KNYSNA NEWS - A group of family and friends gathered for a simple ceremony to unveil a new footstone at the grave of George and Jessie Rex who died in 1899 and 1916 respectively, at the Melkhoutkraal Farm (Old Place) cemetery on April 18.
In previous centuries it was customary for isolated farms to have their own cemeteries, so there may be other graves in the area dating back to 1805 when the Melkhoutkraal Farm belonged to the Rex family. "If this is so, then these graves have long since disappeared, as have those of Ann Rex who died in 1839, the eldest daughter of George and Carolina and Mr Carter, the family tutor," explained Philip Caveney of Knysna Historical Society.
George Rex's resting place is well-marked by a marble headstone erected by his family in 1893, some 54 years after his death. By his side lies his son George and wife Jessie.
George Rex (Junior), born in 1822, was the sixth child of George Rex and Carolina Margaretha. Sanni Metelerkamp, the family chronicler, describes him as "a short, broad man, with ruddy complexion, auburn hair and the merriest blue eyes in the world". He became a farmer with a passion for hunting, accompanying Queen Victoria's son, Prince Alfred on his famous Knysna elephant hunt in 1867. After his father's death, George returned to Knysna to farm that part of his deceased father's estate now called Hunters Home.
Their double grave is demarcated by a stone surround and a flat broken headstone with the engraved epitaph, "In loving memory of George and Jessie Rex. They are in peace". Sadly, both time and the weather have all but obliterated the inscription.
Realising that visitors to the site would be unable to decipher the inscription, the Knysna Historical Society decided to install a footstone marker. When Dave Winde, a long-time Knysna resident, heard of the plan he not only donated a slab of granite but also asked Acton Signs to sandblast it. This they did expertly and "out of the kindness of their hearts", explained Caveney. The inscription records both George and Jessie's names and dates. The slab was installed by the Knysna Historical Society.
Caveney asked, "Why not take time to visit this small area of Knysna's past? Stand where the Rex family must have stood over 170 years ago and feel the history all around you."
Just off the N2 on the Eastern boundary of Knysna stands a notice, 'George Rex Grave'. Follow the dirt road that it marks and step back into history. At the end of the road within the stone walls of the tiny cemetery, lie the remains of George Rex, founder of Knysna, his son George (Jnr) and daughter-in-law Jessie (neé Wentworth).
ARTICLE: FRAN KIRSTEN, KNYSNA-PLETT HERALD JOURNALIST