Omaruru once upon a time

A little chronology of local history
Pesch, L.; Murray, G.
In stock
€7.95 *
Omaruru once upon a time

Authors: Lisa Pesch; Gudrun Murray
Edited by Jean Fischer
Omaruru, no date
Soft-cover, 15x21 cm, 24 pages, numerous bw-photos


During the Christmas season in 2001, the senior citizens of Omaruru were invited for coffee and cake at the 'Wronsky House', where a surprise awaited them. A number of Omaruru citizens had collected photographs depicting 'old Omaruru' which had been displayed on the walls of this cosy restaurant. This exhibition generated so much enjoyment and interest that the idea to compile a publication was born. We are not claiming that everything in it is absolutely correct. However, with the assistance of the historian, Gunter von Schumann, and other sources of information, we have endeavoured to capture the colourful past of the town. We would like to thank all those who contributed so willingly to this publication, and wish our readers lots of fun in sharing it with us.

This publication was made possible due to a generous spirit of cooperation and teamwork. Gudrun Murray was not only the initiator, but also the driving force behind this project, as well as translating the original manuscript into English. Considerable support was given by Heinz Pesch, an Omaruru resident who was born here in 1918. His wife, Lisa, researched, listened to anecdotes from the past, and recorded the relevant information.

Ms E M Linsmayer kindly gave permission for one of her paintings, which is privately owned, to be reproduced to serve as the cover illustration. Helpful residents of the town freely made historic photographs available from their private collections. These have been reproduced by Haynes McFadden, whose highly skilled techniques include replicas of images dating back from the early 1900s which had been painted on glass. Photographs obtained from the National Archives are clearly indicated. The final editing of the English manuscript was done Jean Fischer.

From the text:

[...] 1894: The first post off ice opens on 1.8.1895 in the mission house. Missionary Eduart Dannert is employed as postal agent. A red flag is hoisted on a pole attached to the north gable to indicate to residents that the overseas mail has arrived. A Damara, Richard Kaupuka, was employed as 'postal runner'. He carried the heavy mailbags on foot for 8 days, covering the 240 km from Omaruru to Walvis Bay and back again. There are two postal connections to Europe. From Swakopmund directly to Hamburg, or via Cape Town and Southhampton to Cologne. The first postage stamp is issued on 2.5.1899. 1898 The post office is relocated to the district office in the fort.

1899: A total of 32 post offices have been opened countrywide. In 1905, Omaruru is connected to the 'Otavi-Bahn' railway network. This also increases the workload of the local postal service, and a qualified postmaster is appointed. Soon it becomes necessary to acquire a separate building to accommodate the post office. A corrugated iron structure is erected, in 1906, near the railway station.

In 1912/13, a post office is built opposite the railway station. This building has survived to this day. World War One ends in 1918, and on 10.1.1920, the League of Nations transfers the Mandate for SWA to the Union of South Africa. Mr Hendricks is the first postmaster to be employed by the new administration. On 1.10.1954, Nienhaus & Söhne erects the building which currently serves as a post office.

1894: Wilhelm Wronsky, the first German to open a shop in Omaruru arrives. The Wronsky House was completed in 1907.

1894: There are 1340 whites resident in the Territory, of which 340 are soldiers of the colonial army. Many of them return to Germany after completion of their duties. There are 573 men, only 114 women, and 318 children distributed over this vast territory. The national census on 1.1.1903, records 4682 whites, which includes 3391 men, of whom 622 are married. The German government encourages single women to immigrate to SWA.

In 1896, the population of Omaruru consists of 27 soldiers and 85 settlers, which include a number of nationalities, namely: 30 Germans, 15 English, 1 Finnish, 8 Swiss, 16 Boers and 15 Coloureds. Omaruru has the largest white population in the territory. Otjimbingwe only has 82, and Swakopmund 32 residents. In those early pioneering days, SWA was regarded as a country more suitable for men. 1897 The 'Rinderpest' (the great cattle plague) breaks out and results in the virtual collapse of ox wagon transport. Large numbers of buffalo are also affected.

1899: Two businesses open: Heinrich Siebers the wagon-builder and August Laszig and Adolflhde (Hotel Mecklenberger Hot and General Dealer). Heinrich Siebers, who establishes the first wagon-building enterprise in Omaruru, becomes known for excellent craftsmanship, especially for particularly durable wagon wheels. The Omaruru coat of arms depicts a wagon wheel as a symbol of its first industry. On the coat of arms, this symbol is situated directly below the portrayal of the historic Franke Tower.

1900: The construction of a railway line from Swakopmund to Karibib commences. Postal items and goods are still being transported by ox wagon. Well-known transport drivers resident in Omaruru are: FW Lindholm, L Ostjuysen, G Rosemann and J Dennewill.

1901: The military barracks and sickbay is completed. The army doctor also treats local residents. The black population believes in the powers of the medicine man.

1900 - 1901: Rainfall measures 147.7 mm. The previous rainy season yielded only 92.6mm, and cattle farmers had to trek to the east for grazing. The following settlers acquire property in Omaruru: [...]