History of Greyton / Genadendal

Established in 1854, Greyton / Genadendal passed through many hands and played host to varying backgrounds.

The first inhabitants in the area were the Hassequas and Attaquas KhoiKhoi tribes. The Hassequas built kraals on the side of the Gobos River where they housed their cattle and sheep which were thousands in number. So large were these herds of livestock that Engisn Schriver was sent from the Castle of Good Hope to barter with Captain Stoffel Koekson, chief of the Hassequas. Koekson soon accumulated enough wealth to build his tribe mud-brick houses in Boschmanskloof, where the foundations can still be seen today on a historical walk through the town.

Arch. Pic. 5  Intersection Ds.Botha - Main Str

However, in 1707 Willem Adriaan van der Stel, who owned large tracts of land and was acting as Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony, granted loan farms to officials and fully enfranchised citizens known as Burghers. The distribution of land that happened during this period excluded the Hessequas who soon lost their land and herbs, which rendered them destitute. At this time the Attequas were based more on the East, thus they were not as affected as the Hessequas. In 1713 a deadly smallpox epidemic broke out worsening their situation. Now a landless people, the Hessequas eventually had to resort to becoming servants to the Dutch farmers. 

In 1737 a young missionary named Georg Schmidt journeyed from the Moravian Church (today part of Slovakia) to the Cape to work among the Khoi. Although the mission seemed impossible to many, Schmidt settled in Baviaans Kloof in 1738 where he spent the next seven years teaching the impoverished and dispersed Khoi to read and write. He also taught them the principles of Christianity that resulted in a small Christian congregation that has been a lasting tradition and is practised by the community to this day.

Moravian Church 1

One of the more well-known loan farms was Weltevreden which was situated in the foothills of the majestic Riviersonderend mountains along the Gobos River. Marthinus Theunissen, part of the Theunissen family that owned quite a bit of land in the Overberg, was the first person to loan the farm in 1791 that was then taken from Koekson's Khoi tribe. Then in 1795 Hendrik Cloete of Groot Constantia, then known as a Cape tycoon, took over Weltevreden. In the hands of Cloete, the farm became a freehold but soon after the British Invasion in 1839, Weltevreden was owned by John Malcolm Stewart, the first British owner. Then in 1846, the farm was acquired by Herbert Vigne. 

In 1854 Herbert decided to declare the majority of the Weltevreden farm as commonage to the proprietors of the erven and keep two small portions for himself. The new freehold agricultural village was named Greyton / Genadendal after Sir George Grey, the Governor of the Cape. The layout of the village was designed by J.G. Rietz who was a senior surveyor at the time and remains essentially the same today with only a few changes over the years. Herbert eventually married a young British woman named Elizabeth Belshaw that was 27 years his junior. They settled on their town farm De Bos which was eventually subdivided into erven by his heirs after his death in 1895.

Main Str. DRC Hall right

They were even supplied with water from “leiwater” furrows that crisscrossed the village and Cape Vernacular-style cottages, which were built close to the street in order to leave large pieces of land for horticulture. The produce grown in Greyton / Genadendal consisted of vegetables and fruits such as onions, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, beetroot, carrots, pomegranate, apricots and pears and so on. 

Today the Cape Vernacular architectural environment is largely intact and the essence of the village is enchanting. The unsurpassed beauty and old-world charm are something Greyton / Genadendal has held onto with great care. The top attractions make it a wonderful place to explore and the location (less than two hours from Cape Town) makes it the perfect little getaway.