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A DIGGERS DIARY AT THE THAMES 1867
|Theophilus Coopers Diary of his seven
weeks at the Thames gives an intimate day by day picture of life on the
northern goldfields. Physical hardships, frustrations, hopes, and accounts
of events are all included, and make this an interesting contemporary account
of the early days of Thames.
A DIGGERS DIARY AT THE THAMES 1867
VICTORIAN NEW ZEALAND A REPRINT SERIES No.5 HOCKEN LIBRARY DUNEDIN Cost of Purchase $2.34 Pbk
Cover: Hunts Claim, Illustrated New Zealand Herald, February 1869
A DIGGERS DIARY AT THE THAMES 1867 Theophilus Cooper Victorian New ZealandA Reprint Series No. 5 HOCKEN LIBRARY 1978 Printed in New Zealand by John McIndoe Limited Dunedin ISBN 0 902041 23 1 Numbers 003.23 Alpha COO z 33/037354/016
VICTORIAN NEW ZEALAND A REPRINT SERIES
The aim of the series is to republish articles from journals and newspapers, together with short pamphlets, which are still of value and interest today, but which would not normally be republished as facsimiles. In general, articles reprinted are those dealing with a New Zealand topic which were published during the 19th century. Issues will appear occasionally and each will deal with a particular theme. Standing Orders for future titles are welcome and will be recorded.
No. 1 The New Zealand Goldfields 1861 O.P.
No. 2 The Canterbury Colony
No. 3 The Maori Population
No. 4 Letters from Otago 1848-49
No. 5 A Diggers Diary at the Thames 1867
No. 6 New Zealand in the 1830s
No. 7 Women and the Vote
Victorian New Zealand A Reprint Series is published by the Hocken Library and edited by Dr R. P. Hargreaves and T. J.Hearn, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56. Dunedin, New Zealand.
A DIGGERs DIARY AT THE THAMES (1867) Theophilus Cooper Page 7
TRIP TO THE THAMES GOLD-FIELDS (1867) A Traveller 26
SHORTLAND TOWN BY NIGHT (1868) Evening News 30
After a long period of negotiations with the Maori landowners, the Thames goldfield was proclaimed on 30 July 1867. Although there were hopes that alluvial gold would be found in sufficient quantity to make it a poor mans field, this did not eventuate. Only companies could raise the capital necessary for the machinery which was required to work the quartz.
Nothing is known of Theophilus Cooper who provided the Auckland newspaper Daily Southern Cross with his Diary. The diary covers a period of seven weeks from 1 November to 20 December 1867. Perhaps its abrupt cessation reflected Coopers retirement from the Thames, finally convinced that he at least would not make his fortune on the Thames goldfield. A Diggers Diary at the Thames was originally published in the Daily Southern Cross on the following dates: 9, 16, 22 and 29 November, 6, 14 and 30 December 1867.
The second extract, A Travellers Trip to the Thames Goldfields was originally published in the Wellington Independent of 26 October 1867. Initial reports of the Thames goldfield were contradictory, some stating that it was rich, others that it was of limited value. A Traveller is optimistic, but concerned about the slowness of Auckland businessmen in promoting the fields development.
By March 1868 the town of Shortland (which, joined with Grahamstown,
was later renamed Thames) was beginning to enjoy a period of prosperity.
The flavour of life in this goldfield town is captured in the final extract
Shortland Town by Night, originally printed in the Auckland Evening News
of 12 March 1868.
If you wish to know more there is a complete Article at
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 7 April 2006
A DIGGERS DIARY AT THE THAMES 1867
We started from the Queen-street Wharf [Auckland] at 20 minutes to 3 p.m., and arrived at the Thames diggings at 9 p.m. It being dark, we determined to remain on board the Enterprise for the night. After strolling about the deck for two hours, while the vessel was being cleared, my boy and I turned into a bunk in the fore-cabin. We had just fallen comfortably asleep, when at half-past twelve we were roughly accosted by the owner, Mr. Holmes, and some of his friends, and told to turn out at once; after some little altercation, we turned out, and certainly felt somewhat out of temper. We determined, however, to remain in the cabin till morning, as we could get no lodging; then, after sitting for an hour, we were told that we might get into the bunk again, if we behaved ourselves!
At five we arose, got our luggage on to the beach, and then sallied forth, in company with a few other friends whom we met, in search for a spot to pitch our tent. The flat, which had hitherto been covered with tents, was entirely vacated, a peremptory order having been issued that all tents and whares should be immediately removed to the higher ground near the ranges. We pitched our tents upon a rising ground, from which we have a beautiful view of the Thames and the whole district, which, with the varieties of tents, whares, and wooden huts, have a very picturesque appearance.
We occupied our first day, being Saturday, in arranging our household effects, forming a fire-place, and looking around the town and its immediate vicinity.
Sunday (November 2).There is very little respect paid here to the sanctity of the Sabbath, at least among the store-keepers and hotel-keepers. The stores are almost all open; hotels have their doors closed but not fastened, while a roaring trade is being carried on inside. At ten oclock, a sermon was preached by Mr. Rowe, M.P.C., in the open space opposite Butts Hotel; while a Catholic priest officiated in a building behind Mulligans. In the afternoon, the Primitive Methodists held a service close to Tookeys claim; and in the evening, at six, Mr. Rowe again preached in the Court-house, a filthy old whare, which is also used as a Court of Justice, police-station, prison, and headquarters of the Goldfields Commissioner.
November 3.Off early in the morning prospecting; found it fine exercise for the limbs, a glorious test of patience and perseverance, and a capital method of getting rid of any articles of surplus clothing. Away, down gullies, over hills and unmistakable mountainsgoing over Mount Eden is childs play to itsuch a scrambling through supplejack and bush-lawyer! Every nook and corner seems occupied in every direction. The faces of the mountains are dug into and scarifiedholes, shafts, tunnels, every few yards.
Men are working here with an energy and a will which I suppose can only be equalled, not surpassed, in other gold-reefing districts. The work which has been accomplished in a few weeks is really marvellous, and is another proof of the indomitable energy and determination of the Saxon race. Here we cannot help reflecting upon the powers of endurance of men when they have made up their minds to accomplish the acquisition of gold. Had an equal number of men been compelled to go through the suffering, toil, and privation these Thames gold-diggers have gone through, the whole world would have resounded with cries of pity and indignation.
Tons upon tons of rock are heaved over and sent crashing down the mountain side into the abyss below, great masses are split and shivered to atoms, and scattered with the greatest indifference. Men stand upon the brinks of precipices, and work without the least discomposure, while they send great boulders rolling and tumbling and rumbling with the sound of thunder into the depths. Great trees of a monstrous growth are being sawn asunder or chopped down, and lie low in the dust, a prey to the energy of the Saxon arm, after having proudly lifted their lofty heads above the mountain ranges for many centuries.
Tents are pitched in all elevations on the pinnacles of the mountains. The labour expended in getting them up such giddy heights is beyond belief. Whares are built many hundreds of feet up the mountains, in which the diggers live the week through, coming down on Saturdays to get supplies of food. I have had much conversation with the men in all directions, and have been greatly surprised at the amount of cheerfulness exhibited generally. Hope! hope! is what is keeping up the majority. We havent got it yet; but we hope soon to get it. We are getting very likely-looking stuff, so no doubt we are not far from it. Some are despondent. If we dont get it soon we must soon clear out, thats certain; we are nearly at the end of our resources. Others say, Oh, its all right. Were getting gold, are only waiting for the machines; then it will be all right. Some have long-cherished hopes dashed to the ground. One man had a heap of stuff stored up; he crushed 1 cwt. of it, and not a speck of gold was found.
A few are obtaining unmistakable fortunes. Hunts claim is as good as ever. They have built a convenient weather-board house on their claim, and have a kitchen and cook-house attached thereto, and an elderly female cook in the bargain. This looks well, and is a proof of the good sense of the men. I have been told there are indications that Tookeys claim is waning; but I cannot tell if it is true. The movements, so to speak, of the leaders are very eccentric. They are here to-day; to-morrow they are gone; and again they may be caught the next day.
November 4.Went prospecting on the Collar-bone mountain, so called from a man having fallen down it and broken his collar-bone. This is a frightful mountain to ascend, and is enough to break the hearts of the men who toil up it. Some parts are almost perpendicular; but these difficulties have not prevented it from being almost wholly occupied. We ascended to the summit, and then descended on the other side. There we dug a hole, and in the course of a few hours we came to some likely-looking stuff; but it is a question whether we could possibly stand the wear and tear of a daily ascent of such a frightful place, as we cannot think of ever getting our tent up so high in the clouds: yet a man offered to take it up for a pound. We found the diggers here in good spirits, and all doing well, heaping up great piles of fine quartz ready for crushing and here I will for the present close my narrative.
NOVEMBER 6.-There is a charm in the digger's life notwithstanding all its numerous difficulties, annoyances, and discouragements. It is difficult thoroughly to explain its nature, but that it is universally experienced is a fact not to be disputed. Nearly every one says he likes it. He feels well, and strong, and cheerful, and all he wants to complete his happiness is the prompt discovery of gold on his claim. The annoyances are armies of mosquitoes, showers of sand flies, frequent visitations of the stinking or whare bug, wind, rain, and mud, and a deficiency or total absence of all vegetable food.
We are highly favoured in our locality with regard to our neighbours. Immediately beneath us is a genius who seems somewhat theatrically struck. Putting himself into tremendous tragical attitudes, and occasionally soliloquising with great earnestness, he generally commences the day with a quotation from Shakespeare, whose writings he evidently admires. Then, in the rear we have the august presence of his worship the 'Mayor of Sotville', and a portion of his court. As his worship holds rather radical opinions we are greeted ever and anon with speeches of a characteristic nature on past and especially on present times.
We sought to-day for a claim, and found one not far from Hunt's. We began
in right good earnest, and soon came to what we thought was a fair-looking
leader. Before the day was out, from what we saw and heard from others,
we came to the conclusion that it was not the place for gold.
November 7.-A new claim was brought under our notice in the Karaka creek. Thither we went. The journey to it is a very rough one, as we had to scramble over immense boulders the whole distance. We soon commenced operations, and discovered in a short time several fine leaders containing burnt quartz. Our neighbours as they passed by all congratulated us on our prospects, but we shall see.
November 8.-The whole day taken up in pegging off, an important and essential operation, as till that is done we are not safe, being liable to the unpleasant visits of any who are inclined to jump our claim.
There is a great deal of jumping going on in all directions. I met a digger who had a first-class claim, which was obtained in this way:- The first holder, who was working on earnestly and innocently, having only placed a centre peg instead of one at each of the four corners, was startled by the inquiry, from the man I met, and who is a preacher, 'Where are your pegs?' 'Why here is my centre peg: is not that enough?' 'Certainly not!' is the reply. Then the word is given to the intruders by their leader, to peg off the claim, which is done immediately, and the claim is thus unjustly, though, according to the rules, legally seized. But is it right for men thus to deal with one another, and religious men too! And, moreover, men who preach to their fellow-diggers? Suppose the text, 'Do unto others as you would they should do unto you', should form the subject of a Sunday morning's discourse, how would it be treated by this jumping preacher? Not, I presume, as our divine Master would have it treated.
November 9.-This being Saturday, we strike early, as the diggers believe in the early-closing movement. In the evening, a meeting was held by the diggers, a report of which, I suppose, will appear in the papers. After the meeting, the men amused themselves by teasing and hustling a Maori who put up an old half-starved horse for sale by auction.
November 10 (Sunday).-Religious services, conducted by Wesleyan local preachers, and a Catholic priest.
November 11.-Our claim being covered with thick bush, it is necessary to clear it at once; digging must therefore stand in abeyance till we have felled a considerable amount of timber. It requires but a very little stretch of imagination to fancy that we are in a state of active and tremendous warfare, from the frequent reports and explosions in all directions, the sounds reverberating like peals of thunder from hill to hill, or like discharges of heavy cannon.
It is very amusing, as we pass along, to listen to the discussions going on among the diggers, or to the various methods of passing the time away, some telling tales, some was singing songs. The following is a specimen evidently composed for the occasion, and sung with great effect in the Lancashire dialect, to the tune of 'We have no work to do'o
We are true honest diggers bold,
Our hearts are firm, our arms are strong.
How this beautiful effusion finished I cannot tell, as I left before the conclusion.
Many have struck gold the last few days. Some are getting large quantities. One party, having been here only four days, have got a rich claim, while those around them have been several weeks and have not seen the colour. Much aerial castle-building going on while we lie on our backs in the tents, as we can indulge in this innocent and juvenile pastime without fear of being laughed at, for it is universal.
There are many amusing stories current arising from this prevalent mistake. A young man, who had often declared he had struck it, and as often was undeceived by his companions, at last became the victim of a practical joke. During his absence from work a number of pieces of quartz were rubbed with a sovereign, and placed so as to ensure his seeing them. On his return he at once saw them, and taking up first one piece, and then another, and another, he exultingly exclaimed, 'I have it! I have it! I would not take a thousand pounds for my share this minute, if offered to me. My fortune's made! Hurrah! Hurrah!' He was allowed to luxuriate in this idea for some time, but, alas, poor fellow, he was eventually again undeceived. I should have mentioned that a few days since two young men named Heath had their tents burnt down, and lost everything; they need our sympathy.
November 14.-While at work I was alarmed by hearing cries of distress and anguish, but could not ascertain from whence they came. Found, as we returned home, that a man had been killed in the Karaka creek by a boulder, which was rolled down upon him from Burn's claim. The unfortunate victim was Mr. Franklin, greengrocer, of Shortland-street. The cries we heard were those of his brother, who was with him at the time. The event caused a deep feeling of sadness and melancholy to be experienced by us all in this dangerous locality.
November 15.-We have an addition to our number to-day by the arrival of an intelligent old Crimean soldier, Tom, who relieves us of a considerable amount of dullness by his numerous startling and extraordinary accounts of remarkable escapes, dreadful hardships, and fierce encounters with the enemy. Our bread being rather stale and disagreeable, Tom laughs at the idea. 'What is that to the bread we had at the commencement of the Crimean war? Why, we had biscuits then 15 years old, as hard as a flint; if a man were to eat all day he would never be filled; then they were so covered with maggots that we had to sweep them clean with our brushes before we could eat them. Talk about bad food indeed! There was salt horse which had been in pickle ever since the battle of Coruna. You should have seen how the men died then like rotten sheep. More men were falling through disease brought on by bad food than by the shots of the enemy; but before the war was over the tables were turned. At first the French laughed at us; they had every comfort, whilst we were in misery; but at the finish we were in the lap of luxury, while the French were in grief.
November 16, Saturday.-As usual, great gatherings of men in the township. I should suppose there could not be less than two thousand. There seemed less drunkenness than usual, but the majority were very ready for a lark. Two drunken Irishmen afforded much food for fun and frolic, one being on horseback while the other kept the horse continually on the move among the diggers, who did their best to unhorse the rider. Others were enjoying themselves by getting up foot races among the naked Maori boys, 16 in number, at a penny per race to the winner.
November 17, Sunday.-Religious services to-day. In the morning the Rev. Mr. Harper preached from the text, 'For me to live is Christ, to die is gain'. Just as he was about to announce his text the coffin containing the body of the late Mr. Franklin was brought to the spot, and placed in a boat. The preacher made several appropriate remarks on the incident; he preached a most excellent discourse, and was listened to by the immense assembly with marked attention and earnestness. Near the conclusion of his sermon he slightly referred to what he considered the erroneous doctrine of purgatory. After saying it was no gain to die as a mere lover of popularity, or of riches, or as a believer in everlasting sleep, he said, what gain can it be to die, if the doctrine of purgatory be true? If the soul is to be kept in the fires of purgatory for thousands of years, can it be gain? The speaker was here interrupted by a person among the audience, who complained of his religion being thus assailed. The reverend gentleman, however, very cleverly and in a Christian like spirit so managed as to prevent any further spread of what might have led to unpleasant and unseemly results. Our tent fell about our ears and extinguished us, while at dinner. We had immediately to remove to another spot, and a beautiful spot it is. We lose the company of his Worship the Mayor of Sotville, and our theatrical friend, but we gain a more eligible position. We call it 'Mount Pleasant': it is delightfully situated, commanding a splendid view of the township and the surrounding scenery. Immediately around us are numerous peach trees, within arm's reach; fine times for us when they are ripe.
November 18.-The minds of the people are now intensely set upon the speedy
starting of the crushing machines. I fear, by what I see and hear that
many will have not only their quartz but their hopes were crushed also.
While we were at work, an Irishman suddenly came upon us, calling out if we were mad to ascend such a frightful creek every day to work. He said he should, on his return to Auckland, urge upon the Government to erect a Lunatic Asylum at the diggings as soon as possible, for half the people must be out of their senses. Perhaps there is some truth in it; I think sometimes we are a set of fools at least.
November 19.-A wet day, and a day of difficulties. It is difficult to work, for the rain descends in torrents; it is difficult to get home, the roads are so bad; difficult to cook, for the fire will not burn; difficult to eat, for we have no appetite; difficult to sing, for we have no voice; and difficult to write, for we are out of temper, and cannot think. The grand remedy for all these difficulties generally is to get to bed, but, unfortunately, it is difficult to go to sleep and forget all, we are so cold. Of all miserable wretches, the wet, half-drowned, dirty, disconsolate, disappointed digger is the most pitiable. To see him dragging along tired, dispirited, cast down, his hat slouched over his eyes, his clothes torn, his face begrimed with mud, his hair uncombed, his eyes sunken, and cheeks hollow, and clay up to his hips-oh, dear! it is enough sometimes to give one the horrors, when we see this picture of misery. And what a home he has to go to!-a miserable cloth, full of holes, thrown over a few sticks, which he calls a tent, and which lets in as much water as it keeps out. What is the interior? On the floor are heaped some dirty fern, a few ragged, dirty articles of clothing, an old pot or two, and a tin dish, a pick, and a shovel, and in the corner, perhaps, the remains of a loaf. Such is a true picture of many here at the present time. Of course there are many in comfortable tents, and comfortably clothed and fed. Such, however, as the above, are my reflections this day-to-morrow my thoughts may be directed to other and brighter objects.
November 21.-A great rush to-day to the new ground down south. I think very little of their chances. Numbers struck their tents and were off, notwithstanding the weather was terribly bad and boisterous. In the evening many returned quite disheartened and broken down in spirit. A meeting was held this evening to consider the advisability of immediately erecting a chapel.
The Rev. Mr. Harper was in attendance. A good deal of enthusiasm was evinced on the occasion. Mr. Stone promised him a thousand feet of timber, Mr. Rowe a thousand feet, several sums of money promised, and many carpenters offered their services gratuitously. A place is much needed as a reading-room and lecture-room. A great number of men are here who cannot go with the multitude to the tap room or drinking-booth, but who wish to occupy their spare time usefully and intelligently. The proposed chapel would be just the place. The daily and weekly papers might be taken in, as well as other serials; lectures on popular subjects might be there delivered by competent gentlemen, who are constantly visiting us; and thus many young men would be saved from the degradation and evil influence of the various so-called hotels which infest the place.
November 22.-The crushing machine at the foot of Hunt's claim commenced to-day, by way of trial; but if the charges which are now made are persisted in, then very few, except the first-class claim-holders, can by any possibility avail themselves of it. The price demanded is ridiculously exorbitant, being, as I was informed by one of the partners in Hunt's claim, £12 per ton. Another commenced at the foot of the Karaka Creek. They charge Is. 6d. per hour for the use of the machine. This is more like a reasonable charge; but we must have competition, and that will soon bring the price to its proper level. I understand that several machines are coming from Melbourne and Sydney. I trust that they will not delay; there is plenty of material to keep numbers of machines in full work for a length of time.
November 23 (Saturday).-The usual gathering of diggers in the main street, but for some reason or other I cannot understand they were much less in number and very much quieter than usual.
I noticed that the public-houses were very scantily attended. I fear
there is a great deal more suffering and misery being endured-quietly,
patiently endured-than is generally supposed or thought of. One fine muscular
man said, in a melancholy tone, when spoken to, that for the last month
he had tasted nothing but dry bread and weak coffee. It was manifestly
telling upon his manly frame terribly, yet he went on, hoping that the
gold would soon appear and set him all right. I trust the poor fellow
will be soon gratified by having his hopes realised. Another poor fellow
had come down to his last shilling. He had economised and pinched and
stinted, but, when this last solitary coin was gone, all hope must go
with it. What course he should then have to take he knew not, but he must
trust to Providence. Perhaps, at the darkest moment, the silver lining
of the cloud might appear and cheer him on.
I met several coming down the Karaka Creek carrying quartz on their backs, intending to have it crushed. It was a work of great peril as well as of immense labour tearing over these gigantic boulders with such loads. We have, what I suppose is the usual accompaniment of a diggings, a negro troupe, who, according to their bills, are to perform wonders, and set all who are gloomy and desponding in good humour, but they must pay well for it.
The wizard has vanished out of sight. The rough treatment, which, for some reason I cannot explain, he received, seemed to have interfered very seriously with his powers of magic. A cricket club has been formed, which plays upon the flat every Saturday afternoon. This is gratifying. Everything which tends to draw from the public-house should meet with encouragement.
November 24 (Sunday).-The previous night was the worst we have experienced at the diggings. Thunder, lightning, hail, rain, wind-all seemed to conspire to make us miserable. It is a wonder that such a frail tenement as our tent should have withstood the terrific assaults of such a number of fierce assailants. We were awake the whole night, expecting to be smothered, or be blown away with all our goods and chattels, but thanks to a kind Providence, we have passed through the rough ordeal with safety.
How the first arrivals at this place managed, while encamping upon the swampy flats below for several months, during which time a continual succession of dreadful and unusually rough weather was experienced, is a wonder to me, as it is also to themselves. The Rev. Mr. Wallace, of the North Shore, conducted the religious services to-day, morning and evening, at the Court-house. The attendance was quite as good as could be expected.
November 25.-In consequence of the extreme danger in passing along the Karaka Creek, arising from the practice of throwing monster stones down from the hills above by some of the diggers, a meeting was held and a deputation appointed to wait upon the Warden to urge upon him the necessity of taking immediate steps to put a stop to the practice; otherwise, it was feared that loss of life was inevitable sooner or later. An order has been issued in response to this, to the effect that no boulders should be cast down before nine in the morning or after four in the afternoon. Consequently these men may hurl these ponderous boulders down upon the passers-by with impunity between nine and four, the very hours when the unwary are most likely to pass; So much for the superlative wisdom at our Court-house.
November 26.-The bakers have been acting foolishly, having raised the price when there was no real excuse for it. I think the Auckland bakers should see that a good and regular supply is sent; it would meet with a ready sale if properly managed. The following placard has been posted in the town: - 'At a meeting of the diggers, it was moved, seconded, and carried unanimously, that unless the bakers of this town lower the price of their bread to a fair and reasonable standard, by Saturday next, they shall each and all be taken forcibly and nailed by the left ear to the door-posts of their houses with a tenpenny nail'. People, when reading this, say, 'Serve them right'. Whether or no this threat is meant to be carried out, or as a stimulant to master bakers to walk in the path of rectitude, I cannot tell, but we shall see.
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The honest, hard-working digger is quite ignorant that the artful, designing enemy is so near at hand, and is working on with renewed vigour and energy, possibly thinking of home, of wife, and family, and all who are dear to him, whom he fondly hopes to surprise and cheer by the welcome intelligence that a bright future is in store for them. The excitement brings on a temporary illness, and he fails to attend his claim for one day.
The prowling, dastardly enemy knows it; he plants himself at the claim, and there, demon-like, he patiently waits during the absence of his future victim. This, in the language of the diggers, is called 'shepherding a claim'. At the end of twenty-four hours he seizes it, and at once appropriates to his own insatiable and greedy appetite the whole of the hard-earned property of the sick man. What the feelings of the disheartened, cast-down man are may be more easily imagined than described. He returns to find the unfeeling wretch, with several other great hulking creatures of his class, exulting and chuckling over their ill-gotten and easily-acquired claim; and this is occurring daily.
November 29.-The bakers evidently consider that discretion is the better part of valour and, having probably a wholesome dread of the effects of the resolution, which was placarded in the town, have lowered the price of their bread not only to what it was last week, but actually a halfpenny less; the price of the 2 lb. loaf being now 4 ½d. Possibly they are well aware that diggers' law is not only summary, but sharp and to the point.
November 30.-Four half-shares of Barry's claim were sold yesterday for the handsome sum of £2,200. There are wonderful accounts of the richness of the Prospectors' claim, about three miles behind Tookey's. A great rush took place last week, and every inch of vacant ground was speedily taken up. The specimens are certainly richer than any I have ever seen yet.
December 1 (Sunday).-The Rev. Mr. Buller preached in the morning and evening at the Court-house, and in the afternoon on the flat. There were large gatherings of attentive hearers at each service. The rev, gentleman said that he felt great pleasure in seeing such a numerous assemblage on these occasions. When he was at the West Coast diggings, the first time he preached, though there were thousands of people in all directions, yet he had but twenty to hear him on the Sunday morning. Mr. Buller announced that on the following day the ground would be selected on which the chapel was to be built. It would be a commodious one, and would be proceeded with at once. The quantity of timber which has been promised amounts to 5,000 feet; money has been collected and promised, and a considerable number will give their labour in erecting it. The Rev. Mr. Maunsell, of the Church of England, preached at the Court-house this afternoon. We have thus had Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Episcopalians; but where are the Independents and Baptists? Are they extinct in Auckland, or are they asleep? Why doesn't the Rev. Mr. Cornford or the Rev Warlow Davies come down and stir us up with their eloquence and zeal? Many are inquiring why.
December 2.-It is no easy matter in our present, shall I say, uncivilised, state-well, at least in our present awkward and unfurnished state-to write letters to friends or anyone else. Friends say, Write often, write long letters, tell us everything. Of course they are anxious to know all about us; but they little think what difficulties we are under when writing. We have no chair, or table, or desk, or inkstand. We make up a seat by rolling up a few blankets tightly; but we no sooner sit down to write on the lid of a box than over we go backwards; we get to rights again, when the rain begins to pour down the back of our neck. Again we take up the pen; it won't write, with all our coaxing and twisting, for Tom, the old soldier, used it last, and as he knows more about handling one of Armstrong's guns than he does a pen, he is in the habit of using undue violence with this useful article, till at last it has the unhappy tendency of making only double strokes or none at all. Then again we get to rights, but two of the chords of the tent snap; we are therefore compelled immediately to get needle and thread and repair the damage, or the whole establishment will be upset.
Down we sit again, quite out of temper, and for a line or two sail on quietly, when a white head is suddenly thrust into the tent, just close to our face, and the baker calls out 'Any bread?' 'No, no,' is the answer; he goes off with a grunt. After a second we suddenly recollect that if we don't call him back we shall have no breakfast to-morrow; and thus we are worried and bothered, when we are endeavouring to gratify our friends and make ourselves agreeable. No wonder, therefore, if we should at times appear to be somewhat incoherent or out of temper.
December 3.-I see that tenders are advertised for a Catholic chapel. I should also have stated that on Sunday afternoon a Sabbath-school was announced in a large tent. It will be carried on in the chapel when finished. To-day we found a vein of antimony in our claim. I hope our next find will be gold. I send the specimen of antimony to the Editor of the CROSS for exhibition. Surely this is a wonderful place - platinum, copper, silver, iron, arsenic, antimony, all being found among these extraordinary mountains.
December 4.-The bakers are again making fools of themselves, having raised the price of bread again. They may depend upon it that the diggers will not be played with in this fashion. I trust that we shall soon have an addition to their numbers from Auckland and elsewhere; there is plenty of room for at least three more good bakers, and those who will set their minds upon acting fairly and honestly will have the people rallying around them to support them.
The roads are now in such a state of wretchedness as to require the prompt attention of the authorities. Steps should be taken at once to put them into something like civilised order. We have plenty of material close at hand in the shape of thousands of tons of quartz. This should be purchased of the digger, and would be thus helping him considerably in his time of need; and the cost should be charged to the Maoris, who have not done a single thing for the money they receive; and who never will, I suppose, till they are told plainly they must do it.
DECEMBER 5.-During the last few weeks great progress has been made in the township; many large buildings have been erected. The main street has been greatly extended, and bids fair to be a street of noble proportions; the ground being perfectly level adds very considerably to its appearance. There is an important addition being made to Butt's hotel, consisting of a music hall, or theatre, &c. The enterprising proprietor is evidently going to great expense in the erection of this new wing to his already large establishment. The township, at present, consists of (as far as I can ascertain) the following places of business, &c. : - 14 hotels and restaurants, 5 butchers, 4 bakers, 2 clothiers and drapers, 23 storekeepers, 3 auctioneers, 1 cutler, 2 booksellers, 8 carters, 1 ginger-beer manufactory, 1 chemist, 1 furniture-dealer, 1 barrister, 2 solicitors, 7 bootmakers, 2 watchmakers, 2 doctors, 2 hairdressers, 1 photographer, 3 agents, 1 tobacconist, 2 timber merchants, and 1 post-office. There are 16 buildings in course of erection; 5 crushing machines are in operation outside the town, and several are being erected. Of shipping there is no lack: as many as from 15 to 20 vessels have been at anchor in the harbour several times.
December 6.-Wonderful! At last we have had a fine day, and we are very thankful for it. A view of the district on a fine moonlight night, from one of the hills, is a sight not to be forgotten, and well worth a little trouble to see. To the left is the Thames, stretching far away to the south; immediately before and below us, are the waters of the Hauraki district, looking like a vast sheet of silver; around us, and at our feet, is the fiat on which the diggers' camp is pitched; in the left corner of it may be easily discerned the township, the roofs of the houses glistening in the clear light of the moon; while all around us and on the side of every hill even to the highest summit of the loftiest mountain, we observe hundreds of little white conical objects-these are the tents of the diggers.
Interspersed among these Lilliputian tents are bright lights flickering
and flashing hither and thither like so many stars; these are the fires
at which many of the diggers are cooking their meals for the coming day.
If we look attentively at those closer to us we can see groups of men
standing or sitting around some of these fires; here many a yarn is spun,
many a joke is cracked, and many a pun is coined to the evident amusement
and satisfaction, if not to the edification, of the parties concerned.
Shouts of laughter may be heard in various directions, indicating that,
if all have not got gold, they have not yet quite lost heart. As we stand
admiring the scene, we hear various sounds in the distance, among which
we are not a little pleased and delighted to hear the inspiring notes
of the bagpipes; and without for one moment meaning to disparage this
truly national instrument of our Scotch friends, I can say sincerely that
distance adds very considerably to its charms when played well. Then the
notes of the violin may be distinctly heard. There are many in the camp
who play this instrument very creditably. We can also without difficulty
catch the sounds of the cornopean, played by some genius of one tune,
as he is everlastingly playing-'I wish I was with Nancy'. Amid all these
sounds and evidences of life may be heard in various directions, faintly,
in the distance, and
December 7.-A great gathering of diggers took place this afternoon, having been convened in consequence of the circulation of a fly-sheet of the CROSS, which contained an article condemnatory of a leader which, I understand, lately appeared in the Herald. Several diggers made speeches on the occasion; one man especially attracted considerable notice, who made a very inflammatory, democratic speech; he was a man possessing a wonderful gift of natural eloquence, and seemed to have the power of commanding and riveting the attention of the majority of this class, who were delighted beyond measure at the torrent of invective and ready wit which poured from his lips.
December 8.-Sunday service in the morning at the Court-house; an elderly gentleman preached in the morning to a scanty congregation. The weather being very unfavourable, it was a great pity the place was not filled, as we heard one of the most talented and interesting discourses ever delivered in this place. The title of the subject was, as announced previously, 'Profit and loss', founded on the well-known text, 'What shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?' The preacher was evidently a man of very extensive reading, and gave a number of beautiful and appropriate quotations from ancient and modem writers, including Homer, Cato, Milton, Addison, and others. Mr. Rowe, M.P.C., preached in the evening.
The plans prepared for the Catholic Chapel by Mr. Cameron have been accepted, and I understand the building will be immediately proceeded with.
December 9.-I am glad to see that steps have been taken to get the streets into something like decent or civilised order. Contracts are out for cutting gutters and drains, but nothing is said about metalling the roads.
December 10.-A meeting of diggers will take place on Saturday, called by Mr. Mackay, to choose twenty-four delegates to confer with him on the subject of revising the rules and regulations, many of them being of a most unreasonable and arbitrary nature, and which give rise to much dissatisfaction and bad feeling. Mr. Mackay, therefore, deserves praise for taking this step in the right direction.
DECEMBER 14.-A meeting was called this day by Mr. Mackay, the object of which was to choose twenty-four delegates to confer with him in revising the existing rules, which at present give great dissatisfaction. A very large number of diggers attended; Mr. Baillie, the Warden, presided. Some respectable men, among whom was Major Von Tempsky, were elected.
After this meeting, another great gathering took place, when several Maoris amused the multitude by their gesticulations, and ludicrous efforts to speechify in broken English, the matter for discussion being which was the best field for a new rush. One energetically declared that the new ground to the south was the best, while another, mounted up behind him, continuously vociferated, 'No fear! No fear!' at the end of every sentence the speaker uttered. The meeting was eventually put an end to, by the Maoris being suddenly pushed over the stock of timber on which they were standing, and unceremoniously hustled by the mob.
December 15 (Sunday).-Service as usual at the Court-house, morning and evening.
December 16.-It is customary at this time of the year for men of business, if they are prudent, to take a retrospective glance at their affairs, and endeavour to ascertain their present position and future prospects as far as possible. A statement is made of their profits and losses and of their stock in hand. It would not be amiss to subject the Thames digging enterprise to the same salutary process: it may be of some use to a few. The following items are as near the truth as it is possible to obtain them from materials at hand: -
Tools, tents, &c 5,000
Claims purchased 5,000
Wages for working claims 1,000
Cost of crushing 300
Thus it will be seen that at present the community have suffered a loss of £35,800, in the gold-digging enterprise: there must, therefore, be a very considerable stroke of business done during the next year, to wipe off the balance, and make a decent appearance on the other side of the account. This, I trust, will be done. There are more claims making a good show than ever: a great many have the colour, and the parties who are working them are very sanguine as to a satisfactory result.
December 17.-John Willis, the poor man who was so sadly mutilated by the horses on the 14th December, has after dreadful suffering, passed from the excitement and turmoil of this strange place to another and, I trust, a better world. His remains were taken in a van this evening to the burial-ground, by his mates, who, to their praise, paid every attention to him in his sufferings; but, having dug the grave, they, as did also the widow, expressed great dissatisfaction in having to bury a fellow creature in such a place.
The soil (an improper term to use) was nearly a mass of shells, and as fast as the grave was dug it filled with water. A general feeling of indignation was manifested by the people around. The Warden was sent for, and when he arrived, he told the widow of the deceased man that, if she wished it, the body should be sent to Auckland and be buried in consecrated ground. In the meantime, he and Mr. Mitchell would endeavour to obtain subscriptions to defray the expenses. The body was then taken back to the dead-house. I am happy to see that a number of men are actively engaged in laying down fascines in the roads, and otherwise putting the thoroughfares into something like civilised and decent order. It is evident that the men in office are none the worse for a gentle push now and then.
December 19.-I believe it is a well-established fact that there are certain diseases and ailments peculiar to certain occupations, employments, or trades. The painter is subject to the painter's cholic, the gardener to lumbago or rheumatism, the Sheffield grinder to ophthalmia or disease of the lungs, the seamstress to consumption, &c.; but it is not so generally known, I believe, that the Thames digger is sorely afflicted with a disease peculiar to his occupation. It is called by some digger-mania, by others digger-phobia. This dire disease is usually developed about a month after the victim has commenced digging; its symptoms are very varied and curious, and are anything but agreeable to those who are unfortunately connected with the poor afflicted one. At first there is an ominous silence and strange quietness, alias sulkiness; the countenance assumes a gloomy downcast appearance, the brow is lowering and scolding, a storm is evidently brewing, and very soon symptoms are manifested unmistakably of a more violent nature.
Spasmodic efforts are made in using the pick or shovel; if spoken to, the patient will either not answer at all, or else with a growl or snarl. It is now becoming dangerous~ to come in contact with the unfortunate individual, for if any one in the exercise of charity or pity should be weak enough to persist in inquiring as to the state of mind or general health of the poor creature, it is like throwing a handful of gunpowder on the fire-an explosion is sure to follow, and then something truly alarming is the result; the tools are thrown about in wild confusion, at the risk of breaking the handles or peoples' legs; the voice becomes hoarse and thick through shouting beyond a decent pitch; language is used which when the miserable man is in his right senses he is ashamed of. It often happens that several in one claim are afflicted with this distemper at the same time; and then the effects are sad indeed. Sometimes one will stay at home, and waste his time in misery and despair; or will come to the claim, and after a few flourishes of the pick will skulk away to some secluded spot in the bush, and there vainly endeavour to bury his cares and troubles in the arms of Morpheus.
At other times there will be a scene very much resembling a riot, the
whole company in the claim becoming infected as if by magic; each member
then does just as he thinks right in the sight of his own eyes, and the
labour of the once united band of brothers is ruthlessly cast away and
forsaken. Abuse and recriminatory expressions are freely indulged in,
the tools are menacingly flourished, and the wonder is that mischief of
a serious character does not frequently follow. The scene almost invariably
ends by one or more rushing frantically away to his tent, where he may
be found soon after in a state of prostration or profuse perspiration.
It is a matter requiring the earnest and serious attention of the faculty,
or somebody else, as to what is the primary cause of this terrible disease,
because, if we find out the cause, we may confidently hope that the remedy
will certainly follow; so, before any more learned or scientific opinion
is advanced, I would most humbly and modestly suggest that the real cause
of this distemper may be traced to those flashy, miserable deceivers,
mica and mundie; and the only specific is a good and frequent dose of
the sterling stuff, the real article, yellow gold.
December 20.-A great rush to-day, not to a new field, but to Auckland. The place is all alive; hundreds are on the road towards the wharf, anxious to have a little relaxation. The steamers are eagerly looked for; at last they are seen in the distance. The boats are at once filled, rapidly and dangerously; but, never mind, it's a scramble now who shall be first. A strange vessel is also seen; she stops some distance from the town, a boat is lowered, and soon we hear that the Governor has arrived in the 'Sturt'. He pays a visit to Hunt's and Barry's claims, and presently arrives at the township. After spending a few minutes' conversation with a few who are introduced to him, he again embarks amid three hearty cheers for Governor Grey and one cheer more.
TRIP TO THE THAMES GOLD-FIELDS
The little information that has reached your quarter relative to these diggings, and the very contradictory nature of what you have heard will no doubt render acceptable a few notes made by me during a personal visit to that quarter on Saturday, October 11 . Previous to my arrival in Auckland, by the Lord Ashley, so little had I heard of the Thames Gold-field, that the existence of such a place had passed from my memory altogether; my astonishment was therefore proportionately great to find that nearly the only topic of conversation amongst the people of Auckland was the auriferous character of that district. With a vivid remembrance of a previous gold bubble in this province, known as Coromandel, I felt naturally very dubious about placing any great reliance upon what I everywhere heard respecting the newly discovered El Dorado, and determined to bring a little personal practical experience to bear on the subject, before I attempted to make you better acquainted with what is actually going on here at the present time.
The specimens that I so frequently saw were without doubt wonderfully rich, and two heavy bars of gold obtained from quartz crushed from one of the Thames claims, and exhibited in the shop window of Mr. Beck, of Queen-street, were convincing proofs that there must be some truth in the rumours which were current about the place. Therefore the natural result was, that I had hardly been here a week before I determined upon at once proceeding to the Thames. Taking time by the forelock, I shipped myself on board the local steamer Tauranga, on the Saturday before mentioned, in company with several friends and acquaintances, and a far larger number of strangers. As there were three steamers leaving within an hour of each other, all bound to the same locality, we were not quite so crowded as we should otherwise have been. We cast off from the wharf about 6 o'clock, and scudded down the harbor with a fair wind to the tune of something over eleven knots an hour. The distance from Auckland to Shortland town which is estimated at fifty miles, in favourable weather, is but a pleasant cruise of some five or six hour's duration. The fair winds which followed us soon reached the height of a strong gale, with thunder, lightning, and rain ad lib. Our captain with some consideration for the convenience of his passengers, after pursuing about three parts of his journey, came to an anchor under the lee of the land, where we remained comfortably until daylight the following morning, when we started again for the mouth of the Thames.
In due time we arrived at the landing place in the river, and jumped ashore. As there remained a good hour before breakfast, of course I made the best use of my time in looking round the township. The principal building yet completed is Capt. Butt's Hotel, a neat weatherboard construction of considerable dimensions, and certainly on the day we visited it (Sunday), it was a grand claim, and one too which I think will not speedily be worked out; at all events, not while the present 'prospect' lasts and he continues to get 'good stuff'. Stores, restaurants, bakers, butchers, &c., were also erected there in numbers more numerous than payable; and the large stacks of timber that had just arrived, showed the active preparations already instituted for converting the present frail, canvas, or calico structures into something more durable. But I must restrain my pen, or else I shall not have either time or room to acquaint you with the real subject matter at issue-the practical worth of the Thames as a goldfield. After a hasty breakfast on board the steamer, I at once started away in company with several others, who from a previous visit had become acquainted with the locality, in order to inspect as many of the claims as could be readily seen in the short space of a few hours. Taking the claims as they came, the first I visited was about a mile from the township, and consisted of a drive of about a hundred feet into a prominent looking 'spur'. The tunnel was evidently not made by practical diggers, being too extensive in girth. Being Sunday, the owners were quietly ensconced in their tents at the foot of the range; however, I have learnt since then that they have been rewarded for their labor by striking good payable stone. A few yards further on, a party were 'terracing'. One of the proprietors very kindly showed us some specimens of great richness, and proceeded with us over a number of the adjacent claims, all of which looked A1. A dishful of rubble, taken promiscuously from one of them and washed, yielded, according to my judgment, nearly half an ounce of gold, whilst the whole character of the stone (a kind of conglomerate) was surprisingly rich. Tookey's, Williamson's, and several other really good claims, are situated in close proximity.
For months has this cry been echoed by hundreds; yet it is still too feeble to rouse our sleepy nabobs, who, in consequence of having gorged so much lately, have sunk into a state of stupor, and refuse to hear, or hearing, heed not the voice of the charmer.
I was somewhat disappointed at not seeing a large quantity of quartz 'stacked', but I was informed that the diggers carry away their day's work in bags, and store it under cover. One fact that struck me above anything was this: that converse with whoever you would there was no grumbling. After visiting many claims, all of them good, we at length arrived at the far-famed Hunt's, about which there has been so much talk, and certainly it looked very attractive. A solid mass of quartz stands out in bold relief, over which plays a small waterfall. Here they have a Berdan machine, which is fully employed. Hunt himself was there, and showed me between two and three hundred ounces of amalgam, the result of his previous week's crushing; in addition to this he had a quantity of stuff to crush which I believe has yielded 130ozs. By the next steamer to Sydney they are confident of being able to ship at least a thousand ounces. This is the claim from which by far the greater portion of the quartz crushed in Auckland has been taken, the yield being quite fabulous.
To attempt to give you any detailed account of what I saw during my visit to this field, would be simply out of the question. I purpose, therefore, in a few general observations to sum up my present impressions. In the first place, reefing is all that is being done; some few are sluicing, but not with any very satisfactory results
SHORTLAND TOWN BY NIGHT
EVERYBODY (that is everybody in Auckland) has heard of Shortland Town. Has everybody seen it? As the latter is not likely may I attempt a description? The 'diggings', despite their richness and despite their business -which does not appear to me to be slack-would not, of course, be of paramount importance elsewhere. But as they are undoubtedly of sufficient extent to revive, in a measure, the falling fortunes of the Province, they should possess a certain amount of interest here. What business is done in the township is mostly done at night, and the manner in which capital is interchanged about the present time deserves notice. Four diggers-improved by a little liquor-taking the air in a 'trap' about Auckland on Monday did seem to contrast favourably of the chances on the goldfields.
The appearance of Shortland town itself, however, in sober earnest, argues much more. In the words of most hotel and storekeepers, 'things are quiet'. As a tolerably old hand on 'rushes' I may express an opinion to the effect that things are much more brisk than they have been in Auckland for many a day. The streets are a vast improvement on the streets of some months ago. Where I breakfasted economically on a box of sardines and a pint of beer, I can now dine well and cheaply on the food of civilisation. Jim hails Joe a couple of hundred yards off and insists-despite the protestations of Joe 'that he has had a skinful'-on taking another drink.
Bell-men pervade the thoroughfares and announce various entertainments, from a public meeting to a theatrical performance. As I write, four mates, decent fellows, come in for a feed, and hospitably invite the various friends who shake hands with them to 'peg away'. And yet there is no rowdiness. There may be the exuberance of spirits which naturally affects a man when he is making a very good living, for the first time perhaps for a long period. But drunkards are few and far between-all things considered-and, manifold temptations taken into account, everyone is very steady. The store-keepers are not as busy as the people who drive a single trade.
Once a week is the time for going to the grocer's, and therefore, they may do enough on Saturdays for the rest of the week. But boots wear out, meat is eaten, and hair grow long, hats fill with holes, and a bottle comes to an end every day. Therefore, I suppose it is that the bootmakers are in excruciating attitudes, pulling endless strings that the butchers, 'each and the people's friend' are performing anatomical feats in steak cutting, that the barbers are doing wonders in the way of easy shaving and genteel haircutting, that hats of various shapes are purchased, and that black bottles are taken to the tent, affectionately, under the arm.
The staff of life has been omitted-labelled everywhere 'five pence the loaf' but even this seems to be in sufficient demand. The sound of the harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music is prevalent. That is to say fiddles, cornet-a-pistons, and trombones are performing lively airs in dancing saloons. On the authority of the bellman, I may state that there is a really magnificent performance at the theatre; the privileges of the Press not being recognised, I cannot speak from experience on this matter. It would be gross exaggeration to assert 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. Yielding a little to the seductions of Waipera [Waipiro] they indulge in occasional playful though frantic gestures, and in untranslateable language. We cannot expect all Maoris to be patterns; and the vast majority are driving a steady trade, making the living of the pakeha cheap, and are themselves behaving quite as well as, if not better than, many Europeans. There need be no doubt on the matter: most people in business are doing more than well in Shortland Town. When two or three hotels are over-crowded, when most shops are getting along steadily, trade must be pretty lively. All cannot do well. Counters out of the thick of the township will not have an overplus of customers; every digger does not hit gold. That there are plenty of shopkeepers making money at the Thames, plenty of miners making more than 'tucker', any one who sees the streets by night, and watches money changing hands, will affirm. There is a briskness and an amount of ready cash, to which the dullness and 'tick' of Auckland present a strong contrast. In the moonlight two or three places of worship shine conspicuously. The Bank of New Zealand has a good looking building for its branch, and gold is coming in to it freely. 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 streets few, comparatively, wear the aspect of 'loafers'; many jingle silver in their trousers pockets. One very good sign of the times is, that already all here have an absolute direct interest in the success of the miners. Employers and employed have shares in claims; proprietors and potboys in different degrees are contributing to the working of some claims, which they expect will produce them fortunes, or are drawing dividends from good 'crushings'. Altogether, the place is a vast relief from the 'general depression' of Auckland.-which, however, must soon feel the beneficial effects of its proximity to this thriving goldfield.
Bread prices 16, 17, 18, 19
Chapel 15, 18, 19, 21
Digger life 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 18-19, 20, 30-1
Entertainment 16, 31
Expenditure & Income 22-3
Grey, Governor Geo. 25
Hunt's claim 9, 28
Letter writing 18
Maoris 10, 13, 19, 22, 31
New chums' gold 12
Regulations revision 21-2
Tookey's claim 9, 27-8
©2002-2007 Barbara Andrew