Continuing on my retrospective grand tour of the West Rand Cemeteries, one of the many smaller cemeteries I visited was Davidsonville (Google Earth -26.161200°, 27.852150°). Situated slightly west of Roodepoort a look at the map will show that this may have been a former mining area, and when mining was completed it was abandoned and left to become a low cost housing area. For want of a better description it was probably classed as a “Coloured area” by the previous government.
This is however a dodgy area and I was unable to park inside the cemetery but I kept as close to the gate as possible.
It is not a large space and you can see it from end to end. It was relatively sparse from a headstone point of view, and those empty spaces are probably occupied by unmarked graves.
There was only one grave to find here, and it was a strange one at that. The grave is of a Corporal Harry (Henry) Schoeman, and he appeared to have three separate graves! He is listed as being buried in Old Roodepoort Cemetery, and on that headstone he is listed as being buried “Elsewhere in this cemetery”. However, he also has a headstone in Davidsonville!
A quick look at his record reveals that he was the son of John and Hilda Schoeman; husband of Gladys Schoeman, of Roodepoort. The connection to Roodepoort is there, but I have no idea as to why he has two headstones.
I had my pic and I split out of there very quickly. It was a Saturday when I was there so lots of people were about, and I tend to prefer sneaking in and out without too many people asking questions. And, once the grave is photographed I rarely need to go back again unless there is another reason. Images of the graves are on the eGGSA cemetery website.
At some point between 2009 and 2011 I returned to the cemetery, as I was really redoing some of the CWGC graves. The same rules applied though, keep a low profile, park close to the gate and try not to be seen.
I really wanted to get more headstones for eGGSA too, as many of these small cemeteries tend to never be visited. The pano gives a reasonable idea of what the cemetery looks like.
Naturally I had to check up on Cpl Schoeman, only to find that a mound was now on the spot where his headstone was which meant that a family burial had probably happened recently. More pics and once again I was out of the door and down the road.
However, I needed to watch this grave to see what headstone was erected. and I returned in 2011 only to find that the CWGC headstone was laying flat behind the grave and a new headstone was in its place.
The names on this headstone are not amongst those named at CWGC as being his next of kin, although he is named on the new headstone; however it could be that this was the daughter of Corporal Schoeman (Headstone engraving not shown). We will probably never know for certain unless the family comes forward with additional information. I never did get back to Roodepoort Old Cemetery to see whether there had been a change in that headstone too. We did submit the new information to the local agency of the CWGC but I do not know whether any recent changes were made to his record. Reading between the lines his headstone was replaced in 1993 with the one that was in Roodepoort Old Cemetery. Could it be that the original headstone was relocated to Davidsonville? And, where is he really buried? We may never know that answer, but the fact that he was listed on our lists meant that I went and photographed his grave, and as a result he has not been forgotten. Certainly somebody in his family remembered him and had him added to the new headstone.
The search for Corporal Schoeman also drew me to yet another small cemetery in an area I would otherwise never visit, and that expanded our knowledge just a bit more. The frustrating thing is that we know so little about these places or the people who lived and died there. These cemeteries really give us a tantalising glimpse into the past and hopefully will remain important spaces within the communities around them. Sadly though they really become the place where the ne’er-do-wells congregate and convenient dump sites for rubbish. What a pity.
And that was Davidsonville and I was out the door. A mighty space it was.
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