In his book FitzGerald’s Run, Harold Marsh gives extensive background on the history, ownership, and development from scrubland to farmland of the Okahukura Peninsula. The peninsula (known for many years as “FitzGerald’s Run”) was bounded by the Oruawharo River in the north, by the gate across the road at the start of present day Atiu Park in the east, and by the Kaipara Harbour in the south and west.
In 1876, Thomas FitzGerald, a bachelor, purchased 24,000 acres and set about clearing the land to develop his farming run. By1880, he had built a two-storey house at Awhiowhio (at the end of Fitzgerald’s Road today), constructed a jetty for steamers to call, and set up a gum store. The store purchased kauri gum and sold provisions to gum diggers, contractors, farmworkers, stockmen, cooks and housekeepers. Marsh himself worked on many projects and his book details much of life as it was back then.
In 1895, FitzGerald retired and manager A H Walker leased the run until 1899. At this point the property was sold to the Williams family. Son Wyvern Williams took over management. In 1910, Wyvern accidentally killed himself while loading his rifle and Cecil Kemp became manager. In 1911, the property was sold to Bowron and Smith, and in 1912 half of the property was sold to the Harding family and became known as Seaview.
The history of FitzGerald’s Run at Okahukura would not be complete without some mention being made of the housekeepers employed at various times. First up was Mrs Nicholson, who always seemed part of the household, accompanying FitzGerald on visits. Nellie Egan was housekeeper during Walker’s occupancy.
Mrs Palmer was housekeeper for Williams when he first came to Okahukura, she left very shortly afterwards, and Mrs. Egan returned taking up her duties as cook and housekeeper. Two years later she left, and her place was filled by Miss Jones, a rather delicate-looking woman. She was very conscientious as the following illustrates. Having occasion to have a meal at the homestead, Marsh noticed that she did not partake of any food. On asking the reason, she admitted she was fasting. Several days previously she had put a broody hen under a box and forgot all about it. That morning she found the hen had died and was, therefore, going without food or drink herself as a punishment.
The next two housekeepers, Miss James and Miss Brennan were liked and respected among the station hands, and both found their future husbands while there. Miss James became Mrs Sam Lloyd, her husband having been employed on the station for several years. Miss Brennan became Mrs Frank Smith in 1909. Another housekeeper, Mrs Simpson became known for her pet lambs and magpies.