SEW HOY, Charles
Merchant and dredging promoter.
A new biography of Sew Hoy, Charles appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Charles Sew Hoy was born in Canton, c. 1837, the son of Bing Some, farmer. As a young man he went to San Francisco, but in the early fifties he was in Victoria, Australia, where he set up business as a merchant. In 1869 he arrived in Dunedin, possibly with the idea of building up a varied trade with the large number of Chinese miners on the Otago goldfields. Before long he had a chain of stores throughout Central Otago from which the miners drew supplies and, on occasion, the finance necessary for the development of certain projects. By the early eighties, when gold returns were beginning to fall rapidly, Sew Hoy turned his attention to dredging as a means of recovering the gold that was known to lie in the river beds. In 1883 Dunedin engineers had developed a satisfactory steam dredge, but initial running difficulties and faulty methods of working gave little promise of a mining revival. Sew Hoy, however, was convinced that dredging would succeed. As principal shareholder in the Sew Hoy Big Beach Mining Co., he commissioned the firm of Kincaid and McQueen to build him a dredge in their Dunedin foundry. This was set to work at Big Beach, on the Shotover River. The early returns were so encouraging that before long Sew Hoy had three dredges working Big Beach. This marked the beginning of the great dredging boom of 1889. In later years Sew Hoy was connected with a very successful hydraulic-sluicing venture at Nokomai, near Garston, the water being brought over 20 miles in a long race from the Nevis River.
Sew Hoy was a public-spirited citizen, ever ready to support a worthy cause. In business he had a reputation for upright and honourable dealing. He died suddenly at Dunedin on 22 July 1901, aged 64. At Canton he married Soy May, by whom he had two sons.
by Alexander Hare McLintock, C.B.E., M.A., DIP.ED. (N.Z.), PH.D.(LOND.), Parliamentary Historian, Wellington.