TURNER Part 5: Westport 1867-1876

The Charleston gold rush started in 1867, and James A. M. Turner and the family travelled north to follow it.

“By 1967 Westport was surrounded by a prosperous group of goldfields. This position, being conducive to business, attracted a wide range of merchants, storekeepers from the south and also Nelson” (24)

Gold had been mined on a small scale all through the larger Otago and Hokitika strikes. In April 1865 there were 7,000 miners in the district, and by September there were over 16,000. In May 1867 a miner named Addison made a strike near Charleston which started the last real “rush” on the West Coast — the rush to Addison’s Flat. By this time the West Coast gold boom was showing signs of steadying as the alluvial deposits were exhausted.(25)

The next nine years in Westport were action packed for the Turner family.  Kids, pubs, brawls, bankruptcy, fire, jail, and all of it recorded for posterity (and his descendants) in the local paper!  Papers Past, the newspaper digitisation project of the National Library of New Zealand, is an incredible resource for historians and researchers, and through these records (freely available online) I have been able to paint a detailed picture of the Turner’s life in Westport.  And what a story it is!

Westport_Photo of Gladstone St (looking towards river_prob at intersection with Molesworth_Freeman St on right)

Westport, Photo of Gladstone St (looking towards river, probably at intersection with Molesworth St, Freeman St on right).  National Library of New Zealand. ID 1/2-003052F


24.       MacDonald, Bruce. (1973)  Westport: Struggle for Survival.  Westport Borough Council

25.        ‘Wakamarina and the West Coast’, from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, originally published in 1966.

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