Sunday 12 August 2018

27 November to 3 December, 1867

Something like a summer's afternoon.

Wednesday, 27 November
The weather has been vile and as the wind is a “dead muzzler” there is quite a fleet of small craft lying in the Kauaeranga.  Mining operations have been retarded for days by the weather.

George Graham returns from the Upper Thames.   There is approval for his efforts. He has done what no official could do.  It is felt that if the Government would abstain from meddling and muddling, the old settlers would very soon bring about a satisfactory result but as long as the Government cover the country with officials and as long as  will work be made for them the progress of settlement will be stunted.

A great number of cases are coming before Warden Baillie and from the shiploads of lawyers brought down by the Enterprise and Tauranga some excellent sport is anticipated.

A notice is posted at the Warden’s Office regarding the stone continually thrown from the hillsides rendering the passage along the creeks dangerous -

CAUTION Between the hours of 7 and 9 in the morning and 3 and 5 in the afternoon it will not  be considered safe to pass either up or down the Karaka stream, owing to the discharge of mullock, stones etc into the creek between these hours.

There is a second notice to managers of quartz reefing claims on the Karaka saying that in the event of any party of miners requiring to blast rock, or any other hard substance, before the shot is fired, it shall be necessary that one or more of the number be present in the creek, or any roadway over which any of the stuff may be thrown, to warn passersby of the danger.

At Auckland the sample of supposed copper which was brought up from the Puru has been examined and is pronounced to be sulphate of iron.  Some though still believe it is copper. 

The Provincial Government Gazette notes that bush licenses have been granted to John Love, Northumberland Hotel, Shortland, William Rose, Thames Hotel, Shortland, Henry Gillet, Karaka Hotel, Shortland, and Arthur Sweete and James Drabble, Bendigo Hotel, Shortland.

As the Tauranga comes into the Thames river a considerable amount of rope is caught in her propeller and the steamer has to be  beached in order that the rope might be cut away, causing her detainment until this evening.

At Riverhead gum digging is still proving remunerative.  There are gold diggers who spend their all at the Thames, then arrive at Riverhead to replenish their purses by gum digging.

The weather improves very much and there is something like a summer’s afternoon at the Thames.

Shaking swamps.

Thursday, 28 November
The short reprieve of pleasant weather is over -  a gale starts blowing.  A large building in the course of erection as a public house for Mr P P Fagg is blown down.  The building is shingled, but not weather boarded and the wind catches it and lays it in ruins.

The rush up Tookey’s creek has subsided.   Some prospectors got gold but others have not been so successful. 

There is disappointment at the defective character of the crushing machines at the Thames. The amalgamating process is very roughly and unsatisfactorily performed.
John Doidge, engineer, has paid a visit to the Thames goldfield and sees it is high time to do something to assist the poor men to get their quartz crushed.  He has a thorough knowledge of machinery, having from a boy been employed in the extensive mines in Cornwall and in her Majesty’s dockyards in Plymouth.  The machinery at present being fitted up will not answer the requirements of the men.  When machinery is in steady operation, money will be plentiful.  At present storekeepers complain and press their customers with the plea that there is pressure on them from Auckland.

A fine new boat, cutter rigged, is launched from the yards of Messrs Clare and Waymouth at Auckland with this morning’s tide.  The boat draws very little water and is intended for landing passengers at the Thames, for which purpose she is admirably suited.

The French miner John X Hoffray and his mate arrive back at Shortland after 16 days gruelling travel through the Upper Thames - the longest excursion towards the source of the Thames yet made for prospecting purposes.  They traveled through almost impenetrable scrub, over mountain ranges, through flooded creeks, and shaking swamps.  The weather was fierce, stormy and wet, which in a measure aided their escape from the Maori.  When they came upon a Maori track they took off their boots, as well as walking a good deal after night.   Their food became wet and ran low.  The wind was ferocious and none but the most determined could stand it.  They returned to Mr Thorpe’s store, where they were almost taken prisoner by the Maori, but were saved by Mr Thorpe’s intervention on their behalf.  Hoffray saw nothing that suggested a paying goldfield in the coveted Upper Thames.

Friday, 29 November
The crier of Shortland Town, Alfred Wood, is calling a meeting of businessmen for 10 o’clock at Captain Butt’s hotel, for the purpose of taking into consideration how the advancement and better condition of the town can be effected.  Town Crier Alfred Wood is also the Bill sticker for the Thames. He can be had at a moment’s notice by applying to Messrs  Hogg and Co’s store.

The large room of the Shortland Hotel is crowded. The chairman, Charles Mitchell, states that a great want is felt by the business community through the town not yet having been declared a point of entry.  Dutiable goods have to be paid for before leaving Auckland and in consequence of stocks having to lie in the streets in Shortland often for six weeks before the sales are made, the consumer is charged proportionately, where as if they had a bonded warehouse on the spot, duties could be paid as stocks are required .

He was told a month ago that the government was to inquire into the matter; it was now time that they should be reminded of it.  There were gentlemen at the Thames who would build a bonded warehouse; if not there are many in Auckland who would be glad to do so.

Captain Butt says the next matter for consideration is the prevention of fire.  Summer is approaching, when the material of which the principal buildings are constructed would be liable to catch by a spark from a chimney. He, with many others, cannot afford to lose all he has through an accident.   A fire had taken place some time ago in a brush wood shanty, in the main street, when, if the wind had not been blowing in the contrary direction from where the stores were put up, they would all have been destroyed.  Measures should be adopted among themselves for their own security. The NZ Insurance Company were taking the matter into consideration.

Mr Mulligan objects to the butchering of sheep and cattle in the town.  Everyone present knows that until a public slaughterhouse is built they must put up with it but he does not see why the butchers should not kill on the beach, which is only two allotments from the main street.  Mr Waters, of Auckland, plans to erect a slaughter yard outside the limits of town.

Messrs Butt and Sheehan are elected to lay the resolutions of the meeting before Mr Mackay and the Warden and request that the Principal Police Act be enforced regarding fires, slaughtering etc.

William Hunt, of the Shotover Claim, arrives in Auckland by the Tauranga and brings with him 448 oz gold which, together with other gold lately sent up, makes the produce for the month of No 1 Claim and the Kuranui Reef (Shotover Claim) amount to 586 oz gold.   A similar amount was sent up last month for exportation by the Sydney steamer. 

It is speculated this sort of yield will be a regular thing with the fortunate owners of No 1 Claim.  Once the proprietors get regular machinery to work, it is expected to hear of their monthly return being increased tenfold.  If 600 oz per month can be obtained by the use of a small Berdan machine fed by a man with a tablespoon how much will  be got out by a battery of stampers?

The bakers lower the price of bread in Shortland Town not only to what it was, but a halfpenny less - the price of a 2 lb loaf being now 4 1/2d.

NZH 29 November, 1867

The Thames may as well be locked up. 

Saturday, 30 November
Thomas Huston has come up from the West Coast to try his luck at the Thames.  He arrived about a fortnight ago.  Last evening he lay down to sleep in his tent with a considerable sum of money in the breast pocket of his coat,  leaving the door of his tent unsecured. To his dismay this morning he discovers the money, a receipt and several letters missing from his pocket.  He makes inquiries in every possible direction and his suspicions are not long in settling on one  Robert Kelly, who is suddenly flush with money and has now left by steamer for Auckland. Huston determines to follow him.

A new company is formed to work Barry’s claim, Karaka, and is rumoured to include members of a well-known legal firm and several leading merchants. This advent of capital is hoped to  infuse new life into the Thames diggings.

The Auckland Stock and Share market reports the week has been quiet, with the exception of Thames gold mining shares, in which there has been some little excitement and much inquiry. Many of the working holders of claims being in want of funds, shares can now be obtained on favourable terms at prices varying according to position, prospects and work already done.

The NZ Herald publishes an editorial unusually critical of the Thames goldfield.  Very little progress has been made towards the working of the quartz reef claims it says.  At least one thousand people now have shares in reef claims, all of which, if not proved to be rich, are nevertheless supposed by their owners to be well worth the working.  Yet they are not worked because they are held by men who have no means of working them.  Many attempts have been made by men with capital and anxious to invest to come to some reasonable arrangement with the claim holders, but in vain.  The latter, unable to do anything really profitable with the claims themselves resolutely refuse to give capitalists a share in the claim.   The gold is there and must be got out.  A gentleman returned from the Thames yesterday told the Herald “All you have stated regards the general richness of the goldfields is correct . . .  but as a rule, the claims must change hands before any great result can be obtained.”    The difficulty, according to the Herald, can be easily solved.  The Superintendent of Auckland should proclaim an amendment on the present rules, enforcing on  all quartz claims the performance of a certain amount of work, and after a certain length of time possessing the claim, the use of machinery either hired from others or erected by the claim holders themselves.   This would compel those holding quartz claims either to work them, if they had the means, or if they had not, to sell them to those who could work them better.  If this is not done then the Thames may as well be locked up by its present owners, as it was previously locked up by the Maori.

Sunday, 1 December
The Rev Mr Buller preaches this morning at the court house whare to a large gathering. He announces that tomorrow the ground will be selected on which the Wesleyan Methodist chapel is to be built. It will be a commodious one, and will be proceeded with at once. The quantity of timber which has been promised amounts to 5,000 feet; money has been collected and promised, and a considerable number will give their labour in erecting  A Sunday school, held in the open air, is begun today with nine or ten children in attendance.  It is announced that in future the school will be held in a large tent and then carried on in the chapel when it is finished.

At the Upper Thames,  Peata, Taraia's wife,  dies after a long illness.   She was over 70 and a great chief woman.  There are concerns that unless Te Moananui brings up a large supply of food for the tangi, the Maori there will go hungry - their principal food now is fernroot. Their potatoes were finished long ago and numerous tribes are expected to mourn over  Tei, who died on the 25th, and now Peata.  It is felt that as long as the Maoris continue their custom of tangl (crying feast) they will always remain in poverty. It is to be hoped that when civilization advances they will see the wrong they are causing themselves by continuing such a custom.

The Upper Thames Maori are regarded in some measure to have reduced themselves to such extremities by their perverseness in keeping their lands closed against gold-prospecting.   It is to be hoped that the comparative affluence of the Thames Maori landowners will have its effect in inducing Te Hira and his followers to withdraw their objection to the Upper Thames being thoroughly prospected and worked to the advantage of both races, if found auriferous.

A report surfaces that Matthew Barry and party, who have been for about five weeks prospecting the country from here to Mercury Bay, have discovered a very rich reef on government land to the south of the bay.

The weather settles and a number of wind bound small craft get out of the Kauaeranga creek.  A large fleet of them arrive in Auckland harbour this afternoon. Among them is the cutter Pearl, which was dismasted at the Kauaeranga while landing passengers from the Midge. Her mast was temporarily fitted and she will be thoroughly overhauled, after which she will run regularly to the Thames, making alternate trips with the Severn.

The Rev Buller preaches again this afternoon on the flat to another large gathering. 
He says he feels great pleasure in seeing such a numerous assemblage on these occasions. When he was at the West Coast diggings, the first time he preached, though there were thousands of people in all directions,  he had but twenty to hear him on the Sunday morning.

Rev Mr Maunsell, of the Church of England, preaches at the Court house this afternoon and later this evening Rev Buller holds another service there.

Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Catholics and Episcopalians have all been represented today.

Incoherent and out of temper. 

Monday, 2 December
Alfred Edmonds, whose career as a prospector of Maori lands was lately so summarily cut short by his arrest, again dispatches a party of diggers to prospect a block of Maori land.  He has received the consent and co-operation of the owners. 

Theophilus Cooper is frustrated with his circumstances in trying to write letters. Friends ask for long, regular letters full of news but don’t realise the difficulties of a digger’s life. He has no chair, or table or inkstand.  He makes a seat of tightly rolled up blankets which promptly tips him over backwards as soon as he sits down to write on the lid of a box.  Once upright the incessant rain pours down the back of his neck and then his pen – used by others – won’t write.  Two of the tent cords snap and his pen is downed for needle and thread.  Once sitting down again, and having written a line or two, a head is suddenly thrust into the tent and near his face.  It’s the baker calling “Any bread?”   “No, No,” is the impatient answer and the baker leaves with a grunt.  But then Theophilus remembers they have no bread for breakfast tomorrow and calls the baker back.  No wonder, thinks Theophilus, we should at times appear to be somewhat incoherent or out of temper.

The ss Auckland leaves Auckland wharf for Sydney with mails, passengers and nearly 1,000 oz of Thames gold.  The shipment is increased at the last moment by the receipt of 27 oz which has been obtained from an unexpected source.  This suggests that the appliances at present on the Thames goldfield for the crushing of quartz and saving the gold are not in any degree as perfect as could be wished.

Looking west from Symonds Street, Auckland,  showing the south side of Abercrombie Street, and the Wynyard Hotel.

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-367'

Sergeant Major Molloy and Detective Ternahan have been diligently engaged all day trying to trace Robert Kelly, alias McKenna, who is suspected of stealing from Thomas Huston at Shortland Town.  Huston followed Kelly to Auckland yesterday and gave information to the police today.   Sergeant Major Molloy promptly stopped payment on the receipt at the bank.

Now the sergeant and detective encounter their man in a public house on the east side of Queen Street, well known as being the constant resort of dissolute and profligate characters of both sexes. On searching him they find in his pockets an envelope and pipe case, the property of Thomas Huston.  From other enquiries it appears that Kelly, or McKenna, has been lodging at the Wynyard Hotel, where he has fared sumptuously, presenting himself as a gentleman of independent means with a considerable account at the bank. He recently purchased a fine new suit of clothes and a Crimean shirt. Kelly had obtained an advance of ten shillings on the strength of the £200 deposit receipt before the police could stop payment.  When apprehended Kelly has only a few shillings in his possession. Sergeant Major Molloy and Detective Ternahan are greatly praised for the zeal and intelligence they have displayed in this matter.

 Avon to the Thames with 5 tons flour, 5 head cattle, 2,000 ft timber, 8 bags sugar, 1 case brandy, 2 cases wine, 12 cheeses, ½ ton potatoes, 8 hhds ale, 2 casks porter, 10 kegs butter, 6 cases groceries, 3  cases whiskey.  

Victoria  to the Thames with 8,000 ft timber, 10 pair mouldings, 50,000 shingles, 3 bundles sashes, 2 pair doors, 5 cases sherry, 6 gallons brandy, 6 casks beer, 4 cases kerosene, 5 tons sundries.

NZH 2 December, 1867

Tuesday, 3 December
The master of the cutter Janet Grey brings news of Matthew Barry’s gold discoveries at Mercury Bay. Barry has struck a reef which promises to excel in richness his claim on the Karaka. He has a bag of quartz and is expected up in Auckland by the next boat from Mercury Bay, the cutter Shamrock. Further particulars of the discovery are eagerly awaited. The party have also picked up the shovel, pick, and tin dish of the prospector Paget, was drowned by the capsizing of the schooner Rapid, while on his way to Auckland with two bottles of alluvial gold, in order to claim the Government reward of £2,000.

Mr Goodall’s machinery commences crushing the Moanataiari quartz this morning and makes a smooth start, every portion of the plant, from the boilers to the ripple tables working well.

The deputation appointed to wait on Mr Mackay is received by him in his private residence where he is still confined by an attack of illness.  He advises he will most willingly co-operate with the inhabitants on preserving the sanitary condition of the town.

 Miranda to the Thames with three horses, 40,000 shingles, 6  tons furniture. 
 Forth for the Thames with 60 pieces machinery.
 Severn for the Thames with machinery.  
The cargo of the the Severn and Forth is the machinery of two powerful 12 stamper crushing machines imported from Messrs P N Russell and Co of Sydney, transhipped ex-Auckland. 

The Shipping Summary reports the Thames goldfields have given employment to a large fleet of small craft.  Upwards of 20 vessels are now consistently employed plying between Auckland and the Thames.

NZH 3 December, 1867

Don’t lick the quartz.

Hamilton Fisher, of Remuera, warns the miners on the Thames against the prevalent practice of licking the quartz, as it contains in some instances quantities of arsenic.  Small doses of this accumulate in the system and sooner or later will be apt to bring on all the symptoms of poisoning -  dreadful paroxysms of pains in the stomach, severe vomiting, cold sweats and, unless it stops,  convulsions and death.  Having returned to Auckland from the Thames, he put his ill health down to dysentery, but, on consulting a medical man, was told the symptoms were those of poison by arsenic or copper.  He cautions miners, particularly those on his own claim, that the green stuff which is considered by some to be a good sign in the quartz is probably arsenite of copper.

At the Police Court, Auckland, Robert Kelly, alias McKenna, is charged with stealing a pocket book from Thomas Huston, miner, of Shortland Town. He declines to say anything in his defense and is committed to trial at the next Criminal sitting of the Supreme Court.

Theophilus Cooper and party discover a vein of antimony in their claim. The Thames, he declares, is a wonderful place - platinum, copper, silver, iron, arsenic and antimony, all being found among the extraordinary mountains.

On 20 March, 1864, the schooner Rapid, loaded with timber, while on her way from Mercury Bay to Auckland, foundered. Out of nine on board, only three survived. The survivors spent three days floating on the wreck under the burning sun. Paget, a Mercury Bay settler, was below in the cabin and drowned as the vessel filled with water. He was described as no sailor and very alarmed and probably very helpless to save himself.

The Wesleyan Sunday School on 1 December is  likely the first school on the Thames goldfield.  Sunday schools (also referred to as Sabbath schools)  were originally literally schools: they were places where poor children could learn to read. The Sunday school movement began in Britain in the 1780s. The Industrial Revolution had resulted in many children spending all week long working in factories. Christian philanthropists wanted to free these children from a life of illiteracy. 

In essence the missionary education efforts in NZ  were no different from any of the earliest Sunday schools in England.   The object of the Wesleyan missionaries was to learn the Maori language, to translate the bible, to teach people to read, write, and calculate.  There are numerous accounts in their journals and letters of how they went about this, sometimes in school rooms, sometimes in huts or the open air, sometimes on a week day, sometimes in a Sunday.

The copper from Te Puru was later found to be a mixture of marcasite or white iron pyrite with mispickel or arsenical pyrites.

Licking rocks is a way to identify them – the best example being halite, the mineral commonly known as salt. Many rocks and minerals have a uniquely distinctive taste; others are ‘sticky’ minerals identified by texture, not taste. Grinding some rocks against your teeth will distinguish between a siltstone and shale for instance. Licking rocks also cleans off the surface and gives a better look at the texture; nowadays geologists use a spray bottle for the ‘wet look’. Caution is still advised when licking rocks – certain minerals contain poisonous elements.


Papers Past –The Sunday school in NZ Methodism by the Rev Frank Hanson

© 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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