HISTORY

The history of Modderfontein goes all the way back to 1725 when it was the first farm established by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) here in the valley. For the next 300 years, the farm played an important role in the area, particularly because it was and still, is the gateway to and from the Olifants River Valley. We acquired Modderfontein in 2001 and began work restoring the historical buildings of the farm, and replanting and expanding the citrus orchards,
- Mike Stekhoven Owner and restorer of Modderfontein

The Old Village on Modderfontein once was the center of life and commerce in the area, with the oldest building dating back to around 1725. The Cape Dutch homestead is one of only three gabled buildings in the upper valley.

Celebrating its 300 years centenary in 2025, The Old Village is a unique historical site, being one of very few preserved farm villages in South Africa.

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Concise Timeline

1660
Jan van Riebeeck sends a party of explorers under Jan Dankaert to fiind a route to the north and the "Kingdom of Monomatapa". They are shown a route across the mountains by Bushmen through what is now the farm Modderfontein. There they see the river with a herd of about 300 elephants on the bank - so naming it Oliphant's River. This difficult route through the "Groote Cloof" becomes the route for subsequent explorers, travellers and farmers.

 1725

Modderfontein becomes the first farm to be established in the valley by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). It is granted to Jurgen Hanekom who builds a kraal and a modest house and begins farming cattle to supply meat to the VOC.
The first structures on the farm are built, a modest house and the kraals to keep the animals safe from predators – still standing today in their original state, almost 300 years later.

1757
The gabled Cape Dutch-style main homestead is built.

1855
Thomas Bain starts building Grey's Pass (named after the governor of the Cape) to replace the old "breakneck" pass used since 1660. The pass is 12km long and is built by a team of about 200 convicts.

1857
After two years the "modern" pass is openend and the Post Office and Postmaster's house are built at its base.

1860
James McGregor buys Modderfontein. He arrived in the valley in 1856 as an itinerant trader (smous) based at Modderfontein. The farm remained in the family for 140 years. Shop and trading store are added.

1860
James McGregor buys Modderfontein. He arrived in the valley in 1856 as an itinerant trader (smous) based at Modderfontein. The farm remained in the family for 140 years. Shop and trading store are added.

1860 - 1918
During this period travellers' accommodation is built, the first doctor comes to the valley and practices from the farm. The smithy and wheelwright ply their trade, a policeman is based there and a building is modified to act as a jail. James McGregor becomes the wealthiest man in the valley. He dies in 1912 and is buried in the farm cemetry. In 1918 two sons die 6 days apart from the Spanish Flu, leaving only daughters on the farm.

1962
The last of James McGregor's daughters dies. Traffic now enters the valley through the the new Piekenierskloof Pass. The shop closes.

2001
Modderfontein is bought by the present owner. Restoration of farm and buildings begins.

Present
All of the buildings have been restored and the farm is now fully organic, producing citrus, olives, rooibos tea, cattle and buchu on 2500 ha.

Photo: Grey's Pass circa 1920

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