I used to work in an area called Weltevredenpark near Florida and many years ago this had really been farmland and vegetable gardens. Then industry came in, as did little box houses and a host of other odds and ends, and suddenly it was no longer a desirable place to stay, but rather yet another typical suburb of Johannesburg.
Yet, there is a secret hidden amongst the matchbox houses, and it relates to one of the original farms in the area. I searched for it for quite awhile, and eventually found it hidden away in a back street. The original graveyard for the farm Weltevreden.
On my slightly oldish map (1887), the farm is outlined in purple, although it is hard to distinguish where it is in relation to modern day Roodepoort.
The area today bears no relation to what it looked like way back when, although the original farmhouse still exists, but it is not really accessible (I did try, but got nowhere) and I did take pics from outside, but unfortunately I do not know how the area I photographed relates to the house.
The image above I found in a local library, but cannot specifically tag it to where it originated from. The house does have a Blue Plaque but most people have no idea that it still exists, as does the graveyard.
The graveyard is not a big one, and being so isolated it does not get regular attention from the usual crop of vandals and ne’er-do-wells, and we were able to photograph it during our lunch break and still be back in time for tea!
We photographed all the graves and they can be seen on the Egssa Gravestones in South Africa page. It is however, really difficult to know how many graves are unmarked here, just because there is no headstone does not mean there is no grave.
For me the most poignant grave is that of Anna Maria Smit and Cecilia Maria Smit who were probably struck by lightning on 1 Dec 1876.
It is difficult to understand what their families must have felt when they discovered their girls were killed, and how they felt when they buried them in this quiet place. We are so far away from the lives of these two girls that it is possible even the descendants of their siblings are unaware that they even existed.
I like to think they ran and played around this area, and that their short lives were happy ones. This grave is also one of the oldest I have seen in Gauteng, and somehow I have never forgotten it. Today their playground is probably a parking lot, and the building where I worked was unthought of so long ago. At night the surrounding area would have been pitch dark, and the long climb up the hill would not have been made easier by the road that finally winds its way up to the area that is now Roodepoort and Florida.
In the image above the graveyard is behind the row of buildings, and the farmhouse is behind the single large red and silver structure. The oldest marked grave in the cemetery is dated 17 January 1873 and is that of Nicolaas Franssoa Smit, who only lived for just over 2 years.
Quite a few of the graves here are of children, it was difficult to raise children back then, while isolated farms like this one probably did not see many of the childhood diseases like measles or chicken pox, there was no help if your child caught pneumonia, diptheria or tetanus, or was bitten by a snake or got injured while playing. The children that survived their early years would be strong and healthy and would have walked this area, free from the restraints of roads or fences.
I must admit I enjoyed finding this small cemetery and experiencing a bit of the history that was in this area. Unfortunately there is not a lot written down about the Smit and Badenhorst family that lived in the area. We do know that the house was built in 1861 as a three roomed structure, and was added to in 1870. It escaped destruction in the Boer War, and was inherited by Martha Smit, daughter of Cornelius Johannes Smit who was the original owner.
It is possible this is his grave, and that of Martha is below. She had married into the Erasmus family and died in 1919 from the flu. It is possible that the year is incorrect on the grave.
It is all part of the history of this area, and sadly very few ever discover it and it is their loss. This little piece of history is a gem, and well worth visiting if you can find it.It is also one of many small farm graveyards that are associated with early Johannesburg, and one of the better preserved ones too.
DRW © 2011-2018. Images recreated 17/03/2016, link recreated 03/03/2018