An excessive smoker, the intriguing “Dicky birds” and a businessman supporting Potchefstroom’s most famous athlete all contributed their names to these street names.
Not all street names are included, only those which have a direct link to the history of Potchefstroom.
Delarey Street (South) was named after General Koos de la Rey, renowned Boer leader in the Western Transvaal during the Anglo-Boer War. Jacobus Herculaas de la Rey (1847-1914) did not have any direct ties to Potchefstroom, since he farmed in the Lichtenburg district. His military prowess is apparent from the fact that he was described as the best natural soldier South Africa has ever produced. He was also known as the Lion of the Western Transvaal.
His wife, Nonnie, gave great support to Boer commandos in the field by visiting them. In order to avoid being captured and placed in a concentration camp, she roamed the veld for 19 months with her children.
After the War De la Rey returned to his farm, which had been destroyed by the British forces, and rebuilt it from scratch. By 1907 six of his twelve children had died.
De la Rey took an active part in politics after the War and tried to heal the rift between Botha and Hertzog. On 15 September 1914 he was in the car on his way to Potchefstroom from Pretoria with General CF Beyers. At a roadblock at Langlaagte, set up for the absconding notorious Foster gang, his driver neglected to stop. A ricochet bullet hit De la Rey in the back and he died. Great outpourings of grief followed.
Apart from the many streets named after De la Rey in South Africa, there are also 21 streets in the Netherlands carrying his name and one in Antwerpen in Belgium.
When the South African singer, Bok van Blerk, launched his song “De la Rey, De la Rey” in 2006 this Boer War general instantly became famous to a new generation.
Dickenson Street (Central)
Senex is of the opinion that the street, which is in the vicinity of Sylvia Street was named after the sisters Dickenson, also known as the “Dickie Birds”. One of them was Mrs Sylvia Gadd (born Dickenson) after which Sylvia Street was named.
According to Arthur Wegelin in his unpublished history on the music life of Potchefstroom, their mother, only named as Mrs Dickenson, came to Potchefstroom with her four daughters after her husband lost his life in a shooting accident in Zimbabwe. This was after the Anglo-Boer War. Mr Dickenson was an ivory hunter and died when he was only 29 years old. Mrs Dickenson herself led an adventurous life and visited diamond fields from America to Mexico and at Bloemhof. She was a go-getter and adept in dealing with shares.
Mrs Dickenson was not very happy in Potchefstroom, thought it too quiet for her, and moved between Johannesburg and Potchefstroom. Not so with her daughters who were all very talented musicians. Sylvia Ethel, the eldest daughter played the mandolin. She married a Mr Gadd who had a farm at Keimoes. The farm was too quiet for Sylvia and they moved back to Potchefstroom.
Emily (Lily) played the violin and never married.
The third daughter, Louie, qualified as a voice and piano teacher and performed often as appeared from programmes between 1904 and 1910. She married a Dr Alex McLymout in 1910. They lived in various mining towns and later settled in Klerksdorp.
The youngest daughter married a Scorgie, whose sister, Rose, penned down her memoirs. The manuscript of her autobiography is in the archives of the Potchefstroom Museum.
When Wegelin wrote about the history of the music life of Potchefstroom in 1965, the two sisters, Emily Dickenson and Sylvia Gadd lived in the house that was formerly owned by Thomas Ayres. Hence the fact that Dickenson Street turns out of Ayres Street and makes a T-junction with Sylvia Street.
Dorothea Street (Dassierand)
Dorothea Potgieter was the daughter of the Voortrekker leader, Andries Hendrik Potgieter. She was born on 7 May 1841 in Potchefstroom and her mother, Elizabeth Helena (born Botha) Potgieter, passed away with her birth. She was the first child whose name was written in the baptismal record of the church at Potchefstroom and was baptised by Rev Daniel Lindley on 27 March 1842 during the first church service ever held in Potchefstroom. She later married NHJF van Heerden and passed away in the Waterberg in 1924.
Du Plooy Street (Central)
Senex wrote that although only scant data existed, it is said to be named after a one-time magistrate.
Dominee with a love of nature and stars
Du Toit Street (Central) was either named after Rev CW du Toit of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Church (NH) or after JJ (Oom Kobie) du Toit, co-founder of the legal firm Van der Hoff & Du Toit, later Williams, Gaisford & Steyn.
Rev Charl Wijnand du Toit was the second minister to serve the NH Church and was born on 21 February 1842 in the Paarl district. His brother, SJ du Toit, was the father of Prof JD du Toit, better known as the poet Totius. Rev CW du Toit was ordained as a minister in 1869 and shortly afterwards married Miss A Mostert of Agter-Paarl. The couple had eight children of whom only two reached adulthood.
He served the NH congregation of Potchefstroom from 1883 to 1919 at the time when the Dutch Reformed (DR) Church and the NH Church finally parted ways.
In name most of the Voortrekkers, or emigrants as they called themselves, were members of what was known as the “Kaapse Kerk” or the Dutch Reformed Church in the Cape Colony. One of the reasons they left the Cape Colony was dissatisfaction with the fact that government endeavoured to anglicise the church, which was successful.
For the DR Church it was important that congregations north of the Vaal River be incorporated into the church. This was brought to a head in 1853 when the local congregation decided against incorporation. During a meeting on 22 November 1853 it was decided that the church in future will be known as the Nederduitsch Hervormde Church (NH Church). This name was written into the Constitution of the ZAR and confirmed during a General Church Board meeting in 1865.
For local members of the Potchefstroom congregation who condoned incorporation into the DR Church (Kaapse Kerk), this was a watershed. They decided in 1866 to found a new DR congregation in Potchefstroom. The first minister was Rev F Lion Cachet of Utrecht.
A re-unification took place in 1885 under the name the “Verenigde Kerk (Unified Church). Rev ML Fick served with Rev CW du Toit as assistant-minister, originally from the NH Church. The two groups never really united and in October 1890 the NH Church decided to withdraw to form an independent congregation.
During Rev CW du Toit’s tenure numerous improvements were made to the church building. The roof was replaced with one of galvanised iron, an entrance vestibule was built as well as the church tower.
In the obituary of Rev du Toit, which appeared in Die Westelike Stem on 17 February 1932, it is said that he was quite ill as a child and it was not expected that he would reach adulthood. He is described as a friendly, affectionate and genial person and especially loved by the younger members of his congregation. Sunday evenings his church was filled with young people from all three Afrikaans congregations.
He especially enjoyed preaching about nature, such as flowers, fruit, the beauty of nature and stars. He had a lively interest in astronomy. The Potchefstroom congregation was his last, where he retired at the age of 77.
After his wife had passed away, thirteen years before his death, he lived with his daughter-in-law in Stellenbosch. He visited Potchefstroom in 1927 when the NH congregation celebrated its 85th year. He read through the Bible in Greek when he was 84 years old.
At the time of his death he assisted Rev PA Roux in Jeppestown and passed away in his house on 12 February 1932. He was a few weeks shy of 90 years old.
50 cigarettes consumed during a rugby game
Duvenhage Street (Oewersig) was named after Prof Abraham Petrus Carolus Duvenhage who was a lecturer at the Potchefstroom University College. He was also a former mayor (1920-1922).
APC Duvenhage was, according to Piet van der Schyff in Sages en Legendes 1, in 1899 a pupil at the Preparatory department of the Theological School in Burgersdorp. After the Anglo-Boer War he studied at the South African College later the University of Cape Town, and attained a “BA.Sc”. In 1906, a year after the Theological School moved to Potchefstroom, Duvenhage delivered his inaugural address as a professor at the School on 24 April 1906, shortly after his 23rd birthday. He was appointed as a lecturer in Mathematics. Not only is he regarded as the founder of the faculty for Natural Sciences, but also regarded as the “father” of rugby at the PUC.
Immediately after his arrival at the Theological School, he founded a rugby team. Both soccer and rugby were played, but it seemed that due to Duvenhage’s enthusiasm rugby thrived.
In 1907 Duvenhage’s students did not fare very well in external exams and he was asked by the curators of the Theological School to find employment elsewhere. Duvenhage, however, pulled up his socks. In 1915 a student accused him of a lack of tact.
When he passed away in 1923 the rector Prof Ferdinand Postma noted that Duvenhage yearly requested assistance from the curators to enlarge his department and his tenacity led to him usually acquiring what he asked for.
He served as a town councillor from 1911 and became mayor in 1921, but became embroiled in an utterly distasteful run-in with the town council. A motion of no-confidence was proposed against him, but was never put into action.
Not only did he support the game of rugby at the Theological School, but played a large part in founding of a sub-union, who became the full-fledged Western Transvaal Rugby Union in 1920.
The rugby field, later Olën Park, was laid out on an east-west axis. Next to the field was a small pavilion, not much more than a stage. The highest bench here was his perch. As a game moved from east to west he would move along the bench in the same direction. Van der Schyff quotes a former student, who said that the seriousness with which he approached each rugby game was visible in how he stressed, sweated, ordered and smoked through each game. With each game he consumed 50 Springbok cigarettes, which he smoked, sucked, broke and chewed!
Duvenhage was only 40 when he passed away in May 1923 due to a stroke.
Dyer Street (Central) was named after a chemist who practised in Potchefstroom in the early days.
Surveyor of many streets
Elsenbroek Street (Potchindustria) was named after Mr Chris Elsenbroek, the surveyor responsible for surveying large areas of Potchefstroom.
He was born in 1919 and his family immigrated to South Africa from the Netherlands in 1935. Three years later he matriculated at the Pretoria High School for Boys, where-after he started working at the offices of the Surveyor General.
With the outbreak of World War II he joined the Corps of Engineers of the South African Army and saw active service in North Africa, where he was partially responsible for the drawing of maps for the Allied Forces. These complete and excellent maps are regarded as one of the reasons why the Allieds had much success there.
After the completion of his articles as a surveyor Chris Elsenbroek moved to Potchefstroom in 1948 and became a partner in the surveyor firm of AG Retief. The next year he married his wife Koba.
Amongst others he surveyed the suburb of Baillie Park, where he bought a plot of land in Lanyon Street and lived in the house they had built until his death in 2010.
Embert Lane (Central) was so named at the request of Mrs B Lightowlers. She was a widow who lived with her aged mother, Emily Clark, in the street. Her only brother, Bertie, was a well-known local diamond buyer during the Lichtenburg boomdays. The street was named after Emily (Em) and her son Bertie (Bert), thus Embert.
Esselen Street (Bult) was named after Advocate Esselen, a prominent legal advisor to the ZAR. Streets in Pretoria and Johannesburg were also named after him.
Evans Street (Central) derived its name from James Evans, a member of the Volksraad of the ZAR for Potchefstroom during the tenure of President MW Pretorius. James Evans was born in 1819 in Wales and came to South Africa when he was 15 years old. He acquired properties in Potchefstroom earlier, but arrived here in 1856 and settled. He also owned other properties in the Transvaal, amongst others the farm on which the town Bloemhof later developed. Soon after he had come to Potchefstroom, he married Susanna Christine Goetz, daughter of AM Goetz. The marriage ceremony was performed by the Rev Dirk van der Hoff. They had 11 children which reached adulthood. DV Hurndall, a descendant, later wrote:
James Evans had the honour of becoming the only English-speaking member of the Volksraad when Potchefstroom was the capital of the Transvaal. He kept a hand-written Hansard. He was a well-educated and cultured man, having a great knowledge and command of the English language and its literature. Strictly honest and a man of his word, with a forceful, if dictatorial character, he was a little intolerant of fools and knaves. He took a leading part in the life of his church.
James Evans passed away in 1893 and was buried in the Park Cemetery.
Ferrero Street (Dassierand) was named after Mr Pietro Ferrero (1863-1918), mayor of Potchefstroom from 1905 to 1912. He was also elected to the first town council of Potchefstroom after the Anglo-Boer War and according to the minutes of the first meeting of the council on 31 December 1903, he attended.
Generally known as Paddy he was a well-known businessman and had a plant manufacturing mineral water.
When it became apparent that due to financial constraints Kenneth McArthur did not compete in the 1908 Olympic Games in England, where he could have won the marathon, Ferrero spearheaded fundraising to enable McArthur to go to the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. There he won the marathon and became an overnight sensation, South Africa’s first international sport star.
Ferrero, as president of the Amateur Athletics Association, was elected as chairman of the fundraising committee. The caption of a photograph taken of McArthur and Ferrero, shortly before he left South Africa for Sweden, said that if it wasn’t for Ferrero, McArthur would not have been able to go. During his overseas stay McArthur corresponded with Ferrero informing him of events. Some of these letters were reprinted in the Herald.
Pietro Ferrero, as some of his family members were buried in the Park Cemetery in Piet Bosman Street.
Founder of many schools
Fick Street (Central) was named after the Rev ML Fick who, for three decades, played a leading role in educational matters in Potchefstroom. He was the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church and Member of Parliament for many years.
Marthinus Laurentius Fick was born on 1 March 1863 at Caledon in the Cape Colony. As a young farm boy he only had some schooling when he was eight years old. Reaching the age of eighteen years, he was sent to a public school in Caledon, specifically with a view to his confirmation in the church.
His teacher, with the help of the local minister, convinced his father to keep him in school longer. In 1883, a scant four years later, he matriculated.
The next year he passed the admission examination at Stellenbosch to study at the Theological Seminary.
He became an assistant minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Potchefstroom on 1 January 1889, which at the time was known as the United Church under Rev CW du Toit, after it united with the Nederduitsch Hervormde (NH) Church. He was ordained in April 1889. When the NH Church parted ways with the Dutch Reformed Church in September 1889 he became the second minister of the church since Rev Du Toit decided to rather join the NH Church.
Shortly afterwards, on 22 October 1889, he married Annie de Vries in Stellenbosch. She was a minister’s daughter from Riebeeck West
Rev Fick was described as a “sharp orator” and an astonishing organiser. Apart from the Potchefstroom district, his congregation included areas what is now Vereeniging, Fochville, Welverdiend, Goedgevonden and Venterskroon. It took him weeks to visit congregants in the outlying areas with a dog cart as his means of transport. (A dog cart was an open cart with two wheels drawn by one horse.)
In a commemorative publication of the Church it is said that he had the ability to sway the church council to his opinion. He would stare unblinkingly at them, waiting for the correct answer, almost “hypnotising” them. His mesmerizing blue eyes also intrigue the learners of the ML Fick Primary School, named after him. A large photograph of Rev Fick hangs in the smaller hall of the school and the learners still belief that no matter where you are in this hall, his eyes will always follow you.
He also had an amazingly retentive memory and could remember people’s names, whom he had last seen years ago.
His biggest contribution towards the community of Potchefstroom, is his intense involvement in school matters.
He founded the Armenschool (School for the Poor) in 1890, which later became the South School and was named after Fick in 1955 after he had passed away. He was also instrumental in founding the Meriba School in the Bult area in 1891, which became the Jooste Gift School in 1894 and today still exists as the President Pretorius Primary School. He was the chairman of the school board of both schools.
The plight of orphans after the Anglo-Boer War compelled him to be instrumental in founding an orphanage in 1903.
In April 1904 he undertook a six-month tour overseas to do research on technical training. The result was the opening of a technical school in 1906 where many of the orphans received training. This became the Potchefstroom Technical High School, which also still exists. It is generally known as HTS, derived from the abbreviation of its Afrikaans name Hoër Tegniese Skool. Later a school for home economics was founded for girls attending this school. This developed into what is today the Ferdinand Postma High School. Although HTS was initially a boys’ only school, girls were later admitted, whereas Ferdinand Postma first admitted boys in 1978.
In 1819 the DR Church appointed Rev ML Fick as secretary for poor relief and in 1924 he was elected as Member of Parliament. He was re-elected in 1929 and 1933.
Rev Fick passed away two months before his 93rd birthday, on 29 January 1955.
Attorney’s firm lasted more than a century
Fleischack Street (Central) was named after Albert Reinholdt Fleischack, who held prominent legal appointments in the ZAR during and after both wars of 1880-81 and 1899-1902.
He was born in 1860 in Thuringia in Germany and passed away on 17 December 1933. His father was appointed as attorney general for the unified Germany by Kaiser Wilhelm 1. AR Fleischack came to South Africa in 1879, worked in Port Elizabeth as an attorney’s clerk and gradually moved northwards, his eyes set on the Transvaal. In 1882 he was appointed as magistrate’s clerk in Potchefstroom. He married Johanna Hermina Goetz, daughter of AM Goetz. Through this union the property currently known as the Goetz-Fleischack Museum came into his possession. In the 1880s he had one of the grandest houses in town built. It stood on the south-eastern corner of Wolmarans and Gouws Streets (Sol Plaatjie).
After the conclusion of the 1880-1881 War he was a member of the first peace delegation to London.
He was founder of the legal firm, Fleischacks, one of the longest surviving in town, in 1883.
In 1894 he was appointed as “responsible clerk” in the office of the attorney general and moved to Johannesburg and was still in office when the Jameson Raid took place. In 1896 he travelled to London to testify in Jameson’s trial. Shortly before his departure to London he was appointed as second legal commissioner and in 1899 as first legal commissioner.
After the war he reopened his attorney’s practice in Potchefstroom. It was then situated in Greyling Street where the Post Office now stands. In 1905 Mrs Fleischack bought the dwelling that is now the Goetz-Fleischack museum from her parents and the family moved there.
He had three sons, Julius, Walter and the late Gilbert, who succeeded to the practice and to the post of legal adviser to the Town Council, an appointment which father and son, respectively, had filled for over 60 years. The legal firm Fleischacks existed until the 1990s before it was incorporated into a another legal firm.
Francois Street (Central) was named after the son of Thomas Ayres, whose story is told in the first article in this series on the street names of Potchefstroom. Francois Street turns out of Ayres Street.
Frederick Street (New Baillie Park)
According to the surveyor, the late Mr Chris Elsenbroek, the developer of the new part of Baillie Park (south of the N12) wanted to name a street in this area after him, which he did not want. He and the developer then decided to each name a street after their sons. Frederick Street was named after the son of Elsenbroek and Albertus Street was named after the son of the developer.
Wealthiest man suffered devastating losses
Forssman Street (Potchindustria) was named after Chevalier OWA Forssman (1822 – 1899), civil engineer, businessman, Portuguese ambassador to the ZAR and leader of the Scandinavian settlers who came to Potchefstroom in 1864.
Oscar Wilhelm Alric Forssman (1822-1899) was the son of a prominent Swedish family and was a trained civil engineer. He arrived in 1844 in Natal from Kalmar in south-eastern Sweden.
He worked in the sugar industry and then came to the Transvaal. By 1852 he lived in Potchefstroom where he had widespread businesses in the export of ivory, ostrich feathers and wool.
His dream was to establish an irrigation farm at the Vaal River. He bought a farm, which he aptly named “Scandinavia”. This was only a small part of his agricultural empire which he eventually enlarged to 324 220 acres (138 896 ha) spread over all of the Transvaal.
With a view to develop the irrigation farm, he travelled back to Sweden in 1862 to recruit workers. He was accompanied by his wife Emilia Amalie von Landsberg.
Another aim was to convince his brother, Magnus, a surveyor, to also emigrate. Whilst planning this he negotiated with President Pretorius to create the post of surveyor general.
He rented, for 18 000 Rix-dollars, the merchantmen Octavia and loaded it with a cargo of wood, ploughs, iron stoves, hardware, lime, tar, beer, wagons, carts, vats of anchovies, salted herrings and cheese.
The ship left Kalmar on 12 August 1863 with 36 Swedes on board. Fifteen of those were unmarried men and five unmarried girls. The only name under these which is still well-known in Potchefstroom is that of Carl Ludwig Olen (the spelling later was changed to Olën), whose son with the same name was the mayor of Potchefstroom in 1938. Read more on Olën the elder here.
After a journey during which the ship nearly capsized in a storm, they arrived in Durban on 17 November 1863. The cargo was unloaded, advertised and sold. This was the beginning of mutually beneficial trading between South Africa and Sweden.
The group took ten weeks to travel to Potchefstroom by ox-wagon and most of them started working on the farm Scandinavia, but some became traders and clerks.
In 1865 the Transvaal experienced a devastating drought – the Vaal River even dried up. This brought an end to Forssman’s plans for the irrigation farm and the Swedes had to find other means of livelihood. As far as could be ascertained, only one went back to Sweden.
This did not impair Forssman’s wealth. In 1870 he became the consul for Portugal and six years later he was promoted to consul general with the title of Chevalier. When gold was discovered in 1873 at Pelgrimsrust and Lydenburg, he founded a transport company to convey passengers.
This was not profitable and the company was dissolved in 1880. This lead to the founding of the postal service of the ZAR.
By 1879 Forssman was the biggest landowner in the ZAR. When British forces annexed the Transvaal in 1877, he was convinced that they will be here permanently. Subsequently, when hostilities broke out in Potchefstroom on 15 December 1880, Forssman received news that the Boers were out to shoot him and he accepted the invitation of the British forces to take shelter in the unfinished fort of Potchefstroom. The Forssman family was busy with dinner when the news came and they hastily left for the fort for what they thought would be an overnight stay.
The Siege of the fort of Potchefstroom only ended about three months later on 18 March 1881 and the Forssman family suffered heavy losses. Not only did his young son and married daughter died during the siege after contracting stomach fever, his luxurious house on the north-western corner of Lombard and Church Streets (James Moroka and Walter Sisulu) was plundered and wrecked.
He claimed losses of £200 000 from the British government. The outcome of this claim is not known, but was discussed in the British House of Commons. By 1889, when Forssman passed away in Pretoria, he left behind a sizeable estate.
The original source of these articles are 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.
Sources other than those mentioned in the text:
AD Pont & WJ Kok, Gedenkalbum van die Nederduitsch Hervormde gemeente Potchefstroom 1842-1992, (Potchefstroom, 1992).
Potchefstroom Museum and Archives, File I920Del.