Pella, formerly known as Cammas Fonteyn, is an oasis in the Namakwa (Bushmanland) in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.
A South African Dutch farmer called Coenraad Feijt, settled here in 1776 and lived in harmony with the San people despite their fondness for raiding the cattle of the Dutch farmers.
In 1814, a missionary called Christian Albrecht, together with his assistants, moved here from Namibia where he founded the mission station and renamed it Pella, after the ancient town in Macedonia that gave refuge to Christians in biblical times.
Other famous missionaries who visited Pella during the early years were John Campbell, Heinrich Schmelen and Robert Moffat.
The mission station was abandoned numerous times. However, the Basters and San continued to use the oasis. The Basters (also known as Baasters, Rehobothers or Rehoboth Basters) are a Namibian ethnic group descended from European settlers and indigenous African women from the Dutch Cape Colony.
In 1824, a traveller named George Thompson arrived in a deserted Pella from Cape Town. With barely any food, he and his party was hospitably received by the resident missionary, Mr Bartlett, who had moved the mission station to t’Kams, 32km to the west. At the time there were ±400 people living in severe droughts which forced them to occasionally disperse into different divisions around the country wherever water existed with enough grass for their animals. And as soon as it rained, the pastures at Pella would have immediately sprung to life and the scattered divisions would again be re-assembled.
In 1872, the mission station was abandoned but re-occupied in 1878 when Father Godelle, a Roman Catholic missionary from the Society of the Holy Ghost, settled here. However, after a while, he returned to France due to the intense heat and deprivation.
In 1882, a 23-year-old priest, Father JM Simon of the Oblates of St Francis de Sales, volunteered to make a fresh start at Pella. He quickly made friends with the San people who were usually wary of strangers. After two years of struggling by himself, other priests from France joined him but were soon driven back home due to the heat and loneliness.
In 1885, Father Simon was joined by Brother Leo Wolf to serve the community of Pella. Together they established food gardens and began to build a church which took them seven years to complete. The churched was designed from a picture in a book. Bricks were made alongside the Orange River, approximately 9km away, while limestone was transported by ox wagon from approximately 169km away. Both inexperienced, they learned the trade as they built the church. Only the altar was imported. The church was consecrated in 1895 by Bishop Rooney from Cape Town. By the end of the century Father Simon was consecrated as a bishop while Brother Wolf was ordained as a priest after many years of service. Bishop Simon died in 1932, after celebrating 50 years since his arrival at Pella. Father Wolf died in 1947.
Did you know? In summer, the average temperature at Pella is about 40°C and there may be no rain for several years.
When it does rain hard, flooding is likely to occur. In 1984, flooding caused extensive damage to the church with a number of supporting pillars collapsing and the building was in danger of being condemned. With the help of the nearby mining company, Black Mountain situated at Aggeneys, the building was restored and safe to use.
What is Pella known for?
Pella is primarily known for its beautiful Catholic Church (a Cathedral), date plantations and majestic mountains. Despite the drought and dusty environment, the area is also known for gemstones such as malachite, jasper and rose quartz.
Language: The main language used here is Afrikaans.
Did you know? You will be well received by Pella’s friendly community which boasts a very low crime rate, should you decide to visit this rich in history town.