A Cornish Mans Life Story: Late Mr Charles Rillstone
A resident of Venus Street, Georgetown, whose long and varied career included work at such widely separated places as the Longwood Ranges in Southland, the Comstock Ranges in America, and before that, mining, overland coaching in Australia, with finally a short spell on the excavations at the Monowai Electric Works, passed away on Wednesday. This was Mr Charles Rillstone, aged 73
Mr Rillstone, who had been a member of the Masonic Order for many years, was a native of Perrin, Cornwall, and came to New Zealand at an early age. He came from Australia in the sixties to Invercargill where his brother the late Mr James Rillstone, was engaged with Messer’s W Kingswell and Co Butchers, Dee Street.
The first job Mr Rillstone got in Invercargill was at the Black Eagle Brewery that of pumping water into the tank on the tower, from which the arrival of mail steamers used to be signalled. He lived in a tent in the bush about where Spey Street is now.
Returning to Australia, where he married, Mr Rillstone engaged in various occupations, but chiefly mining. He was at Ballarat, and worked in the Phoenix Foundry, which turned out the first locomotive made in Australia.
While in Queensland he drove a mail coach between Rockhampton and Marybrough, and was within a few miles of the down coach when it was bailed up by the Hunter Brothers, bushrangers. Another time he was in Queensland Township, when he saw a man riding past, leading a horse with a rifle slung over his shoulder. This he learnt later, was “Starlight”, a bushranger regarding whom many romantic stories have been told.
Mr Rillstone had some interesting memories of the famous Burke and Wills expedition. Before coming to g New Zealand he saw the explorers leaving on their ill-fated journey August 1860, and on his own cattle-droving trips to Queensland he was in the neighbourhood of some of their camps.
From Australia Mr Rillstone went off to America, and worked for a time in the celebrated Comstock Lodes In Nevada, some thousands of feet below, that men could only work for short spells. Barrels of ice were sent down at intervals to cool their bodies and for drinking purposes. They worked in dungaree pants, with shoes and a sweat rag. In one part of the mine it was so hot that the water would cook an egg in five minutes.
While in Virginia City, near the famous gold and silver mines, Me Rillstone witnessed the great fire which destroyed half the city, and his family have relics of the conflagration- a tack hammer and a brace.
Life in Nevada in those days was exciting. It was common for men to be shot or stabbed in gambling saloons, and while Mr Rillstone was there the Indians massacred a number of miners. W Cody (Buffalo Bill) headed an expedition against them, fought their chief single-handed, and killed him. Mr Rillstone afterwards saw the chiefs scalp in a tobacconists shop in Virginia City.
Mr Rillstone afterwards settled at Riverton, and took a leading part in the development of the Longwood quartz reefs, to which he pinned his faith to the last. His wife died in Dunedin in 1906 and four or five years ago he came to live in Invercargill, in which his sons, five in number have resided for a number of years.
When the rush to Zeehan, Tasmania, took place Mr Rillstone took charge of a prospecting party despatched by a syndicate, the vessel in which he sailed, when near her destination, narrowly escaped disaster, and had to run to sea again. A great storm raged, but eventually the desired haven was reached.
A few years later Mr Rillstone returned to New Zealand, and went into a venture at Rough Ridges, Central Otago, and took the managership of the O.P.Q. Co (originally the Otago Pioneer Quartz Co.) Later he engaged in dredging contracts in the Lakes District, and he constructed the weir at Waipori in connection with Dunedin’s electricity scheme. He was at the Neuthorn rush in Central Otago, and had a mate killed beside him in a shaft.
Mr Rillstone wrote a number of articles for this paper, dealing for the most part with the Longwood Quartz reefs.
Ref: Southern Cross Newspaper
- Otago Pioneer Quartz Co. is the 1863 site of the first underground quartz mine in New Zealand.Early in the history of Comstock mining, there were heavy flows of water to contend with. This called for pumping machinery and apparatus, and as greater depth was attained, larger pumps were demanded. All the inventive genius of the Pacific Coast was called into play, and this resulted in construction of some of the most powerful and effective steam and hydraulic pumping equipment to be found anywhere in the world. Initially, the water was cold, but the deeper workings cut into parts of the vein where there were heavy flows of hot water. This water was hot enough to cook an egg or scald a man to death almost instantly. Lives were lost by falling into sumps of this water hot from the vein. The hot water called for fans, blowers and various kinds of ventilation apparatus, as miners working in heated drifts had to have a supply of cool air.
The following applications for letters patent, with provisional specifications, have been accepted by the Patent Office:—; Charles Rillstone, of South Dunedin, miner, improvements in elevators for the lifting and carriage and discharge of tailings or other material from bucket dredges; fastenings:
- COLONIAL INVENTIONS: Evening Post, Volume LXII, 10 August 1901, Page 5
" The Milling Act Amendment Act, 1886," have been granted certificates as mine managers by the Board of Examiners: — First-class Charles Rillstone and William Patton, Otago
Otago Witness, Issue 2338, 22 December 1898, Page 24
Complete specifications relating to the under mentioned application for letters patent have been accepted at the Patents Office. Wellington, as follows: Charles Rillstone, South Dunedin, improvements in elevators for the lifting and carriage and discharge material from bucket dredges.
Otago Witness, Issue 2475, 21 August 1901, Page 12
Henry Hughes, patent and trade marks agents (authorized by New Zealand Government) reports the following list of patent applications in New Zealand as compiled from Government Gazette- of July 28: — Auckland: A. Godfrey, trolley pole: C Rillstone, pump.
Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LVII, 10 August 1910, Page 3
Patent and trade mark agent, Manse-street, Dunedin (authorized by the New Zealand Government), supplies the fallowing list of New Zealand applications for patents, compiled from the New Zealand " Gazette July 24th ” Rillstone:-Spark preventer
Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXXVI, Issue 194, 19 August 1902, Page 4
- The following item is taken from the Alexandra Herald:
"There is talk of the Nenthorn goldfields being revived, after being desolate for quite 20 - years.
"Two Rillstone brothers have pegged out the Victoria, the Crocus, and the Blue Slate claims.
"Mr C. Rillstone, father of the two prospectors, and manager of the antimony mine at Alexandra, with his mate (Mr Moyle), sunk the largest shaft that ever was put down in Nenthorn many years ago. ”Permission to work the field is now being awaited.