This is the place after which the Vredefort Dome is named. The town is situated somewhere near the centre of this huge impact crater of 2 billion years ago.
In the early 1870s the Dutch reformed church sent a delegation to the area with the mission of establishing a new congregation north of the Renosterriver. They approached the van Coller brothers of the farm where Parys is situated now, bur were refused. The owner of the neighboring farm, Vischgat, were more amenable to the suggestion and thus the township of Vredefort was established.
Visiting the cemetery I noticed a fair number of gravestones with Scottish names all concentrated in one area of the cemetery. Names like: Urquhart, Cheyne, Wright, Bennett and Archibald. In town I noticed the old mill erected in 1884 was owned by McEwan & Co. And just outside town on the main road to Parys one sees a number of silos, according to the farmer there these were build by some Scott.
There must have been a strong influx of Scottish immigrants into the Free State during the 19th century. I have been trying to find some info on the Internet but didn't come up with much.
So, why do I call it the white elephant? It will be a tourist center with a museum, auditorium, restaurant and it has been under construction for the last five years or so. Its taking ages. Also in the grounds is an open air stage, some shops and eating places. At one time there already was some activity with people trying to sell things, but on our last visit there was absolutely nothing. Security allowed us in for a fee.
And why is it at this location? There is an exposure of the granite that came up from the depth after the meteorite had struck. Its this brown stuff one can see in front of the building.
Update: In the meantime I obtained some information, there is a problem with quality and it may be necessary to pull it all down.
It was here in the cemetery that I noticed the number of gravestones with Scottish names, all collected in one area.
Others of note were a number of Jewish grave stones. We find those in nearly all the cemeteries of the Freestate.
Some details were found in Ref 1 about the Jewish community in Vredefort. The first Jewish settlers arrived around 1899, a census in 1904 showed that the number had grown to 34. In 1921 a Jewish congregation was formed. That number remained more or less at that level until about 1960. From there the numbers declined drastically until in the 80th when none were left staying in town.
Also the Boer War left its traces here in the form of a couple of graves of British soldiers killed in the battle of Stinkhoutboom on the 24 June 1900 (this is actually wrong, it was 24 July) plus some others. The memorial actually states the place of the battle as Stinkoutoom, I presume this is a misspelling. The battle of Stinkhoutboom is also known as the battle of the flour wagons, see details under Reitzburg .
Across is a monument to the burgers that died during this battle and the conflict in general.
This would have been the original cemetery when the town was founded in the 1870's. Unfortunately of the five grave stones only two are partially readable.
The first one states:
In Memory of
?..? son of the late
of Algoa Bay
died 27 October ????
aged ?? years
The second one at least gives us some dates:
Geboren den 31 January 1820
te Vredefort den 1? April 1885
Its a local curiosity. A few km out of town a house has been constructed on a servitude, thus the house is long and narrow. A servitude in this case is the access road to a farm which passes over an other farm. There is a story to this.
The house was built by Andries Petrus Hendricks, he had a farm which he sold. He didn't want to move into town and thus build himself a house on the servitude.
He was not married and somewhat of a recluse, he lived in fear of the black race which is why that house is build like a fort. His fear became reality when he was murdered by the house help in 1981. He left no heirs and the will specified that all the money to be spent on the biggest monument in the grave yard. The inscription reads 3-10-1910 Andries Petrus Hendricks 3-10-1981 "Gone and Forgotten".
P.S.: Oct 2018, it has just come to my notice that the monument on his grave has been vandalized and destroyed.
Ref 1: W.U.Reimold & R.L.Gibson "Meteorite Impact!", Springer Verlag, ISBM 978-3-642-10463-3