literally sitting idle for want of means to get the stone crushed.  Within the last few days orders have been sent to Sydney for a large stamping machine for the Thames although there are iron foundries in Auckland.

Some say there are on the score of reefs claims for 10,000 men.  The gold is there but the men are not. What the Thames wants is men and machinery, especially the latter.

The ss Auckland steams for Sydney, Australia, with a general cargo and 407 ounces of Thames gold – the first export of the product of the Thames reefs. 

The Shipping Summary for Auckland reports that the coasting business has maintained its characteristic briskness this month.  The traffic to the newly opened gold district at the Thames has increased it very materially.  At present three steamers are employed on this trade as well as a number of constant trading vessels.

Disquiet is growing over the cutter Betsey, five weeks out from Napier with passengers for the Thames, which has not arrived yet.

Thursday, 3 October 
A very curious specimen of something is found at 70ft in the shaft at the foot of Murphy’s reef.  It may be petrified wood or iron.  The shaft has a kauri log at 66ft down and the specimen is embedded in something very like rotten wood.  The men of the claim request that when the public have had a look at it that it be handed on to Captain Hutton, for the Auckland Museum.

Rangatira for the Thames in ballast, 3 passengers.  Alabama for the Thames with stores.  Rapid  for the Thames with stores.  Bessy for the Thames – 15,000ft timber, 1 horse, 1 dray, 3 passengers.

The Midge and Tauranga steam for the Thames.  The Tauranga is first to get away and waits in the stream for the Midge.  When both steamers are abreast of each other a race begins.   Full steam is got up on both vessels and they keep well together going down the harbour.  When nearing Browns Island however the Midge appears to get the best of it and takes the lead.

The Wellington Independent scoffs at the news from the Thames diggings saying they do not appear to have proved very attractive to the diggers of the West Coast.  The teachings of adversity have not been entirely thrown away upon the diggers who, influenced by a commendable caution, haven’t made any move in the direction of the “so called North Island goldfield”, being apparently content to wait patiently for further and more reliable news.  The Bruce laid on for Auckland has so few applications for tickets that her destination is changed.

The Tauranga arrives triumphant at the Thames one hour before the Midge.

NZH 3 October, 1867

NZH, 3 October, 1867

The matter has been treated with apathy.

Friday, 4 October
The Thames Goldfields Post Office is opened at the Shortland store of Mr Francis Collier Holloway who is appointed postmaster.  Mr John Douglas is postmaster at Kopu.  Mails are despatched every steamer to the Thames.

Campbell’s party on the lower line of Murphy’s reef and what is commonly called Foreigners claim, have very good quartz out.  All the men are steadily at work.  There are now 737 miners rights issued.

A meeting held for the purpose of raising £250 to complete the sinking of two abandoned shafts on the Karaka Flat is held in Samuel Cochrane’s auction rooms, Auckland.   About £25 has been subscribed but there is a very small attendance at the meeting.  The matter has so far been treated with apathy and the Chairman proposes an adjournment.  The shaft is now down to 80ft and it is feared that the work will come to an end for want of means to carry it out.  Mr Cochrane, incidentally, is going to Coromandel next Tuesday to supervise the removal of machinery from there to the Thames.

The third triennial census of the population of  New Zealand will take place in December.  Forms will be delivered between the 2nd and 19th of December. By an Act passed during the late session of the Assembly, provision has been made to supply a great deal of additional useful matter consisting of agricultural and industrial statistics.

 Bessy for the Thames with 15,000ft timber, one horse, one dray, three passengers.

The Tauranga steams away from the Thames so fast that the boats which convey passengers to her do not catch the vessel and they have to bring them back to shore.   The Tauranga is back in Auckland after a 4 ½ hour run – one of the quickest to date.

The Midge also flies away without calling for correspondent’s dispatches for the Auckland newspapers. 

At Auckland Detective O’Hara, acting on certain information, inspects the Enterprise on her departure from the wharf for the Thames. He arrests three individuals – John Kearns, John Warrington and William Barlow. The hopeful trio evidently contemplated a long stay at the diggings, possibly with the idea of establishing a clothiers shop - they had furnished themselves with a number of blankets which they had filled with an extensive stock of drapery and  clothing  all tied  up in the form of immense swags.  The men were also dressed from top to toe in stolen articles.  The booty had been taken on Wednesday night from a store adjoining Henderson’s Mill in Auckland, broken into by means of a crowbar.

The Midge comes into Auckland wharf with eleven diggers returning for tools.  She has considerable difficultly landing her passengers owing to a heavy sea and strong wind.

Saturday, 5 October
The Enterprise comes in to the Thames amidst a whole gale of wind and rain. A small Maori craft sinks at her moorings off Kauaeranga, owing to the severity of the weather.  No lives are lost.

Alexander Hogg opens a timber yard at Shortland.  The Scotsman came to New Zealand in 1855, aged 17.  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.  

A reef is discovered above the Kuranui, on the Pukekohe Creek, 8ft in width. David Young and party have got a very good show of gold on the Karaka, as have Verran and Ninnis. The claim of McCann and party at No 4 Kuranui, “beats hollow” anything that a Herald correspondent has seen yet.   The appearance of the fracture of the stone is just as if the quartz has gold leaf laid over it.  

The Shotover party are working a stamper with a Berdan machine ready to receive the quartz.  The gold is then amalgamated with quicksilver.  This mode of extracting the gold is thought puerile, when it is known that machinery is lying idle in Auckland and Coromandel.

Messrs Evans and Company publishes a new map of the Thames goldfield.  It is an excellent lithographed map of the district, on a scale of 2 ½ miles to an inch from Cape Colville and south as far as Tauranga Heads.  The map has been compiled by Mr Wareham, and is in all respects a most creditable production.  It is sold at the low price of one shilling and will doubtless be purchased by thousands.  It can be procured from their establishment, Fort Street, or the Queen Street office of the Daily Southern Cross. 

The new El Dorado.

The contradictory reports of the NZ Herald and Daily Southern Cross about the Thames goldfield are now a well established fact. One reader writing to the Herald about a letter the Cross published says “The mail for the south leaves today and I therefore purchased a copy of the Southern Cross to see whether anything calculated to deprecate the Thames goldfields could be found . . . sure enough the first look showed me a letter signed ‘A Witness.’  It says we are all under a delusion as to the real nature of the Thames goldfield.  It says there are nine promising claims, just giving 54 men  a good chance, leaving 900 men doing nothing and with no chance . . .  experienced industrious men have got nothing for many weeks hard work and nearly every accessible hill or mountain spur is dotted with vacant holes.”

Bernard Reynolds of Shortland Town is also cynical. Every morning crowds of eager readers are attracted to the Cross’s publishing offices in Queen Street, Auckland.  The doorway is often completely blocked up by the throng impatient to learn the latest intelligence from the new El Dorado.  The Cross’s two reporters, in addition to their own speculations, are partners in some of the most promising reefs, and Bernard thinks the Cross ought to receive the reporters statements with caution.

The exaggerated accounts of rich strikes made at the Thames almost every other day are only imaginary, and he suspects fabricated for the purpose of filling hotels and boarding houses at Shortland Town and the steamers to and from the Thames.

Bernard has spent three weeks in fruitless endeavours to discover gold, or any metal resembling gold.  Before visiting the Thames he had misgivings, now his doubts are resolved into certainty.  That there is gold at the Thames no-one can deny, but it is the general opinion among the most sensible and experienced of the mining population that it will require an outlay of more gold to explore the reefs than many of them will ever repay.

Every attempt to discover alluvial diggings has resulted in failure and disappointment, and, out of the 1,500 diggers now scattered over the Thames district, 50 provided with tools suitable for the labour could not be mustered.  

On the Karaka Flat the two shafts are still being sunk by men who are working night and day incessantly, in order to reach the bottom.   The men are victualled by Captain Butt on condition of his being repaid if they find gold on the bottom in payable quantities.

The lynx–eyed newspaper correspondents at the Thames seem to Bernard to be favoured with extraordinary powers of vision, because they can discover more gold in their short visits to the poorest of the reefs than others can by careful examination.

As far as Bernard can see there are three payable claims on the hills and there are also three likely claims in the township.  Captain Butt’s Shortland  Hotel stands on one of them, Mulligan’s Victoria Hotel  on  the second and  David Sheenan’s Duke of Edinburgh Hotel  on the third.

The Auckland stock and share market report says business  continues dull although Thames mining shares are commanding some attention and fetch fair prices.

Catherine for Mercury Bay via the Thames with 8,000ft timber, 10,000 shingles, 4 doors and sashes, 3 kegs nails, 4 sheets zinc, 1 parcel.

The smart little screw steamer Gemini leaves for an excursion to the Thames with her owner and a party of friends numbering nearly 20. She makes a capital run down of six hours arriving at 11pm. She also conveys a crushing machine forwarded by Messrs Vickery and Masefield.

Sunday, 6 October
2 – 3am
The house of Robert Clifford, in Ponsonby Road, Newton, Auckland, goes up in flames. He is away at the Thames diggings and the house is occupied by Mrs Clifford, their four children, 83 year old Mrs Clifford senior and their lodger Robert Latta. The conflagration originates in the back portion of the five roomed house and they barely have time to escape before the rooms burst into a mass of flames.  It is utterly impossible to save an article of furniture.  The shock has left Mrs Clifford senior bereft her of reason.  Five adjoining wooden cottages are also destroyed, the occupants having narrow escapes leaving some severely scorched.

The Gemini’s passengers land at the Thames at daylight and spend the day in examination of the reefs and the country around Karaka.

The party from the Gemini return to Shortland much gratified with their visit.   Steam is got up and the little vessel returns to Auckland in nine hours against a strong westerly wind. The Midge also gets away with the tide.  The Gemini brings back the crushing machine sent down by Vickery and Masefield for reasons unknown. 

“We begin to think ourselves ‘some pumpkins’ to have four steamers laid on,” puffs the Herald correspondent, although the Gemini is just on an excursion.

NZH 7 October, 1867


Monday, 7 October
The early steamers bring back to Auckland this morning several businessmen who went down to the Thames to ascertain whether the reports prevalent of the richness and extent of the field are accurate. The Herald rhapsodises “The consequence has not been a mere confirmation of what has appeared in this journal, but the assurance that we have been too reticent by half.  No-one, it is stated who had not actually seen the claims themselves, could believe how rich they were and how apparently inexhaustible."

At the troubled sinking on the Karaka Flat the show is good but the 24 men need more timber for slabbing and rations as they continue with the work.

Samuel Cochrane goes down to Coromandel tonight with Walter Williamson on the cutter Harriet  to make arrangements with John Goodall for the purchase and transportation of one at least of two of his crushing machines from Coromandel to the Thames.  One of these has six, and the other, four stampers.  

John Goodall is the enterprising proprietor of the Waihau Gold Mining at Coromandel.  He purchased the whole plant six months ago at Samuel Cochrane's auction mart for £205.  John Goodall's energy and initiative has revived the Coromandel diggings of late, a reporter observing that it is cheerful now to observe the chimneys of the claims belching forth their columns of smoke, giving the diggings a stronger aspect of vitality than they have had for many months. 

The Kapanga Company at Coromandel also has spare machinery which could be available.  There are thought to be many engines in Auckland as well as stampers and the additions could be easily and quickly made in town to complete them.  A machine, which can crush a ton an hour, is already on its way to the Thames.

Severn for the Thames – 6,000ft timber, 3 tons sundries, 12 passengers. 
Six Brothers in ballast, 3 passengers.  Sydney for the Thames with timber.

The jogtrot of everyday life.

Tuesday, 8 October
The Enterprise leaves Auckland early this morning with 125 passengers for the diggings - the largest number that has gone down in one vessel since the goldfield opened.  

At 3.30am the Midge follows in the wake of the Enterprise, with another 100 or so passengers. 

The ‘jogtrot of everyday life’ is now established at Shortland Town only two months after the goldfields were opened. Warden’s cases are followed with much interest as a few feet of ground may make or lose a fortune.  There are now nearly 900 miners rights issued and the population is about 2,000.

The Union Bank and the Bank of New Zealand have secured sites in the new township.   Many allotments have changed hands at a fabulous increase; no doubt a very lucrative trade will be driven by the lawyers in the fabrication, subdivision and transfer of titles.  There are warnings though, that when so much depression exists in Auckland, it is hardly wise to encourage over-speculation at Shortland Town.

At Coromandel Samuel Cochrane has an interview with John Goodall who agrees to ship one of his engines to Kauaeranga and set it up there.  Samuel is praised for the very energetic and prompt part he has had in the advancement of the goldfields machinery.

The work of demolition commences on the Goodall machine.  The engine, house and plant are expected to be at the beach at Kauaeranga by the end of this week.  The other engine will be left to crush stuff from McIsaac’s reef at Coromandel

The Petrel leaves Coromandel for Kauaeranga with a quantity of stores and eleven passengers.  She also takes  the crushing machine but the weather being very boisterous with a heavy sea on, she is unable to land it, and the machine is consequently  brought on to Auckland to be forwarded by one of the steamers going back down.   

DSC 10 October, 1867

NZH 8 October 1867

Papers Past

© Meghan Hawkes / First year on the Thames Goldfield 2017

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


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