Davidsonville Cemetery

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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The Old Roodepoort Cemetery

There were two reasons to visit the Old Roodepoort Cemetery, the first was to find the CWGC graves, of which there were 7 as well as 1 Rand Revolt grave. I was not looking forward to this cemetery as it is situated in a less than safe area of Roodepoort and has somewhat of a reputation as a hang out of squatters, tramps and other elements. However, my curiosity also kicked in because this is quite an old cemetery too, and probably has a lot of history behind it.

The cemetery is situated at Google Earth co-ordinates  26° 9.971’S  27° 52.427’E

It is difficult to pin down when I made my first visit to the cemetery as I have been there on a number of occasions, but by the looks of it my first visit occurred on 02/08/2008 which is the date  I am tagging this post to.  It would have been a Sunday too as I was not living on the West Rand at the time. 

My first impression was “Trap”.  The cemetery has a well defined set of concrete roads in it, and you enter in one gate and exit out another, but the roads are so narrow that turning around is almost impossible, and once committed to a path you are stuck in it until you exit, or you have to mount the pavement to turn around or reverse the whole way back. It is the perfect place for a car jacking or mugging.

I had a vague idea where the graves were, but they were a mix of standard headstones and CWGC stones. I would photograph what I could and then split as fast as I could and then decide what to do.

Like so many of these small cemeteries it is divided up into distinct areas/religions and has an attached “non-European” area and a separate Muslim cemetery behind it. The DR section being the one closest to the entrance and was the most treed of them all.

It is not an ugly cemetery, but a lack of maintenance and the litter and vandalised headstones and buildings leave it looking somewhat dingy and grubby. The office (or what is left of it) is no longer manned and probably hasn’t been for years.

The “non-European” section is really just a plot of ground with a few headstones. The CWGC one probably being the one in the best condition of all. It is separated from the “European” area by trees. 

Pano created with Autostitch

I recall struggling to find some of the private memorials and as I neared the exit I got more tense as there were a group of squatters in the area of the cemetery where I still had some graves to find, I usually try to keep close to my car too, but given how difficult it is in this cemetery I was even more concerned and decided to bring somebody with me next time around.

The Jewish section is a small block set close to the main gate with a small office dedicated to it. At some point this building got vandalised and when I was last there it had also had a fire and was really just a shell with a collapsing roof.

At some point the cemetery must have been getting full and the “New Roodepoort Cemetery” was opened in what is now Braamfischerville. I had graves in that one to find too and was just as concerned when I visited it for the first time. It was not an ugly cemetery and had some really nice headstones, but the area was dodgy and I was a bit apprehensive about straying too far from the office or my car. I have to admit though, the staff there were very helpful and re-assured me that I would be safe as long as I did not venture too far away.

One of the key features of this cem was a small ABW plot that held the graves and a memorial to members of the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders who lost their lives at Doornkop on 29 may 1900. 

I found the graves I was after quite easily, and the SADF era graves. During a later visit I explored the cemetery a bit further and was able to find 2 more Border War graves. Unfortunately though I did spend most of my time looking behind my back.

On my last visit the cemetery had expanded considerably and graves were encroaching on the SADF and military plot, but it is difficult to know what the situation is now. 

There are a number of small cemeteries out on the West Rand, ranging from Maraisburg Cemetery, to the small cemetery in Florida as well as the small one in Davidsonville, Hamburg, and Horizonview and these two associated with Roodepoort. 

The Muslim Cemetery associated with the Old Roodepoort Cemetery is behind the cemetery, but not accessible through it as a railway line crosses between the two cemeteries.

It is somewhat of a barren place, but still worthy of a quick look. Sadly though the area is also somewhat dangerous and I did not tarry too long.

I do not know why these places have been seemingly abandoned by those tasked with looking after them, technically they are fenced, but the fences mean nothing as long as there are no gates. I do feel for the families of those buried here though; visiting some of these places is downright dangerous, and as the demographics changed so access became much more problematic. Fortunately i was able to photograph the war graves so they have been documented, but a part of me still asks how many more Border War graves are in the New Roodepoort cemetery, I guess I will never know.

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