Gold Miner The New Zealand Goldrush Journal

Volume 5 (2021)



By Kae Lewis


From the Grey River Argus, 24 July 1866
Warden's Office, Cobden
June 22, 1866.
I have recently visited the Inangahua Valley from June 16-19th 1866 to ascertain the state of the district. On the right or eastern bank of the eastern branch of the river, about half a mile above the junction of the two branches, a small township has formed (on Mr Rochfort's freehold) consisting of nine stores and two butchers' shops. On the western bank, of the western branch at Deep Creek, about five miles from the junction of the two branches, there are three other stores.

On Sunday 17th June, there were about 250 men in the principal township, and 150 at the Deep Creek. There cannot be less than 1000 men in the valley. In nearly every creek tributary to the western branch of the Inangahua, flowing between it and the Little Grey, for a distance of 14 miles above the two branches, gold is obtained in payable quantities. The sample of gold varies from rather fine gold up to nuggets of 2 or 3 oz. In other creeks to the eastward of the Inangahua, over a large tract of country between the Waituha and Awarau rivers, the gold is of a more scaly character.

The miners are scattered over a large extent of ground, and are mostly occupying small easily worked creeks which pay generally 5 to 8 per week. The terraces (above the river) have hardly been tried. Very few men have set in steadily to any systematic work but they are mainly prospecting and running rapidly over these small creeks. It is therefore impossible to form any opinion as to the permanency of the workings in the district. However men continue to go over there from every part of the Grey district.

The rough packing track over which the stores were taken and which was cut up the Little Grey river and over the Saddle at a cost of 270 has definitely been the means of opening the district. When the track was first cut, pack horses could take 250lbs over it. One woman and four children arrived safely on horseback at the Inangahua. Twenty or thirty hornses passing every day for a fortnight have cut up the naturally soft and boggy track to such an extent that it is almost impassable even for an unladen horse.

Winter's road-building party have, I believe cut the road up the western bank of the Inungahua for about 6 miles above its confluence with the Buller, and will probably reach the township in about a fortnight or 3 weeks. Already goods are being taken up the Buller at less cost than they can be supplied from the Grey. At present they are carried about ten miles on the Inungahua which is the highest point a boat can go without a lot of difficulty. From there, they are packed up the river bank to the township. As soon as Winter's road is completed, it will probably be found to be more profitable to take the boats only to the junction of the Inungahua and Buller, and pack the rest of the distance.

(Editor's note: The confluence of the Inungahua and Buller River is at the modern-day town of Inungahua, approximately 35km down the Inungahua River from the township of Reefton. The early goldfield referred to by Warden Kynnersley is at the modern-day settlement of Blacks Point, originally named Kynnersley, about 3km upriver from Reefton.)

The price of flour at the township is now 4 15s per 100lbs, and meat (driven over the saddle road) is 1s 6d per lb. I found the Inungahua district generally in a lawless and somewhat disorderly state, and the storekeepers are anxious for the protection of the police. The miners are holding 72 feet of ground each. I have sent Senior Constable Walsh with Constables McArdle and Jaynor, with tents and other equipment to the township in the Inangahua, with instructions to remain there until further orders for the protection of life and property and the maintenance of order, and to report to me frequently.

I think that it is necessary to proclaim this district a gold field as soon as possible. I would recommend that another Warden be appointed who might at present be stationed at the Inungahua, and later moved to a more central place in the Buller district should the diggings extend in that direction. The salary of such an officer would soon be returned to the treasury in the increased issue of rights and licenses. The advantages are obvious of having some reliable representative of the Government in the Buller District, which is far too distant from the Grey to receive more than an occasional visit from Mr Lightband and myself.
Signed T. A. Sneyd Kynnersley Warden

Blacks Point, Reefton
Blacks Point, Reefton, 1904, West Coast, by Muir & Moodie studio. Source: Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (PS.001448)
Click to enlarge the photo.

From the Grey River Argus, 30 June 1866
The township of Kynnersley is rapidly increasing in size and importance, and there are now a large number of stores and hotels there, all apparently doing a thriving business.

We have been informed that only one woman has crossed the saddle up the Little Grey River. Mrs Williams, the wife of a publican at the township of Kynnersley crossed the saddle on horseback with a baby in her arms, and two other children slung over the horse's back in gin cases. She is now the only woman in the township of Kynnersley.

From the Grey River Argus, 2 August 1866
Owing to the growing important of the diggings at the Inungahua and its neighborhood, the new Warden is to be stationed at the township of Knynnersley. Mr Jones of Nelson has been selected to fill the post. The miners are pleased with the appointment of Mr Jones as he is well known to many.


From the Grey River Argus, 31 January 1871
January 17, 1871
The alluvial diggings are on the Upper Inangahua River, above the junction of the right and left forks and above Fern Flat. This was where the town of Kynnersley stood and there is still a limited population. There has recently been a rush into the Inangahua, about 8 miles above Rosstown. The prospectors, Garvey and party, are making considerably more than good wages, and there are 5 or 6 other gold claims in the area.

The stripping (most likely by sluicing) at the upper end of the workings is shallow, and it is about 10 feet deep at the lower end. The wash contains immense granite and schistose boulders that must be blasted to remove them. There is a good deal of water in the lower claims, with tail races being taken up. Altogether the place is proving quite popular.

Two stores are being built in the vicinity, and several agricultural and residence areas have been applied for. Prospecting parties are out in all directions but none of them have as yet found anything of note, or at least no discovery of any importance has been made public. The old workings at the Murray, Burkes, Liverpool Dave's and Rainy Creeks are deserted because of the scarcity of water. (Rainy Creek is shown on the Map 1 below.) The workings will be re-occupied again when the rainy weather sets in. Soldier and Darkie Creeks are occupied by about 30 miners but they are not doing very much as the ground has been well fossicked over.

Map of Upper Inangahua Goldfield
Map 1: A TopMap of the upper Inangahua River as far as Rainy Creek. Source:NZ TOPO MAPS
Click to enlarge the photo.

The township at Ross' Crossing (directly opposite Reefton on the south side of the Inangahua River) has been much improved and has increased in size. A ferry boat is being operated on the river by (Donald) Ross. The main part of the town is on a flat near the foot of Liverpool Dave's Creek and on the site which was occupied by Devery and Flanagan's stores some years ago. Another part is being built on the opposite, or Murray Creek side of the river.

Altogether, there are six licensed hotels, four stores, a billard saloon, butchers, bakers and shoemakers. Also there are the nondescript places that generally make up a township at a new rush, including of course the inevitable skittle alley. A person like myself, whose business leads him to visit new rushes as they occur, cannot fail to notice a particular group of men who are always first, or amongst the first at every new discovery. They have no business or occupation, they never dig or even pretend to do so. They are not share or scrip brokers but they always have money. They cannot be mining reporters because they are because they are not shabby-looking enough to belong to that unfortunate class of individuals but whatever they are, they are always there like a bad sixpence. They might have been seen in full blossom at Nelson Creek, at Napoleon, at Peddy's Gully, and at Half-Ounce during the rushes to those places, and now they are flowering luxuriantly at Reefton. Long may they bloom, for if they are useless, are least they are ornamental.

There is much dissatisfaction amongst the inhabitants of Reefton and the reefs about the unreasonably long distance that they must travel to transact any business with the Gold Warden's Office. It is about 40 miles from the reefs to the junction of the Buller and Inangahua Rivers (the present day township of Inangahua) where the Court has been held. This is a dangerous road when the rivers and creeks are up. It seems absurd that a man must walk 80 miles to obtain a Miner's Right or register a claim. The Warden of the district is not to be blamed, or held responsible for this state of affairs. He cannot be expected to carry out the multitude of duties of the offices of Warden and Magistrate at such an important commercial and mining district as Westport while at the same time attend to the needs of Reefton, 70 or 80 miles away.

Mr Warden Joseph Giles held a Court at Christie's Accommodation House last Tuesday, during which he addressed two or three important mining cases, and upwards of 40 applications for water rights, machine sites, protections etc. On the following day, Dr Giles visited Reefton, and the next morning, he went out to the reefs in the company of Mr Surveyor Henry Lewis (who had surveyed the Lewis Pass in 1860) and others. After examining the jumped claims under dispute, they started on an exploring expedition on foot to find a short cut to William's Accommodation House on Fern Flat (Upper Inangahua River).

Warden's Court notice
A notice announcing a session of the Warden's Court to be held at Barker and Anderson's Store, Reefton on 12th April, 1871. The Warden was Dr Joseph Giles. Source: Westport Times, 21 March 1871 p3.

The result was that a good line for a track was found along a spur on the north eastern side of German Jack's Gully, to the left hand branch of the Inangahua opposite William's farm, making a distance of under six miles from Shiel's reef to William's farm. It is nearly double that distance by the present track through the river bed. Mr Williams has offered to construct a good horse track from his place to the reefs, and to bridge it or put in a safe ferry on the river, for the right to charge tools or take payment in full for his costs. The offer has not yet been accepted but in the meantime, the Warden has decided to hold a Court at the Williams' farm, thus coming 20 miles closer to the miners.

The Inangahua River has never been so low as it is at present, within any one's memory. The cargo boat which was built at Donald Ross's was launched last week but before she could be got to the Landing, a channel had to be made for her as she came down.

Map of of Reefton Goldfield
Map 2: A TopoMap of Reefton showing the goldfield along the Inangahua River southeast of the town, down as far as the Murray Creek. Source: NZ TOPO MAPS
Click to enlarge the photo.


From the Westport Times, 5 September 1871 A short time ago, Cooney and his party took up a frontage claim adjoining Adam Smith's prospecting claim. They have now struck a reef which promises to be as good as any claim on that line of the reef. Cooney's reef bears east and west, while Smith's reef runs north and south. However they seem to be one and the same reef, the stone and quality of the gold being the same.

There are now 12 claims:

  1. Shiels's Prospecting Claim
  2. Anderson's Prospecting Claim
  3. Adam Smith's Prospecting Claim
  4. No 1 North, Paddy Hunt's (on Shiels's line of reef)
  5. No 1 South, Band of Hope
  6. No 1 North Kelly's claim (on Kelly's line of reef)
  7. No 2 and 3, Rhody Ryan's
  8. Shiel's, Victoria
  9. Company
  10. Newton's claim
  11. J.G. Walsh's claim
  12. Kennedy's claim (Smith's reef)
  13. Cooney's

These 12 claims are all proved and waiting until some enterprising investors can be persuaded to come and inspect them and form their own opinions as to their being safe investments.

As soon as the rainy season is over, several groups intend to prosepct between Reefton and the Snowy Ranges, an area of about twenty miles square. A few have already gone up the right hand branch of the Inangahua River to its source, and describe the area as having good prospects. There is only one gorge in the river, and that is only a quarter of a mile in length. Pack horses could be taken to the foot of the hills, a distance of about 20 miles. It is thought that there are quartz reefs there. The prospector, William Fox has been especially invited to pay us a visit and is expected here daily.

Gorge near Reefton 1870s
The Gorge, Reefton, 1904.
Source: Photographed by Muir & Moodie studio. Te Papa (O.036797)
Click to enlarge the photo.
Gorge near Reefton 1870s Gorge, Reefton, circa 1904.
Photograph by Muir & Moodie studio. Te Papa (O.036792)
Click to enlarge the photo.

The left-hand branch of the Inangahua is largely unexplored. It is a wild and mountainous place, the very look of it fills the mind with terror. The towering snow-capped heights here fill the valleys with darkness, and the solitude reigns supreme. A miner who first ventures through these wastes will need to be hardy but his rewards should be rich.

The flood on Friday was the highest yet known at Reefton. The river rose with great speed, caused apparently from the melting of the snow by the warm rain from the North-east, and was soon level with its banks. The wind then changed to the Soth-west fortunately or we might possibly have found ourselves floating down the river. As it was, no damage was done.

Inangahua River
The Inangahua River taken from McDowells, circa 1877, Reefton. Photograph by James Barrowman.
Source: Purchased 1998. Te Papa (O.009816)
Click to enlarge the photo.
Inangahua River in flood
The Inangahua River in flood, January 1877, Reefton. Photograph by James Barrowman.
Source: Purchased 1998. Te Papa (O.030763)
Click to enlarge the photo.
Bridge near Reefton 1870s
Bridge near Reefton, circa 1877. Photographed by James Barrowman.
Source: Purchased 1998. Te Papa (O.009813)
Click to enlarge the photo.


From the Westport Times, 28th November 1871
Reefton is situated on a strip of land between the Inangahua River and the inland range, near the Lewis Pass. At present, the town of Reefton consists of two parallel streets. The front street which is the most built-up, has been laid out somewhat haphazardly with very few houses being in a straight line. Still, they seem to all be doing a fair business. Mr Barker has a very comfortable hotel, and our old friend Mr Monaghan has just built a very palatial inn. There are a few other accomodation houses, stores, blacksmith's shops and two breweries and also an aerated water and cordial factory. It is a great pity that when laying out a town like Reefton, where there is plenty of space, that the buildings are not set further apart, with fire-breaks between them. Experience shows us that it is required in our wooden towns.

A seam of coal has been found close to the township, but the main attraction here is the reef. Going along the river bank, we came to Kirby's Point, a small area of flat land between the range and the river. Several sections have been taken up here for settlement and are now being cleared and cultivated. Here we turn away from the river and begin to ascend the range.

Reefton 1874-77
Reefton from the Coal Track, 1874-1877. The town of Reefton consists of two parallel streets, with the river on the left side of the photo. The front street which is the most built-up, has been laid out somewhat haphazardly with very few houses being in a straight line. Photograph by James Barrowman.
Source: Purchased 1998. Te Papa (O.009815)

Click to enlarge the photo.


There are now five distinct reefs running nearly north and south and parallel to one another. They all intersect the leading spur. Taking them in the order that they occur:


On this line, the first claim north is Kelly's. This party have taken out about 500 tons of white quartz in which gold is visible. The reef is three feet thick and has been proved at the surface, and at 70 and 200 feet.

The next claim is Nos 1 and 2 Amalgamated, known as Rhody Ryan's. They have brought a considerable amount of stone to grass (to the surface) and it appears to be the same as at Kelly's They have an excellent machine (stamping battery) site at Murray Creek. The only difficulty will be in getting the machinery the last few miles from Kirby's store. But once it has been installed, it will be close to a seam of good-quality coal to run the steam-powered stamping battery and crush the quartz.

The next claim, No 4 is known as All Nations.. The stone here has a blue tinge and gold is visible. The reef is 2 foot 8 inches wide at the surface. They are working on putting in a tunnel 200 feet below the surface.

No's 5 and 6 amalgamated is known as the Victoria Reef. They have put in a drive 100 feet long. The reef is about 2 feet 6 inches wide and the stone is of a dark colour, with gold visible. I picked out an excellent sample, thickly impregnated with gold which the manager kindly allowed me to keep. A half share in this claim was sold to Mr Evans of Hokitika for 150.

Dougherty and party have the next claim. The reef here is clearly defined and is 5 feet thick. A quarter share has changed hands for 100. The quartz seems reddish at the surface but has a bluish tinge lower down.

The next claim has got loose stone with gold visible. they are putting in cuts in the side of the range to find the reef. The men in the next claim are also prospecting for the reef. Several other claims which follow the line close to the Inanghua River have also been taken up.


This line has been recently taken up and is about 400 yards west of Kelly's. The prospectors are putting in a tunnel, with three claims taken up on each side.


In the Prospector's Claim*, the reef is five feet six inches wide. About 30 tons of stone have been taken out, and gold is visible in almost every stone on the heap. This is undoubtedly a very rich claim. The reef has been traced at various levels to a depth of 300 feet, and the width seems to be uniform throughout. At the surface, the stone is white or red and at lower levels, it has a blue tinge. This company has done a great deal of work. Their boiler for the steam engine to run the stamping battery has now arrived on the site and the men are busily squaring bed logs to set it on, and preparing the site.
*The first claim in an area is always known as the Prospector's Claim, and the Warden usually grants them a larger area than claims that follow them into an area.

The task of bringing machinery to such a spot would deter any ordinary man. It is simply a gigantic undertaking. The company have had to make, clear and level a track nearly two miles in length, and twenty feet wide up the steep side of the range to an elevation not far short of 2000 feet. It took six men five months to make the track, and 80 men four days to get the boiler up. One of the stamper boxes if half-way up on a broad wheeled truck, powered with either horses or oxen. The men are now fixing capstans (winches) at every bend in the track to help get the rest of the machinery up. The machinery has been brought by boat up the Buller river by Mr Pell. It is probable that their stamper batteries with three sets of five stampers will be completed by about March. There is a good seam of coal close to the site

No 1 claim North is Hunt's Claim and is similar in appearance to the Prospector's claim, with gold visible in the reef. Hunt's will be able to profit from the availability of the Prospector's stamping battery which they are now assisting to build. They are to be paid by be able to use the battery to crush their stone.

Nos 2 and 3 have sunk a shaft but have not struck the reef as yet. Several other claims have been taken up along the line. No 1 and 2 south have put in a tunnel 50 feet deeper than the Prospectors. Their reef is the same as Prospectors and has been proved at three different levels at the surface.


At the Prospector's claim, the reef is about two feet thick and in line with Adam Smith's which is further south and on the other side of Murray Creek. The Prospectors claim has a most extraoridinary 'blow' or outcrop containing about 2000 tons of auriferous (gold-containing) quartz. They have put ten tons through the cement-crushing machine with a yield of 2.5 oz gold per ton. However, this could not be considered a fair estimate of the gold content of this quartz because a great deal of gold was lost, the tables being too narrow. As the gold passed down the table, it should be caught in the blankets, but if the table is narrow, there is not enough surface area of blanket to catch all the gold.

The company is now putting in a tunnel at a deep level. They are also preparing for quartz-crushing machinery which they intend to work by water power, the water coming from the right branch of the Inangahu River.

No 1 south shows auriferous quartz at the surface, and the shareholders are putting in a tunnel to find the reef. No 2 are doing the same. Nos 1 and 2 north, towards German Jack's, have amalgamated. There is auriferous quartz at the surface. This party are also busy proving the reef at a deep level. They have an excellent site for a water wheel at Murray Creek.

Reefton 1870s
Boatman's Crushing Machine near Reefton, circa 1877. This is a stamping battery powered with a water-wheel.
Photograph by James Barrowman. Purchased 1998. Te Papa (O.009814)

Click to enlarge the photo.


The Prospectors and Nos 1 and 2 have amalgamated and sunk a shaft 145 feet through the reef which is from 3 to 4 feet thick. It is getting wider as it goes down, and the quartz is white and blue and looks rich. This company are bringing a water-race from the Inangahua River to work their stamping battery. They are also putting in a tunnel through to No 1 and 2 south which will have to run about 500 feet in before it reaches their claim. They have now competed about 300 feet of it. No 2 and 3 south are driving a tunnel which will be both long and hard.

There are several other claims taken up which I have not mentioned but I have given the principal claims on the reef.

I would add that in all claims that I visited, the reefs were clearly defined, and, in not in one single instance did I fail to see gold in the stone at each claim. In some claims, it would be difficult to find a piece of quartz of any size that was not more or less impregnated with gold visible to the naked eye. The dip of the reefs is about one in four, on average. The facilities for working the reefs are in many cases, remarkable.

Indeed I have no hesitation in stating that the reefs of Inangahua will have made a name for themselves that will bring a large population to the area within six months. Already there is a considerable demand for shares, which are rising in price daily because the present claim holders are unwilling to part with them unless they have to.

Money at Reefton is much more plentiful than it was a short time ago. All that is required is a good road to connect the place wth the coast. Provisions are still very dear; potatoes are 25 shillings (s) a hundredweight, flour 45s, horse feed 1s per pound.

Despite the hardships and difficulties, many brave men have persevered and led the way as pioneers of the district. They will be well-rewarded if they hold on, and in fact many of them have a good chance of becoming millionaires already.


These goldminers were working on their own claims on the Inangahua River during 1869-1870. They registered water races with the Ahaura Gold Warden based at Ahaura on the Grey River, some 80 km away.

George F. ANSON
Samuel BAKER
William BAKER
Robert BALE
William BEILBY
Robert BELL
Frank BEN
Solomon BLORE
Thomas BROWN
Joseph COLE
Alexander GARDAN
Archibald JACKSON
Robert LYNCH
Michael MAHONY
William MOORE
George W. MORRIS
Marcus S. MOSS
William MUNRO
Rhody RYAN
Richard SHIEL
Charles SMITH
Richard STONE
Nicholas WALSH
George WARR

Further details can be obtained by searching the names of goldminers in the Goldminer's Database found on the Goldrush Online website. This is a fully searchable free database of goldminers who were working on the New Zealand goldfields of Otago, West Coast and Thames during the early goldrush years of 1861 - 1872.

From the Westport Times, 2nd December 1871
Thirty one quartz mining shares have been transferred at Reefton during the past month. The prices have varied from 50 to 300. Amongst the latest transactions, Mr Button of Hokitika gas bought a half share in No 5 and 6 North, Kelly's reef for 150, Mr Kenrick of Greymouth bought a quarter share in the same claim for 72, and Mr Mace a quarter share in Shiels' Prospector's claim for 200.

There has been considerable excitment at No 9 North, Kelly's line, where they struck the reef. It appears that this may rival the richest claim on the Inangahua. One of the local solicitors is lucky enough to be a shareholder. Consequently, the ground has been pegged off for a distance of a mile to the left-hamd branch of the Inangahua.

From the Westport Times, 19 December 1871
An accident occurred at the end of the week which resulted in a delay in transporting the boiler for Mr McLean to Reefton. The contractors, Scott and Wilkie had got to within 16 miles of Reefton when the boat capsized at one of the falls of the Inangahua River. Mr McLean heard about the incident and came with a party of men to assist them. They succeeded in re-loading the boiler safely. The accident also resulted in the stamping battery machinery that was also in the cargo being submerged in the Inangahua River. The various parts are visible and, it seems, will be easily recovered.

From the Westport Times, 6 January 1872
Shiels's party have been working throughout the holidays, and have got their machinery on the ground. They are now busy getting the framework of the machinery ready.

McLean's party are busy cutting a track to take up their boiler.

There have been two rushes here last week. One of them is to a place at the head of the Murray Creek where it is supposed a new line of reef has been discovered. A number of leases have been applied for on it. The other rush took place to Lanky's Gully, about two miles from Murray Creek. There is a large body of stone exposed on the surface, in which gold is clearly visible. The discovery of these two lines means that this remarkable district has seven distinct lines of reefs.

There has been some discussion about where the main settlement in the area should be. There cannot be the slightest doubt that Reefton is the most suitable place for business sites. It possesses an extensive flat, stretching away nearly three miles to the left hand branch of the Inangahua River. There is an unlimited supply of wood and water close at hand.

Some speculators have taken up half-acre resident sites under Miner's Rights at the foot of Murray Creek. To enhance the value of their land, they tell visitors that the town will be at Murray Creek. But it would be an injustice to the people of Reefton who have built large and substantial buildings to encourage the formation of another town so close to them. Another difficulty is that the only road for packing goods from Reefton to Murray Creek is up the river bed which becomes impassable after a few hours rain. In addition, there is only a narrow strip of land available for building purposes at Murray Creek.

Editors note: It is believed the above settlement refers to Black's Point, located at the foot of Murray Creek. (See Map 2 above)


From The New Zealand Mining Handbook Edited by P. Galvin. Government Printer 1906. p27-31:

The auriferous lodes in the Reefton district were first opened in 1870. Amongst the claims then taken up were the Ajax and Golden Fleece. Rich ore was obtained in both claims. They were situated on a steep hill, about 1,400 feet above the level of the river flat. Stamping batteries had to be built before the claims could be worked but there were no formed roads, and even the pack-tracks were very basic, being mostly in their natural state.

The shareholders of the Ajax mine had to get steam machinery before they could get any return from their mine. Any portion of the machinery that could be carried in by pack-horse was a simple matter, but a steam boiler sufficiently big to supply steam for an engine to drive ten heads of stamps was required, as well as berdans for amalgamation of the ore with mercury, and also to supply steam for a winding engine. To get this boiler on the ground would be a herculean undertaking.

The boiler was transported up the Buller River on a punt, and up the Inangahua River to the place where the Township of Black's Point is now located. From there, it was taken up the face of a steep hill by constructing hand-operated winches at different points, and putting a rope-sling around the boiler to drag it up to the top of the range. From there, it had to be taken along the top of the range for a mile to reach its destination.

Progress Claim, Reefton
The stamping battery and reduction works fro the Progress Mine, Reefton
Source: The New Zealand Mining Handbook.
Click to enlarge the photo.

Miners in those days had incredible difficulties to overcome, and constantly faced hardships that we cannot even imagine today. Men had to carry all their belongings on their backs for a considerable time after gold was discovered. They had to climb steep ranges, cross flooded rivers and often passed the night in front of a fire with wet clothes and all too often on the West Coast, in the pouring rain.

Other claims were rapidly taken up: The Wealth of Nations, Energetic, Keep-It-Dark, Inkerman and many others which have been abandoned years ago. Quartz lodes were prospected in every direction. Specimen Hill and the Welcome, a Boatman's were opened up. The Globe, Progress and Big River Claims have yielded a large quantity of gold, while their shareholders have received large dividends. Up to the end of 1904, there were just over one million tons of quartz treated, formwhich 603,169 oz of gold were obtained, with a value of 2,382,208. Out of thsi amount, 694,356 were paid in dividends to shareholders, while the calls for extra cash from the shareholders amounted to 482,340.

In the early days of the Reefton goldfield, claims were taken up, and companies were floated which expended all their capital without getting scarcely any gold. and it was considered ruinous to invest money in mining property in this district by a great number of people in this district.

In 1887, an investigation was made into all the quartz-mining companies that had been carrying on operations in the Reefton District up to that time. This showed that the actual cash paid by shareholders in calls into mining companies ws 163,015, while the dividends paid to shareholdrs amounted to 210,306, showing a balance of 47,291 of profits from the companies but from this must be taken what the shareholder paid for the shares in the first place. No doubt, a large sum was lost in purchasing shares far above their nominal value but on the whole, the industry did make a profit.

In about 1895, David Ziman came to New Zealand and purchased the Globe, Progress, Wealth of nations and Golden Fleece Companies and formed a company in London known as the Consolidated Goldfields of New Zealand. Since then, that company has purchased the Welcome and other mines at Boatman's. It also formed the Globe and Progress mines into a separate company, which has been carrying on mining operations successfully since its formation. The workings of the Globe and Progress Mines are now (1907) down to a depth of over 1,300 feet, where good ore is still being obtained. This company has a crushing plant of 65 head of of stamps which are kept running continuously unless stopped for repairs. Large concentrating, cyanide and chlorination plants have been constructed, also a long series of slime-tables covered with light canvas which saves the very fine concentrates. This product is roasted in a reverberating furnace and chlorinated.

Operations are continuing steadily and with satisfactory results at the Golden Fleece, Wealth of Nations and the Engergetic Mines, belonging to the Consolidated Goldfields of New Zealand Company. The workings in the Golden Fleece are down to a depth of over 1,300 feet below the surface but the ore at this depth is said to be decreasing in value. The workings in the Energetic Mine are down to a depth of over 1,500 feet below the surface but so far, results are disappointing.

The Keep-It-Dark Mine has been worked constantly for the last 30 years. It has given the best return of any mine in the district for the capital expended in opening it out. Up until the end of 1905, the actual paid-up capital was 6,208. The value of gold won was 380,430, out of which 145,667 was paid in dividends to shareholders.

The only other mine in this district that returned large dividends to shareholders is the Welcome, which now belongs to the Consolidated Goldfields of New Zealand Company. The actual paid-up capital of this company was 8,609 while the dividends paid to its original shareholders was 110,250. The Big River Company has returned 47,366 in dividends to its shareholders, while the paid-up capital in the company was only 11,475.

In 1898, an interesting discovery was made on the Victoria Range by Mr Kirwin at an elevation of 4,000 feet above sea level. For a considerable distance, the surface of the range is strewn with quartz containing gold, and some remarkably rich specimens were found. The character of the quartz which contained the gold was of a pure-white sugary appearance and very crumbly. Wherever this type of quartz was found, it was found to contain gold. A great deal of prospecting was done to find a lode, and several tunnels were driven into the range but without success.

A shaft was sunk in Saw-pit Gully that contained about 4 feet of rich auriferous stone but all of it was of a loose character. The surface material, wherever the quartz containing gold lay on the surface, it contained good gold. The company built a crushing battery near the Waitahu River, and an aerial tramway connecting the claim to the battery, and has since been putting all the surface material down to a good depth through the battery, with the result that it has returned over 14,700 in dividends to its shareholders, while the actual paid-up capital was only 3,092.

Reefton is a very extensive district for auriferous lodes. The gold is of a high value, and the ore is free-milling. No complex ore is mined here, as found in the Coromandel Goldfield. The lodes, although not so rich as at Coromandel and Thames, are more regular in value. However it is difficult to get machinery and plant on the ground because of the rough, rugged nature of the country, full of deep ravines and steep ranges. Consequently, it is a district which will take years to properly prospect. Only recently, a rich discovery of an auriferous lode has been made at Blackwater, the extent of which is unknown. The whole country is covered with timber and dense undergrowth, making prospecting a difficult undertaking. Trenches have to be cut before anyone can tell whether or not a lode exists. Unless the prospecting operations are in the locality of a known lode, it is only by mere change that a surface outcrop is seen. If the line of the lode is known, trenches can be cut acorss the line with some chance of finding it. However when prospecting a long distance from the line of known lodes, it is only by merest chance that an outcrop will be found.


Reefton 1870s
Reefton, 1870s. Photograph by Henry Thomas Lock.
Source: Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (O.021406)

Click to enlarge the photo.
Reefton 1870s
Reefton, 1870s, Reefton, Photograph by Henry Thomas Lock.
Source: Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (O.021407)
Click to enlarge the photo.
Reefton 1870s
Reefton, 1870s, Photographed by Henry Thomas Lock.
Source: Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (O.021409)
Click to enlarge the photo.
Reefton 1870s
Reefton, 1870s, Photograph by Henry Thomas Lock.
Source: Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (O.021408)
Click to enlarge the photo.
Reefton in winter
Reefton, Winter, 1878, Reefton. Photograph by Henry Thomas Lock, Herbert Vorley.
Source: Gift of Mrs E W Gibbs, 1933. Te Papa (O.005357)

Click to enlarge the photo.

From the Westport Times, 16 January 1872

Since the arrival of the Warden here on the 6th, until the sitting of the Warden's Court on the 8th, miners flocked to Reefton. When the sitting of the Court took place, there could not have been fewer than 300 miners in the town. The Court sat in the billiard room in Barker's Store. The crowded state of the room, poor ventilation and the heat of the day combined to make the room overpoweringly hot and uncomfortable.

Since the New Year, the number of arrivals daily in Reefton have given the place quite the appearance of a rush. The available hotel accommodation has been quite inadequate for the numbers flocking in. It is said that the Provincial Government has received 1000 during the past month for the issue of Miner's Rights, business licences and deposits from this district alone.

Reefton 1904
Broadwalk, Reefton, 1904. Source: Photograph by Muir & Moodie studio. Te Papa (O.036796)
Click to enlarge the photo.

The author would like to acknowledge the work of the intrepid Mining Correspondents on whose work this article is largely based. These reports were always published anonymously, and we do not know whether there was only one reporter at Reefton or several. The reports were invariably well-written and insightful. It was obvious that they had considerable knowledge and experience of the workings of goldfields before coming to Reefton. I have merely rewritten their reports in 21st century English.


  1. The Goldminer's Database on the Goldrush Online website.
  2. Kynnersley, Thomas Alfred Sneyd in TE ARA; The encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  3. Blacks Point Museum
  4. Reefton The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  5. New Zealand Topo Maps.
  6. The King's Candlesticks:Pedigrees Dr Joseph Garston Giles (1832 - 1930).
  7. The Pioneer Land Surveyors of New Zealand, Part IV, Biographical Notes. Lewis, Henry p405.
  8. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The Collections Online.
  9. The Grey River Argus 30 June 1866.
  10. The Grey River Argus 24 July 1866.
  11. The Grey River Argus 2 August 1866.
  12. Grey River Argus, 13 January 1871
  13. Westport Times, 21 March 1871 p3.
  14. Westport Times, 5 September 1871
  15. Westport Times 28 November 1871.
  16. Westport Times, 2 December 1871
  17. Westport Times, 19 December 1871.
  18. Westport Times, 6 January 1872
  19. Westport Times, 16 January 1872.
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