Monday 6 August 2018

8 January to 14 January, 1868

A good voyage on his present ship. 

Shortland, looking north from the landing place, Butt's Shortland Hotel and American Theatre, centre.

Sir George Grey Special Collections 4-857

Wednesday, 8 January
In her tent 42 year old Mary Townsend starts to feel unwell. Dr Clarence Hooper is in immediate attendance and applies the necessary remedies, but the poor woman sinks rapidly and in less than half an hour she is dead.  Mary, the wife of a Thames baker, had only arrived by steamer last night.

All who have visited Shortland recently have been struck with amazement at the rapid advancement of the town which is now most decidedly established.  Many enterprising individuals have erected stores on the Waiotahi Flat and are doing a thriving business, both in a legitimate and illegitimate way.  There is a great want of a hotel on the Waiotahi Flat - men are not travelling a couple of miles for refreshment but are being supplied with liquor in secret there.

 A meeting of over one hundred of the Thames business community is held at the Shortland Hotel regarding the building of a wharf, something which is sorely needed at the Thames.  Some of Shortland’s most respectable and influential citizens are present.  Captain Butt is voted to the chair. Superintendent  Williamson is told that the inhabitants are willing to subscribe towards the construction, but need the assistance of the Government in the matter. The Superintendent promises that assistance will be rendered.

Mr Mackay says that the government are prepared to construct a wharf that would provide for, say, two steamers and four or five cutters to lie alongside at the same time, but that the people of Shortland must find a subsidy of £200 towards the cost.  The Superintendent having offered to bear a portion of the expense,  a committee is appointed to collect subscriptions. Some discussion takes place as to the desirability of the general government constructing a wharf, as Dr Pollen stated that when 1,000 oz of gold had been obtained from the Thames goldfield the government would bear the expense.  The next official business involves the choosing of a site for a Resident Magistrate's Court and gaol by Mr Mackay, Dr Pollen and Police Commissioner Naughton.  It is expected that Shortland will be declared a port of entry and a building set apart for a custom house without delay.

The butchers at the Thames raise the price of meat to nine pence per pound.

At Tapu Creek people are arriving in numbers.  Last night the Tauranga landed a number of passengers and during today men are arriving by way of the beach.  Among the arrivals are gentlemen looking for business allotments.  The flat is pegged out and about 20 tents are pitched. Three or four stores are doing business.  Mr Sceats, of the British Hotel, Auckland, has chartered a vessel with provisions and is providing stores to the diggers.  A West Coast party are working a large creek with systematic energy. At No 1, No 2 and No 3 gullies on the left bank of the creek  there are over 50 sluicing claims at work.   At No 3 gully, which is most fancied, claims are taped off by the newcomers.  Every available foot of ground is taken up as far as this point, and though the weather is against mining in water, the diggers are doggedly pursuing their work.  The Warden’s office in Shortland is crowded all day with applicants wanting to have their miners rights transferred to Tapu Creek.

The inquest on Mary Townsend is held before Allan Baillie, coroner, and a respectable jury.  Dr Hooper certifies the cause of death as being accelerated by heart disease and the verdict is death from apoplexy. 

The new theatre of Captain Butt is almost completed.  It is capable of holding 600, while the bar has a ‘liquoring up’ capacity to the extent of 200.  The cellar underneath has room or 60 hogsheads of beer or any quantity of iced drinks.  The Pollen Street frontage is very handsomely fitted for private apartments and is in every way suitable for either wealthy diggers or other well to do people.  Behind the theatre is an elaborate kitchen range, suitable to supply a table for 200 persons.  The scenery of the theatre is from the well-known pencil of Mr Monkhouse and some by the popular George Fawcett.  The ventilation of the building is fully secured by large louvre lights, and what is now the correct thing to call the 'vomitories', or means of egress, ingress or regress to the building, are suitable for a crowd.

It is astonishing that this building, which on the 1st of August, 1867, was being built as a Maori whare to be occupied by Chief Taipari, is today enlarged and extended into a handsome hotel, with extensive accommodation and a theatre.  The theatre will be opened on Saturday by a company of 14 now on their way from Auckland.  As one of the Thames’ very earliest and still the most enterprising of men, all wish Captain Butt a good voyage on his present ship.

George Fawcett

Rob Roy for the Thames with timber, furniture and sundries.

The plucky little Maori Chief comes into the Thames having made her voyage in some 10 hours from Auckland.  She has a certificate to carry 138 passengers and will be employed landing passengers and cargo from the steamers Tauranga and Midge on the beach opposite the township.

10.30 – 11pm
The government steamer Sturt arrives back in Auckland from the Thames with the returning officials.  Also on board is Mr Murphy, suffering from two fractured ribs, caused by being knocked over by a horse at the races last week. At the time of the accident it was not thought that he was severely hurt.   He will be taken to Auckland hospital tomorrow.   Dr Seth Sam is on board as well; he has recently moved to the Thames from Cambridge. Dr Sam is also a member of the Masonic Lodge  and was instrumental in the formation of the Alpha Lodge at Cambridge.  He had steadily persevered in his work and was always willing to impart instruction to new workmen in the mysteries of the craft of Masons. At his farewell in mid December at Cambridge it was predicted that "it is not improbable that the goldfields at the Thames  may in a short time be considered by you and others of the brethren as a suitable site for the erection of another temple." 

Dr Seth Sam is in his mid-thirties and took part in the Crimea around the same time as Florence Nightingale, and has been decorated by Queen Victoria. In 1864, in New Zealand, he worked at the Maori prison camp on Kawau Island. From there he enlisted as a substitute in the 3rd Waikato Militia as surgeon in 1865 in Cambridge. By1867 he was in charge of the Military Hospital.

Dr Seth Sam 
Courtesy Cambridge Museum

Thursday, 9 January
There are heavy winds and violent rains all day, 

Rangatira to the Thames with sundries.

Friday, 10 January
Bush licenses are issued to Francis Furlong for the Reefer’s Arms, Shortland, and William Smith and Frederick Lyster for the Willioughby Hotel, Shortland.

The remains of Mary Townsend are brought back up to Auckland on the Enterprise for interment.

A meeting is held with Mr Mackay this evening at the Shortland Hotel  to discuss the alteration or amendment of the licensing on the Thames Goldfield.  Only four men are present, owing to a misunderstanding of the time.  No business is transacted and the meeting is adjourned to next Friday.

Another meeting is held with Mr Mackay regarding the raising of £200 towards the costs of a wharf at Shortland.  Mr Mackay says that a question has been raised as to the title of the beach frontage at the landing place.  If this title rests with the Maori he has made an arrangement with them.  If the title is in the Crown, as claiming the land between low and high water marks, then there is no objection on that side.  If the title is vested in the General Government then he is prepared to say that a lease for 21 years will be granted.  The meeting agrees that a loan of £200 will be raised and a committee of six is appointed to carry this out.

Spey  for the Thames with  two casks lemonade, six boxes candles, ½ chest tea, four mats sugar, two bags biscuit, one keg butter, one bag salt, seven bags potatoes, 43 tents and poles, one parcel, thirteen bags potatoes, ½ ton hay.

NZH 10 January, 1868

Saturday, 11 January
In the Resident Magistrates Court, Shortland, James Wells is charged with stealing two bottles of whisky from the premises of Mr Love, publican, but is acquitted. He pleads guilty though to having assaulted a Maori policeman and is fined £3 and  sentenced to one month’s hard labour.   Among other cases today two have no appearance of the plaintiffs, two are adjourned and a case is heard in which cows are alleged to have damaged a tent to the amount of 3 shillings.  Half a crown is paid to the court to cover damages. A discussion is held on the most convenient times for the meeting of the court for civil cases.  It is arranged that the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays in every month should be the sitting days of the court. 

Warden Baillie is approached by a member of  party who have been working a claim for about three months and, having run short of cash, wish to have their claim registered for two or three months in order to enable them to collect some money for carrying on their work.  They know of other claims who have got protection for this time but when approached,  Mr Baillie says he will not grant it.  When asked why, he turns around and snaps   “I’ve told you ‘No’.”  The stunned man leaves thinking that an official might be little more civil to a novice, who is attempting to get a little insight into the manner, customs and regulations of the goldfields.

Captain Butt’s American Theatre opens under the auspices of Mr T E Jones, manager and lessee.  The company is composed of the following artistes:  Ladies: Madame Fanny Neveedah, the celebrated operatic singer, Mrs Pool, Mrs Cecelia Crawford and Miss Annie Phillips.  Gentlemen: Messrs Charles Pool, Baker, Herbert, Dunn, Riley, Monsieur Donnetto, the breakdown dancer; the McCormick Brothers (acrobats) and the youth Eugenie, with Mr J H Parker, late of the Nathan Troupe as pianist.   Madame Neveedah, a lady well known in the Auckland Philharmonic Society and other musical societies, sustains her well earned reputation with great success.  Her voice is soft and melodious and this, combined with her knowledge of music, enables her to rivet the attention of the rather noisy but good humoured audience.  Mrs Poole also plays some exquisite pieces on the piano.  The Theatre is well and tastefully got up.

A rumour sweeps through the Thames tonight that a large nugget has been obtained by a party who have been out prospecting at Tapu.

 Avon for the Thames with eight tons flour, one ton bran, seven hhds beer,  2 ½ chests tea, one case coffee, ½ ton potatoes, one bag sugar, one steam engine and carriage, ten passengers.

Grey River Argus 11 January, 1868

West Coast Times 11 January, 1868

Strong arms and stout hearts.

Tapu, c 1868
John Kinder, Hocken Pictorial Collections 
The same image ingenuously coloured by Tom Webb
Used with kind permission.

Sunday, 12 January
A stampede of diggers from the gullies of Shortland to the new ground at Tapu takes place and the ground is pegged out for a considerable distance.

Monday, 13 January
A digger at Shortland, on finding that the wind is a ‘dead muzzler’ and no vessels are sailing to Tapu, straps on his swag, flings his billy on his back and starts walking with his dog.  He has been told the name ‘tapu’ refers to some five hundred chiefs buried there.

The road is about 16 miles along the beach all the way and very hard to travel, but still pleasant for those who, like himself, enjoy a good long walk now and then.  On the road he passes two or three Maori settlements and a few inhabitants.  At some parts of the track along the beach there are immense boulders to be clambered over. It is necessary to start as near low water as possible, or be delayed some hours  as the water is 12 ft deep in some places, making a track along the ranges impossible. 

Mr Mackay, accompanied by Mr Baillie, arrives at Tapu by the cutter Emma.  Mr Baillie remains to watch the progress of the place, while Mr Mackay goes on to Cabbage Bay (Colville) with a party of prospectors.  On his return, Mr Mackay will see Te Moananui, with a view to having the tapu taken off the southern side of the creek. 

A letter is published in the Cross from F B Woodham, a successful digger at the Thames.  After driving a tunnel at great elevation above Tookey’s claim over three weeks, he and his party initially felt there was little chance of success.   Up the Moanataiari Creek they pegged off claims for five men, as well as three claims below the Prospecting claim.  After three days work, two of the party struck a fine leader, took some specimens, picked out the quartz and had it crushed just as it came.  They got an ounce of gold from one cwt.  “I really think, during the next three months there will be great success generally on the diggings.  The miners are not afraid of work, and, although many have not succeeded they have strong arms and stout hearts and feel hopeful; trusting to the future to reward them for their toil.” 

About 5pm 
The digger and his dog walking from Shortland Town make it to Tapu having traveled for six hours, stopping for one hour to boil the billy for tea.   When he reaches the small flat which is the site of the township flags are waving, dogs are barking and men are shouting.  He feels a little disappointed – having been told that this place would beat Shortland Town - a ‘township’ has yet to be formed, although many are already pegging off their allotments. He thinks the site of the town must be something like what he has heard of Wellington. In a straight line there is not more than 200 yards of level ground from the sea beach to the foot of a high and most precipitous range which shuts in the little flat.  All who have been along this coast are aware that the ranges dip abruptly into the sea and that Tapu Creek is one of the exceptions on a small scale. There are a number of stores on the flat and the corrugated iron and bricks for a bake house and oven are being landed from the cutter Catherine.

Several men return to Shortland from Tapu dissatisfied and report that the rumour is much exaggerated.  Gold has been discovered but not in larger quantities than found six miles down the creek.

Tay for the Thames with  9,000 ft sawn timber, 4,000 shingles, ½ ton flour. 
Wahapu for Tapu Creek with  4,000 ft timber, 6,000 shingles, sundries.

NZH 13 January, 1868

Tuesday, 14 January
Early this morning the digger and his dog start up the creek at Tapu.  There are not many men visible but this is because of another rush yesterday.  There is very little sign of work done because the alluvial claim which has turned out best – McIssacs - is at the top of one of the highest ranges.  The digger goes in search of this claim but cannot get to it.  His dog had persisted in coming with him from Shortland, and it can’t walk along the side of the range which is as steep as a wall. The digger goes however along a good many of the creeks with a small prospecting party.  They try many prospects but he only sees the colour in one case.  The digger sees no reason to believe that the Tapu Creek is an alluvial field - there are certain signs and tokens and these signs and tokens are absent here.

Maori Chief for Tapu Creek with passengers.

 Henry for Tapu Creek with  eight cases  stout, two cases gin, one keg, two cases brandy, three cases ale, one ton flour, one case sardines, eight cases cheese, six drums oil, five tons other stores, four passengers.

Despite small quantities of gold being found at Tapu, the rush has done some good, as more than one party have remained behind with the intention of giving the creek a thorough prospecting.  The sluicing claims are yielding wages. Diggers approached by the Cross correspondent do not like to have their names published.  Other claims are being worked very quietly.  Stores are being built and Messrs Sceats, McMahon, Levy and others are at present supplying the necessities of the diggers. 

Afternoon, Tapu Creek
Catherine (Kate) Brown places a loaded revolver in her mouth and fires it. Kate is the desperately unhappy one-time paramour of Australian bush ranger Frank Gardiner, who ten years earlier was captured and sentenced to 32 years for highway robbery.

Kate is at Tapu Creek with Dick Taylor, having arrived on Friday 10th from Auckland where they had been at a boarding house.  They had arrived in Auckland about a month previously on the ss Auckland from Sydney.   Dick Taylor had some idea of starting a butchers shop at Tapu.  They had been having words a few minutes before Kate picked up the revolver.  Now Dick runs from their tent crying “My wife has shot herself!”   He appears to be greatly agitated and distracted; to others he appears drunk.

Dr Clarence Hooper is soon on the spot. The bullet, after knocking out Kate's teeth, passed under her tongue and lodged in the spine.  Her lips are severely burnt by the explosion. Warden Baillie, who is at Tapu, takes the depositions for a coroner’s inquest if required. Kate indicates to the Warden she was driven to the desperate act by a lowness of spirits.  When questioned as to why,  she places her hand first on her head then on her heart.   She indicates that Taylor drove her to it but later implies extreme trouble was the cause. She seems perfectly sane.

Dr Hooper is assiduous in his attention, but very little hopes are held for her recovery. The optimism at Tapu is marred by this awful event. 

NZH 14 January, 1868

George Fawcett was an artist, theatre scene painter and actor.   His father was the artist George Rowe. George Fawcett joined his father in Bendigo, Australia, after leaving England in 1852. HIs father had been  appointed as official artist to the goldfields in Australia.  George Fawcett  signed his works 'George Fawcett' to distinguish himself from his father.  In Bendigo  he became part-owner of the Princess Theatre. In the early 1860s he  followed  the gold rush to Otago, New Zealand. His real name was George Curtis Fawcett Rowe. 

Vomitories were a series of entrance or exit passages in an ancient Roman amphitheatre or theatre. According to popular misconception, the ancient Romans are supposed to have vomited during feasts to make room for more food.

In the book 'The Wild Colonial Boys' by Frank Clune, Dick Taylor is described as a "drunken quarrelsome blackguard". The book also states that Dick and Kate went to New Zealand and lived on the Hokitika gold diggings for a few months leading a very unhappy life and always quarrelling. The above account of Kate and Dick only being in NZ a month after coming from Sydney is taken from the inquest. It is possible they went to the Hokitika  diggings and returned to Auckland within that month.


Many thanks to Tom Webb.  You can view more of Tom's creativity here - 

Apia, Samoa Postcard 1899 Animated in After Effects

Opening the fields of gold - the Native Agreement -

Many thanks to Cambridge Museum for information on Dr Sam

Queensland Desperadoes by Cyril Grabs
The Wild Colonial Boys by Frank Clune    
Dead Cert - Stories from Thames, Paeroa and Waihi cemeteries by Meghan Hawkes

© Meghan Hawkes / First year on the Thames Goldfield 2017 - 2018

Please credit Meghan Hawkes/ First year on the Thames Goldfield 2017- 2018 when re-using information from this blog.

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