Saturday 11 August 2018

4 December to 10 December, 1867

Merry as a marriage bell.

Wednesday, 4 December
A little sunshine emerges with light, fine, growing, warm rain at the Thames at last.  The previous fortnight has been unprecedented for rain, hail, wind and cold – almost worse than winter weather – reminding the South Island diggers of the stormy conditions suffered there.

 At the Auckland Supreme Court Criminal Sessions John Waddington Graves, a dealer, is charged with obtaining money under false pretences from John Sceats, of the British Hotel, by falsely, knowingly and designedly representing that he was the owner of a certain allotment, land number 27, in Shortland Town, which he had previously sold through his agent. He induced Sceats to become the purchaser for £32, £10 of which he paid in cash. The case turns upon the question of authority given to the agent, but unfortunately the document in writing giving authority has been mislaid.

A new centreboard cutter, Glitter, built to attend the steamers and land passengers at the Thames, sails this morning from Auckland in charge of her builder, Mr Waymouth junior. 

Henry for the Thames with 17 bags flour, 5 bags salt, 2 bags potatoes, 2 boxes, 1 package, 5 bags sugar, 4 head cattle.
Caroline for the Thames with flour, sugar and other stores.
 Glitter for the Thames in ballast (to land passengers from the steamers)

There is a report at large that some diggers trying prospect the Upper Thames have been sent off by Maori who tell them they had better return to Hauraki to dig gold.  It is thought they are the party of diggers from the meeting on November 9 who decided they would start for the up-river settlements after raising funds to defray expenses.  This deputation however has been dissolved because the public did not come forward with any contributions and the men want to antagonise powers that be at their own expense. 

The diggers that have been turned away are a party of eight West Coast men who went up on their own accord. They had hired a boat and engaged the services of a waterman and interpreter for a week to proceed to Ohinemuri.  On their arrival several hundred Maori received them very cordially and all went “merry as a marriage bell” when unfortunately a messenger arrived in the person of Thomas Guilding, who was supposed to be taking the census.  His hurried arrival completely upset the diggers hopes and had such an effect on the Maori that the diggers were commanded to depart, time scarcely being given to make tea of the water boiling in the billy.  The party’s interpreter translated a letter which said no pakeha should be allowed to come to that place, save for bartering.

Theophilus Cooper notes with disgust that the bakers of Thames are again making fools of themselves, having raised the price of bread once more.  He feels there is plenty of room for at least three more good bakers, and those who act fairly and honestly will have the people rallying around them in support.

The wretched roads also repel him. Civilised order is needed – there is plenty of roading material close at hand in the shape of thousands of tons of quartz. It could  be purchased off the diggers, helping them considerably in their time of need, and the cost should be charged to the Maoris, who, grumbles Theophilus,  have not done a single thing for the money they receive. 

Mr Mackay calls for tenders for the levelling of the streets at the Thames and the Government surveyor is instructed to form side-paths 12 feet wide.  Sites have been allotted for religious purposes in the town.  Mr Mackay also intimates that the government will reserve portions of land leased by the Crown for the use of the public, which may tend to the welfare of the district.

 Messrs Evans and Co, lithographers of Fort Street, Auckland, issue a pocket map of “The goldfields and the Thames.”  The tract of country between Auckland and Tauranga is shown at a glance, with names of the most noted landmarks and rivers, for the guidance of prospectors.  The map is published at the low rate of 3p per copy, with reductions on numbers.

DSC 4 December, 1867

Thursday, 5 December
Much progress has been made at Shortland Town.  Many large buildings have been erected and Pollen Street has been levelled and greatly extended.  Butt’s Shortland Hotel has an addition of a music hall or theatre being made to it.

Theophilus Cooper counts roughly 14 hotels and restaurants, five butchers, four bakers, two clothiers and drapers, 23 storekeepers, three auctioneers, one cutlery seller,  two booksellers, eight carters, one ginger beer manufactory, one chemist, one furniture dealer, one barrister, two solicitors, seven boot makers, two watchmakers, two doctors, two hairdressers, one photographer, three agents, one tobacconist, two timber merchants and one post office. There are ten buildings in the course of erection, five crushing machines are in operation outside the town and several are being erected.  Of shipping there is no lack; as many as 15 to 20 vessels have been at anchor in the harbour several times.

Rob Roy for the Thames with  12,000 ft timber, 1 ½ tons flour, 1 ½ tons sugar, 2 tons stores, 2 casks brandy, 3,000 shingles, 1 Berdan machine, 10 gallons rum, 1 ¼ cask whiskey.  The large Berdan quartz crushing machine the Rob Roy takes is  made to the order of Mr J H Burnside, to be erected on that gentleman’s claim at the Karaka.

The Daily Southern Cross reports that the gold obtained by Matthew Barry and party at Mercury Bay is quite distinctive and superior in quality to that found on the Karaka.   The specimen tested is of rich colour and is 23 carats. 

A boy named James Doran, in the employ of David Snodgrass, a baker of Pollen Street, is helping carry a sack of flour into the bake house, when, as they come inside the door, Snodgrass lets go of his end of the sack and Doran is thrown on his side against a flour trough.  Four of his ribs are broken. He is so badly hurt he is to be taken to the Provincial Hospital in Auckland. 

Among the arrivals at Auckland by the Tauranga this evening from Shortland is Mr Mulligan who comes up under the medical care of Dr Stratford.  He is suffering from an acute inflammation of the eye. 

NZH 5 December 1867

DSC 5 December, 1867

 Three groans for the Herald. 

Friday, 6 December
At last there is a fine day at the Thames and as night falls the moonlit view from the hills above Shortland Town is unforgettable. The Thames River stretches far away to the south; the waters of the Hauraki district look like a vast sheet of silver.  To the left of the flat where the diggers' camp is pitched the roofs of the township glisten in the clear light of the moon.  On the sides of every hill even to the highest summit of the loftiest mountain are hundreds of little white digger’s tents. Interspersed among these are bright lights flickering and flashing like so many stars; these are the fires at which many of the diggers are cooking their meals for the coming day.  Groups of men stand or sit around the fires spinning yarns and cracking jokes. Shouts of laughter are heard in various directions, mingling with the music of bagpipes, violin and cornopean*,  indicating that, if all have not got gold, they have not yet quite lost heart. 

NZH 6 December 1867

Saturday, 7 December
Several parties of prospectors leave the Thames for the Miranda Redoubt on the strength of reports of gold being found there.

There is a meeting this afternoon on the spare ground opposite Sheehan’s hotel, about a flysheet that claims to have been issued from the steam press of the Daily Southern Cross, which paper, after having for the last four months tried to write the Thames goldfield down as a duffer, suddenly rushes  to the defence of the digger. The fly sheet contains the condemnatory NZ Herald editorial of 30 November.  

Several diggers make speeches - one man is especially eloquent and rivets the crowd with a torrent of invective and ready wit.  It is resolved that the thanks of the meeting be given to the editor of the Daily Southern Cross for the noble, straightforward, and disinterested manner in which he has taken up the article in the Herald on the part of the diggers  and his kindness in  sending down the fly-sheet for circulation. The resolution is carried unanimously.

James Boyd proposes that this meeting indignantly protest against the barefaced robbery proposed to be committed upon the claimholders on the Thames goldfield, as set forth in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday last.

Mr O’Keefe suggests it is not proper to connect Superintendent Williamson's name with the newspaper articles read to the meeting.  He was portrayed as an obstructive agent of the Government.  He is not in any way responsible for what editors of newspapers chose to publish.  He is always an advocate for the working classes, and always encourages them in his public and private capacity. The diggers need have no fear that the Superintendent of Auckland will enact any rules or regulations which will hurt the mining population of the goldfield.

 Mr O'Keeffe asks for three cheers for the Superintendent, and over 600 men give them very heartily. The gentleman who represents the Herald is absent from Shortland and some of those present call for three groans for the Herald.

The Herald is again in the firing line – this time in a letter from John X Hoffray who disputes a Herald statement that “two men returned from the Ohinemuri; they report alluvial diggings.”   -  “Had I discovered an alluvial field, I would have soon made it know. . . I would not have troubled you on this matter had it not been for the shameless, cool and broad daylight misrepresentations of the Herald concerning this field.”

The Daily Southern Cross is also taken to task  - by Matthew Barry. “ Sir – wherever you got your information as regards the gold got in Mercury Bay I know not, but this I do know, that the reports in Thursday's Cross about Mr Barry and party’s rich find is totally false, and was not reported to the paper by me or any of my party.  Hoping that in future you will be more careful about putting reports of prospectors in your paper – Matthew Barry."  (We obtained information from what we conceived to be a reliable source and can only express our regret that Mr Barry has not been so fortunate as rumour would have him, and that we were misinformed.  It is certainly difficult to tell whom to believe in reference to these real or imaginary gold discoveries – Ed.)

The steamer Maori Chief is successfully launched into the waters of the Waitemata this afternoon.  A large number of people assemble to witness the launch and the very satisfactory manner in which the vessel glides into the water is a credit to her builders Duthie and Co. She has received new decks, new bulwarks and new keelson and has been fitted with a hawser and cabins for the convenience of passengers.  There is accommodation for upwards of one hundred.   Before proceeding to the Thames the Maori Chief will be fitted with paddle wheels in the place of a stern wheel.  The steamer has also been newly painted. 

"What do you really think of the Thames?"

Sunday, 8 December
Sunday divine service is conducted at the courthouse by an elderly gentleman who preaches to a scanty congregation, the weather being again unfavourable.  The preacher is a man of very extensive reading and gives a number of beautiful and appropriate quotations from ancient and modern writers. It is considered one of the most talented and interesting sermons ever given at the Thames but due to the weather is sadly missed by many.   Father Nivard also holds a service in Mr Mulligan’s large room.

About 80 diggers arrive in the Manukau from the West Coast by the Isabella, Day Dawn and Mary Jane, for the Thames goldfields.  

The account of gold at the Miranda Redoubt is somewhat stale, as it was reported more than three years ago.  Diggers often say that Thames gold has gone into the gulf, and it may have reached the other side.

Monday, 9 December
At the Auckland District Court the case of John Waddington Graves against C F Mitchell, of Shortland Town, is heard. This is a sequel to the case where Mr Sceats was charged with obtaining money under false pretences for the sale of an allotment at the Thames. Mr Sceats was favourably acquitted. John Waddington Graves is now bringing an action against Mr Sceats’ agent, C F Mitchell. 

The action is to recover the sum of £100,  money due and damages for alleged misconduct and negligence as an agent in respect to allotment 27 in Pollen Street.

At a time when allotments at the Thames were fetching a comparatively high price, Graves had instructed Mitchell to sell the whole of the allotment if possible for a good price and ready money.

During a period of temporary depression at the Thames, Mitchell, in accordance with certain letters purporting to be from Graves, sold the allotment for £44 19s and forwarded £10 to Graves. Graves then rejected the sale and entered into negotiations with Mr Sceats for a sale of the portion of the allotment. The principal points are Mitchell sold the whole of the allotment whereas he was only authorised to sell a portion and that he had not advised Graves of the depreciation in the value of property at the Thames. His Honour gives judgement for Graves - £99 and costs, less the £10,  is to be paid to him.

The laying down of tramways at the Shotover, Hamilton’s and Barry’s claims commences today.  This will give employment to numbers of men who are at present without resources to prospect or mine on their own account. 

The building of Captain Butt’s theater is being rapidly proceeded with.   It will in all probability be patronised by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh when he honours Shortland Town with his presence, which he is expected to do.

Contracts are out for cutting gutters and drains at Shortland Town but nothing is said about metalling the boggy roads.

 The tender of Mr Whitlock for building a Catholic Chapel at the corner of Willoughby and Baillie Streets has been accepted.  The building is to be 50 ft long by 25 ft broad.

 Auction marts held at Shortland by Mr O’Keefe over the past few days have seen parcels of drapery, ironmongery and provisions sold at fair rates.  Mr O’Keefe also sells the frame of a wooden house for £7 and a yacht for £35.

The Midge has been placed on the hard and is now laid up for week for a thorough overhaul and alterations with a view to increasing her comfort as a passenger vessel before resuming the Thames trade.  When this is completed the Midge will make daily trips to the Thames.  The Enterprise is also laid up for an overhaul.

The NZ Herald correspondent reflects on a question often asked of him -   “What do you really think of Thames?” He said four months ago that he thought it was a goldfield and a very rich one, and he still thinks so.   When he first arrived in early August there was one small Maori store, one bell tent and three or four whares.  There were only 60 Europeans.  Today there is a town bigger and better built than Auckland was when it was ten years old and the population amounts to some seven or eight thousand souls.

During the last few days a great deal of buildings have been put up,  the crushing at the mills is going on steadily  and the two rushes up the Moanataiari and Waiotahi creeks are showing well.  Many of the claims have had trial tests during the week and he has not heard of one single case of disappointed expectation.

It is generally thought that there is some efficient machinery in Auckland for testing samples but there actually is no means except the roughest and most unsatisfactory and miners will do well to avoid sending either stone or gold to Auckland – there is just as good means of testing a lot of quartz on the field.

Hawkes Bay Times 9 December, 1867

Tuesday, 10 December
Major Heaphy makes an address to the electors of Parnell this evening, part of which is his opinion of the Thames Goldfield. Having been resident for several weeks at the Thames, returning to Auckland after a deliberate and careful examination in which he visited every claim or working on the ground, he is convinced that the district will be of enormous wealth to the province. One great advantage which the field has is that the cost of living is so much cheaper than in Otago or Victoria. Of course, in all diggings there will be disappointed men but those disappointed men are not as great in proportion at Shortland as they have been at other diggings. He visited all the claims held by people from Parnell and they seem to have been especially successful. He is gratified to see young men whom he has known in different occupations working with a steady perseverance and energy that was an example to many of the old miners from Melbourne and Otago. (Cheers)

Notices are posted around Shortland Town for the information of miners intending to prospect on newly opened ground.  Commissioner Mackay is aware that there are several persons holding miners rights now engaged in mining for gold in blocks of land other than those for which their miner’s rights were originally issued.  Offenders will now be fined £10 for a breach of the Goldfields regulations.  In any flagrant case their claims will be forfeited.  If anyone is convicted of these offences the whole of the fine will be paid to the informant.

A second notice advises of a public meeting of miners to be held in front of the Court House, Shortland, on Saturday 14 December to select a committee of 24 miners to assist Commissioner Mackay drawing up amended rules and regulations for gold mining within the Thames goldfield.

Theophilus Cooper reads the notices with approval -  the current rules and regulations are of a most unreasonable and arbitrary nature and cause much dissatisfaction and bad feeling.

Henry for the Thames with 2,000 ft timber and sundries. 
 Tay for the Thames with 13,000 ft timber and sundries.  
Wahapu for the Thames 4,000 bricks and sundries.

NZH 10 December, 1867


*Early name for a cornet.


Papers Past

© Meghan Hawkes / First year on the Thames Goldfield 2017

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

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