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Baptisms in the Liesbeeck River

Baptisms in the Liesbeeck River
It seems that one of the earliest baptisms performed by the first Mormon missionaries to work in South Africa, was that of Brother Nicholas Paul (left), and it was likely to have been in the Liesbeeck River. Nicholas Paul lived in Mowbray and had made his home available for Elder William Walker to hold preaching meetings.
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Elder Walker records the following in his journal: ‘June 23, 1853: This evening I was talking with Mr Paul until two o’clock. On going to bed I advised him not to postpone being baptized, after he was convinced of the truth. He said that he was ready, but thought that I would not go out (on) such a dark rainy night.  I said yes I would, I never stop for rain or dark.  We walked a mile and he was baptized.’

The Liesbeeck River was probably the only body of water suitable for a baptism within the mile walked from Mr Paul’s home in Mowbray. Elder Walker then recorded that on the days following he also baptized Charles Ralston and Mr Paul’s wife, Harriet May (right). On July 26 Elder Haven joined Elder Walker and these newly baptized members were then confirmed at an evening meeting held in Mowbray.
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The Liesbeeck River has its source on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain above the Kirstenbosch gardens. It flows through Bishopscourt into Newlands and then wends its way past the suburbs of Rondebosch, Rosebank, Mowbray to Observatory where it meets up with the Black River. From Rondebosch large sections of the river are canalized. The Two Rivers Urban Park is located on land between the Liesbeeck and the Black River confluence. The river finally empties into Table Bay near Paarden Eiland.

Elder Walker then records on 8 July that he walked to Newlands from Mowbray (about 3,5 kms) and ‘baptised  6 persons, and held a meeting in the evening’.  A local Cape Town newspaper reported on these baptisms saying, “Yesterday, July 10, they (the Mormons) succeeded in baptizing 6 people in a millrace, just above a mill in Newlands. The sins that were washed down came down with such weight and force upon the machinery of the Mill, that it was broken and destroyed.”

The mill referred is probably the Josephine mill, which mill had been constructed on the banks of the Liesbeeck River in Newlands in about 1840.  It fell into disuse in the 1930’s. In 1980 the Mill was declared a National Monument and a serious restoration was commenced.  The picture alongside is an etching from 1888.  Today the mill is almost fully restored, and is now a museum and tea room.
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The first branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Cape of Good Hope was organized August 16, 1853 and was known as the Mowbray Branch. The initial meeting was held in the home of Nicholas Paul and was attended by Elders Haven, Walker and Smith. No record is available as to the first branch officers, but on November 10, 1853 it was proposed, and unanimously sustained, that Nicholas Paul should act as the president of the branch. Henry Stringer and Charles Rowlinson were sustained as teachers in the branch. On September 7, 1853 the Saints in Newlands were organized into a branch, presided over by Thomas Weatherhead.