In the 1800s Hamilton was a mere village compared with settlements such as Napier, New Plymouth, Whanganui and Nelson. By 1911 its population was 3,542 – a little over half the size of Waihī, then a booming gold town of 6,436 people. Before Waikato dairy farming developed, Hamilton remained small.
On its outskirts were huge swamps, which were drained only slowly. Militia settlers allocated land there usually departed, but some stayed, and farming settlements like Newstead, Tamahere and Matangi developed in the 1870s and 1880s. The Rukuhia estate of 6,000 hectares to the south-west and the Eureka estate of 35,000 hectares to the north-east were gradually subdivided. Tauwhare was surveyed in 1882, and the villages of Eureka and Gordonton grew from the 1890s.
One account of the naming of the Eureka estate says that syndicate member William Steele rode out with a group looking for a suitable headquarters, and reaching a hilltop announced ‘Eureka I have found it!’ 1 Another story says the name was made up of letters from the names of all the women in the party.