UNDER CONSTRUCTION, this could take a while. I am not finished with it, but feel there is enough meat in it to start putting it on the web. See this as work in progress.
Potchefstroom, or colloquially just called Potch, a large town in the North-West province. It is on the banks of the Mooi River not far from where it enters the Vaal. Geo-position: 26.7147°S, 27.099°E, altitude 1351m. According to Wikipedia it had a population of 43000 in 2007.
The town is competing with Klerksdorp to be the oldest white settlement to the north of the Vaal river. Potchefstroom was first established in November 1838 on the banks of the Mooi River, about 11km to the north of the present town. The Voortrekker leader responsible for it was Hendrik Potgieter. The name of the town was derived from this leader. Heavy flooding occurred making the people reconsider the position and they moved downstream onto more solid ground at its present position in 1841.
It was the first place north of the Vaal that in 1864 was declared a municipality, although it took until 1868 before the first council was elected.
The fort was the scene of the Potchefstroom siege back in 1880/81 during the 1st Boer War. It started on 16 December 1880 when a group of Boers coming from the meeting at Paardekraal where the republic had been re- declared. They came to Potchefstroom to have the declaration printed by the Borelius printing works. This brought them into conflict with the British troops stationed in the town. The places they, the British, occupied was the magistrate and the telegraph office and the newly prepared fort just outside town. The position in town could not be held by the British and most of them retreated to the fort. The fort was besieged for 95 days, during that siege there were 213 British officers and men in the enclosure. There were also some civilians in the fort, those were British subjects who had been living in Potchefstroom.
The siege was ended on the 21 March 1881, with the garison marching out of the fort and making their way to the Free State.
The graveyard at the site of the hostilities contains the remains of the British troops and some civilians who lost their lives. Altogether there were 25 killed in action and 6 died from sickness on the British side. Casualties on the side of the Boers is not known. There is also a plaque in the Anglican Church commemorating the officers and soldiers who died during the siege.
Nothing of the original fort remains. The earth wall at the site indicates where the fort had been, it was put up at a later date.
The prison was built just before the outbreak of the Boer war in 1899. I am not sure for how long it was used as a prison, it later became the headquarters of the commando.
When we first visited the place in 2011 people were living there, all the cells had been occupied. It seems to be organised, but by whom I don't know. During a later visit we were unable to enter at all, it was all locked and guarded.
The first powder house, a place where gun powder is stored, was build between 1854 and 1857. It suffered severe damage when the British forces partially demolished it in 1880 to use the stones for the fort they were building nearby(see above about the old fort).
It was later completely demolished and a new building erected in 1898. It is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Potchefstroom, but not in use anymore to store gun powder.
This imposing building not only housed the post office and the telegraph station, but also, according to the inscription, the landrost or magistrate.
The railway station building is no more, it burned down on the night of the 14 September 2020. Cause of the fire is unknown.
The railway came to town back in 1897 when the NZASM company installed the rail link between Johannesburg and Kleksdorp, on which Potchefstroom is situated. NZASM stands for Nederlandsche Zuid-Afrikaanse Spoorwegmaatschappij, it was the company that had most of the rail lines installed in the old Zuid Afrikaanse Republik (ZAR). Their main project had been the railway line from Delagoa Bay (Maputo) to Pretoria.
In 1906 a connection was made from Klerksdorp through to Kimberley, it thus put Potchefstroom on the line to Cape Town. This justified a new station building. The foundation stone states that it was placed on the 1 May 1918.
And now, as stated above it has burned down. The pictures were taken during November 2020.
Just a word on the history of the three Afrikaans or Dutch churches. There is the Nederduitse Gereformierde Kerk (NGK), the Nederduitsch Herformde Kerk (NHK) (both translated to English are the Dutch reformed church) and the Gereformierde Kerk. The NGK had its beginning in the Cape and came to its shores with Jan van Riebeeck. There was a problem with the Boers that went trekking from the Cape. The NGK did not support the emigration and refused to send theologians to assist the trekkers with church matters. On the other hand the trekkers did not really want the help from the Cape because that church had become part of the British administration. They were initially helped by Missionaries such as David Lindley. Potchefstroom particularly sent a request direct to Holland for support. The Gereformierde Kerk came out of the NHK, there were some differences involving the singing of hymns.
The oldest still standing church north of the Vaal River. Building started in 1859 and was completed in 1866.
Before that there was a small church that had been build in 1842 after a collection was held amongst the trekkers. During the 1850's a ring-wall was added with loop-holes to serve as a defense in case of trouble.
The foundation stone was laid by MW Pretorius, the president of the ZAR at the time, and Dirk van der Hoff, the minister of the congregation then. There is no information about the architect or the builder. Inauguration was on 24 February 1866. A number of alterations were made over time, the roof was replaced by a corrugated iron roof, the church got a spire and on the inside some galleries were added. A inscription states that the church was renewed in 1893, this may have referred to the alterations and improvements. A pipe organ was purchased, transported from London and installed 1890.
The Oude Dorp (the old town) was situated about 7 miles north along the Moiriver. Apparently nothing is left of the place, anything left standing was demolished after the place was vacated. Nearby is a old farmhouse dating from those days (se picture).
In the literature it is metioned that there is an old grave yard. I have to visit the area again and explore a bit.
I am not planning to have a complete list here, only those that I find interesting and worthwhile mentioning.
As I read and listen to people I come across some events that I find of interest.
That was October 1862, an exchange of cannon fire between two opposing Boer forces, the one under the chief commandant Schoeman and the other one under Paul Kruger. The background to this was the confusion caused by president M.Pretorius's leave of absence to be the president of the Freestate in order to achieve unity between the two republics. There wasn't much enthusiasm in the ZAR (Zuid Afrikaanse Republik, basically the Transvaal) and also neither in the Free State. The confusion in the ZAR led to two opposing groups forming, actually its much more complicated than that, best is to read it up in Ref 2.
Schoeman was moving towards Potchefstroom with 350 men and one canon. Paul Kruger was in pursuit and had 850 men under arms (in Ref 3, it mentions 1800) and three canons.
Schoemen had taken position in town around Kerk- and Spruit street, Kruger initially placed himself around what is now Cachet park. Realising that he could become encircled by Schoeman's men he moved over to a small hill which is still called Vegkoppies and the street at it Vegkoppies street. From there he could much better observe what was going on around him.
There were a few skirmishes which did not result in any decision. But over night Schoeman and his men made for the Free State. The result of all this was one killed, 8 wounded and the loss of a canon on Schoeman's side and 2 men wounded on Krugers side.
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited, 1974
Ref 2.: TV Bulpin, Lost Trails of the Transvaal, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1965
Ref 3.: Herald, Potchefstroom en Ventersburg, 1838-1988 Potchefstroom, commemorative issue,
Ref 4.: Dr.Lennie Gouws, Stories van/of Potchefstroom, 2018