Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 11, May 1969



In 1874 W.M.B. of York England published "The Narrative of Edward Crewe". This book relates the adventures of a young man over a period of five years from the time when he arrived at Auckland on the 18th December 1850 at the age of twenty years on the barque Sir Edward Paget. He had been brought up in gentle circumstances in Yorkshire and had been educated both by private tutors and at Rugby School and at the end of his education, decided to emigrate to New Zealand. W.M.B. was, in fact, William Mortimer Baines and it has been possible to establish that the book he wrote relates his own experiences during his sojourn in New Zealand, and perhaps to this area.

William Baines gives a graphic description of the small struggling town of Auckland in 1850, detailed accounts of trips by sea into the upper reaches of the Waitemata Harbour and also up the river Thames to Te Aroha, and finally gives a long account of his discovery of gold about the year 1854. From this point I will let W.M.B. tell the story himself.

"I will now pass over nine months during which my time was fully occupied establishing myself about sixty-five miles from Auckland, and where the reader will picture Mr. Edward Crewe in possession of a sawmill, a store for trading purposes with the natives, and a schooner, the Fairy, twenty five tons of burden. The stand of kauri I had acquired lay some eight miles inland from the mill and was estimated to contain upwards of a million feet of timber. There was a creek running up the main gully, the same that after many meanderings reached the mill. A bushman named Charley Wright entered into a contract with me to fall, cross cut and roll handy to the creek side 200,000 feet of timber. He had eight men in his employ, and whilst he was felling and cross cutting logs, from ten to twenty-five feet in length, I was busy with another gang of men building a flood dam nine miles from the boom at the mouth of the creek. Arrived at the mill the logs were hauled upwards as required on to the mill floor. Here they were rolled upon the carriage to the vertical saw.

On one memorable Sunday, I set off in an idle kind of manner hoping to replenish our larder with a little fresh pork; also I wanted to see how certain kauri logs were located and if the next fresh was likely to bring many more down to the boom. Herod was with me, a strong bad tempered, brindle coloured hound. We took the track that led to the forest, following the course of the creek. When we arrived at the edge of the forest about seven miles from the mill, I sat down to have a rest and again setting out, Herod and I scrambled on for more than an hour, along the bed of the creek, trudging over the gravel, amongst which water worn quartz pebbles formed a considerable portion. In places I could see reefs of white quartz cropping up through the rock from an eighth of an inch to a foot or more in thickness. Presently we left the creek and clambering up the right hand bank, we struck up hill with the idea of gaining the summit of the spur, where I supposed the road would rise by a pretty gradual ascent until the ridge ran into the great dividing range - the backbone of the peninsula.

We must have been travelling an hour after leaving the creek, when Herod who was ahead, gave notice by barking that he had a pig at bay. On they went downhill to the creek, only a very small streamlet here, and then down the creek with me after them. Suddenly both pig and dog disappeared. They had slipped along a rocky incline and tumbled down a miniature waterfall - some twenty feet high - into a tranquil pool below. I slew the swine, and sat down to rest and think about my return to the mill. I have fourteen miles to travel at least thought I, but when I find the track by which I entered the forest the rest will be easy. Seated on a shelving rock with the waterfall and its clear pool on my right hand, a stretch of shingly beach a few paces across to where the stream overflowed the pool and ran at the very base of the cliff in my front, and twenty yards to my left the creek narrowed, the cliffs rising precipitous on either side, roofed over with a green canopy of forest. Mechanically I took up a quartz pebble. Turning the stone in my hand, my eye caught sight of a pale yellow streak on the stone in my hand. Why, this surely is gold!

I quickly handled many of the stones about me and found the "colour" in several; but was this pale yellow stuff really the precious metal? As a rough test, from one of the best specimens I cut a tiny bit of gold; it seemed about as hard as zinc. I placed a mite of yellow stuff upon a hard stone and with the back of my knife beat it flat. (It is gold!) I now observed the rock that formed the waterfall. The softer portion was worn away, leaving a regular reef of quartz standing out; this I saw was much richer than the loose pebble I had first seen, and I judged it to contain twenty-five per cent of gold. One thing almost made me doubt my luck, and this was the pale colour of the gold, which arose, as I afterwards found, from the quantity of silver with which it was alloyed.

Wading into the pool below the fall, and using a stone for a hammer, I broke off from the reef several large lumps which appeared to be nearly one half metal, so weighty that I could only with difficulty carry them. Why here are tons of gold I cried aloud. I then proceeded to cut off the pig's head and otherwise dispoil him, reserving some thirty pounds of his choicer parts for my back load home. Truly, it was hard to leave the gold behind but I selected only one very fine specimen weighing about a pound that was nearly all gold. At length when clear of the canyon, the road improved, although I only made slow progress, steering a devious way amongst a tanglement of supplejack and many shrubs and trees of a New Zealand bush. Once on top of the ridge, I got out of the forest and sat down to take a spell and think how I should turn my wonderful adventure to a good account. Should I let any of the Europeans at the mill into the secret? Should I tell the Government and so claim the reward? How about the natives who certainly would never consent to sell either to private individuals or to the Government if they had an idea there was gold. I could arrive at no conclusion so I again set off homeward. On and on I trudged to the mill, lost in thought.

Next day, having sufficient sawn timber for a full cargo for the Fairy, I set all spare hands filling up her hold and also stowed away in the cabin more than a ton of kauri gum. All this occupied two whole days and it was quite late that Na Taima, another native named Honi and myself set sail down the river on our way to Auckland. I had not forgotten my precious nugget from which I had cut a fragment to show a Jew who kept a watchmakers and jewellers shop in Queen Street, Auckland. In due course we arrived in town and I proceeded to my Jewish friend's shop. The Jew took the specimen from my hand and at once pronounced it to be gold, only rather pale in colour. Having sold my cargo and having ordered what stores I required, I set off that same afternoon to pay a visit to my old friends, the Fearnleys, who lived at the time at the sawmill up the harbour and at whose house I duly arrived late in the evening. While there I divulged to Seth Fearnley my wonderful discovery. He readily agreed to assist me promising at the same time never to open his lips on the subject to anyone.

"Whatever we realise, Seth," I remarked, "You should have half. The following morning I returned to Auckland, taking Seth with me; and the day after set off on our return voyage. It was not until Sunday came round that I ventured again to visit the gully where I had found the gold. Seth and I started after an early breakfast. "We walked on and on by the track by which I had returned on the day of my great discovery, turning off the ridge where I had clambered up, we descended to the creek, and then waded or jumped from rock to rock as we made our way up the gorge or canyon to the tiny waterfall. We stayed some time at Golden Falls, for so I had named the place, and with an eye to future operations examined carefully the immediate locality. I was pretty sure we were about sixteen miles from the East Coast, and decided to strike through the forest in that direction at all events until we caught sight of the sea.

(to be continued) [see Journal 12: Narrative of Edward Crewe continued - E]