Wetherstone diggings

The staff of the orthopaedic department at Dunedin Hospital where many returned soldiers are...
The staff of the orthopaedic department at Dunedin Hospital where many returned soldiers are being treated. - Otago Witness, 1.6.1919
Readers of the announcement of the death, at Waitati last week, of Mr John Wetherstone may not have connected the intimation with the history of gold mining in Otago.

Yet Mr John Wetherstone was identical with the discoverer of the Wetherstone diggings in 1861. Mr John Wetherstone and his elder brother, William, were working in a gully in the neighbourhood of Wetherstones in 1861. The Gabriel's Gully field had been discovered in that year, and the whole district was swarming with miners and others attracted by the news of the discovery.

Some of them were fortunate; others were not. The Wetherstones were among the unfortunate. They had indeed been reduced to serious straits. In these circumstances John Wetherstone left the camp to see if he could shoot a wild pig. Actually he shot two. One was left by him among some tussock. The other he took home and sold for 1, which was expended in the purchase of necessary stores.

When the Wetherstones were going out next day to recover the second pig, John proposed to his brother that they should take a pick and shovel with them. John dug a hole and, while William was washing some of the dirt in a dish with results that called forth excited exclamations from him, the younger man picked up unmistakeable specimens of gold out of the hole.

Altogether they extracted about 30oz from the hole. That night William visited the store to secure additional supplies. He had been cautioned by his brother to say nothing about the discovery, the intention being to continue their prospecting next morning.

The news of their success, however, leaked out somehow or other, and at 8 o'clock in the morning men were coming over the spur into the gully ''like a swarm of bees''. The Wetherstones thereupon pegged out their claim straight away. It was neither the richest nor the poorest in the gully, but they did very well out of it.

The richest claim is said to have been secured by a party of sailors, who shared their gold by the primitive but roughly equitable plan of dividing it out in matchboxes.

When the brothers' claim was worked out, John Wetherstone proceeded to the West Coast, but later on became a shearer, and eventually took a wife and settled down at Waitati, where he carried on a dairy farm and bred Ayrshire cattle.

Mr John Wetherstone was the last of four sons in the family of which he was a member. He has left a widow and one son.

Soldiers displace girls

Inquiries made in Auckland regarding the matter of the retention of girls and women in positions formerly occupied by men who went to war, show that since the beginning of the war a total of about 40 girls had been employed in various branches of the chief post offices.

In every case the position was a temporary one, pending the return of employees from the war. Now that the men are beginning to resume their work the girls are giving up their positions. Seven left the Post Office last Saturday, making a total of about 20 who have made way for returning men.

It is anticipated that practically all the temporary help will have left the service in about four months' time. The department is doing all in its power to facilitate the soldiers' return to work.

Many men not formerly on the staff have been employed, numbering 40 in one department alone - the letter carriers' division.

- ODT, 5.6.1919


Add a Comment