Photograph, Rev. Johann Friedrich Heinrich Wohler; Unknown photographer; 1860-18...


Photograph, Rev. Johann Friedrich Heinrich Wohler

About this object

This is a photograph of Reverend Johann Friedrich Heinrich Wohler. A missionary based at Ruapuke Island for over 40-years, Wohlers preached to, taught and lived with Māori. Wohlers' communication with his mission society, his publications on Māori legends and his writings about his life and interactions with people on Ruapuke are an important resource on Southern Māori and their interactions with Pākehā.

Reverend Johann Wohler

Known in New Zealand as John Fredrick Henry Wohlers, Rev. Wohlers was born in 1811 in modern day Germany as Johaan Friedrich Heinrich Wohlers. The North German Mission Society sent Wohlers to New Zealand on board the ‘St Pauli’ in 1842. On an exploratory journey to the South Island, Wohlers met Chief Tuhawaiki of Ruapuke at Port Cooper (Lyttlelon). The pair discussed the establishment of a mission in the South and on May 17, 1844 Wohlers settled at Ruapuke Island in the Foveaux Strait. Based at Ruapuke, Wohlers' parish extend from Rakiura (Stewart Island) to Moeraki.

Wohlers' learnt the Māori language and local customs which helped his preaching in the church he built in 1846. In 1849, he married Eliza Palmer, an English woman who spoke fluent Māori. A kind, firm and practical woman who devoted herself to the church, Eliza settled into mission life well. Māori were drastically affected by Pākehā diseases and Eliza, later with the help of her daughter Gretchen, nursed and counselled many people and cared for many orphaned children. When the New Zealand Government established the ‘native school’ at Ruapuke in 1868, Eliza assisted Rev. Wohlers with educating the local population.

After Rev Wohlers' death in 1895, the population of Ruapuke quickly declined and the landscape returned to scrub. The impact that Wohlers' mission had on Māori is difficult to assess, however, his legacy of literature through communication with the mission, the Canterbury Museum and his memoir Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben translated as Memories of the life of J. F. H. Wohlers has provided a wealth of information on the life of the mission and nineteenth-century Southland.

Place Made

Oceania, New Zealand, South Island, Southland


Unknown photographer

Maker Role


Date Made


Inscription and Marks

On the back in red pen: 'Rev J.F.H Wohlers Born 1811 Died 1885 arrived NZ Nelson 1843. Southland 1844. Married Elsie Parnen widow Wellington. One daughter. Married A.W TRAILL S Island JOHN WOHLERS, Thornbury was Nephew'

In pencil on the back: 'Rev JFH Wholers Missionary Ruapuke 1844-1885'
'Return to J(?) Wohlers, Thornbury'


h 580 mm x w 510 mm x d 75 mm



Object Type


Subject and Association Keywords

People and Families (including births, weddings, deaths)

Subject and Association Keywords

Religion and Belief

Subject and Association Keywords


Medium and Materials

organic, vegetal, processed materials, paper
organic, vegetal, processed materials, paper, card
organic, vegetal, wood
inorganic, processed materials, glass
inorganic, processed materials, metal

Copyright Licence  

Attribution (cc) Attribution (cc)

This object is from