Sunday 8 July 2018

30 July to 1 August, 1868

A mysterious passenger.

The Shotover claim.

Mundy, Daniel Louis, 1826-1881, photographer,1867-1869,Auckland Museum PH-ALB-86-p16-2

Thursday, 30 July
There is considerable excitement in Auckland due to a report which has rapidly gained currency that a seam of extraordinary richness has been discovered in the All Nation’s claim.  This claim is situated just above the Shotover and the Kuranui company’s claims. The excitement, which in the early part of today is intense among the diggers and sharebrokers, originates from a report that the steamer Enterprise was specially chartered at the early hour of 3 this morning by a private party bent on coming to Auckland in order to buy up every possible share in the All Nation’s claim. 

The Enterprise arrives at Auckland with the anxiously awaited mystery person thought to be among the passengers but on board is just one solitary passenger.  This, and the knowledge that the Enterprise has arrived unexpectedly and before her time, is sufficient to excite more suspicion.  Passengers by other steamers from the Thames know scarcely anything about the alleged discovery, other than a vague rumour in circulation at Shortland that gold had been struck in the All Nations claim.  One man expresses his opinion that the shareholders in the claim have purposely kept the matter quiet.

Another rumour circulating in Auckland today is that a miner lodged two parcels of gold containing 18 oz in the Union Bank at Shortland, which he allegedly obtained from McLeod’s Creek, Kennedy’s Bay.  The gold is said to have been much superior to that obtained at the Thames, as much as £3 per oz having been obtained for it.

At the Shortland Police court John Smith is charged with using obscene language on the public highway.  He is fined 40s and costs.

The Daily Southern Cross runs a headline which crows 'THE THAMES DIGGINGS THE RICHEST IN THE WORLD.'  “As we are in receipt of reliable information from the South that an attempt is being made on the West Coast to cry down the Thames goldfield in order to prevent a stampede, we are pleased to publish the following from the Lyttleton Times which  contains several extracts from the Cross’s columns, showing mining share transactions and the extent of business being done on the goldfields.   It quotes a letter from Mr J Hall,  a performer who was at the Thames this month,  giving a most encouraging account of the field, stating that he had been on the Shotover claim  and was astonished on beholding the extreme richness of the stone.  Mr Hall has been on most of the diggings in Australia and says that the Thames diggings are the richest he has ever visited.

An inquest is held  at the Star Hotel, Shortland, on the body of William Turner, aged 2 years 9 months, the son of William and Isabella Turner of the Digger’s Camp. The verdict is reached  that William Turner was accidentally drowned in an open shaft or waterhole, on the Digger’s camp.  A rider is added that the authorities be urged to cause the holes on the Digger’s Camp to be filled up.

The John Penn arrives in the Manukau from the south bringing passengers for the Thames goldfield.   A large quantity of machinery for the Thames diggings from Sydney arrives at Auckland by the barque Novelty.

There are now ten vessels either on their return from the Bay of Islands, proceeding to the Bay or loading at the Bay with coal for the Auckland market. That the present scarcity of fuel in Auckland is not likely to continue is a relief for the owners of steamboats and the public generally.

As the day wears on the All Nations fever grows, some enthusiastic individuals go so far as to say that a solid seam of gold has been discovered.  Shares in the All Nations go up to a marvelous figure, but it is stated that the shareholders had received timely warning of the fortunate discovery.  One shareholder, however, is reported to have parted with his interest, though the legal gentlemen have pronounced the transaction invalid.  The All Nations claim struck the Little Angel leader on Wednesday in a lower drive and a very heavy show of gold was obtained out of the first quartz broken off.  Fine wiry gold was so profusely impregnated throughout the quartz that it held together the broken pieces of stone. The party were sinking a shaft on the Little Angel boundary.  They secured the leader the full length of their ground (150 ft) between the two workings.  In consequence of this and the richness of stone taken out, shares go up to £2,000 during the afternoon and holders are not willing to part at that price.

Messrs Holmes, the resourceful owners of the first steamer laid on for the Thames,the Enterprise,  are offering their friends a meal free of expense tomorrow in honour of the first anniversary of the Thames goldfield.  The boat will leave for the Thames at 9am and there will be a band to enliven the voyage.  “The roast beef of Old England” will be supplied below.

The steamers the Duke of Edinburgh, Tauranga and Lady Bowen arrive at Auckland from the Thames this evening.  William Hunt of the Shotover claim is a passenger by the Duke of Edinburgh.  He brings up 3.500 ozs of gold in eight ingots which have been lodged in the Union Bank of Australia.  Mr Jones, who is also a passenger by the same vessel, brings up 1,000 ozs for the Union Bank of Australia.  Other parcels may be expected up tomorrow night for shipment by the mail steamers for England.  The 3,500 oz brought up by Mr Hunt together with the 7,207 oz already received brings the total of gold produced from the Shotover claim during less than a fortnight to 10,707 oz.  Hunt becomes an easy winner of a wager he made some time ago that the claim would produce 10,000 ozs within a month of commencing crushing.

NZH 30 July, 1868

DSC 30 July, 1868

No enterprise without the Enterprise

Friday, 31 July
The commemoration of the first anniversary of the Thames goldfield begins with a trip on the ss Enterprise No 2 to Shortland. Eighty passengers have embarked, but due to dense fog it is found impossible to start until 9.30.  The band then strikes up the favourite tune of ‘Sherman’s March to Georgia’. On nearing Brown’s Island speed is slackened until 11am when the mist clears away. Messrs Holmes Bros, with commendable liberality, provide a dinner, free of charge, to all passengers, which is served up with much credit to the pursuer of the vessel.   Dinner finished, Mr Wood, Esq, of Shortland, proposes the health and prosperity of the owners of the Enterprise and hopes that the next year will return double the success to what the past year has done. The band plays a selection of English, Scottish and Irish tunes to which dancing is kept up by a number of passengers with much enjoyment. 

Since the rains of Tuesday last the streets of Thames have presented a pitiful appearance.  A man riding on a dray is pitched into one of the ruts.  He is picked up unhurt, but is completely covered with mud.  Carts are stuck all up and down the street.

The news from Puriri is very encouraging and numbers are leaving for there every day – the Maori Chief and the Clyde going frequently, as well as ferry boats.

 Wahapu for Shortland with 1,000 bricks, 20 tons flour etc

The Halcyon brings 868 oz gold to Auckland.  There will be sent away some 15,000 oz of Thames gold for the month of July or very nearly three quarters of a ton of solid gold.

The Enterprise arrives at Shortland and passengers are all safely landed. Chief Taipari, having been told that Messrs Holmes were intending to supply a sumptuous dinner and refreshments to all passengers travelling by the vessel, determines  to “assist” on the occasion.  On the arrival of the steamer in the creek, Taipari and a party of Maori are waiting to receive Captain Seon and other friends.  A generous supply of champagne is provided and after several health’s have been drunk, Taipari makes a speech.  An interpreter being at hand for the benefit of the Europeans, Taipari is pleased to remark on the spirited conduct of Messrs Holmes in being the first to place a steamer on the Thames trade.  He would most emphatically assert that, had there been no Enterprise there would have been no such goldfield, a double entendre which creates much laughter and showers of compliments at Taipari’s wit.  The Enterprise, which had taken down the pioneers of the Thames goldfield, has stood as a firm, fast friend to them.  If it had not been for the spirited undertaking of the Messrs Holmes in despatching their steamer, he felt the goldfield would have got a bad name and collapsed.  Hearty cheers are given before Taipari leaves the vessel.  The Enterprise since she first commenced running to the Thames has made nearly 200 trips to the diggings without having encountered any accident or injury whatever. 

Up to a late hour this night the Enterprise has not returned to the Auckland wharf, and in all probability will not be back until tomorrow evening, being a favourite Saturday boat with the diggers returning to town on that day. 

DSC 31 July, 1868
NZH 31 July, 1868

The salvation of Auckland.

1 August, 1868
One year ago today the situation in Auckland was dire.  There were empty houses and scores of unemployed.  Trade was bad, money scarce, wages low and work hard to find. Businesses crashed, one after the other. A soup kitchen had opened. There had been a land boom and it had burst.  The withdrawal of Imperial troops and the transfer of the colony’s capital to Wellington in 1865 had caused an economic depression.  There was no place to go as winter set in.  

The Thames goldfield had just been proclaimed and around 5.30 – 6pm this evening the Enterprise arrived off the landing place at Kauaeranga and unloaded passengers, cargo and baggage.  They arrived in wretched weather. There were hills covered in  masses of dense scrub and tangled undergrowth and on the flat nothing better than raupo swamp and ti-tree scrub.  On the banks of the Kauaeranga creek was a church mission station and exactly opposite, a Maori settlement of huts, whares and crops. There were few Europeans and one store. The ground opened up was a small portion from the Karaka to Kuranui – not quite two miles.  Within this boundary was an extensive flat mostly covered in peach trees and very swampy.  A desolate area, a Maori burial place, was thickly studded with carved posts, the leering heads and thrust out tongues greatly unnerving the diggers.

One year later the Enterprise regularly carries good numbers of passengers, many are diggers returning to the their labours, there are storekeepers and men of business as well as parties of 'fresh hands' going to try their luck for the first time. They have abundant supplies of tools, tents, blankets, billies and pannikins and they strike the observer as being just the sort of men who were wanted for the work.  Some of the old hands make the most extraordinary statements about certain claims and yields,  Specimens are produced and handed round as others adjourn to the steward for “nobblers”.

The Enterprise slips through the water pretty rapidly and is nearly abreast of the Wairoa River. Soon after the Sandspit is passed they enter the broad sweep of the Firth of the Thames where the waves are tumbling pretty heavy – so much so that one or two passengers begin to look particularly pale. Darkness falls but Shortland is rapidly approaching, and the lights from the town can plainly be discerned ahead. Within eight hours of leaving Auckland, passengers are safely landed on the beach at Shortland, opposite Mr Sheehan’s hotel, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The steamers from Auckland can only come within about a mile of the shore, on account of the shallowness of the firth at its head but two small steamers ply as tenders to the Auckland steamers and enter the creek, landing passengers and goods on the bank. There is a great crowd congregated on the beach to witness the landing of the passengers and many witty remarks are made by the old hands as the passengers walk the plank to reach the shore – a very dangerous mode of landing. Many an unfortunate passenger has fallen from the trembling plank into the water but with no worse effect then a sound ducking and the laughter of the crowd upon the beach.

As passengers land there is considerable interest manifested by the loafers as to the health of their maternal parents. From the landing place passengers proceed up Grey Street and turn off into Pollen Street, the principal thoroughfare. The street itself is almost as broad as Auckland's Queen Street and is crowded with buildings of a most diverse description, in fact, so assorted are the stores and sizes that one would almost fancy they had been thrown down higgledy piggledy out of an immense pepper castor.  One shop is of large dimensions, broad and tall; the next is a little shanty, with barely room to turn, but, small as they are, they seem to do a remarkably good business, being constantly filled with customers. Half the shops are general stores, the other half boot makers and public houses. A glance into a bootmakers store shows five or six men cramped up with hardly elbow room, working away as though for dear life, while at the latter barmaids dressed in the latest styles of fashion go about their work behind the counter, throwing the while the most fascinating glances upon the various customers. The public houses are doing a roaring trade

Pollen Street is a perfect quagmire which has here and there planks placed across for the foot passenger which can be negotiated safely with the exception of running afoul of a drunken digger. The state of the streets is something beyond the imagination of even an Otago man.

The size of the town and the number of buildings going up in all directions are astonishing. To the rear of the town, however, little has been done beyond the Hape Creek, but to the left the left eye cannot reach the limits of the wooden buildings and canvas tents.  There are numerous well built and commodious hotels, well-filled stores, comfortable cheerful weatherboard houses and more than one brick house.  There are churches, a theatre, and a court house, which if not very handsome, is commodious and well-arranged. There is activity and business-like energy, the rattling clatter of the various steam engines and the accompanying thud of the crushing machines. There are some eight or nine crushing batteries erected in the different gullies - they are mostly crushing for hire.

Looking at the whole district from the sea the town is pitched upon a flat which extends back about a mile to the foot of the ranges. This stretches away for several miles, in this direction are several Maori villages and the country around is very picturesque. The Maori occupy some low terraces behind the town.

Beyond Shortland in northerly directions is a large vacant space of ground which is at present tapu, on account of it being an old Maori burial place.  Away to the left of the town, buildings and tents multiply until you come to Tookey’s Town which rivals Shortland itself, indeed the two places appear just now to be fighting for the ascendancy.  Again beyond Tookey’s Town comes another line of houses and tents as far as it is possible to carry them, until in fact they are stuck in a corner between the hills and the sea. The whole of the ground to the left of Shortland from the harbour is taken up as far as it is possible to take up, while to the right of the town (where at present no gold has been found) a large tract of ground is lying idle. About a mile back from the beach between Shortland and Waiotahi, and just to the right of Grahamstown, Canvas Town is to be seen – a mass of buildings, tents and marquees, that will be a formidable rival to either Shortland Town or Tookey’s Town, although having no communication with the sea it cannot of course become so important as either.

Canvas Town is at the entrance of the Karaka Creek, just beyond the flat and extends over a very considerable area of ground. On the flat there are three machines, which, much to the disgust of the people living on the flat, make the water in the creek perfectly useless. As water, however, is pretty plentiful just now, that is not of so much consequence, but next summer the supply from the water holes will be barely sufficient to meet the wants of this rapidly increasing district.

As a background to all – Shortland, Tookey’s Town, Grahamstown, Canvas Town and the whole flat – at the rear, and at the left, the mountains of Karaka form very pretty shading. From the Hape to the Karaka Creek the hill rises to a considerable height.  Running along at the top pretty horizontally the spur of the Collar Bone comes down to the flat and runs up to a height of nearly 2,000 ft, again the hill runs along an immense height to the Waiotahi and Moanataiari creeks.  Covered with dense bush, as they mostly are, being worn with tracks by the constant passage of the diggers, rising nobly to immense heights,  canvas tents peep out from beneath the green foliage in many places, and the smoke curling up into the clear blue winter sky,  the view is one of the most striking beauty and a testament to the pluck, perseverance and endurance with which these men have faced every hardship, scaling and burrowing into these lofty hills, making their homes upon the mountain top and daring danger and hunger in their search for the precious metal.

On the road to Waiotahi care is taken to prevent getting bogged. The way lies partly through a peach grove, which has been sadly almost destroyed, and partly along by a raupo swamp. Very little of the raupo is left, however, for it has been cut down to the very roots by the Maoris for manufacture of whares. For £3 the Maori would at one time put up a very good two roomed whare, with fireplace, but they now charge considerably more on account of the difficulty of getting raupo, which has at present to be fetched from beyond the Hape Creek.

Four creeks flow off the hills and through Grahamstown and are named the Karaka, the Waiotahi, the Moanataiari and the Kuranui. It is on the sides of these creeks and the high steep ridges between them that most of the claims and workings are situated.

Crossing the Karaka, Grahamstown is reached on the right where a good number of buildings have been constructed in this once swampy place and judging from appearances, it will very shortly be a place of considerable importance. A short distance beyond is Waiotahi, or as it is more commonly called, Tookey’s Town, from the fact of its being built upon and owned or leased by Mr Tookey. Passing through the town towards the hills at the back, are some of the richest claims on the diggings - Tookey’s, Messengers, the Manukau, Golden Crown and others.

Descending the hill without falling is no joke but here lies the Shotover, almost at the base of a hill, near the sea. The ground occupied by the party is a sort of natural basin, and into this basin it would appear that the gold ran from all directions and proved the salvation of Auckland.

At Auckland wharf vans, carts and hand barrows are loaded with an abundance of the good things of life, apparently sufficient for the supply of an immense city, in reality destined for the Thames. Ponderous portions of machinery are being slung into the various cutters lying alongside the wharf, while vast piles of timber are being ceaselessly carted to vessels.  The numbers of livestock which are constantly shipped to the golden district -  cows, sheep and pigs -  give evidence that the appetites of the diggers are in a tolerable state of healthfulness and vigour.  Stocks of timber used to be unduly large but now many of the dealers have hardly a board on hand such is the demand for timber at the Thames. In the stores quantities of boxes and packages of all shapes and sizes are ready to be transported.  The people congregated on the wharf  are cheerful and  given to shouts of hilarity. There is a steady rush from other goldfields  - the steamers from the southern ports are crowded with passengers intent on trying their luck at the Thames  and sailing craft receive their share of digger's patronage.

Living is cheap at the Thames.The result of the inexpensive facilities afforded by steam carriage is that the price of everything at the Thames is far below what they are in any diggings town.  Eight days lodging in the best place in Shortland costs only £2. A glass of beer anywhere only costs 3 pence. In Grahamstown a dinner, which in Dunedin would cost from 3 to 4s, is enjoyed for 1s 6d. Many diggers can live for 6s per week and most comfortably for 10s a week.

There are too many stores  at the Thames. The cheapness of everything, however, acts most beneficially on the diggers enabling married men to have their wives and families with them, diffusing a spirit of contentment and satisfaction rarely seen on new diggings, and gives to the mining operations a permanence and stability.  A most remarkable and unparalleled feature of the Thames population is the utter absence of grumbling at their luck. There is no man who says the place is a duffer, or who talks of leaving the so and so hole, but plenty who are sacrificing their farms and bits of property in other parts of the Province in order to stick to their claims. The price of food and clothing enables them and their families to live cheaply and the abundance and cheapness of timber enables them to build comfortable houses, and carry on their sinking and driving operations without any great capital. Many wives, though, are being deserted by their husbands, who are determined to try their luck at the Thames.

The July yield of gold is 15,000oz – nearly half a ton of gold is from one claim. For months past, day by day, the miners at the Thames have struck rich leaders and reefs in one claim after another.  This fact has been regarded with incredulity because such small amounts  of gold are monthly exported but  this has been owing to the absence of machinery.  It is only quite lately that a few machines have been got into working order, and they are of no great power, only three or four or five stampers each.  The Shotover’s is only a 12 stamper machine and of these four stampers are worked at a time – yet it has turned out, since noon on the 20th of July, a trifle under half a ton of retorted gold.  There are other claims fully as rich if not richer than the Shotover.

Already the effect of the goldfield is being felt in commercial circles and by the working classes.  There is no such thing now as a man who is able and who desires to work being out of employment. On the contrary, employers are beginning to complain that the diggings have attracted away the best and most active men in every department of labour.  Confidence has been fully restored in commercial circles and there is already beginning to be felt a scarcity in many kinds of stock, now that the demand for gold is brisker.  The late commercial distress caused a considerable check to be placed on the importation of goods of all kinds.  It was as rare some six months ago to see customers in shops, as now to see shops without customers. The immense richness of the Thames goldfield has undoubtedly added greatly to the provinces returning prosperity. 

The Enterprise brings to Auckland 1,000 oz gold in charge of Mr Cobley of the Shotover.  On board the Enterprise are 120 passengers – the returning voyagers celebrating the first anniversary of the Thames goldfield are again liberally treated by Messrs Holmes with refreshments.

10,414 oz Thames gold is shipped by the Union Bank in the ss Taranaki.  The other banks have 5,000 ozs in hand.

Rangatira for Tapu Creek with 2,000 bricks, 5,000 ft timber and sundries

Bessy for Tookey’s Flat with 30,000 shingles and sundries, and five tons coal for Waikawau mills

Henry for the Thames with 5 tons flour, sundries, 3 cows, 1 horse

Triad for Shortland with timber and 35 kegs blasting powder

Midge, Tauranga, Halcyon, Duke of Edinburgh, Lady Bowen with passengers . . .

The ss Gothenburg from Melbourne has arrived in Bluff and is now enroute to Wellington bringing very large numbers of diggers from Melbourne and the south for the Thames goldfield. Female adventurers are also among the passengers. To the observer a ‘joyful anxiety’ seems to animate the party and the extremely cold weather exhilarates their spirits. They appear to depart without regret, the future evidently occupying their minds.



The cutter Tay, which beached at Tuwhitu on 25 July after leaving the Thames, was floated off without any material damage and arrived in Auckland harbour on 6 August.

The cutter Betsey, which went missing after leaving Whangapoua with a full cargo of timber for the Thames on 5 July, was eventually given up for lost.  It was generally supposed that she had foundered during a gale. 

On 2 August Messrs Samuel Cochrane held their first sale of mining shares at their auction mart.  There was a most numerous attendance.  At the opening of the sale Mr Cochrane addressed the audience - "Gentlemen - at the earnest solicitation of my numerous friends I have consented to hold periodical sales of shares and stock at the Thames and having had the honor of serving the public for the last 10 years I have acceded to their wishes . . ."  The sale was then proceeded with and the Thames Stock Exchange and Thames' famous Scrip Corner came into existence.

Warden Alan Baillie resigned his office in early August, owing to the inadequacy of the salary paid to him.  Baillie’s work had increased to such an extent that no man, however energetic, could possible perform it without clerical assistance.  By August 1868 there were over 10,000 persons on the goldfield.  The country was so steep and rugged that a distance of one mile was often as tedious to traverse as five, so that the actual duties of the Warden extended over an area some 20 miles in length.   With many of the claims minutely subdivided and shares hourly changing hands, the Warden’s workload was huge.  Mr Lowther Broad, a Warden and Resident magistrate on the Otago goldfields, was appointed the new Thames goldfield warden. 

Commissioner James Mackay also resigned in early August, the reason being the neglect of the government to fulfil its engagements with the Maori at the Thames.  They did not receive payments due to them for June, though it had been long since collected from the miners.  The money had to be sent down to Wellington and sifted through the Treasury scales before being returned to Shortland.  It was strongly felt that this system should be altered and the whole management and control of the goldfields be left entirely with the provincial authorities and not be managed from Wellington.  Following Mackay’s protest, the money was remitted and Mackay persuaded to stay on at an increased salary mainly to negotiate for the opening of the Ohinemuri. He was relieved of his Warden’s duties at the Thames and allowed to undertake private business that did not interfere with his public duties. Mackay later wrote of this time “My health was bad.  I felt no spirit to perform the enormous amount of work which was imposed on me.”

The very first anniversary celebrations of the Thames Goldfield were not held until the 19th and 20th of August.  The Thames Anniversary races to be held at Tararu were postponed due to inclement weather and the incompleteness of the list of race entries.   The Clyde had been despatched to Auckland to bring down the majority of horses but owing to rough weather she was unable to return until the 17th. The time allowed for entries was fixed to close at 4pm on the 16th but in consequence of the non-arrival of the Clyde, the stewards postponed the event.  Some half dozen horses had arrived during the week. The scarcity of timber had likewise proved a serious drawback to those about to erect booths, and the grandstand could not be completed for the same reason. An incessant fall of rain also rendered the course unfit.  The stewards obtained an extension from Mr Mackay for the protection of claims until noon Friday the 21st and also an extension of the booth holder’s licenses. Steamers form Auckland announced they would issue return tickets for the occasion at a reduced fare.

On Wednesday 19 August the day was ushered in with bright sun and cloudless sky and the streets at an early hour of the morning were crowded with people dressed in holiday attire and seemingly bent on making the best of the day. The Tauranga landed passengers at Tararu Point only a few minutes’ walk from the grandstand.  Later in the morning a great multitude of pedestrians began to direct their steps towards to racecourse and the view between Shortland and Tararu was one of high spirits.. The scene was enlivened by the harmonious strains of a brass band stationed on the grandstand, together with a variety of other instruments.  Great amusement was caused by Mr Mulligan’s donkey showing off its capabilities in front of the racecourse, and every now and then kicking up its heels as if enjoying the joke.  The Maoris mustered in great force and most of them managed to procure mounts of some kind or another.  The grandstand was crowded and there was a goodly show of the fair sex.  The games common to race courses such as Aunt Sally and Thimblerig were duly patronised by the lovers of such sports.

At quarter to 12 the band commenced proceedings by playing the National Anthem, which was succeeded by the popular air ‘The Limerick Races’. Several horse races were held.  Nearly 6,000 people were present and the whole day passed off without the slightest sign of rowdyism.

The second day was inclement, but a large number of people still attended. Numbers flocked out of town to the racecourse.  Rain did not materially affect the course; the sandy nature of the ground was in its favour, as the moisture was speedily sucked up.  Rain fell nearly the whole day but the racing was very good.  The hurdles were put up in a loose and careless manner because the races had been got up hurriedly.  The judge’s box had rather ludicrous appearance, reminiscent of a Punch and Judy arrangement.  It was great fun to watch the gentlemen at the gaming table pack up and take off when one of the police made his appearance. As it was raining hard and as there was no protection, the grandstand not being covered, every person was wet through but this did not extinguish the excitement.  The attendance of ladies was scarce compared to the day before. 

Publicans who purchased sites on the race course were 
Grandstand - Mr McDonald Tararu Hotel, Tararu
No 1 Booth – Mr O’Connor, Rising Sun Hotel, Waiotahi
No 2 Booth Mr Kelly, Victorian Hotel, Shortland
No 3 Booth Mr McGregor, Albion Hotel, Shortland
No 4 & 5 Booth Mr Stephenson Royal Hotel Waiotahi
No 6 Booth Mr Rose Thames Hotel, Shortland.

Aunt Sally is a traditional English game usually played in pub gardens and fairgrounds that dates back to the 17th Century in which players throw sticks or battens at a model of an old woman's head.

Thimblerig is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when a wager for money is made, it is almost always a confidence trick.


DSC 14 August 1867


 By August 1868 about 7,000 acres had been opened for prospecting. The area now available was 340,000 acres or about 700 square miles, extending from the Thames river, to Cape Colville and then by the East Coast to Whangamata.

The number of claims
taken up for quartz mining amounted to about 1,500, occupying an area of not more than 10,000 acres.

The actual amount of money invested in shares in several of these claims amounted to about £80,000, giving employment to 6,000 men.

The value of permanent wooden buildings in Shortland was about £30,000, and in Grahamstown about £20,000. 
Buildings were daily in the course of construction.

The value of quartz crushing machines driven by steam
on the Shortland branch of the goldfields was £16,000, and of machinery ordered and being set up £22,000, thus giving a total of 400 hp, capable of crushing 400 tons of quartz daily, which at an average yield of 3 oz of gold to the ton, would give 12,000 oz at 50 s per oz, say 3,000 per diem, or nearly one million sterling per annum.

The owners of the crushing mills employed permanently 400 men.

The development of the goldfield stimulated shipbuilding. There was now a fleet of steamers, an aggregate of 320 hp, consisting £30,000, manned by about 100 men. These steamers, with a single exception, had been built at the port of Auckland, entirely of New Zealand material.

Coasting vessels
 were now fully employed in the transport of merchandise from Auckland, and timber from the saw mills, which were now fully and profitably employed

Coal mining was also stimulated by the Thames goldfields. Although there were several valuable coal deposits in the province, those worked to the best advantage were the Bay of Islands (Kawakawa) and Whangarei mines. This coal was unsurpassed for steam purposes.

The gold export to 31 July was 34,000 ozs on which 4,175 export duties was paid. Remaining in the banks was 11,000 oz, the duty on which would be £1,375 showing a total yield for the year of 45,000 oz, and 5,550 for export duty.

The revenue paid by the inhabitants of the goldfields for miner’s rights and rentals would amount to about £15,000  out of which the Maori expended £400 on road surveys, and about £450 for indicating lines of road (not making them).

In other charges to the General and Provincial Governments the inhabitants of the Thames  contributed about £5,000 for the year.

Rentals obtained 
for about an eighth portion of land leased from the Maori by Mr Robert Graham on the Waiotahi amounted to about £4,000 per annum.

The goldfields population amounted to about 12,000, the greater proportion being able bodied men, engaged in mining and other pursuits.

Of the large expenditure indicated above, almost all was Auckland capital, which was a complete answer to those who asserted that the Auckland capitalists had done nothing for the Thames goldfield.

The value of mining property in the above statistics has not been touched upon, but if Hunt’s claim, at £200,000, the Kuranui Co’s claim at £50,000, or the Middle Star at £20,000 and others of proportionate worth be taken as standards of value, the total would amount to an almost incredible sum.


By September 1868 houses were almost daily being pulled down in Auckland and conveyed to the Thames for re-erection where they commanded high rents.  There were scores of houses in the Auckland suburbs which had long been tenantless.  The whole of Calliope Terrace on the North Shore was removed.

In September after a rich lode of gold was discovered at the Manukau mine north of the Thames, a stock market boom began.  

By October 1868 the Golden Crown claim was producing immense yields of gold.

The Caledonian mine, adjacent to the Manukau, would strike the richest seam of gold in New Zealand history.  

The Thames Hospital (“Digger’s Hospital”) opened on 2 November 1868, the Thames Advertiser calling it a “red letter day in the annals of the Thames . . .  the most valuable institution yet established here.”    

The boom years at the Thames were 1868 and 1869. By 1870 the Thames goldfield had fallen into recession, exacerbated by previous speculation.  The NZ Herald reported that the field had been mismanaged, too much productive ground had been taken up and shareholders’ funds were beginning to be exhausted.

Mining at the Thames was stagnant from about 1874 to the 1890s.  In 1876 the town was described as a mass of straggling buildings presenting a most unfinished appearance owing to its rapid rise and sudden depression, under which it was still suffering, the scene of the great Caledonian, Golden Crown and Manukau, and other rich claims, whose glory had departed. In 1884 things were not much better –  Shortland and Grahamstown were described as a long straggling place, spreading over three miles.  It contained some good buildings, a large public school, handsome banks, good hotels and substantial warehouses and the retail stores were exceedingly numerous.  It struck the observer that it  must have been a fine business place when the claims were turning out rich yields but its glory seemed to have departed, and everything appeared very dull.  Several of the crushing batteries were idle and some only working half time.  The famous Tararu creek was now silent, batteries apparently abandoned and gone to ruin.  The town appeared to be rather dirty and muddy and very damp and unwholesome in wet weather owing to the amount of drainage from the range immediately behind the town and the extensive mudflats along the foreshore, The introduction of the cyanide process and the injection of English capital brought about a brief revival at the Thames.  The government sponsored deep level prospecting until 1902, after which the field went into an accelerated decline.

The opening of the Upper Thames
After the last Maori chief had signed on 17 February 1875, the Ohinemuri field was officially opened up to prospectors on 3 March 1875. James Mackay was tasked with negotiating peace with the Hauraki tribes, and in 1873 had been appointed Commissioner for Maori Affairs. Mackay was a controversial figure who used various unscrupulous methods to persuade Maori to sign away their mining rights.

The beloved and celebrated ss Enterprise was blown up off Cheltenham Beach by Captain Coyle and the submarine corps as part of the North Shore Aquatic carnival  on 7 January 1899.  The explosion was successful, the steamer being blown into matchwood. 

The end of the Enterprise.
'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1055'


Papers Past
James Mackay report, Building Thames, Alistair Isdale.
The Hauraki Report Volume 1


© 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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