Maurice Marks 1837 - 1924
Maurice Marks was born in Bristol, England on the 8th of January, 1837. Maurice is an important Lake Macquarie historical figure because of his family's early settlement of the land at Belmont and Marks Point.
At the age of twenty-three, Maurice, unhappy with his future prospects in England, headed to America. However, after spending only a short time in New York he soon returned to Britain. Once home, Maurice almost immediately determined to set off to Australia, this decision being met with displeasure from his family.
After making the 100-day journey to Australia on the American ship, S. Curling, Maurice arrived at Melbourne on the 11th of June, 1860. Not finding much of interest in Melbourne, Maurice set off again on a small ketch to Sydney.
Arriving in Botany Bay, Maurice soon found work carting firewood. However, he was drawn to Newcastle through the promise of more work opportunities. After travelling to Newcastle and finding no paid employment, Maurice worked at the Old Customs House for food only. Eventually though, Maurice found a job working at either the Hamilton Pit or a Borehole Colliery.
It was while working at the pit that Maurice met a Mr. G. A. Lloyd, who invited him to join a syndicate aimed at mining coal in Belmont. It was through this relationship that Maurice was first introduced to the area. After roughly 6 months of working with Lloyd, Maurice left the syndicate and on May 20, 1862, applied for the purchase of land at Belmont.
Although Maurice was in possession of few assets, the Crown Lands Alienation Act of 1861 made it possible to purchase and then pay off the land for a reasonable price. Maurice purchased Portion 32A of the land surveyed by D.M. Maitland, and he became the very first selector in the area. Calling his land, ‘Marksville,’ Maurice owned 187 ½ acres. It was this large amount of land, and possibly enthusiasm for the country, that drew all three of his brothers, Charles, Henry and John, to Australia.
N. M. Clout states in his book, Child of Bahtahbah, that just before his death in 1924, Maurice is said to have claimed that he was instrumental in influencing over 100 people to move from England to Australia.
In August 1864, two years after purchasing the land, Maurice married Mary Jane Richards. There is not much information available on Mary Jane other than the fact that she worked as a housemaid and, as described by Daphne Laughlin, upon marrying Maurice was taken to her new home which she described as a ‘shack.’
After the land purchase, Maurice still had a small interest in mining, however this later fell to the wayside as he dedicated his time to cultivating his land. Maurice established an orchard, cut and conveyed timber to a local sawmill in Mill Creek and dealt in fish caught from surrounding waters. Over the years, Maurice worked very hard for little profit, with most of his money going to pay off the land selection debt.
In 1881, a basic Methodist church was built on a small amount of land given to the church by Maurice. During this time and until 1924, Maurice worked as an unordained lay preacher, looking after the welfare of the church and entertaining visiting Methodist congregants.
After the arrival of his brothers from England, they slowly bought the land around his original purchase. After each brother established himself on the land and after each married, the Marks clan slowly built in numbers.
Sadly, on the 24th of November, 1924, Maurice died at the age of 87. Six years later his wife, Mary Ann Marks died on the 28th of July, 1930. The pair had nine children, a number of whom survived them and continued to live on and cultivate the land.
As one of the very first settlers in the Belmont area, Maurice Marks is a very influential figure within the history of Lake Macquarie. Marks Oval is a remnant of his original holdings and Marks Point is named for the Marks family orchard established there by his brother Charles.
Clout, N. M 1947, The child of Bahtahbah : being a brief history of Belmont, Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, [printed by H. M. Hutton], [New Lambton]
Gray, A. C 1985, Early settlement of Belmont, N.S.W. 1861-1891, A.C. Gray, Sydney
Gray, A. C 1987, Marks Point NSW : its history and settlement, A.C.Gray, Sydney
Page, Alma 1970, Maurice Marks and the early history of Belmont, [s.n.], [s.l.].
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