Roxburgh is situated in Central Otago on the west bank of the Clutha River near the junction of its east-bank tributary, the Teviot River. The town occupies a terrace and is surrounded by hills and mountains. The railway station and a small residential area are situated on the east bank of the Clutha, and this settlement is called Roxburgh East. Roxburgh is the terminus of a branch railway line which links with the South Island Main Trunk line at Clarksville, and is 61 miles north of Milton and 97 miles north-west of Dunedin by road or rail. Alexandra is 27½ miles north-east, and Roxburgh Hydro 5 miles north by road.
The main primary activities of the district are sheep farming and fruitgrowing. Stone, pip, and berry fruits are produced. Roxburgh is a servicing and distributing centre for the central Clutha basin. The only industrial activities of importance in the town are sawmilling and joinery manufacturing. Roxburgh is the headquarters of the Teviot irrigation works on which the fruit industry largely depends. There is a sawmill at Ettrick (8 miles south-east), and a fruit-canning works and an opencast lignite mine are located at Coal Creek (3 miles north).
The Roxburgh district is believed to have been a camping place for Maori travelling parties in pre-European times. Nathaniel Chalmers, who came down the Clutha River on a mokihi raft in 1853, was probably the first European visitor. The pastoralists slowly penetrated the interior and about 1859 the first sheep, imported from Australia, were brought up from Port Molyneux. Following the news of Hartley and Reilly's gold discoveries at the Dunstan in 1862, there was a rush to the area and much of the traffic passed through the Roxburgh (Teviot) district. When Andrew Young and James Woodhouse discovered gold in 1862 at the junction of the Teviot and Clutha Rivers, mining camps sprang up on both banks of the Clutha above and below the Teviot junction. Dredging on the Clutha River began in 1862–63 and at the time of the dredging boom (c. 1900), upwards of a dozen dredges were working in the district. During the early 1880s hydraulic sluicing and elevating were also employed in the Teviot area. By 1920 the gold mining activities had practically ceased. The town of Teviot, which is said to have taken its name from a large sheep station bordering the east bank, began soon to spread to the west bank of the Clutha, and before the end of 1863 there was a sufficient traffic between both parts of the town to maintain a ferry service. The new town on the west bank is said to have been laid out in 1866 by a surveyor named Johnston who is credited with calling it Roxburgh after an ancient ruined town on the Teviot River in Scotland. In July 1863 a road through to Alexandra via Roxburgh from Lawrence, on the east bank of the Clutha River, was being used, and in April 1865 a coaching service began between Dunedin and Clyde. In the late 1860s improvements were made to the easier route along the west bank and by 1871 the road was fit for use by coaches. This route eventually became the main highway. The branch railway from Clarksville to Lawrence was completed in 1876, but it was not extended to Roxburgh until 1928. On 7 July 1874 Roxburgh was proclaimed a municipality and in 1877 was constituted a borough.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 751; 1956 census, 794; 1961 census, 769.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.