Thursday 9 August 2018

18 December to 24 December, 1867

Home before Christmas Day.

Wednesday, 18 December
Warden Baillie issues a notice at the Thames that the Christmas liberty days for protection for the claims will commence on Tuesday, 24 December  and terminate on Tuesday, January 7th. A notice for a 'monster meeting' is at once posted, to be held at 6 this evening, to ask that the holidays commence on the 23rd instead of the 24th. The earlier date will allow many of the men to reach their homes before Christmas Day.

The Alabama, having left the Thames around noon yesterday, initially sailing alongside the Avon in a light breeze, is making slow progress to Auckland and is now just off Chamberlain’s Island.  William Wallington, known as Gypsy Bill, is at the helm, and the master, William Trail is lying near the hatchway, when the passenger, William Hamilton, calls attention to a puff of wind coming from the direction of the Wairoa.  The master instantly jumps up to loosen the peak but suddenly the vessel capsizes.  In a few minutes she sinks in five fathoms of water and the three men are thrown into the sea.

All the men are good swimmers, but Gypsy Bill appears to panic and grabs hold of Trail, who is in difficulty himself and is pulled under the water several times by Gypsy Bill. Ultimately Trail succeeds in diving under the water and extricating himself from the grasp of the drowning man. Gypsy Bill struggles for a few seconds and then holds up his arms and sinks. Trail, nearly exhausted, manages to get hold of a line, and hauls himself to the mast, which is just above the water. William Hamilton, who kept himself afloat until the vessel sank, swims to the mast where he secures himself.

The crew of the small yacht Blanche, lying at anchor about three to four miles leeward of the Alabama, observe the accident and make for the spot which they reach in an hour and a half.  They have great trouble as the surf is very strong.   They take the exhausted survivors off the sunken vessel.  Not being able to find the body of Gypsy Bill they head for Auckland.

At the Thames several claims have recently struck gold, among others the Hope of All Nations on the Moanataiari Creek.  Many improvements are being made in the town including those of  Mr Mulligan and Mr Barnett who  are making considerable alterations and additions to their already commodious buildings.  Mr Coolahan intends resuming his business as a baker and is putting up a house directly over the Nokenoke creek* and  Francis Furlong is erecting a hotel opposite.  Several of the allotments recently sold by Mr Mackay have changed hands realising about 1,000% per week to the fortunate selectors.

The inquest on John Willis, run down by a rogue horse, is held before Allan Baillie at the Northumberland Hotel on Mackay Street, Thames.  Before viewing the body of the deceased, the foreman asks the Coroner's permission that Mr MacDonald should watch the case as amicus curiae** on behalf of the widow, which is immediately granted.

One of Willis’ mates says he has seen the horse frequently since.  It is alleged to belong to a Maori named Rewai.  The jury finds that John Willis, while being pursued by a horse, came to his death from injuries inflicted upon him by a mare, belonging to a person unknown.   The jury strongly urges Mr Bailiie as warden of the goldfield of the necessity of at once organising the removal from the Karaka flat  all horses and cattle now running loose upon it. 

Unsuccessful attempts were made to bury John Willis  by his mates last evening  but digging the grave was a wretched affair.  The ‘soil’ was a mass of shells and as fast as they dug the grave filled with water.  Mourners were indignant and Warden Baillie was sent for. 

The widow is told, if she wishes  the body can be sent to Auckland and be buried there  in consecrated ground.  In the meantime efforts will be made to raise funds to defray expenses. The body waits at the dead house. 

Steps are taken to raise subscriptions for the widow and children of the unfortunate man.  He leaves seven children, one of whom is an infant only a few months old.  Around £20 is raised and it is intended that after paying necessary expenses, the remainder shall be placed in the hands of the Rev Mr Buller, as the deceased belonged to the Wesleyan church.

Some 24 ozs of gold have been sent to Auckland from Tapu Creek and a large number of claims marked off.  A great rush to this ground after the holidays is anticipated.

The days of grace or protection for the claims is extended at the request of a public meeting  – from 8am Monday 23 December to Tuesday 7 January.  

The Governor of New Zealand at the Thames

Thursday 19 December 
About 5.30am
The constable on duty at the Queen Street wharf receives information from the master of the Blanche which has just come in about the sinking of the Alabama.  William Wallington – Gypsy Bill – was well known among boatmen at the Auckland port having been connected with the harbour for many years past. Bill, from the west of England, had been in Auckland about 14 years. He was around 35 and had only worked on the Alabama about three weeks.

The Alabama was a regular trader to the Thames and had made several successful trips to the diggings. She was the vessel Commissioner Mackay and Dr Pollen originally sailed on to make arrangements to open up the Thames district for gold mining.  

There is a great rush at the Thames, not to a new field, but to Auckland. Hundreds are on the road towards the wharf, anxious to have a little relaxation. The steamers are at last seen in the distance and the boats are quickly over filled in the scramble to be first.  A strange vessel is also seen; she stops some distance from the town and a boat is lowered.

Sir George Grey
Public Domain

His Excellency Sir George Grey, the governor of New Zealand, arrives at the Thames by the government steamer Sturt.   He intends meeting with the principal chiefs of the Upper Thames in yet another attempt to get their land opened for gold prospecting. On their way from Auckland the Governor has visited Taupo (Miranda), talking with some chiefs on shore, then steamed over to Matariki, Manaia, to take on board Te Moananui and his son, Te Taniwha. 

 After anchoring off Tararu Point, his Excellency and entourage land at the entrance to the Kuranui Creek.  They proceed without delay to visit the Shotover reef, the wealth of which elicits much praise.  The amalgam in Fraser and Tinne’s crushing machines is next examined, giving his Excellency an opportunity of seeing the first large quantity of gold in the Auckland province.

Work is now at a standstill in the shafts and drives. The stamps and Berdans though are still thumping and rolling to produce gold.  All classes of men are preparing either to hold their Christmas festivities at the Thames or in Auckland.

The crushing of 35 tons from Tookey’s claim is finished today.  A man on the fire estimates that the yield will be 25lbs of smelted gold.  Mr Goodall is creating a smelting room, but this work has now to be done at an open fire.  The three new stamper batteries are working well.  Charely Reed’s party have had a crushing lately  at the Great Expectations machine.  The Clannachan Clan have 49lbs of stone crushed at Frasers.

The members of the legal profession have been fully engaged in several cases of importance - the Court House has been crowded to suffocation for the last two days. 

Digger Mania

Theophilus Cooper is coming to the end of his stay on the Thames goldfield and makes some pertinent observations of the men around him.  "The Thames digger is sorely afflicted with a disease peculiar to his occupation. It is called by some digger-mania, by others digger-phobia. This dire disease is usually developed about a month after the victim has commenced digging; its symptoms are very varied and curious, and are anything but agreeable to those who are unfortunately connected with the poor afflicted one. At first there is an ominous silence and strange quietness, alias sulkiness; the countenance assumes a gloomy downcast appearance, the brow is lowering and scolding, a storm is evidently brewing, and very soon symptoms are manifested unmistakably of a more violent nature.

Spasmodic efforts are made in using the pick or shovel; if spoken to, the patient will either not answer at all, or else with a growl or snarl. It is now becoming dangerous to come in contact with the unfortunate individual, for if anyone in the exercise of charity or pity should be weak enough to persist in inquiring as to the state of mind or general health of the poor creature, it is like throwing a handful of gunpowder on the fire - an explosion is sure to follow, and then something truly alarming is the result; the tools are thrown about in wild confusion, at the risk of breaking the handles or peoples' legs; the voice becomes hoarse and thick through shouting beyond a decent pitch; language is used which when the miserable man is in his right senses he is ashamed of.

It often happens that several in one claim are afflicted with this distemper at the same time; and then the effects are sad indeed. Sometimes one will stay at home, and waste his time in misery and despair; or will come to the claim, and after a few flourishes of the pick will skulk away to some secluded spot in the bush, and there vainly endeavour to bury his cares and troubles in the arms of Morpheus. At other times there will be a scene very much resembling a riot, the whole company in the claim becoming infected as if by magic; each member then does just as he thinks right in the sight of his own eyes, and the labour of the once united band of brothers is ruthlessly cast away and forsaken. Abuse and recriminatory expressions are freely indulged in, the tools are menacingly flourished, and the wonder is that mischief of a serious character does not frequently follow. The scene almost invariably ends by one or more rushing frantically away to his tent, where he may be found soon after in a state of prostration or profuse perspiration.

It is a matter requiring the earnest and serious attention of the faculty, or somebody else, as to what is the primary cause of this terrible disease, because, if we find out the cause, we may confidently hope that the remedy will certainly follow; so, before any more learned or scientific opinion is advanced, I would most humbly and modestly suggest that the real cause of this distemper may be traced to those flashy, miserable deceivers, mica and mundie; and the only specific is a good and frequent dose of the sterling stuff, the real article, yellow gold.”

The Governor and his party walk to Shortland Town where the Sturt has been brought round. The presence of the armed steamer in the river causes no little flutter with the Maori. His Excellency, after passing through town, is escorted to the steamer by a crowd to loud cheers.  He very politely declines all offers of specimens made to him, but does take some samples of quartz in which gold is not visible.

The steamer Sturt is under way again.  Some enterprising individuals, on earlier hearing the Governor had landed, were at once in the saddle and thundering towards the Kuranui reef but before they could get any distance they found that his Excellency was down in the populous and thriving town of Shortland.   A citizen of great renown also runs around to get up a deputation but by this time Sir George Grey has boarded the Sturt. 

The Sturt steams up to Ohinemuri and anchors off Te Hira’s place, the governor communicating immediately with the Maori on shore.

Avon for the Thames with  8 ½ tons flour, two tons bran, two tons maize, five bags oats, two cases biscuit, seven bushels lime, one case syrup, 20,000 shingles, one bushel malt, six casks ale, two kegs ale, one cask porter.

  Otahuhu for the Thames with  five bags sugar, one ham, one side bacon, one bale, four cases whiskey, one case claret, 1 ½  case gin, two cases Old Tom, three cases brandy, 1 case wine, 1 ¼ cask wine, three bedsteads, 10 packages groceries, 1,500 ft timber, one horse and dray.

As the lead up to Christmas begins Shortland Town quietens down.  “Except that we have had a chase after a thief who was robbing some tents, and that a good many are going away to spend the holidays, we have no news,” writes the  NZ Herald correspondent. 

Some of the Coromandel diggers arrive back there from the Thames to enjoy their Christmas holidays at home.

The third triennial census for the colony of New Zealand is taken tonight.  Papers, so far as possible, will be collected tomorrow by sub-enumerators.  The returns will be forwarded immediately by the chief enumerators in each province to Wellington, but, judging from previous experience, the published statistics need not be looked for before April or May next year.

The body of John Willis is taken up to Auckland tonight by the Midge.   Funds of £18 2s have been raised on behalf of his widow and children.  Of this sum, £3 is paid to Mrs Willis for her expenses, £14 1s is handed to the Rev Buller, as head of the church to which John Willis belonged, and ten shillings are held to be added to some further funds expected in.  Dr Hooper, who attended the injured man with great care and perseverance, and Dr Lethbridge, gave their services free, while Captains Stewart and Marks, of the Midge, gave free passages and every assistance.

The Enterprise arrives in Auckland this evening bringing up 83 diggers who are intending to spend their Christmas holidays there.  A very large number of miners are intending to avail themselves of the protection granted by the warden for the Christmas holidays.

Leave us Maoris.

Friday, 20 December
Another addition is made to the numerous gold bearing claims on the Waiotahi creek when Alexander Read and party strike gold.  They name it the Waterfall claim and send some very good specimens to Auckland.

The lack of machinery at the Thames goldfield is becoming a serious concern.

‘Gold Bug’ writes to the NZ Herald   - “After the experience of ten days unsuccessful prospecting on the first gold field I have ever visited, I have come to the conclusion that the finding of the precious metal is purely a matter of time and money; and I fully agree with your remarks that sooner or later the ground will and must be systematically worked by large and wealthy companies.

Claim after claim strikes gold and the few machines that are on the ground are engaged on hire for months in advance.  If there were ten times the number of machines erected some claims would still have to wait their turn.

Trade Licenses at the Thames are also seen as an obstruction hindering progress.  Every working artisan - shoemaker or tailor etc - is compelled to pay £5 for a trade licence before undertaking any job in Shortland.  This prohibitive tax inflicts a great hardship on tradesmen in general.

Spey for the Thames with 24,000 shingles, eight head cattle, 6hhds ale, 5 tons flour. 

Rob Roy for the Thames with  500 ft timber, 8 head cattle, 5 cwt potatoes, 20 packages.

The Warden’s court is occupied for seven hours today hearing two cases of mining disputes.  In both cases assessors are called in and in the first case there are two counsel on each side.  There is necessarily a great mass of evidence taken, but the facts of the case are few.

The Government steamer Sturt
Ref: A-049-008. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22776014

Saturday 21 December
At Ohinemuri the sight of the fine steamer Sturt in the river astonishes Maori. Sir George Grey, however, like those before him, is making no progress in opening the Upper Thames for gold mining. Te Hira will not come and see him and neither will Tukukino.  Tukukino  says the governor has only come up to ”soft soap” them and to tempt them with fine promises and also that it was the governor who had destroyed the inhabitants of the country, both Maori and European, by war, and therefore the Maori do not wish to see him. His Excellency points out to Taraia the advantages that will be derived if they open their gold to Europeans – whereas now they are very poor, when their ground is opened, they would have plenty of everything.  Taraia says “Leave us Maoris with this part. We don’t wish to leave this part.”

Rapata will not give consent yet to open his land either.   He is anxious first to go to Tokongamutu (Te Kuiti )  to hear what objections Tawhiao, the Maori King, has to the gold being opened to Europeans,  without causing any difficulties with the Hauhau owners of the land.   All the Ohinemuri Maori are going up to Tokongamutu to a great meeting to be held there in January.

Sir George Grey promises a settler at Ohinemuri some very useful and valuable seeds and birds.  He also promises the Maori several copies of a much wanted work on the cultivation and drying of the tobacco plant, which is anticipated to be in a few years one of this country’s most useful and paying productions. 

Rangatira for the Thames with  ½ ton potatoes, two bags vegetables, one bag flour.  

Wahapu for the Thames with  5,000 bricks, 24 bushels limes, one horse, one ton flour.

The schooner, Mapere, which has recently become a regular trader to the Thames, founders during a heavy squall off Tairua where she had gone to load timber.  The three crew and one passenger get away safely in a boat , the Mapere going down when they are about 20 yards away.

NZH 21 December, 1867

Sunday, 22 December
Over the past two days the Tauranga, Midge and Enterprise have brought up to Auckland about 700 diggers from the Thames to spend their Christmas holidays.  The steamers also bring up 1,200 ozs of gold between them.

At the wreck of the Mapere off Tairua, a man dives down to save some personal luggage belonging to a passenger, but is not successful.  The cook is left in charge of the wreck while the others make their way on foot to Mercury Bay to get a vessel to Auckland. 

The streets of Auckland become unusually busy and animated,  reminiscent of the good old times when it was a matter of some difficulty to walk down Queen Street in business hours.  The large influx of diggers from the Thames, who appear bent on making the most of their Christmas holidays, adds greatly to the lively appearance of the thoroughfares of the city.

Man-o'-war bay, Waiheke, Hauraki Gulf, with Chamberlain's Island in the distance.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19180418-36-7 

Monday, 23 December
At Chamberlains Island the body of Gypsy Bill,  drowned when the cutter Alabama capsized,  is found close to the shore.  The recovery of the Alabama has been a painstaking process.  On Friday the Tartar and Teazer proceeded to area but were unable to do anything beyond locating her.   Saturday was taken up making preparations for hoisting.  She was partially raised yesterday morning and taken to Chamberlain’s Island.  This morning she is drawn further up the beach to bail her out. Gypsy Bill is found about a quarter of a mile away.

In the Resident Magistrates Court at Shortland, Peter Reilly is charged with having stolen one Crimean shirt, one knife and belt and other articles, the property of Nathaniel Weston.  The prisoner pleads guilty and is sentenced to hard labour for two months.  The prisoner was apprehended by Detective Crick, who is praised for the pace at which he made tracks after the prisoner.

Crimean shirts were made of grey wool, with a simple neckband instead of a collar and were pulled over the head. Diggers on the goldfields wore them outside their trousers.

Whau  for Thames with a full cargo of furniture.

The cutter Tartar arrives in Auckland harbour this evening with the body of Gypsy Bill.   The Alabama has now been successfully raised and is being towed up to Auckland by the Teazer.

DSC 23 December 1867

A toad and a throng.

Tuesday, 24 December
Sir George Grey and party arrive back in Auckland aboard the Sturt, having been unsuccessful in getting the Upper Thames country opened for gold prospecting.  Last evening they returned Te Moananui and his son to Manaia.  They bring with them two Ohinemuri chiefs who wished to come to Auckland.   It is said the friendly Maori were ill-pleased that in passing their settlements, the governor went straight to the Hauhau, overlooking the loyal Maori.

There is nothing doing at the Thames but preparing for Christmas.  The diggers are making great preparations for two days of sports to be held in the New Year.

The steamers have been crammed with passengers for the past few days,  estimated at between two and three thousand, on their way to Auckland from the Thames.

A toad is brought into the Daily Southern Cross office by Mr Stubbys of Epsom, who captured it yesterday in the Karaka Creek at the Thames.   It appears to be a unique specimen - this being the first time of which the existence of toads in the Karaka district has been made known.  Several Maori residents who were shown the reptile at Kauaeranga say they have not seen one there before.  Many specimens however have been found at Coromandel.  When received by the Cross the toad is lively and appears likely to live.

This afternoon at the Railway Terminus Hotel, Official Bay, Auckland, the inquest on William Wallington (Gypsy Bill) is held.  He is found to have drowned off Chamberlains Island on 18 December by the  accidental upsetting of the cutter Alabama on her voyage from the Thames to Auckland through stress of the weather.   Thanks are given to Mr Gardener and Mr Stokes for rescuing the remainder of the crew from a watery grave.

The town of Auckland is vibrant this evening with the various shops in Queen Street being brilliantly lit up and decorated with foliage.  Christmas delicacies are invitingly displayed in the shop windows.  The butchers shops are decked out and have by far the largest display of evergreens.  The grocery and fruiterers shops are also tastefully ornamented while a number of hotels are adorned with attractive art.  The streets are literally thronged with townspeople and visitors from the Thames, a great number of who are shopping. One significant fact that speaks volumes for the success of the Thames goldfields is that all the diggers who have come up to spend their Christmas in Auckland seem to be in high spirits, well clothed and by no means short of a supply of funds.  For those remaining at Shortland Town there is also jollity and merriment; the dozen or so public houses are said to be literally coining money.

At the Thames this first Christmas Eve the evening is kept up with great fun and good humour, Christmas being rung in with the full force of all the hotel bells in the place.  The stores and hotels are all decorated, and the new theatre of Captain Butt is opened, though not formally as it is not yet finished.  The quantity of beer consumed in the opening is something alarming.

DSC 24 December 1867

NZH 24 December,1867

*An amicus curiae (literally, friend of the court) is someone who is not a party to a case and is not solicited by a party, but who assists a court by offering information that bears on the case.

For this census the Thames comes under the Franklin electorate which has two members. "This Electoral District is bounded on the North by the Parnell District, hereinbefore defined, and by the sea, including the Islands of Waiheke, Pounui, and other isles in the Firth of the Thames ; on the East by the sea from Cape Colville to the 39th parallel of South Latitude; on the West by the Great South Road from the junction of Kyber Pass Road to Maungatawhiri on the Waikato River, thence by the Waikato River to Lake Taupo, and thence by a line due south to the 39th parallel; and on the South by the 39th parallel of South Latitude ; excepting the Pensioner Settlements District, hereinbefore defined."

**Nokenoke Creek was a small creek which ran alongside the northern side of Richmond Street from the foothills.  It is no longer visible having been piped to address flooding and pollution concerns. 
Papers Past
Bronwyn Labrum, 'Rural clothing - Menswear', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 12 December 2017)
Shortland Heritage Area, Thames - Thames-Coromandel District Council
© 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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