I enjoy exploring small towns and discovering all the interesting spots that most people probably never get to see as they rush through on their way elsewhere. Driving into the small Karoo Heartland town of Pearston I did what I always do when I visit a new place. I headed straight to the historic NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church). Because most small towns have one. In front of the church, I noticed a small stone monument with an inscription and went to have a closer look. It turned out to be a Great Trek centenary memorial.
The Great Trek is one of the major milestones in South African history, especially in the Afrikaner culture. Boers of Dutch descent left the Cape Colony between 1838 and the 1840s and migrated north before settling in the interior of South Africa. The Great Trek led to the establishment of the republics of Natalia, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. In 1938 the 100-year anniversary of the Great Trek was celebrated with a symbolic trek from Cape Town to Pretoria. This re-enactment of the trek began on 8 August 1938, at the foot of the Jan van Riebeeck statue in Cape Town, and wound its way through small towns all over the country en route to Pretoria. The trek ended with the laying of the foundation for the Voortrekker Monument, which was attended by a crowd of over 100,000 people.
The centenary trek came through Pearston on 22 September 1938 and this small memorial was unveiled to mark the occasion. It’s not the most imposing or impressive memorial, but it commemorates a big event. It also shows that memorials don’t always have to be huge and cost millions. It’s like the saying goes. “It’s the thought that counts.”