Kiwiosities: The redoubtable miner

Bill Fox won his nickname  through his exploits as a gold prospector in central Otago  and Westland during the 1860s.  Patrick William Fox learned mining in California and so  recognised rocks in the Arrow River as similar to rock forms  that bore gold in America.  In secret, he and three partners gathered a fortune in gold.  When they came to bank it at Dunstan (Clyde) others came to track them back  through the gorges of the Arrow.

Hundreds, then  thousands rushed to the Arrow, called briefly Fox’s. The ‘redoubtable miner’ ruled the gorge with his fists until the  official law arrived. He opened hotels in Arrowtown and Arthur’s Point,  also running a cargo  boat on Lake Wakatipu.

Fox was sentenced to six months in jail for accidentally wounding a  customer in a bar brawl, but was out in time to join the West Cost rushes of the mid-1860s. First it was  Fox’s gully in the Arahura Catchment; then he led a party to Bruce Bay; he was early at Charleston, but within weeks  had  found another field at what is now the Fox River; all this in just 18 months.   In the 1870s he helped companies and the Government to prove that there were quartz seams about  Reefton, continuing to capture the  public imagination as a man  who could  find rich gold.

Excerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand. 



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Gordon Ell, a former journalist and wildlife film-maker, is the author of many popular books about New Zealand's historic and natural heritage.