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Going back to before Johannesburg’s birth for this post…
Before the discovery of gold, the area was made up of various boer farms after which many of todays suburbs are named: Laanglaagte, Braamfontein, Doornfontein, Diepkloof and Turffontein to name just a few. These farms date back to around 1851 and this was around the time various boer families coming up from the Cape Colony settled in the Transvaal.
The main reef was discovered on the farm Laanglaagte and many of the surrounding farms were eventually sold off in pieces for mining or, if no payable gold was found, were eventually laid out to become the suburbs we know today.
Barend Christiaan Viljoen (1807-1859) and his wife Judith Cornelia Theresa (nee Booysen 1807-1861) settled at the farm Doornfontein in early 1851. It is said that the farm was purchased for a wagon, a team of oxen and a trek chain possibly from Gerrit Bezhuidenhout who appears to have owned the original land that included the farms we know as Doornfontein and Braamfontein. This may relate to another transaction based on G. R. Allen from the history department of RAU in his research titled ‘F. J. Bezhuidenhout’s Doornfontein: A case study in white farmland alienation of the 19th Century Witwatersrand’ says that the farm was applied for by B. Viljoen who was also the inspector. The inspection was done in 1853. Either Viljoen bought the farm from Bezhuidenhout, or he was the first to apply. The application theory is backed by documentation and makes no mention of G. Bezhuidenhout.
Viljoen and his wife had a daughter, Judith Cornelia Ethresia (1831-1904) who married FJ Bezhuidenhout (1825-1900) who was the brother of Gerrit. The farm Doornfontein was transferred into the name of FJ Bezhuidenhout Senior in 1861 by his mother-in-law, J. C. T. Viljoen a few months before she died. FJ Bezhuidenhout Junior (son) owned Turffontein (purchased from his father) and his farmhouse was apparently in the centre of where town is now -perhaps that mythical farm in Eloff Street- although this is doubtful given that the location would have been in Randjeslaagte which was uninhabited as it was government-owned land in-between the farms Doornfontein, Braamfontein and Turffontein.
In 1862 FJ senior gave portions of the farm to back to GP Bezhuidenhout, CW Bezhuidenhout & FJ van Dijk.
In 1871 GP sold his land to FJ van Dijk who in 1884 sold half to JJ Lindeque.
In 1886 CW sold a third of his land to Lourens Geldenhuis (1836-1891) who also owned Elandsfontein otherwise known as Bedfordview. Lourens passed on land to his sons Frans (1856-1934), Dirk (1858-) and Louw (1864-1929) Geldenhuis which covered roughly Melville, Westdene, Greenside, Emmarentia & Linden area. Frans’ original home is now the clubhouse at Mark’s Park and Louw’s farmhouse is in Greenhill road Greenside. The family cemetery is in Hill Road, and will be the subject of a separate post.
Bezhuidenhout Park in Bez Valley is the site of the Bezhuidenhout farmhouse (originally built in 1863) and family cemetery. The basic farmhouse was added to over the years and would have started out as a basic mud and thatch structure before taking on Victorian elements seen today. The family donated the land for the park and stipulated that the house and cemetery be maintained.
In Jan 2011 I took a bunch of pictures of all the headstones and plaques I could find. There may be more buried under the long grass but these were visible. Like many cemeteries, one day there will be no one left alive who remembers or even know or care about their long dead relatives and the cemeteries will no longer be visited or properly maintained. Brixton and Braamfontein cemeteries are in danger of this in about 50 – 100 years from now unless declared a heritage site. These old cemeteries are plagued by vandals and scrap metal scavengers who even go so far as picking the metal lettering out of the headstones.
These are the names I could make out in the Bezhuidenhout cemetery:
JA Muller 1857 – 1909
Barend Christian Bezhuidenhout – 1859 – 1925
Adriana Maria Petronella Bezhuidenhout (nee Muller) 1862 – 1939
Frederik Jacobus Bedhuidenhout 1825 – 1900 Senior (His children were FJ Bez Jr, BC Bez, JA Muller (both above) PS Grobler, CFJ Meyer, WWJJ Bez & WAS Gouws
Judith Cornelia Etresia Bezhuidenhout (nee Viljoen) 1831 – 1904 (Same children as FJ above)
FJ & JCE’s headstone is the massive red granite one that originally had the angel on top. Inscriptions are on each upright with verses on the other sides.
Name unclear – Daughter of FJ & JCE 1856 – 1844
JA (Basie) Muller 1915 – 1940
Piet Retief 1910 – 1912 or (17) Son of PH and SA Bezhuidenhout
Gabriel Johannes Mathys Wolmarans 1882 – 1934
Willem Stephanus De Beer 1921 – 1930
Marie 1887 – 190? Daughter of BC and AMP Bezhuidenhout
Girl ?? 1910 – 1916 Daughter of WG & CM O’Reilly
Aleida Roorda (nee Pasman) 1879 – 1916
There are two plaques set in the ground that I can’t make out. Both are damaged but appear to be Bezhuidenhouts.
I found an old picture of the cemetery in Eric Rosenthal’s 1974 book The Rand Rush (pic courtesy of South African Press Services) that shows where the broken angel came from. It’s the one at the top of this post.