Denis Murphy: a miner and farmer in the Te Aroha district
Hart, P. (2016). Denis Murphy: a miner and farmer in the Te Aroha district. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 151). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10490
After the death of his father, Denis Murphy and his family settled in New Zealand in 1865, moving to Thames once the goldfield opened, mining there for several years. At Thames he was a director of one mining company and became acquainted with James Brown, who would assist him with a mining enterprise at Te Aroha 40 years later. After prospecting in the Ohinemuri district during the early 1870s, he participated in the opening rush there in 1875 and became a director of another company, but concentrated on being a storekeeper and publican. He also acquired a small farm, and was a prominent member of the community, but as the Ohinemuri goldfield declined so did his income, and he was forced into bankruptcy. Before Te Aroha was opened to mining, he a another farm at Te Aroha West, which he slowly developed while earning an income as both a carter and a contractor making drains and roads. One of his enterprises, operating a punt at the Waiorongomai landing, led to his being accused of over-charging and exploiting his position on the county council for personal gain. Prominent in the local community, he assisted its progress, especially after becoming a member of the county council. As a councillor he supported the needs of the mining industry, and, courting much controversy, campaigned to include Waiorongomai in a proposed Te Aroha borough. Murphy claimed to have prospected the district before it was opened to mining, and after its proclamation as a goldfield in 1880 helped to develop the Prospectors’ Claim. Apart from some minimal involvement with Waiorongomai mining, which he strongly supported on the council (including trying to reduce the tramway charges), he was not actively involved in mining again until 1908, when, with James Brown, he worked ‘Murphy’s Find’, close to the original discovery of 1880. Like all other mines in that portion of the field, it was unsuccessful. His private life became a matter of public interest in the ‘Rotorua scandal’, involving a suicide and his apparent seduction of another man’s wife. Although he strongly denied the allegations made against him, his subsequent behaviour refuted his denials. During the last years of his life he suffered from miners’ complaint, a consequence of his years of mining.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart