Monday 13 August 2018

20 November to 26 November, 1867

Lazy scamps.

A golddigger's evening meal
Sir George Grey Special Collections NZG-18911219-96-1

Wednesday, 20 November
The southern land is thrown open today as far as Kirikiri.  Mr Mackay points out the reserved burial places and the men are free to set to work in their prospecting. About 500 diggers head to the new ground between the Kauaeranga River and Kirikiri.  

A poor fellow near Theophilus Cooper has his claim jumped after he has worked at it for six weeks and had just struck gold.  There are numbers of lazy scamps prowling about at the Thames,  ready to prey upon the hard earnings of the industrious and unwary.

A handbill is posted up in the town offering three and sixpence a day to "hump" quartz.  It is almost immediately torn down by the bystanders.

The Midge is just now landing her passengers.  They have been an extraordinary 21 hours on board.

T B Whytehead, of the Karaka Flat, is pretty cynical about the Thames goldfield. It seems to him the number of miners have materially increased while the numbers of golden claims have considerably decreased. Claim holders are gradually beginning to find out that all is not gold that glitters and possessing quartz leaders doesn’t guarantee a payable result after crushing. There are no more than twenty claims in which gold has been found in larger quantities than the occasional speck and only about 10 of them can possibly pay a handsome return.   A ‘splendid claim’ at Tararu Point is anything but as far as he can see - since washing the first dish of crushed stuff from a small surface leader (the only one there) no colour has been seen.  Shares have actually been sold and bought, and men paid for weeks' and weeks' work, in claims in which there is no colour.

The way in which the goldfield is conducted reminds him forcibly of the story of the man who, when pursued by a pack of wolves, tore his clothes to shreds, and bit by bit, dropped rags at intervals, getting a fresh start each time, while the hungry beasts stopped to worry the fragments. Mr Mackay drops a rag today in the shape of a scrap of land to the south-east as far as Kirikiri which is rushed and worried, and which seems likely to be dropped as valueless almost immediately from the teeth of the hungry miners, and the old chase resumes again.

There is a general impression at the Thames that the erection of the machines for crushing is not going forward " all aboveboard and in Bristol fashion." There are fears that after a few tons of stone have been crushed there will be some dreadful disappointments and a considerable exodus. Some shareholders in moderately good claims are poor men and if they do not soon obtain some result from their shares they will be obliged to sell out at any price.

The Thames is not a poor man's district by any means but capital is required and unless a man is prepared to live and put in labour without a return for six months at least, he had best not come.

 A party returns from the Kirikiri – they have been out for some days having been granted  special permits in the early part of last week.  They report having found colour in the Kirikiri Creek.  They did not go beyond the boundary and report being most hospitably treated by the Maori there.

 Alabama to the Thames with  67 packages, furniture, 2 packages tea, 20 cheeses, 15 bags flour, 5 bags potatoes and 5 tons general stores.

West Coast Times 20 November, 1867

Broken down in spirit.

Thursday, 21 November
The great rush to the Kirikiri continues.  Numbers of men pull down their tents and are off, despite the foul weather.

George Bull opens Bull’s Battery at the foot of the Karaka Creek. George joined the rush to the Thames when the goldfield was declared open. The battery is a simple and rudimentary affair housed in a large marquee and driven by a basic waterwheel. This machine was formerly a specimen machine at Coromandel and has been adapted by the spirited Mr Bull.  The Bull family join George and live in a tent next to the battery. 

Warden Allan Baillie is appointed as a coroner in the colony of New Zealand.

In the evening about a third of the party that went to Kirikiri come  back in Shortland Town declaring that the place is of no account; the remainder are back in the gullies.  They are quite disheartened and broken down in spirit.

A meeting is held to consider the advisability of immediately erecting a Wesleyan chapel. The Rev Mr Harper is in attendance. A good deal of enthusiasm is shown for the idea.  Mr Stone promises a thousand feet of timber as does Mr Rowe.  Several sums of money are promised, and many carpenters offer their services gratuitously. Many men are at the Thames who cannot go to the hotels but who wish to occupy their spare time usefully and intelligently. The proposed chapel could be used as a reading room and a lecture room.  The daily and weekly papers and other serials could be stocked and lectures on popular subjects might be delivered there by competent gentlemen, saving  many young men from the degradation and evil influence of the various hotels which some think  infest the place.

Harriet to the Thames with  sawn timber and the machinery of a water wheel.

  Henry to the Thames with  four and three quarter casks spirits, 22 cases spirits, 1 partition, 2 tables, 1 trunk, 1 ladder, 1 bale, 22 bags salt, 1 stretcher, 19 bags bran, 20 bags flour,  4 bags maize, 5 bags oats, 1 crate (for D J O’Keefe)  1 case, 1 bag, 2 tins (for W J Young) 3 barrels, 3 bags (for D Sheehan)

NZH 21 November, 1867

Thousands are waiting.

Friday, 22 November
Public works are now urgently required at the Thames.  The streets require forming and the harbour requires lighting and buoying as well as a wharf for the landing of passengers and goods.

Captain Burgess, who has lately made careful examination of the channel leading to Shortland Town, recommends to the government to place a light on Point Tararu, which would enable vessels approaching the shore at night to some to a safe anchorage where they could wait until daylight when they could see the buoys marking the channel.  With a light at Tararu, one on the post marking the outside of the mud flat, and a third at Captain Butts Hotel, most of the steamers would be able to run up to the town safely at night.

The  Auckland Stock and Share Market  reports that Thames goldmine shares are now attracting much attention and it is evident that many of the claims will be worked by small companies.  Both sleeping and working shares can now be obtained in many of the well known claims.

At Little Omaha, despite the flourishing news which reaches them from the Thames goldfields, there are not any farms deserted as yet, which is something of a relief to the inhabitants who prefer the slow but sure way of digging for gold in an agricultural way.

The Thames Residents Magistrate’s court is held in Mr Mackay’s whare – he is too ill today to go down to the Courthouse whare. The case of Orme v Hogg is heard.  The claim is for a loss of two quarters of beef.  In the case of Taipari v Pick a fine of £5 is inflicted, the defendant having trespassed on a tapu burial ground.

Walter Williamson and Samuel Hamilton start out for the copper mine found at the Puru intending to peg it out.

The ss Auckland arrives in Auckland from Sydney bringing two quartz crushing machines specially ordered by Mr D Graham for the Thames goldfields.  One is 8 horse power and the other 12 horsepower. Thirty seven packages of quartz crushing machinery include a 8 hp engine and 12 cwt stamper with force pump and all the necessary gear and appliances, the remainder being daily expected by the brig Pakeha. They will be transhipped and forwarded to the Thames in a few days.

A heavy swag.
Sir George Grey Special Collections NZH 18911010-456-9

About 50 diggers arrive at Auckland by two steamers, some ten direct from Sydney by the Auckland, and 40 by the Wellington, twenty of whom are from the West Coast, and as many from Melbourne transhipped at Nelson.  These men state that they have been induced to leave the West Coast in consequence of private information received from friends now at the Thames, and not through any reports circulating in the Southern provinces or reports appearing in the Auckland papers.  They say there are thousands waiting for the announcement of the opening of the Upper Thames when they will proceed at once directly to Auckland.   Most of those who have arrived are possessed some capital.

The crushing machine at the foot of the Shotover starts a trial run today - but the charges are thought  ridiculously exorbitant, one of the Shotover partners quoting a sum of  £12 per ton. Another crushing machine also commences at the foot of the Karaka Creek. They charge 1s 6d per hour for the use of the machine which is more like a reasonable charge.  Competition is needed to bring the price to its proper level.

At a meeting of the shareholders on the claim which turned out the boulder that killed  Joseph Franklin it is determined that the sum of £20  should be paid - the  first charge on the first gold got out of the claim  - in favour of surviving family of Mr Franklin.                            

DSC 22 November, 1867

Teasing Te Hira.

Saturday, 23 November
George Graham, Member of Parliament, proceeds to the Thames from Auckland on his mission to see Te Hira and negotiate the opening of the Upper Thames for gold mining.  This is looked on with pessimism. It is feared he will be just as unsuccessful as his predecessors have been. Te Hira is firm in his resolution not to throw open the coveted land at present.  Private individuals may even do a great deal of harm by constantly teasing Te Hira and his friends about opening their land to the gold prospectors.

at Kauaeranga, the wife of James De Hirsch, Esq, of a son.

There is much activity on the claims.  Mahoney’s claim on the Karaka hill gives gold dust in every pan that is washed.  Gilberd’s (Gibraltar Rock) shows gold on the face of the crag on which they are working, and Holland’s (the Perseverance Claim) gives some of the best specimens to be seen on the diggings.  Some very rich rose-coloured quartz with gold at the root of the prismatic crystals is shown from this claim today.  The old claims in the Karaka – the Germans, the Portuguese and Levy’s -  are still doing well.    At Waiotahi, Mulligan’s claim, the Parnell and the Bachelor’s claims are giving good gold, and at Moanataiari Tookey’s, Messengers and the West Coast claims are all yielding well.  At Kuranui Barry’s claim is giving richer specimens than ever -  leaders full of auriferous stone 6 to 8 inches broad are being worked.  The Shotover claim has erected a notice warning people off. On the Karaka and Moanataiari there are a great number of abandoned drives and shafts - the difficulty of getting provisions and equipment up such a distance, and in the wooded country, has caused even  a fair prospect to be abandoned.  Heaps of good looking quartz lies at the mouth of the drives or the top of the shafts, but without a crushing mill near or a tramway, neither of which can be taken for months to come into this back country, the stone is useless.   

Tararu Creek
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Mundy, Daniel Louis.  Ref – PH-2014-101-2

Nearly all the claims about Tararu Point are now deserted as most of the diggers have gone northward to the new ground at Waikawau and Manaia.

From accounts kept on board the steamers it appears that the numbers who return to Auckland are from one third to two fifths of those who come down to the Thames.   Allowing for visitors and tradespeople whose coming and returning will be equal, the great majority of those who come down appear to stay in the district.

Theophilus Cooper is puzzled to observe the usual Saturday gathering of diggers in the main street of Shortland Town is much less in number and very much quieter than usual.  Even the hotels are very scantily attended. He fears there is a great deal more suffering and misery being endured- quietly, patiently - than is generally realised. One fine muscular man tells him that for the last month he has tasted nothing but dry bread and weak coffee.   This was obvious by his reduced manly frame, yet he goes on, hoping that the gold will soon appear and set him right.  Another poor fellow has come down to his last shilling. He has economised and pinched and stinted but when this last solitary coin is gone all hope must go with it.  Theophilus  meets several diggers coming down the Karaka Creek carrying quartz on their backs, intending to have it crushed. It is a work of great peril as well as of immense labour tearing over these gigantic boulders with such loads.

A cricket club has been formed, which plays upon the flat every Saturday afternoon.

Walter Williamson and Samuel Hamilton, who left for the copper mine at Puru on Friday,  return tonight having pegged off the ground. They bring back a large parcel of copper ore which is pronounced very superior.  The claim has been surveyed and in a few days systematic work will commence.

Tapu Creek is now being prospected by about 125 men.  The prospects in many instances are above average.  Numbers of men pass daily to and from Shortland and Manaia. 

Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.
By Franz Xaver Winterhalter - Winterhalter and the courts of Europe, Public Domain,

The first royal visit to New Zealand which is to be made by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, is fast approaching.  The prince is currently in Australia and it is estimated that he will reach New Zealand sometime in January.  A public meeting for the citizens of Auckland is held at the Mechanic’s Institute to consider what ought to be done for his reception.  There is a large attendance and the hour is fixed so that country settlers can attend.  Many Maori are also present.  There are several rousing speeches.  The Hon Colonel Peacocke says “For the first time in England’s story a Prince of the blood royal has come round the world to set his foot on this other England of the future and that Prince is Victoria’s son."  (Loud Cheers).  The province is thought too poor to spend any money out of the public funds for entertaining his Royal Highness.  Other meetings are held elsewhere to decide the advisability of holding the annual regatta on the occasion of the Prince’s visit.  Rumours surface at the Thames that the Duke of Edinburgh is to visit the goldfield there.

At Mulligan’s Victoria Hotel at the Thames the Wandering Minstrels perform excellent renditions of the most popular negro melodies.  Theophilus Cooper notes they are to perform wonders, and set all who are gloomy and desponding in good humour, but they must pay well for it.  They perform to a very good house and their singing is judged  good, and the music better. 

 Avon to the Thames with 6 casks spirits, 5 cases spirits, 5 cases wine, 5 cases geneva, 24 hhd ale and stout, 5 tons general stores.

Tonight is the worst night experienced at the diggings weatherwise - thunder, lightning, hail, vicious squalls of rain and wind keep many awake the whole night, expecting to be smothered by their tents or blown away. Theophilus Cooper, sleepless, marvels at how the first Thames arrivals managed while camping on the swampy flats below for several months, during which time a continual succession of dreadful and unusually rough weather was experienced.

DSC 23 November, 1867

The spell has been broken.
Sunday, 24 November
The weather is wild and tents are blown down.

The Rev Mr Wallace, of the North Shore, conducts the religious services today at the Court house. The attendance is as good as can be expected.

Five men are brought in under arrest to Shortland Town by Constable Wallace and the Maori police.  They were out prospecting beyond the prescribed bounds and had camped upon a Maori cultivation, about 10 miles up the Kauaeranga Creek.  No new seed had been put in a potato field for three years and the men, seeing weeds growing up, thought they were in an abandoned field.   Two of the men are released on bail but the other three stay under arrest, not being able to get bail.

A drunk and disorderly man is being taken to the Court house whare this afternoon, when he resists the police and with a little hustling from the crowd, manages to escape.  There is some fear on the part of the police that he intends to rescue the three men who are in custody for camping on a Maori cultivation, but their fear is unfounded.  Order is speedily restored and the man who escaped is apprehended on a warrant, taken before the Resident Magistrate and sent to gaol for eight weeks.

An increase in the police force at the Thames is badly needed - with such a large population and so much outdoor duty there should be at least a lock up and one or two more policemen.  Commissioner Mackay complains of the strain he and his staff are being put under by the rapidly rising population.

A nephew of Te Hira, and grandson of Taraia, named Tei, dies of consumption which the Hauhau doctors could not cure. Te Hira is very fond of his nephew and seriously feels his loss.  He sends a boat to Shortland Town for food for the ‘crying feast.’ 

George Graham is detained at the Thames due to the severity of the weather.

Monday, 25 November
George Graham, along with the interpreter Charles de Thierry, leaves for the Upper Thames.  The  Maori aukati  (border,cordon) is removed for this special occasion and not even the dogs are allowed to bark as the little expedition passes on its way up the river. The tangi for Tei is kept up during the day, a fact that tends to postpone to some extent the business of Mr Graham. 

On their arrival at Ohinemuri the Maori receive them with the utmost kindness and hospitality, and after partaking of food the korero begins. There are about 300 adults present, besides children. There is a long talk, during which George Graham  carefully and purposely avoids saying anything about the goldfield. He tells the Maori he is here to assure them of the friendship of the Europeans and to ask them to reciprocate their kindly feeling.

The Maoris reply that Superintendent Williamson had come up there, and that he had brought with him a steamer; that he passed their aukati with his steamer, and was accompanied by military men, and that Te Hira would not see him. They respect the Europeans but they will not allow them to dig or prospect for gold on their lands at present. The person of Te Hira is tapued (sacred), and they will not permit him to be seen; but in George Graham’s case, they look upon him as one of their family and George Graham and Charles De Theirry are conducted to Te Hira’s whare.  After prayers Graham is interrogated regarding the object of his visit.

He spends several hours in Te Hira’s company, conversing with him and other Maori present. They are careful in explaining the nature of the aukati, which is a sacred boundary fence, which shows that they do not want anyone to trespass on the lands included in it.  Te Hira remarks that when a European fenced in a field, and told him not to cross over it, he would not trespass; and in the same way their aukati ought to be respected.

Touching the goldfield, Te Hira says “I will not allow gold-digging at present. Let us continue our friendship. You have now hold of the rope. The spell has now been broken [having permitted a European to see him]; but I will not see the Superintendent or any of the Government, and I will see no strange pakehas. The pakehas that are living near me I look upon as my own people, and there is a difference with them.”

Te Hira is particularly anxious that William, son of Mr Graham, and a surveyor, should pay him a visit. The Maori would then, he says, be able to settle differences as to boundaries.   It is implied that this will also facilitate the throwing open of the land. Te Hira no longer talks of making peace, but looks upon that part of the business as being entirely settled.  George Graham intends to return to Te Hira and his people at as early a date as he can.

At Shortland Town  Mr Rose this morning opens his new and handsome hotel - the Thames Hotel and Restaurant.

A meeting is held by some of the diggers in consequence of the extreme danger in passing along the Karaka Creek, arising from the practice of throwing monster stones down from the hills above.  A deputation waits upon Warden Baillie to urge him to take immediate steps to put a stop to the practice; otherwise, it is feared that another loss of life is inevitable. An order is issued in response to this, to the effect that no boulders should be cast down before nine in the morning or after four in the afternoon. This is regarded as absurd -   men may hurl these ponderous boulders down upon the passers-by with impunity between nine and four, the very hours when the unwary are most likely to pass.

Samuel Hamilton and Walter Williamson call at the office of the Daily Southern Cross in Auckland, and leave there a bag of mineral specimens from their copper mining claim. The specimens are taken from the cap of the reef, and, besides iron, evidently contain a percentage of copper and silver. The men plan to return to the claim in a few days to strip the lode, and prospect it thoroughly. A  copper mine would be most valuable to the district.  There is every facility for working it profitably and  coal for smelting is easily procurable. It was the discovery of the coal deposits in Chile which led to the prosperity of that country. Formerly the copper ore was shipped to Europe to be smelted and the export was small.  Now the ore is smelted on the spot, and Chile supplies three fourths of the copper used in Great Britain. The prospectors have secured a mining lease of 40 acres and Te Moananui, the owner of the land, is a shareholder in the claim.

 Mr John Harris, late manager of the Big Beach Mining Company, Shotover, Otago, is not impressed with the Thames goldfield.   From all he can see the reef gold obtained there is only found in small leaders, about an inch wide.  He is a thoroughly practical miner and a shrewd businessman and judges the Thames is not the thing for a large population.  If more country is not opened up soon the diggers will want to take the law into their own hands. He hears that two steamers are laid on for the West Coast to bring up diggers. About 300 have already come and there are about 2,000 more waiting but he warns against it.  Business at the Thames is very bad.  In the first place there are a great deal too many businesses, and in the second everything is so cheap that a businessman has to turn over a good deal of money before he can make much.  It is not the place for a large population and there are scores who would leave if they could. 

Mr W Thomas, late manager of the Criterion Quartz claim, Arrow, and a well-known experienced quartz reefer, is also dubious.  In a private letter from the Thames he writes “I have left the West Coast.  That part of New Zealand is too wet for me – nothing, only rain day and night.   There are seven thousand men here (at the Thames).  What we are going to do here I don’t know.  There are a good many claims working, but they are all only leaders running from east to west – no main reef found . . . There is no inducement for anybody to come over here at present; and if anything good should open up. I shall let you know; if not, I shall start again, but I don’t know where to go.”

Harriet for the Thames with 11,000 ft timber.
Spey for the Thames with  2,000 bricks, 1,000 ft timber, 120,000 shingles, 13 bushels lime, sundries.

NZH 25 November, 1867

Tuesday, 26 November
An extension of Shortland Town from Pollen and Mackay Streets towards the Karaka Flat is allotted. The leasing conditions are similar to those when the town was opened in August, except that 14s per foot per annum is freely given for corner allotments.  The attendance at the Court house whare  is numerous and when each name is called out, the applicants are offered in some instances a bonus of £3 to £20 on their selections. There are some 400 applications for 84 lots.

The ground has been pegged off on a range beyond Messengers claim. The range on which the outcrop has been discovered is well timbered and has been named the Carpenters. A rush starts to a place about three miles up the Moanataiari/Tookey’s Creek. There are wonderful accounts of the richness of the Prospectors' claim about three miles behind Tookey’s and every inch of vacant ground is speedily taken up. The specimens are certainly richer than any many men have ever seen yet.

Cases of claim jumping are a frequent occurrence, giving the Warden as much work as he can attend to.  He is to be seen daily going over the ranges to settle disputes.  Mr Mackay has recovered from an illness which confined him to his bed for some days.  Although attending to official business, he is still restricted to his whare. 

Bakers at the Thames raise the price of bread and following a meeting a placard is posted in Shortland Town - “At a meeting of the diggers it was moved, seconded and carried unanimously that unless the bakers of this town lower the price of their bread to a fair and reasonable standard by Saturday next, they shall each and all be taken forcibly and nailed by the left ear to the door posts of their house with a ten penny nail.”

DSC 26 November, 1867
NZH 26 November, 1867


The gold found at Kirikiri turned out to be mica to the intense disgust of the diggers.

Papers Past
The Thames Journals of Vicesimus Lush - edited Alison Drummond
A History of Bull's Battery - R Dreardon

© 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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