Home' Greymouth Star : October 24th 2015 Contents Saturday Afternoon
Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 7
6 - Saturday, October 24, 2015
PICTURE: History House
Ross in 1869, pictured from behind St Patrick’s Church, which is still standing.
Mont D’Or goldmine, Ross.
The early town of Ross was on the terrace, rather than the flat, which was mined.
PICTURE: Janna Sherman
Dan O’Connor (representing the Donoghue family), left, Peter Foster, Tom Manera, Julie Madigan (Minehan), Josie Foster (Wilson and Fosters), Francie Win (Mitchell
and Pryor), Basil Detlaff (Detlaff and Hamilton), and Anthea Keenan (Growcott and Crase).
It was gold that brought them to Ross
in 1865. It was the Ballarat of New
Zealand, the newspapers declared,
their ink barely dry.
So in their thousands they packed their
picks and goldpans and trekked south.
As the easy gold ran out, some stayed.
Without gold they diversified into
farming, ran the stagecoach service, and
later on some moved into the timber
The direct descendants of those families
have shared their stories, of leaving Ireland
half starved, young mothers who drowned,
and a new life in a rugged land.
Manera and Moye —
as told by Tom Manera
There are more Maneras in Ross
then you have fingers and toes to count
The Maneras came from Italy and initially
went to Goldsborough, then Ross in 1867.
Trained as a cobbler, the first Manera came
following gold but “didn’t find much”.
They went into farming, and flax milling
(there was a flax mill around the Mikonui
Tom’s mother’s side goes back to 1865, the
very earliest days of Ross. She was a Moye
from Ireland. The family apparently fled
from the potato famine in 1847 and went
to United Kingdom, where they scratched
together a fare and went to California, then
on to Ballarat in Victoria, and finally and
The Moye name has gone from Ross now,
but the bloodline lives on in the Maneras.
Minehan — as told by
There are still five Minehans in Ross.
Patrick Minehan and Honorah White
came from Ireland to Sydney, and then
sailed straight into Hokitika in 1868, and
on to Ross.
Patrick was a miner who also had a small
dairy farm adjacent to their Moorhouse
They had 12 children but Patrick died at
leaving his wife to run the freight and
cartage business, which took supplies to the
goldfields and timber for the new bridges
across the Waitaha and Mikonui
Later generations moved into farming,
and at a reunion not so many years ago, a
surprising number were driving trucks.
The Minehan farm in the Totara Valley
has been in the family since 1911, and
Paddy Minehan was one of the last mayors
Detlaff — as told by
The Detlaff name was originally
Detlafivishon. They came Gdansk-Ganzig,
in what is now Poland. John Augustus
Velantis Detlaff went to England, married
Katherine Roberts and they sailed for
In 1865 they arrived in Dunedin, two
years later sailing to Hokitika, where
he was a digger at Kaniere. In 1874,
his wife drowned in Waimea Creek, at
By the 1880s he was in Ross. John’s
occupation is variously listed as blacksmith,
grocer, miner and farmer. For a short
while, his son William was manager of the
famous Mount D’Or gold claim - literally
‘mountain of gold’.
His son, born 1902 in Ross, married Emily
Ada Hamilton from nearby Donoghues.
A sawmill worker, he too became a farmer,
buying land next to his father’s farm. Of
their five children, only Basil is alive, and
still living at Ross.
Hamilton — as told
by Heather Detlaff
The Hamilton history is less
well documented. Mr Alexander Hamilton
lived in Northern Ireland (his first name is
unknown), or an island off the coast, and
was by some family accounts the son of the
deceased Earl of Arran in Scotland.
He became a stevedore and first mate,
sailing to New Zealand and Australia,
marrying Mary Ann Coleman in
Their son William Arthur Hamilton was
one of just four farriers to serve in the Boer
He moved to Kumara, where his wife,
Johanna Teresa Lindbom, worked as a maid
for Richard Seddon.
They lived at Billy Goat Flat near
Dillmanstown, before moving to Ross.
He was blacksmithing opposite where
the City Hotel is, later buying land at
Donoghues, which he added to during the
Depression. He also did some blacksandi
The last Hamilton from the Donoghue
generation, Dorris, was acting matron at
Greymouth Hospital. She died a few years
Mitchell - as told by
Samuel Mitchell, born England,
was in the Royal Navy and won the Victoria
Cross for gallantry in the attack on Gate Pa,
Tauranga, during the Maori Land Wars.
He returned to New Zealand after his
discharge and was goldmining at Redmans,
near Mikonui, when he married Agnes Ross
in 1870. They acquired land on the south
side of the Mikonui River, near Mitchells
Hill, and had 11 children. Samuel drowned
in the river in 1894, aged 52.
His son Samuel married Esther Pryor and
bought the adjoining Shearer farm. After
his death in 1940, sons Viv and later Bill
continued farming there.
Pryor — as told by
William and Harryet Pryor were
copper miners from Cornwall. They landed
in 1862 and are thought to have worked on
the Lyttelton Tunnel, arriving in Ross in
1867 and raising 13 children.
William and his sons mined for 25 years
at a claim on Donnellys Creek. He bought
10 acres of land on Aylmer Street and had a
farm at the Totara River mouth, now owned
by a great-grandson.
They set up Pryor’s General Store,
opposite the post office.
In 1899, aged 65, he was killed at Rimu,
returning from Hokitika with goods for the
store when the horse took fright and he was
His wife remained in the Aylmer Street
house. Daughter Esther and sons Bill and
Alan Mitchell also lived there for many
James Armstrong Rea left Ireland
for Melbourne, then on to Hokitika, in
1868 aboard the Alhambra. He settled in
Kaniere, married an Irish girl from Limerick
and in 1874 moved to Sailors Gully, a
goldmining camp near Ross, with their
three children. The family moved in to Ross
township when the fifth child was born.
James Rea purchased land in Simpson
Street to the value of £22, and there a
further eight children were born. James later
established himself as a carter.
Alicia became involved with St Patrick’s
Catholic Church, where most of the Rea
children were baptised.
In October 1890, James was injured in
an area of bush commonly known as ‘the
Totara’, near Hartigan’s Hill. Three days
later he died, leaving his wife to raise 13
children. She died in 1929, 40 years after
the death of her husband.
The Rea children dispersed throughout
New Zealand but a sizeable group did
remain on the West Coast, and some in
Douglas — as told by
The Douglas family are relatively
new to Ross — they ‘only’ arrived in 1926,
from the nearby Waitaha Valley.
The family, mainly Irish, came to New
Zealand about 1866, then brought cattle
over to the Coast for the miners. They were
grazing them here in the 1870s. They later
expanded in farming, mining and timber.
Today there are three Douglas siblings
in town, some cousins and some second
Fosters — as told by
The Fosters came from Ireland
in 1864 or 1866. John set up a transport
and cartage business. He was killed in 1888
when his dray ran over him, and his sons
They became the stagecoach drivers
between Ross and the Waiho Gorge (Franz
“My grandfather moved to Hari Hari and
his wife ran the stopover station. Coaches
left Ross at 7am and arrived at the Waiho
Foster brothers got the mail contract in
1913, and lost it in 1917. Peter’s father
worked at the Stuart and Chapman mill at
Ross, and Peter recalls living in one of the
mill houses. Peter was a builder and farmer
before leaving Ross about 2000 - to live just
up the road, at Rimu.
Wilson — as told by
Great-grandfather Wilson came
from Glasgow and went to Hokitika for
gold but became manager of the gasworks.
In 1917, his son James bought a farm in
the Totara Valley, for the timber. It had no
house, so they transported one by horse and
cart from Rimu.
It has been there since the 1920s, which
means the house will soon be celebrating its
The Fosters — the third generation on
the farm — now live in Rimu, where that
very house started its life.
As Ross marks its 150th this weekend, some families have
more reason than most to celebrate. A number of the town’s
300 residents can trace a direct line back to the earliest
settlers. They shared their stories of gold, famine and
runaway drays with LAURA MILLS.
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