The little town of Deneysville exists because of the Vaaldam. Its position is: 26.8909°S, 28.0972°E and 1513m
The initiator for the establishment of a settlement was the construction of the Vaal Dam. I make it easy for myself and just quote verbatim from Ref 1: Deneysville, O.F.S. Village and holiday resort on the Vaal Dam in the Sasolburg district, established by Dr, Hjalmar Reitz and named after his brother, Col.Deneys Reitz, who was Minister of Lands when the dam was build. Deneysville was founded in 1936 by Deneysville Estates Ltd. on parts of the farms Witpoort and Wilhelmina. The company 'Deneysville Estates Ltd' was run by the Greinmann brothers to lay out the town and to sell properties. Later Chase and Sons took over as estate agents, that was in 1948. The first elected Village Management Board was installed in 1948. It became a municipality in 1974.
Development of the town appears to have been slow, struggling to sell the empty stands. I do remember that as a young man I was made an offer to buy a stand in Deneysville at a cost of R200, which was my monthly salary at the time, thus very cheap.
In the middle of the town is a park, left mostly in its natural state. In it are the Khoi ruins, of previous inhabitants. Reading the information table it becomes a bit confusing who actually lived here. First were the Khoi-Khoi, which were replaced by the Tswanas, who were pushed north by Chaka Zulu. The empty huts were than taken over by the Khoi-Khoi again.
Some of the tools used by these pre-historic people are on display at the local library, which includes some from the iron age. Iron smelting was practised here.
The picture on the right shows some strange markings on one of the rocks. I am not sure what it is, either man made or some fossil.
Dam construction started in 1934 and completion was December 1938. The cost, excluding expropriation of land was £1.7 million, of which more than half was contributed by the Rand Water Board. Capacity was increased first in 1954 by raising the wall by 6.1m and again in 1985 by an additional 3.05m.
The prime purpose of the dam was to supply water to the ever growing metropolitan areas of the Witwatersrand.
There is a little museum inside the wall, one has to walk down a number of flights of stairs to get to it. It contains a display of the technical aspects of the dam, a large number of photographs from the construction time and some of the history. The picture of the dam wall under construction is from there.
There are a number of graves in the old grave yard of Viljoensdrift of mostly young men. The plaques are marked Vaal Dam. Could this be accident victims? Check it on the Viljoensdrift web page.
Yes, Deneysville had an airport at one time, it was the landing place of the BOAC flying boats. The flying boat service from England to South Africa was first offered in 1938, it was mostly to deliver mail to and from South Africa. I can't pick up many details of the time before the war. During the war the air port was closed for civilian use. The facilities were used for training in that time. Flying boat services started up again after the war and received a major boost with the introduction of the BOAC scheduled service in 1948.
The inaugural flight was on the 4 May 1948, taking off from Southampton and stopping over at Augusta (Italy), Alexandria (Egypt), Khartoum (Sudan), Lake Victoria and Victoria Falls. A journey of 4½ days. At that time land based aircraft were already faster, this mode of travel was offered mainly to the leisure and adventure traveler. Which was possibly also the reason why it only lasted until November 1950, at which time the service was discontinued and the air port de-registered.
The BOAC terminal building was later demolished, only the foundations remain. And those are only visible at very low dam level. That is because of the dam wall having been heightened since then. I picked them up on Google Earth and will have to wait for the dam level to drop before I can take a picture.
PS: September 2020, it has happened, the level was down to 36% exposing all the concrete work that used to be the terminal.
It's a landmark of Deneysville. Built in 1963 by Alfred Sumner, who decided on the style because he had lived near Windsor Castle. That is what the sources say, but I can't find any similarities between this castle and Windsor Castle.
It was designed as a unique restaurant to seat 400 people inside and outside including a roof beer-garden. It also housed the unique Alfred Sumner collection of medieval weapons and shields. During its time it was very popular and attracted the crowds mostly during the weekend for a reasonable priced meal.
In 1985 there was calamity, during a night the castle got torched by an unknown arsonist. The evening before there was some trouble between the manager and a young visitor, the source calls it a 'sharp altercation' and the visitor was thrown out. It is suspected that the fire was initiated by that person, but nothing could be proved.
The fire damages ruin stood empty after that, rebuilding was considered to be too expensive because of the heat damaged re-enforced concrete. That was the situation in 2001 when the article, used as a source document, was written by Gordon Young. During a recent visit, January 2019, I did not see any fire damage and it looks like the place has only recently been vacated. Some more research is required here.
Advocate Reitz from Bloemfontein (he was the brother of Deneys Reitz) had two cottages built near the shores of the Vaaldam to be used for holidays. They were known as Deneys's cottages.
When Deneysville developed it also had a number of English speaking inhabitants with a desire to have regular church service. A complicating factor was that they belonged to different church denominations with insufficient numbers to form a community. The problem was solved by inviting ministers from different churches to come to the village conducting Sunday services. The four religions taking turn were from the Methodist-, Anglican-, Catholic- and Presbyterian church. Initially services were held in private homes.
As the community grew the desire to have a dedicated church building also grew. The cottages had become available and the community got them renovated and one of them extended and this is now the church. It was inaugurated in 1978.
Deneysville has a motorcycle museum owned and maintained by John Boswell. John is a former British motorbike racing driver, he opened the museum about 30 years ago.
At the moment he has about 140 machines on display, not all his own, some of them are on loan from other collectors. And not only bikes, also motorcycle related items and a large selection of stationary engines.
The reason I want to write about it is not because it is a prison, but because the place where the prison is situated has some history. Situated on the banks of the Vaal River about 8.5km downstream from the wall.
The farm Elangsfontein of 4000 Morgen (3700 hectares) was allocated to Piet van Vuuren as compensation for his participation in the Basutu War. He sold it on to G.C.Engelbrecht for a payment of £300 in 1870. His grave, that of GC, is on the property in a small overgrown graveyard, shown on the left. It reads: In gedachtenis aan (in memory of); (left side) Stamvader; Gerhardus Christoffel; ★ 23.2.1810; ✝ 3.10.1890, and on the right: Stammoeder; Sara Johanna; (van Staden); ★ 18.9.1817; ✝ 6.10.1890, and below ENGELBRECHT. In my opinion, this is not the original gravestone, it is in the style of around 1950 and most likely a replacement of the original. Also of note the three days between the passing of Gerhard and Sara. Something one hears of at times, with one partner gone the other looses the will to live and prefers to follow.
There was a drift crossing the Vaal, it was referred to as Engelbrecht Drift. The exact position is not known, an indication is that next to the prison to the west is a farm called 'Engelbrecht's Drift 773' as indicated on the 1:50000 topographic map. And a bit further downstream is a place called 'Pontdrif' which brings me to the next story.
Fairly often the drift became impassable because of flooding. Long queues would form of transport riders waiting to cross. This caused MC Engelbrecht (a son of GJ) and Thorn Keogh (a carpenter in Heilbron) to think of building a pont to float wagons across. They borrowed £300 from John Pierce in Heilbron (more about John Pierce on the Heilbron page) and build a float large enough to take a wagon and a normal span of 16 oxen. The pont started operating in 1889 and was an instant success, they charged £1 for a laden wagon and 10 schilling for a empty one. They managed to repay the loan from John Pierce within 2 month. Traffic increased so much because of the development aroung Johannesburg that at times the pont had to operate day and night. The usefulness of the pont most likely decreased with the coming of the railways in 1892. But at that time the two investors had earned enough money so that MC Engelbrecht could buy an other farm and Thorn Keogh a bottle store in Heilbron.
And here just a 'by-the-way-comment'. These people didn't wait for the government to come to the rescue, they saw an opportunity and took it, with success. This is what is missing in today's societies, to many people are just waiting for the government to come and solve their problems.
The Stofberg Gedenkskool was established to train black preachers for the NG Sendingskerk, that was the missionary arm of the Dutch Reformed Church. Two farms, Groenpunt and Klipfontein, were bought for that purpose at a cost of £2700 in 1908 from the bothers Engelbrecht. The first director and teacher was Andrew Hofmeyr, who made a start on the 1-Oct-1908 with one lecturer (him) and one student. The school grew from there and later also included a normal school for black children.
And why did it carry the name Stofberg? Pieter B.J.Stofberg (1869-1907) was a missionary at Mochudi, a village in Botswana. It is on the road from Gaborone to Francistown, about 36km out of Gabs. He was fairly successful in his mission work and continuously advocated for a training school to be established for black preachers. Another potential link was possibly his wife Annie, who was a born Hofmeyr. She was born in Montagu as a daughter of Dr.S.Hofmeyr. I am still doing research to see what the connection was.
Ds.A.M.Hofmeyr died and is buried here, his grave stone reads: opgerig duer die; N.G.Sendingskerke; ter Gedagteniss aan; Ds.A.M.Hofmeyr; geb. 15 Junie 1866; oorl. 21 Feb 1936; Stigter van Evangeliste Skool; Emandhleni; Eerste Direkteur van; Stofberg Gedenkskool. The school at Emandhleni (near Greytown) is mentioned here, it was the first attempt to establish a school for preachers, but according to Ref 3 it was not an unqualified success and was closed down.
The school had to move in 1960 because of the Groups Area act which aimed to have clear dividing lines between black and white, and Coloureds and Indians. The theology students were moved to the newly established university at Turfloop near Pieterburg in the Northern Transvaal, and some of them down to Witsieshoek. I have written about the NG Sendings Kerk there, check it here.
It is ironic that the government of the day had to close the Gedenkskool as a 'black spot' and then went to establish a prison housing black prisoners. When that was I still have to find out.
The picture shows 14 graves on the farm Anniesrus. The story is that these are British soldiers, but this is what it is at the moment, a story. Why are they not marked by the typical steel cross and another point why were they not collected as others were and placed in a larger cemetery? The nearest to here would have been Maccauvlei. I will keep on searching for what the real story is.
On the same site are also two graves of burghers that died during the Boer War, those are H.Potgieter and H.Lemmers. There is a old gravestone on the Lemmers grave which reads: J.H.R.Lemmers; geb den 2 Maart; 1880; gesneuvelt 25 Mai 1901. Gesneuvelt means killed in action.
The date points to some action when a commando of Boer fighters tried to dislodge the British troops at Engelbrecht drift. That was on the 24 and 25 May 1901.
Ref 1.: Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Nasou Limited
Ref 2.: The History of Deneysville, a booklet available at the library
Ref 3.: De Kerkbode (weekly newsletter of the NG church of SA), 12 March 1908
Ref 4.: Ds.PBJ Stofberg,'Levenschets van Mevr.Annie Stofberg (geb.Hofmeyr)' Darter Bros &Co, 1908
Picture reference: all pictures are my own with the exception of the St.Peter's church inside by Piet Lombard.