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Groenvlei is the name of a farm situated inside the triangle formed by Sasolburg, Heilbron and Koppies. I have used this to describe a number of places of interest in the vicinity of Groenvlei.

German Evangelic Lutheran Church

Groenvlei Lutherkirche 01In the middle of the veld is this unimposing building, very plain, nothing fancy. One could not write much about the archidecture, but it has history. This was the church of the Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische Kirche (German Evangelical Lutherran church) at Groenvlei. It used to serve the German speaking people of the area. The congregation does not exist anymore, their numbers declined so much over the years that in 1989 the congregation had become unsustainable (only 7 members), they joined the German Lutheran congregation of Vanderbijlpark.
Groenvlei Lutherkirche 02It all started with a group of German speaking settlers coming from the Eastern Cape early in the 20th century, just after the Boer war. The members of this group had their origin in the Crimean War veterans from the British German legion who came to the Cape in 1857. Well, actually its not that straight forward. A more detailed history of German immigration to the Eastern Cape following the Crimean war is found here. It's a story of bureaucratic bungling and colonial mismanagement, I found it a very interesting read.
The grave yard near the church tells some of the story. The oldest of the group was Friedrich Krause. The grave stone states he was born on the 18-06-1845 in Altklücken; Neumark (Deutschland) and died 27-11-1923 in Krugersdorp. His birth place, Altklücken, is a town is Pommeria which is now Poland. Looking at his birth-date he would have been 11 when the Crimean War ended and thus could not have been one of those soldiers. To make sense of all that a quick run down of the history of German immigration to the Eastern Cape, in the box.

During the Crimean war the British needed more soldiers which they could not source at home and went on a recruiting drive in Germany, mostly Prussia. The British German legion was established. The end of the war came quicker than anticipated and the legion had not been deployed to the battlefields yet. The British government now had a problem, what to do with an army that has been trained but is of no use anymore. They could not just send them home, because they had a contract and back in Prussia they would not have been received very well because they had sworn allegiance to a foreign power. So what to do? The solution was to send them down to the Cape colony to do service as settler soldiers at the eastern border to help stabilise the situation there. A last minute improvement to the scheme was to send them down with wives, because that would make for a more stable settlement. Some Irish girls were recruited, but not enough, on shipping day there were 361 females to 2362 men.
Thus the balance was still very much to-wards males, an unhealthy situation. A call was made for more immigration from Germany, peasant families with lots of teen age daughters to be given priority. This second wave of immigration from Germany was on going until about 1880.

Groenvlei Lutherkirche insideAnd his wife (I presume) was Luise Krause nee Faulmann, born 14-8-1849 in Rossow near Parsewalk (Deutschland), died 21-10-1923 at Groenvlei. Her birthplace was also in Prussia, an area known as Vorpommern in the north near Stettin. This one is still in Germany. From the records, she arrived in South Africa on board of the 'San Francisco'in 1861 when she was 12.
The first church service was held by Wilhelm Krause (1872-1949) in 1913. This could have been a son of Friedrich, but not necessarily. There are a number of Krauses on the shipping lists that came to shore in the 1850th and 60th. Friedrich was a relative late comer to the area, in ref 1 it is stated he only arived here in 1916. He initially hired the farm Vlakkuil, next to Groenvlei. The congregation was officially formed in 1918, the land to build a church was donated by Friedrich Krause. It has since been known as Krause's gift, a 6 morgen piece of land. The church was inaugurated in 1921.
Groenvlei cemeteryThe congregation was never strong enough to maintain a full-time pastor. They were served from Bloemfontein, the first one was Pastor Tielkin. He would arrive for the monthly service on a Saturday morning by train from Bloemfontein and leave again on Monday morning, sleeping over at one of the congreants. Also after him the church was served by pastors from Bloemfontein, later in the 1930th it changed to Johannesburg and finaly from 1960 the minister from the Vanderbijlpark Lutheran church attended to them.
The church itself is not a very fancy building, very straight forward and strictly uteliterean. Just the way Martin Luther would have wanted it, he believed that the churches must be plain and not contain any pictures.

Staging post

Groenvlei staging postThat is a staging post for the horse drawn coaches that ran between Heilbron and Parys. This place is roughly in the middle between Parys and Heilbron and as I understand it was used to exchange horses. One of the features is the silo, which was used to hold the horse food.


Groenvlei SkaapplaasInteresting entrance to the farm, initially I thought these are real sheep and thinking 'what are they doing on that heap?'. They are sculptures, and from far they look real. Skaaplaas was at one time part of Vereeniging estate, a Sammy Marks company. He had his finger in many pies, here he tried farming with sheep. Groenvlei Skaapplaas corner stoneSee my comments about him on my website about the Sammy Marks museum. Skaapplaas was actually only a small part of the farmland belonging to Vereeniging Estate. Sammy Marks had acquired land on both sides of the Vaal river at and near Vereeniging, north and south. I presume that was originally to secure mineral rights for coal. But this would be something in the future, in the mean time followowing his philosophy that money must make money he developed these farms into successfull businesses. Here at Schaapplaas it was sheep and horses. Groenvlei Skaapplaas schoolDemarcation stones, like the one shown in the picture, can still be found all over the area. The stone has a clear VE engraved, meaning Vereeniging Estate
On this part of the farm is a very old building, made from corrugated iron. This was a school, dating back to the late 19th century. It is not in use now, but had seen duty as Primary School until the early 90th of the last century, as judged by the print dates of the books left behind. The school most likely dates back to the time when there was a move to establish small schools in the rural areas, usually just a single or at the most two class rooms. This one was a single room. It wasn't just corrugated iron, the inside, as well as the ceiling, are gladded with wood, to keep out the most severe heat or cold. Groenvlei Skaapplaas 02Groenvlei Skaapplaas buildingNote the picture on the left, it shows the shearing shed on the farm, note the span of oxen to transport the wool. On the right is the same shed as it looks like now, just taken from a different angle. I presume the sand stone used to build the shed came from the Meulsteenpan, see below.


Groenvlei sandstone quaryThe picture shows Meulsteenpan or in English, Millstone Pan, it's full of water now. It used to be a quarry for sandstone and I presume it got its name from the mill stones extracted there. But it was mainly for building blocks, the Weilbach house was constructed with these stones. And some of the blocks even made it to the Union building in Pretoria.

Ref 1: Balie 25-5-2005, a local newspaper published by Richard Fryde in Deneysville
Ref 2: pamphlet '60 Jahre Deutsche Envangelisch Lutherische Kirche'
Rev 3.: 'The Orange Free State - its pastoral, agricultural and industrial resources', compiled by Somerset Playne, printed by the foreign and colonial, compiling and publishing company, 1912

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