Royal Standard Mine
Extracts from: Mary and Francis Murray and Annie, by Mrs Elsie Graydon, 1987
The Murray family were to make their first acquaintance with gold mining at Wharekirauponga at the Royal Standard gold mines. This was situated near the head of the stream of that name. A number of small claims had been pegged out -but these had been absorbed into the Royal Standard financed by an English Company.
In the investment boom of 1895-7 Kersey Cooper went to England to raise mining company investment. On his list was Wharekirauponga formerly known as the Brothers. There were many claims taken up in the rough country between Waihi and Wharekirauponga but few ended up as mines.
The Royal Standard was in full swing employing 197 men by April 17th 1897 to put up a big plant and a tramway 8 miles long to the head of the tidal Otahu River near Whangamata.
Most who went to Wharekirauponga in the 1890's did so by sea. All supplies and machinery went in by sea and the railway which was operated with horses. There was a rough track to Waitekauri used by pack horses, which was always deep in mud and said to be a packer's nightmare.
The Murray family coming from Auckland would have taken the sea route and ridden to the mine on the railway.
The track from Waitekauri, however was regularly used. The Golden Age commented in April 1897:
The growth of the district has been so rapid as to have outpaced the efforts of the Postal authoritiesto supply the needs of the inhabitants. ... From Wharekiraupunga, for example, every passer by, more or less, is a mailman, and the same may be said of other places. The population of that township must now number 250 people ... We would urge the authorities to establish at Wharekiraupunga an office similar to the one at the Cross and a mail twice weekly. Pack-horses are passing to and fro throughout the week, and there is no reason why , for a trifling outlay, the mail should not be delivered bi-weekly.
We understand petitions are being signed at Wharekiraupunga and the Cross, asking the authorities to continue Mrs Whisker, the present postmistress, in her office. This is a striking testimony to the popularity of Mrs Whisker, her readiness to oblige out of strictly office hours, and her general efficiency.
It was also used by other brave souls. On record is the story of a lady who tackled the track with a cat under one arm and a parrot under the other. She inspired respect. The Editor commented "The diggings have at all times brought out the grit in the race and where the miner sets his foot, history shows that courageous women were not long in following with cooking and home making adjuncts which go to rob life in a wild country of its savagery." The lady was be-nighted in a dense forest and forced to pass a bitterly cold night in the hollow of a giant rata - Prophecy - Perhaps in days to come there will e a fine road lined with pretty homes.
Francis and Mary would have arrived at a large construction camp. Conditions for married couples with children were individual huts, smoky and primitive but warm. There was abundant firewood. Food was mainly tinned. The babies had condensed milk and round wine biscuits. The single men lived in barrack type accomodation with cook house. Timber for building was felled in the area. Although a good deal of milling had been done there were still fine large trees. A great rata was felled at the Royal Standard. It measured 12 feet in diameter and after being sawn, remained standing for three days. Mrs Stead, the first woman to set foot in Whare-kirauponga was photographed standing near to give contrast to the enormous diameter.
The Royal Standard Mining Company had spent a large sum of money constructing the tram way to connect the mine with the tidal water at Otahu Inlet, purchasing a battery and transporting it to the locality as well as constructing water races, before checking the reefs. A manager set from England in 1897 recommended the work be stopped as the amount of gold was not worth the cost of extraction.
By June 1897 40 men had been put off.
April 5th 1898 saw the mine shut down and a further 80 men unemployed. A few were kept on for cleaning up.
Francis and Mary would be on the move again before they had time to settle. They left for Waitekauri where mining was in full swing.
There were two ways they could get to Waitekauri. The easiest way would have been back down the tram way, then by sea to Thames and from Thames to Waitekauri by coach, a two or three day trip depending on weather.
Or they could negotiate the Wharekirauponga pack track the packer's nightmare. Late autumn would have found it wet and slippery and a day's journey. With two very young children as well as their belongings would they have taken it on? This we don't know but they most probably did. No need to pay a night's accommodation in Thames and the coach fare something to be considered.
Probably there was a long line of miners converging on Waitekauri looking for work.
My Remembrances of a Trip to Te Whare Ki Te Rau Ponga in the Early 1940's, by Cyril Gwilliam
My father, BEN GWILLIAM Senior, had been requested to go in and report on the old mining area by an old Auckland Mining Director.
So three of us. Dad, I and my mate LOU HAROLD set forth in the three seater Ford Sedan early one morning. We took slashers, picks and shovels as no-one had been in there for some twenty years.
My uncle MAURICE HOULIHAN had done a little prospecting in the area around 1914.
Well, we parked the car in off the main road, on Waihi end of the bridge, and humped our gear up-stream and just past an old quarry on a bluff forded the stream and found the old track, or at least what remains of it.
We slashed our way onward for some hours, climbing over slips and under and over fallen trees, until at last we came to a small flattish area, and here we found the remains of an old crushing battery. There was scattered around rusted corrugated iron, odd bits of machine wheels, and lying side by side some fifteen stampers. Secondary nature forest growth up to 6" diameter had grown up through it all. It looked as if it had been dismantled ready to cart away but had been forgotten. There was close by a galvanised shed about 8' x 6' with not too many rusty holes if we were to spend the night. There was a place for a fire but hardly any chimney. We had a wander around this little half-acre spot - it seemed no bigger, than decided to find the tramway up to the mine in the morning.
We slept on the floor (earth covered with bracken), had toast for breakfast and were on our way. Climbing up the spur and we found the end of the tramway above the battery site. Good weather and level going, and fortunately no heavy slashing - only light fern.
We travelled onwards above the creek below, and around a right hand bend, there on a little flat below was a single stamper.
It had been a man-handled one. What a tough old prospector he must have been. We follow the tramline and soon on our right is the adit or entrance to the old mine. Inside was stacked a large quantity of broken ore from the reef inside. It was stacked like the old time roadmen used to stack their road metal - long neat heaps. No doubt it was meant to be trucked down to the Battery first mentioned.
Lou and I did a bit of wandering around outside while my father took 'samples' from various heaps and from the main reef. These he assayed a week or so later and were of reasonable value, but a Company was never formed - possibly another result of the approach of World War II which deleted much mining of man-power. Now across the stream fairly close to this tunnel and just a few feet above water level an attempt was made in those early days to drive in and sink a shaft on the reef. I believe there is a waterfall in this stream close by though I did not see myself. This is possibly where the main reef crosses as it must be a harder rock formation.
Mr. C. Gwilliam is a son of Mr. Ben Gwilliam once manager of the Old Golden Cross and later the New Golden Cross. Also manager of the Waitekauri Battery from 1905.