Volume 13 (2020)




AN ACTIVE AND USEFUL MAN

A Tribute to Auckland Auctioneer and Goldfields Developer, Samuel Cochrane, 1815 - 1879

by Wanda Hopkins

'No man in this community has done more to encourage the opening of the Coromandel than Mr. S. Cochrane, and without any assay to guide him he has spent a large sum of money in sustaining its weak beginnings'. (Daily Southern Cross (DSC), 6 August 1862)

There are many tales about Samuel Cochrane’s charismatic personality, commanding him a great deal of respect in family circles.


Samuel Cochrane 1815-1879

One old family story claims that he was known as 'Banker Cochrane' from his days on the Thames Goldfields where lending money to prospectors was common and often illegal. It was even said that he bankrolled Major Gustavus Von Tempsky and his Forest Rangers during the New Zealand Land Wars. (as related to me by Gerald O’Halloran).

At the time of his passing in 1879, Samuel Cochrane was regarded as 'an active and useful man of business', his obituary also stating that the objective his various ventures were for 'the advancement of the Auckland district.'

His reputation was certainly celebrated in the local press, and following the newspapers it is relatively easy to gain insight into the man who came to be regarded in some circles as the antipodean equivalent of the famous London auctioneer, George Robins (ref. NZ Herald 28 July 1865; Thames Advertiser 31 January 1878). So where better to start than the part of his life that brought him to New Zealand, and saw him start a business that would outlive him by the best part of two generations, Samuel Cochrane & Son.

Persuaded by other family members who had recently made their exit from the north of Ireland, Samuel had already tried his hand as a merchant in Derry and Montreal before setting up business in Auckland (ref. obituary June 1879).

On his arrival in New Zealand in 1858, the threads of Samuel’s business interests can be picked up almost immediately in the Auckland newspapers. His various business partnerships reflected both a desire and an ability to get on with life and take up a line of business where this was most likely occur, auctioneering and shipping. His multiple ventures could be viewed as opportunistic but equally, they demonstrated his willingness to invest his time and capital into the new colony.

It appears that he arrived in Auckland at about the same time as one Joseph Moore (ref. DSC 27 May 1859) who became his first business partner. This arrangement was rather short lived with Samuel going into partnership the following year with his brother, Joseph in Lower Queen St (ref. DSC 28 January 1859). They soon relocated to Fort St (ref. New Zealander 13 February 1861) leasing new business premises that became known as the Cochrane Buildings.

Never one to put all of his eggs in one basket, Samuel almost immediately formed a second partnership with a William Hunter (ref. DSC 13 November 1860) in an auctioneering business specialising in livestock sales. Again, another short-lived venture, by 1863 Samuel was trading of his own volition, as was his brother, Joseph (ref. DSC 28 January 1863).

The goldfields also beckoned, and around this time Samuel started taking a very active part in developing the mineral resources of the Coromandel area. He was closely connected to developers Thomas Keven and Michael Wood (NZ Herald 23 June 1879). His name is also linked to Kapanga (ref. NZ Herald 8 October 1867) during the same period and numerous other mining ventures during the 1860s rush for gold.

With this objective, Samuel also began delving into running steamships to secure fast and regular steam communications between the city and the various outlying districts. This included regular trips north from Auckland to the Waiwera Hot Springs, a subsidised mail run and passenger service to Whangarei, and runs to the goldfields.

'The Novelty will leave tomorrow for Coromandel, when Mr. Cochrane, as a principal shareholder and chairman of several of the mining companies, will proceed by her, for the purpose of making an inspection of the different claims and reporting thereon'. (New Zealand Herald, 11 July 1865)

'Mr Samuel Cochrane came forward and gave his name for one, remarking that nothing he could do towards developing the wealth of the Thames Goldfield should be wanting on his part.' (New Zealand Herald, 20 September 1867)


From Goldrush Online: The Goldminer's Database.

Samuel Cochrane's brother Joseph Cochrane was at this time also mining further north of Thames, at Te Mata and Tapu Creek.

TESTING THE MYTHS

The Auckland newspapers of the first part of the 1860s are full of advertising of shareholder meetings of the various companies set up to exploit the riches of the goldfields, held at Samuel Cochrane’s business premises in Fort St.

Even if not directly involved, there can be no doubt that he kept his finger on the pulse as he later invested much time and capital in organising infrastructure and machinery used at the various claims, and with the high cost of establishing claims (ref. Goldrush Online), he may have helped many hopefuls get their enterprises underway. Certainly, there is evidence that the established banks were slow to release funding for such ventures, and the offer of a personal loan would not have been beyond his means. Neither was it unusual for those in his line of business to offer cash advances.

GUSTAV VON TEMPSKY

Another name that was associated with the Coromandel goldfields, and later with the Thames, was that of Gustav Von Tempsky.

From the early 1860s various Acts of Parliament were passed to transfer tribal lands to individual ownership so the Maori could in turn lease their land to the white settlers. However, this action disenfranchised the majority of the native population and created resistance. This chain of events ultimately resulted in the Maori Land Wars which affected the whole of the land between Auckland and provincial Taranaki to the south.

When it came to their business in the goldfields, Cochrane often seemed to be in the same place at the same time as Von Tempsky (ref. DSC 31 July 1862 and shipping notices), so there is enough to indicate that both were well acquainted. They may very well have discussed politics when their paths crossed, including the best way to protect the investments of those who came to the goldfields to make their fortunes. In other words, none of these things were beyond probability.

An adventurer hungry for glory, Von Tempsky was concerned with bringing peace between the natives and the European settlers and in 1863, joined the Forest Rangers to fulfil this ambition. But according to various historical sources, the bulk of his energy was concentrated well away from the goldfields until he left the Forest Rangers in 1866. He later formed a part of an armed constabulary based in Taranaki.

Following the Land Wars, many ex-soldiers and volunteers were attracted to life on the Thames goldfields where disputes continued over the Maori land being made available for mining activities. James Mackay Jnr. was quick to hire an armed constabulary to keep the peace and locate miners who had trespassed on to Maori land. By 1868 bands of rebel Maoris led by Te Kooti were causing concern so a larger volunteer militia was formed to deal with the threat. At the time of the formation of the Tapu Rifle Rangers, Von Tempsky was away fighting on the Taranaki front. He was killed-in-action later that year.

The best that can be concluded is that both men would have been astute enough to have seen an advantage in forming an alliance. However, the facts strongly indicate that if Samuel Cochrane did help fund a private army, then he would not have acted alone.

It would also appear because of the timing that such an allegiance with Von Tempsky is very likely to be exactly that, a fiction, albeit a very captivating one.

A NEW FOCUS

Towards the end of the 1860s Samuel Cochrane formed a new business partnership with his elder son, William Stephen Cochrane (ref. NZ Herald 29 April 1867), bringing into being the firm Samuel Cochrane & Son. By November 1870, Samuel had relinquished his side of the auctioneering business to his future son-in-law, James Dacre (ref. Auckland Star 1 November 1870).

But retirement apparently wasn’t on his agenda, and Samuel soon found new direction in business dealings acting as agent for another long-term associate, businessman Robert Graham. Cochrane had been favoured with the sale Robert Graham’s land in in October 1869 (ref. NZETC website). The pair would later travel to London together on a business trip (ref. DSC 5 October 1872), but after a falling out soon after their arrival they went their separate ways, Graham returning to Auckland soon afterwards. Cochrane also sued Robert Graham and was awarded £700 in damages.

Largely because of his knowledge of the Auckland province and his Ulster Scots background, Samuel Cochrane was appointed Emigration Officer to Belfast in 1874 (newspaper references in NZ and Ireland). It was Cochrane who eventually assisted George Vesey Stewart find settlers for Katikati, overseeing the departure to New Zealand of the Carisbrook Castle in 1875 (newspaper references in NZ and Ireland, NZ Gazette entries).

Businessman, entrepreneur, auctioneer, shipping agent, public servant: Samuel Cochrane managed to fulfil all of these roles with a large degree of success and gratitude from those he helped and wide respect from others.

Samuel Cochrane returned to New Zealand in January 1879 from his overseas posting. Soon afterwards he was taken ill, and on 8 June 1879, he passed away in the home of his oldest son, William Stephen Cochrane in Remuera.

His passing was widely reported in the press. He was survived by his wife, Sarah Martha Cochrane, and children Mary-Ann (Minnie), William Stephen, Samuel Charles (Charlie), at the time living in Montreal, and Sarah Dacre.

Like many other settlers of Ulster Scots heritage, there can be little doubt that Samuel Cochrane was a successful and influential man during his time.

'He was altogether an exemplary and energetic citizen.
New Zealand Herald, 23 June 1879.

'.... whose great fund of humour which he possessed was oftentimes exhibited while discharging his duties as an auctioneer, to the amusement of those assembled at his sales.'.
New Zealand Herald, 23 June 1879.

A FAMILY TRIBUTE

Like so many others from the era, my Cochrane ancestors played their part in the development of the Coromandel and Thames goldfields, one as a successful entrepreneur, and the other, a failed businessman in nearby Auckland. Therefore, it seemed only natural to research these family connections on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the goldfields.

This generation of my family were of an era where the world was on the move, and with the opening up of the colonies in North America, Australia and New Zealand many of my forebears chose a path which saw them settle half a world away, culminating in 1854 with the emigration of members of the Cochrane and the Macky families from Co. Donegal and Derry.

I have been very fortunate that I have been able to follow the Cochrane story through a collection of documents and letters donated to community archives by members of the Macky family, including the shipboard journal written by the Rev. John Macky. My research also led me to further material in various New Zealand and Irish collections which helped both verify many of the events mentioned in them, and uncover new information.

The following accounts recall the lives of two of the Cochrane men through various events on the goldfields, through the newspapers. I have also been able to verify a close association between my great, great grandfather, Samuel Cochrane and Robert Graham. Because of this the family assumes that Cochrane St, in old Grahamstown, was named for him. The naming of the street certainly dates back to the correct era.

I hope that the reader will find the kind of inspiration I have enjoyed in putting together this piece and will be encouraged to add their own family histories as a resource for future generations.

Wanda Hopkins (Cochrane family descendant)

END NOTES

REFERENCES

  1. Mr Robert Graham. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Auckland Provincial District).
  2. Goldrush Online: The Goldminer's Database. by Kae Lewis.
  3. PapersPast. Daily Southern Cross, New Zealander, New Zealand Herald.
  4. New Zealand Gazettes.



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