Wandering around Puhoi you could stumble on a lot of history. Our village is like a museum and one of the Puhoi Heritage Museum Society’s admirable achievements has been the highlighting of its sites of historic significance.
The bronze plaques marking the positions of some now long-gone village buildings – the Puhoi Public School for example – is one such.
Another popular example would be the small grove of trees at the north-western tip of our church land. “The native trees in this reserve,” says a recent plaque, “were planted in 1952 by descendants of the first Puhoi families, to commemorate 90 years of Bohemian settlement … And the nearby kauri was planted in 1996 by Titford and Schischka, descendants from Orewa Primary School.”
The installation of Anzac memorial gates – a joint venture between the museum society, the Puhoi Community Forum and scoutmaster Heston Prospere-Smith – gained great community appreciation, and in 1988 a Pioneer Landing Memorial Stone was installed in the Centennial Hall garden opposite the Church of Sts Peter and Paul. It symbolises “the strong Catholic faith, courage and endurance of all our Bohemian pioneers and the landing on June 29, 1863, of the first settlers,” according to the plaque. The founding ships – War Spirit, Liverpool, Shakespeare, Queen Bee, Terpsichore, and Friedeburg, which brought groups, families and lone settlers to Puhoi are noted. War Spirit’s arrival is commemorated annually with the laying of a wreath.
In 2013, in preparation for our sesquicentennial, the museum society produced Celebrating Puhoi – a walking guide to the Puhoi Historic Village and its Bohemian Heritage and plaque additions to the stone multiplied. The roles of Captain Martin Krippner in the establishment of the settlement and Chief Te Hemara and his whanau, then living at the mouth of the Puhoi River, in helping it pull through its first, struggling year were acknowledged.
Updating of museum society markers and the history they represent is ongoing. The society has branched out from little bronze memorials in the long grass, to a riverbank series honouring sports club personalities – very precious to our community at the time of their passing. But the largest and most concentrated collection of Puhoi’s plaques and monuments is not in the village, but within walking distance on its edge. Administered now by Auckland Council, but with bylaws drawn up in 1892, the public cemetery is still in demand for burials and as a repository for ashes – and there is always room for more.