Hill Street Cemetery: Emmarentia. (2)

Continuing where we left off… 


In spite of going past the cemetery every time I was in the area I never saw the gardener or received the phone call that would allow me access to the cemetery. It was very frustrating. I was due to leave South Africa on the 1st of March 2013, and if I did not get it photographed before then it would be too late.

On 14 February 2013 I went grave hunting on the East Rand with my godson, and on our way back we were in the area so I stopped at the cemetery to show him where it was. Lo and behold the gate was open! there was no sign of the gardener though, but that did not stop us and finally we could record the graves inside it’s walls.

There are supposedly 77 graves in the cemetery, and sadly a lot of the older stones have been toppled and laid flat on the graves so legibility is poor. I photographed all the graves, because who knows what the future may bring for this small enclave.

There is however no way of knowing how many unmarked graves there are, and I believe that there is a register somewhere.  Geldenhuys is not the only surname here though, there are a number of other family members and possibly the graves of some of the ABW veterans that helped build Emmarentia Dam or who lived on the plots on the farm. History does not tell us the whole story. The oldest legible grave that I saw was dated 1891, but it is possible there was older. It is a pity that the older headstones have toppled, and that they are not restored. 

And what about Louw Geldenhuys?

My supposition was correct, this is the grave of Lourens (Louw) Geldenhuys (1864-1929) and his wife Emmarentia (1866-1938). They left quite a legacy behind in the area, and I don’t think too many people are aware of it.

I felt so much happier now that I had this cemetery under my belt, in fact this was amongst the last cemeteries that I photographed in South Africa,  

The images of the graves are available on the eggsa website  and it is possible to see the deterioration of some of the graves between when I first photographed over the wall so long ago. The cemetery may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates -26.164606°,  28.010052°, but there is no guarantee that it is open, or you can find the gardener (we did not see him while we were there, so it was pure luck that we did manage to take our pics undisturbed).  Many of the names in this cemetery have streets named after them, and of course the area is named after Emmarentia Geldenhuys. Way back when this was all a farm it must have been a very interesting place with Melville Koppies close by and the fledgling mining camp of Ferreirasdorp not that far away.

My 1908 map shows the size of the farm “Braamfontein” and the farms around it, today the borders of those farms are no longer identifiable and I cannot help but think that the Geldenhuys family left quite a legacy behind. 

It was time to go home, my quest was finally over.

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Hill Street Cemetery, Emmarentia

This is another of my retrospective blogposts that I should have done years ago, but considering how many times I tried to photograph this cemetery it is amazing that I am able to post this at all. The cemetery I am dealing with is in Hill Street in Emmarentia and is the family cemetery of the Geldenhuys Family who settled on the land around here. I discovered it one day while trolling through my streetfinder and promptly went to have a look. I used to pass this point most Sundays on my way to visit my mother, but again it is one of those places that you will not notice unless you actually go looking for it. My first impressions were not good at all. There was a high wall facing the road, and a gate set into the one side. It was a veritable fortress. 

Don’t think that the wall is a low one, it was higher that I was tall and I could not see over the top of it. It was also a very broad wall and it was made of stone, possibly from when they were excavating nearby Emmarenta Dam? The view of the cemetery behind the gate was limited. There were lots of graves and that was it. But, there was no real way of recording those graves unless you managed to get inside the place. 

I pondered the problem. Who had the key? My one alternative was to jump the wall, but given how paranoid South Africa is as a rule I would have ended up being shot or arrested as a potential burglar. I am not however of the athletic persuasion so jumping the wall was out unless I had a ladder.  The other alternative was to  climb on top of the wall and photograph from there using the zoom capabilities of my camera (which was probably x3 for that particular camera). That sounded feasible enough and I set a date, got my goodies ready and off I went.  I had planned to do the photography on my way home so as to have lots of time. I had not really considered that on the day i chose somebody else decided to hold a race! 

The traffic was bedlam, as most of the roads were clogged with people and cars parked haphazardly wherever there was a free space. None of the marshalls knew which roads were open or closed and I ended up in a nose to tail traffic jam that was taking me nowhere really slowly. I could not even get out of the area as the usual routes were blocked off and we were in this ever continuing spiral. Eventually I was near the cemetery again and I grabbed a gap and hightailed it for an empty space next to the cemetery wall. For once the advantage of a small car was evident; those smarmy 4×4’s could not park where I could! Everywhere were these cheerful happy people shouting at their cellphones and gesticulating and taking selfies. It made me feel ill. I found a handy dustbin and managed to clamber onto the wall and hauled out my camera. 

The whole cemetery in one shot (1500x561)
The whole cemetery in one shot (1500×561)

Unfortunately there was not much I could do about the flat headstones, my camera could not get those but I photographed as many of the vertical headstones as I could, I would make sense of them when I was at home.  The chaos around me was just too much and I headed out of there.

But what about the people who are in that small cemetery? According to Wikipedia “… The land was bought in 1886 by Lourens Geldenhuys for its mining rights as it was hoped that the Confidence Reef would extend into his farm but it did not. The land remained as a farm and by 1891 it was divided, along what is now Orange Road, between his son’s Frans and Louw where the brothers had already built two farm houses. Frans’ farmhouse still exists as the clubhouse at the Marks Park Sports Club and Louw’s which exists close by at 14 Greenhill Road.

Mark's Park Sports Club
Clubhouse of Mark’s Park Sports Club
14 Greenhills Road
14 Greenhill Road

After the Second Boer War,  Louw Geldenhuys  decided to help some landless and unemployed Boer War veterans and used them to construct Emmarentia Dam; named after his wife Emmarentia Botha. Louw died in 1929  while Emmarentia died in 1938 and was buried at the family cemetery in Hill Road.”

The big question was: which grave is that of Louw and Emmarentia Geldenhuys? My best guess was one of these, and it turns out that it is the raised arched black ledger stone in the middle, but I was not to know that until I returned to this cemetery in 2013. 

At some point I climbed the wall again, and I suspect it was in 2011 going by the exif data on some of my images, Between 2013 and standing on the wall in 2011 I found the name of somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody else who had a key. I emailed them, explaining that I wanted to record the cemetery and asked if there was a way to facilitate it. They explained that a gardener regularly went in there to cut the grass and tidy up and it was really a matter of organising with the gardener when he was at the cemetery. She also said she would call me back with those details but by 2013 I had still not heard from her. I was due to leave South Africa in March 2013 and time was running out. 

And then I got a break… and we will continue the story somewhere in February 2013

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