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

This is a story which drew us (cautiously, it must be said) in to the murky waters of speculation; nevertheless, there is a significant coincidence which was both intriguing and beguiling – it began like this:

  • 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 the early 1860s, they settle in the Hawkesbury/Waikouati area about 50 kms north of Dunedin and it is reported, in Maria Woolley’s obituary, that they lived in the Plough Inn for about 7 years.
    • Note: Samuel Woolley refers to his Plough Inn as a hotel.
    • 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
  • 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’. 
    • Note: When Mark Starbuck moves to Southland in 1875 he sells his farm in West Taieri.
  • So, the starting point was to explore whether Samuel Woolley’s Plough Inn on the Dunstan Rd was the same Plough Inn in West Taieri/Waipori that is linked to Mark Starbuck.

Some of this information is beginning to come together and sadly (for us, anyway), it seems that there were lots of different Plough Inns in the Otago area of New Zealand just as there were several in the Vale of Belvoir (see Samuel Woolley)!

We began with an intriguing possibility; the coincidence that two families emigrating from the Hickling area might be linked to Plough Inns both here and in New Zealand – it turns out that it is likely to be a simple coincidence. We are still looking in to some of the unanswered questions (below) and, either way, it is satisfying to find that two families who emigrated from our area ended up so close together; even if it is now fairly certain that they weren’t located at the same Plough Inn when they settled in New Zealand.

The ‘to-do’ list:

  • We would like to confirm the origins of Samuel Woolley’s family history; 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)?
  • We believe that we now have an exact location for The Plough Inn that Samuel Woolley built in the Otago/Dunedin region of New Zealand; any further reports and information would be welcomed.
  • Samuel Woolley and Mark Starbuck were in the same area at the same time; can we find/confirm/dismiss any link between them?

(JF December 2020)

Central Otago Gold Rush (1860s):

map - Otago gold fields 1868 environmentalhistory-au-nz.org
map – Otago gold fields 1868 environmentalhistory-au-nz.org
  • 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.

Henry (Rouse) Garrett – the ‘Gentleman Highwayman’

Oddly, there is an indirect link between Mark Starbuck and another Hickling migration story – that of James Morrison who was deported to Australia in 1851. James Morrison‘s brother, Samuel Morrison was deported in 1845 alongside Henry Rouse.

  • Mark Starbuck mined and farmed in the Waipori district outside Dunedin, New Zealand; the same area (Woodside) was terrorised by the ‘Gentleman Highwayman’, Henry (Rouse) Garrett .
  • Henry Rouse was born in Hose, Leics, and seems to have been the leader of a burglary gang that included Samuel Morrison – both men were convicted and deported to Australia on board The Mayda, arriving on Norfolk Island in 1846. Their respective Convict records reference each other.
  • Woodside Glen and New Zealand’s Gentleman Highwayman (pdf)
  • Henry Rouse had a troubled childhood in Hose and was first imprisoned after an altercation with a local gamekeeper. On his release he embarked on a campaign of organised burglaries (see James Morrison’s page); after an armed attack on a draper’s shop in Bingham the 24-year old Henry Rouse and 26-year old Samuel Morrison were deported.
  • Whilst Samuel Morrison appears to have settled after his arrival in Australia, Henry Rouse didn’t; at some point he changed his surname to Garrett and was transferred backwards and forwards between Australia and New Zealand. He died in prison at the age of 67 in 1885 having achieved national notoriety in both England and New Zealand.

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).
  • We know that there is a Plough Inn in Hickling (and that it was there in 1848) and Mark Starbuck was born in Hickling.
  • 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.
    • In order to establish any links between Mark Starbuck and Samuel Woolley, the locations of the English Plough Inn and both of the New Zealand Plough Inns needed to be verified; nevertheless, in New Zealand, we are now sure that they were each linked to different Plough Inns in distinctly different geographical areas.
    • We now know that Samuel Woolley’s Plough Inn, in New Zealand, was on the edge of the Waikouaiti township (north of Dunedin) and that the Plough Inn linked to Mark Starbuck in West Taeiri was west of Dunedin.

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)
  • There are multiple references to at least two (possibly three) Plough Inns in Dunedin – mostly in Caversham & mostly referencing W Puddy; however, we have now firmly located Samuel Woolley’s Plough Inn in Waikouaiti which is north of Dunedin itself.
  • 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)?

Hawkesbury/Waikouaiti (Otago region):

  • 50 km north of Dunedin along the coast
  • The Woolley family began here, moved north to the Otepopo area (farming and cheesemaking), returning to build 3 hotels in the following order: Beach Hotel, Plough Inn and lastly the Railway Hotel (dates?)
  • Otago Times March 1863; an advert for the Beach Hotel is linked to Samuel Woolley
  • Both Maria and Samuel Woolley died and were buried in Waikouaiti
  • (Wm Puddy is located in this area in the 1890s but this doesn’t now suggest any link to the Plough Inn stories)

Cargill? (Mount Cargill? Hillside?):

  • Cargill was one of the founding fathers of Dunedin and it is likely that multiple roads and areas were named after him which leads to confusion over possible locations.
  • The Mount Cargill area is north of Dunedin and on the way to Waikouaiti.
  • There is a Cargill St and a Hillside in Dunedin itself; some adverts refer to a Plough Inn, Cargill’s Hill, Dunedin.
  • It is now felt that these are all likely to be references to Plough Inns in Dunedin town itself (see section, below, ‘Pubs Galore’).

Herbert/Otepopo (Otago region?):

  • 200km north of Dunedin and up the coast
  • Woolley family moved up here where they farmed and Maria Woolley made her name as a cheesemaker before the family returned 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 and Taieri River – are both west of Dunedin
  • 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; Dunstan is west of Waikouaiti and north west of Dunedin; however, we now know that Samuel Woolley’s Plough Inn was on the edge of Waikouaiti town and not outside the town.

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)


We looked for links between key names & places, including:

  1. Plough Inn; Samuel Woolley; Waikouati (north of Dunedin and where the Woolley family settled) and;
  2. (miscellaneous names referenced with possibly relevant Plough Inns) Robert Gordon, Thomas Gordon, James Middleton, Richard Paterson, Mr Amies and …
  3. Mark Starbuck &/or West Taieri, Waipori, Maungatua and …
  4. (possibly and largely for elimination purposes now …) William Puddy; Caversham (in Dunedin).

(*references to Plough Inns in Dunedin have been separated from this section as it is now reasonably evident that neither Samuel Woolley nor Mark Starbuck were associated with these. Newspaper examples can be found in the Gallery (below) and a separate list follows this one (& have been kept on record); please contact us if you are interested in more of these. References to Plough Inn/Hotel, Cargill are included in the Dunedin list but there is some continuing uncertainty about its location.)

  • Samuel Woolley arrives in NZ January 1849 – he appears to begin building his hotels in the early 1860s.
  • Samuel Woolley’s Beach Hotel built by 1863
  • 1863: Mark Starbuck arrives in New Zealand
  • 13th Nov 1865 Samuel Woolley – debtors second hearing (& discharged from bankruptcy 1884?). It is unclear whether this is the same Samuel Woolley (it seems more likely to be Samuel junior b.1838); the article also includes reference to Harding v Palfrey.
  • 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’). NB. Samuel Woolley refers to his Plough Inn as a hotel.
  • 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.
  • (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).)
  • April 1875: Mark Starbuck sells his farm in West Taieri and relocates to Southland.
  • 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 a Plough in Hillside, Dunedin but Waipori is also a mountainous area; this entry is too full of possible coincidences/confusions to take into account …
  • 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’.

Plough Inns located in Dunedin Town*:

‘Pubs Galore; History of Dunedin Hotels 1848-1984’ by Frank Tod. This book records three separate Plough Inns in Dunedin itself, none of which appear to have links to either the Woolley or the Starbuck families (page extracts can be found in the gallery, at the bottom of the page; also a news article based on the book from 1836) – Samuel Woolley is firmly based out of Dunedin and in Hawksbury/Waikouaiti at this time.

read more

How many Plough Inns were there?

  1. Originally, we could find no general or news references to a Plough Inn in Waikouaiti and we still haven’t found any contemporary references; however, it is referenced in Woolley family histories and in Maria Woolley’s newspaper obituary.
    • We now have a firm location for this Plough Inn on the edge of Waikouaiti from a mixture of family histories and later newspaper accounts (full details – Samuel Woolley page).
    • It appears that the Woolley family were likely to have been in residence at this Plough Inn at a similar time as Mark Starbuck is licensee of a Plough Inn (described as being in Waipori).
  2. There is clear evidence of a further Plough Inn, in Maungatua (Waipori area & slightly north of Dunedin) which was transferred to Mark Starbuck 1870.Although (and confusingly), Waikouati, Waipori, Dunedin, Caversham; all appear together regularly in news reports; the Waipori area is a distinctly different geographical area from the location of Samuel Woolley’s Plough Inn.
  3. 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.
    • The Toitu Archives hold a book by Frank Tod ‘Pubs Galore; History of Dunedin Hotels 1848-1984’ and a newspaper article from 1936 which detail three different Plough Inns in Dunedin itself (images can be found in the gallery, below).
    • Neither seems to have a link with Samuel Woolley or Mark Starbuck which supports the existence of a Plough Inn north and/or west of Dunedin.
    • The book and article include a photograph of William Puddy’s Plough Inn in the 1870s; the catalogue reads: “Carte de visite of the Plough Inn, a woman and two children pose in the doorway. The woman may be Mary Jane Puddy, nee Hewitt, and Irish woman who married William Puddy in the early 1860s. The smallest child may be Adeliza Puddy, who was born in 1867. The hotel was on the north-west corner of Main South Road and Eglinton Road. The Plough Inn was first issued a license in 1862 for Joseph C. Atteridge. Josiah Hamilton took over in 1863, and then William Puddy held the license from 1865-1874. (See Frank Tod, Pubs Galore; A History of Dunedin Hotels 1848-1984, p.32). Photographer, unknown. Date, circa 1870s.”
    • 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 (junior?) is referenced as a Borough Councillor in (at least) April 1902 for Caversham Borough; business at the meetings include the Waipori area – once outside the built-up area of Dunedin, areas are rural and remote and locations are hard to pinpoint.
    • There are no references (to date) 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.
    • There are some references to Mark Starbuck in Caversham/Dunedin in 1872.

It is now clear that there was one Plough Inn in Waikouaiti (linked to Samuel Woolley), three different Plough Inns in the Dunedin township and one further Plough Inn 25km west of Dunedin in the Waipori/West Taieri/Maungatua area (linked to Mark Starbuck).

  • The latter can be precisely linked to Mark Starbuck in 1870.
  • We know that Samuel Woolley built a Hotel which he called the Plough Inn (probably in the early 1860s) and that it was located in the Hawkesbury/Waikouaiti township.
  • The Plough Inns in the Dunedin township are unrelated.

Newspaper Reports:

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

  • 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 but they have confirmed that there is no link to Samuel Woolley).
  • 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;
    • reports of road and railway building and the lack of any consistent attempt to differentiate between different Plough Inns whenever mentioned adds to the confusion; at least one of the Dunedin Plough Inns seems to have been a significant landmark and centre of business in the town.
    • There is, also, 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 …)
  • See also: Samuel Woolley and Mark Starbuck and the gallery, below.

Gallery and Attachments: