Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959
Early in 1864 Mr Mackay was a Government Land Purchase Officer and Assistant Secretary of Native Affairs. He visited Thames on Government business and while there received information from a Maori that he had found alluvial gold.
The seat of Government was then in Auckland and Mr Mackay made a recommendation to the Colonial Secretary that if a Magistrate was appointed for the district, one of his duties should be to endeavour to bring about an arrangement for the working of a Goldfield. He himself was appointed Civil Commissioner for Hauraki.
At this time Auckland City was suffering an acute depression. The withdrawal of the Imperial troops and the removal of the seat of Government to Wellington had caused a stagnation of business, and many commercial failures. Numbers of labouring men were starving for want of employment. The news of the discovery of gold at Thames caused immediate excitement.
However, negotiations were lengthy and the field was not opened till 1867, when Mr Mackay was instructed to take temporary charge and to issue "Miners' Rights." There were many setbacks and disappointments at first but under tactful magisterial government, Thames settled down to a spectacular gold-mining career.
Meanwhile, Mr Mackay as Magistrate and Warden, was called upon to superintend the opening of the Ohinemuri Goldfields, and Mackaytown was given its names because of the respect and regard in which he was held. The New Zealand Government erected his tombstone in the Paeroa Cemetery and part of the inscription on it is as follows: —
James Mackay 1831—1912
Pioneer explorer and friend of the Maori People.
Became Magistrate of the Collingwood Goldfields 1858, Civil Commissioner at Thames in 1864 and Warden and Resident Magistrate on the Hauraki Goldfield in 1868. Throughout troubled times in the Thames Valley and the Waikato he was energetic, just and a Maker of Peace.