ID #4645

Botshabelo Historical Village, Middelburg, Highveld, Mpumalanga.

In 1858 two young missionaries from the Berlin Missionary Society, Alexander Merensky and Heinrich Grutzner, arrived in Natal to spread the word among the Zulu.  Two years later they were sent to Swaziland. After experiencing problems with the chief, they decided to establish a mission at Gerlachshoop in the region of Pedi Chief Maleo.  Because of continuous harassment, they later settled near Mosego, the village of Chief Sekwati.  After his death in 1861, his son, Sekukhuni, who persecuted Christians, succeeded him as chief.

On January 21 1865, they bought a farm 12-km north of Middelburg for 500 Prussian talers. Merensky named it Botshabelo, meaning “Place of Shelter” or “Sanctuary”.  His followers joined him.  Initially he built a home for himself and his followers. Refugees fleeing from Sekukhuni under the leadership of his brother, Johannes Dinkwanjane, also arrived at Botshabelo.  A brick house was erected as a parsonage. He then built a stone fort for protection against attack by Sekukhuni. It was named Fort Wilhelm after the German Emperor, and is a unique blend of western and Sotho architecture. He also built a small church in which services were held.

When the pioneer church was no longer adequate, a larger church was built in 1868. It was later extended into a cross formation, and it opened in 1871. It was largely self-sufficient, expanded rapidly and by 1873 there were 1315 inhabitants. It has its own general dealer, a large mill, fields with irrigation furrows, bookbindery and a blacksmith shop. A school was built, which is still known as the Practise School. Gustav Trumpelmann later translated the Bible into Sepedi (North Sotho) with the assistance of his student, Abraham Serote.  It was published in 1904, with the assistance of the British and Foreign Bible Society. It was the first complete Bible published in an indigenous language.  A school was built in the early 1900’s which served as a training college until 1979.  Features include:

•    Church and parsonage
•    Ndebele open air museum
•    Nature reserve, together with several hiking trails
•    Fort Wilhelm/Fort Merensky
•    Self-catering accommodation

Travel north on the N11 from Middelburg, which is at the intersection of the N4 with the N11. Turn west off the N11 to Botshabelo and Fort Merensky. AYBotshabelo

Contct:            Jeanette Fraser
Box 14 Middelburg 1050
+27 (13) 245 9003+27 (13) 245 9003 telephone
+27 (13) 245 9000 fax

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Last update: 2014-02-15 13:57
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.1

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