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Koppies

History

The town was founded in 1910 and obtained municipal status in 1926. It got its name derived from the name of the farm it was laid out on, Honingkopjes. Preceding the town was the establishment of a settlement, Roodepoort in 1907, this was somewhere near the present village. We still have to find it. It was established by C.R.de Wet, the boer general, but in this case as minister of agriculture of the Orange River Colony to alleviate poverty among the Boers. An other link to Christiaan de Wet is given here, it provides many more details. And talking of Christiaan de Wet, whilst searching the internet for information on this person I also came across an interesting piece of information. He had a brother, Piet de Wet, who had also been very successful in the early stages of the war but surrendered to the British when it became apparent to him that the war was lost and he actually became a joiner. In this position he was trying to convince the burgers of the Free State to make peace with the British to prevent further destruction.
Another important event was the 1914 Rebellion, which started near this town, with C.R.de Wet playing a major role.

Boer War action

Koppies rail bridge renosterspruitThere has been quiet a bit around here. The main column of the British forces came up from Bloemfontein following the rail way line on their way to Johannesburg. Koppies did not exist in those days.
One of the first guerrilla actions of the Boers was to blow up the railway bridge over the Rhenosterspruit. The picture shows the bridge as it is now.This was to hinder the flow of material to the front line troops. It necessitated the British to establish a depot at Rooiwal.
On the 7-June-1900 the Boers under the command of Christaan de Wet attacked the depot at Rooiwal and the construction camp at the bridge.
Koppies boer war memorial There were casualties in both skirmishes marked by a graveyard at Koppies British graves at RooiwalRooiwal and one near the bridge. The site at the bridge does not only contain the remains of the British but also one burger. This is unusual since in general we find British and Boer soldiers buried separately. Its a nice touch, symbolising that in death we are all the same.


Vredefort Road Concentration camp

Koppies concentration camp cemeteryThe camp has long gone, but the cemetery has remained and can be visited. It is situated next to the railway line between Koppies and Greenlands, about 4km from Greenlands station, position -27.152665° 27.652622°. From the report of the Vredefort Road concentration camp the camp was established about middle of 1900 and finally closed on the 15 September 1902. It was one of the problem camps and it is interesting to read that the report mostly blames the in-mates for the state of affairs.
Koppies de wet speech 1902It has to be noted that there were two different classes of people in the camp. There were those that had their farms destroyed by the British and then those where the husband had surrendered and they were harassed by the Boers and found Koppies boer wifesthemselves in the refugee camp. The picture on the left is from the book "Die Buuren und der Südafrikanische Krieg", the caption translated reads 'Wife's of some Boers whose husbands had surrendered to the English were driven from their farms by the still fighting boers and have to pull the wagon themselves with all their belongings to the nearest English garrison'
In June 1902, after the peace had been signed, General de Wet came to Vredefort Road with 200 burghers to surrender, as reported by the Barrier Miner on Monday, June 9, 1902, an Australian newspaper. It is not coincidence that he came this way, his farm is near Koppies and his family was in the camp. It has been Koppies de Wet at conc campreported that he set up his family on the farm in a tent and than went off to Europe on a charity drive. The picture shows him in the front row middle, to his right is JBM Hertzog, the later prime minister of the Union government. It was taken at the Vredefort Road station, which is now the Greenland station a few kilometers from the camp.

Carel Geere

Koppies conc camp GeereThe oldest person listed under the people who died in the camp was Carel Friederik Christoffel Geere, he was 91 at the time of his death. Certainly a very old age in those days, when most people died in their 60th or even 50th. But that is not the reason I am writing about him, he was a colourfull character.
Born in 1811 in Graaf Reinet in the Cape Colony, not certain at what time and with whom he joined the trek north. It is known that in 1843 he was in Natal and in the late 1840th near Potchefstroom. During the British rule of The Orange River Sovereignty (1848 - 54) he became a veldkornet, a post he lost when the Free State got its independence again. From the accounts it appears that he was a bit of a dwarstrekker (a beautiful Afrikaans expression describing a contrarian).
1857, Martinus Pretorius came over from the Transvaal to claim presidency of the Free State. Problem was that the Free State already had a president and most of the Free Staters disagreed with Pretorius. A commando was sent out to block and if necessary to fight the Transvaaalers. Serious trouble was averted and negotiations led to Pretorius to Withdraw back to Potchefstroom. He was in a weak position from his side as well, he only had the support of Potchefstroom and Rustenburg, Lydenburg and Schoemansdal were actually prepared to come in on the side of the Free Staters. And not all the Free State Boers where against him, there was a small group of mainly from the northern part of the Free State who were on the side of Pretorius. The leader of this group was Carel Geere. He had actually been agitating with the Basuthus to invade the Free State.
A small commando was sent out to bring him in for questioning, but Carel was not going to have it and took up defensive position with a few supporters at Witkoppies near Vredefort. He was captured and taken to Winburg and appeared before a full bench of magistrates from the Winburg district and was sentenced to death, but on pleading from Pretorius that was reduced to a £150 fine.

Road bridge

Koppies road bridgeNowadays the roads go around the village. But for many years the main road went through the village and crossed the Rhenosterspruit about one kilometer out of town to the south. The road to get to it is hardly passable.

Railway Station

This station is still very active, it is actually a stop for the main line passenger service.


NG Churches

Koppies NG churchKoppies old churchThe first church built in Kopje (as it was called in Ref 4) was the Nederduits Gereformeerte Kerk. The exact date of when it was built is not known to me, but I do know from Ref 4 that the building was initiated by Ds MD Odendaal who was the minister from 1909 to 1911. The original church bell seen on the right side of the picture showing the old church, has been preserved and is now standing with the new church (middle of the picture).
Koppies Fereira gavestoneIn the yard are three grave stones (I presume they are grave stones) of reverends that served the congregation. The one in the picture is that of Cornelis Rademeyer Ferreira (1877-1932) who served from 1912 to 1932, he died whilst in office.
We found two churches of the NG Kerk, and what is surprising both built at the same time with completion in 1963. One of them in the centre of town and the 2nd one on the west side of the railway line, known as the Weltevrede church. There must be some story behind this which I still have to find out about. Could somebody from Koppies please inform me?
It worked, here is the answer from information supplied by Marthinus du Toit. Weltevrede is a dogterkerk (daughter church) of the Koppies church, the moederkerk. They built a new church in 1963. It was rev.JJ Du Preez of the moeder gemeente (mother congregation) who insisted that they should also get a new church. Koppies NG church Their church building, as described above, was actually not a church but was rather classified as a church hall (kerk saal), which had served them since the early days of the century. The proposal caused a heated debate, but eventually the dominee succeeded and the old kerk saal was demolished to make room for a new church.

I am having a bit of a problem with translation, the terms dogterkerk, moederkerk, moeder gemeente are not found in my dictionaries, translating this to daughter church, mother church and mother congregation just doesn't sound right, but there you are, that is how I translated it.
Since I have pictures of both these churches, lets have a look at the corner stones for comparison. The styles of both buildings are very similar and one would suspect the same architect. Koppies church: stone laid 18-05-1963 by Ds SJ du Preez, architect Keet & Le Roux. The Weltevrede church, corner stone laid 16-03-1963 by Ds JI Bornman, architect B DE W Hartman.

Emily Hobhouse and Koppies

At the end of the Boer War the country's population was on its knees and the process of rebuilding from nearly nothing had to begin. Many of the people living in the camps had nowhere to go and those that could return to their farms had nothing to start with. One of the helping hands, and there were many, came from Emily Hobhouse, who had made it her dedication to help mainly the woman of the Boerevolk.
She helped set up schools in weaving and spinning, but her special project was producing lace. For that she found Johanna Rood, at the time a young woman of 19 and went with her to Europe to study lace making in Belgium and Italy.
For health reason Emily could not come back to South Africa. It was left to Johanna to get the first school in lace making going in Koppies, the year was 1909. Johanna Rood, later after marriage Osborn, was the first headmistress and Lucia Terrace the first teacher, she had been recruited from Italy.
Koppies laceThere is a small exhibition about this school and Emily Hobhouse in the Emily Hobhouse Aftreeoort (retirement home). It's got some history, some of the products of the school and some pictures. If one shows an interest, more items come out of the cupboards, such as a collection of newspaper cuttings, reports pertaining to life in the camp and the subsequent recovery, more of the lace (apparently Emily had developed a special pattern of lace only produced in Koppies) and the best is an original letter by Emily to Johanna written in 1924, two years before Emily's death in 1926.
Koppies Hobhouse monumentA monument to Emily's work in Koppies is at the NG church. It is a needle and thread symbolising the work done by Emily in Koppies. The school lasted until 1930, their products could not compete against machine produced lace.
And here something more personal, in going through her biography I found something very interesting which really shows what sort of person she was. In 1916, the First World War was being fought with Britain and Germany being on opposing sides, she went to Germany to plead for an end of hostilities, to see for herself the condition of the civilian population in Belgium and to check on the internment camp of British subjects in Germany. Here she actually negotiated an exchange of civilians between Germany and Britain. In Berlin she actually talked to the German foreign mister about possibilies to end the conflict. For 'talking to the enemy' she was denounced by the British government as a traitor. On return to Britain her passport was withdrawn. But even then she was fearlessly active in the peace movement in Britain. After the end of the war she became active with relief work for the suffering civilian population in Germany and Austria.
What an amazing person!




References:
Ref 1: 'Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa', 1972
Ref 2: Christiaan Rudolf de Wet,'Three Years' War', CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, 1902
Ref 3: Joseph Kürschner, 'Die Buuren und der Südafrikanische Krieg', Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1902
Ref 4: "Ons Kerk Album van Hollandsche Kerken en Leeraren", publisher: unknown, printed in the 1920's
Ref 5: various pieces of information made available at the Emily Hobhouse Aftreeoort in the form of newspaper clippings, manuscripts and pictures.
Ref 6: Paul M Botha, From Boer to Boer and Englishman, Hugh Rees Ltd London, 1900

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