UNDER CONSTRUCTION, I am not totally finished yet.
A medium-sized town on the border to Lesotho, its geo-position: 28.8713°S, 27.8759°E and 1601m altitude
The town was born out of the Basuto war, that was the 2nd Basuto war, 1865 - 66. That war was concluded by shifting the border of Basutoland further east, from the previous Warden line over to the Caledon river. for the Free State it was important to quickly settle the newly acquired areas. The three towns proposed were Ficksburg, Ladybrand and Wepener. In the case of Ficksburg the volksraad (parliament) decided that the town should be laid out into stands of 300 by 150 feet. This decision was on 13 June 1867, which is now celebrated as the beginning of Ficksburg.
The name comes from kommandant-general JOJ Ficks, who had played a major role in the war against the Basutos. Because this was a frontier country and the threat from the Basuto remained it was a requirement for the plot owners to have in their possession a rifle, 200 bullets, 5 pound of powder and emergency rations for 10 days.
The congregation already existed in 1869, it is not very clear when it was formally established. A year quoted in the document lodged behind the corner stone says that 1872 was the year they ceded. A small church was build in 1872 and already in 1873 it was decided to enlarge this church to a size of 25 by 25 feet.
Before the Anglo Boer war of 1899 to 1902 there were moves to build s new church building. Those plans were interrupted by the war until JD Kestel picked it up again when he was appointed minister of the congregation in 1903. The church was designed by the architect Walter Donaldson in a roman style. Special care was taken with the foundation to be sure the building would not crack. Digging down to as much as 13 feet (4m) to hit bed rock. The corner stone was placed on 27 May 1905 and after a construction period of 2 years and 5 months was inaugurated on 14 April 1907. The building cost was &point;15065, including the benches. And the organ was purchased for £860.
Anglican church Ficksburg
This small church was constructed in 1891, the primary building material was mud bricks. That is bricks formed from mud, I suppose with a high clay content, and dried in the sun. Obviously a durable material, the church is still standing.
The main attraction of the church are the stained glass windows, they are different from the normal stained glass windows. The more complete background to how and why and when of the stained glass windows is found in this IOL website.
Originally when the church was built the windows were clear glass. But because this cause a glare in the church attempts were made to correct this. Nothing was very successful and lasting. In the 1960th Helen Tennant, who later became Mrs.Dickson, painted a design onto the clear glass. But the sun soon faded the colour. Helen Dickson offered to redo the work but this time using pieces of coloured glass which was glued onto the window as small pieces. Coloured glass was obtained from various places, even from Italy.
Her design was mainly around the flora of the area, showing many of the indigenous flowers. There are 10 windows with this type of design, the picture only shows a sample of two.
In the centre square are a number of those 'nice' sand stone building. Starting with the townhall constructed in 1897. The hall itself, looks like, is still being used for occasional meetings. At the west side of the hall is a monument; it is to Kommandant JIJ Fick, who is seen as the founder of the town.
The text on the plaque reads as follows (semicolons indicate line break): Ter ere van; Kommantant-Generaal J.I.J.Fick; 1816 - 1892; held van die; Basoetoeoorlog 1865 - 1868; en stigter van die dorp; Ficksburg.; Opgerig deur; 'n dankbare. Publiek; in die Voortrekker Jaar; 1938.
Translated: to the honour of; Kommantant-Generaal J.I.J.Fick; 1816 - 1892; hero of the Basoto war 1865 - 1868; and founder of the town; Ficksburg; erected by the appreciating public; in the year of the Voortrekkers; 1938.
After the monument was inaugurated, there was a request from the family of kommandant Fick to move his remains and that of his wife to be placed at the foot of the monument. That was done in 1939 as stated on a stone placed at the bottom of the monument.
The next building down used to be the magistrate, built 1892. It is now the radio station, Setsoto FM, broadcasting into the local area in Sesotho and English.
And the last one in the row is the present magistrate and court, it was erected in 1907, also using the sandstone of the area.
There is an art gallery in Ficksburg, a art gallery featuring only South African painters. The gallery is at the Ficksburg primary school, it used to be the Ficksburg High School.
When the school hall was built in 1922 Hendrik Pierneef was invited to paint murals on the walls. That was at the request from the head master at the time, SH Pellisier. Pierneef came from Pretoria by train, stayed with the head master for a period of a month whilst painting the murals. His honorarium was £75 including expenses.
Bushman paintings are the theme of the murals. This was because of SH Pellisier's interest (and that of the head of public works, RJ van Reenen) in the subject. And the artist did not just paint whatever came into his head, it has been shown that 5 of the 8 panels were based on tracings made by George W Shaw, who from 1867 to 1880 recorded many of the actual bushman paintings.
And all the paintings on the walls? This was explained to us are paintings of South African artists collected by the school over the years. The way it was done, a art gallery from Johannesburg would send out a number of paintings once a year and the class of matric would make a selection. Looking at the list, the collection started 1927 with a Pierneef picture. And carried on from there with a few gaps until 1992. Every year a new painting and that uninterrupted even during the war years of 39 to 45.
The trains are still running, so it seems. We didn't see any but the rails are shiny. Looking at the history of the rail it came in increments. The first rail coming out of Bloemfontein was to Sannashof, interestingly that was build whilst the Anglo Boer war was still raging, opening was on the 1 May 1902. The next piece to Thaba'Nchu was 1903, to Modderpoort 1904, and the continuation from there to Ficksburg and further to Bethlehem was in 1907.
The station building is still there, but all sealed off by having doors and windows bricked up, I presume to stop squatters from taking over the buildings.
First we went to the 'wrong' cemetery, the one I had found on Google Earth, just outside town. The interesting 'discovery' there was the Jewish graves. It is a complete grave yard moved from an other location. I am not sure why it had to be moved. According to the information displayed it was done with the full cooperation of the parties involved. And notice, as I have seen at many other places the gravestones have been laid flat to reduce the impact of vandalism.
The old cemetery is in town. It has a section of British war graves from the Anglo Boer war, 1899-1902. One specific stone that drew my attention was to the fallen soldiers of the battle at Moolman spruit on the 20 April 1902. The date is what makes it interesting, very late in the war, peace negotiations had started and Generaal CR de Wet was moving unhindered around the Free State to gather opinions from the fighting Boers on how they feel about the continuation of the war. Both sides had agreed to only undertake defensive action. I make it easy on myself and just quote straight from Ref 4: On the night of April 19th a body of 200 Imperial Yeomanry and mounted infantry which had been sent to escort a convoy to Brindisi, instead of returning at once with the empty wagons, rashly undertook an expedition against a laager reported on the Moolmans Spruit. The party was promptly ambushed and severely handled, losing two officers and four men killed, three officers and twelve men wounded, and twenty-eight men taken prisoners.
Another grave is that of GB Mousley, on the grave stone it says: who was shot in cold blood near Ficksburg Nov 17th 1900, aged 37 years. And the bible verse underneath "Vengeance is mine. I will repay saith the Lord." Rom 12_19. There is a story here, I just haven't found the details yet, give me time. It has something to do with the Anglo Boer war.
Ref 1: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited, 1974
Ref 2: P.H.van Rhijn & A.H.Klopper, Die Geskiedenis van Ficksburg 1867-1967
Ref 3.: "Ons Kerk Album van Hollandsche Kerken en Leeraren", publisher: unknown, printed in the 1920's
Ref 4.: Captain MH Grant, "History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902" Vol IV, Hurst and Blackett Ltd, London, 1910