Jamestown, South Africa
1st chapel opened 1876
This township was formed out of part of a farm belonging to J J Wagenaar, called Plessie’s Kraal. It was on the main road from Aliwal to Port Elizabeth. The site was surveyed and mapped out, with building plots set out. The sale was advertised for 22-23 December 1874. As the vendors announced they would make grants of plots for religious purposes, Rev John Smith, the PM minister at Aliwal, put in an application on behalf of the Primitive Methodist Connexion.
On arriving at Jamestown on 21 December 1874, Henry Buckenham and Smith were told that they could select a plot where they pleased. They chose a site in a great position in the middle of the town. The next day a problem arose when the Dutch wanted to impose a ‘church rate’ to pay for the support of a minister for the Dutch Reformed Church. The English declared their refusal to pay, and Smith spoke out passionately for religious equality. As the new town would be dependent for its success on English merchants and traders, but were equally dependent on the Dutch this created a stand-off, until a compromise could be reached.
To protect the proposed church from a hotel or store, Smith and Buckenham also bought the adjacent plot for £32.
John Smith preached for the first time in Jamestown on Wednesday 26 January 1876, in Mr Kidwell’s house, which was the first sermon preached there in English. The PM Chapel in Jamestown was opened on 17 December 1876, at a cost of £280.
Services were held as often as possible in the church building, which was also used for a private day school run by Miss Kidwell, and a Sunday school managed by Mr Fincham.
John Smith, ‘Our South African Mission. First Paper’, Primitive Methodist Quarterly Review, 1882, pp 92-102