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People have lived for many thousands of years in Southern Africa. They were probably the ancestors of the San (Bushmen).
Early seafarers and explorers who arrived at the Cape, recognized two basic groups: The herders or Khoikhoi, whom they called "Hottentots" (one of the words the Khoi used when they danced was hautitou, this sounded like "hottentot" to the Europeans) and The hunter-gatherers or San, whom they called "Bushmen".
In the Western and Southern Cape, herders and hunter-gatherers shared the environment, but in mountainous areas and over much of the dry Cape interior, only the hunter-gatherers lived.
The most noticeable outward difference between the herders and hunter-gatherers was that the Khoikhoi possessed herds of cattle and sheep, and therefore had a more diversified and superior subsistence base than most San. Therefore the meaning of Khoikhoi, namely Men of Men.
The Cape Khoikhoi were composed of various groups or clans, each with its own leadership and territory.
The Khoi hut was easily built, portable and suitable for all seasons. During the summer heat it was cool and airy, yet in the wet winters it provided a watertight shelter. This was because of the porous nature of the reed, Cyperus textilis.
The hut had only one entrance, covered with a reed mat or a piece of hide. In olden days an elephant's ear was sometimes used for this purpose.
The Framework The framework was constructed from wooden laths. It was the women's work to cut these laths from Rhus species (Taaibos), Cliffortia odorata (Wildewingerd) and other tree species. Laths were bent into a crescent shape. The top ends were tied together, with bark of Struthiola ciliata (Stroopbos), Passerina filiformis (Gonnabos), Cyperus textilis, etc., to form a dome shaped framework.
The Mats The reed mats used by the Khoikhoi of the Western and Southern Cape were made from Cyperus Textilis. Mats were woven by the women. Cut reeds were sun dried till yellow and then woven together by means of a rope of Cyperus Textilis. Several mats were used to cover a hut. They were tied to the framework and overlapped, to prevent rainwater from running into seams. From the early 17th century the Khoi huts, according to observers, were covered with reed mats as well as animal skins, thus providing better protection against wind and rain.
The Floor The floor, of compacted clay, was put in last and smeared with cow manure. A fire-hole was dug in the middle of the floor, with sleeping hollows (about 15cm deep) around it, lined with "Hotnotskooigoed" (Helichrysum petiolatum) and topped with karosses.
Hunting Kit The hunting kit consists of: Spears Bow and Arrows "Kieries" or Throwing sticks.
At first the blades of spears and arrows were of fire-hardened wood or bone but were later replaced by metal blades. They were sometimes covered with a layer of poison, e.g.: poison of snakes (Puff-adder or Cape Cobra) and vegetable poison (Euphorbia Sp.)
Arrows were carried in quivers made from animal skins, or shaped from branches of the Aloe Dichotoma.
The bows were made of a variety of strong but flexible wood like the Wild Olive and Karree. The bow string was made from gut or sinews.
Hunting Techniques Early travellers who hunted with the Khoikhoi were impressed by their excellent tracking abilities and superb fieldcraft. Hunting techniques were adapted to the species of animal hunted.
Cattle Their cattle were large, humped, fat and tame. The Khoi were most reluctant to part with their animals. The Dutch could not understand this, in view of the large herds the Khoi possessed. A chief did not control all the animals kept by his group. Sheep and cattle were owned by individuals. Only they could dispose of them. The Dutch also did not understand the role cattle played in the Khoi society.
an important source of food used for marriage goods and for the wedding feast
used as pack or riding animals (transport)
slaughtered at a girl's first menstruation, death of a person and when two parties entered into a peace agreement
seen as wealth
in combat (the Khoi used to threw their spears from behind a wall of cattle)
during sickness they killed one to use the fat to rub into open wounds
cows milk was drunk in cases of snake-bite
fresh cow dung was applied to bite marks
Sheep Their sheep were large with tasty meat and with an enormously large tail, its mass varying from 3 up to 16kg. Their sheep had hair instead of wool.
Lying in a relatively remote area, bordered on three sides by mountains, the Franschhoek valley was originally known as Oliphantshoek. Elephants found its isolation ideal for raising their calves, and were often encountered by the early settlers.
In 1692 Heinrich M?ller, a European colonist from Basel, was allotted the first farm in the area and named it Keerweder (meaning turn back).
The Huguenots who settled at the Cape from April 1688 onwards were allotted farms in Drakenstein, on the Cape Town side of the Berg River. They became dissatisfied with the quality of the soil however, and applied to Governor Simon van der Stel for permission to obtain better farms. He agreed to this and on 18th October, 1694 the following nine farms were allocated to them in the Oliphantshoek area:
La Dauphin?, to Estienne Niel;
Bourgogne to Pierre de Villiers;
La Bri to Jacob de Villiers;
Champagne to Abraham de Villiers;
La Motte (at present Bo La Motte) to Jean Jourdan;
Cabri?re to Pierre Jourdan;
La Cotte to Jean Gardiol;
La Terra de Luc to Matthieu Amiel and
La Provence to Pierre Joubert.
In 1713 this area was first referred to as de france hoek (the French corner) because it was inhabited mainly by French-speakers. On a map (drawn by L S de la Rochette in 1795) the name is given as FRANS HOECK or la Petite Rochelle. In 1805 the Commissioner-General of the Batavian Republic at the Cape, J A U de Mist, named the new field-cornetcy FRANSCHHOEK. The name also applied to the congregation established in 1845 as well as to the Municipality which came into being in 1881.
To the Huguenots their religion and religious practices were of great importance. It was because they could not freely practice their religion that thousands of them fled their country.
Chapel For a period of 150 years there was only one congregation and church building in the Drakenstein valley. The first church was situated near the present Simondium and was used until 1717. Then a larger church was erected in Paarl and remained in use from 2nd June, 1720 until 25th/28th April, 1805 when the Strooidakkerk (Thatched Roof Church) was completed. Wellington seceded on the 19th June, 1840 followed by Franschhoek on 21st February, 1845 being the 28th congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Cape Colony.
The total community of Franschhoek found it very difficult to attend church services in Paarl. There was a dire need for both a church and a school and in 1833 a chapel was built to fulfil both needs. It was a primitive building without benches or a ceiling and it is not clear to us how the original seating was organised. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the aisle with whites at the front and coloureds at the back.
After the church was built and taken into use in 1847 the chapel became a school and was used as such until August 1899 when a new school building was inaugurated. Afterwards it was used as the first library in the village until 1962 when it was demolished.
Church The church council made application to the government on 7th June, 1845 for the acquisition of 2 acres of the outspan to be used for the building of a church. Their request for the ground was granted but not that of financial aid.
The building was to be 84 feet in length, 36 feet in width, and 17 feet in height. Collection lists were sent all over the country to assist with the fund-raising, and in 1846 the Neo-Gothic type building was erected by Joseph James Turpin. The foundation was of stone while the walls were built of kiln-bricks, and the gable is copied from the Episcopal Church in Harrington Street, Cape Town. The turrets, peak-arched windows and doors, and lobate-ornamentation was, at the time, a very popular style for church buildings. Initially it was a rectangular building without wings. It was dedicated on Sunday 18th April, 1847 by the Rev G W A van der Lingen of Paarl.
The church building soon proved too small, and on 13th September, 1875, plans to enlarge it were discussed by the council. Two wings, one on the north and one on the south side were built on in 1882 and the thatched roof was replaced with corrugated iron. The work was completed on 3rd August, 1883 and gave the church its present-day shape of a Greek cross. When it was restored in 1968, thatch once more replaced the corrugated iron roof.
On 24th November, 1972 the building, bell-tower, ring-wall and all the ground contained therein was declared a National Monument.
Farming The area in which the early settlers found themselves, was quite untouched by human hand. Its early development was relatively slow as all the bush and natural vegetation had to be cleared manually, to make way for the planting of vineyards, and orchards which entailed hard manual labour. Up to the beginning of the 19th century mixed farming i.e. stock, grain and vineyards, was practised. (The Cape halfway-station was established to provide fresh provisions for the sailors of passing Dutch East India Company ships. Wine was also provided to eke out the supply of fresh water during the long sea voyages. The first farms granted to the farmers were free on condition that a tithe of all their grain and wine crop went to the Company in taxes).
During the 18th and early 19th century practically every farm in Franschhoek with its plentiful water supply had a watermill used for grinding domestic corn. Those of Burgundy, La Bri and La Dauphin?, are now defunct, but that on La Cotte was restored in 1989 with the aid of the Franschhoek Trust and Franschhoek Wine Co-operative. The water-mill on La Motte is said to date from 1721.
Viticulture Most of the Huguenots were acquainted with viticulture, giving a great advantage to this type of farming. The Cape soon became well-known for its dry as well as sweet wines, brandy, vinegar and raisins. The phylloxera infestation of vineyards occurred in 1886, caused by Phylloxera vastatix and decimating the vines by its parasitic action on the roots. To save themselves from bankruptcy the farmers planted more orchards. Only after resistant rootstock was imported from America, did the wine industry pick up again. Because of the many vineyards in Franschhoek and the limited outlets, almost every farmer had his own cellar to make wine or distil brandy.
Tobacco farming Turkish tobacco was first cultivated on the farm Champagne in 1905, later becoming a large-scale industry. The seed was brought to Franschhoek by a Mr Popart of the firm Popart in London, Greengrocers, who while calling on international clients, hid tobacco seed in his socks in Turkey and smuggled it out of that country. He gave it to Mr Danie Roux of Champagne who planted it and together with Gideon Josua (Jop) Roux started the tobacco-industry in Franschhoek. It was discontinued in 1915 when it was found to be more economically viable in the Stellenbosch district.
Deciduous fruit farming In the beginning fruit farming was subordinate to wine farming. The kind of fruits planted then included the Sweet Saffron Pear, "Cape Damsel" and "Damask" plums, peaches and also apples of the Haumann, Hugo, May and Wemmershoek varieties. Syrup was cooked from the Sweet Saffron Pears while the other fruit went by ox-wagon to the Cape market. After the rail-link was established between Paarl and Franschhoek in 1904 transport facilities were greatly improved. Combined with the simultaneous development of export markets it resulted in the further extension of the wine and fruit industry in the valley.
Franschhoek and Stellenbosch are the main plum producing areas of South Africa, while pears, peaches, nectarines, apples and table grapes are also produced here in great quantities. The Franschhoek Fruit Packers' Co-operative was established on 21st May, 1981 in order to promote uniform packing procedures.
Today the deciduous fruit industry together with viticulture, forms the backbone of the economy of the Western Cape Province and provides thousands with employment.
Development of the Town Franschhoek is situated on parts of the Huguenot farms La Cotte and Cabri?re. The first erven in the town were surveyed by R F Aling, and were part of the farm La Cotte which belonged to Jan Gysbert Hugo. The church grounds together with the chapel (built 1833) and the manse (built 1837) formed the nucleus of the village and the southern boundary. The wagon trail (later Victoria Street and currently known as Huguenot Road) formed the western boundary with the present De Wet Street on the north and the present Dirkie Uys Street on the east. Part of the eastern boundary was formed by the erf on which the house La Rive stands.
The prevailing architectural style of the town buildings alternates between the eclecticism of the late-Victorian period and the Cape Dutch Revival of the early 1900's. The Neo-Gothic style church (1847) is the oldest building in the town. The oldest buildings in the valley are to be found on farms.
The Mountain Pass The early track used by travellers when crossing the mountain had been made by the elephants who originally inhabited the area. It was, however, very rough and practically impassable for wagons.
Governor Simon van der Stel was of the opinion that a gang of slaves could make a road, negotiable by wagons within a period of three months. It was actually 125 years later that S J Cats made the attempt and completed a reasonably passable road. The landsurveyor was W F Herzog and the road became known as Cats se Pad. The way was narrow and heavily-laden wagons found it difficult to negotiate.
Cats se Pad was in use until 1825 when Lord Charles Somerset used 150 soldiers of the Royal Africa Corps in transit to Sierra Leone, to build a new road. The biggest change occured at Jan Joubertsgat (so called because Jan Joubert died there) where a stone bridge was built over the ford. Today this is the oldest bridge in the country still in use.