Puhoi Cemetery

Puhoi was settled by Europeans in 1863 by a group of German-speaking migrants from Staab in Bohemia, now a province of the Czech Republic, under the leadership of Captain Martin Krippner. This is how it has come to be known as the “Bohemian Settlement”. Altogether three batches of migrants arrived between 1863 and 1866.

Today the village is still thriving. It features the church, a hotel and a general store which all have their origins from the times of the first settlers. There is a museum which occupies premises that were originally built as the Catholic primary school (1923-1964). In addition there are a number of small industries and shops such as The French Shed, The Puhoi Cheese Factory, The Mustard Makers and The Puhoi Cottage Tea Rooms which have had their origins in more modern times.

The settlement itself was used as a filming location for the TV Miniseries based on the Stephen King novel Tommyknockers, as well as scenes from the film Bridge to Terabithia.

The Puhoi Cemetery is in Ahuroa Road about 1 kilometre west of Puhoi settlement in New Zealand’s North Island.

The land was allocated for the cemetery right from the first days of the settlement. However it was unfenced and the very early graves were becoming lost in undergrowth and the original simple wooden crosses were deteriorating and becoming illegible by the time a public meeting was called in Puhoi in 1892 to have it tidied up and to adopt proper bylaws.

William Billing, Vincent Wenzlick and Eric Dahlberg made simple coffins in the wharf shed or in outbuildings bending kahikatea planks for the sides. In most cases the interior was lined with white satin and the outside was usually covered in black crepe to disguise the rough sawn woodwork.

There was no undertaker and the family attended to all that was required. Robert Scriven held the position of gravedigger until 1911. He was replaced by Martin Tolhopf as the sexton followed Adalbert Bayer and his son James who dug the graves for 35 years. Later a tip dray (cart) pulled by ordinary farm horses conveyed the coffin and in 1922 a long desired hearse was obtained resplendent with brass knobs and railings, plumes and glass doors which was drawn by the two horses normally pulling the Puhoi to Ahuroa mail coach.

Wakes over the body were not held although the rosary was said in the church the night before. The next day, after the church service, the coffin would be carried by the pall bearers without pause to the cemetery a mile (1.6 km) away followed by the procession of mourners reciting the rosary.

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