Henry and William Marsh emigrated to New Zealand aboard the Ida Zeigler in 1863. Although not part of an organised group, they still qualified under the 40-acre scheme. Coming from a family of tenant farmers in Shropshire, this was their chance to own a farm.
Henry Marsh before he left England.
When the brothers arrived in Auckland, they bought a team of horses and a wagon and carted timber for builders while waiting for land to become available.
Henry wrote to his family, “I hope some of you will come out here, what’s the use of stopping to be humbugged with landlords. You can soon be your own landlords here. There is plenty of room, they are not tramplin’ on one another yet.”
In March 1864, three Albertland settlers visited the Marsh brothers’ lodgings and told them the Opou Block, adjacent to their Wharehine property, was coming up for auction. Henry decided to go up with the settlers to have a look. It took three days to get there, five hours by small boat to Leigh, then on foot up Pakiri Beach and across country to Wharehine. As they approached the Opou, Hovey and Albert Brookes of Takapau met them. The Brookes’ also wanted the new block and older brother Edwin was going to bid on it.
Henry wrote: “And very good land I found. There is two lots of 46 acres each, half of it is very good and the other very poor, and there is peach trees on it to grow a ton of peaches.
When the tide is out, I could pick a cart load of oysters in an hour. I shall be very well satisfied if I get it.” It took him another three days to return to Auckland, two of which were at sea; “the wind was against us”.
If there had been no other bidders at auction, Henry would have got 40 acres for each Land Order – any more cost ten shillings an acre. However, there were two other bidders for the Opou, and Henry had to pay more than expected. As Edwin Brookes wrote later, “ … my rival became the possessor – who did not seem at all pleased at having to give double the upset price, and I am sure the feeling on my part at losing it was every bit as painful.”
However, Henry was content; “So we have 92 acres for 47 pounds and our Land Orders. It is only about 3 miles from a market town, Port Albert, and there are nearly a dozen settlers within about a mile.”
“I would not come back to [England] if anyone would give me five hundred pounds. I have 46 acres of land now. If I had stop’t in England till doomsday, I should only have got the length & breadth of me.”
Lyn Johnston, Albertland Museum