Old Joe

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Information provided by Hans Bornman from his unpublished book, Lowveld Tour Guide:

A well-known landmark on the Schoemanskloof road is the rock named “Old Joe”. It is situated 16 km east of Bambi next to the road. The man overseeing the construction of the second road through Schoemanskloof, in 1927, was Joe Barbas[1]. The workers found an odd shaped rock and decided to erect the human-shaped rock next to the road. It looked just like Joe Barbas, with his paunch. They white washed it and added his name ‘Joe’ to the rock. When the third road was constructed during 1949/50 the rock was moved to the new road. Since then travellers, with paint and brush, made sure that ‘Old Joe’ was always neatly ‘dressed’. He has been a gentleman, wearing a dress suit, an army uniform, complete with stripes, a professor, doctor, church minister and in 1996 a caveman. Since then he has been changed to many other forms of dressing.

During 1999/2001 the road through Schoemanskloof was upgraded by Trac and Old Joe was moved to Old Joe’s Kaya, an aptly named lodge, for ‘protection’ while the road was widened and at some places straightened. When the construction was completed Old Joe was moved back to its present position next to the road, dressed as a gentlemen, and ‘officially’ welcomed ‘home’ on Wednesday 6 June 2001 at a special function attended by Television, radio, press and the local people. Old Joe will now continue to act as a beacon to travellers to the Lowveld.

Concerned residents of the ‘kloof’ built a rock platform, during 2002, on which Old Joe is now standing. He is now sporting a Springbok rugby player. Trac sponsored all the building material for the platform, and Cassie Coetzee, a businessman from Belfast, built it.

In 1967 the Crocodile Valley Citrus Company, Nelspruit, purchased Transvaal Citrus Farms (TCF) in Schoemanskloof. TCF was established as a plot holder’s company during the 1920’s on the farm Elandshoek. It was originally very successful. By 1923 there were already 100 000 citrus trees planted and the company had its own railway line to Elandshoek station. This narrow gauge line was built in 1915 by Mark Wilson Ltd, Colonial Timber Merchants and Saw Millers, Johannesburg, to carry indigenous wood from a sawmill on the farm Koedoeshoek to Elandshoek station. When this timber was exhausted, TCF took the railway line over from Mark Wilson Ltd. In 1925 the South African Railways took over the line, improved the bridges on the line itself, provided trucks and locomotives and even ran a passen­ger service on Tuesdays and Thursdays to Elandshoek. During the depression of the 1930’s TCF went bankrupt and was liquidated. The old railway line was abandoned and removed and only the concrete works of bridges and donga crossings provide a silent reminder of a relatively insignificant but useful railway line’s past.

Solomon’s Kloof Farm became the new name of this derelict property when purchased by Crocodile Valley Citrus Company. It has become an attractive ‘introductory’ farm to visitors coming down the scenic Schoemanskloof into the Lowveld.

[1] Named after Antonie Johannes Barbas, born in Hilversuim, Netherlands, on 24 December 1883 and in 1903 he and his parents immigrated to South Africa. He joined the roads department in Lydenburg in 1925 and was put in charge of the contract to convert the old wagon route between Machadodorp and Nelspruit to a proper road. He died in 1974.