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. Geo-position: 27.0055°S, 27.3655°E and 1429m altitude.
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
The congregation of Vredefort was ceded from Kroonstad in 1882, that was not long after the town had been established. Very rapidly the new congregation went ahead to build a church. This first church still exists, see picture on the left. It was well build, after about 140 years it still shows no cracks. During the Anglo Boer (1899 - 1902) it was badly damaged, mainly the inside, and for some unfathomable reason the cornerstone was broken out. This cornerstone was later incorporated into monument in the church yard, the date inscribed is 28 July 1883.
By 1914 it was decided that a new church is needed, but the World War and the influenza pandemic or the Spanish flue prevented any progress to be made. The corner stone was laid by ds J.A.Joubert, who had been the minister of the congregation from 1897 to 1920. Inauguration of this magnificent church took place during April 1923. The architect was Francois Hesse, who was mostly active in the Cape. Building costs were around £22000.
Some details of the building and insides. The organ, which was installed in 1975, is apparently a outstanding instrument. Unfortunately at the moment it is out of action, it got hit by lightening and some of the pipes have been removed and sent to Germany for repairs. I am looking forward to attend a concert once the instrument has been restored. The bell up in the tower was cast in 1923, that is according to the marking on the bell. The full text on the bell reads as follows (semicolon indicating a line break): God-Met-Ons; Ned.Geref.Kerk; Te; Vrdefort; anno 1923. I would have liked to inspect the clock mechanism, but that would have been another steep ladder up and that was a bit to adventures for a nearly 80 year old.
What comes to mind here is: 'Endstation, alle aussteigen', that was the call when in my youth I used the train, arriving at the last station: 'last station, all disembark'. This is the case with Vredefort, it is the last station on the line.
On the picture the station building and ticket office are in the back on the left. It is now used as a shop (cafe). The goods shed is on the right (behind Colin). The rails also served the silos, all this bulk transport is now on the road.
Between Parys and Vredefort is the bridge over the Skuilpspruit. Along the route the most major structure. The bridge was inspected a while ago for a possible re-opening of the line. It is still intact and the rails are still in place, although closer to Vredefort, apparently, a few kilometers of rail have been stolen.
I could not find a name plate or any other indication of the age of the structure. The pictures were taken during a visit in April 2016.
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. The name plate has been removed and pieces of the statue smashed.
Ref 1: W.U.Reimold & R.L.Gibson "Meteorite Impact!", Springer Verlag, ISBM 978-3-642-10463-3