Page:Discovery of the West Coast Gold-Fields Waite 1869.pdf/18

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steamer Nelson, went from the Grey overland to look at the Hokitika bar, and he pronounced it a fit bar to take. On reporting this to the owners in Nelson, they agreed to let the Nelson go to Hokitika on her next trip. I was, up to this time, the only person who had goods coming in the Nelson in any quantity, and from my having been the first to start her, the owners were pleased to grant me a free passage. But they were on their feet again now, and I got notice that my free passage was to be discontinued this trip, consequently I took the Wallaby on her first trip to Hokitika, and although the whole, or nearly the whole of the cargo in her belonged to me, the generous firm she belonged to would not give me a free passage. I write this merely to show the generosity of some of the Nelson people who had been benefited by the West Coast. Arrived at Hokitika, the goods were landed as at the Grey. I had to put up a temporary store for my goods, which were placed on the beach anyhow, on a point close to the sea. The consequence was that, a storm coming on, a heavy fresh being in the river, and the wind from the N. W. beating against it, the point of land on which were all my goods was carried away, by which I sustained damage to the extent of £1,000. Messrs. Langford and Fraser shared a like fate. This is another of the evils of a storekeeper's life on the gold-fields.

I had the wreck of my store boated over to the other, or north side, where the town of Hokitika now stands; and again the place I put up my store on, although two chains from the water's edge, was washed away. Disheartened with the losses I had sustained, I sent what was remaining away, and went back to the Grey. A billiard-room I had put up at Hokitika had to be shifted on account of the bank washing away, and it was fixed where now stands the fine hotel called the Criterion, belonging to Edwards and Mather. This table was the first on the coast. Where the town of Hokitika now is was then one vast pile of driftwood, so thick that it was impossible to thread your way through it. Messrs. Price and Hudson had to cut a track through it to get to their store.

I remember one night, coming from the Totara, Mr. Walmsley, Mr. Revel, and myself came up to the above-named store, and finding we could get nothing to eat for ourselves or horses, we started, about eleven o'clock at night, for the Grey, a distance of about twenty-five miles. There were no ferries or bridges as now, and, crossing every river on our horses, we arrived at the Grey about four in the morning. We had three dangerous rivers to cross, the Teremakau being the worst. I write this to shew what risks the pioneers of a gold-field have to go through, and I may state that I have frequently been detained on the bank of a river for a day or two, without food or blankets, on account of a fresh. But these are common vicissitudes in the adventurous life of the gold-fields, and things that every man expects when starting for a journey across the country, or going on a prospect-