Establishment of the mission house
Bethulie owes its existence to the establishment of two missions. The London Missionary Society, with Kolbe and Clark as missionaries to the San during 1828 – 1832. After them, the Paris Missionary Society took over the running of the mission and Jean Pierre Pellissier at the young age of 27 settled here on 5 May 1833. He had just married Martha Murray on 22 April 1833. On invitation from Pellissier, Captain Lephoi from the Tlhaping settled here on 14 October 1833 with 1800 of his followers. The mission was proclaimed as a town on 4 March 1863 after Lephoi sold the land. Most of the Tlhaping and Lephoi left the area. The missionary was kept by Pellissier. He carried on with the missionary work to the remaining Tlhaping until he passed away on 11 June 1867
From house to museum
The house for the missionary was completed by a French missionary-builder, C Gosselin, in 1835. The flat roofed rooms were added in 1852 and 1856.
After the death of JP Pellissier in 1867, Martha remained here until she passed away in 1887. From approximately 1874, her three grandchildren, of her daughter Hortense Scott, lived with her. Her house was always open to visitors, dignitaries and people in need.
After her death, the house was sold on a public auction and bought by the Holmes family that lived there for Approximately 20 years. At some stage, the house was also used as a boarding house.
The idea for a museum came from Ms De Swardt, the wife of the school principal, during the Van Riebeeck Festival in 1952. The house was bought once again in 1956, by the Pellissier family and donated to the Municipality Century Festival Museum Committee to be converted into a museum. It was developed into a posh museum.
In 1975, the Free State Provincial Administration took over the museum and converted it into the first theme museum of the province. In this process, many of the artifacts were removed from the museum. In 1979, the museum was restored and maintained for the last time by the Provincial Administration. The building was declared as a national heritage site.
Since 2008, there have been negotiations between the community and the Provincial Government, to have the building restored and the control to be handed over to the community.
News and plans for the future
After 5 years of negotiations between Bethulie Heritage Foundation and the Freestate Government, at last bore fruit. The Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation has just about finalized the handing over of the museum to the community. As part of the negotiations, most of the removed artifacts have been returned to the museum. The Department supports the Bethulie Heritage Foundation in several manners, such as professional advice and exhibitions.
The Foundation is registered as a Non-Profit Organization.
The Freestate Department of Public Works will be renovating the neglected building and have already done a survey of the work to be done. The building and the land remains the property of the Provincial Government, but the Foundation has usufruct.
Plans for the future
The museum is already a popular destination for visitors and the potential must be expanded.
The involvement and participation of the community is very important for success.
A huge challenge for the Foundation is to obtain funds for the upkeep and running of the museum. Projects, such as selling products at the monthly town market have already born fruit.
The exhibitions will be expanded with emphasis on:
Detailing the history of the different culture groups
Events, such as the building of the Gariep dam
Structures such as examples of the San and the Thlaping dwellings
Activities for generating funds and community involvement such as
A living museum with demonstrations, activities and games
A museum shop
Having the monthly market at the museum.
A caravan park
Community vegetable and herb garden
A tea garden.
An open day was planned for 13 and 14 September 2013 to introduce the museum in co operation with the Free State Department of Sport, Art, Culture and Recreation. This event was very well attended.
The museum property
Dating out of the Pellissier period the following is of special interest, the Pellissier Cemetery, a baking oven, the bell tower, remnants of the dam, the vegetable patch outlines, pomegranate trees and the stone wall surrounding the property.
Exhibitions and collections
The following themes are presently displayed
The period from the mission, household items and furniture, the Anglo-Boer War, the San and black Tribes, photos of the community leaders.
Collection in storage include
Agricultural and work equipment; clothes from the 1800’s; information regarding several personalities.
The Bethulie Heritage Foundation
The governing body of the museum operates as a Non Profit Organization. It is registered in terms of Act 71 of 1997 with reference number 121-009NPO
The Constitution is available for interested parties. The members of the current management are Trudie Venter (Chairperson), Emmelia Pretorius (secretary), Sidney Goodman, Denise Jacobs, Walter Kasa, Pula Tshegare, Dean Victor and Louisa Klopper (Municipal Representative).
Visitors/ Enquiries / Contact details
After completion of the transfer, volunteers shall be manning the museum and therefore will not be open all day and every day. Contact 083 630 8849 to visit the museum or for enquiries.
Please support us
We will gladly receive artifacts, information (written or verbally) pertaining to the history and surroundings of Bethulie.
Ideas and volunteers are always welcome.
Donations and financial support can be deposited into our bank account. Donations during your visit are also welcome.
© 2013 Bethulie Heritage Foundation