History of Riviersonderend
The Riviersonderend history dates back to the days of the VOC, otherwise known as the Dutch East India Company. Situated on the N2 highway, this town was developed in order to accommodate and supply the farmers of the surrounding areas.
In the Beginning
Before the landing of the VOC, this region of the Western Cape was occupied by independent farming Khoi inhabitants. Upon the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck this land was considered impenetrable for a short while due to the terrain and mountains.
During the late 1600’s the VOC sent Corporal Hieronymus Cruise and Ensign Oloff Bergh to purchase cattle and explore the region for trade possibilities. In 1669, the designated path finders recorded the discovery of the ‘Zonder End River’ (river with no end).
Eventually, as the settlers’ population grew, the demand for livestock by the VOC became too great for the Khoi farmers to meet. By the 1700’s the Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, gave the VOC members grazing rights. The notoriously greedy and corrupt official declared 18 farms in the region his own, creating a monopoly and unfair advantage. Distressed independent farmers and Huguenots signed petitions against the occupation, eventually leading to his dismissal in 1707.
The Building of an Empire
In March 1713 an outbreak of smallpox, brought on by passing ships and settlers, wiped out a large amount of the Khoi population, leaving several farms ownerless. This resulted in less competition for land for immigrants and they encouraged more Europeans to move in. Therefore in 1726, the Company established posts within the Overberg to aid travellers and explorers by providing supplies and healthcare for sick sailors and soldiers.
By the 1780’s the word was spreading about the well-watered lands, fertile soils, dense forests and extensive grazing opportunities, that even more European settlers began immigrating here. Depleted numbers of Khoi inhabitants were left landless and either took jobs on the new farms or escaped to local missionary stations.
The Birth of a Town
The history of Riviersonderend itself began in 1922. Miss Edith McIntyre sold her Tierhoek farm for £6000 to the Dutch Reformed council so that they could establish a congregation. Although they wanted to name this new acquisition Nuwedorp (New Town), they opted for Riviersonderend (river without end), taken from the early explorers’ description of the local river.
To populate the surrounding areas, a year later they held an auction to sell the farm plots. Each buyer was allowed one cow and two oxen at the time and only butchers were allowed sheep. Following the success of this event, they held another auction in 1925, around the same time that the streets were built.
Now this quiet country-side town operates to fulfil the needs of passing travellers and nearby farmers.
The Dutch architecture is an ideal representation of Riviersonderend history and can be seen throughout the town. Furthermore the historic signal cannons, which were used to call men to army service, still overlook the town today.