“There were once five hotels in Gibbston..” former resident G. P. Enright recalled, “but some of them were not very popular with the public.” One establishment that did enjoy a first class reputation for hospitality was the Gibbston Tavern at Deep Creek. The single-storey wooden hotel, built in the gold rush days, catered for the many miners tramping the Cromwell-Queenstown road. It was situated near the foot of Coalpit Road on the licensed business area allowed by mining regulations. It was a prime spot to attract business, as
from 1867 the coach road went right past the hotel’s front door. Set in a sunny,
sheltered valley beside Deep Creek, it inevitably tempted all passers-by, no
matter which way they were heading. When a wagon was sighted coming downhill
towards the hotel, the groom would rush out with a bucket of water for the lead
horses: if the leaders were thirsty, usually the driver was, too.
The hotel ownership changed hands several times over the years. The Scheibs, whose descendants still live in the Wakatipu area, owned the business in the early 1870s, as well as a coal-pit nearby. The Cromwell Argus of 29 December, 1874, carried an interesting item: ‘Geo. Hayes, who was employed by Mr. Scheib of Deep Creek, was taking a two-horse dray home with a hogshead of beer when he became drunk and tipped the dray over the bank. He died from internal injuries.’ Although he appears to have retained ownership of his coal-pit, advertising it at least until 1879 for rent or lease, Scheib’s ownership of the hotel ended when the establishment, with its stock and its surrounds, was auctioned on 12 June 1876. A substantial advertisement in the Lake Wakatipu Mail offered two paddocks of 10 and 70 acres, horses, farm machinery, 500 bushels of oats, and large stocks of liquor: ‘(it) is one of the most desirable properties on the goldfields and will prove a sure and rapid fortune for the party purchasing.’
That party happened to be Dan Enright, a brother of Patrick Enright who farmed a short distance away. Early in June 1875, he obtained a license from the Arrow Licensing Court for a new house at Gibbston, although it was reported that two-thirds of the residents signed a petition against this – apparently on the grounds (despite the fine promises of the subsequent advertisement) that the present hotelkeeper was already unable to gain a living. It is not known whether he went ahead, but he does seem to have held the Gibbston Tavern after Scheib and to have retained it until 1883, when he at first failed to sell it at auction, but subsequently sold it privately to R. D. Owens, who was returning to Gibbston from the Commercial Hotel in Cromwell. After leaving Gibbston, Dan Enright became a contractor at Skippers and mined at Maori Point from 1884 to 1886. Owens let a contract to Tucker and Mahood to renovate the premises and extend them, but as we have seen he was bankrupt four years later. Owens’ coal depot (where customers called for supplies) stood only a few metres away from the hotel, on the opposite side of the road, and coal dross can still be found there.
Charles and Elizabeth Perriam followed between 1888 and 1897. Charles’ brother John had build the Welcome Home Hotel at Lowburn in 1865 and they got many of their supplies of liquor through him. In May 1897 they sold out to another brother, William Perriam, and settled down to farm 65 hectares in the Gibbston back road. Only one year later William sold it in turn to ‘Mammy’ Johnston of the Victoria Bridge Hotel, who bought it for her second daughter Bessie, and her son –in-law A. W. Scott. They did well out of it for some years. A lease was drawn up at one stage, and the schedule of chattels attached to the lease is a reminder of more primitive days in the travel industry: iron beds, straw palliasses, chaff mattresses, washstands, linoleum, oilcloth, curtain poles, fenders and oval boilers! Then, one windy day early in 1912, sparks from live ashes were blown under the verandah and eventually set the hotel alight destroying it and the adjoining cottages. The Scotts lost heavily, and the hotel was never rebuilt: business had slackened and the license may not have been renewed.
The Scotts then built a stone cottage on the six-acre section above the hotel, apparently using materials from the burnt ruin, for the present owners, Reg and Dorothy Hall, discovered charred timber when they renovated the cottage.
The old hotel is still a stopping-place for travelers, for there is a rest area by the creek, beautifully kept by Mr. and Mrs. Eric Sanders, of ‘Sunshine Valley’.
The stone and dairy stables, in excellent repair, are a reminder of what was once there.
But the name of Deep Creek has now gone from the maps: there are so many watercourses of that name around Wakatipu that the Gibbston one has been renamed to Camp Creek, after nearby Camp Hill.