It was not the the first cemetery established in the fledgling city of Johannesburg, that honour goes to a short lived cemetery that was bounded by Bree, Diagonal and Harrison Streets. The “inhabitants” were relocated to Braamfontein Cemetery in 1897, although the grand dame of Johannesburg was established in 1888.
Tag: Braamfontein Cemetery
The memorial itself is in a reasonably good condition, considering it supposedly was erected in 1892. Somehow though that date doesn’t quite fit, but until I know otherwise I will assume that my source is correct. The inscription is difficult to read, especially the date on it which could read 1893 or 1895. Luckily somebody else has transcribed it before, but in short it reads….
In Memory Of
Julius GEC Jeppe
The founder of Jeppestown
Lives of all good men remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time.
Footprints that perhaps another
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main;
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
I was correct, Julius Jeppe is buried in Braamfontein Cemetery, and the date that I am questioning is probably 1893, as the date on his grave is 16 June 1893.
One of the many events that occurred in the fledgling city of Johannesburg was the Dynamite Explosion that occurred on 19 February 1896 at Braamfontein Station. A memorial was erected in Braamfontein Cemetery to commemorate the event, and the over 70 people that lost their lives in it. An explosives train, carrying dynamite, had been left standing for 3 days in searing heat in what was then Braamfontein goods yard; the massive explosion occurred when this train was struck by another that was shunting. It left a crater over 60 m long and 8 m deep and was heard 200 km away. The exact number of casualties was never ascertained, and over 200 people were seriously injured. Some 3 000 people lost their homes and almost every window in the town was shattered. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact site where the explosion occurred but a period map puts it on the bend where Braamfontein Vapour Depot now stands.
I have spotted at least 5 physical graves in Braamfontein cemetery that have explosion related inscriptions on them, and it is probable that most of the casualties are buried in this cemetery, the majority of the funerals being held on the 20th and 21st of February. I can physically identify 46 names in the registers as being marked as “dynamite explosion”, and all are buried in the DR section. There is also supposedly a mass grave in this plot where unidentified severed limbs are buried.
Apart from the devastation that the explosion created, it would have also tested the fledgling cities ability to manage a disaster of this magnitude. Braamfontein Cemetery was relatively new when this happened and it would be here that the victims wee buried. It is certain that there were African victims too, and they are also probably buried here in an area that has been ploughed under. I was not able to check against the register because I did not find a register for that area. There may also be victims buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery, but the register for that was not available at the time. It is an interesting piece of history though, albeit one that has been almost forgotten.
© DR Walker 2011-2018. Recreated and expanded 23/05/2016.