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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 1, October 1981

Havelock in 1864

page 40

Havelock in 1864

(In our 1979 Journal we published a letter from Thomas Hewetson written from the Slate River in the Golden Bay area in 1857. In the meantime he has had a trip to England and has now been attracted by the Wakamarina Rush, but as a storekeeper, not a digger.)

The Press, March 9th, 1864: There are now six houses in Havelock township. A few months ago there were only two. Others are in the course of construction.

The following letter gives some firsthand information about the area and conditions at the time when goods were being shipped into Havelock before being taken by canoe up the Pelorus river to the retail stores at Canvastown.

Mr Allen's Store,
May 27th, 1864.

Dear Joseph,

I will drop you a line and endeavour to give you an imperfect account of the present appearance of Havelock which, by the way, is nearly as big as Nelson. I should suppose there is upwards of 150 large tents and weatherboard and corrugated iron buildings – nine-tenths of them grog shantys. Just a stall and a few bottles of spirits while some of them are large merchants' warehouses, nearly as large, and some of them larger than, Mr Hodder's of Richmond. Today we have a strong force of Dunedin police and detectives. We have two banks – one the Union Bank of Australia and the other the Bank of New Zealand. We also have surgical and medical gentlemen and a new Post Office and Custom House, and the Government wharf is at once to be gone on with. Large buildings covered with iron sheets and wall of same material spring up in three or four days, chimney, an iron flue and stove, windows and doors complete. Carpenters' wages are from £1 to 15s per day. Some merchants from Canterbury and Dunedin come here with their own vessels and whole cargo complete. Today a pretty steamer, The Lady of the Lake, came in and is to remain here as a trader between Picton and Havelock. Today we had an auction sale. Some twenty horses were sold at from £17 to £40. It is not known what will become of the diggings here. I think things, that is provisions, will be very cheap here. Some flour ranges from £1.15s to £2.5s per 100lbs, fresh meat is 1s to 1s 5d the 1b, bread 2s a 41b loaf. As a body they are the most orderly lot of men that I have ever seen together. A little thieving is going on, principally of provisions and grog, but sometimes money. A day or two since a person had £80 stolen from his tent. Mr Allen expressed himself perfectly satisfied with me and trusts me to make purchases as well as sales for him. He comes to see me and to direct me every few days. I have already purchased for Mr Allen to the amount of £295 in three purchases of flour and bacon and sundry other articles. I have effected sales to the amount of about £100. My chief employment is in seeing goods page 41discharged from vessels. One day I had four ships discharging for Mr Allen at the same time. I had to keep account of the goods landed and see the same safely stored, employing men to carry the same to the warehouse. I had two good men who received 15s and £1 per day. I have also three boatmen to see to and provide goods for them to take up to the diggings and keep account of what they take. Some days I have to send eight or nine tons of goods up the river. This costs £2 per ton. I have also to pay these men and give bills of lading to them. So you see I am fully employed. Although I keep what we call a wholesale store yet there are so many shops of every description. I do not sell much but keep principally a receiving warehouse. We have two – one a shop and one to store goods. Here are plenty of dining rooms and restaurants with fine names such as the Golden Age, the Shakespeare House, Canterbury Store, and many others. Mr Allen is doing an extensive trade on the diggings. Although I believe I have received for Mr Allen upwards of £1000 worth of goods from different vessels in a week yet this is nothing to what some of the importers are doing.

(The rest of the letter was purely personal.)

(Signed) Thomas Hewetson