Taking a closer look at the history of the quiet town of Napier, one soon discovers the unexpected discord that in fact led to its establishment. The infamous dispute between the two founding fathers of Bredasdorp and Napier gave birth to the construction of the two beautiful churches that form the respective centres of the towns. Similarly the naming of the main road of Napier also has a bit of a treacherous origin.
The story goes that in 1862 while carrying a group of clergymen the famous Waldensian met its demise on the Agulhas reef. Luckily the quick response of the captain and crew assured all the lifeboats were launched and everyone was helped to safety. Among the last men to leave the proud ship before it shattered on the sharp rocks of the reef was one Sarel Cilliers. Once ashore, the clergymen and other passengers were taken to Cape Town by ox wagon while Cilliers decided to spend the night in Napier. Word of Sarel’s brave deeds soon spread and the townsfolk of Napier asked if the new main road could be named after the hero. And so it came about that the main road was named Sarel Cilliers Street.
Sarel Cilliers went on to be a preacher and one of the more noted Voortrekker leaders who led the Boere to a great victory over the Zulus in the ‘Battle of Blood River’ (Slag van Bloedrivier). Originally from Paarl, Cilliers was a prominent member if the Reformed Church and later became a church elder and Councillor.
The legacy of Sarel Cilliers also continues through his trustworthy horse. Legend has it that Kroonstad was named after Cilliers’s horse that drowned in a stream (Kroonspruit) located in the town.
When travelling through South Africa one tends to stereotype all the small towns as being one and the same. But having a closer look at the history of the unassuming towns one often finds a treasure chest of interesting stories and legends. Napier is no different with its strange and somewhat obscure history thus making the saying forever ring true Never judge a book by its cover.