Charleston and its newspaper appeared as the direct and immediate result of a major gold discovery in 1867, about 30km south of Westport on the West Coast. Gold was also discovered at Brighton, 10 miles to the south, the same year. The 1867 census showed that the fields at Charleston and Brighton had a combined population of about 11,000. There were also 53 hotels at Brighton or nearby and a further 37 at Charleston.
After John Tyrrell had begun the Westport Times in 1866 he opportunistically added Charleston Argus to the title and briefly moved his plant to the new settlement. The Brighton Times and Pakihi Reporter had appeared earlier but was absorbed into the stand-alone Charleston Argus after it was launched in March 1867. Tyrrell dropped the ‘Charleston Argus’ add-on from his Westport paper’s masthead in 1869.
Wellington’s Evening Post reported on 9 March: ‘Judging from the manner in which the Press is supported in gold fields districts, we may safely prognosticate for our contemporary a lucrative existence until the rich country of the Buller is worked out. The management are experienced journalists, and will probably bring out the new journal in such a manner as to ensure for it a cordial reception.’
In its first issue the Charleston Argus was bullish about prospects: ‘On the middle flat fortune is variable, but on the whole the fickle goddess is favourable to the miners. Water is greatly needed, however, and if this is got there is from two to three years' work before the claimholders. Fuller and party have been at work about three months here. They have cut a water race, and are now ground sluicing, and average from £10 to £14 per man per week.’ (From about $1,000 to nearly $1,500 today.)
The well-produced bi-weekly was subsequently renamed Charleston Herald and Mining Reporter by Charles Mirfin, who later became editor of the Inangahua Herald. A further change came when the latter part of the name was dropped in favour of Brighton Times.
John Tyrrell, an Irishman, emigrated to the United States after finishing his apprenticeship and worked there for some years. He arrived in Australia in 1859-1860 and was compositor on the Melbourne Chronicle and Ballarat Times before moving to New Zealand. After a period on The Press in Christchurch he moved to Hokitika, beginning the Hokitika Chronicle as well as the Westport Times and Charleston Argus.
In 1886, Thomas Dolman, proprietor for some years, sold the paper to Irish journalist Patrick Kittson, who had served his apprenticeship as a printer on the Melbourne Argus. When he died in 1893 his widow and children continued the business. First, Norah Kittson’s two sons, aged 12 and 10, largely ran the paper and, following their early deaths from TB in 1902, she and her daughters continued to publish, firstly as a weekly and then more irregularly, until 1911. By this time Charleston Riding’s population had dwindled to 264.
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