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.