2nd Edition of The Cossticks Available Now

The Cossticks 1700-1900 2nd Edition available now

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6. John Cosstick and Mary Anne Hamilton

John CosstickJohn Cosstick was born at Croydon, Surrey, in 1838 and lived with his parents at Cold Harbour Farm. His older brother William emigrated to Australia on board the Negotiator in 1852 . William apparently liked what he found and returned to England to get John and younger brother Charles. They went back to Victoria on board the Anglesey, arriving in Melbourne on 9 December 1856 .


Within two years William, Charles, Henry and John Cosstick had settled at Amherst. It was there that the Cossticks met the Hamiltons and Hendersons, who had arrived from Adelaide during 1855. John Cosstick married sixteen year old Mary Ann Hamilton at the Amherst Church of England Schoolhouse on 31 January 1861.

Marriage Certificate of John Cosstick and Mary Ann Hamilton Mary Ann had been born in the Barossa, South Australia, in 1844 , and was the daughter of John Hamilton, son of Richard Hamilton of Kent, and formerly a dairy farmer. She was also the niece of William Cosstick's wife, Sarah, who was John Hamilton’s sister. The wedding took place in the presence of, among others, Richard Hamilton, Mary Ann's older brother, and Charles Cosstick, John's younger brother, both of whom witnessed the marriage certificate . Mary Ann’s father, John Hamilton, gave his special permission for his sixteen year old daughter to marry.

John and Mary Ann's first son, James Edward Cosstick, named after his uncle, was born on Boxing Day, 26 December 1861 at Amherst .

Over the next twenty-four years fourteen more children were born to John and Mary Ann Cosstick. But more of them later.

Working for Wages

Amherst Common SchoolFor some time John Cosstick worked at the Cosstick Brother’s quartz crushing battery at Opossum Gully near Amherst. J.Cosstick is listed in David Paterson’s pocket book as having been paid £2/8/- wages on 21 December 1861 . Later in the book, but dated 5 October 1861, there is a listing for “Jacks wages” for eleven weeks totalling £16/10/-. Further entries, earlier in the book, show that he was paid the same amount on 11 January 1862; £2 on 26 June; £2/5/- on 16 August and the same on 22 August 1862. A listing for Cosstick on 16 September 1862 shows £2/3/- being paid .
A wage of over £2 per week during the 1860s was above the average for many workers and it would appear that John Cosstick was earning a reasonable income during the first years of his marriage.

New Zealand

On 8 June 1861 the Otago Witness published a letter from Thomas Gabriel Read in which he outlined his gold discoveries around the Tuapeka and Waitahuna Rivers inland from Otago. He had been able to collect seven ounces of gold using a pan and a butcher’s knife in ten hours . Few people became very excited about the report until several weeks later when the Chief Surveyor visited the area and found that Gabriel Read’s party of three men had found 112 ounces of gold at Tuapeka in just fourteen days . On 19 July Read dug a small hole, about eighteen inches deep, near the Waitahuna River. At the bottom was a ”mass of golden flakes”. The Waitahuna Gully goldfield had been discovered. By the end of September there were 4,000 men on the field, all doing fairly well .

It did not take long for the news to reach Victoria. By the end of September 1861, despite reports that conditions were extremely difficult and the cost of commodities exorbitant, ten thousand miners had left for New Zealand. Men who had been earning as much as four or six pounds per week in Victoria sold up their claims for just sufficient to buy them a passage. In the fifteen weeks up to mid October 1861 over 13,000 people had arrived at Otago. During the same period only 1,500 decided to leave again .

By 1863 over 64,000 emigrants from Australia had gone to Otago, and by 1864 over 40,000 still remained. Between 1865 and 1867 another 15,820 left Australia for the West Coast.

The initial rush to New Zealand from Victoria had been so great that in 1863 Richard Sherrin claimed that

Some struggling miner will sooner or later find payable gold, and before the people of Canterbury [on the west coast of the south island] have had time to breathe and consider what is to be done, Melbourne people will have founded towns, and Melbourne merchants, and Melbourne capitalists, reap all the advantages .

Otago Witness 28 March 1863Attempts were made to stop the rush from Victoria with newspapers giving exaggerated accounts of the rugged terrain and climate of New Zealand. Some even claimed that the gold had been smuggled there from Victoria and brought back again to avoid paying duty. The Talbot Leader regarded the exodus as “the New Zealand fever ” and was constantly urging miners to disregard the exaggerated reports that were coming from across the Tasman - perhaps like those carried in the Otago Witness early in 1863 that compared miners earnings in Victoria and Otago and came to a conclusion in Otago's favour.

But the miners had little choice, as the severe drought in Victoria during the early 1860s had brought an end to much mining activity that relied upon a reasonable supply of water. During those years the population of Amherst fell from well over 3,400 in 1864 to less than 1,300 by 1870, and resulted in the frequent closure of many of the crushing mills, including that operated by the Cossticks .

Soon after the birth of their daughter, Margaret, on 18 January 1863, John and Mary Ann Cosstick decided to travel to New Zealand.

It might seem unnecessary to ask what influenced them in their decision. The answer might appear to be obvious. But John and Mary Ann had to decide whether to stay at Amherst with brothers Charles, Henry and William, or to try their luck with thousands of others at Tuapeka. Undoubtedly Charles, Henry and William also had to make that decision. What helped them to decide?

Ever since the initial announcement of the Tuapeka discovery in July 1861 there had been plenty of news about the New Zealand gold fields in the papers. In September 1861 Amherst residents were given the opportunity to attend a lecture on New Zealand and Its Inhabitants at the Council Chambers. The audience was described as numerous and “highly pleased” and the lecture was repeated at the Town Hall on the following Friday . Perhaps John Cosstick was among the audience. Even in September 1861 it was reported that fifteen to twenty miners were leaving for New Zealand every day .

James Clarke, the teacher at the Back Creek Catholic School, and a resident active in many other aspects of community life, travelled to Port Chalmers, Dunedin and Otago in New Zealand during the Christmas break at the end of 1861. When he returned early in 1862 he wrote an extensive letter to the Talbot Leader urging diggers not to bother going to New Zealand if they were earning a living in Victoria . It did not take long for the Otago Daily Times to hear of his criticism and write back defending life in New Zealand .

It would appear that John’s brother, Charles, was the first to try the Tuapeka field. Of the four brothers at Amherst Charles was the only one still unmarried. Charles left for New Zealand, possible in 1862 but certainly on board the steamship Urara I in January 1863 soon after the initial discoveries were announced and, being suitably impressed, came back on board the steamship Aldinga in mid March 1863 . We might imagine that Charles returned to Amherst and discussed his impressions with his brothers.

The other brothers, Henry and William, were too involved with their successful mining ventures at Opossum Gully, and Sam and George were in Melbourne playing cricket. They had little interest in digging for gold.

But what about John? He was working for wages at Amherst, getting between £2 and £3 per week in a good week. But continued droughts at Amherst made the earning of regular wages difficult. The Otago Witness on 30 November 1861 had reported that thousands were earning “between £9 and £90 per man per week” at Tuapeka . Reports from Tuapeka indicated that the average in 1864 and 1865 was around £3 per week . In 1869 it was reported that some miners on the spurs above the Tuapeka Creek were averaging £3 per day!

There was nothing to lose. John and Mary Ann decided to go.

On the way to Waitahuna

John, Mary Ann, their two children and brother Charles took the steamer Omeo from Melbourne to Port Chalmers, in the Otago Province of New Zealand, in April 1863 and headed inland over the mountains to the Tuapeka field.

Did they intend to return? Many left their families behind if they planned to be away for only a short time. As the West Coast Times reported in 1867

Port Chalmers, Otago
In Victoria, the miner is, in the vast majority of cases, a permanent settler. If he leaves the colony, it is merely to try his luck at some new rush in New Zealand or elsewhere, with the full purpose of returning – leaving his family…behind as hostage, and promising to bring back with him for local investment whatever wealth he may acquire during his temporary sojourn on the new field .

But John Cosstick took his wife, Mary Ann, and two children, James Edward and Margaret, with him.

After arriving at Port Chalmers they joined thousands making their way over the mountains to the goldfields. Some used pack-horses, or bullock drays, or sledges. Most walked with their packs on their backs.

From Port Chalmers most would have gone to Dunedin then to Taieri and south to the Tokomairiro Plains before heading inland over relatively low hilly country to Gabriel’s Gully. It was about seventy miles by that route.

Thomas Gillies, who headed for the Tuapeka field in 1861 then wrote a Guide to the Tuapeka Gold for the Millions, giving the best and most direct route from Dunedin to Tuapeka , relates how he left Dunedin and followed the south road where

Travellers on foot, with their blankets, shovels, picks, and tin dishes, toiled cheerily along; while drays, laden with the stores, tent, sluice, &c., of a party of diggers, became of more frequent occurrence .

The road to the Taieri ferry was metalled most of the way, after which the road was “excellent in fine weather, very heavy in wet weather”. At the ferry, “which is a disgrace to the province and dangerous withal” diggers paid a fee to cross. Another fifteen miles brought the traveller to Tokomairiro – wet weather making this road impassable to drays. At Tokomairiro Gillies found that

Almost the entire male population of Tokomairiro had left for the ‘diggings’ and knocking on a friend’s house for admittance, found the female inmates in a state of alarm lest it was some prowling wayfarer come to take advantage of their defenceless condition .

Crossing the north branch of the Tokomairiro River Gillies turned inland at the south branch and followed a track through fenced paddocks and across hills and gullies until he eventually reached Round Hill, “a long easy ridge”. After a short time he reached a point where the Waitahuna flat could be seen stretching out below, and where

“a long gradually sloped ridge tends away to the right, taking the traveller down to the flat opposite a ford in the Waitahuna River, which having crossed, I recommend him to follow my example by giving his horse an hour’s feed…as he lies on the grass admiring the beautiful flat of over 1000 acres of rich alluvial land before him .”

A few miles further on brought the traveller to Tuapeka, and Gabriel’s Gully.

A shorter route by about twenty miles, but much more difficult by way of tortuous winding tracks , was from Taieri to Maungatua and Waipori then down to Gabriel’s Gully . After 1863 a sternwheel paddle steamer, the S.S.Tuapeka, was tried up the Molyneux River to the Tuapeka Mouth. The cartage of goods overland on this route was extremely difficult however .

An enterprising immigrant from Ballarat, Charles Cole, took a coach, five waggins, a buggy, carts, and fifty four horses, from Geelong to Dunedin in October 1861 and immediately started a Cobb and Co. coach service from Dunedin to Gabriel’s Gully via Waitahuna. The coach journey took less than one day. The coach route kept to the ridges to avoid the swampy ground in the gullies. Some of the steep hills were so dangerous that passengers were asked to get out and walk . One such perilous descent was from Round Hill just to the east of Waitahuna .

Most coach travellers, once they reached Waitahuna, stayed overnight at the Golden Age Hotel, described in January 1862 as being “a temporary canvas inn”, but “quite charming” after the rigours of the journey .

By 1871 the road from Waitahuna to Lawrence was described as “one of the finest in Otago, having just been pitched and gravelled” and the rest of the road to Dunedin was equally well regarded .

Whichever way the Cossticks got there, they crossed the Waitahuna River and reached the Tuapeka gold field centred on Gabriel’s Gully. The activities of Charles Cosstick at Waitahuna can be read in another chapter.


The birth records for several of John and Mary Ann’s children indicate that they were born at the town of Havelock, New Zealand between 1864 and the early 1870s. Modern maps will show the town of Havelock in the Marlborough Province. But, until 1876, there was another Havelock, at least in official records.

The Marlborough Havelock was fifty miles east of Nelson, near Canvastown, which marked the beginning of the Wakamarina goldfield. But Havelock in Marlborough is not where the Cossticks went to in 1863.

In the early 1860s the main diggings on the Tuapeka goldfields were located around the Tuapeka River and Gabriel’s Gully, where Thomas Gabriel Read and his party had made their June 1861 discovery . At the foot of Gabriel’s Gully there was a junction between Weatherston’s Stream and Gabriel’s Gully Stream which flowed into the Tuapeka. A small settlement developed there and became known as The Junction. It was formally surveyed as a town in 1862 and named Lawrence .

Eleven miles east of Lawrence the main road to the Tuapeka from the coast crossed the Waitahuna River. At this river crossing another small settlement developed which was commonly called Waitahuna. At first there was just a store, butchery and bakery business located at the river crossing. A hotel called the Bridge Hotel was also established before 1863. Another hotel, the Inverness, was built on the road to Waitahuna Gully. The town site was surveyed in 1862 at the same time as Lawrence and given the name Havelock . Most people did not bother to use the new name and it was officially changed to back to Waitahuna in 1876. In the meantime the name Havelock was used by the government and caused some confusion when a Post Office destined for the Waitahuna Havelock was constructed at the Marlborough Havelock by mistake . Lawrence continued to be the main town of the district, although Havelock became very busy when the exodus of miners from the field began in the early 1870s . Eventually the town itself virtually disappeared and Lawrence provided for the needs of the district.

AOF Meeting Tuapeka times 27 June 1872John and Mary Ann Cosstick remained in New Zealand until 1873 with most of that time being spent around Havelock, or Waitahuna. Albert Cosstick was born at Havelock in 1865. Dyson Cosstick is listed as having been born at Otago on 27 September 1867, although Otago is simply the name of the Province ; Sophia, at Havelock in 1868 ; Frances, at Havelock in 1869 ; Louisa and Richard, at Havelock in 1871.

The oldest of the children, James Edward and Margaret, who were born back in Amherst, and Albert, Dyson, and Sophia would have been ready to attend school before the Cossticks left Havelock. An application had been made for a school at Havelock and in November 1863 a two room school was opened under John Steven. He had 31 boys and 14 girls at the end of 1863. By 1866 there were 81 pupils .

While at Havelock John Cosstick was an active member of the Tuapeka cricket Club and was Secretary of the Ancient Order of Foresters. In 1873 he was also called to be part of a jury to hear the case of a Chinese miner who had been accused of stealing a horse. The jury found the accused guilty and he was sentenced to six months imprisonment at Lawrence.

The rest of this chapter is in the book.


Full references and sources are available for this information and are published in the book. Please email me if you would like source references

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Doug the story is so interesting. I am related through my grandmother who was the daughter of Barbara Cosstick and Thomas Willcockson. I have just found out about the Cossticks.

Leonne 29/7/2007