Ancestral mystery

Charles Henry Marshall (1818-1874)

Contact. Megan Stevens of Melbourne, Victoria has written in to the Chronicle to share a story from her family history and ask if locals have any insight into the tale.

As I was growing up, my mother told me how shocked my great-great-grandmother had been when she found out, after her husband’s death, that he had had another family before he married her in 1857.

My mother went to a great deal of trouble to get the will of my great-great-grandfather, Charles Henry Marshall (1818-1874). Beyond the usual bequests, it showed nothing.

However, there is evidence that he must have written a ‘side letter’, which no longer exists, as he left a bequest to his nephew, economist Alfred Marshall, which is not mentioned in his will.

His widow also made a cryptic remark to her business partner on the Darling Downs in February 1880, saying, ‘I must live and pay my way, I have a large family, home, education and very many other very heavy expenses to meet that no one knows of or suspects and since my dear husband’s death I have had very heavy calls on all sides, which has reduced my income very much indeed.’

Charles Henry Marshall was the majority shareholder of Glengallan, a pastoral lease on the Darling Downs, from 1850 to his death in 1874. His movements before then were hard to trace, until I found him in the 1843 Tasmanian Census, living at Circular Head.

Then when my husband and I visited Stanley last year, I found out from Betty Jones’ book, Along the Terrace: The Owners and Occupiers of Stanley 1843 – 1922, that he had worked as bookkeeper for the Van Diemen’s Land Company and that he had lived at 2 Rougemont Street.

Since then, I have been doing more digging. I have found out that he worked as bookkeeper at Circular Head until 1846, after which he acted as superintendent at Woolnorth until January 1849.

And now for the first time I have found an inkling of truth to this family story.

In the Archives of Tasmania at Hobart, there is a Tenantry Return for Circular Head dated August 31, 1849, which lists CH Marshall, with one wife and one child as well as six free servants.

The Return of Tenants for August 31, 1847 lists him as single, with three free servants, four bond servants and one other woman.

No names are mentioned and I have found no marriages or births related to Charles Henry Marshall for his time with the Van Diemen’s Land Company between 1843 and 1849.

But there does seem to be some truth to the story I heard as I was growing up, that Charles Henry Marshall had had another family before he married Charlotte Augusta Dring Drake in 1857.

The only saving grace is that I suspect Charles did send money for the upkeep of his one wife and one child throughout his life and that, on his death, he left a bequest which led to this story being passed down to me.

I was wondering therefore whether there was anyone in Stanley who had heard the story from the other side and knows what happened to Charles Henry Marshall’s ‘one wife’ and ‘one child’ when he left Tasmania in 1849.

To contact Megan Stevens, email or phone 0402 856 989.