Exploring the Rich History of Puhoi Village: From Bohemian Roots to Modern Day

Exterior of Puhoi Pub

Nestled north of Auckland, the quaint village of Puhoi boasts a history as rich and full-bodied as its namesake Puhoi Beer. This vibrant community traces its roots back to the mid-19th century, when a group of intrepid settlers from Bohemia embarked on a remarkable journey to carve out a new life in New Zealand.

The Beginnings: A Journey Across the Seas

The story of Puhoi begins in 1863, when 83 men, women, and children left their small European villages in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) and set sail on a four-month voyage across the ocean. These pioneers arrived at the banks of the Puhoi River on June 29, 1863, facing the daunting task of transforming a rugged, forested valley into arable farmland.

Landing in the dead of night, they sought shelter in makeshift nikau whare. The first light of dawn revealed a challenging landscape, with dense forests and little flat land. These settlers had been promised free Crown land, but they quickly realized that they would have to clear the thick bush to create their farms.

Overcoming Hardships Through Community

The initial decade was one of intense struggle. The settlers, having paid their own way and arriving with limited tools and no money, relied on their strong values and communal spirit. Brendan Schollum, a descendant of one of the original settlers, highlights the traits that saw them through: “They were strong in their faith, very hard-working, the family was paramount, and they were generous to each other.”

Crucial to their survival was the support from local Maori chief Te Hemara Tauhia, who provided food and taught them how to live off the land. The settlers cleared the bush for pasture, selling firewood, kauri roof shingles, and logs in Auckland to generate income.

By the 1870s, the Bohemian population in Puhoi had grown to around 200. Establishing a Catholic priest, a church, and a school were high priorities, and they managed to achieve these within 18 years of their arrival.

Cultural Celebrations and Traditions

Despite the hardships, the Bohemian settlers knew how to enjoy life. Music, dance, and social gatherings were integral parts of their culture. This spirit of celebration remains alive in Puhoi today, where community events continue to be a central aspect of village life.

Puhoi’s story is also one of enduring family ties. Prominent Bohemian family names like Schollum, Schischka, Wech, and Wenzlick have persisted through the generations, with family reunions drawing hundreds of descendants.

Puhoi Today: A Blend of Heritage and New Beginnings

Over the years, Puhoi’s population has evolved. From being nearly 100% Bohemian descendants, the village now includes people from diverse backgrounds and countries. This blend of old and new is reflected in the vibrant array of community activities, supported largely by volunteers. The rural fire force, historical society, Bohemian museum, dance group, sports club, concerts, and art exhibitions all contribute to Puhoi’s dynamic community life.

The village’s historic church and hotel continue to serve as key landmarks, bridging the past with the present. While the influence of the church has diminished over time, the Puhoi Hotel remains a bustling hub of social activity.

Looking to the Future

Puhoi continues to embrace its heritage while looking forward to the future. Recent years have seen significant community-driven projects, such as the refurbishment of the 1881 church and the ongoing efforts to build a new station for the volunteer rural fire brigade.

As Puhoi navigates the challenges and opportunities of modern times, it retains the resilient spirit and communal values instilled by its Bohemian pioneers. The village is a testament to the power of community, tradition, and the ability to adapt and thrive.

Visit Puhoi

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a lover of unique cultural experiences, or simply looking to enjoy a refreshing Puhoi Beer, the village of Puhoi offers a warm welcome. Explore its rich history, vibrant community life, and scenic beauty—each visit is a journey through time.