The Pniël Museum is much more than just a museum. It tells the story of how a former Mission Station, established by the Apostolic Union in 1843 for the freed slaves and other blacks, grew and developed into the peaceful village of today.
As one walks / strolls through the rooms of the 17th century farmhouse of Papiere Molen – which is now the museum – one gets the sense of a humble but proud community that is at peace with itself. The professionally laid out photos, stories and artefacts keep the visitor enthralled, captivated, while time seems to take you back to 1843 when the first freed slaves came to start a new life here.
Please contact the Office should you plan to visit to make sure when the museum will be open.
The establishment of a mission station at Pniël is marginally connected to the emancipation of slaves in 1834. The emancipated slaves were obliged to stay on as farm workers for another 4 years, thus it was only from 1 December 1838 that they were allowed to leave the farms. With little or no money most of them continued to work for the farmers in the area, and returned to their homes at night. Pniël was established in 1843 by the Apostolic Union, a non-denominational protestant group, as a mission station for the freed slaves who worked on the surrounding farms. Reverend J.F. Stegman was appointed by the union as the first reverend of the mission station his goal to teach and instruct the slaves in the Christian faith. Thus came into being the nearest mission station to Cape Town and one of the few remaining historical areas within a specific geographical boundary where the freed slaves built their houses and worked the lands. Land was donated by two land owners in the area, Pieter Izak de Villiers and Johannes Jacobus Haupt. Land was also donated by de Villiers and Piet Retief for establishing a church and a school. In December of 1843 they purchased a large farm area, Papiere Molen, where the slaves could build houses and farm.After more than a century of self-governance, the village now forms part of the Stellenbosch Municipality, 10 km away. Franschhoek to the north and Paarl are also ±10 km away.
The village is situated at the bosom of Simonsberg Mountain that watches over a history of slavery, but also of a people that struggled for freedom through hard work, faith and education. Today the narrow streets, beautiful oaks and old buildings are part of a heritage that never fails to captivate and enchant visitors to the village. The church is still housed in the original building.
Today the Pniël Congregational church, only church in the village with close to 3000 congregants, still play an important role in the lives of people and also a major part in preserving a very rich heritage.