It is clear from the literature that many prospectors visited the Waihi area well before the opening of the Ohinemuri Goldfield in 1875. How many saw the reef(s) that became known as Martha Hill is not clear. These visits were illegal, and strongly discouraged (eg by Commissioner Mackay). Early visits appear to have been initially tolerated by the Maori owners, but later vigorously opposed.
"In 1869 Te Hira and others decisively blocked any extension of the goldfield to the Ohinemuri region, and the authorities sent the diggers downriver from their camp to Thames." These miners had been camped at Thorp’s farm at Opukeko, near the site of the future township of Paeroa.
Philip Hart has explored the early history of gold discovery in Waihi, in particular his papers on William Nicholl, Daniel Leahy and John Walker. Here he is quoting, and commenting on, Nicholl’s 1935 writings (also available in Pukewa Waihi, 2003, Lockwood; see Silverton Biographies)
‘Three men started out to prospect the country through to [the] East Coast instead of joining the mad rush to stake out ground on the Karangahake side of the river. They first struck a trace of gold in the Waitekauri Creek’. The first of these men was recorded by Nicholl as being ‘Mick Mariman, better known as Mickey Teherey’. He was Michael Marriman (or Marrinan), a prominent prospector who later participated in the Te Aroha rush. The others were Thomas Corbett, who would prospect at Te Aroha in 1880 and was later associated with Nicholl at Waihi, and James Atkinson, of whom nothing is known. Did Nicholl mean Joseph Atkinson, who lived at Tararu during the mid and late 1870s? Atkinson was ‘grub-staked’ by Nicholl to the extent of £25, meaning that Nicholl provided food and possibly tools up to that amount.
‘They first found a trace of gold in the Waitekauri Creek. After they had struck the open fern plains they found a grown-over track leading to Mataora [on the coast to the south of Whiritoa] and followed it till they found the Waihi reef system, and spend a few days on them, and although finding gold in them, but not in payable [quantities] to induce them to stay with it and try it, and they reported them as bucks.’
Buck reefs are barren ones. Corbett and Marriman had explored what became the Union-Silverton Hill. In 1876 four prospectors tested what would become the Rosemont-Silverton hills, but they did not test the future Martha hill, half a mile to the northwest. After John McCombie and Robert Lee reported their discovery in May 1879 they were referred to as ‘two of the Waihi Plains’ prospectors’.
‘The next man that had a go at it was Dan Leahy. He sank a hole on the top of the reef and he didn’t get enough gold to stay with it. He thought it a buck. Many others knocked on the outcrop and all were satisfied that it was a buck reef.’
Leahy had pegged an area of the reef, but never registered the claim.
Nicholl may have got the date wrong, for in 1881 Leahy informed the warden that in March 1878 he had pegged out two claims, the Mataura, named after a bay on the coast near Waihi, and Tauranga No. 1. ‘The reason he had not worked the claims was because he could not get any capitalists to go in with him’, and only a little prospecting was done. It was rumoured that he had prospected Waihi in 1879 with his brother-in-law, John McCombie, when they were both living at Waitekauri.
Daniel Leahy married Mary Ann McCombie in October 1876 in Thames. Aged 26, she was 11 years his junior. She was the younger sister of John McCombie.
Opening of the Ohinemuri Goldfield
The Ohinemuri Goldfield was opened 3 March 1875 . Early activity was centred at Karangahake, Owharoa and Waitekauri. The first battery in Ohinemuri was established at Owharoa, the Morning Light Battery (two stamp) 5 June 1876 . Then:
- August 3 1876. Karangahake Gold Mining Company's battery with 12 head of stampers started
- August 16 1876. Wick’s battery of nine stamps on Mangakara Creek
- August 30 1876. Waitekauri Battery
- January 9 1877. Perry’s battery of 20 stamps at Owharoa
50-acre agricultural leases were being taken up, especially in Waitekauri and Waitawheta valleys. At Waihi, Compston and Walmsley were first.
George Compston, an American ... had been granted his first 50-acre agricultural lease in Ohinemuri in September 1876. With his wife Martha and their three daughters, he took up 200 acres of land in the Huaia Block in 1878, making them the first settlers on the Waihi Plains. ‘Mrs Compston was, for two years, the only lady resident in the district’.
Horatio Agars Walmsley
was the second settler in the district, having acquired an agricultural lease on the north-eastern side of the future Waihi township in 1879, and apart from the Compston family was the only Pakeha there when Nicholl arrived. In 1881 his brother, Sheriff Benjamin Frederick, joined him; they bred cattle and later were timber contractors for many years. They leased a large section of bush-covered land at the end of the present-day Walmsley Road, from which in later years Nicholl would obtain timber for a contract with the Waihi Gold Mining Company.
By February 1877, the Waihi Plains had
17 50-acre sections taken up, with so far 4 residents (plus families, not enumerated), and (perhaps considered more important) 50 cattle and 6 horses, and 175 acres in grass. ‘This district is a good deal scattered.’ This survey was made for the new Thames County Council.
Late 1878 saw John McCombie and Robert Lee testing a large reef on Pukewhau spur.
Isdale quotes John McCombie:
Within four months of the time of our starting, we had driven the crosscut up to and through the foot-wall branch of the lode, which proved to be 17 feet in thickness, and good prospects of gold and silver ... . We took out a trial lot of two tons, upon which the Thames County Council paid the cost of transit to Owharoa, where it was treated in the Smile of Fortune battery for a return of ... £1-11-0 per ton, which did not represent more than 35% of the intrinsic value of the ore samples assayed ... value per ton £4-14-0.
Hart gives an excellent analysis of these events in his Nicholl paper.
The prospectors were unable to raise finance. In Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962: The Waihi Mine, McCombie says:
Armed with the bank results, Lee and I did not anticipate much difficulty in obtaining the needful to exploit the mine; but unfortunately for us, we reckoned without our hosts — the mining experts. The whole concern was reported upon unfavourably by almost everyone who paid the place a visit, and who considered themselves authorities on anything appertaining to gold and silver mining.
In short, we were laughed at by all knowing ones of the day whenever we made an attempt to talk about the Waihi reefs. One authority of the first water, to whom I showed the assay certificate, scoffed at the idea of ascertaining the value of ore by assay. He said assaying was a metallurgical 'fad' dangled before the eyes of the mining community by men who wanted to make money anyhow, but no practical man believed in it.
McCombie reported as a newspaper correspondent in 1881:
During the past week a good deal has been said and written respecting the large reef on the Waihi Plains. Now, it so happens that I formed one of a party who spent six months in prospecting the reef alluded to, and consequently am able to throw some light on the subject. It is situate on a bald spur named Pukewhau, midway between Compston and Walmsley’s farms, and is distant about 5 miles from the Owharoa mining district. It has a general north and south course, with an easterly underlie, and would strike the Aroha mountain on the eastern or Katikati side. It will average 25 feet in thickness, and outcrops for a distance of ten chains along the cone of the spur. We cut it in many places along the line of the outcrop, and proved it to be auriferous at every point of intersection. Having satisfied ourselves beyond the shadow of a doubt that at least 8 feet of the hanging wall side of the reef was payable, we then proceeded to drive a tunnel – which, I believe is still intact – so as to cut the lode 50 feet beneath the surface. This work necessitated 150 feet of driving, which two of us accomplished in the short space of six weeks. We cut into the reef a distance of 8 feet, at which we were obliged to suspend operations, owing chiefly to the want of shooting material. We now determined on sending a trial crushing to the Owharoa battery, but not being possessed of the means necessary to meet the cost of transit, we appealed to the Thames County Council, which body, ever ready to assist the mining industry, voted the amount necessary to defray the cost of conveying 12 sacks of lumpy quartz – about one ton and three quarters (35cwt) – which, after treatment at the battery, yielded one ounce of melted gold, value £2 10s 6d. At the same time it must be borne in mind that we did not retort the silver, nor did we crush the headings, so that the above return was obtained from the plates, tables, and stamper boxes only. We endeavoured to enlist capital with a view to further prospecting the reef, so as to develop it sufficiently to warrant going to the expense of erecting a suitable crushing plant, there being an abundance of timber and water for battery purposes close at hand, but unfortunately we failed to raise a single cent, and were reluctantly obliged to give it best.
The Auckland capitalists, unlike their Australian cousins, would rather drop thousands in scrip speculations than invest one solitary copper in legitimate mining enterprise.
Frustrated and disappointed, McCombie left for the newly opened Te Aroha field.
Nicholl and Majurey
Nicholl and Majurey left the Te Aroha goldfield late 1880, and ventured to the Waihi Plains.
I started with my pick and dish to explore the country and fetched up on the Waihi hills where I found reef outcrops. They were rooted about here and there by the early diggers who abandoned them. The quartz had a hungry watery look and some of it was as white as a hound's tooth. I tested the rubble on these outcrops in various places and never failed to obtain a trace of gold but not sufficient to be of any value.
It was a considerable distance to carry my samples to water to test them so I decided to cut up a sack into nine sample bags and sew and number them so that I could get along quicker. I spent a fortnight combing the western flank of Pukewa still and found rich sheds of gold in two places - one on the north end of the spur (richest), about 200 feet from McCombie and Lee's drive, and the other about 400 feet south. I cut the reef where it was shedding the best and obtained prospects that I estimated to be worth 4 ozs to the ton, so I staked out a claim of 5 acres and proceeded to the Thames on foot to report my find and secure the ground. I went to the Newspaper Office and told them the reef was 40 ft. wide where I cut it. I applied for a lease of 5 acres as a mining claim on the northern end of Pukewa Hill and named it "Martha."
Nicholl travelled from Thames to Coromandel (on foot) to inform his mates. Various versions of Nicholl’s writings make piecing together the subsequent events a challenge. Hart states:
On the following day, Thomas Gilmour, a miner who in 1891 became mine manager of the Waihi mine, John Patton, who appears to have been a bushman living at Hikutaia, Robert Potter (‘Bert’ to Nicholl), a miner who had been present at the Te Aroha rush, ‘and Jack Nicks (my brother in law) appeared on the field. They were the first I told of my find and they staked a claim on my north boundary and called it the "Dulcie," and then left for Thames’ [Hart is quoting Nicholl here]. In fact they named it the Dulcible; everyone had trouble spelling Dulcibel’s name. In his last memoirs, Nicholl wrote that ‘I found when I got back to the claim that a good lot of people had been there and the fern was burned and that they had found my tools. But there were no claims staked out, because I had the good reef buried with sandy loam. My mate arrived two days later and we started to unearth what I had buried’. ‘The cap of the reef had been rooted about a bit’ by the visitors.
His 1901 article gave a different account, stating that, after returning to Thames from Coromandel, he brought the above-named men to Waihi to mark out claims. They pegged out what in this version was the ‘Duncible’ claim, a name that in whatever spelling confirmed that it was indeed his niece who was being immortalised. ‘This was the only claim pegged out for two months after the discovery. Further developments were effected when we discovered a seam in the footwall of the reef containing visible gold worth about 8oz to the ton, if saved by itself. The discovery caused a bit of a rush, which resulted in the pegging out of several claims’. He recorded the shareholders in these as being Hugh Roberts Jones, nicknamed ‘Manukau’ because he had been mine manager of this profitable Thames mine, William Hollis, a prominent miner, especially at Waitekauri, James Smith, correctly Smyth, another prominent Ohinemuri prospector, John Leydon, John McCombie, and Alexander Mackay.
In an attempt to clarify the sequence of events Hart continues:
These early developments were imprecisely dated in his memoirs, but the sequence can be determined from newspaper reports. Early in January 1881, his party briefly became tributers in part of the Radical mine at nearby Owharoa, no doubt to raise funds to meet expenses whilst prospecting at Waihi. On 17 January, Nicholl made the first public announcement of his find. On 16 February, he applied for three acres, one rood, and 26 perches as the Martha claim at Waitete, as Waihi was then known after the stream near what from 1881 onwards was known as Martha Hill. At the warden’s court hearing on 24 March he was granted the claim, in his name alone. At that hearing the Dulcibel claim was granted to his brother-in-law John Nicks, who soon transferred some of his interest to Potter, Patton, and John Costello. The latter was not a stepbrother of Nicholl but a publican who was a friend of John and Mary Ann Nicks. Between 28 March and 27 May 1881, nine other claims were registered; Nicholl had no interests in any of them.
John Nicks married Mary Ann, sister of Billy Nicholl, in 1872. Their daughter Martha Dulcibel had been born in December 1877.
William Street, on the northern side of Martha Hill, may have been named after William Nicholl.
Who was Martha?
in his newspaper article of 1901 he wrote that the prospecting claim ‘was christened after my niece, Miss Martha Dulcible Nicks’. As he had met his then almost three-year-old niece when resting with his sister while passing through Thames on his way to the Te Aroha rush in 1880, this was an obvious choice."
On 17 January, Nicholl made the first public announcement of his find. On 16 February, he applied for three acres, one rood, and 26 perches as the Martha claim at Waitete, as Waihi was then known after the stream near what from 1881 onwards was known as Martha Hill. At the warden’s court hearing on 24 March he was granted the claim, in his name alone. At that hearing the Dulcibel claim was granted to his brother-in-law John Nicks.... Between 28 March and 27 May 1881, nine other claims were registered; Nicholl had no interests in any of them.
Where was the Martha claim?
The Martha claim appears to have been at the "northern" end of the spur (Martha Hill), and McCombie’s workings more to the south, on the western side. The spur does (did) run more or less north south (particularly if viewed in terms of magnetic north), but Martha reef is orientated northeast southwest. The trig point on Martha Hill was at the top of Martha Street (555ft, or 169m), but the highest point was 631ft (192m, above the Martha lode).
There was considerable debate amongst the "experts" as to whether the reef(s) contained payable gold or not.
McCombie, after a visit in late February 1881, wrote in the New Zealand Herald:
The bald spur, which comprises the principal feature in the scene of mining operations at Waihi, is about 300 feet in height, and is strewn from base to cone with quartz boulders, being the debris of the immense reef running through it.
The first claim met with on the northern end of the spur was the Martha, ten men’s ground, Nicholl and party proprietors. This party have driven several surface levels, ranging from 10 to 30 feet in length. In one of these the reef has been cut into for a distance of 13 feet, and upon examination I found strong blotches of gold showing in many places along both walls in the present face of the tunnel.
McCombie hadn’t registered his claim?
When licensed holdings were granted for ground that included their claim, McCombie, considering his title worthless because it had not been registered, took ‘no steps to regain the ground’. In July 1881, in response to a ruling by Warden Kenrick creating uncertainty in the minds of owners of licensed holdings about the security of their titles, Adam Porter, a prominent miner, on their behalf laid a plaint against McCombie and Lee who pegged out all or most of the ground ‘over two years since, but whose pegging has not been abandoned. Nicholl, on behalf of the Martha claim, was one of the plaintiffs. At the hearing in August, McCombie
deposed that he and Lee were prospecting at Waihi in December 1878 and January 1879, and during the latter month pegged out two claims. (Witness indicated their position on a plan produced.) After marking out, they stayed on the ground for six months, doing work on what was now the Dulcibel.... When the Martha and other claims were pegged out, he made no objection; as he did not consider his pegging entitled him to any right on the ground. He did not now claim the ground.... He offered a gentleman connected with some of the present claims to give a notice of abandonment, but it was declined, as it was not considered requisite. – Robert Lee, the other defendant, also signified his willingness to give up the ground.
After discussion, the ‘defendants signified their assurance that they had abandoned the ground’, and agreed ‘to have it recorded that they had abandoned the ground in August, 1879, and therefore as they had no interest in the ground since that date, there was now nothing to forfeit. The companies were now in legal possession’.
Regulations for Ohinemuri Gold Fields Under The Gold Fields Act, 1866.
The framework and constraints under which miners operated was dictated by the mining regulations current at the time. To help understand the actions and decisions made, let’s summarise some of the regulations in force at the opening of the Ohinemuri Goldfield (1875). See a fuller summary in the Appendices (p 95). The regulations were changed from time to time over the years.
- A Miners’ Right for the Ohinemuri Gold Field was required, issued by the Warden on payment of a fee of one pound (£1).
- The area of land which may be occupied for mining by one miner shall not exceed 15,000 square feet [1394 sq m or 0.344 acre] in each claim taken up by him, but any party of miners, not exceeding ten in number, each being actually present and engaged in the marking out of any land for may mark out an aggregate area of land equal in extent to 15,000 square feet for each miner in such party.
- Working. Every claim shall be bona fide and continuously worked from day to day, and there shall be employed therein or thereon at least one miner for every man’s ground comprised in such claim.
- Forfeiture of Mining Claim. Any claim not worked in accordance with the provisions of these Regulations shall be deemed forfeited, unless under protection, or circumstances be proved sufficient, in the opinion of the Warden, to excuse any default in such working.
- Permission to retain a claim or interest therein unworked may be granted by the Warden, and the same shall be thereon protected for such time as the Warden shall think fit. There are a set of conditions to be met.
- All protected claims or interests must be marked by a notice, with "protected" and the owner’s name, address, and particulars of the claim or interest, posted on the ground.
- The area of a machine site shall not exceed half an acre.
- The area of a residence site shall be thirty-three (33) feet frontage by sixty-six (66) feet [2178 sq ft or 202 sq m or 0.05 acre].
- Any miner may use timber (other than kauri) for building or mining purposes, or for firewood.
- Any person requiring kauri timber must apply to the Warden, who will give permission to cut the same on payment to him of the sum of one pound five shillings (£1 5s.) for each tree required by the applicant.
- Every miner taking up a claim or other authorised holding shall within ten days thereafter cause his title to the same to be registered in a book kept for that purpose by the Mining Registrar, and if he shall make default in so doing his title to such claim shall be deemed to be forfeited.
So the size of a claim was effectively determined by the number of miners that could "man the ground", ie keep it worked, forestalling the possibility of forfeiture. This (in theory) prevented claims being taken up, and held for speculative purposes instead of being worked. This "shepherding" of ground was at times a considerable problem. See Water Race Shepherding? (Page 41)
Nicholl’s Attempts at Company Formation
Back to the story then, with Nicholl on Pukewhau spur (Martha Hill).
At the end of January 1881 Nicholl had a trial parcel of five bags (a little less than a ton) crushed at the Smile of Fortune Battery at Owharoa. The Thames Advertiser reported the result: "The yield, 1oz 1dwt, is an excellent one, when the size of the reef is taken into consideration".
On 16 February, he applied for three acres, one rood, and 26 perches as the Martha claim.
A reporter went to see the new Waihi goldfield early in March, 1881, and found that to the junction of the Waitekauri and Kati Kati roads the way was wide enough for four horsemen. After that it was only a track, going on past Compston's place for four miles in all . It was hoped that the interrupted roadmaking would soon be recommenced, before the winter rains.
‘The scene of the operations is on a long fern spur running out into the plains, and the visitor at once perceives, from the burrows in its side, that goldmining is being carried on there. This spur, although of some length, is only a few hundred feed across ... work had ceased for the day, and most of the men had gone to Owharoa to spend the evening.’ Mr Robert Potter was living in a whare at the foot of the hill, and with Mr Compston showed the reporter round.
Said reporter learned that the prospectors' claim was called the Martha, and was told about the other men with Nicholls, and about McCombie and Lee, but got most of the names either given to him wrongly or more likely misheard. Thus Majurey came out as McGoray.
He was told that McCombie and Lee had driven between 120 and 140 feet. Nicholl and party, since coming over from Te Aroha three months before, had driven an upper tunnel 45 feet, going 25 feet into the reef, and a lower tunnel of shorter length. The reporter also saw four or five other tunnels, all of which had exposed reef. He said gold could be seen in the tunnel faces.
‘The lode has a different appearance to any yet discovered on this peninsula, and a person looking at stone taken from it could hardly believe that it was auriferous, let alone payable. The colour is white, and portions of it are very soft, resembling pipe clay.’ It was easy to break out. The reef had so far been traced for 2000 feet, but it was considered it no doubt went the length of the spur ‘and into the surrounding bush’.
Nicks and party had taken over McCombie and Lee's tunnel in the adjoining Dulcibel. They had taken out and stacked 25 tons of quartz, being the only claim that had so far taken out any quantity, and had erected a forge, which everybody found very handy.
Next was the Waitete, ‘the Maori name of the place where operations were being carried on.’ Waihi was originally the name of a Maori coast settlement, but inland having been spoken of as the Waihi Plains, the name ‘the Waihi’ was now being applied to the new goldfield. The Waitete claim had been taken out by a Grahamstown (north Thames) speculator and forfeited, and then taken up by H.T. Rowe, James Smyth, M Vaughan, W Liddell, R Wingate and W Tregoweth, all apparently of Thames.
‘Manukau’ Jones had taken up about 20 acres. One area was ‘on a small round hill a couple of hundred feet away from the spur.’ [A hand-written comment says here, Rosemont?] Campbell the Owharoa tributer had taken up ground to the east next to the prospectors' claim. Mr James Smith had the Old Colonial claim. On the Paeroa side the Dulcibel was adjoined by the Evelina, held by a Paeroa group headed by James Liddell. H.T. Rowe surveyed ‘all the claims at Waitete’. He himself took up the Emily under the prospectors' low level. It was considered there was always enough water in the nearby creek to drive a large battery.
The reporter noted the prosperous state of the farms at Waitekauri and Waitawheta valleys, and on the Waihi Plains. There only three agricultural leases had been taken up, by Compston, Walmsley and Thorpe. These had by now erected substantial homes, and ‘cultivated the greater portion of their holdings.’
The First Company
Hart gives details:
Nicholl wrote that ‘after the news got around Thames, mining magnates appeared on the scene. These gentry were Adam Porter, Jimmy Darrow, and Evan Baillie Fraser’. In the 1930s he used the word ‘prigs’ to describe them, meaning, in the slang terms of his youth, cheats and swindlers.
Nicholl clearly feared that those who provided the capital would take control of his find and receive most of the profits. In 1927, he added another name to the party of investors, John Watson Walker, a leading mine manager whom he always referred to as Long Drive Walker because of his management of a famous early Thames mine.
Because the reef looked so encouraging, the prospectors refused an offer of £3,000 for an interest in the claim. At the beginning of May , Nicholl’s party and the investors formed the first mining company at Waihi, the Martha Gold Mining and Quartz Crushing Company. The prospectors were required to provide most of the capital: Nicholl held 7,000 of the 18,000 shares, his brother Robert had 1,000, and Majurey had 4,000. Three other shareholders inaccurately gave their occupations as miners and their place of residence as Thames: Fraser, who had 2,000 shares, Darrow, with 2,000, and Porter, with 1,000. John Frater, a Thames sharebroker, had 1,000. The directors included William and Robert Nicholl, Majurey and Fraser. Being ‘anxious to have the mine tested as soon as possible’, the syndicate’s first decision was to re-erect the Karangahake battery [not being used at Karangahake, and for sale, or already bought by Darrow and Fraser] near their claim.
Part of this deal was that the prospectors "put a tunnel in through the reef at a depth of 50 feet below the surface. For this they [the investors] were willing to advance £50." The rest of the deal is described here by E. B. Fraser: "should the prospects satisfy us [as shown in the tunnel], the mine owners to enter into an agreement with us for the erection of a 16-stamper battery, we to receive one third of the shares in the mine, and 25 per cent of net profits until the cost of the battery was paid."
It appears that the results of the tunnel were disappointing, and the investors abandoned their intentions to erect a battery.
Nicholl was apparently pleased that the deal fell through. He had already had misgivings. After he and Majurey had signed the agreement at Mrs Read’s hotel at Owharoa, he had uttered the much-quoted line: "Well, they have us licked".
In early July 1881 Nicholl determined to send a second test parcel of ore to Owharoa.
I could see there was nothing for it but to get our 5 tons of quartz dragged or packed to Owharoa. I saw the Farmer boys and they agreed to crush it for me, and I also went to see Mr Marsh, a farmer at Turner’s Hill, and he agreed to drag it if it was possible. On my way back I bought 30 sacks from [James] Hosie at Owharoa, made a pack of them and started for Waihi next day. We filled and tied them and Marsh came next day with two horses, a sledge and a trolley. He broke a trail through the fern with dragging his sledge along the old Maori track and finished getting the 30 sacks of quartz in to Owharoa in five days. Mr William attended to the treatment of the quartz and the result of the crushing was 5 ounces to the ton. We had 25 ounces of gold valued at £3.16.6 per ounce, this being the richest value bullion found in any reef in the northern goldfields. People doubted the truth of it and sent a yarn round Thames that I salted my crushings with sovereigns. I heard a group of men talking on Scrip Corner when I was on my way to the bank with my gold, but did not know they were alluding to me.
Six years later he wrote that the 30 sacks held only about four tons and that the 24 ounces obtained (according to this account) was not ‘a fair trial, it was run through very coarse mesh gratings and I suppose only half of the gold was saved’. Later he wrote that with a ‘modern appliance it would have yielded three times as much’. This yield ‘enabled us to hang out longer’.
These results would suggest that this sample was of carefully picked stone. The Martha lode in general proved to be of much lower grade.
Kerry Nicholls and the second company
James Henry Kerry Nicholls, FGS, geologist and speculator, approached Nicholl and Majurey with the next proposal to float a company and build a battery. Nicholl:
a man by the name of J.H. Kerry Nicholls came on the scene and proposed to take an option to build a battery for [a] third interest in the mine. I asked him what he was prepared to put down for the right of option. He said he had no money to put down but that he was certain he could have it floated in a fortnight, but he wanted two months to be certain of doing it and that if we gave him a chance we wouldn’t regret it. Majury thought it would be better to give him a chance. I consented, but I wasn’t too sweet on the business.
Kerry Nicholls had been testing the "dirt" and was apparently quite taken with the prospects of the mine. This was even before the "splendid" results of the trial crushing were known. An agreement was signed with him on 3rd June, and Nicholls was to purchase the Karangahake Battery and have it re-erected at Waihi.
The agreement gave Nicholls two months to raise the capital, but apparently he had failed to do so, and wanted a little extra time. By July 4 he had never-the-less formed the Martha (No. 1) Gold-Mining and Quartz Crushing Company, with published prospectus. The chairman of directors was Kerry Nicholls and the other directors were the Nicholl brothers, Majury, and Nathaniel Gordon Lennox.
Even before this prospectus was published, it seems Nicholl was in talks with FA White in Auckland with regards setting up a (different) company ("Mr F.A. White ... having arranged with several capitalists to erect a sixteen stamper mill without delay" ). This a week before the option given to Kerry Nicholls had expired (late June 1881). The Nicholl texts that cover these events all have different versions, but it seems that Kerry Nicholls was being treated very unfairly, and he was not happy.
Nicholl told Kerry Nicholls that his time had expired, and the deal was off: "when his time was up I sent him a letter telling him that his time was up and that we were going to have nothing more to do with him".
New Martha Gold Mining Company (the third company)
The new company, arranged with FA White, was established with directors comprised of the Nicholl brothers, Majurey, Stone, Wilson, and Edward Wayte, an Auckland estate agent. The company was registered as the Martha Gold Mining and Quartz Crushing Company . Surveyor Bayldon was to "select the most suitable site for the battery as well as to take the necessary levels of the water race and ground for the horse-grade tramway" to connect the mine and battery. No mention of where the battery may come from, but read on.
Hart mentions that there was yet another offer for the mine.
The day after the prospectus of the Martha (No. 1) Company was published, it was reported that another ‘gentleman from Victoria offered yesterday to a miner intimately connected with Waihi £3000 to be expended on a battery. If the Martha project should fall through the offer will be accepted’. Therefore Nicholl’s party could choose between three possible backers.
Kerry Nicholls fights back
Nicholl and Majurey were summonsed to appear at the Magistrate’s Court at Thames on a charge of £5000 damages for breach of contract. The case was heard mid August 1881. The short version of the result was that as no extension in time had been given in writing by the defendants, the action failed. "Kerry Nicholls’ counsel gave immediate notice of an appeal to the Supreme Court, and the injunction placed on the mine was extended for ten days to enable this to be lodged." This injunction lasted until mid October, holding up work at the mine.
On 18 October it was reported that the injunction had lapsed, Kerry Nicholls’ appeal ‘not being brought forward at the appointed time – during the civil sittings of the Supreme Court’. Immediately after these sittings closed, Miller ‘registered a deed assigning the claim to the Martha Gold Mining Company, which course of action may effectually put a stop to any litigation’. At a meeting of directors of the company on 26 October, litigation was ‘finally arranged’, with Kerry Nicholls elected a director in place of Nicholl, ‘who resigned in his favour’. As part of this arrangement, Kerry Nicholls gave the company his Karangahake battery.
Obviously some accommodation was made, and the Karangahake Battery was available again (Kerry Nicholls had apparently bought the battery from Darrow and Fraser). Hart is silent here, but he goes on to report:
In July 1882, the share list for the Martha Gold Mining [and Quartz Crushing] Company included Nicholl with 3,918 of the 15,000 shares, his brother with 348, Majurey with 2,250, and Kerry Nicholls with 232. The latter chaired the luncheon at the opening of the Martha battery in 1882 and proposed the toast to the miners of Waihi, ‘eulogizing miners as a class’. This ended his involvement with mining apart from becoming, in the following year, a director of the stillborn Thames Winding Company.
However there are suggestions that the Karangahake Battery stayed in Karangahake after all , but this has not been traced.
Waihi settlement was also well under way, including vegetable growing. A report in August 1881:
As an evidence of settlement, in various directions are to be seen substantial houses erected by the miners. Mr Unthank has started a bakery; Mr May a store; Mr Clotworthy a restaurant and livery and bait stables; and a butcher calls twice a week for orders, supplying the settlers with meat at five pence a pound all round. Gardening ranks high, and foremost amongst those who are raising vegetables is Mr Potter, who expends much time in this delightful pursuit, his labours being rewarded by an abundant supply of vegetation.
"Potter" may have been Porter, as "in July, Henry Christian Wick, Porter, and their party had ‘a little more than an acre ploughed up and planted with vegetables, in order to supply the necessities of the miners’" .