Turning the clock back
Turning the clock back - by Len Riggir

I have researched the Ritchie family’s gold mining interests, and this reveals that James snr, and sons Malcolm and James jnr were mining gold at Deadman’s Flat in the Kawarau Gorge in 1888/89. This area is not identified on any maps. However, what has been discovered is that areas on the gold fields often received names either referring to a person or persons, or an incident. Sometimes they stick. It is part of the wider Gees Flat mining area, in this case, while mining this area, the brothers discovered a human skeleton, and they named the area Deadman Flat.

Turning The Clock Back
Wide view – Arrow in this photo indicates location of house. Photo: Courtesy Cromwell Museum

(This area is approximately 2km upstream from the current Gees Flat Mining Centre on the south side of the river).

Turning The Clock Back
The wider Deadman Flat and a close up of remains of the house.

They made application to extend the claim on the grounds the original claim was “poor ground”.  The extension must have been a success because in 1889 applications were made for 1 acre of ground for residences at Deadman’s Flat, one in the name of Malcolm and the other in James jnr’s name.  As far as been determined, the remains of only 1 house have been identified as James jnr’s house. An archaeological study of the area refers to it as the Ritchie house. The remains of this house are still standing, and the quality of the build work would indicate highly skilled stonemasons built it. The Ritchie’s were skilled, James snr learnt his trade in Scotland and passed his skills onto his sons. 

 A joint application in their three names was made in 1889 for a “water right” to dig a water race 600 feet long (200 metres approximately) to take water from Scrubby Creek then pipe the water across the Kawarau River to the Deadman Flat claim for gold mining purposes.

Further research has indicated that they must have been successful gold miners as they branched out into other business interests.

More on this later.