Bethulie

History and Overview of Bethulie

Overview
Bethulie/ Lephoi serves as a regional agricultural service centre within Kopanong Municipality and is situated approximately 52 km south of Trompsburg and about 185 km from Bloemfontein.  Access to the town is gained from the R701 route between Gariep Dam and Smithfield.

Social and economic functions
The main social and economic function of the town is to serve as (a) key regional destination, (b) secondary agricultural service centre, and (c) social functions such as residence, education and medical services.

HISTORY AND TOURIST INFORMATION
Bethulie and its surrounds are rich in history. Second only to the environment, history is what makes the area worth visiting.

Fossils
Fossils as old as 260 million years have been found, including Procolophon, Lystrosaurus, Proterosuchus, Lydekterina and Thrinaxodon. There are also remains of an ancient lake 230 million years old.

Before the missionaries
RJ Gordon reached the Groot Rivier about 10 km west of the present Bethulie and renamed it the Orange River. In 1803 Governor JW Janssens travelled to this area and in 1809 Colonel Richard Collins reached the confluence of the Caledon and Orange Rivers where he gave the Caledon its western name. Nomadic farmers were visitors to the region in 1820 already. The Bushmen were the first inhabitants of the area. RJ Gordon made sketches in 1777 where he noted seeing six Bushmen in the vicinity of where the northern point of the Steyn bridge is now. A considerable number of Bushmen paintings can be seen in the region.

Missionary era
James Clarke and GA Kolbe of the London Missionary Society did missionary work among the Bushmen from 1828-1833. JP Pellissier of the Paris Missionary Society did similar work from 1833-1867 among the Batlhapin who had followed him from Zeerust. Their captain was Lephoi.

Founding of the town
A dispute erupted between Pellissier and Lephoi after the latter sold the ground of the mission station to migrant farmers. A syndicate of migrant farmers bought the ground in 1860 and acquired 6000 morgen for the establishment of a town. In 1863 the town was proclaimed under the name of Heidelberg.

Anglo Boer War
The first participation of Bethulie burghers was in the Battle of Stormberg on 10 December 1899. The Boers blew up the train bridge across the river in 1900. Three burghers died in the skirmish at the old wagon bridge on 10 March 1900. The British occupied Bethulie in 15 March and placed the town under military control. The concentration camp began in April 1901 just outside the town where between 4800- 5000 people were contained. In the following 13 months 1714 women and children died there. The cemetery displays small sandstone graves of deceased concentration camp children to the silver crosses at the heads of soldiers’ graves. A large memorial, built on the outskirts of town, with name walls will have you linking a trace to the many nationalities once engulfed in the duress of the Anglo Boer War.

San Rock Art
San Rock art in the district, less than 20km from Bethulie,  gives evidence of the early San in the area, while the movements of the Voortrekkers, and the strife of numerous wars can be seen all over area.

D.H Steyn Bridge: A beautiful sandstone bridge near the town. It is the longest road and rail bridge at 1,2km in the country. Dutch Reformed Church: A stately edifice, completed in 1887 and now a national monument.Grave of JJ Venter: Former acting President of the Free State Province. Horse Memorial: The memorial is a tribute to horses and their courage on the battlefield.

Klaversfontein Rabbit Farm: 15km Outside Bethulie, angora fur production can be viewed. Louw Wepener Memorial: Wepener, who led Free State commandos in the second of the Basotho Wars, is honoured in this memorial 10km north of the town. Ox-wagon Monument: A tribute to the Voortrekker’ mode of transport. The building of the Gariep dam: The building of the Gariep dam and the establishment of the Tussen-die-Riviere game reserve was far-reaching as the town of Bethulie lost 60% of its land area. The dam was completed in 1971. The railway had to be moved. The old road and rail bridges had to be dismantled. The old station, built in 1894, had to be closed and a new station at the opposite end of town had to be built in 1970.

Facts About Bethulie
Bethulie is a small, historical town in the southern Freestate province on the northern banks of the Gariep Dam, about 90 minutes drive (185Kms) from Bloemfontein. Bethulie serves a cattle and sheep farming area.

Historical and tourism information
Bethulie and its surrounds are rich in history. Second only to the environment, history is what makes the area worth visiting. Fossils as old as 260 million years have been found, including Procolophon, Lystrosaurus, Proterosuchus, Lydekterina and Thrinaxodon. There are also remains of an ancient lake 230 million years old.

Before the missionaries
RJ Gordon reached the Groot Rivier about 10 km west of the present Bethulie and renamed it the Orange River. In 1803 Governor JW Janssens travelled to this area and in 1809 Colonel Richard Collins reached the confluence of the Caledon and Orange Rivers where he gave the Caledon its western name. Nomadic farmers were visitors to the region in 1820 already. The Bushmen were the first inhabitants of the area. RJ Gordon made sketches in 1777 where he noted seeing six Bushmen in the vicinity of where the northern point of the Steyn bridge is now. A considerable number of Bushmen paintings can be seen in the region.

Missionary era
James Clarke and GA Kolbe of the London Missionary Society did missionary work among the Bushmen from 1828-1833. JP Pellissier of the Paris Missionary Society did similar work from 1833-1867 among the Batlhapin who had followed him from Zeerust. Their captain was Lephoi.

Founding of the town
A dispute erupted between Pellissier and Lephoi after the latter sold the ground of the mission station to migrant farmers. A syndicate of migrant farmers bought the ground in 1860 and acquired 6000 morgen for the establishment of a town. In 1863 the town was proclaimed under the name of Heidelberg.

Anglo Boer War
The first participation of Bethulie burghers was in the Battle of Stormberg on 10 December 1899.The Boers blew up the train bridge across the river in 1900. Three burghers died in the skirmish at the old wagon bridge on 10 March 1900. The British occupied Bethulie in 15 March and placed the town under military control. The concentration camp began in April 1901 just outside the town where between 4800- 5000 people were contained. In the following 13 months 1714 women and children died there.

The building of the Gariep dam
The building of the Gariep dam and the establishment of the Tussen-die-Riviere game reserve was far-reaching. Bethulie lost 60% of its land area. The dam was completed in 1971. The railway had to be moved. The old road and rail bridges had to be dismantled. The old station, built in 1894, had to be closed and a new station at the opposite end of town had to be built in 1970.