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Senekal

A medium sized town. according to Wikipedia, it had 26000 inhabitants in 2011. It's geo-position: 28.3225°S, 27.6219°E and 1428m

History

Senekal 1884The first attempt to establish a town in the area was already made in 1862, but it took until 1873 before this became reality. The town was surveyed and laid out on the farm 'De Put' in 1873, the first 30 stands sold in May 1875, which brought in £2300. During the auction it was decided that the town should be named 'Senekal', after commandant Senekal who was from this area and died during the 2nd Basotu war in 1866. The picture above shows a view of the town in 1884, indicating that it grew fairly fast to reach this size in only 10 years. An interesting observation in connection with this picture is the hill behind the village. In this picture it is bare of any vegetation more than grass. Nowadays this hill is covered with bushes. A phenomenon which I have observed at many places on the highveld. I am not sure what the reason could be.
When the settlement was first established it was administered by a village management board. But in 1892 that changed to a town council when it was declared a municipality.

Churches

NG Church

Senekal old NG churchSenekal NG churchThere are actually three NG churches in Senekal, the one I am referring to here is the beauty-full sandstone church in the middle of town. The other two are newer buildings and thus not of the same interest to me.
The congregation of the NG church was formed on the 3-July-1879. To be noted is that at that time there already was a church building, it was built 1875/6, see picture on the left.
Senekal NG church insideBeing a new congregation they had to find a preacher. In the reformed churches this is done by calling somebody from another congregation. In this case the call went out seven times before there was an acceptance. And that was from R.H.van de Wall who was preaching in Simonstown (near Cape Town)The offer made to him was £500 per annum plus reimbursement of his travel costs. He was actually not new to the area, two years before he was the preacher at Ficksburg, and interesting there he only earned £100. His term started on the 19-August-1882 and lasted until 1896 when he resigned. Reading in ref 2, the congregation had some problems with his service and that there was disunity in his marriage.
Senekal NG church organInteresting to read how he and his family had to travel from Simonstown to Senekal. It was not a question of just climbing onto a train. The family took a boat from Simonstown (or Cape Town) to Durban, then a train ride on the newly constructed line to Pietermaritzburg. Here they were collected by an elder from the church to take them to Senekal. I presume that was by horse drawn carriage, it would have taken a number of days to make their way upland to Senekal.
With time the church became to small and a bigger one had to be constructed, the aim was to seat 800. The ground for this was donated by the municipality and the design done by the architect brothers, JH & AE Till. This was one of their earlier jobs, later they were responsible for the design of the NG church in Winburg, the town hall in Kroonstad and the Presbyterian-, Methodist- and Anglican churches in Kroonstad, amongst many other buildings in the Free State and the Transvaal.
Senekal NG church clock worksOf interest in the church is the organ, installed in 1911 and in the tower the clock. Unfortunately there is no name plate visible on the clock work. It is a common works driven by weights, but doesn't work any more. To me it looks like it could still be functional, but one would have to evict the pigeons from the mechanism.
The present situation with the church building is that it belongs to a trust. How did it come to that? The Senekal congregation became to large, it became necessary to split the congregation. Senekal de Rust was ceded in 1951 and Senekal Noord in 1958. With declining memberships it was decided in 1993 to recombine Senekal central with de Rust. Facilities at the de Rust were better and thus it became the church for the new congregation. It was then considered to sell the old church, a trust was formed to save and maintain the building.

Anglican church

Senekal anglican churchAs we approached this church I said to Piet "look, there is half a church". And this really what it looks like, the reason for this is, I presume, that the plan was to add to the church later when the congregation became larger. I can't find out when it was built, it was before 1884. It can be seen in the picture of the town taken in 1884, it is the building in the top row against the mountain, second from the left.
Times have changed and it is now a mosque.




Free Church

Senekal free church












Gereformeerde Kerk

Senekal gereformierte kerkThe Gereformeerde Kerk is one of the three Afrikaans sister churches.It is the one with the least membership and in fact it doesn't exist in Senekal any more.
I don't know when it had its beginning in Senekal, members of the Gereformeerde Kerk in Seneka used to be part of the Ficksburg congregation. But, they did have their own church services here by utilising the church hall of the NG church. It was 1949 that this attractive church was build, but only in 1961 did they split off from Ficksburg.
Over the years, as happened to most churches in the rural areas, their membership started to decline. According to Wikipedia in 2015 they had 49 members and by 2020 this number was down to 10, mostly widows. It was then decided to disbanded and, I think, rejoin Ficksburg. But, somehow there is enough strength to maintain the building and the garden.






the petrified forest

Senekal petrified treesSenekal petr tree plaqueMost likely the best known feature of Senekal. That is the wall of petrified trees around the church square. I don't have to write the whole story, its all written already on a plaque at the longest tree on the east side of the square.










the Free Mason Hall

Senekal free mason buildingSenekal gfree mason hall











the battle at Bidulfsberg

the Rebellion

the Railway

Senekal railway station 01Senekal railway station 0










Cemetery




References
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited, 1974
Ref 2.: JJ Oberholster and Jan Stemmet, 'Senekal se eerste honderd jaar', 1977
Ref 3.: 'Kerk Souvenir van Senekal-Vystigjarige Bestaan, Nasionale Pers, 1929


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