Sneha Girap

Smithfield, Free State

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Country  South Africa
Language spoken  Sotho
Area  35.5 km2
District  Xhariep
Founded  1849
Mayor  Motshewa Julia Sehanka (ANC)

Smithfield is a small town in the Free State province of South Africa. It was founded in 1848 when the then Cape Colony governor, Sir Harry Smith (1847–1852), required a settlement north of the Orange River. Smithfield is the third oldest village in the Free State.


Map of Smithfield, Free State

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Smithfield, Free State in the past, History of Smithfield, Free State

Waterval farm was the original site chosen in 1848 for settlement as a Dutch Reformed (NG) church centre. However, when plots were offered for sale, there were no takers. Farmers were dissatisfied with the site (24 km west of present-day Smithfield). They then opted for Rietpoort, where there was abundant water. The new town was named New Smithfield (the "New" soon fell away), named after Sir Harry Smith - the old Smithfield referred to Smithfield in London. In the fifty years after establishment the Dutch Reformed Church was prominent there and one of the dominees who served there was the famous Rev Andrew Murray.The famous Second Boer War General Christiaan de Wet was born on the nearby farm Leeukop in 1854.

The area was the scene in the 1860s of much fighting between the early Free State settlers and Basotho, as it is not far from the border with Basutoland (now Lesotho).

It constituted a village board in 1860 but only became a municipality in 1948. In the 1870s the town was on one of the main routes to the Diamond Fields from the coast via Aliwal North, and trade was brisk in that period.

In the period 1907 to 1939, the MP for Smithfield was General Hertzog who represented the constituency for the Oranje Unie, the South African Party, the National Party and the United Party. He was the leader of the National Party from 1914 to 1939 and Prime Minister of SA from 1924 to 1929. Before entering politics he had been appointed a judge on the Orange Free State Bench in 1895 before the age of 30 and then became a successful Boer General with his own commando in the Anglo-Boer War.

Come look at some vintage pictures of the town from my archives

Demographics and economy

Smithfield has a small population of approximately 4,500. It is a prosperous wool-growing district, in addition to cattle farming. Originally an important wool-growing area, in recent times its position astride major tourist routes, has lent impetus to growing tourism.

Places of interest

Ou Grietjie, a cannon used by the Free State in the Basuto wars, has been mounted in front of the magistrates office. It was named after Margaret (Grietjie), wife of the gunner Robert Finlay. The Caledon River museum is located in town. The Carmel and Beersheba missionary posts are experiencing some revival, with houses increasingly renovated. The well-maintained local golf course dates back more than 100 years. Its facilities are open to guests, as are local tennis and bowls clubs. Hills surrounding the town are considered well-suited to hiking, walking, horse-riding and bird-watching in relative isolation. Local secondary roads are suitable for mountain biking. Blesbok and some Zebra are to be found in the open savanna.

What to see in Smithfield .. Including some very old buildings dating back to the 1850s, two very interesting walking trails, art galleries, book shop, a cob house that you may visit by appointment, an historical old church site called Helvetia and lots more!

Article in Grahamstown Newspaper about the interesting places and things to do in Smithfield


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