Past and Present, and Men of the Times.
I discover a Quartz Reef on the Carrick Range—I meet Mr. R. Loughnan—The Aurora Reef—My Speculation in a Battery Plant—Battery Christenings—All is not gold that glitters—I start Business in the Auctioneering Line—I visit Queenstown and Kingston—Captain Howell—A Father of Twenty Children—The Captain and I enjoy ourselves—"Two lovely black eyes" —Startling News from New South Wales—I decide upon a Trip to Sydney—A grand send-off—My Trip to Australia—Extravagances on board—I am temporarily hard-up, but get advances—A Kangaroo Hunt.
In this year, 1867, my friend Wilkin, with whom I had been dealing in stock for years, sold one-half of his run to Mr. Loughnan, who fixed his homestead nine miles from Cromwell. I thereupon commenced dealing with him for sheep and cattle, finding the distance very much more convenient for my business and the market.
One day I was away at a place called the Nevis, a famous goldfield, purchasing cattle, and in returning over the Carrick Range I found a quartz reef, from which I brought in some golden specimens. I showed them to some of my friends, not telling them whence I had obtained them. A few days after I went out to the station, and showed them to Mr. Robert Loughnan, who at once agreed to make one of a party to prospect the reef. I turned my horse out on the run, and he drove me into town in his buggy. We soon made up a party of our friends, and we then drove down to Clyde and applied for a prospecting area, which was granted.
When the news became generally known, a great rush set in, and the Carrick Range was marked off in quartz claims for page 168miles, many of which are being worked, and some have paid handsomely. We had a trial-crushing from our reef, which yielded 7ozs. of gold per ton. We then erected a battery to crush for ourselves, and named it the "Royal Standard," and put on a lot of miners to raise stone. The yield all at once fell off to 2ozs. per ton; so I went out one day and looked over the reef and workings. I then came to the conclusion that the lode was not a permanent one, but only what is called a "blow" of quartz, and decided to sell out.
I wanted Mr. R. Loughnan to sell out at the same time. I had an offer and disposed of my interest, clear of all liabilities, which were pretty heavy at the time, for the sum of £200 cash.
Just at this time important quartz discoveries had been made at a place called Bendigo Gully, sixteen miles from Cromwell on the Dunstan range, and there was very great excitement over one claim, called the "Aurora," which, from specimens shown, appeared to be nearly all gold. I went up and tried hard to get an interest, but no one was inclined to part with any. Hearing that the company were about to erect a crushing battery, and intended despatching one of the shareholders to the Arrow to purchase one there, called the "Criterion," which was idle, I thought I saw my way clear to getting a share in the "Aurora."
I rode off at once to the Arrow. I saw the plant, and learned that Mr. W. Robertson, of Queenstown, had the disposal of it. I at once rode to his place, and was not long in concluding a bargain. He considered it bad property at the time. I gave him a cheque for £50 on account, and went on my way rejoicing. On my way down I met an old friend, Mr. John Perriam, a merchant and settler, residing near Cromwell, and a shareholder in the famous Aurora. During a short conversation, he told me that he was on his way to purchase the Criterion plant and battery, at the Arrow. I mentioned that he would have his journey for nothing, as I had bought it the day before from Mr. Robertson.
He would not believe my statement, and asked what on earth I wanted a battery for. I said I had purchased it as a speculation—such things were handy in the house. He laughed, and rode on, but I knew full well the laugh would shortly be on my side. When I arrived at Cromwell, the excitement was greater than ever; people were quartz mad, the Aurora Company were in a hurry to realise, and had determined to erect a battery at once.page 169
Some of my friends, to whom I had mentioned the matter, said my speculation at the Arrow would yet turn up trumps. Next day Mr. Perriam returned, considerably chafed at my smartness, and offered to buy the plant. I asked him what he would take for half his interest in the Aurora. He said £1500. I then offered him the battery for one half his share, and £200 in cash. He closed with the offer, paid down £150, and sent off men, wagons and horses to take down and transport the plant of the Aurora Mine without delay.
This piece of work cost, I believe, about £560. Shortly afterwards, the battery was erected, and of course there must, as usual in such cases, be a christening and pouring out of champagne, and the like. The day arrived, the battery was gaily decorated, and abundance of good things provided for the visitors, of whom there were some hundred or two. I, as Mayor of Cromwell, was called upon for an address. I gave it amid cheering. Mrs. Perriam, with a few appropriate words, dashed the bottle of champagne against the huge wheel, which at once revolved, set the stampers in motion, the golden ore was thrown in, and the Aurora battery was an accomplished fact. Toasts, speeches, eating and drinking followed, winding up with a ball in the evening.
These are very pleasant breaks in the monotony of a goldfield; but, alas, how often do the bright hopes, engendered by such displays meet with bitter disappointment! In fact, it is almost the rule, and, as the sequel will prove, this was no exception. "It is not all gold that glitters."
At this time, Mr. Robert Wilkin sold the remainder of his run to Mr. Henry Campbell. Chambers Brothers purchased the cattle on the upper portion of the run, and I bought those on the lower. This was a bad speculation for me, over which I lost heavily. Pleuro Pneumonia broke out among the herds, and nearly all died. Chambers Brothers, in removing their mob to their own station, had to pass through other runs, and communicated the disease to the cattle on them. Actions for damages followed, and those gentlemen were nearly ruined. My ill-luck was cropping out again with a vengeance.
The Aurora, in the meantime, had a washing-up, with a yield of barely three ounces [unclear: per ton], in place of ten, as expected. Verily, gold digging is a lottery. I went to Dunedin to bring my son home from the hospital, as he was now getting much stronger.page 170
While in Dunedin, I found everyone in a state of excitement over the Bendigo reefs. The famous Caledonian, in the North Island, was then pouring out its extraordinary treasures, and men's minds were distracted by visions of wealth to be gained from investment in quartz mines. I had neglected to get a transfer before I left, from Mr. Perriam, or I might have sold my Aurora shares at an extravagant price. On my return to Cromwell the re-action had set in, the Aurora was down in the market and in men's estimation, and to make matters worse, my cash balance had dwindled to very small dimensions, and I found myself in debt. But I very soon cut the knot. I sold my property where my butcher's shop stood, to Mr. Bendix Hallenstein, merchant, for £700, and cleared off my liabilities, which were not very much.
I was now out of business for a few months, my term of office as Mayor was up, and I felt thoroughly miserable at being out of harness. At last a thought struck me, I would try the auctioneering business. I had done well at it years before in California, why not here? I took out a license—the fee was £50 per annum—and got a great many sales to conduct. Altogether, during 1868, the business paid very well.
My old customers were always wondering why I gave up the meat trade, so I erected a shop on an allotment I had in Cromwell, called it the "Smithfield Butchery," and combined the old trade with the auctioneering. My custom came back rapidly, and money began once more to flow into my coffers.
I went again to Dunedin, where I fell in with a Mr. Bathgate, lawyer, to whom I disposed of my interest in the Aurora for £250. It was not a very good venture for that gentleman, as I do not think the company ever paid a dividend, and is now utterly broken up. The mine is still there, and probably some day it may retrieve its character, as I do not think it ever got a thoroughly fair trial.
The newspapers continually reiterate that "quartz-reefing is only in its infancy," and this is my belief also.
When I returned to Cromwell, I found a letter waiting calling me to Kingston on business, and to call on Captain Howell at Fairlight station. I left for Queenstown, and put up for the night at Eichardt's Hotel. Next day I took my passage in the steamboat for Kingston, at the foot of Lake Wakatipu, about 23 miles from Queenstown. The lake here presents some grand page 171scenery to the eye of the tourist, especially in winter; the sides of the Remarkable Mountains, which run sheer down into the lake, are a grand sight. Icicles, of an immense length and thickness, are seen clustered all along the sides, and stretching their long arms down to the clear cold water. Bold bluff headlands towering to the skies, and capped with eternal snow, make up a picture the grandeur of which I am too unlettered to do justice to.
I reached Kingston in due course, and met a gentleman —a Mr. Pearce—from a small town known as Gore, to whom I sold my shop and fixtures generally, for £500, and agreed, verbally, not to butcher any more in Cromwell.
Kingston was not much of a place at the time. Like Mark Tapley's "Eden," it would be the better if built; but ere long it will doubtless be a flourishing place enough, for it is the projected terminus of the Southern railways from the seaboard.
I hired a horse here, and rode seven miles to Fairlight Station, belonging to a very old friend, Captain Howell, with whom I had been whaling and sharing many vicissitudes in my early days. The captain was an old New Zealand settler, and had married a Maori woman, by whom he had, I think, twenty children, the girls being mostly very handsome, as indeed the female half-castes of New Zealand generally are.
I found Captain Howell just mouuting his horse to ride to Kingston, en route for Queenstown, his family being all away from home. I returned to Kingston with him, and stopped all night. We had little opportunity for talking over old times and comparing notes, for the house we stopped at was crowded with sheep-shearers, and it is well known they are mostly pretty rowdy company. Captain Howell would persist in plying them with grog. At last they got quite uproarious, and commenced fighting among themselves. The captain and I interfered to make peace, and were each rewarded by a good thrashing. I got a pair of black eyes. So much for the amenities of shearers. I felt quite ashamed in the morning to travel in the steamer, but Captain Howell persuaded me to go on with him, and we arrived at Queenstown. I stopped with him there for a fortnight, I am sorry to say, celebrating our ancient friendship by drinking and spreeing, until I tired of the miserable fun and left for Cromwell, where I arrived much the worse for my trip, and out of pocket.page 172
However, the auctioneering and cattle-dealing were paying well, and I had too much good sense to cry oyer spilt milk. When I arrived at Cromwell, I met Mr. Henry Campbell of the Wanaka Station. He had been waiting for me to conduct a sale of horses for him. I told him horses were now selling for very little. However, he wanted to be rid of them; so, on the day appointed, I cleared them off, and got better prices than I anticipated.
Whilst engaged at this sale, one of my sons handed me a letter which he had got from the post office. I put it in my pocket. After the sale was over, I had forgotten all about it, when my son said, "Father, have you looked at your letter? It bears the Sydney postmark." I then took it out of my pocket, and found it contained instructions to proceed to Sydney for the purpose of being identified as claimant to the property in New South Wales, to which I have alluded in the earlier pages of this book. This put me in great heart. I showed the letter to Mr. Campbell and other friends, and was heartily congratulated on my prospects of being comfortably provided for in my old age, which was now coming on apace.
I settled [unclear: np] account sales with Mr. Campbell, and at once began to make preparations for my departure. At this time I sold a few town allotments I had in Cromwell. I provided a large stock of stores for my family, and placed £100 in the bank to my wife's credit, to keep her in necessaries during my absence in New South Wales.
My old friend, John Perriam, of Lowburn, determined to give a grand spree on the eve of my departure. He roasted a bullock whole in one of his clover paddocks, which was laid out with tables and all the necessaries for a great feast for 400 persons. There was nearly that number there, and it was a feast long to be remembered.
I drove out with my wife and family, and was received by the assemblage with cheers, champagne was poured out like water, and I was placed upon one of the tables to address my friends—a task I felt unable to perform adequately, for my heart was full, and I only managed to thank them for their wishes. The banqueting, dancing, and sports were kept up for two days, and I think everyone must have been fully satisfied.
I often look back to that time and, think of my friend John Perriam, whose friendship I value highly, and have ever since page 173retained. He arrived in New Zealand a comparatively poor man, but fortune proved kind to him, and he is now wealthy and comfortably moored for life. His chief support came from the working-man, to whom he is ever a firm and consistent friend. I often wished for some of his canny Devonshire tact; all his speculations prospered, while mine generally of late failed, but I have no envious feelings, and here wish him a long continuance of fortune's favours.
It was now time for me to be off to New South Wales. Having sold all my property in Cromwell, except one large cottage, I installed my family in it, and left them a sufficiency of money for their wants, I went to the bank and drew out £50. I was determined to have my expenses paid by some of those gentlemen who were so much interested in my prosperty in New South Wales, and, therefore, took away only a small sum. I went to Dunedin, taking my son with me. The property I was about to claim was situated in the town of Bathurst, in New South Wales, and had been purchased for me in 1833, while I was serving my apprenticeship to the butchering business in Sydney.
I knew very little of the particulars, which was unfortunate for me, as will be seen further on. After I arrived in Dunedin, I was presented with a writ from a fellow-townsman of Cromwell for £12. As I knew the amount owing could not possibly exceed £2, and the prosecution only arose from spite, I determined to go to the bottom of this matter. I took the coach next morning and returned to Cromwell, and had the case investigated before the Magistrate, when the amount was reduced to thirty shillings by contra account, and my opponent received the hisses of the community for his unneighbourly and spiteful conduct. This episode still further reduced my purse, and I was determined not to draw any more money out of the bank, and again went down to Dunedin.
I had to wait ten clays in town before the s.s. "Omeo" would be ready for sea, as she was undergoing an overhaul in the dock at Port Chalmers. I occasionally went down to see the vessel, and got well acquainted with Captain Colville, the skipper. His vessel, the "Omeo," was the first which had been docked the dock having only just been completed. She was hauled out, and I took the steamer, with my luggage, from Dunedin. Mr. James Macandrew, the Superintendent of the Province, page 174and several other gentlemen were on board, going down to the port to inspect the clock. As I was known to them, I accompanied them over the dock, and we afterwards adjourned to Dodson's Hotel, where they drank my health, and success in my mission, in sparkling No. 2.
It had leaked out by this time what my business in Sydney was, and many people who had looked down on W. Jackson Barry were now very willing to shake hands, &c. When I returned, with my business unaccomplished and apparently a failure, the cold shoulder, as I thought, was exhibited, but such is the way of the world, and I was always sufficiently philosophical not to permit such trifles to disturb my peace of mind. Amidst much hand-shaking and health-drinking, I left in the steamer, and we shortly afterwards cleared Taiaroa Heads. We went round the coast, called at Hokitika, Nelson, and Wellington. I went on shore at Nelson and stopped all night. I fell in with an old friend, named Warren, who took me round the town, and to a friend of his who was going to Melbourne in the "Omeo," and introduced me. We were great friends during the voyage.
Saloon-travelling in steamers is expensive, and with my limited purse I ought to have known better than to indulge in extravagance; but I never had been schooled to reckon cost, and when poor never liked to appear so. Doing as the other passengers did, made heavy inroads on my slender stock of money, but what mattered, thought I, am I not going to jump right into wealth? And so I took matters coolly, and went on, never heeding.
One day on board I was jumping on the deck with the captain for a wager, when I slipped, and fell on the combings or something. I thought at the time my leg was broken, but, fortunately, it was only a very severely-sprained ankle. I was helped down to my cabin, and there remained to the end of the voyage. When we arrived at the wharf in Melbourne, I took out my purse, and found that out of the £50 I drew out of the bank when I left Cromwell I had but very little cash left to pay my expenses. I got a cabman to drive me to the Great Britain Hotel, in Flinders Street, at which I put up. I was five days in bed with my sprained ankle before I could venture downstairs, and I can assure my readers most of that time was spent in anxious cogitation as to what was to be done, and page 175regrets for my having so foolishly left myself short of money at such a critical time. I hobbled down, however, and while standing at the door, I saw an old New Zealand acquaintance passing. I called out to him, and going into the house, I told him my position, and he at once handed me £5, and I immediately felt that all my troubles were over. I dare say there are many men of the same sanguine temperament as myself, who have experienced such a feeling. We went to the bar, according to colonial usage, and took a drink. I was well dressed, had a good gold watch, and my luggage, the landlord asked no questions, and I began once more to feel at ease, and mentally vowed I would never again get into the same scrape—until the next time.
My friend Durey and I took a cab and drove up to North Melbourne, to see an old friend with whom I had been stopping before I moved to New Zealand. We stopped that night, and returned to my lodgings in the morning. I found a letter from a gentleman who had called in my absence. I went to his address in Flinders Lane, and found that he was instructed to guide me in the matter of my claim to the Bathurst property. He told me I would require to wait one month in Melbourne, as there were two gentlemen who would arrive from Adelaide at that time, and accompany me to Sydney. I acquiesced in all he had to suggest. As I stated before, I was completely ignorant of all particulars, and deemed it best to say little, but take the gifts the gods provided. I explained my financial position to my adviser, and he immediately tendered me a cheque for £100 to meet current expenses.
I thanked him, told him I would keep him advised of my whereabouts during the month, and left his office, feeling very important, and in decidedly better spirits.
In a few days, my ankle being nearly well, I decided to go and view some of the old scenes of my previous history. I packed up a change of clothes, in a carpet bag, and took the train to Ballarat, where I arrived safely, and put up at Bath's Hotel. I soon picked out many of my old friends and acquaintances, who made a great fuss, driving me daily from place to place. On every hand I saw vast signs of improvement, and very much to admire. After all, Victoria is the place for true enjoyment.
I went out to Brown's diggings, the scene of my former exploits, and of the riot already detailed in these chapters. I page 176saw many of my old friends, and passed a few days very pleasantly. I fell in with, at this time, an old friend, named John Burress, who was in the cattle business originally, and had become very wealthy, and kept a pack of hounds. There was to be a "meet" in a few days, and he said if I would go he would give me a good mount. Although over fifty years of age, the idea of a spin with the red coats made me feel like a youngster, and I gladly accepted his offer.
On the day appointed we drove to Buninyong, where the club was to meet. We found about twenty gentlemen, in scarlet ready, to whom Mr. Burress introduced me. He gave me a young Prince Alfred colt for a mount, which I felt at once to be up to his work. Kangaroo was to be our game, which were tolerably plentiful at that time in the Buninyong district. We had gone about three miles, when we came across a large ditch, with about ten feet of water in it, over which two of the huntsmen leaped their nags. It seemed so easy, that I put my horse at it. He reached the opposite side, but fell backwards, and we both went under water, but I managed to head him out, and reached dry land without having left the saddle.
The rest of the party laughed heartily at my mishap, and perhaps looked forward to many more such during the day from the "new chum," but I said "I am all right—we have a long day before us—plenty of time for improvement."
Presently a large kangaroo was started, and away we went in full cry over as rough a hunting country as any sportsman could desire—stiff fences and broken ground, heavily timbered. My colt behaved beautifully. The first fence was a very high dogleg one, and looked impossible to negotiate. The kangaroo and the clogs got over, and I followed, topping the timber nicely. Only one red-coat followed at this spot, and he came to grief.
After a short, quick run the dogs pulled the kangaroo down, and I had the honour of being first "in at the death." Presently two kangaroos got up, and the dogs split. So did the men. After a sharp burst of six miles or so, the kangaroos ran into a flock of sheep, as they will do when pressed, and the dogs were called off. In this run my horse had cleared every obstacle, and I can assure my readers some of the fences would stagger an English sportsman. The fence I cleared at the beginning of the hunt, was said to be the highest leap ever cleared in that part of the country.page 177
At this time we mustered only ten huntsmen, the rest having fallen away or come to grief on the road. We turned our horses' heads homewards, and, after riding 18 miles, reached Buninyong, where a hearty supper awaited us, which, with plenty of champagne, was duly clone justice to.
I appeared to be the hero of the evening, and the general kindness and hospitality of these gentlemen made me feel quite at home. Songs and toasts followed one another. I was called upon, and sang a song called "Ax my eye," which called forth roars of laughter. I endeavoured to make a speech, and told them of my expectations and the business which brought me from New Zealand, and, if I succeeded, I should be happy to become a member of their hunt-club.
My health was drank, and, amid many good wishes for my welfare, the party broke up at an early hour next morning.
The doings of that day, and my plucky riding—being a stranger to the country hunted over, were commented on in the local papers, and copied into the Otago papers; so that, no doubt, my fellow-townsmen in Cromwell thought that their ex-mayor bad fallen upon good times.
My time was getting short, and I hinted that it was time to go down to Melbourne. A number of friends came [unclear: to] see me off in the train. Mr. Burress drove me to the station, and on leaving they gave three cheers, and their generous kindness will not readily be forgotten by me.