Sharp-Healy Family

The Story of the first two Generations


Bendigo in Central Otago is the Braithwaite family holiday location, which has been shared with many members of the Sharp family over the years.

Bendigo from nearby hill

Gold Mining in Bendigo

Reports of the existence of gold in Otago began as early as 1851 and continued for a decade, until the first real rush occurred in March 1861 when gold was found by one of the men employed in building the road through the Lindis Pass. By the end of the month there were 300 men at the site, but results were poor and activity faded rapidly.

After the wild enthusiasm that followed Gabriel Reid's discovery in the Tuapeka two months later in May 1861, miners in their thousands fanned out over the whole territory, patiently testing every likely site and stampeding from one "rush" to another.

In the Bendigo area, there were three phases of mining activity - alluvial working, quartz crushing and briefly, at the end of the period, dredging. The first strike was made in September 1862 on the flats between the upper and lower gorges of Bendigo Creek. Few details of these placer operations have survived, but there was never a large population - perhaps 200 at maximum. The usual accompaniments of a mining zone were built: a pub (of course!) a store, bakery and houses, some well built in stone. Some of these remain as relics and the whole flat area is still covered with the piles of gravel excavated by the miners. The area, however, was limited, and by 1865 alluvial mining was paying little more than wages to a diminished few.

In 1863 Thomas Logan, one of the miners, discovered exposed quartz reefs high up in the mountain above Bendigo Creek. Quartz mining demanded heavy capital outlay in machinery, water races and dams and Logan could find no-one to provide finance until Julian Coats reported the quartz discovery to the Goldfields Warden in 1865.

In that year a Dunedin syndicate was formed to take over Logan and his claim as "The Bendigo Quartz Mining Company" but they soon withdrew and the claim reverted to Logan, who, with two friends, worked intermittently at the reef and at the alluvial diggings below.

Another company took up a claim which they called the "Aurora" but at that time they did little with it.

In 1868 Logan got the support of G W Goodger, a Cromwell businessman, who financed the purchase of a 12-head stamping battery located at Hindon. The group called itself "The Cromwell Quarts Mining Company". The battery, at first only five heads, was set up at the moujth of the lower gorge of the Bendigo, where it enters the Upper Clutha flats. The quartz was brought down by a steep road from the reefs, about 1,000 feet above. The first crushing, made in min 1869, produced 238 ounces of gold for 10 days; work. From then on, the mine provided ever-increasing wealth for the partners. Miners flocked to the area and Cromwell, 12 miles away, became a boom town. New reefs were opened up, and by the end of 1869, 52 claims had been granted and the Aurora Company had set up an eight-head battery in the Creek of that name.

Macandrew, Superintendent of the Province, visited the area in 1869 and selected the site for the official township of Bendigo, covering 160 acres. The site was surveyed at once, and the commercial population moved immediately. All the usual services were provided, together with four hotels. The ruins of the bakehouse are still to be seen. Today, cars and tourist buses park at the foot of the hill by the direction post, which is approximately on the line of York Street, Bendigo's former business area.

The Solway Battery of the Cromwell Quartz Company was located across Bendigo Creek, just ahead, but the Company was already planning to obtain water and steam power and to move their battery up to the mining area in the reefs.

Up in the hills on a flat, parallel with a little below Cromwell reefs, there had grown up a small settlement of miners' houses, called Logantown. When the news of the intention to move the battery became public, business interest began to transfer there from Bendigo, which ceased to develop. Five hotels, three stores, two butchers, bakers, two restaurants, billiards saloon and two blacksmiths - and all this for a population which did not at any time exceed four hundred.

Further up the hill, at the limit of most expeditions to this area, was another group of dwellings, some of which, built in stone, were relatively magnificent. The walls still remain in good condition. The most striking, across the creek, was probably a pub. This was Welshtown, or "Welshman's", from the mine of that name nearby.

The story of the Bendigo quartz mining is the usual one of failure and success, hope and depression, companies bankrupt, companies reformed or reorganised, local investors, Dunedin opportunists, and London capital. By 1890 enthusiasm waned and as rapidly as the area developed, it was reduced to ruins.

Up in the hills are the remnants of other miners settlements, most notably Logantown. If you visit the area today, you can fossick around the ruins of old stone buildings and find pieces of crockery, and glass.

Braithwaite Crib

Bendigo Crib.

Bendigo is well known to the Sharp family as the location of Braithwaite family crib, a two roomed mud brick cottage with a stone verandah out the back.

The Bendigo Crib has been the scene of many Sharp/Braithwaite family Christmas holidays from as far back as 1973.

According to Lloyd Carpenter, 30 May 2012, (B.Sc., Dip.Tchg., DipBibMin., B.A.(hons) Ngati Toa Rangatira Doctoral Candidate English Department, University of Canterbury) the crib was built by the son of two pioneers of Bendigo, Andrew Reid. His parents were the hotel keepers at the Solway hotel, and he was born in c. 1875.

The Reid descendants are a little hazy on when the crib was built, but think it was around 1908 (at the time, his widowed mother resided in the old Solway Hotel, which stood to the south of the crib). There is a photo of Andrew, although the descriptor is wrong: the actual date of the photo is 1934. Andrew is in the centre, arms folded and smoking a pipe. Andrew's son still lives in Alexandra and his nephew in Ripponvale. These photos are out of copyright so can be displayed here.

Party of tributors, Bendigo.

The crib did not receive legal title until 1958, due to the old survey having to be cancelled (see photo of the re-drawn survey from the Ministry of Works file).

Bendigo survey plan.

John and Sheila Braithwaite owned one section of just over 1000 square metres, and Margaret Bremner owned an adjacent section of 1012 square metres. These are located right in the middle of where the old mining town was surveyed back in 1869. The family used to go gold panning in the hills behind the crib, known as the Dunstan Ranges during the holidays.

Although power now runs along the road outside the crib, the water supply is from the Bendigo Creek.

A large part of the surrounding land is now in grapevines, and much of the land has been subdivided into lifestyle blocks. The properties have now been sold.

The following photographs show the family's annual occupation of the Bendigo crib.

(1) Cars parked outside the crib.

Cars parked outside Bendigo crib.

(2) Sharp family playing cards in the crib, 1974.

Sharp family playing cards.

(3) Sharp family at one of the stamping batteries.

Sharp family at one of the stamping batteries.

(4) Sharp families at the Bendigo crib, 1974.

Sharp families at the Bendigo crib.

(5) Sharp families relaxing at the Bendigo crib.

Sharp families at the Bendigo Crib.

(6) Bendigo today (taken by Raewyn Sharp, January 2013).

Bendigo today.