Hyde Diggings, ca 1864-1865
Photographer Joseph Perry,
Album 014, P1910-005/1-028
Hocken Collections - Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago
The Gold Rush Town that Became Hyde
Eight Mile was a gold mining site near Hyde that was discovered in 1863.
Eight Mile was not as large a rush as nearby Hamilton’s, which was located higher up on the Rock and Pillar Range.
News of good returns from Eight Mile led to the decline of Hamilton’s rush. The township of Eight Mile grew with miners and shopkeepers and merchants. The Otago Witness, in December 1864, reported that it is “remarkably lively, in a state of excitement and gaiety - horse racing, balls and suppers every night”.
One story tells of Johnny Hallwerston who left Dunedin with all his worldly possessions stowed in a wheelbarrow and wheeled his way to Eight Mile. After weeks of prospecting, he struck a rich patch of gold near the Fillyburn Creek and is reputed to have taken as much as thirty ounces of gold for a day’s work!
However, just as quickly, most of the population of Eight Mile soon moved on to new diggings elsewhere in Otago or the West Coast. By 1865, there were 120 people left in the Eight Mile area from 1200 the year before. Gold mining continued but the richest finds were around 30 metres underground. Shafts needed to be dug to reach the gold sitting on the bedrock and vast areas of earth had to be washed away by sluicing. The Eight Mile field was soon stripped bare.
The fertile river valley and rolling hills around Eight Mile suited farming, unlike the stoney land around Hamilton’s which was soon abandoned. In 1864, after only two brief but thrilling years of existence, the town of Eight Mile was renamed Hyde and settled into a quieter way of life.
Sluicing Claim, Main Gully, Hyde ca 1870
Subject Photograph Collection Box 77, Number 4/1, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum
Map of the Province of Otago, geographical positions & coastlines principally by J. L. Stokes, interior by J. T. Thomson, Chief Surveyor and assistants Alex Garvie & J. McKerrow with additions by J. Drummond, J. J. Coates & W. C. Wright, mining surveyors, gold fields department, including also the explorations of Dr Hector, W. C. Rees, P. Q. Caples & W. Arthur
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZ Map 3811