Marsden Propriety Limited Enterprise Story


The Marsden Propriety Limited Enterprise Story as told by Kevin Marsden at the Geraldton Regional Library Oral History Morning on Wonthella – The Early Days.   “THIS PAGE IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS”
John Edwin Marsden and his wife Charlotte moved from central Geraldton to take up an area of native bushland in 1923 where only bush tracks existed.  In those days Wonthella was known as East Geraldton, the name Wonthella was not adopted until 1932.  John and Charlotte built their house on the northeast corner of present Howard and Seventh Street.  And on the block opposite IGA now in Fifth Street and Sixth Street he had a pig farm there with probably 5 or 600 pigs.  In the late ‘40’s swine fever come to Geraldton. Or it never came to Geraldton as a matter of fact but it was in piggeries in Perth and the government shut all the pigs around the place and it shot 500 or 600 of Grandpa Marsden’s and he never got a zack for them.  We all got the nickname “Piggy Marsden” when we were at school.  John Edwin & Charlotte Marsden - Photograph courtesy of Joe Marsden.pdf

John Edwin and Charlotte Marsden.

Photograph courtesy of Joe Marsden & The Geraldton Regional Library Information Sheet No 26

Click here to read the Marsden Family story


The Marsden’s had eight children of which one was named John who was always known as Jack Marsden. The Marsden’s were hard workers, well exemplified by Jack who started out washing bottles at the Globe Brewery.

Jack Marsden was only a young man when he bought a block in 1923 where he started off as a carrier, a cartage business with one horse and cart and one truck that eventually grew into the Marsden Propriety Limited Enterprise which did carting, earth moving and road building. 

There were no roads in to town from Wonthella and only bush tracks in Wonthella. The first road to be constructed in Wonthella was Fifth Street and it went past Allendale, then up and over the hill, it was pretty steep.  Back then there was no North West Coastal Highway!  Jack had quite a few horses and he put Billy O’Malley up there with a “Tumbling Tommy” scoop and a horse, or a couple of horses, he was there for weeks taking the top off the hills before the road was constructed into Geraldton. So that’s how the road was put through… it went over Allendale School, it was called Marsden Street, on to Phelp Street and came out at the Geraldton Foundry where the Geraldton Flour Mill used to be.

O’Malley’s Cash Store on the corner of Fifth and Howards Streets was financed by Jack Marsden.  The Marsden’s have all contributed to the progress of Geraldton. Kevin and Reg took the first truckload of Geraldton tomatoes across to Melbourne in 1949. 

The following is an extract from a diary written about the early cross-country experience. Wednesday, July 6 1949 saw a group of young men in two trucks transport a consignment of tomatoes from Geraldton across the Nullabor to Melbourne.  The 5000-mile return trip was the forerunner to a huge overland transport system which involved more than twenty trucks and prevented a glut of the local market and a slump in prices.The leading truck was fitted with a trailer and contained three travellers, Reg Marsden, Arthur C Monaghan and passenger who as the trip progressed became known as the “Skunk” due to his dislike of soap and water.

The second truck had Kevin Marsden, Mechanic Joe Twomey and cook, Ron Starling.  Joe’s truck was called the “Green Hornet”, because of the screaming sound the engine made when roaring up and down the hills and the other truck which was quieter somehow earned the name of “Green Dragon”.

Members of the Marsden family owned the land (using the present streets) which was bounded by Flores Road, Eighth Street, Central Road and Fifth Street. There would be 200 houses approximately on that area now.   The block at 291 Sixth Street was the headquarters for the trucking business.
 Marsden Truck Loaded With Chaff


Tommy Andersen had a dairy down the back of Andersen Street and the chaff used to come from Northam in rail trucks and we had to cart it from the rail trucks out to the Anderson Street Dairy.

That’s the first bulk bin that we built. Here we are unloading phosphate rock to take to the super works.  Prior to this the grabs used to come out and lob on the back of the truck and knock the hell out of the trucks. So we decided to build the bins and that was upgrading things quite a bit.

 Marsdens Trucking Business 4

World War II saw Marsden Haulage running a fleet of trucks, many leased from farmers to build the flight training school at Geraldton airport.  The immediate post war years saw the business grow ever larger as more opportunities presented themselves.  Marsden Haulage was a major local employer and continued to be after Jack Marsden’s death in 1967.

That’s how we used to shift them lift them up with a hoist and carry them around.  That’s the mineral sands when Jennings started the mineral sands business out at ….., they were the first ones to start the mineral sands in Geraldton and that’s loading the ship. There’s a hopper there. We used to tip it into the hopper cart it from the sheds tip, it into the hopper and [it] got up on belts into the ships. We used to work around the clock loading the ships there.

Marsdens Trucking Business 5

 Marsdens Trucking Business 1 This photo is one of the trucks, we had seven of those, we’re getting ready for carting bulk wheat.  Payloads carried included superphosphate rock grain and mineral sands and the trucks generally worked around the clock 24 hours a day to punishing schedules.  Drivers worked around the clock and there was a fair bit of organisation to organise them all.  We had drivers that worked for us all the time but then we had quite a few casual drivers we’d bring in and do a midnight shift or, you know, they’d do a shift from six till midnight or midnight to seven. It was alright for them, they were getting a few extra quid, and it helped us out too. But when we were unloading the phosphate rock boats which sometimes would take six or seven days well some of the drivers would work 30 hours around the clock – they kept going because they liked the overtime. It was quite good then
To the left is a wonderful photo of Marsden’s trucks lined up along ______ Street with the wheat bins on ready to go  Marsdens Trucks lined up in Wonthella
Marsdens Trucking Business 89 In 1987 the trucking business was sold and the block that started it all was put on the market, originally purchased for five pounds, 83 years later it sold for $192,000.  This was to signal the end of an era.