New Zealand Bensemanns are mostly descended from two brothers; Cordt Heinrich who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand in 1843 on the sailing ship the St Pauli and his elder brother Johann Dietrich who emigrated to Nelson 13 years later on the Inchinnis.

Cordt and his wife Anna Margaretha Elizabeth (nee Kothrade) arrived at Nelson with three children. Johann Albert was 6 on arrival, while his older sister Anna Catherine Marie (who later married the Rev J W C Heine) was 8 and younger brother Johann Heinrich (John Henry) was 3.

Anna and Cordt lost a daughter in Germany just before emigrating and a son born in New Zealand, Johann Heinrich William, died at just only 16. However most of their children had many descendants, including others born in New Zealand; Sophia Magdalena, George Frederick William, Christopher Frederick Carl Heinrich, Anna Margaret Doris and Johann Diedrich.

Bensemann family reunion, 1956. Author standing pigeon-toed in front (who remembers nothing except an old tractor driving around and throwing out lollies for the lolly scramble).

Nelson settlements

Moutere Valley looking northwest over vineyards to the present town of Upper Moutere (previously Sarau) today. At centre right (white wall) is the Moutere Inn built by Cordt Bensemann in the early 1850s. It is New Zealand's oldest pub.


Early German settlers used this name for the valley just south of the current village of Upper Moutere (on the way to Motueka). It was named after the popular Captain Schacht of the immigrant ship St Pauli. The valley was the site of the first village of St Paulidorf.

St Paulidorf

A small village which no longer exists in the Moutere Valley between the present day Lower and Upper Moutere. It was named after the immigrant ship St Pauli which arrived in Nelson in 1843 and was the site in 1843 of the first German settlement in New Zealand. The village included a half-finished Lutheran church and a fully built mission house but was situated in a flax swamp and the settlement failed due to flooding after 16 months of unrewarded toil. The town was evacuated permanently by October 1844. St Paulidorf was on the NE side of the junction of Gardner's Valley turn-off the present inland highway north of Upper Moutere on the way to Motueka.

New Hanover

A settlement in the Schachtsal Valley. Hanover or Hannover, Neu Hannover (New Hannover) was on the southern side of Old House Road south of Upper Moutere. Also called Ewers Valley after the German family who farmed here. The Ewers family settled here in June 1865 and named it Hanover.


Cordt Bensemann bought land here in 1850 and was granted a bush licence to turn his home into a hotel in 1857 and helped build the Lutheran Church in 1865. The village was named Sarau in the early 1850s after a beautiful German village in far north Germany that the missionaries Heine and Wohlers had stayed in during a trip to Kiel. The village is now usually called Upper Moutere.


This settlement was named after Count Graf Kuno zu Rantzau-Breitenburg of Bothmer in the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a wealthy nobleman who had dreams of planting a large German colony in the Nelson Province. He hoped to combine a good investment for himself with charity towards depressed peasants of Mecklenburg, whose passage he paid. The Mecklenburg immigrants came on the Skiold in 1844. The name of the town was officially changed in the First World War to Hope.


Opposite to and a leagues distance from Ranzau so called because of its pleasant situation close to a small stream and patch of bush. Seven German families are reported as living there in 1849 - the names being Fanselow, Lankow, Lange, Schroder, Sigglekow, Wendelborn and Bruning.


Now called Rosedale, this is settlement between the Motueka Valley and the Moutere, just to the northwest of Upper Moutere. It was settled by the Stade family who arrived in 1857 and the Rose family who arrived in 1855, 1857 and 1869.


In the low hills to the north-west from Upper Moutere. Founded by the Dencker, Seibolth and other families. It had a school which opened in 1870, with 53 pupils. The building is still standing and passed recently to private ownership. It had a hotel owned by the Seibolths.