The EDWARDS family.

During the 1950s considerable efforts were made to trace the origins of the James Edwards who came to South Africa as an 1820 settler, as advertisements stated that lawyers were looking for descendants of a certain Edwards who had, it appeared, owned Manhattan Island once upon a time! No link with the millionaire's fund was established, but it was ascertained that James Edwards came from a village in Wales. Unfortunately these papers have since been lost.

JAMES EDWARDS was a shoemaker, and in 1817 he married Ann Thomas who was baptised "at the parish Ivechurch in the country of Kent." Their first son died before James and Ann sailed with Sephton's party in 1820, and their second son was born on board the "Aurora" on the way to South Africa. It is not clear where in the Eastern Cape they first settled, but their fifth son was born in Somerset East in 1826, and was the first of their children to live to adulthood.

By 1836 James was a close friend, and presumably neighbour, of Piet Retief, whose farm "Post Retief" in the Winterberg was 5000 feet up at the source of the Koonap.

The Kafir wars were very trying for the border settlers, and Piet Retief was one who distinguished himself int the 1834 - 1835 one. A fort was built on "Post Retief" in 1836 to garrison the military force and to provide a rallying point for the neighbouring farmers, their families and stock. The perimeter walls were up to 16 feet high, with loopholes at intervals, and within the walls the buildings were of solid stonework. The officers' barrackroom had whitewashed walls, a floor of unhewn stones, and a roof of naked rafters well browned with wood smoke. The parade ground within the walss measured one acre. On the north side were the stables, on the east the soldiers' quarters, and near the southern gate the officers' quarters. Outside the east wall were some buildings which may have housed the loyal Fingoes in the Militia. ThomasBaines did three sketches and an oil painting of "Post Retief" and the Barracks.

In January 1837 Piet Retief, "the ablest of the leaders of the exodus" (Encyclopaedia Britannica), published a manifesto giving the main reasons for the decision of many people to trek northwards, and in February 1837 his Trek set of from Grahamstown. Included in his party were James and Ann Edwards, with John, Thomas, Charles, Alfred and Sarah, whose ages ranged from eleven to one. A year later Retief and his party of negotiators were massacred by Dingaan, but James had missed joining them and was later one of the men who went to Weenen camp after the massacre.

The Edwards family then returned to the Winterberg, and their tenth child, JAMES, was born in 1839. His father James was killed in a riding accident in 1840, and it is not clear whether he had bought Retief's farm or whether Ann bought it after his death. Certainly she owned "Post Retief", with the proviso that in times of emergency the fort was to be handed back to the military. "Post Retief's" greatest historical fame was in the 8th Kafir war during which, from December 1859 to February 1851, it was besieged by the Hottentots.

Ann Edwards was a remarkable woman and brought up her six remaining children on "Post Retief", ran a trading store, and acquired more farms in the district which, later, her son JAMES inherited. Meantime the village and the whole area became known as Post Retief.