The Rev Jean Pierre Pellissier (1808-67), of the newly created Paris Evangelical Missionary Society, arrived in the Cape in 1831. He stayed in Wellington to learn Dutch, and then moved further north to Bethulie. His house was built in 1834-35 by C Gosselin, a craftsman with the Society, and it is now one of the oldest buildings in the Free State.
The London Mission Society had previous tried to establish a church in this area, working with the local San Bushmen, but were unsuccessful and their buildings and land were transferred to the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. The Rev Pellissier was firstly a missionary, but he also worked to educate the local people, and to teach them about healthcare. There was at one time an accusation against him, unproven, of adultery which must have set tongues wagging in the small settlement! The house is now a Museum, managed by local people.
The Rev Pellissier married Martha Thorpe Murray (1814-87) who was born in Dublin and emigrated to South Africa with her parents and siblings as part of Parker’s Party of 1820 Settlers. The Pellissiers had nine children, four of whom died as young children or babies and are buried with their parents in the private cemetery behind the house. It is sad to see that three of the four children were under 16 months – in remote settlements like Bethulie so many children must have died young.