Early in Puhoi’s existence, the 10 acres on the point of land between Ahuroa Road and Puhoi River was set aside for the cemetery. It was not until 1892 that trustees were elected to draw up a set of 28 bylaws to ensure its smooth running. Before then, the cemetery was in poor condition – unfenced, covered with weeds and shrubs, graves nestling under trees, gorse and fern. No burial plan had been formed. People who had died were buried where their families chose, so that some graves were on a different angle to those buried after the cemetery was drawn up. No records have been kept of this early time. Unless the families put up a headstone, it is not known who is buried where.
The oldest headstones are Martin Schischka and Anton Schischka both of whom died in 1878. The only non-Bohemians buried in those early days were Terence Kennedy, a local Irish Catholic, and Richard Lohr, a teacher from Waiwera.
The first trustees, elected for a seven-year term, were John Wenzlick (chairman), John Schollum, Martin Tolhopf, Joseph Russek and Benedict Remiger (secretary).
They immediately called for tenders to fence the part already in use and the remainder was leased to Mr Robert Scriven, a neighbour who became the gravedigger. Mr Gregor Wenzlick had been the undertaker and was gazetted to continue as such.
They surveyed the land into sections of 16 feet square – sufficient for eight burials – and many families pre-purchased these family plots at a cost of £4. The map and burial register were kept in the Puhoi Store, which burnt down in 1939 destroying all records. A new map and burial register were begun. Graves marked with headstones were recorded with others added from memory. Only 35 of the original 83 settlers have headstones on their graves.
Other trustees that served before 1923 were Christian Paul, Vincent Schischka, Vincent Wenzlick, Martin Rauner, John Bayer, Ernest Barker and Christian Schischka. The younger John Schollum was secretary for many years until he was replaced by his son Les. Adalbert Bayer, followed by Martin Tolhopf were gravediggers. Trustees tried unsuccessfully to have a morgue erected on church grounds. However, in 1922 they were successful in procuring a horse-drawn hearse complete with brass knobs, rails, plumes and glass doors. Mourners followed behind it to the cemetery, praying the rosary.
In the 1950s, the cemetery had again become overgrown with willows, fern, blackberries and bulbs, with fences in disrepair. Every meeting involved a discussion on how to tackle these problems. Hard labour, grazing, mowing and spraying were tried. A special effort prior to 1963 saw the cemetery in tip-top condition for the centenary celebrations. From then on, volunteers kept it in good order.
Auckland Council has now taken over the running of the cemetery. Negotiations resulted in the promise that descendants can still be buried in the historic section with their ancestors, although they will probably have to repurchase the plot.
Jenny Schollum, Puhoi Historical Society