Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 15, June 1971
By E.G. Lockington.
The death this year of William Graham Hollis aged 82 years severed one of the few remaining links with early gold mining in this area. His father, (also Wm. Hollis,) born in Auckland in 1852, was trained as an engineer and as a youth went to Coromandel where he became an engine driver for a mining company, but after the opening of the Ohinemuri field in 1875 be spent several years at Waitekauri where he was a successful tributer. He and his brother Fred discovered Butler's Reef and later he had the Martha mine and battery on tribute before managing several other mines in the district
Waihi settlement could be said to commence in 1878 when George Compston with his wife (the first woman to reside in Waihi) and three daughters crossed the Waitekauri River and took up 200 acres of land in the Huaia Block. In 1882 Wm. Hollis, Sen. married Sarah Compston and their home on the "Hollis Bush" farm was one of the first built in Waihi. They had nine children, George, Mabel (Mrs. Hayward), William, Vincent, Gladys, Lilian (Mrs. Jarvis), Arthur, Mona (Mrs. Langford), and Edgar, the only survivors now being Arthur (Otumoetai), Mona (Waihi Beach) and Edgar (Mt. Maunganui). However there are many descendants of William and Sarah Hollis whose elder children were among the first to be born in Waihi. Mrs. Hollis took an active part in the affairs of the rapidly growing town and was very forthright.
Some of the Hollis land was taken by the Govt. for building purposes about 1900 and for the Public Hospital in 1902 after the formation of the Borough. Part of it was leased to become Waihi's first Golf Course and this finally was purchased by the Education Dept. as a site for the present Waihi College. I remember that several peacocks were on the farm in the early days and used to call out when rain threatened. Members of the family have continued to farm the remaining land and the historic old house was moved back on to the Waitete end of it.
After leaving School, Bill was apprenticed as a wheelwright with W.G. Gray later working in the blacksmith's shop at the mine until 1909. During the "Strike" he owned a fish shop but later moved to Auckland where he worked a quarry for several years. Returning to Waihi he again worked in the mine for 15 years, this time being employed on the electric pumping plant on the bottom level 2045 feet down, where only 6 hour shifts could be worked because of the heat. All reefs below sea level carried water which collected in a sump and was raised to the level above 150 ft. by the sinking pump. The suspended pump then sent it to No.12 level (600 ft.) it being sent the last 1300 ft. in one push to the surface. The pump could handle 2,000 gallons of water per minute and for a time this was used to flush the streets and for public baths.
The late "Bill" Hollis, as he was familiarly known was an outstanding character who had the good of Waihi at heart. He was a foundation member of the Horticultural Society (of which he was Vice president), of the Arts Centre and Museum Assoc., the Historical Society and the Forresters [Foresters – E] Lodge. He joined in much community activity and was a life member of the Waihi A.& P. Show after being president in the days when the show staged saddle trotting races - his own horses being "Our Peter" and "Royal Star", which were often raced at picnic meetings. A keen cyclist, fisherman and golfer Bill continued to win many trophies long after becoming a veteran.
A period of farming was followed by retirement to Waihi Beach and a comfortable home which formerly had been the old Gasworks Office in Bradley [Bradford ? – E] Street. Structurally sound this was altered as little as possible, its fine varnished wood-work giving it character. Bill Hollis was first married in 1920 to Miss Jessie Thorn who predeceased him. Late in life he married his wife's widowed sister, Mrs. Mary Edwards of Te Aroha. He had two sons and both are farmers, Allan (Jim) at Pongakawa Valley, Te Puke, and Jack, Waihi. His daughter, Mrs. Beverley Rapson lies in Papatoetoe.