Coromandel History

Isdale on Tapu part 6

Alistair Isdale: 1874 - 1877

On May 25, 1874, it was reported that there had been an accident owing to mining timber rolling off the wharf, or "Hawkes's Jetty," into the sea. injuring a man, who was taken to Hawkes's hotel by a Mr. Pike.
A key word is "rolled." No sawmilling was required, kauri "legs" being acceptable in the round as mine supports. (At the beginning of the 1960s round "peeler" logs were being used as mine supports.) Kauri was definitely used, except for some bush honeysuckle or rewa rewa for alternating wet and dry conditions.

The timber went to Thames in a cutter belonging to hotelier Hawkes. On May 31, 1874, during a gale one of the four ships moored at Curtis's wharf, Thames, was "Mr. Hawkes's Tapu cutter," The four vessels "made many breaches through the wharf, damaging it “to an almost irreparable ex­tent, without apparently sustaining much injury themselves”. The other three cutters got cast ashore', but the “Tapu cutter managed to get holding ground for her anchors near Holdship's wharf”.

At that time, with no roads out of Thames, or Tapu for that matter, movement was by water along the coast and across to Auckland, and a man in any way of business, or a resident settler, would have a cutter or schooner in
the same way as he would now have a car or truck.

On June 16, 1874, there were further references to a coalfield between the Te Mata and Waikawau streams, and coal within a thousand yards of Buckland's claim. References would continue now and then, but apparently there was not such a body of coal in any one place as to warrant exploit­ation.  Also on that date, "I do not think it is generally known that at one time and another close upon 3,000 ounces have been taken from the Gentle Annie, up the Mata Creek." Headlinings were, "HASTINGS Tapu Creek."

Said headline appeared on June 30, 1874.  There had been storms, with heavy rains, and freshes in the streams had brought 150 kauri logs to the booms at the mouth of the mata, and 400 to those at the mouth of the Waikawau." Where there was a sawmill.  (The Tapu would also need to have its booms for the Hawkes mining timber.)
Logs weighing several tons moving swiftly on the tumbling torrent used to wreak almost unbelievable destruction, gouging the banks, piling up debris, causing landslides, and generally altering the whole aspect of things from one month's end to another.

The gum diggers merely rivaled rooting wild pigs by way of surface dis­turbance.  The June 30 Advertiser reported a considerable number of Maori gumdiggers as having walked over the range from the Mercury Bay gumfields by their forest trails, "in excellent traveling costume - naked from the buttocks down - and really a fine looking lot of men." "Natives" still formed a large part of the gumdiggers.

While it was never exploited on any scale, in spite of plans, the coal at times caused a considerable amount of activity.

On August 27, 1874, it was reported that further floods had brought 1,000 logs down the "Waikawau and Mata creeks." The logs "as is," and the sawn timber from the Waikawau sawmill, could all be used at Thames, at that time one of the principal European centres of New Zealand.  "It must be re­membered that in population the Thames ranks fourth among the towns of the Colony, while it is the first, by many thousands, among the towns outside the Provincial capitals." There were over 12,000 men, women and children inside the boundaries of the Thames electorate, and most of that populat­ion was at Thames.

The mentions of coal were further inland than our area. On November 2, 1874, it was reported that up the Waikawau there were four seams of coal 2 to 10 feet wide.  "They can be traced from Tapu Creek to Manaia, about 10 miles." There were evidently other seams above and below those secured by Meek and party, one found 8 miles up the creek, another two miles, while Meek told of “one, three and a half miles from the beach.  In all probability Tapu Creek will be the most convenient route for a tramway." However, on November 23 it was announced that an application for a tramway from the beach for the Waikawau coal had been withdrawn.

November 2, 1874, found District Engineer McLaren, under the Auckland Provincial Government, arranging for a shortening of the bridle track be­tween Hastings and Waiomu. Instead of going over the hills at the Hastings Creek, the new route would keep pretty close to the beach.  As this was modification of an already existing bridle track, there could also have been one for some time between the three close valleys of the Tapu, Te Mata and Waikawau.

On November 12, 1874, it was reported that, in addition to a couple of hotels, there were five storekeepers and one school at Hastings, as Hastings was "waiting for gold, timber, coal or something," to become sufficiently im­portant to bring back former prosperity and population.  A quarrel at the Bullion mine was being resolved by bringing in fresh blood, meaning men.

There had appeared on April 11, 1874, "At present there are three batteries, something less than a score of men actually engaged in mining at Tapu, and two public houses in the township of Hastings, also two stores, a school and a Catholic chapel, a Post Office and a telegraph station." As November 12, 1874, did not mention the two hotels, maybe they had counted them in with the storekeepers, it was common then to run a store of sorts in conjunction with a hotel and added another storekeeper for luck.

April 11, 1874, gave details of mining work, including at Buckland's battery, on the northern side of the Tapu stream in our area. The mine had been let out on tribute, paying a percentage on gold found to the owners, usually around 15%.  The Buckland battery had just given 45¼ ounces of gold from over 100 tons of quartz, which meant the tributers were scratching for a living.  The tributers were making a new chute for sending down quartz at a steep angle, and repairing a tramway, which would be on an easy gradient to flat.

The Bullion Creek and workings were on the southern side of the Tapu stream. The Hope seemed to be the only other mine working, 12 oz.30 tons.

At Buckland's, old ground had been left in favour of the Little Jessie, which figured on the December 1867 map.  Two winzes, or internal vertical shafts, some distance apart, found a continuous run of gold going down. Buckland's own men, by November 23, 1874, had driven a low level 400 feet, and had 70 or 80 feet to go to reach a quartz reef with its hoped for gold content.   May, 1974, Little Jessie had given only 30 ounces from 90 tons.

On January 5, 1875, there was a report of coal being brought out from the back country in pikau or back pack loads. And also taken in that way, being Waikato coal taken in to do some "salting."

On February 25, 1875, it was mentioned that the "road," meaning bridle track, all the way between Thames and Coromandel, was in bad condition. Between Waikawau and Tapu, riders Dearl, Basley and Pittar found the way "in places scarcely distinguishable through the rank vegetation covering it up,  The two in front looked back and saw Mr.'Dearl's horse "rolling over a precipitous cliff nearly 100 feet high.  The rider threw himself out of the saddle in time to save his life."  The horse was killed.

The limelight at this time was on the opening of the Ohinemuri goldfield on March 3, 1875, reviving flagging gold mining in Hauraki. However, it, was to be years before anything big came out of the Ohinemuri. Mackay had called in a raihana debt of £23,000 and insisted on opening the Ohinemuri for gold, refusing lands away north deserted by the Ngati-Tamatera.

On March 16, 1875, a Tapu correspondent suggested that disappointed dig­gers from the Ohinemuri rush go to Tapu instead.

About six people were still washing and sluicing there, with very satisfactory results. (This indicates that such activities had been continuing, modifying the terrain and streams).
By April 12, 1875, Buckland's party extending the low level had reached the two feet wide Little Jessie quartz leader, with a fair show of gold. They continued tunneling on to what they had originally intended to reach, the four to five feet wide Tramway reef, with values six tenths of an ounce to the ton. considered reasonable. As already noted there was a Tramway.

The Hope reported good payable stuff, but had trouble with lack of water to activate the old stamps of their battery, possibly the one shown in the 1867 map as Fraser's machine, further up the Tapu stream from Buckland's, and also on the northern side of the Tapu Stream. (Note from author, no, hope was away south).

On April 30, 1875 it was announced that there had been "a, new rush yesterday morning to Tapu Creek."

May 4, 1875, reported Bucklands busy with the Little Jessie quartz leader and the Hope people were also busy, but wanted some rain. (Dry conditions would inhibit log drives by water.)

Timber work did go on, presumably with logs already stockpiled for the Waikawau sawmill.  On May 11, it was reported that, "One of Thompson's rafts of sawn timber has broken up and is now scattered all over the beach.

The monthly returns at this Juncture showed no gold production from Tapu.

It was reported by the Auckland Provincial Council, per District Engineer James McLaren, that during the year ended 31st March, 1875 the bridle track from Thames as far as Tapu had been maintained at a cost of £120. The track up the Tapu Creek had been repaired for a mere £3-3-0. A foot bridge at Tapu had been carried away by a flood, and was replaced by a box-girder bridge at a cost of £84.  (This was quite a hefty sum then, and indicates that the bridge was across the Tapu Stream itself.  On that Thames-Coromandel bridle track there were places with footbridges across main streams, horses expected to ford.  By this time the Tapu would have become well choked up with all kinds of debris, with no deep quiet reaches so horses need not have done much more than get their hooves wet.)

By the end of May heavier and heavier rains were setting in.

Tapu continued to have a greatly reduced population compared with former days, and as reported on June 2, the two remaining hotels, the Royal Oak and Exchange, had their licences reduced.

There continued to be no gold production recorded from Tapu, with mining work continuing to be confined to Buckland's, Bullion and Hope.

On June 24 it was reported that the Hope had struck such soft gold bearing material that even a tenth of an ounce per ton would pay.  The Hope battery had been taken over by a group which had taken up the old Panama Route claim.  This was No. 1 on the old 1867 map, and proves to have been far to the south.  But Little Jessie, named after a ship, was No. 61, well within the Te Mata-Tapu area.

On August 19, 1875, there was finally some gold production recorded from Tapu, the Twelfth of July claim giving only 11¾ ounces from 70 tons. Not on the 1867 map.  The Bullion had a good crushing reported on November.
On December 24, there was a new name, the Caesarea, , with 16¾ ounce, from only 20 tons, which was very good.

On January 11, 1876, there was mention of some fine Leicestershire sheet coming out in a ship from England for settler Russell, Just where the family was not stated.

On February 8, it was noted that all three batteries, Buckland's Bullion and Hope, were all again at work.  The Great Extended mine was doing much underground work, using Buckland's battery, being possibly in the vicinity of the old Great Republic mine in our area, but the March 15 return gave only 11 ounces from 80 tons.
March 21 found mining continuing at Bullion and Hope to the south, Panama Route not known, and Great Extended probably in our area.  The wives were organizing one of the many concerts-socials-dances down the years.

It was also reported that on the 21st Messrs. Buckland had visited Tapu on the 21st, and had arranged that the Great Extended men were to start crushing immediately.  Next day they were trucking quartz to the Buckland battery. By April 3, 5 stamps crushing quartz that had "given a splendid show in the mine," gave results "miserable in the extreme."  It was remarked also that "owing to leaky fluming stamps go at the approximate speed for keeping time to the Dead March in Saul. The Golden Point, however, expected a five ton trial crushing to be payable.  The battery was in unusually tidy order. At the Hope, the stamps doing the crushing were impossibly slow.  The Panama was "getting out good stuff." The Bullion was having friction among its directorate instead of production.

April 4 found Great Extended with only 6½ ounces of amalgam, meaning a good deal less gold, from 20 or 30 tons.  "The shareholders are strongly of opinion that the stuff has been, doctored.  One of them took a piece of stone that showed gold freely, and dipped it into one of the mercury riffles, but it failed to take any quicksilver. Then it was taken up to the Golden Point battery, and given the same treatment, then it took the quicksilver easily." So an expert from Grahamstown (north Thames) was to take charge of the battery that week,
(There had been a local report a little time back about base metals, which would be in sulphide form, as met with in workings well underground. Such sulphides would "sicken" mercury, and make it unable to amalgamate with gold.  It would be some time before this factor was universally recognized. The mercury that was tried at the Buckland battery would have been sickened-but not that at the Golden Point battery.)

The Little Arthur, a newer claim, locality not known, from 5 tons got only three tenths of an ounce - very unpayable.

After the squabbling, the Bullion did quite well, but not the Caesarea, and in our area the.Great Extended got under 10½ ounces from 30 tons.

On April 11, there was news of a Warden's Court case in Thames, against Richard Hawkes of Tapu, for cutting down kauri trees in the Hauraki Gold Mining District, without first having paid one pound five shillings per tree for permission to cut them down. "Mr. Hawkes alleges that he purchased the right to cut timber in that block four years ago from Mr. Kelly, of Waikawau, and produced a deed in proof. Mr. Kelly produced the deed under which he purchased from the native owners, whose names were attached to the deed, giving the right to cut timber on that block, which he had subsequently sold to Mr. Hawkes and the latter had since then carried on his operations without interruption.  In order to further his business Mr. Hawkes has at considerable cost laid a tramway through the block, and erected a wharf for shipping timber.  All these operations have been carried on openly and without interference for four years, and the Inspector of Miner's Rights, Mr. Mcllhone, has himself had knowledge of the work going on.

"But now Te Moananui of Puru lays claim to his dues under the goldfield regulations, and at the instigation of him and some other natives these proceedings were adopted.  The Warden naturally enough declined to enter a case which would constitute the Warden's Court a Native Land Court. He pointed out that if Hawkes was liable to a penalty, so would every sawmill company carrying out business on the Peninsula, and expressed a wish, in which we heartily join, that the first proceedings would be instituted against some of those rich companies instead of the defendant. Had this been done, the validity of the titles held to timber growing on the goldfield would have been either established or set aside.

The Court adjourned after a further sitting in which the Hawkes deeds were checked, to allow those of the original purchaser Mr. Kelly, "the opportunity of consulting a solicitor regarding the validity of his original deed of purchase." The matter was then "settled out of Court and withdrawn by consent." (The Ngati-Tamatera were tending to revive old land rights to the north).

The Thames expert was apparently able to fix things for Great Extended,
April gold return came to a good over 15¼ ounces from 20 tons. Bullion and Caesarea also figured, the latter 7½ ounces from 15 tons.
May had only 1½ ounces from 1½ tons, from Panama Route.
June 7 saw hotel licence renewals of Royal Oak, Richard Mills Hawke, and Exchange, Henry Moss Jacobs.
Kauri gum by now was really big business.

There are the native lands producing immense quantities of gum which is purchased by dealers, some of whom employ a large number of men. They are distributed in small parties over an immense extent of country. Their camps in our own district are found in the mountain ranges of the Kauaeranga and away to Mercury Bay on the north to Puriri in the south.  With incredible difficulty, not unattended with danger, the gum is packed over hills and down precipitous ravines by the tracks which these sons of toil cut through the dense forests, they secure supplies from the dealers who purchase the gum, and when the price is low nothing but the prospect of a speedy advance sustains them.
For June the Bullion and Caesarea were the main producers with 10½ ounces each. July had two small lodgments from Panama Route and Great Extended. Meanwhile the Bullion had been let on tribute to avoid any more company expenditure and "calls" on shareholders. Caesarea got only 6½ ounces from 30 tons. Great Extended had a better proportion, with 3 ounces from 6 tons.   But it had no return for August, the only return being from the Bullion, the tributers getting 21½ ounces from 30 tons. Tributers were usually good at picking out the better ore.
September 2 saw a report with Great Extended leading.  "The Great Extended, Bullion and Hope claims are all doing very well at present.  People seem more cheerful owing to the alteration in prospects."
But essentially, gold mining by now was small time around Tapu.  Something of greater importance for the future was coming up.

On September 9 1876, there appeared “Land purchases in the Coromandel and Thames districts have been retarded by the protracted enquiries before the Land Court, but these are now far advanced, only a few signatures being required to make a conveyance to the Crown.”

On the 118,802 acres of the Waikawau and Moehau blocks the sum of £15,930 has been advanced.  A great portion of the land in this district is encumbered by timber leases, granted by the native owners to Europeans long prior to the time when the Government entered the market in land pur­chases."

The Tapu-Te Mata area was in the big Waikawau Block, which would soon be Crown land saleable to settlers.

For September the Great Extended got 17¾ ounces from 30 tons.  Bullion continued reasonable returns for its tributers.

On November 1, 1876, the change from Provincial to County system was gazetted.  On November 10, with the Proclamation of Counties, the revised Thames County boundary went up the Waukawau stream to its source, then in a straight line to the northern head of Tairua Harbour.

Tapu did not figure in November and December gold returns.

There was some revival of gold mining at Tapu in the New Tear, and in our area the old Great Republic got going again with a trial crushing of a ton, which gave a heartening 4 ounces 13 pennyweights. (20 to an ounce). As noted on January 9 there was also a restart at the Little Republic nearby. It was 71 on 1867 map, Great Republic 72. Golden Point, No. 49, just on the northern side of the Tapu, well up, had become derelict.

A New Year visitor had found Tapu mining in general greatly improved, after an absence of eight months, but not Golden Point, which he had known in earlier times, when it was evidently quite a gold producer.

"At Golden Point, however, everything looks like a wilderness. Where stallwart miners, blooming maidens and laughing children used to be seen, now there is nothing but one or two stray bullocks, a bevy of goats, or a covey of pheasants. The old water wheel still revolves, uttering in its wearisome course, a number of heartrending shrieks for some one to put it in order. The old dam, fluming and bridge also appear as if on the broad road to destruction. However, they have each and all had their day.

(It would appear there had been quite a settlement at Golden Point, some distance up the valley from Tapu. Besides any evidences of dam, fluming and bridge (to get to that side from the roadway up the south side, there
could still be little house sites cut into the hillside, and possibly relics from the huts and cottages.   Being closer to the Tapu flat, there could be expected to be fewer such sites around Bucklands battery, but evidences of mining at various periods, ways for steep chutes or chute, tramways and suchlike.)

A new name for January 15, 1877, was the All Nations with 88½ ounces from 100 tons, locality not known.

During January, 1877, the new Thames County Council was elected and took office, electing as Chairman Alexander Brodie. He had laid telegraph line for the advancing British forces during the Waikato War of 1863-65, and was accustomed to quick reconnaissance followed by quick action.

On January 26, 1877, Tapu was visited by said Alexander Brodie, with County Surveyor Alexander Aitken and Councillor L.J. Bagnall of the big Turua sawmill with its settlement, on a tour of inspection.

They rode from the north end of Thames along the bridle track.  "There is certainly room for improvement in many places, The usual width is about two feet, and in many places small landslips have occurred that have partially blinded the track and rendered it dangerous.  Some of the small corduroy bridges have also rotted away, and are in a dangerous state, but the sum total of the necessary and more immediate repairs to this track would cost no large amount.  The traffic on it is not great and no very expensive work would be necessary to prevent accidents to men and horses." The main traffic was still by sea.

At Tapu, attention to the wharf was required,  It was a very good wharf although it had been erected for nearly 9 years (1868-9), but it was no longer serviceable. (There would also be Hawkes’ timber Jetty).

“The channel of the creek has taken a new course, a considerable distance to the north of the wharf, so it is practically useless, and must be either removed to some more suitable position, or the channel must be diverted back to its original course. As it stands it is useless, but if made available it would be a great convenience to the residents and miners, and to the SMALL CRAFT TRADING TO THE PLACE, besides which it could be made the source of some small revenue to the County Council.”

The County party then rode up to Stevens' (Late Bucklands’) battery. (To get to the northern side of the Tapu Stream, the first matter they considered was the rotten state of the footbridge that spanned the creek for a width of 50 feet.  "It is positively rotten, except perhaps a small amount of heart it contains, and besides it is cracked in the centre," There was necessity of having it renewed as a public convenience.

The party also visited the battery itself to ascertain the prospects of the district.  "They seemed well satisfied." One miner, formerly the manager of a mine at Tapu, pointed out where a short track would be serviceable to him and others. His party had discovered what seemed to them a good payable reef, and they were about to crush some of the quartz. Such a roadway would lessen the cost of crushing by two shillings a ton, but they would be satisfied to await the result of their trial crushing before asking for any money to be expended.

The Tapu people were more hopeful about their mining prospects than Thames opinion.  It was true that some claims on which considerable sums of money had been spent had proved to be failures, or at least, not remunerative.  But crushing charges were high and there were transport difficulties. With better access, transport difficulties would be lessened, and crushing charges reduced from the existing 15 shillings per ton to 9 the latter including carting charges.

The principal crushing mill in the district was that now owned by Mr. Stevens, who also acted as battery manager. It was erected and formerly owned by the late W.T. Buckland, and was known as Buckland's battery. It had 15 head of stamps disposed in 3 batteries, a short distance up the Tapu Creek, in a central position.

The motive power was one of Schiele's patent turbines, 22 inches in dia­meter, the water having a 25 foot fall, and the water race being 1,000 feet long. (Traces?).  The last crushing had given an average of three quarters of an ounce to the ton, the gold being worth £3 an ounce, giving a large profit balance.  Pure gold was worth £4 per ounce.  Tapu gold would there­fore have had there a high ratio of gold to silver, around 750 out of 1000.
Crushing had had to be suspended for a time on account of the closing in of some of the workings in the mine, but they would soon be in a position to resume crushing. Only 5 head of stampers were working at the time of the visit on the 26th January, but the other 10 were about to start on a second lot of stuff. Quartz was now going through from a claim, formerly known as the Imperial Mint (No. 39, further down the Tapu on the other or southern side of the stream), recently taken up by Hatch and party.  From the show of mercury/gold amalgam on the mercury-coated copper plates, the return was likely to be payable. The lode was entirely new, a foot thick, and was showing gold.  Littlejohn, in charge of the battery, was sanguine.

The Bullion battery and mine, about a mile up the creek, were idle. (The name Bullion was to become forgotten, and Downey, in his 1935 history of the Hauraki mines makes no mention of it, and his story of the Golden Point has as its first date 1884 - a revival.)

The "flying survey" concerned the bridle track between Thames and Tapu. Further north water communication apparently served what was wanted.

A monthly gold return on February 9 had Great Republic with a useful 2¼ ounces from 3 tons.  The Imperial Mint across the Tapu had 3½  ounces from 8 tons.

On March 9 it was reported that the Great Republic had had an encouraging second crushing at the now Stevens battery.  The ore had only a short distance to go to the mill, meaning low grade could pay well. However, the grade was anything but low with a little over 22 ounces from only 10 tons. Which proven to be a false report, just something over 3 ounces.

March 29 showed the County had lost no time in doing something. "Tararu to Tapu - track in good condition, men still employed carrying away small obstructions.  Footbridge and culverts have been repaired." Littlejohn and party had indeed found cause to apply for a roadway, and "sleigh track applied for by Littlejohn and party has been completed."

From March 12 there had been quite a little rush to the Gentle Annie tributary of the "Mata Stream," with sluicing and alluvial washing in the stream, getting nuggets.  This would naturally bring up the matter of horse and foot access.  On April 5 there was a description of a moonlight walk from Thames to Tapu (Hastings).  There were compliments on the County road works, and there was now a substantial bridge over the Tapu stream a little below "Buckland's machine. They met two boys coming to Thames from the "Mata Creek gum diggings." The boys reported that the road to the gum dig­gings was in places almost perpendicular, which suggests they went by the ridge trail between the Tapu and Te Mata rather than the Mata valley.

The Great Republic had the false report corrected, but the County had given or promised to give £10 per a road from that claim .