Monday, 6 February 2017

James Edwin Gillespie - West Coast Gold Chaser

I am still trying to trace my ancestors William Henry Luff and Elizabeth Gillespie.  One way of doing this is to find all the Gillespies in NZ at the time Elizabeth was here and to do short biographies to rule them out of being related to her.  It is unusual for a woman to come by herself to NZ without some sort of relative already here.  She may have had a cousin here bearing a different surname, but for now I will just continue in my quest to find Gillespies.  If I can't find anyone related then I could assume that she has escaped Scotland because of some calamity she got herself into, or the surname of friends and family is different to her own.

The first person I'm tracing is James Edwin Gillespie, gold chaser on the West Coast.

He was apparently the person who discovered gold at what is now called Gillespie's Beach.  My ancestors were in the vicinity when he discovered it and Elizabeth happened to have the same surname.  Hence this blog post!

This is what I've found so far and this proves he is probably not related to my Elizabeth:

James Edwin Gillespie was born in America according to his burial record.  He was interred in Orowaiti Old Cemetery on 11 June 1890.  He died from congestion of the lungs aged 62.  His occupation was inspector and he was a protestant.

He was buried with his wife who happened to be named Elizabeth Gillespie, the same as my ancestor. She died several years after him and was interred on 13 March 1912.  She died on Senile decay aged 78 and was a Roman Catholic of Irish descent.

I looked up their marriage and they were not married in New Zealand.   I looked in Australia as if he is a gold chaser it is likely he came from Melbourne.  I then found a James Edwin Gillespie marrying an Elizabeth O'Brian in 1856 in Victoria.  This is likely them.  O'Brian being an Irish name.

They had a son Edwin in about 1857 in Beechworth, Victoria, Australia and one in New Zealand named Thomas in 1869.  The son named Edwin was most likely named James Edwin.

James Edwin Gillespie Jnr son of James Edwin Gillespie tragically died on 26 May 1882 aged 24 in the Taranaki area.  And Thomas died aged four in 1874.  It appears the couple may have been childless after 1882 which is extremely tragic.

I searched the newspapers for articles about James Edwin Gillespie and found quite a lot.

In 1861 a letter from James Edwin Gillespie was quoted in a Sydney Newspaper.  It says that he is very experienced in gold mining in both NSW and Victoria.

In 1863 he was in Arthur's point, near Queenstown.

In 1864 J. E. Gillespie was still at Arthur's Point, near Queenstown mining. He was a definite gold chaser.

That same year he was also the secretary of the Arthur's Point races.

In May 1864 his speech was quoted in the newspaper.  

Sometime in 1865 James Edwin Gillespie must have discovered Gillespie's Beach which was named after him.  By April 1866 there were reports of the chaos at this beach.  Here is the account published on 19 April in the West Coast Times.  There were no other mentioned of Gillespie's Beach in any newspapers before this, so this is the first ever mention of the name.

In 1866 James Edwin Gillespie was in the Hokitika area.

In 1868 he owned Gillespie's Waverley Hotel

In 1869, James was named as a miner and witnessed a drowning at Charleston.  Here is his account:

In 1870 he was the manager of the Charleston Progressive Water race company  He also went bankrupt that same year and had to go to the Charleston Courthouse.

In Jan 1877 James was Secretary of the Miner's Association and organised a meeting at the Southern Hotel, Reefton.

In 1886 he was appointed the Registrar of Dogs for the Westport Borough

in 1890 he died and in 1912 his wife died, leaving no children.