ENNERDALE’S FIRST RESIDENT
By Herbie Blackfoot Harris
Ennerdale’s number one pioneer, Mr. Freddie Jacobus Smith planted his first footprints in this fertile soil, sometime in 1940, before his decision to settle down in this desolate area. It is fascinating to learn that a person from Graaff-Reinet, in the Eastern Cape, laid the foundation to this mega township, that presently houses over ten thousand families. It is indeed very difficult to imagine what went through the mind of this coloured “Robinson Crusoe”, who decided to settle down in an area where nothing but nature existed.
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Born on 26th. May 1884 in Graaff-Reinet, “Oupa” Freddie got married to Elsie Robson, from Modder Rivier in the Free State and came to live in Johannesburg. Mr. George Smith, the only surviving son, says his father was a builder who built the first house in Mid-Ennerdale in 1941.
Freddie’s friend Douglas “Dak” Smith, followed soon after from Bertrams, claiming second citizenship in this grassy wilderness. Strangely enough, it was the latter’s house that became the first brick building erected in Mid-Ennerdale. Ironically “Oupa” Freddie who built it, lived in a triangular shaped zinc structure, before then.
Freddie and Elsie had seven children, two daughters, Louisa and Anne, and five sons, Harry, George, Jan. Following in the footsteps of their grandfather who fought in the previous war, the two eldest sons Harry and George, both served up North in World War 2. While Harry did ground duty in the SA Air Force, George was commissioned to a somewhat kamikaze, dare devil type of assignment. He had to drive an ammunition truck to the front lines!! The first time George set foot in Mid-Ennerdale, was only after the war in 1944. Not even knowing where the place was, he first went to Vrededorp and together with the late Mr. Peter Bimray, they took a train, and this is how he had his first experience of “Grassie”. He says it reminded him very much of Syferfontein. Being victims of forced removals, by the Group Areas Act, they were removed from Syferfontein, which was below the Wanderers Grounds. Today it is known as Sandton.
The late Mrs. Louisa Prince or “Aunt Toy” as residents knew her, was the eldest daughter of Mr.and Mrs. Freddie Smith. The other sister Anne, became a married to Mr. Aubrey Strachen from Kliptown. Both sisters took on the un-daunting task, of starting tertiary classes , on the “stoep” of Mr. “Dak” Smith, for the few resident children, despite them not having any teaching qualifications. This was vitally important to validate plans for a future school in the area.
Much has been written about Louisa’s involvement to get things off the ground in Grasmere, as it was known then, which has overshadowed the efforts of her husband ,Eddie Prince. During former years, his creativity could be seen in the decorative hand crafted out door arrangements he made , that led to his barber shop in the yard, complete with a beautiful fish pond…with live fish nogal! Apart from being the first hairdresser ,Eddie also ran a division of the Grasmere Post Office and Dry Cleaners collection depot from their home in 3rd Avenue.
Mr. George Smith recalls amusingly, how “Chaka”, their dog, went all over with his dad….the church being no exception. He laughs when he tells of one occasion when “Chaka” was lying at his father’s feet in the old Methodist Church in Fourth Avenue, while a deacon was in attendance. At some point, Mr. Haine who was the preacher, must have dozed off behind the pulpit and woke up suddenly when the choir burst into song. The dog got such a fright and almost bit the preacher . From henceforth, “Chaka” was banished to the outside by its furious owner.
“Oupa” Freddie lived to the ripe old age of 99 years. It is evident that this family has the recipe of longevity as his sister, who was buried at Hiltonia Cemetary, some years ago, lived to 102 years!
The month of May celebrates the birthday of Mr. Freddie, Jacobus Smith, but also Mr. Goerge Smith.
The first baby to be born in Ennerdale was Pauline Prince, who was delivered by Mrs. Vosloo. However, Nurse Abels is believed to have delivered almost the entire off spring of the pioneers of Ennerdale!
A statement made by another member of the pioneering chain of Ennerdale, Mr. Andrew Haine, who passed away two years ago, perhaps sums it all up perfectly. “Without Mid-Ennerdale, Ennerdale would not have existed.” I personally feel that without Freddie Smith Mid-Ennerdale would not have existed!