Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 56, September 2012
(by Annette Bowater)
Nestled on the morning side of the Coromandel Range in the Ohinemuri, the turn-of-last-century photograph of Waitekauri township gave a pleasant impression of stability and productivity, featuring the large stamper battery with its 35ft water wheel.
By that time the second wave of gold mining was in progress with a number of new finds nearby including Golden Cross, 20 years after the Ohinemuri goldfield was opened in 1875. Early fortunes had waxed and waned, tributers had been engaged, there were layoffs and stoppages and the big nationwide depression of the 1880s had hit. However, the cyanide process also arrived in the 1890s to wrest more gold and silver from the ore and optimism revived.
So in that old sepia scene there were two substantial new hotels to serve the needs of the new-wave miners, workers, engineers and managers. It is not known what happened to two of the older hotels that opened quickly after the first finds, and it took a bit of organising new licences both for the hotels and their publicans. It seems these were all migratory as they were procured from far afield as their clientele had dwindled.
First off the mark was this attractive single-storied inn, poised on a knoll above the battery's tailings pond and destined to gaze across to its soon-to-arrive opposition nearer the river. This first hotel is identifiable for the photo featuring a group of people beside their bicycles on bare ground in front of the verandah.
On September 7, 1894, Thomas O'Toole pressed the Bay of Plenty Licensing Committee for removal of a licence from Kirikiri (near Thames) to Waitekauri and perhaps this was for an actual hotel that had already been built on spec. Next, John Thomas Ryan, on May 13, 1895, applied for the issue of a publican's licence for the Waitekauri Hotel, and it was duly opened not long afterwards. By 1902 William Patrick Ryan was named as its hotelkeeper in an Auckland Supreme Court document. Locals knew it as "Ryan's Hotel".
This name also started off in the Hauraki Gulf, at Warahoe, also on the approach to Thames from the south. William Gibson Rae on December 6, 1896, applied to the licensing authority for removal of the Hauraki licence to Waitekauri and this time the name went with it. It was known locally as "Rae's Hotel" and was opened on October 14, 1896, after W.G. Rae had it built, with a gala opening in the Waitekauri Hall and an open-house shout at the hotel.
Golden Cross Hotel
In 1899 this hotel was built on the surveyed Golden Cross township on an open paddock five miles north of Waitekauri. Sam Draffin may have been the publican and he also had the task of manager of the Grace Darling mine halfway down the road. The hotel was later, near the end of the prohibition period in 1925, moved by bullock drays down to Waihi where it still stands on a street corner with a concrete façade and minus its front verandah.
The Hauraki Hotel only stayed put on its Waitekauri site for ten years until sorely needed at Waikino in 1906 after the large hotel there burnt down taking with it neighbouring houses and some businesses over the road. That was the impressive hotel scene, which is often pictured with Clarkin's horse teams paused nearby, totalling about 60 horses, carting coal for Waihi gold mining's needs. Publican William S. Montgomery had applied in 1896 for his new "Owharoa Hotel" to be issued with a licence. With its Owharoa identity carved into the lintel, it was moved shortly afterwards to Waikino where the vast new Victoria Battery for the Waihi Gold Mining Company offered better prospects for hotel business just up the road and over the river.
Thanks to the late Elsie Mann's photographic collection we now have the image of the original Hauraki Hotel on its new site at Waikino. It was moved down from Waitekauri by bullock dray and re-erected at Waikino under the new name of Waikino Hotel over the doorway with Ralph Montgomery as publican, William Montgomery's son.
It was to be only a short stay for the former Hauraki Hotel. In 1909 when prohibition ushered in "The Dry" it was dismantled and sold off in lots to local farmers. In 1925 when prohibition ended Waikino welcomed its third hotel on the hotel site: the former Mackaytown Hotel, today known as Waikino Tavern.
Of course these were not the only two hotels at Waitekauri. In 1877 John McCombie, he who discovered one year later the gold ore prospects outcropped at Waihi, along with Robert Lee; saw his chance and erected a popular hotel. Then a few years later another prospector-cum-hotelier, Tom Corbett, arranged another one in the camp but he sold out in 1881 (to whom it isn't known) and proceeded at Waihi to improve on William May's early accommodation house, eventually to become the Commercial. Tom was a brother of James Corbett of the Hikutaia Hotel.
Other quarters were Alfred Shepherd's Tramway Hotel, which was destined to burn down on its site presumably near a Waitekauri tramway in 1883. Alfred and two other men just managed to escape. Its name and licence were transferred to Karangahake, where its namesake also later burned down. So we know what happened to the first, and second, Tramways, unlike the other two early enterprises.
Bay of Plenty Licensing Authority.
Ohinemuri Licensing Board.
Papers Past, i.e., Thames Star, Ohinemuri Gazette, Te Aroha News, Bay of Plenty Times.
Ohinemuri Regional History Journals.
A.M. Isdale's Newspaper Reports 1868 – 1894.