There are many Anna Bensemanns. This page is about the Anna who sailed to New Zealand at the age of 8 and who later married Pastor Heine. She became a leading figure in the community of Sarau (see Neuseeland).
Fiftieth wedding anniversary of Anna Kothrade and Cordt Bensemann's oldest child Anna Catherine Marie Heine (nee Bensemann) and her husband the Reverend Johann Wilhelm Christoph Heine, 5th September, 1899, probably at Upper Moutere. Anna's story follows, but first - the people pictured!
Child in foreground: John Erle Schroder. Front row: Gertrude Heine, Mrs J Thiel (nee Heine), Joseph Heine. Second row from front: (seated): Rev J Thiel, Rev J W C Heine and Mrs Heine. Dietrich Wilkens, Feodor Kelling (also known as Johann Friederich Augustus Kelling), Mrs F Schroder. Third row from front (standing): Dorothea Drogemuller (Mrs George Bensemann), Catherina Marie Elizabeth Rose (Mrs Henry Bensemann), Frederick Bensemann (son of Cordt), Anna Margaret Doris Bensemann (daughter of Cordt) (Mrs David Max), Sophia Magdalena Bensemann (daughter of Cordt) (Mrs David Wilkens), Henry Bensemann (son of Cordt), David Max, F Schroder. Back row: J H C Drogemuller, George Bensemann (son of Cordt), Feodor Kelling Jnr, Heinrich Darel (standing above), John Muller, John Albert Bensemann? (son of Cordt), unidentified. Many of their descendants still live in Nelson Province and especially in the Moutere. Any information (or dispute!) about names, please contact Paul Bensemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 021 2142665.
The story of Anna:
Anna Katerina Marie (also called Anna Catherine Marie) Bensemannwas only eight years old in 1842 when she sailed to New Zealand with her parents Cordt and Anna plus two younger brothers, Johann Albert, 5, and Johann Heinrich 3. Already she was showing signs of leadership, described on the journey as a "most efficient child" who was a great help to her mother in looking after the two boys. She arrived in Nelson on her ninth birthday, July 7, 1843.
The Bensemanns were one of six German families to settle near the mouth of the Waimea River where Cordt and a joiner named Hempel built shelters for the settlers. They were rectangular whare (Maori huts) with walls of manuka, the rafters tied with flax and the roof thatched with rushes. When the huts were ready the families, who had been staying in cheap lodgings in Nelson, walked out to Ranzau, as the settlement came to be called. The women did most of the cultivation while the men worked in jobs in Nelson. Eels from the Waimea became a staple diet and were eaten so often the children became sick of them.
Cordt and Hempel got work at the Port dismantling the wreck of the Fyfeshire, one of first four immigrant ships wrecked close to Nelson on Arrow Rock (now called Fyfeshire Rock). They built a schooner from the wreckage. (The web author’s father, Ranginui Bensemann, said some of the best timber was kept by Cordt and used for part of the first Lutheran Church at Upper Moutere. This could have been the one at St Paulidorf that was never completed.)
Even though still a child, Anna stayed with Cordt in Nelson during the week to keep house for him. She walked 15 miles around the sea coast each week, leaving from Ranzau early on Monday morning with her father and returning on Saturday evening. Her mother stayed home with the small sons. Pearl Bensemann of Nelson told the web author that Anna had to make one of these trips home alone, after Cordt was stuck in Nelson on work. She left at sunset during a low tide but became hopelessly lost on the mudflats when it got dark as there were few lights in the district. After walking in circles she finally saw a lantern her mother carried down to the shore – obviously the family had been expecting her and she was late.
While in Nelson and just a teenager Anna fell in love with a man 20 years older than her, Johann Wilhem Heine, usually known as Pastor Heine. Although not officially ordained, he was widely regarded as a one of the religious and community leaders of the German community. Heine was a close friend of Anna’s father, who had built a cottage for him in Nelson. In 1849 Johann and Anna married – he was 35 and she just 15.
In the same year, the couple shifted to a new church at Ranzau, which was built from clay with a low straw roof. It included a large room for church services and living quarters at the rear. They lived here for about three years and it is where Anna gave birth to her first child, who died in infancy. The Heines were to have eight more children, with many descendants in the district today.
In 1853 the Heines shifted to Upper Moutere (then Sarau) which had become the new centre for German settlement. Like her father and husband, she became one of the leaders of the community. Their house had 15 rooms including a large room for church services and another for school lessons. Anna had had no formal education but her husband taught geography, English, German, Latin, Greek, singing and sketching, as well as religion. Sometimes pupils stayed in the house for months at a time.
Johann died in 1900 aged 86 years and Anna lived on for another 10. For all of her adult life she was renowned for visiting the sick and elderly as well as looking after visitors, who including clergy of various denominations. Her popularity, even as a young woman, is perhaps best shown by the naming of a church bell cast in Germany in 1869 for the Lutheran Church at Ranzau. It was named Anna and her name was engraved on it. This bell still rings every Sunday at the Lutheran Church at Upper Moutere.
(Thanks to Barbara Harper and her book Petticoat Pioneers, Reed 1980, for much of this story)
This site was last updated 11/19/09