KARANGAHAKE the years of the gold 1875 -1935
For some time the main road from Paeroa was not formed beyond Doherty's Creek, although one could cross the river there by a small boat pulled across by a heavy wire, but the ford opposite Mackaytown was the main gateway to the mining area. On its far side was a flat called "Wairere" and because the enterprising Mr Lipsey opened an hotel and store there, it was, for a time, called "Lipseyville". The block of land behind it, named "Raratu", was surveyed into sections in anticipation of a township. This did not eventuate and only two houses remained at Wairere when Mr Marsh acquired it. The Rusden family lived there from 1896 to 1906 but left after a flood, as did the Marshalls in 1910.
Soon after the opening of the Goldfield, the Thames County constructed Woodstock Road from the Ford towards the mountain. It passed through land that had a sunny aspect and was soon used for housing on Miners' Right sections. A fairly large house was built for Mr Alexander Hogg, a travelled and well—educated Scotsman who had been in business at Thames with the firm of "James Mackay, Taipari & Co.", Land Agents. He opened a store but was also interested in the "La Monte" treatment of ore and took up several claims. The "Monastery" and "Abbey Priory" were later merged with the Crown Mine. Mr Hogg retired in 1900 but his family contributed to the social life of Karangahake, particularly athletics. The Hill family lived nearby.
Most of the early houses built on Woodstock Road have long since gone, some of the sections being incorporated in farms (such as Hamiltons and Cotters). John Cotter, a stalwart of the district and son of a former Station Master, reared his family here. Cornes Paddock still remains a reserve, reminding us that Gus Cornes originally owned 50 acres of freehold land near Woodstock Road. In 1882 this was acquired by W.H. Bunting who had captained one of the first schooners to sail up the Waihou River, and was later a coach driver. When his home on the farm was destroyed by fire he re-built it but worked in the mines and became the Underground Manager for the Crown Mine. The family lived in this vicinity for many years. Jack Bunting became a miner at the age of 16 and continued for 46 years. Before he married Grace in 1913 he had bought a house above Woodstock Road from Antoni, and Bill and Dulcie were reared there. Jack was a master miner, always filling important positions and he and his wife were indefatigable workers for the welfare of Karangahake.
The Grant family and Bill Whelan lived for many years nearby. Bill was an outstanding athlete who spent some years with the Public Works Survey, but after spells in sanitoriums he returned to Karangahake to help to maintain the old home. For 50 years the large Jim Brown family lived next door. Mr Brown helped to put electric power in the Talisman and the Managers' houses. His sister, Mrs Patton (formerly Mrs Poole), spent many years in a house opposite, once the home of Mr Moran, a mining executive. Nearby was the large Bramble family. Mr Bramble was an outstanding footballer and after mining, was employed on major road works.
The Crown Mine Co. reserved valuable sections for staff members and, the particularly outstanding one for the early Superintendent, Mr Daw, had a magnificent setting on the best part of Crown Hill. (It was later moved to Te Puke and became an Old People's Home.) A house which remains today above the Railway line was built for Henry Goldsworthy, an early Manager of the Talisman, and was later occupied by Ballard, Funnell, Lewin, and for a longer period by the Fitzgerald family, who conducted the Post Office there from 1924-33. Nearby Mr and Mrs Fred Ritchie lived for many years.
There were various side roads, one leading down hill, but the main route became known as, No. 8 Road because it led to the entrance of No. 8 Level of the Talisman, passing through bush land that was cleared for more housing till it passed the vicinity of Scotchman's Gully, through which a precarious but scenic road led down to the river and bridges. An important branch led over the hill on the right to the Rotokohu Valley and the Old Road to Te Aroha, some miles away. It was used by the Sheehan family who farmed at Rotokohu and in turn attended the Karangahake School.
At 17 years of age, Mrs May O'Neil was taken as a bride, in 1903, to live on the lonely route where her husband was a bushman. Timber was in great demand both for building and for use in the mines, cribbing for supports, etc. Two of her children were born there, before they moved to Mackaytown. Mr and Mrs Tom Kenny were there for nine years, until they moved to River Road. (Daughter, Kathleen McAlpine, still lives there.)
Other early families in the vicinity of Scotchman's Gully were: Martin, Hassett, Delamore, Keoghan, Hyde, Hungerford, Ross, Grace, Eady, Rowley, Gilmour, McEntire, Nolan, Mason, McCollum, Warne, Fisk, Nightingale, McClymont, McGuire and Kemp (who had the Boarding House). Several other Boarding Houses, and large homes for executives, e.g. Stansfield and Dean, clung to the side of the hill between Woodstock Road and the flat on the river bank, the site of the Tramway Hotel, and the Talisman Offices. To the right were bridges, gateways to Mines and Batteries, via tracks and Tramlines, and in front, the two big bridges to the town.
THE TRAMWAY HOTEL
Alfred Shepherd arrived in New Zealand in 1868, did well in the West Coast Diggings, and after a trip home, was mining at Thames. In 1880 he acquired a store and hotel at Waitekauri, but soon after built a modest hotel at Karangahake. The Crown Mine Tramline was constructed behind it so it became known as the Tramway Hotel. It was soon greatly enlarged because of the urgent need for accommodation for single miners. At first, no bridges spanned the Ohinemuri River, and supplies, including barrels of beer, were brought by teams of horses from Paeroa, via Woodstock Road, to be lowered by windlass and ropes, down the steep hill to the hotel. This was before Scotchman's Gully was roaded.
Alf Shepherd was one of the party that located the famous Talisman Reef. He was an acknowledged authority on mining matters and his name was mentioned several times in John McCombie's "Memoirs". He was the first man in Karangahake to generate his own electricity from a small creek that flowed down Scotchman's Gully, behind the hotel. The machinery was railed off in part of the stable — many miners keeping riding horses.
Mrs Mary Shepherd, nee Christie, had a hard life and some hair-raising experiences. Besides feeding a multitude of men who both worked hard and drank hard, she was always ready to look after the lost and the injured. It is said that when an epidemic of measles struck the miners, the hotel was like a hospital. Help was hard to come by, and much of the cooking was done over an open fire in camp, or colonial oven. Mrs Shepherd was the first person to take school children for an annual picnic to Mackaytown Domain, which became a centre for sport. Her son, Alf, won a race, the prize being a watercolour painting by E.J. Sivanet, who used to wander through the bush with pockets of flower seeds which he planted by the way. He would also dig out basins in the rocks, and fasten mugs on chains, so that people might drink.
The eldest of the five Shepherd children first attended the Mackaytown School, but were first-day pupils when the Karangahake School opened in 1889. In our earliest school photo (1892) there are five Shepherds - Alf, Harold, Charlie, May (who married Sam Nealie. Their son married a daughter of Lottie Pennell of Rahu Road), and Ivy (Mrs Ball), whose husband was a sampler at the mine. (They lived in Mackaytown before moving to Sydney, and aged 89, she and her daughter attended the School Jubilee in 1964.)
Mrs Casley, who lived on School Hill, was a sister of Mrs Shepherd, and had 15 children. She lived with her daughter, Ivy Slevin in Waihi, till nearly 90 years of age. She was left a widow when her youngest was a baby. Her sons were well known in Karangahake, as were her brothers, Jack and Sam Christie, and their families.
In 1898 Mr Shepherd sold the Hotel to L.D. Nathan & Co. and Mr W. Ryan became the Licensee. The Shepherds moved to Katikati, bought a farm, and had the Talisman Hotel there for six years. But Mr Shepherd was, by then, a sick man and his Sons took over the management. Mrs Ball recalled:
"After we moved we kept in touch with Karangahake friends, such as the Buntings and McGruers. Queenie Cornes and I used to ride over Butler's Track before the Gorge was opened, and sometimes over the Rotokohu Track, past Sheehan's place, to visit Queenie's family in Te Aroha."
The 1900 Cyclopedia tells us:
"TRAMWAY HOTEL - W.E. Ryan, Proprietor
This Hotel — two storeys, wooden, contains 30 rooms."