Volume 1

Crosbie's Settlement - Coromandel Forest Park.

David Wilton

Map References:

  1. NZMS 260 Sheet T11 WHITIANGA, Edition 2 1993, 1:50000.
  2. NZMS 260 Sheet T12 THAMES, Edition 2 1984 , 1:50000.

Background and Location

Figure 1 DoC signpost on the main track through Crosbies

Crosbies Settlement is an old farm settlement that was established in the Coromandel Ranges in 1880.  It was farmed until about 1970, when the area (or most of it) was subsumed into the Coromandel Forest Park.  This document has been compiled from the archaeological record for the site, and is intended to provide background information, history etc for prospective visitors.

The site is on the main ridge of the Coromandel Range, approximately 12 km north east of Thames.  It can be reached via several different tracks, including Karaka, Waiotahi (4.5 hrs), Tararu, Te Puru (3 hrs), Waiomu (3 hrs), Tapu Hill (3 hrs) and Kauaeranga Valley (3-4 hrs - optional start points: Booms Flat, Wainora and Whangaiterenga camping grounds).  The site is well marked on track information boards and maps.

The farmed area stretches for approximately 5 km along the main ridge of the Coromandel Range.  The grid reference for the DoC “Crosbies Clearing” sign, roughly in the centre of the old farmed area, is: Easting 2740774     Northing 6459978.

Figure 2 Small clearing remaining on the track through Crosbies, along the main ridge of the Coromandel Range


Crosbies Settlement is part of a block of land known as the Waikawau block.  This was purchased by the Crown in 1872, from its previous owners, Ngati Tamatera, under controversial circumstances, and is still subject to a Treaty of Waitangi claim (Waitangi Tribunal document WAI 418 B1, 2002).  From 1864, Crown land purchaser James Mackay had been steadily acquiring land in the Hauraki area for the Crown, mainly in connection with the opening and development of the Coromandel goldfields.  Mackay commonly used a controversial method that became known as raihana, which involved the extension of credit to individuals known to share the ownership of Maori land, to allow them to purchase goods or supplies, using the land as security.  When the total owing had built up to a substantial amount, the Iwi were confronted with the amount of their “debt” and pressured into settling it. This often necessitated the sale of the relevant block of land, usually at rates favourable to the Crown.

In the case of the Waikawau block, there was even more controversy, as a large amount of credit was extended to Ngati Tamatera to purchase supplies for the tangi of two important chiefs, Taraia Ngakuti and Paora Te Putu.

Early European history of Crosbies Settlement was provided by Mike Saunders, a long-time resident of Thames (Saunders, 2002, Saunders, 2006).  The original settler, Thomas Hunter Crosbie, was born in Scotland in 1840 and emigrated to NZ, arriving in Auckland on 1st December 1863 on board the ship Green Jacket.  In 1880, he established a small farm (since known as Crosbies Settlement) in the Coromandel Ranges behind Thames.  Thomas Crosbie had seven children, including sons Jim, Jack and Clem Crosbie.

Figure 3 Jim Crosbie, son of the original settler
Figure 4 Joshua Lyes at his Irishtown home circa 1933, aged about 70

In 1880, part of the Waikawau block was surveyed and subdivided into five blocks, each of approximately three hundred acres.  The original owners were as follows: Thomas H. Crosbie (block later sold to the Lyes family), James Patterson (block almost immediately sold to Arthur Repton),Hugh Mackie (later sold to Charles Boxall), William Crispe (later sold to Robert Clyde) and C.D. (Charles) Wright (Isdale, Undated p.26) .  The block containing the area more recently known as The Pines (see Figures 12-13) was in the name of T.H. Crosbie.  Another block immediately to the south east was later sold to Janet Grey, daughter of Thomas Crosbie.  Only a few of these blocks were cleared or utilised to any extent, and several had absentee owners (Clover, 2004 p.760, Sutton, 2006) .  The Crosbie block (later owned by the Lyes family) was the only one with significant owner-occupation, leading to the popular name of Crosbies Settlement.

The Crosbie sons spent a great deal of their early lives collecting kauri gum, which the Coromandel had in abundance.  The gum was transported to Thames by pack horse, where it was sold to traders, who came mainly from Auckland by ship.  The Thames goldfield opened in 1867, and virtually overnight, Thames became a thriving town.  Jim Crosbie eventually moved to Thames and became foreman of the Sylvia mine, which was one of the highest producing mines in the Thames goldfield (Nolan, 1977 p.24).  He had a family of eight children; one of whom was Ruby Saunders, Mike Saunders’ mother.  Ruby passed away on 2nd January 2006, 20 days before her 103rd birthday.

Figure 5 An early building at Crosbies Settlement (date unknown).  There is debate as to whether this was the original Crosbie homestead, or whether it is the building known as the "woolshed" which was situated on CD Wright's block and later became the NZFS hut, until it was blown down in the 1980s.  The latter is probably correct.

Figure 6 Survey map of Crosbies Settlement area, dated 1880

According to Mike Saunders (2002): “As a young boy I used to see Jim Crosbie almost every weekend and he would spend many hours sitting on the back porch of his home telling stories about his friends, a large percentage of whom were Maori, and how they would hunt for food and live off the land.”

Some interesting events that occurred during the Crosbie family occupation were as follows.  In August 1886, Thomas Crosbie “…tried to attract prospectors to find gold, offering half his four-roomed house for their accommodation.  ‘I know gold-bearing quartz exists in the vicinity of my farm’” (Isdale, Undated p.38).  On 29th May 1902, Mrs T.H. Crosbie suffered a thigh injury caused by falling over a log and had to be manually carried out by stretcher to the Thames hospital (Isdale, Undated p.110).  On 28th July 1905, the Crosbie homestead was destroyed by fire.  “It was thought fortunate that the gum store was not destroyed, the gum being worth something, while the 5 or 6 roomed house and contents were not believed to be insured” (Isdale, Undated p.121).

In 1917, the Crosbie family sold The Pines block to Joshua and Elizabeth Lyes, who also leased the block to the south east from Janet Grey.  Information on the next phase of Crosbies Settlement history was provided by Joshua and Elizabeth’s daughter, Madge Sutton (nee Lyes) (Clover, 2004) and her son Ray Sutton (Sutton, 2006).

Joshua Lyes was a Thames miner who contracted miners’ lung disease and was advised to live at a higher altitude, so the family purchased, and moved to, the Crosbie farm.  Madge Lyes did not move to Crosbies initially, but did so about a year after her father.  She lived at Crosbies from age 11 until “about 19” (Clover, 2004 p.673) and undertook school lessons there, by correspondence.

The Lyes family lived by farming and gardening, and selling surplus produce in Thames and the surrounding area.  They were quite well established, with a three-bedroom homestead, a dairy for producing cream and butter, a two-bale cowshed (all built by the Crosbies) and stables for three horses (built by the Lyes, of timber pit-sawn on site and a shingle roof).  There was a large vegetable garden and a fruit orchard, and coal was mined from near the Waiwawa River at the eastern end of the property (Clover, 2004, Sutton, 2006).  According to Madge Sutton: “We killed our own meat and some we pickled in the big tubs we got from the hotel.  We made our own brine and the simple test was when a potato floated in the brine, it was the right density.”  (Clover, 2004 p.762)

Conditions, however, were harsh; particularly the weather.  As noted by Madge Sutton: “Dad took out quite a lot of stock which he had bought from farms on the Hauraki Plains.  They were yearlings which had been born on the Plains and I think most of them died with the hard conditions. … There was also a lot of cold wind.  We would cut whitey-wood and five-finger for them but they still died.  They were not bred for conditions at Crosbies.”  (Clover, 2004 p.762)

In 1926, Joshua Lyes’ health deteriorated and the family moved back to their original house in Irishtown, Thames, after a short period farming in the Kauaeranga Valley.  According to Madge Sutton: “The house was left at Crosbies, but someone came up from Tapu, took everything … and then set the house alight” (Clover, 2004 pp.768-769).  However, the Lyes family retained ownership of their block until it was subsumed into the Coromandel Forest Park in 1970 (Sutton, 2006).

Figure 7 A group at the Crosbies homestead.  From left: Joshua Lyes, Jack Crosbie, Jim Crosbie, Clem Crosbie.

Figure 8 Group travelling to Crosbies, in the area known as The Jam Tins (junction of the Tararu track with the main Thames-Crosbies track).  From left: Jack Crosbie, Jim Crosbie, Joshua Lyes, Clem Crosbie.

The ownership history of the other blocks has not been investigated, but according to Ray Sutton (2006), one block remained in private ownership when the Coromandel Forest Park was formed.  This is consistent with some topographic maps, which show one block that is not part of the park (e.g. InfoMap 336-11, Coromandel, 1:100,000).  Modern survey maps of the area also show the block immediately to the north west of the Crosbie/Lyes block is still in private ownership (Dunwoodie, 2006 and supporting maps).

One of the major problems influencing the long-term future of the settlement was access – this issue was addressed many times over the years, with Isdale (Undated pp. 26, 29, 30, 86, 110, 114, 181) recording it as being raised with the Thames County Council on at least seven different occasions.  Initially, access was by foot only, then by horseback, and at one stage this was improved enough to allow access by horse-drawn sledge.  However, erosion meant this capability was short-lived (Clover, 2004 p.746).  In 1923, when the Tapu-Coroglen Road was under construction, a proposal was made to route the road to Thames via Crosbies Settlement, rather than through Tapu.  The route via Crosbies would have been approximately six miles shorter and have a lesser grade.  However, taking into account already existing roading between Tapu and Thames, the Crosbies route would have been more expensive, and the option was rejected (Isdale, Undated p.181).

In 1966, Isdale (Undated p.203) records that Crosbies Settlement was rated as “… not suitable for development. (Already practically deserted as erosion of skeletal soils had taken over so that … sheep were getting bogged in the fields.  By now getting overgrown.)”.  By the mid-1960s, the cleared area had reverted to approximately 50% bush, and was farmed on a small scale by a Mr Alfie Boyer, who lived on the Thames Coast and travelled to and from Crosbies on horseback via the Te Puru track (personal recollections of the author, 1967-69).  It is not clear whether Alfie Boyer owned any land there, or was simply “squatting”.  By the late 1960s, the only building in the area still standing was a small single-bail woolshed (complete with shearing equipment) with an adjoining hut containing a few bunks.  This was at the northern end of the settlement and was probably on the block owned by Charlie Wright, which was “…on the top of the hill to the Tapu/Coroglen road” (Sutton, 2006 and supporting papers).

In 1970, the Coromandel Forest Park was established.  The Crosbies Settlement area (apparently less one block) became part of the park and the woolshed was converted into a trampers’ hut by the (then) NZ Forest Service.  The hut blew over in the late 1970s or early 1980s (Donald, 2006, and personal recollection of the author).

The latest noteworthy event in the history of the settlement is a very sad one.  In 1989, a pair of Swedish tourists, Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen, went missing while tramping in the area.  A detailed search was conducted, concentrating on the Crosbies area, but only one body was ever found, about 70 kilometres away.  In 1990, David Tamihere was charged and convicted of murdering the couple (NZPA, 2000).  There is a memorial to Urban and Heidi situated on top of the lookout hill at the southern end of the settlement.

A site survey was conducted on 22 October 2006, by David Wilton, Hannah Cowie and David Carley.  The party approached from the Tapu Hill and departed from the memorial lookout, to Thames via the Waiotahi track.  A search was conducted around The Pines area, based on a marked photo supplied by Ray Sutton.  This was taken from the memorial lookout hill around the 1920s and shows the locations of the four farm buildings relative to the shelter belts, and other features of the farm.  Numerous artefacts were found, including items of farm machinery, sheets of galvanised iron, fences and a series of low stone walls.  Photos and details are provided in the next section.

Figure 9 Memorial to Swedish tourists Urban Hoglin and Heidi Paakkonen

GPS Waypoints

(compiled during site survey 22nd October 2006)

Waypoint Number   

NZ Map Grid Reference   



E2740455 N6462905

First fence encountered on track in from Tapu Hill road


E2740296 N6460041

Prominent lookout point overlooking gully with NZFS hut site (northern end of settlement)


E2740774 N6459978

DoC “Crosbies Clearing” sign


E2740891 N6460011

Metal tub


E2741568 N6458938

Gatepost with chain and remnants of gate


E2741711 N6458862

Gatepost with chain


E2741744 N6458866

Piece of iron machinery with old beer bottle


E2741671 N6458807

Low stone wall running west from this point, length approx 22m


E2741710 N6458768



E2741780 N6458724

Metal brace or cable clamp


E2741709 N6458692

Sheet of galvanised iron, bent to make a fireplace


E2741783 N6458823

Two sheets of galvanised iron (bottom one badly corroded) with timber post or rafter


E2741690 N6458848

Low stone wall running east-west


E2741798 N6458422

Lookout hill with memorial to Swedish tourists

Photos, Maps and Diagrams

Figure 10 1944 air photo of the northern part of Crosbies Settlement (buildings marked - see next Figure for enlargement)

Figure 11 Enlargement of the northern area, showing buildings. This area is part of the block owned by C.D. Wright. One of the two buildings in the lower left rectangle was probably the shearing shed which was converted into a NZ Forest Service hut around 1970, and was blown over in a storm around 1979

Figure 12 1944 air photo of the southern part of Crosbies (area more recently known as "The Pines", after the prominent pine shelter belts)

Figure 13 The Pines area showing survey boundaries. The block owned by the Crosbies and later sold to the Lyes is outlined in red. The block owned by Janet Grey and leased to the Lyes is the one immediately to the south east. The block still in private ownership (as at 2006) is the one immediately to the north west of the Crosbie/Lyes block.

Figure 14 View of The Pines area from the lookout hill in the 1920s, with Maumaupaki (Camel's Back) on the horizon. The light-coloured building in the middle ground is the stable built by the Lyes family. The homestead was behind the large pine tree immediately to the left of the stable.

Figure 15 Similar view in 2006

Figure 16 Old galvanised iron tub (waypoint 203)

Figure 17 Gatepost with chain and remnants of gate (waypoint 204)

Figure 18 Unknown piece of machinery and old beer bottle (waypoint 206)

Figure 19 Harrow, with spikes approx 10 cm long

Figure 20 Sheets of galvanised iron and a piece of timber, found in the vicinity of the homestead site

Figure 21 Low stone wall (waypoint 212). Several such walls were found, in the vicinity of the milking shed site.

Figure 22 2003 TUMONZ air photo of the area around The Pines, showing selected waypoints. The shelter belts are still visible, but the amount of re-growth is obvious. The yellow line marks the existing track.


Clover, K. (2004), "Interview with Mrs Madge Sutton (nee Lyes) 5th August 1993" The People of "The Plains", Hamilton.

Donald, K. (2006), Personal communication, Thames.

Dunwoodie, M. (2006), Personal communication, Thames.

Isdale, A. M. (Undated) Thames Coast Names and Places Collection, Thames.

Nolan, T. (1977) Historic Gold Trails of the Coromandel, AH & AW Reed, Wellington.

NZPA (2000) Swedes' killer up for parole but history is against him, NZ Herald, 1st December, Auckland.

Saunders, M. (2002) History - Crosbies Settlement

Saunders, M. (2006), Personal communication, Thames.

Sutton, R. (2006), Personal communication, Thames.

Waitangi Tribunal document WAI 418 B1 (2002) Closing Submissions on Behalf of Ngati Tamatera with respect to Waikawau. Waitangi Tribunal, Thames/Paeroa


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