Pohlen History


Joseph Pohlen JP

1872 - 1969

Pioneer, farmer, politician, benefactor

Joseph Pohlen was one of the greatest benefactors in the Matamata district. He made huge financial gifts for the building of Pohlen Hospital and for the Catholic Church and was a tremendous supporter of many local organisations.
He was born in 1872 at Harapepe, north west of Te Awamutu, the son of Henry Pohlen, a soldier who had fought in the Land Wars under Major von Tempsky. He was educated there and grew up on his father's farm.
At the age of 14 Joe, as he was known, went to work on A J Scott's farm for five shillings a week and his keep. After four years he moved to Shaftesbury, near Te Aroha, to work on E F Roche's farm. Here as a young farm hand he showed the beginning of a life-long interest in horses and horse racing when he purchased his first farm mare and decided to race her at Te Aroha in March 1894. Then he walked and rode over rough roads to Te Awamutu to enter his horse in a race there which she won.


However farming was his livelihood and in 1898 Joseph Pohlen was able, with the assistance of a friend, to acquire the leasehold of a block of 320 acres of land in the newly opened Okauia Estate on the foothills of the Kaimai range, near Matamata. This was difficult to farm and after eight years he disposed of this land and in 1906 acquired the leasehold of 300 acres near the town of Matamata on what is now Mangawhero Road. He was a successful farmer and strongly advocated the use of topdressing of pastures, (artificial fertiliser had been used only for land under cultivation before this.) In 1908 the Land Board made an inspection of the results of his topdressing. When anyone complained that they could not afford to do this Joe Pohlen used to exclaim, "You cannot afford not to topdress".
I-Iis interest in farming and the improvement of stock led him to help form the Matamata Agricultural and Pastoral Association of which he became secretary and a life member. The first Matamata show was held in 191 I. In later years Joe Pohlen confessed that he had no idea how to run such an event so he went to the Te Aroha A & P secretary, F Wild, for advice.


Of a benevolent nature, Joe Pohlen was well known for his generosity to organisations and individuals. It is said that in the early days of the Matamata Settlement he often met newcomers to the district at the railway station and using his own horses and waggon he would offer them transport to their farm property. A little later he purchased the first car in the district, which was the centre of attention at the first A & P Show in 1911. It was an "F.M.F. 30"made by the Studebaker Company whose leading car designer was names M Flanders. For seven years the car carried the number plate "M.M.1" and its owner generously used his car for the benefit of anyone who needed it.
It is said that Joe Pohlen was very generous to anyone down on their luck, especially returned servicemen, and he often helped them financially.


His early interest in horses continued throughout his life and in 1919 he became a foundation member of the Matamata racing Club. I-Ic is said to have loaned anonymously 5,000 pounds to the club at a lower than normal interest to help pay off a hank loan and build a stand for administration. Later he became president for 16 years (1943-1959) and guided the club over the post-war years, granting it an interest=free mortgage loan of 8,000 pounds to complete a public stand at the race course.
After World War Two when he had established himself financially. Joe Pohlen went into racing on a larger scale and became a well-known race-horse owner, winning some good races with, for example, Victory Song, Nionyx, Jackie Count, Kindroon and Schoolmate. At the end of his long life he had three horses, King's Aide, Landril and Wayfarer being trained by T C Alcock and he was a life member of Matamata, Te Aroha and Ohinemuri Racing Clubs.
Other Interests
Other groups were grateful for his generosity and interest such as tennis, which he played on a court at his own home, the Matamata Cricket Association, of which he was president for a time, several athletic bodies and the Matamata Citizen's band to which he presented the Pohlen Cup which is still being competed for.
In his younger days he attended many of the local dancers, had a reputation as an excellent dancer and danced in turn with the daughters of the early pioneers.

Catholic Church

Joe Pohlen was a member of the Catholic Parish of the Church of the Holy Angels from the time he first came to Matamata in 1898. He was secretary of the Church Committee for a time from 1924, and in addition to periodic gifts to his church, left 119,000 pounds of investments to his parish. Over a period of six years, interest from the Joseph Pohlen Trust repaid a loan for the 1974 upgrading of classrooms and an administration block at St Joseph's Convent School, Matamata.
Almost half the cost of building the new Church of Holy Angels and the re-modelling of the old one into a community centre, both of which were completed in 1983, were paid for by Joseph Pohlen Trust Funds.


Eventually Joe Pohlen retired from his farm in Mangawhero Road to a house in Matamata but he still retained his interest in the community. He continued to attend race meetings and the Matamata Citizens' Band contests every year to present the Pohlen Cup. He agreed to have Pohlen Park named in his honour and was seen at local events such as St Joseph's Convent calf Club Day.
One of his final and most generous gestures was his gift of 180,000 pounds towards the building of a district general hospital which was to bear his name and which was not completed until after his death.
Joseph Pohlen's long service to the Matamata community in sporting, cultural and local body affairs earned him an enviable reputation and only ended with his death in his 98th year in January 1969. His name lives on in the Pohlen Cup, Pohlen Road, Pohlen Park and last but not least in Pohlen Hospital.
Joan Stanley


Costello J & P    Tapestry of the Turf .--The History of NZ Racing 1840-1987, 1988
Gavin R    75th Jubilee -- The Holy Angels Parish, Matamata, 1909 1984, 1984
Jensen K    Crucible of Change – Matamata County since 1945, 1983 Matamata Primary School Minute Book (unpublished)
Matamata Primary School 75t Jubilee, March 1975
Obituary    "Mr Joseph Pohlen Dies in his 98`h Year," Matamata Chronicle 28 January 1969
Obituary    "Mr Joseph Pohlen Dies," Matamata County Mail, January 1969
Silk D V    Growth of the Catholic Church in the Matamata District, 1840-1959. 1959
Vermeil C W et al    History of the Matamata Plains, 1951
Vennell C W & D More    Land of the Three Rivers — Centennial History of the Piako County, 1976