Jensen Family

from Denmark

Niels and Else Jensen


The Scandinavian people having always been explorers are legendary for travelling far and wide from early times in history. They settled in many countries including England, Ireland and Scotland, The Isle of Man, the Shetland Islands and as far away as the Mediterranean, taking their language, culture and customs with them. The log cabin and patchwork is said to have come from the Scandinavian's.

These people were called in earlier times the Vikings and were known to be great warriors. History has shown that through the years the Scandinavians have had a very complex past with take-overs both voluntary and involuntary. Norway has been at certain times ruled by Sweden or Denmark and visa versa.

Famine in parts of Scandinavia and economic times and the increase in the population had put alot of pressure on the available resources. Only small areas of land were available for farming and as the families grew in size it was found that the land was not enough to support them.

The result of war between Denmark and Germany was good reason indeed to immigrate to another country rather that live under the German rule. The New World must have seemed like the answer to alot of family’s problems. And so a mass exodus of the Scandi people began.

Given the social and economic conditions there was a sudden rush of people wanting to leave their homeland and try for a new life. Alot of people were given the impression that NZ was a tropical island and that they needed very little clothing, as the climate was so warm. Glossy brochures were circulated and it seemed that paradise was found. So the sudden chance to emigrate to NZ at no cost was taken by many families.


Sir Julius Vogel - journalist politician and twice NZ Premier was the man that devised the Vogel Immigration and Public Works Scheme. New Zealand was going through a rough economic time with its export markets being so far away and the need for the NZ Government to open up the densely bushed central North Island and try and establish a road rail and telegraph link.

There was also a desire to place large numbers of settlers in the North Island to counter the large Maori population there. However, NZ could not do these things with is existing population and means. So, when Julius Vogel became the Colonial Treasurer in the Fox ministry in 1869 he adopted a bold policy aimed at solving NZ problems.
The government was to purchase large areas of Maori land for European settlement, and that thousands of assisted immigrants would be bought in to do the various public works. This was financed by large overseas loans and by paying for the labour to work the railways and roading by way of land grants.

The result was that in this paved the way for many poor immigrates to move to a new country for very little cost - or so they thought!


Bishop D G Monrad had been Prime Minister and Minister of War for Denmark during the unhappy war in 1864 with Prussia and Austria in which they were defeated. After its conclusion he was politically unpopular and he left his native land and settled in NZ along with his wife and family, and a number of young men who proved to be readily adaptable to the pioneering conditions.

He arrived in NZ in 1866 and at the suggestion of the Governor, Sir George Grey he took up a block of bush land in the Upper Manawatu district, which was then being opened up for settlement.

The development of Palmerston North which had been surveyed on the natural clearing of the forest, was being delayed because it could not attract settlers until a road had been cut through the dense bush separating it from the west coast port of Foxton.
The Government had been impressed with the success of the young men who had come out with Monard. It was noticed that they were hard working and proved to be very frugal and the climate suited them so it was decided that they (the Danes) would make ideal immigrants.

Monrad was asked to return to Denmark and to influence his fellow countrymen to come to NZ and work. He returned in 1869 to do this.

The people were told glowing reports of NZ - it was said that gold was there for the taking and they were promised the chance to won their own farms; this was a dream unattainable in their homelands.

The first immigrants for the Manawatu arrived in Wellington in early 1871. They where sent via Foxton to their destinations. The bush was cleared and access was at last possible for the first settlers of Palmerston.

Between 1871 and 1880, by which time the scheme was over, more than 100,000 assisted or nominated immigrants had arrived in NZ with the numbers peaking in 1874. The majority of these people were British and there where around about 2009 Danes.
The over ambitious and extravagant Vogel Scheme became the casualty of the noticeable recession which developed in 1876. Unemployment began to appear in 1875 and certainly the Public Works ended around Palmerston North in 1876.

The country was in a deep depression by the early 1880. While this may have been intensified by the economic policy of the 1870's the true cause was a worldwide depression. So this paints a rather gloomy picture of the New World and a new start for our forbearers.


The Immigrants had no idea really were NZ was and few could read maps or atlas's so all they new was that NZ was on the other side of the world and it would take along time to get there.

The Ships and their agents needed as many people on board as the could safely get away with and so tales are told of travellers inquiring for a particular ship and being put on another ship altogether in order to make up the ships complement. So instead of sailing to America alot found themselves in NZ. Families were split up because of this and with the difficulties in the language confusion rained.

Many shady and dishonest agents and Captains took advantage of the less worldly wise and less educated travellers. Immigrants whose passage were assisted were entitled to purchase a block of forty acres at 1 pound per acre while those who paid there passage money in full were to have similar blocks free.

It is recounted that a group of Swedish travellers were victims of a cruel hoax in London when there ship docked it was boarded by a person who asked for their papers and in return gave them what he said were Land Certificates. The Swedes had no knowledge whatsoever of English, written or spoken and unsuspectingly handed over their papers. When they arrived in Wellington and presented their Certificates they were informed that they held the menu to a London Hotel and that if they wanted land they would have to pay for it on the same terms as the assisted settlers.

In 1872 the 'Hovding' arrived in Napier, a NZ born Swede had been sent to Norway by the Government to recruit Norwegians. The 365 people he bought back were the first settlers at Norsewood and Dannevirke these numbers were made up of 354 Norwegians and 11 and Danes.

(Niels and Else Jensen arrived on the 'Inverene' and very little was written about the conditions of the voyage. A brief history on the history of the ship is written in following chapters.)

Along with the Danes from the ship the 'Ballart', 71 souls in total walked for four days from Napier to their new homes... they were shocked at what they found. Woman broke down and cried at the poor conditions and lack of food and housing. It was a hard life for these early settlers in the earlier days, the language problem along with a land they knew nothing about.

They lived first of all in tents and then as time permitted the men constructed slab huts with a dirt floor, with a piece of oiled calico for a window. Once they settled on their farms the hard work began to fell the trees and try and establish pastures and gardens for food. There were no roads and the men tramped for miles with heavy loads on their backs to transport supplies back to the farm. Later horse drawn drays were used where possible along stretches of the Tukituki River bed. Stores had been transported in from Waipawa some 20 miles away.

This was only undertaken twice a year, so the order had to be thought out carefully to make sure that only the absolute necessities were on the list. The cost of living was very high the settlers quickly learnt to hunt for wild pig native pigeons eels and wild honey etc. Vegetables were grown - potatoes, cabbages, and carrots -- with seeds provided by the government and as the soil was very fertile the people were well rewarded for their efforts.

Some land was the opposite to this and settlers found that their farms were covered in thick forest which left the soil just a mulch of rotted leaves, and when this land was cleared it revelled swamp.

Many settlers walked off the land and returned home in despair. Sheep were kept mainly for their wool which was used in the home. The wool because of the bush and scrub was full of biddibids and usually smoke and charcoal stained from the bush fires, making it unsuitable for sale. The forest was so dense that looking upwards to the no sky could be seen between the trees. The tracks through the bush in the wet were slippery and boggy. This was much different to the forests of Denmark with beeches or the dark fir and pine forests of Norway. To clear the forest was rough hard and dangerous work. The Norwegians and Swedes had experience in forestry but the Danes, most of whom were farm labourers found the task severe and some could be seen working doggedly on with their hands wrapped in blood stained bandages. No smoko breaks in those days! The bush fires are yet another tale in this sad story - the bigger of the trees were not cut all the way through but were cut until they were weak enough to fall when struck by another tree. A large tree was selected to start the "Drive" and after deciding which way it would fall, an area in that direction would be decided upon as suitable for the drive. An appropriate scarf would then be put in all trees in that group. By felling the large tree and letting it fall on the tree next to it, it would have a domino effect until all the trees in the pattern were felled. Fires were lit to burn these giants and sometimes they would get out of control and whole settlements wiped out.

It took many years before the land was completely cleared. The worst fire was in 1888 which wiped out the entire settlement of Noreswood, leaving the settlers homeless and destitute.

The men worked for the Government Works aprox 3 days a week and on their days off they travelled home and worked from dawn to dusk, clearing the land and trying to carve out a future for their families.

Danniverke also suffered from fires and the most serious being in Oct 1917 when a large portion of the business section of the town was wiped out in a space of a few hours.

Although the fires caused alot of damage they certainly cleared the land, and the ash from the fires fertilised the soil, and when the newly sown grass took root it provided some beautiful pastures.


For the new immigrants language was a problem and until schools were built the children were made to speak English, it made it difficult to converse with other nationalities. The Scandinavian language although different - was similar enough for the new immigrants to speak to one another until eventually English was the language spoken.

This however, didn't teach English in a very satisfactory manner and tales have been told of children teaching their parents very odd things. The children were actively discouraged from speaking their native tongues at school and as the new generation grew up the languages were lost. Education was not free and compulsory until the Act of 1878 was passed. Previous to that year, parents had to pay so much per week for each child, sometimes a shilling. This must of been a financial burden on the parents when so many had so many other debts to clear.


As in many countries sons took their father's name with an addition to it in this instance 'son' or 'sson' or 'sen' the former usually Swedish and the 'sen' usually Danish or Norwegian. Datter or Dotter means daughter i.e. Hansdatter. Many of the names have been anglicised i.e. Andersen becomes Anderson etc. Jensen would of the family laid on 19th Oct 1996.


Just a few notes to show how NZ was shaping up economical in these hard times. In 1853 wool was the main export of NZ, timber wheat and gold rivalled if for short periods. The sheep population increased so rapidly that in 1861 there were 2 and 2/4 million sheep! In 1871, 3 years before Niels and Else came to NZ there were 10 million and in 1881 - 13 million. Whereas in 1929 there was over 29 million.

While the price of wool was high NZ prospered but from 1874 (the year Niels arrived) wool began to drop in price. Until 1879 the country suffered from a sever economic crisis. Wool fell as low as fourpence per pound and the result was a long period of depression. The high price of land was at such a level that in many cases landowners could not pay the interest on their mortgages. In 1884 surplus sheep which had been expensive (25/- for a decent ewe) were of little value and wool was down from 18d to 6d. About 1895 prices began to rise again and from then on NZ gained in prosperity.

One of the factors that helped NZ recover was the founding of the frozen meat industry. In the past the only part of the sheep product of any value was the wool, as it had been impossible to ship mutton and lamb to Europe and surplus of sheep had been killed or boiled down for fat and manure.

In NZ the pioneer of the new industry was Mr Davidson, General Manager of the NZ and Australian Land Co. He persuaded his company to give the idea of frozen meat export a chance. With the result that the sailing ship Dunedin left Port Chalmers with the first cargo of frozen meat which reached England in perfect condition.

The export meat caused the farmer to develop both the wool and meat and as a result the sheep industry flourished.


1852 Discovery of gold in the Coromandel

1861 Discovery of gold in Otago

1866 Cook Strait submarine telegraph cable laid

1871 Commencement of railway construction - Public Works

1876 New Zealand connected by cable with Australia

Railway opened to Waipawa and Waipukurau

1877 Education Act passed giving free education

1882 First frozen meat shipped

1884 Freezing works est in Hastings

1886 Mount Tarawera erupted killing 101 people

1898 Old aged pensions Act passed

1901 Universal penny postage stamp adopted


Niels and Else Jensen arrived in New Zealand on March the 8th 1874; they sailed into Napier on what must have been a good passage of 107 days from London. I can find no articles about the trip so it must of been uneventful, I do know that there was alot of deaths aboard which was nothing unusual for those times. They spent 3 weeks at the barracks in Napier and then made their way on foot to Ashley Clinton. Niels was employed by the government works scheme but what he did we are yet to discover!!!

They took up the Land of blk 87 Makaretu cgd ct 17.8061 off of Thomsen Road. This can be described as rolling hill country. Niels was granted title on 28th Dec. 1881 he purchased the property on 21st Jan 1879. From what I can gather he was not granted title until the land was paid for. He also was granted the title to the block next door known as Blk 123.

This blk was previously owned by Carl Hans Heeinrick Anvedsen. We do not know if Carl ever took up his land grant or worked the land, in some cases the immigrants found the work to hard and went home.

In 1898 Jens bought the land adjoining his fathers blk IX. This backed on to his Father In Laws property (August Persen) Blk 8. So in all there was 359 acres altogether.

Blk 87 - 87 acres -Blk 123 - 60 acres Blk IX -106 acres Blk 8 - 106 acres


Niels and Else Jensen lived in this time - they perhaps felt the thunder when Mount Tarawera exploded, perhaps Niels supplied some of the sheep in the first frozen exports??? These things we simply don't know. But one thing we do know is that they were survivors, they came to New Zealand under very hard circumstances, leaving behind family and friends.

We believe they were lied to by the government of the day and so came to a life that was both primitive and backbreaking. We do know that Niels obtained his land in Ashley Clinton by was of a Government grant and he farmed it successfully until his death in 1901. He didn't get to town very often as many times his rates was paid by who ever was going to town at the time.

One year is was even the local constable! We hope this gives the reader an insight into what it was like in these times and next time you are in Ashley Clinton area or Pahiatua please spare a thought for this couple and place a flower on their places of rest.