BENNETT, FLORA EMMA nee LEPPIEN
Flora Emma Leppien was born in Carterton in 1879, the daughter of Henry and Fredarica Leppien nee Ziedermann. Her father was a toll-gate keeper who died when she was very young.
At the age of 10, Flora came to Taranaki with her mother and step-father Mr & Mrs Robinson, the journey from Palmerston North being made in a horse and trap. The family took up a bush section above where Kaponga now stands. The dwelling was a log cabin hewn from bush on the property and there were no fences around the clearing. As land was cleared and cows milked, it became Flora's job to take the horse and look for cows in the bush. Although the cows wore bells and there was a river to follow if necessary, she always had a fear of getting lost. Her father's advice was to give the horse its head and it would bring her home.
The immensity of the rata stumps made a great impression on Flora's young mind. They were used as vegetable gardens before plots were fenced off and they grew pumpkins that needed two people to carry. The stumps were big enough to use as hen houses.
There were no schools near, so there was no chance of a more formal education, for her, although she had reached the fourth standard at Palmerston North.
When she was 15, Flora took a position at the home of Rev Marshall at the Methodist Parsonage at Opunake and trips to her home were made on horseback. Later she worked for the family of a Mangatoki pioneer, Tom Perry. At the age of 16, Flora would ride the bridal track to Dawson Falls side-saddle to attend dances.
In 1899, at Kaponga, she married Stephen Joseph Bennett, who worked in the first butter factory at Mangatoki. In 1902 they moved to a large holding at Mahoe. Here Flora raised their family of seven children as well as helping with the milking.
In 1913 the family moved to Kaupokonui, Manaia, where they took an active part in community and church affairs. From 1928 until 1940 when they retired to Hawera, the Bennett's farmed on a property "Thorneycroft" on Ketemarae Road, Hawera.
Christian work always held prior place with Flora and she helped raise funds for the first Methodist church at Kaponga, and presented one of the front doors at the Wesley Church, Hawera. She was also a president of the Manaia Ladies Guild, and a choir member in the Manaia Methodist Church . Flora Emma Bennett died on 1 March 1960 age 81 years and is buried at the Hawera cemetery.
Gladys Campbell, Hawera (daughter)
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