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History and Culture

Seeing and experiencing first hand historical buildings, artifacts and landmarks are an important part of understanding and preserving culture. In this instance they serve as a reminder of a vibrant, resilient and often difficult past. In all the towns that make up The Cape Country Meander, history and culture has been instrumental in shaping community identities.

Take the Afrikaans language for instance. It developed from Dutch as a kind of common language. Afrikaans incorporates many words from various other cultures including those of the Khoi-khoi and the San people. Directly translated from Afrikaans “Overberg” means “over the mountain”. You’ll need to venture over the Hottentots Holland Mountains to come and experience for yourself The Cape Country Meander towns’ unique history and culture.

How Botrivier got its name

Before the Dutch settlers arrived the area was home to the pastoral Khoi-khoi people. It is said that they named the river “Couga” which loosely translated means “rich in fat”. Some accounts suggest the Dutch settlers produced butter, which they traded with the Khoi-khoi at a crossing point on the river. Dutch for butter is “botter” hence the shortened form of the word “bot”.

Compagnes Drift Farm

Compagnes Drift, ...

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Mineral-rich beginnings

Most people will tell you that Caledon started as a cattle post after the first crude brick was laid in 1710. In reality it owes its beginnings to the hot water springs first discovered by the Khoi-khoi, the original human inhabitants of the area.

Formally proclaimed in 1813, the town was named after the Earl of Caledon. He was one of the Cape’s early governors after the British took control of the Cape Colony from the Dutch at the beginnin...

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Once upon a time

Scores of wild animals once roamed the region, as did the first known human inhabitants. A largely nomadic people, San hunter-gatherers travelled vast distances in search of food. Khoi-khoi pastoralists moved clan and cattle in search of favourable grazing for their herds.

From “Grabau” to Grabouw

Grabouw town in the Elgin Valley is the commercial centre of the largest single export fruit producing area in Southern Africa. T...

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Baviaanskloof or “ravine of baboons”

Prior to becoming a lively hub of social and industrial activity Gendadendal and surrounds was first known as “Baviaanskloof”. In 1737 Moravian missionary George Schmidt established the village and renamed it Genadendal (valley of grace).

During the 19th century Genadendal was one of the most progressive communities in the then Cape Colony. Apart from their religious duties the Moravian missionaries and congregation were pioneer...

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Before Greyton became a town

When Dutch traders arrived at the Cape in 1652 the Overberg region was home to Khoi-khoi tribes. By the early 18th century the Dutch had ventured further inland to the Overberg to barter with the Khoi-khoi for cattle and to cut timber.

Willem Adriaan Van der Stel owned a substantial amount of land in the region. He was the eldest son of Simon Van der Stel who was the first Governor of the Cape Colony. When Adriaan was recalled to the C...

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The town name

Riviersonderend in the Afrikaans language means “river without end”. The town is situated on the loop of the Sonderend River from which it derives its name. Some say the original inhabitants, a Khoi-khoi tribe, called the river “Kanna-kan-kann”, which, roughly translated means “water, endless, water”.

In 1922, Ms Edith McIntyre sold her farm Triehoek to the Dutch Reformed church council. They established a local congregation and formed a town, which ...

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The first major land baron in the Overberg

From the early 1600s Dutch settlers ventured over the Hottentots Holland Mountains into the Overberg. Farming activities expanded and cattle posts were established. This brought more trading and more settlers.

One such settler was a man called Johannes Jacobus Tesselaar. Born in 1748, he was a lieutenant in the Cape cavalry who received as payment for his services two farms. These were called Hartebeestrivier and Steenbok...

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Farm to village

In 1843 Veldkornet (Field-Cornet) Pieter de Villiers, owner of the farm Radyn, established Villiersdorp. One of the original five farm water mills built by the Dutch East India Company can still be seen on the farm today.

Many of the town residents were descendant of French Huguenots who had fled religious persecution in France in 1685. They wanted a town name that was reflective of their French origins. Originally named “De Villiers Dorp” the town...

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