Stoepstorie 8: Stuart Street Harrismith

Stuart Street Harrismith as Autumn sets in

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We are part of the street as much as we are part of the town.

Our house address is 17A Stuart Street.

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De Oude Huize Yard was built in 1860! You will find it in the little block right on the right hand side.
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First Title Deed of De Oude Huize Yard

The name Stuart relates to two possibilities.
*Major Warden named all his children after the Royal house of Stuart. Rumors were that he was an unofficial grandson of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
* Stuart Jacobus, 1803 – 1878, author, diplomatic agent and advocate of emigration, took part in the Sand River Convention in 1852.

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Stuart Street in 1904 with a Rickshaw left wide sidewalk right and a railway line. Horses pulled the wagons (or coco-pans “coco pans”).

After the Boer War in 1904, the British had a huge camp on Kings Hill. Here they broke many stones, cut and trimmed it to be used for building purposes. To get these stones in the town a track was laid from Kings Hill to the town. Some of these stones were used when the Town hall was built. This information probably also explains the existence of many houses and buildings in Stuart St, which were built of stone. There were also traces of the track in Vowe and Bester streets.

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The first public building in Harrismith was the Court house, serving the community as a venue for the school, public meetings, bazaars and entertainments. All church services were held in the Court house until 1879 when the first church, the Dutch Reformed Church, was built on the site of the present Moederkerk. (Hawkins 1982)
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Stuart street on a peaceful Sunday morning. The trafic light is situated on the corner of Stuart and Piet Retief Streets.

The early magistrates were Bester, Chauvin, Theron, D Cloete, J De Kock, Bramley, (that was accused of high treason), Canisius, J N Boshoff, J Z de Villiers, F W van der Riet, Charles Warden. (Steytler 1932)

Mr. Joseph De Kock resides at De Oude Huize Yard from 23 July 1861 till 23 April 1903 almost 42 years.

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The corner of Stuart and Retief streets. The Court House on the Left. The trees planted in a square at the foot of Platberg were planted by the “konsentrasiekampkinders” and the indication where the Concentration camp was. The people of the Camp were then transferred to “Tin Town” in Ladysmith
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Corner of Stuart and Piet Retief streets today. The Court House made room for the new Post Office. The trees has grown and where the Concentration Camp use to be is now the town goal.

An almost mad Kitchener was tormented by the Concentration Camp women and children when they did not show respect when the funeral procession of Dr Godfrey Reid pass them. Instead a hissing sound was made. Reid was killed during the Groenkop battle on Christmas day. The women and children were then moved to “Tin Town” close to Ladysmith. Some were transported in open train carriages and the luck ones in proper passenger car.

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This picture was taken on the morning of 8 August 1900. A very interesting photo with significant history. On this morning more than 200 burgers of the Harrismith Commando came into town by horse, by “kapkar” and even Spaaiders. They were ready to hand in their weapons and take the consequences. In front of the Court House the Boer’s were ready to sign neutralizing document. The horses were tied to the railings. The name hendsoppers was given to the Commando members. Some came to town in their best Sunday outfits and hard hats while some came in worn out cloths. One of them was the Member of Parlement – Commandant Piet Maree.
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The guns that was handed in was demolished and was loaded onto a “bokwa”. There it was transported to the courtyard of the Court House. Here the 5th Coy Royal Engineers destroyed the weapons with a 16 pond-hammer on a anvil and hit to pieces.
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The house on the left was the home of the Sieberts-family on the corner of Stuart and Mauritz streets. The building on the right was a private school.
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Further down Stuart street is the Harrismith Club. This is still standing but been looted.
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Sandstone curbs in Stuart Street
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Stuart street with 42nd Hill in the back

Thank you to Leon Strachan, Nico Moolman en Biebie de Vos for their contribution

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard

Stoepstorie 7: Wesley Hall and Anne James alias Mrs Tom James

Our next story comes with a twist as we noticed that the cornerstone of the Wesley Hall was laid by Mrs. Tom James. It left a question mark.

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Who was Mrs. Tom James?

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The Chevy is doing a trip and parked in front of the Wesley Hall next to the Methodist Church.

The Wesley Hall was built in 1906 and the cornerstone was laid by Mrs. Tom James on 17 January 1906. She was the eldest daughter of James Putterill. Her husband was a true supporter of the church and was for many years the Sheriff and Mayor of the town.

Wesley Hall 2

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The old Methodist Church was demolished in 1967 – 1968 and the Record Stone of the previous stone was laid by James Putterill on 14 June 1882.

From the time Harrismith was established most of its inhabitants were English-speaking. The British settlers who emigrated to Natal during 1849-50 found the country in the Byrne Valley not suitable for traditional farming practices. Many went to settle in urban areas, while some returned to Britain. Encouraged by Mr Warden, about 1 500 settlers came to Harrismith.

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The story of Anne as shared by Leon Strachan.

Mrs Tom James was Anne Putterill and has a truly sad but remarkable story.
Her father James Putterill was a Byrne settler with a big personality who owned land in Verulam before moving his family up to Harrismith in 1863. His eldest daughter, a tiny but stubborn 25-year-old woman refused bluntly to get married, even though women were in great demand in the Free State (in 1863 the Free State Republic had been in existence for only 9 years and was extremely sparsely populated).
Unfortunately her disinterest did not prevent a man to fall in love with her. Anne didn’t want to have anything to do with him. When Anne’s strong-willed father (a grandchild referred to him as domineering) got wind of this he stepped in to salvage the situation. He instructed the man, a Welshman called Thomas James, to build a suitable house and furnish it. He, on the other hand, bought trousseau and a wedding dress for Anne, and fixed a wedding date.
When Tom James completed his ‘solid cut stone house,’ James Putterill instructed his daughter to prepare for her wedding. Anne refused, she said she didn’t love Mr. James and that was that.
The Putterill’s were a prominent family thanks to the very forceful James Putterill, who was an excellent business man and played a leading role in the Wesleyan (Methodist) church, as he did in town affairs. Whilst guests filled the church in Warden street on Anne’s wedding day, he instructed his womenfolk to dress up the unwilling bride. He then continued to drive her to the chapel in his carriage, where he walked a very unhappy daughter up the isle. He maneuvered the obstructive girl into position next to the groom, while he flanked her on the other side ‒ urging a flabbergasted minister to get started.Don’t think James Putterill had won the battle of wills yet. Anne was unfazed, she declined bluntly to take the marriage vows in front of all the astonished wedding guests. She stood her ground, not unnerved at all. Putterill didn’t despair either, neither did he give up. It would be a battle of wills to the inevitable end.
Every time it was expected of the bride to answer the parson, James pushed his silent daughter’s head slightly down as if she nodded whilst signalling impatiently to an ever more uncomfortable parson to get on with it. The ceremony was thus unceremoniously consummated, and the unlikely couple settled shakily into the solid stone house.
They were childless (3 stillborn). Tom James turned out to be a stalwart who became sheriff and mayor of Harrismith. Both he and his wife loved fishing, they were often seen fishing together whenever an opportunity occurred. The 66-year old Tom died in 1894, after which Anne took in a Miss Dixon to keep her company. According to Beryl Osborn (Anne’s niece who penned the family history) they lived happily together until the British garrison arrived on Kings Hill in 1903, when disaster struck.
A striking and very charming young soldier, conveniently named private James, befriended the two elderly ladies. Young James told them he was an orphan with no home and no family, all alone in the world.
Besotted with him, Anne bought him out of the army and formally adopted him. The young man then gratefully proceeded to squander his adopted mother’s savings. Even when Anne had lost everything she owned, never an unkind word was uttered or anything damaging believed of the young man. He bolted unceremoniously out of the country when there was nothing left to spend.
The Putterill family had to club together to provide the necessary means for Anne and Miss Dixon, and their parrot, to live on. Anne rewarded them by living into her nineties.

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra