Naseby was originally known as Parkers, named for the party of gold prospectors who first discovered gold in the area. Its name was changed to Naseby, either after Naseby in England, or after the battle of Naseby in the England of Cromwellian times.
In 1857 John T Thompson explored the area on an official survey and triggered a "run rush" by pastoralists. The first gold rush came to Naseby in 1863. Other rich fields were found nearby at Mount Buster and south across the Taieri River at Hamiltons. The 112 kilometre Mount Ida water race and sludge channel from Naseby to the Taieri River was constructed in 1877. Sluicing to recover gold was followed by dredging from 1890 with reasonable returns, but all dredging had finished by 1920 and Naseby, a major mining town, became a service centre for the Maniototo. By 1880 it had a courthouse, warden's office, district hospital, several churches, a primary school, a Catholic school and several large hotels.
The railway from Dunedin to Ranfurly opened in 1898 and bypassed Naseby despite a strong fight from the Naseby people. A coach service was required from Naseby to connect with the trains at Ranfurly and the town gave way to Ranfurly as the administrative centre. The county office and hospital shifted to Ranfurly in the 1930s and a district high school at Ranfurly replaced the one at Naseby. The primary school at Naseby, which was opened in 1865, was closed in 1994 and children travel by bus the 14 kilometres to Maniototo Area School in Ranfurly.
In more recent times Naseby has become an important forestry centre with the initial forest being planted as early as 1900. Numbers of workers involved in the forestry industry have declined over time and this has adversely affected the permanent population of Naseby. The forest has had several owners or administrators over the last few years but current owners Ernslaw 1 take an active role in the area.
Naseby's small permanent population numbers approximately 125 and is boosted at holiday time when the population can reach 4-6,000. Many of the original houses and cottages remain and many are popular as cribs for people from all over Otago and Southland.
(The Cyclopaedia of Otago and Southland, Vol. 1, Edited by Paul Sorrell, Published 1999).