Story: Families: a history

A struggle to make ends meet

Catherine Riemenschneider, the wife of Lutheran missionary Johann Riemenschneider, was widowed in 1866. Three years later she wrote to Donald McLean, the chief land purchase commissioner, requesting financial assistance. Her small pension from the North German Missionary Society was not enough to meet the needs of her large family. 

Her letter reads:

Wanganui January 14th/69

My dear Sir,

You will perhaps think me very bold in taking the liberty to write to you, but you will I hope pardon me for thus trespassing on your time. You I know were once one of my dear husbands best friends and I know he was greatly attached to you. You have of course long since heard of the death of poor [?]. He has been dead now two years. He left me with 8 children quite unprovided for, and but for our having kind friends I don’t know what we should have done. I came here to my brothers who kindly told me to come and they would help me. Well here we are. Certainly I get a little from them but it is not much. I also get a small allowance from the society to which my dear husband belonged and my son is [?] in the Court for which he gets a salary of one hundred which is very good for a young lad of his age. Still I have a struggle to make ends meet. I want to give my children a good education but I find that I can’t possibly do it without help. I thought perhaps my dear Sir that you would kindly think of me and send me a little help. If it is only a little I shall feel thankful. I would not have ventured to write to you but I know that you had a great respect for my dear husband and that for his sake you would perhaps help me. I hope you will excuse me for thus writing to you. I am glad to say that we are all well. I like Wanganui very well and would like it much better if there was no war. I hope that it will soon come to an end. I wish that we could have some good success as there has been on the east coast. Will you kindly write me an answer as soon as you receive this. Please to keep this private. I should not like any body to know that I written to you for help: hoping you will pardon my boldness and with kind regards.

I remain dear Sir

yours most respectfully

C Riemenschneider

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library, Sir Donald McLean Papers
Reference: MS-Papers-0032-0537-14 January 2869

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Ian Pool and Rosemary Du Plessis, 'Families: a history - Colonial families: 1840–1879', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 April 2024)

Story by Ian Pool and Rosemary Du Plessis, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jul 2017