Saturday 28 July 2018

19 March to 25 March, 1868

Thrown into the river.

The landing place, Shortland, March 1868 

by William Eastwood
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr J Eastwood, 1900 

Thursday, 19 March
A newspaper is about to make its appearance at the Thames, under the appropriate title of the Thames Advertiser and Miner’s News.  

This afternoon a meeting is held at the Auckland offices of the City Board of Commissioners by the members of the committee for the Reception of his Excellency the new Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Bowen. A letter is read explaining the causes that led to the postponement of his visit to Auckland.  Major Heaphy says a feeling is prevalent that arrangements previously made had not been of the most judicious character.  It would be well to remember that several days notice has to be given to the volunteers, and miners at the Thames had to get protection.  A thorough welcome to the Governor is required and such a project cannot be carried out if only a days notice is given. 

Friday, 20 March
A large Maori meeting at Ohinemuri concludes after three days.  Although not attended by the Maori King or any of his immediate council, it has been of great importance.  The leading Thames chiefs are present.  It is resolved that all recent leases are to be cancelled at once, while old leases and sales are to be deliberated upon. As for the European settlers in the area, the Maori want John Thorpe to leave, but Edward Wood, who has a store just above Ohinemuri, and who is a  recent settler, is told  his works have not been bad and it is likely he will be allowed to remain. As for Josiah Firth’s run at Matamata – the Maoris say they will not take next year’s rent and that if he sends anymore supplies up they will be at once thrown into the river.  It is also resolved that no gold digging will be allowed beyond Omahu, the present southern boundary.  The autaki (ban) on the Thames at the upper end of the Ohinemuri is confirmed and strengthened so that water carriage to Matamata may be stopped.  Te Munu, a very extreme man, is to take charge of the gold boundary at Omahu.  An aukati may be established below or about Mr Thorpe's station and so block up the Ohinemuri stream and the main river.  It is obvious that there cannot for some considerable time be an extension of the southern boundary on the Thames goldfield.

General business at Shortland Town has been at a standstill during the week, save a few shares changing hands.  The hotels, of which there are now some 15 or 16, are doing absolutely nothing, and some are talking of closing their doors.  Township allotments are not saleable at any price.

 A man named Broadbent, working a claim near Carpenter’s, is badly hurt by a landslip when clearing away a face to a drive. The poor fellow is attended by Dr Sam.  Secure timbering of shafts and drives is called for or loss of life, in very many instances,  will certainly be the result.

Constables Francis Lipsey, McGinn and Lapin are to be sent at once to the Thames, where there will now be a force of five policemen to serve and protect the large population now located between Kauaeranga and Tapu Creek.

Avon for the Thames with 16 barrels ale, 12 hhds ale, eight cases stout, two quarter casks rum, one quarter cask brandy, four tons flour, ½ ton sugar, six bags maize, 40 bars iron, one case drapery, two head cattle, 20 packages stores, five cases ale, six passengers.

DSC 20 March, 1868

Saturday, 21 March
The astonishing and inconceivable news that Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, has been shot at a picnic in Sydney reaches New Zealand.  The John Penn arrives at Nelson with the news which the Evening Post runs with a large heading that other newspapers report in disbelief and outrage.  The published telegrams cause the most intense anxiety over the possibility that the Prince has been assassinated during his visit to the colonies. 

The results of the December 1867 census show that the Thames Goldfield appears to have had a population of 2,439 souls on 19 December (2,155 males and 284 females).  The numbers have doubled since then.  The census returns for the Auckland province are highly satisfactory.  The population has not retrograded in the slightest degree during the last three years; there is even an increase in the population of the city of Auckland and suburbs.  Considering that with the military occupation there would be a large number of followers or  hangers on of the war,  who would have left when the army left , and that the digging population at the Thames are nine tenths of them setters in the Province, the addition of 6189 souls to the population is thought highly satisfactory. The rush to the Thames diggings, which was at its height when the census was taken in December, explains the decrease in males.

Tin mine, Cornwall

A small bar of gold and tin alloy which has been saved from a crushing of 10 tons of auriferous quartz from the New Caledonian claim is  deposited at the Bank of NZ for assay.  George  Hagin, claim manager,  believes that tin lead will be found to run through the bottom of the Bobby Burns claim on the Karaka, and the claim known as the Durham lead, on Collarbone Creek, on the other side.  The owners of any claims in that vicinity as well as  the New Caledonian are warned to  be on the lookout for any black or dark looking leaders and have the quartz tested, otherwise they may find  themselves very great losers if a large quantity of quartz is crushed along with it.  The tin leader runs parallel with the gold bearing leader.

The discovery of tin at the Thames may lead to important results.  Demand for tin plates is very great and is still a profitable trade.  Tin ores have been found in comparatively few places – the principals being Cornwall, Galicia, Saxony, Bohemia and the Malay countries, China and Banca.  The tin trade of Cornwall and the Scilly Islands is famed. In 1859 the produce of the British tin mines was 9,700 tons.  The price of tin has fallen greatly in recent years owing to the supply from Banca and the Malay countries, but is still profitable.  The Malay Peninsula and islands adjacent, for a length of about 1,200 miles, are rich in tin ore, but the majority of the mines are unexplored.  The most productive of the Banca mines were accidentally discovered about a century ago.  If tin really exists in large quantities at the Thames it will be a most valuable addition to New Zealand’s mineral wealth.

A public meeting is held in front of the court house to organise the recording on the electoral roll  the names of all persons holding miner's rights and business licenses in the Thames.  Robert Graham is voted to the chair.  He says he feels proud to have the honour of presiding over such a large and respectable meeting, the largest in fact he has ever addressed within the province of Auckland, and this was saying a great deal, as he had presided over many meetings  since his arrival in the colony.  He has great pleasure in testifying to the generally good behaviour of the inhabitants on the Thames goldfield,  their forbearance and conduct towards the Maori showing the true character of the British subject.

As a member for the district of Franklin he considers it of vast importance that as many people as possible should have their names at once placed on the electoral roll.  As a great amount of business has to be dealt with before nightfall, the registration papers are read and as Robert Graham is present to attest to the signatures, the business of enrolling names is at once proceeded with.  After a vote of thanks and three hearty cheers the meeting breaks up, but Robert Graham and J C Young, clerk of the Resident Magistrates court,  are kept busy until after midnight attesting to the signatures of hundreds miners who flock around them.  No fewer than 800 people add their names to the roll within the short space of a few hours. 

NZH 21 March, 1868

Sunday, 22 March
Butt’s American Theatre closes for the season this evening. It will re-open on Tuesday, March 24th, under the management of Mr I H Clifford, who has leased the theatre. The Clifford’s have worked very hard since they have been connected with the theatre, and are great favourites at the Thames.

Jingling silver.

Monday, 23 March
The subscriptions towards the building of a hospital at the Thames are progressing steadily.  The new court house and other public buildings are rapidly approaching completion.

Many stories have been told about the prospects obtained at the Puriri, which have since been proved either hoaxes or falsehoods,  but now  about 90 lb weight of quartz taken out of the Prospector’s claim and crushed at Murphy’s Berdan has produced the very satisfactory return of 37 oz gold.

Shares in the Coburg, Castel, Hand and Heart, Norwegian, Denyer’s, North of Devon, Two Fingers and Kenney’s, and other claims, have changed hands during the week at very moderate prices.  The claimholders on the Moanataiari have allowed the carriage of machinery to a claim on the Waiotahi for a consideration of £10.  The shareholders in the Break O Day claim have made arrangements to have a quartz crushing machine of eight stamps and 14 hp placed on their ground

A visitor on his way to the Thames for a second time observes four diggers – improved by a little liquor – taking the air in a trap about Auckland and sees it as a sign of favourable chances on the goldfield.  Arriving at night at Shortland Town, he discovers that although quiet, it now has streets that are a vast improvement on the streets of some months ago.  On his first visit he breakfasted economically on a box of sardines and a pint of beer, now he can now dine well and cheaply on the food of civilisation.

The storekeepers are not as busy as the people who drive a single trade.  Once a week is the time for going to the grocers and therefore, the grocers may do enough on Saturdays for the rest of the week.  But boots wear out, meat is eaten, the hair grows long, hats fill with holes and a bottle comes to an end every day. Bread, labelled everywhere 'five pence the loaf', seems to be in sufficient demand.  There are plenty of shopkeepers making money at the Thames and plenty of miners are making more than tucker.  There is briskness and an amount of ready cash, to which the dullness and 'tick' of Auckland present a strong contrast.

Bell-men parade the thoroughfares and announce entertainments from a public meeting to a theatrical performance. There is no rowdiness on the Thames diggings.  There may be exuberance of spirits which naturally affects a man when he is making a very good living for the first time in perhaps a long period.  But drunkards are few and far between, all things considered. The sound of the harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer mingle with fiddlers, cornet-a-pistons, and trombones performing lively airs in dancing saloons. 

In the moonlight two or three places of worship shine conspicuously.  The Bank of New Zealand is a good looking building.   Odd corners of stores are boarded off and labelled with the names of solicitors; mining agencies are carried on in extremely limited spaces.   Of the large number of people in the street, few look like loafers, many jingle silver in their trouser pockets and altogether the place is a vast relief from the general depression of Auckland. It would be a gross exaggeration to say that the Maoris are reduced to poverty in this portion of New Zealand.  In a state of sobriety they offer many articles of food for sale. The vast majority are driving a steady trade, making the living of the pakeha cheap.

 Wahapu  for the Thames with  7,000 bricks, nine bushels lime. 

Rob Roy for the Thames with  eight tons hay, two tons potatoes, one ton iron (to be shipped at Tamaki)

Tonight the preliminaries of a race between the Sumpter and the Henry, from the breakwater to Tararu Point, Thames, is arranged between the respective owners, Mr C Robinson and Captain Henry Green.  The vessels will leave the breakwater at 8.30am tomorrow, the stakes being £10 a side.

The Enterprise arrives at Auckland from the Thames. Considerable time is lost in landing her passengers, which might be avoided if the Harbour Master would appropriate a berth for the Thames steamers, a concession which the daily increase of traffic renders absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, 24 March
The cutters Sumpter and Henry sail in company for the Thames to test their respective sailing capacities.  The masters lay £10 a side on the result of the race of 60 miles.   The Henry, though she is second to arrive, beats her opponent.  The bet was made conditionally on both cutters carrying the same kinds of sails, but Captain Green, of the Sumpter, was anxious to arrive on the tide and hoisted his gaff topsail to enable him to do so and he loses the bet though he wins the race. 

Auckland is quite astir with the expected arrival of Sir George Bowen.  The town is again gaily decorated with bunting but there is some apprehension that he will be a no-show again.  Crowds of waiting people walk listlessly up and down Queen Street waiting for a signal from a steamer which will announce His Excellency’s arrival.  The Auckland, Otahuhu and Howick cavalry parade and march into town.  At 11.30 the sky becomes overcast and a greater portion of the people disperse.  A little after 12 a steamer signal is run up, but hopes are dashed as it turns out to be a steamer from the Thames goldfields.  The Governor never does appear to the disappointment of all.  This has been a great inconvenience and sacrifice of valuable time. There is bewilderment that the most specific appointments cannot be kept, and annoyance that a very large population desirous of paying respects to their new rulers must lose a couple of days work in order to be present.  The various troops can hardly be expected  to turn out a third time, after having twice been disappointed

There are now six machines at the Thames, with a power of 55 stampers in all, but even out of this small number, seven are idle at one machine owing to a lack of water.  With the stampers now at work, it is possible crush some 30 tons a day, but not more. All the crushing going on for some days past has been satisfactory.  The machines are keeping a register giving a better position to judge the general yield of the field.

The NZ Herald correspondent notes that he has taken some pains to arrive at some idea as to where the tin which was discovered at Scanlan and Ellis’s machine came from.  It is not easy to say where it did come from, but it is pretty certain it did not come from the claim.  He believes it will be found that tin is never present in stone in the form that is alleged in this case. 

The Electoral Representation Committee appointed at the public meeting last Saturday is busily engaged in having the registration forms filled up.

Sir George Bowen

Lady Diamantina Bowen

Wednesday, 25 March
2pm Auckland
Their Excellencies Sir George and Lady Bowen finally arrive at Queen Street wharf to a hearty welcome and are conveyed to Government House in a coach drawn by eight greys.  Everything passes off pleasantly with only one hiccup – the news of the rumoured assassination of the Duke of Edinburgh in Sydney.  The publication of rumours today creates the utmost consternation amongst all who are looking forward to the visit of His Royal Highness.

It is regretted timely notice could not have been given of the Bowen’s arrival – the immense crowds which thronged the streets and leant the charm of animation and variety to every window and balcony would have been increased by thousands from country settlements and the Thames goldfield, but it is not possible to communicate speedily with these out-districts.

 Mt Eden Gaol looking south, 1858
PH-NEG-A.P. 1214 
Auckland War Memorial museum

At Auckland’s Mt Eden Gaol it is discovered that two prisoners have escaped over the wall.  Prisoners are immediately mustered and Robert Kelly alias McKenna  and Alexander Campbell are found to be absent. Wardens are sent in pursuit but fail to find them.  Kelly makes his way to Thames diggings.

NZH 25 March, 1868

A sackbut is a type of trombone from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, characterised by a telescopic slide that is used to vary the length of the tube to change pitch. A psaltery (or sawtry) is a stringed instrument of the zither family.  A dulcimer is a type of musical string instrument. It is a species of zither. Cornet à pistons are a three-valved brass instrument of the trumpet family.

Papers Past

© 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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