Street names reflect history 12 – S

by | Nov 12, 2021 | Forgotten Heroes, People, Street names | 0 comments

A flag designer, two pioneer merchant brothers, a writer of youth literature and a flamboyant minister are immortalised in these streets named after them.

Scheepers Lane (Central) was named after Mr Fred Scheepers, mayor in 1944. He was a staff member at the Potchefstroom Gimnasium for many years. He was a talented rugby player and part of the first Mielieboere team that played in the first Currie Cup in Kimberley in 1920. Later he was a prominent figure in Western Transvaal athletic circles.

The town council of Potchefstroom with chief officials in 1938/39. Mr Fred Scheepers stands fourth from left at the back. The rest of the group is: (front) JB Gaisford, JP Pretorius, AN Weeks (deputy-mayor), CL Olen (mayor), CS Klopper, IG Theron and AJ Pepler. At the back are LV Glaeser (manager of Parks & Estates), WD Ross (electrical engineer), HP Phillips (town clerk & treasurer), Scheepers, Mrs Aletta Nel, GJJ van Niekerk, JB Miller, HWH Calderbank, dr D Tom (medical officer of health) and WPJ Pietersen (town engineer). Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

Co-designer of Vierkleur

Schubart Street (Oewersig) was named after AF Schubart who played an important role in the early history of Potchefstroom. He was appointed as clerk of the president and government bodies in 1857. He assisted Marthinus van der Hoff (1835-1909), brother of Rev Dirk van der Hoff, in designing the “Vierkleur” (four colour flag of the ZAR) in a room in the Boerenwinkel, a shop that was situated where the Potchefstroom post office is today.

In 1866, 1867 and 1870 he was the secretary of the local school commission of Potchefstroom.

In 1869 he was elected as one of the “stadskommissarisse” (city commissioners) of the municipality of Potchefstroom and was the first secretary of this body. In 1875 he became the chairman.

In 1873 he was also appointed as curator of the museum. This is according to a government notice published in the Government Gazette of 31 December 1873 where it was announced that it had been decided to found a “Staats Natuurkundig Genootschap” under the auspices of the government and that a museum should be opened in Potchefstroom.

The flag of the ZAR was designed by Marthinus van der Hoff and AF Schubart. It took place in the room to the far right of the building on the left, which at the time was the Boerenwinkel. Note the Vierkleur waving on the pole in front of the magistrate’s office. Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

Two merchant brothers

Scorgie Street (Baillie Park)
was named after the two Scorgie brothers who came to Potchefstroom from Scotland. They applied for trading licences in 1853, making them some of the earliest merchants in the town. By 1855 they were regarded as two of the most important merchants in the town.

Glen Alexander Scorgie (1845-1935) was born in Hill, England. His wife was Anne Elizabeth (1846-1900).

Thomas Alfred Scorgie passed away in 1908 at the age of 67. His wife was Harriet Frances Wiggill. She was a descendant of the 1820 Settlers. The couple was married in Queenstown in 1868.

Glen Alexander Scorgie was to co-owner of Siddle & Scorgie, which by 1880 had two shops. One was situated on the north-western corner of Potgieter and Greyling Streets (Nelson Mandela and OR Tambo) and the other on the south-eastern corner of Church (Walter Sisulu) and Wolmarans Streets.

Glen Scorgie, by the late 1860s, advertised that he had a stock of ready-made suits.

Glen Alexander Scorgie (1845-1935) came to Potchefstroom in 1853 with his brother Thomas. Both set up shops in town. Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

Glen Scorgie’s house stood on the northern side of Potgieter Street right next to his shop. Mrs Daphne Hurndall described it in her memoirs:

It was right on the street, with an ornate railing with gate and heavy, wooden front door and on either side, two French doors. I remember the huge dining room in which stood a large billiard table – they used one end as a dining room table.

Thomas Scorgie was a merchant and also a buyer of wool and grain. His shop was on the south-western corner of Church Street (Walter Sisulu) and Retief Street. In 1869 he built a family residence next to the store in Retief Street and it was situated across from where Maury Lane joins Retief Street.

His daughter, Rose, born in 1881, wrote her memoirs, titled My Swan Song and presented the manuscript to the Potchefstroom Museum. This provides a wealth of information on Potchefstroom during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Anglo Boer War affected the Scorgie family adversely. Due to heavy losses during the war, Thomas Scorgie was declared bankrupt shortly afterwards and died in 1909. Her father’s financial position prompted Rose to start working in 1906 as stenographer and typist. She was then appointed as clerk to the Town Council, where her salary was exactly half of what her predecessor had received. In spite of glowing testimonies of her work, the salary was not increased and she decided to immigrate to the USA.

Both Scorgie brothers were entrenched in the community of Potchefstroom. Thomas served as the first treasurer of the school board for the English school in 1872 and Glen had the honour to unlock the Wesleyan Church (currently Methodist Church) when it was officially opened on 14 January 1906 indicating the large role he played in the building of the church. According to Rose he did so “with a golden key of intricate design”.

This postcard shows the Methodist Church, then known as the Wesleyan Chapel, shortly after it was built in the early 1900s. The building was designed by John Henry and Albert Edwin Till of Kroonstad. It was built with red bricks that were later painted white. The corner stone was laid on 8 October 1905 by Lord Selborne (1859-1942) the High Commissioner for South Africa. Under the stone were placed copies of the local paper and a brief history of the Methodist Church. Lord Selborne’s speech was curtailed by a heavy dust storm. The church were formally opened on 14 January 1906 by Mr Glen A Scorgie with a golden key of intricate design.

Sein Street (Kanonnierspark) led to the buildings of the Signal Unit, now the Monument Flats, when the area was still part of the military camp.

Shapiro Street (Dassierand) was named after a long-time businessman and mill-owner of Potchefstroom, Mr Barney Shapiro.

Shapiro sold his property, which later would become the Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds, to the Potchefstroom University College in 1947. He acquired the property in 1913 when he and Isaac Nathanson bought it from Ivor Hjul.

At the time the PUC acquired the property there were a water mill, which was about 100 years old, as well as a dwelling, malt yard, stable for 10 cows, milking room, rondavel and other outbuildings. Nearly four hectares had lucerne fields and about 30 cattle and two horses grazed on the property. Also see my article on the Mills of Potchefstroom.

The house of Mr Barney Shapiro (middle) still stood in 1965 when this bird’s eye-view painting of the Bult was made. Recognisable is the Conservatory of the Potchefstroom University, the buildings that house Physical Education and the swimming pool. Shapiro sold the property to the PUC in 1947. In the 1960’s the last of the old historic water mills of Potchefstroom, the second on the property, was demolished to build the Conservatory. The first mill in Potchefstroom was built where the rugby clubhouse later stood. The painting was made by “RF” and is in possession of the North-West University.Short Street (Central)
was not, as generally accepted, named because of its length. It was named after Mr Eric Short, mayor of Potchefstroom in 1944/45. His parents were pioneers of Potchefstroom and his family house used to stand off Lombard Street, behind the Royal Hotel. Eric was for many years a partner, with his father, in the firm known as Short Bros, whose premises adjoined the Royal Hotel in Lombard Street. Mr Eric Short passed away in 1946 at the age of 54 years.

The residence of the Short family. According to the caption on the back of the photo the galvanised iron structure to the left was the old power station of Potchefstroom (before the one in Kock Street was opened in 1912). See my article on the history of electricity supply to Potchefstroom. It stood where there is now an open space beyond the parking lot of Turkstra Bakery. Gouws (Sol Plaatjie) did not exist at the time and the house was part of the gardens of the Royal Hotel. Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

Mayor organises world première

Singer Street (Central)
Singer Street was named after Mr Morris (Mokey) Singer, a well-known member of the Jewish community and mayor from 1956 to 1962, deputy mayor in 1967/68 and 1970/72 and a member of the town council from 1944 to 1962 and again from 1967 to 1982. According to his obituary, after he had passed away on 3 January 1985 at the age of 78, his father came to Potchefstroom “with the Voortrekkers”.

Singer’s father, Jacob Asher Singer, was a tailor and according to family legend made a wedding suit of Pres MW Pretorius.

Mokey went to school at what is now the President Pretorius Primary School and was then known as the North School. He did his apprenticeship to become a pharmacist at Luke’s Pharmacy in Potchefstroom. After completing his studies in London, he opened Mooirivier Pharmacy in 1931.

In 1956 the Afrikaans movie, Dis Lekker om te Lewe, was filmed in Potchefstroom. The “world première” was held in Potchefstroom on 17 June 1957 at the Grand Theatre in Church Street (Walter Sisulu). For this auspicious occasion 900 lightbulbs were installed in Church Street to give a Hollywood vibe to the town. With Singer presiding as mayor of Potchefstroom, the event was attended by the stars of the movie, Al Debbo and Frederik Burgers, as well as 25 mayors of neighbouring towns. Funds raised at the première went to the Ons Hulde Home for the Aged.

The host and hostess of the world première of the Afrikaans movie Dis Lekker om te Lewe was the mayor of Potchefstroom, Mr Mokey Singer (centre) and his wife, Chanie (second from left). With them are the stars of the movie, Frederik Burgers, Yvonne Theron and Al Debbo. This photo appeared in the Herald on 21 June 1957.

Sita Street (Central) was named after a well-known Afrikaans writer, Sita de Kock (1898-1987), who resided in the area. Mrs De Kock grew up as Sarah Bosman. She was born on the farm Hoogekraal at the confluence of the Mooi and Vaal Rivers. The name Sita was given to her by the farm workers on her father’s farm. She used this nom-de-plume when writing many Afrikaans books, mainly children’s stories. Her husband, Mr AJ (Kokkie) de Kock, retired as a teacher from the ML Fick Primary School.

Sarah was about two years old when she and her mother were taken to the Potchefstroom concentration camp when their farm was plundered by the British forces during the Anglo-Boer War. After matriculating at Potchefstroom High School for Girls, she studied at the Potchefstroom University College and received the BA degree. She did a correspondence course in journalism and published from 1930 to 1986. In 1960 she received the Scheepers Prize for youth literature from the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

She also compiled the genealogies of the Bosman and De Kock families.

Sita de Kock Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

Smit Street (Central)
was named after General Nicolas Smit (1837-1897). He was born in Graaff-Reinet and moved to the Transvaal with his parents during the Great Trek. He settled in Potchefstroom in 1864 and became a veldkornet (field cornet). A veldkornet was an official with wide-ranging administrative, military and judicial roles, which played an important part in governing the large open interior areas of Southern Africa since Dutch times. In 1880 he retired to his farm but with the outbreak of the First Anglo-Boer War, he was again in military service and distinguished himself at the Battle of Ingogo. After peace was made, he became a member of the Volksraad of the ZAR and in 1896 he became deputy president of the ZAR.

General Nicolas Smit (1837-1897) Photo: wikipedia

Solomon Street (Oewersig) was named after Mr David Hermanus Solomon who was a town councillor for many years and mayor in 1931/32.

Spioenkop Street (Dassierand)
was named after the famous battle during the Anglo-Boer War.

Spoelstra Avenue (Central)
was named after Rev Tjibbe Thomas Spoelstra (1900-1987), mayor in 1945/46.

Spoelstra matriculated at the Potchefstroom Gimnasium and completed his theological studies at the Theological School of the Reformed Church in 1924. In 1923 he was a member of the first student council of the PUC. He served four congregations of the Reformed Church, before becoming secretary/treasurer of the Administrative Bureau of the Potchefstroom from 1941 to 1949. He returned to ministry and finally retired in 1972.

TT Spoelstra seemed to have been a flamboyant dresser as a student, as this photo attests. He graduated in 1924. Photo graciously provided by Me Carmie Huisman, archivist of the Reformed Church.

Stander Street (Central)
was named after Mr AJJP (Ampie) Stander (1882-1951), a well-known building contractor. Amongst many others, he built the new purpose-designed building for the Herald Company, publishers of the Potchefstroom Herald. This building initially housed the newspaper and printing works which published the Herald. In 1957 the newspaper was sold and moved out. The printing works stayed and the Herald was published there until the end of 2009, a whopping 70 years. That is not where the association with the Herald ends. His grandson, Hennie, became the editor of the Potchefstroom Herald in 1987 and retired as the longest serving editor of the paper in 2019.

According to Senex, Ampie Stander built the first blocks of flats, Juliana Hof and Martha Hof, bordered by Embert Lane, Van der Bent Street and Greyling Street (OR Tambo). His sons, Koos and Hennie (father of the later Herald editor) were both builders. Apart from many other houses and buildings in town, they also erected the block of flats on the south-eastern corner of Church Street (Walter Sisulu) and Smit Street, named “Die Standers”.

Mr AJJP (Ampie) Stander was a well-known builder in Potchefstroom for many years. Two of his sons followed in his footsteps. His grandson, Hennie Stander, who supplied this photo was editor of the Potchefstroom Herald for 32 years.

Steyn Street (Baillie Park)
was named after one of the first magistrates of Potchefstroom. It is not clear if this is the same person as the Landdros Steyn after whom this street in Potchindustria was named.

Strydom Street (Baillie Park)
was named after PF Strydom under whose supervision the move of the town from Oudedorp to the current site took place. The surveying of the town was undertaken by JH Grobler.

Stuart Street (Oewersig)
Jacobus Stuart was a Dutchman who endeavoured himself to be in service of the “Dutch South Africans”. He visited the widow of Piet Retief in 1852 at her house on the corner of Berg (Peter Mokaba) and Retief Streets and reported on her dire circumstances. He therefore also probably played a significant role in obtaining a government grant or pension for her. He was the chairman of the committee who was appointed by the Volksraad to draft a proper Constitution.

The activities of this committee, with 24 members, commenced in October 1855. Stuart published a book in 1854 with the title De Hollandsche Afrikanen en hun Republiek, a valuable source of historic information.

Her husband owned the oldest house

Susannah Street (Central)
was named the wife of WD (Willem Daniel) Pretorius, Susanna Pretorius, affectionately known as Tant Sannie. She passed away in 1956 at the age of 97 years.

WD Pretorius with his wife Susanna (standing) and SP Reyneke. This is the caption on the back of this photo in possession of the Potchefstroom Museum. SP Reyneke might have been the mother of Mrs Pretorius, whose maiden name was Reyneke.

The street was laid out on property which formerly belonged to her husband. WD Pretorius came to Potchefstroom in 1883 from Robertson. He first lived with Pres MW Pretorius but then rented the house that is now known as the “WD Pretorius House” on the corner of Jeugd and Church Streets (Walter Sisulu) in 1884. By 1888 he was the owner of the property and during alterations the initials “WDP – 1888” was affixed above the main entrance. The house is one of the oldest – if not the oldest – house in Potchefstroom and was built approximately 1853 by Cornelis Janse Uys.

The dwelling, now known as the WD Pretorius House, was built approximately 1853, making it the oldest house in Potchefstroom. It stands on north-western corner of Jeugd and Church Streets (Walter Sisulu). WD Pretorius bought the property of 8,57 hectare on which the house stood on 31 May 1888. This area is today bordered by Church (Walter Sisulu), Gouws (Sol Plaatjie), Jeugd and Smit Streets. He enlarged the house and the initials “WDP” and the date “1888” was affixed to the main entrance. The house was declared a national monument in 1987. This photo was taken approximately 1948, if the cars on this photo are taken into consideration. Photo: Herald

According to his obituary (not dated but in possession of the Potchefstroom Museum), Danie Pretorius dabbled in gold prospecting at the Witwatersrand, came back rich and bought the property in 1888. Afterwards he pursued mining, farming and speculating operations and kept this up until a few years before he passed away in 1942 at the age of 88. He was elected to the town council, but resigned due to the fact that he was not bilingual and could not fully represent his constituents. Subsequently fully bilingualism was fully established in all matters of the town council.

Along with Ref ML Fick (see my article on street names starting with an “F”), he helped to establish a school in his house, out of which the Primary School ML Fick later grew.

He was taken prisoner during the Anglo-Boer War and taken to St Helena, where he stayed for almost two years. He paid his own fare back to South Africa, as well as those of a few friends.

He invested much in missionary work at the nearby Makweteng and for thirty years conducted services at the local prison on Sunday afternoons.

Danie Pretorius was also one of the founding members of the Potchefstroom Mooirivier congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church. In fact, the meeting during which the congregation was founded, took place under a large willow tree in his garden.

Danie and Sannie Pretorius celebrated their diamond wedding three years before he passed away. It appeared that the couple had fifteen children.

One of their sons, Jacobus Petrus Samuel (Koos) Pretorius was mayor of Potchefstroom from 1942 to 1944. He was also a headmaster of the Central Primary School.

Sylvia Street (Central) was named after Mrs Sylvia Ethel Gadd. She was a sister of Emily Dickenson (see my article). The street was originally named Gadd Street, but the Afrikaans residents of this street definitely did not want to reside in “Gaddstraat” (pronounced “Gatstraat”), which sounded like an expletive and petitioned the town council to change the name. The council decided on 21 July 1949 to rename it Sylvia Street.

The original source of and inspiration for these articles is a series of 13 columns written by “Senex” for the Potchefstroom Herald on the origins of the street names of Potchefstroom, published from 17 December 1974 to 24 June 1975. Senex was the pseudonym of Mr Jurgens Smith, a long-time history teacher at the Potchefstroom High School for Boys. Smith’s primary source of information was the research of Mr TC de Klerk, who studied the origins of the street names of Potchefstroom to write a master’s dissertation in the 1960s. He sadly passed away before completing his studies. Some of De Klerk’s research is kept in the Archives of the Potchefstroom Museum, which otherwise also provided a rich source of information.

Additional sources:

af.wikipedia.org – Smit and Spoelstra

Van der Schyff, P.F.  2003.  Wonderdaad…! Die PUK tot 1951: wording, vestiging en selfstandigheid.  Potchefstroom: Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoër Onderwys.

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