Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 47, September 2003


By Nicholas Twohill

Thomas Quinn was one of the vast number of gold-seekers who took part in the international gold rush of the nineteenth century which eventually brought him to the Ohinemuri District. His obituary in the Gisborne Times on 11 January 1902 summarised his as a 'life full of experience and travel', reflecting the adventure and mobility brought about by the gold rush and his role in that far-reaching phenomenon. Quinn's life has remained untold, and the purpose of this article is to give a chronological biography of him compiled from archival material.


Thomas Quinn was born in 1820 in County Galway in Ireland. His father was Edmund Quinn who was a bootmaker. His mother was recorded as Brodget Mogan, and Bridget Mogan in the Register of Baptisms from the Roman Catholic Parish of Rahoon (Galway Family History Society West), and later as Bridget Morgan on Thomas' Death Certificate. It is not known where he was born in Galway, but based on the birthplaces of his brothers and sisters, it is likely to have been in the vicinity of Galway City. Edmund fils was born in Artillery Barrack in Rinmore, to the east of Galway City, and Mary, Joseph, Honor and Anne were born in Townparks in the Parish of Rahoon, west of and separated from Galway City by the River Corrib.

Most of the streets over the bridge from the City consisted mainly of tenement dwellings for workers, which would not have been owned and tenancies would have changed rapidly depending on a family's circumstances. Edmund lived in Mill Street, Nun Street, Presentation Street and Artillery Barrack over the period of 1812 to 1835 when he was having children and this would be a fairly normal transitory state of tenancies at the time.' (Dee Goggin, Galway Family History Society West)

Thomas married eighteen-year-old Mary Naughton in 1845. Church baptism records have survived for several of their children and show that Thomas and Mary were living in Rahoon Road in 1850 and 1852. Descendant Tom Martin wrote in a family letter in 1949 that dire conditions in Ireland caused Quinn to decide to emigrate to America with the intention of bringing his family there after he had established himself. He was accompanied by his brother. He [Thomas] stayed a period of nine years in the U.S.A., mainly on the Californian Goldfields. He returned after the period of nine years apparently in the same financial condition as he left Ireland.'

Quinn's obituary gives a different slant: 'Attracted by the gold fever, he joined in the rush to California in the good old days of 1852. There he went in for the fascinating life of a miner on the alluvial fields. He kept at that for five years, being very successful'. One indication of his prolonged absence from Ireland is to be found in the Griffith's Valuation for County Galway, undertaken in the County between 1848 and 1855. Two Mary Quinns were recorded in the Parish of Rahoon: one was the occupier of a house with a yard and small garden along Parkavera (a street name) while another Mary Quinn was nearby in St Helena Street occupying a house with a yard. The two Mary Quinns may have been the same person; however a neighbour of the Mary in St Helena Street was Patrick Griffin, who had a forge, and whose twenty-one-year-old namesake would later be sponsored by Thomas Quinn to come to New Zealand. One branch of Quinn's descendants maintains that his family was with him in California. Martin stated in his letter that Thomas Quinn almost immediately decided to leave for New Zealand on his return to Ireland, although he seems to have stayed in Ireland for some three years based on the birth of a son in 1859 and his arrival date in New Zealand. His reason for choosing New Zealand can only be speculated upon. He may have visited previously, or he may have known of New Zealand through someone who had already migrated. Catherine Kerns (sic) was one of the baptismal sponsors for his daughter in 1852 in Rahoon, while twenty-year-old Patrick Kearns from County Galway was a sponsor of another daughter in Auckland in 1866 (Auckland Catholic Diocesan Archives: 6278 and Thames Guardian and Mining Record, 4 January 1872).

He then left for New Zealand, landing in Auckland in 1862. During the troublesome times he served with the Auckland Militia during the Waikato campaign' (obituary). Quinn would later relate his wartime experience:

'. . . in 1863 I joined Number 1 Militia in Auckland, and remained in them till discharged on termination of the war. While on duty I got my ankle broken, and that proved a loss of £30 to me to the Military Hospital Authorities. On getting well I rejoined Number 1 Militia at Drury, and was told off twice a week to join the Waikato to protect the Commissariat goods en route for the Queen's Dedout [sic]. On one occasion we were attacked by two hundred of the enemy, and after the loss of one man during a sharp engagement we beat them off. At the time of joining the Militia I was a married man with a family of five children, and left a situation of 8/- a day to join the Army . . .' (Archives New Zealand, Lands and Survey Department, LS 66/6, number 625)

His years in Auckland are obscure, made more so by the possible presence of several other Thomas Quinns who had arrived in Auckland in the early 1860s (www.aucklandcitylibraries.com) and the paucity of information given in official documents. Quinn, with Henry Carroll and Charles Flannery acting as sureties (his bond was £96), had his application approved on 25 November 1864 for the assisted passage of his family and Patrick Griffin from Ireland (Archives New Zealand, ReproA 4711/448). Mary Quinn's address on the document was care of Mr Flannaghan, Abbey Gate Street in Galway City. On 29 June 1865 Mary and her family sailed into Auckland on the barque Balaklava which had left Gravesend on 23 March 1865. Mitchell and Saffern's Directory of the City and Suburbs of Auckland, for 1866-7 had two Thomas Quinns listed. One was a labourer living in Barrack Street. The eight shillings which Quinn stated he was earning was the going rate of wages for a labourer (Daily Southern Cross Summary for September 1864. The newspaper quoted 7s. to 8s.). Also, later documentation revealed that Quinn was illiterate at least in the earlier part of his life. The other Thomas Quinn was associated with the Swan Inn on The Strand in Mechanics' Bay (the Strand Tavern on the corner of Parnell Rise and Stanley Street now stands on the site). The Swan Inn was being leased by Thomas Quinn from George Leech who had held the licence in 1864 and who had the licence again by 12 July 1867 (Auckland Provincial Government Gazette 1864 and 1867, Auckland Central Library NZMSS 691, and Archives New Zealand, BADW 5989/20 and BADW 5989/23).

He was among the pioneers when the Thames goldfield rush broke out. He obtained the second miner's right that was issued. He had the first sluicing claim in the Karaka Creek, Thames' (obituary). Quinn got the third Miner's Right on 8 August 1867 according to BACL 14358/1a (Archives New Zealand), yet he may well have been issued the second Miner's Right as the Goldfields Commissioner, James Mackay, had signed a number of Miner's Rights instead of more properly the Warden, Allan Baillie (Auckland Catholic Diocesan Archives: Mahony 1870). The obituary also indicates that Quinn was already a skilled miner. Quinn's workings may have been among those observed by Captain F W Hutton when he informed Dr Hector, Director of the Geological Survey, in a letter dated 17 September 1867 that:

'On the 4th and 5th I examined the sluicing operations in the Karaka Creek. These latter, at the Karaka, have been worked by sluicing pretty systematically for the last three weeks, and the results have not been satisfactory. The gold is of the same description as that found in the veins, but associated with minute grains of cinnabar and magnetic iron sand; it appears to be greatest in quantity in the upper 3 feet of the deposit, and but little has been found among the larger boulders below this depth. The best results that I have heard of in the Karaka were half an ounce in three days with one sluice-box'. (Auckland Provincial Government Gazette 1867)

On 2 September 1867 Quinn and Clotworthy sought 14 days' protection in the Warden's Court for their 100 feet by 300 feet quartz claim while they obtained tools to work it (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14358/1a, number 14). The Thames Miner's Guide (1868) stated:

'The pioneers of the Thames Gold Field first commenced operations in search for gold by sinking on the Karaka Flat, for alluvial deposits; but after sinking a considerable depth (150 feet), and not being able to overcome the water, they gave it up, and at once prospected for quartz reefs in the ranges.'

Both extracts give an explanation why Quinn was at Tapu on the Thames Coast by 16 December 1867, also two days after taking a right to another claim in the Karaka block (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14358/1a). His obituary recorded that he discovered the first reef, known as Quinn and Cashell's, along the Tapu Creek. Quinn and John Cashell purchased crushing machinery for their claim from Vickery and Masefield (New Zealand Herald, 17 March 1868) and on 23 March 1868 applied for protection for two months 'for the purpose of bringing water on to the claim' (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14358/1a, number 262). They later sold a half-share for £400 to Charles A. Reid (also spelt Read in documents) after refusing a £300 offer (New Zealand Herald, 31 March 1868). In June 1868, the Quinn and Cashell ground, now known as the Perseverance, was reported to be yielding 'some extremely rich stuff' (New Zealand Herald, 10 June 1868). By this time, Quinn was one of the claim's ten owners, who included his son, Edward, J. Cashell, Read, John Ellison, J. M. Lennox, John Franklyn, J. Ballan, H. A. Munro and Asher Cassrels (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14397/1a). On 16 July 1868 Thomas Quinn acquired another interest in the Karaka block and, signing with an 'x', sold half a share in the Perseverance for £150 to Charles Stanier, also a Tapu miner (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14417/2a. Compare with a paragraph on Quinn at Tapu in Z. and J. Williams 1994). By then, the main drive on the Perseverance was about 27 feet. A T-drive some 15 feet from the entrance and bearing southward had been started in order to follow along two very promising leaders which had been cut through. Several specimens had been found, but the material which had been mined was not considered rich enough to save for crushing, although none of it had been tested. There was a shaft 15 feet deep by a large 6 feet diameter. The rock was extremely hard and progress in the shaft had been slow. However a rich leader had been cut through at a depth of 8 to 10 feet (New Zealand Herald, 28 July 1868). Shareholders at the time the report was written on 25 July 1868 were intending to quickly carry the main drive through the hill.

The City of London quartz reef claim in Tinker's Gully at Tararu had diverted Quinn's attention by 29 September 1868 (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14397/3a). The claim was six men's ground bounded on one side by the Golden Nob and the British Empire on the other. Quinn had purchased a half working share while William Wood, John Owens, Thomas Capel Tilly, Charles Hart, Samuel Smyth, James Kelly and David Verdon Hunter also held an interest in the claim.

He attended a public meeting on 21 October 1868 at the American Theatre in Shortland, and was voted into a delegation of miners to go to the Ohinemuri to determine from the most influential Maori chiefs whether mining for gold would be permitted, and if so, on what terms (New Zealand Herald, 28 October 1868. The 'Ohinemuri Delegation' reported back to a full American Theatre on its meeting of 26 October with Te Hira's representative, other chiefs and Ropata and was covered at length in the New Zealand Herald of 5 November 1868). Quinn was employed on the Dunbarton Castle claim, situated in the Waiotahi, during mid-1869 as a miner on the morning shift from 8 a.m. to 12 noon (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14457/1c).

Interest was revived in the Perseverance. Quinn applied for himself and on behalf of Daniel Whelan, Michael Campion, Dr Weekes and Mr Lennox (probably James) a 15-year lease for five men's ground for gold-mining purposes under Section 29 of the Gold Fields Act 1866 (Note 1) on 18 October 1869 (Auckland Provincial Government Gazette 1869). 'Right of road to a machine' was described as a required easement in his application. Quinn then sold his remaining holding in the Perseverance on 29 October 1869. The claim was declared to be abandoned on 18 May 1870 and the land open for occupation (Auckland Provincial Government Gazette 1870). The Perseverance and Quinn were seen as synonymous at the time. A reef called the Little Jimmie, located on a claim close behind the Blacksmiths' claim, had been found on a track leading up to Quinn's hill (Daily Southern Cross, 12 January 1869). He is shown in the 1869-1870 Electoral Rolls to have had a dwelling both at Tapu Creek and Grahamstown, although it would not be until 1878 - well taken over by other events - that the household qualification which Tapu provided Quinn was finally objected to and his name struck off (Thames Advertiser, 17 May 1878). His sale of the Perseverance coincided with and may have been related to a Miner's Right which he had taken in the Karaka block on 27 July 1869 (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14358/3a). The New Zealand Herald reported on 22 December 1869 that Mitchell and Quin (sic) had had their Victoria Reef lease adjourned by the Warden around 21 December.

Mary Quinn and the family eventually joined Thomas on the Thames Goldfield (Mary Quinn's obituary, Gisborne Times, 18 December 1908). They lived at Moanataiari near the Caledonian Mine (Thames Guardian and Mining Record, 10 November 1871) with Quinn employed in mining. (His occupation was given as 'miner' on Birth Certificates 227/1870 and 336/1872). Despite a charge of drunkenness against Thomas, together with a group of others, on 11 July 1870 (Thames Advertiser, 12 July 1870), the Quinns were looked upon as 'very respectable parents' when their son Joseph drowned in the Kauaeranga River while swimming on 9 November 1871 (Thames Guardian and Mining Record, 10 November 1871). Thomas appears to have been linked to the Hibernian Society as Joseph's funeral cortege was lead by 84 of its members and 'upon reaching the cemetery the coffin was borne on the shoulders of four of the Hibernian Society' (Thames Guardian and Mining Record, 11 November 1871). This tragedy caused much newspaper interest as Joseph's first rescuer, John Beaty, also drowned in the attempt to save him and left a widow and six children 'totally unprovided for'. Subscription lists were opened for both families. The one for the Quinns had £20 subscribed within minutes after opening after the funeral. The list was to be kept open until after the next Hibernian Society's meeting when the amount was expected to be higher.

Scattered references to Quinn from the early 1870s tell something about goldmining at that time as much as they do about Quinn's own activities in mining. He lived away from his family to be near a mine, as recorded on 21 November 1870 when he stated that he was sharing a hut with William Swan in the hills behind Grahamstown (Thames Advertiser, 22 November 1870). He was listed among shareholders to pay calls under threat of forfeiture to the Cape of Good Hope Gold Mining Company of Auckland before 28 November 1870 (New Zealand Herald, 28 October 1870), and later again to the Watchman Gold Mining Company of Grahamstown (New Zealand Herald, 6 October 1873). He was involved in litigation. On 27 January 1871 he successfully sued Andrew Wilson for £20, while on 19 May 1871 he was required for reasons not known to pay Alfred Buckland the amount of £3 and an order for possession was to be prepared by the Magistrate's Court (Archives New Zealand, BACL 13737). He worked with miners and investors. He had a share in the quartz claim called the Isabella Ferguson, seven men's ground in the Karaka Creek Valley west of the Lord Nelson, registered on 28 June 1871, with Isabella Ferguson, F. W. Cox, William Hyder, John Roome, William Swan and Henry Philips (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14397/6a). And he was also sole owner. On 3 March 1874 the whole interest and one man's ground named the Never Mind claim was transferred from Timothy Cronin to Quinn. It was situated on the Moanataiari Creek and consisted part of the former Pride of Moana lease (Archives New Zealand, BACL 14397/8a). The claim was to be certified as abandoned by the Mining Inspector on 30 January 1879.


Quinn's obituary stated that he was 'one of the original prospectors' at Ohinemuri. As the Thames Advertiser's correspondent approached the prospectors' claim at Karangahake on the morning after the rush, he recognised Quinn and party among the groups of men 'sitting all over the hill, with pegs in their hands' (Thames Advertiser, 4 March 1875). Later, while miners were abandoning the newly-opened district after the initial rush, at Waitekauri claimholders in Leahy's claim and adjoining claims held a meeting on 15 March 1875 to take steps to have a track made to the area. Thomas Quinn, Daniel Leahy, C.F. Mitchell, W McConnachie, Patrick Kelly and John Robertson were appointed as delegates to present a case to James Mackay for cutting a new track from the back of Paeroa to the head of the Waitekauri as the existing track to Tauranga was long and becoming impassable (Thames Advertiser, 11 March 1875).

Thomas Quinn had the Look-out Spur claim at Waitekauri at first which was registered at 7 a.m. on 5 April 1875 (Archives New Zealand, BBAV 11567/1a. His obituary said that he had the first Waitekauri mine). Classed as a quartz claim, it was one man's ground encompassing an area of 15,000 square feet and demarcated by a seriffed 'T' on his pegs. Quinn then transferred to the Golden Crown quartz claim, which adjoined the Look-out Spur, and became a holder of one share in the Golden Crown. An Evening Star correspondent described the sequence of claims at Waitekauri:

'Dan Leahy's claim, which is situated on top of the spur, from which you can see several townships and harbors along the East Coast, is about 800 feet above the level of the flat, and in this claim they have cut not less than five well-defined reefs, all gold-bearing, and also several leaders carrying gold. In the next claim, which belongs to Quin [sic], Bain and party, [they] have also cut the same reefs and leaders with the same success as in Leahy's claim, and so on down the spur they have all met with the same results until we come to Foley's claim, which is the lowest down the spur and is working on the lowest level yet obtained, with splendid gold visible in the same reef already cut on the upper levels.' (Evening Star, 15 May 1875)

(Edward Bain was Quinn's son-in-law.) With the kind of mining experience which Quinn had, he can be imagined as being in one of the sluicing parties at Waitekauri mentioned by the Thames Advertiser on 17 May 1875 to be 'still doing well'. By the end of June 1875 the Golden Crown had two levels (New Zealand Herald, 30 June 1875). In the lower, or western drive, the claimholders had cut two reefs, with gold visible in one of them. The distance driven on was about 280 feet, although the claimholders were still undecided whether it was the Dan Leahy reef or not. Following an application by the Dan Leahy shareholders for Protection (New Zealand Herald, 30 June 1875), the shareholders in the Golden Crown, Golden Point and Dan Leahy claims held a meeting at Mitchell's store on 7 July 1875 to discuss an offer made by Robert Bleazard, and to agree to the proposal, that the three claims should be amalgamated to facilitate the erection of quartz-crushing machinery at Waitekauri (New Zealand Herald, 9 July 1875). The meeting reached an agreement and representatives from each of the three claims were appointed to go to Grahamstown and discuss the proposal with Bleazard. Negotiations between the claimholder's representatives, Bleazard and John Brown were successfully carried out (New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1875). The claimholders agreed to make over one-third of their interests in the mine to Bleazard and Brown on their erecting a 40-stamper battery. The amalgamated claims were to be called the Waitekauri Gold Mining and Quartz Crushing Company, comprising an area of 27 men's ground and managed by Dennis MacDonnell. The New Zealand Herald commented on 12 July 1875:

'In the event of the mining operations proving remunerative, of which there can be little doubt, the outlay expended in the forming of tramways, fluming, water-wheel, and other necessaries in the erection and working of the battery, to be re-imbursed to Messrs. Brown and Bleazard, who have with great spirit entered into the speculation, which will not cost less than £10,000, while the shareholders may be congratulated in thus securing a means of profit to themselves and a great advantage to the district. Owing to the facility of winning the one and the cheap and ready supply of water as a motive power, stone of a comparatively low grade will pay for crushing.'

The Golden Crown and Golden Point were amalgamated with the Dan Leahy on 20 July 1875 (Archives New Zealand, BBAV 11567/1a), from which Thomas Quinn received one share. The amalgamation then gave rise to the Waitekauri Gold Mining and Quartz Crushing Company, registered on 26 July 1875 in Grahamstown ('Mining Notices', Thames Advertiser, 30 July 1875 and The New Zealand Gazette 1875). Quinn was allocated 458 £2 shares in the new company.

A week later, on 3 August 1875, 'the Warden broke the seals and opened the ballot-box which had been standing on the office counter for some days for the receipt of applications under the Agricultural Leasing Regulations. The Court was crowded with the applicants and their friends' (Thames Advertiser, 5 August 1875). Thomas Quinn, one of 41 applicants, successfully drew a fifty-acre block of Agricultural Lease Land at Waitekauri. The locality of his lease was described in the official Register: Agricultural Leases as 'Bounded Northerly by Selection of E. Bain and Southerly by Selection of J. Earl - near Owharoa.' (Archives New Zealand, ZAAP 13784/1a, 1b). The 1875 Plan of Quinn's Selection, SO 51953, shows that the lease was situated in present-day Waikino. It took in part of the Old Waitekauri Road (which deprived 1 acre and 12 perches from the total area of the block), and extended eastward from the vicinity of Victoria Street towards the Waitekauri Road. The plan was received in the Warden's Office on 13 September 1875, and with processing at the Office of the Superintendent of the Province of Auckland completed, it would be signed and issued on 10 February 1876 (SO 51953). Quinn's obituary records 'From the rough and toilsome mining life, he took to the quieter occupation of farming, having land in the Ohinemuri district'.

A public meeting at Waitekauri on 30 October 1875 was convened in order to urge the Government to make a road between Paeroa and Waitekauri. During the meeting:

Mr Leahy proposed, and Mr Quinn seconded - that a committee of three should be formed to embody the propositions in the form of a memorial to be forwarded to Sir George Grey. (Evening Star, 2 November 1875)

Mr Quinn' may have been either Thomas or his son, Edward. Thomas and his family may have been living at Waitekauri since residence on his agricultural lease was optional (Jourdain 1925), while Edward was mining at Waitekauri at the time.

The New Zealand Herald set the scene at the Owharoa rush, where one hundred men on 20 December 1875 were 'pegging off fresh claims' in the vicinity of the prospectors' claim and others were 'trying to lop off portions from the prospectors' claim'. The rush saw Thomas Quinn, Edward Bain, Thomas Corbett, James Nash, W. H. Bates, John Goonan, Edward Quinn, James Darrow, Watson Bradshaw and Timothy Neenan registering 10 mens' ground of 150,000 square feet called the Mount Pleasant claim on 21 December 1875 (Archives New Zealand, BBAV 11567/1a). It was bounded on the north, east and south sides by supposed unoccupied ground and on the west by the Bella claim. The Mount Pleasant existed only a short while, and was subsequently absorbed into the Morning Light (Thames Advertiser, 11 February 1876) after Edward Cameron successfully argued before Warden Fraser that the ground had not been worked (Thames Advertiser, 12 February 1876). Bain, Corbett and Bates appeared in court and 'made statements in extenuation', but Mount Pleasant shares were ordered to be forfeited. In the meantime, Quinn was working on his lease, which was proving to be a financial drain. Oliver Creagh's case on 23 December 1875 to recover £18, finally settled out of court, suggests that Quinn had not paid for the survey and plan of his leasehold carried out by Creagh some months before. (Archives New Zealand, BACL A412/1 and SO 51953). On 19 July 1876 Quinn was ordered to pay £6 18s. 3d. to Thomas Short (Archives New Zealand, BACL A412/1). This amount remained unpaid and Short took him before the Resident Magistrate in Thames on 13 April 1877 to get the goods and money.

'I paid £5. I have been unable to pay more. I had a crop of potatoes, but it was a poor one. I received £20 in March. I have had other debts to pay. I couldn't pay Short. I haven't a penny in my pocket.' (Evening Star, 13 April 1877)

Quinn had had to sell a 'piece of ground' for which he had received the £20. The money had gone towards supporting his family and in repaying some other debts due. He offered to pay Short half the amount owing, but the offer was not accepted. Quinn expected to be able to pay the debt if time were allowed him; however he was given a month to pay the outstanding debt by the magistrate or, in default, he was to be imprisoned for one month in Mount Eden jail (Thames Advertiser, 14 April 1877). One commitment to be met was an annual rent of £2 10s. on his lease, which he kept up over the years, and which together with the registration of the lease on 15 April 1878 (Archives New Zealand, ZAAP 13784/1a, 1b) indicate that he was carrying out improvements which were required of leaseholders (Jourdain 1925).

Quinn enrolled in the Paeroa Corps of the Thames Number 3 Scottish Rifle Volunteers on 22 March 1879 (Archives New Zealand, Army Department, ARM 41, 1881/1o). He was a private and one of 59 volunteers, who, according to Major Thomas Murray in a memo, drilled almost every night and had reached a 'very forward state of discipline' (Archives New Zealand, Army Department, ARM 41, 1881/1o). The volunteers had also provided themselves with uniforms at a cost of over £3 each.

Wise's New Zealand Directory for 1880 and 1881 had Thomas Quinn (spelt as 'Quin') listed as a farmer of Paeroa. However, he was among the first claimholders on the Te Aroha Goldfield, which suggests that he had been routinely mining over the years. Several days after the opening of Te Aroha, the Evening Star listed on 29 November 1880 the notices of pegging out which had been lodged with the Mining Registrar, among which appeared 'T. Quinn's - Three men's ground, adjoining S.W. boundary of Prospectors, by Quinn, Brown and Croke'. He was named as a shareholder, with T. Gavin, J. O'Connell and T. Burns, of the No. 1 South (later amalgamated with the Juno) during litigation concerning an adjoining claim (Thames Advertiser, 18 December 1880). During the hearing it was stated that prospecting tunnels were being put in on the No. 1 South. The Te Aroha No. 1 South Gold-Mining Company Limited of Auckland was announced shortly after on 20 January 1881, based on a nominal capital of £45,000 in 15,000 shares of £1 each, to work the claim and in which Quinn had 342 shares (The New Zealand Gazette 1881). Thomas Quinn and Edward Quinn also had one share each in the Auckland claim, 15 men's ground marked out on 3 December 1880 and registered on 15 December 1880 (Archives New Zealand, BBAV 11567/1a). The claim was 'Situated north of Lipsey's House. Bounded on the west of the Moonlight and on all other sides by unoccupied ground'. The Auckland was one of a number of Te Aroha claims which was reported by 'Native' in a letter dated 4 January 1881 to the editor of the Thames Advertiser on 'The Progress of Te Aroha' in which 'men are employed breaking out quartz from well-defined lodes all of which have been proved to contain the precious metal in payable quantities' (Thames Advertiser, 4 January 1881). Nevertheless, by 2 May 1881 the Mining Inspector had declared the Auckland abandoned (Archives New Zealand, BBAV 11567/1a).

Applications for Mining Licences notified in the Evening Star on 17 August 1881 for the Grand Flaneur and the City of Dublin claims at Waitekauri were described as being bounded by 'Quinn and his party's claim'. It is not known which of the Quinns this was, but Thomas Quinn's solidarity with mining was to remain as late as 1893 when his occupation was given as miner on CT 67/245. Similarly, the Thomas Quinn who was connected with the Byron Bay Gold-Mining Company claim at Komata in 1895 was probably his son of the same name and who also was a miner.

Keremenita's case to be awarded £2 10s for damage caused by Quinn's cattle was settled out of court on 12 February 1883, whereas on 18 January 1884 Quinn recovered £1 8s.6d from Patrick Sheehy for the balance of wages in a contract (Archives New Zealand, BACL 13745/1a). The circumstances behind his case against Sheehy are not known, but Kerementia's claim reflects such difficulties as rotting fences, Cape weed, scrub and isolation which afflicted the agricultural leaseholders. (Archives New Zealand, Legislative Department, LE 1/1888/128: Ohinemuri Agricultural Leases).

On 31 December 1884 Thomas acquired under Section 210 of the Mining Act 1891 Edward Quinn's agricultural lease which skirted the south side of the Tarariki Stream and was fronted by the Paeroa-Mackaytown road (CT 67/245 and SO 51954) (Note 2). Edward's interests lay elsewhere. During 1884 and 1885 he was managing the Diamond Gully and subsequently the Colonist mines at Waiorongomai (Thames Advertiser, 5 June 1885). Treanor (1968) states that after her parents moved from Thames in 1896 'At first we lived in what had been Quin's [sic] house on the corner of the Waihi and Reservoir Roads, near the cemetery'. She was talking of Edward's house: In April 1885 he bought eight acres of the unreserved portion of the Ohinemuri Cemetery property from James Craig for £4 an acre (Thames Advertiser, 28 April 1885). The Hauraki Tribune reported on 16 December 1887 that Edward was 'having a villa residence erected on the Pukerimu block, near the Tarariki creek'.

J. Cheal, Government Surveyor in Thames, advised Percy S. Smith, assistant Surveyor General in Auckland on 15 January 1885:

'The settlers [agricultural leaseholders] as a body have come to the conclusion that the land is worthless and it does not even pay its annual rental. They have all spent their "all" upon it and every penny earned goes into the soil and the best years of their lives have been wasted on it, they have their homesteads, wives and families, and would on that amount prefer remaining where they are and letting their few stock have the run of the bush, while the head of the family provides food by working on the roads or in the mines.' (Archives New Zealand, Legislative Department, LE1/1888/128)

Thomas Quinn's progress on his lease had been lacklustre. In a Schedule of Name, Area, Classification, and Nature and Value of Improvements of the Agricultural Leaseholders in the Ohinemuri District as at 15 January 1885 compiled by J. Cheal, Quinn's leasehold was shown to have 38 chains of fencing valued at £47 10s.; 45 acres of bush thrown and planted in grass; and no dwellings, outhouses or cultivations. Cheal estimated its total improvement value to be £272 10s.10d. Despite the description of being a settler of Paeroa in the Thames Directory for 1886, Quinn had been relying on road works for several years to supplement his earnings. Perhaps the shift from mining to contracting coincided with the depression in Ohinemuri goldmining, although contracting had already been providing the Quinns a supplement. In 1879 Edward Quinn and party successfully tendered to cut off most of the small hills on the Katikati road between Mackaytown and the first bridge towards Karangahake which had been installed by the Provincial Government (Thames Advertiser, 10 April 1879) (Note 3). The family appears to have worked in partnership. Thomas Quinn's tenders were too high for works on the Karangahake track to Te Aroha (Evening Star, 1 April 1884), a section of the Mackaytown-Karangahake road (Evening Star, 3 February 1886), and maintenance of the road between Komata and Paeroa (Evening Star, 27 April 1886), but Edward Bain's tenders were successful for the latter two jobs, as well as for the maintenance of the Hikutaia-Komata and Paeroa-Rotokohu-Te Aroha roads (Evening Star, 27 April 1886). Similarly, Quinn's tender of £38 10s. for forming and metalling Arney Street in Paeroa was accepted by the Thames County Office, while Bain's tender of £39 4s.6d. for the same job was declined (Thames Advertiser, 2 May 1885). On other occasions, both were unsuccessful as in tenders for the Mackaytown-Owharoa road, where the only contract accepted was that of John Kennedy for the Number 1 Section of the road (The Aroha and Ohinemuri News, 11 February 1888) or in metalling Arney Street when John Goonan undercut them (The Aroha and Ohinemuri News 2 April 1890. Bain submitted £68 5s; Thomas Quinn £53 1s.8d; Goonan £49 15s.) Another son-in-law, Patrick Hayes, a miner in Thames, was a labourer living in Mackaytown during 1884 (Archives New Zealand, YCAH 14075/1a), implying that he may have been working with the family in doing contracting. The case of T.Dongherty (sic) v. Thomas Quinn in the Paeroa Resident Magistrate's Court for £2 10s. for board and lodging (The Aroha and Ohinemuri News, 27 August 1887) tells of the absences from home which came with contracting. The absences could be for long periods as apparent in 1890 when Quinn applied (unsuccessfully in the event) for an extension of three weeks from the Ohinemuri County Council to complete his contract because of wet weather (The Te Aroha and Ohinemuri News, 14 May 1890).

The Ohinemuri County Diamond Jubilee Souvenir on page 11 has 'T. Quinn' included as a councillor in the Ohinemuri County Council during the 1887-1890 term. This listing is incorrect as Thomas Quinn's son, Edward was successfully elected for this term along with Carroll Nash to represent the Karangahake Riding (Evening Star, 17 November 1887). It may be that 'T' is from the familiar Ted, although Weston (1927) referred to Edward as Ned when he quoted him.

In early 1888 Quinn wrote to the Ohinemuri County Council requesting it to 'open a means of access' to his land at Tarariki through C. F. Mitchell's property (The Aroha and Ohinemuri News, 14 February 1888). The matter was referred to the county engineer. The council later acting on the engineer's recommendation, and Councillor Corbett's support, voted £5 to assist Quinn to make a road to his property. However the situation may have become awkward after Mitchell took Quinn's sons, Thomas and John, to court in Paeroa on 7 March 1888 for illegally taking gravel from his land. After evidence had been given, Thomas was discharged and John was ordered to pay 5s. to Mitchell (Evening Star, 7 March 1888). At the meeting on 7 June 1890 council heard a letter referred to it by Warden Northcroft in which Quinn had written complaining of having no road to his property. Councillors felt that Quinn was not satisfied with the road formerly proposed (The Aroha and Ohinemuri News, 11 June 1890). Another letter from Quinn was read at the council meeting on 5 July 1890 stating that through Councillor Nicholls he had secured the right of a road from Maori to his property and that he had paid £7 to obtain signatures, and he was asking council to give £10 towards the cost of the road. It was voted to leave the matter in the hands of the foreman of works to report at the next monthly meeting (The Aroha and Ohinemuri News, 9 July 1890).


On 15 September 1892 Quinn petitioned Parliament for a grant of land under the Naval and Military Settlers and Volunteers Land Acts 1889, 1890, 1891 (Archives New Zealand, Lands and Survey Department, LS 66/6, number 625). In support of his petition, he then wrote (using the Paeroa Post Office as his address) to the Commissioner of Crown Lands in Auckland on 3 January 1893 seeking from the Government a gift of land somewhere near where he lived at Paeroa or money. He cited his experience in the Militia during the Waikato War as a basis for requesting a grant, as well as being one of the first to prospect on the Thames Goldfield, Tapu and Waitekauri. However a grant was declined to him since the Acts did not apply to Militia Service.

The Tarariki property was granted to Thomas Quinn as freehold on 31 August 1893 (CT 67/245).

On 25 April 1896 he severed his interest at Waikino when he transferred all of his lease to Bain who in turn transferred it to James Russell (these transactions took place over several hours on the same day), and from Russell the land went to the Ohinemuri Syndicate Limited and then the Waihi Gold Mining Company which sought permission to cut water races on the tenement (Archives New Zealand, ZAAP 13784/1a, 1b). During 1896 Michael O'Loughlin's lease (SO 51968), situated above Jackson Road, expired and was granted to Quinn as freehold land under the Mining Act 1891 (Archives New Zealand, ZAAP 13784/1b, no date).

In October 1897 Quinn completed a final will, signed with his signature, in which son-in-law James Fitzpatrick, a Paeroa builder, was to act as executor (Archives New Zealand, BBAE 1569/4340). Some of his Tarariki property was transferred to the County of Ohinemuri on 24 January 1898 (CT 67/245. Access issues in the period 1890 may have accounted for the transfer.). On 27 April 1899 Thomas and Mary applied for an old age pension in Paeroa (Archives New Zealand, ZAAP 13788/1a), when he is recorded to have declared under oath:

'Residence never out of country since arrival mid 1862. I have 48 acres of land and house - no money two cows worth £3 0s.0d. Horse £7. Lived last year on a few pounds I got from family and grew few potatoes for myself. Never in prison.'

Thomas Quinn's name is shown on two fifty-acre blocks on the undated composite plan SO46085. One block consists of what had formerly been O'Loughlin's lease, and is partially placed on Coal Lease land. The other is by the Tarariki Creek on what had been Edward Quinn's lease, and has a section of the Paeroa-Waitekauri road (the Old Reservoir Road) running through it. Pension certificates of £11 and £18 were awarded to Thomas and Mary respectively on May 1899. Shortly after, all of their furniture and household effects were taken to Mackay and Pratt's Mart in Paeroa for the convenience of buyers, and sold on 18 May 1899 'at very satisfactory rates' (Ohinemuri Gazette, 17 May 1899 and 20 May 1899).

Thomas and Mary Quinn sold up to go to Gisborne where most of their family was living. They bought a house on Ormond Road at Whataupoko in Gisborne and he 'led a retired life' (obituary). Thomas died on 10 January 1902 from old age and a brief period of Bright's disease (Death Certificate). His funeral cortege left his house and made its way to the Makaraka Cemetery where, after a service, he was buried. The Gisborne Times informed on 13 January 1902 that there was a very large gathering of friends at the burial, that a large number of wreaths and floral tributes were placed on the coffin, and that the flag at the Gisborne Bowling Club's green was flown at half-mast in his memory. James Fitzpatrick declared on 5 May 1902 that Quinn's estate exceeded the value of £100 (Archives New Zealand, BBAE 1569/4340). Mary Quinn afterwards went to live with her daughter Anne Martin at the Gisborne Hotel where she remained until her death on 17 December 1908 (Mary Quinn's obituary).

There were nine children in the family. In 1902 they were living at Waikino (Delia Bain [christened Bridget], the eldest, born in Ireland); Matawhero, near Gisborne (Edward Quinn [sometimes referred to as Edmund], born in Ireland); Thames (Margaret Hayes, born in Ireland); Paeroa (Catherine Mary Fitzpatrick, born in Ireland); Gisborne (Anne Josephine Martin, born in Auckland); New Plymouth (Honora Evangelist Clarke, born in Auckland); Boulder City, Western Australia (Thomas Quinn, born in Thames); and Gisborne (John Richard Quinn, born in Thames). Another son, Joseph, had drowned at the age of 12 years (Thames Guardian and Mining Record, 10 November 1871 and Thames- Coromandel District Council Burial Records, Shortland Cemetery, plot 1876).

In 1982 the marble headstone (a Roman cross on a pedestal) and ornate iron surround on the Quinns' grave were dismantled and buried in a surveyed hole in Makaraka Cemetery following a recommendation by the Medical Officer of Health to Cook County Council as part of a programme to make safe or remove unsafe monuments or tablets in the cemetery (New Zealand Society of Genealogists, Gisborne Group). Today there is no visible trace of where Thomas and Mary Quinn were buried.


It is a truism to state that Thomas Quinn was 'of his time', but it nevertheless offers a way of understanding him. A case in point was his early presence on the Thames Goldfield, at Tapu, the opening up of the Ohinemuri Goldfield, Waitekauri, Owharoa and at Te Aroha, either as a prospector or as someone who had pegged out a claim near the first prospector's claim. This type of strategy of being first or early which Quinn pursued, by taking advantage of his mining skills and working within the Hauraki Mining District, has been discussed by Belich (1996) as a characteristic of colonial New Zealand for 'getting on' in that society. Other aspects of Quinn's life offer similar revelations into nineteenth-century New Zealand society and him.


1. Section 29 of the Act set out procedure for the application: 'It shall be lawful for the Governor in Council in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty to demise for mining purposes to any person for any term not exceeding fifteen years from the making of the lease any auriferous Crown lands not exceeding ten acres in the whole of alluvial ground or an area of four hundred yards by two hundred yards on a quartz reef and to grant sites for machinery and any necessary easements for the purposes aforesaid. Provided always that no such lease shall be granted until ten days after notice of the intention to grant the same shall have been published in the New Zealand Gazette or in the Gazette of the Province in which such lands are situate and also in at least one of the local newspapers best calculated in the opinion of the Governor to give publicity to the same amongst the persons specially interested.' (The Statutes of New Zealand 1866)

2. Section 210 places the grant into context: 'The holder of any agricultural lease within any part of the Ohinemuri Block of land, who has paid all rents due on the same to the thirty-first day of December, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-four shall be entitled to have a Crown grant issued to him for the land comprised in such agricultural lease without further payment: Provided that the Native title has been extinguished and that the Warden, after investigation, does not consider such land to be auriferous, argentiferous, or to be required for mining purposes.' (The Statutes of New Zealand 1891)

3. Contracting may have had a longer history. Perhaps the Thomas Quinn listed as a labourer in Mitchell and Seffern's Directory did road works. Patrick Kearns, closely connected to the Quinn family, was killed in an accident in a quarry along Tararu Road near Boundary Creek where stone was being extracted for making roads (Thames Guardian and Mining Record, 4 January 1872), which raises the question of whether he was working with the Quinns during this time when there is little information on them.


Many thanks to Dr Philip Hart (Research Associate, Department of History of the University of Waikato) for comments on the draft and for pointing me to further sources on Thomas Quinn he had noted during his own research on goldmining in the Hauraki Mining District; Nonie Kiely (Auckland) for use of Tom Martin's letter; and Graham Watton for access to the Ohinemuri Gazette collection held in the Fielden Thorp Museum.


Archives New Zealand, Auckland: BACL A412/1 Thames Magistrate's Court 1875-1880 number 463 (23 December 1875) and number 426 (19 July 1876); BACL 13737 number 24 and number 226 Thames Magistrate's Court, Plaint Book 1869-1871; BACL 13745/1a number 9 and number 2 Paeroa Resident Magistrate's Court, Plaint Book 1881-1896; BACL 14358/1a,2a,3a Thames Miner's Right Registers and Registrations; BACL 14397/1a number 182 Thames Warden's Court, Claim Register 1868; BACL 14397/3a number 1126 Thames Warden's Court, Claim Register 1868-1869; BACL 14397/6a number 2571 Thames Warden's Court Claim, Register 1871-1872; BACL 14397/8a p.131 Grahamstown Claims Register; BACL 14417/2a Thames Warden's Court, Record of Deeds and Transfers of Claims 1868-1869; BACL 14457/1c in case dated 2 August 1869, Thames Warden's Note Book 1869; BADW 5989/20 p.428 and BADW 5989/23 p.518, Criminal Deposition Books, Auckland Police Court; BBAE 1569/4340 Probates 1896-1903; BBAV 11567/1a Mining Register Ohinemuri; ReproA 4711/448 Register of Assisted Immigrants; YCAH 14075/1a Thames Hospital Board, Admission Register 1884-1902; ZAAP 13784/1a,1b Register of Agricultural Leases Ohinemuri, Volume 1, 1875-1893; ZAAP 13788/1a Paeroa Old Age Pension Minute Book 1899-1906.

Archives New Zealand, Wellington: Army Department, ARM 41, 1881/1o: Thames Number 3 Scottish Rifle Volunteers (Paeroa Corps): Capitation to 31 December 1880; Lands and Survey Department, LS 66/6: Application for Land Grants, 1889-1892, number 625; Legislative Department, LE 1/1888/128: Ohinemuri Agricultural Leases: J.A. Cheal to P. Smith on 15 January 1885.

Auckland Catholic Diocesan Archives: Baptism 1866/6278; Cro5-5: Auckland Catholic Literary Institute, Essays and Lectures written by the Members, Volume 1, Auckland, 1873. 'The Thames, Past, Present and Future' A Paper read by Mr E. Mahony Junr., 4 April 1870, p.84. Manuscript.

Auckland Central Library: Publican's License June 9th 1865 issued to Thomas Quinn: NZMSS:691: from original lent for copying June 1975 by Mrs J. Masters; www.aucklandcitylibraries.com (Shipping Index).

Auckland Provincial Government Gazette 1864, p.161; 1867, p.302 and p. 452; 1868, p.529; 1869, p.1444; 1870, p. 190.

Belich, J. 1996. Making Peoples. Allen Lane The Penguin Press. Auckland, p.376.

Births, Deaths and Marriages, Central Registry, Lower Hutt, Death Certificate 1902/1578/76; Birth Shortland 277/1870; Birth Shortland 336/1872.

Galway Family History Society West Limited, Irish Genealogical Project, Liosbaun Estate, Tuam Road, Galway, Ireland: Register of Baptisms from the Roman Catholic Parish of Rahoon.

Goggin, D. Researcher, Galway Family History Society West Limited. Letter written in 2002 to N. Twohill.

Griffiths Valuation, Valuation of Tenements, West Ward - Parish of Rahoon, Galway, pp.61 and 62.

Jourdain, W.R. 1925. Land Legislation and Settlement in New Zealand. Department of Lands and Survey, New Zealand. Government Printer, Wellington, p.102.

Land Information New Zealand, Hamilton: CT 67/245; SO 46085 (no date); SO 51968 (1875); SO 51954 (1875); SO 51953 (1875).

Martin, T. Letter written in 1949 in Sydney to Netsay Quinn.

Mitchell and Saffern's Directory of the City and Suburbs of Auckland, for 1866-7. Published by Wayte and Batger; Booksellers, Queen-Street, Auckland, pp. 14, 25 and 39.


Daily Southern Cross: Summary for September 1864, p.4 col.F; 12 January 1869, p.3 col.F

Evening Star: 15 May 1875, p.2 col.F; 2 November 1875, p.3 cols.F,G; 13 April 1877, p.2 col.E; 29 November 1880, p.2 cols.F,G; 17 August 1881, p.3 col.B; 1 April 1884, p.2 col.C; 3 February 1886, p.2 cols.F,G; 27 April 1886, p.2 col.C; 17 November 1887, p.2 col.G; 7 March 1888, p.3 col.A.

Gisborne Times: 11 January 1902, p.2 col.F; 13 January 1902, p.2 col.F; 18 December 1908, p.4 col.G.

Hauraki Tribune: 16 December 1887, p.2 col.C.

New Zealand Herald: 17 March 1868, p.2 col.B; 31 March 1868, p.3 col.B; 10 June 1868, p.3 col.E; 28 July 1868, p.6 col.D; 28 October 1868, p.5 cols.D,E; 5 November 1868, p.3 col.D; 22 December 1869, p.5 col.D; 28 October 1870, p.1 col.D; 6 October 1873, p.1 col.B; 30 June 1875, p.3 col.A; 9 July 1875, p.3 col.D; 12 July 1875, p.3 col.A; 20 December 1875, p.3 col.C.

Ohinemuri Gazette: 17 May 1899, p.2 col.E; 20 May 1899, p.2 col.F.

Thames Advertiser: 12 July 1870, p.3 col.D; 22 November 1870, p.3. cols.E,F; 4 March 1875, p.3 col.E; 11 March 1875, p.2 cols.C,D; 17 May 1875, p.3 col.D; 30 July 1875, p.2 col.C; 5 August 1875, p.2 cols.F,G; 17 November 1875, p.3 col.E; 30 November 1875, p.3 col.B; 23 December 1875, p.3 col.E; 11 February 1876, p.3 col.C; 12 February 1876 p.3 col.F; 14 April 1877, p.3 col.E; 17 May 1878, pp.3,4; 10 April 1879, p.3 col.D; 18 December 1880, p.3 col.C; 4 January 1881, p.2 col.F; 28 April 1885, p.3 col.B; 2 May 1885, p.3 col.A; 5 June 1885, p.2 col.G.

Thames Guardian and Mining Record: 10 November 1871, p.3 cols.B,C; 11 November 1871, p.3 cols.D,E,F; 4 January 1872, p.2 col.G; 14 March 1872, p.3 cols.D,E.

The Aroha and Ohinemuri News: 27 August 1887, p.2 col.G; 11 February 1888, p.2 col.G; 14 February 1888, p.2 col.D; 2 April 1890, p2. col.E; 14 May 1890, p.2 col.E; 11 June 1890, p.2 cols.D,E; 9 July 1890, p.2 col.E.

New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1869-1870.

New Zealand Society of Genealogists Inc., Gisborne Group, Compilation of Makaraka Cemetery Transcripts, 31 July 1987.

Ohinemuri County Diamond Jubilee Souvenir 1885-1945.

Thames-Coromandel District Council, Burial Records, Shortland Cemetery, Thames, plot 1876 (215 [Joseph Quinn] and 701 [Mary Josephine Bain]).

Thames Directory for 1886, The Thames: Printed and Published at the Office of the 'Thames Advertiser', p.166.

The New Zealand Gazette 1875, pp.529-530; 1881, p.258.

The Statutes of New Zealand 1866 pp.160-161; 1891, p.228.

The Thames Miner's Guide. Sold for the Proprietors by Edward Wayte, Queen Street. Printed by W.C. Wilson, Wyndham Street. 1868. Reprint published by Capper Press, Christchurch. 1975. p.70.

Treanor, M. 1968. "Reservoir Road, Paeroa" in The Ohinemuri Regional History Journal, Vol.5 No. 2, p.43.

Weston, F.W. 1927. Thames Goldfields: A History from Pre-Proclamation Times to 1927: Diamond Jubilee Souvenir. Printed and published by the Thames 'Star', p.124.

Williams, Z and J. 1994. Thames and the Coromandel Peninsula 2000 Years. Williams Publishers. Thames. p.76.

Wise & Co's New Zealand Directory for 1880 and 1881, Henry Wise and Company, Publishers, Dunedin, p.630.