Agriculture

Aberdeen farmer saved ostriches from extinction in Oudtshoorn, 1890

Max Rose, who arrived in South Africa in 1890 from Shavel, in Lithuania, started out in Oudtshoorn as a feather buyer. In time, he became such a successful ostrich breeder that he was known throughout the Klein Karoo as the “ostrich king.” He told reporters that the ostrich feather boom, of the early 1900s, netted […]

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Captain Hicks’s ghost still patrols a Middelburg farm

During the Anglo-Boer War, a Captain Hicks was placed in charge of a group of fearfully inefficient “poor whites”. It was said they were only in the war for the money and so inefficient that poor Hicks was at a loss as to what to do with them.  The locals jokingly called them DMTs “Delirium […]

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Dr Thomas Smartt, who built a dam

Thomas William Smartt had such a high profile as a politician that his medical background has almost been forgotten. He was born in Trinn, County Meath, Ireland, on February 22, 1858, and he obtained his degree from Trinity College, in Dublin. He came to the Cape, was registered as a medical doctor and, in 1880, […]

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Drought and floods: 1877-1879

The year 1877 was a traumatic one for the Molteno and Jackson families who farmed at Nelspoort, north of Beaufort West. In The Jacksons of Nelspoort, Dr A O Jackson records that a drought which started two years before had taken severe toll of the stock.  “He writes that two-thirds of the small stock and many […]

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Drought Cripples the Central Karoo, 1933

Over the years the Karoo has seen many droughts and, even now despite good rains in the interior, Beaufort West’s Gamka Dam remains empty.  Droughts were reported in 1864, 1877, 1903, 1916, 1925 through to 1928.   The one considered to be the fiercest climaxed in 1933. Known as The Great Drought, it peaked after almost […]

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Jersey Cattle Arrive In South Africa

Jersey cattle were brought into the Karoo shortly after the first small herd was imported into South Africa in 1882 by Adrian van der Byl of Roodebloem Estates, in Woodstock. “From there the Jersey moved to Paarl, Worcester, Robertson, Bredasdorp, Stellenbosch, the Eastern Province, Karoo, and Cape Midlands,” wrote Douglas Houston, a past chairman of […]

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John Molteno’s pioneering farm: 1841

John Charles Molteno was a dynamic man. He first saw the Karoo as a fatherless lad of 17. By 23 he had founded Molteno and Company, a firm dealing specifically in the sale of wine, wool, meat and aloes. When the bottom dropped out of the wine market, he sold his business and warehouses to […]

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Layers of history on Rietpoort Farm

Fancy a stay on a historic Karoo farm? Try Rietpoort, 30 km north of Victoria West on the road to Britstown.  This farm lies right alongside the N12 and its “modern history”, say owners Dirk and Naomi Ras, begins in the 1700’s, when nomadic European farmers moved into the hinterland and started settling down. They […]

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Locusts, drought, and devastation in the Graaff-Reinet district

The Cape passed into British hands in September, 1795, yet, by 1797 when Lord McCartney, became governor, there was still scant interest in the hinterland. Their only concern was that the Cape’s meat supply came mainly from Graaff-Reinet and some lesser interior districts. In journals reporting on his journeys to the Eastern Frontier, William Somerville […]

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Merinos Make Their Mark

By 1830 experts considered the teething stages of the Cape Merino industry to be over. F W Reitz, the man destined to become president of the Free State, believed that 1830 was the turning point for the South African wool industry. He was proved right, states Edmund H Burrows in Overberg Outspan.  In 1830 the […]

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