History – Founding father

Captain Martin Krippner, born in Mantau, Bohemia, in 1817, is a controversial character.

He is described by various sources as entrepreneurial, educated, a family man, courageous, foolhardy, a social climber, an adventurer or an opportunist. He was certainly a man of natural ability and personal charm.

Puhoi, as a Bohemian settlement, would not have come into being without him.

Mrs Emily Krippner, an English woman, is consistently shown as a charming, kind, capable, industrious and lovable woman, who swept about her dirt-floor whare in elegant gowns. 

These two met in Frankfurt, where Martin rose to the rank of Captain, second class, serving in the garrison. Emily was living with her sister after the death of their parents.

Encouraged by Emily’s brother, who was the postmaster in Orewa, Emily and Martin, with their three sons, a daughter and a niece, emigrated to Auckland in 1859. Krippner quickly became well known in government and military circles where immigration and the development of the country would have been discussed. He was granted permission to organize a settlement of Bohemian people at Puhoi, with the promise of a 40 acre grant for each adult immigrant and a 20 acre grant for each child over five years. The scheme was very attractive to the farmers of Mantau who had no chance of owning their own land there. About 30 families took up the offer. Krippner was criticised for bringing them to the isolated, bush-clad, steep hills of Puhoi. He had greatly exaggerated the quality of the land.

Krippner arranged markets for the firewood, shingles, fence posts, fungus, tanekaha bark (used in the tanning industry) and charcoal gleaned from the bush. He arranged for the river to be cleared of snags, enabling ships to transport their produce from Puhoi

Krippner was offered a commission if he could get 50 men to enlist in the Third Regiment of the Waikato Militia. Many Puhoi men joined him, depleting the much-needed manpower in Puhoi. A number remained in the Waikato on land granted there, while Krippner himself returned to Orewa. 

Krippner used his government contacts to get approval for more immigrants to settle from Bohemia and to obtain a grant for roadworks in the district. Puhoi men formed co-operative parties to tender for the work, thereby supplementing their income. Krippner offered to take care of their money. Some families claim they did not get it back; others give him credit for enabling them to save enough to buy more land. 

The Bohemians were handicapped by their lack of English. Emily Krippner started a school in 1869. When the state school eventually opened, Krippner became headmaster, but the English he taught was strongly accented. Krippner was also Puhoi’s postmaster, chairman of the Highway Board and served on the Rodney County Council. 

By the 1880s, Puhoi was beginning to get on its feet and had outgrown its need for the Krippners, who were now both well into their 60s and were no longer capable of adequately performing their teaching duties. The Puhoi School Committee asked to have them replaced and moved them to a home they had built for them in Pulham Road, Warkworth.

Hence the founders of both Puhoi and Warkworth rest in the Anglican Cemetery at Warkworth.

Jenny Schollum, Puhoi Historical Society

Puhoi Historical Society