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History of Graaff-Reinet

1689

Chief Hykon was also known as the Lord of all the Inqua Tribe which was said to be the richest Khoikhoi tribe in Southern Africa at the time. The people of these tribes were nomadic cattle farmers who lived in the Camdeboo region.

1786

The proclamation of Graaff-Reinet on 19 July. Two farms on the Sundays River were brought from Dirk Coetzee. This was the site for the town, selected due to its abundant water-supply.

1792

Dutch Reformed congregation founded. In this same year, Sir Andries Stockenström, 1st Baronet, was born in Cape Town. He was later to serve as assistant Landrost (Magistrate) of the district.

1793

Honoratus Maynier became the Landdrost of Graaff-Reinet. He tried to restore peace between the European farmers and Xhosa people after the end of the Second Frontier war that broke out in 1789.

1795

Declaration of the Independent Republic of Graaff-Reinet. The town only remained independent for 18 months and ended with the first proclamation of the Cape Colony by Britain on behalf of the Prince of Orange.

1795

Adriaan van Jaarsveld was a commander of the Boers in the Camdeboo district and played an important role in leading Graaff-Reinet to become a Republic in 1795. He was also the first citizen from this town to die in the jail at the Castle in Cape Town.

1798

In this year, Andries Pretorius was born. He is the person whom Pretoria was named after. After spending some time farming in Graaff-Reinet he went on to become a pivotal leader during the Great Trek and played a lead role in creating the Transvaal Republic.

1799

On 29th of June two missionaries from the London Mission Society arrive in Graaff-Reinet.

1801

Dr Van der Kemp (from the London Missionary Society) and other missionaries are attacked by Boers from the Graaff-Reinet region. The Boers were against the missionaries educating and converting the local Hottentots. In this same year, The Parsonage Street Congregational Mission Church in Graaff-Reinet began the first private school for coloured children.

1806

The Drostdy building was completed in Graaff-Reinet.

1815

Andries Stockenström was appointed as Landdrost of Graaff-Reinet on the 12th May after his father was killed during the fourth Frontier War. He was 20 years old.

1819

Captain Charles Lennox Stretch came to the Graaff-Reinet colony. Stretch Court behind the Drostdy Hotel is named after him.

1822

Reverend Andrew Murray arrives in Graaff-Reinet.

1822

Andrew Geddes Bain , a highly esteemed road engineer, geologist and paleontologist lived in Graaff–Reinet for just over a decade, working as a saddle maker. A career highlight of his was the discovery of the fossil of a large jaw filled with teeth which he named the “Blinkwater Monster”. A highly skilled road engineer, he oversaw and helped out with the construction of many roads and passes in South Africa such as the Ouberg Pass, Michell’s Pass and Bain’s Kloof Pass.

1830

In this year Thomas Bain, son of the well-known paleontologist and road engineer Andrew Bain was born. He managed to achieve even more success than his father as a road engineer having constructed 24 mountain passes.

1830

Caption Lennox Stretch prepared a diagram on the 17th November of an unusual building that is windowless. This mini stone fortress was erected the following year on the top of Magazine Hill in Graaff-Reinet. In those days gunpowder was essential and the building had to be a safe distance from the town. It still stands today.

1845

Reverand William Long establishes the St. James Church in Graaff-Reinet.

1847

The Graaff-Reinet Public Library is opened on 4 August 1847.

1851

The first newspaper in Graaff-Reinet, the Graaff-Reinet Courant was published on 30 May.

1855

Plots outside Graaff-Reinet were sold which resulted in the formation of the village of Adendorp.

1856

The first group of Dutch child servants arrived in Graaff-Reinet in December. There was an intense labour shortage and Myndeert Noome, a Dutch teacher, imported boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 14 from Holland. Nongqause, a Xhosa girl of 14 years, stared into a Rock pool at Gxara River near Grahamstown and prophesised that deliverance from the settlers who had taken Xhosa land near the Kei River would be obtained by the Xhosa's killing their cattle and burning their crops. She belonged to a tribe ruled by an independent Xhosa paramount, Sarhili. She stated that the day of deliverance would be on the 11th August 1856. When the date arrived and nothing happened she blamed it on the refusal of some Xhosas not to kill their cattle. She urged them to comply and this self-destruction resulted in 25 000 Xhosas dying of starvation. She was banished to Robben Island and died in 1898. She was buried on the farm Glen Shaw, near Grahamstown.

1860

The Graaff-Reinet Advertiser was published for the first time. This newspaper is still in operation today.

1861

The Graaff-Reinet College was opened.

1870

The famous Black Acorn grapevine was planted by Reverend Charles Murray at the Dutch Reformed Parsonage in Graaff-Reinet. It is still on display at the Reinet Museum. From the grapes of this vine, Withond, is brewed once a year.

1872

His excellence, Governer Sir Henry Barkly and his wife visited Graaff-Reinet on 31st January

1873

The Standard Bank building in Graaff-Reinet was erected. This building has been restored many times and currently is utilized by ABSA Bank. In the same year the Midland Farmers Association in Graaff-Reinet was established and they instigated the yearly agricultural show.

1873

Dr Arenhold inaugurated Graaff-Reinet's first pipe-organ on Sunday, 5 October 1973. The St. James Church enlarged the pipe organ in 1883 and it remained in operation until 1945.

1875

The first telegram facility was brought to Graaff-Reinet.

1877

The Middellandse Hospital opens on the 25th January.

1878

The little village of Nieu-Bethesda was founded in the Sneeuberg by the Dutch Reformed Church. In the same year the firm Gleghorn and Harris opens their first branch in South Africa in Graaff-Reinet. The building has been restored and houses Shoprite Checkers today.

1879

The railway line from Port Elizabeth is opened. The first train arrives on Monday afternoon, the 25th August at 17:00 with 200 passengers.

1880

The first Municipal election in Graaff-Reinet occurred on 8 December. A second church was built by the London Missionary Society in Middle Street, Graaff-Reinet. It was nicknamed "Klein Londen" and was built to accommodate the growing number of South Sotho speaking people in the Graaff-Reinet region.

1887

The fourth Dutch Reformed Church in Graaff-Reinet was opened on 11 September. 2,000 people attended the service at 10:30.

1887

Dr. Sidney Southey Rubidge, farmer of the 'Wellwood' Farm in the Camdeboo district and world famous fossil collector was born. He received worldwide fame for his collection of fossils and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the Orange Free State for his contribution to science. He also went on to build a fossil museum on his farm which has been applauded as one of the best private collections of fossils in the world.

1902

Commando Leader Gideon Scheepers was executed on 15:30 on the Murraysburg road, 3km outside of Graaff-Reinet.

1906

The new buildings to house the Graaff-Reinet College were completed. These buildings were later used by the Teachers' Training College and today houses the Police Academy in Graaff-Reinet.

1906

In this year, legendary Afrikaans author and theatre performer, Anna Neethling-Pohl was born and raised in Graaff-Reinet. This theatre legend had more than 50 theatre performances under her belt and took on the immense task of translating no less than seven of Shakespeare’s plays into Afrikaans receiving the highly acclaimed Langehoven prize in 1926 and the Vader land Prize in 1937.

1908

A Boer War memorial was erected in Graaff-Reinet to commemorate the eight Boers who were executed here. The authorities refused to allow the erection of the memorial on public property and was eventually erected on private land donated by Jurie Laubscher. The memorial stands on the corner of Somerset and Donkin Street. On the 1st December a meeting was held to commemorate them and the next day the statue was unveiled.

1911

The Victoria Town Hall in Graaff-Reinet was opened by Henry Burton, the minister of Native Affairs, on 5 September 1911. In this same year, the first doll was made in Graaff-Reinet by Mr and Mrs Jurie Laubsher and their daughter Annie. As the demand for these dolls increased more and more labourers were hired.

1916

Anton Rupert was born here on the 4th October.

1917

The Teachers' Training College was established in Graaff-Reinet. It was the only college available for male English teachers.

1918

A war memorial was erected on Church Square which featured an angel that stands guard over the names of the men from Graaff-Reinet that died during WWI. In this same year Governor-general Lord Buxton and Lady Buxton visited Graaff-Reinet.

1919

Sir Frederick de Waal, administrator of the Cape, laid the foundation-stone of the new hospital on the 30th May.

1920

Union High School in Graaff-Reinet commenced on the 2nd February 1920 as an independent English Church School under the leadership of Reverend J Whaits.

1922

Hoër Volkskool was established. This was the first Afrikaans-medium school in the Cape.

1922

Professor Kitching, a highly successful and esteemed vertebrate paleontologist was born. He grew up in the Graaff-Reinet area and accompanied by his colleague, James Collinson, found and identified therapsid fossils originating from the Antarctic. This was a great success because it confirmed that the Antarctic and Southern Africa shared a link.

1924

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born in Graaff-Reinet. He was the founder of the Pan African Congress in South Africa.

1925

The Van Rynevelds Dam was completed and Graaff-Reinet got tapped water.

1926

The opening of the New Dutch Reformed Church on the corner of Bourke and Caledon Street in Graaff-Reinet. In the same year Major Herbert Urquhart called together the citizens to discuss ways of keeping the town economically viable, realising that it was never going to expand as an industrial hub. That meeting was the beginning of the community’s involvement in promoting this charming town of Graaff-Reinet.

1934

Prince George visited Graaff-Reinet .

1939

Mr Bernie Pitman opened a hostel for boys at Union High School at 83 Somerset Street. Today this colonial building, known as Karoopark Guest House, offers B and B or self-catering accommodation. www.karoopark.co.za

1942

At the fall of Tobruk in June 1942, the men from Graaff-Reinet, that fought along with the Middellandse Regiment (DMR) in North Africa, were among the garrison of more than 30,000 men, who were forced to capitulate to General Rommel's men.

1947

The Royal Family visited Graaff-Reinet.

1949

Hoër Volkskool burnt down. The school decided to re-build a primary school on the premises and the High School moved to Plascet Street.

1965

Dr Rupert arranged for the Historical Homes of South Africa to buy the dilapidated church in Church Street. They restored it and today it houses the Hester Rupert Art Gallery.

1966

The Hester Rupert Art Gallery is officially opened by ex-State President CR Swart. In this same year, the home of the Te Water-family on the corner of Church and Somerset Street in Graaff-Reinet, is opened as the Te-Water Art Gallery.

1969

Dr Rupert purchased and restored the old Coloured Mission Church, nicknamed "Groot London" in Parsonage Street. It is known today as the John Rupert Little Theatre.

1970

Stretch's Court is fully restored. Today these houses are utilized by the Drostdy Hotel for accommodation.

1971

Dr Rupert became the honoury citizen of Graaff-Reinet. This honour was bestowed on him for his continued effort to help with the preservation of the town for future generations.

1975

The Historical Homes and Oude Meester group purchased the Drostdy property in Graaff-Reinet and restored it to its former glory.

1978

The old Residency was annexed to the Reinet House museum.

1980

The John Rupert Theatre in Graaff-Reinet was inaugurated with a performance by Patrick Mynhardt.

1981

Dr Rupert calls on the local town council to assist with the restoration of Graaff-Reinet.

1982

The modern town library is opened on the 1st December on the premises of the old government school in Pasonage Street. On the same date the old public library in Church Street is re-opened as the Old Library Museum.

2002

The new airport in Graaff-Reinet is officially opened in October. It was built thanks to Dr. Rupert. In the same year the Pierneef Collection of Paintings were installed in the Pierneef Museum in Graaff-Reinet, under the care of the Rupert Art Foundation.

2005

Karoo Nature Reserve outside Graaff-Reinet was declared the Camdeboo National Park. It's the 22nd National Park in South Africa.

2005

Dr. Anton Rupert's wife, Huberte Rupert passed away on the 28th October.

2006

Dr. Anton Rupert passed away on the 18th January. A tribute to Dr. Rupert and his wife Huberte Rupert was held in the Dutch Reformed Church on the 10th of February.

2010

Graaff-Reinet is voted Town of the Year by Rapport readers and Kwela viewers.  Kwela is program screened on Kyknet.
Some information obtained from the Lantern July 1986