The duck that caused a gold rush
It sounds like an urban myth but the tale of Farmer Baker’s wife, who caught a duck for dinner at Kaiwharawhara Stream and on cutting it open, found gold in its gizzard, is a good one.
It’s hard to know whether it’s true or not. But George Baker and his wife Susan were certainly living in the area. They had arrived on the Lady Nugent from Exeter in 1841. George was a carpenter and joiner and was employed assembling immigrant cottages brought out from England in sections.
He is particularly known, however, for the fact that his property in Karori gave its name to the Baker’s Hill Mining Company, when it became the scene of the Wellington ‘gold rush’.
Whether the duck tale is true or not is a matter lost in history.
What we do know is that John Brown Reading is the man who started the short-lived gold rush by taking gold into the office of the Wellington Independent newspaper in 1857, causing a great deal of excitement.
The bits of gold (and not much of it) were found by prospectors in Karori and Makara. It must have been a fairly wild place back then.
It led to others heading into the hills looking for the coveted metal.
None of them found much. The little gold there was, was bound up in quartz and hard to extract.
But nevertheless gold fields were set up and even today, it’s possible to see the entrance of the Morning Star mine in Zealandia, now more famous for harbouring giant cave weta and glow worms.
Alas, no gold of any note was found and all the mining was eventually abandoned.
Reading himself was the first born son of a jewellery making family in Birmingham, England. His grandfather had a shop and later so did his father John senior.
Reading immigrated to New Zealand aboard the Duke of Roxburgh with his wife Elizabeth Jane Phillips, son and daughter.
He was credited with making the first wedding rings in the colony with gold he found in Makara and was the first jeweller in the area.
Later he settled in Karori and farmed, was appointed postmaster for Karori, formed a musical society along with the first mayor of Wellington George Hunter and represented Wellington County on the Provincial Council.
He and his wife had eight children.
John died on November 2, 1876 at the Arthur Street home of his daughter Sarah Jane and her husband William Alfred Waters and was buried at the Bolton Street Cemetery.
Reading Street in Karori is named after him.
See our work: http://genealogyinvestigations.co.nz/index.html
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