Locals brought the historical characters to life while the story was read out over a loud-speaker system. Unfortunately the wind blew most of the words away, but here's pretty much what happened.
William Rees and Nicholas von Tunzelmann were the first Europeans to establish farms in the area. Rees’ cadet, Alfred Duncan, provides us with one of the first descriptions of the Arrow River ‘flowing like silver threads through the blackened [matagouri] scrub-clothed plains.’ It was not the silver look of the river but the gold it contained that saw Arrowtown evolve.
Jack Tewa (otherwise known as Maori Jack), a shearer for Rees, was the first to discover gold around May 1861.
Maori Jack's discovery was followed by either William (Bill) Fox or the team of Thomas Low and John MacGregor late in 1862. It is unclear who was next. Being a forceful character, Fox took credit for the discovery and for a while the town was called Fox’s. These two parties were soon joined by West's party and the three parties worked the Arrow beach secretly, Fox being the leader.
While Fox was in charge he gave each man 60' of river frontage, and any claim-jumpers would have to fight him. He had no trouble. In two weeks Fox's party obtained 40lb-weight of gold. The early miners were well on the way to a fortune before news leaked out, and then followed the rush to the Arrow.
Early on provisions were scarce. William Rees supplied what he could bring up the lake on his whaleboat. These methods were soon insufficient and many miners had to trek to Dunstan for flour, tea and sugar.
Rees, who had two shepherds at Lake Hayes, supplied mutton at ₤3 a carcass. Late in 1862, however, the packhorse trains began to come in from Dunstand and Queenstown with the supplies required by the river miners.
With the great increase in miners came trouble. Claims of 60' frontage had to be reduced to 24 sq ft, leading to disputes and some fights. There were bad men as well as good, and organised claim-juping was prevalent. For a short time the place was referred to as Barney's Point because of the barneys that were going on.
The Commissioner at Dunstan dispatched Sergeant Major Bracken, fresh with the glory of his capture of two bandits, Kelly and Burgess. He arrived at Arrow to find confusion and disorder, and some miners defending their claim with revolvers.
Bracken addressed the miners, letting them know he was sent to enforce law and order, and that was exactly what he was going to do. He successfully settled disputes by getting the miners to appoint disinterested assessors. Acting as an arbitrator, he then explained the bylaws, and the assessors made their decision.
The canvas and calico town grew until by the end of 1862 there were some 1,500 miners on the Arrow River. As the packhorse trains arrived, stores, butchers, bakers, and shanty owners set up business. Pritchards Arrow Stores, established 1862, is still going as Arrow Stores.
In January 1863 the notorious 'Bully' Hayes arrived at Arrow where he built a shanty at Arrow with sod and calico with sapling frame. Due to the shortage of calico, this hotel, known as the Prince of Wales Hotel and Theatre (Prop. Capt. W.H. Hayes) had to be opened with the roof still unfinished.
He engaged such artists as Thatcher and Madam Vitelle as entertainers. When he was starting the feel the effects of the opposition of the 'Buckinghams' who owned the Provincial Hotel, he courted and married Rosie Buckingham, the star performer of the opposition hotel.
Mining on the Arrow boomed and the town that was soon to be known as Arrow and later Arrowtown grew.
The Arrow River yielded tremendous wealth, but with the flood of 1863, many lives were lost, claims covered feet deep with silt and gravel, most of the camps washed away, and all of the river claim gear lost. After the flood, hundreds of miners left in search of less hazardous rivers and occupations.
The yield of the Shotover and Arrow rivers amounted to not to ounces, but to tons of gold.