Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962
By A. M. ISDALE, B.A.
(Secretary, Thames-Hauraki Historical Society)
Having typed out Mr Nicholl's autobiography from a microfilm of the manuscript, held in the Turnbull Library, I have been asked to write a few words about his adventures as a prospector.
Wm. Nicholl started out as a boy of 16 on a Thames claim, six months after the field opened on August 1st., 1867, and then went on to Coromandel following the Tokatea discovery of 1869. On Christmas Eve 1870 he made a rich strike, and for several years thereafter shared in the rich returns of the "Bismark and French Republic" and other good claims. During this period he financed or "grub-staked" a number of hopeful diggers. He wrote, "I had not learned to say no. What with wild cats (i.e. unproven prospects) and lending money I could get rid of my money faster than I could make it."
Nicholl was then intimately associated with the early stages of the development of the Martha Mine, for a time as manager, till all the claims on the hill were amalgamated and then taken over by T. H. Russell. So in 1885 he joined the Hollis brothers in a 2-year tribute of the old Waitekauri mine, which required much repair.
In 1887 he went to Fiji reporting gold where later valuable mines were opened up, and returned to Waihi about 1889 to find the Martha beginning to go ahead but not yet making much money. The cyanide process was just coming in. He worked for the Martha for a time as bush contractor for tramway and timber, but not receiving what was due to him from Russell he then took over a mine at Maratoto. He carried on there successfully till he joined the 1898 Klondike rush. He returned after having spent most of his share of the proceeds of the sale of the Maratoto mine, and then worked for the Martha for some years till his boys grew up. In the 1920's now an old man, he went out prospecting in the ranges again, till the effects of one particularly hard trip made it impossible for him to prospect any more. His last days were spent at Waitekauri.