Many colourful characters are remembered in streets named after them. Under the G’s and H’s are a stable boy, one of the first owners of a car – nicknamed “Knight of the Road” and Potchefstroom’s first tree hugger.
“Knight of the road”
Gaisford Street (Potchindustria)
The street was named after Jack Radclyffe Gaisford, who was a town councillor for many years and mayor in 1939/40. He passed away in September 1944 at the age of 72. Jack Gaisford never married.
Practising as an attorney, he followed in his father’s footsteps in the attorney’s firm Gaisfords. By the 1980s the firm was known as Williams, Gaisford & Steyn. In 1992 it amalgamated with Huisamen and Kruger to become Gaisford, Huisamen & Kruger. Later it was again just known as Gaisfords. The firm still exists.
Jack Gaisford’s father, however, also played a major role in the development of the town.
John William Gaisford (1853-1928) was an architect and lawyer. He was involved with the building of various historic buildings in Potchefstroom. He took over the building of the St Mary’s Anglican Church after the building work came to a standstill when the chancel arch collapsed. Although other architects designed the Landdrost-, Post- en Telegraafkantoor and the church building of the Dutch Reformed Mooirivier congregation, he was the architect-in-residence during building. He designed the building of the Potchefstroom Stock Exchange, which stood in Church Street (Walter Sisulu) just off the north-eastern corner of Lombard Street (James Moroka). This later burned down.
Although the properties were registered in the name of his wife Helen Harriet (néé Radclyffe), he was responsible for the building of the three houses that today stand at 72, 74 and 76 Lombard Street (James Moroka). After they faced demolition to build a car park in the 1980s, public outcry led to the three houses declared National Monuments. They currently are Grade 2 Provincial Heritage Sites.
John Gaisford is allegedly one of the first owners of a motor vehicle in Potchefstroom and he was jokingly referred to as “the knight of the road”.
First tree hugger of Potch
Gericke Street (South)
The man who initiated the planting of the historic Oak Avenue, R(e)uben Gericke, was honoured with this street name. Gericke passed away in August 1926 at the age of 52 years.
Gericke was elected to the first town council of Potchefstroom in 1903. In 1910, as chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee, he proposed that the Oak Avenue be planted in Kruger Street (Beyers Naudé) from Potgieter Street (Nelson Mandela) to Retief Street, down Retief Street to Berg Street (later Van Riebeeck, now Peter Mokaba) along Tom Street (Steve Biko) to the “reservoir” (Dam).
The town council passed the resolution to plant the trees on 12 September 1910.
Later the planting was extended to the entrance of the Agricultural College, all-in-all 6,84 km. This makes it the longest continuous oak avenue in the Southern Hemisphere and it was declared a National Monument in 1977 when proposals to uproot some of the trees to widen Tom Street was met with fierce resistance from the public of Potchefstroom.
Gericke apparently offered to help take care of the trees himself and he was often observed watering them with the help of an assistant.
Gericke never married and according to the late Mrs Tina Jooste, he lived in a boarding house in Kruger Street. The White Horse Inn, as it was known, was demolished in the 1980s to make way for two speculation houses, the only two modern houses on an otherwise historic streetscape.
He was known for his large red handle-bar moustache and was quite impish. In the same boarding house resided a young teacher. She became ill and a doctor was called. According to Mrs Jooste, Gericke recently shaved off his moustache and pretended to be the doctor! Although they have both lived in the boarding house for some time, she did not recognise him without his moustache.
According to a nephew, Hannes Gericke, Reuben Gericke won a gold watch at the Potchefstroom Agricultural Show of 1899 for a small horse wagon that he made.
Gericke was the partner of Ben Pienaar in the auctioneer firm Pienaar & Gericke. This still existed in 1951 when a sale of cattle was advertised in the Potchefstroom Herald. The advertisement also informs that they had a large stock of furniture available and were the agents for Windmill Fertilizers.
Gerrit Dekker Street (Bult) was named after Prof Gerrit (1897-1973 Dekker, former dean of the Faculty of Arts at the PU for CHE, who resided in this street, prior to his death. He passed away on 10 April 1973.
Prof Dekker’s graduate studies were at the University of Pretoria (UP). He received a bursary to complete his doctoral studies overseas and studied in Amsterdam. While he was still there, he was appointed as lecturer at the Potchefstroom University College in the Dutch department. He started at the PUC in July 1925. He completed his doctoral studies and graduated at the beginning of 1926, where after he was promoted to senior lecturer. His fiancé, Riek Huetink followed him to South Africa and they got married in 1928. In January 1931 he was appointed as professor and head of the department.
His focus was not only on literary studies and he was instrumental in founding an art history course at the PUC. He was also a member of the committee of literary advisors to the translators who translated the Bible into Afrikaans. An article in Die Besembos, yearbook of the PUC for 1956, written by Prof FJ Labuschagne, stated that he was a “trusted connoisseur” and “expert advisor” to assist Totius with the rhyming of the Psalms.
He received honorary doctorate degrees from both the Potchefstroom University and UP and received an honorary membership of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.
The street, formerly known as North Street, was named after him and the house he built there and lived in stood until 2015 when it was demolished despite objections. The house, at the time, was 75 years old according to his daughter, Riekie Dekker. It was built in a distinctive Art Deco style. It is one of the lost historical buildings of the city.
The street was named after Prof Dekker in 1975. In the report on this in the Potchefstroom Herald of 31 January 1975, it is said that he was professor in Afrikaans, French and Art at the Potchefstroom University. He was also the first chairman of the Publications Board.
The renaming of the street was celebrated at a function held at the church hall of the Reformed Church Noordbrug (in Gerrit Dekker Street) on Monday 1 March 1976. At the event a signboard with the name, to be erected on one of the street corners, was officially handed to the widow of Prof Dekker, Mrs Riek Dekker by the mayor, Mr Chris Schwellnus.
Grietjie Street (Dassierand) was named after a canon. Grietjie was used at the Battle of Bloedrivier in December 1836. It is said that during the Civil War of 1862 between Kruger and Schoeman the Grietjie canon was stationed in the vicinity of where this street is.
The canon also saw service in the First Anglo-Boer War with the siege of the fort of Potchefstroom. According to reports of the British forces, Grietjie started firing at 04:30 on 1 January 1881 and was responsible for the death of two persons and wounded three. It was known for its erratic behaviour, a source of much ridicule by the British forces. Eventually she was put out of action by an English canon. (See below what FJ Huyzer remembered about Grietjie.)
During the Second Anglo-Boer War the canon was found in Potchefstroom and presented to the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the British company who was besieged in the fort at Potchefstroom during the First Anglo-Boer War in 1880/1 and who was shot at by the canon. Geoffrey Jenkins wrote in 1938 in A Century of History that Grietjie was taken to their depot in Ayr in Scotland. It is not known what has become of her.
Gluckman Street (Central)
According to Senex, the street was formerly called Friel Street after a Mr Friel hoe lived on the corner of Lombard and Kruger. Mr Gluckman owned a mill in town, which was later acquired by a Mr Sam Eliasohn
Gobey Street (Heilige Akker) was named after Mr Bob Gobey who was a long-time resident of Potchefstroom.
Grand old man of Potchefstroom
Goetz Street (Central) was named after Mr Marthinus Andreas Goetz, (1847-1920) the first mayor of Potchefstroom after the Anglo-Boer War. He owned the house that is currently known as the Goetz-Fleischack Museum.
Senex quoted a letter from a Mr Vernon Johnstone, himself a pioneer of Potchefstroom who wrote: “The Goetz family came from the Cape where the father had been secretary to Lord Macartney, Governor of the Cape Colony. His son, Andreas Marthinus (1834-1905), on arrival in Potchefstroom, built his home on the site now occupied by the Queen’s Hotel (today Impala) and . . . took a leading part in the commercial and social life of the town and also served as landdrost. His younger brother, Marthinus Andreas, was the first post Boer War Mayor (1905).”
AM Goetz came to Potchefstroom in 1852 and opened his shop in the same building as his house. He was elected as a member of the “Staatsraad” in 1857 and was acting president of the ZAR when MW Pretorius visited Natal in March and April of that year.
The first Wesleyan Church was built behind the Goetz residence. The church was the first building in Potchefstroom where a wooden floor was installed, which was widely regarded as a great extravagance. After his wife passed away AM Goetz married Emelia, néé Landsberg, the widow of OWA Forssman. He passed away in Cape Town.
MA Goetz, at the tender age of 26, was elected to the first town council of Potchefstroom and a mere two years later became “Chairman of the Municipality”, a position corresponding with mayor today. The hostilities in Potchefstroom during the First Anglo-Boer War of 1880/81 caused him much distress and he moved to Cape Town, where he lived for 10 years before he returned to Potchefstroom. This is according to an article in the Herald on 20 January 1950 with the heading “Grand Old man of Potchefstroom”.
In this tribute to MA Goetz the Herald wrote that he was “one of the men who laid the foundations of the government of Potchefstroom so well that it survived all the ups and downs which befell it.”
Grimbeek Street (South) was named after a well-known Potchefstroom pioneer. The granddaughter of Etzard Grimbeek, Mrs Anna Fick, later explained: “Etzard Grimbeek used to stand at his home in Elandsheuwel and gaze westwards towards an open tract of land, later Maherry Square, which was in his direct line of vision.” Grimbeek Street is near Maherry Square, hence the name. See my article on the Old Grimbeekhuis
Grobler Street (Potchindustria)
Johannes Hermanus Grobler (1813-1892) is widely regarded as Potchefstroom’s first magistrate (although Geoffrey Jenkins in A Century of History named P Louw as the first magistrate).
After the decision was taken to relocate the town of Potchefstroom from what was later known as Oudedorp to the current site, Grobler was tasked with the laying out of the new town in 1841. As compensation he received 29 ha in the area where Oewersig and the Fanie du Toit Sportsgrounds presently are.
Grobler was an accomplished big-game hunter and acquired the nickname “Hans Duikervoet” due to his ability to move without being detected by grazing game.
He joined AH Potgieter when he decided to move to Ohrigstad in 1845. The 29 ha then came into the possession of a family member, Niclaas Grobler. He erected the first water mill in Potchefstroom in this area. This stood where the rugby club house on the Fanie du Toit Sportsgrounds of the University now stands.
Grobler passed away in 1892 at the age of 79 years on his farm in the district of Ermelo.
Hartley Street (Central)
This short street that connects Du Plooy Street with Greyling Street (OR Tambo) in a dog leg, was probably named after JJ Hartley, who was a prominent businessmen at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. In the latter part of the 19th century two Misses Hartley had a school for English speaking children in Potgieter Street (Nelson Mandela).
In her memoirs Dorothy Hurndall mentions a Hartley family who lived in Potgieter Street. The Hartley parents came from Kimberley and had eight or nine daughters. She is of the opinion that Hartley Street was named after the father of these girls (probably Mr JJ Hartley).
Hartley, the lion scarer
However, one of the most famous characters in the Transvaal in the latter half of the 19th century, was Henry Hartley.
In Lost Trails of the Transvaal TV Bulpin wrote that Hartley originally came out from England at the age of eight years with his 1820 settler parents.
After passing through the frontier wars of the Cape, he had commenced hunting and trading in the Transvaal and eventually settled on what he called ‘Thorndale’ farm, on the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg.
Stories about Hartley were legion all over South Africa. One of the most famous told of an occasion when he was out elephant hunting with his sons. They had most laboriously stalked their prey and were lying in hiding waiting for a chance to shoot when a lion most inopportunely came prowling around.
The young Hartleys wanted to shoot the beast. Old Hartley didn’t want to disturb the elephants after so long a chase. He crept on hands and knees up to the bush behind which the lion was sitting. Suddenly Hartley lifted his head over the bush, shook his massive beard, and emitted a terrific roar. The lion took one look and bolted for its life. The Hartleys then shot the elephants.
In the course of his travels, Hartley had for long noticed the signs of old mine workings and had speculated much as to whether southern Africa was not the site of the Biblical Ophir.
Ophir is depicted as a land of much wealth and every three years the Biblical King Solomon received a cargo of gold, silver, pearls, ivory, apes and sandalwood from this African port.
The discoverer of the Great Zimbabwe ruins, Karl Mauch, undertook numerous hunting trips with Hartley.
Hennie Bingle Street (Mooivallei)
Prof Hennie (HJJ) Bingle was rector of the Potchefstroom University from 1964-1977. From 1981-1991 he was also the chancellor of the University.
The history of the PU for CHE from 1951-2004, In U Lig, stated that Bingle’s association with the university stretched over 53 years. It took him 12 years to finish his graduate studies to become a teacher (1928-1940).
Apart from a M Ed degree, which he completed in 1935 with honours, he received the D Phil degree under the supervision of Prof J Chr Coetzee, who also preceded him as rector. In 1945 he was appointed as senior lector in Education. In 1949 he became a professor and from 1951-1962 he was dean of the Faculty of Education.
The resounding success of the festivities to celebrate the independence of the University in 1951 was ascribed to his role as secretary of the festival committee and his co-ordinating abilities.
The University reached a peak in its development during his tenure from 1964 to 1977, with many building projects and soaring student numbers.
He passed away on 29 June 2007 at the age of 96 years.
During an event to pay homage to the late Prof Bingle, which was held when he would have had his 100th birthday, a former rector of the University, Prof Carools Reinecke, remarked about Bingle’s time as rector: “Everybody knew what they were supposed to do and nobody took the risk of ending up in his bad book. Those ice blue eyes of his did not without reason procure him the nickname, ‘Klipoog”. (This directly translates as “stone eye”.)
When the new student centre was built at the end of the 1970s, it was named after him. The cafeteria in the centre is known as the “Klipoog”.
Hennie Swanepoel Street (Dassierand) was named after Prof HL Swanepoel, who was mayor from 1966 to 1969. Prof Swanepoel became the first dean of the Faculty of Law at the PU for CHE in 1965.
Hendrik Lambertus Swanepoel (1912-1972) completed his studies at the University of Stellenbosch, received the BA in 1933, LLB in 1935 (both with distinction) and the LLD in 1943.
In 1936 he became the clerk of the High Court in Cape Town, but was appointed as co-editor of the agricultural magazine Landbouweekblad the same year. The next year he was admitted to the bar in Bloemfontein, but shortly afterwards joined the first editorial team of the Die Transvaler. In 1938 he returned to practice law and became an attorney in Bronkhorstspruit.
Five years later he obtained a doctorate degree in Criminal Law, but again returned to the newspaper world and joined Die Suidwester in Windhoek in 1945. At the end of that year he joined the attorney’s firm, Fleischacks, in Potchefstroom.
About 1947 he became a part-time lecturer in Law at the Potchefstroom University and in 1951 he was appointed as senior lecturer in the Department of Law. He became the head of the Department in 1952 and was appointed as professor next year.
He was instrumental in the founding of the subject “Perswetenskap” or journalism at the University in 1959, which evolved to become what is today the School for Communication Studies. The Potchefstroom University was the first in the country to institute tertiary education in journalism.
Apart from being member of various academic organisations, he was also the legal advisor to the Western Transvaal Rugby Union and the SA Rugby Board. From 1962 to 1971 he was a member of the Potchefstroom town council and he was chairman of the management committee for two years and mayor for three years (1966-1969).
Stable boy honoured with street name
Hendrik Street (Central) was named after the stable boy of JFI Curlewis who surveyed Potchefstroom to lay out the northern burgher rights erven shortly before the Anglo-Boer War. Curlewis also named a street after his assistant, one Wallis. The fact that Hendrik Street becomes Wallis Street as it turns to run from east to west creates the impression the Curlewis ran out of possible street names and used these names. The origin of the names of Kolbe Street and Auret Street in the same area is unclear and is open for interpretation.
Young man remembered after tragic death
Herman Street (Grimbeekpark)
This street was named after a young man who was tragically killed in a freak accident.
Herman Klopper was 18 years old and in matric at Potchefstroom Gimnasium when he and a friend, who later became the Bulls rugby player, Tjaart Marais, decided to go and kick a rugby ball on the rugby field of the Fanie du Toit Sportsgrounds. This was on 21 June 1978.
They each rode on a motorcycle. Herman was the first to turn out of Van der Hoff Road into the entrance to the Sportsgrounds. At the time the large gateway that was later erected was not yet there and two chains across the entrance and exit side of the gateway controlled access.
Eyewitnesses saw how the two waited for a car the leave the Sportsgrounds before driving in themselves. Herman was ahead and did not notice the chain that stretched across the entrance side of the road. The chain on the exit side was dropped to allow the car to leave.
The Potchefstroom Herald of 23 June 1978 described what happened. Herman fell backwards off his motorcycle when it hit the chain. A policeman who was at the crossing of Meyer and Van der Hoff Streets and many eyewitnesses ran to assist. It appeared that the chain cut off the jugular vein in his neck and he profusely bled. Nothing could be done to save his life and he was declared dead when he arrived at the Potchefstroom hospital.
The story how it came about that this street was named after Herman Klopper, was told to me by his sister, Mrs Marianna Beukman, a caterer of Potchefstroom. Their father was a well-known local builder, known as Colonel Klopper, a rank he attained when he was formerly a member of the Correctional Services.
Colonel Klopper owned the land on which the street was later laid out and the city council gave him the choice to name the street.
Marianna remembers the tragic event as if it happened yesterday. She described Herman as an extrovert, “a busy bee”, with a talent to play rugby. She says that in hindsight the street should not have been named after him, since it always brings back sad memories.
Hitge Street (Baillie Park) was named after Mr Thomas William Nicholas Hitge, mayor in 1934/35. Mr Hitge was chairman of the Health and Parks Committee when the municipal swimming pool was opened in 1930. He also practised as a lawyer.
Hoff Street (South) was named after Mr Jack van der Hoff, the first superintendent of the location that was near the area where Hoff Street now is.
Mill owner with many woes
Hoffman Street (Bult) was named after Jacobus Johannes Tesselaar Hoffman (1820-1889). He was the first chairman of the Volksraad of the ZAR and he remained a member of the Volksraad for Potchefstroom until his death in 1889.
Also known as ‘Oom Kootjie’, he was the owner of one of the mills that stood right across the street from where the Theological School is now.
Due to the fact that his mill did not receive enough water to drive the mill wheel, he, with the aid of a plough, a span of oxen and a team of workers, one night illegally constructed his own mill stream flowing from the main water furrow of the town. His illegal mill furrow stretched from about where the railway bridge in Meyer Street is to his mill. Soon he was able to drive two mills! Irate townspeople, who were derived of their water dumped rocks into his illegal furrow. This action lead to three lawsuits and three fines.
He subsequently named his mill “Meriba”, a name from the Old Testament, meaning “bitter water”. The mill was formally christened by Mrs Cato Rocher with the customary breaking of a bottle of champagne.
Holtzhausen Street (Baillie Park)
The street is divided by the N12 into a northern and southern part. It is named after Mr Hermanus Hendrik (Harry) Holtzhausen who was mayor of Potchefstroom for the terms 1947/48, 1949-1950 and 1955/56. He was a town councillor from 1942 to 1963 and also the first chairman of the management committee when it was founded in 1961. For some years he was also a member of the Provincial Council. He was 72 years old when he passed away in 1981.
Hosking Street (Potchindustria)
Mr WSV Hosking was appointed as the town clerk during the first meeting of the newly elected first town council of Potchefstroom on 5 January 1904.
Huyzer Street (Heilige Akker)
Although no definitive indication was found that it is the case, the street was in all probability named after Frederik Johannes Huyzer. His memoirs about his participation in the First and Second Anglo-Boer War were documented in 1956 and can be found in the Archives of the Potchefstroom Museum. He was a member of the Potchefstroom Commando.
During First Anglo-Boer War he described how a platform was built for the canon Grietjie (see Grietjie Street above). This did not last long as a British canon shot the platform to pieces. A house was occupied and loopholes were made to shoot through. He was nearly killed when a British soldier shot at the hole the moment he pushed the barrel of his gun through it
The original source of 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. The archives of the Potchefstroom Museum provided a rich source of information.