Alois Nellmapius, Historical character…

Nick Grabe

Alois Hugo Nellmapius 5 May 1847 – 27 July 1893, was a South African businessman, industrialist and pioneer conservationist. Born in Budapest and arrived in South Africa on board the ship Nathan in 1873. Alois Hugo Nellmapius a prospector turned transporter, was an admirer of both Pres Burgers and also Pres Kruger and thus obtained a concession in 1875 from the ZAR government to create a road from the Lebombo Mountains near Komatipoort, joining the Portuguese one from Delagoa Bay, to Lydenburg and on to Pilgrims Rest to the goldfields.

With the concession came six farms – Castilhopolis, Coopersdal, Lodwichslust, Pretoriuskop, Joubertshoop and Burgers Halt. The route started in the Lebombo Mountains and closely followed the route laid out by Joao Albasini; it went through Castilhopolis and Coopersdal adjacent to one another and they became Komatipoort later. The Road went along the Crocodile River through Lodwichslust and crossed the river at Nellmapius drift (Malelane), where there was a trading post called Tengamanzi built by Alf Roberts that also sold Brandy made by Nellmapius in the Lowveld, named “Transvaal Gin”.

The road then went into the Kruger Park area past Josekhulu near Ship Mountain (along the Voortrekker Road) to Pretoriuskop known then as Manugu’s kop. The road also followed the Voortrekker road in the Park.

The road proceeded east past the “koppie”, Legogote is known as “Place of the skins”. The reason for this deviation was that the black tribes living in the “caves” on this koppie made and sold “ox rieme” for the transport riders in the Lowveld. These thongs were needed for the trip up the mountain after Spitskop (Sabie) as the transport riders used up to 3 sets at a time to go up the mountain due to breakages from the strain under the heavy load. Chains were scarce and expensive.

The route went past Burgers Halt, named thus by Nellmapius because Pres Burgers stopped here en route to Barberton district. Today the area is known as Kiepersol. Nabana Estates) Eventually, Nellmapius had to abandon the transporting business and went to the Witwatersrand. He was the first digger on the Transvaal goldfields to make use of dynamite.

In 1889 a controlling interest (2/3) of Doornkloof farm was purchased by Alois Hugo Nellmapius who renamed the farm Irene Estate, after his daughter Irene Violet Nellmapius. Irene is derived from the Greek word meaning peace. (Only after the Anglo Boer war did Gen Jan Smuts purchase the other third in 1908. So as you see, the naming was not done by J Smuts. Smuts did have a Holiday home in Hazyview where the Summerhill School is today. )

As a businessman who had previously established a transport business between Lourenco Marques and Pilgrim’s Rest, as well as several industrial concerns (a gin and whisky factory, South Africa’s first gunpowder factory, and the Irene lime works). Irene was the site of one of the more than forty concentration camps where the British imprisoned the Boer (Afrikaner) women and children, whose homes had been destroyed as part of the British Army’s ‘scorched earth’ policy during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). More than 1,200 people, most of them children, died at the Irene Camp. Today, the names of those who died here are memorialized at the Irene Concentration Camp Cemetery and Memorial.

Kruger House, situated in Church Street West, Pretoria, and built-in a Victorian veranda style, was designed by Tom Claridge, one of Pretoria’s first architects and was erected and completed in 1884. This on the instructions of Nellmapius, who was instrumental that Paul Kruger moves from Boekenhout kloof in Rustenburg to Pretoria.

President Paul Kruger was perceived by some as a despot after he compromised the independence of the republic’s judiciary to help his friend Alois Hugo Nellmapius, who had been found guilty of embezzlement—Kruger rejected the court’s judgement and granted Nellmapius a full pardon before his re-election in 1888. The opposition and the press, as well as the judiciary, called the act of Kruger “completely indefensible”.

Nellmapius also owned the Pretoria newspaper De Pers. Due to lack of funds, he lost a Government manufacturing contract at Eerste Fabrieken to Sammy Marks. His first enterprise was the Hatherley Distillery that produced gin and whisky on the farm Hatherley, opened by President Kruger on 6 June 1883 and named Volkshoop. He started the first gunpowder factory in South Africa and the Irene Lime Works.

Alois fought in the Sekhukhune wars with Pres Burgers and the Mapoch campaign near Roossenekal (the place where Arum lilies are cultivated today).

Nellmapius died at Irene in June 1893. He was buried in the ‘Golden Acres Cemetery’ in Church Street in Pretoria where Paul Kruger and many other heroes of that time were buried. This was done on the insistence of Paul Kruger.

Sammy Marks, upon the recommendation of Paul Kruger, bought over the controlling interests in Nellmapius’s businesses from his estate. He was a burger in the First Boer war near Laings Nek in 1881 under Gen Joubert and Nicolaas Smit fighting against Colley.


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