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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 54, September 2010

Information is being sought on one of the earliest families to settle in Waitekauri district, by a great great grand-daughter, Mrs Eva Howard of Auckland. She has undertaken an exhaustive research in compiling a family history, but now needs a little information about Mr J. G. Ralph's mining activities. She writes:

William Valentine and Frances (Fanny) Ralph arrived New Zealand in 1862 on the John Duncan from London with their two small children John Guest and Ann Margaret.

The oldest document found regarding this family was on November 5, 1878 when he applied for an agricultural lease of 50 acres at Waitekauri, Ohinemuri. The lease was executed on March 14, 1881.

On February 28, 1883, Ann Margaret Ralph married Alexander Speers Thorburn, the son of William Lang and Mary Thorburn, of Tararu, Thames. The marriage was officiated in the home of Mr Ralph.

John Guest Ralph married Catherine (Kate) Mailer Steedman on May 2, 1883, in Thames.

The grand children from John and Kate Ralph were Katie, Willie, George and Annie; from Annie and Alexander Thorburn were Ralph, Guest, Frances, John and Gordon.

In 1889 William and Frances (Fanny) were granted a lease of one acre of "residence site" on New Country Road at Waitekauri in the Hauraki Mining District. William's property was bounded southerly by Fanny (Frances) Ralph's 'residence site' and northerly and easterly by users occupied ground and Westerly Country Road. Where Fanny's (Frances) site was bounded by the Willliam's residence, Country Road, and the sides by the unused pound.

In 1889 William asked for three months protection for the Mairiposa quartz claim, which he was granted by the Warden's Court.

William and Fanny left Waitekauri about 1898 taking with them their eldest grandson Ralph Thorborn.

John and Catherine's four children, Katie, Willie, George and Annie, attended the Waitekauri Public School between 1892 and 1895.

John was in real big time in mining. He spent a large amount of time staking claims in the Warden's Court, getting permission to lease residence sites, machine sites, to set up water races, battery sites and receive permission for men to work in mines. At the time he was one of a few men in New Zealand who held a first class mine manager's certificate.

His partners in these ventures were Edward Kersey Cooper (on several projects), Daniel Keith and James Mackay.

Most of the sites were in the Waitekauri area, although he did enter the Komata, Karangahake and Waihi districts.

He seemed to sell the claims etc., off after a few years. It would be interesting to know which ones were worked and if any money was made from them.

John and his family left Waitekauri in 1899 when he acquired Sylia Park, Otahuhu, which he used for training race horses and was quite successful on many courses.

After Anne and Alexander were married at the Ralph home in February, 1883, they left to live at Tararu and returned to Waitekauri in 1891 with their five of their children. The sixth, Gordon, was born at Waitekauri and was named after close family friends, the Gordon's who had the stage coach and boarding house.

Alexander worked as an amalgamator in the Thames battery and, on his return to Waitekauri, worked for three years under Mr E. M. Corbett at the Waitekauri Battery. In 1891 he was appointed mine manager of the British Empire Gold Mine. In 1895 the employees of the Owharoa Gold Mining Company presented him with a clock, which one of his descendants of his oldest son Ralph retains today.

The older children attended the Waitekauri Public School, their father was on the school committee, a member of the Masonic fraternity and Manchester Unity Lodge. He was keen on athletics.

Their oldest son, Ralph, left in 1898 with his grandparents, William and Fanny to live in Fir Mount, East Tamaki. About 1902 Alex and Anne and the other five children left Waitekauri for good to live in Otahuhu, Auckland.

Gordon Keith Thorburn was born on March 30, 1898, at Waitekauri to Alexander and Anne (nee Ralph Thorburn.

He embarked on the troop ship "Aparima" with the Auckland Infantry regiment "A" Company on February 16, 1917, disembarked at the Devon Post, Plymouth, England and marched into Sling on June 3, 1917. Sling, at Larkhill, was situated on the Salisbury Plains, and used for training before the troops were sent off to fight.

Gordon, on June 17, joined the 2nd Battalion Auckland Regiment and served in the field. On March 30, 1918, he was killed in the Battle of Somme La Signy Farm, France. His name is on the Grevillers (New Zealand) Memorial, Pas de Calais.

Gordon's older brother, Lieutenant John (Jack) Thorburn, served in the First World War with the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment in Egypt, Gallipoli and in Palestine (now Israel).

Contact: Mrs W. Eva Howard, 7 Paua Place. Mt Roskill, Auckland 1041. Phone 09 627 0115.