Sunday 19 August 2018

9 October to 15 October, 1867

View at the Thames diggings, William Eastwood
Sir George Grey Special Collections 3-698-60

A Wesleyan reef.

Wednesday, 9 October
The Tauranga steams for the Thames with a large number of passengers.  As with the men on the Enterprise and Midge who left very early yesterday morning they appear to be of the mining class and prepared to “rough it” on the newly opened goldfield. 

An agent of one of the largest engineering firms in Victoria, who has been visiting the Hokitika, has been ordered by his firm to visit the Thames and report back.  This he has done and he now returns to Melbourne to bring back powerful machinery to be erected at the Thames. He is perfectly satisfied as to the capability of the Thames country as a quartz reefing district and that it will maintain a large population in profitable work.

The ss Auckland arrives at Sydney Heads with about 50 tons of general cargo and several bars of gold from the Thames goldfield which, the Sydney Herald reports, is turning out very rich.

A letter to the NZ Herald from  ‘An old Gad'  also praises the potential of the Thames field  - “I speak from many years successful experience of quartz reefing both in California and in Victoria and I don’t hesitate to say that  . . . I would not ask for a fairer field than that now open to the people of Auckland at the Thames.  I can assure you, sir, from actual observations that a richer reefing country I never beheld. The auriferous claims already discovered . . . are sufficient in number if properly worked to employ the entire population now on the goldfields.”

Yet the Evening Post is pessimistic “The population of the diggings now amounts to nearly 1,500 persons.  What are all these 1,500 doing it will be asked.  No one making a casual trip to the diggings knows.  A great many go out prospecting, they disappear over the ranges in search of new reefs, bring in bags of quartz to be tested, keeping the locality of the supposed new reef secret.  Some adopt the precaution of having their claims marked out at once and obtain protection from the warden until they can return to Auckland for tools and provisions.”

 The Lake Waikatip Mail is also bleak – “The Auckland papers are giving great sensational paragraphs about the revival of the Thames quartz reefs.  It is said with that wild exaggeration that Auckland people indulge in, that 1000ozs was taken in a week from one claim and 600ozs from a ton of quartz.  These fabulous reefs are said to be everywhere cropping out of the soil, it is strange they have never before been discovered.”

The Pitt Street Wesleyan Church in Auckland is in debt due to over expenditure and the “un-looked for but now too-well-known commercial depression.”   Mr Caley, a trustee, tells a meeting  that he saw  a young man the other day who said that he was going to the Thames and that, if it pleased the Lord to give him a good reef, he would come back and pay the debt of the Pitt Street church.  This is met with considerable applause and amusement.   The Reverend says he hopes the good providence of God will go with that young man to the Thames and help him find a Wesleyan reef.

Over the past two days an increasingly desperate deputation has gone round the Auckland banks soliciting assistance with the sinking on the Karaka flat, led by Mr Holland, manager.   Yesterday John  Watson Bain approached Mr Kennedy of the Bank of New Zealand.  Today he tries Mr Kerr of the Union Bank of Australia, and Mr Matton of the Bank of Australasia.  Mr Woodhouse, of the Bank of New South Wales, is engaged when he first calls, then has left the office by 2pm when he calls again.  None of the bank managers will contribute anything towards the sinking of the shaft. Their excuse for so doing so is “What are we to gain by it?”

Thursday, 10 October
Machinery starts making its way to the Thames.  The Rangatira brings the powerful crushing machine of Goodall’s originally sent from Coromandel.  The cutter Forth also leaves for the Thames this morning with a crushing machine, forwarded by Messrs Fraser and Tinne. 

There is still a large mass of unemployed labour floating in the streets of Auckland, who are willing to accept employment when offered.  There are many men who would be glad to give the Thames a trial, but who cannot afford to spend the money necessary to pay their passage or buy equipment.  

Friday, 11 October
There is quite a rush for town allotments at Shortland, an additional piece of ground having been surveyed.

Rumours are beginning to surface over the opening of the Upper Thames district. John Williamson, the Superintendent of Auckland, plans to go to the Thames in the next few days to facilitate the opening of this area.

Gossip very prevalent in Auckland over the past few days is that ‘certain parties’ are also now engaged in making private overtures to the Maori for purchase of this land.  Te Hira, a chief in the Ngati Tamatera tribe, of the Upper Waihou and Ohinemuri country, has been fiercely opposed to opening these lands.

The ‘certain party’ is  Scotsman David Graham who has known the Maori for 25 years; many in the Upper Thames region knew him as a boy.

David is the brother of the more well known entrepreneur  Robert Graham.  Robert and David were general merchants at Russell and Auckland.  In 1845 Robert built a hotel at Waiwera taking advantage of the hot springs there.  He spent the years 1849 – 1853 in California shipping potatoes and wheat, and starting a family.   He also spent some time on the goldfields there.  On his return to Auckland he bought 465 acres on Great South Road, Auckland, and laid out gardens and a zoo. He named this estate “Ellerslie” after his home in Scotland (actually Elderslie). In 1857 he bought Motutapu Island and, in 1858, Motuihi Island which he farmed with another brother.  He has served in the House of Representatives from 1855.  In 1862 he became the fifth Superintendent of Auckland. He is a passionate promoter of Auckland.   

Robert Graham in later years
Sir George Grey Special Collections 7-A9532

At the Thames two men found on the prohibited boundary are sent back by the Warden.

A very considerable quantity of stone is ready for crushing,  variously estimated at one hundred to three hundred tons, Barry and party having the largest bulk of any claim.

The Moanataiari claim (lately known as Williamson and party's) has a quartz house for holding the stone from the leader which is nearly full and now they are preparing to stack outside.  

The cry is “when shall we start to have the machinery?”  Mr Goodall of Coromandel has guaranteed that he will be crushing within a fortnight.   Mr Fraser, of Fraser and Tinne, has a small battery in the river, which is to be put up at the mouth of the Kuranui Creek.  It is estimated the Thames can do with 50 head of stampers.

Trade in Auckland is stagnant and the only apparent prospect for improvement lies in the speedy extension of the Thames goldfield and successful results of crushing operations shortly to be attempted on a larger scale.

 Doady  for the Thames with one steam engine.  Triad for the Thames with one steam engine, 4 casks ale, 200ft timber and 8 sheep.

NZH 11 October 1867

The voices of children at play.

Saturday, 12 October
The NZ Herald publishes a breathless report - “The news from the Thames is most exhilarating.  The reefs are turning out exceedingly rich and auriferous claims are in excess of the number of men legally qualified to hold them.  On the proved auriferous reefs it is computed that there are claims for fully 10,000 men.  We are inclined to believe that there must be considerably over 2,0000 persons at the Thames.  Nine hundred miner’s rights are taken out. Truth is our streets are becoming denuded and in the suburbs this scarcity of men is even more remarked.  For those who have visited the Thames we learn that money is plentiful among the diggers.”

As steamers and other vessels approach the Thames, passengers catch a faint glimpse of their destination - a prominent range of hills, running nearly north and south. As they get still nearer, the broken character of the landscape comes into view as does the narrow, swampy flat bordering the sea shore at the foot of the hills. Range after range of hills rise one above the other, every spur is dotted with the white tents of the miners showing brightly against the dark background; the faces of the spurs scraped out, showing where the leaders are being worked.  

Looking southwest across the Firth there is an extensive mangrove swamp and mud bank which separates the Kauaeranga stream from the Thames river.  Beyond this is a huge kahikatea bush stretching to Piako and then beyond the ranges running out to the Firth of Thames.  On the Kauaeranga side is the wild huddle of hills running from Cape Colville to Te Aroha.  In some places the spurs run down to the water. 

Every spur and gully shows a mass of clay newly thrown out from amongst the foliage; holes like caves can be seen driven into the face of the rock.  A good many claims have heaps of stone waiting for crushing machinery.   

Close to the landing place is the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel and beyond this is the substantial and well filled store of Mr De Hirsch.

The principal building is Captain Butt’s Shortland Hotel, a neat weatherboard construction of considerable dimensions. It is replete with every comfort, reasonably priced and puts more pretentious hotels to shame.  Opposite is the large Victoria Hotel kept by Mr Mulligan where an excellent table is provided. Mr Mulligan’s endeavours include a spacious ballroom, a skittle alley and extensive store.  He is currently erecting a large billiard room.

Conspicuous among the restaurants is the one kept by Mr Rose of the Coach and Horses, Queen Street, Auckland.  Charles F Mitchell is putting up a substantial store - one which will be quite an ornament to the town. 

There are three butchers shops, two bakers (besides bread brought down from Auckland), about a dozen stores, boot and shoemakers, blacksmiths and a chemist. There are two solicitors -  one of whom is J E MacDonald, who came ahead of his wife Kate and found a little one roomed hut with a bunk in it, near Butt’s Corner, where he commenced to practise, quarrels and litigation beginning as soon as the field opened. There are four policemen - two European and two Maori.

At the back of the main street is a considerable canvas town. Large stacks of timber which have just arrived are piled about signalling the eventual end of these frail canvas and calico structures.   

At Parawai, about a mile and a half from Shortland, there are over 200 Maori where not a white man can be seen. Along the flat, near the tapued areas, is an astonishing number of posts with ‘Burial Place’ signs  nailed up. 

Up the Kuranui gully there are several good sized tents and a small wooden house.   Here there are the voices of children at play amongst the trees.

The celebrated Shotover claim now has the waterfall turned and the leader struck where the water used to come over.  A small and not very perfect Berdan machine is being worked. 

At Matthew Barry’s claim, higher up the range and an awkward place to get to, they have also got a Berdan machine on the ground and have a good deal of stuff ready.  Tookey’s reef is an extraordinary looking place - an overhanging cliff which has to be propped.  The men engaged on the Karaka flat are greatly troubled by water and are finding it difficult to keep the shaft clear.   The Parnell reef is being worked by parties who mostly hail from Howick.  They have been very fortunate having sold their shares in the claim for between £60 to £90 apiece.  Townley’s adjoins this claim and is likewise rich, having from four to five tons of quartz ready for crushing. 

Severn for the Thames with 6,000ft sawn timber, 6 tons sundries, 6 passengers.  
Mary for the Thames and Maraetai with 30 tons firewood.

A sample of gold mixed with black iron sand discovered at Mercury Bay by Mr Stephenson is brought to Auckland.  It appears to be richer in quality than the Thames gold.  Indications of gold have been found some time since in the locality but not in payable prospects.

Commissioner Mackay arrives at the Thames this evening on the cutter Emma.

NZH 12 October,  1867

Sunday, 13 October
A great crowd gathers at Shortland and there is a good deal of excitement as to the probable opening up of the Ohinemuri/ Upper Thames for gold mining.

There have been three rushes at the Thames in the past two days.  One party stayed up all night but did not find the rush they were looking for.

The poor little thing.

Monday, 14 October
At present no miner is allowed to prospect or work further south than the Kauaeranga. Mr Mackay holds a meeting today regarding the opening of the land from the Thames to Hikutaia.  The matter is quite settled, except that the Maori have certain questions of proprietorship to arrange among themselves.  It is confidently expected that this ground will be thrown open in a few weeks.  It is an extensive piece much exceeding the present field in size.

From Hikutaia up to Ohinemuri/the Upper Thames however, the case is very different.  The Maori owners are mostly not well disposed to the government and Mr Mackay is not personally popular among them.  Te Hira is positively indisposed to open his land.

A public meeting is held at the Shortland Hotel to continue trying to raise funds necessary to carry on the working of the prospecting shaft on the Karaka flat.  The committee in Auckland having failed to raise one penny towards the object,  the storekeepers, miners and all others on the goldfield are now appealed to as a last resort to raise the funds necessary as well as discharge the debt of £120 already owed. 

 The deputation having gone round the banks in Auckland, and having failed, refrained from soliciting Auckland merchants and others.  The chairman now has to call upon the inhabitants of Shortland to lend a hand to carry on the work on the flat.  

The holes are down to 94ft and with the prospect they have, it would not do justice to the men who gave their time and labour to abandon the work now. The manager, Mr Holland, reads out a letter from John Watson Bain describing his futile attempts to raise funds from the banks.  The letter ends “None so deaf as those who won't hear, or so blind as those who won't see. A bright future is at hand nevertheless . . .  Under some private arrangement, no doubt, the sinking of the shaft may yet be accomplished ; but, after what has been done, it is quite clear that neither the pulse nor, I may add, the purse of the public of Auckland is in a line to do what is so much wanted. Apathy and inability go hand in hand.” 

 It is proposed that a subscription list should be sent round the diggings and that, as there are a large number of men assembled, it should be started at once.  Before the meeting ends, close to £100 is subscribed.

Rob Roy for the Thames with 14,000ft timber, 2  hhds stout, 8 hhds beer, 2 cases cordial, 3 cases ironmongery, 5 passengers. 
Avon for the Thames with 115,000 shingles, 1 case gin, 6 passengers.

The cutter Betsey, now over six weeks out from Napier with 11 passengers for the Thames, is reported safe and sound.  She sailed from the East Cape on the 3rd but was wind bound for several weeks.  She subsequently sailed for Auckland in the company of the Coquette on the 9th and is  expected to arrive at Auckland in a day or two.

Auckland Harbour from Smales Point
Sir George Grey Special Collections 4-1-1-67

9 – 10pm
Mrs Bolton, living near Smale’s Point, leaves her house to watch the approach of the steamer Tauranga from the Thames, by which she expects her husband.  She walks only a few yards when she sees something like a bundle lying on the grass.  On going closer she finds it to be a female baby evidently about a fortnight old. The poor little thing has in its hand a nursing bottle with tube attached and is dressed in a scarlet cape tipped with white satin, the clothing suggesting that the mother is in highly respectable circumstances.  Mrs Bolton, who has no family herself, carries the foundling into her house and treats it tenderly. Her husband, who shortly after returns home from the Thames steamer, is very much surprised at this entirely unexpected addition to the family.

NZH 14 October, 1867

Tuesday, 15 October
There is a sad sequel to the abandoned baby mystery of yesterday.  It was all a concocted scheme on the part of the mother to get rid of her child, with the help of Mrs Bolton.  The mother, a Mrs Peacocke, arranged with Mrs Bolton that the child should be found evidently abandoned.  There was a willingness on the part of the mother to get rid of the child and on the part of Mrs Bolton to adopt it but how to explain the matter to Mr Bolton on his return home from the Thames?   Mrs Bolton agreed to “find” the child in the hope that Mr Bolton would raise no objection.  Mr Bolton however insisted on the child being handed over to its lawful parent.  Mrs Peacocke  lodges in a shop kept by Mrs Alley, her husband having  left her six months ago.  Mrs Bolton is greatly reluctant to part with the child and equally Mrs Peacocke is greatly reluctant to take back the child.

Wahapu for the Thames with 7,000 bricks, 100 bushels lime.

More like a fair than anything else.

David Graham, Ngati, an old Maori who calls himself King and who says he has great influence upriver,  D J  O'Keefe, J Horne, Mr O'Connor,  Mr Thorpe  and Mr  Maxwell, with a crew of Maori, start for Ohinemuri from Shortland Town in an open boat on their dubious quest  to see Te Hira about opening his land for gold mining. 

David Graham obtained Commissioner Mackay’s permission, professing the greatest anxiety to open up that district and assuring the commissioner that this alone is their object. David Graham says his desire is to aid the Superintendent of Auckland in every way in opening the Upper Thames. But there is a very strong feeling expressed by the leading miners that David Graham’s expedition is likely to do more harm than good.

John Williamson, Superintendent of Auckland Domain

The steamer Gemini has been chartered for an excursion to the Thames and now leaves the Auckland wharf.  On board is John Williamson the Superintendent of Auckland, Mr White the Government interpreter, as well as William Rowe and  Hugh Coolahan  members of the Auckland Provincial Council.  Major Heaphy is also on board, intending to see how he might aid the Provincial Government in facilitating the permanent settlement of the Thames. 

The party plan go up river to endeavour to get Te Hira and the other chiefs to open the country further up to gold miners. The Gemini’s light draught enables her to visit places not navigable by other boats

David Graham’s party arrives at Hikutaia creek.  A halt is called at a Maori settlement, at which Ngatai is welcomed for half an hour by his Maori relatives and friends. There are about 150 men and 200 women and children in this settlement. They are a hapu of the Ngatipaoa tribe, to which tribe Ngatai belongs. The Maoris appear to have a limited supply of food and other comforts, and are clad in the old style of flax mats. They receive David Graham with great courtesy and kindness but as he has no business to transact with them, the visit is confined to a short friendly conversation. 

After leaving the Hikutaia settlement, the party proceeds up the river to Mr Anderton's station. Mr Anderton was in practice as a solicitor in Auckland but now  farms on the banks of the Waihou. Mr Anderton hospitably entertains the party. On casting off from this station, the boat is steadily pulled up the river.

The Gemini arrives at the Thames, having  called in at Orakei Bay for Chief Paora (Paul) Tuhaere, which lost some time.  Anchor is dropped only a few yards from the banks of the Kauaeranga  where a large crowd is gathered.

The Superintendent  is visited on board by the leading men and diggers of the Thames who all offer him accommodation.  Amongst them are Captain Butt, Charles Mitchell and Walter Williamson. The Superintendent  however, declines to land and remains on board.

From the deck of the steamer the lights of Shortland Town can be seen, and all along the beach for about two miles are the lights at the different claims.  Away up in the valleys lights are glimmering as if from suburban districts of Auckland.  

The Duke of Edinburgh Hotel is crowded to the door with thirsty diggers.  Every room of Shortland Hotel is also crowded.  Diggers are seated at tables, drinking and discussing prospects of all kinds.  The general tone of the conversation is cheerful and hopeful.  About a hundred men are packed into a room where a fiddle is playing. In a small space in the centre about half a dozen couples – all men - are dancing.

Shortland Town strikes one observer from the Gemini as more like a fair than anything else.  The lights from the hotels and stores make the settlement look like an old town, instead of one whose age can be numbered by weeks.  Not a woman is to be seen or anything like a comfortable life, and the crowds rushing to and fro shouting and crying make it an exciting, but not very pleasant place to be in.  By and by however, the place goes quiet.

David Graham’s party arrives at Mr Thorpe's station. Mr Thorpe with his usual hospitality  puts them up comfortably for the night.


Papers Past
Kate MacDonald Remembers/ Thames Reminisces Mrs J E MacDonald 1926 – David Arbury

© 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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