Overberg has been explored as early as 1663. The reason for
these expeditions was to buy cattle and take it back to Cape
Town. These explorers mapped out the Overberg. They attached
Dutch names to the rivers and mountains that remain in use
today. Corporal Hieronymous Cruse and Ensign Oloff Bergh were
the pathfinders. Bergh
carved his initials on the wall of the Zieken Huys cave on the
banks of the Zonder End River, where periodically he traded
for meat. Cruse made his mark in a different way. He kept a
diary of this 1669 journey to The Breede River. This journey
took 20 days, but this diary is a precious record, because it
documents the road of the 17th century
cattle-barterers to the Hessequas kraal. Cruse utilized words
such as ‘Palmiet’, ‘How Hoek’ and ‘Zonder End
River’ in his diary to describe his route to the kraals, as
if they were already part of the language.
This was indeed the case and Cruse himself helped to
put them there.
in 1689 followed in Curse’s footsteps.
He travelled much further-up to Aberdeen in the Karoo.
He took the know familiar road to the Hessequas kraals on the
Breede River, but his journals for the first time filled the
‘wagen-weg’ with people and places. While passing down the
Zonder End valley towards Tyger Hoek, they noted the
thickly-wooded forests of large trees in the mountains on
their left-hand side, and the flat country on their right
which teemed with wild animals.
More than 1000 bonte hartbokken were recorded.
Hartogh’s trip must have been one of the last
cattle-bartering expeditions of the old style.
The official purpose of this journey, namely to study
the flora of the Zonder End valley. Soon after 1707 the
Company withdrew altogether from direct trading and farming
and relied upon the free ‘burghers’ for its supplies. The
resulting boom in agriculture expansion helped to sweep the
first wave of white farmers into the Overberg.
early Overberg colonization benefited by the upheaval in the
wake of Willem Adriaan van der Stel. He
viewed the Overberg territory as his personal fiefdom.
In 1711 Van der Stel named some of his eighteen farms Bot
River, Boontjes Kraal, Faisanten Kraal, Warmwaters Kraal(some
distance from the hot springs), Swarte River, Sergeants River,
Hartenbeesten River, Quartels River, Ziekenhuys, Leeuwen
Kraal, Tygers Hoek, de Groote Vlakte, Welgelegen, Rustenburgh
and Wytgelegen (a long way from the Cape)-may have been the
present day Bredasdorp. The
governor, had he chosen, could have covered the 90km distance
from the foot of the Houw Hoek Mountain to the Breede River
without setting foot on another man’s land.
The end came for Van der Stel in 1707 with dismissal
and repatriation in disgrace and his farming empire collapsed.
But the govener’s activities awakened Cape burghers to the
benefits of the Overberg farming and others were quick to copy
Van der Stel’s example. Well to do Stellenbosch farmers
found that they stood to gain by sending their flocks over the
mountains at certain times of the year. During the next seven
years burghers were granted ‘leenings plaatsen’ (loan
places) allowing them to ‘leggen en wijden’ (squat and
graze) over the mountains.
December 1711 an important party rode out from the Castle on
Company business. Willem
Putten aided by Hartogh had orders to inspect and assess the
forest of the Zonder
End valley as a source of timber for the Table Bay settlement.
Nothing came of Van Putten’s recommendations for over a
decade. Then in 1724 Marthinus
Bergh(grandson of the pathfinder who carved his name in the
Zieken Huys cave) and Tobias Rhenius(his son would be the
first landdrost of Swellendam) were again sent to inspect.
Bergh and Rhenius surveyed the forest and studied the trees,
identifying yellow wood, stinkwood, assegai wood, pear, alder
and half a dozen other varieties.
after, in 1726, a Company post was established at Zieken Huys and they raised
the Dutch Flag here. (The Zieken Huys cave: means hospital )
This cave was rediscovered in 1925 by dr Mossop on the farm
Nethercourt) Within a year the governer Pieter Gysbert Noodt
followed Bergh and Rhenius. He enlarged the River Zonder End
post and moving the flag to Zoete Melks Valleij. From here the
forest was farmed, animals were bred and fattened for the Cape
abattoirs and soldiers were quartered to protect the Hottentot
‘kraals’ and white farmers from the Bushmen and each
Company posts followed. The
first of these lay a little way downstream on the right bank
of the River at Tyger Hoek, near present day Riviersonderend.
Here they prepared timber from Oliphants Bosch and ran a heard
of milk cattle. This post may have been larger than Zoete
Melks Valleij. Later
the farms Appels Kraal, De Droogte Boom and Bokke River were
detached from it.
history show how the European settler came to the Overberg.
It has shown that the infrastructure of occupation was
laid and completed within a hundred years of Van Riebeeck’s
arrival in Table Bay. Elizabeth
Prins in her study of the 18th century found that
loan-place grants to white settlers in the western Overberg
increased three-fold after the 1780’s. (1730-1779: 53;
1780-1809-135) The two hundred or so white immigrants at that
time were the forefathers of the Overberg’s present masters.
Nowadays their surnames have a familiar ring: DuToit, Fick,
Geldenhuys, Groenewald, Linde, Morkel, Moolman, Otto, Swart,
first colony of Europeans in the Overberg was planted along
the Zonder End River. The boundaries of their colony were the
banks of the river in the lower 40km of its course (Greyton to
Stormsvlei-where the Zonder End river ends). After 1720 there
was an influx of residents who saw the Overberg-and
particularly the Zonder End Valley-in a different light. They
discovered, not merely well watered grazing lands for cattle
and sheep but also dense forests of usable timber and fertile
soil for cultivating crops.
was established in 1922, when Ms Edith McIntyre sold her farm
Tierhoek for 6 000 pounds to the church council, for the
establishment of the local Dutch Reformed congregation. The
total of the land purchased was 619 morgen at 6 470 pounds.
At first the they wanted to name Riviersonderend
‘Nuwedorp’ (New Town), but the older residents wanted the
name Rivier Zonder End. (from the Hesseque word:
Kanna-kam-kanna – water, never ending water)
church decided to loan 4000/ 5000 pound from Theron(the
attorney who handled everything) J.T. Mossop, land surveyor,
was appointed to survey the plots of the town.
27 September 1923 the first auction was held to sell the
plots. People who bought these plots were allowed to keep a
cow (for milk) and two oxen. Only butchers were allowed to
keep sheep. Buyers of these properties were allowed 4 months
for down payment without interest. There were 200 plots on the
auction and 123 were sold for the amount of 6 230 pound. The
plots were sold for about 50 pound each.
second auction was held on 12 September 1925. On this day 40
plots were sold for 1 950 pounds. According to history
Riviersonderend consist of 359 morgan of Tierhoek, 260 morgan
of Olifantskloof and 30 morgan of Bego (originally part of