William Marsters

Palmerston Islands' very own William Marsters

In 1863 a ship's carpenter and barrelmaker (cooper) named William Marsters ( previously known and spelled as Master )arrived from Manuae with two Polynesian wives and annexed the island, or at least, leased it from the British Government.

He shortly added a third wife and from this harem he propagated a large family and settled in firmly as virtual king and autocrat of the community until his death in 1899.

william Masters is said to have originated from Gloucestershire, or possibly, Birmingham. All the islanders spoke excellent English with a distinct Gloucestershire accent. William's descendants now spell their name 'Marsters'.

Two years after he died disputes rose about the succession of the leader. The British Resident at Rarotonga, Colonel W.E. Gudgeon, in 1901 appointed William's eldest son, Joel, agent to the British Resident and Magistrate for the island. Palmerston has no airport or airline services.

By the time his youngest daughter Titana Tangi died in 1973, there were over a thousand Ma(r)sters descendants living in Rarotonga and New Zealand.

Though only some fifty family members remain on Palmerston, all Marsters descendants consider the island their ancestral home.

In 1954 the family was granted full ownership of the island.

Three branches of the family remain on Palmerston, each branch being descended from one of Williams 'three wives', marriage within a family group is prohibited. Palmerston is now administered by the Cook Islands government in association with New Zealand.

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Map courtesy of Cook.Islands-Beaches.com