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THE GOLDMINER'S DATABASE

Search the names of 50000 goldminers from the goldrushes of New Zealand
Spanning the years 1861 - 1872

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RECORDS INCLUDED IN THE GOLDMINER'S DATABASE

Otago Mining Records (1861 - 1866)

Thames Mining Records (1867 - 1872)


Explanation of the Record Types in the Database (First column in the results chart).

Notes on the Thames Goldfields and searching the Database.

Miner's Rights in Thames.

The Major Goldrushes of the 1800s.

'Now, when the Shotover rose that night, so had all the other rivers throughout Otago. Molyneux came up twenty feet, and every ragamuffin stream became a stampeding torrent. The waters spread out over that haunted land, and God knows how many diggers lost their lives. For there was no counting the hordes that spread over Otago, and no one to name the corpses as they rolled up on the shingle bars, some of them with gold flakes in the folds of their clothing. But most died on Shotover, which had risen thirty-five feet in one bound.' Ruth Park

THE NEW ZEALAND GOLDRUSH JOURNAL

A collection of stories about the New Zealand Goldrush (1861 - 1872) contributed by readers of this website. These will include stories of individual miners as well as descriptions of the various goldfields, the conditions the miners found there when they arrived and the equipment they used to find, collect and purify the gold. Anyone with a goldrush story to tell will be welcome to contribute, just contact the Editor

Methods used to obtain gold in the Gold Rushes of the 1800s.

Looking for color.

Panning for alluvial gold

(called placer gold in California)
Found in rivers or alluvial soil, especially in Otago, NZ.


Click to check the pan for gold.
The gold can be picked up from the pan by disolving it in mercury. The mercury-gold amalgam is then burned off to leave behind the pure gold. The old miners did not appreciate how bad this was for their health.

A Cradle


Click to enlarge the image.
More efficient than a pan, a cradle relies on the prinicple that the heavier gold will fall to the bottom and be caught on a blanket as the cradle is rocked. A steady stream of water ensures the gravel is washed through, hopefully leaving any colour behind.

A Sluice Box


Click to enlarge the image.
The heavier gold is caught in slats, raffles or a blanket as the gravel passes through the sluice box in a steady stream of water.
Photo from Alexander Turnball Library, Wellington.

A Sluice Gun

(called a Monitor in California)

Click to enlarge the image.
A powerful jet of water is used to wash away the hillsides and river banks, hopefully releasing the gold-bearing soils. Gold can then be extracted from the loose soils using a pan, cradle or sluice box.


A sluice gun being used to wash gold from the river banks at The Goldfields Mining Center, Otago, 2012.

Cashing in


Click to enlarge the image.


Gold could be handed in to the Government Gold Receiver or exchanged with merchants in town. At the General Store, they could exchange their gold for supplies of food, mining tools and in the case of quartz miners, for blasting powder. Even the pubs and restaurants kept weighing scales to settle the bills in gold. The Bank of New Zealand, Bank of New South Wales or The Union Bank of Australia were all operating on the New Zealand Goldfields and would purchased gold from the miners who could keep a credit on record at the Bank, or take the cash if they needed it for running expenses. Many miners held on to their gold but this was a dangerous practice with armed bandits always waiting for an opportunity to take it from them.

Gold dust and nuggets were melted down and purified by the banks, and turned into gold bars. These were taken under high security to the nearest port for shipping to the London gold markets.

Digging for quartz gold

Usually found underground
in 'reefs' or 'veins',
especially in Thames, NZ.

A Quartz Mine


© Photo by DJCraig
Click to enlarge the image.
A quartz mine at Shotover, Thames, New Zealand which shows how the miners followed a gold-bearing reef as it plunged towards the center of the earth. It required a considerable outlay to start a mine like this and the individual miners of the 1800s did not usually have the cash to develop the full potential of their claim. Often they banded together in groups of 4 - 20 men to pool their resources or formed a company to raise finance. Shares in the Gold Mining Companies were traded on the streets of Thames from 1868 onwards.

Quartz showing a vein of gold.


Click to enlarge the image.

A Tramway


Click to enlarge the image.
Quartz laden with gold is extremely heavy so a tramway was contructed to get it out of the mine. Then the rails could be extended to take the quartz all the way to the battery for crushing. A good example of this is the Una Tramway at Thames, New Zealand.

A Stamper Battery


Click to enlarge the image.
The quartz had to be crushed or pulverized to release the gold as dust. The batteries could have any number of stampers, in this case five. This was a small more mobile stamper which could be taken to the mine entrance.



A five-stamper quartz battery in operation using water power and a pelton wheel at The Goldfields Mining Center, Otago, 2012.

Operating the stampers required a supply of running water to operate a water wheel or pelton wheel and for washing out and sluicing the pulverized quartz. Many of them were steam-powered, which also required a good source of fuel and water. The stamper batteries were placed either beside a stream, or alternatively water was brought in using a water race.

Just sometimes, a miner can

trip over a nugget.

and carry it away to the bank.

Click to enlarge the image
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Contact: Kae Lewis


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Edward Hooper
Edward Hooper (1830 - 1899)
Goldminer of Otago (1861)
and Tapu, Thames (1868)

This webpage was composed and compiled by Kae Lewis in memory of her great great grandparents Edward Hooper and his wife Elizabeth Ann nee Bates. Like everyone whose name appears on this website, they also answered the call of the gold.

Edward Hooper arrived in Otago New Zealand in 1861 as an unmarried 30 year old miner in time for the opening of the goldfield at Gabriel's Gully. Later he returned to Australia where he married Elizabeth Ann Bates in South Australia in 1863. While Edward worked in the copper mines at Burra Burra, South Australia, Elizabeth gave birth to a son in 1864 and a daughter in 1866. Then gold was proclaimed in Thames New Zealand in August 1867. With two toddlers and another on the way, Edward and Elizabeth boarded a ship to New Zealand, landing on the shore at Tapu in the middle of winter, just in time for Elizabeth to give birth to another son in October 1868. Edward set to work immediately, taking out a Miner's Right at Tapu in July 1868 and another in August 1869. In April 1869, he bought a share in a mine named Count of Mont Cristo at Tapu with four other men. Elizabeth gave birth to another son, Herbert George Hooper (the great grandfather of Kae Lewis) at Tapu in August 1869. They now had four children under the age of 5, and against all odds on the goldfields in these days, kept everyone alive and thriving. By 1873, when their 5th child was born, the Hooper family had moved to Gisborne where Edward worked at the Makauri sawmill owned by William King. They lived in Gisborne for the rest of their lives and had 8 children altogether. Elizabeth died in Gisborne in 1894, Edward in 1899.