The healing properties of the waters of Caledon were recognised 1000 years ago. European settlers from the 1700s onwards relished 'taking the waters' and soon built bathing pools, a hotel and a sanatorium. In 1897, the Caledon Hotel and Spa (left) was rebuilt in European style to host 500 guests. It had a grand concert hall, gymnasium, two dining rooms, a reading, writing and billiard room. Outside facilities included tennis, croquet, bowls and golf, and a large garden. In 1902 the Victorian bath, which is still in use, was redeveloped, being awarded the accolade of being 'the best spa in the world' in 1900! Treatments in Caledon were recommended by doctors in Britian and Germany. The journey took three days by coach and horses from Cape Town. There was ample stabling.
Little wonder then that Jewish immigrants spreading out into the interior looking for economic opportunities would be drawn to a town that was already hosting visitors. As early as 1870, J Hurwitz, a smous (hawker), and a Mr Brower had settled there, followed around 1880 by Solomon Gordon, who introduced ostriches. Many Caledon Jews later owned local hotels or ran B&Bs, were general dealers, grain and wool traders, ostrich feather dealers, shopkeepers, farmers and one, a cinema owner. Solly Perlo, proprietor of the Commercial Hotel, served as mayor on several occasions. Ralph Levinsohn was known as the 'Onion King' for his prowess in the growing and marketing of vegetables in the area, especially onions.
Here are some of the people that we know about. If you have a family story for Caledon, please send it to flesh out the footprint of the Jewish community of the town and surrounding areas.
Allengensky, Adel and Dorah: From Vilna, traded with their son David as fishmongers.
Arkin, BH: With Morris Nurock, were the original owners in the 1920s of the Alexander Hotel, which had a concert hall seating 200 people.
Brower family: Settled as early as 1870. Aaron (1954) and Golda (1953) were buried in the yard of the Holy Trinity Church in Caledon.
Choritz, Mordechai: From Kupishok via Oudtshoorn, where he sold feathers. Became a general dealer in Caledon, trading in grain.
Fyne, Simon: From Kovno, Lithuania, was working in Caledon as a speculator in 1899.
Gordon, Solomon: Settled around 1880, introduced ostriches. He organised the first minyan in the 1880s.
Grodzinski, HM: Was the president of the community in 1914.
Hurwitz, J: Settled as early as 1870, a smous.
Kruger, Mrs B: Owned and ran Kruger's café and residential hotel in the 1930s.
Landaw, Chaim: Shop assistant, later changed his name to that of relatives and was known as Henry Friedland.
Levinsohn, Ralph: A farmer in the area who was known as the 'Onion King' for his prowess in the growing and marketing of vegetables, especially onions.
Newmark, Isaac: Was naturalised in South Africa in 1895. Owned a general dealer's store, 'I Newmark, General and Produce Merchants'.
Nurock, Morris: With BH Arkin, were the original owners in the 1920s of the Alexander Hotel, which had a concert hall seating 200 people.
Perlo, Solly: Proprietor of the Commercial Hotel, served as mayor on several occasions.
Ressel, Samuel: A bootmaker from Minsk, was resident in 1898.