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.

img461 (2)

Who was Mrs. Tom James?

DSC_1184
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

img459-1
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.

Wesley Hall

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

Stoepstorie 5: Jan Els

Life was not always moonshine and roses that we all know.

We all get motivated to do something that made the community  jaw drop. This was the case of Jan Els when he punched the town clerk.

Leon Strachan we can only send a huge thank you for sharing the wonderful legends with us and putting a smile on our faces. You will find this story in Blafboom 1999 Also thanks to  Cate Lotter for her contribution in the translation of the story of Jan Els.

Jan Els

“I punched the town clerk,” said Jan Els, bursting into Mayor Nic Duursema’s  VC Cafe.

VC cafe and garage

In the sixties Annie Bland was the owner of the Central Service Station, Oom At Truscott ran the workshop which was situated between the VC Cafe and the Flamingo Restaurant. Spent many happy times in amongst the grease and old tyres. Loved the smell of new tyres. Barbara Swanepoel Tarr.

Jan Els and Caveman Spies were not the only men who punched Harrismith into the newspapers. There were quite a few, from the earliest years. These were often members of the legal profession.

***

When the Free State became independent in 1854, the new government found that there were insufficient funds to run the administration that the English had left behind. They would have to scale down, and Joseph Orpen, a surveyor who was the magistrate of Winburg, was instructed by President Hoffman to close the magistrate’s office in Harrismith. Orpen sent a black man on foot, as was the custom at that time, to Harrismith with a letter to that effect. However, bad weather resulted in Orpen arriving in Harrismith before his letter.

Paul Bester, founder and the first magistrate of Harrismith, was told that he was to be transferred to Bloemfontein.  This did not suit him at all as he owned a lot of land in the district and near Ladysmith where he lived.

The other officials were summarily dismissed, with the exception of  Cauvin, who remained as a special peace officer.   They were now without income, and most unhappy. The townspeople were also very displeased as their nearest magistrate’s office would now be in Winburg.

While Orpen was making an inventory of the books and furniture in office, Bester and the others arrived. A crowd of dissatisfied townspeople had formed outside. Bester hit down hard with his walking stick on a table, and Field-Cornet van Aardt threatened Orpen.    Georg Schmidt, the magistrate’s clerk and the  first postmaster, was also there.

Orpen simply went on with his work, but when he started to carry books outside, Van Aardt blocked his way. He pushed Van Aardt aside, but when he reached the door Schmidt hit him hard against the head. Orpen, a rather small Englishman, regained his balance and hit back. Schmidt punched him so hard on the chin that he fell to the ground.  Schmidt was summarily locked up in the prison behind the office. The crowd outside was getting  riotous, and Orpen took his rifle from the wagon. “If you can shoot, we can shoot too,” shouted one of the townspeople. “Yes”, said Orpen, “that’s true, but keep in mind that I am shooting in the name of the law, while you will be hanged!” He was’t called Do-or-Die Orpen for nothing!

In the calm that followed, Schmidt was summarily put on trial and  sentenced to three days in prison. Orpen however, with his rifle balanced upright against his table, fiddled with the dates on the summons and Schmidt was released immediately.

***

In 1875 a town council was elected for the first time. With the first session of the Council a large number of residents arrived, intending to attend the meeting.  Magistrate Boshoff (previous president of the Free State) would not allow them to enter. This resulted in a clash of words between him and Niel McKechnie, one of the new council members. McKechnie thrust a fist under Boshoff’s nose and shouted: “I defy you!” Strong words, but McKechnie  was chosen as mayor at the same meeting, the first of Harrismith.  It seems clear the South Africa was never at any stage a country for cowards!

***

In 1938, more than half a century later, Council Member Corkhill remarked at a city council meeting: “Farmers, like lawyers, never agree.  But there is one difference.  Lawyers get paid for disagreeing.”

This was not always true. In fact, it sometimes cost them money, and once, even a person’s life.

***

Brand Wepener was another member of the legal profession who was often in the news. On one occasion Brand and Phil Wright, also a lawyer, got into a fight in Stuart Street, right in front of Wright’s office. They rolled around in the dusty street with their neat dark suits until  they were seperated by …….. This while Wepener was on the Council with Corkhill.

Wepener was  not the easiest of men to get along with, but he was a most interesting chap. He came from a line of Free State heroes, being a grandson of Louw Wepener, and named after President Brand.   His father, Louw, was the head of police of Harrismith during the Boer War.

Although Brand had qualified as an advocate, he was eccentric, very eccentric. He was a well-known face in town, strolling along with his walking stick, dressed in his neat dark suit, black hat and dark glasses. He was never without his glasses as he had only one eye. Clients would often approach him on the street.

When a new voter’s role had to be compiled for a municipal election, the typist made a terrible mistake. After the surname and christian name of each resident, the next item was the name of the street where the person lived, followed by the person’s occupation. Alas, in Brand’s case she typed the street name in the wrong block, resulting in the following entry:

Wepener    | Jan Henricus Brand         |   40   Murray                  | Street Advocate

Brand was furious. He accosted Tom Searle, ordering him to  have the municipality summoned for defamation.     “But Brand, isn’t it true?”  asked Tom, with a twinkle in his eye. Brand was the only person who did not find it funny.

He played a role in the burgher monument saga, and on another occasion saved the beautiful trees in Murray Street.  But he was always full of plans, took shortcuts and was constantly in conflict with municipal officials.    At that time Harrismith had a constant shortage of water, which had a very negative effect on the development of the town, until the weir was built in the Wilge River. Water restrictions were nearly always in effect, which Remington, the water-baillif, had to enforce.

Brand had a lovely patch of maize on the big stand on the corner of  Murray and Biddulph streets, which apparently never suffered from a lack of water. Remington was aware of this and went out of his way to catch him out. When the ground became dry Brand would  lead his horses into the mealie land, and leisurely wash them down with a hosepipe until the whole mealie land was thoroughly wet, or until it rained once more.

And then one day Brand Wepener punched another colleague, Henry Helman.

At that time the old court building was situated where the post office stands today.  Wepener and Helman were opposing each other in a civil case. Wepener started to argue with the magistrate over the merits of the case, and Helman responded with sarcastic commentary. This led to a clash of words between the two. Wepener told Helman to keep his mouth shut, and the magistrate told him to calm down. Wepener stormed out of the courtroom shouting: “I’ll get you!” He waited for Helman in the passage, and when he showed, punched him on the nose. The court ordely had to separate them. Helman consequently had Wepener summoned for assault.

Frank Reitz had to deliver medical evidence at the hearing.  He told the court that the complainant’s nose was badly swollen, and also remarked that different faces would swell in different proportions. Helman was of Jewish descent and Wepener immediately countered: “It is logical, Your Honour, that the bigger a person’s nose, the bigger the swelling will be.” After the laughter in court had died down, Reitz had to agree. Brand was found guilty and fined. However, both men were warned to stay out of trouble.

***

Nearly half a century later a tragedy took place at the country club. It was early autumn in 1978. Two acquaintances, the lawyer Charles Shadford  and Garth Romeo, a well-known rugby player, were socialising and gambling at the club on that ill-fated evening. An argument ensued over a throw of the dice, and tempers flared, ending in Romeo knocking Shadford off his bar stool. The latter was helped up and sat down again for a while. The argument flared up and when Romeo hit him again, he fell head first to the floor, partly on the footrest of the bar counter. He was out cold and a doctor was called in, who rushed him to Johannesburg. Shadford never regained consciousness and died tragically two weeks later at the age of 48.

Romeo was found guilty of manslaughter and fined. Extenuating circumstances were found to be the fact that Shadford’s skull was thinner than normal – he had a so-called eggshell skull.   His injuries would probably have been less serious if he had had a normal skull.

***

Caveman Spies was in court for assualt one day, as he had apparently slapped his garden boy. During cross-examination Spies differed from the interrogator about the nature of the slap. When the interrogator asked him how he had slapped the complainant, Caveman calmly walked over to the complainant’s bench, and before the stupified court orderly could intervene, gave the poor man a mighty slap. “Like that, Your Honour” he said, “like that did I slap him.”

 

Stoepstorie 4: The abundance of pears

There is a pear tree in our neighbor’s garden but we are fortunate that a couple of branches arched into our driveway. On a windy day the pears would end-up on our driveway and were to bruised to eat or use. Every year we would safe some but end up with a bottle or two chutney or perhaps a starter of blushing poached pears.

This year there was a good crop of little Hood pears hanging over our driveway.

hood

A little research and we were ready for our harvest. Pears ripen from the inside out. Left to ripen on the tree, they may become mushy. They ripen quite nicely once harvested. The old trick of storing the pears in a cool, dry place and the add of bananas did the trick. I put the bananas on top of the pears—and the more bananas, the faster the pears ripen.

pears

Yesterday was Mulled Pear day.

We peeled and core the pears and let is sit in a bowl with salt water to prevent the pears to turn brown.

Pere-decojite-Pears-Peeled

First the oven needs to be preheat to 150oC.

Then it was time to make the Mulled syrup. I used crab apples to give the syrup a nice pink color. Once there was a nice pink color in the water. The crab apples were removed.

DSC_0597

Then cinnamon, star Aniseeds, gloves and allspice were added to the crab apple water.

Vietnam-natural-star-aniseeds-anise-with-stems.jpg_350x350

The water was put to a rapid boil and then sugar was added. The sugar was then added and once the sugar dissolved a good bottle of red wine was added. A Merlot is a fruity wine that add to the flavor. The smells from the big pot was divine. It reminded we of my Mom and the many bottles that she filled during the summer months. Her specialty was canned whole peaches. We called it cling peaches because the pip was left inside and when eating the whole peach you really have to cling on to it or it would flew over the dinning table.

DSC_0145

The syrup was then strained through a muslin cloth and I must say the color was looking just right.

DSC_0146-1

The pears pack into warm, sterilized jars. Pears are very bottom-heavy and I find that you have to fill the bottles with more pears than originally though. Heat the syrup to boil and pour into the jars.

DSC_0147-1

Cover the jars with lids, but do not tighten it properly. Place the jars about 5cm apart in the oven for about 2 hours. This will also depend on the size of the jars.

DSC_0148

Remove from the oven and seal properly and place on a wooden surface. Leave undisturbed until completely cool and check the seal the following day.

DSC_0149-1

It will last for about 12 months on the shelf of your canning cupboard.

parma-ham-mulled-poached-pear-and-goat-s-cheese-salad

Proof is always in the tasting. For an early evening we had mulled pears, with Parma Ham and Goat’s Cheese Salad

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard

Stoepstorie 3: Scotty the English teacher

DSCF5841-2

Stuart Street – this quaint and superbly kept cottage once belonged to Miss Helen Scott “Scotty”. Miss Scotty was the English teacher to many scholars. She was a wonderful teacher and friend to so many people in Harrismith who all loved her

n1027449_71efd1d2-e3c1-48c2-ac47-910a6e3b48291

n1027449_c59506c6-a502-4ac5-9394-f0275384f1341

23519123_833223973513922_8054535097282758148_n
The letter dated 13/10/1958 which Josie Cronje received from Miss Helen M. Scott her English teacher in 1958 when she was in Std 8. This little part of our history is priceles.

She also wrote a testomonial for Mary Bland, in 1945, when Mary was finishing off Matric.

Scottie testomonial to Mary Bland in 1945

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard

Stoepstorie 2: Traveling Companion

Wanneer ek ‘n Volkswagen Beetle op die pad raakloop dan kyk ek altyd waar sy flikkerligte sit. Julle weet daardie armpies wat so uitgeskiet het langs die deure wanneer daar gedraai word. In Engels is dit semaphores.

89c657fa5968a12a0a0f990b369090bb--the-window-vw-bugs

Pa was die “traveler” in ons familie. Hy sou niks daarvan dink om ons in die kar te laai en êrens heen te ry. Ons eerste kar was ‘n Borgward – ‘n besonderse motor wat op voco-paraffin kon loop.Aust76

Daar was die oranje VW Beetle met die “dog-box”. Ek onthou die reis af Jeffereybaai toe – die bagasie is in die neus van die Beetle gelaai en dan het Pa die neus van die motor in die regte rigting gedruk. Ons plek was bespreek in die Jeffreys Bay Hotel. As ek reg is is dit vandag die Savoy Hotel. Pa het op gevoel gery so het ons Jeffreysbaai ge”overshoot” en in die destydse Ferreiratown gestop. Gelukkig was daar ‘n vriendelike man wat Pa in die regte rigting gestuur het.

Dan was daar later die bootvaart op die Knysna Lagoon en die gety wat ons wou intrek. Janboel en Julian wat moes stoot dat hulle bars om die boot op droeë grond te kry.

755f439d035c558f2feeed74732f9dae
Al die kere wat ons gaan springhase jaag het met die Willy’s Jeep. Dit was ons Saterdag-aand uitstappie op die plaas. Menige aande het ons met Jeep en al in ‘n gat te lande gekom. Dit was pret om met ‘n groot gesukkel weer huis toe te hinkepink.

Die Nuwejaar kamp by West-end dam met pa se 8-ton lorrie en die wit Engelse tent. Die blou lorrie sou die naweek van Nuwejaar gelaai word met onder andere beddens wat kon opvou in sulke oulike amperse tafeltjies, die nodige potte en panne en natuurlik die wit tent. Daar is visgevang en geswem. Later van tyd was daar ‘n bootjie waarmee die vissermanne se hoeke die water ingeneem is. Dit was in die tye voor sonbrand beskerming en gewoonlik was daar ‘n paar erg verbrande rooi lywe.

11904675_433157530203768_4462256557872767105_n-1
Die Engelse tent het ‘n spesiale plek gekry by Kameel Rust & Vrede Bed en Ontbyt

Die kuier by tant Meraai in die Gamtoos en die tabak-vlooie wat ons byna opgevreet het. Ma het so in ‘n fluister stem vir Pa vertel van die vlooie maar ai, met Tant Meraai se ore was daar geen fout nie.

Dan onthou ek ook die kuiers by oom Salmon en Tant Pollie op Uitenhage. Tant Pollie was my ouma Barlow se suster. Vandag nog is Tant Pollie se appeltert deel van De Oude Huize Yard se spyskaart. Ek onthou die tafel in die kombuis waar ons almal saam gekuier het en stories van die Kolonie vertel het.

Daar was die tye wat ons laat-laat middag by die huis weg ry om by Popeye, soos my Pa my Ma genoem het, se familie in Skurweberg te gaan kuier. Tant Madeleine en oom Was het by Skurweberg gebly. So lekker teen die klip koppie. Daar is gekuier om Grand-cru en roomys.

Soms het ons 21h00 van die plaas gery om op Cypress in die Steynsrus distrik te gaan kuier. Dit was waar Fritzie en Rhoda geboer het. Ontbyt aan die tafel in die voorhuis was altyd ‘n ondervinding met Fritzie wat vir elkeen ‘n snybrood gesny het. Nooit meer as een sny op ‘n slag. Vir ons Finchams was dit nogal vreemd want dit was ons stapelvoedsel. Ek onthou die uitstappie met die Bluebird Datsun in die Golden Gate. Daarna was Pa Gerald nooit weer gretig om Golden Gate te besoek nie.

Op ‘n ander toer is ons na Francistown in Botswana, daardie kuiers in die destydse Suid-Rhodesia. Die Vic Falls, waar ons op ‘n bootvaart op die meer was. Een van die passasiers se kinders het ‘n aap geterg en is gebyt. Toe moes almal terugkeer wal toe. Pa het ons die Valley of Ruins en Matopo Hills gewys. My gunsteling plek was Leopards Rock omdat dit so ‘n pienk kleur geverf was en ek het aan Monaco gedink.

Daar was al die rally’s saam met Cecil en Paaijapan. Persoonlik dink ek daar is klein-kinders met Av-gass in hulle bloed. Pa en Ma het een aand in die middel van die winter by ons oorgeslaap. Juis met die hele Rally konvooi. Pa het voorgestel dat die manne buite sou slaap maar het nie rekening gehou met die Vrystaatse koue nie. Die nag het die manne voor die kaggel geslaap. Dit het nogal ‘n gesnork uit die boonste rakke gewees.

Pat en Pa wat “flips” in DVZ ZA oor Kameel geneem het. Dit was vir Pa groot vreugde en hy het later jare vertel hoe Kameel en die omgewing uit die lug lyk. Daar is later ‘n langer aanloopbaan deur die mielielande gemaak. Later jare sou Pat, Ma, ek en Hennie gaan blomme kyk in Springbok en ja ek kan ‘n noodlanding aftik op my lys.

Daar was die kuier in Namibia by Susan en Derick. Die plaas was op Gobabis en toe die terugrit aangepak moet word was die motor se battery pad en al genade was die Landdrover. Nodeloos om te sê, Derick het ‘n plan gemaak, ‘n matras is vir Ma en Susie agter op die Landdrover gesit. Hulle moes darem in gemak reis. Ma kon nooit uitgepraat raak van hoe sy en Susie die hele pad terug Windhoek toe gegiggel het.

Daar’s al die kuiers by Mike en Hes in Bloemfontein en Mike wat Pa na elke “scrapyard” in Bloem moes neem. Dis seker waar ek my liefde vir ‘n skrootwerf gekry het.

Daar was kuier in Harrismith en pa se woorde aan Hennie – “Hendrik ek weet nie wat jy betaal het nie maar ek is seker jy het te veel betaal”

Oupa wat Pedri geleer het van toast, bacon en eiers – sy gunsteling!.

CO9YAY0VAAAVWWF-1
Wat ‘n lewensrit was dit nie!
d6a3a05f357542dfe8b3e2255ca87538
When you give your children knowledge, you are telling them what to think. When you give your children wisdom, you do not tell them what to know, or what is true, but, rather, how to get to their own truth.

Tot ‘n volgende keer

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard

Journey to Stardom

We purchase De Oude Huize Yard and our family moved to Harrismith on 15 December 2000. Our sons did a huge commitment to leave their schools, sport and friends behind and join this new venture into the Free State.  Remembering the night that we traveled to Harrismith and the uncontrolled veld-fires were lighting the skies Pedri made a comment —so beautiful but so destructive.  Our new lives away from the hustle and bustle of Pretoria and “retirement” in the town will have to make a difference.

Everything’s done on impulse.

We bought the old house to save it from the bulldozer and in the words of Adam Small:

proud ou gabou—pathetic pêllie
stil ou—djy fancy djy staan nog…
djy word gedemolish sê ek vir djou!…
Hoor djy die pêrepote vannie bulldozers?

Ever since we have spend all our time in renovating and collecting history about our house and the town.  Even thought everything that we , Pedri and Gerald-Cecil have done did not come easily we still see this as a blessing and we would like to believe that we have made a difference to De Oude Huize Yard and our neighbourhood.

De Oude Huize 2000

Our neighbours are the best.  On our day of arrival they welcomed us with tea, coffee, rusk and a lot of help.  Strange people opened their hearts and hands to help us to move into a very dialectic house.  They treat us with love and open their heart to all off us.

On opening the front door of our new dwelling we immediately decided to give it a name — De Oude Huize .  The state of neglect was cleary visible and we decided to keep to the original era of the house and try to safe a little history in Stuart Street.  We had little experience of such a big renovating process and as the kids at school asked Gerald-Cecil— does your parents know what they are doing—he could honestly answer I don’t know, I think they don’t know themselves.

Voordeur

We have read articles on renovating but nothing really helps until you start with the process.  We have asked stupid questions and really work our fingers to the bone.

 

The renovation process of the original house was solely done by Hennie, Pedri and Gerald-Cecil.  They have sanded floors, scraped down old paint remove rotten novilon, wood and carpets. They have cleaned the yard from invasive kakibos.  They have leveled the garden and made new beds.     They have opened up the Attic , painted every room and  replaced old floorboards.

 

De Oude Huize Story stoep

To put the cherry on cake the new sandstone wing was added on the footprint of the old stables.

 

De Oude Huize Yard Logo

Till next time

Hennie & Sandra

De Oude Huize Yard