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Mr J. E. March (1836-1916), Chief Immigration Officer

for the South Island of N.Z. late 19th century

His advise in 1883

Star 3 March 1873, Page 2
In a New Zealand Gazette dated Feb. 20, it is notified that his Excellency the Governor has appointed the under-mentioned persons to be immigration officers for the province of Canterbury under the Passengers Act, 1855
John Edwin March, Lyttelton
Frederick LeCren, Timaru.

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District] 1903 pg148
Mr. John Edwin March, J.P., Superintendent of Village Settlements in New Zealand, entered the employment of the Canterbury Provincial Government in 1863, as clerk in the Immigration Office. He was promoted in rapid succession to higher posts, and was appointed Chief Immigration Officer for the Middle Island in 1872. This appointment he retained during the time there was a Resident Minister for the Middle Island, after which he was called upon to resume his previous appointment as chief immigration officer for Canterbury. In 1885, Government immigration having ceased, Mr. March was transferred to the Land and Survey Department of the General Government, as Steward of Village Settlements, and six years later was appointed to his present position. He was for a number of years administrator of charitable aid under the Provincial Government, and, afterwards, under the General Government also, until the establishment of local boards. Mr. March was born in 1836 at St. Stephen's, Cornwall, England. He arrived in New Zealand in October, 1853, and entered the employment of a Canterbury station holder, with whom he gained some experience in farming. Later on he went to Nelson, where he found employment for some years prior to entering the Government service in 1863. Mr. March was appointed by the Government in 1891 as inspector of village settlements in NZ and in 1895 to inspect the village settlements throughout Australasia, and he wrote a valuable report on the subject. When Sir John McIntyre, the Minister of Lands for Victoria, visited New Zealand, Mr March accompanied him on his tour through the colony, and he also accompanied the Victorian Commissioners when they were in New Zealand.


Auckland Star, 26 May 1916, Page 6
Mr. John Edwin March, formerly Chief Immigration Officer in the South Island, has just died (22 May, 1916) at Timaru in his seventy-ninth year. He came to New Zealand in 1853. [Mr March was buried in the Barbadoes St Cemetery, Christchurch]

Evening Post, 25 May 1916, Page 8
Mr. John Edwin March, who was Immigration Officer for New Zealand when he retired about eight years ago, died at his home in Timaru on Monday, at the age of seventy-eight. The deceased gentleman was born at St. Stephens, Cornwall, and was educated at the Royal Naval School, Greenwich. He came out to Lyttelton in 1853, in the ship John Taylor, and for some time after arrival was engaged on a sheep station. In 1863 he was appointed clerk in, the Immigration Department at Christchurch, and five years later he became Assistant Immigration Officer for Canterbury. In December, 1869, he received the appointment of Immigration Officer for the province, and nine years after he entered the service he was promoted to the position of Chief Immigration Officer for the Middle Island. He continued in that office till it was abolished, when he became Chief Immigration Officer for Canterbury, which post he held until immigration was suspended. The appointment to the charge of village settlements in the Canterbury district was then conferred upon him, and he performed his duties till his promotion in 1891 to the position of Immigration Officer for the Dominion. He has left a widow, a son, and four daughters.

He married Sarah Emily Chisnall in 1864. 

Wellington Independent, 25 February 1864, Page 2
Married. March — Chisnall— On Thursday, February 11th, at St Michael's Church, Christchurch, Canterbury, by the Rev. Henry Torlesse, J. Edwin, youngest son of the late Lieut March, R.N., of St Stephens, Cornwall, to Sarah Emily, youngest daughter of the late Mr Thomas Chisnall, of Christchurch.

Births: 	Child				Mother		Father
1869/245      	March NR 			Emily 		John Edwin
1867/21671 	March Marion Lucretia 		Sarah Emily 	John Edwin
1871/30809 	March Violet Mary Georgina 	Sarah Ann 	John Edwin

From Papers Past
Marlborough Express
, 27 April 1908, Page 7

An "old chum" who has spent more than half a busy life-time welcoming "new chums" is a description which fits Mr J. E. March, Chief Immigration Officer, who retires from the Government service on July 31 next. If all the settlers whom Mr March's handshake has introduced to New Zealand life were centered in one city, instead of building up the whole strength of the Dominion by their industry throughout its length and breadth, they would fill a city of the size of Wellington without other population. Moreover, it would be a thriving and progressive city, for Mr March is satisfied with the immigrants whom he has met on various decks beside the Lyttelton, Wellington and Auckland wharves during the last 40 years. Not only has he welcomed tens of thousands of newcomers to these shores—at Lyttelton alone 38,-717 immigrants greeted him as their first friend —but he has had much to do with the future fortunes of these and other inhabitants of the Dominion. For Mr March has been, since 1891, Superintendent of Village Settlements, and since 1906 Inspector and Supervisor of Workmen's Dwellings. As long ago as 1863 Mr March entered the Christchurch Immigration Office as a clerk. In 1868 he became Assistant Immigration Officer for Canterbury, and in 1869. Immigration Officer. In 1872 he was appointed Chief Immigration Officer for the Middle Island, and held that position till the importation of settlers ceased in 1885.

A FLOOD OF POPULATION. Every month boats coming from England now brings crowds of immigrants to New Zealand, but the stream is a mere dribble to the flood of immigration which was encouraged in the seventies. Fifty thousand immigrants in six months-—that was the human tide which Sir Julius Vogel let loose upon the Dominion. During the year 1874 twenty-five ships arrived at Lyttelton with immigrants. Every available building in the province was taken for their accommodation, and the Hon; Mr Rolleston introduced a novel and extremely practical system of quartering them on the land. The immigrants used to build sod, which they were allowed to occupy for one year rent free, and for two more years at a rental of 2s a week. At the end of three years the immigrants were well established in the country, and generally gave up their whares, having secured permanent employment in other parts. At Temuka and other places, however, they were so well satisfied with their first surroundings that they preferred to buy their holdings from the Government, which they were allowed to do at moderate cost. ''In later days Mr March was the Government officer who persuaded men to take up sections in the Cheviot and other settlements, when they were first thrown open. He went up and down the land giving addresses o the Government's land policy, and heartening timid pioneers of development. He also acted as guide, philosopher, and friend to Australian and other statesmen who toured the Colony with the object of studying its land policy.

IMMIGRANT TYPES. In the early days immigrants were immigrants; the Government was so I glad to see them come that no one asked if they had any means. Nowadays, some cash of his own is an essential qualification of the assisted immigrant. It is not easy to say what people make the best immigrants. The Scotch and Cornish have won. Mr March's warm approval, but he has met German girls who have done fine women's work in the development of a young country, and several other nationalities have supplied first-class material. There have been some failures among the immigrants; as in all other, ranks, but the great majority have done well for themselves in this country, and many who arrived penniless have achieved success and fortune which scarcely could have lain within their expections. A special Providence must look after immigrant ships, for of the hundreds that have crossed the world to New Zealand only one has come to serious grief. This was the Piako, which in 1878 caught fire off the South American coast. The flames were fought gallantly for three days, after which another vessel, the Loch Doon, sighted the unfortunate ship, took off her passengers, and stood by her to Pernambuco. After the Piako had refitted there, and an inquiry had been held into the circumstances of the fire, which threw no light upon its origin, the ship proceeded on her way to Lyttelton, which she reached after a total voyage of 144 days. Rumours were then spread to the effect that some of the passengers could explain how the fire broke out, and a second inquiry was ordered by the New Zealand Government. Only one passenger, however, would give evidence, and, as he knew nothing at all about the origin of the fire; the outbreak remained a mystery. As all the passengers' effects were destroyed by fire or water, their claims for compensation were a serious charge upon the Government.

The Press. 8th March 1879

AN OBSTINATE IRISHMAN. No man could meet with immigrants for 40 years and not have stories to tell. One of the best of Mr March's stories concerns one, Nicholas Cornelius, who came to Canterbury in the early days. Long before an immigrant ship arrived, the Immigration Officer was flooded with applications from employers for the services of her passengers, and their destinations were all allocated by Mr March and his staff before they set foot on the shore. It was fore-planned that Nicholas Cornelius and his family should assist in the development of Timaru. When the ship arrived Mr I March drew up the immigrants on the quarterdeck. Cornelius happened to be at the head of the row, and he was soon informed of his destination. '"Bain't goin' to Timaru," was his reply. "I flipped for Canterbury, and I'm goin' to land in Canterbury." It was no us to say that Timaru was part of Canterbury. The splendid openings in the Southern town were described to him in vain. Mr March sent the obstinate man to confer with I his wife on the position, and in a few more moments the whole family rushed up and begged that they might not be sent to Timaru. ''No. use. Take your belongings and hire a boat and go ashore here. I" !am sent by the Government to give you advice, and if you will not take it I wash my hands of you, and the Government will do nothing further for you." After another family conference, Cornelius returned to announce, "I'll go to Timaru, sor." "I knew you would," said Mr March, and pointed out a small steamer which would take them South. Soon afterwards his duties took Mr March himself to Timaru, and who should carry him ashore through the surf but the same Cornelius, who poured out thanks for his recent treatment, saying that his wife, himself, and several of the family were in good employment, and earning among them £400 a year.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project