The town's main claim to fame is that a steam train used to ride down the main street. Unfortunately no more, since the rail closed down in 1999. A reminder is the locomotive mounted in the town centre. The locomotive on display comes from the North British Locomotive company and was build in 1903.
Fauresmith is a little town in the south of the Free State, about 130 km south-west of Bloemfontein, Geo-position: 29.7486°S, 25.317°E and 1367m a.m.s.l.
This is where it began, under this tree. The plaque mounted near the tree explains it, it reads: Under this tree Rev. Philip Faure and Rev. William Robertson, representatives of the Cape synodical commission, served the first holy communion in the Riet River Dutch Reformed congregation to 32 members on 9 November 1848.
In this website the events leading to the establishment of a town are described somewhat differently. It was Ds.WA Krige from the Victoria West congregation who came over the 'Groot Rivier' (referring to the Orange river} in 1846 to help the emigrants with religious matters. He was responsible for appointing some church elders and for collecting £700 for a church building fund. A commission got together on the 11 March 1848 at Groenkloof (I think that is at the future Fauresmith) to formally establish a congregation on the Rietriver. The first task for the church council was to find a place to build a church.
The council immediately started on a temporary church and they acquired the land, that is the farm Sannah's Poort, from Mr WD Jacobs for £1050. The position of the church was about where the locomotive is standing now, in those days it was called market square. They also went and laid out a town and started selling stands, that was 1849/1850.
Initially a town administered by the church, the first town councilors were elected in 1854 when the Orange Free State got its independence back from Britain. It officially became a municipality in 1859.
Emil Holub was here in 1872 on his way to the diamond fields, he writes in Ref 3: The town Fauresmith has the same character as all the towns in the Free State. It only consists of about 80 houses, occupying a remarkably large area. The clean white-washed houses with flat roofs surrounded by green gardens make a positive impression. Fauresmith is the seat of a magistrate and is in general one of the most important towns in the Orange Free State.
Where did the name come from? It is a combination of Faure, the moderator of the NG church who played a pivotal role in the founding of the town and Sir Harry Smith, the governor of the Cape at the time.
The buildings, that is what makes Fauresmith such an attractive place. Space doesn't allow me to show all of them, a small sample will have to do. I call the above picture, the oldest house, but I am not sure. It is in the main-street and it is marked to have been built in 1875.
In 1856 the congregation felt strong enough to build a permanent church. That is the church in the picture, but without the tower, the tower only came in 1875. And it was not build in the center, but two roads up. This stately building was replaced by a more modern church in 1962, see picture on the right.
The first minister was AA Louw who took up the position in 1855, he was followed by HJ Luckhoff in 1868. There is a bit of a story around Ds.Luckhoff. He is, by the way, the person that the town Luckhoff is named after. He was a very energetic and also nervous person which made him come into conflict with some of the members of the congregation. And what caused the biggest stirr was when he wrote to the newspaper complaining about the conduct of a fellow minister (Ds van Lingen of Harrismith) who got himself involved in politics. Having this discussion in the newspaper was a disgrace, it should be handled internally, so some of the members of the congregation felt. And since they were unhappy with their minister anyway this was used to start the process of his dismissal.
They negotiated a severance package of £800, that was a large sum for these days and was possibly the retirement funding for the dominee. It was Siewert Rörich who put up the money. He had gotten rich in the diamond boom of Koffiefontein and could afford to pay that sum. And here is his grave, that of Siewert Rörich, it reads, translated: here rests; Siewert Frederik Gerhardus; Rörich; born in Cape Town 12th February 1834; died Fauresmith 15th December 1910.
The source of this story is the wall of the Phoenix restaurant in the main street, they have pictures and newspaper cuttings on display.
The railway line from Springfontein connecting Jagersfontein, Fauresmith and Koffiefontein was built in stages. 1905 to Jagersfontein, 1906 to Fauresmith and 1915 this was extended to Koffiefontein.
The question, of course, arises why did they take the rail through the middle of the town? I don't have a definitive answer. When looking at Google Earth one gets the impression that this was the logical way. The narrow gap through which road and rail had to squeeze between the hills coming into town from Jagersfontein basically 'forced' the rail onto the road.
The rail comes off the main-road just before market street and cuts across to the station. It feels strange to still see a road sign warning of a train crossing knowing that this last happened 20 years ago. None of the station buildings have remained, but the rails are still there.
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited, 1974
Ref 2.: "Ons Kerk Album van Hollandsche Kerken en Leeraren", publisher: unknown, printed in the 1920's
Ref 3.: Emil Holub "Sieben Jahre in Süd-Afrika", subtitle: "Erlebnisse, Forschungen und Jagden auf meinen Reisen von den Diamantenfeldern zum Zambesi (1872-1879)", printed Wien 1881.