A unique family saga

Founding the Marsters' Dynasty
From Tahiti to Palmerston via Manuae

American, John Hart was Master of the schooner, 'Horai' which took William Marsters to Palmerston. The vessel was owned by Scotsman, John Brander who was possibly the most important trader in Tahiti at the time. Brander told Hart to relieve a Mr Sweet of his role as "caretaker or Manager of Palmerston" -  apparently, Sweet was fed up with the job - and find another man to take his place. En route, Hart called in at Manuae (or Hervey Island as it was called at the time) and found Ma(r)sters there.

John Brander

Manuae (Hervey Island)

It's conceivable that Ma(r)sters knew Brander and Sweet as, according to one newspaper report albeit many years later, he "entered into relations with some of the traders" while he was in Tahiti, and Brander was a prominent figure. If that's the case, it may be no coincidence that Hart found Ma(r)sters on Manuae but actually sought him out. However, there is no written evidence this was the case. In a statement sworn at the British Consulate in Papeete, Tahiti on 4th February, 1891, Hart says: 

"When I took Wm Masters off Hervey Island, he was entirely destitute and was highly pleased to accept the positon I offered him."

And he also confirms that William was not alone when he was taken to Palmerston    

"I conveyed him, his woman, her sister and one or two children to Palmerston Island, landed them on 8th July <1863>, and made a written ageement with him in which it stated that he, Wm Masters, was to hold possession of the said Palmerston Island, for, and on behalf of Mr John Brander....and his renumeration for so doing was to be a share of the produce raised on the island". 
From the Logbook of the Schooner 'Horai' 

There was already a small community there. Hart took 18 men and women back to Rarotonga with him, but left on the island with William a man and two women from Penrhyn, a white man and his son and some others who he describes as "Atiu natives".

A letter from Palmerston in William's own hand, dated 6th January, 1888, confirms that it was Brander who arranged for him to take over as caretaker. It says:

"I was put here by Mr John Brander of Tahiti to make cocoanut oil for him. For the first six years, their vessels attended me regularly but afterwards they left me for two and three years at a time without coming near, and in 1878 they ceased coming here".

The reason Brander's vessels stopped visiting is that Brander died on 5 June, 1877. His widow, a young Tahitian Princess, and her Scotsman husband, George Darsie - Brander's business partner - subsequently fought a war of words with William for ownership of the island.

The woman who accompanied William to Palmerston was the first of four Palmerston "wives" and was of noble parentage. Akakaingaro (Sarah) was from the royal family in Penrhyn. He married her in Tahiti. She was the child of Tehaharua Parerima, a great chief from Tetautua whose own wife, Kaneakore was the daughter of another royal chief of Omoka and a descendant of the famous warrior chief Te-Kairangi.

Sarah gave William nine children. But tragedy struck the first two - Anne was drowned in the Vai Sinane River in Samoa at the age of 2, and Elizabeth died on Manuae when she was only one year old. The places where they died confirm other writings which say that at this time, William was visiting other parts of the Cook Islands and the central South Pacific, although there don't seem to be any records of exactly where he went.

Marsters first son was born in 1860 and called Joel (his brother's name). Other writings say the eldest son was William (II) who would subsequently succeed his father as head of the island, but his year of birth is given as 1862. This is also confirmed elsewhere in academic research.

The other children in order of birth were James (died 1920), Aaron (died on Palmerston, aged 6 months), Elizabeth Saretuaroa Akiakirau - commonly referred to by William as "one girl" - (born 1866), Kuras (born 1898) and Teraia (1881-1932).  

William Marsters II

The next part of the saga

More 'wives' and a home to house them all

  The content of the pages headed "Marsters of Palmerston" are the product of original research by the website author and all rights are reserved and all sources acknowledged. The author is a journalist, not an academic but if you wish to use this material in academic research, the suggested citation is "John Roberts, author of www.cookislands.". Please contact the author about use for any other purpose. Sources acknowledged here