BETHULIE ON FOOT

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1        Van Riebeeck Memorial   This plaque commemorates the tercentennial anniversary of Jan van Riebeeck’s landing at the Cape of Good Hope 

2        Horse Monument A tribute to the role the horse played in South Africa’s history. The horse faces south, from which western civilisation arrived. Sculpted by Laura Rautenbach, this statue was unveiled on April 23rd 1982. The stone forming the base of the statue was mined in the vicinity of the Hennie Steyn Bridge.   

3        Pellissier Secondary School  The school was built in 1921.By 1936 the number of pupils had grown to 150.

4        Pellissier Primary School  The school was opened in 1904 by Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams. The first headmaster, A Mr J Baikie, hailed from Scotland.                                                                    

5       Old Railway Station  The railroad linking East London to Bethulie was constructed in 1892. As a result the passenger terminal and several of the other buildings were commissioned later in 1894. It was here that women and children held captive during the Anglo-Boer war were made to disembark and to journey on foot to the concentration camp some 2 miles away. The first child to perish in Bethulie as a consequence of the concentration camp policy died in the corrugated iron building at this station.  The old station was closed in 1970 with the rerouting of the railroad and the construction of a new station east of Bethulie. 

6       Reformed Church: 3rd Building  The church, designed by the architect Gerhard Moerdijk, was inaugurated in 1982. The original building included a tower which was subsequently demolished in 1985 due to construction failure. 

7         Dutch Reformed Church in Africa  This church was inaugurated in on 27 April 1930. The address was delivered by reverent G Pellissier, a grandchild of the missionary. The pulpit and other material from the original mission church were used in this building. 

8         Anglican Manse  Built in 1916 this building currently forms part of “Huis Uitkoms”, the old age home.  

 9          Hearse Garage  The garage situate at 40 Collin St was built in 1907 when the town acquired its first hearse. Prior to that caskets were physically carried up the hill to the cemetery. 

10        Local Cemetery  The graves of many British soldiers will be found here as well as those of doctors serving the concentration camp. A monument to the Free State citizens who fell during the Anglo-Boer War and their individual graves are located here.  The Reverend Pellissier’s only son, Samuel, having died in his adult years, was interred here in 1921. 

11        2nd Reformed Church (currently Methodist Church)  The church built in 1877 was also used as a school for children from the concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer War. 

12        Watch Maker Premises  This house was originally built with a flat roof. The roof covering the veranda together with the wooden carved arches are remnants of the original building. 

13        The Post Office  The current building housing the Post Office was erected in 1928 on the same site as that of the original. 

14        St Peters Church  The first church inaugurated in 1928 was North facing. A new building facing West was erected in 1940 on the same site as the first. A brass cross, dated 1602, emanating from St Mark’s Church in Florence (Italy) was donated to Ds Glover and is housed here. 

15        Protea Store: was Gebr de Bruyn  Trading from these premises dates back to 1903 when the brothers de Bruyn traded as a general dealer. 

16       Cenotaph  The cenotaph was erected in memory of those from Bethulie and surrounding district who gave their lives for their country during World Wars 1 and 11. The unveiling took place on March 14 1945. The MOTHS had until recently held a Remembrance Day Ceremony at eleven o’clock on the 11th of the 11th month not only to remember those who fell in the World Wars but also to honour  those who perished during the wars in Korea, Vietnam and on our borders. 

17       1st Dutch Reformed Church, 1864  The building currently serving as the church hall was inaugurated as the church in 1864. This is the 2nd oldest building in Bethulie and has been declared a national monument. During the Anglo –Boer War the building was used to house British troops. In later years the building also served as a school and as town hall. 

18        Dutch Reformed Church, 1887  The church was inaugurated in 1887 and declared a national monument in 1987. The original steeple was built from brick but as a consequence of construction failure was replaced in 1906 with a lesser steeple constructed with zinc. The zinc was replaced with sheet iron in 1985.

19       Site of Orphanage  Many children were orphaned after the war which prompted the Dutch Reformed Church to build an orphanage on the church grounds. Some of the blue gum trees seen today in this vicinity were planted by orphans. The orphans were later relocated to an orphanage at Ladybrand.  

20       Masonic Lodge  The lodge was established in 1896 and is known as the Allan B Gordon Lodge. The building was erected in 1914. 

21      Police Station  Built in 1907. 

22      The Old Power Station  The station was built in 1937 and supplied Bethulie with electricity until 1964 when electrical power was supplied from Bloemfontein. 

23      Lephoi Memorial  A plaque is situated on the site where Lephoi’s great hut stood in 1833. Immediately south of this hut he built a large brick house in 1863. Remnants of the wall of this house were accidentally destroyed in 2004. 

24      Oudefontein Voortrekker Monument  Festivals celebrating the Day of The Vow were held at Oudefontein during the period 1916-1965. In 1938 to commemorate the symbolic ox wagon trek a cairn was built. The wheel on site was made by HJJ Myburgh who also made the ox wagon replica. A bronze plaque in memory of two rebels, Ben Kruger and Harm Coetzer who both drowned, was also on site. The site was taken over by the Dept. of Water Affairs in 1966 with the building of the Gariep dam and the monument was transferred to Bethulie in 1971. 

25      Ox Wagon Monument  The monument was erected to coincide with the symbolic ox wagon trek of 1938.The Louis Trichardt wagon arrived in Bethulie on October 13 1938. A cairn built to commemorate the event forms the base of the monument. The statue encompassing a wagon and oxen was made from smelted spent cartridge cases by HJJ Myburgh who unveiled the statue in 1940. The oxen were stolen in 2005 while the wagon remains, in the care of the local museum.  

26       Pellissier House  The house was built for the Reverend Jean Pierre Pellissier, a missionary working in Bethulie during the period 1833-1867. It was erected by a French missionary, C Gosselin who had previously lived in Basutoland (Lesotho). The wood work was fashioned from willow originating from the banks of the Orange River, whilst the pitched roof was covered with reeds. The original house had 7 rooms with the front door facing East. The flat roofed area was added on in stages between 1852 -1856.  The garden boasts exotic fruit trees-fig, pomegranate and mulberry, planted by Pellisier who also constructed the water reservoir.  The private cemetery holds the remains of the Reverend JP Pellissier, his wife, his father, 4 of his children and some grandchildren. 3 daughters died whilst still babies from Diphtheria and a seven year old son from Typhoid. His 6th child, Clementine, died aged 14 in the Cape and a headstone in memory of her stands here. The only son, Samuel H, to reach adulthood was buried in the local cemetery when he died in 1921.  The Reverend Pellissier’s first church was situated on the corner of Voortrekker and Beyer streets. The second church, built in 1873, was next to the current Roman Catholic Church  residence (no 30).  The Holm family became the new owners of the house until 1952 when ownership returned to the Pellisier family. Dr SH Pellisier donated the house to the Centenary museum committee to turn it into a museum. In 1977 it was taken over by the PAO to become the first museum in the Free State. It was refurbished in 1979. 

27     Nursing Home  The Good Samaritan Hospice, current tenants of 2 Pellissier St, was the site of Dr. Mynhardt’s nursing home. 

28     1st Reformed Church  Built in 1863 on the corner of Boshoff and Pellissier streets; demolished.   

29     Mynhardt Residence  This is where Patrick Mynhardt, actor and author of “Boy from Bethulie,” grew up. He lived here until the age of 14. 

30     Roman Catholic Church Residence  The house was purchased from a Mr. Gunn in 1937. A chapel was built inside the house. After World War 11 German priests were sent here from the internment camps to be placed under house arrest. 

31     Batlhapin and the Burial Ground   Having come under attack from Mzilikazi, the Batlhapin, a tribe of the Bechuana, fled from the Zeerust area, first seeking refuge with Adam Kok in Philippolis, but largely due to the size of their grazing herds they were not made welcome. They thus proceeded on their flight to a region then known as Boesmanskloof, arriving on October 14 1833. Their leader of this group of some 1800 people was one Lephoi. Pellisier worked as a missionary among them.   In 1837 the tribe was attacked by the Tamboekies, killing ten herdsmen and stealing large numbers of animals.  Dissatisfaction mounted when Lephoi began selling land from the mission station to white stock farmers. Henning Joubert, IPL Kruger, JJ Sauer and JF Klopper formed a syndicate to buy out the Bathlapins in 1860 and the town was established in 1863.  Uncertainty abounds regarding the identity of the graves in the burial ground. Possibilities include the following:  That of the original Batlhapins.  That of residents of the black township prior to 1892 when the township was moved to its present locale. The inhabitants of the township did not comprise only Batlhapins. 

32    Train Bridge  The building of the Gariep dam necessitated the destruction of the old bridge crossing the Orange River and diverting the railroad to cross via the Hennie Steyn Bridge. A new station east of Bethulie was built together with a bridge spanning the poort alongside the local dam. The train bridge was completed in 1970. 

33    Local Dam  The first cement wall some 5 metres high erected in the poort in 1892 was unsuccessful. It was rebuilt to completion in 1921. 

34    Remnants of Rice –Fort Site  During the Anglo-Boer War siege of Bethulie a Rice-fort, and cannon, was positioned on a hill to the northwest of the town. Remnants of the site may still be seen today. Two other forts were also positioned round the town. 

35    Stock Camps built by Migrant Farmers  Migrant farmers occupied the environs during the period1809-1832 as evidenced by Colonel Collins during a visit to the district in 1809. 

36    Concentration Camp Site with Helpmekaar Monument  Lord Kitchener was responsible for policy regarding concentration camps. The Bethulie camp was established in 1901and was relocated 3 times: 

·    1st was alongside the reservoir bearing paintings of horses. The camp under supervision of Russell Deare was known as “Rooibultkamp” and started with 180 people. On May 1 1901 there were 44 males. All cats and dogs were destroyed. Amongst the first casualties were a van der Walt and wife who had both survived the Great Trek.

·    7TH June 1901 saw the camp relocated across the way from where Joubert St east runs currently. Conditions here        were wet and muddy and the camp was known as both “Moerasvlakte” (swamplands) and “Moordkamp” (Murder camp).

·    The last location on recommendation by Cole Bowen was sited south east towards the Orange River. 

Between 4800-5000 people were interned in this 3rd camp, the largest site. During the thirteen month existence of this camp a total of 1714 people (women and children) perished. This equates to an average of 9 deaths every two days or 63 deaths every two weeks. A daughter of the Kruger family was the first to be buried here. The remains of 18 prisoners who were buried at the first camp site were reburied here Conditions in the last camp were crowded with as many as 18 people sharing a bell tent.  A camp secured with wire fencing served to mete out punishment whilst Russell Deare in particular went out of his way to make life unbearable for those interned here. Deare whose company included Percival, de Villiers and Devleter was replaced by Cole-Bowen.  A well providing water to the camp had until fairly recently been supplying water to the station. The camp did not have a direct water supply other than flood water from a small stream nearby. The only laundry facility was a “washing hole” filled by muddy floodwater and guarded by a “joiner.”  In 1902, 5 shops were opened in the camp. When the camp became too crowded some prisoners were relocated to Kabusie (East London) and others to Uitenhage camp.  After the war a stone monument was erected under the direction of Ds Becker. This was subsequently relocated to the site housing the current concentration camp memorial. Three monuments were erected in the camp and cemetery: 

·          The “mother and child” statues, also known as the “statues of angels,” “the women’s monument,” or the “Helpmekaar” monument.” On September 4 1915 an action group was formed to acquire funding for the maintenance of the graves and for a monument by women volunteers (Vroue Helpmekaar). A similar group comprising men amalgamated with the women in 1920. Their efforts culminated in the erection in 1923 of two sculpted angels (signifying mother and child) mounted on a base of blue granite. The monument was unveiled on March 22 1924. “Mother and child” were separated when the monument was relocated to the new memorial site.

·          The English Monument: funded by the Imperial government, a cubic structure was built on the south side of the cemetery in 1919, to serve as a tribute to those who died. It was design by Reenen J van Reenen, but was never completed. It is also known as the Structure Monument.

·          An obelisk was constructed with granite facings on opposite sides by one van Tonder. A poem by Totius was inscribed on one of the facings. The obelisk was unveiled at a ceremony presided over by dr. DF Malherbe in 1953. Both facings bearing inscriptions were later relocated to the new memorial site but the obelisk still remains on its original site. 

      The Helpmekaar association provided uniform cement slabs for all the graves and enclosed the cemetery. The rocks removed from the graves were piled on top of each other forming the mound that still exists at the site today. In June 1962 the Dept. of Water Affairs advised the cemetery committee that the cemetery was to be relocated at the expense of the State but any available monies in the committees coffers was to be distributed to the Council of War Graves for upkeep of the graves.    

37   Hand pump for  water This hand pump in front of the public library is an example of pumps which was used by households. It was donated by mr Pieter Coetzee in 1976 to symbolise the dominating role which water played in the history of Bethulie. 

 38     Hennie Steyn Bridge  The construction of the Gariep Dam necessitated diverting the railroad to cross the Orange River south east of the town. The previous bridge serving both road and rail was demolished and in its place was built the Hennie Steyn Bridge, some 1121 metres long. It is said to be the longest road and rail bridge in Africa using 120000 cubic metres of concrete and 6100 tons of steel reinforcing in its construction. It was opened in March 1972. 

39     Water Reservoir serving English Horses  The reservoir on which two white mules are painted was built during the Anglo-Boer War by the English Wiltshire Regiment to water their horses. The area also served as a depot for the supply of horses. 

40      Memorial Cemetery  The construction of the Gariep Dam necessitated the relocation of the concentration camp cemetery as it was calculated that when the dam was at its highest the cemetery would be under water. The remains of the 1714 dead were reburied in a mass grave after each ones remains had been separately stored in a uniform white casket. The headstones of each grave were placed on a wall of remembrance. The mother and child statues together with the plaques from the obelisk were also relocated. The memorial was inaugurated by the Hon CJ Swart in 1966. 

41    Venter Farm  JJ (Koos) Venter, 3 times acting president of the Orange Free State and Member of Parliament during the 80’s settled on the farm “Broekpoort.” His remains lie buried at Elim, a portion of Broekpoort. Remnants of his residence are still seen today on the farm.  He was involved in the establishment of the first Reformed Church in the Orange Free State at Reddersburg and was also one of the founders of the Bethulie Reformed Church. 

42     “Tussen die Riviere” Game Park  The park covers some 22 000 hectare and is sited at the confluence of the Caledon and Orange rivers. It was originally intended to serve purely as a “hunting reserve” but has developed into a nature reserve boasting luxury accommodation. 

43     Gariep Dam  Gariep is derived from the San meaning “red water”. The decision to site the dam wall near Norvals Pont was a disappointment for Bethulie as it was hoped that it would be close to Bethulie. A delegation met the Minister to discuss the impact of this decision as it meant that Bethulie District would lose some 60% of its land area and it would also necessitate the construction of new road and rail links.  The dam measures 360 square kilometres and has a shoreline of 435 km. The Oviston project feeds water via a tunnel some 80 km long to the Fish River. Construction was completed in 1972 and the official opening took place on March 4 1972. The name change from Verwoerd to Gariep took effect on April 1 1995. 

44     Louw Wepener Monument  Kommandant Wepener will be remembered for his bravery in battle. The South African Defence Force honoured him by way of the “Louw Wepener Award” for bravery for its members.  Wepener fought in the 6th and 7th eastern border wars and in defiance of the British, supported the Freestaters in their skirmishes with the Basothos. He would have settled in the Free State had it not been under British control. Instead he settled in De Nek, between Aliwal and Jamestown. A monument in his honour was also erected here. In 1862 he bought the farm “Constantia” situated near Bethulie.  He was killed in action at Thaba Bosiu (2nd Basotho war) and was buried there together with Adam Raubenheimer.  Moshoeshoe’s son, George, showed Wepener’s son, Dick, the location of his father’s grave. In 1866 Wepener’s remains were brought to the family cemetery but the graves were unmarked. In 1938 they were reburied at the site of the present monument designed by Coert Steynberg. The town Wepener is named after him whilst FW Reitz wrote a poem about him.  

Compiled by:  Trudie Venter ©