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Hoedspruit was the Limpopo winner of the Kwela/ Rapport town of the Year 2012 Competition and a finalist in 2015

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History of Hoedspruit

The very first official land owner of the farm Hoedspruit was Dawid Johannes Joubert.    He arrived in the lowveld in 1844 and settled in the area between the Blyde River and what is now known as the Zandspruit River.    

In 1848 on the 5th May, he took the opportunity to register the farm for the first time at the land office which was situated in Ohrigstad, thus it was in 1848 that Hoedspruit had any official recognition and registration towards the town and municipality that it is today.

A few years later, in the 1850’s, Ohrigstad was expanding and becoming the central town in the greater region, however, at the time, it was decided that only the older settlers should be allowed to settle in and around the immediate area of Ohrigstad and anyone younger than 45 was encouraged to move further away from the town and settle elsewhere.   As a result a group of young men – all under 45 – made their way down the escarpment and settle in the area between the mountain and the Blyde River on a farm that they then called …. Jonkmanspruit.  A few of the other young men settled a little further on on the farm they called Welverdiend (meaning “well deserved”) and yet another on a farm that he called Driehoek due to the shape of the farm itself.    These are some of the original names that still exist in the area today and are all situated around the edges of what was the original farm called Hoedspruit.

The name Hoedspruit itself was given by Dawid Johannes Joubert and was directly as a result of an incident after a major cloud burst on Mariepskop area in 1844 (when he first arrived in the area) which caused the “now called Zandspruit” to come down in a flash flood.  During this even he ended up loosing his hat in the flooding river.   Bearing in mind that a hat in those days was a valuable resource for a farmer (sun protection etc) and not something that could be easily replaced as there were not “hat shops” on every corner, this in itself was a major event for Dawid Joubert and as a result, he then named the river the Hoedspruit (the Hat River) – as in the River that stole his Hat.

Dawid Johannes joubert also had a farm up in the Orighstad area and spent his time between both farms, however in 1860 he was sadly killed by a Leopard while on his farm in Ohrighstad.

During the years that the farm was owned by Dawid,  Hoedspruit farm that he had registered with the Land Office in Ohrighstad was huge and extended pretty much from the Blyde River to the Klaserie River and of course towards the town centre as it exists today.

At pretty much the same time a major dispute erupted between the Portugese  in the then Lourenço  Marques (Maputo),  and the South Africans in the then Transvaal Republic.   The Portugese were insisting that the Drakensberg mountain range just behind the town of Hoedspruit was in fact the international border between Mozambique and South Africa and the South Africans were insisting it was the Lebombo Mountains.   As a result Oom Paul Kruger, then president of the Transvaal Republic ordered for a proper land survey study to be done and for the official border to be assessed and finalized.

There were no qualified land surveyers at the time in South Africa and thus they had to be brought in from Europe – three of the main surveyors coming into the area included Von Weilligh (after whom the large Baobab in the kruger park is named), Vos and Gillfillan.

While the Landsurveyers were in South Africa (or the Transvaal Republic as it was then), Oom Paul then declared that they should also officially mark out the various farm boundaries for the farms and regions along the Drakensberg mountains before returning back to Europe.    All the exceptionally large farms – such as the original Hoedspruit farm, were then divided up into smaller registered farms (although still belonging to and being run by a single farmer).  It was then up to these European Land Surveyors to give names to all the official farms that they were formalizing and with little knowledge of any local cultures, languages or aspects, all the farms were then given European names of cities, states and countries that they were obviously familiar with.  Thus it is that we currently live in an area where official farm names include names such as Essex, Madrid, Berlin, Richmond, Chester, Moscow, Dublin, Dundee, Fife etc

From the late 1800’s to early 1900’s Abel Erasmus and his business partner Org Basson had a very successful transport business transporting mine equipment between the upcoming mines in the Gravellote area and the port at Lourenço  Marques (Maputo).    A crucial resource in their business was their span of “Geel-bek” oxen.   Abel had a breeding stock of these oxen that he was very proud of and kept the core breeding stock secure at his farm “Orinoco” near the Mpisane Fort situated in Rolle (near Thulamahashe) – named after a Shangaan Chief in the region called Mpisane Nxumalo.

At this very same time, a garrison of British soldiers was subconded to the area that were infamously known as Steinaeckers Horse which included the Kruger Park hero – Harry Wolhuter.   

Steinaecker’s Horse was a volunteer military unit that fought on the side of the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). It operated mainly in the Lowveld of South Africa and Swaziland. The unit was formed by an interesting man named Francis Christiaan Ludwig von Steinaecker, a former Prussian-German soldier with extensive military experience. He came to SA in 1886, working as cartographer in German South-West Africa, before settling in Natal in 1890. He became a British subject and when the war broke out in 1899, he joined the Colonial Scouts.

He came to the attention of General Buller, commander of the British Forces during the early stages of the war, and after participating in a series of successful campaigns against the Boers, he was given permission to raise his own cavalry unit, called Steinaecker’s Horse. He was also promoted to the rank of Major. The unit (close to 600 men) consisted mainly of local inhabitants of the Lowveld region, while local Black groups such as Shangaane and Swazi, also assisted (or rather, were utilized by the unit) in their activities.

The core purpose of this garrison was to intercept any potential shipment of arms being sent by the Dutch to the Boers in the Transvaal via Lourenço Marques and moving into the interior.   In addition to this, they were also instructed to burn down the homesteads of any boers that were suspected in assisting with the shipping of guns to the Boers, however, before doing so, the soldiers reportedly emptied out the homesteads of all valuables which were kept for themselves before the homesteads were then set alight.    This earned them the additional name of The 40 Thieves.

It is also due to the activities of Steinackers horse that Thulamahashe (situated between Acornhoek and Bushbuckridge) got its name.  Thulamahashe translated means “the dust of the horses” and refers to the dust that would be created whenever the horses would ride out from the Mpisane Fort.

As part of their infamous activities, Steinaeckers horse had also started stealing from Abel Erasmus’ breeding stock in Rolle and rustling the oxen down to locations in the Barbeton area (where the garrison spent much of their time as a base).

In response to this, Able Erasmus went to lay a formal charge with General Ben Viljoen – the Commander General for the Boers in the region,  who was situated in Lydenburg  and he in turn sent Kommandant Piet Moller to the region to sort out the issue and deal with Abel’s complaint.    With some inside information and clever tactics, the Boers were able to attack Mpisane Fort, where Steinaeckers Horse was situated at the time and headed up by Cpt Francis Farmer.  Even with over 600 local blacks on the side of Steinaeckers Horse, Kommandant Piet Moller and his small band of young Boers were successful in their raid and killed Cpt Farmer (who reportedly was found naked and thus died with no clothes on) and the rest of the garrison escaped or surrended.

Once Steinaecker’s horse had been disbanded, some of the remaining individuals who had fallen in love with the region – such as Harry Wolhuter remained and were then largely responsible for the development of the Kruger National Park (officially proclaimed in 1926)

Prior to this, In 1910, after WWI, the Selati Railway was built and traversed over the farm of Hoedspruit.

Although originally established for transport reasons, passenger travel also became popular and together with this, the need for stops along the way to allow for passengers to alight and disembark from the trains, was identified.    The 5 main stops that were initially identified on and alongside the Hoedspruit Farm include, Klaserie Town, Kapama, Hoedspruit, Olifanttank and Mica.   In the early days of the Selati Railway, the old Steam Trains would stop at each and every stop.

Interestingly, the Hoedspruit station is actually not situated on the remaining official farm of Hoedspruit and in fact falls on the farm Berlin.    This is as a result of an unintentional error.   The train driver, coming from Lourenco Marques side, had been given instructions to stop after “the third bend by the large Knobthorn tree” to offload the steel and material to build the original station,  and he made a mistake and selected the wrong tree where he stopped to off load the station building materials.    The stations was then built on this spot and it was only years later that it was realized that the Hoedspruit Station was in fact not on the farm Hoedspruit but was in the farm Berlin.  Obviously, as so often happens with a train station, development then started building and occurring around the station which has eventually lead to the town we know today.  So thinking back on it all,  had the train driver not made the mistake he did make, either the town would be situated in a totally different location to where it is now, or alternatively, if his error had been discovered earlier and the station name then changed, we could potentially all be living in the town of Berlin today.  

In the early 1950’s Schalk Roos and his son Piet Roos – originally from Brits, purchased the farm Berlin with the intention of registering the town of Hoedspruit as an official town and development.   In 1952, they then built the first General Dealers and an accompanying motor repair shop alongside the railway line.   The original foundation of this shop is still visible in the old building that currently houses the Game Ranch Management offices in the old section of Hoedspruit.

Following this, a mill and a small hotel was also built – Hotel Coepieba.  The name Coepieba was developed by the original owner – Barend Basson and was a combination of his name and his family and friends – Coert Steinberg – a friend – contributed to the Coe portion of the name, Piet, who was his bank manager, contributed to the Pie portion of the name and then the remaning Ba was taken from his son’s name – also called Barend, thus all combined gives us the name Coe..pie…ba.   Although the building has changed and has been rebuilt, Fort Coepieba as a pub still exists in the town today although it does have a fairly colourful and infamous history in the stories of early Hoedspruit life.

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