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The Boer assault on Fauresmith, October 1900

On 19 October, Genl JBM Hertzog attacked Fauresmith. Fauresmith was occupied by 117 Seaforth Highlanders, 20 members of the Imperial Yeomanry, and a Town Guard of 17 men, under Capt ABA Steward, and they managed to fight off the onslaught.

 

 A few days later, on Sunday 21 October, the British rounded up the civilians of Jagersfontein, while they were on their way to church. A large group of civilians of Jagersfontein and Fauresmith were marched under armed guard, in a convoy of more than 10 kilometers, to arrive at Edenburg four days later. Edenburg, being a town on the main north-south railway, was much better fortified by the British than the remote villages.

   

Commandant Jan Jacobs
Head of Fauresmith commando
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The oldest church town in the southern Free State

Before about 1860, the Free State was a premodern society. The farmers and their families usually lived next to a fountain, and then moved off when grazing was thin. Gradually, the settlements became permanent, stone houses and kraals began springing up. Houses were built of stone, mud and dung. The farms were large and remote from one another,  producing their own meat, bread, mealies and milk products. Occasionally, travelling vendors came by, often selling their wares on credit. As late as 1887, a traveler described the journey of thirty-four miles between Fauresmith and Philippolis as long and lonely: “The towns hereabouts are connected by a slim thread of travel; the hem of civilization is sewn with wide stitches” (David Kennedy).

         

While Philippolis and Bethulie were established as mission stations, Fauresmith originated as a church town to serve the neighbouring Dutch farmers. Fauresmith was established in 1848, the second Dutch town in the Free State (after Winburg, established in 1842). The first church building was constructed in 1851, and a municipality established in 1859.

In 1856, the Fauresmith district, which included Philippolis, had a white population of about 2 273. The Fauresmith district was the fourth most populous district in the Free State, after Winburg, Bloemfontein and Smithfield. This district also had the most sheep in the Free State - At this stage, the Fauresmith district had the largest sheep holdings in the Republic – about 307 000 woollen sheep and 116 000 Afrikaner sheep.Fauresmith held annual agricultural shows, and it had its own

Woolbreeding Association. CWH van der Post – later a notable figure in Philippolis – reported, in 1888: “The Fauresmith Farmers Wool Improvement Society has branches in every ward. It is working well. Before each sheering, an inspector visits each farm to examine the sheep, and to provide advice on shearing, sorting and baling. If it is all up to standard, then the Association’s mark is applied to the bale, and the dealers in Port Elizabeth know which farmers are supplying the wool.” Between 1861 and 1892, at least 19 wool-washing enterprises were established in the Free State.          

        

During the diamond mining rush in Kimberley, the south-western districts of Jacobsdal, Boshof, Fauresmith and Philippolis felt the new economic impulse. Production and land prices escalated. The town of Fauresmith, in particular, became prosperous, and also benefited from diamond diggings in nearby Jagersfontein. In 1875, Fauresmith had two banks (one had a branch in Bloemfontein). In 1890, when the railway station was opened in Bloemfontein, the amateur dramatic society of Fauresmith and Jagersfontein performed Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado.

The English community in Fauresmith established a girls school, and there was also a black mission  school, run by the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk and the Anglicans.

In 1890, Fauresmith district had a population of 15 000 people, including black and white people. An important local notable was Mr CWH van der Post, (described on the Personalities page). He was a member of the Volksraad and a local mobiliser of the Boer forces in 1899.

 

 

 

FAURESMITH

The oldest church town in the southern Free State

Fauresmith is well known for its railway line running along the main street. This line was constructed in 1905, went past Philippolis, and joined the main line at Springfontein.