Did the Otago Gold Rush bring two Melton/Hickling families (back?) together?!

This is a story/area of research which takes us in to the very dangerous waters of speculation. However, there is a significant coincidence which we have been looking into.

  • In 1848/9 the Woolley family emigrated from the Melton area and are said to have built The Plough Inn in the Dunedin/Otago area of New Zealand (because of memories of a Plough Inn from home).
  • In 1848 Mark Starbuck (born in Hickling) emigrates with his cousin’s family to Port Phillip in Australia. In 1863, Mark Starbuck moves to Dunedin and, in 1870, he takes over as licensee of The Plough Inn, West Waipori in the Dunedin/Otago area.
  • 5th Feb 1868; “for sale – Country Hotel; Plough Inn plus farm, West Taieri – apply Thomas Gordon”. This Plough Inn is described as being ’25 miles from town’ which indicates that there were at least two Plough Inns in the area at the relevant time. 
  • Note: Samuel Woolley refers to his Plough Inn as a hotel.
  • Note: When Mark Starbuck moves to Southland in 1875 he sells his farm in West Taeiri.
  • The newspaper account of the Woolley family’s story gives an account of the Plough Inn being on the Dunstan Rd – Dunstan is west of Waikouaiti and north west of Dunedin; is it possible that this is the West Taieri Plough Inn associated with Mark Starbuck?

Our ‘to-do’ list:

  • We would like to confirm the origins of Samuel Woolley’s journal record; what is the story behind The Plough that he sold to fund the family’s emigration in 1848?
  • Can we identify where Samuel Woolley and his family were between 1841 (census) and 1848 (emigration)?
  • Where exactly is The Plough Inn that Samuel Woolley built in the Otago/Dunedin region of New Zealand?
  • Samuel Woolley and Mark Starbuck were in the same area at the same time; can we find/confirm a link between them?

(JF November 2020)

Central Otago Gold Rush (1860s):

  • Gold Fields – manual of the Otago gold fields 10th March 1863 (attachment).
  • Gold wasn’t particularly prized by the Maori communities but European settlers prized it highly.
  • When gold was discovered in the Otago/Dunedin area the small colony expanded hugely; the economy, transport and townships grew quickly.
  • In 1862 the gold rush expanded inland, replacing the sheep farms and bringing hotels and an influx of people. New finds were made in the Taieri River area in 1863 and the gold rush peaked with an influx of 22,000 people and bringing revenue of about £10 million in the 1860s.
  • Water sluicing extended the life of the diggings but brought soil erosion and had a destructive effect on the landscape.

Where the Research has taken us, so far:

Is there a connection between Mark Starbuck and Samuel Woolley?

  • Both families emigrated from the same Melton Mowbray area in England; although Samuel Woolley’s background in England is unclear.
  • Neither family intended to go to Dunedin in New Zealand; the Woolley family originally planned to journey to Canada but changed plans at the Docks in England. Whilst Mark Starbuck originally travelled to Port Phillip in Australia (he may have been drawn to Dunedin by the goldrush).
  • It is possible that the families knew each other before they emigrated but there is no evidence for this to date.
  • It is possible that they were drawn to each other by the coincidence of their shared geographical origins but there is no evidence for this to date.
  • Samuel Woolley and the two Plough Inns (recorded in his journal of the voyage); in order to establish any links between Mark Starbuck and the NZ Plough Inn/Samuel Woolley, the locations of the two Plough Inns (England & New Zealand) need to be verified.
  • We know that there is a Plough Inn in Hickling (and that it was there in 1848) and Mark Starbuck was born in Hickling.

New Zealand locations for the Starbucks and the Woolleys.

Dunedin/Otago Region:


  • Centre of gold rush area
  • Samuel Woolley & family arrive here in 1849 (ship – Ajax) and they eventually settle further north (Waikouati).
  • Mark & Elizabeth Starbuck arrive in Dunedin in 1863
  • 2nd July 1863; Mark Starbuck has uncollected letters (Dunedin, general)
  • Multiple references of a Plough Inn, Caversham – mostly W Puddy.
  • Mark Starbuck barred from electoral roll because he has no household (place of abode Caversham/Roslyn District – in Dunedin (7th May 1872) – is this because he is now settled out of the immediate district (West Taieri)?

Waikouaiti (Otago region):

  • 50 km north of Dunedin along the coast
  • Woolley family began here, moved away for a spell but returned to build 3 hotels: Beach Hotel, Railway Hotel & Plough Inn (dates?)
  • Otago Times March 1863; advert for the Beach Hotel linked to Samuel Woolley
  • Wm Puddy linked to Waikouati in 1894 (horse sale) – might this link the Caversham Plough Inn to Samuel Woolley?

Cargill (Mount Cargill? Hillside?):

  • Is there a possible third Plough Inn in the Mount Cargill area north of Dunedin and on the way to Waikouaiti?
  • NB there is a Cargill St & a Hillside in Dunedin
  • Some adverts refer to; Plough Inn, Cargill’s Hill, Dunedin (Dunedin town or Dunedin region?)
  • Note: Cargill was one of the founding fathers of Dunedin and it is likely that multiple roads and areas were named after him …

Herbert/Otepopo (Otago region?):

  • 200km north of Dunedin and up the coast
  • Woolley family moved up here before returning to Waikouaiti – at least by the early 1860s (dates?)

Maungatua, Lower Waipori, West Taieri (Dunedin/Otago region):

  • Maungatua – mountain area 20km west of Dunedin
  • Waipori River – also 20km west of Dunedin
  • (West Taieri is also in this region)
  • 8th December 1869; licensing meeting – Mark Starbuck retains the West Taieri Hotel
  • March 1870 – James Middleton transfers The Plough Inn, Maungatua to Mark Starbuck. At the same time Mark Starbuck transfers the West Taieri Hotel to Richard Paterson.
  • 19th August 1870: Mark Starbuck application to lease 3 acres (nearly surrounded by the Waipori River/Berwick) from the Waste Land Board – he didn’t appear to support the application & it lapsed.
  • April 1875 – Mark Starbuck farm sale – lower Waipori
  • 17th October 1876; sale of house & farm – sections 1 and 2, block iv, Township of Berwick (near Waipori); information not clear enough to link this firmly to Mark Starbuck.

Dunstan/Dunstan Creek:

  • Dunstan Creek – 120km north/west of Dunedin?
  • 24th December 1864; Mark Starbuck unclaimed letters – Dunstan Creek
  • Does this hint at Mark Starbuck being involved in the goldrush in his early time in New Zealand?
  • Samuel Woolley’s Plough Inn is reported as being on the road to Dunstan.

Southland (Forest Hill, Hokonui & Winton):

  • Large region to the south of the South Island; Dunedin is slightly north/east of its boundaries (200km between Mark Starbuck’s known farms in Waipori and the Forest Hill Hundred, Southland).
  • (No records of the Woolley Family in this region)
  • Mark & Elizabeth Starbuck arrived in Dunedin in 1863, “settled in Southland where they had a farm*” This is very vague and is based on where Elizabeth Starbuck was when she signed the suffrage petition in 1893 – it is not necessarily indicative of them/her staying in this area throughout.
  • *there is a report of a farm sale in Waipori in 1875; it seems that the couple moved further south and re-settled (the report of his estate being settled is also covered in 1901 in the Otago Times).
  • 10th July 1876 – application to purchase land; section 227, Forest Hill Hundred, 200 acres.
  • 31st January 1878 – Mark Starbuck, owner of section 227, Forest Hill Hundred – notice to build a fence
  • 29th April 1887; Southland Land Board permission to build bridges on his farmland – mention of ‘his own & his neighbour’s children’ (there is only a record of Mark and Elizabeth having one child, Laura, born 1850; does this refer to his workers’ children? Grandchildren? Other children of his own?
  • Elizabeth Starbuck signs suffrage petition 1893 – resident in Hokonui.
  • Elizabeth Starbuck died in 1896.
  • Southland Times reports his death and funeral in 1900 – farmer, late of Hokonui & buried in Winton
  • 13th October 1900 – notice of auction; estate of Mark Starbuck – the farm, Springhills, Hokonui (itemised)
  • (see timeline, below)


Key names & places that we have been looking for links between, include:

  1. Plough Inn; Samuel Woolley; William Puddy; Caversham (in Dunedin); Waikouati (north of Dunedin and where the Woolley family settled) and;
  2. Mark Starbuck &/or Waiteri, Waipori, Maungatua.
  • (earliest possible starting point) Samuel Woolley arrives in NZ January 1849 – he appears to begin building his hotels in the early 1860s.
  • 1862: multiple job adverts to hire staff – Plough Inn, Stafford Street, Dunedin (is this too early to be the Samuel Woolley Plough? Or could this be the first opening up?)
  • Samuel Woolley’s Beach Hotel built by 1863
  • Mark Starbuck arrives in NZ – 1863
  • 1863; reference to Plough inn, Stafford St (Mr Attridge)
  • 1863; carpenter wanted – Plough Inn Caversham rd
  • 24th September 1863 – licensing; Plough Inn, Caversham – Josiah Hamilton
  • 26th Feb 1864 – sale/rent under distress Plough Inn Harding v Palfrey
  • 4th March 1864 – for sale or to let Plough Inn & Go-Ahead Diner, Stafford St
  • 18th April 1864 – for sale Plough Inn & Stables, Cargill’s Hill
  • 26th March (& April) 1864 – Plough Inn for sale (regular adverts); is it a coincidence that two Plough Inns were being sold at a similar time? The adverts appear in the same paper but one is consistently ‘Plough Inn (& Go-Ahead Diner), Stafford St’ and another is Plough Inn & Stables, Cargill’s Hill (sometimes Caversham rd).
  • 11th April 1864 – tenders requested painting & papering Plough Inn Stafford St. Also implied link to Union Hotel.
  • 15th April 1864 Annual Licensing Meeting; RW Shepherd – Plough Inn Stafford St
  • 20th April 1864 Plough Inn RW Shepherd 10 o’clock license
  • 7th Sept 1864 Plough Inn, Stafford St transferred RW Shepherd to Frederick Whitlock
  • Sept & October 1864: Plough Inn, Caversham Rd for sale.
  • 11th Jan 1865 inquest at Plough Inn Caversham Rd – murder of Captain Jarvey’s wife (later executed for her poisoning without confession)
  • 13th Sept 1865 license renewal Wm Puddy Plough Inn Caversham Rd
  • 13th Nov 1865 Samuel Woolley – debtors second hearing (discharged from bankruptcy 1884?) – not clear which Plough is for sale (above) might this link with Samuel Woolley or coincidental (Harding v Palfrey ref)?
  • 13th Dec 1865; new license Wm Puddy Plough Inn (although a renewal is shown in Sept 1865 …)
  • William Puddy; licensee Plough Inn from at least Sept 1865 until possibly 1871 – he marries June 1866 (report includes family origins in Somerset)
  • 9th July 1866; plans for a new trunk railway & station in Dunedin – route refers to a ‘sweep round Cargill’s Hill’ and the Plough Inn. Modern map of Dunedin shows trunk railway line.
    • The railway route also describes West Taieri as 19km out of Dunedin
    • So, are all the various locations given within Dunedin just different ways of referencing one Plough Inn?!
    • Does this remove the possible Plough location north of Dunedin and a second Plough Inn in Dunedin town?!
  • 1867; report of a criminal case of arson – West Taieri, farm next to The Plough (referred to as ‘Gordon’s Plough Inn’ & Robert Gordon named).
  • 5th Feb 1868; for sale – Country Hotel; Plough Inn plus farm, West Taieri – apply Thomas Gordon (full description; including ’25 miles from town’ – definitely x2 different Plough Inns)

NB. Samuel Woolley refers to his Plough Inn as a hotel

  • 21st April 1868 road plans – Plough Inn, Hillside (see 9th July 1866)
  • March 1870 – James Middleton transfers the Plough Inn, Maungatua (similar area to West Taieri) to Mark Starbuck. At the same time, Mark Starbuck transfers the West Taieri Hotel to Richard Paterson.

(crosses over with Wm Puddy as licensee; definitely two different Plough Inns?)

  • (30th May 1870 drowning accident Taieri river – Plough Inn mentioned as on route & landlord as Mr Amies. But; also talks of journeying to Hamilton (no trace – it’s on the north island where there is no Taieri River).)
  • 6th June 1870 state of the roads Plough Caversham
  • 6th September 1871 – Plough Inn transfer of license from William Puddy to Ellen Potter
  • 3rd Jan 1872 horses strayed Plough – Alexander Potter named
  • 1st March 1872 Plough Inn Stafford St – road improvements needed because of the inconvenience of getting goods to The Plough Inn
  • 4th June 1873 – description of road improvements; includes precise location of The Plough – probably the Stafford St one?
  • 17th  October 1873; ‘Hotel to let, known as the Plough Inn, Cargill Hill’. (NB. Use of word ‘Hotel’)

Location of Cargill Hill problematic; there is a mountain region (Mount Cargill) north of Dunedin and a Cargill Street in Dunedin. Is it possible that there is a further Plough Inn – north of Dunedin? – this location is between Dunedin and Waikouaiti.

  • 5th Dec 1873 new road plans – names Plough Inn in town & neighbouring roads
  • 17th Dec 1873 advert – Plough Inn Caversham, proprietor W Goodisson
  • 16th March 1874 Goodison’s Plough Inn Caversham – confidence trickster court case
  • 23rd June 1874: Plough Inn, Caversham – bankruptcy of William Goodison; licensee since Nov 1873
  • 18th July 1873; Hotel to let – known as The Plough Inn, Cargill’s Hill.
  • October 1875; farm sale Plough Inn, Hillside nr Dunedin (‘near’ rather than in Dunedin) – coincidentally similar to the Starbuck sale?

(main Starbuck farm sale in April 1875 – already moved to Southland?) Hillside is a problematic reference – there is one in Hillside but Waipori is also a mountainous area; this entry is too full of possible coincidences/confusions to take into account …

  • 17th Sept 1877 – ref to Plough Inn as within the boundaries of Dunedin (road maintenance)
  • 2nd Aug 1878 pig auction at Plough Inn Hillside (rural Inn not middle of Dunedin? But there are signs that livestock was moved into the middle of Dunedin for auctions.)
  • Plough Inn, Caversham is referenced as The Old Plough Inn by 1880 – closed?
  • (S Woolley (?) discharged from bankruptcy 3rd March 1884)
  • 9th November 1883 Armstrong, 2 rooms to let – Plough Inn, Hillside, main road to Caversham (see also 1885, below).
  • 1885; sale held at the Old Plough Inn – still an Inn but now known as ‘Old’? Differentiating with another Plough Inn?
  • 1885; Armstrong – described as ‘residence’ & ‘Old Plough Inn’.
  • 19th March 1885 – James Armstrong sale of all contents Old Plough Inn Caversham
  • July 1890 – Samuel Woolley dies (his son, also named Samuel (1838 – 1909) worked with his father – hotelier and builder)
  • 1890: in an advert for the sale of The Railway Station Hotel, Samuel Woolley (son?!) referred to as ‘builder’.
  • 29th August 1904; reference to the Old Plough Inn on the main south road near the cemetery (see railway report 9th July 1866)

How many Plough Inns were there?

  • There are no references to a Plough Inn in Waikouaiti.
  • There are frequent references to The Plough Inn, Caversham (which is in Dunedin but which is also a wider Borough name) and particularly William Puddy – including license renewals 1865 – 1872.
  • In later years, William Puddy is referenced in Waikouati – mostly in relation to horse sales/shows (at least from 1881). William Puddy & Samuel Woolley are likely to have crossed paths socially but there is no firm evidence of any link between them.
    • Wm. Puddy died June 13th 1900 at Woodhead, Waikouaiti.
    • Puddy is referenced as a Borough Councillor in (at least) April 1902 for Caversham Borough; business at the meetings include the Waipori area – is it safe to refer to Waipori as part of Caversham in a Borough context?!?
    • This may be William Puddy’s son?
  • There are some references to Mark Starbuck in Caversham/Dunedin in 1872.
  • There is reference to The Old Plough Inn by 1880.

BUT; in 1885 (for example) a sale is held at the Old Plough Inn; has the Plough closed or is it being differentiated from another Plough Inn?

  • There appears to be a second Plough Inn, in the Maungatua (Waipori area & slightly north of Dunedin) transferred to Mark Starbuck 1870.
  • Confusingly, Waikouati, Waipori, Dunedin, Caversham; all appear together regularly in news reports; they form a definite ‘locality’.
    • Room for potential confusion picking up references across the newspapers as locations are referred to very randomly – sometimes a specific street, sometimes a wider region …
  • I have found no references that place any of these men together and in the same context. But there are references to William Puddy at The Plough Inn, Caversham at the same time as we think Mark Starbuck would have been at a Plough Inn, too.
  • The question remains as to whether the Plough Inn, Caversham and the Plough Inn Maungatua/Waipori are the same or different.
    • At this point, I believe that there were two Plough Inns; one in the town of Dunedin and one about 20kms west in the Waipori area.
    • We know that Samuel Woolley is reported to have built a Hotel which he called the Plough Inn (probably in the early 1860s) but we don’t which of these two it was.
  • However; it would now be useful to find out more about Samuel Woolley’s journal and the original source of the Samuel Woolley/Plough Inn story.
    • Although street and area references are incredibly confusing there are newspaper reports (relating to the building of roads and railways, for example) which when looked at together imply that all the various Dunedin street references (Stafford St, Cargill’s Hill, Hillside, Caversham) could all relate to the same Plough Inn in Dunedin town itself.
    • (The alternative is that there may have been up to 3 different Plough Inns in Dunedin town, another to the west in Waipori and a possible further one to the north in the Cargill mountain area – at the moment I do not believe this to be the case.)

There are almost certainly two different Plough Inns:

  • One in the town of Dunedin (Caversham, Stafford St, Hillside, Cargill Hill?)
  • One 25km outside the town of Dunedin – West Taieri/Waipori
  • Although Samuel Woolley & William Puddy later seem to share a locality there is nothing to link them both with The Plough in Dunedin
  • No references found that directly link Mark Starbuck to Samuel Woolley.
  • There is no reference to Samuel Woolley in Dunedin town after his first arrival (or in West Taieri …)
  • Samuel Woolley refers to The Plough Inn as a hotel; West Taieri Plough is a Hotel & is the one with links to Mark Starbuck
  • The West Taieri Plough has a farm attached – Mark Starbuck farm sale 1875 in this area before moving to Southland.
  • I am reasonably confident that the West Taieri Plough Inn is Mark Starbuck’s – so, does Samuel Woolley have any links to this one?
  • The only slight indication is that Samuel Woolley’s Plough Inn is on the Dunston Rd which could be in the right vicinity.

So, we appear to have the same problem in New Zealand as we do in England; there is more than one Plough Inn which complicates linking people to places and people to people.

There are clear records of at least one Plough Inn in the town of Dunedin itself and of a second Plough Inn further out and west of Dunedin in the Waipori/West Taieri/Maungatua area.

  • Samuel Woolley is not directly recorded in association with either of these.
  • The newspaper account of the Woolley family’s story gives an account of the Plough Inn being on the Dunstan Rd – Dunstan is west of Waikouaiti and north west of Dunedin; is it possible that this is the West Taieri Plough Inn associated with Mark Starbuck?
  • Did Samuel Woolley build The Plough Inn, name it & then sell it on very quickly (perhaps in 1863?); Dunedin is a bit outside his regular area of Waikouaiti; there is no mention in newspapers of Samuel Woolley linked to the Plough Inn; just the story linked to his Journal.
  • There are newspaper records linking Samuel Woolley to the ownership of The Railway Hotel and the Beach Hotel (both in Waikouaiti) but nothing to confirm his building of a hotel called the Plough Inn – the only reference to this is from a book and then a news article; both based on his journal.
  • His activities/timeline make it possible for him to be linked with each/any of these.
  • Names of places in Dunedin town make the locations difficult to pin down (see maps).
  • Is part of the problem that Samuel Woolley was an owner/builder & Mark Starbuck was a licensee – so that records rarely appear in the same place?
  • In addition, Samuel Woolley had problems with debts in 1863 and is recorded as being discharged from bankruptcy in 1884. (assuming this is the same Samuel Woolley).
  • Mark Starbuck is referenced at the Plough Inn (license transferred from Richard Middleton 1870) in Maungatua which seems to be an area about 12km outside Dunedin. Although he is also referenced in Dunedin and Caversham this is not a surprise since this is the main township for the area; the only hotels/inns that he is linked to are in the Waipori area – when he sells his farm before moving to Southland (1875/6) the land is in the Waipori area.

Newspaper Reports:

(Newspaper searches came from the New Zealand Gov’t, Papers Past website)

  • Did Samuel Woolley build The Plough Inn, name it & then sell it on very quickly (perhaps in 1863?); Dunedin is a bit outside his regular area of Waikouaiti; there is no mention in newspapers of Samuel Woolley linked to the Plough Inn; just the story linked to his Journal.
  • Otago Times; multiple reports of marriages, births, deaths, sales, auctions, inquests at The Plough Inn; for example, Otago Daily Times 3rd August 1869 – “On the 29th July, at the Plough Inn, by the Rev. Mr Stuart, Robert Hagan, to Catherine Hewitt.”
  • (There are some references in the Otago Times to a Plough Inn, Riccarton Rd; sometimes this is clearly in Christchurch but there is a Riccarton rd. in the East Taieri area west of Dunedin too … There is still a ‘historic’ Plough Inn at Rangiora just outside Christchurch).
  • There are frequent newspaper references to a Plough Inn, Caversham Rd which is in the town of Dunedin.
    • Also reference to Stafford St, Hillside and Cargill’s Hill – these are in a similar area of Dunedin but not very close to each other;
    • I have considered the possibility of there being 2 or even 3 possible Plough Inns in Dunedin – one on Stafford St & one on Hillside/Caversham Rd;
    • but reports of road and railway building and the lack of any consistent attempt to differentiate between different Plough Inns whenever mentioned implies there was just one and that it was a significant landmark and centre of business in the town.
    • There is, however, the dilemma of references to the ‘Old Plough Inn’ (see above)
  • Multiple references to William Puddy at the Plough Inn, Caversham (10 search results, Otago Times); 1865 (license renewed) 1866 1869 (license renewed) 1870 1871 1872
  • (Examples print-paged; there are nearly 500 references in the Otago Times alone – please contact us if you would like to see any of these …)

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