Royal Standard Mine
Extracts from "The Patchwork Quilt" by L.P. Wheeler
Browsing through an old newspaper, which I wish I had seen earlier, I came upon some items about Whariki. Had I been more interested when young I might have asked some of the elderly men who used to come down to our place from Whariki and they could perhaps have told me something of the history of the place. We went there from Waiharakiekie and I could have looked at it with different eyes had I perhaps known more about its past. I thought that it must have yielded heavily to have warranted the expense of forming that long tramline through the bush from The Landing at Parakiwai.
All I saw when I visited it was a small rugged pocket amongst broken hills and dominated by "The Pinnacle". It was strewn with relics of earlier days in the shape of rusted, broken machinery, pipes that led into further hills, rail lines and trucks, one old house, fruit trees and all sorts of odds and ends. I couldn't find any signs of the places where men whom we had known had lived and had their gardens. I couldn't even find the place where Alex Melville used to grow those extra sweet-scented violets that he used to bring down to us — three huge bunches — one for Mother and one each for Viv and me. He must have had a large patch of them.
It was a very pathetic sight and saturated with the past. I could imagine the ghosts of those who had worked there years before but I had no idea that there were so many of them. Even now I find it hard to believe that hundreds of men lived there seventy years ago. It must have been a close-packed settlement. I didn't know that it was a place that once had had a dream which, like so many human dreams never came to fruition. I don't know even now if there were any women or little children there to wander about the places where I once wandered and it is now too late to find out. Not that it would avail me anything to know — only in my thoughts and imagination.
When we first went to Rama to live a few men were still working the Great Northern Goldmining Company's Glamorgan. I remember Alex Melville and Harry Widdison ex Waihi; Phil Dancer, C. dark, Tom Gill, Bob Hutchinson in 1916; and in 1920 Jacob Toby and Tommy Poata; in 1921 were Bob Paepker (also spelled without the 'r'), Bob McEwan, Jack Moran, Phil Dancer, Archie Laycock, Ben McCallum, (————) Lambert, (————) Griffiths, Tom Poata and Nixon Smith (also known as Korehika or "The Kanaka").
In that year Mr McCombie came out to Whariki. I remember that it was a wet day and I thought how funny he looked as he came riding in to our place, holding a big umbrella over himself. It was the only time I saw anyone using an umbrella while riding a horse. As a result of an investigation Paepke engaged more men to work the mine, his step-son, Harry Dwyer being one of them.
According to the way the men talked when they came to our place they were very hopeful of the prospects and used to bring rich samples in to show us. Father packed out a lot of stone to be assayed.
I see a diary entry 25th January, 1921: "Packed three horse-loads of mullock from Whariki". This was taken to Waihi the next day. Nothing, however, came of it. Perhaps, due to lack of finance, the men drifted away, but I don't know when the mine was actually abandoned. It seemed that they were only dabbling at it in the end. The men would be away for days and then come back. (Whariki was still working in 1922).
Down the years Whariki was a lure to many prospectors. Some of them made our place their headquarters. Jim Anderson, Waihi, prospected there in 1914 and brought good samples out. C. V. Roberts and a friend used to stay with us while they prospected, not only Whariki, but also other prospects further up the coast at Ohui on J. McGregor's property. The Phoenix and Maori Dream. Jack Andrade, who had left the district years earlier, came from Auckland in 1926 and took over the mine. He bought a lot of stuff that had been left there when the last to work the mine had gone away. He came a number of times and stayed with us on his way to and from Auckland but eventually he gave up and sold the stuff to Father. A lot of old iron stuff at Whiritoa came from Whariki. It was left at Whiritoa when the place was sold in 1967.
After George and I took over the property at Waiharakiekie, we often used to walk to Whariki over the hill track and up the valley to gather fruit before our own trees matured. There were many fruit trees, largely apples which could have been self-sown seedlings, but most of them were excellent eating apples. Sometimes we would ride, but it was rough going for horses.
The first time I went to Whariki was one evening shortly after we went to the Rama when Father was expected home from Whariki and hadn't arrived. Mother was alarmed and fearing that he had met with an accident, sent me off to Whariki. I went round the tramline way and it was dark when I arrived. The men said that he had been there but had gone home, apparently over the hill. Alex Melville insisted on coming back over the hill track with me and walked in front with his bottle lantern. He refused to take a turn on the horse. By the time we completed the journey, Father was home.
The next time was when I accompanied Son when he was delivering meat to the camp. The third time was when Paepkers put on a birthday party for Bobby at Waitekauri. Bub and I left Whiritoa on the evening of the previous day, stayed the night at our home in Waihi and went on to Waitekauri the next day. We danced that evening in the Waitekauri Hall, stayed at Paepker's that night and the next day, escorted by Bobby, rode over the old track from Waitekauri into Whariki. It was mostly through bush and very wet and slushy underfoot, and was the worst bush track on which I have ever ridden — especially the downhill portion. The horses' feet would start a slide that would continue for yards before they could get a footing and steady up — indeed, I think we slid most of the way down the hill and it amazed me that the horses didn't get their feet straddling the boles of the trees on the track.
However, we eventually arrived at Whariki, found some stale bread in the house, went round the hens' nests and gathered up eggs and then boiled up and enjoyed a meal of bread, boiled eggs and tea. Paepkers occupied the house at the time, but they were more often at their place at Waitekauri. The house had earlier been a store and Post Office run by H. H. Adams and the old Post Office Box attached to the front of the store was still there. It was a large house and had possibly been a boarding house as well.
After a break and a look around, we continued our journey to Whangamata, attended a dance there that evening and the following day returned home to Whiritoa, having done the round trip.
The old house at Whariki must have had good timber in it because later Norman Palmer pulled it down, sent it down the river to Parakiwai where the timber was taken out of the river and carted up the Wentworth Valley to make a home for N. Palmer. This house was later brought down and re-erected at Waiharakiekie as a residence for the farm manager for the Lands and Survey. It is now occupied by M. Sherwin — 1968).
The Whariki tramline ended at the landing at Parakiwai and this is where I could well end this part of my story. But first a word picture of Whariki when George, Ross and I used to go there. This is an essay Ross wrote for his school lessons:
THE OLD MILL
"The Old Mill stands by the river. It is many years now since it has been used. Sometimes someone comes along the old bush track that was once a tramline. The tram-rails have long since been taken away and the walkers stumble over the rotting sleepers. Presently they come to the mill. The neglected, rusty workings greet their sight. On the roof a sheet of iron flaps dismally in the wind, like some ill-omened bird of prey. In a corner a rat scuttles out of sight over some tools. I wonder where the man who used them is ? Around the comer stands the old broken forge. Old bellows lay nearby on the ground. What mighty work have they done ? The people tread carefully over the floor, fearing that the rotten boards would give way under them.
"Everything was forsaken for ever. One wall had fallen in. All was desolate. A solitary piece of belting was fast rotting. The mill would never work again. All the boilers were rusted and cracked. Nobody wanted the lengths of piping. Someone touched an old saw and it crumbled away in dust. Inside what was left of the old mill was a big box of bolts and nuts, a heap of tools, part of an old saw, a few rusty buckets and a broken axle. Laying around outside were heaps of rusting iron, some roofing iron together with several old boiler plates and an old wheel. Presently they came to an old pipe leading away up the hill. Further down was another old shed. Down they went to the creek again and found another large wheel. 'Plenty of wheels', said one. 'Yes', replied another. Then they noticed a large pulley in the scrub. They walked across the old shaky bridge and went home."
In his essay Ross says the tramrails were taken away. Actually, they were lifted and piled in several heaps along the line. The expense of lifting these was money wasted because they were just left to decay and were for the most part just heaps of rust when we saw them. Years later a man from Waihi Beach collected the best of them and built a stock yard. They soon disintegrated, however, possibly the salt air completed the erosive process. When we were there we saw the big air compressor which was still complete.
But what of the newspaper cuttings I mentioned earlier ? Here they are :
1896, May: "The Auckland Prospecting Association has been granted the Sceptre, a special claim of 100 acres in the heart of the gold-bearing district of Wharikiraupunga . . . According to Mr J. G. Ralph it is one of the best properties in the whole of Ohinemuri."
1898: Residence sites granted to F. W. Martin and T. P. Glynn, Te Whariki. Application for Special Claims by Edward Glenlivet Elliott, Accountant, Auckland, for Te Whariki previously known as Royal Standard Extended Special Claim, now surrendered, 100 acres. Capital, £10,000. Work to be sinking and driving. Term 21 years.
Application by John Martyn Hame, Mining Agent, Auckland, for land previously known as The Sceptre Special Claim, now being surrendered. Claim to have the same name.
May 28th, 1898: Under the heading of "The Slump at Te Whariki", the "Waihi Miner" refers to the well-known Royal Standard Venture — "Twelve months ago this promised to be one of the finest in the Hauraki Goldfields and which gave employment to 300 men including contractors. The reason for this absolute cessation of operations is pretty clear. The money subscribed, amounting to over £250,000 for developing the mine, has been expended, but, curiously enough, not in development, but in the erection and construction of buildings and tramlines and in preparing for a 100-head stamper mill. This modus operand! has a startling effect on the casual visitor who viewed the big works going on all round him, with wonder and admiration and not till he left the scene of operations that it might have occurred to him that he had seen or learned nothing of any bona fide mining going on ... This mine, in our opinion, has not had fair play and some day we hope to have the pleasure of chronicling a different story ..."
"The downfall of Te Whariki, after a brief period of prosperity has, we regret to say, taken place. About 18 months ago nearly 500 men were employed in and around this district, including bushmen, carpenters, labourers, miners, and, last but not least, mining experts. The mining expert is now more extinct than the moa as not even his skeleton is left".
Waitekauri Jotting: The closing down of the Royal Standard seems to have put the extinguisher upon Te Whariki which is now practically abandoned to the rats and the morepork. Dan Alien has transplanted his billiard saloon and table to Auckland, and other signs of civilisation have been carried out of the deserted village".
A final clipping: "It is reported here that another fire has taken place at Wharekiraupunga, resulting in the complete destruction of Wood's Store and Post Office".
The last words have not been said. We are left with the impression that the gold is there. With modern methods, easier access, increasing value of minerals — who knows?