Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Whangamata Goldfields 1870s

Parakiwai Gorge

The telegraph was established – the route over the rugged Coromandel Ranges to the East Coast and on down to Katikati opened – electric telegraph – messages up and down the country over the wires. With fortunes won and fortunes lost at Thames opened in 1867, sights were turned further across the ranges to Eastern Coasts and Whangamata area.  Maybe – Just maybe – Just maybe that “lucky find.’ Thames Goldfields had certainly provided a lucrative find for some.

By 1873, “gold fever” was on as prospectors waited for the Goldfields to be declared officially open. Tempers were running strong while negotiations took place for opening the goldfields. The Daily Southern Cross carried an account of even threatened lynching, when Goldwater was to point out and peg out his potential prospector's claim for Mr. Mackay Daily Southern Cross, 12 February 1873, P 3
There were threats from diggers to "roast" Brogan  THE WHANGAMATA ROW.
Auckland Star,  13 February 1873, P 2

Much of the trouble appears to have stemmed from talk that a big discovery - a large reef had been given out  by this man called  Brogan. Rumours were rife about the gold that was there” over the hills” One report was that gold had been found on the “kawa,” The Grey River Argus wrote:-

" It will be seen from our Thames telegram that a gigantic reef has been found in the Whangamata block. The reef is reported to be 24ft thick at the outcrop, and of the same nature of quartz as that found in the Tararu district”
                                                                Grey River Argus, 6 February 1873, Page 2

Some unofficial prospecting was conducted and constables were bought in to prevent the actions.  By the time the goldfields were due to open a number of would be prospectors were camped at Hikutaia on the Western side of the ranges and at Whangamata on the Eastern side. 

Western side of the ranges - Photo CRB 2009

 The Daily Southern Cross reporting on a visit to the area by their reporter said:

." After this the reporter makes for Whangamata, and spends the night there, and in the morning starts on a tour of examination with Mr. McMillan, who is thoroughly acquainted with the district. From the summit of a hill above the Parakiwai native settlement a bird's eye view of the country was obtained, and three principal places, where gold was said to have been found, pointed out — namely, the Wairoa and Parakiwai Gorges, and a precipitous creek leading into the Wairoa."
                                               Daily Southern Cross, 29 January 1873

The Mr. McMillan referred to in the article was pioneer settler – Finlay McMillan -who had arrived in New Zealand aboard the Jane Gifford in 1842 and had recently established a store in the area at Whangamata - Parahaka and Whangamata, supplying gum diggers. ( Clarke - Civil Commissioners Office, Tauranga - in a letter 20th April, 1867 - to Hon. J. C. Richmond made reference to gaining information from a settler residing on the coast - Mr. McMillan. AJHR 1967,IA - 20 It would appear that Mr. McMillan had been in this area for a number of years which would account for his being " thoroughly acquainted with the district.")

From the Summit Wentworth looking down on Whangamata Main Coast  Photo J M Stewart 1972

The Whangamata Goldfields were finally opened officially on 20 February 1873 along with the Hikutaia Block.

 Enterprising ship owners and shipping agents took the opportunity to promote their steamers and passenger service.

Advertisements Column 1 Daily Southern Cross,, 27 January 1873, P 1

Advertisements Column 2 Daily Southern Cross, 3 February 1873, P1
 J.S. Macfarlane & Co. continued to advertise  throughout 1873 - it is not known whether he received "sufficient inducement" to call at Whangamata. It is known that disilllusioned prospectors were waiting for the steamer to call for them to leave the Whangamata Goldfields.

There were no coach roads in 1873 across the ranges to Whangamata - only what was said to be " up and down tracks " and very dense bush. The choice for prospectors was use these tracks or go by sea. Whangamata was not considered an ideal entry harbour by vessel masters.

From Parakiwai looking over the ridge of the Wentworth . Dome shaped hill in distance on right is the head of the Wentworth Track on the Wairoa River - Photo ASB 2008

Captain John Butt (formerly  a Captain of the Henderson & Macfarlane clipper barque Constance) was said to have purchased the first Miners Right at the Wardens Office on opening day for Hikutaia. It appears also that Captain Butt built a hotel at Hikutaia (In Memoriam.Thames Star,28 /07/ 1879, P 2) Along with another at Whangamata  (DEATH OF CAPTAIN BUTT.Thames Thames Advertiser,16 August 1879, P4)  The expense of building the hotels was a loss and the Whangamata Goldfield as soon as opened proved " a duffer" for the prospectors. Naught became of a town supposed to be surveyed and laid out; the " rush" vanished and the place became deserted again.

Warden Fraser reported the following on the Goldfields  in 1874: -

"No discovery has been made at Hikutaia and Whangamata, and indeed no systematic prospecting has been done there. I think also that there are fewer men on the ranges at Ohinemuri than there have been for some years. No doubt the abundance of work throughout the Colony has a tendency to take away men who might otherwise devote themselves to prospecting, and this, coupled with the fact that prospecting in a rough country covered with bush and thick undergrowth, is a work of more than ordinary difficulty, has no doubt induced the partial cessation of looking for new ground." AJHR 1874 I, H-09

Parakiwai - CRB 2009

Thus ended the decade of the 1870's for the Whangamata Goldfield. There was a find dug up in 1880 which caused another flurry - however this was not gold but a seizure of spirits ( New Zealand Herald, 9/10/1880, P 5) - another story to be written on part of the past of this New Zealand History at Whangamata.

Reference Source:

  • Williamson, Beverley M. Whangamata - 100 Years of Change. Paeroa, New Zealand: Goldfields Print Ltd, 1988. 
  • Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, PAPERS RELATIVE TO AFFAIRS AT TAURANGA. 1867 Session I, A-20 
  • Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, THE GOLD FIELDS OF NEW ZEALAND. (REPORT ON). 1873 Session I, H-07 
  • Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, THE GOLD FIELDS OF NEW ZEALAND, (REPORT ON). 1874 Session I, H-09 
  • NZ Gazette Mar 1873 
  • Auckland City Libraries Auckland Area Passenger Arrivals 1838-1889, 1909-1921 - Jane Gifford
  • Papers Past National Library NZ