At the beginning of the century, Fr Howlett OMI who was based in Kokstad , came in a pony and trap and offered Mass at the home of MR and Mrs McKenzie and family on the farm Noitgedacht in Kaka’s Hill.
From there he went to a trading station in Mvenyane and then came back to Cedarville, where he said Mass in a rondavel in the grounds of the Masonic Hotel, the present garage site.
The first recorded burial in Cedarville was that of Elva Wingett, a convert and past pupil of Kokstad convent.
Cedarville was then served from Matatiele and for a time at the railway station since the stationmaster, a Mr King, was a Catholic.
In 1950 the first church was built in Cedarville, in Van Zyl street, no 93 and 94. It was very small. When Fr Reginald Gunn came to Cedarville in 1965 he found the old church in poor repair and decided to build a new and bigger Church. He sold the old church building to the Anglican Church in Matatiele for Rand 600. The high altar was donated to the small Anglican Church in Cedarville and the statues of Our Lady and St Joseph to St Monica’a in Matatiele
T he new Church was opened officially by Bishop Mc Bride on Nov 19 1967. After the opening the first official service held in the Church was the First Inter-Church service in these parts attended by Dutch Reformed, Methodist, Anglican, Moravian and Catholic ministers.
It was Fr Columbanus who brought Sisters-Franciscan Sisters for Africa to Cedarville in 1954-55, they opened a Clinic and served all who came to them.
History of the Catholic Church
i) Early History, Churches, Resident Priests – pp. 1-13
Matatiele Chronicle – Notes on Cedarville – p. 14
ii) Catechists – p. 15
iii) Outstations – pp. 16-19
iv) Franciscan Missionaries of Mary – pp. 20-21
v) Resident Priests at Cedarville – p. 22
vi) Photos – Second Church – p. 23
vii) Sources – p. 24
1954 – 1979
Cerdarville is a small village between Kokstad and Matatiele. It is 52km. To the north-west of Kokstad and 27 km from Matatiele, which borders on the Lesotho mountains. It is situated in a flat plain between the mountains and serves the (mainly Afrikaans-speaking) farming community in the area. Due to its proximity to both bigger centres, like many rural villages in Sout Africa, Cedarville has shrunk in size and significance.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it was difficult to keep resident priests there – also the ageing and shortage of priests did not help.
Although the Diocesan map (see front) shows a church and resident priest at Cedarville, Fr Marcel Dischl in his Transkei for Christ makes no mention of this church. By the time his book has published in 1982, the church had already been closed for 3 years.
It is only by sheer chance that there is anything at all on Cedarville. In while looking though the former priest’s house, for many years being used by laypeople, the Cedarville chronicle was discovered for safekeeping. I made a photo copy of the Cedarville chronicle for archival use. So it is that the wish of Fr Reginald Gunn, resident priest of Cedarville between 1965-1970, has come about. In 1967 he mentioned in the chronicle: Some pictures and newspaper cuttings follow, and it is hoped that these will be of interest to readers many years hence. Fr Gunn collected most of the available information for this chronicle between 1969-1970.
It is a real pleasure to me that instead of a limited readership, some of the contents of the Cedarville chronicle will be made available to the Kokstad Diocese Archives and to Rome.
At the beginning of the century, Fr Howlett OMI, who was based in Kokstad, came in a pony and trap and offered Mass at the home of Mr 7 Mrs McKenzie and family on the farm Noitgedacht (Kaka’s Hill). From there he went on to a trading station in Mvenyane and then came back to Cedarville, where he said Mass in a rondavell (round mud hut with thatched roof) on the Masonic Hotel grounds, the present garage site.
The first recorded burial in Cedarville was that of Elva Wingett, a convert and past pupil of Kokstad convent.
One member of the McKenzie family, became Mrs Cyril Chaplin of Meadowlands farm.
Fr Guido Nuernberger Ofm came monthly from Matatiele to offer Mass in the home of the King family, who lived in a wood-and -iron house next to the station, as Mr King was the stationmaster.
Besides the four members of the King family, recent converts, a few other Whites including Miss Carolan, the postmistress and an equal number of Africans. Sometimes about 20-40 Africans came from Mvenyane reserve.
Later, Mass was offered in the home of the Carolan family, which is 1969 was the property of Kromdraal, situated on the main street, next to the police station.
The First Church
In 1950 the first church was built in Cedarville, also a small house, on Erven nos 93 and 94 in Van Zyl Street.
At the time it was thought that a mission with resident priest would be established on a farm adjoining the Mt Frere Matatiele districts and that a priest would visit Cedarville at weekends.
For a short time there was a small school for Africans on the farm, but it was later deemed impractical to establish a mission on the farm which was subsequently sold to Mr Rawlins or Fairview, near Bees Valley store, for the sum of R3, 404.
Photo of the first church below
Fr Columbanus Timmons Ofm, the first resident priest of Cedarville, was a former missionary in China. He was also the last resident priest in Cedarville.
Fr Timmons added a sacristy to the church and one room on the house. He was instrumental in obtaining the services of the Franciscan Sisters for Africa to staff the Cedarville clinic.
Fr Cajus Grellner ofm was the next resident priest and owing to poor sight, the Cedarville outstations were taken care of by the Matatiele priests.
On leaving Cedarville, Fr Grellner became assistant priest in Mt Ayliff, then shortly afterwards he went with some other Bavarian Franciscans to Gingindlovu mission in Zululand. He died rather suddenly in Gingindlovu.
Fr Aelred Devine ofm was the next resident priest and he remained for a relatively long time, seven years. In 1961 Fr Larry O’Shea did supply for 6 months while Fr Aelred was on overseas leave.
In 1965, when Fr Aelred again went overseas on leave, there was no available spare priest to take over, so Fr Finbarr Russel ofm who was on supply at Maria Telgte at the time, kept Cedarville mission going to the best of his ability. Unfortunately too, Fr Aelred did not return to Cedarville because of ill-health and was posted to St Elmo’s on the South coast as chaplain.
Fr Reginald Gunn ofm succeeded Fr Aelred and was responsible for the compilation of the bulk of the Cedarville chronicle.
Fr Reginald found the mission buildings in a lamentable state of disrepair, especially the church which was badly cracked and was too far gone to make any kind of patch job.
So Fr Reginald took immediate steps to find an alternative site for a church and rebuild altogether.
The old mission property, Erven nos 93 and 94, where the first church had been built, was sole to Mr Oliphant for R2,200. The church building was sold separately to the Anglican church in Matatiele.
The Anglican church paid a mere R600 for the building, which was dismantled by Fr Parker (Anglican) and the building materials were then used in the construction of other buildings. The high altar was donated to the small Anglican church in Cedarville Main Street and the statues of Our Lady and St Joseph to St Monica’s, Matatiele.
One side altar went to St Augustine’s church, E……… and other furniture went to Fr Egbert’s O’ Dea and Fr Larry O’Shea. The church benches were loaned to the Santa Chapel in Matatiele for about 3 years, then donated to St Philip’s church Mvenyane. All church services were held in the Sisters’ convent until the erection of the new church.
Building of the new church, 1967
The re-building of the church caused difficulties, because, as soon as the local Village Management Board realised what was happening, dormant anti-Catholic sentiment came to life. A determined effort was made to prevent the building of the church in what was conswidered the best part of the village. Objection was raised that the church would cater for Africans, whose presence in the village was not desired.
At one point it looked so bad that the priest was prepared to erect a prefab timber structure to meed the needs of the congregation. Fortunately, however, the Village Management Board had no real authority to prevent the erection of the church. A more elaborate and expensive design was put aside and a simple building was then planned.
Church Building During Construction
Below is the photocopy of the church building, and on the following pages are pictures of the interior.
The foundation stone was taken from the old church building and inserted in the new one, adding the words: Re-erected 1967: RV Edwards Builder.
Some Exterion Details
Along the entier length of the church at the back there was deep French drain to take away any possible moisture from the foundations. This drain came out below the entrance gate to the church (there was a photo in the Cedarville chronicle to illustrate this, but it did not reproduce well)
Interior of Church
The window glass (Vitro Art) costing approximately R700 was the gift late Mrs J P McGuire, sister of Fr Reginald Gunn. A great deal of trouble was caused by the fact that the firm which made it, a company in Johannesburg, went insolvent before the order was completed. The chronicler also wondered whether the glass would withstand the severe cold in East Griqualand. He also mentioned that the painted glass window in the Mt Frere church (I included a photo of it in the Mt Frere history) was by the same company, Glass Design Limited.
Photocopy of the Cedarville window.
The entire cost of erecting the new church, including the window glass for the window of Our Lady, and also the lighting and furniture was approximately R11,000.
Official Blessing and opening of the church
Bishop McBride blessed and opened the new church in Cedarville on the 19th November 1967.
This was followed by Mass in Xhosa, attended by big numbers of African people from Mvenyane and the farm outstations. A feast was held afterwards in the Cedarville location (African residential area).
Inter-Church Service for Christian Unity
This was the first official service held in the new Church , only a week after its opening – 26th November 1967.
Below are cuttings from the Matatiele Mail in English and Afrikaans regarding this event. On page 7 is a photocopy of the priest/minister involved in the event, together with details and pages 8 & 9 depict the programme.
Quarterly Anglican/Catholic Meeting
This was held at the Cedarville mission, in November 1969, with five Anglican priests and two Catholic priests present. A Mass for Christian unity was offered by Fr Gunn, the resident priest of Cedarville, and was followed by morning tea and a discussion on Anglican orders, the talk being given by Archdeacon Lean. Lunch was then served for all the clergy by the Sisters.
Fr Niall Hardiman 1970-1971
Bishop McBride appointed Fr Hardiman as assistant parish priest in Cedarville, so the following day Fr Niall started house visitation in Mvenyane location.
A week later there was a Legion of Mary meeting and 40 people joined. The first Praesidium was formed under the name of Queen of Apostles. Some weeks later a second praesidium was formed at Rosheni under the name of Joy of Christians.
Fr Hardiman’s weekly programme was neatly set out as follows:
Sunday: Mass Cedarville 8 a.m
(Outstations dealt with separately by me)
Tuesdays: House visitation
Thursdays: Mass at Legion meetings at Rosheni, Mvenyane.
Fr Gerry Griffin 1971-1976
Fr Gerry was appointed to Cedarville and Fr Niall went to Matatiele in place of Fr Larry O’Shea, who went to Franklin.
Confirmation in Cedarville
This was held on Sunday 9th July 1972. 40 people were confirmed, including 8 coloured people. It was also Fr Gerry’s birthday.
Fr Gerry on supply to Mt Ayliff
In April 1974 Fr Gerry went to Mt Ayliff for 3 months, as the resident priest, Fr Harry Houlihan went home on overseas leave. Fr Gerry O’Reilly was sent to Cedarville during that time.
Snow in Cedarville
Fr Gerry O’Reilly mentioned two snowfalls, one in May, then a heavier one in June.
Two priests in Cedarville
Fr Griffin returned in August and little Cedarville parish had two priests at the same time, as Fr O’Reilly had not yet received a further appointment. However, Fr O’Reilly then asked to supply in Lusikisiki as Fr McCrimmon was overseas and Fr Columbanus was taken to hospital with a sever nasal haemorrhage.
Fr Columbanus Timmons Returns to Cedarville 1977-1979
The wheel had turned full circle and Fr Columbanus returned to the parish he started in the 1950’s.
He remarked on the paucity of entries in the chronicle and the comings and goings of many priests owing to supplies and scarcity of personnel.
Fr Columbanus took over from Fr Valerian Gavin, who had been in Cedarville for 5 months. Fr Valerian subsequently returned to the Irish Province because of ill-health, leaving Cedarville in the middle of May 1977.
Painting the church – George Davis, a contractor from Kokstad, came with a group of workers to paint the exterior and interior of the church in August.
Bro Masseo – Repairs on an old Farmhouse – Also in August Bro Masseo came to the Kilpatrick’s farm at New Amalfi, 20 km from Cedarville, to repair an old farmhouse where Fr Columbanus hoped to open a school for the children of African farm workers – he also hoped to say Mass there for over 30 Catholics.
Application for African School – Once the repairs were completed, Fr Columbanus made an application to the Education Department in Pietermaritzburg on behalf of Mrs Kilpatrick, owner of the Riversdale Farm, which he did in September 1977. The inspector phoned to say he would come to look at the building.
Fr Columbanus was full of admiration for the excelled job that Bro Masseo and the catechist had made in transforming the old house. They had put in six windows and a door and painted the entire house. Fr Columbanus hoped in would be passed as suitable. In the meantime Mass was being said there and the catechist was visiting weekly.
A fire completely destroyed the Cedarville Hotel, but fortunately no lives were lost (September).
Feast of St Columban – On the 23rd November , being Fr Columban’s feast-day, he celebrated Mass with eight of his confreres and they enjoyed lunch together at his house.
December 1977 – Two entries for that month: – Christmas. A Vigil Mass was held at 6 p.m on the 24th, then two Masses on Christmas Day, 8 and 10 a.m.
Visitation of Fr Louis Brennan, the Provincial, on the 27th .
See the reproduction of his official stamp below
First Holy Communion
96 First Holy Communicants were received during the 10 am. Mass, most of the people from outstations or farms.
Bishop McBride confirmed 136 people, also mostly from the farms in the district.
Fr Columban on overseas leave, April-June 1978.
Fr Neill Hardiman supplied for Fr Columban.
August: The tenant of the old priest’s house left for Matatiele, so the house was painted inside and out and the sewerage was fixed by Brother Juniper. The new tenant was from a road construction firm which was constructing a new road from Qwaqwa’s hill to Mt Frere for the Transkei government and the rent paid was R70 per month.
September: Fr Columban was presented with a gift of a blenket from some farm converts.
October: Bro Masseo limewashed the exterior of the priest’s house.
There were only two more entries in the Cedarville chronicle by Fr Columban, both in connection with work on the outstations/farms.
In April he was diagnosed to have cancer and left for Ireland, where he died shortly afterwards.
End of Cedarville Chronicle
Notes from the Matatiele Chronicle on Cedarville
By this time there was no resident priest in Cedarville, so a family named Clothier who were relatives of Bishop Napier, stayed in the priest’s house. Mass was said in the church once a month in Xhosa for a congregation of about 30, including children. Only half a dozen people received Holy Communion.
Outstations in Cedarville District
The outstations at the time were: Mvenyane plantation, Maweni, the old church at Rasheni occasionally,Tyiweni, very rarely. During the school year Mass was said once a month at Sigoga and Mvenyane High Schools, where many pupils were Sesotho speaking Catholics from across the Keregha river in the Umtata diocese. In all there were about 800 catholics, comprising of a few Coloureds, no whites and the rest Africans. These places were visited from Matatiele.
Fr Manus visited the Rasheni outstation for the first time in years as most of the people had left. A few old people remained, however, and it was for their sake that Mass was held there. Other people came from the valley below and 27 people received Communion.
During the lead-up time to Mandela’s release, there was widespread unrest in the country, so a Coloured regiment from Upington were stationed in Cedarville. They were then replaced by a much more experienced unit, no 121, from Mtubatuba. A number of them were catholics, but in public they refused to identify themselves as belonging to any church, possibly for fear of ridicule. Fr Manus went in March to Cedarville to give them a talk.
C a t e c h i s t s
The first time catechists were mentioned was during the tenure of Fr Caius Grellner, between 1954-1956, and I quote: John Tebele was the catechist at this time. He was later assisted by a younger man, Johannes Msimang.
The next mention of catechists was during the residence of Fr Aelred Devine, 1958-1965. At some time between these dates a New Catechist’s House was erected with a large room to accommodate African people staying overnight for church functions. At the same time the priest’s house was tastefully redecorated and a kitchenette added.
1966 – Fr Reginald Gunn (1965 – 1970) mentioned catechists in detail, and I quote him verbatim: In 1966 a young learner catechist, Lucas Bambezela, from Makoba’s location, was engaged by the mission. The following year another young learner catechist, Lucas Sikundla, from Mvenyane location was engaged. They both did the course for catechists at Cwele Mission, Umtata in 1967 and 1968.
Subsequently Lucas Sikundla went to circumcision school and his services as catechist were discontinued.
In 1969 Lucas Bambezela did a Standard VI course at Cedarville B school while continuing as catechist. Having passed Std VI and expressed a desire to continue his studies in the hope of one day becoming a priest, he went to Mt Frere mission in January 1970, where he commenced secondary school in the village.
Lucas Bambezela was also mentioned among the people leaving the new Cedarville church on the occasion of the Interfaith Service for Unity in November 1967.
1977 – Fr Comumbanus Timmons (1977- 1979)
He mentioned that Fr Egbert O’Dea brought Alois Sithole from his mission in Shangweni to be a catechist in Cedarville.
Referring to Bro Masseo’s repairing the old farmhouse on the Kilpatricks farm with the hope that the Education Department would approve it for a school, Fr Columbanus added that it was being used for celebrating Mass and also the catechist’s weekly visits.
O u t s t a t i o n s
Fr Columbanus Timmons, 1954-1956, who was the first resident priest, held Mass at three farms in the area, the principal outstation Mvenyane still being served from Matatiele.
Probably the next two priests, Fr Caius Grellner and Fr aelred Devine, continued with the outstation work but nothing is mentioned in the chronicle.
Fr Reginald Gunn, 1965-1970. In 1966 he mentioned that some new outstations were opened on the road to Kokstad between Cedarville bridge and the turnoff for Franklin. As this are belonged to Kokstad, it was arranged with the Bishop that the priest in Cedarville should serve the outstations there.
Fr Gunn enumerated the outstations/ Mass centres that he served:
Mr Dorning’s Farm. The use of the school on his farm was granted with pleasure.
Mr Brown’s Farm. The use of a kraal. Here a small school was erected by the farmer in 1968/9 and was subsidised by Education Department.
Mr Hopley’s Farm. (Mass centre)
Mr Houston’s Farm. (Mass centre)
Mr Le Roux’s Farm. (Mass centre)
Mr Joyner’s farm. (Mass centre)
A school was also started on this farm in 1968 and a new building erected in 1969.
The existing outstation at Saamloop was transferred to Crossroads to the Church school on Paradise farm, with the kind permission of the Anglican Archdeacon Knight of Matatiele.
I reproduce on the following page Fr Gunn’s outstation Mass schedule.
Fr Gunn mentioned that in 1967 permission was obtained for the use of the Anglican church, St Philips at Plantation. After Mass the audio-visual aids programme was a very popular feature in the school. The Anglicans and their priest attended Mass and school programme in large numbers. He also found the visual aids of great interest in the Cedarville church, location school and farm outstations in the evenings.
A new Anglican church, St Augustines, was built at Etyweni in 1969. We contributed financially towards the building of this church and were kindly given full use of the building by Anglican community and priest. The first Mass was held there on the 25th November 1969. Hitherto it had been offered at the home of Mr Ngijima.
As it was inadvisable to encourage large numbers of people to stay overnight in Cedarville because of its situation in the main street, Mass was held on the eve of all big feasts at Meadowbrook in the evening and on the feast itself in Mvenyane.
Confirmations were held at three venues: Meadowbrook, Mvenyane and in Cedarville.
Fr Niall Hardiman 1970-1971
Mass Schedule for outstation
1st Outstation 2nd Outstation
4th Sunday Dorning’s Brown’s
3rd Sunday Crossroads Chaplin’s
2nd Sunday Hopley’s Le Roux’s or Houston
1st Sunday Laird’s Joyner’s
Mid week Programme
Tuesday: House Visitation
Thursday: Mass and Legion meetings at Rosheni, Mvenyane.
Saturdays: Outstations at Moravian Mission, 1st Saturday
Ngqumani – 2nd Saturday
Tyiweni – 3rd Saturday
Plantation – last Saturday
Fr Gerard Griffin, 1972-1976
Fr Gerry mentioned Confirmation on 16th July 1972 at Rosheni Mvenyane, when Bishop McBride, whose health was failing, had to travel down on horseback. He (Fr Gerry ) commented that it would probably the last time the good Bishop would be able to do so.
Fr Columbanus Timmons 1977-1979
In September 1977 Fr Columbanus approached Mrs, Laird re starting a school, or at least, building a kraal for Mass, as for years Mass had been held in a cattle-shed, both cold and undignified. This venue served workers on three adjoining farms: Sol’s, Leslie’s and Laird’s.
Kilpatricks farm – solemn blessing of the new school and place for Mass. Many people came from Cedarville, Meadwbrook, Mvenyane and Maria Telgte mission. Mass was celebrated and a feast followed.
July. Zitaphile. Mgr Wilfrid Napier, the Apostolic Administrator went with Fr Columbanus went to Zitaphile for the blessing of the new church of St Margaret. Ten babies were baptised.
September. Captain Sol of Bon Accord farm applied for a new school to accommodate the labourers’ children from his, the Laird’s and Lesli’s farms.
Fr Columbanus was very happy to report that the school mentioned above was approved by the Government. The Education Department sent the registration papers and when the school opened, 48 pupils registered. A new teacher arrived Getrude Mazule (JC&Ph) from the Mt Frere district was appointed. The farmers had to pay her salary for the first term.
15th April. On Easter Saturday there were 40 baptisms.
The final entry in the Cedarville chronicle was under the same date and I repeat it verbatim:
Alleluia – Five Acres school on Mr Kilpatrick’s farm was approved and the new teacher, Abigail Kacheri – arrived on April 16th .
Fr Columbanus managed to get the services of the Franciscan Sisters for Africa to staff the Cedarville clinic. There is no exact date for their arrival, but it was between 1954-1956 and a photograph and article appeared in the Matatiele Mail. I reproduce a copy of this below:-
The Sisters lived for a while in the clinic until the diocese bought the property of Mr Box, Erf 329 at a cost of $1,100. Owing to certain unfriendly elements in the local White community , the Sisters apostolate in the early years was not peaceful.
In February 1966 Erven 313, 315 & 316 and all the buildings were bought for the sum of R2, 500 from Mr S van Niekerk and the sisters moved to the new property.
When the sisters moved into their new Convent which adjoined the clinic where the sisters worked, it was planned that the priest should take up residence in their old convent, Erf 329. However, just at this time it becam known that the owners of Erven 314 and 317, Mr Kempen was anxious to sell.
His land was immediately adjoining the newly-purchased church grounds, so the priest went to live there in March 1966. Mr Kempen and family then rented the old convent and lived there.
Sr Liddia and Sister Provincial of the FMM’s called in at Cedarville.
Fr Gerry O’Reilly came for three months to Cedarville to relieve Fr Gerard Griffin who was helping out at Mt Ayliff, and on his arrival, he found two Sisters at the convent: Srs Ann and Nora. Sr Nora was then district nurse, replacing September 1973.
The Bishop advised that the sisters would pull out in December that year and an explanation would have to be given to the people for their departure.
The main reason was that the local doctors would not allow the sister to exercise her nursing skill enough, e.g she was not allowed to give antibiotics and she was being underutilised. She felt that in a bigger hospital she would be of more use to the people.
Resident Priests in Cedarville
1. Fr Columbanus Timmons ofm 1954 – 1956
2. Fr Caius Grellner ofm 1956 – 1958
3. Fr Aelred Devine ofm 1958 – 1965
4. Fr Reginald Gunn ofm 1965 – 1970
5. Fr Niall Hardiman ofm 1970 – 1971
6. Fr Gerard Griffin ofm 1972 – 1976
7. Fr Finbarr Russel ofm June – Dec 1976
8. Fr Valerian Gavin ofm Jan – May 1977
9. Fr Columbanus Timmons ofm 1977-1979
Sources of Information
1. Cedarville Chronicle
2. Matatiele Chronicle – Excerpts
3. Matatiele Mail – Cuttings and Photos
4. Fr Manus Campbell – Correspondence and telephone conversations.
5. Original Photos of Cedarville Church – Fr Manus.