is situated in south-eastern Otago on an alluvial flat among the valleys and hills east of the Tuapeka River, an east bank tributary of the Clutha River. The Roxburgh branch goods railway and a highway into Central Otago pass through the town. Lawrence is 24 miles north-west of Milton, 37 miles south-east of Roxburgh, and 60 miles west of Dunedin by road or rail. Mixed farming on the flats and extensive sheep farming on the higher country are the most important rural activities. Lawrence is a servicing centre and the town's only important industry is a small woollen factory. The town attracts visitors because of historical associations, notably at Gabriels Gully.
Gabriels Gully Stream, and the valley from which it is named, were originally within the boundaries of a run taken up in September 1853 by James Smith and James Allan. This run was managed by George Munro, who was the pioneer resident of the district. In March 1858 Edward Peters (“Black Peter”), an Eurasian on a nearby run, found gold while sinking post holes. Later he prospected for and found gold on Evans Flat. His finds and those of Alexander Garvie's survey party, made shortly afterwards near the junction of the Tuapeka and Clutha Rivers, were not widely publicised. Gabriel Read commenced prospecting on Evans Flat in May 1861 on the upper course of the Tuapeka River. On 20 May he followed up the stream in what was afterwards called Gabriels Gully, and in less than a mile from the present site of Lawrence obtained convincing evidence of a payable goldfield. Read returned to Dunedin and reported his discovery and soon afterwards a rusn to the district occurred. By July 1861 the population of the goldfield was 11,472 – more than twice that of contemporary Dunedin. Later the diggers shifted camp to the head of the valley and eventually moved on to the ridge where the township of Blue Spur was established. In the meantime, at the entrance to the valley, where Wetherstones (properly Weatherstons) and Gabriels Gully Streams united before flowing on to the Tuapeka River, a third and more permanent settlement had come into existence. This place was called The Junction. Robert Grigor, of Balclutha, surveyed the town site at The Junction in 1862, and on 2 November the first auction of sections took place. A post office was opened on 1 April 1863 and the name Tuapeka was adopted, but on 6 November 1866 the town was renamed Lawrence in honour of Sir Henry Montgomerie Lawrence, the hero of the defence of Lucknow (1857). The peak of the gold boom period was reached as early as 1862 when nearly 200,000 oz were taken out by the gold escort; by 1866 the yield was less than 28,000 oz. Gold mining thereafter continued gradually to decline, and by the late 1930s had ceased. Lawrence was created a municipality with borough status on 20 July 1866.
The meaning and origin of the Maori place name Tuapeka are obscure.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 638; 1956 census, 589; 1961 census, 594.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.