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Offline Dorsland

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History of place names in Southern Africa
« on: April 24, 2021, 11:18:15 am »
I have always had an avid interest in history, especially that of our country and volk the Afrikaners.  (Let's not get into an argument of Afrikaners vs Boere  :)) The destruction of South Africa and the erasure of everything related to my history, culture, language, the renaming of anything from the old South Africa and so on is particularly painful to me.

Anyway......

As a result of my interest, I have an extensive library of natural history, geographical, cultural, historical and other books.  Among them a book by PE Raper, head of the Onomastic Research Centre of the HSRC, titled Dictionary of Southern African Place Names.  I always used to take this book along on my African travels when I was younger and enjoyed doing some layman's research to be able to extend my personal knowledge of the many places I encountered back then.

I thought it would be interesting to share some of these brief histories and any other interesting details here.  If anyone has additional information and perhaps photos, it would make an interesting read for us.

I'd like to keep this thread as a historical perspective so new "liberated" names will not be used.

« Last Edit: April 24, 2021, 11:27:06 am by Dorsland »
Beny 'n man sy spaarsaamheid en sy volharding en jy hoef hom nie sy onafhanklikheid te beny nie.

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Offline Dorsland

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2021, 11:26:21 am »
I'll kick off with the closest town to my farm, Graaff-Reinet.

Third oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town and Stellenbosch.  Founded in 1786 and named after Cornelis Jacob van der Graaff, governor of the Cape from 1785 - 1791, and his wife Cornelia Reinet (also spelt Reynet).

Colloquially known as the jewel of the Karoo.  It is surrounded on 3 sides by the Camdeboo National Park and lies on the Sundays River.  It attained municipal status in 1845. While most towns have a certain beauty about them, Graaff-Reinet lies in a particularly beautiful part of the Karoo Midlands, 296km north-west of PE, 42km north-east of Aberdeen and 105km south-west of Middelburg.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2021, 02:56:46 pm by Dorsland »
Beny 'n man sy spaarsaamheid en sy volharding en jy hoef hom nie sy onafhanklikheid te beny nie.

C.J. Langenhoven
 

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2021, 11:45:59 am »
Correction Johan, GR is the 4th oldest town after CT, Stellenbosch and Swellendam :thumleft:  think they referred it as towns with landdrosse 

I like this thread and share the historical inquisitiveness. 
 

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Offline big oil

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2021, 01:11:19 pm »
 :sip:

That is one incredible looking church in GR.
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Offline TheBear

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2021, 03:13:08 pm »
South Africa could well be know for its beautiful churches, especially in the older, smaller towns.  This one in Graaff-Reinett must be one of the most beautiful ever.
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Offline big oil

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2021, 07:02:20 am »
South Africa could well be know for its beautiful churches, especially in the older, smaller towns.  This one in Graaff-Reinett must be one of the most beautiful ever.

Without a doubt  :thumleft:
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Offline Dustbiter

Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2021, 11:29:40 am »
Sorry, if this seen as a hijack.

I agree with you, Dorsland, re name changes, especially as my birth town, Port Elizabeth, has had a name change.
I would be confused in the country of my birth when trying to find my way around, as I know the names of towns given before 2000.

Here in the autonomous province of Südtirol (known as Alto Adige by the Italian speakers; referring to the upper Etsch River, which runs past Meran) in northern Italy all the town - and road names are given in both official languages, (as can be seen by the attached photo - throwing in a "windpomp" photo at the same time).

The area of Südtirol belonged to Austria and even Germany in the past. Tirol (western part of Austria, to out north), is known as Nordtirol here, and Osttirol is the region of Austria to our east.

The town we live in Meran is also known as Merano (population 40 000) by the Italian speakers. All the original German names were changed to Italian after WW 1, and especially in the time just prior and after WW 2, by one man (Ettore Tolomei) who took it upon himself to "Italianise" the German names. There was much conflict between the two groups, especially prior to the mid 1970s when German was not "allowed" to be spoken in public.

In 1916 and 1917, he collaborated with the Istituto Geografico De Agostini (now De Agostini) to prepare maps for the region which would show it as being part of Italy. These maps were used by the Italian delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, strengthening the impression that this was really an old Italian region.

Tolomei enforced his policy of Italianization from 1923 onwards. The names of some 8,000 towns and places were changed, and Italian was made the only official language. His program totalled 32 points, publicly presented by Tolomei in Bolzano's Civic Theatre in July 1923, of which some of the most salient were:
•   prohibition of the name "Tirol", and any variation of the same;
•   closure of German-language schools;
•   dissolution of parties specific to the German-speaking community;
•   imposition of Italian as the only official language;
•   closure of German-language press.
•   Unification of the Alto Adige and the Trentino in a single province with the capital Trento.
 Appointment of Italian municipal secretaries.
Revision of the (citizenship) options and closure of the Brenner border for all persons who have not been granted Italian citizenship.
Entry and residence difficulties for Germans and Austrians.
Prevention of German immigration.
Revision of the 1921 census.
Introduction of Italian as the official language.
Dismissal of the German civil servants or transfer to the old provinces.
Dissolution of the "German Association".
Dissolution of all Alpine clubs that were not subject to the Italian Alpine Club; Handover of the refuges to the Italian Alpine Club.
Prohibition of the names "Südtirol" and "Deutsch-Südtirol".
The daily newspaper “Der Tiroler”, published in Bolzano, is discontinued.
Italianization of German place names.
Italianization of public signs.
Italianization of street and route names.
Italianization of the Germanized family names.

Removal of the Walther monument from Waltherplatz in Bolzano.
Reinforcement of the Carabinieri troops excluding German teams.
Favoring land acquisition and immigration by Italians.
Non-interference from abroad in South Tyrolean affairs.
Elimination of German banks, establishment of an Italian land credit bank.
Establishment of border customs offices in Sterzing and Toblach.
Generous promotion of the Italian language and culture.
Establishment of Italian kindergartens and elementary schools.
Establishment of Italian secondary schools.
Strict control of foreign university diplomas.
Expansion of the Istituto di Storia per l’Alto Adige.
Change of the territory of the diocese of Bressanone and strict control of the activity of the clergy.
Use of Italian in litigation and in court.
State control of the Bozen Chamber of Commerce and the agricultural corporations


But thankfully, for me, German and Italian appear on all official documents here, as well as place names. Pity that cannot happen in South Africa too.
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« Last Edit: April 26, 2021, 12:11:49 pm by Dustbiter »
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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2021, 11:41:48 am »
Nice thread  :thumleft:
 
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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2021, 12:27:32 pm »
Nice thread Dorsland, it piques my interest, I often wonder about oddly named places on my travels, like Verkeerdevlei as an example - did the trekking Boers plan to meet up at a predetermined spot/vlei but some ended up at an incorrect one and subsequently named it Verkeerdevlei for time immemorial? I look forward to reading as you progress.
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Offline TheBear

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2021, 01:11:39 pm »
Nice thread Dorsland, it piques my interest, I often wonder about oddly named places on my travels, like Verkeerdevlei as an example - did the trekking Boers plan to meet up at a predetermined spot/vlei but some ended up at an incorrect one and subsequently named it Verkeerdevlei for time immemorial? I look forward to reading as you progress.

The name possibly refers to the fact that the flow of the water is in the opposite direction to the norm there.  If memory serves, west to east instead of eat to west, or something like that.
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Offline Dorsland

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2021, 02:56:24 pm »
Correct @TheBear.  According to my book, Verkeerdevlei is a town 39km south-east of Brandfort.  The name probably refers to an east-west flow of water in an area where the direction is normally west-east.

Typical of most South African towns, an impressive Dutch-Reformed church, admittedly not the best of it's genré though. Second pic is the thriving metropolis of Verkeerdevlei  :biggrin:
« Last Edit: April 26, 2021, 02:59:45 pm by Dorsland »
Beny 'n man sy spaarsaamheid en sy volharding en jy hoef hom nie sy onafhanklikheid te beny nie.

C.J. Langenhoven
 

Offline Dorsland

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2021, 03:12:50 pm »
An interesting entry immediately below Verkeerdevlei's listing in the book is Verhuellpolis, former name of Bethulie. Named by the Rev. JP Pellisier of the French Missionary Society in 1835, in honour of Admiral Verhuell, First President of the Society.

It was originally a mission station named Moordenaarspoort as a result of the many San and Griquas killed there by Basotho.  This mission was originally established by Rev. Clark of The London Missionary Society in 1829 before being taken over by Pellisier in 1835, who then renamed it Verhuellpolis. The directors of the FMS preferred a biblical name and in the same year renamed it Bethulia, in Hebrew meaning "maiden of the Lord" or "Chosen by God". 

I will refrain from expanding on my opinion of the London Missionary Society, who probably single handedly caused more damage to the Afrikaners in this country than any other civil organisation.

Bethulie was also the location of a large concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer War:

"Bethulie camp was formed on 22 April 1901, after the civilian administration took over the running of the camps from the military, and was created to take the overflow from Springfontein camp. At first families were housed in the little town (which had a population of hardly more that 550). Initially the camp was located on the koppies above the town, but it was moved twice. In June 1901 it was placed nearer to the river. Unfortunately the lower site meant that the camp often lay in heavy mist, the Ladies Committee observed. As disease increased and the ground became polluted, in March 1902 the camp was moved again, to a site where the ground was less fouled.1Bethulie camp was formed on 22 April 1901, after the civilian administration took over the running of the camps from the military, and was created to take the overflow from Springfontein camp. At first families were housed in the little town (which had a population of hardly more that 550). Initially the camp was located on the koppies above the town, but it was moved twice. In June 1901 it was placed nearer to the river. Unfortunately the lower site meant that the camp often lay in heavy mist, the Ladies Committee observed. As disease increased and the ground became polluted, in March 1902 the camp was moved again, to a site where the ground was less fouled."

https://www2.lib.uct.ac.za/mss/bccd/Histories/Bethulie/

It seems Bethulie has gone through the renaming mill a few times.

Beny 'n man sy spaarsaamheid en sy volharding en jy hoef hom nie sy onafhanklikheid te beny nie.

C.J. Langenhoven
 

Offline Dorsland

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2021, 03:16:51 pm »
Interestingly, the Hennie Steyn Railway Bridge is named after Hennie Steyn, brother of my paternal grandfather, Douw Gerbrand Steyn.  Oom Hennie was Secretary of Finance (Sekretaris van Finansies) in the Nationalist Government in 1940.  Their other brother, Oom Iddie Steyn, farmed on teh farm Springfontein, now under the waters of the Verwoerddam (Gariep dam).

(Edited to correct date)
« Last Edit: April 26, 2021, 04:18:45 pm by Dorsland »
Beny 'n man sy spaarsaamheid en sy volharding en jy hoef hom nie sy onafhanklikheid te beny nie.

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Offline ClimbingTurtle

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2021, 04:02:08 pm »
Interestingly, the Hennie Steyn Railway Bridge is named after Hennie Steyn, brother of my paternal grandfather, Douw Gerbrand Steyn.  Oom Hennie was Secretary of Finance (Sekretaris van Finansies) in the Nationalist Government in the 1920s if memory serves me correctly.  Their other brother, Oom Iddie Steyn, farmed on teh farm Springfontein, now under the waters of the Verwoerddam (Gariep dam).

This bridge was worth a Kykweer for me one day - I was towing a trailer with a bike that I collected in CT, on my wat back to Jhb, I cannot take the direct route, and drove past this railway bridge. I then did a u-turn to get a better look and better pics, then another u-turn to get going in the correct direction again....  :imaposer:
To be fair, I did that more than a few times a day on that drive back, took me 4 days.....

@big oil - the GR Church is an amazing view when arriving in town - the church block is built across the main road, so the Spire dominates the view as you look down the road - pretty and impressive!!
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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2021, 04:20:48 pm »
This is probably the view you are talking about  ;D
Beny 'n man sy spaarsaamheid en sy volharding en jy hoef hom nie sy onafhanklikheid te beny nie.

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Offline ClimbingTurtle

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2021, 04:29:17 pm »
That would be the one.....

makes you want to pull over and just look.....
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Offline big oil

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2021, 06:24:59 pm »
That is incredible, when was it built?  Who built that magnificent looking structure, Americans?!?!
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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2021, 06:42:16 pm »
South Africa could well be know for its beautiful churches, especially in the older, smaller towns.  This one in Graaff-Reinett must be one of the most beautiful ever.
Swellendam church too :thumleft:

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Re: History of place names in Southern Africa
« Reply #19 on: April 27, 2021, 09:50:24 am »
Interestingly, the Hennie Steyn Railway Bridge is named after Hennie Steyn, brother of my paternal grandfather, Douw Gerbrand Steyn.  Oom Hennie was Secretary of Finance (Sekretaris van Finansies) in the Nationalist Government in 1940.  Their other brother, Oom Iddie Steyn, farmed on teh farm Springfontein, now under the waters of the Verwoerddam (Gariep dam).

(Edited to correct date)

Was die United Party nie aan bewind in ‘40 nie? Nationalist het in ‘48 gekom.  Smuts regering?  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Jan_Smuts_government

Daar was a CF Steyn. Minister van Justisie?